Monday, March 19, 2012

A gift or just the infinite capacity for taking pains?

Patrick and I go through the often painful routine of practicing piano throughout the week. New material is a b*&#$. I am hard and impatient with him. And he often times ends up frustrated and defeated. Tiger Mom to the tee! But after the first knock down drag out struggle of lectures and time outs for not trying we begin to make some real progress. I am always saying something like:

"All things are difficult before they are easy."
Thomas Fuller

Warning: diversion. When I was a kid, I hated practicing anything. And even now I beat myself up as an adult for not just being a genius, and awesome at at least one thing in my life. It could be music, parenting, patience, art. I honestly don't care what it is. I just want to be a natural at SOMETHING and not have to work at it. I found this quote the other night and maybe there is something to it. OK, so I am hoping there is something to it.

"Gift, like genius, I often think only means an infinite capacity for taking pains."  
Jane Ellice Hopkins

Patrick's piano teacher is terrific. She clearly recognizes both Patrick and my capacity for taking pains. She pushes him to do things most adults would never dream that a kid could do. It actually crosses her mind that a kid can compose an entire song on his own or that he can play elementary Mozart and Beethoven at the age of 7. There is no too young in her mind. I half think she must giggle to herself as we walk out the door as she silently whispers "Good luck with that. He he." Gabrielle's motto must go something like this:

"There is nothing like biting off more than you can chew and then chewing anyway."
Mark Burnett

The latest musical struggle happened this past week. We have a recital coming up the end of April. Aside from a really difficult Beethoven piece that is in the key of B flat(!) with accidentals galore, we are working on a 3 page duet. Justin and I agreed to play duets on a seasonally rotating schedule. He plays in the winter and I in the spring. Well I'm up. This duet has been difficult for both of us. (We used to play duets where he had the easy part and I the more difficult part. We now play at the same level and the day when we trade places completely is not far away.) No repeating parts and a melody that gets tossed back and forth between us. I have some experience in music but haven't taken piano lessons proper since I was maybe 12. (There I go. Making excuses) And naturally, he manages to figure out his part before I do my own. And then proceeds to ask if I would like for him to record his part so that I can practice to it. I agree that it would be helpful and then still can't do it with which he says, "Why don't you let me play it slower for you mom! Then maybe you can get it." Argh.

Last night we managed to pull off the first two pages of the duet. We cheered and laughed and hugged each other. I looked at that kid in the eyes and couldn't believe the sense of pride I had in his dedication, his patience with me and his ability to work hard and then experience the gratification that comes with major progress and success. He deserved an award. I wanted to give him a million rewards in that moment. And promised a special date once we are ready for the recital.

It's tough going and there are times that I wonder if I am helping him become a person of dedication, hard work and success or just tormenting his childhood. These are the moments where I think I can tell. His eyes did not convey the pride in making it through another practice or getting that much closer to off the hook on his progress. It was sheer pride in his own achievements. And as he plays his songs, swaying to the music that only a kid with a real appreciation for something beautiful, it's obvious that he's getting more out of this than what meets the eye. Here is a little taste of the fruit of our labor.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Hookey from Church!

We played hookey from church this week and took a family ski day. It was glorious weather! I can't tell you how often the word glorious comes out of our mouths in reference to the word day. I will hear the kids saying sometimes. The weather recently, as I've heard from many of you, has just been epic. Despite it being spring skiing conditions where it was slushy and soft in places,we still managed to work on our jumps and moguls. Justin came home and waxed our skis to help with that sticky snow a bit in the upcoming weeks. Here is some footage from our day.

Engineer Mountain
It is bright outside without your goggles!
The boys on the way up to the top.
The photographers token picture!

Aeneas takes a sliding landing!

Aeneas takes a faceplant and survives!

Patrick take a tumble.

Family Fun!
West Needles
Patrick is way better than us at moguls but can't seem to pull it off under the pressure of the camera. 

Short skis make this look so easy. Now they are getting it.

Taking a break next to the fireplace at the base.
A little rascal made it into our picture.
Patrick starts to figure out the balance.

Another jump by Patrick with a little ego boost from the spectators.

"My parents made me do 6 runs of jumps and moguls today and I'm pooped."
The hike back the car is the hardest part of the day.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Hard mornings!

Mornings are hard. There's just no way around it. Despite living literally 4 min from school, we always manage to wait until the last minute to walk out the door and end up with a ticked mom, shuddering kids and a bad start to the day. I don't have the time built in to the morning for Aeneas getting his pants wet in the snow bank on the way out the door and needing a change, or Patrick's seatbelt getting closed in the door that he can't open on account of the child locks or both boys accidently getting in the wrong sides of the truck and then squabbling as they try to pass each other on the floorboard like alley cats. In a perfect world, every morning would be an easy and smooth transition from home to school. YEAH RIGHT. This ain't no perfect world!

So in a fit of parental madness in anticipation of the upcoming Monday, I sat down for about 15 min last Sunday night and threw together this morning chore chart. Lame illustrations but I was in one of those desperate fits that mothers tend to get into. (Go to Etsy for something really cool looking. There's no doubt someone out there has a much more designer way of accomplishing the same thing.) I explained the routine before they went to bed. They were so excited and so was I since that was the first sign that it might actually work.

They woke up a little before I emerged from my room, patiently waiting for breakfast to be served and half their cards already in the envelopes.

Things went so smoothly, I had time to even take their picture in all their crazy cute ready for school states! Success! No telling how long this will last, but for now, mornings at the McBrayer house just got a whole lot easier. And just in time for the time to change!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

A little experiment

I tried an experiment the other day...

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Old Fashioned Simplicity

My great-grand mother, Ossie Mae Snellgrove, whom we referred to as "Big Mama," was known far and wide for her pound cakes. I grew up with pound cakes cooling on the kitchen counter of both Big Mama and my Grandmother, Nana's kitchen my whole life. It's by far my favorite cake in all the world. And although I have been baking my own delicious versions of the family staple, I only recently took the time to realize just how easy they are to make. When I see all the packaged cakes and cookies in the stores I honestly don't understand why anyone would bother when it's not that difficult to make something so simply delicious and beautiful from scratch. It takes close to a pound of each of 6 ingredients that you most likely have on hand.  So here goes...

Take 3 sticks of butter and an 8 oz. block of cream cheese and cream in your mixer until well combined. Add 3 cups of sugar, mixing well after each addition. Crack 6 eggs into the running mixer and combine completely. Slowly add 3 cups of sifted flour and mix well. Add 2 tsp of vanilla. Scrape off the beater from your mixer with a spoon. Hand the beater to your kids to finish cleaning.

Scrape the batter into a greased and floured tube pan. (Or you can spray the pan with Baker's Joy. What an amazing invention!) Then lick the spoon if you can manage without your kids seeing you. Put it in a preheated oven (325 degrees) for roughly 1 1/2 hours checking after an hour to keep it from over baking.

Take it out of the oven and allow it to cool completely on a wire rack. Serve it with berries, ice cream, chocolate sauce or just with a napkin and a glass of milk as you walk out the door. And never look back!