Monthly Archives: July 2014

Portion control

Don’t bite off more than you can chew.

Oh, sage wisdom. Advice like this makes sense in my head, and yet I can point to examples of my actions not demonstrating the learning. In relation to food I’ve figured out how to take reasonably sized bites so that I can taste, swallow, and maintain civility in eating (and let us be thankful for that), but my habits in the many other areas of life are something like the hot-dog eating contests you see on T.V. around July 4th–cramming in as much as I can in a short amount of time.

I’m encouraged even by assigned reading in a writing style book to set manageable goals that aid accountability and progress, but my focus slips and widens to the bigger picture and before I know it I am overcome with the weight of the entire task. I’m specifically referring to a writing assignment this week that deserves more attention before Friday but is being pushed out of the way by a combination of music theory assignments piling up, a barrier in resource-gathering, and close to no motivation to sit and be productive. It probably doesn’t help that my living room is filling up with boxes that are beginning to become resting places for piles of work for school. And there’s a fly that has plagued me for three days. He’s actually sitting on my leg in sort of a friendly, pet-like manner at the moment. So far Sir Fly has avoided the fly-swatter pretty deftly, so perhaps he deserves to stay alive to keep me company. As long as he stops landing on my forehead and hands we can sort of be friends.

I have this great longing to create in the midst of this brain-power-turmoil. I want to practice lettering (not a new thing, just embellished letters and doodles…they’re all over my school notes), write letters to people, knit things, sew, play guitar. It’s impractical with the amount of time in a day that I actually have available to work (which is limited by things besides school as well, mostly good things). For now I relish the first cup of coffee as do-not-disturb time, a little bit of exercise (less than I’d like) to scrape up endorphins, and the intentional “sleep-in” planned for Saturday.

I know things aren’t really that bad, that I’ve had busier schedules and harder emotional seasons, but it feels like a lot right now. I have to keep in mind that it’s almost over (10 theory lectures and 8 writing lectures remain) and that the end result will be worth the trouble.

For now I’ll toast to a rocked music theory test (granted, by my lowered standard of “rocking” tests for this class…B is passing…and I’m thankful for that) with a glass of orange juice.

I can’t complain…but then I go and complain (again)

I might be an attention-starved adult. 

I’ve noticed that my tone, my topics of conversation, my time alone reflecting looks a lot like grumbling and complaining. What is it for? I think it’s attention.

School and moving have overlapped. It’s not wise timing and I wouldn’t recommend it based on the stress each of those tend to carry on their own (at least for me)…but my complaints don’t really ease up the burden. It might evoke a little pity or some extra help, but it’s not the type of character I would hope to be building. And I think it makes each respective aspect of life right now feel worse. I keep thinking…oh, I wish it were August 1st…and then I remember, as sweet as it would be to have that behind me, with the stress comes sweet pockets of relationships that I have right here around me.

I wake up ready to complain…too early, not enough coffee, not enough motivation, etc. That complaining isn’t good for anything at all…there’s no one to tell me how it’s going to be, let alone sympathize. I just fight with the alarm until I feel guilty enough for being lazy that I get up and drink as much coffee as I think to make for the day. Motivation doesn’t come easily…not until 5 or 6 in the evening when I feel like I have a blank slate. I spend hours every day wishing the hours were over because my heart is grumbly. I contemplate social media venting once in a while, but usually resist because I consider the audience that will see it (my sister said once, would you stand up on a chair in a crowded room and shout that status update?…uh, nope. probably not). I also rationalize that graduate school and moving were never advertised as being easy, and how do I expect social media to respond…”uh, yeah, moron! join the club and move on!”

When I think back to common conversations with people, friends or strangers, my tendency is to paint a bad picture. Not quite to the extreme of “I have it worse than you” one-up-man-ship parodied on Saturday Night Live skits, but stories spun and manipulated in such a way that I look better for having lived through them. I’ve noticed that in other people and thought it was obvious, but forgot to see it happening in my own conversations. Am I doing it here even now? It’s deeply ingrained, apparently.

My box-checking nearly-perfectionist tendency would be to scrub out that spot (make a plan to keep those words from coming out) and start over, but I have a feeling this isn’t a one and done eradication effort. Knowing that the mouth speaks out of the overflow of the heart, I have got to check what’s been filling my heart. I think it’s the things that deprive me from craving and devouring the richness of God’s Word…comparison, discontent, idolatry, jealousy, anger, worry. I could go on. I am encouraged by the promise in Jeremiah that God is found when we seek Him, that He is with us (from Joshua), that His mercies are new every morning (Lamentations 3). When I consider His grace is ongoing even where my repentance stops, I am relieved and grateful. He’s right there…maybe in my tiredness tomorrow I’ll remember the grace He has shown me in growing me out of an ungrateful and attention-seeking attitude…even if just a little bit overnight.

Fluffy Yarn Ball of Grandeur for Music Teaching

This fluffy ball is about the size of a dodgeball...with fur.

This fluffy ball is about the size of a dodgeball…with fur.

One of my favorite elementary music classroom elements is the “Fluffy Ball”. I use this yarn ball for passing games like El Florón or echo practice games, and it’s heartily enjoyed by students. Because they are really soft, they are really easy to catch for most students (and if a student is not paying attention, it doesn’t hurt to get hit by an underhand toss…even an overhead toss, though I discourage that for multiple reasons in most settings).

I took this idea from Kris Versteegt, former president of Kodály Educators of Iowa (and bought one of hers through KEI’s store available at their workshops). The PVC niddy-noddy I already had from my sister made the wrapping of bundles a lot easier, but isn’t necessary, as you can wrap the yarn around a board or a book.

You’ll need:

  • a pound of yarn.
    I have made this with the Red Heart Super Saver (three 6 oz) skeins, but the Caron pound skeins are handy and there’s often a coupon off one regular priced item at JoAnn’s or Hobby Lobby.
  • an object with about a 12″ perimeter/circumference
    (a hard cover book that is 5″ wide and 1″ thick would do it) or you can make bigger loops and tie them off into 12″ sections before cutting.


1. Wrap small bundles
I started out with the book and wrapped 75 times around. Carefully slide it off the book and use another piece of yarn to tie it tightly. Cut the secured loop opposite of the knot you tied to yield a 12″ bundle with a tie in the middle.

With the niddy noddy I wrapped 2 yard loops (still 75 times) and tied in six equally spaced places. I then slid it off the niddy-noddy and cut halfway between ties.

2. Wrap bundles together.
I like to lay a long strand of the same yarn on the floor and stack the smaller bundles like a pile of logs perpendicular to the long strand (or you can line up the ties with the long strand…same thing…you want to tie them in the middle of their 12″ length so your ball isn’t lopsided).

Once I have a few I tie around them tightly, flip it over, tie it again, and flip it once more so that the long strand is on the bottom. Do this every so often, using another long strand if you need to, as it will make it secure and is a lot easier than only at the end.

It doesn’t need to be neat. If you get it to be neat you’re spending too much time on it. If you see some loops that didn’t get cut, no big deal, as you’ll be giving it a shaping next.

3. Cut it up
I have always thought learning how to cut hair would be awesome. This is as close as I’ll probably ever get. Rotate it a lot and look for parts that don’t look even. Shake it out every now and then as well.

By the way, this makes a mess. I recommend doing this on a surface you can sweep, swiffer, or vaccuum immediately because even held over the garbage can, there are fuzzy bits everywhere. I made the mistake of doing this in my classroom over the grabby industrialized carpet once…and I had students picking up fuzz all day long.