Monday, June 23, 2014

A Piano Recital

I look at that photograph there and I feel two things:

First, I feel incredibly blessed to have these fourteen people (and their parents!) trusting me to teach them. I look at each of their faces and I know their individual personalities, the songs they love to play, and what makes them timid at the piano. I know which ones love to play forte and which ones I can barely get to play above pianissimo. I know which ones will practice, and which ones don't have a piano at home and so their progress crawls slowly with each week of lessons. I know what I can ask each of them to do. I know which ones love to perform and which ones are mustering every ounce of courage within them (and borrowing some from me) to be brave in front of an audience.

Secondly, I look at that picture and I think, "No wonder I'm so exhausted!"

But I love those kids. Some of them I've had for seven years. Many more have come through my home and moved away, or graduated from college, or moved on to other instruments. Teaching is such a privilege. I'm not really sure how I got so lucky. I'm really not qualified in any way, except that I love to teach and I know enough piano to pass it on.

This was a special recital this year. For one, instead of holding it at a church building, I reserved the recital room at the Steinway showroom in Pasadena where the kids got to play on a Steinway Concert Grand, worth $150,000. It was magnificent!

This was also Bryce's last recital. I've had Bryce in my home since he was 7 years old, every week, but now he is so busy with high school and drum line and a million other obligations and he simply doesn't have enough hours in the day to keep practicing for piano lessons. We had talked about it and I knew the time was coming, but I still didn't feel ready when a few weeks ago after his lesson, his mom said to me, "Did Bryce tell you?"

"Tell me what," I said.

"This is going to be it for him." She was sad too. It's hard to see your babies growing up and finishing phases.

"Wait, what? Today was it?"

"Well, through the recital," she offered.

I almost started crying right there on the porch. "I can't handle this right now," I said. "I've had three kids graduate in the last week, and now Bryce? Oh my gosh. Give me through June." I laughed a bit, as did she, but my heart was hurting. She understood.

This is Bryce's sister Cate. She is also growing so much at the piano and played a Bach piece beautifully. I was so proud of her! Now that Bryce will be moving on, I will start teaching the youngest brother who is the age that Bryce was when he started lessons.

I will miss these beautiful piano hands, and all the music that he has filled my house with over the years. He has become quite accomplished and he thrills the audiences with his performances. This year he played two pieces by Jon Schmidt, of The Piano Guys, as well as Beethoven's Minuet in G. He did an amazing job at All of Me. When I called him up for his final performance at the recital, I couldn't hold back the tears. There were several moist eyes in the room. I know he loves it and I know he'll keep playing, and that makes me so very happy.

Another thing that was special about this recital was that it was Conor's first. I've toyed around with teaching Conor for a couple of years, but we only got serious recently. He's grown up hearing piano music and he's seen what practice can do. He wants to learn and so I've made him an "official" student.

Somehow between the car and the gallery he lost his piano book, which remains a mystery, but fortunately he had his music memorized and he walked proudly up to that piano and played his pieces well.

This is Conor's friend, Jade. She's the daughter of one of my great friends. She and Conor have been friends since they were babies, and this was Jade's first recital also.

This is sweet Rebecca. Oh, she is a delight! She played one of my favorite pieces, Waltz in A Flat, by Brahms, and she played it so beautifully! She also played Beethoven's Ecossaises, which was a perfect piece for her. She is a wonderful performer and plays in church often as well. She's only 11 and already so accomplished.

I also teach two of Rebecca's siblings, Allison and Kyle. I can't wait to get the youngest brother! All of them are so wonderful and play so well.

I really, really love what I do. Progress is slow coming sometimes, and even frustrating. I'm tired often, squeezing lessons in between waking up from working the night before and getting ready to go to work again. But the kids get inside my heart and I just can't give it up. I never in a million years thought I'd be doing this, but it's been a blessing in so many ways.

It's nice to have another recital behind us now. A huge relief, really. Now we can get to work on even more music!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Harvest Has Begun!

When we pulled into the driveway after our long weekend in Arizona, the first thing I did was go to the garden. It felt like we'd been gone for weeks and things seemed to have really grown. The first thing I saw was this gigantic zucchini! My first harvest of the season! I had another zucchini and two cucumbers ready to pick as well.

This year I'm keeping track of the number of vegetables I harvest as well as the weight of what I harvest. I'm wondering how much bang for my buck I get from various plants, and if I am planting the right amount of things for what we want.

Even a few weeks later, these plants are so much bigger now! I did have Aiden pull up all the Swiss Chard last week, though. It became absolutely infested with aphids. I think there were eggs and they all hatched at once. The ladybugs were terribly outnumbered.

This week I also pulled up all the kale. It looks decent here, but the white cabbage moths kept laying their eggs on them and every day I was out there pulling off dozens of little green caterpillars. They were eating my plants faster than I could get them off. Of course, I swore off growing broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage for this same reason. Why did I think I'd have better luck with kale, which is in the same family? It makes me sad, though, because this kale is expensive in the grocery store and I was so looking forward to having it in the garden.

I have three zucchini plants growing, and I think we're going to be just fine this summer.

The pretty lettuce has mostly bolted. I'm waiting to collect seeds from the Parris Island Cos (the romaine lettuce). The spinach has bolted as well, but we got some good use out of the plants.

The cucumber plants are trailing up the trellis. I've harvested several more cucumbers since this picture. These are pickling cucumbers, so I'm looking forward to trying that.

 Yellow squash! Conor's favorite. We've eaten several already.

And speaking of Conor, here he is watering the plants for me, well protected in case something dangerous goes down out there.

Gardens are good.

Two More Graduations

These kids just keep growing up. The week after we got back from Arizona we had two more graduations on the same day. Little Aiden was graduating from 8th grade, and Caitlin was graduating from high school.

At his request, I took Aiden out to the store the night before to find something to wear. He wanted to be "stylish," he said, and that included a bow tie. So we found a bow tie and a new shirt, and then he and I had quite the time in my bathroom that night as I tried over and over (with the help of a Youtube video) to learn how to tie the darn thing. It was both frustrating and hilarious, but I got it! And in the morning, it only took me four tries to do it again.

When we moved here to California when Adam and I got married, Aiden was not yet in kindergarten, so it kind of blows my mind that he has now finished all of his elementary years. He's done so well, and will be attending a very good high school (that is far away and was an issue for a bit, but we just have to figure it out as we go.)

Of course, I had some tears. No matter how many times you've seen your children grow and progress, it doesn't get any easier. The time just goes too quickly. And this boy is so dear to my heart.

Aiden with his best friend, Nick. Look like Nick's mom opted for the clip-on variety to save herself the aggravation.

I love this shot, because it was Aiden who instigated it. We were just standing there, amongst all of his friends and he came over and just wrapped his arms around me. I'm so glad he's not too cool to love his mom.

Later that night, Adam and I attended the high school graduation of his oldest daughter, Caitlin. What an absolute sweetheart she is. I just adore her, and we are so proud of her. This girl has been through so much, and this year was really tough on her, but she just continues to work hard and keep shining.

After the ceremony, Adam and I went out to a fun dinner with her mom and that side of Caitie's family. We had a great time celebrating her and eating delicious food and cake. Now, Caitlin is backpacking her way through Europe with her boyfriend, having an absolutely terrific time. We're keeping up with her through Facebook pictures and daily texts to her dad. We are so grateful that our children get to have amazing experiences. When she gets home, she'll be moving to Santa Barbara to find a job and get ready for college! Our little Caitlin!

Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Other Parts of our Trip

Adam and I are officially "back together." I need to write a post about that. It happened unexpectedly and only very recently, though even before that time I had invited him to come with us up to Arizona for Dylan's graduation. Aiden was not able to come because just days before we were leaving, our beloved kitty, Maestro got very, very sick. We took him to the doctor, but he needed care at home, so Aiden volunteered to stay and tend to him. We were sad Aiden couldn't be with us, but so relieved that the kitty was in good hands.

I really wanted this to be a good experience for Adam and me. It's hard for him, and vulnerable for me, because Arizona was a part of my life that happened before he did. I was married to another man, I was building a first family, I was mourning the loss of a different marriage. These are sensitive subjects for him, so I felt cautious in what I reminisced about aloud, but I also really wanted him to open up to all of the parts of my life, as my past brought me to him. It was a bit of a dance, but I was grateful that he came along.

The long stretch of highway between California and Arizona is well known to me. For many years, I drove five hours to the halfway point, at this Exit 69 on I-10 where I would meet my ex-husband and "make the exchange," either dropping off or picking up our three big kids, and then turn around and drive the five hours back home. I did it alone, I did it pregnant, I did it with an infant, then a baby, then a toddler, then a little kid Conor. Many, many times. And then we started to put them on airplanes and have them fly. (That's been so much easier!)

Seeing the exit brought back so many memories. I used to get this huge knot in my stomach and then fight to hold back tears as we approached, only to let them free once I was driving in the opposite direction. Those were hard times.

On our way through the Phoenix valley, we had an impromptu visit with my sister Amanda and her family, to say goodbye before they move back to New Jersey. It was so good to see her and get to hug her.

Then we headed over to the Gilbert Temple. Adam has the picture, but when we were walking around, we ran into an old friend of mine from years and years ago when I lived in Show Low. It was so random that her family was the only other family there, and they had just come out of the temple with her son who had received his endowments preparatory to leaving on his mission. It must have been twelve years since I'd last seen her. What a cool reunion!

Then we made a quick dash over to my brother Josiah's house so I could squish my newest niece, Everleigh. She is just the cutest thing! Oh, my goodness, it made me want a baby so badly!

(Conor would love that. He wants a baby too, but I'm afraid that's not to be.)

My handsome brother.

And his darling wife. I love her and wish we lived closer.

Finally, late that night we ended up in Show Low, driving through the canyon and the forests in the dark. Oh, the memories! I have driven those roads countless times, and there was such an interesting feeling as we approached town. Those mountains hold so much for me. My life unraveled there, and I came to know the Savior in the most personal way there as a result.

We stayed with my dad and Raelene, and they treated us to a huge breakfast our first morning.

Conor was thrilled for some chicken action. Grandpa and Grandma have lots of chickens! Conor learned to feed worms to the chickens and we checked on the eggs that their hen, Chik Patty was setting on.

He played some chess with Grandpa.

And some Pick-Up-Sticks.

Then we headed over to the Staley house for a pre-graduation party. I was so happy to see my boy! I hadn't seen him since his visit at Christmas.

The next morning we headed to the Snowflake Temple, another hallowed spot for me.

And then we went back up to Pinetop to the Ace Hardware where Dylan has worked for the last eighteen months. It was fun to see him in action. Here he is cutting rebar.

He was so great as he helped customers, and he showed us the aisles of the store that are his sole responsibility. He's doing a great job there!

I also loved that he took me around and introduced me to his friends and co-workers. I love hearing my kids say, "This is my mom." It's my favorite title in the world.

Conor played at the Staley house for a while for their youngest boy's birthday, and then we made a quick trip over to the Family Fun Park while we waited for Dylan to get off work.

Dylan got to choose wherever he wanted to go for dinner and he chose Aliberto's, a kind of fresh fast-food Mexican joint, that I have to say was pretty delicious.

Then we enjoyed our last night with Grandpa, who showed Conor his cool fossil collection, as he has all the other grandchildren before him. My children love their Grandpa. He is so gentle and kind to them and shows such a loving, personal interest in them.

And then, early Sunday morning, Grandma took Conor out to the Chicken Cacciatorium, and lo, and behold. . .

There was a fresh hatchling! What a sweet privilege for little Conor!

Then it was back on the road. We stopped at the bottom of the Salt River Canyon, but the sun was pretty bright!

And it was hot!

And after our stop at the Mesa Temple, we settled in for the long stretch home.

It was a good trip in some very important ways.