Monday, April 17, 2006

Monday Break Time

Heather’s Primary class was delightful and fun. Mine was the same. My kids are really sweet, and far better behaved than Heather’s. I was trying to explain the importance of the Easter holiday. Only one kid actually believed me when I started the lesson saying “Today, we celebrate the birth of the Easter Bunny.” Actually he looked at me incredulously, but after I confirmed that it was true he seemed to accept it. The other kids all protested loudly, telling me I was wrong and that it was really a celebration of Jesus’ resurrection. We did have a short conversation of the Easter Bunny, though. One kid said “Some people don’t believe in the Easter Bunny, but I know he’s real because Michael (another child in my class) and I got the same kind of chocolate candy this morning.” I didn’t quite follow his child-like reasoning, but it charmed me to think he was so willing to believe. Children are so capable of believing, especially in something that brings good and joy into the world.

I then asked the kids what their favorite holidays were. I wanted to explain why mine is Easter. After all, without Easter, there would be no reason to celebrate Christmas. Well, half the kids said Christmas, one kid said his birthday. Little Zeke said “Earth Day.” I asked him “do you mean your birthday?” “No,” he said, “I mean EARTH day!” It was cute.

Well, back to work…

Sunday, April 16, 2006

The Santa Bunny

It is Easter today so a few traditions had to be observed. We started by observing our tradition of not getting out the baskets and eggs and clever little Easter village until it was too late to be worth our while. We also observed the tradition of making vague references to Easter dinner plans all week and then eating microwaved food when the day actually arrived. We did, however, manage to get Easter Sunday outfits with a little help from the internet. We went with robin's egg blue this year and I got some killer shoes to go with my dress. The dress needed a little altering to cover all of my garments but I ended up having to use scotch tape (no joke) because dress alterations would have cut into my mad dash to download/photoshop/cut the necessary clip art items for my primary lesson. We flew no kites this year, but we did take a walk out under the insanely frilly pink and white flowering trees. I broke my Lenten fast with six oreos for breakfast.

The talks were standard Easter fare today, nothing remarkable, the music was.... This ward needs help. I was setting up in my primary classroom during sacrament and there was one hymn that was literally unrecognizable from its introduction. Clearly there was some confusion about key signature, but even that could not have accounted for the level of abstraction the organist achieved. The primary kids sang their songs fairly well, surprisingly. One child who is in my class happened to be standing right behind the microphone which the bishopric left on the whole time, so it was more of a performance by Ethan and the Primary Pips. Fortunately, Ethan knows the songs better than anyone else in Primary so there was only awkward silence for about 25% of the performance. If music be the food of love, I'm starved in this ward. :)

I've been having a really hard time with my class which includes a severly retarded girl and two boys with ADHD. The boys I could handle, but Catherine makes it hard to hear oneself speak, let alone convey information or invite the spirit. She has the intellect of an infant. She can't say a single word, but she sure can scream. She is basically never silent and the rowdier boys tend to take the high level of background noise as an indication that its okay to shout constant off-topic commentary. "What would happen if you shot a bazooka at the temple?" Ugh. Today though, Catherine's mother came to class and kept her somewhat subdued. We had a great lesson on the atonement, and the kids were terrific. Then I sat with Tico, the "problem child" during sharing time and made him answer questions when they were about something from our lesson. "Why did Jesus die for us?" says the teacher. "You know this Tico, raise your hand." "Uh,..Tico?" "I was gonna say to give us the gifts of eternal life and immortality." Stunned silence. Tico is actually a very smart child, he's just an African American kid from a single parent home with ADHD and a lot of attitude. He draws constantly, and a lot of teachers try to make him stop drawing so he will pay attention. Bad idea. I also am a chronic graphopictomaniac. All of my notes through college and gradschool are illustrated and interupted by journal-type entries. I just need to multitask, and so does Tico. So we draw dragons during sharing time and he asks me "Why are there so many nine's in the Easter story? Nine inch nails, nine tails on the whip?" So I told him about the symbolism of threes and nines and pointed out many of the threes involved. I think he understood. Then later he said "I've been wondering for a long time, which is more important in history, Easter or Christmas?" I'm thrilled to hear him thinking through things and talking less about felonies and weapons--and even the dragons are a step up from the gruesome Grim Reeper drawings he used to do. Today he even drew the Easter bunny with a basket of eggs and a flower and some bees. "I put in insects because it's spring," he says. After church he started to rush toward his mom at the door and then turned and asked me "have I been good today?" "Tico, you've been great." Kent has a bunch of angels in his class and he loves working with them.

Just a few short weeks until I finish half of my graduate program. I'm burned out like mad, but proud to say I have truly held my own in a graduate program at a highly reputable conservatory despite having been woefully ignorant when I arrived.

Choir Questions

Well, our ward choir sang superbly today, and I am so pleased. We had been working on “Long Ago Within a Garden” for several weeks with moderate success. I have at least one or two very talented singers in every section except soprano. The piece has a couple short solo parts and one duet, so I could rely on my best singers for at least half the song. I actually had one of my best altos switch to soprano without my having to ask her because she saw the need (as most of us did). Don’t get me wrong, I have some faithful, dedicated sopranos, but often a joyful noise is what I get from their section. All was going somewhat well until Sister Kohler (a soprano with a beautiful voice who actually sings professionally right now) showed up for choir practice one week before today’s performance. Our soprano section came alive, and I also had her do the “optional descant” part. Today things really came together, and we did the piece better than we had ever practiced it. What a blessing to have the Lord make it work. I would hate to direct any choir outside the church. Well . . . no one in their right mind would ask a medical student with absolutely no formal musical training to direct a choir outside the church anyway, but you know what I mean.
So having said that, I now need to be thinking of another piece or two to work on, and I wanted to ask those of you who actually have formal musical training and/or real talent who have done choir directing if you have any suggestions for good music. I prefer hymn arrangements because it is for sacrament and those are the easiest to get approved. However, I am open to doctrinally correct non-hymns also. We can handle the harder pieces, but that means fewer people will actually be singing the right notes, so it’s a balance. Any suggestions??

John Craw

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Life After Minersville: Hello FAMILY!!!!!!!!!!!

Life After Minersville: Hello FAMILY!!!!!!!!!!!

I'm just testing this out because Cammie has not been able to post for a bit. Let's see if this actually shows up.

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Back from mini-vacation

Well, Heather and I just got back a little while ago from our mini-vacation. We spent Friday and Saturday night at a bed in breakfast in a small town called St. Michael's near the coast of the Chesapeake Bay. It was sooooooo relaxing. It was a very sleepy little town. There is a main street with lots of shops and tourist traps. There were a number of restaurants, but nothing fantastic. Most of them were seafood restaurants, so Heather and I had to look around for someplace that served chicken and pork chops. We did find a place, but the food was ehhhhh... The desserts were fantastic, though! Warm chocolate cake and chocolate mousse. Mmmmm...

There really wasn't much to do, so we spent a lot of time relaxing and taking it easy. We toured the entire downtown in a few hours on Friday evening. Then Saturday, we went to the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. We didn't have too much time to see stuff because we booked a boat ride up through one of the rivers. It was very much like the Lake Geneva boat rides we went to in Wisconsin. There was some narration explaining the nearby towns, and identifying some of the expensive houses lining the shore.

This picture of Heather is at the Robert Morris Inn, former home of Robert Morris, one of the major financiers of the US Revolution. He was also one of only two people to sign the Declaration of Independence, the US Constitution, and the Articles of Confederation. Unfortunately, the burgers at his inn did not live up to his name. They were greasy and untasty. Ah well...