Saturday, March 24, 2012

The Contest!

A decision was made this week for the next up-and-coming band member. For the last year or so she's been playing fiddle, and the progress has been fairly slow. She likes it, but is at a slight disadvantage. First, she doesn't have the perfect pitch of her brother, so the finger match to sounds doesn't happen quite as quickly. Additionally, she simply prefers to sing than to play a song on an instrument, and fiddle is more of a solo melody instrument, instead of one mainly for accompanying. She knows she can join the band singing, but it likely appears, at her age, to be forever before she can play anything on that complicated fiddle well enough to join in.

We played with the Dobro before, but never really jumped in with a real attempt to learn it, since we were mostly doing fiddle. However, recently we started a family contest (more below) in order to jump start everyone on learning more tunes for the events this summer, and I decided to give a go at having her join in, with the Dobro. Our first song selection was "Old Dan Tucker". It is a 3 chord song, and good for teaching her to use a steady strum, while placing her slide down on the right fret at the right time.

She is too young for regular lessons and I don't think there is a teacher out there who has a method for teaching Dobro to a 6-year-old, so guess who has a skype Dobro lesson next week in order to learn it first, then transfer it down to her? Mom, of course. Yay me. More on the plate. It will be fun though. I'm looking forward to diving into this with her.

However, a determination to stick with the fiddle in addition to the Dobro showed up this week, when she saw the beautiful addition to the band that arrived for her brother yesterday!

The sound is GORGEOUS!!! I honestly cannot get enough hearing him play. Deep and rich in tone. Wow! Mary hears it too and cannot wait to get a nicer fiddle. She has a 1/4 size fiddle sitting in the shed back in Colorado, and I gave her 3 songs to learn before then and we'll pull it out. It's cute and we'll put on some nice new strings. This way she continues, but we'll not push it. I think she'll eventually make a great Dobro player, and if I can get her changing chords, I can get her accompanying the band on a few songs much sooner than I can get her playing fiddle to the level of her siblings.

So here are the contest details. Each week (or two, if we're busy), Dad will pick a song everyone must learn a good break on, in whatever key he says, picking keys where the kids can design the most stylistic breaks, and in a key good for singing. At the end of the week, the cleanest and most stylistic (not fastest) player wins a week off dishes and picks dessert. Dad can choose to divide it in two, giving the dessert winner to the "most effort", which gives Mary a chance to join in. In fact, she won this week and we'll be making her choice in dessert, apple dumplings. Katie won this week's week off dishes, but it was a close call. She played her break a bit more cleanly than Sean. I would have picked Sean, though I liked Katie's, break. I may be biased towards the sound of that fiddle. Alex had a fine break, too, but she didn't realize we were learning both verse and chorus breaks, so she had just added the verse part, which was a little weak compared to her very well played chorus break.

Mom has to play, too, which is why Dad judges. I don't expect to beat them, since they have more time to practice and are more advanced in their skills at this point than I am, (besides, when Daddy is the judge, I a doomed), but if I ever best them, I get a week off cooking dinner. Ha! Even if I never win, making myself participate keeps me on my toes.

This next week the contest is for "Happy Land" in the key of "D", and we'll formally arrange "Old Dan Tucker" with harmonies. Meanwhile, Alex and Sean are dishwashers for the week, and we all get apple dumplings!

Finally, we're having a nice break sticking around this week at Medina Lake, outside of San Antonio. Lots of activities here at the RV park and another set of homeschooled kids who live on the road with their parents. There are some teenage girls and a couple younger boys with bicycles, and they've been constant companions. There have been games of cops and robbers, night time "spy" games under a beautiful sky, and more. The park has had bingo games (Sean won a free breakfast for tomorrow morning playing bingo just now), and a wienie roast we jumped in on and played for last night. Dessert was s'mores for a quarter. Can't beat that!

Monday we play for a church, and Thursday we're playing for a homeschool group, then we head to New Braunfels where we'll hopefully meet up with Papa and Grandma!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

USS Lexington and Goodbye to South Texas

We are back near San Antonio again in the land of terrible internet, but I was patient, and finally got some photos uploaded. We had such a fantastic time visiting! Shady Oaks RV park was one of the nicest parks we've visited. We ended up staying all week there, minus a short trip out to play for a senior dinner at Portland's First Baptist Church.

In Portland, we met some kind people and had a great dinner with stuffed potatoes and pie. After a great show they were kind enough to give us these beautiful hand-made crosses.
The picture does not do them justice. They are made out of old costume jewelry so they actually sparkle in a way you can't make a blog photo sparkle. The twins want to make some if they can collect some old costume jewelry and other items on our travels. They'd like to sell some for some side money. Crosses, but also perhaps other decorative shapes.

That Sunday we were the special music guests at the Trinity Church and Worship Center in Rockport, a church we have been blessed to visit the past two years and where we've made some dear friends.

There are a gaggle of girls in the church, including another set of identical twins. Our twins enjoy themselves immensely whenever we have a chance to visit with so many like-minded other young women. We were treated to lunch, then a nice evening of fellowship, playing games, and discussing just about everything under the sun.
We had planned to visit the beach one more day before leaving the South Texas region, but we were reminded it was Spring Break, and you won't get me within 10 feet of those beaches on Spring Break, so we had an impulsive moment and went to see the USS Lexington Air Craft Carrier! Here are some of the pictures we took, with only the occasional side comment. The photos speak for themselves, and you can probably guess that we had a great time.

Yes, the first several photos are mostly of our boy-child. He was simply in Lexington big gadget heaven and they seemed to be ok with kids messing with just about everything. He also cannot take a picture these days without drama.

Must climb on everything...

Don't look at the lettering printed on the nose, please. I didn't notice it at the time and the picture was just too funny.

Do you think Benny is at all jealous that he was steering a bigger rig?

Not to neglect those pretty girls, here are a few more.
Little girl. Very big gun. :)

And more girls with impressive looking fire power.

I know you can't see them, but "Benny's at the Jets".
Finally, I leave you with a couple people in Walmart, who, on a dare, finally had the guts to wear their pajamas inside!
What do you expect when you pull up to a WalMart and end up staying the night? Wallydocking is the best.

I have high hopes that this next week will be incredibly boring, so if you don't get any updates, that's why!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Things that happen at Wal-Mart, etc.

A funny thing happened in the Wal-Mart parking lot yesterday. We pulled Benny over and Michael headed in with the kids while I finished my grocery list. While I was there a converted bus (Eagle) pulled around us and parked nearby. The driver and a couple others sat there staring at our bus. I didn't think much of it, since people often stare at Benny, so I finished my list and headed into the store.

After I returned from my shopping I was rather surprised to see our bus was full of people! While I was in the store, the rest of the family was out making friends with another family band, the Young Family. They saw our bus and were intrigued, so they stopped to see who we were. Everyone was swapping buses and comparing notes! It was a hoot! We tried to go see their show last night, but it really is kind of hard to randomly go anywhere with just the bus for transportation, so we ended up giving it a miss. We'll catch them next year.

Suzie and Gary from GospelGrass caught this picture of us playing for the Shady Oaks RV park tonight. Nice audience, and it was so great to see old friends. I really enjoy heading into the Rockport area. The Rio Grand Valley is full of fine folks who really like our shows, but there does seem to be a slight difference in the overall feel from Rockport. This area isn't a retirement coastal mecca, and that may be part of it. It's easy to find a place to take kids here, changing the dynamics completely, at least from the view of one who has children to shelter.

Oh, Sean has a new fiddle! He's very excited, and slightly frustrated because it's in Colorado and he's in Texas. We're working on getting it to him, though I am seriously tempted to have it sent in to the local Colorado luthier who works on our violins before sending it off to Texas. It needs slight adjustments to the bridge, and possibly a new tailpiece before he plays it much. The price was, thanks to a more recent fiddle teacher, wholesale. Sean paid for most of it with the money he has saved up, and we covered the rest. He needed a full size violin to grow into, and a higher quality sounding instrument to match his increasing abilities.

Well, that's one more update given to the neglected blog. We had a great show, though it left me over-tired, and just like a little kid, when I'm over-tired I can't sleep. I'm all achy and waiting for Tylenol to kick in. Plus, daylight savings is not my friend.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The schedule shapes up a bit!

I've been playing with a Google map of our travels. Eventually I may customize the markers and I should probably add dates, but for now, previous places are blue and our current location is red. Each marker has some simple notes along with it.

View Costello Family Travels in a larger map

Over the last few weeks our internet has been pretty awful. As much as we liked the Bay Landing resort in Bridgeport, you had to be at the rather cold and empty activity center to get decent internet. Since I am not much for cold buildings, I stayed closer to the bus.

After leaving there we made a stop-over park in Schertz, where we jumped in and played some music for the ice cream social at Stone Creek RV park. It was a lot of fun, but I do need to find a way to reduce the use of junk food as the way kind and well meaning folks show their appreciation for my kids' talents! (I really appreciate the gestures. Honest. It's just they don't function well with too much and I'm at a loss as to how to refuse without sounding mean.)

We purchased them each a small bowl of a single scoop of ice cream or sherbert before they played, but unknown to me, the servers saved them all a HUGE bowl for after the impromptu show we put on. By the end of the night, Sean was rather twitchy and unfocused from all of the sugar and dyes in his favorite sherbert, and Mary had a tummy ache. I have since then yanked most sugar and even many flour products (which can be worse than sugar), from the bus. They still had a goody here and there when offered, but this bus is a sugar free zone, outside of select Friday evening food. This way the outside offers can be allowed (hopefully in smaller quantities), without it accumulating too much in their systems.

We definitely enjoyed Stone Creek and may never have had a chance to go there had our first choice, Pecan-something-or-other, taken our coupon and discount. They were not taking any discounts or coupons due to spring break, which is when budget-conscious families need it most, and to top it off, they had an "additional person" charge of $5/person over 4 people. No ice cream socials, no activities, entertainment... nothing, and they wanted $50/night total. Uh... no. We drove another hour or so down to Schertz and it was just perfect! We paid about 1/3 that per night at Stone Creek, thanks to our discounts, and we also made enough in tips to pay for that and some diesel to the next town! Guess where we'll be heading straight towards next time?

After that we headed to La Feria, TX to one of the ONLY RV parks in the entire Rio Grand Valley that accepts children. It's a near complete lock-out. Bass Lake is very tiny with no on site showers, so it was bus showers for all, and the parking sites were on the soft grass so you may just find yourself stuck if it rains a lot. However, it was just amazingly friendly and cute! So much so that we may very well try to reserve a full 3 month spot there next winter while we perform down in the valley. (Provided we have a second vehicle so we don't have to find ourselves trying to pull a bus in and out of there in the rain!) Due to the number of people in this bus needing regular showers, we may call one or two other parks that are 55+ that I have been told will make a few exceptions just for performers, but if not, I think we'll be quite happy at Bass Lake RV.

While in the Valley we played for the Canyon Lake RV Park. We knew a lot of the winter Texans were already heading south, so we didn't expect a big show, and though the audience was a bit small, we were not disappointed anyway. They were all so appreciative and we really enjoyed ourselves.

At the moment we are at our 2nd RV park in Rockport. Yesterday we stayed at the Bayview RV. Very nice park, from what I saw, which wasn't much because it rained the entire 2 days were were there. Someday I do hope to go back when the sun is shining, because it looked charming! The park was welcoming and we had a mostly great show, despite a really mean gremlin that appears to have moved into our sound system's mixer. I don't get the feeling it likes being strapped off the bus bumper on a cargo carrier and bounced around, but that just can't be helped right now until we get some more storage or something. A car. A car would be really nice. One to tow...

Speaking of cars, we've narrowed down what we need, something that will fit us all and tow with all 4 wheels down so no dolly. The problem is, we are Colorado residents down in Texas. Colorado will not license a vehicle unless you drive it all the way to Colorado and have it physically present when the title is transferred. That's not happening until June, so now we have to decide if it's worth remaining Colorado residents or if we want to consider changing it to Texas, so we can get a vehicle. After all, we'll be spending more months in Texas over the next year than in Colorado, but it's one more hassle to establish a permanent address in Texas, transfer the bus plates to Texas plates, too, (I am soooo not wanting to deal with any DMV ever again in my life where this bus is concerned), and then get a car. Alternatively, plan B is to get a vehicle in Colorado, Michael will fly out, get it licensed, then drive it back when we're in northern Texas. Plan C is get get one in May, within 30 days of going back to Colorado so we can license it when we return in June before the temporary tags expire. Not sure which we'll do, but right now I'd like to get that sound system off the bumper and into a car, plus have an extra vehicle to run errands instead of driving the bus to the grocery store.

Well, that about catches everyone up. We play tomorrow night at the Taco dinner for this park, then Thursday for a senior dinner at a local Baptist church, then one of our favorite South Texas churches on Sunday! We're very much looking forward to seeing everyone again at the Trinity Worship Center. Then it's back to San Antonio for a bit before we go... not sure yet. Funny how the schedule randomly appears only a couple weeks out each time. I'm sure God has it on His calendar. We just wait for our next marching orders!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Yes, this is where it happens.

It was beautiful outside tonight. The weather was perfect, just at dusk, when we stepped outside to get some practicing done. As we played the sun set and the stars came out. Bluegrass music, family, and nature, all under God's beautiful Heavens.

The atmosphere made me think of this little picture that has been going around facebook. When we got in the bus and I was serving up the pork roast that had been cooking in the crock pot, I asked Michael and the kids if they felt it too. Those actually paying attention mentioned they did.

It may have just been one little moment, but it is one we wouldn't have ever seen if we'd have stayed in our comfort zone, but last year we blew it to smithereens. You know what? That's where the magic really does happen. That is where you get the chance to see God's hand at work. I never noticed it in my comfort zone. I was too busy fighting for security and all the "stuff" that made me feel secure. Not that I have any expectations that I have met a life of luxury at this point because I stepped out into the unknown, (be real - I live in a bus, have no car, little savings, and we need that expensive thing called diesel to get anywhere to make money), but I'm awake now to things I'd have never noticed a year ago. It may not last, or this could go on for years. Either way, we now know. There are no more "what if's", and we will never sit back someday and wonder.

Yesterday was our 2nd month anniversary on the road. Guess what? We are still alive, we're eating just fine, and aren't living in a cardboard box just yet. I think I can consider them quite successful!