Lord, Have Mercy

Monday, December 15, 2014

Quite by accident, I stumbled upon this tonight.

I was replaying the portion of Handel's Messiah from today's Advent devotional segment this evening.  It's the trio from Young Messiah (1994) of Larnelle Harris, Steve Green and Michael English singing Surely, He Hath Borne our Sins.  I could listen to it over and over.  We started watching a few more Young Messiah pieces from the same concert recording.  I used to listen to it many times over in my late teens and early twenties.

And then James and I noticed that in the line up there was a video from Moody Church Media.  Well, we certainly had to look at what that was.  And this resulted in a little walk down memory lane, accompanied by this perfectly gorgeous piece that I'd never heard of before.  The soloist is a man that studied at Moody with me, but I think graduated a couple years after me.  The conductor is the iconic Gerald Edmonds, one of my teachers at Moody, music director at Moody church for 27 years, and the man who along with David Davis, I credit with teaching me how to conduct.

15 years ago, this was our church home for the duration of our time in Chicago.  I walked across that stage, through those choir seats and up and down those aisles more times than I can count.  I conducted children's choirs and even the adult choir once from that stage, I directed the children's christmas pageant from those steps, and I scurried through the back passageways behind those rounded-top doors with a headset on each year during Candlelight Carols, helping to get the Nativity actors out on their cue.  Behind the left door (stage right) and up a wee hallway was the recording room that I could always find James in....if he wasn't up at the top of the balcony at the live soundboard of this massive, 4000 seat church in downtown Chicago.  It had a children's program so large that I would 'make my rounds' each Sunday morning to provide music for each class, of each department of the Sunday School.

Phew.  Didn't realize how much I missed all that until just now.  I've now listened to about 5 versions by other churches or choirs and Moody's is by far the most beautiful and sensitive. Give this a listen, mom.  I guarantee you'll like it.

Adventures of a Landry Teacher

Monday, December 1, 2014

That's me!  I'm a Landry teacher.

Let me tell you all about it....I've been wanting to for months, but I've been SO busy preparing and teaching my Landry class that there has been ZERO time to blog.  But now I will try and sneak it in, while I'm waiting on Livechat for my budgeting program to get fixed.

Last spring, I saw an email come through from one of the many homeschooling associations/companies/organizations/support groups/whatever, that I subscribe to.  The subject line said something about a job opportunity.  Always interested in a way to make a little more money, I looked right into that.

It looked like a pretty interesting/good deal to me.  Teach online, from my house, get paid for it! Very cool.  I submitted a resume and proposal of what I could possibly teach. Landry specializes in providing online classes for homeschooling students.
A few weeks later, I heard back from Landry and they were interested in me!  They set up a phone interview for shortly after and I "met" one of the directors, a lady named Karri.  She seemed very lovely and it was an enjoyable interview.  She told me that by the end of the week (this was a Tuesday, I believe) they would let me know if I had passed into the next level of interviews, and would do a demo class for them.
End of the week nuthin'.  They emailed before the end of the day.  I took this as a good sign. :-)

So my next rite of passage was to create a short, 5 minute presentation about my specialty with powerpoint.  I LOVE making powerpoint presentations.  So fun.  I said to James the other night that I realized why I love making them so much....because it's rather like scrapbooking, but digital.
Somewhere along the line, Landry had said that they were interested in me to teach a class called "Meet the Composers", a music history-type course.  Sounded good to me.  I've never actually taught music history, but I've taught pretty much everything else in terms of music, and 5 semesters of Music History and Literature with Dr. Strandt had to come in handy somewhere!!

I made my presentation on Vivaldi (my fav) and spent some time getting acquainted with the programs they use for running Landry--Blackboard Collaborate for actually teaching, and Haiku for personalized class web pages, which is where you post all the assignments and such.

My audition/demo teaching came and went with no problems.  I felt it went very well, and settled in to wait for the week or so to pass until they called with my verdict.  Even though I was confident, I was still a little nervous...
If I got this job, it would go a LONG way to helping pay for Verity's gymnastics.  This past summer she moved up to 18 hours of training per week.  We had hoped to pay for the whole year in one shot and relieve the stress of monthly payments, but it wasn't possible.  If I got the number of students they anticipated, it would more than pay for her whole year.  How awesome would that be!?

Of course, by now, you know that I got the job.  Yay!!  I got to work making my syllabus and beginning to create the class.  I had the whole summer (well...most.  Landry starts early, about mid-August) so I was not worried.  Even though I knew I had to create 15, 90 minute classes complete with powerpoint, assignments, tests, etc., I thought it would be no problem.  I had the whole summer, right?
Well, first off, we got a foreign billet student.  I didn't know until a day or two before she arrived from France, that I had to spend at least 1-2 hours per day teaching her English.  And of course showing her our fine country.  Didn't get as much work done during that time as I'd hoped...and that was most of July.
And...it just took much longer than I anticipated.  I got my syllabus done by June 30th (about a month to do that) and got to work on fleshing out my research.  I can't remember when I got that done, but I sat every day during the first two weeks of July, for 2 hours while my kids took swimming lessons, working on it at the pool.
Once I had all my info, it would take me 2-3 hours to write my lesson, 4-6 hours to make the powerpoint (I was teaching grades 4-6, I knew I needed LOTS of graphics), another 1-2 hours to make up the student notes outline and then, say 2-3 hours to find all my music and create the assignments and class pages for that week.  Sooo, that's like a week working at a part-time job.  And since I was still teaching in the evenings during the summer, and of course still at home with the kids all day, it would definitely take me a week, if I sat down every spare moment and worked on it. I had four lessons fully done by the time classes started.  My August holidays at Fair Havens fell during my second week of classes, so I was still working madly on classes, as well as having to arrange to go somewhere with decent internet to actually teach the class that week (thank you inlaws that live close to camp!!)

So anyways, I did manage to get far enough ahead of myself that I only scraped close to class time once or twice, and it was all good.  This week is the last class and I'm set to go.  I've actually started my prep for next semesters class, which is sort-of a continuation of this semester and sort-of not.  This semester focused on Medieval, Renaissance and Baroque, and next is Classical, Romantic and Modern.

As well as teaching the class, another interesting opportunity arose.  Landry often holds 'webinars' that teachers give on all kinds of topics, and it's a way to provide the general public with samples of Landry teachers, as well as provide some free expertise of various topics of interest.  My department has apparently made it a tradition to hold a week of webinars in November (one each night) specifically on the arts and Christmas.  My class had been quite small this semester; nowhere near the numbers that had been talked about in my interview, so my department head thought a webinar would be a perfect opportunity for me to bump up my profile.  I put my mind to the task and came up with (who am I kidding, the credit is all the Lord's) making an Advent devotional.  Despite the fact that I was stressed to the max trying to get the rest of my class created in time to teach it each week, somehow, I felt that I could 'fit' in creating, essentially, a book.
I killed two birds with one stone, for a good part of it though.  The idea was to make an Advent devotional based on Handel's Messiah.  Each day would include scripture from the libretto of Messiah, a discussion or explanation of the scripture, application to life, etc, and then a bit of biographical info on Handel, which of course I had already prepared for my class.  Each day's portion closes with a link to a youtube video of the featured Messiah chorus or aria for that day.  As a homeschool mom, I loved this idea because it would cover my daily devotions with my kids--with an Advent flavour no less, a bit of history, and then application and music appreciation.  Messiah is gorgeous but who takes four young-ish kids to a 2 hour performance of it?  Not this crazy mama! This way, they'd be exposed everyday for the month of December and hopefully by the 25th, be in love with Messiah.  In more ways than one.

It, of course, ended up being a fair bit more work than I thought (I am the queen of underestimating, I do believe) but the end result was quite pleasing.  I presented the devotional during a 1/2 hour long webinar which had a very pleasing turnout of about 40 people.  My 'free gift' to all attendees was access to this devotional at no cost. :-)

You too can have access to it as well!  All webinars are recorded, and  you can watch the recording here.  Just look down the list until you see "Celebrate the Advent Season with Handel's Messiah".
No, no, I can't give away the devotional link...you'll have to get that by watching the webinar!! Heehee!

So now my budget problem is not fixed...they have created a trouble ticket...sigh.  And it's time for me to go to bed...

This is why I'm off Facebook

Thursday, October 9, 2014

I can't seem to embed it, so you'll have to (gasp) click one extra time.


Well, it's not the entire reason, but I'll get to that later.

Jairus and the Soccer Tournament

Saturday, October 4, 2014

This is our second year involved in a local, and rather large, homeschooling group called T.E.A.C.H. (To educate a child's heart).  I really enjoy and appreciate what it offers us, as of course organized sports are not something we can easily conjure up for ourselves.  This year, as last, only Jairus and Honour are old enough to actually participate in the sports programs.  Last year they both did basketball, floor hockey and a bit of baseball.  The program runs for 3 weeks of two hour sessions that they call "skills and drills", and then after that the teams are chosen.  Last year neither Jairus or Honour made any of the teams, but this was understandable because they were both among the youngest of the groups. Well...and because Jairus' main goal was to have fun. :-)

As this new school year started, I saw that soccer was being held.  We missed it last year for some reason.  As soccer is pretty much Jairus' favourite sport, I knew there was no question that we'd go to it.  Verity's gym schedule made it tricky, as she needed to be in Caledonia at the same time as soccer started in Brantford.  We split the difference; Verity was early and we were late.

After the 3rd skills and drills session, we were packing up to go when the coach for the boys team came over to me.  He worked with Jairus last year with no problems, so I was pleased to see him coaching the soccer boys.  As he approached, he had a grin and was chuckling a bit.  He told me that if I thought Jairus would be ok with it, he would put him on the team.  I was pretty surprised, and I guess it was obvious.  He explained that he'd made it clear to the boys that skills were not going to be the only deciding factor to making the team, but that attitude would count for a lot.  He described Jairus' encouraging behaviour with the other boys and said that he wouldn't mind at all if Jairus was on the team.  He cautioned that Jairus may not get much actual field time, but this was something he was telling all the boys.  I was SO pleased, and told him that I'd talk to Jairus and let him know.  Truthfully, I wasn't sure how much Jairus would actually understand; after participating in the sports last year for only the 3 skills and drills each time, I thought he might not realize that these were actually part of the try-out process.  However, that night as he was going to bed I mentioned it to him, and he really did seem to understand--and was pleased and excited.

This past Monday he had his first set of exhibition games, which since I had to work, James took the day off to take him to.  It was a good afternoon and Jairus got a little time on the field.

Friday of this week was the big soccer tournament, attended by the area Christian schools. T.E.A.C.H. is a member of the organization.  
We got there just past 8:30am and got Jairus into his shirt, cleats and shin guards.  The morning was warm and bright, with a strong wind.  Jairus started to get warmed up with his team.

The boys had 4 games that morning and I wasn't surprised that Jairus didn't get to play in any of them.  Happy as he so often is, it didn't seem to bother him.  Often as I checked on him, he'd be hopping around with an extra ball behind the bench, or standing near the coach, like a little assistant.  During the breaks, one of Jairus' friends invited him to play around. :-)

Rain was in the forecast for around lunchtime, and unfortunately the weather man did not lie.  By 12:45 or so, the rain started to fall and many kids took shelter under the big tarp someone had wisely brought.

They had won 3 games out of 4 during the morning but the rain made things difficult.  They lost what was a semi finals game which sent them into a consolation game for 3rd place.  The first half of the game saw the boys let in 4 goals...not so great for the team, but good news for Jairus!  James had arrived by this point and we were both excited to see the coach's wife help Jairus off with his jacket.  He was on the field!

Now that he'd gotten on the field, my next goal was that he'd kick the ball.  Jairus is not terribly aggressive out there and would do a lot of running around a safe distance away from the action.  But finally he was in the right spot at the right time...and gave the ball a good kick (in the right direction!!).  I was just thrilled.  Despite the soaking rain, he had a great time.

Lindley Pumpkin farm

There is just nothing more fun than going on a fall trip.  When I was a kid, my most favouritist (yes, that's a word) place was Chudley's apple farm.   LOVED that place.  This year, our farm of choice was Lindleys in Ancaster.  We went with quite a large homeschooling group organized by my friends Jen and Rachael.

First we took a wagon ride through the farm and out to the pumpkin patch.  Here's some of my widdow pumpkins. (lol)

Then we got out and had our pick of hundreds of pumpkins.  We were the first group to come through!

Then we wagonned back and the kids got to feed a small collection of farm animals, sat through a wee educational blurb about pumpkins and then had an apple for a snack around some tables set up under a large tent/shed.  I remarked to a friend as we chatted that my kids were never so interested in eating apples...doing it with friends seemed to make all the difference.  Then they got to play around on a few slides and climbers...and investigate the Halloween decorations already set up.

Each of my kids brought home a pie pumpkin.  The big girls chose big pumpkins, Afton chose a medium sized, and Jairus chose a wee little tiny thing.  They were all set to carve them, but I reminded them that the farmer had warned that these pumpkins were for making pies and had a very tough rind.  They were really better for making something....like a pie.  Verity decided that this was exactly what she wanted to do.  By some miracle, I had everything needed in the pantry to make a pumpkin pie.  So, Google to the rescue to teach me what the heck to do with a pumpkin in order to get it into pie consistency.  First, we cut them in half and the kids did the gunky part--scraped away all the innards and seeds.

Honour decided that her pumpkin was going to have a face, however she had to create it.

Then, I cut the pumpkin (yes, I, no we about this part) into large chunks and the kids got them all into the pots.  It made A LOT of pumpkin.

That's only half of it!

When the pieces had boiled away for about 1/2 an hour, they were soft enough to come out and cool on racks for a bit.

Honour was determined to make use of ALL the pumpkin parts (Man, she would have made a great pioneer).  This was her "pumpkin guts broth", which actually smelled quite nice and I used it as the base to the pumpkin soup we ate that night.  She of course also roasted all the seeds.  Yum. :-)

Amazingly, I had a box of Crisco in the fridge (I NEVER have that stuff) and Verity and I were pretty impressed at how easy it was to make a pie crust.  Another googled recipe for the proper spices later, we had a very pretty, and VERY yummy pumpkin pie.  And TONNES of pumpkin left over to make more for next weekend!!  Happy Thanksgiving!!

Nicola McMaster Memorial Highland Dance Competition

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Did I say recently that Honour had "not yet accomplished" winning a trophy? :-)

Spring Frenzy

Sunday, April 27, 2014

It's not uncommon to have people comment, upon hearing I have four children, "My, you have your hands full", or otherwise similar sentiments.  Usually I just smile and nod and agree.  Busy...sure...[shrug].  It's just my life?
This spring has seemed particularly busy, with most weekends taking us from here to there and back three times.
It started with Honour's first competition of the season as I blogged about before.  A couple weeks later we realized that my worst fear was upon us....Honour and Verity had a competition on the same day. Eeeks.
Fortunately they were not at exactly the same time.  Honour was in Niagara Falls in the morning and Verity had to be in Milton for around noon.  It was Palm Sunday on top of it all, and I was needed at church in the morning to sing with the praise and worship team.  We devised a plan....

We've gotten to be fairly good friends with one of the families at the gym, and they mentioned that they'd be willing to take Verity to the competition if we needed them too.  At first I thought it wouldn't be necessary, but we soon realized that it would be a good idea.
So, James and Honour left the house quite early on Palm Sunday, around 6am, as this comp started a little earlier than most. They arrived in good time--scheduling success #1. I left a couple hours later and dropped Verity off at the friends house, then continued on to the church.
The service started at 10:30, and the team sang early in the program, so I was good to leave just before 11. I hopped in the van with the rest of the kids and my sister Maya, and we made our way to Milton.  I arrived even before the girls were let into the gym to start warm up.  Scheduling success #2.
Verity's competition started a little early, which really didn't help our cause in the end.  I took advantage of Maya's cell phone (I don't have one) to text with James, expecting that by that point, Honour's competition would be done and there would be news of how she did.  Unfortunately, despite their early start, the awards ceremony hadn't begun.  I would find out later that the competition was incredibly packed, with four stages running simultaneously to service 300 dancers. Scheduling blooper #1.

Verity's competition was moving along nicely, and I had expected that James and Honour, who were planning to head to Milton once they were done in Niagara Falls, would miss an element or two, but as the third element came and went, and still they hadn't left the Falls, I began to dread that they would miss the entire thing.  A text from James to say that he'd locked the keys in the car certainly didn't ease things along.  Scheduling Blooper #2....

Finally, the victory text arrived: Honour had won three medals, a first in her Fling, Third in Sean Truibhas and Fourth in her Sword Dance. Yay, another stamp!  They hopped in the car to try and get to Milton in time...

Meanwhile, Verity's last element was quickly approaching--her beam routine.  She had a rest period right before...but alas, her group moved to the beam section of the gym and began their practice run throughs...

I kept craning my neck to see through the high windows from the bleachers to the foyer, but it was Afton and Maya who saw them first...about 20 seconds into Verity's routine. :-S

This past weekend was slightly better.  Verity was scheduled for late Friday afternoon in Mississauga, and Honour was entered into a competition in Ajax the next morning.

Friday started with a trip to McMaster to meet with a PRS family I'd met online, through my PRS Facebook group.  Their little one is still in the NICU and scheduled for a jaw distraction tomorrow morning.  It was really nice to connect in person and (hopefully) be an encouragement.  After getting trapped in the NICU during a fire alarm, I then ran down to 2G where James was frantically motioning for me to get into the examining room for our appointment with the neurologist.  Jairus had an incident a year and a half ago that we suspected was a seizure.  Subsequent tests confirmed that he had underlying seizure activity present in his brain.  We had hoped the appointment would explain everything....but not so much.  Bottom line is that they wouldn't or couldn't confirm a seizure and we are left in hyper-hover mode. Sigh.
We had determined that there wouldn't be enough time to go home after the appointment before heading to Mississauga so we had planned to go straight there from Hamilton.  It was a good plan as of course the specialist appointment went much longer than we thought it would.  We arrived just in time for Verity's 4pm registration time.
Unlike Milton which was extremely crowded, Mississauga's facility was roomier and overall her flight was smaller, so less families were in attendance.  It made for a much more pleasant way to pass the 3 hours that we were there.

Bars at Mississauga from Leslie Kent on Vimeo.

Verity was the only attendee from her club for this flight, something that's not happened to her before, but I encouraged her by pointing out that she'd have her coach, Katie, all to herself.  She started with the parallel bars, moved to the beam, performed on the floor third, and finished with the vault.  Her back walkover on the beam was flawed again, as her first meet, but at least this time she hopped back up and tried again.  The second time around she was successful.  The other events seemed to go well, but she'd decided not to include her newly attained front tuck in her floor routine, as she'd been out from training all week due to a strep throat infection.  Still, the two back handsprings were impressive.

Floor at Mississauga from Leslie Kent on Vimeo.

Her vault was also more confident and she stayed on her feet, unlike the last meet when she landed on her butt.  All this earned her a gold standing for both floor and bars, and silver for the beam and vault, for an overall rating of gold. Yay!

Up until right after Verity's comp, I actually wasn't going to be able to go to Ajax, as I had my last Musikgarten class to teach mid-morning.  I was pleased to be able to tell Honour at dinner that my director had moved the class to the following Saturday.  It ended up being a very good thing that I went...

We got up around 6am for a 7am departure.  We were about 10 to 15 minutes late leaving, and there was a bit of slow traffic through Toronto, so we arrived about 15 minutes into the 30 minute registration period.  No problem, right?
Hum.  HEW-mungus line-up.  I had thought this was a 'little' competition.  Hum.  Not so much.  Now to mention a slight glitch...
The day before the registration deadline, I had realized I couldn't send it in because I didn't have any cheques.  They were on order, and I had been expecting them any day, but they hadn't arrived yet.  I called the organizer to find out if they'd accept an email money transfer, but before I could even suggest this, she told me to email in Honours info and bring the cheque on the day of.  That sounded great to me, and I immediately sat down and emailed her with the registration particulars.
It wasn't until a day or two before the competition that I had a troubling thought; she hadn't emailed back to confirm the registration.  James pointed out that they didn't confirm with snailmail registrations so why would it be any different for email?  Spam boxes, that's why.
When we got back from Mississauga with Verity, I emailed the organizer and asked her to confirm that she'd received Honour's registration.  She didn't email back.  Hum.
We set off anyways, with a printed copy of my original email in my purse.  Good thing...

Sure enough, Honour's name was not on the list.

Some slightly tense moments later, as I sweetly insisted that I had followed the organizers instructions, all was well.  They conjured up the number #249 for Honour.
Glitch number two arrived only a few moments later when the Flora dance began and I realized with horror that we had forgotten Honours underskirt.  Fortunately, a quick trip out to the vendors in the hall furnished us with a new one (for a mere 40$). Ah well, her old one was pretty sad looking.
After that, things motored along.  Honour's group was quite large, so I was nervous that her chances were slimmer than usual.  It was also a 10 and up group, which meant she could very well be competing against 16 year olds--and some of them did look around that age.  We were there alone, as another competition had her teacher and some of her dancemates off in London.

Once her Flora was accomplished, I got her into her kilt for the rest of the dances.  There was only 15-20 minutes or so between each dance, so she would do a quick run through of the upcoming dance, and then we'd wait back on the bleachers for the announcement to line up.  Fling was next, always a strong dance for Honour, followed by Sword, usually strong as well, and finishing up with Sean Truibhas (say trews).  That last one has been slowly becoming more confident for Honour.

Sean Truibhas from Leslie Kent on Vimeo.

As usual, after the dancing was done, we all waited anxiously in the bleachers for the results to be tabulated. The first phase is always the worst; waiting to hear if her number would be called. Her newly added #249 would be the first called, if it would be...
And there it was, "249".  Phew.
Then comes the raised hope that perhaps her medal would be a first, second, or third and win her a stamp. Flora results were called without even a nod at Honour.  Fling was next....and there she was, walking confidently over to the official to receive her first place medal. Yes!
And now a more recent phase introduced....Miss Diannes students are often winning trophies.  Honour has not yet accomplished this.  But as I watched her receive another first a moment later for her Sean Truibhas, I began to feel a little tug of hope...that was two dances out of four that she'd won first place....
It was not to be, however, as the girl who'd won first place for the other two dances had also won medals behind Honour in the Fling and Sean Truibhas.  Ah well.  Happy for a stamp today!

Now, it was Jairus' turn for the spotlight, a rare occasion.  As soon as we started to gather up our things to leave Honour's competition, he caught my attention by patting his chest and making drum motions.  "Me?", he asked, "Me?".  At hearing my answer of "Yes, Jairus, your turn now", he responded excitedly "YES!".

The drive back seemed to take even a little longer than going out there, and it was mid afternoon before we stumbled through the front door.  Verity needed to go begging soliciting the neighbours to buy her latest gym fundraiser, as money was due back yesterday, and I needed to confirm that Jairus had all the wardrobe needed for his concert debut with the beginner band at church.
His white shirt just barely made the grade, slightly short in the sleeves, but acceptable, and after a frenzied search around the house, we located his navy clip-on tie.  By 5:30 we were on the road again for his 6pm call time.
This is the first year that Jairus has been playing in the beginner band.  Last fall, the director, also his former public school music teacher approached me and asked if he might want to join. We managed to finagle the rehearsal times into the schedule every Tuesday night and he seemed to be thoroughly enjoying his new musical expression--the drums.  He played out in one church service prelude but this would be a 'real' concert.  It was called Blazing Brass and it was a fundraiser for sending kids to music camp.
We arrived a couple minutes late and Jairus immediately went up to run through the songs with the group. We had an hour until the concert started so I relaxed and spent some time chatting with church friends.

7pm arrived and the concert began.  Jairus filed out with his bandmates.  Unfortunately, the first song they would play was combined with the Junior band and their drummer took the stool.  There wasn't anything else for Jairus to sit on, the leader was on the other side of the platform and of course none of the kids around him thought to help get him a chair to sit on....so he stood for the first 20 minutes or so, until their song came up.

He 'assisted' the Junior band drummer for that first song on the floor tom, which I got video of, but you can't really hear his part.  Then they played a song on their own and that's where he really shone.  He was on the snare and was well practiced.  I thought he did just perfect--even when he wasn't watching the director and beat one final tap after everyone had stopped.  His grin sent mild chuckles through the first few rows of the sanctuary.

James had to stay back and help with tear down, as he'd been the soundguy for the evening, and since supper had actually been a late lunch of Swiss Chalet leftovers, the kids were now hungry.  A final celebration at Wendy's was the answer, made even better by some friends joining us.

Am I busy?  Do I have my hands full?  Absolutely.  Is this a bad thing?

I wouldn't trade it for the world. :-)