Friday, January 20, 2017

Kids and Learning

I think one of the most interesting things about homeschooling compared to trying to teach in a public classroom, is the easy ability to adjust based on a child's learning style. It's quite a monumental effort in a large classroom to even determine learning styles, much less meet each child's needs. While I don't actively homeschool my 3 year old, he is almost 4 now, and definitely wants to participate in school. Of course, his learning style and personality is almost a complete opposite of my oldest.

My oldest child is definitely one who does things because they are "supposed" to be done. He wants to see the boxes, check the boxes, and move on. While he did get a bit excited and work ahead in his math book, and he does usually finish up the read aloud books on his own, he also can be a bit hesitant to try "something new". He loves science experiments, but hates crafts. He also told me today that he "couldn't read" his history book on his own. I kindly pointed out that he finished the read aloud stories (approximately a 4th grade reading level) and had him read a chapter aloud, but didn't push him. Pushing him generally backfires, but I do require him to finish his work carefully.

My current youngest (for at least a few more hours, days, or weeks) is quite the opposite. Good luck telling him that he can't do something. I really have been trying actively not to teach him to read, but he keeps jumping ahead in leaps and bounds. We aren't actively doing phonics, but he has about 400 sight words at this point. Some of which are quite unusual and I wasn't sure where he was getting them. I finally figured out a few are from the video games that they watch on YouTube (many of the YouTube video creators narrate the written on-screen dialogue, so my 3 year old can now read "Port Prisma" and "Course clear" from Paper Mario Color Splash). He can usually read at least half or more words in a level 1 book. I suppose sometime after our 3rd boy is born, I will have to get into phonics so he's not missing out on some important reading habits. He is also more in tune with his fine motor skills so he loves stamps and do-a-dots and his favorite from his "math books" (which are preschool workbooks designed for 4-5 year olds) is to "cut and paste". I make him finish everything that comes before the cut and paste, but I don't require a certain number of pages a day. Sometimes he will ask to "do school" at random times of the day and do 5-10 pages at once.

In public school, kids can be labelled and put in groups and "advocated" for if they have special needs. In homeschool, they get to just be your kid. You can modify and adjust any curriculum to meet their specific needs, and even change curriculum entirely if something doesn't work for you kid. Since my oldest is a bit behind in fine motor skills still due to his sensory issues, we will be taking a break from our current curriculum when we finish out the current year, and try something a bit less writing intensive until he is able to catch up. It's a beautiful thing, and I can't wait to see what special personality and learning traits come out with the 3rd boy after he arrives and starts to grow and develop.

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Diversity and Personality in the Church

A few recent comments from church members and small group members has created some deep thinking recently regarding diversity in family and parenting styles in the church. As any of my long-term blog followers know, at one point I struggled with judgment towards others. My Meyers Brigg personality is a borderline I/E but a very strong NTJ, especially that big fat J. Fortunately, part of being a Christian is growth and development through the working of the Holy Spirit, the Bible, and other Christians. As a late teenager and young adult, I was able to almost completely resolve my fear/judgment cycle (because I judged others, I feared their judgment towards me and became very hesitant and reserved).

I have seen in the past few weeks and months how many others still suffer through the same issues that I did. I feel sympathy towards them, and yet I also feel compelled to offer my support. Honestly, I truly do not take their judgment personally because of the work that has been done on my heart, but I also don't want them experiencing the same mistakes that I made when I was younger.

We are all human and we are all diverse. My husband chooses not to wear a wedding ring. I am not wearing a wedding ring currently due to being 9 months pregnant. Shockingly, two separate people at church have mentioned my lack of wedding ring in the 1 month that I have left it off. Really? You see us multiple times per week, you know we're married, you know we're faithful, what does our choice of wearing a ring or never taking it off matter to you? One of the people that mentioned it did seem to recognize his judgmental fallacy by saying he felt terrible for judging all the people he saw without rings when there could be a valid explanation. Yet, even if there wasn't a valid explanation, is that the right reaction a Christian should have towards a stranger? Yes, if there is sin WITHIN the church, it needs to be pointed out in a loving manner, but we need to be very clear on what is "sin" and what is "personal choice". I am not cheating on my husband, and he is not cheating on me, so our lack of rings has no bearing on our heart or sin situation.

In another instance, I have heard a few families make judgments on parenting styles. Admittedly, sometimes I do this myself, but it has no bearing on how I interact with other families. Yes, sometimes I have to have a conversation with my children about how just because another boy or girl their age is allowed to do something does not automatically give them permission. I also have to step in sometimes as a parent if the other parents are not aware of what is going on and protect them from a safety standpoint. And I am 100% on board with other parents stepping in in similar situations. Yet, in non-safety situations, there is such a huge spectrum of parenting styles. When I married my husband, I joked with a few friends that I had a lot of cultural differences to work through early in the relationship. They asked what culture he was from and I said he was born and raised in the same town we currently live.

Culture is something that varies from person to person and family to family and yes, even when crossing over town or county borders. We tend as humans to try to create relationships and friendships with those who are most "like us" and while that is not necessarily wrong in and of itself, it can tend to lead towards drama, hurt feelings, and a reaction of judgment in cases where no judgment is needed.

We recently went to Chic-Fil-A with some friends of ours. They let their kids go to the playplace while the food was being ordered, but our kids know they are not allowed to play until after they've eaten their food. While one of my kids was throwing a bit of a fit because he missed his friend, we had a good conversation with the parents. Neither one of our two families was wrong, we just do things a bit differently. Fortunately, the line was short and only a few minutes later the kids were happily eating together and then playing together. Doing life together doesn't mean doing life the same. It means appreciating the differences in other families and respecting their personalities without judging.

Accidents happen, kids get hurt while playing, some kids are overly sheltered, some kids are largely unsupervised. When it comes to parenting style, we try to maintain a bit of an even balance with our kids. About half of the families with kids the same age as ours are more discipline oriented and about half are less supervisory. I make a big deal of safety issues, prompt obedience, and being nice to others. I also make a huge effort not to overly shelter our kids, so they do have some words occasionally that they probably should not be repeating, but have heard from YouTube, Dave Matthews, or TV. I also take into consideration the personalities of my two children. So occasionally, my almost 4 year old is put to bed with a book and we go to bed without forcing him to stay in his bed. And occasionally my oldest child is not punished for his behavior when he gets overwhelmed with sensory issues beyond his control.

So why is there judgment in the church over these issues, when I don't see it at the park or the library? I think some of it comes from a place of love. We see someone in the church disciplining in a way that we wouldn't and we think that maybe they really need to fix that. But we need to question whether it's something that truly needs to be fixed (i.e. outright disobedience towards parents) or if it is a much subtler issue of personality, rules, and culture. Is someone truly needing help with the discipline of their kids, or are they perfectly happy with where they are on the spectrum of discipline and love. Just like with Grace and Justice, we need to find the balance with our children to create in them a disciplined life without causing them unnecessary pain and suffering (i.e. exasperating our children). And maybe, rather than judging another parent for how they discipline (or don't discipline) their children, we need to find Grace and Justice in the diverse beauty of the church. I personally think it would be incredibly boring if every family were exactly like mine. I've learned a lot about relaxing from the more relaxed parents around me, and I've also seen some adjustments that need to be made in my choices of what to discipline through other parents and grandparents.

If we all did everything the same, would it be right, or would we all end up doing it wrong?

Monday, January 16, 2017

January Babies

As I come to the final few weeks of pregnancy with our third child (a third boy of course), I have been wondering about those people who hope to have the "first baby of the year". I was a bit disappointed not to have a December baby (obviously, I hope he bakes long enough to be healthy) when I ended up in the hospital shortly after Christmas and thought about all the benefits of having a baby in December rather than January. He was pretty close to being fully cooked, so he probably could have avoided a long stay in the hospital, so I thought about all the benefits and drawbacks of December versus January babies.

Sure, you have to deal with the whole present/party issue (who can come to the birthday party when they are traveling out of town and who wants to buy two presents when it is only a few days apart). However, there are some huge financial benefits the 1st year for babies born in December.

1) Deductibles start over in January. This will be a big one for us this year. Since I'm expecting in January, I can already expect to hit the several thousand dollar deductible for 2017. Unfortunately, we've also hit the several thousand dollar deductible for 2016 due to those pesky pregnancy issues requiring hospitalization. So, if the baby had been born (and released from) the hospital in December instead of January, we would have easily saved at least $3,000.
2) Child tax credit. This is a big one, for most taxpayers it's an extra $1,000 refund on their taxes, of course, if your child is born in January, you have to wait until the next tax year compared to a baby born in the previous December.
3) Personal exemption. You also miss out on the personal exemption of $4,050 (for 2016). Assuming a marginal tax rate of 15%, this deduction could save another $600 or so.

So, let's add up those additional expenses and missed savings for Baby # 3... Total cost of a January baby versus a December baby - $4,600. Those "First Baby of the Year" prizes had better be pretty hefty in my opinion.

Needless to say, I'm not all that disappointed that our particular January baby was not born in December. Obviously, a NICU stay, asthma, or any other long term problems that many premature babies face is more costly than the $4,600 difference. But, if you are planning for a baby, I strongly suggest aiming for the end of the year rather than the beginning of the year. You know, if you can plan those types of things.

Monday, October 17, 2016

One Step at a Time

As I grow older, but am still very young
I take tiny steps forward,
But I'm nowhere near done

I can see more clearly, love more dearly,
But still so easily
Break down and blow up

My pride is much smaller
But it's not small enough
When things are good I ignore You
Until times are tough

One more step at a time
Until this day is done
Help me with this sin
And tomorrow's to come
Break me free from these walls
Of my sin and my shame
And hold me as I
Take one step at a time

When I am weak and brought down by sin
The hurts I have caused
And the pain that I'm in

I can hate myself and hate this pain
But the situation
Will come up again

My sins are much smaller
But they still cause pain
My heart is washed white when
You remove the stain

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Dave Matthews Band - Live Trax Volume 16

I'm back again with another Live Trax review.  This one is a favorite of mine.

DMB Live Trax Volume 16

1) #41
2) Warehouse
3) One Sweet World
4) Say Goodbye
5) Jimi Thing
6) Sweet Up and Down
7) Typical Situation »
8) Little Thing
9) Grey Street
10) Bartender
11) Crush
12) Drive In Drive Out
13) The Song That Jane Likes
14) JTR
15) Too Much
16) #40
17) Digging a Ditch
18) Two Step

The last three Live Trax in the series (13-15) were all from the summer of 2008.  For this album, the series returns to the summer of 2000 to give us the third release from that tour as well.  This particular album was picked by the fan site  I don't know how they got the right to pick the release nor do I have any idea if they had restrictions on what they could or couldn't pick.

I'm really not one much for the DMB Internet Community (despite a series of blog posts to the contrary).  I'm not one to message on boards, although I do occasionally lurk on them.  I actually prefer the most as I feel more of the discussion is on the music and the releases there than anywhere else.

I digress.

This particular show is unique from the summer 2000 tour as it's the one of the early shows.  Butch Taylor had not yet come on board (he would be there the next night) and the Lovely Ladies, who had been guesting since 1998 sporadically, did not show up for this show either (again, they would be there the next night).  In that sense, it's the last show of the summer 2000 tour to feature the original five members (although Dan Myers did guest on three songs).  In 2001, the very early shows followed the same mold and the last original five show was played.

The release has a much different feel to it than its companion summer 2000 releases, volumes 3 and 11.  The Lillywhite Sessions songs are much earlier in their development and have a really raw feeling to them.  The most recent album, Before These Crowded Streets, also isn't showcased with only Crush making an appearance.  It's very much a fan favorite set list with a few Lillywhite tunes thrown in.

The show actually begins with a small tease of Little Thing as an introduction to #41.  Warehouse has got to be the best second song in the catalog too.  Both performances are fantastic here.  One Sweet World, complete with instrumental introduction, is great as well.  Say Goodbye is always a treat and it doesn't disappoint here.

Jimi Thing features the middle section similar to the 1998 and 1999 versions and it's not a great groove.  It feels too "stop and go" for me - it never really gets going.  However, Leroi is fantastic on it and it finishes fine.  Sweet Up and Down was a new song for the summer and basically disappeared after it was over.  It's popped up occasionally since then but never like these early versions.  The lyrics are complete gibberish but it's a great version.

Typical Situation is fantastic early in the set and transitions into a substantial Little Thing performed solo by Dave.  It's not quite the whole song, but it's close enough.  It's a nice break in the middle of the set.

Grey Street is up next and this particular version is of note as it's the only time (that I know of) during which the song had a story revolving around a male.  However, it's obvious Dave is still figuring out where the song is ultimately going as he transitions later to "she" in the choruses.  The lyrics are horrible - cringe worthy at some points - but the early groove of the song is present, as is a third verse.  It's also the only released version of the song with the original 5 members so it's unique in that sense.

Bartender is really in its infancy here as a full band piece and Dan Myers guests on the outro.  It's not as strong here as it would become later in the summer but it's still a force to be reckoned with here.  Crush is absolutely fantastic with a flute solo as was common in the early days of the song.  Dan Myers also guests here (and JTR later in the set).

I'll skip Drive In Drive Out to offer that The Song That Jane Likes is wonderful here.  This is followed up with an early version of JTR which is very solid.  The show ends with Too Much.  If you have access to the IEM of this show (of which I do not condone - just saying), you can hear Dave indicating how he wants to "Too Much" the audience and get out of here.  It's a funny moment.

The encore is the weak part of this show.  Although #40 is nice, it's a definite tease here and transitions into an early version of Digging a Ditch.  Two Step ends the night.  It's a long version (clocking in at over 15 minutes) but the ending gets boring and drags on way too much.  By the end of the summer, the outros were much more controlled and urgent.  Even still, it's 100 times better here than say, Central Park's Two Step.

The show overall starts really well, is very solid in the middle, but drops off towards the end.  The bass is really out of control on this particular mix (it rattles the windows in my car, and I drive a car with a standard crummy sound system - nothing should really rattle my windows at low volumes).  But, it does sound like you're in the audience listening to it which is nice.  The next few sound this way and it's a distinct change in how the Live Trax albums sound.  It really sort of started on Live Trax 11, got much more pronounced in 14 and 15 before going full blown here in 16.  For the most part, they haven't sounded the same since.  I don't mind the sound.  I wish the bass wasn't so heavy here, but it's certainly not a significant issue.

Once again, this one is a purchase.  It's 4/5 stars and is my second favorite release of this tour.  Even though I give it a slightly lower rating that Live Trax 3, I get into moods where I really want to listen to the original 5 members playing together.  This is a great example of this and about as late of a show that exists where I can do that.  Plus, the sound of the Lillywhite Sessions songs at this point is nice.  Because of all of that, occasionally I'll rank this one higher than Live Trax 3 as a go to for this tour.  Make no mistake, Live Trax 3 is the better album.  But if I'm in the mood, I'd prefer to have this.

Live Trax 1: 4/5, purchase
Live Trax 2: 2/5, skip
Live Trax 3: 5/5, purchase
Live Trax 4: 3/5, skip
Live Trax 5: 5/5, purchase
Live Trax 6: 2/5, skip
Live Trax 7: 5/5, purchase
Live Trax 8: 3/5, purchase
Live Trax 9: 0/5, skip
Live Trax 10: 1/5, skip
Live Trax 11: 4/5, purchase
Live Trax 12: 5/5, purchase
Live Trax 13: 4/5, purchase
Live Trax 14: 2/5, purchase
Live Trax 15: 3/5, purchase
Live Trax 16: 4/5, purchase (52)

Overall: 3.3/5, 11 purchase, 5 skip

Sunday, July 17, 2016

People Are Human

If there's one thing I've been thinking of more than usual lately, it's the sad and strange fact that all of us are human. We hold some people up to higher standards for whatever reason (pastors, politicians, police, etc.) However, even those most austere and auspicious, are still only people. People with sin. People with personalities and passions. People with ideology and false theology and tendencies and past experiences and misinformation.

Isn't it a beautiful and strange thing?

Yet, especially in our act-now, social-media world, it becomes so easy to defend our own humanity that we lambaste someone else's without realizing it. We can follow only those who agree with our opinion, and suddenly wonder why other people "in real life" are disagreeing with us, when all our online friends have the same opinion we do.

So what do we do about this?

Realize the beauty and sadness in humanity. We are all broken people. We all need a Savior. Those of us sitting in church pews are the rule, not the exception.

Don't get caught up in pride of your own ideals. Take some time to consider the other point of view and love someone completely different than you. Spend more time in person than online. Pray for others, and yourself to be brought closer to Christ in humility, faith, and love.

It doesn't need to be more complicated than that, but I'll finish off my point with a little free verse...

If you've lost your hope and faith,
     seek solid ground.
If you get easily offended,
     don't be.
If you hold onto your anger,
     let it go.

Don't try to make the teaming, pulsing, organism of humanity into your foundation.

You are not alone,
     but don't think that you're better.
Your church, community, culture is
     as big a mess of humanity as the rest.
Bumping and bouncing into one another
     with offenses, opinions,m and personality galore.

Isn't life beautiful?

Friday, July 01, 2016

Golden Handcuffs

One problem in our society today, is the "golden handcuffs" phenomenon. I'm sure you've heard of it before, assuming that it applied only to the very wealthy. In reality, I feel that the golden handcuffs apply to way more people in modern society than we might think. Essentially, what the term means, is that you've gotten used to living a certain lifestyle, which requires a certain income, and you can't see any way to make significant lifestyle changes so you are therefore "trapped" in your job indefinitely, unable to make career choices as you might otherwise.

Why is this big deal? And why do I slap the label "religion" on this post?

Well, as a Christian, I can see how many "churched" people find no time to volunteer in the causes they care about. I see them unable to donate to the charities they claim to support. I see them stuck in a job where their lifestyle, morals, or family life is at significant risk. Jesus called us to go, but he didn't put qualifiers on it. He didn't say, go when you win the lottery. He didn't say, go when you've paid off the mortgage. Now, I'm not saying that Jesus wants everyone to give away so much money that their family is in danger, but He did call us to live differently. So what does living differently mean?

For me, I've struggled with the past year in our new home with a new income. Not from a having enough money standpoint, but from having too much. It feels weird to me to be able to buy a small $5 or $10 treat for my kids without wondering if there is enough money. Now I do know that there's enough money, but that means that I feel a bigger responsibility to be doing wise things with that money.

I'm not saying that we're wealthy by today's standards. We drive, and have always driven, used cars. We mow our own lawn. We shop sales and coupons at the grocery stores. We rarely buy clothing or shoes. I probably spent upwards of 5 hours comparison shopping for homeschool curriculum online to find the best deal, and determining which books to go without or which ones could be found at the library. Our household income is pretty much spot on to the median household income for our area, so why does it feel like we're suddenly rich?

I think what a lot of families in our situation do, is that they look at the people ahead of them in lifestyle. They want to live as good as their parents do (you know, now that their parents have two solid incomes and no kids at home to feed). It got me thinking about what we should really be comparing our lifestyle to.

So, if you want to break the golden handcuffs, here are some real world situations that you can strive for today.

  1. When I was little, my dad had a retail store job, and we had very little money. We got pencils and shirts for Christmas, with maybe one or two toys and we were happy. What little money my mom did make went to medical bills, and the ridiculous high housing payments caused by high interest rates during that time. We occasionally got bags of used clothes from neighbors and friends, and it didn't matter to me whether they were boy or girl clothes, I had no qualms wearing my brother's hand-me-downs if they made it that long. 
  2. My in-laws grew up in a poor, rural community. One of them grew up in a family of 12 kids, and they mostly shared one or two bedrooms. You had to go to bed early if you wanted to sleep on the mattress, and you certainly would be sharing it (the bed, not just the bedroom) with at least 3-4 others.
  3. My father grew up in a tiny square 2-bedroom house on a farm in South Texas. When he was 12 or 13 he would drive the pick up truck across the border to pick up migrant workers for the day. If you drive to South Texas today, in the same town (now one of the fastest growing towns in Texas), you will drive past thousands and thousands of "McMansions". It's a little disconcerting to see the difference in just a few decades in lifestyle.
  4. I recently read a book called "Half Broke Horses" about a woman born in 1902 and growing up mostly in the Southwest. If you want to read that book, you may feel a bit better about your kids sharing a bedroom, since at least you don't live in a dugout with one wooden wall and rattlesnakes and moles popping out of the dirt surrounding where you sleep and eat.
So, when you think of the "hardships" you are suffering financially, let's take a more realistic look at what is necessary and what is nice to have.

  •  Food, but not all of it. Food. is critical to life on earth. Healthy foods are great and can lower your health costs in the long run. However, generally speaking, there is absolutely nothing you "need" at Trader Joe's or Whole Foods that you can't get an alternative for at Aldi's, Kroger or Food Lion. Some of the healthiest foods, are also the cheapest. Add some beans to your diet instead of meat one or two nights a week. Buy a huge container of oatmeal at Aldi's for $2 or so, and see what you can do with it. Start making a few of your higher priced convenience foods from scratch. Start a garden with a few seeds (the Dollar Tree has seeds in spring at $0.25 per packet). We've recently increased our food budget (because we have more income) to about $125 per week for a family of 4 (although our two kids are pretty small). 
  • Clothing. Every person in your family likely needs 5-7 basic outfits of each type of clothing that is regularly needed and one or two pairs of each type of shoe needed. Any more than that is going to be considered a lifestyle choice. Now, my husband has a ton of dress clothes (enough to last him a month) but his parents bought most of them for him when he was graduating college, and we've only replaced a few items in the almost 10 years since then. If you were to look at our nice, new to us walk-in closet you would see about a one foot section of my "dress" clothes, and then all his dress clothes, and a few pairs of shoes I bought years ago and rarely wear. Most of the shelves are just storage for us (camping gear, pool gear, luggage, etcetera), because I have no idea who wears that many clothes, 
  • Housing. Again, basic housing is a need, but people's definition of basic seems highly skewed since the 1950s. The average size of a new home in 1950 was 983 square feet (and families were larger back then). So, I think if you're looking for a 1,000 square foot, 2-bedroom house for your growing family, then you're on the right track. If not, then you are likely suffering from a golden handcuff situation. Now, we purchased a house about twice that size when we got an increase in income, and had some equity from our previous much smaller house. But honestly, the space in our current house doesn't always work better than our previous house which was 1100 square feet, and the kids are currently sharing a bedroom of their own volition. So the "necessary" housing is much less than what most of us currently have.
  • Transporation. For most people today, you need some type of transportation to get to work or the grocery store. Especially where we live, there are very few places to access public transportation. However, you do not need a car for every person over 16 in your family, and you probably don't need the giant gas-guzzling SUV. You certainly don't need a late-model car with under 60,000 miles (the way they build them today, if you buy quality, I would start looking for a new car when your current one reaches between 140,000-160,000 miles). Also, really analyze your daily trips. Most weeks I only travel about 30 miles total. That includes the library, park, and usually at least one trip to Aldi's. Some of that is our convenient housing location, and some of it is analyzing whether you really need to visit the special park or museum across town very often. Also, I hate driving more than 10 minutes with kids in my car, lol.
  • Medical care. Unfortunately, in today's world, medical costs are skyrocketing. The easy answer to this, is to take care of your own health. Exercise, eat healthy foods, don't eat fast food or sit around watching TV all day. The harder part is to look at our healthcare system a bit more closely and really analyze what our doctors are recommending. I plan another blog post about my apparent "pre pre hypertension" and how doctors are using prescription medicine to treat side effects of other medicine that is used to treat "illnesses" that were not illnesses ten years ago. So, try lifestyle changes, avoid unneeded medical costs, and try to convince our legislature to actually make a change that would fix the problems of pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies buying whatever they want in our government.
  • Entertainment. Guess what's free and healthy and fun? Nature! Take a hike, walk through your neighborhood, work in the yard, go to a park. Turn off the TV (and cut the cable cord) put your smart phone in the deep freezer, and get some free entertainment. People (including me) have become so addicted to our smart phones, that the average family spends HUNDREDS of dollars on cell phones and I can't imagine how many hours per day. My husband still has a dumb phone, and he's way more productive than I am. We don't really "need" those smart phones (in my case it was simply cheaper, and we don't buy new phones every year or pay anywhere close to hundreds or even fifties of dollars for it a month). Internet may be a necessity for some families, especially those like myself that work from home.
Have something not on my list? Then you probably don't need it! Well, that may not be entirely true. But if we really want to break out of the golden handcuffs, it's important to look at what's really necessary and what we just want to spend our money on. Everyone should have a few dollars a month of "fun money" to spend on whatever makes them happy, but in reality money will not make us happy, and those that spend unwisely will end up least happy in the long run.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Dave Matthews Band - Live Trax Volume 15

DMB Live Trax Volume 15

1) Dancing Nancies
2) Seek Up
3) Proudest Monkey »
4) Satellite
5) So Damn Lucky
6) Bartender
7) Corn Bread
8) Spoon
9) Eh Hee »
10) Water Into Wine
11) Burning Down The House
12) Louisiana Bayou
13) Anyone Seen the Bridge » Too Much [fake]  » Halloween  »  Water Into Wine [reprise]
14) Out of My Hands
15) Crush
16) Money
17) You Might Die Trying
18) Ants Marching
19) Don't Drink the Water »
20) Two Step

This is one of the most debated Live Trax in the series.  Either you really love it or you just don't see what all the fanfare is about it.  There aren't many inbetween.

When it was originally announced, the artwork made mention of both this night and the following night as well.  Everyone thought it was going to be a huge six disc set.  Of course, it was going to be released along side the new album (Big Whiskey & The GrooGrux King).  That would be two full concerts and a new album all on the same day!  To top it off, these two shows in particular were cited as fans amongst the best of the tour (if not the very best).

Well, although a few songs have been released from night 2, the initial indications about this particular release showcasing both nights did not come to pass.  However, this particular release does feature a few unique selections from this tour not present on any of the previous 2008 releases.

At this point in the tour, Jeff Coffin has really started to come into his own while filling in for Leroi during his injury.  Tragically, within two weeks Leroi would pass away and Jeff would be taking the role full time.

Dancing Nancies and Seek Up are both very strong here.  It's actually the same start as Live Trax 3. The similarites between that album and this one end there, however.

Proudest Monkey, with a fresh guitar solo, is considered by practically everyone to be the definitive version of the song.  I don't really have a favorite version myself, but this one is very good.  Satellite follows, with an extended So Damn Lucky and Bartender up next.  Stunner, there's also a Corn Bread thrown in the mix.

Up next is Spoon, a real rarity.  It was played here for the first time in almost 5 years.  It's rough (it tends to be rough anyway since it's played so infrequently), but it's good for a hardcore fan.  Eh Hee is fairly standard and segues into Water Into Wine.

Burning Down The House is up next and, up to this point, was unreleased by the band.  I've commented before that they started to play this song so much that it sounds like one of their own.  It's definitely an OK cover - nothing more, nothing less.  Louisiana Bayou brings up the energy, but as a song it is still lacking to me.

For those keeping track, the show is starting to get a little middling for me here in the middle.

Out of nowhere, a stop-time (for lack of a better description) Anyone Seen The Bridge segues directly into Halloween.  It's not the best Halloween, but it was starting to be played (it had long been the Holy Grail to catch a concert) and to have it come out of nowhere in the middle of a set is fantastic.  It's still a little jarring to hear.  The only one I've heard that was more jarring was the Everday introduction which abruptly changed into Halloween in Cincinnati also on this tour (it made Warehouse 8, Volume 8 if you're interested).

It also segues into Water Into Wine, which is nicely placed afterwards.

Out of my Hands is a downer for me so I'll skip it.  The Crush, although a monster in length, is not exactly the same as it was earlier in the tour.  It was probably cool to see live but it's my least favorite version of the released 2008 ones.

Money, a Pink Floyd cover, didn't last long in the rotation of cover songs.  It's for the best.  It just doesn't fit.  You Might Die Trying and Ants close out the main set, and there is a fantastic Don't Drink The Water and Two Step encore.

It seems the story on this particular release is the number of rarities played (Spoon, Halloween, Water Into Wine, Out of my Hands) and the venue (Alpine is a HUGE venue for DMB).  To me, the show set itself is okay but is certainly not the best I've ever seen.  I think the release would've been much better had it included both nights.  But, for a hardcore fan like myself, it's nice to have some of the rareties and seques (that Halloween seque is fantastic on the recording).

The sound on this one is one of my least favorites.  I'm not sure what it is that bothers me so sounds boomy.  It's certainly still a mixed live album so it's not terrible, but it's not what I hold up as an example of how I like an album to sound.

I've giving this one a 3 out of 5 stars.  Again, it's decent, and it's got some great songs, but it just never really comes altogether for me.  Perhaps it's just me.  I'd still offer that it's worth a purchase though because of the rareties.

For the overall numbers, it's interesting to me that my average is right around 3 but I've only given 3 of the 15 releases a middle of the road rating.  Regression to the mean, maybe?  Or perhaps the initial criticism of the series as having some really high moments and some really low moments is holding truer than I initally thought.  I'm still at a solid 2:1 ratio of purchase/skip.  I'm definitely a fan.

Live Trax 1: 4/5, purchase
Live Trax 2: 2/5, skip
Live Trax 3: 5/5, purchase
Live Trax 4: 3/5, skip
Live Trax 5: 5/5, purchase
Live Trax 6: 2/5, skip
Live Trax 7: 5/5, purchase
Live Trax 8: 3/5, purchase
Live Trax 9: 0/5, skip
Live Trax 10: 1/5, skip
Live Trax 11: 4/5, purchase
Live Trax 12: 5/5, purchase
Live Trax 13: 4/5, purchase
Live Trax 14: 2/5, purchase
Live Trax 15: 3/5, purchase

Overall: 3.2/5, 10 purchase, 5 skip