Wednesday, November 12, 2014

From California to Arizona

*Posted originally on the amberwavesband.com site. Moved here and post dated.


After a great month playing for the College of the Desert Street Fair in Palm Desert, CA, we're now in Arizona for a short while before we take the long drive back to south Texas for the early part of our winter shows.

 The street fair was half bone tiring heat and half super-fun-blast! I prefer the latter, so we'll focus there, shall we? We'll start about mid-October, when we weren't trying to keep our brains awake as the temperatures tried to bust that 100+ degrees, and after the early allergy and dust exposure found its way out of our lungs. Note to self: Palm Desert is much more fun as November approaches!

A returning fan captured some pictures and I had a bit of fun with them on facebook.

The vendors at the fair were so fantastic, except for the excessive sugar buzzes we'd return home with, because they kept offering our kids great treats, especially at the end of the day before they had to clean out and pack everything up. However, I'm extremely fond of the hot dog vendor who kept feeding Sean. That saved me a ton of money alone. He's 14 and grew several inches in just the last 6 months, so anyone feeding that boy is immediately on my good side!

 We don't have next fall pinned down yet, but we suspect we will return for a longer season. It was such a great place to be for some down time in the fall. Kept us busy, honed the performance skills, and kept our weekdays free for other business.

Finally, after we and some new friends had way more California fun than we should be allowed, we headed east through Arizona, where we got into some fun with the locals, running amok on their quads.
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Right now we're in Tucson, where it's about time to head out on a walk and get about a million pictures of the lovely cacti in the area.

Unfortunately, our time here is short. We'll be leaving to Texas on Sunday, but we're excited to return to our south Texas favorite spot first, Rockport! Then it's on to the Mission area for a whirlwind of a winter schedule, before our final trip into Florida in mid-February.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Oh! California

*Posted originally on the amberwavesband.com site. Moved here and post dated.

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I came from Salem City with my washpan on my kneeI'm going to California, the gold dust for to see.It rained all night the day I left, the weather it was dryThe sun so hot I froze to death, Oh, brothers don't you cry.
Oh, Susannah, Oh, don't you cry for meI'm going to California with my washpan on my knee


Last weekend we left the beach house, played for a great crowd at a gospel sing in northern Washington, then headed on down I-5 (minus the hassle of an unexpected stop to replace the tires on our car's dolly), and into the beautiful state of California. Some of the drive was quite smoky from the wildfires and the bus did not care much for the mountains, but we made it to a great park near the Henry Cowell Redwoods State Park. The park had some stunning old growth redwoods, some dating back 14,000 to 18,000 years old and reaching a height of 285 feet.

Many trees had been partly hollowed out by a fire in the 1800s and the ones directly on the path provided interesting tree caves for exploring. It was an amazing experience standing inside of trees that may have seen the end of the Roman Empire.

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We're a bit further south now and on Friday we'll wind our way down towards Palm Springs to play at the College of the Desert Street Fair for the month of October. We'll keep busy on the weekends playing for the street fair, but leave the weekdays free to work out some new music for the winter, as well as take care of usual business, such as booking for next summer, sending posters for winters shows, and schoolin' the younger two.

 Looking back at the summer we just passed, all I can say is, "Wow!" It's been an amazing ride. The west coast most certainly suits us and we can't wait to come back someday!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Blessing of Rest

*Posted originally on the amberwavesband.com site. Moved here and post dated.


July marked the 3 year anniversary of our move into the bus. The approach to the new year will mark 3 years since we left Colorado and hit the road.

 Though there have been more ups than downs, the challenges of life don't just disappear because you head off on an amazing journey. There are days when kids are sick, siblings squabble, when it rains for days and you have no place to stretch your legs. Cold days when you simply cannot get warm, when there is no money to repair things you need, and at times, days when you have simply had it with all of the tiny little things that add up, and you are dreaming of a way back to an ordinary life.

 It is in such times when Grace is the most needed, and therefore the most cherished. Our plans to head into northern California in late September changed when we did not have any solid music opportunities come up. Later, when we were offered an opportunity in Washington if we stayed a bit longer, we decided to take it and head back to our friends' beach house for another 10 days.

 For the last week we've been enjoying good company, beautiful weather, and relaxation from our weary travels, but it's the little details that sometimes stand out - things others usually take for granted, like cooking dinner in a full kitchen with an oven and more than one small, low heat burner. There is access to a washing machine, a table to lay out the winter contracts I'm currently going through to organize, a full sized refrigerator, reliable wifi, and various rooms in the house where a moment of privacy can be found.

 After our previous retreat here, part of me worried that having so many modern conveniences and going back to so little would create further discontent when we had to leave. For this reason, despite the offer from our hosts, we had planned to head to northern California anyway, instead of return to the beach house. Thankfully, God had other plans when he created a need to stay in Washington, so here we are, back at the beautiful beach house. We decided to make this return opportunity a chance to get some work done in a better environment, so school is in session, promotional packets are being put together, contacts called, and plans for a new newsletter launch.

 It's been wonderful.

 We are truly thankful for the moment of peace where we can dream again of new opportunities, new music, and the exciting moments travel will bring when we are ready to head towards southern California by October!

 There will be an adjustment when we return to our reality, but we'll find our groove again, this time with refreshed souls.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Volcanoes Rock, Molten Style

*Posted originally on the amberwavesband.com site. Moved here and post dated.

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Vacation is over and that means the younger kids are back to work on their schooling. That's the perfect time for a FIELD TRIP!


Time for a bit of brushing up on our geology. This week we headed up to the Johnston Ridge Observatory near Mount St Helens. The weather was beautiful and other than a few clouds that hung out at the top, we had a lovely view.

 All work and no play? Well, we already put in our work that previous weekend with a triple header of 3 shows in 2 days, one during a downpour! The deluge continued through most of the show.

 Hey, we're in Washington! We've had so many beautiful days we were starting to wonder about that rainy reputation!

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 Huh. Looks like it does rain here.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Oh, The Places We'll Go!

*Posted originally on the amberwavesband.com site. Moved here and post dated.
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“Congratulations! Today is your day.
You're off to Great Places!
You're off and away!” 
Yesterday we were invited out to lunch, by members of the church hosting last night's concert. The children's pastor was asking about our travels so far and wanted to know about our favorite places we've seen, and I found myself completely stumped. Where would I even begin?


 It has been over 3 years since we closed the sale on our house and moved into the bus, which was one of the most difficult transitions I think I've ever had to deal with, but if anyone ever asked us if our travels met our expectations, I'd be just as stumped. I'm not sure I had a clear picture of what life on the road would be like, which is rather strange for this dreamer.

 I think, to be honest, we just felt compelled to do it. To see what the world would think of our music and what we would think of the world.

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“You're off to Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting,
So... get on your way!” 
Leaving hour home state, where we all grew up in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains, we have since seen everything from the famous Superstition Mountain in Arizona, to the Appalachian Mountains, and most recently, the Cascade Range with the towering Mount Rainier, with a hopeful trip next week to Mount St. Helen.

 Lord willing, by fall we'll have a view of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

 By the way, the bus does NOT like mountains. Loves beaches though!

February Travels 381 Wait... No, that's me. The bus is currently stuck in sand outside the beach house.

 I'm the one that loves mountains and beaches. It's all amazing.


“And when you're alone there's a very good chance
you'll meet things that scare you right out of your pants
There are some, down the road between hither and yon,
that can scare you so much you won't want to go on.”
I had to actually take a moment to think about my favorite places because, in all truth, the last year was very scary at times, frustrating at others, and all of that made me forget for a moment about this amazing journey. Our life is not a comfortable life, but it's enriching.

It took hours at the beach house over the last week to remind me of this and I began looking through old pictures.

   Hours of this view will certainly clear your head.
“Out there things can happen, and frequently do,
To people as brainy and footsy as you.
And when things start to happen, don't worry, don't stew.
Just go right along, you'll start happening too!”




New York City 149New York City 054The twins had no problem answering that question. It was New York City. Why? Two reasons, the amazing buildings and architecture, and Time Square at night!







The coming months promise further adventure, but with that comes the risk. Life is precarious at times, with a minivan about to fail, an old bus still going strong... until it doesn't, but a manageable schedule... if everyone stays healthy.
“So be sure when you step, Step with care and great tact. And remember that life's A Great Balancing Act. And will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and ¾ percent guaranteed) Kid, you'll move mountains.” ~Dr. Seuss, Oh, The Places You'll Go!
We're in good hands. Bring it on!
Lexington 103

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Beach Therapy

*Posted originally on the amberwavesband.com site. Moved here and post dated.
How do you take a vacation when you live in a bus and travel full time? By getting out of the bus and NOT traveling.

We have been greatly blessed this week by a friend I met years ago at a lady's evening at our church in Colorado. When she and her husband moved to Washington they found this fantastic beach house in need of a lot of renovation, so lucky for the beach house, they happened to be into that sort of thing and it has been turned into the most charming home. 
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Unfortunately, work requires them to spend most of the week in Seattle, so the poor beach house is left lonely at times and really needed some friends over the next week or so, a job we were happy to take! The busy winter schedule, new CD and heavy travel has made this band of vagabonds quite weary and this is just what the doctor ordered. 
 The picture above is the view from my lap top where I am typing. No school and minimal practicing is on the agenda for the next week. We'll take a break from the vacation Sunday to travel to southern Washington and enjoy the hospitality of Father's House Church in Longview, then return to keep the beach house warm the rest of next week before our travels make it unrealistic to stay here longer. 

August2014 058 Our time in Washington is coming to a close, something that makes us all pretty sad. We've loved it here and have enjoyed the most amazing views and some of the prettiest playing stages and absolutely perfect weather. 
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 We still have a few memorable moments in our plans before we say farewell to our summer tour and start the slow move south to prepare for our busy winter season. The next park will be within easy driving distance to Mount St Helens so we'll spend a day there, then after a couple events in Portland, we'll make our way towards the Redwoods for a couple of nights, before we get back to work with school, practice of some new music, and booking our schedule for next summer. 
 We'll worry about work another day. Right now there is a beach 100 yards away and my toes need some sand therapy.   

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Music, Practice, Life

*Posted originally on the amberwavesband.com site. Moved here and post dated.

This family grabbed a bunch of instruments. What happened next will BLOW YOUR MIND!


Ok, not really, but I was dying to try a click bait.

Last weekend we had an unusual show for our band which required working out some old and new music to fill in extra material since the venue requested no cover tunes (music licensed by another artist) and no intermission. This meant we needed to learn/revive a few lesser performed originals or traditional tunes, as well as those we sometimes do in order to stagger breaks for the various musicians in the group.

 So, we practiced.

That show was also one of the first in a run that included 7 shows in 9 days. Guess what we were doing during all of that extra practice and those many performances?

 We were building BRAINS, baby!

 

 Actually, we fought off whining. (Shhh... talented band kids don't do that, right?)

 In truth, one does not necessarily exclude the other. Those in the group under about, oh, 39ish (give or take) are not fond of 2 hour shows without breaks, but as their father and I pointed out, that's only because they never flipped burgers for 8 hours with a short lunch and only 2 breaks. So, although musical discipline does not guarantee rejoicing in all things, I still see the benefits every day in other areas.

Outside of musical talent, which I firmly believe is only a small part natural talent, mixed with a whole lot of musical exposure and practice, I have shockingly average kids. No early readers in the lot. In fact they were all fairly late readers by modern expectations. All are, at best, average in math, no spelling champions, and no NFL quarterbacks in the mix. In fact, none of them are unusually motivated or driven in any area, except perhaps Sean, and that's in astronomy, and then only if he's not allowed to play minecraft at that moment.

 Somewhere along the line the first two of my late bloomers in reading became not only excellent readers, but they analyze written work and write their own novels, often a few each year. (Editing and publishing are another story, but Alex is working on it.) In fact, a child I almost had formally tested for attention deficit, audio processing, and cross dominance issues now frequently gets up at 6am and puts herself through self-designed drawing exercises with strange goals, such as "Draw 100 heads on Tuesday". Of all the therapies that could have turned her learning difficulty around so dramatically, it was a BANJO that ultimately did it.

Then there is the fiddle player... Naw, I'll spare you that one since the jury is still out on the balance of music vs. the video game! Check back in about 6-7 more years and we'll see where the balanced tipped.
 

DSCF3234Research has told us how much music changes the learning brain. I've been conducting my own little research for the last two decades and the results are definitely astounding. Even if none of the kids further their professional careers beyond the band, and even if they never do learn how much easier a two hour show is compared to flipping burgers, the musical training will have positively shaped so much of their future, and for that opportunity, we are truly thankful.  

"Got time to breathe, got time for music." ~Briscoe Darling on the Andy Griffith Show

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Beautiful Washington!

*Posted originally on the amberwavesband.com site. Moved here and post dated.

The park where we have stayed the last couple of weeks does not have wifi, so posts are few and far between, so here is a quick catch-up through pictures. Washington is a beautiful state, though I must report that we have not had any big foot sightings just yet. Maybe he doesn't like acoustic music? Oh well.

We had some great shows upon arriving in the area, including the Si View Summer Concert Series. This picture is the beautiful Mount Si, standing tall in the backdrop of our stage.

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 It certainly isn't all work and no play. We took a trip down to Pikes Place Market, visited the docks and the original Starbucks!

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When we finished our fun, we headed to the home of some old Colorado friends and they gave us a tour on their boat! Yes, they even let the kids take turns driving it.
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Later that week we played for the Port Ludlow Festival and took the ferry from Coupville to Port Townsend. It was chilly, but an amazing ride!

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We couldn't be this far to the northwest without a trip into Canada. We chose a day trip to see Granville Island and Vancouver's Chinatown!

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In addition to all of these great sights, we're staying up north at a campground in the Puget Sound area, right on a rocky beach, full of crabs and clams that spit when you walk by. Our bus is parked right up against a very large blackberry bush. It's been fantastic! The only thing lacking is wifi, but that does have its own advantages,

I suppose. Starting Saturday we have 7 shows over a 9 day run before heading to the beach for a few days. Our "boat" friends also have a beach house and we will be treated to some R&R right by the beach.

I can feel the sand on my feet already.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A quick update

I'm sorry this blog has gone to the wayside. I have started dropping a few notes here and there at our band's page on a new journal, so when writing is limited, the off-the-cuff ramblings have to be put on hold.

If you haven't been keeping up with us through facebook or other ways, over the last month we went to Rockport and worked on the music for the new CD, hiding for 3 weeks of work. After that we spent a few weeks up in north Texas, playing a few shows and doing more music preparations. During that time we launched a kickstarter campaign to raise funds to make the CD because, well, you can lead a band to music, but you can't make it record without a little help from paper with presidents on it. Funny how that works. Facing a 3rd year without a CD, despite a change in our band's musical style and a big change in skill level, we realized not having one would really hurt us in the long run. We can only show "what we can do" from 2 1/2 years ago to the world. But we live on the shoestring, so we decided to take a leap of faith and get a little help from our friends and fans.

It worked! We're so excited!

So, this week we're back in the studio! The instrument tracks are almost finished and we'll lay down the vocals in the next few days. The CD will then get mixed over the weekend, mastered sometime next week, then off to the CD manufacturer!

I think this CD project just about killed me though. Last time we made a CD we had the benefit of teachers to help the kids work up solos. That wasn't an option this time so they've been flying solo, which is harder, but it will certainly stretch their musicianship. During the writing of most of the music for the last CD we also had a house and private locations to write/arrange/practice the music. Creating a CD while living full time in a bus, having to work like dogs for scraps to get diesel money to get to the next bunch of scraps, seemed nearly impossible, but God pulled it off.

Ok, lest you think I'm complaining by saying we work like dogs for scraps... I am. Honestly, people think nothing of dropping $12 per person down for 90 minutes of any movie by a big corporation with a pampered star that is thrown in front of them, but drop $2 in a hat for a live music show, then complain about big corporations, how we should support mom and pop shops, and how Hollywood stars are lame. Someday I will write a tasteful and polite article about that, but not tonight, because some great people stepped up in a big way and helped us meet our goal, so we're feelin' the love!

So, that's the last couple of months in a nutshell. I'm too tired to repost the great pictures we just took or write more, so head over to facebook and like our page where I chat a lot more often, or head to our band page and keep up with the new journal. We'll be getting something to make subscribing possible fairly soon too. The design is new and will be a work in progress for the next month or so. I'll try to update here next time I have a moment to have a thought outside of producing this CD, which is still maybe a month away. *Thud*

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Technology vs. Groceries

It's tax time so thoughts are running almost exclusively around money. Where does the money go? Well, after sorting through a zillion receipts, categorizing them, tallying income, hunting down 1099's, calculating mileage, and logging our lodging expenses, I think I now know.

Right down the gullet. Yes, our #1 big expense is food.

Boy do these kids eat. And eat. And eat. You'd think it would be gas, diesel, lodging, or otherwise. Nope. Food. This is without eating the way I'd like to. Conventional meats, dairy, veggies, fruit, and the stray grain is all we can manage. Almost no organic, very little processed food, and never the better cuts of meat. Wow. It's a costly thing!

So, that got me to thinking about modern technology and money. Yeah, I make leaps like that.

We are currently driving down the highway at a zippy 55 mph (tail wind), following directions from our GPS. I have mifi on so I can type up a blog post and hang out on facebook. Mary is sitting next to me watching Despicable Me 2 on our TV through our blueray, that is being powered by our (dead) batteries and the inverter, which is being kept charged by the bus while it drives. Alex is on her Kindle, Katie is drawing, using online resources to improve her Manga art, laptop powered by the same inverter. Sean is pouting over in Grandma Susan's RV because he's riding with her and she doesn't have anything that will power his laptop right now, which has a dead battery because he was using too many graphic-intensive games on the first leg of the journey.

I've been pouring over taxes, using my overloaded lap top, full of downloaded music lessons, pictures, video, and now wonderful spreadsheets that tells us we make well below the poverty level for a family of 6. (This is no pity party. In truth, I am kind of shocked at how well we can manage a poverty level in this country.) If we ever stayed put in one place, we could probably collect on plenty of government help, but that is always local, and we're never local. So, why do we have so much technology? Makes me kind of feel guilty, until I remember that this technology is a drop in the bucket over where our money really goes - down the gullets.

Most of it we got before we hit the road, such as my laptop, (on it's last leg, sadly), Alex's Kindle, etc. The TV came with the bus, and the bus came with the (now dead) batteries and inverter to run the cool stuff. Even when we got things post sticks-and-bricks living, a computer can be bought at Walmart for under $300. My kids swallow that much up in a week. If you can stash a bit here and there, or get a windfall with a bit extra, you can get replace a needed gadget, but you can't get extra food because there is no extra room in the bus and they can only eat so much in one week, even if that amount is rather stunning.

The minimal technology is really of little consequence. We have to have running computers, mifi, and telephones if we are to make those connections to find places that pay, to keep everyone fed. Every time I look at our budget, which we really don't have one outside of never spend money - ever, then I try to figure out where to cut costs, the snip off a Red Box rental here and there doesn't really make a difference. Only the food budget does and that can't move much when you are always on the move and have zero space. You simply eat the least expensive food that is as close to real food you can manage, with a bit extra for goal milk yogurt when you can find it, (for the cow's dairy sensitive), nuts instead of chips, etc. So, considering our poverty level income feeds us largely decent food, I shouldn't be shocked at the comparatively cheap gadgets.

I'd like to say this has opened my eyes to the complaints people have about the nice iPhones they see people on welfare using. It hasn't. Seriously, an iPhone? I saw a post recently discussing cell phone services for the family and the "great deal" they get for only $300/month for multiple phones. The service for that alone would pay for a week of groceries. I pay $45 because we need a phone or we don't eat. I don't need an iPhone. Kids want a phone? Get a job. Oh, you have one? Ok, get another one. I'm too busy feeding you.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Enter the Winter Crazies!

The busy season has arrived. It's a mixed blessing, really. A total blessing when it comes to the excitement of the evening shows, costumes, and a busy schedule that helps make sure we get decent food on the table. Of course, on the flip side, we're exhausted! If you include park teasers, promotional activities, and multi-event days, we've played 19 times in the first 18 days of February. 

Our winter shows are pretty fun though. We have a few songs that never made it on to the show because we ran out of time, and then had to make cuts due to the limited time frame of the show, but that leaves room for variety next season. The theme this year is a journey through time, starting with folk music from the 1500's progressing through to the modern era, including old TV classics. It seems to be going quite well and the audiences appear to enjoy the journey.





On the flip side, I don't think Mary handles the schedule as well because she's had more stomach issues almost all month. She spends so much time laughing and smiling, that it's hard to think it stress could be part of the problem, but it likely stems more from the late nights, early mornings for teasers, cold weather limiting outside fun, and complete lack of a predictable routine, not to mention a mystery food sensitivity we have yet to find. Once things slow down I'll be putting her on a rather firm food elimination diet, and now that the weather has improved, we'll get in a lot more outside sun, exercise, and proper sleep!

It's been a pretty rough winter, and some of it is simply poor weather, poor health, and the facts of life when you're a young band with limited exposure in need of doing everything and anything to get your name out there if you want to survive. You have to constantly fight a feeling of inferiority, over-critical frustration over the slightest mistakes, and the occasional lack of confidence in your ability to even do this. I've had a lot of what-on-earth-are-we-doing moments this season. What if we could just find a normal job, get health insurance to see that G.I. specialist (to be poked and prodded and told there are food sensitivities...), or have a home with, *gasp!* INSULATION for when it's cold? What if we knew we had a job next week instead of wondering if you'd not eat next month because someone got a bad case of laryngitis or broke an arm? Then I remember that life wasn't full of guarantees when we were living in a home with a mortgage hanging over our heads either. Life's challenges were different, but just as present.

The extra work is starting to pay off a bit, with some really nice publicity from the Winter Texan Times, regarding our performance at the Valley Star Awards Show last week. From the article:
"The last group to perform on the show was Amber Waves, a family band from Colorado. While 13-year-old Sean’s fiddlin’ skills, combined with that of his sisters’ mastery of the guitar and banjo thrilled the crowd, it was the amazing vocals of this family band that turned applause and foot-tappin’ into ooos and ahhhs of sheer enjoyment."
Nice write up, huh? Getting media attention and reviews with a quote that can be published is like GOLD in this business, so I'm pretty pleased.

Our busiest week is over now with 2 shows this weekend, only ONE show next week, then just 4 more in March before we head back to Rockport to recover for three weeks. We'll be working on some exciting music for an upcoming CD we hope to record when we return to Colorado, and we have a church in the area who has offered to let us stay there, away from the distractions of your average RV park, to practice and get some rest. I love going to Rockport. It's always been somewhat of a sanctuary to me and I consider it our winter Texas home, so I'm very much looking forward to it! A local friend and owner of an RV park has offered to let us spend some time at their park as well, if the kids need a play break with a swimming pool. Then we'll head to Colorado and see family and good friends before we go to Seattle! New adventures on the horizon, but first we rest.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Bribing Children the Right Way

Is it ok to bribe children to do stuff? It probably depends on what "expert" you feel like reading, but we thought we'd not just bribe them but throw in a little extreme sibling rivalry on the top, which most "experts" would probably think is a bad idea. May hinder all that warm, squishy sibling love, right? My kids don't like the warm squishies, and I don't really like experts much, so we went for it!

We are trying to learn 4 new songs for our winter program, and at least a couple of them are quite difficult, and we were lacking in enthusiasm after pushing them through several new songs for the Christmas show. Combine that with a fairly heavy schedule right before the holiday, all while living very poor with no money for even the slightest indulgence after a very slow fall, and you get a lot of low moral, with little interest in reworking a new show at the last minute. Something had to be done.

I pulled out a $50 bill - which is like a million dollars in family band land, and waved it at them. I told them we were going to do a "winner takes all". For the next week, whoever practices the most, gets the $50. You must track your practice time. It must include at least half of the work on actual band music. The other half is anything goes if it involves their instruments in actual music ways. No using your violin for target practice. That doesn't count. Changing instruments is allowed, if anyone wanted to work on a different instrument. Mary, since she is only 8, gets a built-in handicap. She gets to credit herself an hour for every 1/2 hour she practices. The rest are teenagers, twice her size and capable of twice the practice.

Day one. Nothing. No one budged. Michael and I got really annoyed because we were sure our brilliant idea would work, but no one wanted to practice. Day two, all but one practiced finally, but something did happen that got the ball rolling fast. Mary got it in her head that she needed more ponies in her collection and wanted that $50, so she practiced double. By the next day when the older three realized she was actually in the lead and could end up wasting $50 on PONIES, the competitiveness hit hard.

Since then we've been fighting to find places for them to play for 2-3 hours each per day. This does NOT include group band practice, which doesn't count, and which accepts no whining about tired fingers.

A word of caution for anyone who tries this, you do end up with some weird side noises. Katie was still practicing at 10pm but got bored with the other stuff for the new songs, which she has now learned, then got bored with the other stuff she was trying to learn, and pretty soon I was hearing the theme to Harry Potter and Jack the Pumpkin King from Nightmare Before Christmas coming from the banjo.

Not sure if I can keep up that kind of a kitty each week though, so if you're waiting to hear Harry Potter completed and on stage, you may be waiting for quite some time.

In other completely unrelated news, the cat has fleas. I bathed her last night with flea soap because the twins were afraid to, and I'm pretty sure she tried to kill me. I was a bit afraid to go to sleep too. I only lived because she has a small brain and forgot about it.

Also, the other day marked 2 years on the road. Two years from that night we got stuck in the mud in Texas. Yay! ("Yay" for two years, not "yay" for mud.)

I'm supposed to be sewing new outfits. It's raining and there is no room to sew in the bus.

Sean just finished making a swimming pool for his spa on minecraft. I'm so proud.

So, there it is. Our exotic life.