We Got the (Piano) Keys

Hello Friends,

We are dialing in the girls’ activity schedules and have worked piano lessons back into Sweetie’s mix. There was a little age-class-registration cross-up in May, so she took an unplanned break. But now she’s back at it.

So class is a once-a-week, one hour deal at our favorite Old Town School of Folk Music. We can boogie over right from school, then head straight home for dinner. Overall, not too disruptive, very workable. We’re glad to add piano lessons to Daisies and swim lessons and vary her activities.

The Cricket is ecstatic.

Oh So Yummy

There is still a lot going on in our lives, and so much to write about. I feel myself getting more “behind” everyday. I put that in air quotes because as long as the girls are good, everything else is just fine. But I do feel bad leaving you, my readership, without something to browse.

Now is not the time to delve into all of the home improvement adventures, vacation stories and successful recipes. Now is the time to leave you with a fun little story about the Cricket’s first trip to Starbucks. Wife and I were filling the hour while Sweetie was in her piano class (10,000 hours, remember?). 1-hour drive for a 10 AM class on a Sunday morning? Yeah, we needed caffeine. So the Cricket got her first taste of Starbucks’ hot chocolate.

Tummy happy now!

Tummy happy now!

She responded with things such as, “Oh, so yummy.” And, “Tummy happy now (while pointing at her stomach).” Oh, there where plenty of “MMMMMMs” (yes, in all capitals) as well. She did lose interest halfway through the kids’ sized cup, which meant Sweetie got some chocolate too. Even in a kid-sized cup, the chocolate in hot chocolate contains trace caffeine and sugar. So yeah, interesting afternoon for everyone.

Fun for everyone!

Fun for everyone!

With Fall upon us there will probably be a lot more hot chocolate. As for the rest, I’ll write more when I can. Maybe I should utilize this coffee thing for a little more late-night writing. Oh, so yummy.

Hour 1 of 10,000

In his book Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell details the “ten thousand hour rule” for mastering a task. According to Gladwell, 10,000 hours of practice is “the magic number for true expertise”. And in order to hit that number early in their careers, most people need to start their practicing when they are young. He demonstrates this trend from Mozart to the Beatles to Bill Gates.

Well, if I had to qualify Sweetie’s current level of mastery of a stringed instrument, I would say this is the opening minutes of her first hour. She’s no Ani Difranco yet, but you’ve got to start somewhere. It has been awhile since I posted a video, but I caught Sweetie jammin’ on her guitalele (thanks Padrino). The song is primarily an homage to Wife, but I think I get an honorable mention in the liner notes. While it’s a bit rough, it could be the start of something great…


No doubt my car singing is boosting her musical talent (I do belt out a mean “Old McDonald”). But her development is probably due to the music classes that we have had her in since she was eight months old. I have written before about the Old Town School of Folk Music and the music classes that we have taken there. To date, they have been play and movement classes, not instrument lessons. But it obviously is having a positive effect on Sweetie. And besides her random rock out sessions, she has taken to singing about her daily life experiences. In the context of a two-and-a-half year old’s day,  this is very cute. So thank you to our many wonderful Old Town teachers – in particular Maestro Yahvi and Maestra Maria. Add to this a Padrino who often serenades her with his guitar (even over something as trivial as an afternoon snack) and we have the foundation for a budding musician.

Malcolm Gladwell points out an excellent aspect of the ten thousand hour rule: when one is practicing a craft and starting from an early age, one needs a strong support network. Gladwell writes, “It’s all but impossible to reach that number all by yourself by the time you’re a young adult. You have to have parents who encourage and support you.” So kudos to all of you out there supporting your little one’s development, whatever their interest.

Ella Jenkins at Old Town

This was another reminder of what a treasure the Old Town School of Folk Music is to Chicago. We got to see Ella Jenkins playing live at one of the school’s concert halls as part of our weekly class.

For those of you who don’t know, Ella Jenkins is a long-time folksinger who is known for her children’s songs and children’s concerts. She is 89 years old and still commands the stage. She led the children in song while coaching their behavior and keeping the room in check. And despite her age, she lights up the harmonica!


Our teacher, Maria, was invited to play alongside, which was fun to watch. Maria’s violin, another guitarist and Ella Jenkins’ harmonica made for a rockin’ time – yes, a rockin’ a children’s concert. That’s a good sign when the parents are having a good time.

The Old Town School of Folk Music offers a variety of activities for both adults and children. I have mentioned our music class a couple of times now. There are also instrument-specific classes for pretty much anything you want to play. Wife, Cap’n Jack, Micompadre and Micomadre, Momma Z and Big Daddy B have all taken classes there. And be sure to check out their schedule of events for upcoming concerts. It looks like Ella Jenkins is back there tomorrow…hhhmmm.

Our first heavy frost and “snow” preview came yesterday. I am sure we are going to spend more time at “Old Town” with the Chicago winter weather coming. Hey, want to put out a special thanks to la maestra Maria for letting us know about the concert and saving a seat for all us ‘worms!


Today you wish you were me

I don’t normally say this; especially on days with missed naps, poop-splosions, and toy tornadoes. And bragging is not usually my style. But today was different. And today you wish you were me. Today you were probably stuck in an office, working the day away. But today was around 75 degrees with a lake breeze, mostly sunny and beautiful. So today we went on an adventure downtown.


Big Daddy B, Momma Z, Linda, Sweetie and I piled in the ride and headed to the heart of the city. The adventure started down at Millennium Park with a music class for the girls. It was an English version of the class they take at the Old Town School of Folk Music. There is a giant tent set up there with music classes, book readings, arts and crafts, giant checkers and giant tinker toys. Overall the activities are for older children but the girls had a blast and definitely got down.


After music class we scoped out a spot for lunch. While we were hunting around we noticed the Chicago Symphony Orchestra warming up in the Pritzker Pavilion. They were getting ready to practice for the night’s concert. So we found a great spot on the south side of the park among some shade trees and sat to enjoy our picnic lunch. All the while the symphony played in the background.

Hello city

Hello city

Next stop was the Chicago Cultural Center, just a short walk across the street and we wandered in to explore.  The girls both fell asleep after lunch so the adults could do as we pleased. As always, the Tiffany Dome was impressive to see. We also caught two art exhibits; the first was Modernism’s Messengers: the Art of Alfonso and Margaret Iannellitone. They were a couple who worked together on various marketing and architectural projects. Many of the works were designed, built and displayed in Chicago. The second exhibit was by Stefan Sagmeister, called The Happy Show. It focused on the topic of happiness, explored through selected entries from the artist’s journal. The Happy Show was a particularly good find that we stumbled on. It was wonderfully bizarre but got you thinking.

Tiffany Dome - the photo doesn't do it justice

Tiffany Dome – the photo doesn’t do it justice

We wrapped up at a perfect time in the middle of the afternoon. For treats we hit Dunkin’ Donuts for a road coffee before hopping back in the ride. Traffic was clear heading north so we ended the day on a good note with an easy cruise home. Today was a great day in Chicago; a great day on the detour. So yeah, today you wish you were me. Now I hope you can go and have such a day so you can write the same back to me.