Thursday, July 31, 2014


Sometimes I find myself writing posts in my head and then I have to stop whatever it is that I am doing and get my thoughts out.  So I sit and write and this is why my house is always a mess.  Most people do not stop unloading the dishwasher just because a thought pops into their they? thought for today centers around a cool teachable moment that happened Monday.  It made me think again of what school meant to me.  I spent my middle school and high school years in Glastonbury, Connecticut, a suburb of Hartford, which was and still is a highly competitive academic town.  I bought into the philosophy of competitive academics wholeheartedly.  I wanted my name on the honor roll.  I wanted the academic awards at the yearly awards night.  I wanted As on my report card.  I wanted a high class rank.  I wanted all these things but I was never made by any of my teachers to examine why I wanted them.  To most of us, it was just a grade, a score, a rank, a bragging right.  It did not change who we were.  Isn’t the purpose of education to change who we are, to make us think and stretch and grow and question and dig and evaluate and mature in both age and in wisdom?  None of these thoughts ever entered into my mind.  Not in middle school. Not in high school.  Not even in college.  Perhaps a bit in grad school but even then, I learned the mainstream educational philosophies never even wondering if there were alternatives or refuting arguments against public institutionalized education.  
One of my girls has been out of school longer than she was ever in school.  The other will reach that milestone the end of this year.  It changes everything.  Not being in school.  There is no reason to learn other than to grown, mature, develop, analyze, critique and connect.  They are not striving for a class rank, a report card, a honor roll report, or an award.  They are learning what they want because they want to learn. Every now and then this concept completely overwhelms me.  
I have yet to write about our family choice to add a puppy to our home, but we are at the end of September.  Right now Grace has immersed herself in all things dogs.  She is volunteering at the kennel once or twice a week and she is doing an independent study on the care and keeping of canines for her fall semester.  She is reading books (like Marley: A dog like no other and how to books, like My Pet Dog), she is watching documentaries like Shelter Me, and she is watching movies about dogs like Hachi: A dog’s tale.  
Hachi is not for the faint of heart.  Despite a G rating, it is one of the most emotional movies I have ever seen, perhaps because I can draw so many connections to it.  Like the family in the movie we have had a faithful pet who looked forward to the arrival of Greg each evening from his daily commute via train to the city.  Like the wife, I have a husband who commutes daily and like her I send him off every day thinking that he is going to return home on his 6:29 train to his family.  One day that does not happen and the course of the family and the dog’s lives are forever altered.  Tears.  Oh my, how many tears were shed watching this movie.  
Hatchi is an modern era adaptation of the true life story of Hachi, a dog who lost his master in Japan in the 1930s and who waited every day for over 10 years for his master to get off the train at the Shibuya Station.  It is streaming instantly on Netflix.  
As the movie ended and the information about the real Hachi was presented I immediately had a memory of seeing the statue in Shibuya Station on a past season of The Amazing Race.  A few minutes on Google and we found it!  Season 9, episode 12.  We went back and watched that part of the episode again.

These are the moment that I have to record.  There are always gaps in education.  No child or person can know all there is to know.  But when you begin to think of education and knowledge as a blanket, woven, interlocking, overlapping, it looks so different that a series of grades on a piece of paper.  There is trust involved that there is something to be learned in each experience, whether it is watching an episode of The Amazing Race or a movie about a dog.  And the true learning occurs when you find the connections, the overlapping between the two.  

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Piano Binder Project

Now that the decision about piano has been made, it once again fills my house.  Grace has been working diligently on her church music.  She will be performing at our new priest’s installation mass the end of August and this means learning a new piece of music, He Has Anointed Me.  It is beautiful and challenging.  When Grace practices, we find ourselves humming the hymns all day long.  
Working with three different teachers this summer left her a bit disorganized.  We put away the sheet music and scales books that she no longer needs right now.  She took her two binders (one for each teacher) and consolidated them into one beautiful three ring binder.  She used tabs to separate the parts of the mass (opening song, offertory song, communion song, closing song) and has a pocket for keep special songs for holy days and holidays.

This project involved a trip to Target with Greg and about 2 hours of work time.  Now that her binder is complete, it is much easier for her to practice.  I did not realize that her disorganization was impeding her playing.  Because I am not involved at all in her piano instruction, I did not realize that this would be beneficial for her.  I am so glad that she took the steps necessary to find her own solution and that her music is once again filling our house.  

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Silver Sands State Park

I have had my iPhone for 2 1/2 years.  It has gone everywhere with me.  The day I discovered Instagram, my poor Canon Rebel was packed away and dust began to collect on the camera case.  Recently I discovered that my beloved iPhone camera does not seem up to the challenge of capturing the special moment in our daily lives.  The sharpness is gone.  The pictures seem a bit flat.
I am rediscovering the joy of my dslr camera.  It is harder to upload pictures to Instagram.  They first must be transferred to my laptop, then emailed to myself, opened on my phone, then saved to my phone camera roll. This cannot be done on the go.  Pictures make their way to IG hours later which spoils some of the fun.  It makes me dream of the new Samsung 16 megapixel cameras with wifi/3G access but really....that is so unnecessary.  I do wish that Apple would upgrade their camera from 8mp to 16 like the other phones have.....

Sunday we took at walk to one of our favorite spots for sea glass searching, Silver Sands State Park in Milford, CT.  I don’t know what it is about this stretch of the sound that collects more beautiful pieces than other beaches.  Grace found a lovely teal piece and Lilah made her first wire wrapped necklace charm from a crytstal-like piece of lavender glass.  

Monday, July 21, 2014


The girl's music teacher recently told me that many students drop their instrument once they reach high school.  They compared it to sports.  The lower level sports are fun.  They are social activities.  Once they make the high school team, time in the summer is devoted to their sport, practice occurs every day while in season, the competition is fiercer, the coaches may be tougher.  Many kids lose the love of the sport and they stop.
I can somewhat understand this.  After all, how many kids actually go on to play their sport in college?  And after college what options are their for a person who likes to play soccer, or football or basketball?  Yes, there are pick up teams and adult teams but so few adults participate in these after college.  Unlike some sports, music is an art that can be practiced for a lifetime.  I suppose it is natural to phase in and out of musical interests, certain genres of music, intensity of practice and so on but if you have access to your instrument, you can play whether you are 10, 20, 40 or 80, as long as you don’t put that instrument down.  Walking away from an instrument is like walking away from a foreign language.  If you don’t use it, you lose it.
We have having growing pains with music right now.  I signed Grace up at a prestigious music school thinking it would give her access to teachers who have traveled the world playing piano, ensemble groups with other teens, master classes, monthly recitals, and to a network of kids who share her interests.  The reality is that she does not want to dedicate herself to mastering a 40 page piece by Hayden.  Bach, who was once her favorite composer, is not not looking so friendly now that she made the leap to a harder piece of his music.  She shared her feelings.  We had a conference.  We made a plan.  The plan did not work because I cannot force her fingers to play a piece of music she does not want to play.  I can threaten.  I can offer rewards and consequences.  I can set up practice charts.  I can withhold fun activities until the “work” is done.  In doing so, I will drive the love of her instrument out of her.  
I spoke to a musician I highly respect who is working with Grace and he told me that classical music is necessary.  It is the underlying foundation to all music, and its influences are seen in artists from The Beatles to The Piano Guys.  However, he said classical music should not be presented in a way that the student no longer likes it.  
Grace has grown up playing classical music.  We had to beg her to find and incorporate other genres of music into her playlist.  The love is there.  It is just being overshadowed by a strong desire to sit and play The Piano Guys and Doug Hammer.  She wants to explore Jim Brickman and find other artist/composers who make her heart sing.  
She wants to continue to work with the Music Director from church who is teaching her all parts of the Mass as well as beautiful Christian music.  Learning chords is quite different than learning the notes, and learning this in addition to a strict classical regiment was just too much for her.  It overwhelmed her and lessened her desire to tackle hard classical pieces.  Her focus can’t be on three teachers, with three sets of music, three different styles, and three heavy practice-loads.  
So we move on.  We give up the classical lessons that took 4 hours of our day with travel time and we go back to the two primary teachers she has always had.  Her growth in classical may suffer a bit this year, but she will learn chords and she will learn the Mass.  She will perform at Church every month and she will perform in her other teacher’s recitals and visits to assisted living centers.  She will play a classical piece here and there to keep her fingers fresh.  They will be harder pieces, but not 40 page pieces.

Her teacher and I had a lovely conversation about creating opportunities for her pre-teen and teen students to get together and play.  I am very, very excited about the possibilities we discussed and I hope they can come to fruition.  If I can fulfill her need to be around other musical teens, then I feel that I have accomplished my goal.  If she keeps playing and fills my home with music, I will be very happy.  When she plays her church music in the morning and I quietly sing the hymns, I feel like I start every day with God.  And that is what music is all about.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

A few extras

A few extra photos that I really like from our trip to NYC but that did not make the Instagram cut!

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