Thursday, May 31, 2012

Tubular Tunes

Don't you love that 80's word, "tubular"?

I've kind of made it tradition to share each year some awesome music that my students have brought in for their favorite song presentations (this year I called them "Beautiful Song" presentations). Since I am now teaching at the high school level, I had the kids write a 1 page typed paper citing specific things (instrumentation, dyncamis, texture, etc.) that they found beautiful about their song. I got some excellent responses and have a whole list of songs I want to download when I next have at-home access to the Internet. In no particular order, here are some of my favorites.  They are from all different genres and decades (some of these are classics I am embarrassed I didn't know as well as I should!) and I love that my students have a strong  sense of their own individuality.  In middle school, they all tend to lichoose the same songs.  I must have heard Taylor Swift 100 times.

"To whom it may Concern" by Civil Wars
"Where the Streets have no Name" by U2
"Tower of Sand" by Chris Merritt
"Don't Wake Me Up" by Chris Brown
"The Chain" by Ingrid Michaelson
"Imagine," cover by Jack johnson
"Mr. Sun" by Sammie J
"A Lighthouse's Tale" by Nickel Creek
"Hugs and Kisses" by Heavy D
"Hey Jude" by the Beatles
"Ebony and Ivory" by Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney
"I Won't Give Up" by Jason Mraz
"Of Monster's and Men" by King and Lionheart
"Hotel California" LIVE VERSION by the Eagles
"Human of the Year" by Regina Spektor
"I Know Where I've Been" from Hairspray, sung by Queen Latifah
"Lovely" by Sarah Hayes
"Bye Bye" by Mariah Carey, Little Wayne, and Akon

Proof Posiitive...

...that I caught the bouquet.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Memorial Day Weekend

Friday: Went with friends to see my friend Rachelle's choir concert, directed by a friend of mine, Erin Pike Tall.  The choir is called the Salt Lake Symphonic Choir and they did lots of beautiful American heritage pieces like, "Wade in the Water" and "Pilgrim Song." They actually meet in my choir room on Wednesday nights, coincidentally enough, through the community ed program.

We went out to eat afterward at a place open 24 hours a day that serves waffles with fried chicken.  Obviously not something I could indulge in, but I thought it was a fascinating concept.

 Saturday: I decided to leave town for the weekend. Destination? The exotic vacation spot of Provo, Utah! Because Provo has something no where else in the world has: my little sister, Christina!

We started off the day going to the temple. I don't know that we've ever been just the two of us. It was so nice to be with my sister in a place where I am reminded that families can be together forever.

Next, we went to Tucanos to have lunch. Jer had a birthday gift card and I always love a good excuse to eat Brazilian food! I ran into one of my AP's from the mission and his wife. He is a Brazilian native and it was fun to catch up.  There were very few things I can't eat there, including the infamous pao de quixo, or cheese bread. 

We then headed to one of our favorite little stops, New Nails, for pedicures to kick off the summer.  Because I am in Joseph and have to wear sandals on stage, I couldn't go bright like I would have (and like my sister did!).  But it was so glorious to be treated so well. It's a labor of love to massage someone else's feet.

Sunday: I got to attend church with Tina and Jer, who are primary teachers in their ward. It was a fun change to be in a family ward and their six year old students are adorable.  One of my favorite moments was when Jer asked the kids to share something fun they did over the weekend.  One of the kids can't say his 'r's very well.  He said, "I played the Wii. I played Mario Party." One of the other kids said, "MARIO POTTY?" It was pretty funny.

My other favorite part was when Tina and Jer tried to explain why sitting on the Savior's lap is so much better than sitting on Santa Claus' lap (the lesson was "Jesus Loves Me."). It was really quite amazing to watch their view change. At first, they all said they'd rather sit on Santa's lap. But after the simple sweet teachings of Tina and Jer, they changed their minds. Jesus, as their teachers explained, made it so our families can be together forever.  We can't take presents with us to heaven, but we can take our families.

When we got home, I crashed and Tina made an incredible gluten free meal. Seriously, she never ceases to amaze me with her culinary skills. She is amazing. She made cauliflower soup like the one at Zupas, only with gf flour.  Read more about it here.  She also whipped up gf chocolate chip oatmeal cookies. Soooo delicious!

Nothing beats family. I am so grateful for the Savior for making it possible for us to have these eternal relationships. Love you, Sis!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

One of the best things about teaching choir... the tradition of flowers at concerts! I adore seeing these beauties in various places around my house, thanks to my students, my Aunt and Uncle, and my friends from my ward.

Concert Highlights:

  • One of my students sang, "Because You Loved Me" with her foster mom. No one may have understood why that song was so significant to them, but I know those words were coming from that little girl's heart.
  • I had a group of Polynesian students audition to sing a cute little song while one of them played the ukulele.  They auditioned late and the program was full, but I put them on as a "pre-show." It was a big hit and they were so sweet up there!
  • My madrigals sang a vocal arrangement of "The Can-Can" and we planned for them to bust out dancing in the middle. It was funny :-).
  • I had a "Sing-Off" competition at the beginning of May where my mads competed in small groups with original a cappella arrangements of popular songs. We patterned it after the T.V. show. They worked on their songs for about a month in and out of class. We then held a performance for all the parents and had three judges critique and grade them. The runner-up and winning groups were asked to perform at the end of the year concert. The runner-up group was "The Plain Bright Ribbons" and they sang "Rhythm of Love," arranged by one of the girls in the group. The winning group, "Sunny Disposition," sang "Here Comes the Sun" with some sweet beat-boxing by the boy in the group who arranged the piece.
  • Two of my seniors sang, "The House that Built Me" while one of them accompanied on the guitar. It was exquisite and received lots of positive feedback from my other students.
  • One of my students who isn't as social as the rest of the kids in choir sang a gorgeous Italian piece and really knocked every one's socks off. I was so excited that she was able to shine.
  • My level 2 choir did an amazing job with an Italian a cappella piece called "Amor Vittorioso". They remembered their words and sounded so much more advanced than they did at our first concert (I wondered if Rodgers and Hammerstein would EVER forgive me up in heaven for what we did to Edelweiss!)
Concert Lowlights:
  • A boy in the audience yelled out a girl's name on stage during a moment of dead silence. Without thinking too much, I turned around and said, "Classy" to the audience. My friends got a big kick out of that and made sure to tell me afterwards what a "classy" job I did.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Say Yes to the Dress

I had my own personal "Say Yes to the Dress" moment a couple weeks ago. On a whim, I decided I needed a new dress for my end of the year concert (I don't). I dropped by Nordstrom Rack down the street from where I work after school one day. Even though it's the discount version of Nordstrom, a lot of their stuff is still really expensive. I decided to try anyway, and went to the dresses. Not long after looking, I found an absolutely beautiful gown, kind of like a prom dress. There was only one and it was just my size. It was sleeveless, but had a wrap with it so I decided to try it on and experiment with the extra material.

It was absolutely beautiful! And, the best part is that it was marked down to $50 (originally probably $200).  I noticed on the back of the dressing room door a list of alterations that could be done by the in-store seamstress.  While adding sleeves wasn't specifically listed, it said to ask about other alterations.  So, I gave it a shot. I showed her the wrap and asked if she could transform it in to sleeves.  She said she could, and she looked the dress over very carefully to make sure there were no tears in the fabric. She said something marked down that much often had a big defect.  We found the zipper needed repair, but she could do that, too.  Then she told me the total for the alterations: $85!

At that moment, I felt deflated.  It was the magical dress meant just for me, right? But the alterations were 1.5 times the price of the dress! Well, I didn't feel deflated enough to turn it away. Without thinking too much about it, I marched to the register.  I chatted with the lady at the register about how the alterations were going to be more than the dress. She promptly threw me a sales pitch I couldn't refuse (and I usually refuse).  If I signed up for a Nordstrom's debit card (money comes directly out of my account if I use it), then I would get $100 of free alterations every year. My alterations would be covered! I totally did it. I am now the proud owner of a beautiful dress with sleeves made just for me...and a Nordstrom's debit card.  Was it the right choice? Not sure. But I still get a thrill every time I think about wearing my dress.

And it's my big concert tonight! Can't wait for the dress debut.  Probably I don't need to wear a prom dress to my concerts. But probably it's the best excuse in the world to do it anyway.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Rise all loyal....Utes?!?!

Everyone knows that while blood is blue on the inside, it turns red when outside the body. Or is that just a wive's tale? At any rate, it is an appropriate analogy for the next few years of my life. While BYU is closest to my heart on the inside, I am going to be a Ute on the outside as I study music education in grad school at the University of Utah! I will still be teaching full time because I love my job desperately (and grad school isn't free it turns out :)), so I may go part time and take an extra year to finish. But I'm not in a hurry and I'm excited for this new adventure. I owe it to my students to learn all I can in order to be the best teacher I can be for them. I started telling my sophomores about getting my master's at the U and I said, "while I'll always be a cougar..." They stopped me and said, "Uhh, Miss Houston, you might not want to say that..." Oh yeah. A Cougar isn't just a BYU fan or alumnus anymore. Sad.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Knows the Back Wall Like the Back of Her Hand

I am going through blogging withdrawals! I have a whole list of things I want to blog about. They are just day to day things that are probably quite insignificant to most, but these experiences are the substance of what I call my life. I hope to get caught up soon. Having no Internet is a blessing and a curse. I have really enjoyed doing more reading and cooking (what?!) but I miss writing.

I'm on my lunch break and just had to share one little story. I do awards for the kids at the end of the year. For all of my choirs except the madrigals, I let the kids give suggestions of positive awards they wanted to give their peers. Using their ideas, I made the final decision. When I got back the lists, I was shocked to find an award the boys in my level 2 choir wrote in for me.  Nearly every single guy wrote something like this:

"Knows the back wall like the back of her hand award."
"Doesn't look at her students award."
"Stares at the back wall award."

I can't describe how totally dumbfounded I was when I read each version of my award written by my students. In college, we were actually taught in one of our education classes to beware of developing idiosyncrasies because the students will pick up on them and make fun of them.  Well, it happened. And I had NO idea.  When I stopped and thought about it, I realized that when I tell stories or talk to the kids, I don't make eye contact with any particular student. I kind of look up at the wall behind them. I don't know why! But I asked everyone of my choir classes after that if they had noticed I did that. They absolutely did. I was in shock.  Why did no one mention this before? The boys told me they would always turn around and look at the wall whenever I did, but I never noticed! I probably just thought they were being weird. 

Well, since they told me about it, I've started becoming more aware and I've been trying to look directly at the kids when I talk to them. And it's hard! And when I tried looking at them, they would look away. HA! Not as easy as you think, suckers!

Gotta love being a teacher. And I really, really do.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Who are you and what have you done with me?

My life is taking some dramatic turns.  I don't even know myself anymore.

1) Since the whole Celiac's diagnosis happened, going out to eat is not as much of a party anymore.  It's just a reminder of everything I can't have. may need to sit down for this one...I have begun cooking a meal weekly. I KNOW. ME. I honestly never, ever thought I would see the day.  The phrase, "I like cooking now" came out of my mouth recently and I honestly had a hard time getting the words out.  It felt so foreign coming from my lips.  I cook a big meal on Sunday or Monday and eat the leftovers throughout the rest of the week. Two weeks ago, I made pineapple soy chicken.  Last week, I made chop chop. This week, I did a chicken/onion/potato sir fry thing that I kind of invented. That's right, INVENTED.  (Okay, it wasn't the most delicious thing ever, but it satisfied my hunger and is a lot better than cold cereal which was my previous "at home" dinner staple.) I didn't even use a recipe! Now, this may seem like boasting to some readers who don't know me very well.  But this new step in my life is the same thing as saying, "I learned to read this month."  It's something everyone else knows how to do and I have been WAY behind. I'm only just now catching up.

2) We have begun doing choreography in play practice. I feel like I'm living in a parallel universe. Since I quit tap in 8th grade, I didn't think I'd ever be performing dance routines in a public setting in front of hundreds of people.  Now, please don't assume I was cast in the show for my astounding dance technique. In fact, there is a 77 year old woman alongside me performing the exact same choreography.  But it has been a lot of fun. Thank heavens for community theater where normal people who have harbored secret dreams of being on the stage can have the chance to do it in a safe, non-threatening environment.

3) I've always loved reading, but have not made time for it in quite some time. Due to having no Internet at my house, I have replaced my daily episodes of murder mystery T.V. shows for books. 

 I recently finished Matched and Crossed by Ally Condie and am looking forward to the arrival of the third book in the series.  It is a futuristic book about a corrupt, totalitarian environment. And it's a romance. The romance part is a little cheesy...I have a hard time buying the deep and abiding love of 16 year old teens who barely know each other (like unto Twilight). But I'm hooked. I have never denied my indulgence in cheesy romances (Anita Stansfield?) 

I read the first in a series by Brandon Mull called The Beyonders. That was a step outside my standard genres of historical romances, princess romances, LDS romances, etc. It's a fantasy book featuring a 13 year old protagonist. I actually ended up really liking it, even though it took me awhile to get in to it. I look forward to the second book.  

I also read a beautiful book called, When Crickets Cry by Charles Martin. It's about a man whose wife died from an enlarged heart. He meets a little girl who has the same condition and the book is about his coming to terms with his wife's loss. I really enjoy reading books that teach me about topics I am unfamiliar with, like the human heart.  

I am in the middle of a book called, Knowing Jesse which is an autobiographical work about a woman whose only son died from complications related to cerebral palsy. It is inspiring. She fights to know the heart and soul of her non-verbal child and ignores anyone in the medical field who tries to place limitations on what he can do. 

I guess the past few months have taught me an important lesson. People can change. People can learn to do new things. People can even learn to like new things.  New Katie, it's been nice to get to know you. I hope you'll stay awhile.

Oh, Happy Day!

Happy is the best word I can use to describe this couple on their special day. They were all smiles the whole day through. There was never a moment of stress or anxiety. Nothing but love and joy radiated from their faces. Even Celeste's colors were all bright and happy. It was very appropriate!

Celeste was radiant! Here she is just after greeting a little nephew.
Happy Bride!

Happy Groom!
Happy friends!

It was so fun to catch up with my old roommate Angela and her husband. In between the sealing and reception, we took a very important trip to the Banana Republic outlet and grabbed dinner. I realize just how much I miss my dear roommates when I get to spend time with them. We missed our fourth roomie, Brie, who lives in Minnesota with her little family!

Guess who caught the bouquet...? guessed it. It was promptly taken directly out of my hands by a little 3 year old girl and I never saw it again.  It's okay...she probably has a better shot at getting married before me anyway!