Category Archives: Uncategorized

Getting Sentimental

I don’t think I’ve ever hesitated to welcome summer as much as this year. I just spent a few free moments reviewing class lists and thinking about next year and how much I love my students and look forward to seeing them in new classes and glanced out the window at some 2nd graders lining up from their recess. I’m not ready to be finished yet.

This is a weird spot to be in. I readily admit that some students and classes aren’t as easy to teach. Sometimes they’re not nice to each other or to me, and that’s usually part of why the break sounds like such a good idea. But this time I’ve crossed into some new territory where I just stinking love these kids and suspect I’ll feel a gap without them. We aren’t done making magic in the music room, you know?

I think I’m also crossing into a less introverted stage of life as well. Although I love my home, the idea of bumming around home all summer isn’t as novel as it has been. I suppose last year I was still reveling in the lack of grad school classes (a truly liberating feeling), but this year it’s a little less exciting. I’ll still pack my summer with projects, exercise, sleeping in, and time with people, but I’m not really holding my breath for it.

Before you think I’m an amazing teacher or not telling you the whole story, I should probably add that my body is responding as it usually does to the end of the year. I’m extra lethargic in the morning and most of my self-discipline to get up and going early in the morning is hard to come by. That means I’m also kind of grumbly about getting out the door, but once I’m at school, I’m good. Packing lunches, choosing an outfit, getting ready–not fun. School, much better!

Have a lovely, finally sunny day!

Those Darn Count Downs

I recently read a blog post by a music teacher who pointed out that some of our count-downs in education are sending the wrong message to students and community. It had never occurred to me that my shared excitement for an upcoming break (or weekend, I’ll admit) might communicate to my students that there are a bunch of places I would rather be than school.

If I’m honest, there are days where that IS the truth–that I’d rather be somewhere else (this morning my usual reading with coffee was very brief and full of yawns because I couldn’t get out of bed. A day or morning at home to soak in and enjoy it would have been enjoyed more than the rush to leave that followed). I love what I do, I love my students and want them to know that I have chosen to be here.

This year, for the first time in my teaching career (I’m coming up on 7 years. 7. What?) I am wishing summer was another month off instead of about 2 weeks riddled with interruptions. Between a late program and a student teacher (who was awesome!) I haven’t gotten everything on my list checked off for teaching students (concept-wise). I’m throwing stuff at them in a way I know is not going to serve them in the long run. Maybe I should pull the plug on the new stuff and reiterate the old stuff well in my last class or two. That might not be a bad idea, actually.

One thing I do appreciate about count-downs is the anticipation they build into something upcoming. Maybe I should count down to the next school year. It’s like the opposite of a traditional teacher count down. Hmm…93 days until teachers report back to school! 100 days until students report back to school!

I’m going to set some goals for the summer work-related and otherwise. And 100 days from now maybe I’ll have some cool things to report!


Last Year.

A year ago tomorrow I received an email from my realtor about the house I eventually saw, made an offer on, and bought. Now I live there and I love it.

I don’t remember much about my first viewing. It was during the daytime, and it was early spring, so some green had started to show itself (a year later it’s blanketed in Monday’s snow). The house was pretty empty, except for one of the seller’s meager belongings while they waited to sell it. There were some dingy paint colors and drapes. I remember being pretty happy with it, and then I saw the porch and the kitchen (with two giant windows) and audibly gasped. The next day before I made an offer I scheduled a second showing and marveled at the sunlight in the morning. I am writing from a similarly lit living room now reflecting on the goodness of God to make this house not only available (in all its right-ness for me), but also the growth in that year from Him.

Though living in a home alone could feed into my introverted tendencies to have my own space and keep it, I’ve been glad to have a home to host others. I could do that a lot more often (especially if I ever get around to buying bedroom furniture that would accommodate more than my sweet sister who will sleep on the hardest mattress ever made), but having the freedom to host others in my home has been huge. Cooking meals for them in that house, having room for them to park, and in a couple cases, room for kids to play, has been a gift.

Taking care of a house has been a growth area I’ve enjoyed, too. Did I enjoy discovering the rotten chicken juice in the garbage can after nearly a week of 90°F temperatures? Um, no. But I was the one who was responsible and had to deal. And I felt good afterward, once the gag-inducing smell faded a bit. Same goes for the annoying problems that required the home warranty company be called for the umpteenth time (for the record, I called them yesterday and they seem to have streamlined their automated system, though I still haven’t heard from the assigned contractor…). I’ve mowed for an entire season. I put on my brave boots and cleaned out the gutters on the backside of the house. I’ve squished some disgusting bugs.

I live in a neighborhood, too. As I’ve walked, run, and been around this part of the city, I continue to love it. I feel utterly safe here, and the people are friendly. My goodness, we had a block party this summer and just about everyone came. That’s huge. I never saw that in apartments (not that it can’t happen, but we were content to hurry in the hallways and avert our eyes whenever possible). My neighbors mostly know my name now (ha, a few of them don’t, which is awkward), and they are kind to me. It’s not the most convenient location for work, but I don’t mind the commute. It’s kind of nice to have that built-in think time before I get home. I can choose to plan my trip home to include stops, or I can make a mental list of things to do when I get home.

Did I imagine all of this (and more) being included in buying a home? No. I anticipated the quiet neighbors (not-shared walls, mostly), garage benefits, in-home laundry, and yard work. I thought I might like the neighborhood because I’d admired it before in passing.I’d heard that home ownership was hard work, and it is, but it has been worth it. I realize that many things can add to a house not being a good idea (finances, hidden issues, accidents and catastrophes), but this year has been sweet and beautiful. I will celebrate it heartily with thanksgiving to God.

a place for everything

I’m the type of person who has clutter. I’ve lived with clutter for a long time. Part of it is sentimental, I’m sure, as I attach meaning to items which make them hard to let go of (this is something that has gotten better over time, but I’m behind in making some decisions from a bunch of years of not doing so). I also attribute some of the clutter I’ve been dragging around from home to home to the lack of space available to put it away. That is a glaring reason to get rid of stuff, I know, but it’s overwhelming to sort through it all with limited space to begin with.

Space is not my issue any more, and I’m noticing a pattern of improvement. Keeping a passably clean house isn’t as hard when there’s a place for everything. There are still some problem areas (for example, the office/sewing room…I have a bunch of papers that need to be filed, but haven’t gotten to the filing system yet…I may need to get a…filing cabinet), but they aren’t out of control problems at this point, and I intend to address them as I address some of the other aesthetic features of this home (now that the initial to-fix items are crossed off the list). It’s energizing to realize that a pick-up is quick and that people can come over at a moment’s notice and be fine.

I should probably double check some lists for the day. I’ve got a few busy days coming up!


The Happy Housekeeper

Summer break is 3 days underway, and today was the most productive yet. I began with some facetime with K (three cheers, it worked!) and some coffee. After that I moved on to some cleaning projects that have been due for a while. The first was the storm door, which fortunately shuts very well now that my uncle straightened out the rod that works with the closer. Unfortunately, the hydraulics are kaput, so the door has to be caught to prevent it from slamming. Sweaty arm prints after runs this week have made it grubby. The other projects were cleaning up the kitchen sink/counters, and then doing all the wood floors. Tantalizing blog material, right? Perhaps it’s worth mentioning that the floors in their entirety require sweeping, swiffer dusting, and mopping with a special wood floor cleaner. Dedication, right there.

After that I made a plan for some errands and set to them, even stopping for a few non-essential items that I didn’t end up buying. A couple of those stops were for home decor items (Home Goods and Hobby Lobby). The trouble is a decision-making paralysis that hits about the second that I walk into the store…I know that I need a couple kitchen rugs or would like to find a decorative wall item, but I get there and I can’t think. My color palettes haven’t really been decided either. That would probably help. At this stage I’d probably end up with a rainbow in every room because I like them all. Except brown. No thanks, brown.

No day of errands would be complete without a stop at Menards. My newfound love for Menards is ironic because it was the least favorite stop of all my childhood errand-running days. Of course, the store has come a ways since my childhood, now offering everything from groceries to bathroom towels, and your standard home improvement fare, but it is pretty great and I have to remember to not buy everything. The rebates they offer on particular items are also pretty tantalizing. The first rebate check came back today…after my trip to Menards, of course.

When I got home, I chose yard work over a run, which I might still fit in tonight. I still love to mow my yard, and I found today’s diagonal stripes to be possibly the most efficient pattern in my yard. I’d done diagonal stripes perpendicular to today’s once before and had a lot of shorter strips to do (and the way they lined up with the trees in the backyard was annoying). I’ll have to remember this pattern for weeks when I’m in a hurry to mow. I finished yard work with some pruning. I have some privacy hedges that are doing well on top, but the underneath portion is full of dead branches and sticks. My uncle assured me I could clear those out without hurting the bushes. I quit a little early because the mosquitoes were thick and my yardy (waste receptacle) was full. I’ll have to keep at it next week and the week after.

Last on my list is waiting for the electrician to FINISH his work in the basement (!) and to enjoy the evening. The fridge repair folks are supposed to come tomorrow and diagnose my fridge (hopefully replacing it, but repairing it wouldn’t be terrible either–it’s been a couple works since it stopped working properly, so I’m hungry for some fresh foods). And then…carpet. On Friday. Can’t wait. After carpet is installed in the basement, I think all that is needed are a couple doors to be hung and some trash to be removed and I’ll be able to move stuff down there and enjoy it. I don’t actually have much to put down there (besides storage), but I’ll have the option!

Off to knit and enjoy the sunporch, which should no longer be subject to leaking in rainstorms (yesterday’s repair crew took care of it). I won’t leave anything precious out there until it rains hard and I can trust the fixes are secure, but what a great delight!

All the critters, all the love.

Life has changed since the last post. I haven’t gone back to pinpoint where I was when I wrote the last one, but I’m pretty sure it’s been more than a month, so it’s safe to say life has changed. I moved into a home, and it’s lovely. I had been looking for a long time (11 months with a little time off from September to February) and found the right home in the right neighborhood for just about the right price (there’s always some finagling with price, but I was happy enough with the ending).

One of the best features of my home is the yard. I am a novice to the yard care side of home ownership, and a tad bit on the relaxed end of taking care of some of the issues (i.e. googling when and how to prune things, where to plant perennials, etc. before jumping in), but it’s been a joy.

I have seen a lot of wildlife so far, as well. There have been three frog sightings, and happily, I can report that tickling a frog with grass does make it jump, which should mean a great deal to my students who ask me if it’s true in a song that I sing with them. Yes, dear students. Totally true. Unfortunately they aren’t as tenacious to resist the tickling as the game I play with the song would suggest. That isn’t really important, and I heartily emphasize that my joy is having animals at all!

Other animals have included a bunch of song birds, a nest of baby bunnies discovered while mowing (no one harmed, thankfully, and mama returned to the nest later), two lazy bunnies in the backyard dubbed Rip [vanWinkle] and Lavinia, and this morning a female turkey that crossed the road in front of my house to a neighbor’s yard. My previous experience with wild turkeys at my sister’s old house in Minnesota make me a little less excited about having those for neighbors, but if they steer clear (and can’t find anything to eat from the humans), I’m ok watching out for them.

I have been grateful to NOT see much in the way of bugs or spiders in my house, except for some sugar ants that occasionally trek across the kitchen counter or crawl along the inside of my dishwasher door. Moving into a house at the tail end of spring could reveal a lot of bugs making their home indoors, but that’s not the case. Thankful for that!

The home making piece is coming along. I wasn’t able to paint before moving in, and the basement is mid-reconstruction (water issue, thankfully not my financial responsibility), so it’s a work in progress. I think I’d like to start the main floor painting soon after school is out (June 3). I should probably find a color I like, first. If the color I ordered for the basement is suitable, I might just stick with it for the rest of the house too (perhaps in a glossier finish for the bathroom and kitchen, but we’ll see). I am also looking forward to adding some sewn and knitted items to the home (beyond what I already have made), but I may have a little extra ambition than what time will allow. We shall see.

It’s been a perfect, quiet Sunday afternoon, and as I fade into evening and prepare for the last full week of school in the school year, I’ll close with a few pictures.


On the days I eat breakfast.

On Saturday I was in town and stopped at my favorite grocery store (Fareway) which is generally too inconvenient to bother with during the work week (only because of my location and traffic around their stores). I picked up bananas and decided to try some smoothies again for breakfast. Three days into breakfast smoothies (1 banana, 3/4 cup frozen blueberries, a splash of milk and a glob of peanut butter in the magic bullet), and I think I am on to something. I feel really good (energetic and no headaches) in the morning at work, and that makes me extra happy. The true test is probably longer than a few days, but my “just coffee and maybe cereal” days might be over.

I should probably restock the bananas and frozen fruit, too. Luckily I feel up to grocery shopping after work when my days go this well.

Chicken Yakitori

My grandma Pat was a pretty amazing woman. Now that I’m an adult I really wish that I could reuse some of the time I had with her before she was gone.

One of the most special things that I have from her now is her handwriting. She usually wrote with ink pens in a neat, print and cursive hybrid and she was a great story teller in writing. I was able to get a few recipes of her copied from my mom when I left for college, and though I appreciated their instructions, tonight while making her chicken yakitori recipe, I got to enjoy her handwriting, too.

Although I haven’t seen it on menus at restaurants or heard of other people making it, I did a quick google search and discovered it’s not so rare as I imagined. The ingredient list is pretty simple, too. And as it happens, my other grandma really likes it (enough that she mentioned it in a recent visit). I made a batch tonight hoping to share some with her tomorrow. Here’s the recipe card, don’t mind the photocopied soy sauce stains:


You’ll notice some of my mom’s handwriting too, in some of the parenthesis. I made a few changes tonight:

1 tsp onion powder
1/2-1 tsp minced garlic
1/4 c. soy sauce
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp sugar
(no salt)
1/2 tsp (ish) ginger
1/8 tsp pepper
3 split bone-in chicken breasts, deboned and cut into 1″-2″ pieces.

In the past I’ve added some chili paste and fresh ginger, but I didn’t want to make it too spicy this time. I did happen to eat it with rice and sriracha for dinner tonight. I broiled the pieces, flipping halfway and measuring the temperature when both sides were pretty brown. I agree that it would make great kebobs with onions, cherry tomatoes, and pineapple and I might try it this summer. Some stir fried vegetables would go well, too.

Perhaps I’ll share one of my grandma Mary’s recipes sometime soon. She’s sent me a lot of excellent baking recipes (she excels at baking, among other things). Until then, lots more knitting, quilting, and gradual organization projects.

Knitting goals and sundry

It’s past my bedtime, but I’m quite awake, so I thought I would go ahead and write a quick post that I’ve been meaning to write. Since last I wrote I have finished grad school, including the comps I wrote about and the very full November of presentations and preparation. Life on the other side of coursework has proven to feel much lighter and brighter than it was before. I’ll take it in the dreary winter time when pessimism usually is quick to loom.

I’ve set a couple knitting goals for 2016, and they are definitely informal, but worth recording for the sake of the next year(s) that I’m checking my progress. The first, working down the WIPs. I have a number of projects on the needles at all times, which isn’t really the issue that bothers me. I’m bothered that there are projects that have been incomplete for months (or years) that are unlikely to become finished without attention. So far the WIP-it-down effort has resulted in a finished hat, a nearly finished blanket (the icord I’m applying to the border is not very fun to knit, but it’s a lot closer to being done than it was before), and a few socks. Ok, a couple socks. But they still count. I’m longing to cast on some new things, and am ready to, but am trying to show a little self-control.

Another knitting goal is to stop adding to stash. I have a sufficient amount of beautiful indie dyed sock yarn to knit nothing but socks for 2 or more years (which is to say a lot). That doesn’t get into the lace weight and worsted and minis I have around, either.

I am also hoping to finish two quilt as you go quilts this year. The first one is coming along; it’s a throw-quilt made with fabric from my grandma (from the year she got married, 1950 or so) and some fabric she’d gotten from her mother-in-law. Which is to say, some pretty cool retro fabrics. Some of them are remnants, and I haven’t been able to use the sheet she’d set aside for a backing at all (big brown stains from the box or moisture in the box they were stored in), but it might be ok after washing. I am thinking I might piece a few squares of that into the plain white backing and use more of it for a second quilt with more of the fabric from Grandma another time. We’ll see. My second quilt is probably going to be made from fat quarters I’d ordered from etsy this past spring.

Besides knitting and quilting, I am considering housing options again. That will pick up more when it isn’t January, I think. I know that purchasing a house doesn’t move so quickly that I would move in the dead of winter, but I’m not so motivated to look through houses when it’s cold and/or icy outside.

I may take up spinning, as K’s spinning is so lovely, but I’m a little worried I won’t take to it like she has. I already know it’s harder for me than it was for her, so there’s that. I might have some opportunity to sit down with her (let’s hope).

I think that’s all I have for now. It’s late, after all. Happy knitting!

The Night Before, again.

I have my last comprehensive exam tomorrow. I suppose it’s possible that I’d have to take it again, if I didn’t pass, but I’ve felt good enough reviewing for it that I took the entire night to knit. Of course, I took the day yesterday and the afternoon today to study (with some other bits tucked into last weekend and even this morning). The subject is theory (late romantic and post-tonal music) and though it can take time and I can make mistakes, the classwork was generically more the product of work and time spent than conceptual knowledge to be grasped. The work-based knowledge is easier for me to retain than the concepts, for whatever reason. The professor was also a pretty generous grader, so work exerted is at least considered for points, and that makes me feel pretty confident. I might not ace the test, but I’ve got a few other plates in the air lately, so it’s not a big deal as long as I pass.

Are these words coming from me? This is a former perfectionist who used to call home and cry if a test didn’t go well and then end up getting a ridiculously good score. I don’t think I’m as dramatic now, but the nerves before a test definitely kick in. I’ll be glad to have it over with!

The next hurdles to clear will be my poster for a session next week, the research project paper’s editing…and that might be it. I finished report cards today (I might go back through them just to be sure), and my program was earlier this week. I have conferences this coming week, which are traditionally pretty quiet, so I may be able to get ahead in planning if I can keep my nose to the grindstone. Next week begins a series of traveling weekends (technically tomorrow if you count the day trip for the test), so I’m going to have to be strategic about laundry, grocery trips, and knitting projects. I believe I only have 2 or 3 full weeks of teaching between now and Christmas (the other weeks are partial for various reasons including holidays and professional learning), which is scary. I don’t think I’ll start recorders like I’d hoped…but maybe I can pull it out with the fourth graders.

When it all comes down to it, though, details about comprehensive exams or lesson plans and knitting projects are pretty insignificant. The news tonight included a series of attacks in Paris that are sounding pretty awful by the reports and updates. I’m reminded again of the fragility of human life and the preciousness of faith in God and the love of those we hold dearest. There are so many things to be grateful for in this life, and so many things to be saddened by in this world. I’m confident in God’s sovereignty, though, and know that He is not surprised but at work.

That’s all. I should head to bed.