first day of first grade

Today was Lyd’s first day of first grade, which for her has been a long-awaited day.  She was up at 7am this morning (very early for her) asking if it was time for school.  I made pancakes for breakfast, which are her favorite, and we got off to school on time.  Yay!

There are seven children in her classroom in grades 1-5.  (Yup.  It’s quite unusual.)  Her best friend is in second grade, and she’s delighted to be in the same classroom with her.  She loved everything about her day at school except for the fact that her classroom chore this week is vacuuming, and she’s scared of vacuums.  So, we’ll see how that goes.

Poor Jujubee didn’t have quite as good of a day.  She understood that Lyd had to go to school and that she had to stay home, and overall she seemed okay with it.  She played quite well on her own, looking at books and then going outside and playing in the sandbox, but she was more whiny than usual.  I made rice krispy treats for all 11 schoolkids at lunchtime, and Jujubee and I walked them down to the lunchroom.  She was happy to do that, but didn’t want to come back home alone.  Hopefully as time goes on she’ll get more used to it.  In a few weeks my teaching schedule starts up again, along with her art and gymnastics classes, and that will help, too.

So, we’re back in the school routine again.  The summer whizzed by, leaving us only our memories.  But it was a great summer.  I’m hoping and praying that it will be a great school year for Lyd, too.



JJ and I and the new Kindergarten teacher at our school went out last night (Sunday night) and saw the Broadway musical “Wicked” up in San Francisco at the Orpheum Theater.  It was a lot of fun!

We took the BART up into SF, which conveniently had a stop located right next to the Orpheum.  We came up out of the subway tunnel and it was right there!  Very cool.  And, now I know how to buy a ticket on the BART and how to use the machines, which is a useful skill for me to know.  After last week’s trip up to SF, I almost feel like I could easily get around using mass transit.

The show itself was pretty cool.  All I knew was that it was a story based on The Wizard of Oz.  It was different than I expected, but definitely very interesting.  As part of the “Wicked” storyline, it tells how the Wicked Witch of the West became “wicked,” and how the Good Witch of the North became “good.”  It explained how the monkeys got their wings, why the ruby red slippers were so important to the Wicked Witch of the West and why her skin was green, how the Tin Woodman came into existence, how the Scarecrow and Cowardly Lion came into existence, too, why the Munchkins hated the Wicked Witch of the East, and more.  There was even a love story in it!

And it had funny moments!  Oh, my, were some of the lines funny!  When Galinda sang the song “Popular,” it just about stole the show, especially when Galinda’s wand accidentally flew 30 feet up and landed in the side proscenium.  I’m almost positive that was NOT part of the show, because both the actors paused and looked a little surprised for a moment, and then Galinda did a bit of physical comedy by attempting to do the splits as a way of “distracting” the audience.  It was hilarious, and the whole crowd roared.  🙂

What I personally liked best about “Wicked” was the fact that both the leads were female, and both were sopranos.  How many Broadway shows can you think of where both the leads were female?  I’m no feminist, but I lean towards an idea of some kind of equality between the sexes, and there are plenty of shows where the cast is overwhelmingly male.  The main characters of this show were mostly female, and it was a good change of pace.

After playing here in San Francisco for over a year and a half, “Wicked” is finally ending its San Francisco run this coming Sunday evening (which was why I really wanted to go now).  It’s too bad I didn’t go earlier, because I definitely would want to see this show again.  Hopefully I’ll get another chance in the future.

After “Wicked” leaves, “West Side Story” is coming to the Orpheum for a month.  The music in that show is just phenomenal, and I’ve never seen it on stage before.  Hmm.  Now that JJ and I know an easy way to get to the Orpheum, maybe we’ll go again…

a day in the big city

Today I took my first trip up to San Francisco via mass transit by myself.  I’ve lived here nine years, and I’ve never done that.  (During my first two years here, I used to go up to SF frequently for SF Symphony Chorus rehearsals, but I rarely went up alone.  And I never took mass transit.)  I went to SF to attend a Music Together teaching workshop.  I’ve always enjoyed these in the past, but I usually attend a workshop that is much closer.  That wasn’t an option this year, and I really wanted to attend a workshop, and my choices were SF or Santa Cruz.  The timing for the SF one worked better for our family, so off to SF I went!

However, I was very nervous about this.  I like riding Caltrain, and I like riding Muni, but I’ve never done these things on my own.  I’d never even bought a ticket on my own!  JJ had always done it for us.  I was so nervous about this that I had a big ol’ anxiety attack last night.  It was my first full-blown anxiety attack in quite a few months.

But, JJ consoled me this morning and encouraged me to go.  “You’ll have a great time once you’re actually on the train, and you’ll enjoy the time to yourself,” he wisely said.  So, I did it.  And, he was right: Once I got on the train, I relaxed and enjoyed myself.  In a small way, it was a bit like my solo trip to Wisconsin last May.  I was really nervous to go on that, too, but I had fun once I was actually doing it, and in the end I was glad I had gone.

Once in downtown San Francisco, I had to walk five blocks from the Muni station on Market Street (which is essentially Main Street in SF) to the location where my workshop was held (on Golden Gate Avenue – isn’t that appropriate?), but it wasn’t too bad.  The weather was quite cool and windy and the sun was not shining today in SF thanks to the thick marine layer that was hanging over the city, but I brought enough layers with me and stayed reasonably warm.  There were, as usual, TONS of people around, but I think it’s rather invigorating to be surrounded by so many people.

The workshop itself was quite fun.  I knew the workshop leader from other workshops I had been to, and I knew a few of the other teachers as well.  I had a good time sitting next to a gal from Marin who was quite saucy and funny.  She was appreciateve of all the good song and teaching ideas that I shared with her, as she was a relatively new teacher.

The only trouble I had with using mass transit was on my way home.  I had to purchase a second Muni ticket, but in my new-rider ignorance, I completely forgot to grab my ticket out of the turnstile once I paid for it and walked through.  I still got on the Muni (and luckily didn’t get caught by a ticket agent!), but I now know the make sure I grab my ticket before I get on the train!

While waiting for my Muni train, I also got to witness something I’ve only ever heard about: a completely full subway car.  I mean COMPLETELY FULL.  It stopped at the station, every seat was filled, and even the standing room was filled.  People were literally packed together like sardines.  One additional passenger managed to just barely squeeze onto the platform with the door just closing behind him.  I have never seen such a crowded subway car before!  Luckily, my Muni car was almost empty.

All in all, it was a really fun day.  JJ did fine having the girls all afternoon (I left on a noon train and got back around 6:45), although the girls were delighted to see me again.  It was nice to be welcomed home enthusiastically.

I’m not so scared to go up into SF on my own via mass transit again.  In fact, I might take one of the girls with me next time; I think they would really enjoy it.  🙂

Leon Breeden

You may not have heard of Leon Breeden at all, but if you like jazz music in any way, then Mr. Breeden had an effect on you.

Leon Breeden died on August 11 in Dallas, Texas.  He was responsible for changing jazz music from an underground kind of music that only ne’er-do-wells played to an art form worthy of study.  You can read more about his life in this obituary from the New York Times.  Another, more local, reflection on the impact his life had on jazz music can be found here.

I did not have a direct personal connection with Mr. Breeden, but I went to high school with two of his grandchildren.  His daughter-in-law is a longtime member of our church and one of my dearest friends.  Her late husband, David Breeden, was the principal clarinetist of the San Francisco Symphony for many years, and during the two seasons (2001-2003) when I sang with the San Francisco Symphony Chorus, I would often carpool with David to performances.

I have an unusual story about Leon Breeden: One time when I was in high school, my family went to my grandparents’ house for a Sunday afternoon visit.  As I usually did, I headed into the back bedrooms to be alone and to read and to explore.  This particular time, I found some old Life magazines.  I randomly looked through a few, and found an article on none other than Leon Breeden!  I had heard of him through his granddaughter, whom I was friends with in high school.  The issue of Life was all in black and white, and I believe it was from the late 1970’s or early 1980’s.  I have always thought that was pretty neat; of all the old magazines one could find, I found THAT one, the one with the article on Leon Breeden.

Some of his former students made up a video and audio montage about him with some of his classic recordings on it.  It’s ten minutes, but it’s worth a listen.  You can find it on youtube here.

I especially liked this story from the end of Breeden’s New York Times obituary:

[Leon Breeden] is also survived by hundreds of skilled jazz musicians. Though many were already superb players by the time they passed through Mr. Breeden’s hands, they were students first and foremost, a fact of which he rarely lost sight.

That fact was perhaps never more evident than one summer in the late 1970s,, when the One O’Clock Lab Band accompanied Ella Fitzgerald at the Spoleto Festival USA, in Charleston, S.C. Impressed, Ms. Fitzgerald asked if she could take the band on the road with her.

Mr. Breeden respectfully declined. He could not countenance having his charges miss so much class time.

a summer day

We are finally – FINALLY – seeing warm, summer-like weather here in northern CA.

This is August 23, people.  The weather people tell us we have only three days of this warm weather.  I intend to fully enjoy them.

I put my morning to good use today by washing all of my living room windows.  This is no small feat, but at least the girls were willing to help.  Or, should I say, “help.”  Lyd kept repeating, “Good heavens!” as she cleaned windows and ended up with one filthy paper towel after another.  The windows probably hadn’t been cleaned in about, oh, I don’t know, two years, so they were pretty bad.  But now they sparkle!

I put on the sprinkler in the afternoon, and Lyd and Jujubee and a neighbor girl had fun running through it in their swimsuits.  Every so often I had to move the sprinkler so that a different part of our lawn got watered.  The kids had a great time.  Jujubee had never run through a sprinkler before, so she thought it was pretty neat.

After lunch today, as I wondered aloud to JJ what I should make for supper, JJ suggested that we drive to the ocean and he would grill us some burgers on a beach.  I didn’t need to be asked twice!  We got going a little later than we had intended (5:30), but luckily we had smooth sailing all the way to Half Moon Bay.  We ate at San Gregorio beach, and we had a lovely time.  The girls, of course, enjoyed digging in the sand and sticking their toes in the cold ocean water.  For some reason, Jujubee preferred to bury one of her shovels.  Luckily we only brought along seven sand toys, so it was easy to see that one was missing.  And, luckily, Jujubee’s pile of sand was easy to spot.  I had to dig out her shovel before we left, or it would have been left behind.

The most beautiful part of the evening was watching the sun sink below the horizon to the west, and watching the full moon rise over the hills to the east at the same time.  It was the nicest night weather-wise that we’ve had at a beach all calendar year.  Every other time we’ve gone it’s been incredibly windy.  But tonight it was warm with just a gentle breeze blowing.  Just perfect.

I’m so excited to have two more days of 90 degree weather!!!  Finally!  After a cooler-than-average summer, it’s nice to finally be getting some real summer weather!

“Little House” love

Earlier this summer, I began reading Lyd the Laura Ingalls Wilder book, Little House on the Prairie.  I started with that book, rather than Little House in the Big Woods, because I thought the storyline might be a little easier for her to follow.  Lyd LOVED it!

We finished reading the book in Wisconsin.  At my parent’s home, there were a few Little House books, including Little House in the Big Woods.  So, since Lyd had loved Little House on the Prairie so much, I changed my mind and decided to read that one to Lyd as well.  Unsurprisngly, she loved that one, too.

On one of the days of our trip when Lyd was feeling a bit better, the four of us took a trip with my parents to see Heritage Hill State Historical Park in Green Bay.  It’s an old-time town where you can see how people lived long ago.  I figured there would be some buildings/things there that would be of the Little House era that Lyd would find interesting.  We did find a few things there that fit with the Little House era, but some of it was a little beyond her yet.  However, we did find good stuff in the gift shop.  My mom bought Lyd a children’s book version of one chapter of Little House in the Big Woods, the chapter entitled “Dance at Grandpa’s.”  It was neat to see more pictures added to the story; it really helped Lyd to visualize what was going on.

My prize find in the gift shop was a recording of many of Pa’s fiddle songs by Bruce Hoffman, called “A Tribute to Charles ‘Pa’ Ingalls.”  It’s so neat to hear melodies for many of the songs that Laura Ingalls Wilder writes out in her books.  I’ve had that CD playing on our computer the last two days.

We’re almost done with Little House in the Big Woods.  We’ve only got two chapters left.  I think I’m going to stop with the Little House books for a while and read her something different.  Perhaps I’ll do Betsy-Tacy, or The Secret Garden or A Little Princess.  Something like that.  We can always pick up with the Little House books again in the future.  Lyd has certainly enjoyed those books this summer!