Archive for ‘Resorting to Violins’

February 2, 2017

Night owl seeks 6 a.m.

by Decemberbaby

I thought this day would never come.

Oh sure, I’ve aspired to be a morning person my whole life. The early morning is so peaceful and calm, not to mention the beautiful sunrises. But I’ve never managed to keep it up. A week here, a couple of days there, and the exhaustion would hit me hard enough that I gave it up.

Until now.

The only difference that I can see is my mindset. Waking up later is not an option anymore; the same way that 8:00 used to be my cutoff wake-up time because otherwise the kids would be late to school, 6:00 is now my cutoff wake-up time because otherwise I’m just not as nice a parent or as effective a person as I’d like to be.

So how did I do it?

Mostly once I made up my mind that I have to wake up before everyone else I was able to force myself to follow through. But a few tricks have helped me:

My alarm doesn’t yell at me or blare music. Instead, I hear the sound of chirping birds, soft at first, then getting louder. It’s like slowly waking up in the woods – I can lie there and laze for a few minutes, but it’s hard to resist getting up. (Note: this doesn’t work for everybody. My mum tried it and said she woke up in a good mood for the first week, and then she started waking up thinking, “Shut up, birds!”)

I never thought my penchant for reading fanfic on my phone would help me become a morning person, but here we are. I usually read for about 20 minutes before I even get out of bed. I find that the light from the screen wakes up my brain. A few articles or some chapters of a story, and I’m awake enough to get up without hurting myself.

I get dressed right away. I arrange all my morning clothes – including socks and underwear – one one hanger that hangs on the door handle of my wardrobe. I can (and usually do) get dressed in the dark. It’s quick – no decisions, no searching for the perfect socks – and once I’m dressed I can’t get back into bed.

When I leave the bedroom, I close all the doors to the bedroom hallway and then turn on every light in the kitchen, living room, and dining room. It helps me pretend that it’s not still nighttime.

And then… then my time is my own for at least half an hour. I blog. I stretch. Sometimes I clear my desk and pay and file the bills. Some mornings I start a pot of oatmeal on the stove. I get important things out of the way before my day really begins.

(Hot tip: If you have to call a customer service line of some kind, do it around 7 a.m. Nobody else is calling at that hour and you’ll spend exactly zero minutes on hold. It’s magical.)

Is all this worth it? You could ask my kids, who’d probably tell you that now I wake them up with a song and a snuggle instead of by shouting, “Get UP! We have to GO!”; you could ask our violin teacher, who would tell you that the kids’ progress has accelerated since we started practicing daily before school (after school practice was a fight); Or you could ask me.

I like myself better when I wake up early. By 9:00 a.m. I’ve already accomplished something beyond getting the kids to school. I’m so much more productive when nobody else is awake that my morning half-hour of work can easily cover an hour or more of daytime effort.

And that’s a really good thing, because holy cow, am I exhausted. I’m going to need a nap.

 

Are you an early riser? An aspiring one? An unapologetic night owl? Share your tips, if you’ve got any, in the comments below. If mine stop working I’m going to need more in my arsenal.

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December 21, 2016

Oh, hang it all…

by Decemberbaby

I’d forgotten how insane the first two years of a new baby are. I mean, really insane. But the little one is almost two now, and suddenly I have time to do projects AND blog about them!

Last year we started doing Suzuki violin with the three older kids. Then I got violin envy and bought myself a cheap violin so I could play along with them during practice. And then I started to miss my viola, so I reclaimed it from my brother (he borrowed it in high school) and traded it in for something smaller (I have no desire to repeat the tendinitis I had in high school). So now we have four violins and one viola, and that’s a lot of cases to keep out in the living room.

Have you ever noticed that the stupidest things can keep you from doing a task? Like, the garbage can needs a new bag but you don’t really want to put one in, so you leave the cheese wrapper on the counter for the next person to deal with?

(What, that doesn’t happen in your house? The Mr. and I are going to have a talk about this…)

Around here we call it “friction” – the annoying little things that are a deterrent to doing things right. Having a laundry hamper with a lid is friction. Having to stand on a step stool to reach the healthy food is friction. Having to open your instrument case, remove the instrument, attach the shoulder rest, and remove the bow – you’d better believe that’s friction.

As any Suzuki parent will attest, it can be enough of a challenge to get your kids to practice their violins. And frankly, even I would sometimes choose not to practice – even though I love playing my viola – because I only had a minute and it would take more than half that to get my viola out and ready to play. So I started thinking about ways to store the violins so that they’re ready to go, easy to see, and still safe from bumps, scratches, and dry air. And I started thinking about how violin shops display their instruments, and after some googling and some more thinking I built this:

violin-case-open-2

Can you spot the viola?

It started life as a BONDE storage unit from IKEA. We’ve had it for 12 years and have used it to store wine glasses, serving platters, candlesticks, menorahs, and basically anything that wasn’t ugly enough to put behind closed doors.

But now it’s a violin display case. Because it has a door, the violins can’t get knocked or scratched when they’re hanging there. Also because of the door, I can humidify the air a bit so the instruments don’t dry out and crack. And because the door is glass, we can see the violins hanging there, whispering “play us… play us!”

Do you need one of these? Well, then. Roll up your sleeves and gather the following:

  • 1×3 dimensional lumber, length determined by the side of your cabinet and the number of instruments being stored.
  • several wire hangers – one hanger is good for two instruments.
  • some narrow wood lath or wood moulding, same length as the board (one for each side)
  • finish nails
  • carpenter’s glue
  • wire cutters
  • pliers

So here’s how I did it (in about 10 minutes.) First, I took a piece of 1×3 lumber and drilled holes into the side. You’ll have to measure your instruments for best results, but I found that a spacing of four inches between instruments works well for the children’s violins (1/16 to 1/4 size) and six inches are needed for a full size violin and 15″ viola. So measure those distances on each side of the board, and using a narrow drill bit, drill holes into the sides. The holes on both sides should line up with each other.

Next grab some plastic-coated wire hangers (we get them from the dry cleaners), cut off the twisted and hooked part, and straighten out the rest with your pliers. Cut a length of 12″ for each instrument you’ll be hanging. Then shape the wire into a rectangle (about 3″ on bottom and 3 1/2″ on either side), with the cut ends forming the top of the rectangle.

Partially fill the holes you drilled in the 1×3 with carpenter’s glue. Place the two cut ends of the wire rectangle into one pair of holes (one end on either side of the 1×3) and press them as far in as they will go. Hold them there for a moment so that they stay when you let go. Repeat for as many hangers are you need.

Theoretically you should be able to stop here. But I’m paranoid about my instruments, and so I added a strip of 3/4″ moulding to each side of the board (I used both glue and nails) so that the wire cannot be pulled out of the board. I recommend doing that.

Finally, you’ve got to attach the hanger to the inside top of the cabinet or shelf. I was able to take the shelf out and install the hanger while it was on the floor, but you might have to do this inside the cabinet. If you do, get someone to help you hold it up straight while you screw through the board and into the top of the cabinet. I used 4 screws and it’s quite solid.

violin-rack-closeup

The bottom line here is that in one fell swoop I’ve reduced the number of excess wire hangers, used up some of my scrap wood, and made it extremely easy to just pull an instrument out and play it – even for a short minute or two. The kids practice more, I practice more, and the living room looks just a bit more sophisticated.

If only all of life’s friction points were this easy to eliminate…

violin-case-closed

Case closed.