Tuesday, January 31, 2012

The Perfect Storm

Saturday night I was asked for the "who knows how many-th" time how long Haley has been taking lessons, who her teacher is, if she wanted to play fiddle/violin, etc...basically how did Haley become so good at playing? As it is many times, this time it was the mother of a toddler who was looking for advice on when to start her own child and which direction she should take.

"Turn around and run the other way" was probably not the response she was looking for. Ha!

No, seriously, I am always happy to share what worked for us and give people a starting point if they ask. I'll answer their questions and encourage them. Music has been a wonderful thing in the lives of my kids and I feel like I've often had to stumble upon things accidentally...I wish there was a guidebook.

But, I also hold back when answering those types of questions because I know just how much had to occur at just the right time to put us where we are now....kinda like the "perfect storm." There are a number of factors that had to be present to make this work out the way it has so far. It isn't as simple as taking a child to the same teachers or starting at the same age.

Haley, herself, is the biggest factor.  She is a bright kid. She memorizes extremely easily...she was memorizing every book I read to her beginning at 11 months old so learning music and keeping it in her head just became a natural extension of that skill. She extrapolates on what she learns with ease and applies her knowledge to new things. She is extremely mature for her age and always has been. She has an eye for detail so she seems to pick up every little aspect of what a teacher is trying to get her to do. She is determined and she wanted to play violin. This all started because she asked to play not because I had in mind that she would be a violinist/fiddler when she grew up. She likes to practice and will ask to practice if I don't think of it first. She enjoys the time we spend together practicing and she likes to make me happy so she isn't the kind of child who would be resistant to doing something.

Our Family
Our family is another big factor. We were already homeschooling when Haley came along. I was home with the kids and when I worked, their daddy was home with them. Haley is almost 5 years younger than her next youngest brother so she came along at a time when she seemed almost like having a 1st child all over again...her brothers were older and played together well so I had a lot of time to spend with her and could stop whatever I was doing to practice with her when she picked up the violin in those early years.

Music was always a big part of our lives. We listened to different styles on music, I sang to the kids every night before they went to sleep and in the car, and we danced around the kitchen regularly having fun to music.

We also value music education so are willing to put our resources like time and money into the kids'  music education. Having a child this involved in music takes lots of time. There are days sometimes when I feel like just forgoing practice for the day but we don't. Haley practices every day for hours unless she's ill but even ill she has always picked up her violin to play something. It is just part of our lives like getting dressed or eating.  It takes a lot of time and commitment. We have the ability to put in a lot of time because she home schools so can split her practice time and do it between school lessons. I don't think she would put in as much time if she had to go to school all day then practice for hours at a time after school.

We do without in other areas (house size, new cars, remodeling the house gets pushed back, etc...) to be able to provide the lessons and experiences she needs. I drive a lot transporting her to and from activities and spend quite a bit of time researching experiences for her.

Other People
The finale factors that play a big role are the people in our lives. Haley has amazing teachers. They seem to know exactly what she needs to improve and they each have a wonderful relationship with her. She loves them and works hard for them.

Besides the teachers there are the people who have given the kids opportunities to play their music, the wonderful people who come to see them play, those willing to help them raise money to go to Ireland, people who play music with the kids at sessions and with Haley in orchestra, and friends she has made who also play music. Without the friends she has made, both adult and kids her age, music would not be as fun for her.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Really Busy Day...Part 2

We had another incredibly busy day on Saturday. It started with a Skype fiddle lesson with Brian at 9am. Afterward, Haley got showered and dressed while I gathered up all we would need for the rest of the day and put it in the car.

We left the house at 10:30am, stopped and picked up our body guard, Grammy, and headed to the city to make the PR*SM call time of noon. The orchestras went through their program in a rehearsal then did their concert for real. They did a great job!
Haley pre-concert
Orchestra performancs

Orchestra performance

After the concert, we grabbed a bite to eat at a fast food joint then drove to Milkboy Recording studio for Haley and Dylan to join the Next Gen kids in the recording of a tune set for a CD being made by Irish Philadelphia as a fundraising venture for the website. They practiced their sets and played other sets together while waiting for the engineers to set up the sound equipment around them. The kids played through their set twice then decided they liked the first take best so that was fast.

Warming up before recording

Next Gen girls

Recording...Dylan is back between those big wooden things.

I then took the kids back across the bridge to Sacred Heart Church for the Celtic Spring Fling, a concert to benefit Heart of Camden which provides affordable homes for people in Camden. The concert was wonderful and afterward there was hot cocoa and Irish soda bread.

While we were busy doing all of the above, Newt was bust wrestling all day and taking 1st in the TriCounty Tournament in his weight class. He also made his 52nd career win as a sophomore. Newt is having a great year so far. He has only been scored on once and that was a questionable takedown. Any other points he has given up this year were from letting kids escape so he can take them down again. The team has a few more matches the next couple weeks and then the post season starts.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Paganini...Moto Perpetuo

Sunday, Haley performed Moto Perpetuo by Paganini for her teacher's studio recital. She worked really hard preparing because she had decided just before Christmas to play it instead of the Bartok Rumanian Dances she had originally chosen and she hadn't yet learned the last two pages of this piece then a week ago, her teacher had to move the concert up from Jan. 29th to the 22nd giving her one less week. She did a great job and worked really hard!

I did notice that the dress choice was not the best since it kept threatening wardrobe malfunction. Amazing that she memorized all those very similar notes and that she could keep going that quickly and still manage to keep her dress straps and sliding violin from falling off her shoulder! LOL

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Really Busy Friday!!!

Sometimes it seems like everything is scheduled on the same day. The next couple weekends we have days like that because of concerts and rehearsals, etc...

Yesterday was the first of those days. After getting the boys off to school, taking showers, eating breakfast, straightening up the house, doing two loads of laundry, and packing up for the day, we headed off for a rehearsal at 11:30am with the accompanist for Haley's classical concert on Sunday. She played through her Paganini Moto Perpetuo three full times and a number of partial times with the piano. One small brain fart and the piece will completely fall apart so it takes a lot of concentration.

From that rehearsal we headed to the next town over, ate the lunches we had packed and then went to Haley's violin lesson at 1pm. Her teacher did not make her work a lot on her Paganini since she had already played it so much. She played through it once, they talked about the opening, and a spot where she keeps playing F# rather than F natural. Then she put fingerings in her next Kreutzer exercise and worked on the Bartok Rumanian Dances.

Every Friday we go straight from violin lessons to grab some dinner then head over to the city for PR*SM orchestra rehearsal from 6:30 to 8:30. We always get there early and help set up the room. We don't have enough time to drive home and leaving a little later puts us in the middle of rush hour traffic so we just go help.

Last weekend, Haley's friend Paraic asked her to come to a gig he was doing at the Shanachie Pub which is only 15-20 min from where orchestra rehearsal takes place so we headed straight from orchestra to the pub. Paraic, Gabe, and David played tunes and sang songs. They invited Haley to join them on stage and she played some tunes on her own and some with Paraic while Gabe accompanied. They asked her back up in the 2nd half and then again at the end. She had a lot of fun playing with them. She stayed up the whole ride home even though we didn't get home until 1am. I thought for sure she'd be asleep before I even got on the highway after leaving the pub but she talked and sang to me all the way home.

Next Saturday is round #2 of Crazy, Busy Day!!!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Chicken Nachos

Well...a topic on the WTM board reminded me that I had wanted to put some recipes on my blog. (My plan is to someday get this blog printed out in book form for my kids to have and I think it would be really neat for them to read through and remember some of the things we used to eat when they were young.)

Here's something we eat whenever I am running around and need a quick meal that has a bit of everything in it...not exactly the healthiest meal on the planet but we like it and sometimes make it healthier by eating it on wraps or as a salad without the chips.

Chicken Nachos
Boil chicken (I usually boil a lot and make extra chicken for wraps for the boy's lunch)- shred the chicken into a pan. Season with salt, pepper, chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, cumin, and cilantro. Once warm add hot sauce to taste (we like Frank's hot sauce) then remove from heat.

Place nacho chips on a plate, top with seasoned chicken then shredded Mexican cheese (your choice). Can add black beans, refried beans, jalapeƱo pepper slices (fresh are best), or anything else you like. Heat under broiler or in microwave to melt cheese.

Top with any or all of the following...
guacamole or avocado slices
sour cream
whatever else you like : )


Friday, January 13, 2012

Back to school....

After the holidays and a quick trip to Texas, this week was our first full week back to homeschooling. We had managed to fit in some schooling the past few weeks but not a full week so it felt good to have a plan a get it all done this week.

Some changes in our school plan....

Our subscription to Thinkwell Pre-Algebra ran out so Haley started on Saxon 87 a few weeks ago because I am not ready to begin Algebra with her...yet. She likes Saxon. The review and extra topics not covered by Thinkwell will be good review/solidifying of material for her. I didn't feel like she got enough practice with Thinkwell.

She also finished up Best Poetry so I ordered Lightning Literature 7. I have been wanting to do that with her and she is now ready to read the selections and discuss them at the appropriate level to handle the program. Also, her output ability is at a level where she can get the most out of the program rather than just being able to superficially cover everything. She enjoyed the first story..."Rikki Tikki Tavi" (one of my favorite stories) and we are working through the workbook and student guide activities for the next couple weeks.

Haley is interested in doing more music theory so she is going to begin "The Language and Materials of Music" today. She also started piano lessons with a teacher at the music store where Dylan takes guitar. Hopefully a little knowledge of the piano will help her "see" the theory a little easier. She is doing the piano lessons on her own...meaning I am not going into the room with her. (Though I can hear everything that is going on from the waiting area.) I will help her with her practice when she asks but I would really like this to be "her thing."

We are continuing with PLATO Earth Science and other earth science resources and picking up the speed a bit with History of US and the other American Revolution resources so we can hopefully make it at least to the Civil War before the end of June. Other things on our plate include...

Wordly Wise
Rosetta Stone Gaelic and Spanish
Language Mechanics
Mapping the World with Art

Here is Haley's Mapping the World with Art project for the week. She really enjoyed making this huge cookie of Africa with it's sprinkly sandy deserts, chocolate chip mountains, and icing rivers. Crafts are right up her alley. With the rest of the cookie dough, she used her music cutters and made note and violin cookies. (see below)

Violin and fiddle are going really well. Haley is preparing Paganini's Moto Perpetuo for her teacher's studio concert that has been moved up to next Sunday (ah!). Her orchestra concert is the following weekend along with an Irish performance she and Dylan are doing at an area church's Celtic Spring Fling. She has been practicing a lot lately!

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Pride January...

Yesterday we started the day watching Newt pin two opponents at his quad wrestling match. We had to leave before his 3rd match but the other team forfeited to him anyway so we didn't miss much. The team won all 3 matches and is now 3-1 which is a huge improvement over last year.

Haley and I had to leave to drive to NY then went with Brian and another of his students to CT to see a Pride of NY concert. They were amazing last night. The music was great and they were funny and entertaining. The crowd knew the music and "yipped" and clapped along. It was just a great concert.

The band asked Haley to join them on stage though Joanie told her she had to play her worst tunes and not play them her best so she didn't "show them up." LOL She and Haley messed with each other while Haley played which was pretty funny. After the concert, Haley joined them again to play ceili style (ie. fast) for dancers to dance a few sets. (That's what the picture above is though it's difficult to see Haley from where I was standing and I couldn't get in front to shoot a pic because the dancers were swirling around out there.)

Texas for the holidays...

 The Wednesday after Christmas, Haley and I joined Grammy and Poppop for a quick trip to Houston, TX to visit the western half of the family...my sister and her family who recently moved to TX and my brother and family who came from CA for the holidays. Haley had fun being the "big" cousin since her brothers had to stay home for wrestling and school.

The drive took two days but Haley kept herself busy in the back of the car doing schoolwork, reading books, writing her novel, and playing. She is used to riding so does it well. Once there, she had cousins both bigger and littler to play with and she spent lots of time practicing her fiddle. The weather was warm so they played outside, took walks, and even did a little swimming in the lap pool at the house.

We ate out quite a number of times. The older cousins were very excited to go to the "chop, chop with fire" Japanese restaurant though Kendall was scared to death of the actual fire part and curled up in Poppop's lap hiding her eyes. We also had some delicious Mexican food one afternoon. Family style fajitas with a huge metal dish of meat over coals.

Chop, chop with fire restaurant
Mexican restaurant

Before we left for Texas, I had contacted a young fiddler we met at Swannanoa last year who I knew lived in Texas, though not anywhere near where we were going to be. I asked him if he knew where we could find some Irish music. He put me in touch with a nice husband and wife who happened to be having a New Year's party with an Irish session at their home. They invited us to attend. It was a really nice party and we met lots of new Irish music friends. Haley enjoyed playing in the session and played for the whole 5 hours. She learned some new tunes and played some old favorites. There was a young man playing uillean pipes beautifully. He happened to be the principal horn player for the San Diego symphony just visiting home for the holidays.

One day Haley was "Show and Tell" for her cousins Kindergarten class. We took her over near the end of the day and she played some fiddle tunes for the kids who were fascinated by her then she answered their questions. One little girl had just received a violin for Christmas and was excited to let us know. Maybe Haley's playing will inspire her like other people have inspired Haley.

Wren Party 2012

In the Irish community, St. Stephen's Day is celebrated the day after Christmas with a Wren Party. Traditionally, a group of young lads would kill a wren, put it on a stick, then go around the neighborhood wearing fancy made up hats, singing for their neighbors and threatening to leave the poor dead wren (hence, bad luck) if not given a coin or treat.

Our modern wren party does not involve the killing of any small birds but we do get together, wear funny hats (usually having some pretend bird on them somewhere), and sing, dance, tell stories, have a puppet show for the children, etc... The party is  a lot of fun for all.

Each year, Haley looks forward to making her wren hat and joining in the parade of hats and participating in the hat competition. She has taken 1st for her hats each year but I think that has more to do with the many fans of her fiddle playing than any actual hat making gift though she does a good job on her hats. She also dances those ceili dances she knows and joins the band when not dancing.

Wren hats on parade