Saturday, December 28, 2013


Since she started with the GMS orchestra, Bianca spends more time at orchestra and music lessons on Saturday than she does in a normal day of school. We're up earlier (and after a week of work, I could use a day to sleep in) than a regular school/work day. But Bianca loves it. She loves being in a place where the other kids are as intense (most probably even more) than she is about music. She doesn't complain, but I know her arms (and head) are tired by the end of her Saturdays. Her orchestra had their fall concert at the end of November and although I knew they were an awesome orchestra, watching her with them makes me so proud that she's a part of this.

I've adopted a theory about music that goes like this: Heavenly Father has allowed us to nurture our talents and our "tithing" back is to play and bring the spirit to sacrament meetings. Bianca learned and played Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring on viola in sacrament meeting in December. I don't understand how she can practice pretty well at home, then stand up there in front of all those people and play without missing a note. Her tone is beautiful and she's really progressing so much every week. She's upped her practicing to two sessions of about an hour each day. This isn't something I make her do, but she wants to do it.

Portia was asked to play her cello for the primary program in October and played "My Heavenly Father Loves Me." She still takes lessons with Richard Hoyt and just completed Suzuki Book Two. Richard told her that after she completes book three, then she'll be a real cellist. She's looking forward to that day. We break up her practices into two sessions (this is because she frankly doesn't have the attention span she needs for the amount of practice she needs to do). I do new Suzuki pieces with her before school/work, and Eric has taken over scales, arpeggios, note-reading, and Suzuki review after school. She's recently started vibrato. I was surprised that she can pretty much play any song you ask her to (I had assumed this was a talent only Bianca had). Maybe it's more of a string-instrument thing. Not sure.

We have had a little difficulty with Portia's note-reading recently. I had reservations with this whole Suzuki method from the beginning for this very reason, but hopefully it will still come. I got frustrated the other morning when Portia wasn't "reading" the music (Suzuki Book 3 conveniently has left out all the fingerings—thank goodness!—so now she can't rely on that) so I told Portia I expected an essay from her when I returned from work on why she needs to learn to read notes. It was sort of cute though; she had titled it S.A. Hahaha! Hopefully she'll now realize the why to the note-reading. She is so cute it's kind of hard to discipline her.

Funny story for anyone who appreciates and knows music: One night at dinner, Eric was telling me that Portia was FINALLY getting the triplets in the I Can Read Music rhythms. After dinner, Portia came up, pointed at the section of my closet where I keep things (and I had a group of 3 Littlest Pet Shop cats—which Portia had called the triplets—stashed up there when it bought them on sale and was going to give it to her for Christmas). She stated, "Dad said I could have the triplets!" It took a couple back-and-forths and a couple conferences to figure out that Portia had misunderstood when Eric had said she "was finally getting the triplets" in her music. Here's Portia with the Pet Shop triplets she actually got for Christmas:

Best investment we ever made . . .

I haven't regretted paying the little extra money it cost to install heat under the tile in our bathroom when we were remodeling. And as you can see, on a cold winter's morning, it's hard to resist!

Christmas Season 2013

Christmas season came and went so fast this year. I'm not looking forward to taking down the decorations (they seemed to take forever to put up this year). But mark my words: I will not buy any Christmas stuff in after-Christmas sales this year. Wait, unless I can find ready-made red bows. I kind of need those for the garland on the railings. But nothing else! I had been looking forward to putting up our tree all year as we bought our 12-foot, flocked tree half-off in the after-Christmas sale at Taipan Trading last year. I finally have the perfect place to put up a tall tree (in our library) and am still loving it. If I wouldn't turn into the crazy Christmas lady, I'd keep this tree up all year long. I love the snowy owls, crystal chandelier ornaments and the turquoise-silver-and-red color scheme. 

We watched loads of Christmas movies this year—all the oldies but goodies—since I'm always so tired after work and love snuggling up with the girls in my bed and watching TV. We got free tickets to go downtown to see A Snow White Christmas that the girls really liked. 

We stayed in town for Christmas as usual. A couple of years ago, Eric and I decided it's just too hard to try to travel to either St. Louis or Dallas to see our families. So now Christmas belongs to us: We get to set our own traditions and we get to do it how we want to. We had a low-key, awesome Christmas Eve where we ate Eric's traditional Irish shepherd's pie and reenacted the Nativity from the Bible. Both Bianca and Portia prepared songs on their instruments: Bianca played O Little Town of Bethlehem on viola and Portia played Silent Night on her cello. We each read Christmas poems by Leslie Norris. And did our annual reading of Three Trees. Then Bianca and Portia watched a Christmas movie and slept downstairs by the tree. Eric and I finished the wrapping. Thankfully, this year we actually finished before 10 o'clock.

The next morning, Bianca and Portia were ready for presents at 6:30. I started the wood fire down in the basement and we opened presents.

The big presents this year were Bianca's ipod touch and Portia's balance beam. They got a shared present too, a go-kart that really won't be all that much fun until the spring. Eric made these awesome frames with prints we picked up when we were in Italy; Bianca embroidered a Y slogan for dad's carriage house; Portia drew pictures for each of us and framed them. I still stick to my 3 categories—Bianca got exercise (think Nike App for her ipod), eduction (Amazon gift card so she can read on her ipod), and a shopping trip with me to get her some clothes SHE can pick out) and Portia's exercise was her balance beam, talent was a bunch of art supplies and light-up dry-erase board, and play (Pet Shops again).  I think the girls got plenty to be grateful too, without being spoiled. I may regret the ipod touch thing though. We're setting up some rules about usage.

We spent Christmas day with the Quigley's—Bruce and Joanie and Jason and Wendy's family. It was delicious food, relaxing, and fun. I'm starting to have a love-hate relationship with the game Settlers of Catan. And I still maintain that I play boardgames for the enjoyment they provide—not just to win. It was another nice Christmas that I'm sad to see go.

Playing Settlers of Catan on Christmas Day