Sunday, May 30, 2010

Meet the Orchestra, Step 2

I have been looking forward to this post very much. These pieces of music I'm about to mention are among my favorites! I've not met a kid yet who didn't start enjoying music once these got pulled out. I remember my own copy of "Peter & the Wolf"-- a lovely oversized book with accompanying cassette tape. This was my primary source of exposure to the idea of an orchestra, and to the timbres and sounds of various instruments. Today I use these orchestral works in my preschool class (and even my middle & high school classes as a bit of a treat-- everyone loves a good story) to introduce not only the instruments of the orchestra, but most of the foundational musical principals I'll later address as "Music Mechanics" (aka very very basic musical theory). Later I'll post my actual "Orchestra Unit," so you can see how I interweave musical games, dance, musical stories, and books about music.

Remember, your goal is always to give your children as many types of experience with music as you can-- each one forms a "hook" or a "tag" for their brain to build on, so that they understand well the ideas behind music. Our goal is to make musical knowledge so deeply a part of their experience that it's like the concept of "family"-- they know all about it, they don't have to think about it, and they use it constantly. So... listen to the music, read the books, talk about them, color pictures of them, re-tell the stories, dance to the music...

Multi-media Orchestral Works:
-- Peter & the Wolf-- Prokofiev's wonderful "musical fairy tale" written especially to introduce children to the orchestra. My students experience it first in silence (well, as silent as 4 year olds can be), without any pictures, but later as it gets more familiar, we love this book version.
-- The Carnival of the Animals-- St. Saens wrote this as a sort of joke for his family to enjoy; each piece of the suite calls to mind a particular animal. My students LOVE to dance to it! There are two ways to enjoy this besides just listening to the suite: first, reading the poems by Ogden Nash (my favorite), second, the book by John Lithgow. The book creates a story using the suite as background, which can be confusing to small children, but which is fun in its own way. It was written in order to turn the suite into a ballet. I highly recommend going to see the ballet with your kids if you ever can! This website is really helpful. A new book, illustrated by Mary GrandPre (amazing-- she did the Harry Potter books) is coming out in August!
-- Babar the Elephant-- Poulenc's work is inspired by the popular children's story. On this CD it is paired with The Mother Goose Suite (Ravel)
-- A Young Person's Guide to the Orchestra-- Benjamin Britten wrote this so that children could easily hear the timbres different instruments offer to a theme. It is often sold on CDs with Peter & the Wolf and/or Carnival of the Animals. This book and narrated CD is really helpful.
-- The Magic Flute: an Opera by Mozart, adapted by Kyra Teis (for younger students) or Anne Gatti (older students)

Some other great works for children:
-- The Surprise Symphony,
-- The Planets, Gustav Holtz
-- The Sorcorer's Apprentice

Example of how you might use these ideas:
After you've spent 2-3 weeks reading books about the orchestra, interspersed with musical games, you're ready to add in a musical story, say Peter & the Wolf. Take 2 "sessions" just to listen to it all the way through. Later sing the themes, identify the instruments, look at pictures of them, dance, do anything you can think of to add another layer of experience to the music. Later add the book Meet the Orchestra or The Story of the Orchestra. Begin to discuss the ways instruments make music- being blown into, being hit (allowed to vibrate), having strings that vibrate. This forms your basic categories of instrument families- woodwinds, brass, strings and percussion. Go back to Farkle McBride and the kids will see those categories in there. Look up coloring or fill-in worksheets online on the orchestra.

Now you have 4 "types" of musical activities to add to your music "classes:" musical books (read aloud & discussed), musical stories (listened to), musical games, and reinforcements (coloring/ drawing/ collages of pictures, dancing, music journal for older students, instrumental experimentation, & other forms of art intended to help the kids further experience the music). Alternate and intersperse them in your classes so that they don't get too predictable. I often did something like:
Class 1- musical story, reinforcement (dance)
Class 2- musical game, reinforcement (experimentation with percussive instruments), musical book
Class 3- musical story, musical book
Class 4- musical game, musical story

Go and see an orchestra perform or practice, and if possible arrive early or stay late to let the children speak with the musicians and see (maybe even touch!) the instruments up close. In about a month, add another musical story and repeat the process. Add in another musical book, say The Philharmonic Gets Dressed or M is for Melody. Keep reinforcing the ideas of pitch, tempo (speed), volume, type of instrument, melody v. harmony, and theme. You could easily do this for half a year or even a year, depending on the age of your children, working your way through the musical works I've listed, giving them a really solid base knowledge of the classical orchestra.

Next topic: Music History!!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Meet the Orchestra, Step 1

Pick a book from the list below and read it, pointing out the different instruments and asking questions like these:

-- Is that instrument high or low? (many kids get pitch and volume mixed up)
-- Is that playing quickly or slowly? We even use musical terms presto (quickly), andante (slowly).
-- Is that loud or soft? (forte or piano)
-- Have we heard that melody before? (Teach them that the melody is the part they sing-- the "way the song goes," what you'd whistle if you were trying to tell someone what song you meant. Harmony is the other "stuff" that sounds along behind it and goes nicely.)
-- Do you think that instrument will sound up high or down low? (Drill into their heads the relationship between pitch and instrument size: big instruments play low, small instruments play high)

Aim to do music twice a week for 1/2 hour each time. For example, start with the books The Remarkable Farkle McBride and I Know a Shy Fellow. Read them over and over again for a period of 2-3 weeks. Fill in the remaining class time with musical games or experimentation with musical instruments. Ask the questions above and others like them. The children should be able to identify the instruments and likely will enjoy filling in the blanks if you leave words out. Kids do NOT get bored with repetition when it is done well! Next step coming tomorrow!

(This post introduces a series of posts on the orchestra.)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Building a Musical Library

General Books About Music

-- The Remarkable Farkle McBride, John Lithgow
-- I Know a Shy Fellow Who Swallowed a Cello, Barbara S. Garriel
-- Do Re Mi: If You Can Read Music, Thank Guido D'Arezzo, Susan Roth
-- Mole Music, David McPhail
-- Can You Hear It?, William Lach
-- A Young Person's Guide to Music, Neil Ardley
-- Meet the Orchestra, Ann Hayes
-- Zin! Zin! Zin! a Violin, Lloyd Moss
-- The Jazz Fly, Matthew Gollub
-- The Philharmonic Gets Dressed, Karla Kuskin
-- Two Scarlet Songbirds: a story of Anton Dvorjak, Carole Lexa Schaeffer
-- M is for Melody, a musical alphabet, Kathy-Jo Wargin and Katherine Larson

Start looking out for these books at Goodwill, used book sales, Amazon lists, etc. Just start building your own musical library, so these books are always available for your children to pick up and read on their own, or for you to read to them before bed, or just anytime.

Books About Orchestral Works:
(this series is pretty much a must-have, in my mind)-- all by Anna Harwell Celenza
I've arranged them in chronological order with a note as to which "time period" they fall into, and it might be helpful to have a timeline on your school wall somewhere, where you can write in each piece of music as you hear it.
-- Bach's Goldberg Variations (Bach, Baroque)
-- The Farewell Symphony (Haydn, Classical)
-- The Heroic Symphony (Beethoven, first "Romantic" work)
-- Pictures at an Exhibition (Mussorgsky, Romantic)
-- Gershwin's Rhapsody in Blue (Gershwin, Modern- Jazz)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Procrastination Seems a Virtue

When it comes to umbilical cord clamping and shots, that is. :)

Here's an article that supports delayed cord-cutting. See previous post on this topic here.

And here is another mom's take on vaccination delays.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Music for Worship: Hymns 2

As promised, here is the actual "interview" my middle school students had to give their parents the first week of school:

All music sung by Christians has an element of worship in it, because ALL of our life is worship, but there are some songs which are more explicitly God-ward than others. We will have opportunity to sing this type of music in our choir this year- a unique privilege of a being a Christian school. This sort of music, based on Scripture, can stir our hearts with fervor or with conviction, allowing the Holy Spirit to minister to us. There are Psalms written out of every emotion. Music keeps Heaven in the Christian's ears.

“The tears flowed from me when I heard Your hymns and canticles, for the sweet singing of Your Church moved me deeply. The music surged in my ears, truth seeped into my heart, and my feelings of devotion overflowed, so that tears streamed down. But they were tears of gladness.” ~ “St.” Augustine (354-430)

Your instructions are to interview your father (extra credit for interviewing Mom too!) and ask him the following questions. Write down his answers. I hope that this will help your whole family think about how we are relating to our God through song.
Note: in this interview, "hymn" simply means any song used in worship.

1. What is a hymn you remember from your childhood?
2. What is your favorite hymn right now? Why?
3. Which Scripture passage does it make you think of or come from?
4. What is a hymn that has come to your mind in a time of celebration? Which time was this specifically?
5. What is a hymn that has come to your mind to comfort you in a time of sorrow? Why/how?
6. What is a hymn that has reminded you of truth in a time of confusion; one that has "set you straight" in some way?

As a teacher, I saw these 6 questions open up a lot of good conversation across generations, and was especially pleased to see the way it affected the boys when they found out that their dads benefitted from singing in worship. It was also so critical for them to realize that we don't just sing songs to the Lord out of a glad heart-- this is one error many make, and it can absolutely kill a grieving heart. Sometimes, the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, and the Psalms testify to that. It's so important for saints of all ages to remember that we are to sing to God and worship Him in every emotion, be it confusion, hope, elation, wonder, and even despair. Those songs actually inform our grief and help us deal with it properly!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

How Music Can Tell a Story: Theatrical Events

Another way music has long been used to tell a story is as part of a theatrical event. First it was the chorus in Greek plays. Then we had the operas all through the renaissance and on... And no, they aren't all about fat ladies singing. =D If you know the story and/or watch an English translation, they are quite entertaining!! Closer to our era the showtunes & Broadway musicals have swept the nation, and they are still going strong! (Think Phantom of the Opera & Wicked.) Children's movies- especially earlier Disney movies- were based on this principle, with many songs being used to tell the story. Finally, there is the source of the most popular newly-composed music of our day: the quite "functional" movie soundtrack. I'd say these ideas are appropriate for grade to middle school, or even high school. I'll have more suggestions for pre- and kindergarden soon! (they're my favorite age group to teach, so I'm saving them).

The following suggestions could be taken as chronological steps, each spanning a month or two. The soundtrack is very accessible if kids have seen the movie (often Disney soundtracks are pretty musically decent-- Mulan, Lion King, and The Little Mermaid especially. An added bonus is that each of these captures a "foreign" flair, which you can also tie into geography and world culture. But I list the soundtrack as the last "step" in this progression because it has no words.

--rent musicals from the library (some great ones are The Prince of Egypt, Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music, Anne of Green Gables, Annie, My Fair Lady, Hello Dolly, The Fantastics, & The Pirates of Penzance. )
-- play selections of musicals like Camelot, The Phantom of the Opera & Wicked, all of which have themes either too scary or delicate for your children to watch in entirity, but have AMAZING get-in-your-blood songs. Tell the story, let them hear it, and be prepared to repeat.
-- discuss the idea of "motif"-- a musical phrase that always occurs with the entrance of a certain character, object, or event. Classic example: both the good guys & Darth Vadar's themes in John Williams' Star Wars. Once they've gotten the idea, try to identify themes in operas, in movie soundtracks, in musicals. Sometimes kids might pick up on phrases that are repeated in later songs in plays, etc.-- often these are motifs, too.
-- tell your children the stories (they make great bed-time tales) of your favorite musicals and then take them to see those musicals as a treat. Many musicals will have showings especially for school-aged children during the day.
-- tell your children the story of operas and let them watch clips (which you've previewed) on YouTube. I recommend Mozart's to start (The Marriage of Figaro, The Magic Flute, Don Juan, Woman Are Like That). Wagner can get a little creepy and weird, not to mention dissonant. This is a great experience for all you adults too! I'll give more specific tips for this particular idea later.
-- check out soundtracks to movies (public libraries often have these)-- these are often the most dramatic music out there. Great examples are any of John Williams' (ET, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Star Wars) or Klaus Badelt (Pirates of the Carribbean) or Hans Zimmer (Gladiator, The Lion King, Pirates of the Carribbean, The Last Samurai, Kung Fu Panda). The Lord of the Rings soundtracks (Howard Shore) are wonderful, too. Let your kids listen to a track and imagine what's happening in it. If you've seen the movie, you could tell them a part of the story. This especially excites kids who love the movie characters or have seen the movies.

I will later post a concrete lesson plan as an example, but for now suffice it to say that taking 1/2 hour 2ce a week to do these activities-- call them listen & learn-- would do wonders for your child's interest in music. Use it as a "break" between 2 challenging subjects, or as a way to get back into gear after lunch.

Monday, May 17, 2010

How Music Can Tell a Story: The Ballad

Since man was created, he has set words to music to make them more memorable. The ballad is something integral to almost every culture; before writing existed and written records were common, memorized stories -often set to music to make them more memorable- were THE way a nation, family, or king's histories were remembered from generation to generation. These simple story-songs can be found in the Psalms, ancient poetry, folk songs, all the way up to today's rock 'n' roll ballads and country music songs. These stories-to-music are often the most accesible to children because they exist for the sole purpose of telling stories, and who doesn't love a good story? As I used to sing to my preschoolers "A ballad is a song that tells a story/it might be true, or it might not be/ a ballad is a song/ a sung story." Here are a few common ones that kids love, linked to books about them or tangential to them:

-- for the very youngest, there are all those nursery rhymes-- Jack & Jill, Mary Had a Little Lamb, The Itsy-Bitsy Spider, Hey Diddle Diddle... The Complete Book of Rhymes Songs & Fingerplays and Wee Sing Mother Goose are two very inclusive ones. Many of the nursery rhymes have picture books devoted to them. You can also find coloring pages of them to print from online.
  • The Itsy Bitsy Spider, by Iza Trapini
  • The Bear Went Over the Mountain, by John Prater
  • The Bunny Reads series by Rosemary Wells (Twinkle, Twinkle; The Bear Went Over; The Itsy Bitsy Spider)
-- Froggy Went A-Courtin', by either Iza Trapini or Gillian Tyler or John Langstaff. Truth be known, my sisters & I came to know this American folk song through this story-on-tape at our grandma's house.
-- Over the River & Through the Woods, by Lydia Maria Child. A great accompaniment to your Thanksgiving celebrations.
-- There Was An Old Lady Who Swallowed A Fly, by Simms Taback
--The Fox Went Out on a Chilly Night- Nickel Creek's version is my all-time favorite of this American folk song. My 5-8th grade boys LOVED this book version, by Peter Spier.

(as usual, they use this song to show off their amazing talent and go off on random amazingly cool tangents. On the actual CD it's just the straight up song, which most kids appreciate more.)
-- while I'm on the topic of Nickel Creek, a great many of their songs are in fact, ballads ("The Lighthouse," "The Hand Song," "The Fox," "Sweet Afton"). And all of them on their first album, simply entitled Nickel Creek, are really well-done. Go buy the album!
-- The Middle Earth Album, by Glass Hammer, is meant to be set in the middle of JRR Tolkien's Prancing Pony Inn of The Hobbit fame. It has several rollicking good yarns about trolls and ladies and elves and even Tom Bombadil. If your kids have read The Hobbit, this is almost a must-have.

-- The Ballad of John Henry, another American folk song, has several books of it. I read this one aloud to my middle school boys choir class. The version I grew up on can be found on the Wee Sing America CD.
-- last but not least, there is the Celtic ballad. The Irish in particular had perfected the art of story-telling music, with professional bards called filid at every ruler's court, entrusted with memorizing, performing, and writing songs detailing the clan's history and their ruler's feats. In their tradition, Loreena McKennit is an amazing perfomer of many, many ballads including Alfred Noyes' The Highwayman and The Lady of Shalott. The Tanahill Weavers' Best Of album also has two ballad recountings of the Battle of Prestonpans which will delight most boys and girls: "Tranet Muir" & "Jonnie Cope"

Christians can also find "stories behind the Psalms" in the books of Samuel, Kings and Chronicles.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Music for Worship: Hymns

Hymns are so vital to a Christian family's walk that they get their own post. Many hymns tell a story, a story through salvation ("What Wondrous Love is This?" & "Amazing Grace") or from despair to joy ("Pensive, Doubting, Fearful Heart" and "From Whence This Fear and Unbelief?"). Many also have their roots in personal experience. While it is tremendously important for your children to see YOU interacting with the hymns, it is also enriching for them to know how those songs came to be in the first place. We tend to remember that for which we have multiple levels of experience. Here are several books you may find helpful. As always, please let me know of others you know and love!

-- All Things Bright & Beautiful, illustrated by Anna Vojtech- I have loved reading this picture book of this familiar hymn to my Hannah. The pictures are just wonderful. Though it doesn't tell a story so much as describe a setting, it is a setting so familiar to children that they easily connect it to their own experience.
--Morning Has Broken, illustrated by Eleanor Farjeon, is similar.
--the Hymns for a Kid's Heart series, by Bobbie Wolgemuth & Joni Earakson Tada- each of the 4 volumes in this series tells stories behind a dozen hymns in a way that children can understand and relate to, and each comes with a CD of the hymns introduced. I like the CDs, but I do admit that I think the adult voices aren't the best. =D
-- a little more advanced, and without the cool CD, is the 101 Hymn Stories series, by Kenneth W. Osbeck.
--Stories Behind the Hymns that Inspire America, by Ace Collins, details hymns dear to our nation's heart.

I also highly recommend looking around a bit for the stories behind your favorite modern worship songs. CD liner notes can be gold mines. Also look online-- google the song's name, then the words "story behind." Including the song's performing artist can help, too. For example, you could do "steven curtis chapman cinderella story behind." Often artists explain backgrounds to their songs in interviews, so look for reviews of your favorite CDs or interviews of your favorite artists.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Want Your Kids to Love Music? Let Them Watch YOU Lovin' It!

This will be the first of (I hope) many posts on incorporating music into your daily life, either as a supplement to school outside the home, or as an integral part of your home school. Kids NEED music, more than most people know... and so many parents I've talked to are more intimidated than they need to be in this area! I got an email from friends who are homeschooling their 3 sons, and it made my heart leap-- finally, the last push to blog on this topic. Here is a part of thier request:

"The problem is that the boys don't really enjoy music. I'm not averse to education as an "eat your vegetables" sort of enterprise, but I do want them to have an appreciation for music that I was not given. [...] I know this is terribly broad, but do you have suggestions that might help? How do I generate interest?"
But let's walk before we run. Baby steps (or would that be half-steps? Naw, that's too music-nerdy). The discussion of helping kids get "into" music reminds me very much of the discussion on helping kids get "into" reading. It's so similar that I recommend Jim Trelease's The Read-Aloud Handbook for you, the parent/instructor. Take everything he recommends about a love of reading, and apply it to a love of music. If you want your kids to honestly love music, the first CRUCIAL point is for them to see YOU loving music. Music, like reading & visual art, is both functional (we use it for things like memory retention or relaxation or worship), and aesthetic (we listen to it just because we like it). Thus, it's extra-easy to incorporate it into everything, whether it's a school subject or just a sunny day. The key is to do it with them-- don't just turn the CD player on and walk away. Here are some suggestions for that:

--make music a part of your daily family life. Sing to your kids-- silly songs, hymns, lullabies, old favorites.
--sometimes play your favorite music in the car. You don't always have to listen to "101 Bible Songs for Kids." I've often spiced up a carpool ride with a good ol' rollicking 80s power ballad ("Livin' on a Prayer") or country tune ("This Everyday Love") or a pop song, or a song to help me strengthen my faith (Sara Groves or Sandra McCracken or Indelible Grace). The kids LOVE for me to "tell them the story" of the song, or tell them a part I like, and they giggle when I start belting out the lyrics. They often ask for these songs, and soon they're singing along. This is teaching them that music is a part of my narrative, and by extrapolation, part of their narrative; it's their birthright as a human.
-- let your kids interview you about your favorite songs, especially hymns. I'll post an actual interview from my middle school teaching later.
-- tell stories in which music played an integral role; like your grandma singing "The Old Rugged Cross," or your dad playing "It Had to be You" to propose to your mom.
-- often discuss music in a spiritual context-- let your kids know when a certain song's truth moved you to worship or melted your hard heart or delivered you from fear
-- turn music on as you clean and do chores. Dancing in the kitchen is a distinct possiblity.
-- tie music to stories; musicals, ballads, operas, soundtracks to movies, even hymns-- these are all ways music is used to tell stories every day, and has been for centuries. An entire post on this coming soon.

-- do a chart, maybe for a week or a month, with columns for each avenue of music (TV, car, CDs, church, etc), and a row for each day. Let them put stickers or check marks for each type they've heard that day
-- expand the chart into a journal, maybe a week-long, on all the types of music they hear. Each day have them list all the music they've heard- in the car, on the radio, on a TV commercial, at church, over the speaker at the mall, on their computer game- and/or what their favorite type was. This really helps kids realize how much they already DO like music.
-- incorporate music into family worship and family holidays. Think beyond Christmas carols and "Happy Birthday to You." Is there a hymn you could sing every Thanksgiving? A silly parody you could write for family reunions? A musical you could watch every Midsummer's Day? An album you could crank up every birthday or St Patrick's Day? The possibilites here are endless. There are so many
kooky holidays you wouldn't even believe it...
-- talk about music; ask "how did it make you feel?" "what did you think of?" Don't always feel like they have to write it down or do a project on it; just talk about it like it's a normal part of every day life. Because it IS a normal part of every-day life! =D
-- if you play an instrument, let them see/hear you play it
-- take your kids to recitals and concerts. Talk it up, give them things to listen for (the highest note) or watch for (expressions, hand movements), stay only as long as they can stay interested (just leave during applause, NOT during a song!), and then go out to get ice cream. Be amazed at the things people can do!
-- point out the marching band at sporting events. See how many instruements you can identify together. Pick a favorite song each half-time.
-- listen to music from many cultures. Wee Sing Around the World is a good starting point. There are lots of CD albums from different countries, if you just walk into a CD store and ask.
More on this later. (Need I mention that this would so easily tie into geography, social studies, & history?)
-- listen to music from the past- Northon's Anthology of Western Music is a great series, and if you get the accompanying books the kids can look at the scores and be intrigued. This is a COLLEGE text book, so don't try and teach from it, but it can definitely give you the parent background info, and then you can digest it and then use it to present different songs to your kids.
-- listen to music from our own history- Wee Sing America is amazing for this.
-- read books about composers, about songs, about musical plays and characters (more on this later)

Is that enough? Don't feel like you have to try to incorporate every one of these ideas every day. Just take one or two and see how they work for you. I'll bet if you start looking for music, you'll find it all around you, and even start to see spots where it's just begging to be pushed in.

--A slightly-impassioned-lover-of-music

PS: my long-term goal for this: I want to give parents all the tools they need to teach music history, the very simplest music theory, so simple I'll call it "music mechanics," music appreciation, and last and best, musical enjoyment in their own home. Later this year I hope to begin a kinder-music-ish program in my home, for preschoolers and young elementary schoolers, and I'll be using that to try out new lesson plans, and will be posting those on here, as well as the tried-and-true lessons I've taught for the past 3 years as a preschool teacher and middle school choir director. I may get Ryan to help me create a separate page or blog for those, because I envision them taking up quite a lot of "room." =D

Hoping and Praying

To go to this conference:

Thursday, May 13, 2010

7 mos old

May 13th, 2010
Dear Eowyn,
This last month has flown by. You are growing faster than our little tomato plants, and are much more fun than they are. You've learned to crawl, to unscrew screw-on lids (to your own great astonishment), to yell just for the fun of it, to push yourself up onto your feet like a little tepee, to drink from a sippy cup on your own (though I still have to help you lie down when there's just a little bit left), and to reach for things, including us. Your separation "anxiety" has grown as much as your mobility. You wail if I leave the room, even if you can see me and could crawl to me if you wanted to. Though you cry as soon as I hand you off to someone else, they tell me you settle down and are Miss Sunshine until we come get you. You really are a fun little critter. :) Today when I came to get you at school, you were playing happily with your teacher, and as soon as you saw me, you burst into tears. It was so obvious that both Mrs. Vandaveer and I burst out laughing, which you did not appreciate.

You are pretty regularly sleeping through the night, although with all the traveling we've done-- to Oregon & back, and with me to Greenville for a long weekend-- and little illnesses you've had, you waking once (or twice, unfortunately) in the night to eat isn't totally rare. You've put yourself on more of a 4 hour schedule for eating, usually taking 2 2-hour naps and one shorter one, and going to bed "for the night" at 8:30 or so. You wake up happy around 7, nurse, and then if we don't have to go anywhere, I change you, kiss on you, and put you in your crib with some soft toys. Then I crawl back in bed. You play happily for an hour or so and fall asleep, paci in mouth and blankie around yourself, until 10:30ish. Then we're both ready to eat (again) and start our day!

Eating has been quite the adventure for you! You like sitting in your high chair, and you especially like holding your spoon. When you get really into eating, you lean forward and breathe really really fast. Sometimes you shoot forward towards the spoon, and if I'm not careful you'll totally miss the spoon! Your favorites are zucchini and avocado-- you'll eat 2/3 of an avocado all by yourself in one sitting! You also enjoy pear, apple, carrot, squash, rutabaga, fermented sweet potato, egg yolk and fermented sweet & red potatoes mixed together. No more banana, though. It ties your tummy up in knots. You seem to enjoy your daily fermented cod liver oil (which is more than I can say), and take garlic oil whenever you get congested, without any complaint. You even want to suck on the syringe... yuck.

Your understanding has grown, too. You understand when we tell you not to touch, when we tell you to lie still on the changing table, and you're learning that you aren't allowed to crawl into the kitchen. You seem like a quick learner. Just a few days ago you figured out how to turn your "aquarium" on. Now we hear music, bubbles and see a glow under your door at the oddest hours. You grin SO big when you smack that button to turn it on! When we tell you not to touch, you draw back and grin at us. Of course we shower you with praise. Your smile is amazing. I'm wondering what sort of temperament you'll have. You seem sooooo happy, but then again, when we take something away that you wanted- a used spoon or dirty bib- you cry and scream and positively howl with anger.

My least favorite part of this "stage" of your life, though, is your habits while nursing. Instead of eating when you're hungry, you want to eat AND watch everything going on. Gone are the days of nursing you with just a blanket for cover. I have to take you to the most boring, quiet, dimly lit corner I can find, and even then you tend to start eating, then suddenly decide something's fascinating and suddenly stop... leaving both of us soaked and frustrated. You don't seem to realize that eating would make you feel better. *sigh* At least you're alert and interested in the world around you, munchkin.

Your favorite toys are ducks-- rubber duckies in the bath, a duck on wheels from Mama Lulu, or the little duck that once was a wet bag dispenser-- your shoes, straps & strings-- especially one string of Mardi Gras "beads" (they don't come apart) that I keep in a cloth bag. You love taking it out of its bag and playing with it. I put my sewing machine in your room and sometimes will sew with you playing nearby. We're happy just being near each other. I usually talk to you and echo your own noises back to you, to your great delight. Your favorite game is still "Boo!" You also love it when Daddy sings silly songs-- he gets you giggling with his falsetto. It's super cute and we hope you do it more often!

I love you, darling, and nothing makes me gladder than seeing you see me and grin with delight.


Her first ever toe-nail polish (April 23rd)

Friday, May 07, 2010

Amazing Beavers

My preschool class just did a unit on beavers- by far my favorite rodents- so I was especially fascinated to see this news story on the largest beaver dam known to man! It's even visible from space!! How cool is that!!? Our God is an amazing Creator!

We joke that Eowyn is part beaver because she loves gnawing on wood (and other stick-like toys) so much!

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Blogs in State of Updation!

I've tried to catch both Eowyn's photo-blog and this blog somewhat up to date after all our globe-trotting and family guests. It's been fun-- good reminders of how much joy the Lord has brought us these past few months!

I've got several meatier posts brewing, mostly about educating your children at home, specifically for preschool and music!

Off to bed to rest my head,
--the Szrama Mama

Playground Fun

Elliott & Eowyn, Sittin' in a Tree...

Friday, April 23rd; Baby Love

Well, hello there!
Hi, there- I believe we've met before...

That Elliott... he sure knows how to sweet talk the ladies!

Tracy's nephew Elliott (1 yr), son of my friends Ben & Denise-- also youth group friends-- really got excited when he saw Eowyn after he'd walked down the aisle as the tinyest ring bearer ever. He kept saying "Baby! Baby!" throughout the ceremony and was quite interested in her afterwards, as you can see. So cute how babies recognize & name other babies, as if they weren't babies themselves!

Tracy's Wedding

Friday, April 23rd; Clark & Tracy's Wedding

I've known Tracy quite a while; we've gone to church together most of our lives, but Tracy is quiet and a year or so older than I am, so I don't remember interacting with her much until high school. In the midst of that she was diagnosed with bone cancer in her knee, and began a long battle against it that lasted through college and is finally in remission! Tracy's now a nurse and quite a trooper!! Anyway it was such a joy to be at her wedding and see her happily married to a man who- by all accounts- treats her like the precious treasure that she is!

The ceremony was held at a mansion in old Greenville, which I didn't even know existed! It was the perfect day for it; sunny, windy enough to make the streamers and her veil stream out behind her, but not so windy as to be a real nuisance. I thought Pastor Bob's message was quite good-- it spoke to me in my marriage when he mentioned dying to self for the sake of the other person, as Christ did for the Father, saying "not my will but YOURS be done." He brought out the aspects of imitating Christ for both roles; the husband as Christ loving & leading the Church, the wife submitting as Christ does to the Father. And I really liked how Clark & Tracy read their own Scripture as part of the ceremony. It was really beautifully decorated, too, all yellow, green and white, and Eowyn LOVED the hanging balls & giant paper flowers!!

Since I didn't have dress shoes for her, I painted her tiny toenails! Soooo adorable. I love having a girl.
GB entertaining Eowyn during the ceremony... or was it the other way around?
Here comes the bride!!
Who's dat cuteness?
Talking to GB about her Sophie
I now present to you for the first time, Mr & Mrs Clark D!
Ryan's girls, pretty in green. I think for the rest of my life I'm going to have to live in the shadow of an insanely cute daughter.
Clark, Tracy, Eowyn & me
Wowed by all the sparklers

Thanks for a wonderful party!

To the Zoo!

Friday, April 23rd; Greenville Zoo

My old buddy Mary Scott, with her 4 darlings- Katy (7), Darsie (5), Liam (2 1/2), and Molly (2 mos) (are those right, Mary Scott?)- Valerie & her 3- Hannah (4), Noah (2), and Abby (11 mos)- Val's college roomie Julie up from Georgia, with her 2- Sydney (4) & Jonah (2)- my Mom, and me with Eowyn (7 mos)- all met up on this hot South-Carolina-summer-ish morning at the Greenville Zoo. That was 4 moms, 1 grandma, 9 preschoolers, and 1 first-grader. Lets just say we could've gotten a group rate... although since so many were under 5 it wasn't very expensive at all!! We definitely had the cutest bunch of kids!! (thank you, Mom for many of these pictures!)

E sportin' her Roots Canada flair, her adorable sun hat, and her first-time-painted toenails.

I busted out the umbrella stroller (thank you, Kathy D!), which was universally admired for its bright colors.

And we're off to find Julie!

Enjoying the orangutans

Noah checkin' out the sleeping lions

Jonah's curls-- what was I telling you about having the cutest bunch of kids?

Molly out of the Ergo & about to eat... classic newborn flop!

Katy, Liam, Mary Scott, Molly's head, me, Eowyn, Hannah (Darsie invisible behind her), Noah, Abby, Val, Mom taking pic

We made it through the Africa loop, the reptile house and the monkey house before the kids' blood sugars were plummeting. Mom had packed us an amazing picnic lunch, so we took over a couple tables and started doling out salad, fruit, cheese sticks and sandwiches. Yum! Darsie & I shared a water bottle. :) Eowyn discovered a new love: grapes! I think the kids' favorite part was the mister, though it took our more cautious ones a while to work up the gumption to run through it. Maybe a close second was seeing the kookaburra and having all their moms suddenly burst into "Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree...," a song which they'd never heard. :)