Going Home Soon

Pictured: Mario Chitwood swimming -- Photo courtesy of Mario Chitwood

Pictured: Mario Chitwood swimming — Photo courtesy of Mario Chitwood

Hey blog readers,

I hope everyone’s New Year is off to a great start. I have mixed feeling about mine. As you know, I’ve been in Mexico for almost three months! I will be returning home in 2-3 weeks and I’m really excited to get back to California. I am actually ready to start school again even though I know I will have a lot of make up work to do. I am also looking forward to hanging out with all my cousins and finally getting to hold my baby brother Max. I talk to him on the phone but he’s only 2 years old so he mostly just likes to push the buttons. I think he knows that sound irritates me.

Although I am excited to return home, there are some things I will miss about Mexico. I will miss being able to ride in the back of my aunt’s truck. I will definitely miss the amazing fireworks. And I will also miss the many cousins I spent time with here.
I hope in the future they will visit me in California so my mom and I can be their tour guides.

Recently, we went to a public swim center. It was super crowded so I didn’t enjoy it too much. The water was warm though. One pool was actually super hot natural spring water. I only got in up to my knees and stayed in for a couple of minutes. It was good that we got to experience those thermal waters because a lot of locals say they are therapeutic but I don’t really want to go back because the crowd was overwhelming.
One new thing I’ve been doing a lot of is watching cooking tutorials on YouTube. My mom and I have watch a lot of new recipes that we can’t wait to try once we get home.
It will be a great excuse to visit our local spice shop. I like going there because you can taste all the spices before you buy them.

Another new place we recently checked out was the local sports center here in Mexico. There is a huge soccer field, lots of basketball courts, and a track. My great aunt, mom, and I walked about a mile and a half but then my mom wanted to go check out the Zumba class they were offering. Overall, it was a good place to visit and we are planning on going back soon.

Thanks for reading my blog. Hope all is well with Christopher. Until next time.

Peace,
Mario

High Hopes for a New Year

Pictured: Chris Serrano with guitar -- Photo courtesy of Chris Serrano

Pictured: Chris Serrano with guitar — Photo courtesy of Chris Serrano

I am confident that 2017 will be a great year. Already, January was packed with many exciting adventures. Last week, I traveled to Washington DC with my school to go see President Elect Donald Trump be officially sworn into office. This once-in-a-lifetime trip was paid for by the school and provided several opportunities to visit and enjoy historical sights as well as the chance to be a part of the truly monumental inauguration. I also got to meet many other students from all over the country who went on the trip. In addition, this trip provided me a solid excuse for missing a whole week of school! Going on this trip was an excellent way to start the year after a wonderful, but not long enough, winter vacation from school. I took advantage of my two-week break off of school, during which I caught up on sleeping and found ample time to practice my music and learn new songs. You know I had too much time on my hands because I can now play some tunes by Metallica on my clarinet as easily as on guitar. Although, making the transition from vacation back to the regular routine was pretty hard.

In addition to exciting trips and awesome vacations, I’ve also begun to make the long journey toward college preparation. Since my greatest wish is to get into Berklee School of Music, my teachers at the Academy of Music for the Blind have all enthusiastically agreed to help me work toward achieving the set entrance requirements. And although this will mean lots of long and boring work and not much playing this year, the results will be worth the time. I will be learning all of the different scale modes, a bit of music theory, transposing, as well as continuing to work on my improvisation skills.
I am looking forward to an awesome start to a great year. Wishing Mario a happy new year and

hoping he is well.
Chris

Making Memories in Mexico 

Pictured: Mario Chitwood and his great-grandmother, Alicia -- Photo courtesy of: Mario Chitwood

Pictured: Mario Chitwood and his great-grandmother, Alicia — Photo courtesy of: Mario Chitwood

Hello friends,

I am still visiting family in Mexico. It is so different here. I have met so many new family members. I have a lot of cousins my age so it’s been fun trying to teach them English. I also met my great grandmother. She loves me and thinks I’m handsome.
On December 11, 2016 I got baptized. Even though the whole ceremony was in Spanish, I still enjoyed the whole event. Afterwards we had a small celebration in my honor. We ate chicken with vegetables and for dessert my mom ordered a costume made cake. It was decorated with a giant white cross and it read Felicidads Mario (Congratulations Mario).
Even though our time here has been enjoyable. The biggest adjustment has been living without internet. We usually go every few days to my Mom’s cousin’s house where there is internet but I miss having access to it everyday. I play some resource management games that require internet and so I’m sad I can’t play as often as I want to.
A few days ago we visited a flea market and I bought a bunch of fireworks. My favorite was called Crackling Saturn Missiles. It was a small square box with 25 missiles tips pointed upward and the fuse was on the corner of the box. When I lit the fuse, seconds later each missile launched out of the box and made whistling sounds and crackling noises. It was awesome! My mom is going to take me back to the flea market to buy more so that on Christmas we can lite some fireworks.
One sad thing that has happened here is that I tried to introduce s’mores to my cousin’s and it didn’t work out as planned. My mom went shopping for the ingredients but wasn’t able to find graham crackers so she substituted for cookies sprinkled with cinnamon. When my cousin’s and I roasted marshmallows then put our s’mores together and took a bite, we did not like the flavor. I was sad that my plan had failed but at least we had fun roasting marshmallows and eating those all by themselves.
Take care blog readers. Until next time!
Peace,
Mario

Ready For the Holidays!

Pictured: Chris Serrano with guitar -- Photo courtesy of Chris Serrano

Pictured: Chris Serrano with guitar — Photo courtesy of Chris Serrano

Overall, November has proved to be a great month! As far as music goes, I’ve spent all month preparing for two shows coming up in early December. I can hardly wait for both of them since they will be performed within the same week!

The first one will take place on Saturday at the Academy of Music for the Blind. For our winter themed concert, we are performing a variety of pieces including some from well-known musicals to famous jazz standards and even some original rock compositions. Every student at the Academy will get his or her own solo number. The show will then close with a few group songs such as a holiday medley and an arrangement of “Do Re Mi” from Sound of Music.

All of the older students are collaborating on an arrangement of the song “In the Mood” by Glen Miller. There will be an all-winds groups, consisting of my bass clarinet, two saxophones, a flute and a melodica that will play the main melody as well as backups between lyrics. My solo piece for this show will be the song “Girl From Ipanema” which I will play on my clarinet. I’ll be accompanied by my friends who’ll play guitar, piano, drums, and bass. Each one of us will get a chance to solo for a chorus or two then we’ll come back together with the melody and finish the song.

The second show planned for next week is taking place here at school. The music department of the after school visual and performing arts classes is putting on its production for a holiday concert. I am most excited for the Jazz Combo’s performance. We will play three songs including Myles Davis’ “Milestones.” And the Jazz Ensemble is playing an awesome version of “The Grinch” adapted for big bands.

I am looking forward to the upcoming week with high hopes. Shout out to Mario and wish him nothing but the best!

Life Update

Pictured: (l-r) Taylor Cox, Katelyn Divis holding flowers after their piano recital -- Photo courtesy of Taylor Cox

Pictured: (l-r) Taylor Cox, Katelyn Divis holding flowers after their piano recital — Photo courtesy of Taylor Cox


Hi! It’s good to be writing again! So, this blog is called Life Update, so that’s what I’m planning on doing. On Sunday November 13, I had a World Championship jiu-jitsu tournament. I fought girls who weigh, like, twenty pounds heavier than me, but I’m used to it. Even so, I didn’t place and I was really disappointed. I know I surprised the girls I was fighting, but that wasn’t enough for me. 

With my music life, I have a lot going on. I’m going to try out for my future high school music program, APA (Academy of Performing Arts), in a few months. I am going to sing and play piano to “All I Ask” by Adele. I am super pumped about that, and I know I’m going to make it, I hope. I’ve also joined the worship team at church. That, too, is very exciting. I even learned a song the day before and it was pretty awesome. On top of that, I’m writing more music, but I’m kind of putting that on the backburner for now because I’m so focused on my tryouts. I did, however, write a song about leaving your legacy behind and it was a hit at my recital in June that I had. It’s called Legacy and is a good piece of me that I put onto paper, or, in my case, a file in an SD card.

Speaking of technology, I am learning google  drive right now. I’m so excited about that. I’m actually going to try to submit a proposal to speak in San Francisco at the CTEBVI conference again. I would love to talk to the Northern California crowd this year about the technology I use throughout my school day, including Google Drive.

I’ll keep writing sometime soon.  Signing off,
Taylor

An Update from Heaven

Pictured: Heaven Vallejos at the Monster Mash Dash Run dressed as Wonder Woman -- Photo courtesy of Heaven Vallejos

Pictured: Heaven Vallejos at the Monster Mash Dash Run dressed as Wonder Woman — Photo courtesy of Heaven Vallejos

Hi,

It’s Heaven. So, it’s been awhile since I updated you. I’m now in 7th grade. Middle school is crazy! Extremely crazy! I now have to go up and down stairs several times a day because this school has two stories. I’m shocked that math is pretty easy – I think the teacher makes it easy. My favorite class is drama. Of course! In drama I can be as crazy as I want to. We role play, make up characters and do voices. My favorite character I’ve done so far has been Fresh Disco.
I’m still running. I joined a running club and we run every Tuesday and Thursday after school. I ran a Halloween run called the Monster Mash. I dressed as Wonder Woman and my running partner dresses as Superman. Next month I will run the Jingle Bell run which raises money Toys for Tots.
Last summer I went to Enchanted Hills Summer Camp and Camp Bloomfield’s para-Olympic camp. At the para-Olympic camp there was a dance I went to that I liked. It was my first dance. And, speaking of dances, I learned the Hustle – my mom taught me. It’s pretty fun!

Until Next Time,
Heaven

Unexpected Trip

Pictured: Mario Chitwood and a Braille/large print menu from Denny's -- Photo courtesy of Mario Chitwood

Pictured: Mario Chitwood and a Braille/large print menu from Denny’s — Photo courtesy of Mario Chitwood

Hello readers,

I am writing this blog from outside the country. I am in Mexico! It is my first time traveling out of the country and it has been a great experience so far.

Side note, the hotel we are staying at has an amazing chocolate cake.
As you may know from my last blog the original plan was for me to stay behind while my mom traveled but at the last minute she decided that I could go too. So we expedited a passport, set up independent study and here I am.

We took two airplanes. The last time I was on an airplane was six years ago so it was awesome to be on an airplane again. I love the feeling of when the plane takes off. Landing is fun too though.

On day two of our trip, we entered a local Denny’s restaurant and for the first time ever, I was offered a menu in Braille! We could not believe it. It was a very cool experience and it’s something I will never forget. It was nice not depending on someone to read the menu to me & having the opportunity to read the menu myself. It made dining out a much better experience. It would be nice if all or at least most restaurants in the U.S provided Braille menus.

My mom and dad are not fans of being on airplanes so my mom hopes to book a nonstop flight back home. But I’m hoping she won’t find one so that we can go on multiple airplanes. My mom has been on an airplane before but this was my dad’s first time and I don’t think he liked it very much. He is not looking forward to our return flights.

The only downside to this trip has been that we did our traveling to Mexico Halloween day. That meant that unfortunately this year I did not get to dress up or even go trick or treating. I had planned on dressing up as an FBI agent but my mom didn’t think it was a good idea since we’d be going through airport security. So I guess I’ll have to wait until next year to be an FBI agent.

One thing we are doing is keeping up with the election results. It’s a very different experience watching election results in the U.S vs. watching them when you are out of the country. The media coverage is not as heavy and it’s not really a topic of conversation. I know if we were back home, it would be a completely different vibe. I won’t say who I would vote for if I could but I’m starting to get really into politics and can’t wait until I am old enough to vote.

As always, thank you for taking the time to read my blog. I am still so honored to be one of the Donna Coffee Youth Scholarship Recipients for 2016!