Thursday, December 17, 2009


I can't believe that i haven't posted our Xtracycle video yet. I was waiting because I wanted to fix something in this version. However, I have decided that I'd better just post this so everyone can see it (in its flawed state!) and get on with my perfectionist life.

MacElfert Xtracycle Peapod LT Adventures from Martin Elfert on Vimeo.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

what is new...?

I feel like I am so overdue in writing in here that it is way too daunting a task to undertake. However, I will persevere!
i taught my 5th Anat Baniel floor class (Transformational Movement Lesson) this evening in Classroom C at CDSP. It is cosy with a gas fireplace and oil heater and there is space enough for more than 10 to comfortably lie down. My class size is dwindling from a remarkable 10 people on the first night. I think the end of term has something to do with it. Everyone is cramming to get their last papers in as Friday is their last day. I have been transcribing lessons from the DVDs that I bought, using transcriptions from our classes at the training and also using a book called "Singing with your whole self". It takes quite a bit of work to do it but it is very worthwhile because I am starting to understand it more and more- both teaching it and in my own practice.

Today I had a fabulous day with a big chunk of this morning doing TMLs on DVD and singing in-between. I really felt like i was "getting somewhere" with it all. To have a relatively long time to spend on doing things for myself (and not being on the computer) is really awesome.

On Sunday we went and got a Christmas Tree!! We bought it from Home Depot in Emeryville which meant that it was a good price and it was one-stop shopping (stand and wreath for the door). We ended up going to a potluck at The COG (cooperative grocery store) which was fun and tasty. There was live music and Martin commented that it was just like a concert at the cultch. The audience was exactly the same (folkies around the world...) Our Christmas tree spent the night relaxing on our back porch and we put it up after Ami got home from school on Monday. It has made our livingroom seem quite fancy some how. Nothing like twinkle-lights to upscale your place!

Ami has been introduced to the candy of Christmas (canes, bon-bons) and is loving it! His bus driver gave him a couple of mini candy-canes and he now wants to know if there are bigger ones. I said yes there were and so he is now on a mission to get a big candy cane!

I started writing this post a couple of days ago so the days are getting all mixed up...

Today Miriam and I made cookies with our friends Sylvia and Alexandra (and baby Johanna). It was exhausting and we didn't even make the dough! Sylvia brought 6 pounds of sugar cookie dough and we rolled it out, cut it up, baked it, decorated them, and then packaged them. I was a very grumpy Mum by the end. Luckily we had lunch in the middle which did buoy my spirits! It was something else. I was all ready to dive into making some cookies that I can eat but I think I will now give it a few days to get re-inspired!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

labour day holiday

We wanted to do more camping (after our Big Sur adventure.. post will be forthcoming...) before school started again but we didn't plan early enough to get a camping spot at one of the many local campgrounds/state parks/forestry campsites for labour day weekend. We wanted to camp with our neighbours Betsy and Eddie and their daughter Ruby but they were hesitant to make the adventure too big as Ruby had never been camping before and has always slept in her own room etc etc. In the end we decided to have a Labour Day family adventure at one of the many parks here in the East Bay. Eddie discovered that we could rent a boat on 4 of the water reserves around here. We chose the closest one (Lake Chabot) which is just east of Oakland (about 20 minute drive from here). We decided to invite Katie and Mary Anne along to make it more fun! There was no way to reserve a boat so we set out nice and early to snag ourselves a "patio boat"! (sorry I didn't manage to take a picture of it...) When we arrived it seemed as though there were lots of people already enjoying the outdoors but we were lucky to get one of the last boats available. The website had said that these boats could take 8 people or 1200 lbs so we thought we would be amply safe with 9 people -3 under 40 lbs! Unfortunately they insisted on the 8 people rule so we were forced to rent a canoe as well. In the end this was a GREAT fortune! Once we got out on the water we just hitched the canoe to the PBoat and carried on with all of us enjoying the cushions! Besides the canoe just being really fun to go in, it was rather essential for our 4 hour cruise up and down the reservoir. It meant that we could go ashore as the water level was too low to dock the patio boat!
The reservoir was lovely and quiet as all the boats run on electricity or muscle power. Really a wonderfully calm day.
Another happy piece of luck was that it was "free fishing" day! We had intended to fish and pay for the privilege but we didn't need too!! We rented 2 fishing poles which was enough for everyone who wanted to get their fill of casting and reeling. No wildlife was harmed or even tempted by our lures. . .

We all brought ample food for the day so we had a big feast on board. Eddie was a little disappointed not to go real camping as he was unable to use his fold-out camping KITCHEN! I am disappointed too because i didn't get to SEE Eddie's fold-out camping KITCHEN!! Maybe at another time. . .
By the end of our time on the boat we were ready to do other things or have naps etc so it was quite overwhelming when we got back to the dock to experience the numbers and the sound of the masses of people who came to Lake Chabot while we were busy cruising its waters! We decided to find a nice spot to hang out some more in our courtyard back home!!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Miriam's accomplishments

I forgot to mention the things that Mimi has mastered these days or just things that are new which she (and We!) are excited about.

#1 No Diapers!! No wet beds!!! just a simple trip to the biffy before the adults go to bed and- presto- our girl has grown up and we aren't buying or washing diapers!!! yippeeeee!!!!

#2 moved to a cute toddler bed- She was MOST pleased about this. I think she was royally tired of sleeping in the play-pen bed that she has been in since we moved to Berkeley. I am super happy because it means that we have one less bed in their room!

#3 necklace beading
This girl has amazing ability to do fine motor skills and she loves it too.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Miriam's days

Mimi's first day of school at the Orange House (pictured here!!)

Miriam has been very busy these days! She started "school" at the Orange House the day before Ami went to Kindergarten so she had a head start with education this fall!! She is loving going to Daycare/preschool and the Orange house is a particularly lovely place and vibe. They always play nice music (including Suzuki book 1!) and they are very loving and responsive to the kids. It really feels like Mimi is at somebody else's home and that she gets to do stuff there that I don't think to do with her here. On Friday Helen (the woman who runs the business) said that she had a great time gluing! She always is glad to see me but also really jazzed about her experience. She wants to go there every day!
Mimi attends the Orange House with Ruby Gonzales (who also lives in the Nichols Apartments with us). We walk 1/2 a block to get there! Ruby is always stylishly dressed and very put-together and Mimi doesn't always leave the house quite like that! This photo is from their first day and I am not sure that Mimi wanted to have a picture together with Ruby! It is good for them to go together because they are the only girls! Helen tells me that if a childcare situation does not have a gender balance policy that boys far our-number girls... interesting...

Now that school has started up again at CDSP, I have resumed my childcare swaps with Sylvia. This year I get to look after her 2 girls and she looks after Mimi. Mimi and Alexandra seem to be getting along very well as you can see by these photos!

Although Sylvia is a dancer she has never encouraged Alexandra to be interested in dance and especially in ballet. Alexandra has other ideas!!!! And now Miriam seems to want to do pink ballerina things too! I just love this photo of them and Miriam's body and leg shape, her socks.. etc...
I am having fun looking after Alexandra's baby sister Johanna who was born at the beginning of June. She is super sweet and very forgiving and it is fun to have someone so little to hold and then be able to give them back!

Here is Mimi on our camping trip. By this point we were with our friends from All Souls Parish and we were so dusty (perhaps you can see it in the air..) it was quite unbelievable! Ami and Mimi really loved camping and we hope to do more of it in the near future.

This is Mimi singing a little song on an amazing beach on our Big Sur camping adventure.
Mimi is LOVING her new sandals that Gran sent for her!
She is showing signs of being a BIG character and loving a good joke and being an altogether awesome gal.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Amiel's first day of school

Today started earlier than usual with a wake-up rooster crowing at 6:30. There was a school bus to catch at 7:45!
As the alarm didn't seem to have much effect on our little scholar we had to employ the wake-up rattle-snake to rouse his weary bones! Miriam would have slept through the whole thing if we hadn't muscled her awake as well. A spiffy outfit of tan shorts, a short-sleeved shirt (one we got in Portland this past summer), and mismatched socks was chosen for the momentous day. Ami ate a "green egg" (kiwi fruit) and a piece of homemade toast to start his day and we headed out the door at 7:30 to walk up the hill to the school bus stop situated at Cedar and Le Roy. The entourage up the hill consisted of Amiel, Martin, Katie, Mary Anne, and a very sleepy Miriam. I decided to drive to the bus-stop in case our boy decided that he wasn't ready to ride the bus alone this morning and because I planned to meet him at his school when his bus arrived. Our new neighbours Lynne and Oryah came with me. Oryah is also enrolled at Washington in grade 2. The whole troupe of us waited at the appointed corner and it wasn't long before the great big yellow school bus came around the corner and down the hill. Without nary and ounce of fear (or even a look back to his nervous support group!) Ami boarded that bus and strode down the aisle to find a seat for himself. The bus had only a handful of kids on it and the bus driver was willing to take Oryah on the bus even though she isn't yet registered as a rider. Oryah is a very sweet girl and she got on and sat with our little boy!
After the bus departed we all looked at each other and confirmed that all of us were really not sure that he would be willing to go on the bus this morning. It is hard to gauge what makes him nervous but this was one thing we were all worried about. Then Lynne and I drove down to the school to await the bus...
We found a couple with a baby who had done exactly the same thing as us with their kindergartener daughter so we stood awaiting the bus arrival together. I'm not sure that we need have been there as the kids were greeted by the principal Rita Kimbell. She meets the bus kids every day and scurries them off to the school yard.

As you can see Ami managed to forget his backpack on the bus so we got to have our first lesson in not forgetting things! Luckily we noticed its absence when the bus was still sitting at the stop!
Ami and I made our way into the school yard where we found out that he was assigned to Ms Kessel's class. This is an arbitrary class list as there are 4 Kindergarten classes at Washington and the 4 teachers get to rotate around the classrooms for the first 3 days before they "balance" the classes" and finalize the class list. I hope that he gets to be in a classroom that is not in the basement.
Here he is about to go into his classroom from the school yard.Here he is on his chosen square (if there were a yellow one I'm sure that he would have picked it!)

The teacher told a story and then read a story (Miss Bindergarten gets ready for Kindergarten) and Ami was one of the students to offer some tidbit of his own experience during the telling. The parents were invited to be in the classroom for about 10 minutes and then we were dismissed (kicked-out) to go to the library to have coffee and Q & A with the principal and some PTA members.

So after that Lynne and I came home...
It was fairly strange to not have him around all day. Miriam (who was hanging out with Katie and Mary Anne while I was busy at the school) is such a different person and she happily plays with her toys and busies herself so easily that it feels somehow that I am not really parenting her. The house is quiet and restful without our boy.
Miriam and Martin and I hung out and it didn't seem too long before I started worrying about picking up the boy from the bus stop. It was an early release day today so the kids ended school at 1:30. Mimi and I went to wait for the bus at about 1:50 (since it is about a 10 minute drive...) but little Ams was the last off the bus and the only rider at 2:20 when he finally made it to Cedar and Le Roy. He looked a bit shell shocked, hot and tired and in the style of every child who goes to school did not have much to say about school when asked...

The report from the first day
Me: what was your favourite part?
Amiel: All of it - except the sunny part.

Things I have learned about the first day of school
He had snack (breakfast) provided by the school of a small bag of "Gorilla Munch" cereal, milk and the "worst peach in the world"!
He didn't eat all of his lunch (but he ate it when he got home!)
He played outside, read books, built things with blocks and legos, and met 2 other kindergarten teachers (Ms Wash -and the easy to remember- Miss Mimi!)
All in all he had a great day and wants to go back for more tomorrow. I will report on anything else I find out!!

I am amazed that I managed to make it though 5+ years as the principal care giver without giving up entirely. I am excited for Ami and his learning and new experiences and I hope that what I have provided for his life education will stand him in good stead and keep him safe.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Ami's Birthday

Amiel turns 5

A bug catcher/observer from Auntie Bridgie and Uncle Miks

Unwrapping the new (cardboard) dulcimer

playing the new "ax"

July 22nd was a happy day filled with much anticipation and glee. Auntie Bridgie's prezzie was the first to arrive in the mail so it got the excitement working long in advance of the day itself! Ami was SO pleased with all of the packages that kept arriving in the post. He said that he didn't want a party because he didn't want anyone to make a "fuss" over him for his birthday.

He opened up his prezzies before Martin left for work at SF General Hospital and he was super happy with all that he received.
We spent the first part of the day around the house. In the afternoon we made a plan to go swimming with some friends. However, Ami had to swap that for playing with Simon and Francis here at our apartment building while I made a trip to the emergency department as Mimi stuck a bead up her nose!!! I didn't actually see her do it but she told Katie what she had done. She only realized the gravity of the situation when Katie's reaction seemed somewhat panicked! Mimi really doesn't like to get in trouble. Ami stayed to play with Simon and Francis and Katie thankfully came to the hospital with us. Mary Anne happened to be working as a volunteer chaplain at the hospital that day so she met us for some pastoral care! Miriam did not want anyone to look up her nose but i was able to see it after she fell asleep in the car . . . It was Blue (the bead that is!). The hospital staff looked after us well and we seemed to get pretty fast service. Mimi had all her vital signs taken and we got ushered into a small room. There we were visited by a nice nurse who valiantly tried to look up Mimi's nose but to no avail. We saw some pretty sorry folk in other beds and were glad that we were not in their state. The nurse kept coming back and was explaining to me what we were going to have to do to get the bead out and it sounded like it was going to be rather a struggle. . .
Then Mimi and I read a book or two and AAAAHCHIEWWWWW the way-larger-than-i-expected bead came out with a big sneeze. No one was more pleased then Miriam! "I sneeeezed it out" she said.
I don't think she will be putting anything up her nose any time soon . . . . as for beading, it is fast becoming one of her favourite activities.

When we got back from the hospital Katie had a surprise for Ami- a treasure hunt to find his present from her and Mary Anne. She had set out envelopes with "clue pictures" inside of where to find the next "clue envelope". The last picture was of their apartment door where in the livingroom there was a present with a yellow tool box inside. It even had an engraved name tag for "Amiel Digger". He said, "Oh, I am so proud of this present"!

In the end the birthday celebrations included having the chose guests Mary Anne and Katie over for dinner of Lasagna (just what Ami ordered up for his special day!) and then chocolate cake with chocolate icing and homemade peppermint ice-cream that he and Katie had made the day before. I couldn't imagine not having others around for cake and ice-cream so I went against his wishes and invited other neighbours to have dessert and celebrations with us. I think that once he got past having "happy birthday" sung to him he was very happy to have everyone there. Nothing like a party!!
The trouble with having a birthday is that now that you are 5 you have to do all the things you said you would do when you were 5- like driving an excavator etc.- when in actuality not too much has really changed. . . .

here he is opening the Morphibian Car

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Summertime 2009 Adventuring

It won't be long before September will bring Kindergarten for Amiel so we are making efforts to do as much adventuring as possible before our new schedule kicks in! The kids got a head start on this with the arrival of Kate Hutchinson who came with Liam to look after us while I was busy with my course. While I was busy in beautiful San Rafael...

they managed to fit in all sorts of things that I haven't got around to doing! They went to the Cal Botanical Gardens, ALL of the Berkeley Farmers' Markets , rode on the train at Tilden Park, and generally had a whopping good time I hear!
When my course was over we did some more adventuring with Kate and Liam- to the Academy of Sciences in Golden Gate Park ( I took over a friend's membership as she moved home to LA).What the kids seemed to like best was OUTSIDE the building. . . .

We also got to introduce Kate and Liam to the Bay Area Discovery Museum. Amiel is now too tall for the "tot spot" which is a big achievement I'd say. He had a different view on this and luckily the person who was guarding the "spot" from big kids (so that babies have a safe place to roll around) gave him permission to take Kate on a little tour of it. Unfortunately the room that I like best (blue water bed mattresses with lily-pad cushions on them) was under construction so I assume that next time we go (after the yearly closure and general fix up) it will be wholly new and exciting for Mimi (at least). I stayed out of the Tot Spot with Liam and we did some chalk drawing which was fun.

K and L left on the train back to Canada on the wednesday night. Liam was VERY glad to be heading home and I think Kate was too after being here for 2 weeks!

Since they left A and M and I have been doing our own adventuring. We visited the Bay Area Vivarium which is in Berkeley. It is a shop but it is a good destination for looking at reptiles, lizards, and creepy crawlies! We saw this awesome Blue Tongued Skink and this most amazing Crocodile Monitor. I veered them away from the Monitor cages when they were being fed peeping baby chicks. . . I didn't want to be scarred let alone my kids! Some other kids who were there at the same time as us unwittingly watched nature take its course and I was glad that I had taken the necessary precautions to avoid this for us!

We also went to the Adventure Playground which Ami aptly named the Inventure Playground where you can go and get yourself some tools and nails and add or subtract to the structures that have been built by kids for 30 years now! Mimi likes to do painting of the structures best. These are pictures from the internet. . .

The sun is really intense here and so mid-day seems to be a rather slow time for us. Last week we were joined by a classmate of mine, Sarah Paden, from my Anat Baniel course. She is also a soprano with red hair and I seem to remember seeing her about 6 years ago at UBC when she was participating in the Early Music Vancouver Workshops. Small world. We went up to Tilden Park, had a nice picnic on the grass, went on the Nature Walk, and also visited the Little Farm. We saw awesome red dragonflies zooming over a little woodsy lake there

and turtle sunning themselves on the logs. We came back home after trying to play at the playground but the kids just sat in the sandbox looking dazed. The sun was too much! When we got home the kids busied themselves with playing with neighbours and Sarah and I were able to do some Anat Baniel work to refresh our memories and to get a nice lesson in too!

that's all i can think of for now. . .

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Without kids

Dancing on the raft (when the tide's out!)

I can't believe that it has take a change of countries to get me to write a blog posting. We are back in BC for a holiday and some work (for me). I actually was inspired to write in here because of a presentation by Chris Foley about his Collaborative Piano Blog at the Vancouver International Song Institute (I am on the faculty). The power of his blog is quite amazing. So many people read it and consult it - including the media and various high profile arts organizations. He does incredible promotion for arts groups and concerts etc. I am wondering about whether I would like to make another, different blog - on what though?... hmmm ... times and trials of a singing mother?...
anyway, life in BC is great and I am enjoying an extended period of time without my little kids. They are having a fabulous time over in Victoria with Gran and Gramps (they went camping in the boler, aren't you envious?!). But before that, they were here in Vancouver with Oma and Papa and they got to go to Jericho Beach and frolic in the sand and surf..
I had thought about posting before Chris' inspiration when I went swimming at Jericho Beach the other day. . . . Nothing like swimming in the ocean in June and not freezing to death!