Our family LOVES birthdays! We have a lot of birthday traditions in our family. I've written about some of them before.
I make my kids (and Dave!) whatever kind of cake they want for their birthday. Usually this involves many hours of decorating Teddy Grahams to look like hula dancers, scuba divers, baseball players, or some other craziness!
Some of our traditions involve the presents you get for your special day. For instance, when you turn 5, in our family, you get your first bike! Now THAT is a fun day!
When you turn 7, you get to start taking music lessons. The three oldest RiceCakes have already made it to that special birthday! Matthew has played the guitar for a little over 3 years. Abi's been playing the mandolin for 2 years. Jack started piano lessons about a month ago. They absolutely love it!
Dave and I love having music in the house. It doesn't matter that the kids don't always play perfectly. Missed notes aren't that big of a deal to us. We all just love music and it's a fun thing to do together.
The kids all take their lessons at the same place. It's this local guitar shop called Picker's Paradise. It's awesome. They have all kinds of really amazing guitars AND better customer service than any huge guitar shop. If you're ever in Stapleton, AL... you have to check it out. We've spent a LOT of time up there over the last 3+ years and the people who run the shop know The RiceCakes really well. Think "Cheers"! They walk in the door and everyone says "YAY! It's RiceCake Day!" Who wouldn't want a place where everybody knows your name?
Anyway, the guys who teach lessons are top notch... both in terms of their musical ability AND in terms of their character. I LOVE that my kids get to hang out with people who encourage them to tackle tough stuff and keep working hard when things are tricky. The lessons that hard stuff can be fun AND working hard has a great pay off is a great thing to learn when you're little! It's also fabulous to hang out with people who have a great sense of humor and aren't super serious all the time! (Hey, they're musicians... they're rascally!)
One of the people who recently started teaching lessons is Jody Payne. He's our very own local celebrity. Mr. Jody played lead guitar for Willie Nelson since 1973... and before that played with Merle Haggard. Mr. Jody "retired" and got off the road about 2 years ago. He's 75 and quite a character... like anyone who'd been on the road with Willie Nelson for over 3 decades would be! Over this past summer, he thought that he'd like to start teaching guitar lessons up at Picker's (he's friends with the owner) to have something to do.
He was a little nervous about teaching. I think that's sorta funny. The man has stood up in front of millions of people and played the guitar for decades but, the idea of sitting in a room with a little kid who wants to learn to play was intimidating to him! Go figure right?! Anyway, Mr. Jody wanted to "try out" teaching and see if it was something that he'd would actually like to do. Matthew's instructor thought it would be a good idea to have Matthew sit in with him (since Matthew is NOT scary and already knew a decent amount about playing the guitar, since he's been taking lessons for so long) and see how Mr. Jody would do. So, Matthew had a lesson with this legendary guitarist about syncopation. Wild right? I think they were both equally nervous but, they had fun together and Mr. Jody started teaching lessons.
When Lucy was this past summer, she taught Abi how to make friendship bracelets. (You know those floss bracelets with all the knots that we all knew how to make when we were 9 years old? Don't worry, I don't remember how to make them anymore either! One more reason that having Lucy around is so darn AWESOME!) Abi's made about 100 of them. No joke. All summer, she hung out making these string bracelets. When school started the other kids asked her to make THEM some too! I told her that she oughta make a bunch and sell 'em! (Can you say "Etsy?" ha ha!) Anyway, Abi wears about 10 of them all the time. She tied the knots so tight that she can't get 'em off! Not that she wants to take them off! She even has a couple of crazy ones that wrap not only around her wrist but, around her fingers too.
Anyway, Abi has lessons every week up at Picker's and usually Mr. Jody is there waiting for his next student to get there. We usually hang out a little longer than their lessons last because the kids love talking to everyone in the shop. A couple of weeks ago, Mr. Jody came up to Abi and told her that he liked her bracelets. She said, "Thanks." Then he asked her if he could have one of them. She said, "No way! I never take these off!" It was so hard not to laugh out loud. I didn't know what was more funny: a 75 year old hippie asking a 9 year old for a friendship bracelet OR a 9 year old girl telling a guitar legend that she won't give him a bracelet made out of string! Mr. Jody just laughed and went on to tell her a story about a guy he knows who plays the mandolin with a slide. (The guy is FULL of stories about cool stuff like that.)
Abi was mulling it over on the way home and decided that she'd make Mr. Jody a friendship bracelet of his own. So, she picked out a bunch of bright colored floss and set to work one afternoon making something wild just for him. When she went to her lesson yesterday, she showed Mr. Jody what she'd made for him and he got all excited. It was so funny! He took that string, wrapped it around his fingers and wrist (just like Abi's crazy one), and then asked her to tie it on him. So she did! They were both all smiles.
The store manager said, "Hey Jody that's an original Abi Rice bracelet. You better not take it off!"
Mr. Jody said, "I don't think I can! These knots are really tight!"
A little later, I helped him trim the extra floss so he wouldn't set it on fire when he took a smoke break. He was so excited that she made one just for him. He said that his wife would be jealous because it was so pretty.
Who would've thought that some string from a 9 year old would mean so much to a guy who has (LITERALLY) the ability to buy whatever he wants? I think that just goes to show how much a handmade gift is valued. It wasn't that it was costly that mattered. It was that Abi took the time to make something just for him. THAT was what made her gift generous and special.
Deuteronomy 16:17Every man shall give as he is able, according to the blessing of the LORD your God which He has given you.