Advance and Retire

Atticus had his Irish step dance debut a few weeks ago for a hooley put on by the Champagne Academy of Irish Dance.

Holiday hooley

Holiday hooley

We were in the ceili band playing for the dance and I was really proud to be joined by a few of my students who really held their own playing for the dancers.

Holiday hooley

Playing for a ceili is a meditative experience because we repeat one tune many more times than we might normally if we were playing for a session or a performance. The familiarity of the tunes and the repetition lulls me into an altered state of mind.

The caller teaches the dance and then, when the dancers are ready to bring the tempo up to dance to the live music, calls out instructions to keep them on track.

I recall sitting there fiddling, watching the bouncing and twirling dancers, communicating with my band mates and students by means of winks and smiles, catching glimpses of my sons partying with their beloved babysitter.

Holiday hooley

All this set to the background sound of the music of my heart played on the pipes, the fiddle, and the drum along with the caller’s reminders to “advance, advance, retire, retire. Advance, advance, retire, retire”.

Holiday hooley

I had a rare moment of perfect clarity about the cycle of seasons, the bittersweet truth of ends and beginnings, of children growing and changing. Advance, advance, retire, retire.

Between the hooley and this moment, there has been the crush of holidays (Christmas and Liam’s birthday), the peace of retreat (our cabin in the woods New Year’s tradition), and the resumption of Regular Life. Through all this, I still hear the refrain in my mind (advance, advance, retire, retire) when I’m washing the dishes, walking the dog, anytime that my mind goes still for a moment.

It’s not a bad soundtrack to a day.

Session Recap

Saturday was SO HOT! 

(how hot was it?)

It was so hot that the brilliant Tom G, proprietor of Uptown Bill’s, attached an oven mitt to the metal door handle in order to allow customers to enter.  I wish I had taken a picture.

It was another magical session.  You just can never predict who will show up or what we’ll play and that’s most of the beauty of the thing, really.

This week I joined Thia and Susie on the fiddle, Ric on the washtub bass, Wendy on the tin whistle, and Craig had my mandolin (newly named Flora)  singing more prettily than it ever has before.

The tunes that I remember: Wicklow Hornpipe, Julia Delaney’s, Waltz of the Little Girls, Crossing to Ireland, and Ashokan Farewell and Fiddler’s Elbow, both by Jay Ungar.

Also!  I had a very tasty sarsaparilla and picked up a new novel for $2 called Little Bee by Chris Cleave.  I’m only a chapter in but it’s engrossing already.

Uptown Bill’s is one of those places that nourishes you in both tangible and otherworldly ways.

At our performance at the Farmers Market on Saturday morning, I felt a little like the aforementioned door handle frying in the sun, but it didn’t detract from the usual Farmers Market bliss.  If you love your town as I do, it’s almost impossible to play music at the Farmers Market without your heart nearly bursting out of your chest with pride and happiness.

Walking in springtime

I’m trying not too think too hard about why we’re having such an absolutely beautiful early spring but it surely has made for some lovely walks!

Liam took over the camera on our last walk to the library.  This is Shady Patch, the little herb garden that Atticus planted (and named) last spring.  I know less than nothing about gardening but apparently we chose some hardy perennial herbs because they’re still persistently sprouting through the layer of fall and winter neglect.

Spring (photo by Liam)

Liam and I both love our neighbor’s tree and I think he framed this one nicely even if we’re missing a bit of the top.

Spring (photo by Liam)

I love his photo of the library.

Spring (photo by Liam)

They really move as one.  It’s no wonder people frequently mistake them for twins.

Library walk

Our favorite walk of the week was a bird walk with our homeschool assistance program.  We’re so lucky to have access to a program of this caliber and I’m continually surprised how few parents seem to know about it.  One of our teachers knows a lot about birds and bird calls and the kids loved peering through their binoculars to identify them.  We’re studying birds this week so the timing was perfect.

Birdwalk with HSAP

Birdwalk with HSAP

Birdwalk with HSAP

Liam brought his nature journal to record what he saw and ended up drawing a picture of an ostrich in flight.  I’m quite sure I didn’t witness such an event but apparently artistic license can be applied in all settings.

Birdwalk with HSAP

Atticus and his beloved magnifying glass.

Birdwalk with HSAP

This being Iowa, it’s entirely likely that I’ll be posting a blizzard walk next week but we’re going to enjoy this bliss while it lasts.


Shy.  Bashful.  Awkward.  Introverted.  I’ve been puzzling over these designations lately, particularly in regard to myself and to my oldest child.

I have a long background in social services so I’ve taken the Myers-Briggs test many times and have always ended up with the INFP label.  Whenever the test has been described to me, the concept of introversion seems more layered than how it’s widely understood.  Here, let’s let wikipedia take over for a moment:

In Western popular usage, Extraverts (also spelled extroverts[1]) are thought to be gregariousassertive, and interested in seeking out external stimulus. Introverts, in contrast, are seen as introspective, quiet and less sociable. They are not necessarily loners but they tend to have a smaller number of friends. Introversion does not describe social discomfort but rather social preference: an introvert may not be shy but may merely prefer fewer social activities.

The last sentence is what I find myself hung up on.  I identify strongly with all descriptions of introversion except that I feel like what I experience does actually include social discomfort along with social preference.  Perhaps I have some social anxiety along with simply being an introverted person?  Another possibility is that the wikipedia definition means that social discomfort is not present in all situations and that social preference is what dictates whether the discomfort is present or absent.

We just had a flurry of really fun performances for St. Patrick’s Day and I enjoyed almost every minute of it but it is taking me a lot longer than usual to bounce back and I’m puzzling over how performing saps me emotionally at least as much as it does physically.  I don’t mean this in a negative way.  I absolutely love performing with the band.  It’s very fulfilling for me and I don’t think I would be as happy a person without at least this amount of performing in my life.  As enjoyable as it is, it is very hard.  Not so much in the moment, but for the days following.

Luckily for me, I have some people in my life who are restorative to my soul.

The Fabulous Baking Boys

Edited to add an update that is probably only interesting to me. I now test as an INFJ. *shrug*

August Irish session and changes afoot

We had a great group of friends at our August session and we were especially excited to see Frank, a superb musician (flute and tin whistle) who I haven’t played music with in over five years.  Also in attendance were Dave (fiddle and Irish flute), Dennis (concertina), Robin (fiddle), Keith (guitar, vocals), Kevin (harmonica), Abram (fiddle and Irish flute), Arianne (fiddle), and Guy (fiddle).

In honor of the wonderful fiddle workshop taught by April Verch that several of us had attended the day before, we started our session with the Métis fiddle tune Jonah’s First Change.  The sheet music can be found in April’s book co-written with Brian Wicklund entitled American Fiddle Methods: Canadian Fiddle Styles.  From Jonah’s First Change, we went right into Blarney Pilgrim.

I wasn’t as successful at recording the names of all the tunes at this session but I did my best.

Eels in the Sink/The Spindle Shank
Silver Spire/Rolling in the Ryegrass/Tripping Up the Stairs
Celluloid Mouse/The Bent Willow (original tunes by Dave Hicks)
The Golden Keyboard
I Was Born For Sport/Kesh/Give Us a Drink of Water
Mountain  Road/Humours of Tulla/Merry Blacksmith
Glen Cottage/Leg of a Duck (in D instead of the usual G)/
Tam Lin
The Banshee
Gravel Walk
Maids of Mitchelstown/Julia Delaney’s

There are two session in September because we’ll have our usual session on the first Saturday of the month at 4:30 at Uptown Bill’s and there will be another session on Labor Day (yep, two days later) at the annual Ralston Creek Fair and Flea Market from 1 to 3 pm.

In other news, today is my very last day teaching in my home studio.  Since 2005, I have taught approximately 5,000 lessons within these walls, just steps away from my increasingly exuberant children as they’ve navigated infancy, toddlerhood, potty training, and, most recently, epic LEGO battles, along with their string of awesome babysitters who keep graduating and leaving us (the shadow side of college towns) but who will always be part of our family.

My commute will increase but only slightly because I’ll be teaching just down the block at the conservatory in the West Music store in Coralville.  I’m very excited to be teaching at West but it’s bittersweet because it marks yet another end to the boys’ babyhood, only in this case it’s the mama that’s leaving the nest.

Another big change is that Liam will be starting part-time kindy on Monday at our neighborhood school.  He’s dual enrolled in the school district’s homeschool assistance program and the neighborhood school so we’ll be doing most of our academics here at home and Liam will be at school three afternoons a week.

Atticus, never one to be overlooked if he has anything to say about it, is bouncing out of his skin with excitement to be starting both dance classes and also cello lessons within the next two weeks.

Where did my babies go?

I can’t find a pen

I’m sick.

Liam had some sort of virus a little over a week ago and I think he shared it with me.  Generous child, that one.  I’ve been knocked flat in bed all day.

In many ways, I’m really lucky this unpleasantness landed on a rare day off for me when Joe is home taking care of the lads and the only thing I had to cancel is my guitar lesson.

But I love my guitar lessons.  And we also weren’t able to make it to a birthday party for our sweet little pal who’s turning two nor meet his brand new baby sister.

Did I mention that it was supposed to rain all weekend but it turned out instead that it is actually perfect weather for doing all the things that I really need and want to do outside in the yard?

I also missed the rapture completely because I was watching the season finale of Bones on hulu.  I’m just off today.

Joe is a really good parent.  I’ve been up here in the bedroom all day listening to the three of them knocking around together.

Does this seem a little disjointed and even more meaningless than usual?  Yeah, it wasn’t really supposed to be a blog post.  I wanted to write in my notebook but I can’t find a pen and I’ve already summoned Joe a meeellion times today in need of toast, soup, water, and sympathy.

I miss people today.   I really miss my friend who I can always count on to be as interested in all the everyday details of my life as I am in hers.  I miss my parents and my sister and Joe’s parents and his brother and all those good people in our extended family.  I miss our Iowa City friends who have moved to Oregon (yes, I miss you twice!), to Milwaukee, to Chicago, to Boston, to Cleveland, to San Francisco, to Botswana.  I miss my little goddaughter in South Dakota and her whole amazing family.  I miss my beautiful cousins in Ireland.

I miss the feeling of being on top of things which really hasn’t returned in the two months that I’ve been home from my trip.  At the rate we’re going, we’ll be lucky if we finish our spring curriculum before the school year starts in the fall.

I don’t really have a hold on things right now.  It’s not the worst feeling but it’s unsettling for me.  There are more changes on the horizon too, just enough so that I am left wondering if I will ever again feel like I’ve got it under control.

I just set the laptop down for a moment because two little boys clad in Ben 10 pajamas, one holding a hot pink recorder and the other holding a slightly bent slide whistle, came up to my bedroom so we could do what has become our evening ritual of “The Family Song” which is loosely based on the Phish song “Simple” (nod to my friend and fellow music therapist Blythe LaGasse who taught this to me during internship) followed by the theme song to “Spectacular Spiderman“, me on guitar and Joe on on mandolin.

So you know what?  Scratch all that.  It’s all good.  It’s grand.