Sunday, January 18, 2015

Showing Thankfuls

This weekend, our high school show choirs attended their first show choir competition of the year. 

After our high school was destroyed in an EF-5 tornado nearly 4 years ago, the campus was split between two temporary buildings, with the freshmen and sophomores housed at a surplus building (built around 1910) and the juniors and seniors were at an empty box store in the mall. They had to divide up the show choir groups, with one mixed group and one girls group at each school, since they were on different campuses, miles apart.

At audition time last spring, when the highly anticipated and newly rebuilt high school was expected to open for fall, the four choirs were reduced to two. The members looked forward to a summer of camps and practices to get their shows ready for the competition season. Just as summer began, one of the directors unexpectedly left. The mixed group (Sound Dimension) now had no director. After much scrambling and the hiring of a new director, they got to work again, but they lost a lot of time. Songs had to be arranged and learned. Costumes chosen, ordered and fitted. Choreography learned. They were woefully behind on preparation for the upcoming competition season.

When the new high school opened in September (a week behind schedule), the only part of the school that wasn't completed was the Performing Arts wing, and it's not expected to be completed until March or so. Which meant no classroom for the show choirs (or drama or band or orchestra). They started the year in the wrestling room. The. Wrestling. Room. They got evicted from there when wrestling season started, moved to the Technical School and put in one end of an industrial room that abutted what amounts to the engine room of the entire school. Constant noise and humming. 

And no mirrors.

These kids have learned intricate choreography with no mirrors.

Oh, and there was no money in the budget for pretty much anything. So no backdrops to go behind them at performances. Nice costumes, but nothing fancy. No props. 

So yesterday, the two show choir groups went to their first competition. Four and a half hours on a school bus each way. They looked and sounded fantastic, even if you didn't know they didn't have a real classroom, didn't have mirrors, didn't have a budget, didn't get started on most of it until August.

The girls group received 3rd place in their category, which was awesome.

Sound Dimension did not place. Even though they did an excellent job, there were other groups there that, quite frankly, blew everyone else right out of the water. But that's okay. It was the first competition. And those kids have nothing to be ashamed of. My Ten Things of Thankful is about these kids.

1. They are polite. I provided snacks for them this summer when they had a camp to work on songs, and they were appreciative and showed it.

2. They load and unload the bus of costumes and (props and backdrops, if we had them) without (much) complaint.

3. They are good kids. Many of them are student leaders and athletes and honor students. (My daughter happens to be all three.)

4. They (mostly) keep themselves entertained when there is downtime by singing and dancing and not (constantly) with electronics (except for selfies, Vines, Tweets and Snapchats).

5. They help each other with make up and hair, regardless of which group they belong to.

6. They have two fantastic directors who love them like their own children.

7. They are talented.

8. Yes, they were disappointed they didn't place in the competition, but they weren't (real) big whiners about it. 

9. I have a friend group among some of the moms.

Our girls have been in activities together for
years and years. Small town perk! 

10. I get to hear them continue to improve and grow for another four competitions.

It's never too late to be thankful, but it will be too late to join us in the Ten Things of Thankful link up if you don't hurry! Link up, below, before you miss your chance!

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Saturday, January 10, 2015

It's Cold Outside - Yay!

I hate cold weather. Hate it. HAAAAAATE it. What's the weather been like this week? Colder than a (you fill in the blank). Wind chills below zero. So cold that it made my eyeballs hurt. Morning bus stop temperatures around 4 degrees F.  It was widely reported on the news that many school districts were canceling classes because of it, big places like Chicago and Minneapolis, for instance. 

We thought FOR SURE school would be canceled here on Thursday. We're not used to sub-freezing temperatures in southwest Missouri. And 58% of the children in our district are on free or reduced-price lunches. Many of these kids are poorly suited for cold weather, lacking warm coats or proper shoes. Without socks. Or gloves. Or hats. Most of them walk (up to two miles) or ride the school bus. Yes, it's a toss up as to whether or not having these kids at a warm school building with a hot breakfast and lunch is better than them staying at a home that may not be adequately heated and perhaps with less than ideal food, but I'm still of the opinion that it's better to keep everyone at home than send them out in such frigid weather.

The superintendent did not agree with my thinking, and we went to school.

I shall now make myself find Ten Things of Thankful that we are experiencing this hideous weather system and forced to go out in it.

1. Layer upon layer of clothing makes EVERYONE look fat.

2. If we had HAD school canceled because of the cold, I would have stayed home and baked all day, and then it wouldn't have been just the layers of clothing that made me look fat.

3. I do love wearing a hat in the winter.

4. Kitties are very snuggly and warm and always willing to cuddle with you.

5. You remember how, in the hot, hot summer, you get in the car after it has set in the sun for hours and the metal part of the seat belt touches your bare leg and nearly gives you third degree burns? Yeah, that hasn't happened this week.

6. I pull out my minkrat coat and wear it everywhere. My mother in law bought a full length, fake fur coat for herself from QVC about twelve years ago. She is, shall I say, short and a little on the wide side, and, although I never actually saw her in the coat, I suspect she resembled Nanook of the North in it. She gave it to me, and while it's big enough around for me and at least one other person, it nearly reaches my ankles and blocks any and all wind. And makes me look like a pimp, especially since I wore it this week with a hat and big sunglasses. I want to wear a sign that says, "It's FAKE!" as it looks and feels pretty realistic, but I just sail into Walmart in it, pretending not to notice the glances and outright stares of other customers.

7. Snowman crafts at preschool are a must when it's cold. We painted the bottoms of our primary kids' feet white, pressed the foot onto a piece of dark blue paper, and turned them into snowmen. 

8. There's no snow or ice falling out of the sky.

9. It's great weather for straightening curly hair. No warmth in the air means no humidity, and THAT means no frizz.

10. Only two months and 11 days until spring officially begins!

Pouty school-shoulda-been-canceled face.

Are you staying warm this week? (And if you live somewhere like Florida and it's "only" 60 degrees or something, please keep your pie hole shut.) Find your thankfuls in this week and link them up, below.

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Friday, January 2, 2015

Hello, 2015! Hello, 10 Things of Thankful!

Happy 2015! So far, so good. I have so many thankfuls this week that it's difficult to narrow it down to ten. I was out of town, there was no bloodshed while I was gone, the house wasn't a complete disaster when I returned, no one starved (contrary to complaints from my daughter that there was "nothing to eat"), and coming home to the Christmas decorations already put away was delightful. Here are some more:

1. My family was gracious enough (meaning they whined, but I did it anyway) to let me go visit my Person* in Nashville this week. She had surgery and wanted me to come be with her afterwards, and since it worked out so well with Christmas vacation, I did.

2. My car needs some serious work (unless you LIKE blue smoke coming out of the exhaust, in which case, would you like to buy a Toyota Avalon?), so my parents let me borrow their Toyota Sequoia. It comes by the name honestly; it is a little like driving a very large tree, but it was fun to drive something different, and it leads me to my next TToT:

3. Sirius XM radio. Out of the 200 or so channels offered, I really only listened to six of them, but I enjoyed the hell out of those six stations!

4. Cruise control.

5. I did not take the wrong turn that leads you past the penitentiary, and I mean RIGHT PAST it. Last time I did that, it was coincidentally the EXACT SAME TIME the tornado sirens were tested, and I thought there had been a jail break. 

6. Four whole days with Terri, my Person, just hanging around and talking. 

7. Terri was feeling perky enough to go out to lunch twice. We went to her son's new restaurant, Party Fowl, and to my favorite place in Nashville, San Antonio Taco Company. Two delicious meals. 

8. I also got to indulge in my favorite ice cream place, Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream (I still believe the logo looks like it says "Penis" rather than "Jeni's", but whatever it is, it certainly is splendid). I had three scoops: goat cheese and red cherry, mid western whiskey and eggnog, and salted caramel. And before you think I'm a pig, know that each scoop is about the size of a ping pong ball.

I ate my itty bitty scoops of ice cream
with an itty bitty tasting spoon.

9. Silliness on New Year's Eve.

10. Best of all, I'm thankful that Ruby didn't get as mad at me as she did last summer when I spent a week away from her. Maybe the presents I brought her helped?

The lump in the bed that Ruby is hugging is ME.
My husband took this after I went to sleep.

I don't make resolutions, but you should make just one, and that's to join us in the Ten Things of Thankful weekly blog hop. Good friends, good times! Link up, below.

* Grey's Anatomy reference. Google it.

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Thursday, January 1, 2015

It's Hard To Play Favorites, But Here's My Top 12

If you're a faithful reader of my blog (all seven of you), then you've already read these posts. If you aren't and you haven't, then please do; they're my top 12 favorites for 2014.

Be All That You Can Be: I went to visit a childhood friend and almost joined the army by mistake.

F is for Far--, Uh, Flatulence: Imagine an organ recital while at a restaurant. 

J is for Jesse James: My mother popped off with this little story about our family tree, leading me to wonder what other gems she might have up her sleeve.

L is for Lost: Just me, my husband, and a dead body.

P is for Picher: The largest Superfund Site in U.S. History is located just miles from where I live. I have been fascinated with the story for years.

T is for Tiny Dancer: A story that makes me cry every time I re-read it about my daughter and dance classes,

Mousecapades: Now that my son is in college and taking classes in the same buildings I once did, I thought it was time to 'fess up on a little incident that happened when I was there.

It Started With A Twist Tie: My kitten, Ruby, finds the strangest things to play with....

The Puppy Tails Trilogy: Part 1, Part 2, and The Final Chapter, plus one final look, Teaching an Old Dog A New Trick: One of the best and worst things I have ever done was agree to foster two puppies for a month. 

Believe It Or Not, My Family Really Is Civilized: Another tale from my family's history, this time about my great aunt and her pet chicken.

Success, In Spite Of Attempts By The Secret Service To Thwart My Efforts: Vice President Joe Biden and I are thisclose, but it wasn't easy getting that way!

Slipping Away: An entry in Mama Kat's Writer's Workshop, this 101 word story tugs at my heart.

Read one. Read them all. Tell me what was YOUR favorite.

This post was an entry for Mama Kat's Writing Workshop with the prompt:

A year in review! Compile a year's worth of 
your best blog posts and pictures.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

12 in 2014

My friend Christine (more about her later) participates in an annual blog hop hosted by Dwija from House Unseen which invites bloggers to post their 12 favorite photos from the year. I don't take GOOD pictures, but I take a lot of them. Here are the 12 I chose:

It was Silly Sock or Slipper Day in my Pre-K class at preschool. I don't even want to tell you how long it took to position 16 pairs of four and five year old legs like this, but they thought it was silly fun and mostly held still long enough for me to get the picture.

In March, my daughter's travel volleyball team played in a tournament in an itty bitty town southeast of Kansas City. I found out my mother's family had a history in that town (that involved Jesse James, no less), and I wrote about it here. But the other fascinating thing about Holden, Missouri, was its itty bitty St. Patrick's Day parade that was held a block away from the volleyball venue, and I caught a picture of these festive parade-goers before the ten entries in the parade went by.

My son caught our kitten Ruby apparently going through my daughter's dresser drawers in the night. Truly a cat burglar.

1. This picture creeps out my friend Christine.
2. If you look carefully in the background,
you can see one of the other cats lurking there.

My primary class went on a safari on the last day of school, complete with binoculars. I think they found an alligator....

My daughter's image was included in this mural on the side of a building on Main Street that was unveiled in May. She used to dance (and you can read about that here). Although it is not an exact depiction, she is the one seated on the bench.  

Is there anything much cooler than meeting a blog friend in real life? I got to do this when the above-mentioned Christine, hater of cat burglar photos, had to travel to Kansas City when her daughter's soccer team made regional play-offs. I drove up there to spend the day with her, and we had a fabulous time! Christine has always said we were the same person, and we proved it by wearing the very same shirts. 

We participated in a video chat with some of our other
blog buddies but only had one pair of earbuds.
Same shirt, same earbuds, same person.

I plan all the family vacations, and I like to throw in some interesting stops along the way. This year, we traveled to Galveston, and along the way, we stopped to see the World's Largest Peanut and visited the Texas State Prison Museum. 

Doing my best Orange Is The New Black impression.

Silly, silly me thought it would be FUN to foster puppies for the Joplin Humane Society. I've never owned a dog in my life and knew nothing about house training them or that they don't instinctively know how to walk on a leash or that they chew EVERYTHING. Of course, we fell in love with them, but while they WERE fun, they were a LOT of work. Even though we (meaning my daughter and I) cried buckets when we had to take them back to go to a rescue group that was going to see to their adoptions, we were also kind of glad to see them go. (And yes, we'll probably do it again.)

Audrey and Olivia, our little sweeties.

I moved our son back to college in August for his sophomore year. It went much better than moving him there as a freshman! That was one tough day. And it wasn't that I was foster-puppy-glad to see him go, but he was ready and we were ready, and while that means he's growing up and away from us, it's being done in little steps.

When I was getting my preschool room ready for school to start, I had a wee little accident with one of the crappy plastic-legged chairs that refused to scoot on the carpet with me on it. Hello, Goldilocks!

After the May 22, 2011, EF-5 tornado destroyed the old high school (along with over one-third of the town), the new, state-of-the-art high school was finally opened in time for school to start, with a ribbon cutting ceremony in October, with special guest Vice President Joe Biden in attendance and delivering a speech. I joked that I was going to get my picture taken with him, and by golly, I really did it

We have watched the Mizzou volleyball team play every year at Thanksgiving for the past few years. My daughter has especially enjoyed getting to meet Mizzou's libero, Sarah Meister. We got one last picture of them together at Sarah's last career game with Mizzou.

Goodbye, 2014! You've been pretty nice, all in all. Hello, 2015! Be kind with me!

Friday, December 26, 2014

The Last Ten Things of Thankful List For 2014

Ruby is on my bed, playing with what appears to be a twig, about four inches long. She is tossing it up in the air and pouncing on it when it lands. I'm curious as to where she found this stick, and I suspect it was once part of some Christmas decoration that was within her reach, but as long as it isn't a snake, I'm good with it. Now for this week's Ten Things of Thankful:

1. I rescued a dog this week, and this time, I didn't kidnap the neighbor's dog by mistake - this one was really lost!

2. I finally got past Level 460 in Candy Crush.

3. We decided to go to the 10:30 p.m. handbell choir concert at our church on Christmas Eve, followed by the 11:00 p.m. service. It seemed like a good idea earlier in the day, but I was so tired by the time 10:30 rolled around, I could barely keep my eyes open. (By the way, handbells have a very soothing sound and a sleepy person cannot be expected to sit through a thirty minute concert AND an hour long church service without the expectation that she might fall asleep.) About halfway through the service, when I thought I was either going to have to go out into the library area and take a nap on the couch or go to my preschool classroom and lie down on the rug in the home living center, I got my second wind and made it through the service. (I can neither admit nor deny that I may have taken a little, tiny cat nap during a prayer that served to rejuvenate me.)

4. Santa was good to everyone this year, and only one gift needs to be returned.

5. Benefit POREfessional balm. Hides pores and feels luscious as it goes on. Expensive, but worth it.

6. Chips and salsa.

7. Some of you will find the following incomprehensible, but I have already taken down all my Christmas decorations and PUT THEM IN THE ATTIC. Once the gifts are opened, I'm kind of over it all anyway, and since I'm going out of town for a few days, I didn't want to come home after the first of the year to a house still decorated for Christmas. It feels good to have the house back to normal.

8. One more batch of caramel popcorn, and I am done, done, DONE for the season! I wish I had kept track of how many pounds of popcorn I have made since Thanksgiving.

9. We made it through the entire holiday season without Ruby climbing the Christmas tree.

10. I videoed my kids trying to figure out a pictogram riddle telling them what one of their Christmas presents was. Watch the following video and see for yourself how much trouble a couple of gifted geniuses had with it, bearing in mind this had been going on for several minutes when I decided it was worth recording.  You can visibly see my son figure it out; my daughter takes a little longer....

Ruby has taken her prize stick in her mouth like a dog with a bone and trotted down the hallway with it. I have no idea where she's going to take it, but I can be assured I will find it with my bare feet at some point this weekend. Until that happens, I will be waiting anxiously for you to post YOUR Ten Things of Thankful list (the LAST ONE for 2014).

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Wednesday, December 24, 2014

(Not Very) Wordless Wednesday 12.24.14

After a marathon day of shopping, wrapping and cooking, I went to bed last night knowing I needed one more gift and a smattering of items from the grocery store. On Christmas Eve, a day when NO ONE in their right mind wants to be anywhere near a mall or a grocery store, I was going to need to hit the mall and a grocery store.

Believing the early bird gets the worm (or avoids the crowds), I left the house at 7:30 and headed across town to the mall. The road I took is one of my most used routes. It runs behind my house, beyond the woods behind us, over a low water bridge, and then cuts diagonally across town. I use it to go to the mall, Target, Aldi, well, pretty much any major retail establishment in town, as they mostly line one street. 

As I was taking the road through a large park about a half mile from my house, I saw a big dog slowly trotting down the pavement in front of me. No people around. The dog was walking in my lane, heading the same direction as I was (perhaps HE had an errand at the mall, too?), and didn't move out of my way as I came up behind him.

I stopped the car.

The dog (did I say he was big? Make that huge.) turned and looked rather hopefully at me through my windshield. He wasn't wearing a collar. About a gallon of drool was hanging from his lower jaw.

"No, no, no, no, no," I said to myself. "I don't have tiiiiime for this!"

And I pulled over into the grass, opened my car door, and stepped out onto the pavement.

The dog promptly jumped into my front seat, went through to the back, and sat down.


Now I've got an 85 pound dog drooling in the backseat whose head was bigger than mine, and I had no choice but to drive him to the Humane Society and hope they were open.

They weren't.

And it was snowing. And cold.

I went ahead and pulled around to the back of the building, where they take animal drop-offs, and as luck would have it, a worker pulled into the parking lot at the same time He told me he would go in and tell someone we were there.  In the meantime, Big Bubba came up to sit by me in the front seat, and we had a nice (but wet) conversation. 

He's a big ol' sweetie.

The man came back with a leash, and the three of us went inside. 

A woman came in the room ("Oh, he's a BIG pit mix!") and got my information about where I found him. They checked him for a microchip (he didn't have one - community service announcement: GET YOUR PETS CHIPPED!).

And I left him with those kind people at the Joplin Humane Society, where they work Christmas Eve and every other holiday to take care of lost and unwanted animals.

I posted a picture of him on my Facebook page, went on to run my errands, returned home to strip myself of drool-covered jeans and coat (I am truly not exaggerating), and found out an hour or so later that a friend knew someone whose dog had jumped the fence and disappeared, AND IT WAS HIM! 

It was a Christmas Miracle that I think both Santa Claus and Baby Jesus would approve of.

Totally un-lost ginormous pitbull mix related, please take a moment and listen to the following recording. It's so full of sweetness, you won't need another Christmas cookie or piece of candy for a week.

Note: this is just a picture, taken from the balcony of the sanctuary, with all the primary and pre-k kids watching the toddler class perform their Christmas program. I had to have a picture in order to upload the song to YouTube. 

This recording was done in my classroom when my pre-k kids were practicing for their Christmas program. They started and ended all on their own, because I didn't want MY voice on the recording. Precious, precious voices.