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Fit for a New Year

December 31st, 2009 by Joyce

I’m sitting in Matt’s new Honda Fit.  We bought the Fit when we realized he had been driving our 2001 Saturn SL without gear oil for, oh, who knows how long?  Ever since the babies came (and the rest of the chaos that happened after) checking the Saturn’s gear oil level had fallen low, low, low on our list of priorities.  We knew we didn’t want to deal with rebuilding the transmission, nor did we want to worry about an unreliable car on the 18-mile commute to work, so we just decided to do what was inevitable anyway:  buy Matt a new commuting car.

The Fit is zippy and fun, although the upright seating and small front end made Matt feel at first like he was driving a desk chair.  Happily I  can drive it without getting dizzy, and turns out it’s also plenty comfortable for hiding out with the laptop. 

Good thing, too, because even though Matt gamely took on the task of caring for two sick kiddos today so I could go somewhere and think, the whole city felt too crowded for me to settle down and concentrate.  After spending hours at the cafe trying to ignore business meetings (he’s starting a new salon), phone calls (she’s quitting her job, thanks for being so supportive), and the hiss and squeal of the espresso machine (the coffee is fresh, isn’t it?) I left for the library.  The library wasn’t much better.  All the regulars were there, restlessly dawdling and snapping the newspaper just to stay out of the cold; teenage boys huddled over laptops and slouched at the desktops playing computer games; children ran flat-footed up and down the stairs while their mothers looked for a book.  I hoped people might be out of my way and doing something interesting today, maybe getting ready for their New Year’s Eve.  Anyway, that’s what I’d be doing if could, traveling for visits and seeing who brought fireworks and checking the freezer for tamales left over from Christmas. 

And the arrival of 2010 really does seem worth celebrating.  The year 2009 seems to have been dominated by bad politics and a bad economy.  It seems like the whole country is ready to move on.

Year 2009, I kept high hopes for you, but by December I was more than ready to move on.  This mothering-with-an-injured-brain gig has really worn my down; it’s better, sure, but world still seems so loud and busy, even (and sometimes especially) at home.  That’s not good for anybody, is it?  Maybe that’s why I don’t feel well sometimes.  All fall I wasn’t feeling right, and I don’t really know why.  The surgeon took out a piece of my insides and it didn’t seem to do the trick (or maybe it did and I just don’t know it yet?), and it’s hard sometimes not to have doubts about the whole affair.  Did I do something right?  Did I do something dumb?  I thought my body had been working pretty well until then and I’d pretty much been enjoying it.  Year 2009, I wanted to feel so capable and well, not broken and tired and confused and dizzy and overwhelmed by the rhythm of the every day.  I tried so hard to do the right thing, 2009, and so much just worked out wrong.  Year 2010 is going to be here soon, and I am ready to tell you goodbye.

What’s going to happen in 2010?  I have no plans, at least, not yet.  Right now I’m just admiring it the way it is, full of possibility and promise.  Here’s to a better year.

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Haircut

December 30th, 2009 by Joyce

David’s latest haircut, done by Joyce’s Kitchen-Table Salon.  The motto of Joyce’s KTS is “It’ll grow back” (Other motto considerations included “I can fix this, I think”, “I can always even this out with the clippers later”, as well as “Oops”.) 

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This isn’t the haircut I’d intended to give David.  He and I had been chatting as I’d been cutting here, cutting there, trying to follow the style he’d gotten months ago after I noticed his hair kept getting caught in his violin’s bow.  Such hubris I had to be talking as I worked!  I naturally wasn’t paying enough attention to the haircut when–snip–I suddenly realized I’d taken too much off the middle layer in the back.  Way too much.  Fortunately I still had the curls at the top to work with.  David, who had been earlier worried that I might cut his hair too short, didn’t mind when I pulled out the clippers–he was too busy enjoying a Kipper show on Netflix.  Yes, it was going to be okay.  Plus, David’s curls do a pretty awesome job of covering up any mistakes. 

Whew.

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I love David’s hair.  When he comes into the early morning bed to snuggle, I can twist and wrap coils of his hair around my fingers until half past breakfast.  Curling one way then another, bouncing and flying as he runs up the stairs, bleaching in the sun–David’s golden halo of hair embodies his youth, his innocence, and his enthusiasm.  The haircut turned out alright, and now it’s less likely to get caught in the bow of his violin or fall over his eyes like a shaggy sheepdog.  But I’ll be happy when it grows out, even if only to cut it again.

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(David riding a stick horse at Thanksgiving in San Antonio.)

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Christmas Day

December 26th, 2009 by Joyce

We chose to spend Christmas Day at home this year like we have since 2004, when I was too hugely pregnant to travel safely and comfortably.  Once the babies were born it wasn’t any easier; they hated the car and would cry until we scooped them out at our destination.  Post-AVM, now I’m the one who hates the car.  Even just riding to the grocery store is a challenge some days, so we stick around a lot in an effort to save some of my cognitive and sensory resources for keeping up with the daily grind.

But part of what we miss by staying at home is the opportunity to participate in the formal process of using tradition to mark of another day, another month, another year in our lives.  When we woke up that morning and the forecast was mostly good, we knew we needed to mark the day, the holiday, and the dark, quiet nights of winter.  We would go out to watch the sun set, make note of the stars, and revel in the light and warmth of a fire.  And we would do this at the only nearby place we really could:  the beach.

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In the previous weeks some wet and windy weather had left large pieces of driftwood along the beach.  Now it was dry and with the help of the breeze it burned easily and quickly.  Maybe next time we’ll dig a pit to help the fire burn a little more slowly.

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While dinner was cooking (camp food we had dehydrated earlier in the fall), C&D played in in the light of the fire, digging holes with their new shovels and rearranging the larger pieces of dry wood.

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Carmen tried her hand at building a driftwood see-saw.

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When the sun had long since gone down we looked up at the stars visible between long bands of clouds blowing in from the Gulf.  C&D had never really seen stars the way Matt and I had growing up; here in Houston all but the very brightest are obscured by light pollution and moisture in the atmosphere.  David looked up for a bit and asked us why the stars looked like dots, and not like the pointed asterisks we draw to represent stars.  After a while C&D returned to the miracle closer at hand, the sand, while Matt and I lay on our backs with a hand up to block the high quarter moon.

logoblackbkgdsmAs bedtime approached we threw sand on the fire and snuggled back into the car, driving back through wetlands twinkling with the pewter reflection of ponds and bayous.  C&D were hungry (hungr-ee?) so we stopped at Buc-ee’s–busy since the grocery stores were all closed for the day, and where else do you get your tacos and soda and beer and ice?–to fuel up with nuts and trail mix and Beaver Nuggets.  (It was Christmas and I was feeling very indulgent, hence the Nuggets.)   It was ten by the time we pulled the ‘Ru into the garage.  We shook off our shoes and stumbled into our pajamas.  Sand and woodsmoke lingered on our skin and in our hair, but we could take care of that tomorrow.  Today, however, was Christmas.

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December 17th, 2009 by Joyce Enter your password to view comments.

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In the Upper (Living) Room

December 13th, 2009 by Matt


I don’t really know exactly how this all started, I just know what we’re in the middle of it now and there’s no going back.

I do remember had been looking for a dance class for C&D for a while.  The search became urgent after we caught a free performance by Houston Ballet II, the pre-professional division of the Houston Ballet’s academy.  C&D cried when it was over, and Matt and I were blinking back tears, too–one of their pieces had left us awestruck.  But I couldn’t find a class we would all be comfortable with.

Then one day late this summer an e-mail caught my eye.  A friend had arranged for a daytime dance class at a studio in the Village, but she needed participants. I pushed my chair back from the monitor while I reviewed a mental checklist:

  • Close to the house?  Check.  It’s only a mile or two from here.
  • Mornings, when I function best and traffic is lightest?  Check.
  • Movement and rhythm-based?  Check.
  • No princess glitter and Club Libby Lu lip gloss?  Check!
  • Serious dance school committed to the art of dance?  Big, big CHECK!

We were so in.

In the Upper Room. Photo: Amitava Sarkar 3926739.47

In late September we made it to a performance by the Houston Ballet.  We had seats just four rows from the front.  We watched three pieces separated by two intermissions.  The first piece (“Falling Angels”) featured percussionists at the end of the stage; the second featured a piece choreographed by the Ballet’s Stanton Welch; and the third was Twyla Tharp’s exuberant “In the Upper Room.”  And then it was over.  David was tired and happy to go home and think about what he’d seen, but Carmen?  Carmen cried.  She cried all the way out of the theater.  She cried crossing the street and down the stairs into the parking garage.  She cried in the car as we drove through downtown and home.  Then, slumping at her chair at the table, she cried some more.  "Why?" she asked. "Why is it over?"

Around the same time, I started noticing something.  Instead of talking around and keeping rhythm on the furniture when he heard music he liked, David started dancing to it.  Carmen, too.  They fussed about costumes and tutus and practiced dance moves that I couldn’t remember the names of.   And then the semester was over, and it was time for C&D to participate in December’s Mixed Bag.

Our teacher thinks that at least once a semester her students need to perform for their families, the other students of the studio, and those students’ families.   The audience has a chance to see what the students have been working on (I don’t really participate in or observe C&D’s dance class like I participate in their violin lesson), and the students have a chance to perform in front of a supportive group.  

Sometimes the students demonstrate exercise and techniques they’ve been working on in class, and sometimes they perform a piece they are preparing for a more formal audience.   Sometimes they do both.  The school hosts a diversity of classes, from beginner ballet to hip-hop and tap.   Maybe all this variety is what inspired the head and founder of the dance school to call these monthly performances “Mixed Bags.” 

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And so C&D danced in the Mixed Bag.  Then C&D came home with the usual despair that something so pleasant could be over so quickly.  This time, however, C&D figured they could do something about it.  While I finished dinner and let my hair finish drying, they worked quickly to get furniture moved and an audience ready. 

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And then, requesting the music (some of which we had to download on the fly; Amazon, I love you), they danced and danced until bedtime.  Much of what they did is here in this post.  It’s here so that in ten years C&D can see what their first dance moves looked like.  It’s here so that the grandmas (their most devoted audience) can see what they’re up to.  And these videos are here so you know WHAT I HAVE TO PUT UP WITH ALL DAY LONG.

Ready?  Here goes:

They asked that I find and play a piece by Dave Brubeck first.  Their dancing was inspired by some of the choreography set to this music at the at the City Dance concert earlier in the month, and then the Mixed Bag earlier in the day.  David’s slow-mo movement at :26 was right on, but Carmen’s hopping on one foot was definitely a Carmen-ism.

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Then I guess they were done with the jazz portion of the show, and moved on to ballet.  They took some masking tape (we go through lots of that stuff around here) and made their own pointe shoes, complete with the little ribbony bits that wrap up and around the ankle.

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While they were doing that I was back at Amazon, downloading another song. 

Now C&D have been to two Mixed Bag performances, and one City Dance performance earlier in the month.  At all three of these performances, they’ve watched the ballet piece below.  (The first time C&D saw it the Ensemble students were still fine-tuning their work.)  They loved everything about it:  the violin, the movement, the red and black.

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So of course, being so inspired and of the moment, they needed to  give it a go.   I don’t know about you, but as I review the video I am astounded at how closely they were able to mimic so many of the movements they had seen earlier in the day.  I mean, Matt and I are so uncoordinated that the only sports we could do with any success were things like running, hiking, and riding our bikes.  (I’m also amazed at how well they’re able to stand on the tippy-tip-tips of their toes.  I can’t watch them without thinking “sports injury.”)

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Maybe they were in an imitating mood; next they wanted the music from “In The Upper Room,” the Twyla Tharp-choreographed piece that we saw at the Houston Ballet.  Check out the 80’s-style party moves—they’re totally channeling Twyla Tharp.

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I started running out of music that they might want to dance to.  After a costume change I tried a little Sugar Plum Fairy.  They’ve never seen the Nutcracker but have heard some of the music.    I almost chocked on my tea when I saw Carmen’s hip movements—I’m not sure that’s what Tchaikovsky had in mind.

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After a while they started running out of dance moves but didn’t want to stop.   

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Igor Stravinsky is another Russian who wrote music for ballets, and he seemed like a pretty cool guy as tortured Russian musicians go; I bet he would have gotten a kick at Carmen’s energy (wasn’t she exhausted?) and improvisations to a section of The Rite of Spring.

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I was pretty much out of music on my laptop, but they didn’t mind.  Whatever it was, they’d find a way to move to it.

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It was getting late.  David kept more and more migrating to the couch to take a breather.  If Carmen was tired she wouldn’t admit it, but she knew it was time for a last hurrah.

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Then they went to bed, and slept deeply.  The next morning they were up early.  Can you guess what they wanted to do?

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David’s snowmen

December 6th, 2009 by Matt · 2 Comments

Like any good artist, David sometimes makes several sketches of a concept to get it just right.  Orange was used to make sure that the nose is a carrot.

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The next morning

December 5th, 2009 by Joyce · 2 Comments

The snow has long since melted; the sun shines on a cold so sharp it hurts.  But on the front page of the local newspaper . . .

frontpagezoom. . . is a story . . .

Snowmanarticlecrop about two kids and a snowman.

(I also sighted C&D’s picture in the Chronicle’s online “Breaking News” gallery.)

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