Thursday, January 31, 2013

I'm Going To Be A Terrible Parent

A friend reminded me that in one of my last posts (it's a bit too stale to call it "recent"), I said that I'd probably be posting more often, now that I'm done with the Master's degree and all.


Instead, I've had a lovely time in my living room floor, tossing around some tupperware containers.  I've been keeping a house running.  I've been singing, playing, teaching, and reflecting upon music.  And I've been baking bread.

That last one has given me reason to worry about my fitness to parent, after a little incident last week involving a drunk dog and rising dough:

What I didn't say at the time is that my dog "found" it because I left it at nose level in Fiona's bedroom floor.  The recipe said to let it rise in a warm place, and that room gets warm.  Didn't even occur to me that the dog could easily push the door open and eat it all.

And that's my problem: I didn't consider what might happen.  Fast forward a few months, and my daughter is mobile.  What's lying around my house that could send her to the hospital when she eats it?  Who knows?  I don't.  And even when I do eventually do the initial "baby-proofing" as she starts getting into stuff, I'm sure there will be things like that bowl of dough that seem perfectly benign that send her into some sort of altered reality, like my drunk dog.

This is not an "oh no, the big bad world is going to get my little girl" sort of thing.  I know you can't protect them from every skinned knee, creepy stranger, broken heart, stolen car, school bully, etc.  This is my painfully real observation that I don't know what the hell I'm doing, and if I almost killed my dog with alcohol poisoning FROM BREAD, who knows what I'm accidentally capable of doing to my child?


Monday, January 7, 2013

What Glenn Gould Taught Me About Parenting

I can't exactly remember what sparked my renewed interest in the music of J.S. Bach - I think it has something to do with hearing the cello suites playing on my daughter's night time playlist all the time.

I have listened to and loved the cello suites for about eight years now but Bach was such a prolific composer, and was exceptionally important as a composer of keyboard works, that I wanted to spend more time with some of those.  Anyone who knows Bach and the piano would immediately point me to the recordings of Glenn Gould.  Though I've heard of him for years, and spent time in college working in the music library, consuming recordings of everything I could find, I don't think I'd ever listened to one of the most famous classical pianists, known especially for his interpretations of Bach.  You should listen to him.  Here's his famous 1981 recording of the Goldberg Variations:
Even if you're not too interested, watch a few points in this video, because he's quite the character.  His friend and biographer speculated that he may well have been on the autism spectrum; indeed, his eccentricities lend credence to that theory.  You'll see him sitting on an ancient-looking chair with no cushion: his father built that chair, and he only performed sitting on it, long after its cushion wore through.  He specified temperature settings for his studio sessions, did not like to be touched, and limited his contact with people.  His movements while playing definitely fall outside of what's typical.  And my favorite thing: listen closely, and you'll hear him humming along while he plays.

This is how I knew I'd never listened to Glenn Gould before.  I had his Well-Tempered Clavier recording in headphones yesterday, and thought I must be imagining things, because I heard a sort of groan/hum along with the music.  And it's not subtle.  He claimed it was subconscious, and the volume at which he sang varied based on how much he needed to compensate for a given piano's lack of ability to create the sounds he desired.  In some recordings he's louder than others; in this 1981 Goldberg one, critics said many listeners would "find the groans and croons intolerable."

I love it.

Autism or no, Glenn Gould did what he loved, and didn't care what people thought.  His gyrating stage presence might have been a novelty that drew a large crowd, but groaning and humming on a professional recording?  No one does that, and I'm sure it turned people off.  But he was so focused and consumed with his craft that he did what he saw as necessary and good.  I love experiencing other people in love with their craft, and Glenn Gould was unabashedly in love with playing the music of Bach.

I'd like to parent that way.  There's a combination of real and perceived stigma around my current almost-stay-at-home lifestyle, and though I am glad we're doing this, I often find myself playing up the meager hours I spend as a teacher, and mentioning the time I spend at home as an afterthought.  I love teaching, and I love making music, but I also love being a dad, and I want to be just as unabashed about playing in the floor or reading the Belly Button Book as Glenn Gould was about singing on his piano recordings.  Because of his reckless abandon of social norms, Gould created really profound and special music, and I like to think that, given some dose of that, I'll help to foster a profound and special relationship with my little girl.

That might be a bit of a roundabout lesson, but that's how I look at things right now, through a paternal lens.  If you read all that and are still dissatisfied, just listen to him play.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Checking In

If you read this blog on the regular, you will have noticed that I've fallen off a bit on writing.  Well, I've essentially stopped writing for the past few weeks, really.  I haven't given up on the idea of it, but writing in this space has simply slipped my mind, with all the other things happening around me.  Often when I do think about it, it's at a time when I'm busy with some task or another, or Fiona is up and about.  Since I've got that rare moment when she's asleep and I remembered the blog, I thought I'd check in.

Two things I like about this blog:
(1) People hear about and see pictures of my baby, which means when I see people face-to-face, they're often up to date on what's new in her life already, and I can avoid the same small talk dozens of times.
(2) It affords me an opportunity to reflect, rather than simply recount.  This advantage has been largely untapped so far, but I see the potential, and perhaps will use it a bit more in the coming months.

I've been told that people prefer several shorter blog posts over one long one, so I'll leave you with a bit of an overview, of what's been taking my time instead of blogging.

In my last post, I celebrated/ruminated on finishing my Master's in Music Education.  Since then...

I've decided to start learning a bit about computer languages.  We use them so often, and so many of us have absolutely no idea what makes them do what they do - it's like driving a car without knowing anything about combustion or how to change your oil.  I doubt my skills will progress much beyond what an oil change does for the car, but it's a nice start.  I've decided to focus on things found on the web, beginning with HTML and CSS, and hope also to play with Javascript and Python.  Perhaps soon this blog will get a little facelift - stay tuned!

How am I learning this?  Code Academy!  It's free, and so far I'm very pleased.  Check it out!

With both sides of the family in one town, we always travel for holidays.  This is much harder with a child.  I think my next post will talk about Christmas a little, but for now, I can say that it was good to see family, I successfully cooked my first turkey, and I discovered why people make such a big deal about their baby's schedule.

Living Room 2.0
We spent most of last year buying the odd Home Depot gift card and tossing them in a drawer, as a way of saving money towards replacing the carpet in the one room of our house without hardwood floors.  This picture doesn't show the stains too well, but you can see pretty clearly what animal claws do to berber carpet:

We finally got enough cards, ordered our carpet, and after Home Depot did an ungainly dance with our paperwork, someone else's credit card (the first time I went to pay my order was already paid for, by a card we don't own - they couldn't figure out the owner), and someone showing up to measure unannounced, after they'd already measured and ordered...we got carpet yesterday!  Also replaced the equally stained couches in that room.  They were $100 on craigslist six years ago, so they served us well.  We upgraded this time to a whole $250 on craigslist for a new pair...moving on up!
If you have pets, get this kind of carpet.

So that's a taste of what's been going on.  Yesterday was the big four months for Fiona: besides another terrible trip to the doctor (4 more shots), she's great.  And cute: