Monthly Archives: August 2012

(don’t) whistle while you work

Lola Gray came home from her first day of school and said there are two things she hates about first grade. She can’t wear her red shoes and she isn’t allowed to whistle. Oh man. That whistling thing is going to be tough. This kid whistles all the time. She promised to hold it in as best as she can at school (though most of the time she doesn’t even seem to be aware that she is doing it!) and I told her she can whistle all she likes at home.

The video below is a little whistle concert she gave me to get out some of her pent up whistles from the day. This has been the soundtrack to my summer, and as much as the whistling drives me crazy sometimes, I really miss her sweet bird song now that she is back at school!

Watch out 1st and 3rd grades – here come Fletcher & Lola!

18 summers

Back in May and June it seemed like you couldn’t spend five minutes online (at least in the online momiverse) without being reminded that we are only given 18 summers with our children. It’s enough to turn your stomach if you think about it too long.

I opted not to think about it. And that was easy, for the most part. We were just too busy doing things and having amazing adventures. But now, as the last week of summer vacation comes to a close, I seem to be mourning the passing of summer #6/8. I just never seem ready to see the summer end, to see my babies go off to school again, another year older and wiser, even though I know that fall holds new adventures.

The last week of summer was a lazy one. There were long hours playing Legos with friends and swimming at the pool. We spent an amazing day on the water last weekend with dear friends (the girls found their adventurous side and swam to shore, which they dubbed “Mud Island” – photos below) and a lovely afternoon lounging in Forsyth Park this weekend. We are so lucky to have found these families and I continue to wonder at the fact that we all, moms, dads, kids, even dogs, just seem to click.

In between it all we managed to squeeze in a few baseball games, coffee with friends, a visit to the Children’s Museum, another successful youth orchestra audition, the first fencing lesson (more on that to come) and lots of fiddle playing. I hate to see summer come to an end, but as I send the kiddos off to 1st and 3rd grade I will do so knowing that we packed this one full to the brim. There really isn’t much more I could ask for now, is there?

My silly boys

Anna Maria Island revisited

Five summers ago we spent an incredible week with the Gaddy family on Anna Maria Island in Florida, and this year we revisited the vacation with equally incredible results. The family has grown since then, and Fletcher and Lola Gray were thrilled to have 2 little cousins around to play with all week. Grandmama and Grandaddy and their aunts and uncles spoiled them rotten, as they should. We spent one very hot and fun-filled day in Sea World, but mostly we lounged on the beach, swam in the pool, ate a lot and enjoyed the amazing Gulf sunsets each night. Lola was, predictably, a little fish – we could hardly get her out of the water to eat and sleep! Uncle Tripp taught her to dive and she has been practicing ever since. Oh! And the cousins all slept in Grandmama and Grandaddy’s room at night, which was a nice surprise after 5+ weeks of sleeping in close quarters!

Fiddle Camp!!

Fletcher has been wanting to go to fiddle camp for a while now. Ok, maybe I planted the seed a year or so ago, but that seed has been quietly growing in his mind along with his love of the violin. And it just so happens that the most amazing violin player in America, Mark O’Connor, has a kids violin camp right up the road from us in Charleston, South Carolina. We couldn’t not go, right?

Our week in Charleston was intense to say the least. I knew Fletcher would do great, though he struggled a bit the first few days with being a little fish in a crazy talented pond. He said to me, after that first day of camp, that in Savannah he was one of the best violin players he knows . . . but in Charleston he thought he was one of the worst. Worst is never a word I would use to describe that kid – especially when it comes to violin. He did start at a bit of a disadvantage since he had less experience with the songs in the O’Connor Method book, but he made up for that pretty quickly, learning a half dozen new songs in less than 4 days time!

For Lola Gray, things were a bit harder. Prior to camp she had only had 3 fifteen minute lessons, so the whole violin thing is still really new for her! We assumed her classmates would be brand new beginners as well, but though all of the children were between the ages of 5 and 7, all save Lola and one other had been playing for at least a year or more. Her group teacher did a great job of balancing such a varied skill set, but Lo was frustrated that she couldn’t keep up with the other kids. I was really worried that it was all just too much for her, but on the last day of camp, after the incredible final concert, Lola burst into tears and said she didn’t want camp to be over and couldn’t we please just stay and do it all again!

Each of the kids had a 1 hour group lesson each day as well as a 1 hour Master class. Lola also had a class called Music & Movement, which was by far her favorite part of the day and Fletcher had 2 electives, mandolin and ‘write your own tune.’ The electives didn’t work out so well – I think he was just totally overloaded trying to keep up and honestly, I was too. Next year we will have a better idea of which electives to pick and things will go more smoothly.

The video above is the kids playing Appalachia Waltz on the street in downtown Charleston. The one below is them playing Amazing Grace in the Charleston church where it was first performed in the 1700s.

Being surrounded by so many incredible musicians was incredibly inspiring, but incredibly exhausting! After each full day of classes there were nightly ‘recitals’ where anyone who wanted could sign up to play on stage. One thing that I really love about the camp, and about the O’Connor Method, is that they encourage collaboration and creativity even at the earliest levels. They talked to the kids a lot about learning the music and then finding ways to make it their own, and all week long kids were making little ‘bands’ and performing their own arrangements on stage in front of an audience. Fletcher performed one night with his new friend Van (and Van’s dad) and Lola Gray performed a solo another night! I was soooooooo proud of them for getting up on that stage in front of all those people (probably 100 each night.)

After the recitals there was a nightly jam session, where the instructors and students all sat around just playing. Sadly, we never made it to a jam session though. After all that music what the kids really wanted (and needed) was to blow off steam in the hotel pool!

The biggest success of the week, in my opinion, was the relationship Fletcher formed with his incredible Master Class teacher, Ellen Lee. Miss Ellen just seemed to get Fletcher. She knew how to speak his language and she could see through the fidgety, crazy 8 year old boy-ness that frustrates so many teachers. She focused on helping him refine his ear, playing without use of the book which was uncomfortable for him. Early in the week she talked to him about improvising and putting his own twist on the songs, and he told her flat out that he would never do that – he likes to play the notes that are printed in the book. Fine. No problem. But then on the last day of class while the 2 of them were playing Old Joe Clark together, Fletcher started to improvise! I think it caught everyone totally off guard! Both of them were nearly giddy when the song was over!

The crazy thing is that while the whole week not a single person said a thing to him about his form, it has noticeably improved. He stands up straighter, he holds the violin better, he plays with more confidence, and he is having more fun with the music. Honestly, I could not have asked for more. Ellen told Fletcher she thinks he is going to be a famous musician one day. That alone made the crazy hectic week worth it all.

On the last night of camp the kids played a concert with Mark O’Connor himself. Incredible. First he played, which had everyone on the edge of their seats, then each class played a song in turn. At the end, there was an all-camp play-down where they went through the songs in the O’Connor Method books from hardest to easiest, and as they reached a song anyone who knew how to play it came up front and joined in. By the end there were 100 students plus all the teachers playing Boil ‘Em Cabbage Down, and the experience was unbelievably powerful. I was so proud of Fletcher and Lola, and so proud of the American musical tradition they are becoming a part of.

At the end of the concert, Mark gave every student 3 CDs and stuck around to meet everyone and sign autographs! It was a wonderful conclusion to a wonderful week – we are all ready to do it again next summer!

Smith Mountain Lake

Heading south again was a rude awakening. Man has it been hot this summer! Fortunately our trip south included at stop in Roanoke and a day on the lake with the entire Waldvogel fam!