Saturday, January 28, 2012

Still grieving quietly

Our cat passed away in December.  Ben was clearly shaken by this at the time, but he didn't want to talk about it much.  I think that's just his personality.  This morning he and I were watching the neighbor's dog through the window, and he said, "I wish there was a way to un-die Virginia, so that she could be with us for awhile longer."

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Hip Hop Happiness

Ben has been taking hip hop dance lessons since September, along with the kids of some of our friends.  Here are all four boys (ages 3-4) puttin' on a show at the end of Tuesday's class.  The cheering is from the "big girls" who have a class at the same time in an adjacent studio, and often serve as audience for the hip hop gang.

I didn't try to caption this one, because there's really no dialog except for the occasional "woo-hoo" or "Good job!", and some unintelligible lyrics.  You gotta love the pose they strike at the end.  These are preschoolers with some serious street cred!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Benny van B

A month or so ago, Ben's paternal grandparents sent him this great book called My First Classical Music Book, by Genevieve Helsby.  Ben loves it, and it has become de rigueur bedtime reading.  He's been working on his pronunciation of the names of Tchaikovsky and Stravinsky, and he pretty much nails them both now.

It's a wonderful book.  There's just one thing I don't like about it.  I quote from page 26:  "Poor Beethoven even went deaf ... but he still composed music!"  Yeah.  Poor guy, he went deaf.  Sucks to be deaf, don't it?  Now, the thing is, going deaf was indeed a hardship and a tragedy for Beethoven, for all sorts of obvious reasons.  And even today, when life is so dramatically different in almost all respects for people with hearing loss, it's still often a hardship.  [We're having earmold issues.  Even with the best technology, living with hearing loss can be a real PITA sometimes.]  But it's most definitely not a tragedy, and it stings a bit to be reminded that the automatic reaction to deafness is pity -- "poor deaf kid."  Kindness, consideration, sometimes a little accommodation, but not pity, thank you very much.  In any case, I'm not comfortable reading that line to Ben -- or at least I leave out the "poor" part.  I guess it's fortunate that we usually look at that book after his equipment is out, which effectively dodges the issue, at least until he learns to read.

But that's my only complaint -- really, it's a great book, and I highly recommend it.

And that's the history behind the following exchange with Ben as I picked him up from school today:

Ben:  I'm deaf!
Me:  Yes, you are!
Ben:  I'm not wearing any hearing equipment.
Me:  [looking with some confusion at his equipment] Really?  Then how can you hear me?
Ben:  I'm listening through a speaking trumpet!

He went on to insist that I call him Beethoven all afternoon, and when we got to page 26 of the book this evening, he said, "This is my page!"

Cool speaking trumpet!

From later in the same book.  Ben named this character Yo Yo Giraffe.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Ode to Joy

Here's Ben conducting the Ode to Joy from the fourth movement of Beethoven's 9th Symphony.  He's actually more enthusiastic than he looks -- this was the first time he'd heard the original symphonic version, and he was busy taking it all in.  (Oh, and I'm sorry about the whole sideways thing -- new camera, and it frankly hadn't occurred to me that you shouldn't hold it in portrait mode while making a movie, duh.  Lesson learned.  Just turn your head.)

Whence this interest in the Ode to Joy?  Well, Ben is a little fixated on this video.  Now, don't judge.  Granted, the ending is a little intense for a four-year-old.  Ben calls this the "Beaker and Thunder" video.  Part of his fascination with this video stems with the fact that the metronome is like the one his piano teacher has.  Anyway, he likes it.  And now he's learning how to play Ode to Joy on the piano, so I really can't complain.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Operatic Bennyism

As Ben and I walked down the hall of his preschool this afternoon, he said, "Mom, do you remember the part of The Magic Flute where Papageno is eating the feast sent to him by Sarastro?"

And it occured to me that this was quite likely the first time this particular sentence had been uttered in that hallway.

Ben has also been practicing the Queen of the Night's aria.  The one that my sister and I used to butcher sing on the last leg of the school bus journey, when the only kids left on the bus were us and a few others from our neighborhood who already knew we were weird that way.

Here's a very peaceful scene.  It's what our street looked like at about 6:15 am last Friday, when I went out to shovel the driveway for our first snowfall of January.  We got a lot more over the weekend, but today it hit 50 and rained all day, so Ben's lovely snowman and igloo are now ignominious lumps of slush.  I think we somehow skipped winter and it's really, secretly, late March, but nobody's telling us.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Of banana splits and magnet compositions

Why yes, that is a Yo Gabba Gabba placemat.  Don't judge us.

Ben creating one of his magnet compositions
Ben playing one of his magnet compositions, for Mozart Mouse

Well, the first picture is pretty self-explanatory.  No, he didn't get to eat the whole thing himself.  He shared it (somewhat reluctantly) with us, and it was delicious.

At his piano teacher's recommendation, I got a "Music for Little Mozarts" piano instruction kit which includes, among other things, two stuffed animals named Mozart Mouse and Beethoven Bear (he also has Mozart and Beethoven action figures, acquired separately) and this great magnetic white board.  One side has the piano keyboard that you see, and the other has staff notation.  There are ten small note-shaped magnets, and Ben's favorite piano-time activity is placing these on the keyboard and then performing the result.  It's been a great vehicle for him to learn the pitch names and locations, and he's pretty much mastered that.  He usually practices at the piano in the living room, but this was an impromptu act of creativity at the electric keyboard in the guest room, timed especially so as to delay his bedtime.  He knows how to manage me.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Holiday Pics

And we're halfway through January already.  As my father likes to say, time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like a banana.  Last time I posted, Ben and I were sick.  Neil succumbed a few days later.  We then drove to Wisconsin, germs and all, and proceeded to swap germs with my family there.  Despite the perpetual sickness, we had a good time.  Here are a few pictures from the trip.

My handsome guys

Ben and his Grammy

Recreating the Beatles' rooftop concert

We took it easy on the drive back and stopped at a hotel in Ohio.
Ben works the tablet while Neil relaxes with the paper.

Israel, v.2.  This will take some explaining.  See below.

He never naps any more, unless he's sick.  Here he is with Bucky Badger.
As soon as he finally managed to kick the long string of colds and pink-eye, Ben got socked by some mysterious stomach bug for about 24 hours.  The nap with Bucky is about halfway between two nasty regurgitative episodes.  Nuff said.

As part of her annual holiday decorating, my mother sets out an elaborate miniature Bethlehem -- little buildings and tents and manger, etc.  It's quite the spread.  This year Ben helped, and they both had a great time "setting up Israel" on an empty bookcase shelf.  When we got back home, he recreated this in Legos on a shelf in his bedroom.  Complete with Beatles figurines.

Ben has really gotten into miniatures and ... yes, dollhouses ... lately.  I think I'll devote another post to the question of gender-typed toys, and the malleability of those boundaries.  Something to ponder in the meantime.