Tuesday, November 25, 2008


Close to the holidays motivation is a bit tough. 5th graders are still going strong, becuase they can't belive they can now play Jingle Bells on their instruments. They look excited even when I tell them to take out their bows! Every direction I give them is exciting! 6th graders, however, are a little harder to motivate sometimes. They still get excited about certain songs, but it's not the same as when a 5th grader comes in telling me about all the songs they have performed for their parents. I just started using a new trick to try to get my 6th graders to go home with the same excitement.

Whenever my 6th graders look bored and I feel bored, I just have them close their books and I teach them a song by rote. This week we learned Star Wars, which was super fun. They get excited when they get to play "a real song". I already have some other ideas running around in my head. I was thinking about teaching them The Hockey Pokey and Pirates of the Carribean. Maybe I can even use these rote songs as leverage. They can be my new reward for good rehearsals.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

It All Happened in Just a Year

This year is the first time I have the same students two years in a row. It seems to be a good thing and a bad thing. The positives are that I got to start them from scratch. I taught them how I wanted them to play and they even know my weird language and how to do what I mean and not what I say. The problem is that they despite these positives, they soon grow up and start becoming adolescents.

Just last year my 5th graders were all happy-go-lucky kids. They seemed excited about everything and always came to class with a million stories about guitar hero, sports, and anything that was on their mind. This year they are pretty much the same, but sometimes they're just a tad bit grumpy. And sometimes they are a bit too tired to be bothered by me. And they certainly are becoming more sarcastic. What is the deal? Some of my 6th graders were that way last year, but I just assumed that's how those kids were. I never presumed that those students had been sweet 5th graders the year before. I guess there is something to that whole puberty thing. Maybe I just need to focus on the positives. I mean, they really do play quite well. And they still enjoy strings and want to come to class. But it does make me a little more suspicious of my super nice 5th graders.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

For those of us sufferening from political humor withdrawal....

I thought this was the funniest thing. It is great for both music nerds and political humor nerds....

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Holy Spirit

I am reading a book on the Holy Spirit that has changed my thinking on how the Holy Spirit works. For some reason I always thought of the Holy Spirit mostly as a guide and someone who gave me strength in my daily life. This may be partly true, but this book has a focus on obeying the Holy Spirit. I knew that I was supposed to obey the Father and the Son, but I didn't think about obeying the Holy Spirit. Little by little we get better at obeying the Holy Spirit. I am becoming more aware of how patient I need to be as the Spirit works to change my life. It is apparently a very slow process.
It maybe seems slow to me because this idea of obeying really challenges me. This is true for a number of reasons. First of all I don't really like obeying. In particular it is hard to learn to obey other people, but that is an essential step in learning to obey the Holy Spirit. If we aren't able to surrender our will and our opinions in order to obey a person we won't be able to do it in response to the Holy Spirit. Also I find it hard not to rely only on my own will. Old habits die hard. Anyway it at least seems like the beginning of something new in my own faith even though it is a very old idea.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

This and that

Softball is sadly over. We had a great time. We even ended up in first place! We had one loss, but apparently that was good enough. Now I have to find a new activity to rid my mind of thoughts about school. I shouldn't complain too much about school. The students have been a lot of fun. It has been really nice getting to have some of my students for the second year in a row. 5th and 6th graders also can make me laugh more than just about anyone. Some of my students makes my laugh so hard that it is difficult to respond to his off-task behavior.

We recently celebrated our 1st year anniversary of living in the same house. I even got the "let's move somewhere, Cali" itch, but I think it has mostly passed. I still do love looking at other houses. Last Sunday we went to an open house that was down the street. I thought it was fun, but it kind of depressed Cali. The house had a huge master bedroom with a walk in closet and a master bath. This prompted us to go home and rearrange our bedroom and make it look bigger. It kind of worked. We created a bit more space.

This week has been busy. Cali and I have had trouble getting to see each other. I have had parent teacher conferences and she has had some after school classes. We have used much of our free time to fill our brains with too much information about this year's campaign. There have been a few days that we got stuck in front of MSNBC for hours. It's amazing how they can keep presenting the same information too us in so many different entertaining ways.

Gotta go, special live coverage of the final president debate is now at hand!

Friday, September 26, 2008

ha ha

Try JibJab Sendables® eCards today!

Friday, August 01, 2008


Perhaps one of the marks of a true nerd is their love of NPR. Perharps the mark of a nerdier nerd is one who calls NPR shows to comment. From time to time I am sure everyone thinks about calling a radio show and I actually have before, but I never got through. Today on my to Cali's school I got a little excited and dialed the number for "Up to Date" on KCUR. It was weird because the phone actually rang and the woman I talked to asked me what to comment on. I told her and then she told me that I was 4th and line so I might not get on. She put me on hold and I got super nervous. Fortunately I had enough time to sort of calm down so that I wouldn't sound terribly dumb. Here is the link. It is the show dated 8/1/08. Once you are there download the file because then you can fast forward. Obviously I am the caller "Jeremy from Shawnee" about 30 min or halfway into the show. Pretty nerdy, huh.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Lazing and exploring the West

Summer days have been a bit lazy. Shower time has gotten later and later and Cali, Amanda, and I are alternating between reading, playing video games, watching tv, and going to the pool. I don't think I have had a summer like this since I was 12. So far the reading has been quite good. Cali and I went and saw Leif Enger talk about his latest book, So Young Brave and Handsome, a few weeks ago. This is his second book. Peace Like a River was his first and it is one of our favorites. We have trouble keeping it stocked because we tend to recommend it and give it away. This latest book ended up being quite good, but I didn't like it as well as the first. His books have kind of a Western feel and fantastic characters. When we heard him speak he talked about how the characters always come to him first. He generally has several characters floating around in his head and eventually he gets to the point where one or two won't leave him alone and he has to tell their story. Interesting.

The latest character I read about was Hondo, the star of an old Louis L'amour (that can't be his real name right?) book. Has anyone read him? It was actually kind of good. Maybe sometimes borderline sexist and occasionally borderline racist, but all in all good clean fun. Hondo was a tough hombre. And of course their was a woman. Not just any woman. She was "all woman" (that's how Hondo described her). Anyway if you are looking for something fun and a little silly to read, I recommend it. I think maybe sometimes I like books with a bit of a Western feel. It is an escape from the trials (or lack of trials) of suburban life.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Pictures from New Orleans

We had a great time in New Orleans for our 5th year anniversary. I have included pictures of some of the highlights. We went on a swamp tour and saw some interesting trees and many alligators. The sunset picture is from our steamboat dinner cruise. The best thing about New Orleans is definitely the food and the music. Although we went to some fancy places our favorites ended up being Acme Oyster house, and Cafe Beignet. Cafe Beignet had great outdoor seating and music going every night. They also had some great musician statues (Cali with Benny Goodman).

Tuesday, June 10, 2008


I just finished this really terrific book on interior peace. It mainly talks about being peaceful within which allows God to speak to us. The author gives the analogy that calm water is able to reflect the sun while water in turmoil does not. In the same way when we are worrying about things and are minds and hearts are full of clutter we don't hear God's voice. Trying it out in my life I have found it to be very hard. For instance, with our condo I want to just trust God, but instead I find myself fretting over every detail. It is difficult to trust that God will take care of us.

One of the other challenges of this book is to be patient. I was struck by the fact that we can desire good things but fall into sin by desiring them in the wrong way:

"Because the thing that we want is good, even seen as desired by God, we feel justified in wanting it with that much more impatience and displeasure if it is not realized. The more a thing seems good to us, the more we are agitated and preoccupied to realize it!"

Another quote from the book....

"That is to say that our wanting must always be caring, peaceful, patient, detached and abandoned to God. It should not be an impatient wanting, hurried, restless, irritated, ect."

Interesting, eh? The book is real short and it is called Searching for and Maintaining Peace by Father Jacques Philippe.

Monday, May 26, 2008


Today I realized that I will have to do body maintenance for the rest of my life. I went for a jog. I thought it would be a little rough, but I have been playing softball and starting to get in shape. It turned out to be terrible. I was breathing heavy and my heart was struggling to keep up. What is the deal? It seems that anymore I will have to do more than just some summer maintenance. I may have to exercise fairly regularly forever just to be able to recognize my body.

We tried hammocks today in the back yard and it was about a five minute success. I set it up for Cali and she started to sit down and then was instantly bit by a mosquito. Next time we will be better prepared. For now on going outside=putting on bug spray. Still, for a moment it seemed like such a romantic idea; lying in the hammock doing some summer reading. I am little worried that when we outgrow this house it is going to be hard to convince Cali to leave. She has already declared that she is not trading down for a smaller yard. The real challenge will come when our strawberry plants start producing.

Friday, May 23, 2008


A little late on the news, but I became Catholic. We had a bbq to celebrate. The best things about being Catholic so far:

1. Eucharist
2. Not going to RCIA anymore
3. Catholics are nice
4. Sports: I have gotten to play all kinds of sports with youngs adults of the Catholic church
5. Education, no seriously we have had some great classes as part of our young adult group
6. Being part of the same church as Cali
7. Rich and colorful history
8. Seeing my kids from school at Church
9. Being part of the music team

We finished our softball season. We finished with a loss, but we had a great year. By the end of the year it only took my legs one day to recover from the running. I feel like they had atrophied or something. The first week it seemed that I had not actually used my legs in years. They couldn't seem to understand what I was trying to do. When I ran from one base to another it was like the running in a cartoon where the first few steps I didn't actually go anywhere. When did I become so slow?! I think I am going to try to keep up with the movement. Cali is encouraging me to take tennis lessons this summer and I think I might. Now that my legs move again I don't want to lose them.

Last day of school! Yeah! Of course I start summer school soon, but that will be fun. Cali is not thrilled that my summer starts sooner than hers so I have to keep all my excitement to myself. Soon we will both celebrate. Have a great summer everybody!

Friday, April 11, 2008

It's Been A Bit Chilly

Cali and I were excited yesterday when we went into the yard and finally spotted a few buds in our garden! We thought maybe the birds had eaten everything. They are constantly in there rooting around and pecking at the ground. Stupid birds. Cali and I both have an aversion to birds for some reason. Maybe because they are dirty and stupid. And they eat stuff that isn't theirs! Anyway, mustard and radish buds are protruding, but I am a little worried. Can those guys survive this weekend? Today was really cold and it is supposed to get worse tomorrow. When I got out of my car today the door flew open and I thought it was a gonner. I was picturing myself pulling up to school for the rest of the year with nothing but a plastic sheet protecting my left side from the elements.

In other news, we managed to win a basketball tournament. I fell asleep. I was excited, but couldn't make it through the second half. I felt a little old when I found out that many of my 5th and 6th grade students had stayed up for the whole game.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Been a while

It has been a long time since I have written an entry. For lent I decided to limit my at home internet time to 10 minutes per night which makes it very hard to blog. Normally I just have time to check my email, some sports scores (Illinois is terrible this year), and the latest election results (go Obama!).

A quick update on the cats: As Beth predicted there are lots of them. They still make themselves very scarce. We haven't seen them often, but we have confirmed sightings of at least 5. I have tried to limit how often I feed them because I don't want them dependent, but I still want them hooked. This weekend I hope to try to start catching them. We have a program here called catch, neuter, release. That basically sums up our plans for these cats. I am a little concerned that only one is eating off our porch, so I am not sure how we are going to catch everyone.

We had a great time visiting Amy and Paul this weekend. Amy played in the pit for the King and I, which I thought was a great show. It was one of the best Carousel productions I have seen. Paul did some fantastic cooking this weekend. I have to say that he cooks meat better than just about anyone I know. We had fabulous steaks, homemade sausage, and awesome meatloaf. While there (or before) I picked up a bit of sickness, but not bad. My voice is a little rough, but that actually helps with teaching. Students listen better when you sound sick.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Baby Kitty (or Sister) continued.....

Last Monday was when I started investigating baby sister. After that things took a downward turn. We put out food that night and there was no response. In fact for the next three days we didn't see her (or him, who knows) and the food wasn't touched. Cali started getting worried as these were some of the coldest days of the month. I tried moving her food to the other side of the porch just in case she wasn't finding it. We started to think maybe baby sister was gone.

Friday night I took her bowl in and put some fresh food in it. I went out with my brother for dinner and returned late that night. I saw for the first time in five days that someone had eaten the partially frozen food. I went to bed and felt a little better. The next morning all the food was gone. This trend continued through the next several days. She has now cleaned her plate four days in a row.

Last night we decided to grill because the weather was great here. Later I went back out to cover the grill when it had turned dark. Something quick scattered from underneath our porch out into the yard. Baby kitty then turned and stood there. Cali joined me on the porch and I motioned her to shut the door quietly. I couldn't see much but as Cali and I mewed and made smoochy sounds sometimes I could see a pair of eyes reflecting our porch light. This morning when I went out I heard some quiet mewing, but couldn't see anything. I tried to converse, but then didn't hear anything else.

This evening I had one more spotting as she trotted away from our house. When I called she would turn and look each time, but then keep on trotting. I think she didn't like that I had turned on the flood light to the yard. I keep wondering if she and Malachi talk during the night. I mean surely he is aware of her, right? I guess I wouldn't put it past him to sleep through it all.

Monday, January 21, 2008

The Investigation of Baby Kitty

One day Malachi was yelling like he always does, waiting to get fed. Cali was ignoring him until she started hearing an echo every time Malachi was yelling. Somebody was responding outside the door! Cali went to check it out and a small black cat ran off. Since then we have been keeping an eye out for him and today because it is so snowy, I did some research. Here are my findings......

First of all I had to track him and see where his hangouts are. He appears to spend most of time in various buildings formally owned by our neighbor. She passed away and so the house and the surroundings sheds have become the perfect hiding place for baby sister (as Cali calls this cat). Here you see the footprints of baby kitty as I followed them throught the snow.

I next found one of the sheds that they kitty had gone under. You can see where the kitty went under the shed (there if plenty of space as seen below). Cali also maintains that sometimes he/she is sleeping under our porch. She likes to keep the dryer running just in case to provide some extra heat.

The house has not been lived in for at least a year and you can tell by the shape that it is in. The side porch is torn up and there is additional space for a kitty to slip and and sleep for the night.

I decided to talk to the neighbors about this kitty. The neighbor on one side says that she has not seen this black cat, but has seen its paw prints. She also told me about all the other interesting critters she has seen back there. Apparently a family of foxes was birthed under her porch last year and they got footage of the little babies by videotaping from and upstairs window. She also has seen groundhogs and we certainly are aware of moles in the back yard. This woman and her husband say they call it a mullet house, city in the front and country in the back.

When I talked to the neighbor on the other side, he said that he is pretty sure this cat is a stray. He has seen it several times and even saw this cat catch a squirrel! Just as we have been checking out the kitty she has been checking us out. I found several prints around our driveway, front door, and side door. Malachi seems to enjoy watching this cat, although we have only spotted her three times. I put food out tonight on the porch and Cali and I are excited to watch and see what happens.