Sunday, October 31, 2010

Halloween Fun

We went Trick-or-Treating at the fair last night. We weren't sure what to expect but were pleasantly surprised. The kids got more candy than any two kids should have and our costumes were a big hit.

And if you're wondering what happened to my blogging ... I've been meaning to post an update but there is just not enough hours in the day anymore. I took a job teaching AP Calculus, AP Statistics, Intensive Math and Academic Development at Columbia High. Yep ... back at CHS. It's a completely different place. It's going well but i'm super busy and still trying to catch up. Starting that far into a school year is not something I would recommend to anyone. It's rough but i'm making it happen. I'm still teaching at the college at night. As much as I love doing that, I could really use those hours back right now. We'll see what happens next semester. I'm not so happy about teaching Intensive Math again ... it's something I promised myself I would never do again but it's a stepping stone this time. I will probably be teaching math and science next year and really hope to not have four Intensive Math classes. I really enjoy my AP classes even if it is a ton of work to prep for. It's been many years since I've done any calculus or statistics so I have a lot of studying to do to stay ahead of my students. I'm putting in long days and lots of weekend hours. It will probably be this way again next year to some extent since I'll have some different classes. But ... I should have more time to prepare ahead next year. I was hired on a Thursday and started teaching on Monday. Three days was just not enough to catch up to where my students were. The first couple weeks were really rough but things are much smoother now.  

Monday, September 13, 2010

Music & Things

So much going on now ....

Houston is loving 1st grade and doing fantastic. So far he's made a 100% on all of his spelling and math tests. We're extremely proud of him. His piano lessons are going great too. I wasn't sure after the first couple of lessons but he's really caught on now and continues to surprise me by how well he can read music. It's all pretty basic but he's doing it.

Brody went to his first gymnastics class tonight. I honestly don't know that I've ever seen him so excited about something. He loved it so very much and did such a great job. He did everything the teacher asked and was very brave. His being vertically challenged may come in handy after all ... aren't good gymnasts usually shorter than average? ;o)

Music ....
I'm so excited that I've finally found my way back to music. Of all the things I've done in my life I miss music the most. There was a time in my life when several hours of each day were devoted to music. It's part of my soul really. And speaking of which, I found this quote online that I can't get out of my head:

Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” ~Berthold Auerbach (German novelist, 1812-1882)

Isn't that just perfect? I think so.

So I've been cruising along with my piano practice and making great progress in the method book i'm using. More on this later but I bought an electric piano. (total impulse buy, great deal, couldn't walk away) Turns out it was the best impulsively spent $300 in the history of my life. I really just wanted it so I could practice late at night without keeping the house awake or worrying about annoying everyone while I practice the same three measures over a hundred times until I get them right. I didn't think I would use all the extras but boy was I wrong. The day after I picked the piano up from the music store I sat down to play around with it. Craziest thing .... I ended up composing a melody. I didn't sit down with that goal or even the faintest thought of it ... it just came out. I was playing around with some of the accompaniment options and it just came out of my fingers. I was obsessed with it for about a week. Worked on it for hours and finally got it all written down and most of the kinks ironed out. It's been stuck in my head ever since.

Met a friend for coffee last night who happens to be a song writer. I was watching the boys play today while thinking of some of the things we talked about. She must have rubbed off on me because I ended up writing the beginnings of a song. Lyrics this time with a little hint of the melody line. The adrenaline rush and the therapeutic benefits of this whole song writing thing ... just amazing. Can't even begin to explain it. Now I just need to find the courage to learn how to sing and to actually share my music with people. Um yeah, that's part of the five year plan ... baby steps.

So besides the economy being in the toilet and me still not finding a job, life is pretty good. We're happy and healthy. Houston is proving to be a superstar at school and excelling in music. Brody looks like he's really going to be good at this gymnastics thing and is looking forward to turning five next year so he can start taking drum lessons. I'm immersing myself in music again and trying to get Brett to start practicing guitar again so we can start that family band I've always dreamed about. ;o) I just may find a way yet to be happy to be stuck in Lake City. When life hands you lemons, make lemonade right?

Monday, August 30, 2010

Houston Turned 6!

My baby turned six this past Saturday. We had a small party at the skating rink during the day and then made his requested dinner of shrimp, wings, sausage and veggie tray at home that evening. He got lots of great presents from his friends and family. He's been asking for a guitar for a while now so we bought him a 1/2 size guitar. He was really excited and now thinks he's a little rock star. ;)

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Piano Lessons!

Houston and I started piano lessons last week at First Street Music. So far we are both loving it. I've been practicing and so has he. I know it's only been a week but Houston has been practicing on his own without any reminding from me which I think is pretty great. He loves music so much and we're very excited to get him into it at such a young age. Our piano teacher is really nice and happens to be a retired teacher and is a substitute at Houston's school. He said she is the best because usually when they have a sub in music class they have to watch a movie but when Mrs. Brown is the sub they get to sing songs and play instruments.

I'm working through an adult beginner course and am moving pretty fast since I already know how to read music. Now I just have to learn the new clefs and get everything from my eyes out through my fingers. Practicing every day definitely makes a difference, as does keeping a log of what I practice. Accountability! I even volunteered myself for scale studies. I'm torn between playing classical and playing pop so we decided to go for both. I'm working on my classical piano studies while learning chords at the same time. We decided I would pick a pop song to learn along with my regular studies.

I'm hoping to build up a repertoire of popular songs I can play to entertain at family gatherings or just play for fun. Right now I'm having a hard time narrowing down my list to figure out which to learn first. It's mostly a mix of Disney songs and Beatles songs. I ordered a few piano books so when they get here it may be easier to decide. Memory from Cats, Yesterday by The Beatles and A Whole New World from Alladin are at the top right now. Every time I find a new book of songs online I find new songs to add to my list ... and more money I want to spend. A full-time job sure would be handy right about now. Trying to be patient and make the right decisions but I'm getting tired of this limbo business.

Houston discovered he can practice his piano lessons on his little keyboard. I found him set up like this a few days ago and caught a pic. He's really getting into it! He's super excited about the new music room too. I've been cleaning out and rearranging the house a bit and one of the spare rooms is now a music room. It's not completely set up yet but it's well on the way. It's crazy how many instruments we have in our house. I never realized how many there were until we put them all (except the piano) in one room. It will be a great practice spot and a nice place to relax.

Houston has really been wanting a guitar and wants to take guitar lessons after learning some piano. We are buying him a 1/2 size guitar for his birthday along with a DVD of lessons geared towards his age. Can't wait to see his face when he opens it on his birthday in just a few short weeks. :)

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Felted Bags

Finally got picture upload working again. Yippee!

Before Felting

After Felting

I'm still waiting for them to dry so I can add handles (belts).

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Happy 4th Birthday Brody!

Brody turned four today. Where does the time go? He brought cookies to Kountry Kids and then we had a fun birthday party with his cousins Turner, Weston, Meredyth and Keston, Aunt Karena, Uncle Brian, Uncle Matt, Papa and Nana. We had pizza and lady bug cupcakes with ice cream. He got everything he wanted for his birthday and is going to bed a very happy little four-year-old. Pictures to come ...

Monday, May 10, 2010

Wildflower Pics 2010

Thanks to Wrenda for taking these photos for us. You can visit her site here.









Friday, April 23, 2010

Jump Rope for Heart

Thanks so much to all of you who donated to Houston's Jump Rope for Heart campaign. He was one of the top six donation earners at his school. We just got home from watching the top six slime and pie their PE coaches on the morning announcements. Funny stuff!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

It's Garden Time Again

So remember the last couple of years how we'd have this great big garden growing and then it would get eaten by a fungus just as soon as the fruit was about to set? Well we've learned that this area has a really bad fungus problem ever since the '04 hurricanes. It also is apparently not killed by any known fungicide ... which is okay with me b/c I don't want to put that stuff in my garden anyway. We have to solarize (cook it under plastic) the garden plot for a good three months during the hottest months of the summer to get rid of the fungus. So it's a container garden for us this year. We got to work clearing out the old tree nursery. We bought a trailer full of mushroom compost, another of chopped pine bark, some humus and organic plant food and mixed our own hopefully super-duper vegetable growing potting mix. The nursery was quite a challenge to get cleaned up but we did it. We got everything planted and so far the sprouts are coming along nicely.

The Before Picture ... Yikes!

RIP Captain Kwame Waikenda - My Brother, My Friend

Often times in life I find that there is a balance ... one that I don't always like. It seems like happy things are often balanced by sad. Last week was one of those weeks. A knitting group friend of mine is pregnant with twins and with the help of her husband we planned a surprise baby shower. She was gifted with lots of great hand knits that I know she will treasure forever. I planned the event, made the desserts and knit two shirts for her twins. I love doing things like this so it was looking to be a fun week of last minute preparations. Babies are always happy occasions, especially in a situation like this where the parents are so deserving yet struggled to become pregnant.

So here comes the bad to balance out the good... A friend and fraternity brother of ours from college passed away a couple of weeks ago. We all just found out about it a few days before the baby shower. I'm still in shock. Kwame Waikenda was one of the nicest, happiest, most intelligent and driven people i've ever met. He's someone I wanted my kids to meet. You couldn't not be happy in his presence. We are all shocked and saddened by the news. I've coordinated an effort through our fraternity brothers to buy a memorial brick at UF in his memory and to raise money to donate in his memory to the Wounded Warrior Project. We also wrote an article to be published in The Gear, the national magazine of Theta Tau.

So once again the happy and the sad come together. I'm going to attempt to paste the article below. We'll see how it comes out. I've also scanned a couple of pictures from college that i'll add.

Captain Kwame Waikenda

August 14, 1976 – March 30, 2010

Zeta Gamma #124

Always Our Brother, Always Our Friend

It is with deep sadness that we share the news of our brother’s passing. Kwame was an amazing person full of kindness and joy. His integrity, motivation and positive disposition were an inspiration to those who knew him. He had an infectious smile and an incredible spirit. He will forever be remembered and deeply missed by those of us who were lucky enough to call him our brother and friend.

Originally from Kenya, he graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in Computer Engineering and entered the US Marine Corps. He went on to earn his wings and was promoted to the rank of Captain in 2006. Kwame had just returned from his second tour of duty in Iraq and was gearing up for a tour of Afghanistan when his life was tragically cut short. He was one of our finest brothers and countrymen and his service to our country will never be forgotten.

You can read more about Kwame at the memorial website created by his family:

In H&T,

Celena M. Crews ZG #61

Brett A. Crews ZG #89

Theta Tau brothers, Fall 2000 Graduation
Left to right: Marcos, John, Angela, Paul, Me, Kwame, Jamie

This was taken during a Theta Tau campout at "the farm" where we now live. Brett and I are on the far left and Kwame is on the far right, smiling as usual.

This is a little graphic I made to set as my facebook profile during the days of his memorials in NC since we couldn't be there.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Our Leprechaun Catcher

Houston had to build a Leprechaun Catcher for school this week. We had a blast with this project.

Leprechaun's love gold and rainbows ....

The rainbow leads the way ...

Look, gold!

The trap door ....

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Houston ... Future Engineer?

So yesterday after I picked Houston up from school we headed out to the back yard to lay in the sun. Had to take advantage of a gorgeous 70 degree day as we haven't had many of those lately. Well I loaded a few Circuits I lectures from MIT's opencourseware site onto my Blackberry and decided to watch one while I was laying in the sun. (reason for this in a later post) If you want to learn about anything that is taught at MIT I highly recommend their opencourseware site. You can download lecture videos, assignments, tests, course notes ... just about anything for any subject. So back to the story ... Houston, as Houston does, wanted to do what I was doing so he got another lawn chair and set up next to me in the back yard. I started watching the first lecture and he was like "what is that and why does he talk funny?" ... professor has an accent. Well then he had to see what was going on so he leaned over to watch. Kid was totally fascinated. I couldn't believe how long it held his attention. Then he started asking a bunch of questions like "is that high school?" and "do they have a playground?" ... funny stuff. I thought for sure he would get bored at any minute and go do something else. Nope. He wanted to sit in my lap so he could see better. He ended up sitting there watching the entire 41 minute lecture. I couldn't believe it. Houston has the attention span of a doorknob (nonexistent, it seems). He doesn't stay focused on any one thing for long at all. (Drives me crazy most days but he learns fine and I've been told he doesn't have that problem at school.) I was done with Circuits for the day but he wanted to watch the next lecture so I told him he would be able to see better if he watched it on my computer inside. Once he knew he could watch it on a computer he was insistent that I load the lectures onto his computer. Next thing I know Houston has me adding a network card to his computer so we can get him on the internet, download iTunes and start downloading Circuits I lectures to his computer. He now has the first four lectures of the Circuits I course at MIT on his computer. I'm curious to see if he remembers it when he comes home today and also to see if he actually watches an entire lecture again. I also wish I could go to MIT. As far as Circuits I goes, this professor is quite entertaining. My Circuits teacher never tried to blow up a pickle by sending 120V into it during any lecture I made it to. ;o)

Monday, February 08, 2010

Jump Rope for Heart

Houston's new school is doing JR4H in a couple of weeks. I remember doing Jump Rope for Heart at my elementary school. Things have certainly changed in the past 20+ years. When I did it we went around to our neighbors and asked them to pledge a certain amount for a certain amount of jumping. Nowadays kids get their own website to collect donations with. Sign of the times I suppose. Sure does make it easier to raise money. You can view Houston's page here. Thank you so much to all the friends and family who have already donated. Houston is really excited about this. We check his page every day and he is all kinds of excited about his goal thermometer being full already. :o)

Friday, January 29, 2010

The Known Universe

Just found the most amazing video on the Astronomy Picture of the Day site. Take 6.5 minutes and go watch this. Amazing.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Christmas Photos

Big changes are in the works around here but i'm not ready to blog about it yet. So for now, here are some photos from Christmas time.