Whirlwind

Summer is here!!!

My last day of school was June 6th and I am so glad that the school year is over. It was wonderful at moments but also one of my most stressful years. I contribute the added stress to co-directing a drama during the crunch time for my show choir combined with snow/cold days that left it impossible for me to make up practices for any of my groups. 

Instead of focusing on the not so pleasant moments I want to share one of my favorite moments from the end of the year. I teach a self contained special education class and many of the students are non verbal. One of the students has a wonderful vocabulary but struggles to verbalize in group settings. The last day of music I had left out one of the students favorite songs “Old John the Rabbit”. In the song there is a repeated two beat pattern and the words are “oh yes”. During one of the transitions, this student came up to me and clapped AND sang “oh yes” over and over until I said we could do the song. This is the first time the student has been able to request a song and it made me so proud! Not only did he request the song but he sang and played the drum with me and requested that the ending be “sad”. I wanted to shout off of the rooftops about his success! It is moments like these where students have success, no matter how small, that remind me why I became a teacher. 

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So this thing called summer is here. I have a pile of books that have been begging me to read them, a pile of unfinished craft projects, a pile of craft ideas…the options are endless! Also, the trio I play with (In All Honesty) is also recording a studio album this summer. If you haven’t checked out our music or liked us on facebook, twitter, instagram, etc. you should. Shameless plug :) Plus you can say you knew us before we were famous!

So what else has been going on? I went to Korea with my parents for a wedding, have been trying lots of delicious new recipes with friends, am getting ready to take a road trip with my niece to see the Grand Canyon and explore the West and South West, am practicing the piano again and remembering why I love it and music so much…I am excited for the endless possibilities that this summer holds :D

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Hello 2014

Two extra days off due to sub zero weather and I am finally back at school with my students. So much to do and so little time.

Random thoughts from my pre-school students…
Student #1: I got a unicorn for Christmas!
Student #2: Your hair is beautiful!
Student #3: My moms hair is up here (points to top of head)

Ones of the many random comments made at high school show choir practice tonight…
In response to my comment about the Kleenex boxes wrapped up in Christmas paper, one of the high school guy says “she’s gonna love the snot right out of our noses!”

That last one might not be funny out of context but I got a kick out of it :-)

Ready or not here comes the next three months of concerts, contest, and general normal craziness.

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The Third Wheel Hermit

I have been enjoying a change in pace this summer and while I have thought of several posts, I have obviously only mentally composed them ;-)

And the post title…I have realized that while being social, I am doing a really good job of being a third wheel when I decide not to be a hermit.

June involved a lot of traveling and time with family and friends and July has started with being more social in the Rockford area.

Here is a quick breakdown of June:

1st weekend – was in Michale & Naomi’s wedding. Had a great day celebrating with them! (FotoEnvy did a fabulous job on their pictures)

June 4th – Last day of school! Insert happy dance!

June 5th – And I am off to Rushville :)

2nd weekend – played for Kathleen & Eric’s wedding in Rushville. Enjoyed visiting with friends and dancing the night away!

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2nd week – In St. Louis for a World Music Drumming Conference and enjoyed visiting with Kristy, Amber and Hallie. I love St. Louis and all the performances they have available! And don’t even get me started on the food options! Yum!

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3rd week – back home for a few days and then over to Crystal Lake to spend time with my brother Wayne and his family. My niece helped keep me active and I loved biking with her. When did she grow up?!?

4th week – back home for a few more days and then off to Iowa to visit my brother Brian and his family. Unfortunately, he was up in Canada for work. On the plus side, I did get a chance to visit with Mike, Jolynn, Lydia and their new addition Simon! I also had the opportunity to visit with Amanda and run a 5K with her that holds a very special place in both of our hearts.

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What was the first thing I did when I got back to Rockford? Go swing dancing of course with Naomi! 5K in the morning and a late night out dancing? Why not! It’s summer :-) While dancing, Naomi and I met a couple for Wisconsin that told us about free dance lessons on the riverfront in Beloit. One of my goals this summer is to explore the Rockford area more and get out so two hours of learning and dancing the Waltz sounded perfect for a Monday night! Fourth of July festivities included an interval run. At noon. On a hill. Not by best decision but it was fun! After that I enjoyed walking uptown to see the parade. My most exciting adventure on the fourth was biking downtown Rockford to watch the fireworks on the State Street bridge with my friends Mike and Andi. In total, we biked around eleven miles! I don’t think I have ever biked that much before but it was so much fun!

Yesterday I spent a wonderful afternoon practicing with Michael and Naomi and then they helped me ring in my birthday by going to a late showing of Monsters University. I think we are all getting a little too old late night movies because we were all dragging today at church. Although I did not want to wake up, it was nice to wake up with a phone call from my dad singing happy birthday.

Did you know Google changes their main page on your birthday?

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Oh, and I made myself a birthday cake :D

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For supper, I treated myself to a delicious meal at Social in downtown Rockford. I first heard about Social while looking at artwork at the Rockford Art Scene. The food was delicious! I normally inhale my food (bad habit of a teacher) but I savored every single bite! I started off with a Lavender Cocktail (Tito’s Vodka, lemon juice, lavender syrup, vanilla), and an appetizer special of fried Garlic Scapes. For my main meal I ordered the King Salmon (spinach, lemon, garlic, caper, plenta, mushroom). The Salmon melted in my mouth. Since it was my birthday, I decided to get dessert and am glad I did. I ordered the Mint-Rhubarb Sherbet (lemon, sage, almonds) and an espresso. Other than the delicious food, I enjoyed hearing about where the food came from and how it was made by the chefs. As a birthday treat, the chef sent out an edible flower with a delicious strawberry sauce and something else that I forgot.

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Mmmmmmm. So. Good!

Not a traditional birthday celebration but a delicious one.

This has been a very random post but I wanted catch you up on my crazy life.

Since it is my birthday today, I would like to send out a surprise to the first three people that comment. You can tell me about a birthday tradition, your favorite birthday memory, a random thought…Go!

 

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Thursday Thoughts

There are days that I love being a teacher and then there are days that make me want to curl up in a ball in the corner and hide. There are also those moments that you just have to shake your head and laugh because whatever just was said or done is funny or you are trying to keep from crying. 

As my second year of teaching is quickly coming to an end, I am realizing that I should have been writing down some of the things that have happened during my day. For right now, we will focus on today.

I saw my high school choir today and we are one week away from a three day trip and a little under two weeks away from our spring concert. Add to that that we are all feeling the spring bug and a third of my class is seniors makes for an interesting mix this time of year. Overall, my students were doing a nice job of focusing and following direction with minimal talking during transitions. While I was working with my ladies on their song, my guys decided they would join in. I don’t know what was the best part: the dance moves, the fact that the guys chose to sing in their falsetto voice, the fact that they were completely serious about what they were singing or a combination of all of the above. I somehow kept conducting and somehow we made it through the song. My favorite part of this is that my guys often are disengaged on their own part and I find a hard balance between encouraging them and correcting them. Too much correction and they stop singing. 

After lunch I saw my second section of 5th grade. Tuesday they had a case of “let’s ask Ms. Smith questions about herself” in the middle of the lesson. I told them that if they kept all five stars up in music on Thursday (today) I would answer five questions. They did not keep five stars up today but I did concede to two questions. After a quick huddle to decide on the two questions they were ready to go. The first one was my age and they were very clear that I could not lie. Being a teacher I had to make them work for it so I only told them the year I was born. A few quick thinkers asked what month and they quickly figured out my age. The second question I knew was coming because they had already tried to ask it Tuesday. It was: “have you ever or do you currently have a boyfriend.” My answer of “no” had them in an uproar. As fifth graders, they could not imagine that I had never had a boyfriend! Oh the horror! It was an interesting way to finish our music class but a fun twist. 

A proud moment today was seeing my 3rd graders perform with their recorders today as an introduction to their play “My Father’s Dragon”. They performed “Entrance of the Dragon Riders” and it was a perfect addition to their program. They did a great job and I am so happy that they got a chance to perform before the elementary students and their parents! You can find the music through MusicK8 .

On Thursday’s I teach the co-op special education students (PIP class). Most of the students stay in the classroom for the entire day but there are a few that that only go to the room for certain resources or when they need to get away from their main stream classroom. My fifth grade class that I talked about earlier has seen me getting ready for the PIP students at the end of their music class and several of them started asking who I was getting ready for and if they could help. AFter spring break I set it up with their grade level teacher so that a few of them could stay behind and help out. I love teaching the PIP students and seeing the lightbulb turn on for them with something we have done for weeks or see them connect or respond to music in a new way. Seeing my students interact with them and the joy that they get from that interaction has made me extremely proud of my students. The fifth grade student especially really want to help and want to know how to help the students. They don’t just sit close to the students, they are willing to take instruction, work with the student, talk with he student, etc. The last few times they have helped, one of their first questions when we are done is: “When can I come back?” I hope they never lose that joy of helping and I hope that working with the PIP students might light a fire for some of them to work with students with special needs as they grow older. 

A few last random thoughts.

I loved having one of my accompanists at school today for three of my choirs. It was nice to be able to walk around and actually conduct!

I saw on of my PIP students this morning and said good morning like I usually do but his eyes lit up when he saw me and I know that it was because he knew today was a music day. He might not be able to express his thoughts and feelings with words but the look on his face was pure joy!

I like coffee and try as I may, cutting back to chai or tea in the morning is not going to work anytime soon :)

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School Days

Where did the summer go and how is it the end of August already?!?

I have had a crazy start to the school year but I will update you about that later. For now I want to share with you my choir room. 

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One of the things I love the most about my choir room is the Baby Grand Piano! Unfortunately, the piano is stuck in the room and can only be taken out for concerts if the piano tuner comes, takes off the legs and tunes it after each move. One of these days I would like to use it in a concert but for now it makes a wonderful practice piano :) The risers are great for choir as well as show choir rehearsals that occur in this room after school. The big mirror that you see in the picture was heavy and awkward. The legs have been taken off and it works nicely back stage during the Singsation show (Singsation is the title of the show choir at my school and everyone knows show choir as Singsation). The large wooden cabinet you see in the top right picture has also been removed and replaced with more filing shelves. I was running out of room for my sheet music. The bottom left picture was taken from the center of the room on the risers. You can see the white board, random hallway, and my office. I loved that I had some flexibility in the room and freedom to create whatever atmosphere I wanted. The biggest thing that I did not like about the room was that the history of the choir department was not present and in addition to looking cold it usually was cold. 

Drumroll please…..

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Here is a peak inside my choir room a year later! This room finally is a happy place to create music! The mural was an idea I had last fall. Instead of traditional note-heads, I used paw prints since we are the Bulldogs! The racks you see in the top left picture are used for show choir costumes when we start fitting the students. Behind the racks are double hanging rods. They used to be there and then were moved up to the attic above the stage and choir room (nightmare!) and now they are back in the choir room. I am still trying to figure out how to hang a curtain in front of the costumes. I found some of the old Singsation posters and put those under the clock in the room to add a little history. Above the filing cabinets are three photo collages made by students with pictures I found in the choir room, vintage musical posters from an old calendar, and the Singsation XVI sign that was above the stage. The signs you see in the bottom two pictures are chromatic solfege signs that I made last year to help my students. I have also added hand signs to one of my office doors. 

The room may not look drastically different but to me there is life and memories and history! Plus, if I am going to spend hours in this room I want it to feel comfortable and welcoming :)

Quick view into my choir office in 2011

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Let’s not dwell on the lack of color, personality, cat hair covered office chair that is at least two sizes too big for me, and the overall blandness. 

And a happier view in 2012!

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Spray painted wood chair in place of the oversized chair that did not fit me. Small fridge and microwave for all the long days and I am loving the piano on this side of the office. Bookshelves all in a row and music storage in my office. The milk crates have honor choir music and current music for the choirs. The shelves have pulled music for all performing ensembles and the mini milk crate holds my copies of music for all the classes. The binder is something new I am trying this year. I have a monthly calendar for each grade level with all the performances throughout the year. For my elementary classes, I used sticky notes to map out how many times I would see each class, what lessons I wanted to cover, and when I wanted to start working on music for elementary performances. I love the pops of color and the organization. If I don’t at least fake being organized I think I would lose my mind teaching K-12!

Next up: Elementary Music Room!

What do you do to add life to a bland room?

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Summer Days

Summer started for me on Thursday May 31st. And I did have to look back at the date because my brain does not store that type of information. I thought I would be spending lots of time researching and preparing for next year and have lots of time to update my blog. Truth is, I do not accomplish as much when I do not have a set schedule. Not having to be up at a certain time has led to latter bed times and latter waking times. Not that I am complaining or anything ;)  

At the beginning of summer break I worked on getting my classrooms organized and ready to be cleaned and my boards ready for the school year. The first week I went to a few graduation parties and had a very relaxing trip back to my hometown. It was not a rushed trip which is very uncommon any more :) I spent the days with my parents and the evenings usually with a friend. I also had the experience of helping mow the campground my parents take care of. The riding mower has cruise control and a cup holder! Much nicer than anything I have ever mowed on :D

I have gotten some school prep. done but I am starting to feel the crunch of time even though it is only the beginning of July! Let’s ignore school for now…

The fun things of summer have included seeing two musicals in Rockford: Little Women and Into the Woods. I love watching live performances! I have gone to two Zumba classes and as uncoordinated as I sometimes feel, I really enjoy it :) I went to a water park with one of the school secretaries and her son and she somehow talked me onto several of the rides. It was fun but the lazy river wins over heart pounding slides. I also spent a day reading a book (that was not school related) just because I could. 

July is going to fly by a little faster for me. It boils down to prioritizing my lists and getting things done. I am enjoying extra family time and am eagerly anticipating attending the Iowa Choral Directors Association Conference at the end of July! I was originally going to attend with a friend and colleague but she and her husband will be adopting a baby girl that same week! I am very excited for them and have been searching for baby items for the last several weeks. I know they would appreciate your prayers!

And to close of this post, I thought I should introduce you all to my small town tradition of Outhouse Races during their Indipendence Weekend Festivities

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What traditions does your town/city have?

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Happy

Today has been an incredibly happy day! Maybe it is because I was skipping and jumping out of pure giddiness in 6th grade music yesterday while talking about how music and math closely tied together (especially with sequences and matrix’s). The inner music nerd was out and my students were a little (lot) worried. Maybe it is because I received a beautiful box full of classroom instruments today. Maybe it is because I started cleaning, organizing and purging my elementary music room. Maybe it is because my special ed. music class astounds me and leave me speechless every week!

Or maybe it is all of those put together.

By the way, where did April go?

There have been so many things I want to talk about and so many things I want to share but honestly I have been living life and savoring the moments. I was never good at keeping a journal and my inconsistent posts show that ;)

Where to start…I think I am going to start at the top of my list.

  • Music and Math. Have you searched what Pi sounds like? Cool, huh? If you are a nerd, then you will want to make your own. *Insert image of me dancing/jumping out of giddy excitement*
  • I don’t have pictures to prove it today, but dust is NewImagegone from half of my classroom, instrument cabinets are more organized and things are being moved around. There is still a lot I want to do but I feel like I have a vision and a goal of what needs to get done and what I want it to look like when it is done. I came across this color inspiration and realized that it would work perfectly in my classrooms. Our school color is royal blue and I love green and this combination helped pull it all together. Now I need to find some fabric for my boards and baskets in those colors.
  • Words barely skim the surface of the joy I have working with the PIP classroom which is a self contained special ed. room. I started working with them once a week right around Christmas and it has been slow but steady progress. The last few weeks they have been responding more, participating and surprising their helpers and myself. Today I decided to be brave and bring out my guitar. They loved it! K immediately came to me and started strumming the guitar and J was eager to try it out. He was all smiles. A doesn’t respond a lot but she was rocking the guitar! She wasn’t just strumming a steady beat, she was strumming a rhythm pattern and repeating it! I had so much joy at that moment seeing her express the music in her and it is still bringing a smile to my face and tears to my eyes thinking about it. There are so many stories I want to share about these students and I will share them soon! Another favorite thing about these students is how much they love music and the connection I have built with them. They are always wanting to wave hello and even if I am teaching they will come up to the window when they are walking past and wave at us.

Music is my life right now. My job still consumes me. Right now I am okay with that. I am trying to get involved with my small group and church on the weekends but that has been hard with some of my wacky weekend schedules. I am planning on kicking myself out of my house and work at making connections and relationships this summer. If I allow myself, I can be a loner. In high school, my parents for a while had to almost kick me out of the house on the weekends and actually asked one of my friends to get me out of the house. I kind of wish I had that friend around me to pull me out :)

NewImage Random closing thoughts:

Your fingers will hurt if you don’t gradually start playing the guitar again.

It feels good to get giddy in music class over theory and math. You haven’t made your own Pi music yet?!? What are you waiting for? :D

Random students make me a) think I am losing my mind b) laugh c) take a deep breath and continue

Going to bed early to read a book is a wonderful thing

What makes you happy?

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Zzzzz

Today I woke up late.

Late like I was supposed to be at school at 8 and I woke up more like 8:10. Somehow I manged to get to school before the first bell rang and before my frist class. I might have missed door duty but you know what, I made it. I am not proud of the fact that I was late and was so tired that I was late but I am proud that I made it in time to teach.

The one word that would describe me this week is: TIRED

I went out to eat with a friend after my JH show choir practice and there were a few moments were I felt like I could fall asleep at the table. Thus waking up late this morning.

Tonight I was crazy and brought home school stuff to do over the weekend.

My job may be making me exhausted right now but I love my job. Not the exhausted part. I like my sleep.

Three weeks until the show choir show! Excited and nervous and have I mentioned the five page list of things that need to get checked off.

Stop reading and go make these pop tarts now. You will not be sorry. I made these tonight for my and there will be more made and stored in the freezer for crazy mornings like today.

I still have some lingering sniffels from a few weeks ago.

Taking a sick days really does help you recover faster.

Should probably used one before February :)

 

How would you describe your week? Any new recipes you have tried lately?

I have a chili recipe in the works. Maybe this weekend? Maybe…

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Sweet!

I wanted to start out by saying that this last week was crazy, but then I thought about this week, and crazy November… so I am going with November and December have been crazy! :)

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Why? I am so glad you asked! In November, I don’t think we ever had a full week. There were either field trips, half weeks for parent teacher conferences, short week for a SIP day or a half week for Thanksgiving. Then December shows up and there are three concerts in one week of each other. Enter crazy music teacher! I got in the concert zone, some of the students were not quite there yet… The K-6 concert went really well and I was so relieved to have my first large elementary concert behind me. Learned that we need a monitor so the students can hear the music better, and learned that I need less helpers back stage :) The high school concert was yesterday, Sunday and it went well. My choir students had better facials than their first concert but their volume was down. We were also missing four students! I will have something for them to do, but I hate when students don’t show up for a performance. Now I need to finish writing their final and create a study guide for them.

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With this crazy whirlwind, you wouldn’t think I had time to cook or bake. Well you are partially correct. But the Food Blog Cookie Exchange gave me an excuse to make a recipe I came across earlier this fall: Pumpkin Sinkerdoodles. These cookies are soft and have a subtle hint of pumpkin. They melt in your mouth and stay soft several days latter, though I usually give them away so I don’t eat them all. I thought about adding cinnamon chips in the batter but was nervous so I stuck to the original recipe. Next time, I am adding cinnamon chips. I don’t think I have actually baked with cinnamon chips. I usually eat them before I have time to bake with them. Oops!

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I enjoyed participating in The Great Food Blogger Cookie Swap this year and am planning on participating next year. It was fun getting different cookies from other people and finding out about new blogs. Hopefully next year I will have an original recipe to share :) If you enjoy baking, and getting tasty treats, I would suggest signing up for next years swap!

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Thank you Julianna, Emma, and my one mystery cookie package (need to figure that one out) for the wonderful new recipes! I am excited to try them out in the near future! Go check out their recipes! Warning, the cookies don’t last long ;)

What is your favorite cookie recipe or holiday sweet?

 

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Time Flies

Um, where did November go? And why do I feel like December is almost over when it has just begun?

So why did November fly for me?

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Does that answer the question? :) I started working on the holiday concert music with my elementary students at the beginning of October because I knew how crazy November was going to be with parent teacher conferences and Thanksgiving taking away two weeks. The way the classes are set up, this left 5th, Kindergarten and 2nd with out music those two weeks. Coming up to our concert in a few days, I am only really worried about one 5th grade class. They didn’t put in the work in class and now it is coming to haunt them. It was so bad I was considering dropping a song or changing a song. Thankfully the other 5th grade class actually knows their music!

The next two weeks are going to be organizes chaos. The next three days I will be getting ready for the K-6 elementary holiday concert on the 7th, Sunday is the high school concert and Tuesday is the 5-8th grade holiday concert. No wonder I can’t fall asleep at night!

I am the type of person that will run through thing in my head and with everything going on, this means that winding down to sleep is very difficult. Have you ever gotten to the point that you are so tired that you are no longer tired? That is kind of what it feels like. One day at a time and I will make it. I am more worried about the elementary concert because of all the transitions and the pure number of students that I have to get on and off stage and different times. That and the expectations that the teachers, administration and parents have for the concert. I might have made things simple this year compared to past music directors, but that was simple for self preservation.

I have been soaking any quiet time I can to help prepare me for the coming chaos. Thanksgiving I ended up staying home instead of going to my parents and I enjoyed sleeping in and getting things done at a leisurely pace. I didn’t accomplish everything on my lists but I did get a few things done that I wouldn’t have been able to do if I had traveled. Yesterday (Saturday) I finally made it to my small group after missing most of the meeting in November due to Saturday commitments. After group, the leader’s wife, myself and another lady worked on Christmas cards together. It has been a long time since I had a chance to get out my stamps and I enjoyed the fellowship.

Sunday nap, lesson plans, pumpkin lasagna experiment and cookies for the great food blogger cookie swap are all crossed off my list. Time to wind down and get some sleep!

What are your traditions for holidays (Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.)?

 

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