Category Archives: Music and Art

Secret Worlds

Could it be a sign of perimenopause that just seeing that Studio
Ghibli logo in the opening credits of a movie makes me tear up?

Or is it just a symptom of the period of parenting we’re in, our girls
still childlike but obviously older, older, OLDER every day?

Not too old (never too old?) to look forward with great excitement to
The Secret World of Arrietty, another Ghibli film with a brave and
resourceful female protagonist, beautiful attention to visual detail,
and a gentle spirit from beginning to end.

There are so many things I love about earlier Ghibli films that are
present in Arrietty, which I will try not to spoil here. I love the
magical realism, the way the natural world is realized with such
loving precision that the magical elements—the little people, the cat
bus, the bath house of the spirits, the creaking house of Howl—seem
real too.

I love that there are girls at the center, that every Ghibli movie I
can think of passes the Bechdel test. I love the friendships that
don’t quite rise to the level of romance but are still true love.

I really love looking over at my girls in the dark theatre and seeing
them already looking back at me with big grins, silently communicating
“Isn’t this awesome?”

When I saw a scene in which a character moved in and out of a shaft of light, a number of times, it was like hearing a musician enjoying the opportunity to play a particularly beautiful passage, adding grace notes to the repeated sections, and I could feel my older daughter, next to me, watching.

She is nearing 13, already taller than some of my adult
friends, and she sits in the movie seat with her animal hat, her
Taylor Swift t-shirt, her Ugg boots, every inch a young teen. She had just told me the day before that she wanted to learn how to create light effects in video games, so I know she was watching that shaft of light doing something in that artist brain that is nearly inaccessible to me.

I wanted to go home and redecorate the attic just like this.

While she was at a sleepover later in the week, our younger daughter demanded to watch Totoro again, and soon afterwards we watched Spirited Away. We’ve always said she’s just like Mei, and she has embraced that image for herself.

In those movies too, the world is a magical place but nothing is more magical than clear water, tall trees, or a fresh ear of corn. No world is more beautiful than the natural world, but, Miyazaki seems to say, it takes a child’s eyes to see it.



Filed under Love This, Love this Music, Music and Art

The Joys of Elitism

Sometimes I feel guilty about inadvertently turning my children into culture snobs.

The only Disney they really like anymore is Miyazake releases. They are appalled by the Jonas Brothers, Justin Bieber, Miley Cirus, etc. (How Taylor Swift got a pass is not clear.) Zappa and Bowie are among their cultural touchstones. Violet came home from Chinese immersion camp and quickly immersed herself in the artsy-fartsy version of the Odyssey I brought home, and she loudly scorns Twilight. (Though she is now obsessed with Maximum Ride.)

Sometimes I think we fulfill so many of the creative class stereotypes that we approach self-parody.

But here is the thing. The thing is, I don’t like that crap either. I’d rather listen to my 7yo singing “Starman” than “Party in the U.S.A.” I’d rather talk about Esperanto than Edward and Jacob with my 11yo. As if by magic, they seem to be able to sniff out crappy book-to-film adaptations and refuse to go, which means I don’t have to go either!

In the short term, at least I’m saving myself from some of the minor irritations of parenting, and since we’re the ones who have to live with the little beasties, I think we deserve at least that much.


Filed under Family Fun, Music and Art

Early lessons learned

Days 4 and 5 of the No Criticism project have not been easy.

I couldn’t help recalling that when I a read an example of this in a book, it involved a father and a teenage daughter. It did not involve homeschool, and it did not involve younger children who need a fair amount of guidance and reminders throughout the day, plus some correction of errors.

The reason I couldn’t help recalling this was because yesterday I found myself frequently getting annoyed with children who were not doing what they were supposed to and were in desperate need of parental guidance, which has been in short supply over the last few weeks what with all the parental sickness.

Some conclusions:

When I am busy but my children don’t have anything in particular they are supposed to be doing, we have potential problems. Yes, of course they will play together, but then they will fight, and then they will say terrible things to each other and behave very poorly, and then they will loudly attempt to justify that behavior. In such a situation, when I am trying to accomplish other things (e.g., earn the house payment or meet a looming deadline), a harsh or critical tone is nearly impossible to avoid.

Right now, between deadlines, upcoming travel, and lingering illness, there’s not a lot to do about that, but in the long term the lesson is Routines Routines Routines, and frequent fill-ups of parental attention, especially for the 6yo.

Another key lesson: Six year olds cannot be ten year olds, no matter how clever or articulate they may seem. There is a reason this point is repeated in the educational literature over and over: It is totally obvious, yet very very easy to forget. In other words, inappropriate parental expectations may lead to excessive criticism.

I won’t even get into trying not to criticize my husband! Like many married couples, we tease a lot. And like many married couples, sometimes we hide criticism under the teasing. Predictably, sometimes the teasing doesn’t quite cover the barb underneath, and then, look out!


Filed under Music and Art

Recent Events

Some wise person, when we moved recently, told us to make memories in the new house to help ease the transition.

We’ve done our best in recent weeks to do that and keep busy with other stuff besides.

There was first Halloween:

Hween 2009

And then the open house, which encouraged us to get furniture arranged and boxes unpacked. (Just don’t look in the basement or garage.)

new house

new house

new house

We also held a 1/2 birthday party for Victoria. She didn’t get a birthday party this year, for various reasons, and so we took the opportunity to demonstrate to her that we would indeed be seeing our friends again– even friends who used to live across the street. (It’s a “ninja party”)

birthday party

Dig the sushi cupcake making:

birthday party

The party inspired everyone to try their hands at origami. Naturally Eggmaster is the best. But the butterflies and most of the throwing stars are mine.


Today was Violet’s piano recital. It has been fun to watch her name move steadily up the list. In general, the playing order goes by level of student. Older/more advanced students play at the end. It’s a good system. Having sat through lengthy recitals featuring many beginning pianists, my ears need a break after a while.

I have been reflecting on our piano teacher since hearing about the choices others have been making. I feel very lucky to have her. I know there are probably more rigorous studios in town, but our teacher has a great combination of love for her students and desire to challenge them.

piano teacher

Especially when Violet was younger, she would sometimes bump into a teacher who would ooh and ahh and say “Wow, aren’t you great!” without giving any further suggestions for improvement. But one of the most valuable things about piano, for our family, is that it gives both girls an opportunity to work through perfectionism. In Violet’s case, it also gives her a chance to slow down and work on details — something she is not inclined to do without a *lot* of encouragement from her teacher. So I like that her teacher is positive and encouraging but still asks a lot, according to the ability of the student.

The other thing I like about our teacher: she is student-focused, not parent-focused. When we called her about starting lessons, she was extremely direct about only teaching students who wanted to take lessons for themselves, not for their parents. I imagine in this area there are plenty of parents who force their kids through music lessons and practice sessions. Our teacher did not even want us monitoring the time V. practiced — that was to be up to her (at about age 8 forward). I really admire her for that. And my goodness, the students who stay with it! Her high school students are playing amazing repertoire — pieces I played as a college piano major — many of them with great subtlety. I remember listening to our former neighbor in her last recital before going to college on a music scholarship, playing a piece by Sibelius. I was in tears, it was so lovely.

It was, in fact, this family that connected us to this teacher, and I am so grateful, especially since our family life seems increasingly to revolve around music.

And speaking of gratitude, I am looking forward to celebrating our first Thanksgiving in the new house. It’s going to be our biggest group yet.


Filed under Family Fun, Music and Art

Learning to Play

As I’ve said a couple of times, the Wii has been great for getting us playing together.

The truth is, I am the one who needs the most help with this. I am good at getting things done, planning, working, and doing. But I am not a great player. I get restless, and I feel I should be doing something else. The Waldorf notion that adults lose their ability to play in a child-like way really rings true for me.

Something about the Wii draws me in, and I sit and watch the girls, or I play too, or I even — gasp — play by myself.

So I have been thinking about play lately.

I have always thought that my husband and I are good models for our children because we have work that we enjoy and have a fair amount of control over. We read and do interesting things. We continue to learn and study. These are all great things, of course.

But I have been noticing that my husband is an especially good model of how a person can continue to play as an adult. In addition to being a programmer, he is a musician. He has been working on a long piece of music for over a year now with a friend, most of it online, but he has traveled to NYC and his friend J. has traveled here for them to work on it and record. They are hoping to complete the work and probably offer it for sale online.

Why do they do this? They have no illusions about becoming rock stars, or making a lot of money. They do it for fun. They work hard at it, but they do it for fun.

This week Eggmaster has been off work, and with some of his new Christmas presents he has been writing and recording some new tracks as well. Not necessarily for the big project, just for fun.

I am very happy that our children have this model as well. That they can pursue an interest — and work hard at it — just for fun. Work (a job) can be fun, and fun can involve a lot of effort and still be fun. You can create just for the sake of creating.

I had been thinking of all this even before Jove had her series of posts on creativity and art. I need to go listen to that Lynda Barry podcast.

All hail Lynda Barry!



Filed under Family Fun, Music and Art, Oh Mother, Our Philosophy (such as it is), Why Homeschool?

Rocksgiving 2008!

The more I try to explain it, the less cool it will be. But dig my little drummer girl!


Filed under Family Fun, Music and Art

School Holiday

I guess I’m too excited to focus on any homeschooling today. The girls saw wind outside before breakfast this morning and ran around in it for 45 minutes before I insisted they come in and eat.

We did spend a little time on math: my big one on simultaneous algebraic equations, my little one on numbers that add up to 7. It was a sweet moment to have such different things going on at the same table, and I do enjoy the chance to work with Victoria on things that Violet did without me! I love to see Victoria counting seriously on her fingers, working the Cuisenaire rods, and really going through the process of learning.

I have had a lot of administrative tasks to do today, in addition to reading up on election post-mortems and following the still undecided senate race here, so I’ve let the girls go their way since lunch again. They went outside for over an hour again, just wandering up and down the sidewalk, playing some imagination game, not arguing (at least not so I could hear it), just having a fun, relaxed day.

Violet’s play starts tomorrow night, so I am also going very light on formal stuff to allow her to relax and rest. She’s been getting home at 10 pm this week — something I really don’t care for, and I’m not sure we’re going to do again soon. We were all very excited by her big part in her play this fall, but she is still 9, and needs lots of time to rest and relax just to grow her body and brain properly. It’s a tough call. She is one of the youngest in the cast, and it just may be too much for her. Of course, she would never say so!

I look forward to the return of normal post-election life, as I’m sure all of us do!

Leave a comment

Filed under Music and Art, Oh Mother, Schoolday Doings