Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Every Bunny Can

I haven't taken the SAA course Every Child Can yet.  Still, I do believe this to be true and base my own teaching philosophy upon this belief.  Every child can learn to play an instrument in the same way in which he learns his mother tongue.

In my training, it was suggested that we only ever say positive things to the child. This is quite easy when you have a shy three year old blond girl who doesn't talk much and listens and follows directions.  She is so sweet, you only ever have wonderful things to say and compliments flow easily and success leads to success. Next thing you know you have an 17-year-old who is quite lovely and is still quite easy to teach and you only really ever have to give small positive corrections.

The flip side is when you have a precocious three-year-old little blond boy who is interested in everything BUT doing the task at hand.

Every child can.

I have had a child bite me.

How are you supposed to only say positive things when you get bit.

But, I do believe that when we can say only positive things it does work.  Dr. Suzuki was right.  It's just that sometimes you have a wait a long time for some acceptable behavior or playing in order to "say something positive."

This is how we taught Flopsy to throw the ball.  Months went by with the ball in his kennel.  Then one night he picked it up and threw it. We praised him and gave him a cheerio. A few minutes later he happened to throw it again. Same response. Guess who's throwing the ball over and over and over. . .

I didn't threaten Flopsy. I didn't have a power struggle with him to throw the ball. I didn't use guilt or humiliation. I just happened to catch him throwing the ball and made a big deal of it.

I wonder if Flopsy will throw the ball on his own in the middle of the night.  (See Dolphin Tricks. . .October 2011) Eventually those Dolphins from Sea World did all their tricks in the middle of the night, even without the little fish treat. They just loved doing the trick.

I don't have all the answers on how to motivate kids.  I just think it's a work in progress and worth reflecting upon.  Enjoy the eleven second video!

Flopsy's Trick--click to link

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Leaving a Simple Love

I didn't have much time to process the anniversary this weekend. Mary first threw up with a fever then got a terrible case of pink eye today. Bill was having job interviews and fighting a cold. Calvin, well, he was building a new "N" scale train and a pretend subway system built on the circle of fifths. And, he learned to help me with the laundry for Home Economics which they now call Family and Consumer Science.  There is another blog entry there. . . in which I describe what it was like having my mother for a jr. high home ec teacher. . . I digress.

She put this lovely Fall arrangement there in the Ainsworth, Iowa cemetery today after church.  It was the third year, today.

Pastor Paul did a sermon on leaving a legacy this morning.  He brought his father's old leather briefcase to the children's message--asking the children the value of this old worn out treasure.  

I wondered if I was crazy to count the years we've missed my dad but then Pastor Paul recounted that his dad died 45 years ago. I noticed he was still fingering the briefcase. I reckon I'll be counting for a while.

I did go for a walk alone yesterday and tried to concoct a "state of the mental union" address. How are we doing, three years later?

It's hard to articulate, but there is a peace that comes with being okay. Okay with missing him. Okay with the absence of miraculous healing. Okay with a God who can heal but doesn't. Okay with the mysteries.

I still got out the Montana photo album of our last trip. I still listened to Alison Krauss' Simple Love three times in a row. I still had to pull the car over when I heard the Chris Tomlin version of Amazing Grace, that the kids sang at Daddy's funeral, on the way to church this morning.

But.  It was okay.

You left your own legacy Daddy.  You left a simple love.  Always giving, never asking back.  And when I'm in my final hour looking back. . . I hope I had, a simple love like that. 

Thursday, September 20, 2012

The Biggest Investment

Not my piano. . . my student's piano.

Bill and I bought a new car. I'm in a bit of buyer's remorse. I've only had a couple new cars my whole life and it's always a really big deal. Did we make the right choice? Will it be a good value? Will I still like it in five years?

It's just a car.

The Fall semester is starting and the families are returning to lessons and tuition is due. I ask for the sixteen lesson semester's tuition in one or two installments.  It's due at the first lesson of the semester.  Then I don't have to be chasing around collecting checks all semester and we can focus on the music.

I raised my tuition this Fall. Four percent. Believe it or not I'm still about 30% cheaper than Suzuki Piano Lessons at MacPhail in Minneapolis. At MacPhail you get a beautiful building and performance space and a lovely community, but there are also some administrative costs. I'm my own secretary. . . and banker. . and everything else. . . there are trade-offs.

Like MacPhail, I have expenses. Piano tuning. Office supplies. Self employment taxes. Childcare. And there are many, many days of my time for meetings and graduations and festivals and recitals that all have to fit into that tuition payment.

I was reflecting on some of the families in my studio and how much money they have invested in their children's piano lessons over the years. Thousands of dollars.

Did they make the right choice? Was it a good value? Will they be glad they played the piano in five years?  Will they have buyer's remorse?

I feel a tremendous responsibility to these families. When all is said and done they better have a child that can play the piano very well!  Of course they have a responsibility too. They have to practice. A child can learn to play the piano by showing up at the lesson every week and never practicing at home, but it takes a very very long time.

Whether they practice or not, no matter how fast or slow they learn, it is a big investment.

It's not a car or a piano or a house or a boat or a cabin.
It's a child. The potential of a child.

The real investment? The biggest investment? The investment with the highest return?

Your time at the piano with your child.
You get--a kid who plays piano really well.
You get--to know yourself and your child very intimately.

I can't put a dollar amount on that.
Best wishes on the new semester, and thank you to all my families for your investment in your children and in my studio.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Thoughts About Grief

December of 2009 I went to a service at our church that was for folks who had lost a loved one.  It was a chance to share with others before the holidays. Pastor Jim started off the service by reminding us that grief is hard work. The three pastors who were there all wore their best suits. It struct me--that grief also demands our respect.

I'm thinking about this because I went to visit a friend who is about my age who lost her husband a couple weeks ago.  Earlier this spring her mother passed away.

Grief is hard work. It demands our time and our respect.  All our energy.

I have heard story after story about people who have lost someone and had birds and deer and flowers appear in their yards where deer and birds and flowers had never appeared.

The Holy Spirit?

I don't know.  It sure is comforting though.

Dying is easiest for the person who is dying.  Especially if they are a person of faith.  The only tears I ever saw my dad cry while he was sick were on behalf of my mom.  He was at peace.  Yeah, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death--those words are for the living.

It has already been three years since Daddy died. I truly can't believe that, because his name still is on my tongue and the tongue of my children. Yes, it's easier now. We have had a lot of genuine joy since then.  My sister remembers the first day she heard my mom laugh again. When the biggest part of the weight was lifted. But grief is grief and sometimes it lurks just below the surface.  For a long time.  Maybe forever.

I'm sure my dad and my grandparents would want us to remember them mostly in joy and only just a little in sorrow.

I believe that our suffering is only a speck on eternity.  I believe that someday we will understand and that all our questions will be answered.

Yes, Kathy, we are only loaned to each other.

There is nothing to do but go through it.  We don't get a choice.  But there will be little moments of peace and joy--a deer--a chickadee.

My prayer is that we would all see the angels around us everyday.  In our grief and even in our return to joy.  

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Faith and the Fibonacci Sequence

Here are a couple ideas that when needed, increase my faith. . .

The fibonacci sequence.  I'm no scientist but I've always been drawn to ferns.  Turns out ferns employ the fibonacci sequence.  The serious of numbers that make the ratios that make spirals.  Here is a wonderful video that shows this:

Fibonacci Youtube Video

Make sure to watch the other two parts as well.  It is very cool.  "Cosmic" she says. ..

If that wasn't enough it turns out that it isn't only botanical nature that uses this sequence--music does too.  The whole harmonic sequence that makes our scales and chords is also based on the fibonacci series.

Here is some cool info about that:

Fibonacci and Music Site

It's just too beautiful to be an accident.  It's cosmic.  It's everywhere.
Someone had to plan it.
Someone really smart.
Smarter than a scientist.
An artist.
A musician.
A creator.
A loving creator.

The fact that we even have music and ferns and sea shells and pine cones increases my faith.  Science and religion enmeshed.

I think God must have had a lot of fun with those numbers.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Peace, Love & Nature

We're back from our annual camping trip with Kris, Dan, Annika and Amelia.

It started out with me panicking when Bill Henry asked me where we were going camping and who we were going with. I froze. He was substituting for me on piano with the choir on Sunday. Is is a sin to miss church if you are camping with the pastor?  It's just that it was the first Sunday of the choir season. I felt so guilty. Just some friends. . . I mumbled with my eyes looking downward.

Then came the packing. . . and finally. . . the arrival at dusk to hurriedly set up camp before the sunset.

Yes, camping with friends.  Camping is just about as close as you get to heaven, I think. The kids are free. No electronics. No TV. I forget each year how much I love it. Peace. Love. Nature. The kids made fairy houses and explored the entire area. Calvin twice fell in the lake fully clothed. I ate a shameful amount of ruffles and french onion dip. The colors were vivid-the blue sky, the slightly golden changing leaves, the clearwater of the Wisconsin lake. I felt so filled up with love for nature, for God, for my family and our friends.  It wasn't just because I was camping with the pastor.

My Grandpa Gene, my dad's dad, wrote these words in his self-published book Long Creek and Beyond:

Some of you may be offended if I use the word "Nature" where you would use the word "God".
I do not do it flippantly.
I have searched diligently, in churches and fields, and find a dividing line elusive. 

Grandpa Gene, 
I couldn't agree more. I feel the closest to God when I'm closest to His creation. Thank you for writing about nature and passing on your love for the outdoors. 

P.S. I'm sorry I lied about camping with the pastor.  

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Making the Most of Summer

When we look back upon the summer of 2012, I think we can safely say that we made the most of it.  Right up until yesterday at 5:00 when we got back from Bill's folk's cabin.  Bus number what?  Locker combination what?  Drop up and pick time and location what?

It went okay for both kids today.  It was Calvin's first day of middle school--6th grade.  Mary's first day of second grade.  Calvin is bummed to have to be in a book club.  Why would we want to read a book with someone else?  Mary loves her teacher.  No big surprises.

Best and worst parts of the summer?

Mostly there were only best parts--we hit the ground running--leaving for my mom's the last day of school.
Honors recitals in Beaver Creek.
Switzerland.  Birthdays.
Bill played in church. Calvin played in church.  Mary played at my mom's church.  Calvin played. . .
Susan and Savannah stayed here for a nice week.
4th of July party.
Cookouts with friends.
Ropes courses. . . cabin trips. . . strep throat. . . painting camp.

Did I mention Bill not working since June?

An awesome reunion weekend with my grade school girl friends.
 MacPhail camp--that was a tricky week--with the kids going and me teaching. It may have taken my organizational skills to the limit and that is saying quite a bit.

Flopsy the bunny.
Flopsy's vet bills.

A nice visit with my mom.
Both kids had a nice long stay individually with my mom and Mary also got to stay at the cabin with Bill's folks.
The state fair.
The concerto event.
The recital at the Erickson's.
A dear friends' wedding.

Yes, I can safely say we made the most of it.  And I was there.  For the most part, remarkably stress free.  There were a few days where I flailed.  And the garden didn't fare so well.

But, now, to continue that calm mindful feeling into Fall. . . that will be the trick.

Dr. Suzuki suggests that we teach a one point lesson.  That focus can be taught.  I was off to a great start with Calvin this morning, just working on left hand finger numbers on the Daquin Cuckoo.  Do one task and do it well.

Perhaps the best way to teach awareness and attention to our children is to model it to the best of our ability in our daily lives.  I bought four books on mindfulness.  I've started them all. . .

Dr. Suzuki would probably have recommended that I only read one book at a time but. . . he wasn't a working mother with two kids and a house and garden trying to get ready for choir practice, five Fall birthdays and a Dalcroze workshop.  I have to fit in this mindfulness between gymnastics practice and homework and teaching.

It's gonna take all four books to help me do one thing at a time.

I hope this is making you laugh just a little. . .
Happy first day of school kidos!!!!