Monday, April 28, 2014

Festivals, Tacos, and a Wedding

Last week, my Concert Choir had their "large choir" festival at Woods Cross High School.  We are a very small large choir :-).  We have about 30 kids and some of the other schools brought large choirs of well over a hundred students.  We were the smallest choir by at least 10-12 singers.The way I announced their scores to them in class was by showing them our progress over the past three years at large choir festival.  I is the highest score (superior) and V is the lowest score.  Growing and improving every year is absolutely the most important thing to me. They were proud of themselves and I was proud of them.  Jean Applonie, one of my greatest mentors from BYU, was one of the judges.  She actually interviewed me the first time I applied to hte music ed program at BYU over ten years ago.  Having your teachers as judges so many years l after graduation is very intimidating!

Reading their notes from festival proved to be incredibly entertaining. 

This kids notes were so hilarious.  I even sent them to his parents because I got such a kick out of them.  This is just a brief part of a much funnier whole.Three schools coincidentally sang one of the same pieces, which is what he is referring to in the top comment. 
 My madrigals performed at state on Saturday, along with a couple piano soloists, a vocal soloist, and a male quartet.  While our madrigals state scores weren't as high as most of the other schools, it was a very good experience for us. We have improved steadily over the past three years as well. Ironically, one of the judges was Dr. Broomhead, the other person who interviewed me when I applied for the music ed program!  Two of my college teachers ajudicated my choirs within two weeks of each other!

I went with a friend to a gourmet taco place called Taqueria in Sugar House. It was DIVINE.  And I almost had a panic attack eating the gluten free Mexican donuts below. So. AMAZING.  And SO gluten free!! Eating those little bits of wonder was a life changing event. I could not even speak and had to savor every little bite.

Two of my students from choir last year got married this weekend.  I was really grateful for the music note ribbon my grandmother gave me that made wrapping it a whole lot easier, and the gift tags Tina gave me for Valentine's Day from Jer's work (American Crafts). I didn't know very many people there and ended up sitting at a whole table full of my students.  It was kind of weird but actually quite fun. 

There is water in the bottom of that glass square! And pebbles! So cool.
As I was taking a picture of the cake, I realized it was an oppotunity for an epic selfie. Or maybe just an awkward mirror selfie. 

Friday, April 25, 2014


Today is Friday.  And I couldn't bear to do the same old thing today. So, I hopped on the Internet to find some ideas.  I wanted it to be musical and to challenge my kids, but be fun too.

One person suggested doing the "Hoedown" as seen on Whose Line is it Anyway?  Genius.  I got on youtube and found out they have a karaoke track with instructions on when to start singing and which lines have to rhyme.  Now that I have a projector, life as I know it has completely changed.

So now for my most difficult challenge: finding hoedown examples from the T.V. series to present to the kids that weren't dirty.  Nearly impossible.  I guess when people are on the spot, they tend to gravitate toward unsavory humor(?).  Or maybe that's what viewers want.  Anyway, after sifting through many clips, I finally found one where three of the four people participating weren't inappropriate (I had to skip over Drew Carey's).  It's the Backstreet Boys Hoedown.

So naturally I realized I needed to give students a music history lesson on boy bands before I could show the hoedown clip.  I had them list all the things they knew about this unique 90's genre (many of them have older siblings who liked these groups).  Here are some of the things they came up with:

  • Frosted tipped hair
  • Hair like top raman
  • Falsetto
  • Lots of harmonies
  • Attractive boys (one of the first things my Ladies Ensemble contributed to this conversation)
  • Baggy clothes
  • Dancing 
  • No instruments

We watched the first part of N'Sync's music video, "It's Gonna Be Me" (but be careful to stop halfway through...the guys start dancing with girls in swimwear and it's not appropriate to show high school boys).  I also showed them Backstreet Boy's music video, "Tell Me Why." Soooooo funny to watch.

Next, I showed them the Backstreet Boys Hoedown, minus Drew Carey.  The last guy is really funny because he talks about people can't be part of a band unless they play an instrument.

I then played for them the karaoke track and sang an example of my own, written in an AABB structure, just like they do on the show:

I teach high school choir and my students are really funny
They make me laugh and make me cry so hard it hurts my tummy!
When we sing our music, we make some awesome chords,
With students like the ones I have, how can I ever be bored?

Then, I had the class come up with their own verse together on the board.  My ladies ensemble wrote one about Nutella and my men's ensemble wrote one about Domino's pizza.  We practiced singing it with the karaoke track 3 or 4 times so the kids got used to the tune and timing of the hoedown.

Next, I had the kids get in to groups of four.  They were to pick one topic and each write a verse about the topic they picked.  They could write the verses all together if they chose, but they needed four verses total.  Each student was in charge of singing one of the verses. If he/she did not want to sing alone, the group could sing along with him/her.  Their groups performed together in front of the class along with the karaoke track.

I loved seeing the kids' creativity. It was also nice to hear some of them bravely sing solos.  Kids wrote about Hunter Hayes, Frozen, apple juice, spring, summer, each other, not knowing what to write about, and themselves.  It's best to give two ground rules; first, it has to be appropriate and second, it has to be kind.

In my men's ensemble, I got volunteers to actually try doing on the spot verses. It's so hard!

This is a good activity for a Friday toward the end of the year when the kids are squirrels!

General Conference Moment 2

In his talk, "If Ye Lack Wisdom," Elder Aidukatis discussed man's search for truth.  He said, "In the kingdom of God, the search for truth is appreciated, encouraged, and in no way repressed or feared."  I LOVE this about the gospel! We are invited to seek truth for ourselves.  We are not supposed to rely on words of others.  

 He makes a good point though, when he poses the question, "how can we recognize truth in a world that is increasingly blunt in its attacks on the things pertaining to God?" This resonated with me.  I've noticed more and more that believing in God is mocked and considered foolish.  Subscribing to moral standards is considered childish and viewed as repressive.  How can we seek truth without being influenced by the voices of the world?

Elder Aidukatis wisely advises us to test for ourselves the words of the scriptures and living prophets.  Try sincerely and diligently living the moral standards the gospel teaches.  Try praying to God and cultivating a relationship with him.  And then observe.  Are you happier? Are you healthier? Are you more full of love? 

And there will be your answer. 

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Faster than a Speeding Bullet...

What do this guy...

and this guy...

have in common?

Their alter ego is this guy:

Read here and here and here to find out more about my Dad's heroism.  He did not want me to say anything about this on my blog, but once it hit the news I decided to exercise my freedom of press. 

My dad got nominated for the kind of thing he does all the time without thinking twice.  His life is about helping people, plain and simple.  It comes naturally to him.  He doesn't think about his own welfare first (it was admittedly rattling to hear after the fact that he chose to intervene during a struggle between a violent criminal and a police officer!).

This reminds me of the infamous story where he picked up a hitch hiker who later pulled a knife on him. Yup, that's my dad.

And I couldn't be prouder!

General Conference Moment

I'm going to be honest. I fell asleep during a good chunk of the Sunday afternoon session of conference.  I'm embarrassed about it, yes.  But we are so lucky to have such an amazing online resource on so I can read (or watch or listen to) everything I missed!

This morning, I was inspired by a talk by Elder Teh of the seventy.  I'm going to confess something else. Ready? Sometimes after conference I focus mostly on the talks given by the apostles and first presidency.  I am seeing the error of my ways!

Elder Teh talked about laying up treasures in heaven and not focusing on material possessions.  Such a grest talk!  Here are the four things he suggested we work on developing in place of worldly wealth:

1) Christlike attributes of faith, hope, humility, and charity.
2) Family relationships (I loved this one!)
3) Service to others
4) Our understanding of the doctrine of Christ (studying scriptures specifically)

Great reminders. So grateful for inspired leadership!

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A "hoot" of a shower!

My friend Shelly is having boy/girl twins!

 I was in charge of games.  First, we did a name scramble where guests had to create first and middle names for each of the twins using the letters of Shelly and Tyler's names.  Shelly voted on her favorite boy name and her favorite girl name and the winners each got prizes.

Next, I showed the guests everything in the yellow bin above.  I then hid the basket and they had to write as many items from memory as they could.  The winner got a prize. About seven of the items had a little card with the price written on the inside.  We played Price is Right with these items and whoever got the least amount of difference without going over won a prize.

We have an amazing ward and Shelly probably had at least fifty people come! It was wonderful.

Shelly's sister-in-law chose an owl theme and found this decorated duct tape to put around the water bottles.  Such a cute idea!

For food, we decided on parfaits.  I definitely want to use this idea again in the future.  Guests could fill their cup with angel food cake, yogurt, yogurt/cool whip mix, strawberries, and granola.  It was the perfect light refreshment for an 11:00 a.m. shower.  It wasn't too sugary, but it was also filling. The biggest perk was how easy it was. Three of us split up buying the ingredients and no baking was involved (the cake was made by the Smith's bakery :-)).


Kate organized a bib making station. 

This was mine.  It, of course, has my actual phone number written on it, but I wasn't sure putting it on a public blog would be in my best interest!

I thought this one was especially clever.

The twins' daddy loved this one!
Kate, the one who made the invitations, organized a drawing for anyone who brought a pack of diapers to the shower.  The above picture shows most (but not all) of the diapers they received! I was amazed. People were so generous and brought many other beautiful gifts as well.


Sunday, April 20, 2014

What a Life! Day 14

This has been a really great experience for me. I don't think I knew what kind of impact this exercise would have on my life.  It was refreshing to look for joyful moments in every single day.  It wasn't always easy- sometimes I had to think hard to make it to ten.  But it was fun. I watched for joy.  As things would happen, I'd say to myself, "That's going on my list today!" I sometimes had to look at negative situations and find the positive (for example, see number 4 on the list below).  I was also able to evaluate what makes me happy.  For example, I realized that for as much stress as food causes me (especially chocolate), it is rarely what brings me the most joy throughout my day.  Eating experiences rarely made the top ten.  That helped me to realize that I can easily give up unhealthy eating and not experience a loss of joy.

So, with a little bit of sadness, here is the last entry in my "What a Life!" series. 

1. I was able to talk very briefly with my dear friend Georgia today.  Her words brought me joy as I saw again, like so many times on our mission, how deeply rooted her faith is.  This is a translation, and it doesn't come across as beautifully in English as it does in Portuguese.  But she said this: "I don't know if time will alleviate the absence I feel of her, but my love and my desire to be with her again will be my strength every day."  I have rarely read more touching words.  The gospel offers hope when all seems lost.  We have to make the decision to grab His outstretched hand and hold fast until the day comes when we can better understand our trials.   

2.  Today we did a fancy conductor swap during Sacrament meeting that was pretty funny! My friend was conducting the Sacrament hymn and her daughter was crying for her.  Her husband came to the stand so the toddler could be near her mom, but it became clear she wanted to be in her mom's arms, not just nearby. So, the husband handed their daughter to his wife right as the song started.  She valiantly held her daughter with one hand and started conducting with the other.  The little one started to get fussy and squirm, so I decided to rush up to the stand and we traded places, mid song.  That was a first time experience for either of us, I'm sure! It gave many in the congregation a little chuckle, but hopefully it was the right choice and not a rash decision on my part. 

3.  I had the opportunity to visit another ward's young women today.  The young women program in our stake is very small, but their leaders are so loving and faithful.  It was such a joy to meet the two young women in the ward I visited and find out a little about them. I was pleasantly surprised to hear one of them is going to Highland next year and is planning on taking choir with her twin! That DEFINITELY brought me joy, especially because I have heard them sing together before.  Can't WAIT to have them in my Ladies Ensemble!

4. I felt joy in consequences today.  The dreaded stomach cramps that are the hallmark effect of Celiac Disease on my body plagued me this afternoon.  It's about time. I have been cheating and eating wheat for a couple weeks now.  I don't feel immediate effects after eating gluten, so I get away with much more than I should.  Today, I actually felt grateful for the reminder to take better care of my body.  I am inspired to be better. 

5.  My cousin Ryan, who I have always been close with, invited me to go visit our sweet Grandmother today. We had a really wonderful time, and were able to have a heart to heart conversation with our Grandma.  She has led an extremely interesting and difficult life, but has always been optimistic and faithful.  She is also a trooper- she has survived many surgeries and life-threatening illnesses because of her good attitude.  We asked her what three pieces of advice she would most like to pass down to her kids and grandchildren.  The first thing she said was adaptability. The second accompanied the first- she said it isn't so much about the situation you are given, but how you deal with it.  The third thing was, "Love them no matter what!"  She said this can apply to either a spouse or a child.  I am grateful for her wisdom and the decision she makes not to dwell on the fairness of life and the trials one receives compared to another.  No matter what circumstances one finds him/herself in, he/she should make the very best of it. 

6.  Jeremy's parents and grandparents have always been so sweet to me, ever since before Tina and Jer were married.  They invite me every time they have Tina and Jer over for the holidays because they know my parents are far away.  That really touches me.  So I headed to Kaysville this evening and we had a lovely Easter dinner and dessert (though I had to eat the beautiful shortcake without the cake due to number 4).

7. I got to see my little Monkus again- can't get enough of this boy. He probably made my top ten list 20 times (at least) over the past two weeks.  Being an aunt is so incredibly fulfilling for me.  I just wish my Ellie Bellie lived closer!! I can't wait to go see her at the end of July and get in a LOT of play time.  She has such a vivid imagination and I think we could come up with some pretty amazing games of school (though I will let her be the teacher!).

8. Cam, Jer's little brother, needed help coming up with a skit because he is running for eighth grade student office. I've known Cam since before he was baptized.  In fact, Tina and I went to his baptism while Jer was on his mission! Together, Cam and I got to work writing a skit.  Cam introduced me to all the songs that are popular right now and I helped him write a script using excerpts of the songs as part of the dialogue. They used to do those ALL the time at DPHS and I don't think they see that as much around here. So hopefully, it will be unique! The past couple days have been difficult and it was nice to focus on something different and fun.

9. Okay, this may be a life record, but a dog has made my top ten AGAIN.  Twice in fourteen days.  Family, you can pick up your jaws from the ground now. But seriously, I have never seen a dog this small in my life. He's a teacup poodle. It was funny to see him crawling excitedly over little Scotty (who was very patient, I might add).

10.  Number ten is something from yesterday.  After I heard about Gilda's death, I went to Sugarhouse park and walked for over an hour and a half, listening to music and trying to make sense of my feelings.  One song in particular touched me.  It's a song I know well, but it resonated with me in a profound way last night. 

 What I Did for Love from A Chorus Line

Kiss today goodbye,
The sweetness and the sorrow.
Wish me luck, the same to you.
But I can't regret
What I did for love, what I did for love.
Look my eyes are dry.
The gift was ours to borrow.
It's as if we always knew,
And I won't forget what I did for love,
What I did for love.
Love is never gone.
As we travel on,
Love's what we'll remember.
Kiss today goodbye,
And point me toward tomorrow.
We did what we had to do.
Won't forget, can't regret
What I did for

Sometimes, the heartache we feel is unbearable.  Loneliness is one of the most suffocating emotions we experience.  When in the throws of despair, we are tempted to ask ourselves if love is worth it.  Why love when the loss of it hurts so badly?  It is, however, our memories of love that give us something to live for.  They bring us joy as we share them with others.  I can't count how many times my mom has told us hilarious stories about her spunky, 5 foot nothing mother, and we have all laughed together (there once was a little miss who went out to piiiiiiick some flowers...).  But the one with the most joyful sparkle in her eye every time these stories are recounted is always my mom, because she lived the memory and now gets to treasure it forever. 

This concept applies to any relationship where we cared for someone deeply but later find ourselves mourning their loss, whether from death or a devastating breakup.  Was it worth the cost? This song reminds me that love is a risk worth taking, even when it doesn't turn out the way we anticipated.  I recall moments in all my dating relationships that remind me how joyful life can be.  I remember what it felt like to love and be loved.  And that brings me happiness.  I sometimes look at the stupid things I've done in relationships and feel a little embarrassed for caring so much.  But it's through loving people that we learn how to love, and that's not something I can ever regret.

Does that mean it's easier to put my heart on the line, knowing that love will be worth it one way or another? No.  It's increasingly more difficult, and sometimes I think living with the memories can be enough for me.  It has to be enough for me.  But the line, "Kiss today goodbye and point me toward tomorrow" reminds me to look ahead and try again. And again. 

Saturday, April 19, 2014

What a Life! Day 13

This isn't the type of entry I expected to be writing today; I received some very startling and sad new.

My dear, beloved mission companion, Georgia, lost her mother suddenly today.  She died of a brain hemorrhage, just like my maternal grandmother did when my mom was in her early twenties.  One minute she was there and the next minute she was gone.  My heart aches for my sweet friend and her family.  I can't even imagine the pain she is going through.  I know how much Georgia treasured her mother, just as I treasure mine.  I won't even allow my mind to contemplate a life without my mother.  It's more than I can bear.  I wish there was a way I could ease her pain.  After recovering from the shock, I did the only thing I knew I could- I dropped to my knees and prayed for the Lord to be with her to comfort her.  I am so grateful for the power of prayer that makes it possible for me to somehow express my love and concern from so many miles away.  

I had the privilege of meeting this wonderful, faithful woman when I was in Brasil in January. I have included a couple excerpts from my travel journal that illustrate Irma Gilda's service to me. 


Excerpt #1

Well, we set off for several wedding errands and it was intensely hot.  I didn't bring water and, as I mentioned, I hadn't eaten anything.  We ended up being gone for about 6 hours and by the end, my entire body ached.  The jet lag kicked in, as did the lack of food and water.  My head ached unceasingly and the ride home was one of the longest of my life.  I have been so determined that this trip is about Georgia's wedding and I want to do everything in my power to be helpful and not get in the way; but, when we arrived home, I went straight to bed and her mom brought me water, cooked me dinner, and Georgia gave me medication. Her mom also set up a fan for me and did my laundry.  Talk about a humbling experience...way to not draw attention to myself! Moms are the same all over the world and I was so grateful for Georgia´s mother tonight.  As much independence as I´ve gained, it´s obvious I still need gracious, loving people to help me through this mortal life!

Excerpt #2

In the middle of all of this, Georgia's mother is the one who is making the wedding dress. She is finishing some last minute alterations, but it is beautiful!! She also made her own dress for the wedding. And would you believe that yesterday, she kept making sure I was well fed? I am one of about six thousand people coming in and out of this house and she is concerned because I have been sick. She took all my laundry again and before we went to the church in the evening, she brought me into the kitchen where she and Georgia and fixed an entire dinner plate full of food with freshly squeezed juice just for me. No one else was eating! Talk about good people.  What an amazing trip. What incredible lessons I have learned!

The purpose of these blog entries the past two weeks is to find reasons to rejoice every day.  In spite of such a tragedy, there are reasons to rejoice, thanks to the plan of salvation put in to place by a loving Heavenly Father and made possible by His son, Jesus Christ.  

If Gilda had to go, I am grateful it was on the day before Easter.  I hope that every year when Georgia remembers the passing of her mother, she remembers the resurrection of the Savior which makes it possible for her mother to live again, but this time glorified and perfected.  After I heard about Gilda's passing, I saw a meme that said, "Because of Him, death has no sting." While I've heard this phrase before, it was especially beautiful to me tonight.  Christ overcame death so we could live with those we love forever.  Georgia and her family are sealed for time and eternity in the temple.  They faithfully keep their temple covenants and live worthy of the promise of eternal life together.  While the wait will be longer than any of them hoped, they will be together again.  My mother will be able to embrace her mother. I will get to meet my grandmother face to face.  I've looked forward to that day ever since I was a little girl.  

Christ lives. That phrase is in the present tense! Through Him, families can be together forever.

And that is reason to rejoice!

Friday, April 18, 2014

What a Life! Day 12

Well, my family cracks me up. What can I say.  The first six joyful moments on my list are these little treasures my dad sent to my family via email today. He invited us to create captions, which I have shared below each picture. 

1. Joyful picture number #1:

Katie: "When I grow up, I want to be as fashionable as my big sister!"

Shana: "Kid sister. (Kid sister) Kid sister. (Kid sister) Wherever I go, YOU'RE gonna go. Kid sister...kid sister...kid sister and me!"

2.  Joyful picture #2:

Katie: "My older brother derives subtle enjoyment from my misfortunes. Rude."

Shana: "I may look calm. But I swear I am never having kids of my own."

Estella: "I have spent the day tending a screaming toddler and watching a singing zucchini on TV. However, I am still really hot."

3. Joyful picture #3:

Katie: "Is this seat taken?"

Shana: "I don't know what happened...I just woke up and I"

Estella: "I'm not a morning person.  NO, you don't understand.  I AM NOT A MORNING PERSON!"

4. Joyful picture #4


Katie: "Modest is hottest."

Shana: "I didn't do it. I SWEAR I didn't do it!" Except that I did because my hands are all green and I'm smiling on the inside.

5. Joyful picture #5:

Katie: Neon is the new black.

6. Joyful picture #6:

Katie: "The era when Katie's bangs had not yet been introduced to a straightener."

Shana, from left to right:
"How could something so so small."(bonus points for movie reference - although not a direct quote)
"Please be a good photo. Please be a good photo. Please be a good photo."
"Why are we taking a picture again - they're just eggs. And not even good ones at that."
"This IS my happy face."
"Ah isn't life grand?"

 Side note: I think I just figured out the bonus! "Look at this stuff, isn't it neat?"

6. Today, I slept in! My body is usually not willing.  I think it's because I set aside today aside for doing NOTHING except whatever I felt moved to do at the moment. Knowing I had nothing to wake up for at any point during the day helped me sleep until almost 9:30 a.m.! It was awesome.  A relaxing finish to a fun filled spring break week. 

7. I got caught up on season 6 of Drop Dead Diva. LOVE that show. Truly. Such a weird premise. But it WORKS! I love how this series slaps the Hollywood idea of beautiful in the face and helps audiences see that a woman's shape or size is not the most important thing about her. 

8. I deep cleaned my kitchen today, which definitely brought me joy AND fulfillment.  Cleaning is very therapeutic for me, more so when it's not rushed and I'm doing it because I want to, not because desperation has driven me to it.

9. My roommate and I got ice-cream and chatted about what is going on in our lives. Having a roommate is a huge blessing. I feel very lucky. Michelle is always willing to listen to my concerns and challenges. She always asks me how my day went and she comes to all of my concerts.  Life would be so lonely if I didn't live with a friend! Thanks, Michelle!

10. Tonight was the live broadcast of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir singing Handel's Messiah. Melissa Heath, the soprano soloist, was one of the four DMA students who came and performed for my choir department and did a Q&A session with the kids.  She makes it look so easy, though what she is doing is incredibly hard.  It sounds effortless!  She was clearly born with a divine gift that she nurtured over many years and developed into an extremely powerful tool to bless the lives of others.

Hearing the "Hallelujah Chorus" was incredible.  Although I sometimes tend to stay away from oft-performed choral pieces, I realized tonight there is a reason why this piece is so beloved.  I felt the Spirit coursing through me as I listened.  It was powerful to see the audience and the soloists on their feet as the choir sang so majestically about our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Although we can never come close to adequately expressing His power and might, that song is about as near as we can get as mortals.