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.

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.

 

 

When your Mom is a Musician

When your parent is a musician, life can be a little different for you. There are quirks, really. I didn’t realize this until I had children of my own. Like when you are too sick to be at daycare, but your mom has rehearsal, so she sets up a pack and play next to the piano and manages to keep you somewhat entertained while also playing and scribbling down notes for the singers. Or even if you’re not sick, you find that much of your time is spent with Mom or Dad in the theatre or rehearsal venues.  Homework is done in the sound booth and naps are taken on the corner of a stage.

When your Mom is a musician, you listen to lots of Gershwin, Chopin, and some Beethoven mixed in for good measure. When you watch “Little Einsteins” and a composers’ name isn’t pronounced to her liking, she is sure to let you know.

When your Mom is a Choral director, your bedtime lullabies can be really strange. If it’s getting close to a big performance, you will probably be listening to her sing the alto line to one of the concert pieces.  Or maybe if the tenors were particularly squirrely that day, you’ll be hearing their part an octave higher.

When your Mom is a Choral director and she goes to conferences, she comes back with gifts, which is why you have your own set of Boomwhackers in the play room.

I’ve seen children tagging along with their band director daddies to our professional association’s planning meetings. I’ve sat in a corner of a convention center with choral director friends as our babies played and crawled all over us while we waited on our students to get out of All-State Chorus rehearsals.  I’ve seen our dance teacher make pallets in the floor for her children to sleep while she stayed at school late to finish building a set.  I’ve listened to our theatre director’s son recite lines from a play that he knows better than the actors because he has sat in on so many rehearsals.

Yes, life can be different for our children.  But there are also great memories to be made along the way as we include them in our crazy schedules and routines.  They are introduced to what we do at an early age, and they are given a model of hard work and dedication that they will always remember.  Hopefully, they will follow in our footsteps with a love for music, dance, and theatre, and we will have a special bond that spans from dragging them with us to rehearsals to one day sitting in the audience as they take their turn on the stage.

 

I’m Ready for Ya, 2016

Sometime back in November, my brain had started to already believe it was 2016.  I found myself talking to my mom about something that had happened “16 years ago in 2000”, and was surprised when she corrected me.  Instead of writing down the wrong year in January, I had started writing the wrong year in December.  Clearly my brain was ready to take on 2016.

For as long as I can remember, I have made New Year’s Resolutions.  Something in me loves new beginnings and the idea of a clean slate.  It’s one of the things I love about teaching because each year we can start fresh.  In fact, I suppose I make a list of new resolutions twice a year: once in January, again in August as a new school year starts.  I often will look back in my journals to see what my resolutions were from past years.  I really could have just copied and pasted the same list each year and saved myself some time.  I always have high hopes of cooking at home more often, getting more exercise, becoming more organized, keeping a clean house, being more consistent each day with my personal Bible study, and just generally trying to be a better person.  Apparently it is taking longer than a year to achieve, but at least I haven’t given up, right?

Last year, I really tried to create more concrete resolutions.  I wrote down detailed, achievable goals in addition to the new habits I wanted for myself.  One of those resolutions was to finally start my own blog, and here we are.  I have loved having an outlet to write and connect with people, and it has been just one of several writing opportunities I have had over the last several months.  My passion for writing has always been a constant in my life, but has been harder to pursue over the last few years.  So in 2016, I am resolving to write every day.  Every single day.  It’s day 8, and so far this resolution is a success, much more so than my resolution for becoming more organized.  Whether it’s in one of my personal journals, my blog, or a freelance project, I plan on putting words on paper every day this year.  I’m excited to see what I can come up with over the next 12 months.

I’m looking forward to 2016 being spent growing in my career, being involved at my church, pursuing some new hobbies (sewing and Bible journaling!), reading great books, writing, traveling with my husband, and creating new adventures with my crazy boys.  Oh, and cooking all those fancy meals at home too, of course.

 

 

5 Reasons I Look Forward to the New School Year

I am struggling with a lot of emotions as I’m in my last days of Summer vacation.  It has been a fantastic summer.  I have been at home with my two little boys and while there have been some challenging days, I have loved it.  My oldest has so much to say and his imagination has kept us plenty busy as we run from dinosaurs and fight off pirates.  My youngest started walking at the end of May and that alone made the summer even more adventurous.  I enjoyed improvement projects around the house, read some good books, and was thrilled to finally start this blog, something I had wanted to do for years.  As I think about how much I am enjoying my outings with the boys and our relaxed routine around the house, I sometimes find myself struggling to find the motivation for a new school year.  I don’t know that I am ready! On the other hand, I find myself getting excited as I start to think of all that the new year holds for me.  As the time gets closer to go back, I do find myself looking forward to the fall, and the reasons each year seem to be the same:

  1. A clean slate.  I love having the opportunity to start fresh in my classroom each year.  I can implement new procedures, new routines, and a new classroom setup.  Last spring, I started to write down everything that was not going smoothly in my classroom, and I have spent a lot of time over the summer researching and brainstorming ways to fix those problems.  I am so thankful for the opportunity to make changes each year to create a better classroom environment for myself and my students.  I am glad that I can have the chance to improve from year to year.  I have the chance to eliminate last year’s problem areas before the kids even arrive to my classroom.  And I can start the year with everything beautifully organized!  My grade book will be so neat and tidy, every piece of paper will have its place, and my office will be spotless.  While I know these things are temporary, it’s a nice feeling while it lasts.
  2. New students.  I always look forward to meeting the new students who choose to join Chorus.  Hopefully, each of these students joined Chorus because they wanted to, and I want to make it the best experience possible for them.  I was really reminded last year how much I as their teacher determine their love for the class.  While I don’t like to think of myself as the center of the classroom, I’m afraid I am.  I have met too many students (and adults!) who told me how they quit their music lessons or ensemble involvement because they didn’t like their teacher.  That is a lot of pressure!  It doesn’t matter how great the music I pick is or how many friends they have in the class.  If they don’t have a good relationship with me, they will not stick around.  How do I make our relationship a positive one?  Show them I care.  Get to know each student.  Greet them at the door by name, talk to them about their other classes, and work with them individually.  Then, the next crucial step in keeping those students involved is…
  3. Being the Entertainment.  I teach on block scheduling.  My students’ attention spans are about 25 minutes long, which means not only do I have to show them I care about them to keep them engaged, but I have to be a bit of an entertainer on the podium.  I have to make sure the kids are having fun and I have to let them see me having fun.  My colleagues and I have talked about this often, describing how sometimes our silly behavior in front of the class is so out of character for us.  But if it keeps the students focused, we will do it.  No matter how ridiculous we look.  But if I’m honest with myself, I have a lot of fun being their entertainment.  I like cracking nerdy jokes just to see the students roll their eyes at me.  I like to run from the soprano section down to the alto section shouting for more emotion in the music as they rehearse their concert music for the eight thousandth time.  I suppose it’s the performer in me.  And when I look back at my high school choral experience, I remember how much fun my director made it.  He was witty and downright silly sometimes, but we ate it up.  He was one of the greatest influences in my choice to become a high school choral director.
  4. Making music every day.  My boys love music.  It makes my heart so happy to see them playing with their toy instruments and singing their favorite Disney tunes.  Every week this summer, the boys and I have had “band practice.”  We alternate between drums, guitars, and a microphone, and I know you’re all anxiously awaiting our debut album.   However, anytime we add a piano to the mix–my own instrument–things go south.  Whenever I try to sit at the piano, my two year old promptly jumps on the bench next to me and begins banging away.  I have not found a way around this, either.  If I am near the piano, he has to be a part of the performance.  It is rather endearing, but at some point I need the chance to work on some real music.  I’m looking forward to being back in my classroom with my baby grand piano and having a group of singers ready to tackle new challenges.  I still marvel at the notion that my job is to make music with young people on a daily basis and I take a paycheck home for it.  God is good!  Which leads me to my final reason…
  5. The feeling of gratitude.  I am sure that I am quick to share my frustrations and disappointments to those around me when things are not going smoothly at work, but through it all I am truly grateful for my job.  I love the feeling of pride I have when I walk the halls of my school, knowing that I am a part of a fantastic community of teachers and students.  I really do love where God has placed me.  I am thankful to be in a school system that recognizes the importance of music.  I believe that the arts are essential in every child’s education, at every age.  My class is not an extracurricular club or a “filler” class.  I have a tremendous responsibility!  I am teaching my students music history and theory.  I am teaching listening skills.  I am teaching them how to use their voices correctly in singing and in speaking, something they will use for the rest of their lives.  I am teaching them how to be a performer as well as good audience members, and how to work with well with others.  I am teaching them about other cultures through world music, and I am relating our music to every other subject area of their school day.  I am grateful for the opportunity to reach students through music, and always will be.

I am praying now for my students and for my colleagues as we prepare for a new school year.  I am also praying that God comforts my heart as it aches to be with my sweet little boys all the time.  I know I am incredibly blessed to have the time off to regroup and be with family, but it’s still hard to spend so much time away from them throughout the year.  They are pretty special.  I hope one day they will have music teachers that are passionate and dedicated.  Hopefully one day they will sit in my classroom, and together we will have an incredible school year.

Friends, I hope this school year is your best yet!