New Goal: Make more music with my kids!

A friend just shared this article on facebook and I wanted to share it here. We read to our boys twice a day. But while we certainly make music, this article made me want to increase the amount of playful music making in our home. Tom and I are both musicians, we love music. The classical music station is always playing in my car, and we often put music on while we make dinner. Scotland sings made up songs all day long. But I rarely make music- despite being a professionally trained musician. I was intrigued by the emphasis on creative, informal music making. As well as the need for parental interaction. I always feel affirmed as a mother when I read studies, like this, that indicate that mothering can’t be outsourced.

Here’s the section from the article that particularly spoke to me:

“The true power of musical play lies in the unique blend of creativity, sound and face-to-face interaction; the learning is strengthened by its basis in a positive, empathic emotional relationship.


Forget CDs and toys that beep, playing music should be a shared experience. www.shutterstock.com

Parents are increasingly enrolling very young children in specialist music classes – undoubtedly a positive development. Reading, however, is rarely “outsourced” in this way, and this study suggests that parents should feel encouraged and empowered in tapping their own inner musician before looking outside the home.

As with most aspects of parenting (in my personal non-scientific experience), there is no substitute for a parent’s personal involvement, even if it involves long-forgotten modes of behaviour such as taking simple pleasure in making sounds.

Being playful with sound is something we’re all born with – indeed, toddlers are humanity’s greatest virtuosos in that regard – yet too many are silenced over the years by the “better seen than heard” brigade.

It’s no accident that we talk about “playing” a musical instrument; a turn of phrase that too easily becomes sadly ironic if formal music lesson structures calcify into strictures.”

Chiara: 1.5 week photoshoot

I had so much fun photographing our little beauty yesterday. Chiara likes to be very warm, or preferably sweaty hot, so despite the heater pumping away next to her, she wasn’t keen on an undressed, unwrapped state. I was hoping to get a few more newborn body picts- capturing her skinny legs, long feet and narrow belly. Alas, maybe another day! 

…because life isn’t all peaches and cream

 

Chiara Jade Foutz: a birth story

Birth is a sacred time. I believe it should be hallowed, reverenced, prepared for. As I alluded to in this post, I spent the weeks leading up to Chiara’s birth preparing emotionally and spiritually. I wasn’t surprised when my due date came and went, and had a feeling that she would be born on Tuesday. I told my midwife this at my appointment the Thursday before and she exclaimed “Alright! That’s my day! Let’s do it!” and we gave each other a high 10.  When my water broke around 9:00PM on Monday April 4th, I was excited our baby was coming! As is procedure I called the midwives to let them know, they suggested I come in, but as I wasn’t having any contractions I suggested I wait and hour and let things start happening. Tom and I busied ourselves gathering our stuff. (Tom was SO excited!) An hour and a half later I checked back to inform them that I was still not contracting. We agreed that I’d come in, and just make sure the baby was doing okay. Caroline Hulet came over to sleep with the boys, and we headed to Northwest Hospital. Fetal monitoring showed that the baby was doing great, but the light meconium staining in the amniotic fluid resulted in our having to spend the night at the hospital. The midwife was sure that things would get moving soon and that the need for inducing or augmenting labor wouldn’t be necessary. Though she informed us that if I didn’t go into labor on my own, they would start me on pitocin in the morning. I spent a long sleepless night anxiously wishing my body into labor. I had heard that pitocin contractions were so much more painful than natural contractions and that you just didn’t get induced without an epidural because the pain was so much more intense. I worried about my hopes for an unmedicated birth. Determined to get things moving Tom and I set off to walk the halls of the hospital the next morning. (One administrator who saw us on our rounds later told me, she originally saw me from the back and thought I was a visitor, and then when she saw I was pregnant got concerned I was trying to run away!) Our speed walks were unsuccessful so around 8:00AM they started the pitocin. They fed it in super slowly (too gradually it turns out due to a miscommunication) so I didn’t start to experience painful contractions until around 12:30. We filled the morning, chatting, walking the halls, and generally trying to pass time. My mom arrived around 10:00. (Caroline took the boys to her house in the morning, and then my Dad and Dantz picked them up around 10:00 and cared for them the rest of the day.) The waiting game was hard on me. I was genuinely eager for hard contractions! (I also had a headache from uncomfortable hospital pillows and sleepless night.)

Due to the pitocin, the baby had to be constantly monitored, which meant that every 15 minutes the two nurses (Becky and Maggie) had to adjust the bands to get them to pick up baby’s heartbeat. I suppose the fact that I couldn’t sit still didn’t help! I kept hoping that walking the halls would speed things up. Finally, around 2:15 active labor started. I was so relieved, this is what I had prepared for!  This time around the birthing ball was my best friend, with my arms resting on the end of the bed I circled on the ball while Tom rubbed my lower back. Together we worked our way through the contractions. It was very much a united front, Tom was there rubbing my back, massaging my neck, and lending support through all two hours of active labor. Because of the need for monitoring the jets on the jacuzzi weren’t an option this time- which was too bad, since I had really appreciated that approach with Anders.  I got up and walked from time to time but the contractions hurt so much more when I was standing that while it felt like it lent more “progress” it didn’t feel worth it. Not to mention laboring in the hall, with so many people looking on, was awkward.  I feel the need to be very focused when I’m in active labor. Breathing and relaxing through the contractions is what allows me to cope/relax into the contraction. And having so many people in the room through the entirety of the labor wasn’t ideal. But with my eyes closed and music playing I was able to focus inward, and be one with the baby and Tom.

I was very aware of transition, and fortunately, because I identified it, was able to encourage myself through it, saying “I got this, I got this, I got this.” But I found myself suddenly annoyed by the two nurses who were never more than five feet away, watching and adjusting the fetal monitors. I suddenly couldn’t stand how strongly they smelled of purel, nor did I care for Toms un-showered un-deodorized state. I grew annoyed that things were taking so long.

While in transition, I switched to a deep child’s poise on the bed after learning that I was only measuring at a 6. (This was probably around 3:50)  As I lay there in child’s poise, my face resting in the pillow, Tom continually rubbing my back, I realized that I was controlling and preventing the tail end of the contraction from running the full length of my body. As soon as I relaxed into the final part of the contraction, it started running to the very depth of my pelvis and I went from a 6 to complete in 15 minutes. (Which meant the neo-natalogist wasn’t present, as they had hoped.)

I feel the take home lesson from labor this time, was trusting my body’s timing. I was so sick of waiting that I really wanted to push things along and my midwife said several times, “There is no need to rush.” Interestingly, it was my own involvement that resulted in the slowing of labor- even though I felt more control- I was in my own way. My body knows how to labor and I had to trust my maternal instincts and not my logical brain.

I needed someone to coach me through the breathing in the final stages but nobody did. I lost my focus, whimpering at the intense pain of the ring of fire and tissue ripping. I started hyperventilating which caused my arms to go numb. I was in an awkward position for the pushing stage, I didn’t feel very set up or supported like I had with Anders when Mary gave me detailed instruction. I suppose it’s because Michelle knew it wasn’t going to take long. I held Tom’s hand on the left and my Mom’s on the right  I gave two or three good pushes and then Michelle had me continue to push between contractions (because Chiara’s heart rate dropped to 50) and with that and two more pushes she was out! Around the third push I reached down and felt the top third of her head. This brought me such intense joy and I couldn’t help exclaim “My baby! Oh, My baby!” After the fourth push I felt Chiara kick inside of me- and I laughed as I said “She just kicked!” One more push and she was out and on my chest.  I can’t express the intense joy I felt. My eyes brimmed with tears and my lips spread wide in a smile as I held my sweet tiny little girl. I couldn’t get over how small she seemed, how beautiful she was, how much love I felt for her.

After Chiara was born she stayed skin to skin on my chest for over an hour. The nurses suctioned her, wiped her up, and checked her out without removing her. (Chiara immediately worked her way to my breast and started nursing)  Tom stayed at my shoulder, his arms encircling us. I felt such a strong bond between us this time. We were truly in it together.  I sensed more joy and confidence from Tom, more assurance and peace that “I had this.” He knew what to do, or what to ask if he didn’t.  Despite the flurry of activity from the nurses and midwife after the birth, it felt like it was just the three of us Tom, Chiara and I- wrapped in this warm light of love and unity.

Tom left to get Scotland and Anders (and my Dad and Dantzel) around 5:00. The boys were so excited to see and hold Chiara and were so sweet in the hospital. They enjoyed the celebratory meal of pizza and pop that Grandpa brought. We had bought each a small present (a foam sword and shield to “protect their sister.”) And when asked if he was ready for his present Scotland said “Baby’s the present!” When they were getting ready to go Anders asked “Baby come?” They enjoyed sitting on the bed with me and pushing all the buttons, laughing hysterically as the bed moved in all different directions.

Tom gave Chiara her first bath that evening around 10:00. (New research suggests you wait at least six hours.) I spent the night with Chiara sleeping on my chest- in complete bliss. Finally, my baby had arrived!

Now in pictures:

Brothers/ Grandparents visit:

First Bath:

Morning After:

Heading home:

It’s crazy to think that more than a week has passed since this sweet girl entered our lives. We fall in love with her a little more everyday. She loves to be cuddled close- preferring as much body contact as possible. She’ll often nuzzle her way under my chin, so I can feel her little breath on my neck as she sleeps. She’s a great nurser- patiently working with me to get a good latch. She sleeps well during the day- in the Ergo, swing, or Daddy’s lap. She isn’t keen on sleeping on her back, and so we’ve taken to letting her sleep on our chests in the rocking chair, or in the swing at night. She’s easily soothed, and, so far, seems unperturbed by the loudness and craziness around her. She likes to be wrapped tight, and enjoys her pacifier. For the first few days she mostly opened just the left eye, and even still she’s slow to open her right eye. The boys love to hold her, and are always excited when I invite them to help with her in some way. Despite being an average sized baby, we all still can’t get over how tiny she is (compared with Anders). She has long thin fingers and long thin feet. We adore her!

Full term- full of joy

My due date was four days ago. I was two days late with Scotland and nine days late with Anders, so I expected it this time around. Especially since I’ve been measuring small.  I can genuinely say I haven’t felt any frustration. I believe in letting babies come when they’re ready. So despite the many queries, I don’t plan on inducing. I’m grateful for midwives that feel similarly. I’m also grateful that I’m blessed with healthy and strong pregnancies that, while including their measure of pain and discomfort, are very manageable. In preparing for childbirth this week I’ve been reading “The Gift of Giving Life.” It’s a compilation of essays by LDS women about various aspects of pregnancy and childbirth. I’ve appreciated their sacred, optimistic approach and found great peace and comfort in their view points.

I was feeling rather grumpy a few weeks ago, I was experiencing a lot of pelvic pain, and was getting frustrated with how it was limiting my activity level. I allowed my own discomfort to seep into my interactions with the boys and I let things go sour for a little while, until I got tired of myself and decided it was time to take a different approach. No body likes a negative Nelly. I determined to spend more time in prayerful contemplation, and to find some literature to help me garner greater optimism in my situation. It’s worked marvels. Instead of grouching about my inability to do some things, I’ve savored the opportunity to do other things like reading and playing the piano. Instead of pushing the boys and trying to keep things uber productive, I’ve slowed down and done more with them. I’ve taken time to linger at the playground, or take a picnic. (The gorgeous weather has been a HUGE boon!)  Their behavior has improved significantly, there’s been more love in our home, and we’re all a LOT happier. I’ve gone from dreading and stressing about the delivery to looking forward to it. I’m not sure I look it, but I feel “the glow.”

This all goes to show the power of spirituality. I’m reading a book called “The Spiritual Child.” It’s a fascinating book! It discusses the scientific research behind spirituality and its merits. I highly recommend it to everyone, but especially to those who aren’t religious, and who are unsure of how to approach spirituality in their children. I credit this book also for helping me flip my perspective- at least in my interactions with the boys. I can be a pretty high-strung, intense Mom. And my tendency is to run a tight ship- whether my boys like it or not! But this book really emphasizes the importance of focusing on more than academic and intellectual pursuits. It’s helped me re-analyze where I should be placing my emphasis as a mother and helped me decide that teaching collaboration, friendship, kindness, service, anger management, joyful living, and spirituality is more important than time management, reading, taekwondo, cleanliness, or organization. And interestingly as I’ve given greater emphasis to things like kindness and service some of the other things that I used to harp on have become less of an issue- like messy eating, or defiant behavior. I believe strongly that example is the greatest teacher. (Though I think about it more than I do it!) As I’ve tried to set an example of helping and service these past weeks, we’ve done chores together– instead of me doing one thing and they doing another. I’ve sought to be playful and collaborative about it, and then been surprised as they continued to help as we moved from one chore to the next to the next. (While normally I’d be happy if they completed one chore.) We’ve spent more time reading the Friend, singing primary songs, and memorizing scriptures. I’ve been more vigilant with FHE lessons. And, as promised, the spirit has increased in our home. The boys have been less contentious, and I haven’t been stressed out and annoyed by the time Tom gets home.

I’ve relied on the empowering nature of the Atonement. Each morning I’ve prayed for the power to use a soft answer, to feel greater love and understanding, to be more patient and creative, and each night I’ve marveled at how God blessed me with each of those things. God is real. He has such a desire to uplift us and bless us, to help us become our best selves, but we must ask!

I know that the next six months are going to seriously test my grit. For a while I feared it. I thought: If I’m struggling to be level headed and patience with my boys while sleeping eight hours a night, how on earth am I going to survive when I’m sleep deprived? And then I turned to my Savior, and the last few weeks have been, beautiful. I feel hope that with complete reliance on Him these next six months need not just be endured but enjoyed. Of course, I’ll have to do things His way. But having reaped the blessings of doing just that these past weeks, I’m looking forward to it!

Happy Conference Weekend!

This weekend was our church’s spring General Conference. There are four general sessions, two each on Saturday and Sunday for two hours each session. It’s one of my favorite weekends of the year. I always come away from conference feeling spiritually edified and inspired. This weekend was no different. I’m grateful that baby is holding out, so we could enjoy this weekend together. I’ve worked hard over the years to make conference weekend something special for the boys. So I was thrilled when I heard Scotland exclaim to Anders as they snuggled on the rocking chair and chatted in the early morning hours, “Anders, it’s conference weekend!” Most of their excitement revolves around the special food that accompanies conference: cinnamon rolls, candy when they find the picture of the leader speaking, etc. But, I’d be selling them short if I didn’t give them credit for the joy they feel while listening to the talks and hearing the music. They both spent a significant amount of time just sitting watching and listening, commenting on the beautiful music, or the content of the talks. Considering their ages, they did a terrific job.

We took advantage of the gorgeous weather on today to enjoy a lot of family time- having a picnic between sessions, climbing our trees out back, and riding bikes at the playground in the afternoon. Scotland made it to a major milestone today: He’s now riding a pedal bike! We took the training wheels and pedals off his bike several months ago to turn it into a balance bike. Today Tom put the pedals back on and he immediately took to it. It’s really quite a spectacular transition- especially if you’re used to the more typical scene of the parent running behind the bike and grimacing as the child crashes, over and over. We’re so proud of him.

Both feet off the ground!

We’ve had a lot of bike time the last two weeks, and Anders has made significant progress on his strider as well. (Can I just say, that was the most perfectly chosen birthday gift!) While we were picnicking at the park with friends on Friday he started lifting up his feet while he cruised down the ramp at the park! And he’s now sitting on the seat and taking long gliding steps with his feet. It’s HILARIOUS to watch. And Tom and I both felt bad for repeatedly snickering. He’s very proud of his bike, and is very serious and persistent with it.

Boy do we love having a playground walking distance from our house!

Seeing both of these boys speeding around on their bikes makes me SO happy. I’m already planning summer bike rides, and thrilling at the thought of jogging along side them with baby in the stroller. I think I’ll spring for a baby seat on my bike when she’s old enough so we can all ride together.

We’ve seen so much more of Tom the last few weeks, which has been SO wonderful. This weekend just really felt like normal family life- we had a s’more roast with friends, Tom and I watched a movie together, we had meals together, we laughed, and enjoyed our boys. And it just felt so right. We both feel really grateful that we’ve had this time leading up to our baby’s birth, so we can welcome her in with warmth, love and genuine joyful anticipation.

Happy Easter

We had a beautiful Easter- spread over a few days. We dyed eggs Friday night for “Family Fun” we hid two sets of plastic eggs inside on Sunday and then hid our boiled eggs outside on Monday (Since Sunday was rainy and cold, and Monday was beautiful.) We had our spiritual lesson on Monday for Family Home Evening, as Sunday was taken up with church and dinner with the Vogel’s. I managed to get one quite snap shot on Easter when the rain broke for 15 minutes before church. It’s a pretty accurate portrayal of our family: Anders looking sweet, Scotland being silly, me smiling though clearly stressed out, and Tom trying to keep the peace. I’m not sure why Easter Sundays are always so stressful for me. I’m afraid the attempt to get two wiggly high energy boys to church without dirtying their clean pressed shirts, or rumbling their brushed hair is an overachievement. But I keep trying, unsuccessfully- adding a family picture to the equation was the sinker this year. Thanks to the classical radio station for calming my nerves before Sacrament meeting.

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IMG_4968The boys had so much fun with all the egg hunts. They loved hiding the eggs for each other, and for us. Anders ran around the yard enthusiastically, exclaiming whenever he found an egg. And Scotland was determined to find the “hard” ones we had hid for him.

I prepared the “Easter Bag” activity from the Friend, for FHE. It involved a collection of items that symbolized different events in the last week of the Savior’s life. We then read the scriptures and the boys found the item mentioned. I’m still surprised at how well my boys understand the scriptures. Anders excitedly picked up the little plastic cup when I read “Let this cup pass from me.” As is the norm their was a good measure of silliness, but I hope that the boys felt some of the spirit that I felt. Especially as I read the passage of Christ appearing to Mary before he ascended to the Father. The emotion captured there is stirring. I felt a measure of the joy Mary must have felt at seeing her Lord alive, and was glad to be able to bear testimony to the boys of the living Christ.

I’m so grateful for sacred holidays for bringing these discussions to the forefront. I’m grateful for a church that nurtures spirituality in my boys. There are few things that I love more than hearing them sing primary songs as they play- often filling in lyrics or making up melodies where their memories fail them. I’m grateful for how their testimonies strengthen mine. Mostly, I’m grateful for my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for filling my heart with joy, my mind with truth, and my soul with peace.

Reflections on the third pregnancy

I kept a consistent pictorial record of my first pregnancy. (here, here, here) My second pregnancy though less thoroughly documented also featured several posts, though less directly related to my pregnancy. This time around I’ve posted far less on every subject, so following suit, my pregnancy has hardly been noted, except for this one post. I can’t sleep so I figure 4:00AM is a wonderful time to document a few things.

I’m in no means an old Mom, so perhaps it’s just the result of it being my third pregnancy but I’ve had a lot more pain this time around. As a result I’ve had to significantly decrease my level of activity the last few months. Which has been really difficult for me. Especially with spring bursting out, I have such an itch to head out on a long run, or at least a spritely walk. From time to time I’ll throw caution to the wind and head out regardless, only to suffer the consequences the rest of the day or week. I’m pretty sure I have PSD, which essentially means that the hormone relaxin has over loosened my pelvis making it abundantly obvious that my pelvic cradle is made up of not one but two bones. Asymmetrical movements like stepping into a car, or climbing onto bed are painful, and even when walking I can feel the two sections of my pelvis separating and connecting. Sitting for long aggravates it, and by the end of the day I’m all too happy to settle into my “throne,” as Tom calls my leather reclining rocking chair.

It’s definitely been harder to be pregnant and have a two year old, as opposed to a three year old. Anders still insists that he is a “baby” and he loves to be held. I love to hold him, but any more I have to curl him up above my belly which is pretty ridiculous considering his size and weight. Cuddling when rotund as I, is awkward and Anders often gets frustrated by his lack of options. There is still a lot of picking up and carrying necessary with a two year old, which at this stage of pregnancy is trying.

Last pregnancy i had terrible cholestasis at this point. Knock on wood, but it hasn’t been as bad this time around. It’s often what keeps me up on nights like tonight when Tom comes to bed super late, and wakes me- my itchy feet and hands often make it hard to fall back asleep, but it hasn’t kept me from falling asleep as much as it did last pregnancy.

I’ve been measuring small this pregnancy, which was NOT the case last time. I’ve had a couple of extra ultrasounds as a result, and everything looks fine, it just looks like our little lady probably won’t be over 10 pounds like her brother. Thank goodness!

One of the sweetest parts of this pregnancy has been the boys’ reaction to it. We talk about “baby” daily, and it’s clear that Scotland, especially, has considered himself as having a sister for several months, and often introduces her as such when we talk to people. Feeling her move always makes him giggle, and he’ll just pat my belly to give her love, or put his little face down and talk to her from time to time. I’ve been working on the nursery in my spare time the past few months, and last week Scotland said upon going to bed “Mom will you work on baby’s room? Because I’m so excited for baby!” He likes to go in there and check on my progress and talk about how he’s going to care for baby. We talk with the boys often about their upcoming responsibilities as big brothers. Scotland likes to recite all the ways he’s going to help. I’m a little nervous that he’s going to be disappointed, when she actually arrives, that many of the things he’d hoped to help with, he won’t be able to, at least for the first couple of months. (He’ll say things like, Let’s leave this step stool here so I can get baby out of her crib!) He coos at each new girly gift that we receive. And when I told him that baby is due in just two weeks, and could come any day, his eyes lit up then grew worried, as he said he hoped she didn’t come for two weeks because he still needed to “sew her bows.”

Anders is less aware but he still talks about baby, especially when Scotland is doing so. He’s spent more time carry for our lone baby doll, and even took her wrapped up in a blanket with a bow and pacifier to Taekwondo the other day. As I mentioned, if you ask him if he’s a big boy or a baby, he’ll exclaim that he’s a baby. I’m curious how he’s going to take the new addition.

I have had such an outpouring of love and support with this pregnancy. I’ve been astounded by the number of people who have brought by gifts, and offered to help in any way. Just yesterday our neighbor Barb brought over a gift for each of the boys and an outfit set for the baby. Another friend offered to grab me groceries if I ever need it. Every Sunday some new sister smiles as she hands me a gift bag. One of the things I love most about pregnancy is how it unifies us as women. I never feel more female than when I’m pregnant, and nursing. In preparation for the psychological aspect of child birth I recently read this article. It really resonated with me. For any of you who have followed this blog, this won’t come as a surprise to you. Anders birth story was a certain account of the power of women. It’s something I’m rather passionate about. Don’t get me wrong, I do my fair share of complaining about pregnancy- especially at this stage, but I also really cherish those pre-sleep snuggles with my little one, when I’ll chase her limbs around my belly, and seek out her little back to rub. I’ve loved decorating her nursery, because it’s carved out time for me to think about her, dream about her, pray for her. A few weeks back I started to get waves of anxiety whenever I thought about my approaching status as Mother of Three. How was I ever going to have enough love, patience, understanding, and creativity to lovingly and joyfully care for three children? It kept me up at night. But all it took was a slightly longer prayer session to be reminded of the source of all Goodness, and that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Only He can gift me with charity, endurance, energy, and perspective beyond my own. I believe He wants me to enjoy this upcoming period of my life, despite the challenge of it. I’ve put my faith in Him that He will empower me to do so, despite the fatigue, pain, and hardship.

Ice cream

I think I might just go on an ice cream diet until the baby’s born. Molly Moon has a blood orange ginger beer sorbet that sounds to die for. (I’m so bummed I missed their meyer lemon seasonal flavor.) I keep having visions of the model train that runs around the Mitchell’s creamery in Cleveland- where I met my ice cream cravings when I was pregnant with Scotland. Menchies calls my name every time I drive by. My frugality stops me from acting on these urges. The off-brand containers will have to do instead. Because, let’s be real, I have a baby girl on the way. We all know that the desire to buy other things, has increased as well!

Toys, toys, toys

How many toys do kids need for ultimate intellectual stimulation and creative development? How much stimulation do children get from a wider range of toys? We have two types of toys, high quality toys that we spend good money on, and random toys that I pick up at Goodwill. Usually the latter are of good quality, but may not be as highly reviewed as the toys I pay full price for.  It’s things like the big foam alphabet puzzle that I picked up for a few dollars. The boys don’t really use it. I keep thinking it’s going to be great once we’re doing more spelling work. I love the idea of the boys jumping from letter to letter to improve recognition, and we’ve done that a few times, but mostly they are put away- because it drives me nuts that when they’re down they’re usually just scattered around the toy room unused. Should I just send them on to a new life with some other family? What about the small container of waffle blocks, or the bowling pin set, or the construction stuff.  Is it good for kids to play pretend with construction tools- or just bring them out into the garage with me and let them use the real tools with me from time to time? (Scotland’s built some pretty cool airplanes with scraps of wood and nails. And Anders always joins in when I’m building.) What about the build-a-train with blocks set, that the boys play with for 15 minutes, and then move on? It’s wood, it’ll last forever, but it just doesn’t keep their interest- so more often than not it gets stored. Should I say thank you for the short moments of fun, and pass them on?

I just read The Magical Art of Tidying up. I’m nesting hardcore. And I’m an organizer/minimizer at heart. BUT my desire to raise creative, playful, imaginative children trumps my desire to have a clutter-free, perfectly organized home. So I’m willing to hold on to these things, but I need to know that they’re adding quality to my boys’ childhood.

So somebody tell me. Keep or purge?

Vocal Cross training

I’ve taken voice lessons from elite college and conservatory professors for a decade, and yet for the most part I was never taught to use my chest voice. I was certainly never encouraged to bring my chest voice up. The emphasis was always on mixing. This weekend I attended a NATS conference on Vocal Cross Training and it was HUGELY insightful, and humbling. While I have always considered my training to have been elite, it became glaringly clear this weekend that while I may have had an elite education, that education was severely limited in some regards. At the conference the speakers placed great emphasis on the importance of isolating the vocal registers- allowing the singer to be fully aware and in control of all colors of the voice so that their artistic and technical choices can be more expansive. Of course! How have I rejected, even feared my low for so long? Because I’m a rule follower- and I was taught that the chest wasn’t to be used, except for extreme low notes where blending was no longer possible. I wanted permission, and it wasn’t granted. (Heaven forbid I experiment on my own!) It’s shocking to me now, after hearing what I heard yesterday, that I was never coached through the process of register isolation.  Yesterday, I watched singers stand up in masterclass and belt one piece and then followed it up immediately with a classical aria. That would have been heresy at the conservatories I attended. It’s a brave new world, folks!

It was a wonderful conference with excellent speakers (Norman Spivey, Kari Ragan, etc). I learned so much, and I’m excited to try out the exercises/methodologies I was introduced to on myself and my students. I also met some wonderful new friends. I truly love teaching voice, I’m passionate about singing. I find the increasingly diverse approach to repertoire and styling within the vocal academy refreshing, though unnerving. I’m a conservative at heart, and the conservatory training is comfortable. But, I can rest on my laurels no longer, I have much to learn, and most of it will come with experimentation. Here’s goes. Time to let down my hair, open my throat and let it all out.