Sunday, August 03, 2014

Teacher of the Year

So a pretty amazing thing (or bunch of things) has happened in my life over the past year. I was voted Teacher of the Year at Columbia High School and then went on to be named Columbia County Teacher of the Year. Pretty fantastic for this engineer-turned-teacher to be given this honor among a group of wonderful educational professionals.

This summer I joined the other Florida District Teachers of the Year for an amazing three days in Orlando for the Macy's Florida Teacher of the Year event. It was a very inspiring few days that left me energized for my future in teaching. I was also fortunate enough to be selected for one of the special recognition awards. You can read more about my Champion of Children Award here.

There are so many things I want to write about all of this and I'm hoping to add more later. I know I don't blog much anymore but with teaching, our family business, and my three kids ... there just isn't enough time in the day.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

RIP Mowgli 5/22/97 - 5/31/14

Yesterday I made the difficult decision to send Mowgli over the Rainbow Bridge. She was a part of my life for 17 years and I miss her dearly. I knew this day was a possibility but I hoped and prayed that she would pass peacefully on her own without me having to make that decision. It felt like playing God and was not something I was comfortable with. Now that I'm on the other side of the decision, I feel like not making the decision would have been selfish. I feel like I gave her one last gift. The gift of peace and of being pain-free. She looked right into my eyes at the vet and I swear she was saying "thank you."

Mowgli was my protector, my roommate, and my road trip buddy. She was my 21st birthday present to myself. I picked her out when she was four weeks old and she came home with me when she was eight weeks old. My roommate Cari and I drove out to Old Town to look at some Beagle-Basset puppies. When I picked her up she put her head on my shoulder and went to sleep. That's when I knew she was mine. Cari and I used to joke around that she tricked us because she was never that calm again. She used to run laps in the apartment, literally bounding onto the couch and bouncing back off it on her way.

She was my companion for so long that I almost don't remember a time when she was not part of my life. We shared so many stories. When I moved from Gainesville to Merritt Island, she came with me. When I moved to Texas, she was there. When I drove between Texas and Florida on my own, she was there. She's been an apartment dog, a first house dog, and a lastly, a Crews farm dog. She lived a good long life and for that I am very grateful. She lived through several things that many dogs would not.

You had a good run girl. I hope you are running through fields, chasing rabbits, and howling up a storm. Maybe you'll even find some couches to ricochet off of.

If it should be that I grow frail and weak
And pain should keep me from my sleep,
Then will you do what must be done,
For this -- the last battle -- can't be won.

You will be sad I understand,
But don't let grief then stay your hand,
For on this day, more than the rest,
Your love and friendship must stand the test.

We have had so many happy years,
You wouldn't want me to suffer so.
When the time comes, please, let me go.
Take me to where to my needs they'll tend.

Only, stay with me till the end
And hold me firm and speak to me
Until my eyes no longer see.
I know in time you will agree
It is a kindness you do to me.

Although my tail its last has waved,
From pain and suffering I have been saved.
Don't grieve that it must be you
Who has to decide this thing to do;
We've been so close -- we two -- these years,
Don't let your heart hold any tears.


Sunday, July 28, 2013

School Supplies

Houston and I ventured to Wally World (that big box store everyone hates but shops at anyway) today to buy school supplies. I know the tax-free shopping days are only a few days away but I've decided my sanity is worth the $5 in taxes. I made that mistake only once. The overly rude people, crowded aisles and picked through shelves are not worth $5 in savings. As a teacher it bothers me to hear people complain about buying school supplies. If I go ahead and make that trip now I can usually do it peacefully. Usually ...

So there were about three other parents in the school supply section tonight. You know that nice little area they set up near the front of the store to help meet all your school supply needs except for that one item that is still going to require you to travel to the other side of the store before you are done with the list? Yep, that one. (It was tissues today.) It was almost a stress-free experience. Almost.

We casually picked our items from the nicely stocked and neatly organized pre-back-to-school-shopping-mayhem shelves and were almost headed to the checkout when a mom looked at me and very snarkily said, "This is ridiculous. Pretty soon they're going to make us start paying to send them." I'm pretty proud of myself for giving the polite smile and nod that I did. On the inside I was giving quite a stern lecture while jumping up and down flailing my arms around explaining how I am about to spend $72 for my own kids and then will proceed to spend several times that over the school year stocking my own classroom and buying things for my students and how dare she complain about supplying her own child with things needed for her free education so her very underpaid teacher doesn't have to.

This experience got me thinking. Do people just feel entitled to have everything for free nowdays? Do people not value the education their children receive for free? Don't people know? Do they know how much teachers spend? Do they have ANY IDEA? (sorry, had to yell) Maybe if people had to pay for it they would value it a little more. Maybe if they cared a little more then we wouldn't be in the situation we are in. Maybe? I don't know. What I do know is our education system is hurting, teachers are underpaid and undervalued, and too many people expect things for free. It's sad and it makes me worry for our future.

I get all excited like a kid at Christmas when students bring supplies to my classroom. It's awesome and unfortunately rare. I know everyone can't afford it but in my experience over the past few years I can tell you that I've only received supplies from a few students each time I've sent out a request.  I usually even end up supplying notebooks and pencils to many of my students because they never bring their own. I would rather spend the money to have them prepared so I can do what I'm there to do ... teach. And I know many other teachers do the same. We aren't in this profession for the money (obviously) and could really use your support.

So I ask you to please consider not complaining when you go buy school supplies. Consider it your contribution to your child's education. You might even consider buying the big bottle of hand sanitizer and getting the items marked "optional" on the supply list. (Crazy, right?) And when your kids are in high school, you could even still send in things like tissues, hand sanitizer, clorox wipes, etc. We use them too but don't have the nice little lists at the front of the store asking for everyone to purchase them for us.

Monday, July 15, 2013

New Addition

Looks as though it is time for my yearly blog post ... lol. Boy does time sure fly. We welcomed our third child, Mayken Hazel, two months ago. She is a sweetie pie and is absolutely adored by her big brothers. She followed in their footsteps as another big baby born at home. She weighed in at 11 lbs 1 oz. We were fortunate enough to have the same wonderful midwives assisting, Lynne and Jessica from the Midwives Cooperative. This was the easiest and shortest birth by far yet the most difficult pregnancy, most likely thanks to my full-time plus job combined with robotics season. It was all well worth it, of course, as we are all smitten with baby Mayken. 

If you are wondering about her name (if anyone even reads this), we named her after my late uncle/godfather Ken. She was born in May which I expected even though I was due in April. (My babies like to cook a little longer than most.) I came up with the idea of putting May and Ken together very early in my pregnancy. We explored other name options and narrowed down a list of six to be considered after she was born. It didn't take long after she was born to see that Mayken was really the only option. 

I've always loved the name Hazel. It's classic yet unique. It's the color of my eyes. It's also part of the name of our favorite band, Sister Hazel. The fact that she was going to be a little sister made it fit even more. And now that you know, here she is ...

Less than an hour after birth. 

About two weeks old. 

About a month old or so, at a robotics team fundraiser. 

About two hours old, meeting brothers for the first time. 

A few hours after being born. 

Eight days old. 

Two months and nine days old. Nice face, huh? I was making funny faces to get her to smile for the camera. Love my iPad, not so much the camera on it. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

RIP Tater: 2/5/2005 - 6/23/2012

We woke up to a very bad shock yesterday. Our sweet boy Tater unexpectedly passed away during the night for some unknown reason. He was the youngest of our four dogs and was only seven years old. He was a very sweet boy and will be very missed around here. 

Friday, August 05, 2011

Soccer & Summer

We sponsored a soccer team this summer that both boys played on. Last night was the last game and I finally managed to get some pictures. Houston scored three goals and Brody played good defense. They really love soccer. I think we found the sport they are going to stick with. We signed them up for a Coerver Soccer Camp next week. They are really looking forward to it.

In other news, I can't believe the summer break is almost over. More surprising than that, I find myself really looking forward to school starting back. I have a crazy year ahead of me with five preps and i'll also be taking three college classes each semester. Maybe i'm looking forward to it because I want to spit out the other side with my sanity intact and the faster it gets here the sooner I can say I survived.

We've had a great summer. The boys and I have stayed busy. Beach trips, scalloping, river, soccer games, museums, cleaning out the house ... all kinds of good stuff. :)

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).