January 25th: No More Naps Means Less Daddy Time

My son (now four years old) is done with his mid day naps. This was going to happen eventually, but I was alright with naps continuing for, basically the rest of his life? So that’s one to two hours less every day for relaxing, “re-centering”, working on music, cleaning the house, or (occasionally) writing blog posts. I already miss those naps so much… sigh. But, there’s nothing to be done about it. I can’t force him to nap (right, that’s not a thing?). I’ve tried to convince him to have “quiet time” in his room, but that seems to involve lots of work and stress over trying to convince him to stay in his room, and then he ends up just coming out every five minutes to ask me if quiet time is over (no, no, NO, ok fine YES). I realize that if I never push for it, then it will never happen, but it just seems to make me more aggravated in the end when I’m already tired and irritable.

My son has recently become more interested in playing video games. And by playing video games I mean attempting to play them and then constantly requesting that I do it for him. “Can you play this by yourself while I take care of some things?”, “Yes” ….. “Daddy I need help!” It’s fun that we can play them together to some degree, but some times he has the most fun jumping in to traps and pits, more so than actually trying to achieve any objectives. He’s definitely getting better at them, but he’s far from being able to play them on their own. He still needs and wants us to play with him while he does almost any activity, so I suppose that shouldn’t be a surprise. I’ve heard parents with older children say: “that’s such a fun age, my kid just sits in his room and plays video games all day!”, and I think, that kind of sounds alright to me! But I’m sure I’ll miss his company if that happens.

The days feel extra long right now, especially with pre school being closed for various holidays and Calvin staying home other days due to Covid scares and winter colds. I think we might all be in for another long winter, unfortunately. It’s also supposed to be below ten degrees this week also, so that’s fun too. But cold days can mean more time to snuggle on the sofa to watch movies and play games, and time inside to concentrate on some home and music projects.

Thanks for reading and I hope everyone is doing great!

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January 7th: Busy, Busy, Busy

Good thing I didn’t have a chance to update my blog at the end of last month, because now I can make my new years resolution updating my blog! So much for regular updates last month, but, my four year old was out of school for winter break, my father was out of town, there were holiday activities, and my child and I were both taking turns being sick, so there was little extra free time. I didn’t have much time to work on anything besides watching my son, trying to keep the house in order, and trying to keep myself healthy (both physically and mentally) by relaxing when I could. But, I think we are finally getting back to a normal schedule (or as normal as things get). Except for there being a snow day yesterday at preschool, so I didn’t get any time to relax, work on anything, or go to my piano lesson. I forgot about having to deal with snow on top of everything else this time of year. That seems like a fitting way to end the week.

I did have some time to do some shopping for (definitely) necessary and helpful plugins, and I got to mess around with some of those for a bit. You need at least ten different ways to do the same thing right!?

Here’s hoping next week can be more productive for all of us! It’s a new year, and after the last few, I think we all deserve to be all to start slowly. Thanks for reading!

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December 16th: But Daddy I Don’t Wanna!

So most things have been pretty normal recently. Getting out of bed in the morning is a bit more challenging because of the colder temperatures and longer nights, so the mornings are beginning just a little bit later and taking just a bit longer. My son especially is less motivated to get out of bed and get ready to go in the mornings. There’s also more resistance to leave the home and say good bye at Preschool or his Grandfather’s house. I suppose he’s at that age where he knows what he wants and has particular opinions about things, but doesn’t understand why he can’t have everything his way. I want to do this thing, why are you getting in my way? I find conversations about how he doesn’t want to do this or that popping up quite frequently. “We need to go to the store”,”I don’t want to go to the store Daddy”,”Well I need to go pick something up”,”But I don’t want to go!”. I try to keep calm and remind him that in a family decisions are made based on considerations from every group member, but Mommy and Daddy have the final say in the end. He’s free to express his opinions and desires, and some times we can reach a compromise, but in the end some things just need to get done. I understand why this can be difficult for him, especially when the world sort of “revolved around him” as a baby, but it’s not always the easiest thing to deal with. Especially when I’m already tired and hungry. But, I’m hoping that if I keep reminding him that he needs to take into consideration what other people want to do and that some “chores” aren’t fun but just need to be done, there will eventually be some progress. The process of him exerting and developing his individuality isn’t always a fun experience, but it’s all a part of the process.

Thanks for reading, and hoping you have a great day!

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Amateur Musician Quest: Developing Ideas and Outlines

So, last time I talked a bit about my apprehension and the challenges of actually writing a song. I had read through several song writing related resources, and I sort of had a “hook” (charm covers a multitude of sin). I didn’t have any process for writing though (and that’s largely still in development) so I followed the advice given to me in the book “Writing Better Lyrics” written by Pat Pattison on how to start the process. He suggests a process similar to how one might write a short story. Think of a word or a phrase that you are interested in exploring, and then try to further develop that idea by writing out a who / what / where / when / why / how. Then think about the progression of that idea in a song. What’s the beginning? What happens in the end? How does each verse (and the chorus) further develop and intensify this idea? What might the verse structure look like? Is this a “stable” or an “unstable” idea? What point of view does the song use? This is all sort of akin to a big brain storming session. Don’t worry about if ideas are good or bad, just get the ideas out there, and worry about refining the ideas later.

Some writers, like Pattison, also like to develop rhyme sheets before they start writing any lyrics. A rhyme sheet lists key words that might be used in a song, and then a list of rhymes that might be useful during the writing process. I personally have mixed feelings about this approach. I usually don’t feel like I know what rhymes I’m going to use until I start actually writing some of the song. I like to work on the story a bit first, and then have the rhymes come second. This is probably largely up to personal preference, such as people who develop the lyrics or the music first, but it’s probably worth trying out if one is feeling “stuck” or doesn’t know how to further develop their idea. Some of that book’s techniques are related more to how to develop ideas when you’re in a song writing “rut”(I think that book is possibly more helpful once you’ve already done some songwriting). I’ve just started so I’ve still got plenty of probably “okayish” ideas in my head! (and in my idea journal)

So after I worked through some of those developmental tools, I thought the best thing to do would be to write an outline or a “story” for the song in a rough musical form with lines, breaks, verses, and choruses. I’ve come to learn that I’m very “mechanical” in my song writing approach. I need to think about things in terms of the story, and then the next step is to “musicify” that. I don’t see things from a “musical” perspective first. I don’t initially see a song in terms of lines, meter, verses, and rhymes. I suppose I see those as tools to heighten the emotion of the lyrics, or put another way, if the story is no good, the best music in the world can’t save it (I do understand that modern music is very “beat” and “hook” driven).

So what should this song’s story be about? What’s an interesting place to take this idea? When will I actually start updating my blog regularly!? Those are all great questions that I’ll try to look into next time. For now, thanks for reading and have a great week!

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November 9th, It’s Cold Outside

I guess it decided to be winter again. Not unexpected, of course, but the temperature was mild outside and then, boom, frost all over the car in the morning! I’m generally pretty tolerant of the cold, but I’m definitely going to miss the mild fall weather, especially after this hot summer. I still love seeing the leaves changing color on the trees and feeling the crisp air outside, even if it’s a bit too cold for me sometimes. My son on the other hand, really doesn’t seem to care how cold it is outside. He still wants to play outside and go to the playground. I’m not sure if he’s cold tolerant as much as he doesn’t seem to understand what being cold is. He still tries to put on shorts and a t-shirt in the morning and gets upset when we try to change them. He’s extremely excited about the prospect of it snowing again in the not too distant future. I enjoy playing in the snow myself, but my wife has to drive up a steep hill on the way to work, so that always makes me a bit nervous (you can often get stuck behind trucks that can’t quite make it as well). But, on the plus side, I’m almost done doing yard work for the year! Now I can change things up and do more house work instead. Hopefully there will be more time for music as well, but we’ll see.

I’ve met a few new people who have children around Calvin’s age recently, so that’s exciting! Interacting with other parents is always an interesting experience. There’s the initial hesitation of talking to someone new, then the awkward small talk (maybe try out a couple jokes), the obligatory telling the other person about your children, and then possibly the conversation evolves from there. Meanwhile, children just start chasing and tackling each other. I’m a little bit envious of their ability to have no hesitancy about meeting new people. They don’t always end up liking all the other kids, but they still just dive in, while I’m still nervously rambling on like I’m talking to a girl in high school again. The whole process can be a bit taxing for me since I’m generally quite introverted. I’m sure that being one of the few men with my child at the playground makes the whole process even more awkward. I don’t think it’s a sexist thing, just something that’s different for some people.

I’m going to try to end each post by mentioning one good thing (or more) that stood out recently or something I’m thankful for (my doctor keeps suggesting it and that was kind of one of the ideas behind this blog to begin with). I’m thankful for new friends and the potential to finally have friends I can see on a regular basis!

Thanks for reading, and I hope everyone has a great week!

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Amateur Musician Quest: Actually Writing a Song??

So I’ve talked a bit about how I got interested in pursuing song writing, but what have I actually done with music over the last few years? After almost finishing an online class about song writing (it became obvious that it was catering to people who already were song writers with some experience), I decided to do some studying of my own on various song writing topics. I worked through several workbooks about topics such as rhyming, verse and song structure, harmony, and melody. Most of them came from The Berkley School of Music publishing group. In general they were informative and easy to follow (I’d certainly recommend all of the ones I have to developing musicians), and gave me a good general understanding of some of the basic principles of song writing. The problem after that, besides limited free time as always, was how to actually go about writing a song. The general premise I got from one of the books was that you come up with an idea, create an outline for the song, develop some potential rhymes and rhyme schemes, and then start writing. Many of the books dealt with the idea of how to improve your songwriting process or the songs you already wrote, but I had never written any songs before. So, then I was left with the question: so how do I actually start writing a song?

Staring that process was a bit overwhelming when I’ve never done it before. How does one come up with a good song idea or concept? How do I know that this concept will make a good song? How long should this song be? How good does the first thing I ever write have to be? Can it be bad? Should I try not to worry about it too much? It’s kind of like when you read how to do a math problem and all the steps make sense, but then when you actually try to solve the problem none of it seems to make sense anymore. At some level, you have to create something from nothing, and there’s not a strict “wrong” answer, but there are better and worse answers. And really the only way to know if your idea is truly “good” or “bad” is to just start writing. The only way to determine what process worked for me was to write something. So, I had to find an idea (or a seed) to work from to start developing the ideas for my first song.

I was talking to one of my friends several years ago and he mentioned this phrase: “charm covers a multitude of sins”, and I thought, that’s an interesting idea for a song and could be a fun “hook”. Possibly a song about a relationship where the girl has several vices, but she’s kind of sweet also. She’s not a great girlfriend, but not bad enough to break up with. Kind of like the relationship is stuck in a sort of limbo. I like the idea of songs that deal with situations that are more nuanced than “I’m madly in love with someone” or “this person is terrible so we have to break up”. Though I understand why people write those types of songs about emotionally charged moments. So, I had an idea, and then I just had to turn it into a song! Easy right?

Thanks for reading and I hope you have a great week!

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September 24: Musical Friends?

So we are on to week three of my son being in preschool, and no I haven’t become a thirty something musical sensation yet. Maybe at the end of this week. Similar to last week, I’ve been taking the extra time to clean up around the house, relax, and work on some music. As is always the case when you’re a parent, even when I have more time to get things accomplished, somehow there still isn’t enough time. Part of that is probably because I feel as if I should set more aggressive goals for myself since I have more time, but so many things related to house work and parenting are things that can never really be “finished”. There will always be more dishes, toys to clean up, lunches to make, and bed times that one hopelessly tries to keep regular.

Working on music can never be “finished” either. There’s always more to learn, new things to experiment with, and new ideas to explore. There’s always going to be the next song. But, no one (that I know of anyway) is sitting around anxiously waiting for me to release something since I’ve never released anything before. I’d like to feel that sense of accomplishment that might come with having my first song actually “finished”, but there’s no deadline for me to meet or penalties for taking longer.

I’ve been slowly reaching out to people I know to see if they might be interested in working on something together. Many people I know enjoy listening to music, but don’t play any music themselves. They also aren’t that interested in working on music or providing critiques of my music beyond “oh, that’s fun”. I have finally managed to find a few friends who might be interested in working on some music related activities together though! I might scare them away by acting overly excited about finally having some musical “allies”, but I’m hoping that this can turn into at least a small group of people who can help me write or perform music, or at least give me some advice or critiques on my music. As I might have said before, I’m kind of terrified of performing, but I’m willing to try it if other people are there to go on the journey with me! I also enjoy learning about what styles of music other people listen to and why. I definitely have a style of music I enjoy, but there’s lots that I can learn from different genres of music and from different people’s perspectives on them.

Here’s hoping I can continue to find other musical friends in the near future and build meaningful relationships with the ones I have! I hope everyone has a great week!

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September 11th: The First Week of Preschool

So my son is now officially in preschool (I kind of see it is pre preschool) three times a week. The transition has been smooth overall. There’s a couple of small tantrums when I leave him there or pick him up (he was upset that he had to leave some things at the school yesterday), but nothing major. The preschool he attends is a Waldorf style school. I’m not totally sold on the whole “Waldorf Lifestyle”, but the teachers at the school are wonderful, caring, and respectful of the children’s personal space and personality types. At this age Waldorf schools focus primarily on play, imagination, being a contributing member of a group, and developing positive relationships, which I think is perfect for my son at his age. Mostly I was looking for him to have a friendly and welcoming atmosphere in which to learn to play with other children, especially since he’s basically been locked up at home with the Covid situation.

His sleep schedule is still a bit all over the place, so when he’s tired that makes things more complicated. He occasionally takes a nap in the afternoon, which is just fine by me, but then he doesn’t want to go to sleep at night. Or, if he doesn’t take a nap, he starts getting grumpy and difficult around five at night. Overall, he’s making big strides in his language skills, toilet training, and being more independent. Seeing him develop more and more into an independent and unique person recently has been an interesting and exciting process to be involved in. This does lead to more small arguments and tantrums, but that’s just part of growing up and developing his own personality. Being upset sometimes is fine as long as it doesn’t go too far. But, I think I’m starting to feel a bit burned out from staying at home with him all this time, but hopefully I can recenter myself now that I have more time to myself. Also, as more time goes by, he won’t need me to hover over him as much.

As for what I’ll be doing with my new free time, there are certainly home projects to work on and general cleaning to do, but I’d like to focus much of my energy on songwriting and music. I guess will see how that goes soon enough!

I hope everyone has a great weekend!

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Music Time: So Why Song Writing?

I’ll need to think of a better title for these types of blogs in the future…

About three years ago I started writing my first song. I’d never written anything before (music or lyrics), beside maybe mentally composing something in my mind. I never had much interest in doing it before either. As I’ve said previously, I’ve always liked music, but I didn’t have any interest in writing it due to a combination of factors (no money potential, not talented enough, not a great writer in general, too many musicians already, etc.). I did mention that I started becoming interested in the process after I took an online course (I just thought it might be fun to try), but I can’t explain why I’ve had a sudden change in my mind specifically. I like the idea of working from home at my own speed, especially with a child, and there is a certain “coolness” factor to it, but beyond that I can’t say for certain. Maybe I’m hoping it’s a way to connect to people with similar interests, maybe it’s a way of proving to myself that I can build something out of almost nothing (or just do something unique), or maybe I just think being in a band would be a fun experience. I think I have some musical talent as well, but I’ve never had any concrete way to measure that.

I have often thought about finding a medium to present interesting ideas and concepts to an audience in a way that’s engaging, and I do think music can be a way to engage people’s minds on several different levels. Music, especially pop music, has a lot concepts that can be analyzed, scrutinized, and “flipped on their head” in an interesting way, that I find appealing. I’m also never going to write a novel or draw a comic book with my particular skill set, so I’m going to stick with something I might be good at. A song can be a self contained entity that doesn’t need anything else to prop it up. It can be about a feeling, a moment, or a story all by itself. Not to mention, there’s (arguably) much less work that goes into a song than a novel (depending on many factors of course). Or maybe, it’s my impression that a song (or a performance) doesn’t have to be perfect, but you can’t have a novel full of typos. Song writing also appeals to me because I get to fiddle with a bunch of interesting computer technology, and I can run lots of that technology from my home computer. I can’t be a “music professional” with my current set up, but as a casual “hobbyist” music creator, being able to do things all on my own is a big draw, especially as a stay at home dad. The investment cost is low for entry into the world of music compared to some other activities. I don’t have to go to the bank to get a hundred thousand dollar loan to get started. So if nothing comes of this in the end, it’s not a huge financial problem that I’ll regret later.

Another potential reason for starting anything new at my age is this feeling I sometimes get from other people that thirty somethings are already locked into a path and can’t do anything new. I’m not trying to “disrupt” anything here, but showing how that idea is flawed does give me some motivation. If in the end nothing life changing comes from any of this, I’ll still (hopefully) have a couple of finished semi professional sounding songs, and I can always look at those and think: I learned how to do it, and I did it. Maybe that can be inspiring to someone else, or maybe that can be just inspiring to me.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you have a wonderful day! And never be afraid to try something new! But… don’t feel bad if you don’t have time at the moment either.

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August 18: Being Social and Preschool

So I’m already failing at doing a blog post every week. Let’s call it every week… ish? Still, it’s much better than once a month like I was doing before (or once every couple years prior to that). It’s still progress overall compared to what I use to do. I was also out visiting friends all weekend so, for once in quite a long time, I was actually out being social and not at home all weekend. It was a great trip overall, but being around other people wears me out, and I always have trouble sleeping in an unknown place. There’s nothing people do in particular to wear me out, I just feel like I need to expend lots of mental energy to participate in conversations and adjust to an environment that isn’t my home. I’m sure that many of us haven’t flexed our “social muscle” in a long time due to covid. It can be difficult work when you’re so use to being in your own space for so long. Also, the dynamics of your young child playing with other kids can be difficult to navigate. Questions constantly arise like: when do you step in during arguments, how rough can your child be, how do you solve disputes, how much do you need to watch over them, and things like that.

Speaking on my son, he’s starting his first day of “pre” preschool this week (a week of summer camp). I’m nervous when I think about things like, did I pack all the things he needs, how will he behave around other kids, will he be respectful of his teachers, and will he be willing to play with other kids. He generally seems reluctant to play with other kids. Often he plays in the vicinity of other kids nearby if he knows them well enough (like playing with different toys but in the same room), but he doesn’t have much interest in organized games. That’s part of the reason why he’s going in to preschool, so he can have the opportunity to play with other kids and do more social group activities. Of course it’s going to be rainy all week, because that’s just how things go some times.

I’ll find out how everything went soon enough I suppose! I’m not too worried about things going badly, it’s just a new experience, and one where I have no control over what happens after having almost total control for so long.

I hope everyone is having a great day and week!

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