Saturday, April 27, 2013

Getting and Giving a Bit of Culture...

My kids performed for the Millville Multicultural Festival last night. The public schools in Millville do a Multicultural Week where the kids hear stories, do crafts, and eat foods to learn about different cultures. At the end of the week they host a performances. This is the second year the kids have done this event.

This year, there were Latin American dancers, my kids playing their Irish music with their friend, Francesca, Irish dancing for them, dancers doing dances from India, and Hawaiian dancers. The dancers from India had a little tiny girl dancing with them who was absolutely adorable.

During the Hawaiian dancers show, they called up audience members to "teach" them how to do a dance. Daddy was one of those selected. He was a great sport. Here are the results of his Hawaii dance lesson.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Haley and Dylan...

Here's a little video of Haley and Dylan playing in Washington D.C. a couple weekends ago.  I can't figure out a way to make it show up directly on my blog. Hmmmm.

Haley participated in PRYSM's practice marathon last month and, since she practices a lot (one of the main reasons homeschooling is perfect for her), won some tickets to see the Philadelphia Orchestra doing a family program of Vivaldi's Ring of Mysteries on Saturday. It was a small orchestra along with two actors performing the show. Haley loved Vivaldi's Ring of Mysteries when she was little (littler than she is now) so she really enjoyed the performance.

Saturday night all the kids performed for the Bridgeton Rotary's Hug a Bear 10th Anniversary Celebration. They rehearsed during the week then decided to change a couple things so needed to practice on Saturday before we left. People are always asking me if they always get along as well as they do on stage. In an effort to "be real," I have to say, "BWAAAAHAHAHA!!! Are you kidding???" (My actual reaction is generally a knowing smile and, "Uh, they have their moments.")

Here is a little picture of what a typical practice looks like with kids aggravating their mother (notice my little angel doing her part to play nicely...again, bwaaahahaha!!!!)

We had a lovely dinner, met some new people, and got to see the kids performance plus an illusionist. Haley sat right in the front trying to figure out how he did all those tricks. LOL! They performed wonderfully despite annoying their mother all afternoon.

Yesterday, Haley and I drove up to New York with friends, Livia also takes fiddle lessons with Brian. The girls had a lesson then we stayed around for Brian's session at Mickey Spillane's Pub. It was nice having someone to talk to during the drive and session.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Suzuki Memories...

Haley and I were looking for something under my bed the other day and came upon her first violin scrapbook. Haley took a picture of this picture with her iPad and sent it to me. It is Haley at her very first violin concert when she was 3 years old. She and three other 3-4 year olds in her group class got up on stage, bowed, sang a "Up Like a Rocket" and something else, bowed again, and walked off stage.

I love the Suzuki start to violin. I love the way the children learn everything through games and skills are broken down into easily accomplished components depending on the child's needs. I love the way the children, even those who have not yet learned a song and maybe just know how to bow correctly (violin in rest position, feet together, look at your shoes, down 1-2-3, up, ta-da!!!) are encouraged to be in front of an "audience." The Suzuki approach worked perfectly for us. I read the books, followed the teacher's directions, was home enough to fit in practice multiple times during the day whenever Haley brought me her violin, and kept it fun for her.

Looking at this picture and the others in the scrapbook reminded me of all our time together practicing over the years. My niece is beginning her Suzuki "journey" and her mom sent me a note thanking me for giving her the Helping Parents Practice book by Ed Sprunger. I didn't really use the book much because I bought it after we already had a good practice routine but I found many of "our" games in there plus more.

I look back fondly on those little games... (here are a few)
-playing in various rooms in the house, in front of mirrors, or outside
-playing for different "audiences" from Lego people to Playmobile people to a line of stuffed animals
-flashcards for tunes and technique (pick one from each pile and do what's on them)
-"See if I can guess what you are working on"  (Haley secretly focuses on a technique while playing a piece and I have to guess what it is)
-laying on the floor to play
-playing different rhythms we made up
-play what I play (where I play a few notes on the piano and Haley played them back on her violin)
-using an abacus or small treats to "count" repetitions...Haley loved to "finish" the abacus in a week

When Haley started violin, I didn't have any expectations or plans. She had asked to learn to play and I thought music education was important for brain development. I figured she'd have her weekly lesson and group class, we'd practice every day during the week, and by the time she was a teen, she'd have a decent ability to play violin. I had no idea how much she'd love playing and how integral a part of our lives music would be.

Sometimes, I joke about running the other way if I'd have known but seriously that is just a joke, though it is not easy keeping up with a child who loves what they are doing. I know it is the same for parents of any child doing something at an advanced level whether it is academics, sports, music, etc... The costs, driving time, sacrifice of personal time and things, finding appropriate opportunities, and trying to balance all that with the needs of other family members often feels like a tight rope walk or juggling act.

But it is all worth it when you see that same smile on the face of your 10 year old having fun doing what she loves to do whether she is on a huge stage or fiddling around in a corner of a room with her friends at a small session.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

CCE National Convention 2013 and Spring is here!!!

Haley and Rose playing in a session.
This weekend was the annual CCE National Convention. As I told a number of people at the hotel who asked me what was going on, "Comhaltas is an organization that promotes Irish music, dance, and culture. Once a year, members of the organization come from all over the country  to celebrate their culture, have workshopsin music and dance, and meet together." Clear, concise and to the point.

Haley had orchestra Friday night so I drove the kids down to Washington D.C. early Saturday morning. Haley took fiddle workshops while Dylan took workshops in banjo and bouzouki during the day. Between workshops, the kids ate the lunch I'd packed then played session-style with a small group of young people who gathered waiting for the next workshop to start.

After the workshops, we ran into the above session upstairs and Haley saw her fiddle teacher's sister, Rose, playing so joined in. (We love these conventions because there are almost always people playing together somewhere.) I took that picture with Haley's iPad and it is really cool how it focused in on Haley and Rose even from across the room!

She played for about an hour then the man who records video for who we'd run into when we first arrived at the hotel found us and asked the kids to play some tunes for him. They set up in the hotel lobby and played a number of sets for him to record. The last National Convention we attended was the one in Parsippany when Haley was 7 years old. It was the first time he recorded her. Here's a link to that video. We also saw him in Cavan, Ireland this past August where he recorded her again (though he spelled her name wrong and put the wrong age LOL).

When they finished recording, the kids were famished (and so was I). We had some dinner then went up to the hotel room to relax for about an hour before heading out for the night. The gala for the convention was starting when we went back downstairs so most people were going to that but they found their friends, Jayne and Bram, who are always up for some tunes and playing in a corner of the lobby together for a few hours. 

During their playing, a young man with a viola dropped by and added some accompaniment to their tunes and a boy with a tin whistle stopped to play a set or two. When they got tired of playing by themselves and the gala was finished they walked around to find more musicians to play with, stopped by different sessions to play, walked a bit, then stopped again. Dylan excused himself to bed around 11pm...early mornings are not his cup of tea but Haley was determined to get all the music in she could. She stayed up playing until 1am, then I finally talked her into going to bed. (I was tired and having a hard time keeping my eyes open.)

We left the hotel in the morning and on the way home, Haley and Dylan said they wanted to go to Plough and the Stars in Philly for the Sunday night session. I had had a good night of sleep and their Daddy, who had stayed home and painted the house while we were away, was excited to go. So we drove home, Haley practiced violin while Dylan did homework, then we went to the Plough. Sometimes I don't think they can get enough Irish music. 

I think we may have brought spring home with us from D.C.!!!! Yesterday was a perfect 75 degrees! Out came the shorts. Daddy continued his house painting. I raked the strawberries...though I think they have seen better days and next year we will have to plant new ones. Haley and I took a run after her classes and enjoyed the beautiful weather. Newt went fishing and caught a huge pike. Dylan washed and detailed my car....I love him so much!!! 

Monday, April 01, 2013

Happy Easter!!!

Well, I started this post yesterday so I could post it on Easter but I didn't quite finish.....

We decided to start a new Easter tradition for our family. We woke at 5:45am so get ready and go to the Easter Sunrise Service at the local state park. I think I did a sunrise service once as a teen. Haley and Newt woke up easily but we had to drag Dylan out of bed. It was a beautiful morning at the park. The spring birds were chirping, geese honking, turkeys gobbling, and the sun came up with red and pinks...."red sky in morning, sailors take warning." ( Yes, it did rain later in the day.)

The service was well attended. There was singing and prayer. A senior at our local high school gave a wonderful sermon about remaining true in our walk toward God and turning away from worldly things. I was very impressed not only with his message but his public speaking ability. He was witty and had something important to say.  Bravo to his parents!

After church we had a quiet day at home. Haley and I had fun getting out her packed away spring clothes (Um, not!)....My has she grown this year! All those clothes she's been wearing year after year are finally too small....time to pass on the size 6 shorts. My child has a hard time passing on clothing she's outgrown and it was a rough afternoon for her. LOL

I made a delicious baked salmon with sauteed spinach and mashed potatoes....a dish Haley and I enjoy at one of the pubs where we attend sessions. I managed to capture the dish perfectly. Yum! Also made a plan to eat more fish this year.

A bit of catching up....

Last weekend Haley and I helped her friend, Sofia, celebrate her birthday with ice skating at Rockefeller Center. We'd never been. The weather was perfect and it was a fun afternoon. I was reminded of muscles I'd forgotten I had.

We went for some hot cocoa (chai tea for the grownups) and desserts afterward. Sofia picked this lovely little chocolate tart.

Then we rode the subway back where the girls baked cupcakes and decorated them. They had a lot of fun preparing their decorations then deciding which to use. Anya sat in to watch the fun and taste test the results.

Haley and I stayed the night at her fiddle teacher's home then she took a lesson in the morning before we drove back to NJ for a Palm Sunday Ceili. Haley didn't perform there but spent the afternoon dancing.

Then a number of the ceili participants drove back to Lazy Lanigans (the pub nice enough to host Haley's fundraiser last year) for some dinner and a spontaneous session.

This Saturday, Haley and her friends, Alex and Keegan, met at Fergies Pub to work on their tunes for the trio competition at the Fleadh in May. Last year they decided the night before the competition to enter and worked on figuring out tunes and practicing until late at night. They decided they'd get a head start this year and actually have a plan. They practiced for two hours getting all their notes together (they each played slightly different versions of the tunes they picked) and figuring out which variations they'd like to do then we went down to the session for dinner and some tunes.