Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Piano-Related Gifts this year

Happy New Year, everyone! This morning, I am at a customer site, trying to get a demo environment up and running. So while I wait (and wait) for their Database Administrator to get their database back up and running, I thought I would take a moment to tell you about the 2.5 piano-related gifts I scored this year.

The first is a software suite called Play Piano 2.0. In theory, this would take the place of a teacher, until I have the time and resources to get my own. It has animations showing chord formations and progressions, and all sorts of other fancy things I can't remember right now. I am going to give this a thorough tryout, and will report back.

The half-gift sort of came along with this. It's a virtual piano, something called Pianissimo by Acoustica.

A virtual piano (VP) is a software suite that takes MIDI input and converts it to real piano sounds. You probably knew this, but I had to look it up. People tend to use these in lieu of the piano sounds that come with their digital pianos. That is, you could connect your DP to your computer, which uses a VP to convert the sounds into something really nice and fancy, then connect your computer to your fancy sound system, which then pipes wonderful piano sounds all over the place. Not that I am going to do to this. This is, apparently, a low-end, entry-level VP, at least compared with industrial-strength heavyweights like Synthology Ivory Grand, Pianoteq, and the Garritan Steinway, which all cost hundreds of dollars. Still, for a simpleton like myself, it has more bells and whistles than I can possibly understand, much less use. For example, it has settings for the:

- Extent to which the virtual piano's lid is open or closed
- Size of the virtual concert hall*
- Velocity of hammer strikes
- Degree of sympathetic resonance

* - But sadly, no settings for the number or mood of the people in the imaginary concert hall, nor how much they like or hate your performance. Unlike, say, Guitar Hero.

I imagine I might tinker with this as a possible replacement for the soundfonts I had been using to convert recordings. Pianissimo starts with a 250 MB sample from a Steinway D, then adds some sort of sound modeling to it based on these settings I mentioned earlier. I'm no sound geek; but I can see how people get that way.

Finally, I also got a set of Grado SR60 headphones.

I've mentioned to you before that the one thing about our Casio Ap-200 that disappoints me is the sound. To some extent, I expected this, but didn't mind it. Sound quality was fourth on my criteria list, after price, touch, and build (sturdiness). But it's actually worse than I expected. The sound is anemic, as if a pillow has been placed over the speakers. Nobody is ever going to mistake the Casio, by sound alone, for an acoustic piano. I had hoped that the headphones I received with the bundle (Audio-Technica ATHM20) would make up for the poor sound, but they actually make things worse. When I play with those, they... how should I put this? They ring. Yup, that's it. When I play the piano with those headphones*, I experience a ringing in my ears that goes away the instant I take them off. Naturally, I blame the headphones.

* - "Cans", audiogeeks call them. See, look at what all you learn by coming here?

Nevertheless, as you saw earlier, Rowan doesn't seem to mind. So those are the kids' cans, while I have my own. And, though the SR60's are the cheapeast, lowest-end headphones in the Grado lineup, oh my goodness, Holy Harmonics, Batman*, what a difference! I won't attempt to describe the difference. Let's just say this... when I put them on, I thought that I had neglected to plug the headphones in; the sound didn't sound like it was coming from the headphones, but rather, from outside them. Only, the sound was no longer muffled, but rather bright and clear. So I took the headphones off and played a few notes, just to be sure. Sure enough, the headphones were plugged in, the piano sounds were indeed coming from the SR60's.
* - According to this site, Robin never uttered the phrase "Holy Harmonics, Batman". He did, however, say "Holy Haberdashery, Batman!" I'll have to mix that into everyday usage.

Memo to Sawtooth, mom3gram, and any others of you with digital pianos... buy some good headphones, if you haven't already. Sawtooth is probably way ahead of me on this, but just in case...

- Aw2pp, who thinks the Database Admin has now gone to lunch

Monday, December 29, 2008

Piano teacher update, v 2.0

The whole fam-dambly met another prospective piano teacher yesterday. This woman attends our church, and was recommended by numerous people, including members of our worship team and the pastor himself. After a bit of sleuthing (remember, we're new to the area and church, and don't know everyone yet*), we finally found her after the service, and talked briefly with her.

* - Yet. Give us Sue time.

Yes, she gives lessons.
Yes, she is taking new students.
Yes, she has a new session starting January 5.
Yes, she also takes adult students.
Yes, she'd allow me to attend Jillian's lessons, if I don't sign up for my own.
Yes, she lives nearby.
Yes, she's available to talk more.
No, she didn't want to talk more that moment, as she was staffing a sign-up table for Compassion International, and didn't want to mix business with missions.

So we owe her a call. We like what we know so far.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Tough day at the office, Ro?

A week or two ago, Rowan decided not to take a nap. Instead, she went downstairs to watch Jason play computer games. A few minutes later, it occurred to me that it was unusually quiet down there. I went downstairs, and this is what I saw.

What a lightweight. She can't hang. Looks like she fell victim to a Garfield-sized nap attack.

(Tip o' the cap to Susie, Official Twin Sister of Aw2pp, for the caption suggestion. Susie is visitng from Houston this week, and thinks it's really cold here.)

- Aw2pp, who jumped out of an airplane once. Once.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Piano teacher update

We haven't yet committed to the Suzuki teacher we met last week. Our only pause is the distance. So in the meantime, we're still evaluating some closer options. The question is this: do the compelling aspects of the method outweigh the cost of driving 30 minutes, or potentially more, given that her available time (Thursdays at 5:30) means driving through rush hour traffic?

The answer is, of course, that it depends. If there are closer teachers, who also teach on a very nice piano, who are also very nice, we may eschew the drive. So there is one woman in our church who we're trying to get in touch with, who may or may not be taking on new students. And another woman in town, recommended by friends of friends.

In the meantime, Rowan took the opportunity the other day to remind us that we need to talk to prospective teachers about a package deal.

- Aw2pp, who made his first snowman in 35 years (give or take) this morning

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Questions and answers for 2ndSoprano

Recent comment from 2ndSoprano:

I like your evaluation index- it's an interesting concept.

As for your next piece to learn, is "polishing for the next recital" (which you mentioned several times) a strong criterion? If so, then I would think you want something you think you can get to speed. And are you limiting to Einaudi only? If so, I can't help you out there. Not really a fan, but that's just me, apparently. lol

And, as always, this is all IMO, mainly because:

1) I've decided I don't want to play really difficult pieces. I'm working on expanding my collection of Easy Piano books.


2) I've given up on the recitals.

How's Jason doing?

I'd answer there, but it's a little buried, and probably is best addressed in its own post.

First, Jason. Great. Wonderful. He's himself, albeit a little easier to talk to than before, since his hearing and pronunciation are improved overnight. He didn't really have a bad day at all last week. Even the very first day, you'd have think he merely had a tooth pulled or something*. We spent all of last week trying to reign him in, mostly unsuccessfully.

* - In fact, he did have a tooth pulled as part of the procedure. He had an upper front tooth that was very loose, and they went ahead and yoinked it. Apparently, there is a slight danger that the tooth could come out, and lodge itself in the windpipe or even lungs. We haven't seen the bill, so we're looking forward to finding out whether this impromptu feat of dentistry comes free of charge.

Recital pieces... yes, I am always keeping an eye towards possible submissions on the recitals. I regard the work it takes to polish a piece as necessary and useful in my progression. What caused you to decide not to participate in these?

As to playing difficult pieces... it's not necessarily that I aspire to play things that are hard because they are hard. (Well, maybe there is a little of that in me, now that I think about it.) But it's more a matter of enjoying that also happens to be difficult to play. I like Liszt; I like Chopin; I want to play, for example, "Linus and Lucy"; these are hard. I'm not going to be content playing things out of Alfred's the rest of my life. So I want to improve, and increase the breadth of what I can approach.

The flipside is that, to get there, I have some unpleasant work to do, like Alfred's, scales, arpeggios, Hanons, and things like that.And in the meantime, I also want to play some music.

Which brings me to focusing on Einaudi... it's not so much I am a huge, longtime fan. 6 months ago, I'd never heard of him. It's really more a matter of my lack of awareness of other composers and repertoires* that are simultaneously musically interesting, and yet approachable for me as a noob piano player. I'd play classical if I could, but for the most part, that stuff is beyond me. I'd play jazz or ragtime, but again, the music is either trivially uninteresting, difficult but interesting, or difficult and uninteresting. I'll take any recommendations you have for me. I know some of the Bach Two Part Inventions have been submitted by novices before, but I don't know which ones.

* - I like the word repertoire; all the letters are in the top row of the alphabet portion of the keyboard. It's the little things, what can I say?

- Aw2pp, who does not have a Facebook status.

First, there was Joe the Plumber...

... now we give you Joe the Bouncer.

I am told he was asleep not five minutes later.

Sue would ask that you turn off the volume, thereby sparing yourselves her adoring mommy voice. But Joey has things to say, too, so you're going to want to hear that.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

One good reason not to go to Bear games

This is funny. Some guy opened a Diet Coke ("pop", as they call it here) at the Bear game last night. It froze instantly.

(Credit to Tom Skilling's Blog, and the photo to someone named Rick Bardahl, who, I hope, enjoyed the game.)

- Aw2pp, who blames global warming

Monday, December 22, 2008

Wow, Why is Aw2pp so busy?

I promised you earlier in the year that December would be slow for me. That I would have lots of time to practice. And post lots of thoughtful, interesting and insightful things here. I’m 0 for 3 on those predictions. Work, which is usually really slow for folks in my position (pre-sales) has been as busy as ever. I’m lucky to get 20 minutes on the piano in a day. And frankly, I’m not happy with the meager amounts of bloggy goodness I’m posting here these days.

What up with all that?

Well, as I have admitted before, I get a lot of good blog work done on the train. Our new house (I mentioned we built and moved into a new house, right?) is 41 miles west of Chicago. The train trip takes about an hour 20 each way. I am, at this very moment in fact, on the train, thankful not be driving in some seriously bad wintry weather. But I have not been on the train much lately. Instead, I’ve either been working from home*, or driving to visit angry customers who purchased software that doesn’t seem to be working. And periodically driving to other customers, trying to sell some last minute software. (WebSphere Stocking Stuffers!)

* - No, really, when I work from home, I actually do work.

Maybe January will be slower.

- Aw2pp, who always yields to snowplows

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Let's play "Caption that pic"

Today, we'll start with one of the candidates for the Aw2pp Christmas Card picture.

I'll get us started: "Peace on Earth."

- Aw2pp, who always gets a little misty when Linus tells Charlie Brown about the true meaning of Christmas.

Saturday, December 20, 2008


As I posted on the Pianoworld Einaudi thread, I have reached about the same level of polish on I Due Fiumi (IDF) as you heard on Ombre, my recital piece. Which is to say, good, for me, with plenty of room for improvement. To a lesser extent, I can make it through Stella Del Mattino just fine, although I do have trouble with one particular transition.

Next up in Alfred’s Book Two is the first truly challenging piece in the book... at the moment, I forget what it's called (and I am on the train, so there is no chance for me to find out until later... at which point, I'll probably forget. I'm like that sometimes.) Since it's hard, and since it rates low on the Easy to Sounds Good Ratio (hold that thought), I am totally procrastinating on that one.

So I am at a crossroads. On the one hand, I could record IDF as my next recital entry, but in all honesty, I probably won’t. Part of the reason for this is that IDF is a pretty common recital piece, given that it has a nice Easy to Sounds Cool Ratio*. It’s approachable for noobs like myself, but is nice music to listen to, even when not played perfectly.

* - This is a concept I am still trying to work out. And I don't have it fully baked yet, but I'll tell you where I am with it now. It's sort of like a Quality to Price Ratio (QPR) you might use to evaluate a couple bottles of wine. Sure, Ridge Montebello tastes better than Borja Borsao, but it also costs 20 times as much. Is it 20 times better? For the same price, give me 20 bottles of the cheap (but still very enjoyable) Spanish wine. **

The Easy to Sounds Cool Ratio is similar. The Rachmaninoff Prelude in C sounds great, but it is HARD. For the work it takes to be able to play it, it better be rewarding. Hot Cross Buns? Not so hard. And after awhile, annoying.

To me, the most appealing piano pieces, right now, score high on the reward scale, but aren’t as hard to play as they sound. Until I can actually play things that really are difficult, I'll happily settle for things that only sound difficult. And I'll take your recommendations, while I am at it.

** - YMMV, of course.

So I am evaluating which Einaudi piece to tackle next. For recital purposes, one of the lessons I learned with Ombre is that shorter is better. I can't play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star for five minutes without making an error, why should I think I can play real music for that long, error-free? So one option is to try to pick up something short and sweet, like Melodia Africana I or II, and try to get it nicely polished in the next month or so. (A month is about how long it has taken me to reach an acceptable level of polish on Limbo, Stella, Ombre, and IDF.) The only problem with these and other short pieces is that they are less interesting to me than some other longer but still semi-approachable possibilities, like I Giorni* or (thought Monica might disagree with me here) Le Onde. A compromise piece night be Samba, which plays shorter than it seems, because it has a lot of repetition… but I don’t find it as musically interesting.

* - I Giorni, according to several sources, was based on a 12th century folk song from the African Country of Mali. It was an homage to a hippopotamus that was much beloved by the residents of a village, but was killed by a hunter.** I mean, really, what's not to like here?

** - No, I did make that up. Seriously.

Long story short: I ran off copies of all these, and will be tinkering with them over the next week or two. One of them will stand out. I’ll be sure to let you know.

- Aw2pp, who, to this day, prefers the sound of Racer X's car to the Mach V

Friday, December 19, 2008

Tonsil Day 2008, Take Deux, Update

We've had to reign Jason in all week. Whereas Jillian was laid up for several days, wallowing in her misery, Jason has had to be restrained from running and jumping about the house. Even on day one, you would never have known anything happened.

Even the pain medicine, which includes Codeine, seems to have no impact on him.

Maybe tomorrow we'll let him go outside and play in the snow.

- Aw2pp, who walks on the left and stands on the right

Update on the Search for Jillian's Piano Teacher

We visited a potential piano teacher (for Jillian) this past Saturday. At 12 miles (about 30 minutes) away, she was the nearest teacher we could find on the Suzuki of Americas website. Sure, there are closer teachers that do not employ the Suzuki method, but I’ve talked with three different people, one former student (hi Discopalace) and two parents of Suzuki students about their experiences. These conversations have persuaded me that the extra few minutes are worth it. After trading a couple of emails and a phone call, potential piano teacher (henceforth “PPT”) agreed to meet us, and asked us to sit on a lesson she would be conducting for a little girl about Jillian’s age.

Saturday arrived, and at 8:30 AM, so did we, at PPT’s house. When we opened the front door, we stepped immediately into her medium-sized living room, dominated by a beautiful, giant rosewood Kawai RX-3. It was an absolutely gorgeous piano, alongside a small, 61 key Yamaha digital, which I later learned was for PPT’s use, to accompany students during lessons. Every wall that didn’t have a window was covered by bookcases, floor to ceiling, and every bookcase was full. Plants hung in front of the windows; Jillian says there were 18 of them, and I’ve learned not to doubt her on this sort of thing. In the rest of the room, there was seating for 6 in the form of a couch, a loveseat, a chair-and-a-half, all arranged in a C shape around the piano, along with an old organ, the kind with pedals to blow air through. All this in a room about 15’ x 20’. Crowded enough for you?

I wanted to get there early, to talk to PPT about Jillian, our expectations for a piano teacher, and logistics in terms of lesson times, dates, and practice requirements. PPT had another agenda. She’d barely shaken our hands before handing over all sorts of documents about the Suzuki method, books that are required, recital information, and that sort of thing. Before she’d totally finished her pitch, her student came in, accompanied by her father, bowed*, and began her lesson. PPT continued talking to us as the lesson began, explaining what they were working on, where her student was in the learning process, and how the little girl had progressed in her 18 months of lessons. It felt sort of uncomfortable to be the focus of attention; but neither the little girl nor her father seemed to mind. Jillian sat by me for the first 15 or 20 minutes, but eventually the ants in her pants prevailed, and she started wandering over to the piano bench to get a better view. I could tell she wanted to play, but we never got the chance. The next students (a brother / sister combo) came in before the lesson was over, and really crowded the place. We thanked the little girl and her dad for letting us watch their lesson, thanked PPT for her time, got our coats, and headed home.

* - “Bow to your sensei! Bow to your sensei!” (Bonus points to anyone who gets the reference without clicking on the link.)

There are several aspects of the Suzuki method that appeal to me. The first is the requirement that parents, whether they are musicians or not, attend all lessons. The reasoning behind this is that when the child is home practicing, the parents should reinforce the points emphasized by the teacher. I know what you’re thinking, and you’re right. Of course I’m excited to do this, even though Jillian has sometimes refused my help in the past. But I am also excited to listen to the lessons for my own sake. Two lessons for the price of one! (Hold that thought.) But there is also the aspect of monitoring the lessons, hearing the teacher for ourselves, and watching the improvement over time. Jillian’s first piano teacher did not allow us to sit in on the lessons. And we never felt like we got good information about how things went, either from Jillian or the teacher. “She’s doing great! Keep up the good work!” The first couple of times, this was nice to hear. After hearing it every time for weeks, it became aggravating. Now we’ll get to see and hear the lessons, instructions, and progress for ourselves.

Another thing: once a month, the teacher gathers all her students for a collective lesson / recital. I could see a lot of value in this. First, there’s the whole social aspect of meeting other like-minded kids and developing long-term friendships with them. But also, hearing others play the same pieces you did, giving them their own personal but still technically correct touch… that’s gotta be instructive. Suzuki people sure seem to think so. Then there is an actual formal recital every three months. The goal here is to throw the student in front of people often enough to where performance anxiety eventually melts away. Perhaps that’s overstating it… the anxiety may never go away, but perhaps its manifestation decreases over time, with experience.

Finally, back to this two lessons for the price of one thing. The folks who came in as the lesson concluded were a mom and two children, a boy (about 10) and a girl (about 13). They are both students. She asked "Who wants to go first?" and though we left before we heard the answer, this intrigued me. Turns out she gives a small family discount for multiple students from the same family. Remember, Jillian was teaching Jason piano. In future years, Jason, Rowan, or Joseph might also all have piano lessons. If Jillian goes through the method, she can shepherd any (all?) of her younger siblings who may do likewise. After all, she'll have already played the pieces herself.

I asked Jillian what she thought of the experience. Of course, I expected her to like the piano and the teacher, who seemed very nice and supportive. I did not expect her to be excited about the public performance aspect of the Suzuki method, which she was. What’s more, in addition to the group lessons and quarterly recitals, you also periodically go in front of judges to play standard Suzuki pieces. They rate you on some sort of point system, and offer suggestions for improvement and future growth. Over time, as you accumulate points, you get some sort of Gold Cup, and then start with the next grade. Upon completion of that, you get a larger Gold Cup, and so on and so forth. Of all the things she could have been impressed with or excited about, it was this aspect that fired her up the most. Well then.

We haven’t signed up yet. There is one other teacher nearby. Although she isn’t a Suzuki teacher, friends of friends have gone to this woman for piano lessons for years, and speak in hushed, reverend tones about what a good teacher she is. We may go meet her too, and then make a decision.

One way or another, expect Jillian to start her lessons in January.

- Aw2pp, who, in a shameless ripoff of popular iconoclastic Chicago blogger Mimi Smartypants, is going to begin signing off on his posts

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Story link for Jillian

I was talking with Jillian the other day about how Santa does his thing. She has some very specific, and logical doubts about his ability to take care of business, worldwide, on Christmas Eve.

Turns out a college physics professor has investigated this very question. I told her I would post a link on Aw2pp.

Technology helps Santa make magic, scientist says

Monday, December 15, 2008

Tonsil Day 2008, Take Deux

This morning, The World's Largest Kindergartner goes in to have his tonsils and adenoids removed. As an added bonus, they'll leave him with a new set of ear tubes. Yes, Jillian underwent this same procedure earlier in the year, albeit without the ear tube part. We, her parents, didn't enjoy that at all, and we're not looking forward to shepherding Jason through the process. But it needs to be done. He's been having some hearing trouble these last few months (years, maybe?), and we're persuaded this is the right course of action to address that.

More on Jillian's piano teacher later. Gotta take care of business with Jason first.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Meeting a teacher Saturday morning

Just a quick FYI, Jillian and I are going to meet a prospective piano teacher Saturday morning. She is a Suzuki teacher. We chose Saturday because she'll be giving a lesson to a 7 year old girl then, and she invited us to sit in.

If I were her (and/or if I were the student), this would freak me out a little... perfect strangers evaluating the proceedings, to decide if they want to plunk down a bunch of money for lessons. But this is, apparently, not uncommon, so we'll go with it.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Jillian's Piano Teacher Search Continues

We finally did get a list of piano teachers from the school's music teacher. I don't have it in front of me, but it was a surprisingly long list of names. I'd say, oh, 80 or so. Then, hand-written on the last page was something like this:

"I don't know any of these people. But I do know (insert name), who is not on this list. I think she would be a good one to start with."

Before going any further, let's review Jillian's list of requirements for her piano teacher, as described here: She (there's already an implicit requirement) needs to be nice, and not old. Ok then.

After a bit of phone tag, we (well, Sue) finally got to talk with the suggested person. After a short conversation, it was agreed that Jillian was too advanced for this teacher. Yes, that's correct. Too advanced. Turns out the nice, young-ish sounding lady was more of a music teacher, specializing in flute, but willing to dabble in some introductory piano here and there if the need arises. Jillian has already learned everything this woman would have taught, and now we're stuck with going back to the long list of anonymous names, trying to divine which, among them, is nice and not old.

Jillian has not played much piano lately. I think she's gone as far as her toolset will allow, if that makes any sense. That is, her skills have allowed her to play a set of pieces, including her own, and she's stuck in that place until she gains more tools.

In case AdagioM hasn't seen this...

A Quantum of Wallace. I think this is hysterical.

Why I don't do scales

In and amongst working on I Due Fiumi, I am also starting Alfred's Book Two (II). Sort of. Truth is, I broke open II about two weeks ago or so, and in 30 minutes, I was able to play the very first piece. It was very easy, probably about as easy as some of the pieces in the middle of Book One (I). I understand that the difficulty ramps up quickly in II. Those who have gone before me point out that, on average, it takes about twice as long to make it through II as it does I. For me, that would mean Book Three (um, III) would be about a year and a half away. Seems like a long time.

It is clear to me that II has a lot to offer. I also understand that there are very useful things for a new piano student to learn from it. Some of those lessons will make it easy for me to learn to play very interesting music. And yet, I have not even begun the second piece. Why?

Simple. I Due Fiumi is more fun. More interesting. Sounds better. I don't have hours and hours each day to spend on the piano.* When choosing what to do with that limited time, of course I'll choose to work on the more rewarding piece of music.

* - This is not exactly true, of course. I do have hours of unscheduled time I could be spending on the piano. I simply choose to sleep during those hours instead. Priorities.

Mind you, the Alfred's Method Books are not composed of mindless, numbing exercises. Those are out there, of course. Hanon exercises, scales, arpeggios... those are things generations of piano teachers have foisted upon their students, saying basically "These are good for you. I learned the piano this way. You will learn the piano this way." Alfred's tries to teach those same lessons using actual pieces of music. Yes, some of these traditional exercises are mixed in here and there, but the point of the method is to make music. And yet... and yet... I apparently don't find it compelling enough to set aside I Due Fiumi (or whatever I attempt next).

So the question I ask myself (and any of you, if you care to venture an opinion) is this: am I harming my growth as a piano player by not doing scales, arpeggios, and traditional piano exercises? Am I trying to run before I walk? Or is there long-term technical benefit to doing what I am doing? That is, am I still learning whatever it is that I am supposed to learn from traditional exercises?

I've posed this question to fellow beginners and intermediates at pianoworld. Will let you know what insights I get from that.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Working on I Due Fiumi

Lot of snow the last few days. It's like Winter knew. "Hey, it's December, let's let them have it!" Dad was here from Alabama for Thanksgiving, and got outta Dodge exactly 24 hours before the first flakes fell.

I am pleasantly surprised at how quickly this is coming together. The whole piece revolves around measures 44 through 52. I'm doing the Chuan Chang thing on these during the day, a few minutes here and a few minutes there as I get the opportunity. By that, I mean that I am playing these measures over and over, in high repetition, trying to do so correctly at whatever tempo I can manage. Right now, not so fast. But getting faster. At this rate, I may have an initial recording for you in a week or so.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Things I never thought I would hear myself say, Volume I

Children are playing in the basement, making noises I couldn't identify. Investigation ensues.

"What's up, guys?"

Jillian: "Hi, daddy, we're getting ready for our magic show."

"Jason, what is that in your hand?"


"No, your hand. What is in your HAND?"


"Jason, come here." I inspect his hand. I'll be darned, he has little slices of ham in his hand. "You are playing with ham? What on earth made you think, 'Hey, let's go get some ham and play with that'?"

Jillian attempts a rescue. "Daddy, we had to have something that rhymed with 'Alacazam' and all we could think of was ham. That way we could say "Abracadabra, Alacazam, here is Jason eating ham!'"

And now here it comes...

"HAM... IS NOT... A TOY!"

I had been doing pretty well up to that point, considering the content of the conversation. But at this point, I could no longer hold in the laughter I was stifling. Which made it really difficult to be (or pretend to be) angry. Still, there was some cleanup to be done, and we retraced our steps from the basement to the fridge, picking up little flakes of ham as we went along.

I'd like to think we won't have to cover this subject again, but who knows.

Happy 40th Birthday...

... to Susie, the Official Twin Sister of Aw2pp! (In the unlikely event she stops by here before I call her later today.)