Monday, February 2, 2015

{Journal Prompt} Music

Not my piano, but my piano was (is) this color!


This past Friday I went to the "big city." Earlier I mentioned I was studying to become a group fitness instructor and my test was scheduled for Friday afternoon. Mother Nature didn't care though and we had another snowstorm raging outside. While the University I was headed to did not shut down, the testing company was notified they "might" shut down so they cancelled my test. While they did notify me by calling my home phone and emailing me, unfortunately, I didn't know that until I had already driven the hour to the city, did some shopping, and arrived to take my test. The silver lining is I now have another week to study as it's now rescheduled for this coming Friday.

While in the city, I spent a gift card to one of my absolutely favorite places to shop - the bookstore! I started picking up books for my kids - like I tend to do. However, this time I decided to get more books for myself since I was spending my birthday gift card. One little gem I picked up was a journal book with 300 writing prompts in it.

I decided that instead of handwriting them, I would periodically take one and use it to write a blog post. So, welcome to my first installment.

Write about an extracurricular activity you did when you were growing up, and how it affects (or does not affect) your life now. 

I was involved in so much growing up. I was blessed to land in the fourth spot out of five children. By the time I was in high school, my three older siblings were out of the house, my dad worked at a job that allowed for very flexible hours, and my mom went back to work as well. We had time and money for me to do activities and I certainly did plenty.

I think the thing that affected me the most was music. When I was five years old I apparently asked my mother to learn to play the piano. We had a big old-fashioned upright in my parents bedroom. I liked to go in an plink away on it.

The music teacher for our school district also went to our church and was a family friend. She agreed to teach me. I was pretty happy until I realized how hard it was to learn to play! It was like learning a whole new language!

It wasn't long until my teacher realized I wasn't memorizing the notes, but rather using the fingering numbers to play. This worked great until you started playing higher or lower notes. Then it was blatantly obvious. This was not her first time teaching, so she simply switched me to a book without fingerings. I soon begged my mother to let me quit. And she did. I remember hiding in the bathroom the day Mrs. House came and my mom told her I no longer wanted to play.

Fast forward to fifth grade. I'm not sure if it's like this anymore since my boys are homeschooled, but in fifth grade you could play in the band and start learning an instrument. Our family owned a clarinet so that is what all of us played while we were in fifth grade. It always worked out that when a new sibling was coming in to fifth grade, the older one was stopping band.

Miracles of miracles, I learned how to read music and once again began plinking away on the piano. The only issue? I could only read the treble clef (or right hand) notes and none of the bass notes (or left hand notes). I asked my mom if I could take piano lessons again. She agreed but I had to call Mrs. House and ask.

I was in seventh or eighth grade when this happened. She only had openings for me in the summertime so that is when I took lessons. I was in high school (and probably had showed her I was serious about learning) before she took me on during the school year.

I also continued to play the clarinet in the band. I quit my seventh grade year which actually worked out well. That's when my little sister was in fifth grade so she had a chance to learn to play the clarinet. She decided not to continue though and I went back to it my eighth grade year and continued playing all the way through high school.

My sophomore year I played the trombone for one season of basketball. Our pep band for basketball games was sorely lacking so myself and two friends volunteered to learn enough to play the songs. My arms just simply aren't long enough to hit that last slide position though! I was very happy when the new freshman arrived the next year and had three trombone players among them!

This was probably 1989. 
I'm on the far right almost off the photo.
This was actually chorus but many of us played in band too.

And yes, I also sang in the chorus. I started in fifth grade and went all the way through high school. It wasn't until about 7-8 years ago that I started singing in public again. I've always sung in my car. Just ask my boys. I joined the worship team at my church and soon after that I started singing solos, something I never did in high school.

So how has this affected my life? One is the regret that I didn't continue with music after high school. It wasn't until I had children of my own that I even started thinking again about playing.

When all my boys were old enough, I started them on learning how to play the piano. I found a wonderful homeschool young lady who was willing to take on all four of us. That's right, I started lessons once again. 

My family after my first ever recital.
June 2011

My boys were so little here! My youngest (white shirt in the front) was only seven! My middle son (glasses) was ten and my oldest was 14. My oldest and I took lessons for about 2-1/2 years. I simply lost the time necessary to practice and had refreshed my memory enough to do what I wished - play well enough that I could play on our worship team. I knew I would never be a concert pianist. 

My oldest son, while talented, did not enjoy lessons. Since he was so much older when we started, I allowed him to stop playing. However, my other two boys are still playing and have since added more instruments. My youngest son added the violin this past fall and my middle kiddo just added the drums. No worries though, we're starting out with just a practice pad. My hearing is still intact - for now.

Music enriches my life. It relieves stress. It helps me worship God. I feel incomplete without it. Music has had a profound impact on my life and for that I am very grateful.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Wednesday Hodgepodge


1. American Idol is back for a 14th season. Are you watching? Have you ever watched? If you were to audition for the show (or were made to audition), what song would you sing? I didn't watch the first few seasons but then watched a few in the middle. I'm not watching this year. I have been cutting way back on my television watching - not that I watch a ton actually. If I were to audition, I would either sing "God Gave Me You" or "Amazing Grace."

2. Mark Twain is quoted as saying, "If it's your job to eat a frog, it's best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it's your job to eat two frogs, it's best to eat the biggest one first." So when did you last have to 'eat a frog'? Or two? How'd that work out? I know I've had to tackle lots of things I don't particular care for, but right now I can't think of one. Although, I do still need to finish my oldest son's high school transcript and course descriptions in order for him to apply to college. I think at this point we have put off the frog eating a bit and we're aiming for January 2016 college entrance rather than September 2015.

3. If you were going on safari, what is the number one animal you'd want to see? An elephant. I've seen them up close and personal, but I'd love to see one in its natural habitat.

4. January 21st is National Granola Bar Day. I know. Do you like granola bars? Chewy or crunchy? Your favorite flavor? How about regular granola? Let's exhaust this topic in honor of the holiday okay? I actually do, but typically only one brand and flavor. I like the Sunbelt Chewy Chocolate Chip ones. I keep them on hand as they work great for raising my blood sugar when I'm having a low. I usually pair it with a small glass of milk and I'm good to go. As for regular granola, I do like it, but I like it best in yogurt.

5. If only__________________________________________. Life had a rewind button...

6. You can add one item to your bedroom. What will it be? Keep it family friendly please. A dual heated blanket. I could turn up the heat on my side and hubby could keep his side of the bed cooler.

7. What is one thing you've enjoyed about winter thus far? If it's not winter in your corner of the globe, what season is it, and what is something you've enjoyed about whatever season it happens to be? I'm pretty sure "enjoy" and "winter" do not go together. This winter has just been weird here in Maine. We've had super cold weather (as in -20 one morning) and warmer than normal (as in 40 degrees yesterday - hello mud!). We haven't had a lot of snow yet either. However, thankfully the freezing rain hasn't been as much this year either, although any is too much. Oh wait, I was suppose to share something I've enjoyed. Um....well...I'll just leave it as I'm not much of a fan of winter. Period.

8. Insert your own random thought here. I've been super busy studying for my group fitness instructor certification. I take the test at the end of the month. However, I'm offering free classes starting next week! Yikes! January has certainly gone by fast.




Sunday, January 18, 2015

Birthday Celebration


My youngest son had the nerve to have another birthday this week and turned 11. It seems like just yesterday he was a little ball of baby sweetness. 


Okay - well this photo was taken nine years ago on his second birthday so I suppose it wasn't just yesterday. 

This little guy (he's still shorter than me!) has always been extremely expressive - still is. He takes on life full speed and sees the joy in everything. If he's unhappy, than you can be sure it has been a very long day or a very hard situation. It takes a lot to make him melt.

Unfortunately, the poor kid has a birthday smack in the middle of January. It makes it super hard to do any type of birthday celebration for him. In fact, last year, while we didn't cancel his party, the roads were so slippery only one friend was brave enough (or crazy enough? You know who you are!) to make it out to our house and even then, it was so icy they had to sand their way up our driveway. Life in Maine in winter!

Being the frugal mom I am, however, I saved the party supplies I had bought last year for him and this year the weather was great so we had a few friends over Saturday night to celebrate. So that is why he had Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle paper goods but a Minecraft cake.


Homemade, well, boxed gluten free cake. He wanted red frosting. I bought the gel color. This was as red as I could get it and I was even using a baby spoon at one point to get more coloring in there. And yes, that is leftover Christmas candy.

We had a few friends over and some family as well. We demolished five large pizzas, cake, cupcakes (non-gluten-free) and a large amount of ice-cream. My son deemed it a great time. 

He was this excited about receiving a customized Minecraft card with his name on it from my sister and her family. 

Random cuteness. 

My friend's 4 year old daughter and my sweet 2 year old niece giving us her best "cheese!" smile. 

I'm glad the weather was good this year so we could celebrate his birthday with family and friends. Although, he is still waiting for an "epic Nerf battle" party so we may have to do something along those lines this summer when we have warm weather. 

My boys are growing far too fast for my liking, but I'm sure all mothers say the same thing about their children. 


Friday, January 16, 2015

Ice Castle


Last year near the end of winter I heard about Ice Castles. There was one not too far from where we live in Maine located in New Hampshire. Unfortunately, I heard about it too close to their closing for the season so we weren't able to go. I was determined to make it there this year.

Today was the very cold day we went. Actually, I shouldn't complain all that much as it was above zero. However, we did have to go inside about half-way through our visit to warm up. It was worth it though.


We arrived about an hour after they opened. There weren't a lot of people there yet and we were able to head right in to the castle. No lines. No waiting. It was impressive in the daytime, but I did want to stick around until dusk as they light it up at night. 

Here are some of my favorite daytime shots:

This crevice was small! The little guys could walk straight through, but my middle kiddo had to go through sideways. I don't do small, tight, confined spaces. I opted to take photos instead.


I couldn't stop looking up. The icicles coming down in some spots were so impressive!

My middle son hamming it up.

Catching the sunset


This structure was massive.

Here's some perspective as to how big it really is - those two kids there are my youngest and his friend. My youngest is about five feet tall.

After our toes became a bit numb and after my kids hurt themselves on the super fast luge-like slide/tunnel in the middle of the structure, we headed inside for a bit of a warm up. They had a TV with two videos playing. One was of Lindsey Stirling playing her violin in an Ice Castle structure and the other was The Piano Guys (that's how I found out about these things). In case you haven't seen either one, here they are...




After we warmed up, we headed back outside to see if the lights were coming on. They were! So very cool. It was worth the over six hours in the truck today driving to New Hampshire and back. 

Here are my favorite shots from when the lights started to come on:

The lights were just starting to come on.

This was a working water fountain. The lights flashed and changed. This was taken just as it was starting to go dark.

Same fountain. Photo taken just before we left.



All photos were taken with my Android phone. Really wish I had some "smart-phone" gloves. My hands were pretty cold! I would take off one glove, snap some photos, put my glove back on and warm up my hand, miss some shots, and repeat the process throughout the whole time we were there. But like I said earlier, it was well worth it. 

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Just Do It and Other Random Thoughts

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Nike pretty much nailed it with that little saying. Here it is, January 15th of 2015 and I haven't put up a blog post in over a week and that was an overdue book review.

I've been participating in a Titus 2 Bible study at my church. It's been fantastic. We are currently studying "Busy At Home." This doesn't mean spending your day cleaning house, but it does mean making those at home your priority - family first may be an easier way to say it.

Our homework assignment was to write down how much time we spend on activities - in and out of the home. Assuming one gets eight hours of sleep at night and uses Sunday as a day of rest, that means one has 96 hours in a week to get everything done. I have to admit I was a little worried about what I would come up with on this assignment. I already feel like I'm always on the go, but it showed that I had a few extra hours in my week. Or else I underestimated the time I actually do spend on things. I'm going to go with the former and just be thankful I have seven hours in my week unaccounted for at the moment.


I posted this photo over on Facebook earlier in the week. Four years ago I discovered Zumba and I love it. Seriously. It's the only workout I've ever stuck with as long as I have. Over the last couple of years I've thought about getting certified to teach it. 

Recently an opportunity came up for me to rent space to teach exercise classes. Affordable. In the same building that my boys take karate classes. It would help me redeem the time I spend sitting and waiting for them to get out of class.

However, instead of becoming certified to just teach Zumba, I'm opting to become a certified group fitness instructor instead. This will allow me to do all kinds of things. I've taken to calling it the "Z" word instead so the "Zumba Police" don't get mad at me. I'll be teaching Cardio Dance Fitness. I'll have freedom to use all kinds of music (like TobyMac!). My goal is to use "clean lyrics" - even in Spanish.

I'm looking forward to starting at the end of the month, but I do have to admit to being a tad nervous as well. I'm doing this all on a tight timeline. Saturday I'll be taking a CPR class (required for the ACE certification). Immediately after I'll be applying to take my test (there has to be a ten day lead before you can take the test). Then I'll have two weeks to finish studying before taking the test at the end of the month. Phew!

2nd birthday

Lastly, this guy pictured above just turned 11 years old today. I feel like I blinked and we went from the above photo to this in about five seconds...
Orange stripe test in karate - September 2014

I can no longer tuck him under my chin when we stand. I certainly can't hold him in my arms on my hip anymore! Time is flying far too fast for my liking. We had a very low key celebration here at home for him tonight since his birthday is mid-week. We are picking up a friend tomorrow afternoon and he'll spend the weekend with the birthday boy. We have friends and family coming on Saturday evening for pizza, cake, and ice-cream and, of course, presents. I'm still in denial that my baby is 11.