Growing up, music was a big part of my life. Most of us played instruments (someone was always "practicing" in our house from before the sun rose until late at night). My sisters and I sang in performing groups and someone was always singing around the house (especially Saydi who belted out Annie songs all the time). Plus it seems like we always had background music. My mom always had classical music playing in our home. My dad always had John Denver or Sheena Easton or whatever his latest favorite was playing in the car. Certain periods of my childhood have a distinct soundtrack when I think back on them - Jackson Hole was all John Denver, Lake Powell was the soundtrack to the musical Big River, Mexico was Michael Jackson's Thriller album.
As I took off on my own in life, I continued to make music a big part of my life. My main extracurricular activity in college was singing in a small a'cappella group and I spent most weekends touring with that group. And the soundtrack of my Wellesley education included Abba (a lot of "Take a Chance on Me" going on) and Enya ("Sail Away" was perfect to listen to as I went running on that gorgeous campus). My mission in Bulgaria had a soundtrack of Vivaldi's guitar concertos and some good old MoTab plus the favorite of all Bulgarian Mormons at the time - "God be With You 'Til We Meet Again." To this day, when I hear the songs "Glycerine," "Lightening Crashes" or "Living on the Edge," I flash back to running along the Potomac River in DC or the Charles River in Cambridge. And when I hear "Time of your Life" by Green Day, I'm falling in love with Jared all over again.
But once the kids came along, the music sort of fizzled out for a while. Ashton wouldn't go to sleep without Enya playing when he was a baby. We listened to a lot of Jack Johnson and the soundtrack to "Oh Brother Where Art Thou" on car trips. But for the most part, it was hard to remember to turn on music (or make music) when the cacophony of our kids was constantly going on. Sometimes I think to turn on classical music on Sundays and that always brings such a nice feeling into our home. Once in a while we have a family dance party with everyone choosing their favorite songs. My violin gets pulled out about once a year when the kids ask what that old wooden case in the closet is. Ashton's taught himself a few chords on the guitar and I've taught Isaac like 3 piano lessons (that idea didn't quite stick). We often sing hymns in the car on the way to school (we try to learn the first verse of a new hymn every week). And sometimes we turn on some fun music while we do our Saturday cleaning. But music has definitely not been a big thing in our home and I want to change that.
I'm starting with background music. Jared insisted on putting in a great speaker system when we built out house - and when I remember to turn on music, I'm so glad for his insistence. But I forget. A lot. So for the last few days, I've made a point of having music on. I love how Pandora (pandora.com) lets you put in a favorite song and then it creates your own radio station with similar songs. With the right music on, life just feels better. When you're making dinner and a favorite song comes on, you can sing along. When you're doing the post-dinner clean-up and a song with a great groove pops up, you can throw a little dance party into the clean-up action. When you're making dinner and a lovey-dovey song comes on, a nice kiss with your honey makes the whole evening better (and makes the kids squeal with delight).
For us, classical music right after school works great for homework time (the try symphonic classical station on Pandora or create your own station using a favorite classical song). Then dinner time works great with a nice mellow beat (I love my Jack Johnson Pandora station for this). Saturday cleaning works well with some dance music (type in a favorite upbeat song and create your own station).
I love how music makes you feel like you're in a movie sometimes. I love how it can take the hard edges off things. I love how good music can bring up good thoughts and good memories. I love how it can make me feel more tender towards my husband or my kids. I love how it can perfectly accompany the beautiful scenery outside my window or the sweet hugs from those I love.
Of course, too much music or the wrong sort of music can just add to the stress and chaos. And silence is good too. It's quiet right now in my house and it feels good. But we do need more music around here.
Once I get good at this background music thing, I'll have to get going on actually creating music more often - more singing together, maybe some guitar lessons for Ashton and some real piano lessons for Isaac and Eliza. But I'll just take this one step at a time.