Sunday, May 26, 2013

Harry Berry Bilberry

If you have kept up with me on facebook you know we got a cat.  We adopted him from the animal shelter one week ago today.  His name was Joon, but we renamed him Harry.  I just couldn't call him a female name.   I threw out some names and the girls and I agreed on Harry.  And it just seemed too fun to give him a middle name of Berry so we went with it.

I think I started getting the idea of getting a cat when I saw one of my student's cats.  This cat was the most laid back cat I had ever seen.  He'd hop in the van with his family and go for rides like a dog. When the van door opened up, there'd he'd be laying on the two year old's lap just as relaxed and laid back as could be.  Now I realize this is not typical of most cats, but it gave me hope that there are cats out there that aren't neurotic.  My only cat in college was neurotic.  She was sweet when she wanted to be but never let us pick her up and cuddle on her and very temperamental.

SO...when we went to the animal shelter I had my list of qualifications for the perfect Bilberry cat that went as follows:

1.  Must be laid back

2.  Must be a cuddler

3.  Must let us pick him up and hold him

4.  Playful is nice, but not mandatory.

Hard to tell, but he's holding his mouse here

5.  Short hair cat only

The shelter only had one male cat, Harry.  She thought he fit all those descriptions.  He was out in the play cage when we arrived.  So we were able to go in with him and interact with him.  I picked him up and right away he started purring.  That was my first clue that this might be theeeeee cat.  When I put him down to interact with the kids they waved toys in front of his face and he started playing with them.  I gave the girls the option of going and looking at more cats at other shelters before we made a decision but also told them I would be OK with adopting Harry if they wanted him.  They were hooked.

We paid for him and arranged to pick him up the following morning after we had made all the arrangements for his arrival at home.  He was a little scared at first and spent most of the first two days hiding under the couch but totally OK with being petted as long as we petted him under the couch. 

The first evening he came out out of his shell when the kids went to bed and became wild man.  He ran from one end of the house like a bat out of (*(*#O*.  Occasionally he'd stop and get on the bed with me and lay on my ear and purr.  I got very little sleep, but it was worth it because he was happy and so sweet. I'm sure not being locked in a cage all night was quite a great experience for him that night.

By day three Harry really started warming up to being our pet and was rarely under the couch.  He started following us around, chatting with us on occasion and being very receptive to the girls playing with him.  By day four or five it was like he was just part of our family.  The kids like to go "cat fishing" and he is happy to be caught.  Kadyn picks him up all the time and drags him around the house.  He is super playful and plays with all his toys.  He especially likes his toy mice.  It is so stinking cute watching him roll around with those tiny mice.

He hasn't been bad about getting on counters at all.  He's tried it twice and got squirted for it. Not a fan of the water bottle.  We'll see how often we have to break it out.  He was clawing our couches until I put his scratching post inbetween them and sprinkled catnip on the post.  He is now obessesed with his post, clawing it like crazy, rubbing on it, rolling on it, and sleeping on it.  I took the shelter's advice and rolled him up like a burrito in a towel to trim his claws.  He was a real trooper for that.  I think he may just get to keep his claws.

His favorite perch is the top of the rat cage.  He is greatly amused by Daisy and curious about her.  Their first face to face meeting he freaked out.  Then curiosity took over and he decided he wanted to have more of her.  She went for him from the first moment they met.  I thought Daisy would be scared, but apparently she is one brave rat!  I still watch him like a hawk when Daisy is out with the kids.  He has never tired to pounce on her, only swat at her, put his paw on her and a few times tried to bite her.  I think, but am not entirely sure, he was trying to do playful biting (the kind he does with me when I hand wrestle with him), but I didn't let him do it long enough to find out.   The water bottle comes out when he does that and he heads for cover.
We call this "Cat TV"
As you can see, Daisy is just as curious of him as he is of her

We sure do love him and he has wormed his way into our hearts very quickly.  I am so happy to provide a pet for my girls that will be around for a long time (I hope).  I grew up with pets and they were a huge part of my life.  I adored them as a child. I wanted to provide that same opportunity for my children. Now I get too.  Welcome Harry Berry Bilberry!  

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Told the kids

Today was my last music day with my K,1,2,3,4, and 5th graders.  I decided it was time to tell them I would not be back next school year.  I recieved blank stares, understanding stares, angry stares, and tears. Two of my most ornery kids in my kindergarten class took it really bad and were torn up, right away.  As I was packing stuff up in my van, the older kids shouted to me from the playground, "Ms. Darci, don't leave us!"  They also told me they wanted to take a field trip to come visit me next year.  I got lots of hugs as they left my room even though they know I'm not officially gone until Friday.  Sweetness!

It was hard to tell the kids but the great thing about it all is that I could incorporate my faith into my speech which made it an easier pill to swallow, especially for the older kids.  They could understand that I have a calling, I have a gift, and I am fulfilling that calling by accepting my new position teaching music all day long, every day.  They could understand all the talk about God opening doors because it is his will for me.     

I pray that they will be able to replace me.  Finding someone to do music, who is qualified, for only a few hours a week, and for very little pay, may be tough. I am the first teacher to create a real music program for this school and without a piano (another big feat).  It has been very well received by everyone!  The kids get amped up every music day and I love that!  I think all kids should have the opportunity to have music as it really enriches their lives, and if I could get on my soap box for a minute, it has been proven to improve student performance on assessments. 

So, this is it!  My last two days await me and then it's another chapter closed in my journey.  I will miss the kids for sure.  I am grateful for the opportunity to have been able to teach core subjects for the first time.  This really was the PERFECT transitional job and I'm am very confident and ready to go at it on a much larger scale next year. This job also confirmed to me that

A.  I love teaching no matter the subject BUT
B.  I will always have a sweet spot for teaching music

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

It's all a mind set

During my journey to get my career back, I really played A LOT of the "what if" games.  I know every person out there can relate.  It's an AWFUL game to play.  It's depressing, defeating, maddening, you name it!  Towards the end of my journey, I learned how important it was to focus more on the present instead of getting stuck in the future.  Doing this allowed me to see more answers to prayers.  Doing this gave me a better sense of security and peace.  I am glad my journey ended with the answer I was hoping for.  I know if the answers had been contrary to my desires I would've played the game all over again next year.

Recently I read an article in my Prevention magazine, about a brain scientist who had a stroke.  Because she knew the brain so well, she was very aware what was happening to her as it was happening.  You would think that she would've been scared, but instead remembered thinking, "Whoa, this is so-o-cool! How many brain scientists get to witness their own mental deterioration from the inside out!"

This totally shocked me, so I kept reading.  She goes on to say this about her stroke:

"This was the blessing I received from my experience: that nirvana is just a thought away-or, in my language [of science], deep inner peace exists in the consciousnesses of our right hemisphere.  And at any given moment, you can choose to hook into that part of your brain, into a peaceful state, if you are willing to stop the cognitive loops of thought, worry, anger-any ideas that distract you from the experience of being in the here and now.  What my stroke did was shut out all those moments: it silenced the dominating, judging voice of my left mind.  And when that happened, my consciousness dwelled in a flow of sweet tranquility."

So basically she discovered that one side of your brain is responsible for all those "what-ifs" and once you realize that, you can choose to "not listen to them, and tune into the present moment." We do not have to view ourselves as a "single consciousness" because both sides of our brain actually, "have different ways of looking at the world."

As I pondered and chewed on this over the last 24 hours I thought to myself.  I need to do a better job of CHOOSING to say no to that game I always play.  On the other hand, I do think the what-if game has its place.  It forces us to plan.  Planning is good and necessary to an extent.  Being a forward thinker can prevent a lot of problems.  SO, I think a certain level of what-ifs can encourage some positive behaviors.  On the other hand, I think all too often we let it get away from us and dominate our lives so much so that we begin to obsess over things we can not control OR plan for.  We get so transfixed on living in our future that we forget to stop and enjoy the now.  So, this year I want to work on this.  After all, when you pray for things that are in the now, you are bound to have an answer one way or another by the end of the day.  Answers to prayers whether they be in your favor or not, at least in my case, strengthen my faith.  To me, any answer, good or bad, means he's listening.  Knowing he hears me makes me feel loved.  Choosing not to play the what-if game also forces me to cast my burdens on Christ which also strengthens my faith. I know this is his will for me.  It is biblical.  So here's to another year of living and enjoying my now and planning for my future, but not obsessing over it.  As my mother always says, "What will be, will be."  At the moment I feel like I'm in a good place, but know trials come and go, so trying to hide this plan in my heart for the future.     


Sunday, May 5, 2013

It's a done deal!

Friday I was able to go to my new district and sign my contract.  It's all real now, folks!  I am officially a contracted employee for a public school system again!  I also had the opportunity to tour my home school and check out my classrooms in both of my schools.  My K-1 classroom was HUGE!  It is by far the largest classroom I've ever had.  It also has a huge storage room that is about the size of my kitchen!  My kitchen is small for a kitchen, but for a closet it is big.  I've never had a storage closet before. And it is complete with costumes and props for future performances.  OH MY, I CAN HARDLY CONTAIN MYSELF! 

I was able to meet several of the staff at my home school.  Nice, nice people.  I feel that I am going to love working with these people.  They rave about each other.  While I was touring the school one kid randomly came up and hugged me.  Another declared, "You're pretty!"  Aw!  Kids after my heart already.  Gotta love primary!!!  A parent helper raved about how the school is really the best out there.  The halls and classrooms were COVERED in student art work and projects.  In one room I literally had to dodge paper trees that went from the ceiling to the floor.  They were working on a forest project.  There was an aquarium in almost every room with some sort of critter.  The school had almost the same feel as Branson schools that I have been so impressed with the last two years.  Needless to say, I have no reservation switching my kids to this district and these schools.

Turns out the switch is going to be easy.  There is no fee, and I will not have to do any extra work to enroll them because the district obtains records from prior schools on their own.  All I have to do is fill out some paperwork. Easy peasy.  I had originally planned to have Bren stay at her current preschool, but the logistics were going to be tricky. I asked about the preschool at my new district thinking they wouldn't take her because of income restrictions.  Turns out there is no income restrictions for their preschool and they had one opening left.  I found that so interesting.  It was like God was holding it open just for us.  Now B can be in the same building as me again and taking her too school and taking her home will be snap.  Lunches and snacks will be provided as part of her tuition.  No more sack lunches!!!! Yipeee!  It was incredible out much time it takes me to prep sack lunches for my kids and myself each night.  Kadyn will be in a different building but they will shuttle her to my building at the end of the day and she is allowed to hang out in my room until I can leave.  Should I ever need to stay late for meetings they have a wonderful after school program that will watch her and it only costs 20$ per year!  Before school care is free for teachers so that is a nice little perk too!

My admin is so incredibly supportive.  She ought to be, I'm taking her old job!  She apparently has been bragging how great I am to the staff before I even got there.  Warm fuzzies people!  I wasn't sure if having her as my boss would mean she would push her old agenda on me.  It is proving to be quite the opposite.  She has said over and over to me how I can run my class however I wish.  She has offered to hold onto her materials for me or toss them all if I want her too.  This proves to me that she won't be overly critical of me if I don't do things the way they "used to be done."  I also know since she taught music for all those years, she will be my number one advocate!

It is amazing to me how every single puzzle piece of my life right now is falling perfectly into place.  I am so thankful to a God who is making big moves in my life right now and fulfilling my every dream.  My only problem right now is not being able to do it all in my first year. I have big visions of decking my room out and all the fun and cool lessons I want to do.   Time and money will always be my limitations.  I will have to do a little each year until I get my room decked out the way I want it and I will try new lessons every year.  It's a nice feeling knowing I can finally settle with this job.  I plan on being there for many, many years Lord willing.  There are no more moves in our future and no more babies to have.  I have arrived.

Sigh!  Sweet bliss!  Next year is going to be the best yet!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Geting antsy

It's been awhile since I accepted my new job.  I am still waiting on a contract to sign.  Getting antsy.  My logical side knows there is nothing to worry about.  My irrational side tries to worry over nothing.  I'm just ready to sign on the dotted line and rest in peace that this step in my life is finally real.  So excited!  Should be arriving any day!

Last night was our last music concert of the year.  It was the biggest one for me because I  put the entire thing together.  I was only involved in the music for Easter and Christmas Pageants.  For this concert I wrote the script and added several things our other concerts didn't have like solos and instrumental parts.  I choreographed every piece and the entire school was in it!  It was well recieved and was adorable, in my opinion.  I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of preparing for it and directing it.  I was totally nervous at the beginning when I did my welcome and thankyous.  It's been awhile since I have spoken in front of large crowds.  Used to do this all the time when I was teaching before, but I'm out of practice after 6 years of daycare at home.  Weird to think my next performance is likely to be in front of a crowd several times larger than this.  There are 250 students at my first school and 320 at my second school for next year.  Eek!  Good times are ahead!

 One thing that is for sure with my new career shift to vocal versus instrumental is that mistakes made during a performance are so much more exposed and easier to make.  EVERYTHING has to be memorized which makes it more difficult to prepare for.  Lyrics and choreography can be forgotten.  During an orchestra concert, all you needed was your music and baton, and you were good to go.  This is an adjustment for sure.  A little more pressure, but a good pressure.  Despite a few hiccups in rehearsals last week, our performance last night came off mostly flawless. 

I actually feel like I am going to be a better musician and teacher teaching vocal music.  It has forced me to get better at piano.  I have been able to accompany my beginning strings players in the past, but there is certainly room for improvement.  I have been practicing like crazy lately.  I also have to be better at ear training.  Teaching children how to sing solfege (do re mi) without an instrument takes some skill ya'll.  Sightreading with the voice is so much more difficult than sightreading on an instrument.  Not only do you have to get the rhythm right, but you have to get the pitch right.  It isn't as simple as pressing a button, key, or string and getting the right pitch.  You have to mentally hear the next pitch in your mind and feel the skips and distance between notes in your mind to be accurate.  I am excited about these changes.  Anything that makes me a better musician is good in my books. 

I am ending my year with such excitement for my future that lies ahead, but also with a little sadness for the students I will be saying goodbye to at Appleseed.  They are a good bunch and I've grown to love them all.  They do not know I am leaving yet and I won't be saying anything until school is almost out.  Some of them are already saying how they don't want to move up a grade because they don't want to leave my class.  Sweet kiddos!  Teaching Kindergarten has certainly been a fun learning experience.  I blows my mind how far my students have come since I took over.  They are reading like champs!  They are adding and subtracting.  They can count by 1's, 5's, 2's, and 10's.  They can read analogue time.  They are spelling up to 5 letter words.  They are starting to count any combination of quarters, nickels, dimes, and pennies.  I'm not sure I was even doing these things in Kindergarten.  It's weird to think if I had stayed, I would've been starting all over with ABC's again with a totally new group of kids.  Amazing how far a kids can get in one year of instruction!

I am really looking forward to my summer withe girls.  I have big plans to do summer activities and vacations, but also, I will be practicing my piano, making manipulatives for my class, and creating lesson plans.  I have a feeling if I blink summer might be over. 

Goodbye Daphne

Those of you who follow me on facebook know we lost one of our furry friends, Daphne. And you if you follow my blog you may have remembered that I mentioned we suspected she would be leaving us for awhile now.  Last week she really started to decline, so much so that we contemplated having her put down.  She was literally falling over in her cage and unable to even hold her food.  I switched her to a one level cage and started putting her food on the floor so she could eat with her mouth like a cat or dog eats their food.  Rats typically eat their food like a human eats a hamburger, so eating like a cat or dog is actually unusual.

Anyhoo...she started improving.  She started eating like normal again and her balance improved.  We thought maybe, just maybe she would pop out of her health scare.  We got her out Monday night to play with her.  She was doing fairly well, then suddenly she started to have a siezure.  We held her and watched her die in our hands.  It was very sad.  Everyone cried except B, she is still too young to comprehend what death really means.  What surprised me the most (and he would probably kill me for telling you this) my husband took it the hardest out of all of us.  I LOVE how big his heart is. We all buried her in the back yard together and said a few words. The girls lined her grave with rocks and flowers.  She will be missed.

I think the hardest part for me is to know our other little ratty, Daisy, will be all alone now. They were the best of buds and their bond was heart warming.  You could tell they loved each other.  They were always grooming each other and snuggling together.  When they were younger they would wrestle with each other.  The good news is that Daisy is in excellent health and still as ornery as ever. There are two types of rats: a rat's rat, and a people's rat.  Daisy is a people's rat, even though she loved her sister.  She lives to get out of her cage and hang with her people.  She plays with us, snuggles with us, and just clowns around.  Our little dog in a ratty body.  It's so sad that such wonderful critters have to have such short life spans and get such a bad rap.  Here's hoping we will get plenty more time with our little Daisy.