Thursday, April 25, 2013

Top Ten Things I Learned From Traveling with Little Kids

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

This past weekend Chris, the kids and I met up with some Oklahoma friends in San Antonio for their Spring Break. This was only the 2nd family vacation we have taken and the 1st trip to have taken with Luke. Approximately 2 years ago after moving to Texas in June of 2011, Chris and I decided to try to take a "Family Vacation" to San Antonio with Natalie. This was a complete and utter diaster. She was not even 2 years old yet and she was OUT OF CONTROL! She had a temp-tantrum in the San Antonio Zoo that was just epic! She also didn't do well with the typical tourist attractions in San Antonio like the Alamo and the Riverwalk.

Despite that vacation record, we decided Natalie had grown up a lot and we REALLY wanted to see our friends. This quick- QUICK 48 hour trip turned out to be AMAZING and a blast. I am so glad we decided to go ahead and meet our friends.

I did learn a few things though:

10. When having to use baby food... Jar Food is better.
The 1st evening and day we were using the plastic containers that come in 2-packs. Then after an entire container spilt all over the back seat and diaper bag, we went to Wal-Mart and decided to get the jars that had screw-on lids! I swear this was just pure genius!
9. Don't forget the DIRTY CLOTHES bag!
Haha... So we already had a TON of stuff with a baby and two kids but after the 2nd night we realized we didn't have a large bag for all the dirty clothes. With Luke contributing several dirty clothes from blowouts, it would have been nice to have a plastic bag for those and some way to keep those nasty clothes from our remaining clean clothes.
8. Don't detail your car until after the trip!
This is a "DUH" thing I know but I spent a lot of time the previous week leading up to the trip cleaning out my car and getting it ready for our trip. I vacuumed and Armoral-ed all over the place and even went to the car wash to get it detailed further. We had not even reached San Antonio before there were cracker and chip crumbs everywhere and a container of baby food had stained my seats! I think next time I will just tidy it up and leave the real cleaning and detailing til AFTER the trip!
7. Sometimes McDonald's just isn't worth it!
Having traveled with my family my entire life, I was brought up to eat snacks in the car and way back in the day my family would not even stop to eat fast food. Instead, we would buy bread and peanut butter and jelly supplies and make sandwiches on the road. I use to hate this because I wanted to eat out, especially McDonald's for breakfast! However, it was on this trip that I discovered (Well... I should say I was REMINDED) that McDonald's is just terrible and should be avoided at all costs! We stayed at a hotel that did not have breakfast so both mornings we had to stop and get breakfast for all of us. We ate at Sonic on the first day but on the second day on our way to the Safari, we saw a McDonald's and decided to stop and get breakfast. WHAT A MISTAKE! The service was AWFUL and the food wasn't any better. I guess my Dad WAS right... NEVER EAT AT MCDONALDS! Thanks dad! I will remember next time!
6. A Hotel is just a place to sleep.
Our friends from Oklahoma had originally asked us to stay with them on the River walk at a very extravagant hotel and was pretty pricey per night. Having not stayed with Luke in a hotel situation I was very hesitant to pay that kind of money to stay with a newborn. I remember Natalie as a young child in a hotel room and I wanted to PULL OUT MY HAIR! We decided to stay at a Red Roof Inn close to the airport. My dad also taught me that if you are going to stay in a cheaper hotel, at least stay near the airport because those hotels are usually nicer! I looked and looked and looked and finally found one that was recently remodeled and still under $100 a night! Again, I didn't know what to expect. It turned out that this was a hotel that worked well for our family! I do think next time we stay in San Antonio we will stay closer to all the amenities, however! It did NOT have breakfast so that too became and added expense and hassle! But overall, it worked for the reason we needed it... TO SLEEP!
5. In Texas... Vacations are ALWAYS better when it is not as hot!
Nearly 2 years ago, Chris and I took Natalie to San Antonio in late July and that was just a nightmare. She is naturally hot natured (Just like her Mama and Poppy) but this was just ridiculous! She was sweating and getting so hot she would need to be held all the time! We tried to go on a river boat tour on the Riverwalk and she just screamed and screamed and screamed! That was in July... This time around, in March, she and all 4 of the kids were just fine! It was very pleasant at only 80* most of the time! We did the Kiddie Park and it too was very nice and pleasant! I don't think I will do San Antonio in July again! Whew... it was too hot!
4. Don't Let Mommy (Kellie) feed the Zebras
So on Sunday before we headed home to Houston, we stopped in New Braunsfel at a Drive-Thru Safari. We figured Natalie would just love it! SHE DID! We reached a point in the Safari of feeding the Zebras and a sign said "Don't let the Zebras eat from your hand... THEY WILL BITE". I immediately got a little nervous since we had been holding our hand out the entire tour until then. Chris had Natalie in his lap first and he continued to hold his hand out for the animals to eat from. Sure enough, a Zebra bit him! This scared me so when the zebras came to me I still placed my hand out the window to allow them to eat from my hand but I was nervous! One Zebra came and ate and did not bite but I only had a handful in my hand. The rest was still in the bag in my lap! Like any other animal of the wild, he smelt the rest of the food in my lap and reached his head into our car and took the entire bag. I think I had a "My life just flashed before my eyes" type of moment. Natalie started immediately crying and said "The Zebra took all the rest of our food". Poor Natalie was so upset. Luckily, we had 2 more bags of food for the rest of the Safari. I get freaked out by big animals and obviously I should NOT feed Zebras!
3. Having an older child around to help is AMAZING!
Natalie Grace was so AWESOME on this trip! Seriously, looking back on our previous trip to San Antonio when Natalie was 22 months old was so depressing going into this trip! On that trip Natalie was very needy and cling-y and was constantly fussy! Now as mentioned above, it was 110+* in San Antonio and this was our first trip as a family (As parents!) but I was very nervous going into this trip remembering that trip. It turns out that taking a baby or a toddler on vacation BY YOURSELF is HARD but when a young child is available to help AND ENTERTAIN the baby... it is pretty easy and FUN! Natalie Grace was a life-saver at some moments on the trip! She would go and help entertain Luke while we paid for a food bill. She would also help keep him entertained and HAPPY on the car trip! She was able to ride in the stroller or walk along side us! She even helped out with our friends' 2 year old and baby! Thank you Natalie Grace! This makes me want to do it AGAIN!
2. I need a BIGGER car!
Our poor Small SUV was loaded to the ground with all the stuff you need for a baby and a toddler. Chris and I had to practically share a suitcase just to have room for all the gear and equipment needed for a family of two small children. Plus we needed snacks and  a cooler for the car. It felt as if we were actually moving to San Antonio at some points of the trip! I know Chris likes NOT HAVING a car payment but I am thinking that if we are going to take anymore family vacations, WE NEED A BIGGER 3rd row SUV!
1. A Family Vacation is ABOUT THE KIDS!
I think one of the things we did wrong on the 1st trip in 2011 was trying to meet the needs of Chris and I... Not of Natalie. This time we realized that this "Family" vacation was about our kids! For example, as soon as we got to the hotel and got our stuff unloaded Natalie was so Excited! SHE WENT CRAZY! She started chasing Luke around and just having fun! The OCD person in me kept wanting to get the suitcases unloaded and other stuff ready for the next day and get on to her and tell her to settle down. Instead I was just let her run around and get her energy out! She wanted to have fun and she has stayed in hotels with Gigi Shirley and Poppy numerous times so she was just having fun! Luke loved it and was belly-laughing frequently. Both nights were like this and it was fun! We also planned our activities to meet the kids needs! We ate pizza instead of a nice sit-down Mexican restaurant. We went to the Kiddie Park and Safari instead of spending tons of time at the Riverwalk! This allowed it to be a memorable experience for Natalie! Despite this being "ABOUT THE KIDS" I still had a ton of fun! I think it was because I got rid of my "All Serious, All the Time" attitude and started to act like a kid! Thanks Chris for helping me get into this "MODE"!
Our mini-vacation to San Antonio was really fun and I hope to be able to meet up with our friends from Oklahoma ANNUALLY to see each other and watch our kids grow! We really miss y'all and are so glad we got together!
God is good... ALL the time!

Beginning to Feel the BURN

Thursday, April 25, 2013
When we think of how our life, career and dreams will pan out, we often think of all the wonderful things that will happen to us and never really think of the reality. This is probably why there are millions of people in the world suffering from depression (One of the many reasons, I'm sure!). But then again, who really wants to think of the bad things or "REAL" things that might happen.
I have been performing music since I was 5 years old. I have always had a knack and talent for music and I knew at a VERY early age that music was going to be a big part of my life. In fact, I figured out when I was only a freshman in high school that I wanted to be a teacher, a band director specifically.
I was VERY ACTIVE in sports, clubs and pretty much everything in Junior High and High School but through all the things I did, I never received the personal attention and care that I needed and DESERVED until I was in band. I was part of the volleyball, basketball and many other sports teams where I was just part of the team but the coach or sponsor never really focused on me. When I was in band as a 6th through 8th grader just learning how to play the saxophone my band directors would stay late into the afternoon to help me and some of my peers. They would help use learn songs we were playing in band class as well as help us prepare for other solo performing opportunities. Often times when my dad would come and pick me up from the band hall, all of the other teachers were long gone and sometimes even the principals and administration would be gone as well. My band teachers really took the time to help their students. I learned as a freshman in high school as my Volleyball coach left in her convertible before my dad even picked me up from a 4:30 practice that I wanted to take the time to help students just like my band director did. He had touched my life and made me feel like somebody important, just by being there for me and taking the time to HELP me. I knew right then and there that I was supposed to do that too.
From that day forward, I have had the blinders on and been on what I thought would be a path towards greatness in a career of Music Education. I went to OU in Norman, OK and was so determined to "get out there" and teach band that I took a 140+ credit hour degree that is usually completed in 5+ years and gradated in 4 years. In fact I was one of only a handful of OU Music Ed graduates EVER to do so. I just wanted to teach SO BAD!
I graduated from OU in May of 2005 and in June I was offered a job teaching at "Smalltown" , OK (Name to remain secret...). I would be teaching K-12 Music and Band. I was THE music department. It was a very small class C school in Eastern Oklahoma with an entire school enrollment of only 400. I taught elementary music, beginning band, intermediate band, marching band and even Jazz Band. But even after just 1 year, I was wanting more from my career and wanted to get closer to my home of Norman, OK. I got married in the spring of 2006 and in June 2006 I was offered a new job at a small school in a suburb of OKC.
I stayed at that job for 5 years and while there I had many emotions about the position itself as well as my career. There were days where I was elated with excitement about teaching elementary music and middle school band there and then there were days where, once again, I was left with a  desire with wanting more with my Music Education career. After my 4th year of teaching there, I tried to look for a job teaching High School Band so I could get that much needed experience of Marching Band. In 2008-2009, I decided to go ahead and start my graduate degree and attained a Master's of Music in 2009. At this time I still wanted to one day be able to teach at the collegiate level and get a PhD in Music or Music Education.
In 2009 I was blessed with our beautiful daughter Natalie Grace and my momentum took a slight turn as my heart was more with Natalie than with my career. But even with my blinders taken off for a short amount of time while she was a baby, I still desired to do more with my career. In 2009, Chris was laid-off from his business job and we began down a long road to where we are today. I continued to teach at that small school in the OKC suburbs during 2009-2011 and those turned out to be the best years of my career. I was awarded "Teacher of the Year" for my school and even "Teacher of Today" for my county! Even though I was not at a large high school teaching Marching Band like I wanted I was still make an impact on the students lives at my school and I was still doing what I LOVE... Teaching BAND!
In 2010, Chris changed careers and he too got into education. I think he has a gift for teaching and he does really well with kids. Within a few months of searching for a job in Math, Chris was offered a job teaching HS Algebra at a LARGE district in the Houston metro area. And just like that my "perfect" little job of teaching band had disappeared. I had wanted all my life to come back to Texas and teach band and now, even though I was FINALLY content were I was in MY CAREER, I would  get the chance to do so.
In the summer of 2011 I was on a mad hunt for a band job in the Houston Metro area. I went on several interviews and some of them were very promising. Some were going to be a haul of a commute (1.5+ hours each way) but I would be teaching band. In late June I decided that I was more "marketable" in Elementary Music since I didn't have that much needed Marching Band experience. Within days of applying for Elementary Music positions, I was offered 5 different interviews and 3 jobs. My current job was offered to me only 3 hours after the interview. Clearly, I was correct in making myself marketable in Elementary Music. Luckily, I took the job I am currently at and I have LEARNED a lot!
However, my heart is still with band and I really, REALLY want to get back into the performance side of Music Education. I have taught Elementary music at EACH AND EVERY one of my jobs and positions over the past 8 years but my heart has still been with band. During the previous 2 years, I have discovered that I still long to be in the band directors chair. That is where my PASSION is.
I have been job hunting for the past 4 years in a row... each year looking for band jobs. I know and realize that the band jobs usually don't come open until late in the game (Late April until June) but as I sit here and reflect my current state of emotions I feel defeated as I only see 2 band jobs posted and they are already full. Even with a Master's degree, I have been over-looked in these positions. I am so discouraged with my current position and depressed that I have even looked at other Elementary Music positions and of the 4 I have seen available I have been over-looked there too.
I realize it is VERY early in the Job-Hunting game but I feel as if I am in a deep hole that I may not be able to climb out of. My hopes and dreams of teaching collegiate band have LONG vanished and I have settled in the head and dreams for just teaching HS band and now I am so discouraged and depressed, I just want to teach BAND... I don't care what level, I just want BAND!
As a Music Education student (Heck, even a regular Education student) they would warn us about the dreaded "Burn-Out". They would say "The first 5 years are always the hardest and once you get past those you should be fine". I am currently in my 8th year of teaching and for the first time EVER I am beginning to feel the BURN. I LOVE music and I LOVE kids and I want to be able to combine the two but somewhere along the way (In the past 2 years especially)... my passion has diminished. For example, I am currently taking 15 minutes out of my designated 45 to teach math or reading on a daily basis! My personal Music Ed philosophy is based around performance and I believe students learn best by doing. I am just NOT getting that from my current position. I could go into much greater detail about my current frustrations but that is not necessary to understand my frustrations and sadness to the whole situation.
I went on an interview last week and the results did not turn out how I had hoped or even imagined but I know everything happens for a reason. As always, I know God is trying to teach me something from this happening in my life, unfortunately, I just don't know what He is trying to teach me.
As a 16-17 year old I dreamed of a life with a big happy family (That part came true... I love you Chris, Natalie and Luke) and myself being a band director and living the "Good Life". Over the past 8 years that dream has drifted further and further away and I feel as if right now that dream has almost vanished. I have such mixed feelings and emotions about the whole situation and I currently don't even know how or what to feel. I covet your prayers...
Even in the midst of this trial...