Thursday morning Beth and I drove up to Freeport Maine to attend the Northern New England Conference’s 34th Annual Music Clinic. I think this was Beth’s sixth time going (and my third). In previous years she participated only in piano, but this year she was in the choir as well.

I brought my work laptop with me, found a quiet place to hang out and worked Thursday and Friday while Beth attended her practices. She very much enjoyed the weekend, and I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t.

I was treated to three concerts – one Friday evening, one Saturday morning, and another Saturday night. We had Saturday afternoon off, so we decided to hike up Hedgehog Mountain, the tallest mountain in all of Freeport. Yeah, at 300 feet above sea level, it’s not quite a mountain.

There was quite a bit less snow on the ground in Freeport compared to our house, but the trail was still covered with it.

The trail is snuggled up alongside several stone walls.

The trail is snuggled up alongside several stone walls.

The view from the top was very nice, but not spectacular. After all, we were only 300 feet up. We still enjoyed the view.

View from the top

View from the top

On the way back down we saw this weird pool.

An odd pool

An odd pool

It took me a little while to put my finger on it – the bottom of it is covered in ice. Ice is less dense than liquid water, so when it freezes it floats to the top. That’s why ponds and such freeze from the top down. They do not freeze from the bottom up. If they did, fish would have a very difficult time surviving New England winters. In fact, it might not be possible for them to survive at all.

And yet here it was, a pool with an ice floor. I’m pretty sure that the way this came about was that the pool was not very deep when it initially froze, and it probably froze solid, gaining a death grip on the ground underneath. Then as spring arrived, the surrounding snow pack melted and flowed in on top of it, burying the ice in a foot of water. It was pretty cool looking, and I was really glad to have seen it.

The hike didn’t take much time, so we headed back to the school. Most people were still gone for the afternoon. Beth decided she had not played enough music yet at the point, so she went up on the stage in the empty auditorium (save me and one other person) and played all the non-clinic songs she had brought. The set was still lit up on the stage, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to get a photo without interfering with a program.

Beth plays during some downtime

Beth plays during some downtime

It wasn’t long after this that Va arrived for the evening concert which was pretty awesome. I had saved us a pair of seats, so we weren’t stuck in the back as in years past.

The concert finished up around 10:00pm, we got in our cars and drove home arriving around 12:30am.

It was a long weekend, but it was sure worth it. I’d do it again.

I would have to say that Music Clinic was an unqualified success.

Beth during a performance

Beth during a performance

This photo was taken during the morning church service on Saturday, but I don’t remember which song they were playing – maybe Vivaldi’s “Winter” from The Four Seasons. I do remember that all the songs sounded pretty good though.

The pianos were all on stage, with the band to the left, the kid’s choir in front of the stage, and the full choir to the right. The strings were down on the floor in front of the kid’s choir. There were a lot of musicians. This photo shows only about a quarter of the full choir.

Some of the musicians

Some of the musicians

After one performance, we sat at some tables located behind the choir where it was less crowded (but where we could still hear). Beth didn’t want me to take her picture, but I did anyhow.

She didn't want me to take her picture.

She didn't want me to take her picture.

It’s what Dad’s do.

After the morning service we had lunch, and then I had to help clean the kitchen again (which was great). Then we were free for the afternoon. I wanted to go for a hike, but couldn’t talk Beth into it. Yes, I could have made her hike with me, but it’s a lot less pleasant to hike with an unwilling companion. We went back to the hotel and she swam in the pool for an hour. Then we went to the room and I took a 20 minute nap. Not very exciting, I know.

Then it was time to head back to the school for supper and then a few more practice sessions (during which I helped clean the kitchen again). Beth went to her seat, and I went to the kitchen.

Pre-show excitement

Pre-show excitement

While I was in the kitchen, Va showed up. She found a seat, while I finished my assignment. By then the gym was packed and I had a hard time finding her. When I did, she was along the back wall and I had to climb over four elderly people to get to the seat she had saved for me.

I didn’t want to sit back there during Beth’s performances, so just before she went on, I clambered over the elderly again and got up to the stage for photo ops. I didn’t have the heart to climb over them again though, so I stood somewhere else with an even worse view, and waited for the Grand Finale (A Mighty Fortress, by Martin Luther). She had a piano part in that, and I took photos, but they don’t look much different from the ones I already posted.

After the performance, the three of us headed back to the hotel. I made a dessert run while the girls kicked back and relaxed. When I got back we shared the treat and then went to bed. I slept until 8:00. Va wanted to eat breakfast in Portland at the “Old Country Buffet” except it has some other name that I can’t remember up here. Hometown Buffet? I dunno. They used to have one in Manassas when we lived there, and they put out a pretty decent breakfast spread. Much better than your typical hotel continental breakfast. So we stopped there on the way home.

After breakfast we set out in a homeward direction. That’s when Beth had a bit of a meltdown. She was upset about something pretty minor and was crying as if someone had cut off her foot. I tried to give her some perspective and told her to think about the good things that happened to her this week instead of the bad things. I told her that’s what I was doing. Bad things happened to me while we were away (mop bucket), but I was choosing to think about the good things instead. She regained her composure, and I felt like I had done something right. I didn’t know how right until later.

The plan was to have another cardboard boat building session at the church at 1:00pm. We were running too late to go home and then come back to the church, but early enough that Beth and I were able to stop along route 4 and look for some geocaches. Va went on home.

At the first place we stopped to look for a cache, we saw someone at “ground zero” poking around some fallen logs. There was car parked there with e geocaching bumper sticker. I correctly assumed it was a geocacher. We introduced ourselves and then looked for the cache. Beth and I were not able to find it, and I don’t think the other cacher was able to either. But I did find something better:

My first skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus)

My first skunk cabbage (Symplocarpus foetidus)

I have been looking for skunk cabbage for a couple of years now, and this was the first time I had ever seen it. I recognized it immediately and called Beth over. “What is it?” she asked, so I told her “Take a whiff!” “Ewww!” It does smell rather like a skunk, but not nearly as strong. Peterson says it’s edible, but since I didn’t know what part was edible (or when) we left it alone. That’s a good thing too. When I got home I looked it up, and you’re supposed to let it dry out first, or its calcium oxalate crystals will cause some significant mouth pain. Maybe someday I’ll try it after properly drying it out first.

We stopped for two other caches, but only found one out of the three. Oh well. We got to the church right at 1:00 and found some Pathfinders already there waiting. So we did some boat construction. Both of the boats are coming along “swimmingly” as I like to say. That sounds like it might involve swimming, but it means “pretty good.”

I was too busy with the cardboard kayak to take any pictures. Which means I was doing too much of the work myself. 😦

The rest of the plan for the day was for Beth and I to go to our first Geocaching event, which was about a mile from the church. We met Bandyrooster there – a cacher that I have been corresponding with for a little while. She is a very friendly person, and it was great to meet her face-to-face. The three of us went caching for about two hours (I think – I was starting to tire by that point), and we found something like ten caches. Beth found one more than me, because we stopped at one I had found previously without her. Here’s a shot of Beth with Bandyrooster (aka, Marge).

Beth and Bandyrooster fishing out a geocache.

Beth and Bandyrooster fishing out a geocache.

Penny was over the moon when we got home.

Beth took a bath and went to bed shortly after that, and I stayed up as long as I could keep my eyelids propped open. Then I headed up too, and found this two-page note on my pillow.

Dear Daddy,
Thank you for bringing me to Music Clinic. I really had a fun time. Thank you for letting me swim at the hotel. Thanks for buying me Twistables. I love my new hair ties. Thank you for paying the Music Clinic fee, the hotel fee, and other payments for me. Also Thank you, for letting me have some free time in the hallways. I really enjoyed it. I really don’t have anything to offer you except for a really big hug and a kiss. Plus, of course this note.

Thank you for taking me Geocaching afterwards with you. That was so much fun. Please accept my full apologies about how I reacted in the car.



That’s what I call payoff. I don’t think she’ll know just how fully this paid for all that money, time, and effort, until she has kids of her own.. It brings tears to my eyes to even type this. I count it as one of the best “fatherhood” events I have ever experienced. Sweetheart, you have repaid me in full.

Beth and I are in Freeport Maine for Music Clinic. We got here yesterday, and we’ll leave Sunday morning. Va will come up for the performance tomorrow evening. There are over 450 participants in Music Clinic this year. That’s a lot of people to manage, and I am in awe of the effort that goes into organizing this. Besides the two choirs, the band, the strings, bell choirs, and school choirs, there are about three dozen pianists, and some of them are also in the choir/bnad/school choir/etc. Each pianist is assigned half a dozen practice sessions in one of the four practice rooms, and that’s in addition to their practice as a group (there are four two-hour sessions of that). Trying to get everyone scheduled for that is a tremendous task (the piano schedule is three pages).

Beth at group practice

Beth at group practice

Meanwhile all I have to do is hang out and make sure Beth is where she is supposed to be when she’s supposed to be there. And also help clean up after the meals.

Last year my assignment was more nebulous. I showed up for duty at the appointed place at the appointed time, but I was the only one there. That is something I don’t like at all. Then when the coordinator did show up he didn’t really have anything for me to do. I like to do things. I do not like to have non-assignments. So this year I signed up for things that sounded more like work. And that’s what I got, which is a huge improvement, even when things don’t go very well.

Yesterday I had a mitigated disaster. My assignment was to mop the kitchen (which is great! that’s doing something!) I got right to work and mopped the whole place. It was filthy when I started and spic-and-span when I finished. And then I rolled the mop bucket out into the hallway and towards the janitor’s closet to empty it. That’s when things went awry. The floor of the janitor’s closet is about a quarter inch higher than the hallway (do you see where this is going?) When the bucket wheels hit the threshold, the bucket tipped. It sloshed water back towards me (and soaked my pants) and then it sloshed forwards where it ended up tipping the bucket into the closet. Yeah – about six gallons of mop water by my estimate. It took half an hour to mop the kitchen and about the same amount of time to mop the janitor’s closet. That included moving vacuum cleaners and floor buffers out into the hall, mopping up six gallons of water, and then putting all the stuff back again. We aren’t going to talk about the gallon or two that soaked into the hallway carpet.

But this is still better than a non-assignment.

Tonight mopping went much smoother. I was wise to the threshold, and it took about 60 seconds to empty the mop bucket.

While Beth is in practice, I have been amusing myself by attempting to id some lichens. I got a new book on the topic and brought it with me. I’ve identified half a dozen types (though not down to the species level – that often requires biochemistry).

Bristly Beard Lichen (Usnea... hirta?)

Bristly Beard Lichen (Usnea... hirta?)

The book is called “Lichens of the North Woods” by Joe Walewski, and I like it very much except for one minor thing. Apparently, “The North Woods” are the woods surrounding Lake Superior. I’m assuming that a lot of the lichens there are in New England as well, but it’s entirely possible that we have species here that aren’t there. And I won’t know what they are when I find them. Oh well. The book is pretty good anyhow, and I’d still buy it even knowing that it doesn’t cover New England.

Tomorrow Beth has a performance during the church service, and after that we will go hang out at the beach. In Maine. In March. I don’t expect we’ll do any swimming, but I might take some pictures.

We do have a pool here at the hotel though, so maybe we will do a little swimming.

We had more snow today, but it changed over to rain in the afternoon. It accumulated to about an inch at my house. Yup. April 4. I left my camera at home today, which I seldomly ever do, so I have no pictures of the latest snow. In Concord, it wasn’t even quite enough to cover the dirty snow banks at the edges of the parking lot. I could still see patches of black snow through the new cover of white.

Music Clinic went pretty well. Va and David arrived shortly before the Saturday evening concert, and we bailed shortly after Beth played her piece (which was excellent). We got home a little after 11:00pm. Beth got some sleep in the car and slept late Sunday morning, but that was not nearly enough for her. She was a BEAR on Sunday.

April Fools Snow Storm

April Fools Snow Storm

Today I found out that on April 1st, it’s a bad idea to tell people that you’ve been praying for snow – even if you’re just kidding. Most people will not appreciate that.

I’m in Freeport, ME with Beth this weekend for Music Clinic. This is what my car looked like when we left the hotel this morning. The roads were kinda bad too, as one might expect. I made it to the school OK though, and got a pretty decent parking space. Beth had an 8:30 practice, and another one that ended at about 11:00am. I had forgotten my name tag, which doubles as a meal ticket, so we went back to the hotel. The roads were even worse then. I nearly got stuck, and actually had to shovel out the car to get out of my decent parking space. At the hotel we ate some PB sandwiches and watched cartoons (Curious George if you want to know). Then at 1:00 or so, we headed back to the school. The roads were a ton better by then. Beth had another practice. When that was over we were free until 5:30 which is when I was on the hook to help move ten pianos. Luckily, they were all electric, and I wasn’t doing it myself. We had to move them out of a practice room and onto the stage for the “dress rehearsal” and the first performance. Why ten pianos? Because Beth’s performance was shared with about 25 other kids. They actually sounded pretty good too.

Here’s Beth waiting for her turn on the stage for the dress rehearsal.

Waiting In the Wings

Waiting In the Wings

They did not sound good at all during their first rehearsal yesterday. I don’t know how the instructors can stand that, much less how they were able to turn it around so quickly.

Tomorrow she will participate in two more pieces. Between these two, we’ll take a short snowshoe trek. There are plenty of places to do that up here, and there’s enough snow on the ground that it won’t be ridiculous to try. As long as the snow is still here after lunch, anyhow. Since this snowstorm was forecast pretty well in advance, I brought the snowshoes with us.

Va and David will be coming up for the evening performance, and Jonathan will stay home to keep Penny company (and allow her outside to transact doggy business). We’ll drive home after Beth’s final performance.

In the morning I need to get up early. Beth and I are headed to Freeport, ME so she can attend Music Clinic. Va and the boys will stay home.

The forecast for Friday is calling for 9″ of snow at my house, and 6″ in Freeport. I still have 18″ in my yard in most places (though it’s bare over the septic tank). I’m thinking maybe we should bring our snowshoes.

Jonathan will have to clear the driveway Friday evening, but he’s more than capable of that, so there are no worries there. It’s supposed to be a wet, heavy snow, and they are expecting power outages. I’m sure they can deal with that too.

I was too tired to write last night, so I skipped it. Va, Jonathan, and I drove up to Freeport to hear Beth play at Music Clinic. David stayed home and helped Penny hold down the fort.

It’s a three hour drive to Freeport. I was having a hard time staying awake, so I pulled over and traded seats with Va. We got there around 4:00. Beth wasn’t there yet. They were still back at the hotel, but they’d be there shortly.

Jonathan and I took a walk. There wasn’t too much too see, but I did take a few photos of a flock of Robins. I don’t remember seeing them in flocks like that before, so I’m assuming it has something to do with migration. Then Beth showed up and gave us a tour of the campus. She was excited.

She went on the stage at about 8:00pm or so.
Beth playing "Oh Susanna!"
As soon as she was finished, we packed up our stuff and left, and didn’t get home until 11:30pm or so. Beth slept in the car.

Today we had inspection at our Pathfinder meeting. My friends Paul and Barbara (Paul is the Associate Pathfinder director of our conference, and his wife Barbara is an Area Coordinator) came to perform the inspection and to teach a new honor we’re going to propose. The meeting went about as smoothly as I could have wanted, and I was very pleased about that. Paul led us around the building and performed a fire inspection (the honors we’re piloting are Fire Safety and Fire Fighting, so a fire inspection was one of the requirements). I think that opened a few eyes, especially as we got to the labyrinth of narrow corridors behind the baptistry. I wouldn’t want to have to go back there during a fire!

Our assignment now is to make an exit map of our houses. I will probably work on an exit map for the church. It has to show the locations of all the pull alarms, fire extinguishers, meeting place (outdoors), and of course… the exits.

We didn’t even come close to getting through this one. Paul will return again in two weeks and we’ll work on it some more. But we aren’t going to finish it even then, and our Pathfinder year is starting to wind down. We only have three more meetings left, and then comes May. We have no meetings at all in May because May is always eaten up with other things: Spring Camporee, Mother’s Day (we can’t meet then without getting in trouble), Spring Escape (which is an Adventurer event, but it soaks up a lot of our staff), Club Campout, and then Memorial Day weekend. On Memorial Day weekend we will conduct a flag retirement ceremony and have our annual yard sale. So there’s just no time in May for a regular meeting.

So we will continue working on this honor in the Fall. I don’t like that, because we’ll have a different mix of kids in the fall, but it really can’t be helped.

I stayed late after the meeting getting debriefed on our inspection. I haven’t counted how many things they check, but I’d guess its over a hundred. Of those, we got “good” check marks on all but two, and those are both pretty minor. I’m thinking we will have them addressed by next year, but I thought the same thing last year too! We’ll just have to see.

Beth left for Music Clinic up in Freeport, ME this morning. She went with one of my Pathfinder staff members and her staff member daughter. Va and I will drive up Saturday afternoon to listen to their performance and bring her home.

Just before she got out of the car this morning, Beth asked Jonathan if he would come to the performance too. He said he might, but then we’ll have to leave David at home with Penny. I’m sure he won’t mind.

After supper tonight Jonathan and I went back up to the attic. We hung two more half-sheets of drywall. That was enough for me. I guess if we do a little each night, it will eventually get done.

I’ve been thinking up ideas of how I want to finish the space up there. I plan to build drawers into the knee walls on the north end, and make it more of a conventional space. I’ll prolly do the same thing with the south end, but I’ve been having a hard time driving the idea of Bag End out of my head. It’d be pretty cool to fix it up like a hobbit hole (even though hobbits don’t like second stories or above).

We have a wintery mix in the forecast for tonight. It prolly won’t amount to much though. I did find another species in bloom yesterday – Corylus cornuta, aka Beaked Hazel. It has male and female flowers. The females are tiny little anenome-looking things, and the males are catkins similar to what you’d find on a birch or an alder.
Here’s the female flower:

Female flower, Corylus cornuta

Female flower, Corylus cornuta

I didn’t notice this in bloom until well into April last year, but that’s probably because these flowers are so inconspicuous. This one is less than a quarter inch across.

I spent a lot of time in the car today. Maybe seven hours. One hour of that was spent driving to church and back. While I was at church I got a text message from my sister. She, my other sister, and my brother Steve spent the week in Washington DC, and they snapped a photo of themselves driving home. That’s what she sent me.

After lunch, Va and I got back in the car and headed up to Pine Tree Academy to watch Beth perform Supercalifragelisticexpialidocious on the piano in front of about a thousand people. On the way up there, I snapped a photo of Va and I driving in the car, and had Va text it to my sister. I hope she enjoys it!

Beth was in a pretty good mood, but it was also pretty clear that she was operating on less than sufficient sleep. In spite of that though, she seemed very happy and not whiny at all.

The performance started at 7:30 pm, and her group went first. They had something like eight or twelve pianos on the stage, each being played by one or more people. All at the same time. Luckily, all playing the same song too. But as soon as her performance ended, we hopped in the car and headed home. Yes, it would have been nice to have stayed for the whole thing, but we had a very tired girl on our hands, and we didn’t get home until 11:00pm.

So yeah – we’re tired.