Friday, March 31, 2017

Grandparents Day

Every Spring we have two days for Grandparents Day at school.  Yesterday was for middle school.  My Orff and Recorder ensembles performed.  I was incredibly proud of them.  One of my favorite parts was having my dad there to see what I do with students.  You're never too old to have your parents support!  And I was so proud to spend part of the day with him.

The girls were fortunate to have both Grammie, Poppi and Grandpa there today.  Primer students sang a few songs and then the grandparents went back to their classrooms.  The students wrote puppet shows, created the puppets and the sets.  They were adorable!  Julia and Knox wrote one that they called "Two Friends are Great!"  Julia's puppet played the part of Crazy Girl and Knox's puppet played the part of Mr. Maraca.  They took a trip to the airport, rode an airplane and got a little silly along the way.  Loved it!

After the puppet shows, Julia showed us her Seesaw app where we got to see some of the work she has done throughout the year.  This was followed by chapel and then Julia went back to class while everyone hung out to wait for Riley's turn.

Riley's grade level sang a few songs.  It was cute watching Riley and her friend Lauren as they sang their hearts out and had great stage presence.  Then the Swan Squad girls performed a revised version of the song "Can't Stop the Feeling!"  They rewrote the words so that it was about Grandparents.

When we went to her classroom, each student had prepared a potato project.  The potatoes were dressed as the career that each student wanted to have when they grow up.  The shoe boxes holding them were decorated to match their career.  Riley's potato was an inventor and she had her BB8 figurine on a table to represent a robot that she built.  What I didn't realize about the project was that each student was going to read the short essay that they had written about what they want to be/do when they grow up!  I knew Riley had written one, but it was so impressive listening to the students present to a room full of grandparents!  It made me so proud to see a Grandma turn to another Grandma at the end of Riley's speech with wide eyes and saying "WOW!"  Her speech was very well written so I'll copy it here, exactly as she wrote it:

Have you ever made a robot?  Well, in my job, that's a lot of what I will do.  Hi.  My name is Riley.  When I grow up, I want to be an inventor.  I chose job because its' what I'm best at.  And, of course, my favorite thing to do.
Some of an inventors responsibilities include having to fix big problems around the world or making big decisions for my products.  Although, other than that, most of my time will be spent creating fun toys and games for kids just like me.  To me, this job is the best for me because I"ll get to do my favorite things.  For this job, I will need special training at MIT, Massachusets' Institute of Technology, in order to fulfill my dreams.  And, scince my job will be in Boston, I will live by my aunt and uncle.  I will live there because then my uncle can give me tips.
This job is important to me because I love helping others and seeing smiles.  When I'm older, I hope to create things that will change the world.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Yearly Goal Check-Up #1

Finally taking time to evaluate where I am with my goals for this year.  Here goes...

1.  Take a course to learn Finale
Not yet... but working on it!

2.  Continue learning Spanish using a workbook, Duolingo app and lunch with friends
Have done Duolingo every single day this year - even while at TMEA - and working in the workbook.  Still need to do the lunch with friends more and push myself to speak it!

3.  Go to church
We went to church for 5 weeks straight.  Missed the last two weeks due to Conferences and something else... but it's better!

4.  Complete my SMU Graduate School Degree in December
Started my Kodaly class - on week 4 this week!

5.  Clean our upstairs room completely and begin using it as a livable area to workout, play video games and lounge
We've been using it to work out, play the Wii and watch movies.  Has been great!!  Hoping to still declutter it more...

6.  Finish reading the entire Bible
On day 253 out of 365... 45 days ahead of where the reading plan says I should be.

7.  Apply to teach a workshop/session at TMEA and offer workshops in local districts/Orff chapters/GSES
Still figuring this out...

8.  Go on one date each month with Jeremy
Went on a date last month when my parents were in town.  It is Valentine's day, but we don't do date nights on Valentines as we find it more stressful as it's always so crowded and feels too 'required.'  So we'll find another night soon - I hope!

9.  Limit myself to purchasing only one new unnecessary item for myself each month
Purchased the new pair of pants on January 1 and didn't buy anything else for myself the whole month that was unnecessary.  February 14 and I haven't purchased anything for myself this month - yay!!

10.  Find a tv show series to watch
Tv?  What is tv?  Not even close to this.

11.  Family Fridays
Spent time this weekend... not really scheduling it.

12.  Complete the Google Teacher Certified Educator Level One
Surprised myself - completed it and passed the test.  Moving on to Level Two and four modules in.

12.  Do all I can to locate, contact and engage with my brother Jim
Sent Rana a letter and a picture of Jim.  They'll be posting a flyer up to see if they get any responses.  Praying...


My blogging skills are pathetic this year.  Or I guess I could look at it as my life is overly full.  That's a much better way to look at it I think as there has been little down time to write.

It's been an exciting one and a half months to start off 2017.  Some highlights so far:

1)  Trump
Trump became President and many are claiming the world is coming to the end.  What a challenging and horrible two options we had to choose between for the election.  It's a shame that a trustworthy, well-spoken, caring and amazing leader could not have been an option.  Sometimes you have to choose the best of two evils... and that was the case for this election year.  I can only pray that good comes of this and that our country can figure out how to come together rather than continue to pour hate and division.  And I mean this on both sides.  It's been rough.  Explaining it to our kids has been a challenge as they don't need to know all of it, but I think they do need to understand what has happened in their own way.  We talk a lot about listening to others, giving care to others, being full of love and trusting/praying to God that He would be in this.

2)  Solo Flights
Riley took her first flight alone to see Grandma and Grandpa in TN.  I had the idea for her to fly to see them as the girls were arguing often enough and I was about to leave for TMEA in San Antonio for a longer weekend.  My parents were all for it and made it possible!  Riley was a bit nervous before going, but her nervousness was only about the possibility of turbulence on the flight.  She wasn't nervous to be by herself.
I took a picture of her at the airport before her first flight there.  She's such a young lady, but yet she held her stuffed animal snowy owl in her hands the whole time.  It was a reminder that while she's growing up, she's still a little girl... at least to me.  She'd probably not like me thinking that! :)

3)  Two More
Julia lost two more teeth!  Her lower tooth was wiggly and she asked Ms. Hackney if Mrs. Gunter could pull it for her.  Ms. Hackney told her to try twisting it.  Julia twisted it and it came out easily.  The second tooth came out a few days ago.  She went to show it to me at home and when she smiled, it was already missing!  She was shocked and unsure of where it had gone.  Since it was early morning and couldn't find it in bed or on the floor so we're thinking that she swallowed it.  And that's our story for that!

4)  Daddy-Daughter Dance
The girls got to attend the Daddy-Daughter dance this year.  We went shopping for dresses for both of them.  They looked stunning and beautiful and were so happy to go.  Jeremy went out shopping for a new suit coat and ended up finding two incredible coats as well as some other things that he truly needed.  Julia had him practice his dance moves and their hand positions for a waltz-like dance.  Hoping they get the chance to do it again!

Saturday, December 31, 2016

2017 Goals

We're here again.  Figuring out what to aim towards this coming year without truly knowing what the year will bring.  The past two years have not been as 'successful' for me in terms of achieving the goals set.  I've either overestimated what I had time to achieve, chosen things I wanted to do but that weren't truly important to me or jumped way ahead of myself in terms of what could be done this year.  I'm a little more hesitant to actually put my goals into writing.  It is fulfilling to aim for something and hit it.  Or even more fun to surpass it.  Not near as much fun to miss it by a mile.

This year I'm working towards twelve goals.  I am choosing to truly work towards the things that are meaningful.  Throwing out the goals of things like using a crockpot when it's covered in dust somewhere and I feel obligated to use what we have (even though Jeremy hates crockpot meals and I don't have an inkling of care to actually shop for food to make in it).  Getting rid of goals that I want to do, but am feeling overwhelmed by such as writing a specific number of songs for grade levels at school when my time is still driven by learning how to teach middle school with materials I have and any extra time used to write long graduate papers and presentations.  Adding goals that will fulfill my need as a mom, teacher, student and woman.  Adding goals that will help our family spend more time together and bring us closer.  Less pressure, less need to prove myself to myself.  More grace, more joy, more ways to enjoy this amazing life.  So here goes...

GOALS for 2017

1.  Take a course to learn Finale
On Black Friday, there was an amazing deal for $179 to get Finale.  I was blessed that my school purchased it for me to use.  I've played around with it but can't wait to truly learn how to utilize this software.  Bring on new arrangements, student created work and new Orff pieces.

2.  Continue learning Spanish using a workbook, Duolingo app and lunch with friends
Today I purchased two workbooks to help me improve my Spanish.  I truly admire the Spanish teachers at our school and can't wait to jump out there in working to have discussions and lunch talks in Spanish.

3.  Go to church
We both grew up 'in the church.'  When we moved a year and a half ago, we left our home church as it's just far enough that getting involved is challenging.  Leaving a church family is hard stuff.  Finding a home church again has been a struggle.  We began going to a church, but found ourselves finding reasons not to go or get plugged in.  This was a sign that it wasn't the place for us.  About four months ago we asked Pastor John for advice on which churches to check out - side note:  Hope Fellowship is an amazing church and if you live in the Frisco/McKinney/Plano/The Colony area, it's a great place to love, connect, serve, and grow with others (  He gave us the name of Watermark Church in Dallas.  We went to service that Sunday.  For the first time since moving, Julia walked into the classroom without tugging or crying, Riley made friends and God has blessed us with a great church.  All of this to say - I am excited to get back to being a part of a church and meeting friends, getting involved and growing spiritually.  This goal means going to church on Sundays consistently.

4.  Complete my SMU Graduate School Degree in December
I have two semesters before finishing my degree.  It's been a wonderful three years of learning and growing as an educator and person.  This semester I take a Kodaly Course and in the fall I will do my thesis/project and comps.  I have a 4.0 GPA and it continues to be my goal to learn as much as I can while pushing myself to be the best educator I can.  And continuance of getting high grades for excellence in my work is something I am continuing to strive towards.  Because - why not!?

5.  Clean our upstairs room completely and begin using it as a livable area to workout, play video games and lounge
My mom helped me get the upstairs room started.  We've got quite a bit that has been taken to Half Price Books and to Goodwill.  It has been used as storage until now and with all the plumbing and floor issues, it hasn't been a priority.  We are continuing to work through these issues, but the end is hopefully in sight.  Just cleaning out the boxes and things will be great!  Can't wait to have it usable and livable!

6.  Finish reading the entire Bible
I began reading the Bible using a YouVersion study in July.  I am hoping to finish it by June/July.

7.  Apply to teach a workshop/session at TMEA and offer workshops in local districts/Orff chapters/GSES
Self-explanatory... I want to challenge myself to step out there and present to other teachers.  This is something that brings out many insecurities as I often question my ability despite where I am.  It is something that I truly want to do and hope to have the opportunity to present someday.  Hopefully this year.

8.  Go on one date each month with Jeremy
I don't see him as much as I'd like to.  He's cute, fun and important.  Definitely need to make him a priority with all that we juggle.

9.  Limit myself to purchasing only one new unnecessary item for myself each month
Alright - so this one will be H.A.R.D (Humanly and Radically Difficult) for me.  Especially since I just got a killer bargain on the softest, nicest pair of khaki pants at Nordstrom Rack today for $15 (the first day of the year!!).  They were originally $70 so they were near-impossible to pass up.  Okay - no more excuses.  The reason for this?  I love to nickel and dime.  And while things are purchased inexpensively, it does add up.  I'm a great bargain shopper but need to become a bargain saver.

10.  Find a tv show series to watch
I find it challenging to relax.  This past year I found a tv series that I enjoyed called Hart of Dixie.  I watched a show almost every night for a month or two.  And actually liked it.  Hoping to watch The Crown.  Or Modern Family.  Something light-hearted and relaxing.

11.  Family Fridays
One Friday a month, I want to do an easy dinner that Jeremy doesn't have to cook and play games/Wii/watch movies/whatever with all of us as a family.

12.  Complete the Google Teacher Certified Educator Level One
I'm a little ways into it and loving it.  I've learned a lot.  My goal is to complete it.  Passing it may be challenging from what I've heard.  Going to go for it... and along the way, be satisfied with using the tools I learn to engage students in new ways.

12.  Do all I can to locate, contact and engage with my brother Jim
This one is a tough one.  I haven't seen my brother in at least three years now.  And I miss him.  The short story is that he is homeless and living in Savannah.  I'm not sure what we'll find or what shape he is in emotionally/physically and how his addictions are affecting him.  I do know that after finding out where he is, I can't stop thinking that there is hope for him.  The location is not exact, but through a God-ordained meet up with my former college roommate, I have hope that we can get in contact with him.  As long as he is living, there is hope.  This is something I'm prayerfully working towards as addiction is so hard and may result in more sadness than joy.  But not finding and contacting him results in too many other unknowns.  I don't feel I can risk that and be okay with it.
*For a blog I wrote about my brother, read here: Jim Blog Post

Goal Check for 2016

This year I set 12 goals and actually kept three of them.  Not a great average.  The crossed out goals show the ones actually fulfilled.  Cheers to 2016 and hope for 2017.

1) Read 16 books in 2016 
Read a good amount of books this year.  Definitely more than 16

2) Financial Check Ups
We were more consistent at the beginning and then got busy and the busy kept us from doing it consistently.

3)  Disconnect so I can Reconnect
Less Facebook.  Still could do less scrolling.

4) Write 4 original pieces for middle school curriculum as well as examine, restructure and design pieces around Music For Children Volumes. One piece per grade level!
I helped students write their own pieces, but didn't do this one :(

5) Teach a music education seminar/workshop
Earned approval from LISD to teach a workshop.  Haven't taught one yet.

6) Take a self defense class - Nope

7) Learn more Spanish with Duolingo and find ways to interact with others who speak Spanish.  Get a Spanish workbook to learn more.
Used the app fabulously but didn't use a workbook.

8) Travel as a family - Completed!
My parents had us out to their home in TN for Thanksgiving.  First family vacation for the four of us - ever! Julia's first plane flight.

9) Engage in meaningful and purposeful relationships
We had one family over during the year that wasn't family.  One.  Loved it, but wasn't enough time to really develop deeper relationships.

10) Continue my education at SMU towards my Master's Degree with excellence.
Completed and almost done with the degree.

11) Find ways and time to work out.
Yes, but not really. As in, I walked the dog often, but not much of anything else.

12)  Use our Crockpot to plan means ahead of time.
Use the crockpot.... never.  Never used it all year.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Thanksgiving in TN

My parents recently moved to TN and we were fortunate to go spend a week with them.  It was chilly and beautiful.

Julia had her first airplane flight into Nashville.  She loved the ride and had no issues until the landing when her ears wouldn't pop despite trying multiple ways to help them.  She loved the flight on the way home and had no issues.

It was fun to watch her experience an airport 'on the inside' for the first time.  We checked our bags and then proceeded to go through TSA screening.  We were stopped by an agent who asked us questions as he took our tickets.

Agent:  What is your name?
Riley:  Riley
Agent:  How old are you?
Riley: 9

Agent:  What is your name?
Julia:  Julia
Agent:  How old are you?
Julia:  6

Agent:  What is your name?
Me:  Jessica

A few seconds went by...

Julia: 39

The agent laughed and said he had a few years on me.

Agent:  What is your name?
Jeremy:  Jeremy

Virtually no time went by...

Riley and Julia:  41!!
Then they both giggled

Reading Noodles

For several years now, our girls like to rip their rigatoni noodles and then pretend that there is a secret message written on them.  They will read the message out loud to us and then eat it.