Thursday, February 29, 2024

Some Winter Highlights (Jan-Feb 2024)

The Marvelous Sunrise.  Winter creates a one-tone color scheme that is both calming and beautiful. This is the view out our home's side window that faces East.

We Sang With Alex Sharpe!

Lily had a friend that invited her to join the Roosevelt Interfaith Choir for an upcoming winter performance.  Lily went and told me that I should join.  I missed several rehearsals, but eventually did join the choir and I'm so glad I did!  I didn't know that we were going to have the honor of having Alex Sharpe, from Celtic Women, give a concert in Roosevelt and that the interfaith choir would be doing a few numbers along with her.  What a privilege!  Her voice is so clear and light.  
Some of the numbers we did were in a totally different language, Gaelic maybe?  I was struggling with pronunciation and tried to practice at home with the tracks that were emailed to me.  I still felt unsure.  I was just glad that I could rely on the other talented choir members to help lead me through.  

Rehearsal with Alex and her band was a cool experience.  Those musicians were absolutely amazing.  They have honed their craft very nicely.  The rehearsals were all running behind, the sound check, mics, and audio were having issues.  We barely had any rehearsal time, I think we ran each song once.  

We did have an intimate moment with a few band members that agreed to run "It Is Well With My Soul" with us in the choir room.  That was so spiritually charged. I was fighting back all the tears.  The emotion that came through the piano, violin, and bass supported our voices, and the words flowed with such meaning and power.  That was incredible!

Our Roosevelt Interfaith Choir sound check and stage rehearsal

Lily sang with the sopranos and I sang with the altos.
The actual performance is a blur in my mind.  The lights glare so brightly on stage, and it was nearly impossible to hear ourselves singing, the speakers are so loud and huge.  I'm told it sounded good.  From my perspective, not so much.  I truly could only hear the percussion that was right by me.  And our alto section had one mic to pic us all up.  

The final song, The Parting Glass is really powerful.  All the band members joined us singing and it was such a lucky privilege to add my voice to that music.  

When it was over, my family waited around so we could get a picture with Alex.  She was so warm and friendly.  I LOVE HER ACCENT! She took time to talk with us for a moment even though there were lots of people waiting to meet her.  I talked to her about how amazing she looked. Did she have a clothing, hair and makeup crew to get her ready in so short a time?  Afterall, I knew rehearsals were way behind and she was still in her sweats, no makeup, no hair done when I saw her only 30 minutes before the show was to start.  She just laughed and said that she's really fast.  I am even more impressed by her knowing that in that short time she was able to eat dinner, do her own hair, makeup, and get dressed for her performance. And that she still had a voice after singing all day for hours at rehearsals.  I was exhausted and was only there for a fraction of the rehearsal time she was there.
I'm so glad my whole family got to meet her and that Lily and I had the chance to perform with her.  That was really cool!

Sponsoring a Child

Steve felt so very strongly that he wanted to sponsor a child and he did lots of research to determine a reputable organization that we could go through.  For Christmas, we decided that our family would allow a child through World Vision to choose us.  We had the option to choose the child we wanted to sponsor, but it was so hard to choose from their dozens of pictures of children in need throughout the world.  We decided to leave it in their hands.  

From World Vision's website

So, they printed our picture off and allowed a child to choose us.  A sweet little 3 year old boy in Nicaragua chose us.  I can't share his photo or other identifying information, but in his letter was a cute tracing of his little hand in blue crayon and He said he chose us because we look like a united family and he likes the puppy in our picture.  I love that!

So, we donate a little each month to him through World Vision which provides his basic needs of food, clothing, shelter, as well as improving the community he's in through education, water, and garden projects.  It's a really awesome setup.  

It's a blessing to us to have the opportunity to get to know him and have a little means to help him and his community.

Random Winter Photos

The winter is a beautiful time in Utah!  I love the way snow lightens the ground and how the colors change with that.  
Our neighbors got a new dog and they have Amara dog-sit when they go out of town for dance competitions or vacation.  The dog's name is Margaret, but we call her Margo-Rat because when the owners first texted us about her they spelled her name "margorat." And they spelled it that way on multiple occasions. She's a lively little pug-looking dog that is very friendly once she warms up to you.

Look at that morning winter wonderland!  That cloud is sitting right on top of the field in front of our house.

In the bleak midwinter, frosty wind made moan, earth stood hard as iron, water like a stone. Snow had fallen, snow on snow, snow on snow.  In the bleak midwinter, long time ago.

My Birthday

I worked on my birthday, which was fun too because I have so many kids to celebrate with me.  My classes sang to me, surprised me by writing on the board and yelling surprise when I came in the room, and so many wished me a happy birthday. I think I was sung to 3 times.

I chose to have my Teams for Teams class do face painting for my birthday.  A student painted a blossoming cherry branch along my forehead and down one side of my face.  I thought it looked so cool.  One of my sweet students even brought cupcakes to celebrate me.

I was so glad that I got to go out to eat at Mi Casa that night with my family.  I was tired after a day of teaching.  Plus, I really love the Chile Verde there.  It's the best.

Amara made me the cutest crocheted bunny with a little side messenger bag that had a mini origami heart.  She's so talented and her crafts are ADORABLE! She also made me "happy pills!" 50 of them!  She wrote nice things for me on tiny slips of paper and rolled them all up really small, slipped a little metal ring on each scroll, then put that in little plastic pills and put those in a cute little glass bottle, so I can open a happy pill any time I need a smile.  It took her so much work and she was up late doing that for me.  It was so thoughtful and it meant so much to me.  Amara also made me a birthday cake even though she was so tired. 

Steve wrote me a poem and bought me airpods pro to replace the ones Lily lost (but found the day before my birthday) ;) 

My mom knew I wanted to redecorate my bedroom and she bought me a comforter, flower pot, pretty tray, and sheet set.  It really looks so beautiful now.

Lily has earrings in the making for me.

My birthday cake

Hula With My Mom

In my geography and cultures class we studied Oceania. I invited my mom to come do a presentation on Hawaii.  The class loved her, as usual.  She had volunteers come up and wear a parau then practice some hula moves.

Miss Heather, Amara's dance teacher, asked me and my mom to teach hula for a community winterfest activity.  Lily and Amara joined us in teaching, and we taught 2 classes of 15-20 kids each.  My mom is so amazing.  I also love that she can share her skill of hula and the culture with our tiny little community.
This Ipu is a percussive instrument made from a gourd.  It belonged to my mom's mom.

Mom playing the Ipu

Children listening to the ocean in the conch shells before we learned the simple hula to the song "pearly shells."

Primary Music is My New Hobby

My calling as Primary Music Leader is fun and a learning experience.  The primary presidency chose the above songs for us to learn this year.

I am learning a lot in my new calling as Primary Music leader.  I have watched lots of online trainings from people who have lots of experience to gain inspiration for my own teaching.  I love hearing all the research behind how children learn and how music is learned in the brain.  I try to make every song engaging and I'm trying to get better at testifying of the truths in the music.  I'm making progress and learning from my failed attempts.  Overall, this calling has become my new hobby.  I look forward to using my creativity each week.

Amara's Winter Dance Performance

Amara on pointe
Amara did a beautiful job at her winter dance performance.  She amazes me.  I may be a little biased, but her form and execution of the dances sets her apart as the best on stage.  She dances ballet and contemporary/lyrical.  She is often practicing at home little sequences of moves or pirouettes.  She's come a long way since the old days of when we did ballet our first year of homeschool using a DVD and then Barbie dance tutorials on Youtube.  

After her performance, we gifted her a box of chocolates, a little squishy fidget toy (in a brown bag), and a cute mini balloon that said "I Love You."

A couple more random photos...

Pippin found a favorite spot to take a nap- right on Amara's squishmallow pillow with the sunlight from the window pouring over the top of him.

The clouds this morning were so AMAZING

Our Brazillian Friend's Baptism

My mom introduced me to a man from Brazil named Alex.  He washes windows, and he came and washed our windows.  I invited him and his family to meet my family for a Sunday dinner.  We grilled up some meat and had a delicious time getting to know them.  That was last year.  Alex stopped by again and dropped off an invitation to his son's baptism.  He also let me know that they like to party and that there was going to be lots of Brazillian food after, and dancing, and a bounce house.  How kind of them to invite us!  So of course we went.

When he said they like to party, he wasn't kidding.  They went ALL OUT for this celebration as you'll see from the pictures.  The party was great, and I loved trying all the Brazillian food, too.  My favorite thing though was the baptism.  It was done in Portuguese and translated into both English and Spanish by Alex.  The actual baptism was just done in Portuguese and was done by Alex's dad.  That was special because Alex baptized his own father, and now his father gets to baptize his son.  The spirit was strong as I listened to the various talks, including the ones spoken only in Portuguese and I didn't have a clue what was being said, but the spirit testified within me that it was good and true.

The boy being baptized

Alex taking a photo of his father and son in front of the baptismal font.

These cakes were AMAZING and so cute too!

cheese bread- warm and delicious!

Brazilian chocolate candies- strawberry, chocolate, and coconut

These pastries are filled with shrimp or chicken

Aren't these donut favors cute, forming the number 8.


I made this cute box for my Valentines day card exchange that we did in my Teams for Teens class.  I thought it looked like the poor frog was hacking or sick, so Amara helped me fix it by coloring in the eyes to be cute. I can't find a picture of the final box, maybe I forgot to take one.

For the cooking challenge, we were supposed to make a Valentines dinner.  I chose to make steak with sauteed onions and mushrooms and broiled asparagus, potato wedges, and a side salad

A Few More Random Photos

My mom graciously comes with me to the temple each week, and she drives us there! I love trying to get a picture of the spire with Moroni framed by the trees as we drive by.  I really love the temple and it has been a place where I've derived strength and centering and peace lately. 

Cool clouds on my drive.  I don't know how that spirally design is formed but it's SO COOL!

I had to get a picture of the florescent pink stripes in the sky.  In the left of the picture are the trees that are in front of my mom's house.

Mystical Misty cloud.

My new bedding from my mom for my birthday.  It looks even better now that we got a new platform bed to replace the sleigh bed.  My room feels so much airier and brighter.  I love it!

Selfie with my mom on one of our many temple trips 

We often go to lunch after the temple.  Today we hit Freddies.  It had been a long time since I had been there and I was craving a hot dog of all things.  haha!  It hit the spot.

Pippity Pup on my new bed! It's so nice.

Our family eating Jimmy Johns before the play we were going to.

My social dance class posing with me for a BeReal.


Sunday, February 11, 2024

Confessions of a Primary Music Leader: Melody Maps

So, was my first time teaching a song using a melody map.  I was nervous that it wouldn't go well- kids would be confused, I'd look like a fool, kids would get bored, and then I would've wasted time precious time and feel like a failure.  

I printed off the pre-made map (graciously done by a fellow music leader on Facebook), taped the sheets together, and drew lines between the various symbols showing the rise and fall of the music.  For those who are not familiar with a melody map (I wasn't), it is a sort of puzzle for the kids to figure out as you sing the song.  It looks a bit like those maps on heart-rate monitors at the hospital, you know the ones that have various peaks and drops, except there's dots and images at the points of each peak and drop.  The various dots and images with different colors account for each syllable in the lyrics and represent words in the song. As the notes in the musical score rise and fall, so do the dots/images.  So it's kinda like a way to read music except without notes on a staff and without words.  See?  It's a puzzle.  And can you see why it sounds a bit confusing and like a real risk to try with primary kids?

Well, I had decided to give it a go because these melody maps are so highly spoken of on the music leader Facebook groups I'm part of.

The map was a little small, so I had the kids come right up close and sit on the ground in front of the chalkboard where it was displayed.  The junior primary kids were first.  I was skeptical they'd figure out any of it except the really obvious pictures that represented concrete words in the song.  Boy, did they surprise me.  They figured out every symbol and colored dot and by the end of our 7 minutes learning that song, they were able to sing it with me by following that map.  I was amazed.  Even my little sunbeams were engaged the whole time.  The sunbeams!  Three year olds! 

Next was Senior primary. They did figure things out a little faster than the Jr. primary, but it still held their attention  clear to the end when I had them try to sing the song without me and only use the map.  It wasn't perfect, but it wasn't bad!  And, that made me excited to see that they have potential to learn music quickly if they're engaged.  That's an epiphany!  After our weeks-long practice of drilling our Christmas song and very little progress made in those weeks, I had determined that teaching new music was going to be a long process.  After this past Sunday, I learned it doesn't have to be.

Repetition by drilling is not only boring, it lacks engagement which shuts down the learning.  That's good to remember.  I guess that should be obvious.  For instance, I can remember all the counties in Utah that I learned in 4th grade by pointing to a map and singing a song with it. But I can't remember the countries of the world that I learned in 6th grade which I learned by drilling for a test.  

I hope to be engaging every week from here on out.