Monday, December 27, 2010

"And give money to all street musicians. . ."

This "request" was on a list in a book I was reading called "It was on Fire When I Lay Down on It" by Robert Fulghum of things you really should do (kind of like commandments but not quite). "7. And give money to all street musicians."

There's this bagpipe player who stands outside Abravanel Hall after symphony productions and plays his heart out. Eric happens to be Scottish and LOVES the bagpipe. He always throws money in this man's case. As we walked home after the symphony one night, he told me he wants bagpipes played at his funeral. "Whatever," I said. Not very reverent, but it was "duly noted" in my mind and we walked on. A couple minutes later, Eric decided to jaywalk and I can't exactly remember what happened but there was a car and a close call, and I told Eric I could head back over now and ask the guy if he did funerals.

A couple months later, as Bianca, Portia, our neighbor friend Hannah (who was staying with us that weekend), and I were leaving from the Nutcracker at the Capitol Theatre, there was a man just outside on the sidewalk. His beard was as bushy as a squirrel's tail and he looked homeless, but he was holding a cello, bowing back and forth with his frozen fingers peeking out of his gloves, playing Jingle Bells. This time it was me, digging through my purse for money. Bianca wanted to put the money in his pile. She wanted to give him more, but I only had so much to pay for parking at the garage. It made me wonder about this guy who was playing a cello on the street. The cello isn't a cheap instrument to get into. What had happened in his life that he stood there on the street and played his pretentious cello in the most humble circumstances, in 15 degree snowy nights?

Last week, I was pleasantly surprised when I saw this very same street musician named Eli highlighted in an article about Christmas. It made me smile to see his face again. Bianca and I both watched the video. I cried a little.

I don't typically give to random people asking for money, but street musicians are working for what they get. They're doing their part. I get to hear their music, so giving a buck or two here and there is just my part.

Christmas 2010

I'm not sure exactly what it was that made this year seem so much better than other Christmases in the past, but I just know how I feel and this was about as good as a Christmas could get!

When I was a kid, we always went to my dad's side Christmas celebration on Christmas Eve and my mom's on Christmas Day. Well, we're lucky to have somewhere to go Christmas Day--since neither Eric nor I have immediate family in the area--and this leaves Christmas Eve to just our family. For Christmas Eve, Eric made shepherd's pie (a tradition he's carried on from his family) for dinner. After eating, we read the Christmas story out of the New Testament and acted it out as best we could--with Bianca as Mary, Portia as Joseph, a stuffed bear Leah for baby Jesus, although our goat (Tigger) and ox (Jillyboo) weren't exactly cooperative.




I liked how they used Portia's silkies in the costuming. Here's Bianca helping Portia after a wardrobe malfunction.



Bianca provided three musical numbers on her viola--What Child Is This?, The First Noel, and The Little Drummer Boy. The music was interspersed with reading a Christmas story (The Tale of the Three Trees, thanks Crystal!) and with pulling out the Thankful Box we kept all December and read aloud the things we've been thankful for this month. We laughed so hard when we read a couple of Portia's contributions (remember she's just learning how to write and knows mostly the letters in her own name) but I swear she had written something that could only be pronounced "poopoocity". The Thankful Box was an idea Eric's aunt Joan gave us on Thanksgiving, and I'm so glad we did it. I especially remember ending on "I'm thankful for a warm house" as we sat in front of the fire together. We let the girls each pick one present to open (from her grandparent's box that arrived a week before), then nestled them into their warm beds.

The next morning, we were up around 6:30 and began opening the presents. I was trying to cut down on the amount of actual toys this year and opted to get them other useful things they would love. Portia's highlights were the Boomwhacker xylophone (not as loud as you might think), new gymnastics leotard, lots and lots of art supplies and her Travel Turtle so she can color in the car. Bianca got a violin, a sea-turtle-shaped thumb piano, ice skates, and books. I like gifts that encourage my kids to continue on with their talents.


If you'd like to know what my favorite present was this year, check out the wood floors in the first two pictures. I love, love, love them!

We had a quick breakfast of cocoa and cinnamon toast while Eric was preparing the "Bread Pudding Quiche" to take to Uncle Bruce and Aunt Joanie's house. We're so grateful they include us in their family celebrations each year, and we always have a wonderful time. So wonderful we could stay all day. A lot of times we do! The brunch was delicious and we sat around talking, playing games and watching movies the rest of the day. This is what Christmas should be.




Monday, December 13, 2010

A last-minute vacation plan, a ton of fun


I'm a planner. I like to do all my planning way ahead of time so I can sit back and wait, all the while having something really fun to look forward to. My sister Susannah and I booked our cruise for the first week of December at least six months ago. My mom bought her flight to come along with us and our families. Then three weeks before our trip, the very cruise ship we were scheduled to be on caught fire, stranding passengers for days without electricity or flushing toilets (but not really eating spam, that was all the media from what I heard). But the bad news was that the ship was out of commission until January, and we were out of a vacation.

That's when I started to panic. We considered Oregon (too far to drive), going to California anyway just to visit my sister (I didn't want my family to drive her crazy and her house was for sale at the time), Las Vegas???, a ski trip. . . We had a family meeting. We pretty much ruled out everything else and decided to do the ski trip. I found someone on ksl classifieds who was listing the week we needed at a 3-bedroom lodge with kitchen, and we decided to go to Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

We drove up on last Saturday right after Eric's company's Christmas party (which was watching Tangled at the movie theatre) for the 4-5 hour drive and we arrived around 9 pm. Here are my angels (I mean, snow angels) on the car ride:


I guess I wasn't expecting too much but I was so happy with the place we were staying. It was literally inside the ski resort. You walk out the front entrance and there's the ski school building; out the back and there's a tram, a gandola, and another chair lift. They even had lockers with boot dryers to keep our skiing equipment. Outside the windows, everything was sparkly and white. A wintery wonderland. Oh and the best part??? The two free lift tickets per day that came with the room. Talk about a pleasant surprise!

We took the first day to get settled in. We had a delicious lunch at Cafe Genevieve (which was supposed to be Jedediah's but was really good nonetheless--get the biscuits and gravy). On Monday, we bundled the girls up in their coats, snow pants, hats, scarves, gloves, boots and marched them right across the street to their ski school. I'd been prepping Portia for this by telling her that she was going to a "ski preschool." Bianca knew what to expect because she'd done snowboard lessons at Snowbird last year. But what we weren't expecting was so few people. I didn't realize this, but on a normal year, the resort is barely open with very little snow. However, we lucked out. The resort opened the week before with most of the mountain open. And the best part was there was maybe one or two other kids in the classes and an overabundance of instructors so my kids got private tutors each day.

With the girls taken care of, Eric and I were free to explore the mountain on our own. He skis, I snowboard, so we don't normally go together. I'm not used to riding up the lift with a skier but we figured it out. And I suppose it's not that bad with a skier; Eric's pretty fast. We went all over the mountain and would head back to the bottom to spy on our kids every so often. We'd have a nice, quiet lunch together and have until 3 when Portia needed to be picked up.

We skied every other day so as to not wear ourselves out or the kids and rested on Tuesday and Thursday. On the other days, we spent a lot of time in the "hot pool" as Portia liked to call it, took baths, and watched Christmas movies and would go out to eat. We had a great time one night at the Merry Piglets (Mexican, if you can believe that) and went on a frantic search through the village of Jackson looking for candy sticks. I'm still not sure what prompted that little wild goose chase, but the good news is that Eric found some.


We found these adorable hats at the Mangy Moose gift shop and just had to get them for the girls. They provided hours of entertainment for them too--as Portia roared at just about anyone as she wore it and Bianca and Portia played lion and mouse in the hotel on our days off.


On Friday, it snowed all morning--hard--and the afternoon was frosty but sunny and the snow was still cushy (which as a snowboarder I can appreciate). I couldn't believe when Eric and I came down the mountain and saw Portia on a true ski run with her instructor Zack. They do this cute game called red light, green light on skis but the best part was the purple light, which meant she had to boogie while she skied. So cute! She went up the chair lift five times on Friday afternoon.


Bianca was having a blast too. On the last day, she had mastered the "S" turn and could link her S turns all the way down the run. I was so happy to see how much she improved from Monday.


It was sad to pack up and go. On our drive out of Jackson, we saw a herd of elk, two moose drinking from the Snake River, a fox, and some other wildlife. I can truly say this was one of my favorite vacations ever. We just may have to do a ski trip every year now.

Next weekend, I'm going to go meet my sister and her family and my mom in Las Vegas. I guess I got two trips out of this one.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

The awesome week all the hard work pays off

This has been a crazy week. It's Bianca's last week before she goes off track for the rest of December. Everytime I ask Bianca about things that have been happening this week, she answers "It's awesome." Not a creative response, but telling nonetheless.

Monday was the Reflections awards ceremony. This year's theme was "Together we can. . ." Bianca worked really hard and entered in three categories. She wrote a cute story called "Piano Girl" in which a girl playing a certain song lures a little girl out from a piano. The two characters work together to find out how to send the girl back to where she needs to be. She entered this in the literature category. In musical composition (Bianca's favorite), she wrote a duet with viola and piano called "Skipping Stones." The song jumps around a lot to resemble stones skipping across the water. The third category was visual art, and Bianca drew a poster of birds singing together while flying through the sky. Bianca is moving onto district in both literature and music composition. She was really excited when the winnings included a $1 coin and a $5 gift card to B& N, which she's already used.

Tuesday was the mall project (see previous blog for more information on Bianca's Beach Band Shack) and the Story Weavers contest at school (which is a storytelling contest). She'd been working on the fairytale called "Toads and Diamonds." She and another boy were chosen to represent her class.

Wednesday was the orchestra concert. Bianca arranged a viola solo with piano called "A Minor" Christmas Puzzle (you're supposed to guess which Christmas songs she put in there) and performed it at the concert. I thought she did great. 

Bianca also arranged a song called "Silent Morning" (based on Silent Night) for her friend Kalli to play on the violin. Bianca was able to accompany her. And yes, that's Portia who danced into the camera. I swear Portia thought the entire concert was a dancing recital for her.

We went to see Ballet West's Nutcracker Thursday night. Eric got free tickets somehow from his work. We're watching our cute neighbor Hannah while her mom is out of town, so she was able to come with us. The seating was open, so we were in the front row, very center seats.

On Friday, Bianca had to go in front of the entire school and tell her "Toads and Diamonds" story again. She competed against the winners of all the other classes, all the way up to the sixth grade. She got fourth place in the whole school. Not bad!

I don't know how much else can be packed into one week. We have to clear out a couple rooms in our house so that our wood floors can be put in while we're away and pack the car for Jackson Hole. We leave on Saturday.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Bianca's Beach Band Shack, an entrepreneurial enterprise

For a month now, Bianca's been planning which business she's going to open for her school's mall. Everyone in the fourth grade had to come up with his or her own business plan, set up shop, and parents were invited today to come and shop!


Bianca used a bunch of mussel shells she collected two years ago on our vacation to Maine and created little musical instruments--Sea Shell String-a-lings (which she added little rubber bands to them so they you can pluck to make music) and Mussel Maracas (which she filled up with beads and superglued together). I thought it was brilliant.



She started off pretty optimistic with the prices she was asking. It didn't take long, though, for her to realize she'd have to lower her prices if Bianca's Beach Band Shack was going to be a successful enterprise (see scratched-out prices on photo below).



The parents were given free money, and I was able to shop and shop. I bought some instruments from Bianca but also bought some book marks, flower hair clips (which Bianca bought also, which is evident in the photo), rock animals, candy, a hand-crocheted scarf. Every time I turned around, teachers were giving me more money to spend. I wish shopping at Southtowne Mall were more like this.

What a fun way to teach children about starting a business!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Witches Brew

Portia's preschool did a Witches Brew etiquette luncheon instead of a typical Halloween party this year. They were supposed to wear their best dresses rather than a costume. They had a five-course meal and Portia was escorted to her seat by a gentleman.

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They used fine china.

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Portia tried a pickle and says she liked it, although she wouldn't eat one for me at home.

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They drank out of goblets.

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Portia loved the chocolate-covered strawberry and she will eat those for me at home.

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Here's Portia's cute preschool class.

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I love my Portia!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Bianca's Trophy


On Friday, Bianca came home from her chess tournament with a trophy for first place of all the fourth graders. She was so happy.

Piano Challenge #3: Serenade by Franz Schubert

The next song in the piano book I'm trying to conquer is Serenade by Franz Schubert. I really like this song. About a year ago, when I went to see "Young Victoria," this is the song that was played throughout the movie because Schubert was Prince Albert's favorite composer. I loved the movie because it's a clean, sweet story of true love in marriage. I even bought the DVD for both my mom and my mother-in-law for Mother's Day last year. I enjoyed learning to play this song.

There is a part near the end where I pretty much botch a couple measures but I'm hoping if you watch that you'll lose interest by that time.

Another interesting note: A couple months ago, Bianca's piano teacher told her that she tends to lock her fingers when she's playing. I realized I have the same problem. It's pretty apparent in this video. I don't know how to undo this since I've been locking my fingers my entire life.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Fire

When I was a kid returning home from a family summer vacation, I was always shocked as we rounded the curve of our street that our house was still standing there. A fire hadn't burned it down. I don't know why I felt it was miraculous that my room was still where it should be, and my things (although not put away) were where they should be.

This September, the day after we arrived in Florida for a Quigley family reunion vacation, Eric received this picture on his phone from his friend Tim who was taking care of our animals:



He asked if we wanted him to grab anything out of our house for us. We laughed. Then a couple minutes later, I started to panic. There really was a fire in Herriman and we were hundreds of miles away. We stayed up most of the night watching the progression of the fire as it made its way over the mountain near my house online and talking to our neighbors on Facebook. More neighborhoods and streets were evacuated each time. It was coming closer and closer. Most of the people on our street evacuated, although it wasn't a mandatory evacuation like most of the other streets nearby.



I began to think how relieved I was we weren't there (so we didn't have to try to find a place to stay or breathe in that smokey air), all the while feeling helpless that I couldn't save the things I most wanted to keep from burning. This put a lot of things in perspective for me. The things I most wanted safe were photos of Miranda that I could never, ever get back. And our musical instruments--especially Bianca's cheap viola from China that she's completely attached to and her much more expensive cello. Our pets of course. I told Eric to ask Tim if he wouldn't mind grabbing my books for me (all 500-700 hundred of them, I'm not even sure how many there are). Of course the books are replaceable. And I wouldn't even mind rebuilding our house. In fact, in a way, I thought that'd be kind of fun.

I couldn't sleep most of the night. Around 2 a.m., I saw an update on ksl.com that said fifteen houses in Herriman had already burned and the fire was still going strong. The next morning, the news said it was only three had burned. A miracle really.

And when I saw photos of the mountain all black and so, so close to houses, I agree that it was a miracle that more houses hadn't burned. I'm sure a lot of prayers had been issued forth that night. I know my own were mingled in amongst the others. The wind had turned and headed the other direction, which if you know Herriman, you know that's really rare.



The next morning, we got up and watched the news online some more, then got ready and headed to Disneyworld. It was strange to be hundreds of miles away in a place where we were supposed to be having fun, all the while thinking of my home by the minute and wondering if everything would be as it should when I returned. In some ways, I kind of wished I could have been out in the yard with the neighbors watching the fire creep over the mountain and be nearby to grab those things that were most important to me. But then again, I had what was most important to me within my grasp.



As we pulled up to our house a week later, there it was, as it should be. Upon entering, I was relieved to see everything in its place. The air smelled a little smokey; there was some ash in crevices on the front porch and the garage. But I was home and this time, it really was a miracle that it was still standing there.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Who wore it better?



I still can't decide if Jillyboo or Tigger should wear the turtle costume. What's your vote? (Then I'll do a percentage just like they do in the magazines.)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Rambling on about what other people think v. what I think

Eric has told me for the past eleven years that we've been married that I care too much about what other people think. I try to consciously make decisions every day that matter to me only, and not about what someone else might think, but I have to admit I'm having a very difficult time with this.

I mean, if you really think about it, if I honestly didn't care what anyone else thinks, I guess there'd be no reason to get dressed every day. I really could stay in my pajamas to drop Portia off at preschool or I guess make-up would completely be history. I know there's a fine balance here in wanting myself to look presentable (for me, I suppose, or for whom really?) and not wanting people to think I'm a total slob. But there we go back to caring about what other people think.

Last week when I was so conflicted about Bianca's performance on piano in front of all those important piano people, one of my friends made the comment on Facebook that as long as I knew Bianca could play that song well, then what did it matter if she messed up in front of all those other people? But really, isn't it human to want to be accepted and respected by other people? Then caring what they think is clearly important. Can't I want other people to think "Wow, that little girl is pretty good on the piano!" And is it for my glory or for hers that I don't want to see her fail? Is it really wrong to want other people to notice?

I'm trying to get to a point in my own personal writing where I want to write for me and me only--that way, my love for writing isn't hinged upon the sale of my novel or for success of the monetary kind. It has to be for me. But why do writers slave away in a lonesome room? It's the most solitary thing we can do in which we're trying to relate to other people. After all, don't writers want other people to enjoy their work? I finally feel like I've reached a point where I honestly don't mind if I never publish anything I write. I'll keep writing because it gives me purpose and makes me feel creative and smart, even if it is only for myself. But let's face it: Even without ever publishing, I still want the people in my writing group to like and relate to what I'm writing about. And then am I just lazy if I write novel after novel and don't put it out there because I don't want to be rejected over and over?

I know I could go in circles about this for hours. But I really am trying to find the right balance of wanting to care less what other people think and do things for myself, but where is the right balance? When will I figure this out?

On Sunday, after five days of letting Bianca just not play Fur Elise, I took out my video camera and I asked her if she would play it for me. She sat there in her comfortable pajamas, on my humble upright piano, and she played slowly and carefully and beautifully and so relaxed, and I knew she could do it. So why did I want to tape it to prove that she could do it? And why do I want to post it now just so that I am reaffirmed that she could have done it like this all along--and who am I really trying to prove this to?

I know life is a whole learning experience and I'm still learning every single day.







Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Halloween

I love Halloween! I usually start planning what my girls are going to be at least by the end of August. This year, Bianca said she wanted to be Mozart. I found a costume that would have worked perfectly and then she chickened out and said she'd be too embarrassed to wear it to school. So I said fine, she can wear the Mad Hatter costume that she didn't get around to wearing last year.

If you know me, then you know I'm in love with owls. When I saw Pottery Barn Kids' little girl owl costume, I had to get it for Portia even though it seriously pained me to pay full price for it. Still, hopefully I can get some of that money back next year when I sell in on ebay. After all, the owl costume sold out pretty quickly at PB, which usually means it will sell high. Last night, Portia won 3rd place at the Herriman city orchestra's Halloween event. She was very excited to get the king-size candy bar. She had no problem marching up on stage to retrieve her prize.



Wednesday, October 20, 2010

How much is too much to ask?

Several weeks ago, I discovered Utah Symphony's Youth Guild. It's the perfect kind of program for someone like my daughter whose whole world is music. Not only do we get really discounted symphony tickets, but there are educational opportunities and other ways to enmesh oneself in the world Bianca loves. They have these masterclasses where professors of music and professional musicians come and help the kids with their music. They were doing a piano masterclass requesting performers so I called to find out what was involved and what level the performer needs to be at. The woman answered, "Concerto," which I have an idea what that means and promptly responded that I didn't think my daughter was quite ready. She asked me what her latest polished piece was and although it wasn't quite polished yet, I told her Beethoven's Fur Elise. She said she'd put Bianca on the list.

After I hung up, I started to worry. In fact, I hoped she wouldn't be chosen but a week later we got the call that she made it as a performer. That's when my worry went into overdrive. I even resorted to bribery (I'm not proud of it) but I talked her in to playing the song ten times a day and I'd buy her two books she'd been wanting. Bianca totally fulfilled her end of the bargain and she practiced without complaint. And she improved and she even memorized it (which I hadn't expected) and at home, the song was nearly perfect. She was ready.

Yesterday, I took her downtown for the masterclass. Most of the other performers were quite a bit older than Bianca (most were high-schoolers playing Rachmaninoff and Chopin and the other great piano concertos). Bianca stood up there bravely, struggled with the bench that was quite large for her, and played her piece. And as she played, Bianca struggled in a way I hadn't seen her do for weeks. She even stopped the song a couple times to get back on track. But she made it through and she finished strong. The instructor (Hilary Demske, a professor at UVU) helped her with several things--she was using much too much pedal (in the video, you can see her pumping away at it like she's playing a pump organ) and her left hand drowns out her right hand in the fast section near the end and Hilary taught her a way to make big chords easier with her small hands.

The next morning, as I watched the video, I cringed. Not because of her messing up (well, a little because of that) but mainly because I know I put too much pressure on her. Bianca didn't ask me to throw her into a group of musicians who are on the fast-track to Julliard. She just loves playing the piano and music. Maybe this is all just too much for her. I mean, her goal isn't to be a concert pianist. In fact, she says she likes playing her stringed instruments better and she really wants to be a composer. But she's very good at piano and I guess I wanted to believe that she fit in with this group of people. Because I was the one who pushed her in. I guess this is a life lesson for me.

But how do the kids who are truly great get noticed without pushy parents who take a chance? What about that little 10-year-old girl who sings opera on America's Got Talent? My guess is she had a pushy mom (or other person in her life) or no one would know she exists. I read recently that Beethoven was a prodigy just as Mozart was as a child but his parents didn't know how to "market" him the way Mozart's parents did. I'm not saying Bianca's a prodigy, but I do want to give her all the opportunities in the world she can have. I guess I just need to make sure she wants them.

She did work hard and despite her mistakes, I'm still very, very proud of her. (After watching the video again, I'm a little heartbroken that it's me Bianca looks at right before the performance and right after. I'm guessing my opinion means more to her than anyone else's. She needs to know that I'm proud of her and I'm going to make sure I let her know.)

Monday, September 13, 2010

We're learning to play the cello


Yes, all three of us. Bianca asked for a cello for her birthday and begged to learn cello this year in beginner orchestra (of course she will still be playing viola in advanced orchestra too). So I found a cello on KSL classifieds, and we picked it up about a month ago. That's when Bianca started showing me where the different notes were. She said she just watched last year when the orchestra instructor was showing the cello students. The only cello music in the house was the stuff Bianca had written, so I picked out a couple easy songs. Yes, I know I'm too old for something like this and much too big for this 1/4-size cello and it's ridiculous I'm trying to play an instrument I never even touched my entire life, but it's kind of fun. I also realize how horrible I am, but I'm learning. I'm so proud of the calluses on the pads of my fingers on my left hand I got from playing. Portia likes to have her "cello lessons" every day too and we have to put the end-pin down as far as it will go (mine has to be up as high as it will go) and she just bows back and forth.

I've been practicing a song Bianca wrote especially for me on the cello (to play with her on viola) called "Cello in Vienna."
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Saturday, September 4, 2010

Portia's in Preschool!


Portia started preschool this week. She's making new friends and learning lots of new songs and other new things. Her teacher told me that she's very good at coloring, which I knew, and I know that art is her favorite thing! I didn't do a real preschool with Bianca (just a neighborhood style preschool where the moms rotated the classes) so this is a new experience for me as well! It feels strange though--rushing in the morning to have Portia ready in time. I've lost my leisurely mornings with just Portia and me. I'll miss that but it's exciting to start this new chapter!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Unbeatables


I'm so relieved it's finally over. The chorus practices, the anxiety I felt about how this was all going to turn out had taken over my entire August. Last weekend were the performances of the musical that I wrote the script for back in February (for the City of Herriman's children's theatre to perform)--We Built This City on Rock and Roll. I thought it would be fun to see something I wrote, the characters I created, and the storyline I came up with all played out on stage. But it wasn't quite how I'd hoped. I was constantly worried about changes being made (which when it comes down to it, the dialogue stayed mostly how I wrote it). I was also concerned about how the songs (popular 80s songs like Thriller, Take on me, Girls Just Wanna Have Fun, etc.) were handled in light of the play. Although the performances were a little unprofessional, it was nice to see it up there on stage and even nicer to know it's over.

The idea for the musical came to me after Bianca competed in a chess tournament last year. She told me how she and the boys (they're mostly boys who play chess in these competitions) would trash talk each other while they were in the midst of games. I thought this was funny and couldn't imagine my sweet little Bianca telling some 5th grade boy she was going to kick his butt. But still, this gave me the inspiration for the main character Quinn and her timely defeat of a friend (a neighbor boy Kingston) in a school chess tournament that started a real-live chess match of pranks between the two neighbors the night after the girls beat the boys' chess team. I thought it was pretty clever.

I was really disappointed when Bianca didn't get one of the lead parts for the girls. I'd hoped she would. And Bianca was disappointed as well, but she said it was okay. Although she really wanted a lead, she still wanted to be in the chorus.

I know I've been dealing with a lot of pride issues surrounding this play. It doesn't matter (it's just a silly kids' musical) and it should be enough that it was performed, but I just wish someone would care what I thought instead of just taking the script (that surely must have somehow appeared by magic and FREE!) and running with it. I know, I know, I just need to get over myself.

But Bianca had fun and she did her part great. She even got a little solo in "Don't Go Breaking My Heart" which I personally thought was one of the best songs of the musical. She was dressed as a boy on the boy's side but she made a great boy and she did the best she could with the part she was given, which makes me more proud than anything else. I guess that's what I should do--accept that I did the best I could and that should be enough. I guess it'll have to be for now.

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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Bianca's viola recital


With year-round school, it's hard to find a summer camp. Every strings camp that sounded good either took place while Bianca's still in school or back to school. There was one we signed up for, but it was cancelled. So instead, I decided to put Bianca in private viola lessons. It would help with her technique and the little things the orchestra instructor at school can't help each child with. So we found someone who teaches viola/violin and started at the beginning of June. Her teacher Brian graduated in viola performance from BYU so I thought he'd be a good fit. And it's gone well. He expects a lot--she has to memorize her songs every week--and Bianca has really had to step it up. The recital was on Saturday, and Bianca has really improved.

The funniest part of the day, however, was something Portia said. Bianca--and the other younger students--have all been working their way through Suzuki book one. So when one of the other kids played a song for the recital that Bianca had already played herself weeks before, Portia yelled out, "Bianca wrote that song." I pressed my hand over her mouth and told her that while Bianca has written a lot of songs, she didn't write that one. Funny, and embarrassing.

Assuming the private lessons aren't too much work when orchestra picks back up in September, we might keep going with them.


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Saturday, August 7, 2010

Deciphering 4th Grade Language

So Bianca started fourth grade two weeks ago. This year is starting off much better than last year. She already loves her teacher, Mrs. Lloyd. Bianca comes home excited every day, telling me the projects they're working on and even about finishing up her homework. There are also a lot more boys in her class this year. I had a feeling fourth grade was going to be the year that the boys started catching up with the girls. For the last three years, Bianca's gifted class has had maybe five boys tops. This year it's half and half.

When I went to pick Bianca up from school yesterday, she got in the car and said, "Mom, I think a boy likes me."

I said, "Really? Why do you think that?"

"Well," she continued, "George said he wished every girl in the class would explode except for Bianca."

I laughed. I guess it could mean that.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Bianca's Concert


I hadn't thought of it that way until my sister's husband Rob said that Bianca's recital was a concert, since she was the only person performing. It just so happened to be that way because Bianca's piano teacher only teaches one other student so she would give them each their own recital. Bianca prepared quite a few songs for the big day and had most of them memorized because she had practiced them for so long. We pushed it off so we could have the recital while all my family was in town. I didn't get a chance to write this blog before now because I was recovering from a house full of family and then the fifth anniversary of Miranda's death. But I don't want to pass up this opportunity to say how proud and impressed I was with my Bianca who did a great job. This is what she played:

Reuben and Rachel Folk Tune -- Arranged by John W. Schaum
Canon in D (Duet with Bianca’s piano teacher Michelle Willis) -- Johann Pachelbel
Mirage -- Michael Runyan
Sonata in C -- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Mountains Moving -- Original composition by Bianca Quigley
Jump of the Grasshopper -- Original composition by Bianca Quigley
The Entertainer -- Scott Joplin
Ballade -- F. Burgmuller
Rain on a Dark Morning -- Original composition by Bianca Quigley featuring:
Violin—Michelle Willis; Viola—Bianca Quigley; Cello—Spencer Willis; Piano—Jeana Quigley



Monday, August 2, 2010

Eric's Fan Club

I love Sundays. That's the day Eric cooks. He loves to cook and I love when he cooks. I really wish he'd come home from work every night and cook, but no such luck. Still, I'll take my Sundays. Yesterday he made fresh crab and avocado melts for dinner, along with homemade key lime pie. Not to mention the Belgian waffles with strawberries and fresh whipped cream for breakfast. Wow, I'm salivating just remembering yesterday. It was funny, though. When Eric was boiling the crab, Portia came in asking what that stinky smell was. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there were Tigger and Jillyboo hanging with Eric in the kitchen--his biggest fans, besides me. And Bianca.

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Monday, July 19, 2010

A story I've told more than five times

This is a blog topic from my theme-blog group. Most of you may already have heard this story (hence the reason I'm telling it) but even so, I still think it's a remarkable story:

The story I'm going to share is the one when I found out I had cancer. It was only a month after I had Bianca, my first child. As the weight started coming off, I noticed my belly was lopsided. Especially when I laid down. My doctor felt it and agreed there was a problem--was it a surgical sponge she'd forgotten to remove after the c-section? We did an ultrasound, then a CT scan, and they told me first it was a dermoid, then a benign tumor. It wasn't until two weeks after the surgery (and they removed my "football" sized tumor) did we find out it was malignant, a cancer called liposarcoma. What makes it so strange is that this is a cancer usually found in elderly men.

The really interesting part of this story is when I was having my surgery, it was right after Christmas. So my mom and dad, and sister with her 5-year-old son Collin came out to SLC to visit and watch my newborn baby. The night before my surgery, my sister Betsy said she wanted to feel my tumor. I laid down (as that was the easiest way to feel it) and guided her hand to the protrusion. She didn't make much of a reaction then, but several days later, after I was released from the hospital, she asked if I would do something for her. She wanted me to feel her little boy's tummy. When I did, I freaked out because it felt exactly like my tumor did. I told her to go to the ER right away, but they left the next day and went when they returned to St. Louis. The doctors brushed off Betsy, saying it was backed up poop and told her to give him an enema. A couple days later, the doctors still wouldn't listen to her. Finally, she demanded an x-ray and sure enough, there it was: a basketball-sized tumor in a five-year-old's tummy. A Wilm's Tumor. It was a grade four cancer. He had a huge surgery, weeks of chemo after that and I think radiation too.

He made it through. So did I. My doctor had said there was a 90 percent chance my cancer would return, but almost ten years later and it hasn't. I wonder sometimes if I was the tool Heavenly Father used to save my nephew. Maybe, maybe not, but at least my cancer doesn't seem so futile if I think of it that way.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

My favorite piece of furniture, my cedar chest

I had written about it on my college application essay, about all the things it contained—my personal history, my life, really--all housed inside that wooden box. I can’t remember why I had asked for said piece of furniture, but it was my very first piece of furniture I ever owned and it’s still my favorite piece to this day.

My mom and dad gave it to me for Christmas one year. I was teenager and had loads of diaries and journals and photos that needed a dark home where they wouldn’t be so exposed. My parents got it at an antique shop. I adore its daisies and etched fans. I adore the scratches on its wooden veneer because it has a life and a history. Its history began long before I existed, but now it contains my history. It's me in a box.

I was just thinking the other day that I need to get Bianca a cedar chest of her own, somewhere she can store all her little stories, pictures, and musical compositions. All the things that are her. Maybe I’ll make it a tradition, like getting your ears pierced at age 10. Maybe my girls will get cedar chests when they turn nine. Now, to find the perfect one. . .

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Monday, June 28, 2010

Portia wants an audience

I caught Portia dancing for this audience this morning and thought I'd share:

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Step Rock Run

Bianca's been training for the mile race. After she and I stopped running together, she said she was still running laps at school and she said she ran a mile at least every day. I recently learned that her school was doing a "Run to Disneyland" project where they had to track the amount they were running after math in the afternoons, and she was really running a mile every day. I found out on Thursday night when she and I ran a mile together to make sure she was ready for the Step Rock Run, which is the race Herriman City does every year. Bianca ran it last year and got a silver medal. Well, Bianca was definitely ready. I had a hard time keeping up with her, and I run four miles every other morning.

So Saturday morning, we got up and went to the park where the race starts. It's always a little terrifying for me because the 5K and 10K start at the same time, so I always worry my little girl is going to get trampled. I asked her if she wanted me to run with her, but she wanted to do it on her own. Thankfully, Bianca noticed a friend of hers who was also racing in the mile and they stood together to start.

Rock Step Run 1 Mile

I headed back to the finish line so I could be at the end when Bianca finished. I was so proud of her when I saw her coming around the corner. The rest was downhill from there and I yelled for her to sprint, if she wanted. She wanted.

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Her time was a little over eight minutes, which was half a minute improvement from last year. She got second in the women's category and got another silver medal. I am so proud of her!

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Monday, June 21, 2010

In light of Father's Day yesterday

I'm not sure what my problem was this year. I always start running in the spring. But this year, I waited and waited and waited. Maybe it was the weather that was unseasonably cold or maybe it was my laziness--probably both. It wasn't until Bianca said she wanted to go running that I finally said yes. Then we started running together in the morning, the two of us, but I found myself always correcting her (relax your hands, breath in your nose, stop whining--why can't I just leave her alone?) and I realized I can't run with her. So I politely told her she should focus on getting ready in the mornings instead of running. I hope I don't regret this in the long run because I think exercise is so important--especially developing habits as children. But really, I'm a solo runner. I prefer it that way. Then I'm not feeling so much pressure to either keep up or slow down to run with a buddy; I can set my own pace. Plus, I hate talking while running (just ask my poor sister who loves to discuss all of life while running).

But there is one thing I do say while I'm running. Every time I pass another runner or biker or walker. It's "Morning." My dad used to say it when we would run together. He'd say it to every person who went by whether it was the first time or the twelfth. Some people are friendly back, some not. But I don't let it bother me; I'm too busy breathing in and out, in and out, willing my tired legs to just keep going. It's one small way I can keep the spirit of my father alive, keep him running, keep a running buddy by my side without having to worry about slowing anyone down.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Meet Jillyboo

Jillyboo is our new cat. We got her on Friday at the Humane Society adoption center at Petco. She's part Siamese and part Himalayan and she has light blue eyes. She's really a sweet, docile little cat who will sit in your lap for an hour. She also likes to be carted around in a basket. She hid the first couple days, but is starting to get used to us (although Portia is still not allowed to hold her after I caught her swinging the poor kitty by the head).


One of our favorite things is when Jillyboo hides under the dishwasher. I swear she thinks we can't see her, but we've started calling it our "furry-pawed" dishwasher.

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I'm so glad to have a cat in the house again and so are the girls. But I don't know about Tigger. Here they are, about as close as I've seen them to each other.

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Wednesday, May 26, 2010

If I had a million dollars . . .

I hope that I wouldn’t change too much. I hope I wouldn’t buy too much stuff, just a couple good things I really, really want. Things I’d still appreciate after the money was gone or stored away for a future day.

I probably wouldn’t change the way I do things—I’d still use coupons and have the supermarket match other store’s ads, I’d still add water to my soap when I get down to the bottom to get it all out, I’d still squeeze every bit of toothpaste out of the tube. Because I don’t think that’s about money, but about not wasting. I would still look for the best deal on things because no matter how much money I have, I don’t want to pay more than I need to.

I hope I’d be one of those millionaires who you’d never know was a millionaire just by looking at them.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Conducting Debut

Friday, Bianca had her conducting debut. She'd written a song a while back with four parts--violin, viola, cello and piano--called Rain on a Dark Morning. Her orchestra instructor said they could play it for her concert and even offered to let Bianca conduct her song. The 2nd video below is Bianca's song. Okay, since the elementary school orchestra played it, it does sound a little different from how Bianca wrote it (timing was a little off during the piano solo). Still, it turned out great and we're really proud of her accomplishment!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The monster concert

A monster concert sounds like something off Sesame Street. But it's a big concert in which many elementary school orchestras come together and play the same songs in one big orchestra. Yesterday was a very long day for my eight-year-old: Bianca had to go to orchestra practice before school, then school all-day, then I had to get her out fifteen minutes before school was out and drop her off at Copper Hills High school, where all the orchestras rehearsed together, had a short dinner break of pizza, and the concert was at seven. That's a monster day!

The concert was nice. Afterwards, Bianca said her arms ached and rightfully so.

Orchestra is coming to a close for the year. Just one more little concert, on Friday during school but I'm going anyway. They're playing a song Bianca wrote. I wouldn't miss it for the world.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

A book mystery to solve

A couple weeks ago, my friend Christie and I went to the main Salt Lake City library for their special grab-a-bag-full-of-books-for-$5 they have twice a year. I'd never been before. Christie and I spent an hour perusing shelves for books that looked interesting. Most of the books were discarded library books, but strangely not all of them were. My guess is that people sometimes donate their personal books/libraries to the public library and instead of putting those books into the library system, the library earns money by selling them (not that they're making much on this deal).

Anyway, I spent most of my bag's capacity filling it with mid-grade level books for Bianca to read. She's always complaining that she's read all the books in her room three times. I let Portia add a couple of her own discoveries to the bag as well. As I was leaving with my bag overflowing, I plucked one last book from a shelf. It was called, "How to Decorate for and with Antiques." I love old houses and furniture, so I thought it was appropriate. This one wasn't a library discard either. A small treasure just for me.

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After lunch, as Christie was dropping me off at my car, she wanted to see what treasures I'd found that day. My paper bag tore right in half (I was trying to get the most for my money, of course) when we went through the books. As I showed her the antique book, it fell open to a section in the middle. Used as a bookmark was a professional photograph of a man. He was in a robe so it looked like a graduation photo of sorts--maybe high school but I think college.

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It intrigued me. I'm always using random things at my grasp as book marks when I'm reading. Half my books are probably filled with my old keepsakes (mostly trash and receipts) but little reminders of where I was in my life when I was reading that particular book--or at least where I bought gas that week. Anyway, the only clue to who this book belonged to (and how I might return this photo to the family to which it belongs) is an inscription in the front. It reads, "Minnie, Happy Birthday. 2/11/73" So I deduced that Minnie's birthday is probably February 11. I did a search online and it returned nothing. Probably because Minnie was a nickname and not the woman's given name. I also assume that this woman was from Salt Lake City because the photographer--Lignell and Gill-- stamped on the back of the photo was in Salt Lake City.

I don't know if I'll ever be able to return this photo to its rightful owner. I'd like to. I feel bad having this piece of another family's history--a treasure really--in my possession, but I frankly don't know how to go about returning it. Any ideas?

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

A little more Chopin. . . Piano Challenge Song #2

When I flew out to St. Louis the month before my dad died, my sister Susannah had been there taking care of my dad during the days while mom was at work. One-month-old Portia, Bianca (pulled out of her last two weeks of kindergarten), and I moved in to the bed & breakfast--mom's current home now--along with Susannah's family. She had been using music as a coping mechanism and had been working on a song on the hundred-year-old Steinway. A hauntingly, beautiful song by Chopin. His posthumous Nocturne Op. 72 No. 1. I tried to play it once while I was there and couldn't get past the first two lines.

I'd been looking for this song so that I could learn it after I returned home. I got it mixed up with the other Chopin I first learned and then had to order a new book of Chopin's Nocturnes to find it. I've been working on this song for quite some time now and think it's about as good as I'm going to get it. My sister played it as prelude music at my father's funeral before the pianist arrived, trying to fill in some of the silence as people were shuffling in to the church. I'm pretty sure she hasn't played the song since.

My dad is somewhere in this song when I play it. Or the sadness of losing him. At the risk of sounding crazy, I'll even mention that once when I was playing it, I had an experience where I felt like I wasn't playing the song, something beyond me was. Strange, I know, but I don't know how to explain it. Not that I think it was Dad, as he didn't know how to play piano himself. Still, I can't play this song without thinking of him.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

A faded and tattered memory

My mom was a substitute teacher at my school when I was a kid. I don't remember having her as my substitute teacher very often except for the once, when I was acting up in class, she said, "Jeana Claudine Watters" in her mom-reprimanding voice in front of the entire class. I hung my head mortified as all the kids snickered. To this day, I still hate my middle name.

Another day, my mom was on recess-duty substitute teaching at my school. I had a good friend in first or second grade. She showed up for school that day in a frilly white ruffled, lacey blouse. I rarely got a top or dress that hadn't been worn by both my sisters so having a pretty new blouse was a completely foreign feeling to me. But here she was, all dressed up in her special blouse. And there I was standing in my twice handed-down, faded and tattered top.

At noon recess, I saw my mom standing beside my friend, so I joined them.

My mom gushed, "Oh, Jeana, don't you just love her blouse?"

I looked over at my friend with her ruffles and her happy, feeling-special smile. Then I looked back at my mom who was the source of my faded and tattered unhappiness. Then I replied, "I think it's ugly!" and ran off.

I don't remember much what happened next. I don't remember apologizing, but I'm sure my mom made me. She most certainly hung her head mortified as she and my friend watched me run off. I know I never saw the blouse again. She and I never were very close friends into middle and high school. Maybe that one rude comment was the end of the friendship, probably not. But I still feel regret for the way I acted. I'm sure I did love the blouse she was wearing and wished someone would once-in-my-life tell me they loved my t-shirt. I think this story is part of the reason I'm obsessed with my kids being well-dressed. I don't blame my mom. I know she did the best she could with what she had. But still, I love (and relish) when someone compliments my kids' clothes.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Peace

We've finally made a decision that feels right, and I feel peace for the first time since January. Today our house is going off the market. We're officially not going to walk through any more houses. We're going to sit tight for about six months and save up. I'm getting granite in my kitchen, but I'm holding off on the bookshelves upstairs. Around January, we're going to assess where we are financially and assuming everything's as it should be, we're going to start building at that time. We're going to keep our eyes open for the right building lot in between now and that time. We're thinking either Herriman, Riverton, or South Jordan. I also want to see what happens in the next school year with the east/west split before I make any major decisions.

We've picked a builder (same one as the house we almost bought) and a floorplan. Imagine in the great/family room my two-story library in this house: .

http://www.jewkesbrothers.com/viewmodel.cfm?ViewID=13

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This will be my last house. Unless we have to move out of state, I'll never move again.

Portia Turned Three!

Portia's third birthday was quiet as far as birthdays go. We had a nice family meal together (Cheddar Cheese pies) and Daddy brought home gourmet cupcakes from this new bakery called The Sweet Tooth Fairy. Yum!

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For her birthday, Portia got some Angelina Ballerina living room furniture (see discarded furniture in photos), a Little Einsteins toy, and a stuffed owl. This seemed small potatoes to Portia when she opened Grandma Watters' box of goodies that included a rainbow tutu with matching musical bells.

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Happy Third Birthday, Portia!