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How To Teach Your Preschooler to Love Classical Music

As a Classical Education teacher, I am in the business of Training the Affections – teaching children to love that which is good, true, and beautiful from the youngest of ages. It is my mission to take little hearts and shape them toward that which is truly lovely, and I love finding engaging and joyful ways to do so.

I also teach at two local preschools where I have music classes with children as young as 18 months. I believe children are never too young for classical music, and – in fact – it’s when they are young that you have the best chance of tilting their hearts toward the beautiful.

With that in mind, here are 8 thoughts on how I teach preschoolers to love classical music…

 

1. Don’t Take It Too Seriously.

  • Myth: Classical music is too elevated for preschoolers.
  • Truth: Most classical music was not that elevated when it was written.

Classical music is only serious now because we’ve made it serious over time. A lot of classical music was just a blip on the music radar. It was enjoyed and completely forgotten until someone found it decades (or centuries) later. For the most part, people did not take what we call “classical music” very seriously, and we shouldn’t either – especially when teaching it to our kids. It’s when we make it Oh So Serious that it starts to feel separate, inaccessible, and frankly – not that much fun.

Speaking of…

 

2. Commit to Having Fun

You might feel like a fish-out-of-water at first trying to teach your preschoolers about classical music. This resistance might lead you to act like it’s Really Very Important. Warning: kids have a sixth sense when they suspect you are forcing something on them that you don’t really think is that fun either. Kind of like if you hate broccoli, and you fix your child a plate of broccoli and serve him with a strained smile, proclaiming, it’s delicious! Really!

They’ll see right through it.

The reality is, most of us are products of modern education, when classical music was not high on the priority list. You probably didn’t grow up learning about classical music yourself. And you might not be that interested in it now. It’s okay. You actually might only be reading this because you want to ensure you kids don’t end up the same way.

It’s okay.

Remind yourself this is fun, and review #1. Have fun learning about classical music alongside your kids and learn as you go. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither is a burning passion for classical music. It might just come over time – for you and your kids. Keep it fun and full of joy in the meantime.

 

3. Kids Love What We Teach Them To Love

Our young children don’t actually have access to choose their own music.

They love “Wheels on the Bus” because we play them “Wheels on the Bus.” If we never played it for them, our two-year-olds would not return from the park saying, “hey, I heard Henry talking about this cool song about a bus…”

Did you play Mozart for your pregnant belly? My guess is yes. Did you keep playing Mozart after your baby was born? My guess is no. It’s a strange progression. Those little developing brains we were so concerned about in utero are actually still developing in deep and profound ways for many years.

Somehow we have bought into the lie that children only respond to juvenile, tinny, sing-song music. Not true. You just have to place the good stuff before them. And you don’t have to act like the other stuff is bad. I believe in all music — there is nothing wrong with “Wheels on the Bus” (and I actually use a version in my classroom), but don’t let that be all they are exposed to. Offer music up like a buffet. Play Bach. Play the Bus.

Or! Pretend Bach gets on the bus…

Which leads me to…

 

4. Don’t Underestimate the Power of Imagination.

I’ve used this composer fan deck for years. I turn the cards into puppets and make the composers talk to the students, introducing themselves and all their famous works. Preschoolers have absolutely no qualms accepting this. They happily exist in the in-between place of reality and imagination, and it’s so much fun! I use crazy voices, hand gestures, silly sounds. The whole deal. They love it.

 

5. Use Speak and Repeat to Create Conversations

I use a lot of speak and repeat, as I turn the composers into puppets with my fan deck.

For instance (holding up the card for Bach)…

  • I say: Students say, Good morning Mr. Bach!
  • (Students repeat) Good morning Mr. Bach!
  • I say: Students say, I love your Brandenburg Concerto Mr. Bach.
  • (Students repeat) I love your Brandenburg Concerto Mr. Bach.
  • I say: Students say, I hope your 20 children are doing well Mr. Bach!
  • (Students repeat) I hope your 20 children are doing well Mr. Bach!

You get the idea. They love this little fantastical conversation and all the repetition enables them to learn and retain a lot of information over time. After a while the composers begin to feel like friends to them. It sounds crazy, but it’s true. Whenever I bring Mr. Bach (or anyone else) in for a visit, they feel like their friend is coming to see them. And on a day it’s time to meet a new composer friend? Well, that’s just their favorite.

 

6. Titles are Relative

Don’t get hung up on the actual names of anything. Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata is Mr. Beethoven’s Moon Music to my students. I call Aaron Copland’s Hoedown the Giddy-up Horsie Song. We celebrate Mr. Grieg’s Tiptoe Song, Mr. Handel’s music for the boat party, and Mr. Haydn’s song that was full of surprises to keep everyone awake.

Don’t worry about correct names. We are training the affections here, not preparing them to be contestants on Jeopardy.

 

7. Include Lots of Movement

We play “do what I do” which is really like Simon Says, except without all the rules. It’s the most simplest of games where I move my body with whatever music I am teaching, and my students mimic me. I make my movements match the music, whether fast/slow, jumpy/smooth, etc. I try to help them feel the music with their whole bodies. (Older kids can lead this, which is a great way to engage the whole family.)

 

8. Put the Composer to Sleep

At the end of our lesson we say night-night to the composer and tuck him in to sleep until our next class. It cracks me up how much my preschoolers love this. If I forget, they often remind me we need to put our composer friend to bed. Remember #4 – imagination is a powerful tool! Harness it well.

 

I hope these tips help you engage your little ones in great classical music! You can find additional ideas that would work for older preschoolers here and here.

Happy Listening!

Kristi

 

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{Music Lessons for Kids} Winterlust Polka // Strauss

We are continuing to work through the January playlist here on the blog. Previous lessons have included The Skater’s Waltz and the Antarctic Symphony

Today’s mini-lesson might help your kids get a little energy out on a cold, indoor day — and you just might laugh a bit in the process.

It’s time to polka, people.

It’s hard for us to imagine, but dancing the polka was once considered the cultural pinnacle of cool. What was originally a Bohemian folk dance made its way to the ballrooms of Vienna in the mid-1800s, and all the cools kids were dancing the polka like crazy. Local composers quickly caught on to the fact that the people wanted to polka, and nobody delivered original dance music better than the Strauss family.

Here’s your quick mini-lesson:

  • WHO: The Strauss family. Father Johann I, brother Johann II, and another (lesser known) brother, Josef. The more famous Johann II wrote a little tune you probably know called the Beautiful Blue Danube. Our piece for today, the Winterlust Polka, was written by other-brother Josef.
  • WHAT: Dance music for the 1800s. This piece is classified as a polka-schnell, which simply means fast in German.
  • WHEN: The Winterlust Polka was completed in 1862.
  • WHERE: Vienna, Austria – Europe’s cultural capital in the 1800s.
  • WHY: Competing hosts went to extreme measures to create the most grand, most elaborate parties for their wealthy friends. The story goes that Strauss’ patron installed an ice-rink in his ballroom to host a winter festival carnival that would out-do everyone. The Winterlust Polka is said to have premiered at this ostentatious event.
  • HOW: Watch this video for a little polka lesson! One-and-two…three-and-four…

Enjoy the Winterlust Polka and have a little dance party of your own! Party like it’s 1862!

Happy Listening!

Kristi

4000 Moments: Looking Back, Looking Forward

So I’ve been blogging for almost four months now. After a few ups and downs, I feel like I have a fairly good groove going into 2017. It’s a lot more work than I anticipated (who knew??), but I am hoping to post a couple of times a week moving forward.

 

A Look Back:

Google Analytics is a nifty little site that tells you all kinds of information about the action happening on your blog. Most of it is fairly indecipherable to me, but I have noticed a few fun facts:

  • I am up to almost 4000 page views. That’s miniscule in blogland, but I kind of think it’s amazing. There have been 4000 moments when a person chose to spend their time reading something I wrote. If you represent any of those 4000 moments, I really do thank you. (I hope your 1 minute, 38 seconds was meaningful. That’s the average amount of time spent on my site, FYI.)
  • My blog has been read in 39 countries. That blows my mind. I have a lot of Facebook friends that live overseas for different reasons, but 39 is a lot of countries. Page views have taken place in Libya, Sri Lanka, and the Netherlands – and I don’t even know people in those countries! And my third most popular country (after the U.S. and Russia) is Austria. Who knew!? Hello my Austrian friends — all 62 of you! Thanks for reading! I’m glad I drank all that Café Vienna in the 80s.
  • Not surprising: my readers are mostly women (with a tiny percentage of men: Hi Dad!)
  • My three most popular posts involved some thoughts on punctuation, my Oprah list, and the first time I posted about being on The Broken Way launch team. Fun! I liked those posts too.
  • I had five page views on Christmas Day. I don’t know why this strikes me so deeply, but it does. It is meaningful to me to know someone was reading my blog on the most celebrated holiday of the year.

What’s Ahead:

The fun thing about having a blog is that I get to be the boss of me, and nobody is telling me to do anything a certain way. Of course no one is paying me anything either, so there’s that. #tradeoff

I am not sure exactly what’s ahead for this little blog, but I know this:

I love kids.

I love music.

I want to help kids love music.

I love writing music.

I want kids to love music.

I want kids to love the music I write.

Most everything I do will fall under all those things.

But then there is also this:

I do other things besides music.

I like to write.

I might write about things besides music.

So who knows?! Whatever is ahead, I know I am having a good time in this little space. I hope you are too.

The Immediate Future:

I am launching a new series for 2017 that I am really excited about! Hopefully it will serve as a super accessible way to get great music into your kids’ ears. Come back Thursday for all the details!

 

Finally, thanks so much for reading. If you are one of my 1,350 unique visitors, really, I thank you.

Here’s to great music in 2017!

Kristi

 

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10 Favorite Books for 2016

Earlier in the week I shared my 2016 Favorite Finds, and today I have a list of my favorite books. Is there anything better than a great book? My list is a mix of theology, business, memoir, beach lit, and inspiration. That’s kinda how I roll.

Note: Two of my favorite favorites are not listed below because I have already talked about them quite a bit on the blog: The Songs of Jesus (here) and The Broken Way (here and here).

And now, in no particular order (except this is how I stacked them)…

Creativity Inc. by Ed Catmull   

Ed Catmull is the President of Pixar and Disney Animation, and this book is a mix of company history + case studies of all the things that have (and haven’t) worked in their pursuit of cultivating a creative workplace. I am a big fan of all things Disney/Pixar, so I loved the behind-the-scenes scoop and Catmull’s stories of how the companies have worked through creative challenges. Interesting mix of business advice and creative inspiration. Loved it. I want to read it again just typing this.

My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor

You may have heard Taylor’s TED talk, which is one of the most popular ever. If not, read the book first — it unfolds with high-intensity drama. A brain scientist studies her own brain in the midst of a stroke. Fascinating! And a cool understanding of left brain/right brain. This book actually got me super interested in brain stuff, and I bought two other books on the subject. Which I never read. #shortattentionspan. But this one is fantastic!

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

Curmudgeon book store owner learns to love again. This is a precious story. Just so sweet and full of kindness. Loved it. Read this one now if you still have your Christmas tree up. It’s warm and cozy like that.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

Well-drawn characters from a fiction force. Moriarty makes me feel like I know these women inside and out from the very beginning. I’m thankful I don’t live in this community, though. #hotmessexpress

Make It Happen by Lara Casey

I am interested in people of faith who live in the intersection of creativity and business. Lara Casey has had great success in the online space (and elsewhere) and her story is compelling and inspiring. She is the creator of an intentional goal-setting process called Powersheets that I’ve heard about for years. I finally bought them and have been working through the exercises in preparation for 2017. I love her balance of forward motion, without perfection pressure. Great read.

The Pioneer Woman: Black Heels to Tractor Wheels – A Love Story by Ree Drummond

I read this on a cold weekend last January. Literally could not put it down. Such a sweet love story! I am such a fan of Ree Drummond I would have loved this book no matter what, but I was actually really impressed by the storytelling and narrative arc. I couldn’t wait to find out what was going to happen next! I would love a sequel to hear her tell the story of her blogging beginnings and rise to fame.

Prayer by Timothy Keller

This book encompasses an interesting blend of studying prayer from both the historical perspective and a place of personal application and transformation. It’s dense, and it took me several months to finish it. I was fascinated by the history of the modern “quiet time” — I never thought of that as something that even has a history – but it does!

Brain on Fire by Susannah Cahalan

This reads like fiction, but it’s all a very scary true story. I was riveted by this book. A young woman descends into madness and no one can figure out why. Freakishly compelling!! (Word to the wise: don’t read the Amazon reviews. The top one is okay, but if you start scrolling, the ones below give too much away.)

The Knockoff by Lucy Sykes and Jo Piazza

My beach-read pick for 2016. This is basically The Devil Wears Prada in reverse. Imogen is the 40-something magazine editor protagonist facing off against Eve, the upstart millennial who has her sights set on Imogen’s job. Great fun!

The Productivity Project by Chris Bailey

I love “year long project” books and blogs where someone chooses an interesting topic and spends a year studying, pursuing and documenting what they learn. (The Happiness Project is one of my all-time favorites.) Chris Bailey chose productivity as his pet project and set out to make himself a guinea pig to figure out how to be the most productive. His findings are fascinating! You can find his blog here.

 

And that’s my list! I’d love to know what’s on yours!

Blessings,

Kristi

 

 

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11 Favorite Finds for 2016

I can’t tell you how many year-end Top 10/Favorites/Best-of lists I have read over the years on various blogs. It makes me strangely joyful to read a summary of someone’s year – a curated list of things that defined life in a positive way.

And now I have a blog of my own! I can’t resist adding two of my own summaries. Today is my “Favorite Finds” – items I purchased this year that have made my life better in some way. And I did 11! Because I couldn’t decide! 

(Something that always makes life better? Good books. That list will get its own post on Thursday.) 

 For the record, none of this is sponsored in any way. I used all my very own nickels to purchase each of these items. Although I would never be opposed to accepting free stuff from these great companies. (Lug people: Call me. Your little compartments are my kryptonite.)

So, in no particular order…

 1. Throat Coat Tea: I am always trying to be a hot tea person. The truth is I am a coffee-with-fake-flavored-creamer person, but one can always aspire to greater things. This year I finally found a hot tea I can get excited about – one I actually choose on occasion instead of my vice-laded creamy joy. I have been slowly working on a recording project this year, and this delightful tea is a staple in the studio. I had never tried it before and was brilliantly surprised at how delicious it is — even without adding sugar.

2. Almond Oil (for my face): I know putting oil on your face has been a thing for a while, but I came of age in the 80s, when it was all the rage to cotton-ball your face with “astringent toner.” It was a painful process requiring Lamaze breathing for the first ten seconds, but boy did your face feel clean when you were done! It horrifies me to think of all the natural moisture I was stripping from my face in the name of “good skin care.”

I gave up toner a long time ago, but this year I finally tried the whole oil phenomenon and oh. my. goodness. I started with this expensive version that I adored. After I got used to the idea of putting oil all over my face, I cycled down to cheaper options. There are lots of ways to go here (coconut, grapeseed, avocado, etc.), but I have landed on Almond Oil as my favorite. It’s inexpensive and melts eye make-up like crazy. Love, love, love.

3. Lug Bag: Do you have a happy store? You know, the kind of store you go to when you want to wander around and dream of a better life? For me, those dreams come to life at The Container Store. Dreams that include creating and maintaining a perfectly organized home where everything has a thoughtful place. Dreams that have no chance of ever coming true due to the fact that I have children and also, I like to lay on the sofa and read books. But I do love thinking about organizing stuff.

Imagine if the hopes and dreams of The Container Store could be reduced to a simple bag you can throw over your shoulder. More doable, right? Enter my favorite purchase of 2016: my Lug Bag.

I came across this wonder bag through random channel flipping resulting in a serendipitous landing on QVC. A delightful woman was showing a bag with compartment after compartment after compartment. Everything had its place. So many compartments. I found the same bag on Amazon for less and started dreaming of all those little compartments. The bag isn’t super expensive, but it isn’t super cheap either. I had to think about it. I finally pulled the trigger and had it in my organizational-loving hands two days later.

I love this bag so much. There are at least 10 separate pockets accessible just from the outside. Everything has its place – from your lip gloss to your favorite pen (and I do have a favorite: see #8). You can carry it cross-body or attach it to a carry-on suitcase with a velcro strap. I took this bag and a purse when I traveled to Canada in October – that’s it. (I used packing cubes for my clothes – another favorite find in 2016 — how have I not known about packing cubes before now?) And moms! This would make a fantastic diaper bag. I wish it had been around when I had littles.

4. Peppermint Bark Coffee: I am a flavored coffee junkie. Yes, flavored coffee plus flavored creamer. My black-coffee-drinking husband thinks I am a lunatic, but the morning wants what it wants. All things chocolate/mocha/peppermint are my favorite favorite, and I have tried them all. I love this one a bunch. I keep one of these in my Lug Bag (because, duh, there’s a compartment!) and take it to work for afternoon coffee goodness. Swooooon.

5. Orgain Protein Powder: Because I am nothing if not inconsistent, I also drink healthy drinks to counter my sugar-laden coffee habit. I’m sure many of you are smoothie aficionados and won’t be impressed with my meager commitment – but it was a significant development for me this year. A friend recommended this protein powder and I liked that it was vegan, affordable (for organic) and tastes pretty good. Let’s be real: it’s not this. But if you don’t expect it to be, it’s pretty good.

My go-to combo: small banana + handful of spinach + unsweetened vanilla almond milk + bit of peanut butter + 1 ½ scoops protein powder + 5 ice cubes. I’ve been trying to drink this every day through the holidays, just to mix in some nutrition between the all the Chex mix and sausage balls.

6. Bluetooth Speakers: Is it becoming clear that I am not exactly an early adopter of modern culture? (Smoothies! Wow! I’m on the cutting edge of health and wellness!)

I know Bluetooth speakers have been around for a hot forever, but I never had any until this year. I love, love, love these speakers. Small and so compact, but with great sound quality. I take them between my schools (in my Lug Bag!) and never have to worry about plugging in speakers. (Feel free to laugh. I fully comprehend how behind the curve I am. Sometimes I am so far behind the curve, the curve circles back around. Exhibit A: I also bought Birkenstocks this year – and regretted ever getting rid of the ones I wore in college).

7. Ninja Blender: A key component to my new 2016 smoothie habit was investing in a real blender. Before I bought my Ninja, I was using a $20 model we received as a wedding gift. 18 years ago. It left every blended item slightly lumpy. Plus it leaked. Because I am a grown-up now, I decided I needed a real appliance. The Ninja is the perfect balance for the person who wants serious blending power without the mortgage payment of a Vitamix.

8. Pilot Pens: I am freakishly picky about my pens. They must be the perfect combination of inky, but not too inky. That makes sense to no one but the people who know what I am talking about — and you know who you are.

Pilot G2s are the most popular, but they don’t do it for me. They are not fine enough and don’t grip the paper well. After trying several varieties this year (is it actually a pastime to shop for the perfect pen? #guilty), I found my dream pens: The Precise V5 RT. (Also, they name pens like cars these days.) This pen has a delightfully scratchy quality that makes me feel one with my paper. These are the things that make me happy. It can’t be explained logically.

9. Facing a Task Unfinished by Keith and Kristyn Getty: Are you ready for a strange fact about me? I am a music teacher, songwriter, and vocalist – which means I rarely listen to music for pleasure. I listen to music of all kinds, all day, most days, for my jobs. The reality is, I mostly enjoy silence in my off hours. (And podcasts.) I just don’t have mental margin for a lot of music. #sadbuttrue #cobblerhasnoshoes

My one music recommendation for this year is Keith and Kristyn Getty’s new CD, Facing a Task Unfinished. I love the great melodies combined with thoughtful lyrics and creative instrumentation. Many of the tracks are stellar, but The Lord is My Salvation has to be my favorite. It is my favorite song of 2016. (Winner for favorite song of 2016, Christmas Category, goes to Jennifer Nettles and Idina Menzel singing Little Drummer Boy. That last note!)

10. Eden’s Garden Essential Oils: I’ve been using oils for a few years now, and this find is more about a company than a specific oil. I started purchasing from Eden’s Garden this year, and have been super pleased with the quality and customer service (you can read about the company here.) They have very high quality oils at affordable prices. A few of my favorite blends: Exhale, Breathe Easier, Stay Alert, and Relaxation. I need to place an order soon — all these are running low for me right now!

11. Drop Stop: This purchase was intended to be somewhat of a gag gift for my husband, who constantly drops things in the car. My son and I saw this on Shark Tank and decided it was the perfect surprise gift. Well, let me tell you: no gag here. It’s a game-changer! How many times have you dropped your phone (or, grosser: a french fry) into that tiny space between your car seat and the console? Then you reach down in there, attempting to retrieve the dropped item, and get scratches all over your hand trying to get it out? And then when you can’t, you beg your smaller-handed child to try? (Oh — that’s just me?) This product is a problem-solver. No more dropped phones, pens, and fries. Insert hands-up emoji!

And there you have it. 11 favorite favorites of 2016. Do you have favorites? Share in the comments and link me to all your favorite lists!

Blessings!

Kristi

 

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Two Options for Bible Study in 2017

If you are a believer seeking to grow in your relationship with the Lord, it is probably on your list of things to do to think through how to do so in 2017. Today I am talking through two ways to get into God’s Word next year…

If You Want Something Small…

If you are looking ahead to 2017 knowing it is not the year for you to commit to a massive Bible study plan, I highly recommend Tim and Kathy Keller’s devotional, The Songs of Jesus. It takes you through the book of Psalms in daily readings that include devotional thoughts and prayers.

You can spend as much or as little time each day as you want. The basic reading is five minutes or less – really. It’s a very small commitment. Even if you get behind, it is simple to catch up. And just because the readings are short doesn’t mean they aren’t loaded with content. The devotionals are theologically rich and challenging in practical ways.

I have loved reading this book in 2016. I ended last year with the flu (which morphed into pneumonia) and was very sick entering the new year. I started this devotional in January because I knew I needed something small and very, very doable. I eased into daily Bible study using The Songs of Jesus, and it has been a huge blessing.

Sometimes something small, accessible, and not overwhelming is the way to go.

But…

If You are Ready for Something Big…

If you are gazing at 2017 with a decided glint in your eye, ready to dive into something really meaty, I heartily recommend the most life-altering Bible reading plan I have ever done: The Daily Bible.

Two words: Game-Changer. (Or is that one hyphenated word?)

I was fortunate to grow up in a Bible-believing home. I learned Bible stories from a young age and could always throw down a win at the Sunday School Bible drill. I went off to college and became highly involved in a collegiate ministry. I spent my off-time on summer projects studying the Bible (and doing other stuff too – we weren’t complete Bible nerds). After graduation, I joined the staff of that college ministry and started leading Bible studies right and left – for a living.

Have we established the facts here? Bible study = my wheelhouse.

Or so I thought.

What I had been doing all those years — while incredibly valuable — was not giving me the whole picture of the Bible. I was studying extracted pieces of the Bible, without ever focusing on how those pieces related to one another. It was like examining a beautiful piece of artwork – but only from up close. I saw intense color, beautiful brushstrokes, exquisite detail. But I never stepped back to see what the painting was actually depicting.

Enter The Daily Bible.

Many years ago, I decided I wanted to read the Bible all the way through. I had never done it before and had heard reading chronologically was a great way to go. Because accountability is king when tackling a daunting project, I gathered a group of women to read with me. We purchased our copies and got started. We met on Tuesday nights at each other’s houses. We shared great meals and discussed God’s Word. It was like the best book club ever. Little did I know how transformative the experience would be.

Unexpectedly, reading the bible chronologically allowed me to see Scripture in a whole new way.

I read the story of David hiding in a cave, in fear of his life. Then I read Psalm 142 – which he wrote while hiding in the cave. Psalm 142 became palpable. I could viscerally feel what David was feeling.

Reading the Bible chronologically brought so much together for me…

  • The books of Kings and Chronicles are interwoven into a single narrative, allowing you to understand how history unfolded.
  • The prophets (major and minor) are woven in at the time of their writing — and you actually get who they are writing to.
  • The four Gospels read as a single, unfolding story, culminating in Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.
  • Paul’s letters are intermixed into the narrative of the early church described in the book of Acts. Again, you understand who Paul is writing to – and why.

The first time I read through The Daily Bible, I understood things I didn’t think I could understand. I was able to grasp more obscure parts of Scripture (Obadiah, anyone?). I saw how it fit together.

And most importantly, I felt the longing of the Israelites for the promised Messiah.

Because here’s the thing: when you read The Daily Bible, you don’t get to Jesus until October 18th.

October 18th. 

You start on New Year’s Day and you don’t see Jesus until the leaves have changed colors. It’s a long time to wait. You groan with Israel through the ups and downs, the longings, the mistakes, the rebellions, the punishments, the mercies.

And more punishment. And more mercy.

You shake your head in wonder that a people forgiven and delivered from so much could rebel against the God who rescued them from so much.

You feel the frustration, the longing.

And when October 18th arrives, you want to jump up and shout HALLELUJAH! The Rescuer has finally come for these DUMB, REBELLIOUS PEOPLE who don’t realize HOW BLESSED THEY ARE.

FINALLY! 

Oh.

Wait.

Could it be?

Is the Old Testament one long narrative to make me realize the depth of my own sinful heart?

Am I Israel?

Am I the rescued one? The one who continues to run after idols, falsely believing they will fill the empty places? Over and over? Again and again?

I had never really seen it before.

Three years ago I was itching to tackle The Daily Bible again. Knowing my weaknesses and need for accountability, I once again gathered a tribe of women to read it with me. Life was a lot busier than it was a decade ago, when I spent every Tuesday night talking about God’s Word with my girlfriends. This time we took a more technological approach and combined a private Facebook group with monthly in-person meetings. We read, and we longed, and we waited for the Savior.

And when October came, we shouted HALLELUJAH.

A few months after we finished, a friend sent me a letter:

“…As I read through the Word, I basked in God’s holiness. It was the chronological reading that really forced me to sit in the messiness of sin and the holiness of God as we sat in the Old Testament for 10 months before we finally reached the gospels. As my knowledge of myself and my sin became bigger, the cross of Christ became more glorious. My understanding of God’s love became greater because I understood more deeply the cost of the Cross…”

I include her words because it’s better than anything I could write: “My understanding of God’s love became greater because I understood more deeply the cost of the Cross.”

Sometimes the waiting and longing is exactly what we need to feel the Hallelujah.

If you are feeling coaxed into digging into God’s Word this year, I encourage you to consider a chronological reading plan. The Daily Bible happens to be the one I love, but there are many versions available.

Whatever you do, the most important thing is that you find a way to consistently be in the Word in 2017. It is transformative food for your soul.

Cheers to a 2017 full of the richness of God’s Word,

Kristi

 

This post is not sponsored in any way – I am just a big, big fan of these two books. I do use affiliate links, however, which means if you click and/or purchase anything I recommend, I might make a small commission. Thanks for your support!

 

 

My Trip to Ann Voskamp’s Farm

Back in September I filled out a online form applying to join the launch team for Ann Voskamp’s new book, The Broken Way. 1000 Gifts, Ann’s first book, had been a game-changer for me – so anything written by Ann = I’m in. I didn’t think much about it and was fairly shocked to find out I had been accepted when I got an email a couple of weeks later.

In addition to receiving a free copy of the book, the launch team members were invited to an event in Voskamp farm country – including a gathering at Ann’s house. In Canada. 

We had two weeks notice to get our travel plans together. I checked my passport (thankfully, still good) and started checking flights (Toronto? Detroit? Buffalo?) for an option that wouldn’t break the bank. The cost of flight + hotel + rental car was starting to feel daunting.

Enter Angel Anne:

donkey

I connected with Angel Anne through the launch team Facebook group. Anne (with an e) lives in Rochester, NY, about a four hour drive from the Voskamp farm. She was planning to take a day trip for the event and invited me to ride along with her – plus offered to pick me up at the airport and host me for two nights in her home. See, Angel.

Also, Anne has pet donkeys.

I was out of reasons to say no, so I booked a flight to Canada. Ok, technically, it was flight to Rochester. When you are from the south, all of it feels very Great White North.

Pic of me at the airport:

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Very excited!

Also, plane snacks:

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I drink ginger ale on airplanes.

I arrived in Rochester and was greeted by Angel Anne, her copy of The Broken Way in hand. It felt like a moment from a reality show — searching the airport for the person holding the same book as you.

After Anne fed her donkeys (for real) we had tea and got to know each other. Anne is 20+ years older than me, with twice my energy. She runs her own business, travels, takes mission trips, loves her church, and generally gives her life away at every turn. I want to be Anne when I grow up. We went to dinner and caught an upstate New York sunset on the way home.

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It’s pretty up there, y’all.

We left at 4:45am the next morning, which was painful, I won’t lie. It was made a bit easier by an early stop at Tim Hortons, a Canadian institution I was excited to try. It’s kind of a like Dunkin Donuts, sort of? Is there a better descriptor?

I’m not sure you are ready for this face:

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It was practically the middle of the night and I was excited. Let’s go with it.

Onward.

Sunrise over the Niagara River:

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And another stop at a travel center. The funny thing about this photo is that I took it from my place in line at Starbucks – behind one person. Tim Hortons is a whole big thing, but I didn’t want to wait that long for coffee.

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Much of the drive was along Lake Ontario on the Queen Elizabeth Highway. It was just a highway, but I was practically in an episode of Downton Abbey. Look at the signs:

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The crowns! All of a sudden I feel like having tea.

After four hours on the road and multiple cups of Tim Hortons/Starbucks coffee, we were finally close to the farm.

Lots of Amish influence. It was very peaceful.

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And then, we pulled up to Ann’s house. I’m not going to show all the photos I took, because that seems a little invasive to the Voskamp family. But don’t think I didn’t take a lot. #stalker

Hugging Ann:

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Here’s the thing about Ann Voskamp: she is who you think she is. Authentic. Real. Humble. All those words. She lives the life she writes about. So refreshing in our filtered, airbrushed, and carefully edited culture. The Voskamp family radiates authenticity – a pretty priceless quality these days.

Okay, just one photo from Ann’s house. I can’t resist:

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After the gathering at Ann’s house, we headed to the afternoon event – held at this gorgeous barn:

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We had hot cider, snacks, and soaked in the gorgeous views.

Then Ann read from The Broken Way:

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Pictured here with her precious daughter, reading a significant story from the first chapter that sets up the content of the book. 

The barn gathering was a quiet, sweet time of hearing Ann read her own words. It was Gospel-saturated and beautiful in every way. She pointed us to Christ. There was true fellowship, koinonia, in that room that day. None of us wanted it to end.

One last selfie from Canadian farm country:

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After sweet goodbyes to new friends, Anne and I reluctantly tore ourselves away from the farm and began our 4+ hour trek home. We stopped for dinner at — one guess — Tim Hortons. (I was nothing if not fully committed to the Canadian experience.)

We collapsed in bed for what can only be called a nap, since we had to leave for the airport at 4am. I left Angel Anne, boarded my plane, and was back in my classroom by noon.

I’m so grateful for the experience. So grateful for Ann + Anne — and grateful for memories I will keep forever.

XOXO,

Kristi

I will have review of The Broken Way up on the blog soon. It is so rich I cannot read it quickly, really just a couple of pages at a time. I am about halfway through and can’t recommend it enough. 

Ann Voskamp has also written beautiful books for the Advent season. I’m in my second year reading her devotional for adults, The Greatest Gift. Unwrapping the Greatest Gift is her version for kids. Both are full of powerful reminders that Christ is on every page of the Old Testament. 

 

 

This post contains affiliate links, which means if you click and/or purchase anything I recommend, I might make a small commission. Thank you for your support! 

 

How To Make the Most Out Of Your Trip To The Nutcracker

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Going to see The Nutcracker is an annual pilgrimage for many families. It’s bound to be a good time, but you can make the very most out of the experience with just a little bit of prep. Help your kids learn The Nutcracker’s history, story, and music – it will go a long way in keeping them engaged. Tickets are way too expensive to not make the most of your theatre experience! 

 

First, Some History

The Nutcracker as we know it has a long and winding history.

German author E.T.A. Hoffman published “The Nutcracker and the Mouse King” in 1816. It was full of dark undertones – Clara was a neglected orphan living with unkind relatives. (Nothing says “Merry Christmas” like a neglected orphan story.)

Things brightened up considerably when Alexandre Dumas published his version in 1847. He renamed the main character Marie. Four decades later, the story was well-known throughout Europe.

When the Russian Imperial Ballet decided to stage a new ballet based on Dumas’ story, they called on famous composer Peter Tchaikovsky to compose the music. He was at the height of his career and readily accepted. They changed the main character’s name back to Clara (just to keep everyone on their toes.) Though well-received, the ballet was only a modest success.

The work lay dormant for many years until it was resurrected in England in 1934. It was first performed in the U.S. in 1940 and was readily embraced by American audiences. By the 1960s cities across the country were staging their own performances. A new holiday tradition was born.

Fun Fact: Both names are still used in various Nutcracker renditions. Marie is often used in books; Clara in the ballet.

 

Get to Know the Story

Understanding the storyline will help children connect with the experience. If you want a simple summary, try this one.

An even better idea? Grab some books. The Nutcracker has numerous adaptations great for kids. Read a couple of these and get everyone up to speed.

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  1. The Nutcracker tells the story with minimal text and lush illustrations.
  2. Ella Bella Ballerina: The Nutcracker is from author James Mayhew – one of my favorites. Little Ella is transported into famous ballets. (Other titles include Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty and Cinderella.)
  3. This version of The Nutcracker is based on George Balanchine’s NYC ballet. More gorgeous illustrations and heavier on text.
  4. Have a middle grades reader? The Toymaker’s Apprentice is a fun re-telling of the traditional story.
  5. Peter Tchaikovsky from the Getting to Know the World’s Composers series will provide your child with interesting facts about the composer’s life.
  6. Tchaikovsky Discovers America tells the story of his first trip to the U.S.
  7. Ever wondered how The Nutcracker became such a big deal in America? The Nutcracker Comes to America will tell you the story.

 

Now the Music…

It’s probably not realistic for your kids to become familiar with the entire score, so just hit some highlights. When they hear familiar strains in the middle of the performance, they will look up with a face that says, “Hey! I know that!”

Overture: This is the first thing your children will hear. If they recognize music from the beginning, they will be all in for the rest of the show.

March is always a favorite!

Waltz of the Flowers is super iconic — you will recognize it.

Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy is usually the most familiar of all the music.

As always, I recommend a little Musical Sketching. It’s my favorite way to get kids paying attention to great music. Have them listen and sketch a couple of these pieces – it will embed the music in their minds even more.

 

Watch and Enjoy:

Now that your kids know the story and have listened to the music, show them a few videos to continue getting them prepped.

The traditional Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy:

And a much different interpretation…!

The Nutcracker has infiltrated all kinds of music. Check out Duke Ellington’s jazzy take:

And finally, an a cappella version from Pentatonix:

 

Bonus: Add a Craft

I’m not the craftiest person on earth, but even I could do some of these!

 

I hope these ideas have been helpful! Going to see The Nutcracker is such a rite of passage for children and doing just a little prep will maximize the experience for everyone. Enjoy the show!

XOXO,

Kristi

 

Atlanta Residents: For a memorable holiday experience, head to the Fabulous Fox Theatre to see the Atlanta Ballet present The Nutcracker under the starry skies. Performances run from December 9th-24th.

This post is not sponsored, but it does contain affiliate links. Thanks for your support!

10 Great Non-Electronic Music Gifts for Kids

Do you have a musical gift on your child’s list this year?

I am seeing more and more toys hopping on the STEM train this holiday season, and I want to raise my little music teacher hand and shout: DON’T FORGET MUSIC. MUSIC IS A WHOLE BIG THING. Music gifts are fun, enriching, and stand the test of time.

I am listing some great options below. They are ALL non-electronic. I’m not against electronics entirely, but the pinging, zinging, ringing – over and over and over, ad nauseum…sometimes it’s too much. Let the kids make their own music. It might be just as annoying, but at least it will be original!

I have also put together a classical music playlist of highly rhythmic pieces your kids will love to play along with. Scroll to the bottom for the link.

Happy Music Making!

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Ten Great (Non-Electronic) Music Gifts:

  1. Spontuneous for great family musical fun!
  2. Music Bingo helps children learn orchestra instruments
  3. Melissa and Doug Deluxe Band Set gives you plenty of instruments for everyone to share
  4. Inspiro Kids Musical Instruments and Percussion Toys a smaller set and less expensive
  5. Musical Instruments 6-in-1 Set is great if you have room!
  6. Egg Shakers are super fun for playing along
  7. Movement Scarves – lots of fun ideas on Pinterest!
  8. Musical Instrument Puzzle for the little ones to start exploring instruments
  9. Instruments of the Orchestra Puzzle – for the bigger ones to do the same!
  10. Great Composers Puzzle – great way to learn about the great composers

Allowing children to play along with great classical music is a fun way to get them engaged. Here is a list of some of my highly rhythmic favorites. (You don’t have to have a paid Spotify account – the free version allows you to listen with ads.)

 

This post contains affiliate links. Thanks for your support!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ann Voskamp’s “The Broken Way”

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A couple of weeks ago I filled out a little form applying to join the launch team for Ann Voskamp’s new book, The Broken Way. Friday, I received an email saying I had been selected. Being the good little blogger I am, I instagrammed and tweeted, and then this happened:

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Our friendship now firmly established, Ann and I have some things to tell you. She has a new book coming, and it’s about to break us all wide open.

Sitting to write this post, it is tempting to try and channel my inner-Ann, with poetic phrases and poignant metaphor. But let’s be real: I trade more in the subtle currency of sarcasm and pith.

I’m not that poetic. I’m not that flowery. And perhaps that’s why I love Ann’s writing so much. (And, to recap, Ann tweeted me once, so we are #firstname friends.)

Maybe I love Ann’s writing because she figured out a way to devote multiple paragraphs to the celebration of shredded cheese. (One Thousand Gifts, chapter 3, if you don’t know what I am talking about.)

Gratitude for cheese is always something I can get behind.

Perhaps I am a fan of Ann’s writing because our modern world has replaced poetry with sound bites. We’ve sacrificed 140 line sonnets for 140 character tweets. Perhaps we have forgotten there can be a lot to say about important things.

Speaking, describing, illustrating – being vulnerable – at the highest emotional place is risky, and people might say isn’t that a little over the top?

And I think – yes. Yes, it is. Because if there was ever a topic to go over the top about, isn’t it Jesus?

Should speaking about Jesus, and the Cross, and the blood poured out on our behalf incite only emotions that rest in the nebulous middle? Words like pleasant? Agreeable? Nice?

Isn’t Jesus’s brokenness on our behalf worth a lot of words? A lot of vivid, expressive, histrionic words?

Ann is a master at words. And she writes them down for us. She is a self-described broken vessel, nothing but a conduit of grace. The Broken Way is for all of us who are broken. And who among us isn’t broken?

(And I don’t mean to draw attention, but wasn’t that last sentence just so very, very Ann? I’m working on my flowering.)

As a member of the midwife delivery team for the birthing of this book, I get to be a part of a private launch-team Facebook group. In barely 72 hours, people have shared griefs that make me weep. It’s a hurting world, and we all hurt. Apparently none of us gets to skip the hurting. It’s a requirement of Christ-followers.

But here’s the thing: the hurting isn’t something to simply be endured. The hurting is the thing. The brokenness is not a hiccup or a speed bump on the way to joy. The miraculous-ness of the Gospel tells us, somehow, it is the joy.

But how can that be?

I suspect The Broken Way will be a bit of a navigational guide. Just a beat-up sailor friend, one who has faced down some deathly storms and come out on the other side, sharing her story on how to ride the surges of brokenness.

You know the quote:

“Christianity is one beggar telling another beggar where he found bread.”

D.T. Niles

I suspect The Broken Way is also a shelter gathering. A group of beggars gathering to remind each other where the Bread is. The Bread that was broken on our behalf. Manna that comes just enough. Never more, never less.

So we gather: battered sailors, hungry beggars. Daughters, wives, friends. Partakers of cheese. Partakers of the holy, broken Bread that is the source of all sustenance.

The Farmer comes in from the barn, leaves a bucket from the henhouse at the back door with his boots. I can hear him washing up at the mudroom’s porcelain sink. He steps into the kitchen. I look up from the dishes. He’s seen it already. The man can read my eyes better than he reads the skies. Sometimes all our unspoken broken speaks louder than anything we could ever say. He reads my slow breaking over the kid’s lightning- bolt news and all my not-enoughness that I can’t even grope through the pain to find words for.

He pulls me into himself, enfolds me. And then, into the quiet, he says it so soft I almost miss it, what I have held on to more than a thousand times since.

“You know—everything all across this farm says the same thing, you know that, right?” He waits till I let him look me in the eye, let him look into me and all this fracturing. “The seed breaks to give us the wheat. The soil breaks to give us the crop, the sky breaks to give us the rain, the wheat breaks to give us the bread. And the bread breaks to give us the feast.”

Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way

 

We shall break bread together when The Broken Way releases October 25th. I will receive a free copy of the book, but all thoughts and text are my own. My #firstname friend Ann is not at all responsible for my weak attempts at emulating her poetic prose. That’s all on me.

 More information at www.thebrokenway.com.

 

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