Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Cincinnati, not so bad

The reports I got about Cincinnati from everyone but Max had been mostly negative. Tom let me know that is was a pit of a town while others including my Dad had gone to visit only to find little or nothing to do. Therefore I approached the city with apprehension, but have concluded that it's not so bad. But don't come here for the chili. The unanimous consensus among the Parkinson's that the chili is not great. We went the the famous Skyline chili to try true Cincinnati chili. What separates this chili from the chili everyone else knows and loves is that it is served on spaghetti noodles (pretty good), and it contains cinnamon (not good). What amazed us the most about Cincinnati chili was the shear amount of it. Skyline restaurants are separated generally by about two blocks in this town. They apparently can't get enough of it.

On the positive side of the Cincinnati food front was Jungle Jim's grocery store. This place was amazing. It appeared to be a Mecca for food and public bathroom lovers (they won an award for the nicest public restrooms in the country). When we walked in there was a greeter with a map who had to describe the layout of the store to us. I've never been in a grocery store that requires a map. This is because they have a huge selection of everything! I was most impressed with the beer selection. There was a wall display of domestic beers from all over the country. Max and I each selected a six pack to try. Hers was a java stout (brewed with coffee) and I picked an outmeal stout. I still haven't tried out the outmeal stout, but the java turned out to be quite good.

It has been fun hanging out with Max and I am glad we got to see where she lives and get a better understanding of what she does. Her place is kind of funny because it is converted offices running the length of a hallway, so it reminds me a little of the dorms. Our room turned out to have a gorgeous view of the Ohio river and the towns of Kentucky that lay beyond.

Tomorrow we head back to Macon and from there to Kansas City.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Date Night

Cali got me tickets to Kurt Elling for my birthday and we went on Friday night. Elling is a jazz singer and is best known for his scatting and amazing ability to sing just about any jazz lick that a saxophone could play. I was really impressed with him and his band. I spent most of time watching the drummer who was extremely intense. He even managed to break one of his drum sticks at the conclusion of the concert. We also sat next to a guy Cali knew from college. He was pretty funny; he brought a date and never really introduced her to us. He also spent most of the time talking to us instead of her. We sensed he might be in trouble later.

Before the concert we went to a restaurant called Fritz's. Cali located this restaurant on the internet because she was in the mood for something salty. Fritz's definitely fulfilled that craving. There are two of these restaurants in the Kansas City area. One is posh and it is located in Crown Center. The other is not very posh and it is located in Kansas City, Kansas. We went to the latter. For those of you who don't know, there are very few beautiful parts of Kansas City, Kansas. However, I think this Fritz's probably has more character than the other one. It was clear Fritz's was a local favorite and it seemed like a great place to take kids. You order on a telephone and then a train delivers your food! It was so cool, the train car traveled around the restaurant on tracks that ran over our heads and then it dropped our meal onto a metal tray just above our table! The food was similar to Winsteads or any other diner, but we decided to try their special which was a burger with hash browns on it. If I were Max I would have had a camera and I would have taken a picture of it, but since I didn't you will just have to picture it yourself.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Snow day!

Most people don't get the luxury of a snow day, but that is one of the great things about being a teacher. It is crazy icy outside so we are stuck at home again. Cali of course loves being stuck at home, but I am kind of indifferent. However, I am enjoying the scenery. I wish I could take a picture of our back yard because it is beautiful. The trees are covered with ice and icicles hang from every surface. Of course this is kind of scary also because our power line looks pretty weighed down. Cali is worried we will lose power so she has worked herself into a frenzy to get as much baking done as possible while she can use the oven. I have mainly been organizing cd's, reading, and doing other frivolous work. I have a hard time working on anything of any importance on days like today. They seem like such a gift so I hate to squander them by doing actual work. I got started on the latest Nick Hornby book which so far is great and I also am reading the Barak Obama book, Dreams from My Father. His story is fascinating. It reads like a novel and as I am reading it I keep forgetting that it is someone's actual story. It just seems so fantastic. My life story I am afraid wouldn't be nearly as entertaining. It's probably more exciting then Malachi's though. He spent today's snow day sleeping in various chairs. He is even more of a bum than I am.

Friday, December 07, 2007


Recently I have been frustrated with many things at my schools. Especially with my 6th graders. I have tried to give them more responsibility and choice in my strings lessons, but so far it only seems like it has opened the door for more complaining. I keep trying to emphasize what things are their domain and what sort of things are my decisions, but we are struggling to find that line. Cali has noticed some of the same problems in her schools. We have some kids who seem to think they are the teacher and that they should make the decisions. Somehow I need to find a way to balance giving them some choice and input into the classroom, but still having them respect the decisions that I make.

Another difficult issue is at home practice. Some students will go weeks without practicing at all. They will come in and say, but Mr. Martin I had a lot of homework. I keep trying to tell them that they had homework for my class as well, but orchestra is put on the back burner when it is pitted against spelling and math. My latest plan is to get them to practice during Hannah Montana. I figure if they practice during every commercial break they will get a total of 10 minutes worth of practicing which is just enough.

These issues may be coming to light because we have concerts coming up. I just want them to be really good and to be successful. I only hope that I am not pushing them for my own selfish reasons, but instead to see them accomplish something great.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Flight of the Concords

Anybody hear these guys? I think they are crazy funny.



I guess I don't normally talk that much about my experiences at school. For the most part I really love my job. It isn't stressful and the kids are fun to work with. However, one thing that is always difficult about teaching strings is that sometimes kids drop out. Even if you are super fun and creative and you give out donuts every day some kids just decide to quit. It is hard to not take this personally.

Two kids have dropped out so far out of about 70, but both drops were a little hard on me. Since I am not a terribly mean teacher most of my kids drop because of "the workload" that is involved with strings. Kids have to practice for my class and that gets in the way of other things. Now is when I am particularly nervous about my kids leaving because things are getting a little harder. At the beginning of the year in the music they wrote the names of the notes on the note heads. They don't do that any more. Now they have to actually read music! That gets some kids a little frustrated. Especially the ones who don't practice.

The other thing that I am worried about is that I don't give out candy. One kid in particular is always telling me how the band gets candy and that they get metals when they learn certain stuff. I don't give out candy because we aren't supposed to at my schools in order to teach good health habits. Does that make me a lame teacher? Maybe. But they are starting to sound quite good and I am excited about what they are going to show their parents in their upcoming concerts.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Latest kick

One of the two of us (Cali or I) always get on some life altering kick. This could be the way we eat, what we watch on T.V, or what we do with our spare time. The new one deals with the last of those three. This evening I had all kinds of time to call friends, play with the cat, and to read because she decided we should only watch two hours of T.V. a night. What freedom! I never imagined how much time T.V. was actually taking up. I've been feeling of late that I haven't been a very good friend or family member. I am not good at calling people and consequently I feel like I am losing touch with old friends and having trouble making new ones. I think this really has to do with the way I spend my time. In the movie we watched tonight (during our two hours) Steven Fry said that the greatest adventure we have in life is getting along with those who are all around us. He said that the truest test of character would be to get along with strangers if we were randomly dropped into their homes and essentially that is what happens when we are born. He was quoting someone and I can't remember who, but I thought this was interesting. Perhaps I will try getting to know our neighbors. Do people do that anymore?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Do 5th Graders Own Pop Culture?

Since I have started teaching elementary school and high school I have been able to compare the two age groups. One of the differences is that the elementary schoolers have a tremendous sense of what I should be able to do as an "old" teacher. If I so much as mention pop culture I am met with groans and requests to stop. Once when I said "word" the girl asked me not to do that again. I then gave her the speech about how I was saying "word" before she was born. High schoolers on the other hand want to compare tastes and ask me about the music I like. They also don't complain about the clothes I wear. A fifth grader on the other hand asked me why I couldn't just wear a normal shirt someday. How did they become so confident when it comes to pop culture and tastes. When I was in 5th grade I wore sweat pants and had never heard of any current bands. I was only aware of my brother's and sister's favorite music. Is it Disney that gave them this sense of empowerment? To the tell the truth I kind of enjoy it. As a teacher there is nothing more fun than getting in to childish arguments with people a third your age.

Bad Music

"I am pretty tolerant of Christmas music but I draw the line at soprano saxophone."
-Calista Martin

On our way to Macon Calista and I listened to the two Kansas City radio stations that are playing continuous Christmas music. It was pretty obvious that the best recordings and versions of songs for the most part were made at least 30 years ago. For the most part new arrangements of Christmas tunes just aren't so good, especially if they are performed by some Christian artist. We complain about this all the time, but why does Christian music have to be so bad. In the car we did our best to decide how these versions could be fixed. Mostly it boiled down to a few basic rules (Christian producers should start taking notes): 1. Use real drums, not funking sounding synthetic ones 2. Go easy on the strings, strings are nice just don't have them swell so much for every climax of the piece. 3. Avoid most keyboard sound effects 4. Cut down on the reverb 5. No chimes whatsoever. I think if we stick to these simple rules and maybe just simplify a little bit Christian music won't be so bad.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Various Kansas Stuff

Calista and I have been helping out with music at church. She has been doing mic and speaker setup to put her theoretical knowledge from grad school to work. I got to play cello with the music team a couple of weeks ago and it was great. It was a moving experience for me and I hope I get to keep doing it. It has been a while since I have performed by myself and I'm glad it was in front of church folks. Nobody appreciates volunteer musicians like the church. Several people have come up to me and told me how much they enjoyed it and my parents got to come to the service. We actually are starting to make some friends at church with the worship leader, with people in our bible study for young adults, and I have started going RCIA. I kind of feel like I am jumping on the catholic band wagon. Mainly because for the first time in a while I get up on Sunday mornings and I am excited about going to church. That I guess says something about the church and has lead me seriously consider becoming Catholic.

On a totally different subject, WE FOUND OUR CAMERA! It was in my van under the seat. Its amazing the things you find when you clean out your car. Although it would have been nice to have it for such events as my brother's wedding and moving into our new house at least we finally have it. We have been recovering pictures from our camera such as our last days in Urbana with pictures of our favorite diner and the U of I. Oh the leisurely days of college life how I miss thee.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

New home

As many people now know we have a new home in Shawnee. I love it. The house is little and shaped just right and the yard and fantastic. My friend Mark was over last night and he thought we might be able to keep some cattle back there. I want to spend more time in the yard, but right now I don't have many excuses to be outside. Sometimes I make phone calls to friends so I have something to do while I roam the yard. Most of the time on the weekends I do have an excuse to be outside. This past Saturday I worked on trimming up all the plants surrounding the side entrance to our house. This area was full of bind weed and other ugly prickly organisms. I spent hours killing almost everything in sight. I became slightly obsessed and Cali had to pull me away. I was running out of steam until some tough root broke my trowel which gave me the fuel to deal out some more punishment. I will post pictures of the place as soon as we can find the camera. It is still buried somewhere in a box.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007


This Sunday we went to Aida playing at the Lyric. This is the first of four performances in the opera's 50th season. Being the nerd that I am I went to the library a week ago and checked out a recording of Aida so I would have a better understanding of the performance. I listened to the CD all through the week as I traveled between schools. I have found that the more familiar I am with an opera, the more I ultimately enjoy it.

Like many of Verdi's operas, the plot of Aida is very dramatic. The story is about star-crossed lovers (one from Egypt and one from Ethopia), and one woman scorned. Of course the story is full of misunderstanding and ends in the two lovers being buried alive together (sorry to give away the ending). Although I knew the music well, I only vaguely knew the plot before seeing this performance. Cali and I were a little shocked when their was a virgin sacrifice as the Egyptian troops prepared for battle. Especially when she revealed her bare chest! I kept thinking "I wonder if there are kids here". All nakedness aside it was a really enjoyable concert. The story was tense and the music was beautiful. Also, I noticed that the opera crowd is different from the symphony crowd. There was a buzz in the air before the concert and it was great to be able to clap when the soloists finished their arias. Anyway, if you get a chance to see this opera do so, but be aware that it probably deserves a PG-13 rating.

Monday, September 17, 2007


So Boston is a cool city. Went there this weekend for Tony's wedding. While there we had a fabulous time. On Saturday we flew up there in the morning. We had some time to explore before the wedding and spent most of our time near Boston Common. It is a bit nippy and Cali was wearing sandals so we stopped by the Mecca of all shoes, DSW and got Cali some new tennies.

Saturday night we went to the wedding which took place outdoors (it was pretty cold). The ceremony was simple, and pretty romanticy. They both read their own vows. Jen and Tony are both very generous and I was impressed with the way they made their wedding not just about them. They really just seemed excited to have all their family and friends there. During the nine months prior to the wedding they scoured used record stores for songs they thought the guests would like. At the wedding we each received a record of a song they picked out for us and on the cover they marked where we would sit for the reception. At the reception we got to spend time with some other friends from Indy, Andy and Jess. We had a good time with them and got to have lots of beer, wine, lobster (Tony's from Maine) and barbecue. We also got to see Cali's favorite dog, Daisy who greeted us affectionately. Cali was relieved the dog hadn't forgotten us. I convinced Cali to do a bit of dancing, but she says she is more shy dancing in front of adults then 1st graders. I don't blame her. 1st graders are pretty fun to dance with.

Sunday was our day to explore. We took a duck tour through the city and surveyed the main sights of Boston. The city is beautiful and we had a pretty entertaining tour guide. He pointed out the main points of interest and I should have know this, but Boston has a pretty rich history. It seems that every American should take a trip to find out a little more about their heritage. I was disappointed when we drove past the Steinway and Sons piano shop and he didn't even mention it! I was excited, but it didn't warrant comment on the tour. In the afternoon we packed in some more fun time at and outdoor market/shopping area. There were street performers, many shops, and an amazing food court. Cali was able to get a pretzel (made boston style with salt and sesame seeds) and I got a Boston cream pie! Unfortunately, I was not feeling well before the pie so after the pie I felt a little pukey. It was an amazing weekend, but didn't offer much rest. We started back bright an early this morning as if nothing had occurred over the weekend. I think Boston deserves a second visit, so we plan on going back when we have some more time.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Blues, Barbecue, and Haughty Behavior

Cali and I wondered out of our safe suburban Kansas world this weekend and ventured into Missouri. We went to the 1st annual Blues and Barbecue festival in Columbia, MO which turned out to be a great event. Everyone was surprised at the huge turnout. On Saturday night it was packed, especially in front of the main stage where Taj Majal was performing. Paul said he heard someone say that it reminded them of Mardi Gras in New Orleans (at least for a couple of blocks). There were some other great there acts like the Blind Boys of Alabama, Big Smith, Jerry Douglas, and Tab Benoit. Friday night we saw the Blind Boys and then crashed at the Burke's along with Cali's parents. In the night we were visited by the always scary, hand-biting Nora who loved the company, but gave constant reminders that she was not one to be trifled with. Unfortunately, Cali felt ill for most of the weekend and so she didn't join us for most of Saturday. She missed out mostly on bluegrass events, some of which we really enjoyed. We also tried some barbecue which was only okay (we didn't know any better and went to a place that didn't smoke their meat). However, it was still fun to wonder through the streets and look at and smell all the meat that was being cooked for the barbecue competition. One contestant was kind enough to share some of their scraps to all the drooling onlookers.

On the way down, we talked to Holly on the phone and found out that she was going to Columbia this weekend also. She went to visit a friend and to go the festival. We totally could have carpooled. Anyway, she also went to plug her store's coffee beans at a coffee shop in Columbia. The word is the store had nice equipment and good atmosphere, but kind of haughty employees. What is the deal with barista's. How come they gotta cop the attitude. Did I do that? I don't know. Somehow working in a coffee shop does make people feel pretty cool, especially if you are in a college town. I did enjoy being in Columbia and it made me kind of miss Urbana. For now we will just have to get our college town kicks by visiting Holly in Lawrence.

Where the buffalo roam

So I was listening to this book, Thirteen Moons, with Calista several months ago. The narrator was adopted by an Indian tribe and was mentored by the chief of that tribe. He held many strong opinions about whites and how they changed the land. One of his main complaints was with white farming techniques. They brought with them farm animals instead of hunting for their meat. Buffalo were replaced with boring, slow moving, non-huntable cows and wild birds were replaced with stupid, dirty chickens. I think this fictional chief's points are valid and I started thinking maybe farm animals aren't as healthy as game meat. Animals that actually move around are bound to be more healthy than those that don't, right? And they probably are less of a drain on the land. All this lead me to believe that maybe we should continue eating beef, chicken, pork, etc. (Go Uncle Mark!), but also eat more game meat. I started looking into it and found some butchers that sell venison, buffalo, ostrich, and elk. I also discovered that this meat is indeed healthier than pork, beef, and chicken. For instance buffalo meat has 1/4 the fat that beef and pork have and about 1/3 the fat of chicken (turkey is also very healthy and compares with game meat). Pretty amazing, eh? Today I went straight out and bought about 6lbs of ground buffalo meat. Cali thinks I am crazy because I tend to get on kicks that seem to come from nowhere, but I am excited. Perhaps we should return to eating the meat that came from this land.

Saturday, September 01, 2007


College football has started today as some of you may know. I of course have come to the realization that in KC I will not be able to watch any Illinois games. Apparently those games aren't a huge draw for this area. So I feel a little pathetic because here I am sitting in front of the computer watching as every 20 seconds a new play is posted. It is not quite the same as watching real time, but it is allowing me to catch up on some reading.

Cali and I went out and had a fantastic day today. We haven't gotten to spend much time with each other since school started, but today we planned out a nice little Saturday. First we went to US toy which is an awesome place. They sell all kinds of interesting costumes, games, and teacher supplies. It was a great place to explore, but I found out that my kids are too old for all the cool stuff they had there. Cali wouldn't let me buy the ribbon that said "Congrats on Being Potty Trained" or the chalk slates or even any of the sports equipment like the wiffle ball/bat set. Maybe that also has to do with us not really having the space to store any of that stuff. Cali did get some things for her kids like hula hoops (those younger kids are more fun to buy toys for). After lunching at the cheesecake factory we made it back in time for a nap before heading out to Lawrence tonight. We are going to visit Holly and finally see her new place. I love three day weekends and it is amazing how after two weeks of school you already need one.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Master's Degree

So I got my Master's degree yesterday! I had to go in for an oral examination to complete the degree and they passed me. When I went in one of my professors had an article he wanted me to read and compare it to another article I had already read. Then the two professors on the committee just asked me questions about things I had learned in the program and what I planned to implement into my teaching. A week before I had sent in three papers I had written and five articles I had read and they used this as a basis to ask their questions. I am so glad to be done. It was kind of an exhausting day because I decided to do the trip to Urbana there and back in one day. Fortunately Paul saved the day and decided to make the trip with me and share the driving.

When I got back I had a great surprise. Madeline had made an orange and blue cake and Madeline and Stella had made an Illini sign. Amy apparently had everyone dress up in Illini shirts and we had chinese food (orange chicken) for dinner. I have to say those ladies know how to throw a party.

Sunday, August 19, 2007


So Cali is adamantly in support of Richardson. We watched the debates this morning and she likes him more and more. I have to say I was excited when the question about education was finally asked. Richardson said he supported a minimum wage teacher salary (40,000) and mentioned several other important information such as his support of the arts. That was great to hear!


So I looked into my family history and found out some interesting information. My dad's family on my mom's side has a book that lists the history of the family back to 1800 when John Douglas first turned up in Athen's Ohio. He was about 15 at the time and was a Scot, but may or may not have been born in the US. Most likely he and his brother were born in Scotland and came over when they were young. I also found out that my Mom's family on her mother's side is originally from Scotland. Cali seemed a little nervous about this information seeing as she has Welsh blood in her. We thought maybe we should go over and do a trip through Wales and Scotland. Especially now that we both have jobs.

Change in Title

So we haved moved to an entirely different state so I had to change the title. This year I am starting back into teaching which is fantastic. I was getting to where all my knowledge was theoretical and I am glad to see if some of it actually works. I haven't started with kids yet, but have instead been getting ready by trying to get my instruments and materials all in order. There has been a lot to do because I teach at three schools and each school operates a little differently. Starting this week I also have to start kids into "the counseling process". This is where kids pick an instrument and decide if they want to be a part of band or strings. So now apparently I am a salesman...to fifth graders.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

So I haven't been keeping up with this blog, but recently we have had a lot of exciting developments. We got to go to Michigan to see Amanda's recital and it was fantastic! She has become such a terrific player and it was great to see what she has accomplished in grad school. Also, I have applied for a job in Liberty to teach strings. I am thrilled to have had a screening interview and now I am hoping that I get called again for a building level interview. The person I student taught with, Mary Lou Jones is the teacher at the high school and it would be fantastic to be able to work in her district with her and all the other great staff that is in Liberty. We just found out today that Calista also got an interview in Liberty! It would be terrific if the two of us could get a job in the same district.

I decided to go for a walk today and I took some pictures of what is happening in Urbana. Spring is here! I forgot how beautiful Urbana is in the spring. It has been nice to have some extra time to enjoy it this week because I have had very few classes. Orchestra has been cancelled this week because the director wanted to give us some extra time to pay us back for the hard work we did last semester. Calista has also been sick so it has been good that I have had the extra time to get her tea and make sure she some day recovers. For now that is all in Urbana.

Sunday, February 18, 2007


So last night Calista and I went out to celebrate the anniversary of when we started dating. We went to Montgomery's on the square in Monticello, a town about 3o minutes west of us. The food there was absolutely delicious. After we ate it was getting late and the roads weren't great so we decided we should stay the night. I had wanted to stay in this park near Monticello called Allerton, but we didn't think that we could stay there because you normally have to have reservations. However, we asked the server about it and he went to find out and the owner of the restaurant came over and said that she just happened to have a key to one of the houses on the Allerton property. She had picked it up just in case someone didn't want to drive home. So she got us a room and then decided to throw in brunch for the next morning, since the restaurant was serving it there the next day. So we spent the night and had a great time. The place was just beautiful. Apperently it was a huge estate that some wealthy man donated to the university when he died and they have turned it into a park and used the mansion as a hotel and conference center. On the property there is also a place called "the house in the woods" and that is where we stayed. The next morning we didn't have clean clothes so we traveled back home and got cleaned up and then came back for the brunch which once again was fabulous. Calista thinks she is ruined for ordinary food now. I have posted some pictures of us in the park the next morning.

Snow and Fun

Everyone probabely had a great deal of snow recently, but I thought I would post pictures of all the snow we got. University of Illinois cancelled for two days (first snow days in 30 years) so it was pretty great. Cali and I got to stay home and watch movies. Our only real adventure was going out to the grocery store and that is when I took most of the pictures. As you can see from one of the pictures, a lot of the cars were completely buried because of the plows. It was awesome this year to have a garage!