Saturday, January 24, 2015

Finally some snow

We finally have a little snow (5 inches according to David's snowman measuring tool in the picture above). The boys bundled up and went out to play a bit.
     Looks like it will be a nice relaxing day just hanging out at home. I started my day by having breakfast with 4 of my friends at a local cafe. 2 friends were from church, 1 is a former colleague and 1 is a new friend I met through Timmy. It was really a blessing to start my day with these ladies.  Matt is working today so I look forward to playing some board games, getting some organizing done and just relaxing. This week was kind of emotionally taxing so I'm excited for the weekend.

Another Goodreads win

  Have I ever mentioned that I love Goodreads giveaways? Yes, I have. Well, I won a few more books this month. This one was my only good piece of incoming mail on Friday. Monday's Lie is a book that will be released February 2015. It's a thriller. I'll let you know what I think of it. In the meantime, yay for new books!
   I also received a really nice letter from a student yesterday, but it was just put in my school mailbox rather than mailed so I'm not counting it. (I'm not a rule breaker. Ha ha.) It was the nicest thing that happened amid a kind of cruddy day. She's a super sweet young woman and her words really made my day a lot better.

Outgoing mail today went to my Chemobuddy in IA and to a student who has been out sick for a long time.
The 366 Project:
Sent: 25
Received: 9

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Jamberry update

I mentioned that as a pianist, percussionist, mom, teacher and nail-biter, my nails don't usually look "cute."  I showed the sample of Jamberry nail wraps earlier in the week. Here they are a few days later. Notice that my nail polish is kind of demolished.
 I like the design, even though I'm usually a bit more conservative. Looking at the website, they have lots of interesting designs. My only issue is justifying $15 for 1 set of strips (which should last 2-3 manicures)  I know that some woman really care about the appearance of their nails or treat themselves to manicures very often. I'm just not that girl. In fact, I'm rarely the girls who will even splurge for the more expensive nail polish that I can apply at home. I may order something just this once, but I doubt it will be something that happens often simply because saving for a house is way more important to me than having people look at my nails. If YOU are a person who likes to have your nails done professionally, check Jamberry out. It might save you money and give you some cool ideas.

INCOMING Mail today:
Postcard of the Stryiskyi Park in Lviv, Belarus. Isn't it peaceful? It looks like a relaxing place to write. No other incoming mail.
The 366 Project:
Sent: 23
Received: 8

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Which celebrity would you write to?

   I am toying with the idea of sending a letter to a celebrity. I thought it might be fun to write to 1 celebrity a month for my little letter project. If you know me well, you know that I don't really care much about "fame and fortune."  I do however, think it would be cool to learn about some of them. I don't know who I would write to really. I honestly cannot think of 12 off the top of my head. Just for fun. Who would you write to in these categories:

- World leader?
- Actor/actress?
- Musician?
- Someone you respect?
- Famous person from the past, even if they're not alive anymore?
- Authors?
- Philanthropist?
- Someone in another country?

    Wow, I'm really bad at this. I can't even think of categories! Ha ha!!! So, who are some of your choices- even if they are really silly?

Jamberry opinions?

    This has been a pretty slow mail week. There were 2 days I had NOTHING in the mailbox at all- not even bills or junk mail. I sent out a letter to Mary in Md., and a few cards. Here are some of the cards I sent.
 Is this card creepy to anyone else? It was a picture taken at "TOZ Summer camp" in 1920. I have had it for a while but feared sending out. The user in Germany said he likes kind of odd/ugly cards so I thought this one would be perfect. I looked up more pictures of this camp and most of the pictures are equally eerie.
 I sent this card to a woman in Turkey who is trying to collect cards from every city in the world. Here is a link to her blog if you'd like to send her a card too.
    It was super cold and gross the other day so this card popped out at me. It's going to Mexico.

     I got 2 pieces of incoming "good mail."  After seeing Jamberry nail strips everywhere I started to wonder "What's the big deal?" So, let me preface this by giving you some information about myself:
1) I have had 1 manicure in my life.
2) I'm "frugal" when it comes to spending money on things like cosmetics. (Unfortunately, you can probably tell that by looking at me on your first glance.)
3) Being a music teacher/pianist/percussionist, I do not have nice nails. I am frequently chipping, tearing and scratching nail polish, never mind if I bit my nails when I'm stressed out.

So, here's the strip I got as a sample:
 Wow, sorry you can't see that well. Here is the strip on my nail for a chance to see if it can survive me for a week- and to see how it holds up compared to my normal polish. I probably should've cut it down and used it on my pinky since this strip seemed a little small for my ring finger. Live and learn. Do any of you have experience with Jamberry? Opinions? I will probably get at least 1 set just to support my friend's party but I'm not sure how excited I will truly be about them.

The only other mail I got was this cool card of the Neuschwanstein Castle.
   David has also got into Postcrossing and just received his first Moomin card :)

The 366 Project
Sent: 23
Received: 7 (boo!)

Tuesday, January 13, 2015


   I'm so proud of all my students! Some of you might think that that means the concert was perfect- it wasn't. Here's why it was great though..

    I asked my students to get there by 6:15. I had kids and parents there by 5:45. (I told you they know I hate when they're late) Only 1 boy from 8th grade came after I had started warming up/last minute announcements but he was decked out in a full suit (rather than just normal black and white) and apologized on his way up. By the way, the risers and piano were all set up and ready to go.
     I was missing less than 10 students from the whole concert (out of 183). Over half of those kids were home sick from school or had talked to me ahead of time. 3 kids are in the METCO program, which means they live in Boston instead of the town I teach in. I missed them and hope that I can reach out to see what we can do for those kids next time.
     5th Grade- Had 2 announcers- They were both adorable. I asked who was brave enough to start the whole concert and talk to all those people before the concert started and one of my nicest boys in the grade volunteered. He was very charming and did a great job. Then the little girl was an incredible reader.
    The 5th grade did have some of the problems I thought they would with the words but they performed well. I was excited that most of them were there and it was great to feel their excitement. I sometimes get annoyed with the whole "Hi Mom!!!" thing with the wave on the risers, this group didn't have any of that. I did watch their faces light up as they found their parents in the audience and smiled at them. There was one boy in particular whose happiness to see his dad (His dad talked to me after the concert. His joy about his son was just as heartwarming.) gave me quite a smile.
      So 5th grade 1st song was good. 2nd song was very pretty. 3rd song was the one I was worried about. My alto section almost blew it until this angelic little voice, Zack, sang out bravely (and alone on the right words.)  I saw him after the show and said "Zack! You SAVED the alto section! Great job! I'm really proud of you." He laughed and said "Thanks! I was terrified." Ha ha.
     6th Grade is my smallest group. Not only could I hear them but they were extremely musical. I sincerely enjoyed just listening to them. There were a few girls who sang out that are usually a lot quieter than they were tonight. They worked together as a group to listen to each other and adjust accordingly. They sang with expression and their behavior was impeccable. I wanted to hug them all.
     7th/8th- My 2 speakers for this group were also very professional. I purposely chose people who would show the progression from 5th-8th grade. It was amusing to see the audience's reaction to hearing the boy with a changed voice making the announcement.
      I am most critical of this group because I expect a lot from them and because they can handle someone having realistic expectations for them.  I was disappointed that 3 kids kept pronouncing a word in Hebrew wrong, which made it sound like the whole chorus was singing the word wrong. There were also 2 girls in the alto section who were giggling or something during our pieces, which was distracting and stuck out like crazy. OTHER than that... they really sang out. 1st song the sopranos led really well and took a risk to sing way louder than normal. The 2nd song is structured strangely. I totally messed up at one point when I flipped 2 pages instead of one. We basically made up 4 measures and then got back on track without anyone noticing the mistake. The kids who really knew this stepped up as leaders here. The 3rd song starts with all the gentlemen. I cannot always hear them and I gave them of a bit of a "Trust me" "Take a risk" conversation the other day. They all did and I was really proud of them. There are boys that I have barely heard over the past 4 years that I heard tonight singing confidently for the first time. The altos kept balance and the sopranos led the piece where it was supposed to go. The last piece was clean and open. Again, baritones sung out. Altos were consistent and the sopranos were brave.
     After the concert I met many new families. One of the moms came up to me and just hugged me. I'm a hugger, but this was my first time meeting this woman. She was just so excited and I went with it. Another woman thanked me "for giving them the gift of getting to listen to these beautiful children share their music."  I had another woman sign her daughter up for chorus after she had left in October. The 8th graders all got together and took pictures. (This 8th grade is very special to me. I will actually have a difficult time when they go to high school- not because they're such great musicians that my program will be hurt but because they are such good people that their words, excitement, compassion and humor will genuinely be missed by myself and many of the other kids they sang with.)  Parents were friendly and talkative to each other. Adults were talking with the students and the students were proud and respectful. I was also really happy to see some of my colleagues. My vice principal came, 2 aides and 2 teachers. The kids were happy to see them too.
     I am looking forward to giving the kids their written evaluation of the concert to see what their thoughts were about the night. Alright... I'm going to bed. haven't stopped to relax since 6 this morning. I wish I could share some pictures with you.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Incoming 1/12+Thoughts on being a music teacher

   I got 2 nice postcrossing cards today and sent out letters/cards to Iowa, Illinois (2), and South Africa. I feel good about the progress I'm making with the writing but great about creating any art. So, I'm taking tonight to play around with my art journal. I should be cleaning... really. Maybe I'll do both.
     I didn't take pictures of the letters since they were all in average envelopes. (Maybe this is how I can get the creative groove back- making more envelopes!)
     Here are my 2 cards.
     I really like this card from France. The sender is a farmer. I wonder if farming in France is as challenging as here in the US.
   This was a cute card from New York. David giggled when I showed it to him.

The 366 Project:
Sent: 17
Received: 5

       Many of the people who read my blog know that I'm a music teacher as a profession. I teach music class to all of the students in the school and then chorus for all of the students who sign up. Other than some scheduling hassles and normal teaching complaints, I really love my job. I work hard every day and have tons of preparation to do outside of school. I never work just 8-2 and no, I don't have every summer off. Yes, it's "fun" but that doesn't mean that it's silly and that I have no expectations for anyone- or myself. I'm also highly trained and "have gone to school for that." Yes, I'm a "real teacher" even if people you have spoken to in education don't call me that.
     Tomorrow I have the 1st concert of the year with my larger choruses. Normally I do this concert with another colleague but their position got switched so it's me on my own this time. I'm a little nervous about it, mainly because I will be conducting and playing for 1 group while 2 groups are sitting. Honestly, many of my students respect me quite a bit and know the line between time to goof around/ sitting in front of an audience ready to perform. This is the 1st performance for my 5th graders though so they are the ones that would need the reminders.
      Some of you have asked me before to tell you a little more about my teaching so I figured I'd chat tonight about what it takes to prepare for a concert.
    This year, I have 3 choruses that will perform in the concert. The school schedule has them rehearsing with me once during a 4 day cycle. Their class is 23 minutes long. Yeah, that's not a typo. Luckily for my 7th/8th grade chorus, the 4th day of the cycle I can have a sectional (rehearsal with one voice part rather than the whole chorus) so they get to see me a little more. They have been working with me since the beginning of this school year (end of August) to perform in this concert.
     In my head, here's what's going on tonight-
-Is the piano that is left for me to use in tune?
-Will the risers be set up like I requested or will I have to set up 5 giant sets of risers by myself in front of 183 kids and a bunch of parents while wearing formal wear?
-What happens if something unexpected happens off stage while I'm conducting one group and I have to deal with it? I once had to break up the beginning of a fist fight between 2 dads over concert etiquette. Seriously.
- The 5th graders are going to forget their words. Due to "special things" happening before vacation, my last rehearsal before vacation was wrecked. This past rehearsal had 19 kids missing. I'll be lucky if they show up. I'm hoping the concert won't be a negative experience for the ones who are nervous about the words.
- How does this new group of 5th graders perform under pressure?
- Any parents who are upset with me that I will see at the concert?
- Will I be able to hear my small 6th grade chorus?
- Can I trust the 7th/8th graders to be an extra set of eyes (or 130 eyes really) with the younger kids while I'm working with other groups?
- Will an administrator make it to my concert? 1 out of the past 24 concerts. Seriously. I have 25% of the school singing tomorrow night.
- Will all of the kids have someone watching them at the concert? Do they all have rides home? Do they all have concert dress? (More like- is there any kid who will feel like they can't come because their parents won't/can't buy them a white dress shirt and black pants?)
-Print program. Print attendance. Bring concert clothes and shoes. Bring breakfast, lunch and dinner.
- I'm really proud of the work these kids have done. They are really nice kids, hard workers. I would love for them to have a successful concert that really goes well for them but if it doesn't go as well as some of their rehearsals, I'm okay with that.. unless it went badly because they were unfocused and fooling around. In that case they are in trouble, big trouble.

In the head of my students, here's what I feel is going on tonight-
5th grade- Gotta be there at 6:15, gotta be there at 6:15. Mrs. B says not to be late. I don't know these words yet. What if I'm sick? Do I still need to go if I'm sick? Maybe I just won't go. There's a bunch of us, maybe she won't notice. This is scary. It will be cool to sing in a big auditorium. I hope I don't get the stomach bug that's going around 5th grade.

6th grade- Why did they schedule basketball pictures 30 minutes before the concert? Can I get there on time? Ooh, I better not be late, Mrs. B gets wicked mad if people are late. Will they be able to hear us this year? It's a small group.  I really like the songs this year but there are too many words in the middle song. I wonder if my teachers will come.

7th/8th Grade- Okay, get there before Mrs. B said to. I can't wait to show the parents and younger kids what we've been working on. Note to self- don't misbehave. Not to the 3 back row altos- she's talking to you when she tells people to be quiet.  Be a good role model. Watch the younger kids. Wear shoes I won't fall down the stairs in. No really short skirts.  Seriously, do I have to wear a tie? Well, if I wear a tie I'll look pretty awesome. Plus, those 5th grade guys are going to dress up and I don't want them to look more classy than I do. More basketball pictures? Ugh, alright... get to the concert early, I'll change in the car on the way there. What if we mess up? Hope we don't disappoint Mrs. B. How much homework do we have to do after the concert?

    I wish I could put a picture up that would show you what 1 teacher vs 183 students looks like. I'm sure everything will go well but I have to think through everything. I'll update after the concert. If your children are musicians, talk to them about their concerts. If they did horribly, it's okay to ask them what happened (with tact), most of the time they know it went badly. If you don't know what to talk about, ask them what they think went well or what they could've done better. Ask which song is their favorite. Ask them why they like singing in a choir or who their favorite person to sing with is.
     If you want to be kind to a music teacher, say thanks. We all work hard. We don't always want a ton of recognition but we always appreciate a thank you. (Presents are good too. Ha ha) There is nothing worse than a parent coming to yell at you or talk about a problem (unless it directly has to do with the concert) in front of an entire audience of people. It's awkward to explain why your child didn't get the solo in front of all of the other parents, especially if you're telling me why the other kids stunk- usually in front of their parents. Please don't do that- even if the teacher is not your cup of tea. I also like actually knowing who the families I work with are, so feel free to introduce yourself just to put a name with a face. If you really want brownie points, ask if there's anything to do to clean up after the concert.

     What profession do you work in?