The Hillhouse

The Journey of a Mother and Son

Fine Day September 14, 2014

Today Elihu and I made our annual trip to the picturesque village of Lake George, in the Adirondacks. Each year, just as school’s beginning and the summer is coming to a close, we head up north to enjoy a lakeside meal and a little adventure. On the docket for the day was watching an attempt to break the Guiness record for the longest parade of Ford Mustangs; they needed 621 to be successful. We saw but one Mustang on the way up, and when in town saw maybe two or three more. It surely didn’t seem a world record was about to be set. Elihu had wanted to earn some cash, and we’d thought busking for the crowd here might work, but when the cars – and the crowds – didn’t show up, and when we heard the sound of music coming from the bandshell, we knew it wasn’t the time. So we headed to the place we always eat, and enjoyed a lovely meal of steamed mussels and calamari instead.

After lunch, although Elihu was jonsin to play, I asked him to humor me and go hear the band first – from what we could pick out over the relentless onslaught of Jimmy Buffet covers from the duo on the neighboring restaurant’s deck – I thought I’d heard some real music. It had been way too long since I’d heard any good stuff (Saratoga is a town mainly of cover bands – in the summers the music that floats through the air sounds kinda like montage of never-ending wedding bands). The busking could wait. And frankly, when we got to the stage and learned this was the weekend of the Lake George Jazz Festival plus saw there was a tuba player – both busking and record-breaking lines of cars were forgotten. I admit that I tried Elihu’s patience when I insisted he meet the guy after the set – but Elihu was glad we hung around. The tuba player showed Elihu how he could play melodies on his mouthpiece, and that stuck with him. It was just the right inspiration at the right time, and he was psyched to have met the guy. The two of them chatted for a while, we took some pictures and then parted ways. Elihu felt Saratoga would be a better opportunity to make some cash, so after a couple more enjoyable and impromptu chats with folks en route to the car, we headed back.

Once on our turf, he had his plan. He hit both of his usual spots, and in between played for a bit with a fellow we’d not seen before on the street. I did my dutiful mom thing as he played, sitting off to the side, all but ignoring the kid (he’s eleven; he needs to retain his dignity. Who wants a hovering mom?) and waited. Elihu was playing well, and trying some new things. It made me smile to hear him playing well, and playing with such joy. I had a pleasant chat with a gentleman with whom I shared a bench, and shortly Elihu declared he was through for the day.

These days, Elihu and his classmates are rather consumed with the culture of Pokemon. I’d thought it might have passed by now, but no. Elihu gives a lot of mental energy to assembling his deck. He gets lost in thoughts of how he’ll battle his opponents, what powers he’ll use, what special EX cards he’ll need to win… I try to share in his excitement, or at least I try to show interest, but really, it’s hard to keep it up. My son is lost to me in the world of Japanese anime characters, and I can’t possibly understand. But I can support him, and when he’s worked hard all week, done the chores I’ve asked of him, finished his homework and practiced his bass, I feel it’s altogether fitting that he be allowed to buy himself a little treat. And especially when it’s with money he’s earned himself. In about forty minutes he’d made around thirty dollars, and so I took him to the store to get the newest release of Pokemon cards. He was beaming all the way home.

Elihu talked with his father on the phone for a bit as I made supper, and then afterward we watched a little ‘Simon’s Cat’ on YouTube for a quick nightcap of laughter, and then he was off to bed. “This was such a good day” he said as I turned out the light. Yes, it was, sweetie. It was a fine day, indeed.

IMG_3154Beautiful Lake George in upstate New York.

IMG_3162I’ve waited all week for a glass of wine. !

IMG_3156Here’s a gratuitous selfie with the same view.

IMG_3169Glad we brought these this year. Elihu really can’t see much detail beyond the deck without em.

IMG_3160And this is a shot of me, in the reflection of Elihu’s large, dark glasses. When I talk to him, I can’t see his eyes – all I ever see is myself – so I snapped a pic to kinda show him what it looks like.

IMG_3183This is the crowd…

IMG_3194And this is the event.

IMG_3243The view from the lawn. I grew up being part of really huge events, so this seems quaint by those standards. But hey, it’s been so long since I’ve heard any music at all that I’m thrilled to be here. You can’t beat the scenery, and a smaller venue is so much more pleasant in many ways.

IMG_3179The group? Billy Martin’s Wicked Knee. That’s Billy on the drums.

IMG_3184And that’s Elihu’s new pal Marcus Rojas on the tuba.

IMG_3202Showing Elihu how much you can play on a mouthpiece alone.

IMG_3218Elihu shows his djembe to Marcus’ little boy.


This is Will on the left, he plays accordion – and the yellow CD on the right is a brand-new project he and Marcus played on together (look for their group Musette Explosion). Will was going to be playing later on in the afternoon. It was a posse of NYC musicians there.

IMG_3196Peace out, Marcus! See you next time…

IMG_3247Back home in Saratoga Springs, Elihu stopped to leave a tip in this guy’s case, but instead, this man insisted that he tip Elihu, who he’d heard playing djembe across the street. How kind!

IMG_3253Then Warren invited Elihu to play with him for a bit.

Here’s what it sounded like.

IMG_3256In an alley on the way back to the car, we heard the most beautiful and plaintiff melodies from this harmonica player, and Elihu felt compelled to double-back and leave him a tip and a kind word.

IMG_3263Keepin it real. This is what all that cash was about! After pack upon pack of humdrum cards, Elihu lands a couple of good ones back-to-back. Love it.

IMG_3269A fine day – in so many ways.


Just a friendly reminder that if you’ve enjoyed my posts and would like to buy me a cup of coffee (that’s a blogger’s euphemistic way of saying ‘give me a small tip’) you can click on the tip jar icon at the top right of this page and it will allow you to do so rather effortlessly through Paypal. Thanks for considering, and thanks even more for contributing to the coffers of this writer and mother.


May Begins May 4, 2014

“Whoah” Elihu laughed, looking around, “Did I sleep here last night?” He was truly surprised to be waking up in my bed. I told him that late last night, as I’d been sitting in my chair at the computer, he stomped into the room, grunted, and then proceeded to get into my bed – and on my side, no less (if he’s to share a bed with me, he knows I’m pretty particular about me being on my side). Instantly, he was deeply asleep. More like he was asleep the whole time; he can get fairly animated while sleepwalking and talking, but this was dramatic even for him. But there was no use making an issue of it, this night I wouldn’t be sleeping on my chosen side, so I just slipped into bed on the other side and turned out the light. We spent a little time after waking just goofing around, making our hands into characters, inventing silly scenarios and goofy little jokes. It made me so happy to see him the way I’d always known him. There was no hint of the offended eleven year old who’d been hanging around the house this past week. In fact, even the night before had been entirely delightful. Mom, Elihu and I had gone to the fancy Wishing Well restaurant for his annual birthday dinner of frogs’ legs and had had a wonderful time. (Man, he gets so fired up each year for em, and I don’t think there’s any dish on the planet he relishes so.)

It had been a pleasant evening the night before, and it looked like we’d have a nice, easy-going day before us too. His old pal Keithie was coming over, and we had little planned. I had some practicing to do, some work in the garden and a few domestic chores inside, and the idea of having a house full of inspirational young boy energy appealed to me. The weeks to follow are going to be chock-full of end-of-year projects, plays and assemblies. It all kinda starts tomorrow, and I can’t really say I’m energetically there yet. Hopefully this weekend will be restorative enough that I make it through relatively stress-free. There is, however, one major event that is approaching for which I can hardly wait – one which I hope will change my life in a very important way: we are having a dishwasher installed!! It’s a Christmas gift from my mother, which has now become my birthday gift. The thing arrives tomorrow, and on Wednesday, my 51st birthday, carpenter Josh will install it. I still don’t believe it. I’ll miss my junk drawer for sure, but I won’t miss wasting upwards of two hours a day doing the blasted dishes. This is literally a dream come true for me. Seriously, where would I be without my mom? I cannot wait to see how life feels post-install…

IMG_2488 Elihu waits all year for these delicious delicacies…

IMG_2466He requested escargot, too

IMG_2463Please, mom, no pictures now. Let me enjoy my food here.

IMG_2471Dark shot, but here we are. Our hostess, Ganna, who is from Ukraine (and who remembered us from our visit to the Wishing Well this past New Year’s Eve), took our picture.  We ate in the living room of the old house-turned-restaurant, carpeted and cozy and lined with bookshelves.

IMG_2500After dinner, Elihu played his djembe for a bit with the gal playing in the piano bar. Mom looks on.

IMG_2504Bartender David (known to patrons as “Hook”) is a drummer and surprised us by joining in on the bongos.

IMG_2397A little mandolin in the morning

IMG_2523and then some fun with the two chicks…

IMG_2507Elihu has stereo chicks – each one nestled up close to an ear. It tickles!

IMG_2446Elihu and Madeline regard each other

IMG_2456Madeline is one of the oldest. She was hatched on Elihu’s 8th birthday. She is the only hen with eye makeup. She looked a lot like a sparrow when she was born and still has a distinct look. Unlike Thumbs Up, Madeline always retains her dignity and composure and does not allow herself to be treated as a mere plaything.

IMG_2417In the current vernacular of the fifth grade boys: this is just so wrong.

IMG_2401I cannot imagine a time that my counters won’t be covered in drying dishes, but it’s coming soon!!!

IMG_2444Time to March past April into May!


Sono Stanca March 12, 2014

Man, has it been a week. Tonight I am pooped. I’ve kept going and going, and now that I’ve plopped down in my chair to sit for a moment, it’s all just hit me.

And on top of it all, this afternoon it started snowing again. Not just the pretty fluffy white stuff – but rather the dense, wet, instant slush sort of stuff. By late afternoon all after school programs were cancelled (my piano class included, thank God) and we were off the hook for the evening. Pretty sure that tomorrow’d be a snow day, we may have gotten a bit too relaxed with our schedule this evening, as Elihu has only just gotten to bed, and as I write this he is reading still. That’s never easy to wrap up. I’ll spend a minute more here, then go play nighttime police duty.

We did a little stock-up shopping in anticipation of a snowed in couple of days (Friday there’s no school anyway) and by the time we got home we found all sorts of fun little diversions that each involved more time than we realized. Between errands, dinnertime and our play we’d passed hours before we’d noticed how late it was getting… We played our penny whistles, our recorders and kalimbas, home-made drums of mason jars half-filled with water, shakers, hand drums and more… and then there was the block tower building, the melodica playing, the learning of obscure polkas, the knocking down of previously made towers with remotely controlled spideresque robots… I suppose we carried on so because we’re both fairly convinced that tomorrow there’ll be no school, no orthodontist appointment, no piano students, no nothing. And I cannot wait. I can accept the snow once again without complaining, because I know that by Elihu’s eleventh birthday on April 28th there will be none of it left. This I know. So it allows me to accept the current situation with a cooler head. But the busyness of our lives, the non-stop to-do list, the chaos (albeit a joyful sort) of school, the ongoing domestic chores – all of it has me wanting to cry uncle at the moment. So I’m looking forward to an unscheduled morning.

I hear Elihu’s turned off his light on his own. Good boy. I’ll go in and check on him now, tell him I love him so, and wish him sweet dreams. We’ll both be sound asleep before long. It’s been such a long day. Good night friends….


July 4th Pics July 5, 2012

Our Fourth of July in Saratoga Springs, New York

Elihu meets Jeremy, a fantastic drummer busking on Broadway

Elihu jams with Jeremy

Elihu takes a spin on the homemade drums

Finally, the duck pond in Congress Park

Posing with a duck

Elihu takes a quiet moment ‘to connect’ with the duck before he lets it go

Watching a great kid drummer and his band


the joy of the Fourth

The tip jar on the morning after


Drum Break July 4, 2012

Filed under: An Ongoing Journal...,Mommy Mind — wingmother @ 6:40 pm
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Elihu put his head out of the window as we drove home from town, his hair blowing back, a look of absolute bliss on his face. I was relieved. In spite of all the hoopla about this day, and how much Elihu had wanted to spend it here in Saratoga, it hadn’t exactly turned out as we’d planned. Although he had jammed a bit with a street drummer at the start of our day, he’d missed the parade (and anyway the consensus on the street was that it was lame this year) and there weren’t the usual throngs of people on the sidewalks. Instead of him busking and raking in some good cash, we’d spent most of the day under the shade of the enormous maples in Congress Park, Elihu chasing – and catching – his beloved ducks. So far it hadn’t been much different from any other summer’s day. He’d passed on the historical reenactors in their sweaty woolen costumes, he’d passed on the cajun band, he’d passed on the antique auto show. Anything that might have made this day different and special – he just wasn’t into it. And so I napped on the lawn as Elihu showed off for the kids, deftly picking up ducks like a guide at a nature preserve, gently unfolding their wings for all to see, explaining to anyone who’d listen all the wonderful attributes of the humble mallard.

It’s been a hot one today. After a couple hours of duck wrangling, Elihu was not only sweaty, but his clean white shirt was covered in muck. So too was his left shoe; an angry mother duck had tugged it off his foot and dropped it in the pond. ! Elihu asked if we could go home to regroup. We’d come back for the fireworks as we’d already staked out our place with our red wagon and some folding chairs. Going home and getting cool  for a bit was not a bad idea. He even said that ice cream sounded good. (I should like to point out that we are not ice cream people. We prefer salt to sweet.) But in that muggy moment, it sounded like a good idea. So we headed back to the car, stopping at Ben and Jerry’s en route. Unlike the coupons that sit unused and long-expired in the bottom of my bag, I did have a coupon for Ben and Jerry’s that he’d won last Halloween. It did not have an expiration date.

We finished our ice cream in the cool of the shop and headed back into the heat to find a band playing just outside. Kids from the middle school I’d guessed. Just a trio – but they sounded pretty good. The drummer was impressive. Elihu stood stock still in front of the band, eyes glued to the drums. I coaxed him around to the back of the bandstand where we then watched the kid on the drums with his magic-trick double bass drum pedals. Elihu was getting excited now. He pulled me close and shouted in my ear, “Mommy – do you hear his snare?? I want mine to sound like that? Why doesn’t it?” I told him that we probably needed new heads by now, and that we should tune them. He nodded enthusiastically with a huge smile on his face. Happy mommy. Happy kid.

The drummer’s dad came around the back and set a bottle of water down for him, and before he left, he reached over and quickly tousled the boy’s hair. Just a second before the young drummer had seemed like a rock star, but framed in the small gesture of his father’s love, he seemed instantly a little boy. I looked at my own son, and imagined him just a few short years into the future. One day he might be rock star, but no matter what, some part of me would no doubt always think of him as my little boy too.

I’d thought we’d stay for the set, but Elihu surprised me by saying “Let’s go now, Mommy, I want to keep this beat in my head! I need to play it before I forget it!” He pulled at my arm. He was serious. On our way out, I had to say hello to the drummer’s dad. He dutifully gave us a flyer of their upcoming shows, and I thanked him and told him he was a great dad. I smiled, then as we turned to go, he told Elihu to be sure and stay with it. Elihu nodded. And we were off.

We rode home with all the windows open. I’d thought to keep the radio off as to help Elihu keep that pattern in his head, but he asked me for music. I turned on the radio as we set out over the country roads. I looked in the rear view mirror and saw a contented boy. “Don’t worry Mommy if today didn’t happen the way we thought. Today has far exceeded my expectations.” I smiled to myself at his choice of words. And what a good little man to reassure me so.

Upon arriving home he immediately went to his drums. I went out to the coop to check on things, and I from there I could hear him playing and playing. It was cool in the basement where his drums were, he was probably in heaven. I thought of how lovely a day it had been so far, and regarded the night yet before us. I was in heaven too. This little break was just what we needed before we set out to cap off our Fourth.


One Night in June June 18, 2012

Filed under: An Ongoing Journal...,Mommy Mind,Pics — wingmother @ 1:57 pm
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These photos are from an evening last week. We were just beginning to enjoy our free-form days and nights…

Elihu changes the blades in his biggest RC helicopter

They’re on, now let’s see if they work…

They do!

Now we’re downstairs to the music room for a bit. Elihu starts off on my Wurlitzer.

My old Moog – how I loved playing that thing back in the day…

Elihu goes back to his drums and the two of us play for a bit.

We had a nice little jam session that evening. Kid’s got a natural feel. There were a couple moments when I forgot I was playing with my nine year old son. Before we quit I suggested we do a jazz ballad. “Oh – that’s my favorite kind of music” he says. ?? He pulled out his brushes and jumped in without a second thought. Fun day. Love that kid.


Aviation Day April 21, 2012

I need to get Elihu to bed soon – and not sure I’ll last much longer either, so while he sits beside me researching the rearing of triops on my Mac, I sit here on the PC making the quickest update possible. Must say, this day was absolutely fantastic.

With a backdrop of some Earl Hines on the radio we drove to the nursery to admire the flowering trees. Then some modern big band arrangements carried us to the highway, where we then made a foray into some Ornette Coleman. After a bit we turned back the clock to some super-old timey Chick Webb, which finally brought us to our destination: the New York State Police Aviation Hub. Woo hoo!

We were given a private, unrushed tour by a most generous man whose job it was to oversee the repair and maintenance of the state’s fleet. He even let Elihu sit in the pilot’s seat while he powered up the craft (electric dashboard-type systems only) and then guided Elihu through the controls. Wow.

After this visit we drove the long way home and stopped in on a local music store en route where we got Elihu a chain for his cymbal which he’d been wanting for a while. It creates a little sizzling sound – we’d tried to make our own without satisfactory results. Perfect. After a nice chat with the fellow there – who himself was a drummer and maker of drums as well (and who knew of Elihu’s father) we headed north through the driving spring rain.

We landed at the local mall, and enjoyed the closest thing to authentic middle eastern food to be had within a half hour’s drive. Then it was off to the kiosk that sold RC helicopters. Elihu had brought his own – purchased at that same stand – and after some time hanging around demonstrating his skills at handling the toy craft the proprietor was kind to allow Elihu to pilot three different models – including one that was over two feet long! The man was quite impressed with his ability. I was too; just last night he’d given me a turn at the controls and I was unable to keep it level and unmoving. It’s harder than it appears. Looks like I have a young aviator in the house.

And capping it all off…