Candid Over Coffee ~ 2.23.17

This morning I am drinking my coffee at an Einstein Brothers in Athens, Georgia. My students are down the street in rehearsals for All-State Chorus, and I am relishing the chance to sit down with some coffee without interruption. Life has been a little extra crazy lately, hence my lack of posts these last few weeks. My husband just got a new job (praise God!) and so our two younger children are going to daycare. This means all new responsibilities at night to prepare for the next day and new routines for our sweet little baby. Our oldest child started t-ball, which means more commitments to write in on our calendar. And then of course, just our daily schedule with three kids under the age of 5 is a little nuts. But everyone seems to be doing really well. We are healthy, we are joyful, and we are starting this new season of our lives with excitement.

At school, my choirs are rehearsing for our Large Group Performance Evaluation. We perform two pieces for a panel of three judges and receive feedback and scores. Then we sight read for another judge to again receive feedback and scores. Some days I leave work thinking how great our rehearsals were and how well we are doing. Other days, I leave wondering why it’s not coming together like I want it to. Teaching singing can be so challenging; I can’t tell my sopranos to just move this vocal cord to this place. That’s not how our voices work. It’s such an experimental process for the singer to find what works. It’s a lot of “try this” and “relax” and “don’t do that.” But I have a fantastic group of kids this year that are eager to learn and improve. Seriously, a teacher’s dream.

And this weekend I am with three of my students as they participate in All-State Chorus. They are having an amazing time, just as I did when I was a part of All-State as a student. I can’t help but remember my own experiences every time I come to this event. This event used to be held in Savannah, so it’s a little harder to be nostalgic in a completely different city, but when I sit in on rehearsals and listen to the concerts, I feel like it was just last year that I was performing with the All-State Chorus. And now, as a teacher, I have a whole new appreciation for my music teachers, for the time and resources they invested, and always with great enthusiasm. Those people have impacted my life in tremendous ways. There is no doubt I am who I am because of them. And even if I had not chosen a career in music education, I know that their impact would still be a lasting one. They nurtured a love and appreciation for music within me, but they also chose to love me as a person. I can’t tell you how often I hear from someone that they took piano lessons or a music class in which the teacher was “mean” or “so strict” and those people walked away from that experience with a bad taste in their mouth. Thankfully, I just can’t relate to that sentiment. My teachers have been truly wonderful. I will forever be grateful to them, and it reminds me of my responsibility of carrying on their legacies to my students now.

Do you have a music teacher that left their mark on your life? Good or bad? I would love to hear about it here, along with any crazy memories you have from their classes or being a part of ensembles.

The New Year is Here!

I can’t start a new year without writing down my resolutions. It’s just what I do. Every. Single. Year. And they typically look the same.

Eat healthier.

Cook at home more often.

Get organized.

Be more active. Exercise.

Keep a clean house. Tackle chores daily.

And then, when February rolls around and I haven’t stuck to my resolutions, I get stressed out and then beat myself up over failing at things I think I should be able to do as an adult.

By the way, this whole “adulting” thing has lost its novelty. It’s overrated, really.

2016 was a tough year. My family dealt with the loss of loved ones, changes in jobs, and the stress that attaches itself to such major changes. God allowed us to walk this difficult road, and He also decided that 2016 is when we needed our precious new baby to arrive and bring us new joy in the midst of our pain. It was quite a year. Things did not always go the way I had planned, that’s for certain, and I found myself getting so caught up in striving to achieve my idea of the perfect mom/teacher/homemaker/cook/volunteer that when I faltered – which was daily – I felt like a tremendous failure and became overwhelmed with frustration. This frustration then overflowed in to my daily interactions with the ones I love the most, which was the last thing I wanted. We had too much going on last year and instead of cutting myself some slack, I beat myself up. So this year, I am resolving to give myself a break. No more stressing out over a lesson plan that didn’t go exactly the way I envisioned it. No more losing my cool when the house gets messy.  No more getting upset because my to do list didn’t get done.

To do lists. That’s another thing that has to change this year. I am big on making lists, and I always, ALWAYS fill them with a 33 hour workload and then kick myself over not having it done when it’s time to go to bed 18 hours later. No more! I am resolving to scale back on things that “have” to get done each day, and instead prioritize what really needs to get done. New items on my to do list will include playing in the floor with my boys, sitting down to talk with my husband, and taking plenty of deep breaths when the day gets crazy, as it surely will.

2016 taught me that you never know what is around the corner. Interruptions come, both big and small. A year ago, I would not have guessed that our lives would look like they do right now. Even on a small scale, sticking to my plans for the day can be tricky with high school students and three young sons. I have to accept this truth and adjust accordingly. Now, hopefully someone can remind me that I wrote these words when the craziness of 2017 sets in.

Candid Over Coffee: Mommy Needs Her Coffee

I attribute my love for coffee to my grandmothers. While my mom loathes the taste of coffee, my Granny always drank her morning coffee, and my Grandma can not function without it. Coffee is a staple for my day, and it has to come early in my morning routine. When I was a kid and would spend the night at my Grandma’s house, my siblings and I knew the rule: don’t talk to Grandma until she has had her coffee. This was not a joke, either. I can remember coming out of the bedroom to find Grandma sitting by the window overlooking her rose bushes as she stared out at the North Georgia mountains. I could usually tell if she had just poured her coffee, in which case I went back to my bedroom to read for a few minutes while she had her quiet time.

I now hear myself telling my boys that “mommy needs some quiet time” while I drink my coffee. Like my Grandma, I am not a morning person, but coffee helps me cope. As my siblings will tell you, this is just one of many traits that I inherited from my Grandma. I think she is smart to have always insisted on quiet time in the mornings. I have found that when I can get it, my quiet moments in the morning with a hot cup of joe in my hands are precious for many reasons. Mostly, it gives me a chance to reflect. Put the smartphone down, turn the tv off, and just think. That’s when I am really “candid” with myself.

If you google the word, candid is defined as being “truthful and straightforward; frank.” My goal in creating this blog was to be truthful and straightforward about life as a high school choral director, both in and out of the classroom. Sometimes it’s easy to be candid on social media and in our conversations with others, but other times it can be difficult. Sometimes our life is just not going as planned. Other times, we are so distracted that we are missing a lot of what is going on around us. How often do we just sit without distractions? Really, when was the last time you just sat still, alone, and without looking at a screen? For me, it is rare. Too often, if I have a free moment, I am picking up my phone and scrolling through Facebook, or I am adding items to my “to do” list. I spend my work days with over 150 teenagers and then come home to three children under the age of 5. I need time to just be still.

This time to myself is best accompanied by lots of caffeine poured in to a mug that has a special memory attached to it. It is so good to be able to “just sit.” So today, I am reminding myself that my Grandma has it right when she makes her coffee time a priority. It’s ok for me to tell the kids that Mommy will be better after she has had her coffee time. That Grandma of mine is a smart woman.

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Waiting for fireworks to start after our 4th of July Family Picnic, 2009

 

Candid Over Coffee: It’s early

It’s an early morning for our first coffee chat. Our new addition to the family decided to start the day at 5:15AM. That really shouldn’t be so bad since I’m typically up by 5AM when I’m working. However, since little man refuses to go to bed before midnight, I wasn’t particularly appreciative of the early start today. Really, if I am being honest, I have nothing to complain about. Today is his two month birthday, and he typically sleeps through the night. My first two never slept–even still, my oldest routinely gets up at least once a night. It has been awesome having a baby that sleeps so much. I know it can’t possibly last. In fact, it probably will change right about the time that I return to work.

Return to work. That time will be here in the blink of an eye. I’ve already started taking some time to do some lesson and rehearsal planning for when I return to the classroom. This is my first maternity leave that has lasted longer than 8 weeks. I took 8 weeks with my first child due to difficulties at home. What difficulties? While we were still in the hospital after the birth of our son, our best friend went by our house to feed our dogs. When he arrived, he found water running out the back door. A pipe had burst in our upstairs bathroom and had flooded most of the house. We couldn’t even come home to stay with our new baby. Instead, we went to live with my Grandmother that first week -oh how thankful I was to be with her during such a stressful time. When we got the ok from ServePro to come back home, we lived out of the bonus room and guest bathroom for about four weeks. When it was time for the contractors to come in and try to put our house back together (seriously, they had to rebuild walls, ceilings, new floors, everything), we moved in to a hotel room for two weeks. Throughout this craziness, my husband had just started a new job with his company and was having to put in extra hours at the office in addition to managing the problems with our house, insurance claims, and being a new father. It. was. nuts. We moved back home about a week before I returned to work. On my second maternity leave, our house behaved itself and I only took 6 weeks. That was still tough. With this pregnancy, I knew I would take an extended leave. What a difference it has made! Especially since it has been during the holidays.

Holidays. All music teachers have particularly crazy holiday seasons due to extra rehearsals, holiday performances, and more. While I still have my church’s musical program to prepare for and perform in, it has felt very odd to not be working on Christmas music with students. I have actually really missed it. I am hoping my students are loving the holiday music I picked for their winter concert. I’m a little disappointed that I didn’t get to work on it with them, because I happened to love the music I picked out for them. Holiday music is some of the best work we do all year. Who can be in a bad mood when you are singing Christmas music? It certainly simplifies classroom management when everyone is in a good mood and they are enjoying the task at hand.

My little guy is done with his morning nap (which was much too short) and so it’s time for me to refill my Christmas mug with one more cup of coffee and turn my attention back to him. Thanks for reading my random Friday morning train of thoughts. I’m hoping to share more of my scatter-brained self on Fridays, which means a lot of random ramblings, and in between the Friday posts I hope to offer some helpful articles for the classroom and that life you’re supposed to have outside of the classroom.

A Happy Thanksgiving

This year’s Thanksgiving looks very different. There are loved ones missing from our tables this year. Some of our traditional meals are being moved to new places since those loved ones are not here to host any longer. There are new worries this year that we didn’t have last year. But there are also new faces. They are tiny new faces, and one of them is that of my six week old son. A year ago, I was not anticipating any of these changes.

And yet, like last year, I am still watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade as I prepare my Granny’s macaroni and cheese recipe. Like last year, I am bouncing between numerous Thanksgiving feasts all week because we have such a big family that loves to gather around the table. Like last year, I am thankful. I am thankful for time with family this week. I am thankful that I serve a loving, almighty God. He gives, He takes away, but He always loves us and cares for us.

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Happy Thanksgiving.

 

Is it time yet?

Through the ages, there has been a heated debate that consistently arises this time of year. The question can be a difficult one and it tends to brings out strong opinions. As for me, my thoughts have changed over the years on this hot button topic, and I am ready to say unashamedly that no, it is not too early to start playing Christmas music.

Typically, I am immersed in Christmas music by late October. As a choral director, you had better start that Christmas music in the fall in order to be prepared for a successful December performance. I was really excited over the holiday music I chose for my kids this year, but I’m not there to work on it with them since I’m still on maternity leave. I am rehearsing Christmas music on Wednesday nights with the church choir, but I found myself needing more.

Years ago, I was adamant that Christmas music should not be played before Thanksgiving. I would not pull out my favorite holiday cd’s until the day after Thanksgiving at the earliest. Slowly, over the last few years, I’ve found that one month a year isn’t long enough to get my fix of Christmas music, so my start date for listening has oh-so-slowly crept up to November 1st.

And I’m ok with that.

Even as the temperatures are still in the 70’s here in Georgia and none of my Christmas decorations are out, I am still loving having my favorite Christmas albums playing in the car and around the house. My boys are loving it, too. My husband on the other hand — well, he is of the opposing side on this issue, and is not a fan of my playing Christmas music before Thanksgiving. However, in this family of five, he is now outnumbered in his opinion and will have to deal with it.

Nothing makes it feel like Christmas for me like Mannheim Steamroller and Vince Guaraldi’s soundtrack to A Charlie Brown Christmas. These guys bring back vivid memories of childhood Christmases like nothing else can. Music can do that — transport you back to another time and place. I also am in love with Avalon’s Joy album. It came out 16 years ago, but it never gets old for me. And when the boys are in the car, I make sure to play The Muppets’ Red and Green album. I mean, I’ve been listening to that one for years, but now I don’t have to feel so silly telling you about it since I’ve got kids.

So while I won’t put my tree up before Thanksgiving (and on that point, I don’t see a change of viewpoint in my future), I will happily play my favorite Christmas music throughout November. Life is too short to put a time restraint on some of the world’s most most beautiful and joyful music.

He’s here!

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At long last, our sweet baby #3 is here! We are now officially a family of five. Sweet Ethan was born on October 8. I was absolutely convinced he would come early; after all, he was my third pregnancy in less than five years’ time, and I was working and still directing performances less than two weeks before my due date. However, as much as I hoped for him to come on, he didn’t, and for a number of reasons the doctors encouraged me to induce labor the day after my due date. I am incredibly thankful for those wonderful doctors and the awesome nurses that I had. Labor and delivery went really smoothly. We started the pitocin at about 8AM and Ethan arrived at 4:03 PM. He weighed 8 lbs, 12 oz. His daddy and I are absolutely in love with him.

Ethan’s big brothers got to meet him in our quiet hospital room just a few hours after he was born, and they were immediately smitten. One of them kept wanting to “pet him”, so needless to say we are having to say the word “gentle” many times a day. They both took turns holding him over and over again. Two weeks later and the novelty has not worn off.

Our time at home has been great so far. We have been blessed with visits and meals from friends and family, and I have been able to get some much needed rest thanks to Josh being at home. He has had two weeks off of work instead of the usual one week that he had with our first two children, and it has been awesome. Having him here with me for an extra week made a huge difference for us all. He has been busy changing diapers, keeping the “bigs” entertained and happy when they wake up before the sun, driving the oldest back and forth to school, cleaning house, and plenty more. In the evenings, we have crashed on the couch after putting the boys to bed so that we could have movie nights and hang out together. Just like with my first two boys, I have fallen in love all over again with my husband through this incredible season of our lives. We have faced some tough trials this past year, but God has made our marriage stronger and has taught us so much. The biggest lesson we have taken away? His plans – and the timing of those plans – are perfect.

 

Any Day Now

“Any day now.” That’s what I keep hearing from the doctors, anyway. My third pregnancy is coming to a close, but not fast enough. I am miserable in every sense of the word, and I ask for your prayers for my family and sweet co-workers as I have no doubt that I am dreadful to be around these days. They are putting up with me, though, which I greatly appreciate!

My students have been nothing but wonderful. I have started the year with the largest number of students I’ve ever had in the program, which is a great feeling. The kids are enthusiastic, kind, and wonderful to be around. Last week we performed our fall concert. It was incredibly stressful trying to prepare for our first concert in the first eight weeks of school, but we pulled it off. Uniforms arrived in the nick of time, music was learned and memorized, and everything went smoothly. I was so impressed with the work put forth by the kids everyday in class. We have been honored to be invited to sing at two different events in which the Governor was speaking, which was really exciting for us. So in just two months we have had two performances off campus, a formal concert on campus involving all three ensembles, a major fundraiser, and weeks of productive rehearsal time. As anxious as I am to have this baby, I’m also sad to leave such a great group of kids just as we are building up so much momentum across the program!

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A small group of students and I after our first performance of the year in which we sang the National Anthem at an Educational Leadership Conference.

 

Once the work day is over, I’m completely wiped out from rehearsals and preparing for maternity leave. When I get home, I’ve been crashing on the couch for as long as my two crazy kiddos will let me. I did ask my oldest one afternoon if we could rest, “because Mommy is really tired.” His response? “Well, I don’t have a baby in my tummy. I’m not tired.” Both boys are so excited to meet their new little brother. I am definitely ready. I’m still waiting on that burst of energy to arrive, though. Wasn’t it supposed to appear sometime in the second trimester? As for nesting, it’s not happening. If I have a free moment, all I want to do is sleep! I’ve lost interest in a lot of my favorite things just because I’m too tired to stay focused on any one task longer than five minutes. This too shall pass, though, right? One day at a time.

 

 

Hello, Third Trimester

Today’s post, I’m sorry to say, may be one of those annoying “mommy” posts.

I am now 29 weeks pregnant and am completely exhausted. That burst of energy that is supposed to show up in the second trimester? It must have passed me by. The third trimester isn’t looking any more promising. At least back in June, I was able to get going in the mornings and take my boys out for fun outings. I was so proud of myself as I took them downtown to the zoo all on my own with a bag carefully packed with all of our snacks and necessities and plenty of patience to keep us all happy. I enjoyed our library and park visits, and I even managed to teach for a week at Vacation Bible School. I even provided them with some craft projects straight out of the best Pinterest pages.

Just a mere six weeks later, our summer is looking much different. My children are binge watching “Octonauts” on Netflix so that I can close my eyes for just a few minutes on the couch. The heat outside is unbearable, so much so that the boys don’t even ask to go outside. I’m waking up each night with pregnancy aches and pains, and in the mornings the boys have gone from being content to play quietly in their rooms to now calling for me to come right away to let them go downstairs and start the day. Most days we just stay in our pajamas, which at least lessens the issue of laundry. Thank goodness, because I don’t have it in me to worry about another household chore.

We are in survival mode.

How will this work when we return to school in a week? For the sake of my unborn child, there is only so much coffee I can consume. And my department chair frowns upon my taking naps in my office in the middle of the day. Truthfully, even though our outings have become much more scarce, my boys aren’t really complaining. So while I feel guilty about how our days look right now, I don’t really have the enthusiasm or motivation to make many changes. I’ll do my best next week to muster up some energy to take on those last items on my summer bucket list, but I hope I won’t beat myself up over it if they don’t all get crossed off. After all, I’m getting bigger and the weather is getting hotter. Perhaps I should choose to put my feet up while I can, because in about 11 weeks this house is going to reach a whole new level of crazy.

 

Summertime and the living is easy…

Sweet summertime. I am loving every minute. I am finding time to do lots of fun reading, I’m catching up on so much of the housework that was neglected in the spring, I’m taking naps (oh so many naps!), and having all sorts of fun outings with friends and family. I spend most of my time with my two sons, and I am loving our movie days, library visits, trips to the zoo, afternoons at the pool, and plenty more.

Yesterday, I had to take my oldest child to the dentist. As we were leaving, the dentist exclaimed, “Have a great rest of your summer! Er, what’s left of it!” I cringed. I couldn’t believe such a statement was being made. Summer just started! But when I mentioned it to my husband, he cautiously pointed out the small number of weeks I have left.  Really, I am somewhere around the halfway mark of my summer vacation, but seeing the date on the calendar sends me in to a flurry of emotions. What kind of emotions?

Let’s start with the easiest: DREAD! First of all, I am absolutely loving my time at home with my boys. As I said before, we are having all sorts of adventures and creating fun memories, and I’m not ready for the change of pace. But the other main reason would be that I am miserably pregnant. The thought of going back to 5AM alarms and having to put on dress clothes over my ever growing belly in this insane Georgia heat is bringing back the nausea of my first trimester. Right now I am sleeping in, putting my feet up (as much as is possible with two little ones under the age of 4), and living in t-shirts and stretchy shorts. I have no excitement whatsoever at the thought of gearing up for a new school year while being eight months pregnant.

It’s really tough for me to try and plan for this upcoming school year. We have a lot of variables and new challenges hanging over us right now. My husband’s company was recently bought out by a major competitor, and so we are waiting to find out whether or not his department will be dissolved. My oldest child will be starting Pre-K in August, which will be a whole new ballgame for our family. I will have about two months of work in which to build a strong foundation for the year, put on a fall concert, and then hand over the reins to a long-term sub as we welcome baby boy #3 in to the world in October. And is our house ready for #3? Definitely not! I am still waiting on that burst of energy for nesting to kick in.

It has truly been a fantastic summer, and while my dentist and all of the “back to school” ads on tv want to tell me it’s almost over, I am reminding myself that I still have several weeks of fun ahead of me. I’m looking forward to some time on the beach, lots more books to devour, and plenty more naps to enjoy on my couch. Yes, I probably need to pull out my planner and start taking notes on all of those great teaching articles I’ve bookmarked over the last month. Yes, I probably need to start organizing my thoughts and goals for the new school year. But maybe I can also just enjoy being lazy a little while longer.