Wednesday, January 26, 2011


The problem with having a good wrestling season is that when you are beating kids you weren't supposed to beat, other kids and their coaches begin avoiding you. The boy Newt tech falled from one team moved to the next lower weight class the next time they wrestled that team. Another boy attempted to avoid him by wrestling in the next weight class up but Newt's coach knew that might happen so was able to bump Newt up to wrestle the boy who he defeated 7-4.

On Monday, Newt had a match and the team's 119lb wrestler just forfeited to him rather than go on the mat. I don't understand that way of thinking at all. The team loses 6 points if they forfeit, the same number of team points they'd lose if the wrestler lost by pin so it really makes no sense to forfeit if the wrestler is not going to wrestle later that night (meaning the 119lb wrestler did not move up to win at the next weight class...he just didn't wrestle that night).

I believe any wrestler can be never know when you might catch someone in a pinning move or a wrestler could just have a different style of wrestling that you find difficult to defend against. Even if you believe you will lose, you are still getting practice by attempting.

I live with a kid who isn't cutting weight (he was certified to go 112lb but we won't allow him to cut) actually eating a ton of food to keep his weight up, is moving up to wrestle the tough wrestlers, and keeps wrestling even when losing a match. I have a difficult time understanding the "I can't win, so I won't even try mentality."

Composers Lapbook...

For the past few months, Haley has been working on Hands On History's Composers lapbook. She did one project a week along with listening and short reports on different composers. She finished it up this week and here are the results.

This is the outside cover of the lapbook. It velcros on one side to open and close.
 If you open the cover, this is what you see. On each side the piano keys have musical vocabulary and underneath each is the meaning of the term. The little book on the music stand has information about the periods of music inside.
 If you lift the flap under the music stand, There is a timeline with the periods of music and promonent composers during that period. I couldn't unfold the entire thing and still get a photo so I just unfolded the first couple flaps.
Photos of each composer with short biographies of each cover many of the surfaces of the lapbook. I think there are 20 different composers represented throughout the lapbook.
Pieces with a Purpose is a pocket with different little symbols and descriptions of the various ways music is used in society...hymns for church, CDs for listening, patriotic songs, used to make money, opera, etc...
This page is a pocket for copies of the listening pages. On each page in the Music Appreciation pocket there is a page about a piece Haley listened to complete with a drawing on how the piece made her feel and important information about the piece and composer.

This view shows more of the small composer reports.
Great job, Haley! Next she will be doing a lapbook from Hands On History about famous artists.

Monday, January 24, 2011

January Concert...

Haley participated in a classical music recital for her teacher's studio last night. She had been working on a new piece Souvenier de Sarasate by William Potstock since around Christmas and was thrilled when her teacher agreed to allow her to play it for the concert...usually playing a new piece is a "no-no."

Haley did a great job and so did the other students. A couple of the older viola players were very impressive. It is so fun to hear how the kids have progressed. It's been awhile since her teacher has been able to have a studio recital.
Overall, Haley was very pleased with her performance though there was one section where she felt a little rushed by the piano and almost got lost. She kept it together though. It was her first time playing a piece she had learned from written music only and she had only heard it twice with piano on youtube prior to rehearsing with the accompanist on Friday afternoon.
Here she is playing at the concert.


This year, Haley is in two different orchestras. The first concert, Temple Prep, was back in the beginning of December and the other orchestra's (PRYSM) concert was on Saturday. PRYSM is one of the feeder orchestras for PYO (Philadelphia Youth Orchestra) and PRYSM and PRYSM Young Artists (the beginning orchestra in the PYO family) performed in the same concert. PRYSM-YA went first, then both orchestras combined for one piece, then PRYSM finished up the concert.

Haley with her friends before the concert

Waiting for everyone to get seated

Combined orchestra performing

Full combined orchestra
 Both orchestras were wonderful. I am not a musician so I find it fascinating to hear the young people playing together at such a high level. Amazing!

It was a very long day. Call time was 11:30am so all the orchestras could rehearse. The concert was at 2pm. The pieces chosen were perfect.

I took photos during the combined orchestra rehearsal because Haley had an outside seat for that and during the rehearsal they asked that we don't take flash photos so I couldn't take any during the PRYSM alone rehearsal. The PRYSM violinists were each paired with a PRYSM-YA violinist. Haley was happy to have her friend from Next Generation, Katie, as her stand partner for that piece. I was able to get some wonderful video of Haley during the concert.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


A couple weeks ago, a friend on a board for musical kids asked how one justifies the cost of raising a very musical kid, one that gets more and more expensive as they get older and are more involved. I understood exactly where she was coming from since her most musical child is the 2nd of 4 so she has other children to consider and it is so difficult dividing our precious, limited family resources...specifically time and money.

I think what makes it even more difficult is when, as a parent, you aren't pushing for a musical career...if you want that for your child more than anything else, putting all your resources into that goal is an easier decision. When you are following your child's interests and have no idea, since they are young, what their ultimate goal will be (music or some other field of study), I think we sometimes tend to "hedge our bets" or attempt to balance our resources a bit differently.

I think having Haley be the youngest of her siblings makes some decisions come more easily. I know what her brothers need, resource-wise, to follow their interests so I know what I have left to work with for her. If she had younger siblings it would not be so easy to spend the time I do helping her practice or driving her all over the place. Her brothers are old enough to stay home alone if need be which is rarely the case because they have their own activities and their grandparents have helped a lot when we must divide and conquer. Also, with younger siblings I would have to consider keeping money resources in reserve for them, not knowing what they might be interested in or how much that might cost. Meaning, for example, I wouldn't want to have Haley taking two lessons a week stretching our budget then have to cut back for her to allow another child to take a lesson...I would rather just have Haley doing one lesson and have the money available for the next child when the time comes.

My initial response to my friend's question on how I justify expenses went like this...

"I tend to think along these lines. I look at the value of music study and all my child/children is/are learning as a result...the value of hard work and practice for achieving goals, the value of having goals and working to meet them, being able to do something they enjoys and having it as a lifelong pleasure, etc...

I don't have an opinion one way or another about my child having a career in music. It isn't my choice to make. One day she will decide. Just as I am giving her a rigorous education to keep her options open in any other field of study, I am also willing to do what I need to do in order to allow music to be an option at whatever level she wishes it to be.

I always say I am willing to put into it whatever we can afford or find the
means to provide whether she goes into music or not as long as she is happy to do her part. She loves her music and works hard so we will keep going and see what happens. Even if she someday decides to be a doctor or lawyer or hair dresser, I won't regret what we spent. We are enjoying the ride. I love seeing her and her brothers having so much fun performing, we have gotten to travel, we have spent lots and lots of quality time together and have met and gotten to know some amazing people."

There are certain "sacrifices" or choices we have made to make it possible for Haley to follow her dreams. I prefer the word choices because we make the choice happily.

When we moved to a new home for Newt to go to school and wrestle, house costs (mortgage and property taxes) were a huge factor. We wanted to decrease our monthly payment and not take on any more debt so we'd be able to continue to afford Haley's lessons, new violins, orchestra, travel, etc... Sure, we could have moved to a bigger, nicer home...could have afforded one almost twice what ours costs but then other things would have been impossible.

We are currently hunting for a new current car has over 202,000 miles. Initially, I was thinking a new minivan would be the logical choice. I like the room and have been driving one. We began looking then I got to thinking as I sat at the gas pump refilling the van for the second time in a week, that a smaller, more fuel efficient vehicle might be a better choice. Buying something small enough would cut my fuel costs each week by 1/3rd. We looked at the Camry and Accord then I figured usually it is only Haley and I in the car 80% of the time so now my car choice is a Civic. We are keeping our minivan for those times when we need more room to carry more people but for those trips to violin and fiddle lessons and to orchestra rehearsals, the Civic will be the perfect choice.

Before the last two years, we took great family vacations...two weeks at the beach yearly then a two years ago, a 5 week amazing vacation to see the country. The last couple years, our vacation resources have gone to music camps for Haley and Dyl, wrestling camps for Newt, and trips to Ireland for the Fleadh. We are so blessed to have a wonderful community assist us in raising funds so we were able to go to Ireland the last two years, though last year only Haley, Mommy, and Daddy could go because of the cost. It is quite possible that Haley could qualify for Ireland numerous times while still in the under 12 age group so we have to seriously consider how often our wonderful community will be willing to help.

Often I feel like I am walking a tightrope balancing the kids activities...missing a wrestling match for an orchestra concert or having different kids running different directions for practices. It does get crazy at times and I do without "alone" time. The way I figure it, they are only young once...I only get one chance to do what I can for them then they are grown and gone. When they are adults, I will have all kinds of time and money to do with as I please...I can't imagine I'll be happier, though.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


Crew and cast waiting for the event to begin...
 Back in July, the kids played at Cold Spring Village for their Celtic Festival and Mr. Noble from the Irish American Cultural Society of South Jersey heard them play then asked them to perform for one of the group's meetings.

Last night was the event. It was advertised as "The Main Event" in Happenings at the Jersey Shore in The Press of Atlantic City. They drew a large crowd. Mr. Noble said it was the most well-attended event they have hosted yet. There was some concern over whether or not they would be able to fit everyone since the venue was only able to have 100 chairs. Every chair was filled and I think there might have been a couple late-comers standing.

The kids did a great job! They played for an hour and kept the energy going the entire time.

It was difficult for me to get a good photo because I was sitting to the side working the sound equipment.

Waiting to play...
Haley was her usual "I love to be on stage" self providing funny little quips and stories to go along with the tunes.

Newt sang "Galway Girl" and played his beat box and bodhran until his fingers bled.

Dylan did a great job on his guitar solo. Not everyone realizes that most of the arrangement of the tunes is Dylan's work. He has an ear for that sort of thing. Together he and Haley come up with some interesting ideas.

They received a standing ovation at the end and were asked to come back next year. They even sold a pile of CDs. I'd say it was a successful


Newt had a great weekend winning 5 more matches all either technical falls, pins, or major decisions. His record is now 11-2. It is so neat watching all his hard work, the past year especially, paying off. Maturity is making him much more confident and determined.

It is really neat as his mom to see the young man he is becoming!
Here's a photo of him finishing up a match.


 Last Sunday we tried to go to the Irish session at the Plough and the Stars on our way back from New York, but it had started and finished early due to the Eagles game. Haley asked to go this week and since we had nothing else planned, we grabbed Grammy, Poppop, and Dylan and headed over the bridge.
The session was really busy this week with some faces we hadn't seen before and some faces the kids love seeing. They had a great time playing music, laughing, and goofing around. Grammy, Poppop, and I had a nice dinner and lovely entertainment.

Whenever violin parents ask me about their children's interest in fiddle music and fiddling, I always recommend  finding area sessions. Even if their kids aren't ready to join in, it is wonderful to just go and hear the music. We have had nothing but good experiences at any sessions and have found sessions to attend in any city we've visited in the last couple years...Minneapolis, New York, Dublin, Cavan, Tullamore, Newark, Parsippany. etc... The things they all have had in common is friendly people and great music.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

New Recipe

I bought my husband The America's Test Kitchen Family Cookbook for Christmas. Not that we don't own enough cookbooks but I saw it at BJ's and remembered watching the show on PBS when the kids were little...before our weekends were taken up with activities. I got lots of good recipes from the show and didn't write down others I would have liked to have so I bought the cookbook hoping some of those were in there.

My husband likes to cook so it isn't a stretch buying him a cookbook especially not this one which also explains lots of different techniques rather than just giving the recipes.

Here's one we tried recently and liked...

Chicken Piccata

8 thin boneless skinless chicken breasts (either take 4 regular size breasts and slice in half longways or eight small breasts and pound them to an even thickness)

salt and pepper
1/2 cup flour
4 Tbsp oil
1 shallot minced
1 clove garlic minced
1 cup low sodium chicken broth
1/2 large lemon sliced into 1/4 inch thick half moons and end discarded
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (from 1.5 lemons)
2 Tbsp capers, rinsed
3 Tbsp unsalted butter cut into 3 pieces and chilled
2 Tbsp minced parsley

Heat oven to 200 degrees. Have all ingredients ready to go. Dry chicken cutlets then season with salt and pepper and dredge in flour to coat. Heat 2 tbsp oil in skillet over med-high heat until just smoking. Cook half the chicken for about 4 minutes each side. Transfer to warm plate and keep warm in oven. Repeat with remaining chicken in remaining oil.

Add shallot and garlic to oil left in skillet and cook over med heat until softened. Stir in broth and lemon slices, scraping up brown bits, and simmer until reduced adn slightly syrupy...about 8 minutes.

Stir in lemon juice, capers, and any accumulated chicken juice. Turn heat to low and whisk in butter one piece at a time. Off heat stir in parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with sauce over chicken.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Christmas Present...

I love my new camera. Here are some shots I took last night while the kids were practicing for their upcoming gigs...

Dylan jammin'


Bet you didn't know Newt could, he can't.

Goofy kids

Not as goofy kids

Newt seems to enjoy Haley's hippo tent more than she does. The question is...which of her dolls is he playing with in there?

Guitar riff...

Monday, January 03, 2011

Back to School...

The holidays are over. Now it's back to school for Haley and the boys. We took the holidays to do a bit of re-organizing, a lot of violin practice, and just took some time to enjoy ourselves. I read a few books and started an annoying puzzle.

Last Wednesday, Newt had a holiday tournament and took 3rd, suffering his 1st loss of the season to a senior who placed in regions last year. He wrestled hard the entire match and in a desparation move, nearly pinned the boy in the last few seconds but didn't have enough time to get it done. I was very proud that he walked off the mat the same way he walked on with his head held high and no theatrics (unlike many wrestlers I've observed with their throwing of headgear and pouting). Newt returns to a full schedule of wrestling this month...matches every Wednesday and Saturday with practices and lifting in between.

Last night, I took Dylan and Haley to play with Paraic and Shawn at their Con Murphy's gig. They have so much fun playing with those guys, laughing, joking, and fiddling around. There were some women with wonderful voices singing and a violinist (not a fiddler) showed up and asked to sit in. She had a lot of interest in learning fiddling.

Dylan goes back to school today. He's spent the holidays playing with his friend, Drew. He has especially enjoyed their snowmobiles with all the snow...which has now been rained away in 48 degree weather.

Haley has been working really hard the past couple weeks on her Souvenier de Sarasate by Potstock. She wants to play it in their upcoming concert and had to convince her teacher she could have it ready. She had a nice break this past month from all the technique books but is back to them this week and though not very excited about it, at least refreshed and ready to work. She said her New Year's Resolution was to practice technique happily.

The other day we met a friend at Barnes and Nobel and while there purchased a few workbooks...Singapore Challenging Word Problems and a grammar workbook. Haley sees her brothers doing homework and wants homework herself. Doesn't matter to her that all her work is technically "homework." She wanted books where she could tear out pages and have them assigned outside of our regular school time. Who am I to keep a child from learning?

I also was told about a website that has Spanish teaching videos in story format where she can learn conversational Spanish rather than the boring Rosetta Stone way. We are having technical difficulties with our computers and have been unable to get Rosetta Stone working in either one for about 2 months so we are going to try it.

My goals for her homeschooling this month are to finish up our study of colonial times and get through the Revolutionary War for history and finish up the Human Body for science. Math and Language Arts will continue with the addition of "homework" in the evenings. LOL

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Snowed In...

There is nothing quite so welcome as a good blizzard bringing a foot or more of snow and cancelling all those events that make your life so hectic for just a couple days. I hate winter and don't like the cold but being forced inside for a couple days where I can read a good book, or two, begin an annoying puzzle, put away the Christmas decorations, and have lots of time to listen to Haley and the boys practicing their instruments is a wonderful blessing and just what I needed.

Soon enough it's back to the tight schedule and all the fun that involves...

Here are a few pics from our Christmas celebration...

Newt's new hat

Grammy and Poppop trying out the boys' new winter hats

Dylan fixing his hat

Haley opening....

The tree