Sunday, January 25, 2009

calling all creative people I know...

We are planning out New Beginnings program for the Young Women at Church.  Our theme for the program is "Boot Camp"  there will be a skit, decorations, and awards that we need to coordinate.  BUT, specifically, my group (12-13 year old) is in charge of food (refreshments/dessert).  So, I need your ideas by Tuesday afternoon.
The budget is:  whatever, 
I thought of "mess tent" and MRE's but that's about as far as it goes.
camo could be involved
The girls are supposed to do most of it, but really that means I'll do at least 1/2 of the work.  And I will still be on crutches so that is a consideration.  
I can't wait to hear from you with your ideas. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


I still can't walk.  Last week I needed a change of scenery.  It was getting pretty boring sitting on the couch.  And the dr. said it was good to get up and get around as much as I could.  so, we went to Sam's Club on Thursday (of course).  Rick said he would get me a "Jazzy" or whatever it's called, but I wanted to get up off my butt so I used crutches.  We bought just a few things that we needed.  It was a quick trip.  Rick said that he would go get the truck and pick me up at the curb.  I told him I would try to hobble out as far as I could.  When I got to the truck I was red faced, out of breath and about to die.  I had to grab a tissue to wipe the sweat from my brow.  Seriously.  The next morning when I woke up my arms and shoulders and back were so sore I thought I was going to die.  but, I needed to use the bathroom so I quickly grabbed my crutches and hobbled to the bathroom, moaning with each step.  How could my arms be so sore?  It was good, though because it took my mind off the pain in my foot, if only for a moment.  As the days go by, my arms AND my foot hurt less and less.  Sort of.  I still cannot put ANY weight on my foot.  I am trying to follow the dr's orders, EXACTLY, because if everything goes perfectly well, I can get this cast off in 2 weeks.  I will still have to wear one of those big black boot things and use crutches, but still that is a huge improvement in my mind.
So, I'm surviving.  thanks for all of your help, support, food, and prayers.  I will survive.  

happy 2 me

The new U2 album comes out in 38 days, which is February 27, which is my birthday.  But, only if you live in Dublin.  If you live in the USA, then it comes out on March 3, either way, I will be celebrating, afterall it's been 5 years since the last album came out.  I've heard the single "Get your Boots On" a couple of times now and, yep, it's good.

From their website:

'On this spot where we're standing, 46 years ago, Dr King had a dream. On Tuesday, that dream comes to pass.' U2 performed 'Pride' and 'City of Blinding LIghts' to an audience of 400,000 in front of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington tonight.

"Let freedom ring," announced Bono as U2 arrived on stage and struck up the opening bars of Pride (In The Name of Love). “This is not just an American dream,' he said. "Also an Irish dream, a European dream, an African dream … an Israeli dream ... and also a Palestinian dream."

'Let freedom ring, let freedom ring....' he continued, as Edge played the opening chords to City of Blinding Lights. "What a thrill for four Irish boys from the north side of Dublin to honour you sir, the next president of the United States, Barack Obama...'

And it looked beautiful again tonight, in this city of blinding lights where as the song went tonight. 'America is getting ready to leave the ground....'

  Band 2002Grammy Awards, Los Angeles, 2001All That You Cant Leave BehindHow To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb  

final music comments

Yeah, I think this program is great, but it's certainly not for everybody.  for example, you have never seen me drive around the county three times a week and park my fanny in a stadium chair and watch parents yell and scream at each other about why their kid isn't on the field (I'm talking about soccer.)  thank goodness for me, up to this point I have not had a child who wanted to play soccer and I am certainly not going to push it.  The reason:  I AM NOT THAT DEDICATED.  I may have to change my stance on that in the future, but for now I am not a soccer mom.  It doesn't work for me.  Same with piano for other people.  This is a pretty committed program and it's not for everyone.
About when to start kids on piano:
I had always heard that kids need to know how to read before they should start piano lessons.  Because if they can read words/books/whatever, then they can read music.  Summer started taking lessons in 3rd grade (same age as I was).  She did fantastic from the beginning but she could have started much sooner.  Sierra wasn't even in kindergarten when she started so she certainly wasn't reading.  she did fine as well.  of course, she didn't progress as quickly, but in the end she will come out ahead.  When Sierra first started I had some concerns and was actually afraid that had started too soon.  It seemed that she was just memorizing the notes and that she wasn't really reading the music.  I flipped out and went to the teacher thinking that my precious pennies were going to waste.  The teacher assured me more than once that it was ok.  She was learning ear training.  She didn't know how to read (words) and she didn't know that she was supposed to keep her eyes on the music the whole time.  It sounded hokey to me but I was patient and sure enough, she learned to play by ear and easily eventually learned to read music as well.  It was so crazy watching it all develop.   (But if you think about it, kids do learn to read in the very beginning by looking at the pictures as well as the words, so it's kinda the same, sort of...)
So, I am all about starting them early, when they are excited about it.  Especially boys.  I think of all the boys I took lessons with and most of them took for only 2 to 3 years and I never remember any of them ever playing for anything once they quit.  I think they need to get in several good years of lessons before they hit that 4th grade time frame when they get more and more interested in sports and things and they start to develop the attitude that piano lessons are for girls.  
Cole (age 3) has been taking Music in Me for 1 year.  Mostly I started doing it because he needed help/support in training for his Nursery class at church.  so, I did this class with him because it was once a week and the parent stays with the child.  I thought it would be a good place to start.  It was.  But, Cole struggled.  He wouldn't sing or do the hand motions or play on the keyboard or participate in any way.  Now he loves it.  Like I said before, he will sing, play the notes on the keyboard and do all of the activities.  It's not a piano class,  just as introduction to music.  I did kindermusic with Sierra for a while and it has some similarities.  Now that he has done it for 1 year he can move up to the next level where they spend more and more time on the keyboard.  oh, and they do flashcards each week and Cole can identify things like Base Cleft, Treble cleft, quarter note, quarter rest, whole note, whole rest.  Now, certainly he doesn't know what that all means, but it's all just introduction.  We'll see how he does in this class.  it's pretty flexible and he can repeat a semester if he needs more basics before he starts the lessons.  Either way, he will be in a piano class by next fall or next spring.  I'm pretty excited to see how he does.  Either way, it's comparable to a preschool class once a week because what do they really learn at preschool?  take turns, listen to the teacher, sing, listen.  So, even if he doesn't come out of his little music lessons able to write a symphony he still is gaining valuable skills.  So, I'm of the opinion, the younger the better.
Another thing they do is give you a CD with the music for that particular semester on it.  Some times it's just the music, sometimes words, and sometimes it includes the solfege.  So, we'll be cruising around town singing to our piano music.   What a great use of time!

That's all.  Maybe.   

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Music Lessons Part 2

OK, a little bit about my own music training.  I had one of the best piano teachers around.  She was a young mom who moved into our ward.  She had a degree in Music History (I think) and her husband was on the faculty at BYU in music.  They have been in the MoTab.   They had piano music wall paper on their walls.  I loved her.  I babysat for them.  I think they had one of the best piano lesson experiences that there was to offer.  However, like I already said...the lessons were 30 minutes, in her home, with 3 young kids, phone ringing (those were the days before caller ID and answering machines!), kids crying.  They really did try to keep to to a minimum, but the reality is, looking back, there were a lot of distractions.  
We had 1 recital per year.
I never learned to sing while I played.  I absolutely cannot carry a tune for the life of me.
I cannot begin to play by ear.  I never received that type of ear training.
I cannot play while people sing.  I never learned that and I am too intimidated to try it now that I'm an adult (except for an extreme emergency for Primary once in a while)
I do not know how to transpose music.
I do not know very much music theory at all.
I think my mom paid about $50 per month for my piano lessons and I took for 8 years.  (7 from the same teacher).  If I'm off on any of this mom, please correct me.  I probably took a month or two off in the summers.  So, for my music education it cost approximately $500 per year or $4,000 plus the cost of books.  I seriously appreciate the sacrifice it was for my parents to do this for me and my sister for all of those years.  So, don't think I'm complaining in any way.

This is what Sierra's course of music training will be once she is done at Art City Music.
Sierra basically started in the beginning with the Young Musician Program.  (They have all sorts of flowcharts of when and where to start them for what age they are.  I always heard that  you should be able to read, so 1st or 2nd grade before they should start piano lessons.  These guys start their students in actual music classes at age 3, yikes, that's Cole!)
So, Young Musician is 4 semesters, each semester is 20 weeks with a recital at the end of the semester.  Sierra finished that course and took an optional transitional semester.  In this class they learned about transposing music and comping* while learning folk songs.  it was a fun semester.  So, she has had 5 semesters.  Now she is in Keyboard Musician, which is 4 semesters.  Their is an optional 5th semester if the teacher feels that  the student needs reenforcement on any of the concepts. 
That means by the time Sierra graduates she will have all of the skills I have mentioned in a total of 9 semesters or possibly 10.  Summer has done it in less time because she is older and could handle more information in less time.  But learning music is kind of like learning a foreign language and they say that by the time a child is 12 years old they have lost the ability to learn a language as a native language than a foreign language or a second language.  Basically the window of time for children to learn music is short and it is harder to learn it as they get older.
The basic price for a semester is $250.  There is a fee for books and a $20 fee per year for registration.  They give a discount for paying by the semester rather than by the month and they give a family discount for each additional member of the family.  Sierra is using summer's books so I didn't have to buy more books.  So, I don't know right off hand what that comes out to but for Sierra to take for 9 semesters, it will cost me around $4,500.  That is only $500 more than my music education cost my parents 25 years ago.  And I figure that Sierra is spending almost twice as much time in music instruction even if that is in a group setting.  And she loves it and she really will come out of this experience with so many more skills than I did.

*About Comping:  I didn't know what this was until the girls started learning it.  Sierra is performing a comping song for her recital piece.  It is a Cuban Folk song.  She will sing the words (melody) while she plays the accompaniment.  When they learn the song, the notes are not printed, just the chord names.  So, it might look like this:
They are able to use whatever variation they want.  The formula above is for a blues style song.
I seriously had no idea what any of this meant until the girls learned it in their classes.

I looked Harmony Road music class locations up online and is says that there is a location in Phoenix.  I don't know any more than that.

I don't know if any of this makes sense, but I love the program. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

"I'm about to get on my soap box" alert

Art City Music.  I guess I am feeling a little bit sentimental because summer is just about to graduate from Art City Music Academy's Keyboard Musician Program and enter private piano lessons.  I know, you're thinking you've heard this one from me before, but you can choose to continue or not...Way back in the day when we lived in Mississippi Rick told  me about this music program that one of his advisors recommended for children.  It was Yamaha School of Music and it was a group music program.  First of all, we couldn't afford groceries, how could we afford a music school?  And it was a group lesson situation.  I was 100% convinced that it would not work.  I actually thought it was just a way to get more kids in the door for a lesson and out the door faster for a bigger cash flow.  But, since they offered a free trial class and Summer and Sierra could attend classes at the same time, I decided to give it a try.  One of Rick's fellow residents had 2 of his children in the same classes as my girls.  Jill (the mom) and I tried to sit and observe and be somewhat optimistic.  by the end of the class we were sold and had enrolled all 4 kids in the program.  We did it for a year and were very sad when our husbands graduated and it was time to move away from yamaha school of music.  Jill's family was moving to Tupelo and could not find a similar program.  She contemplated driving 2 hours to jackson each week just so her kids could continue with the program because she was so in love with it.  It was actually a possibility for them because they homeschooled and could work it out once a week.
  We did some research and consulted with music director there and discovered that there was another program called Harmony Road.  The founders of this program were originally trained in Yamaha, but had relocated and started their own music school.  I think they are based in Seattle.  So, we discovered that Art City Music uses harmony road curriculum, but also has implemented many of their own little details and have created their own music school with 3 different Utah Co. locations, plus a new one in SL county.  Perfect, we met the owners, figured out where summer and sierra fit into their program and got started immediately.  Cole has taken for 2 full semesters now as well.  His class is more music, singing, story telling, hand motions, and some key board exercises.  At first he would not have anything to do with the singing at all.  He would just sit on my lap and pout.  This week when he went he was playing the correct notes on the key board, playing other instruments (maracas, bells, drums, etc.) and (excuse me while a wipe a tear) HE EVEN SANG...SOLFEGE!!!  His new semester starts soon and they will be focusing less on stories and actions and more on the actual piano.  He's 3.  He's not even potty trained.  And he knows middle C.  Can you tell how excited I am?
OK back to the girls.  This is why I think it works:  First, I think it is the best deal for the money.  Don't ask me how much it is, it is pretty spendy.  BUT,  don't  you remember the days of piano lessons and you hated a certain song or you just weren't in the mood to practice or you were on vacation or whatever and so you didn't practice or you just flaked our for a few weeks.  Well, there is no flaking out in this program.  Sierra is in her first semester ( of 4) of Keyboard      Musician.  They have all 4 semesters laid out in a binder, week by week.  Each week of homework (music theory), flashcards, written homework, and sight reading excercises and all printed out, and described in detail.  for example, when we went to Hawaii last month.  I knew exactly what the girls were missing for those 2 weeks.  So, we bumped up our practicing before vacation and played a little catch up over Christmas and when we went back in january nobody knew the difference.  They do allow make-up classes but that works more for illness and not for a 2 week vacation situation.  So, I believe that by the time I have paid for these 4 semesters of lessons (basically 2 years with a 2 month break for summer vacation) Sierra will have learned more about music and piano than I ever did in all of my years of piano lessons (a lot!) 
Second, the kids love the group music lessons.  The lessons plans are laid out for the instructors in very specific details.  The girls have had 3 different teachers now.  I thought that wouldn't be very effective either, but because the lessons are so carefully planned and detailed, any instructor (who is trained in their program) could step in and teach a class without much more than a few minutes notice.  
Their instructors are very well trained.  Many of them are college music students or graduates.  They are thoroughly  trained in the Art City Music Curriculum.   Summer and Sierra's first teacher at Art City, Ms Krissy was a graduate student in music and was specializing in choir and conducting.  She has spent the last several months helping Art City Music to write a voice training program for some of their older music students.      
The kids each have their own keyboard.  They love playing together (I never could play duets because that was too much pressure to play "with" someone.  I never learned that skill).  They love singing with the music (I never learned how to accompany music and have never played for more than Primary--they don't care if I mess up!).  The classes are about 50 minutes long and the time FLIES by.  My kids are not afraid whatsoever to perform for anyone.  (Recitals scared the H right out of me) (speaking of recitals...there is another one, yes another one on January 24.  Same place different time.  call me if  you're dying to come and I'll let you in on the details.  My kids won't care who comes really.  They just love to perform.  How cool is that??)
They also do weekly sight reading training.  At first I didn't see the practicality of this but as the past couple of years have gone by, I can see how it all fits together and has developed that skill.  they believe that sigh reading is the single most important thing that  music student can take into adulthood because it will be the thing that determines most if an adult will use their music education to continue playing the piano.  Most adults will not take the time to sit down and study and learn a new piece of music on a regular basis.  However, if they have the skill to sit down and sight read through a piece, then they will be much more likely to continue playing the piano into adulthood.   
another thing I LOVE is that the lessons take place in a music studio.  There are about 10 keyboards, so there are more than enough for everyone to have their own keyboard (I know, I know, they're just keyboards, not baby grands, but, hey at least it makes the digital piano at home look a little better, right?)  There are no other children running around being a distraction, there is no phone ringing, or other disruptions.
They have "Pass Off Standards" that must be met in order for them to pass off a song.
They also have "Practice Directions" for their songs.  I love this idea.  It breaks everything down so nicely so that even the tough stuff is not intimidating. 
Ok, the downside:  I have been attending 2 hours of piano lessons every Tuesday for 3 1/2 years.  WHY?  It helps so much.  I know what my kids are supposed to be practicing, I can answer their questions so they don't have to wait all week to figure something out, and I can support them and the teacher.  The parents can help the child know what questions to ask or what parts are troubling them.  It really is a pain in the neck to arrange my schedule to do this (especially when I drive 30 minutes to the Orem locations and then SIT there for 2 hours) but I really wouldn't keep doing it if I didn't think it was worthwhile.  I absolutely know that I learn something each week along with them.  I'm amazed at all of the things they have learned.  I contemplated taking a music class at BYU but I was always too intimated because I knew NOTHING about music theory.  but, I would have no problem sending Summer off to a music class with what she knows right now.
Anyway, if anyone is still reading after this big, long, huge boring post, please know that I am not in anyway being rewarded for the good things I have said about this program.  I am just grateful that these 2 BYU music graduates got together and used their music knowledge and obsessive compulsive behaviors to write such a fabulous and detailed music program.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

I survived...

here is a close up of my toes.  One of them didn't make the picture, but I swear it's in there somewhere.  It seems as though I may have lost the feeling in my 2nd toe, but whatever.  it could be worse.   I asked the dr. before he did the surgery if he had actually performed this procedure before.  He informed me that he had already done 3 of them that morning, but none with the staple situation that I had. The whole "worst case scenario" situation certainly ended up being the case.  It took the dr. 30 extra minutes just to remove the staple that was left from the last surgery.  It had "barbs".  He said everything was fine after he finally went down to Home Depot and picked up the wire cutters.
When I woke up, the nurse asked me what my pain level was.  I said 7 because I knew that they wouldn't let me go home if I said 10.  The nurse patted me and said that she wouldn't let me go home until I was at a 5.  so, the next time she came in I lied and told her 5.  so, they sent me on my way with some ice and pain medication.  I threw up on the way home.  I don't care if that's too much information,  it's true.  For the first 24 hours, my mom, Rick, and the other mother babied me along as they cleaned my house and did the laundry.  Mostly I just wanted to sit and cry, but I knew that wouldn't make anything better.  I'm feeling better now, my pain level is 9.5
Do not bring me cookies.  I'm serious. 

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Happy to me

Rick is so sweet.  He got me a new sewing machine for Christmas.  It's so fancy that it took both of us an hour to learn how to thread it on Christmas day.  I've been so excited to try it out, but a little intimidated as well.  After the hour long attempt to thread the machine, I was almost in tears and ready to return the whole thing on Dec. 26.  But, I plugged along and have learned what a few of the whistles and bells do.  I have mastered some simple projects for the last week just so I could concentrate on the complicated owners manual and all of the fancy things I may some day learn how to do.  
Here's the thing, I'm sad to let me old sewing machine go.  Now that I've used this new one, I'm realizing how crappy my old sewing machine really was.  It doesn't have a light.  I know, I know, just replace the light, right? Wrong, I tried that like 5 times, for the last little while I've just been using an old desk lamp aimed at the needle area when I sew.  I bought that old thing for $89 at Walmart.  It was in K'ville.  I had been tutoring and I had saved every single penny until I could afford to buy the cheapest machine there was.  I was so excited, and the funny thing is, I couldn't sew a straight line if I tried.  but, I've learned a little along the way. I sewed these cute little dish towels last week so practice using my new machine.  The Christmas decorations weren't even put away and I was whipping cute Valentine looking dish towels.  I just couldn't help how cute they turned out.  I made one last night with green so that I'll be ready for St. Patrick's day. 

Book Review

Summer got this book for Christmas:

It's called the Mysterious Benedict Society, by Trenton Lee Stewart.  It's a New York Times Bestseller.  I started reading it before Summer did, then she got it and started reading it.  At first she didn't like it, then she couldn't put it down.  I'm at the part right now where I can't put it down either.  It has 450+ pages and there is at least 1 sequel.  So, for having not even finished the book, I recommend this for a quickish, clean, clever read.  I'll let you know when I finish it how well I really liked it.  
And I'll probably be getting the sequel (the Mysterious Benedict Society and the Perilous Journey) for Summer (and me) to read soon: 


I've been thinking...

OK. I'm going under the knife in a few days, no, I'm not getting my front yard done.  It's more like the back step or's my foot.  Nothing exciting.  But, still I'm stinking nervous.  It made me think of a conversation between Summer and my mom from when we were in Hawaii.  Rick and I had taken Cole and gone grocery shopping for an hour or so.  We left Summer and Sierra with Grandma Nanners.  (I swear that is the only time for the entire trip that I left my children with my mother)  Summer immediately started taking over and marching everyone around the condo, cleaning up, organizing, you know, the usual "Summer's in change scene".  Sierra and my mom hid from her for a few minutes and managed to have this little conversation:    My mom asked if Summer does this often.  Sierra said yes.  and that they would be fine if I ever died.  Summer would just take right over and not skip a beat.  Everything would be taken care of by Summer.  The only problem would be when the "new Mom" came along, if Summer and "the new Mom" would be able to get along.  Sierra said the whole thing without even a second thought.  
Are you kidding, I'm not even dead yet, and the kids have it all planned out.  Maybe I should take applications for "the new Mom" just in case something happens.  I wouldn't want Summer and "the new Mom" to differ on opinions, like who is really in charge, or anything.
yeah, so it makes me think that when I go to the hospital in a few days, maybe I should leave a list or something.  Maybe they won't even notice I'm gone...