Bills vs Broncos

There are a lot of things that have changed since I moved to Denver. I don’t tolerate cold very well.  I’ve fallen in love with podcasts thanks to long commutes. I spend much more time outdoors. I’ve become accustomed to the fact that people take exits when they’re three lanes over too far to the left.

But one thing that has changed that I never expected – a deepening of my love for the Buffalo Bills. I mean, I live in the heart of Broncos Country. Where orange and blue are practically state colors. Where they even describe one type of sunrise as a “Broncos Sunrise”. Where a Broncos jersey is always appropriate attire, no matter what occasion, no matter what time of year. Where the number 7 is more than just a lucky number. Where I find myself comparing famous musicians to Broncos players to try to describe how awesome they were. Example: “Nadia Boulanger was the Von Miller of composition teachers!”

My first year out here, I was much more interested in following the Broncos than the Bills, even though I’d have said I was still a Bills fan. They were headed to Superbowl 50, it was Peyton Manning’s last season, and who wasn’t rooting for them at that point? My love of football in general was deepening, because discussing what happened each week was an easy way to make conversation with colleagues I didn’t know well. And I was playing fantasy football for the first time with my future in-laws.

Last season, I started wearing Bills gear to school instead of Broncos gear on Football Fridays. I was in 2 fantasy football leagues, and I always looked forward to the Monday lunchroom conversations about how the games went the day before. As far as the Bills go, I loved Sammy Watkins, was always proud of LeSean McCoy, and always got on the emotional roller coaster that comes from having Tyrod Taylor as a quarterback. We made our first visit to LoDo’s in Denver to watch a game with fellow Bills fans, and it was an awesome experience. But Rex Ryan drove me nuts as the coach, and I felt like I could never really be proud of the team.

This season, I went all in. I listened to John Murphy’s broadcast of the draft. I agonized as the Pegulas made the decision to hire a new coach. I cried when they traded Sammy Watkins away. All winter and summer I lived for football season to return. I’m now in 4 fantasy football leagues (and it’s going almost as poorly as you might expect). Several times a week I download the John Murphy show podcasts to listen during my drive to get all the inside info I can on the Bills. I forgot to pay attention to the Broncos news during all of preseason. Every Friday I wear my Bills scarf to school…and every Monday after they’ve won a game. And on Sundays I’m always wearing a Bills shirt, and most Sundays we go to evening church so we can watch the game in the morning (to all those East Coasters – you are so lucky that game times revolve around you!). I still don’t own a jersey – at the start of the season I was going to buy a Watkins jersey until they traded him. Now I’m too scared to pick someone.

This season was the perfect time to go crazy with my love for the Bills. Because on week 3 of the season, the Buffalo Bills hosted the Denver Broncos at New Era Field.

Ever since the schedule was announced, I was waiting for that week.

One of my good friends at school is a giant Broncos fan. Okay, the majority of my work friends are Broncos fans, but this one has her classroom decked out in Broncos gear. We would always swap football notes last season when she’d drop her kids off for recess duty. So I warned her back in the spring that it was going to be a battle that week.

And I don’t forget my promises.

It started with a few printed out signs I put on her door…which she returned to me with a few edits.

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The next day, she left this flag on my door.

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So I had Von Miller pay her a visit (yes, I went to Wal-Mart and bought this poster for this purpose…and his head angle was perfect for a speech bubble).

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He came back with a different message.

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Then I stayed late at school for almost 2 hours decorating her room Thursday night after she left, since she gets to school earlier than me.

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When I arrived Friday morning, she had a few choice decorations for me, and had substantially altered the decor I left for her.

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The best part? Peter and I were invited over to her house to watch the game with their family. It was great to watch a game with other passionate football fans, eat good food, and yell lots at the TV. In the end, the Bills triumphed in an upset victory, and I celebrated by wearing a Bills shirt on Monday.

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Autumn in Colorado

This is my third fall in Colorado, and I will never cease to complain about the lack of color, the lack of apple picking, the lack of true apple cider, the lack of delicious locally made powdered donuts to go along with locally made apple cider, and the fact that Colorado can’t make its mind up about which part of my seasonally divided closet I need to wear on any given day.

But at least the aspen trees are pretty!

For two weekends in a row, we took I-70 into the mountains to embrace the limited amount of fall that can be experienced here (this makes me sound like the bitter Upstate New Yorker that I really am during this season). The first weekend, we took Independence Pass up to Aspen to view the Maroon Bells. And thanks to Colorado being Colorado, it was cold, rainy, foggy, and on the drive home, snowy. (It really was a great chance to make some memories, and it did remind us of our years in marching band, getting soaked to the bone every weekend).

The next weekend we went to a wedding in lovely Vail, and it was an absolutely beautiful day for the wedding. And then we drove home through rain, fog, and snow.

On that last drive home, Peter asked: “Can we not drive into the mountains and have to drive through a snow storm next weekend?”

Here’s a compilation of pictures from both weekends.

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South Dakota Trip (but first – Wyoming!)

This summer, we had a mini-family vacation road trip to South Dakota with my husband and his parents. Nothing like a trip in a PT Cruiser with broken air-conditioning in July heat to bring a family together! It really was a fantastic trip. This trip hit many parts of the country I’ve wanted to see, but have never had a chance to go before. I was pretty excited! I also started my own Passport to the National Parks earlier in the summer, and it was time to get a whole bunch of stamps! In my tradition of having really delayed blog posts, I’ll be sharing different parts of the trip during the next few weeks on the blog (with interruptions by our autumn adventuring!)

Our trip started with a stop in Wyoming to visit the Oregon Trail Ruts, Fort Laramie, and Register Cliff. As a kid, I was obsessed with the Oregon Trail game (even though I always died of dysentery), so I was pretty excited to see the trail ruts. These ruts were carved out by the hundreds of thousands of pioneers who passed through Guernsey, WY. While other parts of the Oregon Trail had many variations, almost all the travelers went through this spot, taking the wagons through soft sandstone, leaving ruts that are almost 5 feet deep in spots.

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Fort Laramie was a short drive away from the Oregon Trail Ruts. Fort Laramie was originally established as a private fur trading post that later became one of the largest military outposts until it was abandoned in 1890. Work is still being done to recreate exactly what the fort would have looked like during its height.

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We also stopped briefly at the Register Cliffs – a cliff side where pioneers on the Oregon Trail would often record their names as they went through. Unfortunately, all those names have been carved over by modern visitors leaving their own names.

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And all that was on the first day of traveling!

There’s more to come on Devil’s Tower, Custer State Park, Mount Rushmore, Crazy Horse, The Badlands, and more in future blog posts! Stay tuned!

 

 

Rocky Mountain Showdown!

There’s nothing like getting multiple bucket list items taken care of at once!

  • See a game at Mile High Stadium
  • See a CU Boulder Game
    • More specifically, watch the big University of Colorado vs Colorado State University game
  • See Ralphie the Buffalo – CU’s live mascot!

This past Friday was the big Rocky Mountain Showdown at Mile High Stadium, and it kicked off my birthday weekend! I’ve never been to a Division I sporting event, so it’s been on my bucket list ever since Peter started his PhD program. Going to a small college in Western NY that entered the NCAA during my senior year, and the fact that I was a music major, meant that college games didn’t really matter. I went to one soccer match because my friends asked me to, and I was confused the entire time. As a grad student I went with the pep band to basketball games, and while I wasn’t confused, I wasn’t intrigued either. Once during undergrad I visited Peter’s college and watched them play football…well, I actually went to watch the marching band, and a football game happened to go on. So I was really excited about going to this game!

We also had an additional adventure – public transport! We decided to take the light rail into the city to try to avoid some of the chaos. Things were a little tense making the first train, but we managed to jump on just as the doors were getting ready to close! We switched trains at Union Station, making it the first time I’ve been there for transportation reasons (they’ve got a great ice cream place at the station). We joined the crazy mobs of college students headed to the stadium, and I suppose starting chants on the train is part of the experience? The whole process was pretty easy, and we ended up getting to the stadium with about 35 minutes to kick off, giving us plenty of time to grab food and find our seats.

Being a marching band nerd, it’s always been important to me to be there for all the pregame festivities – with the bonus this time of watching them run Ralphie across the field, CU’s actual buffalo! While that was a tradition I was expecting, I was NOT expecting a massive cannon blast when CSU entered the stadium. After the game I did a bit of research – apparently Comatose the Cannon is a tradition dating back to 1920 for CSU. They fire the blank shells during the national anthem, when the team takes the field, and whenever they score a touchdown. I may be biased, but I prefer Ralphie to Comatose.

The game itself was a ton of fun! I’ve been getting excited for the start of football season, and this was the perfect way to kick off September. The most tense moment of the night was when CSU was getting killed with penalties, and those fans just started throwing trash on the field. Getting to watch the halftime shows was certainly a highlight – I miss helping out with marching bands, but I don’t miss all those extra rehearsals!

And now that football season is underway, if you talk to me, you might not want to bring up the subject of football around me unless you’re ready to learn more about the Buffalo Bills than you ever wanted to know!

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Check out the angle of the seats!

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Even though we weren’t watching the Broncos, it was so cool to be at their home stadium!

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RMNP: Bear Lake Hike

This was a packed weekend! After a long week at work (as in, actually had to work for 5 days in a row), I was finally relieved of the suspense of the past few weeks – my number did not get called for jury duty! I was stressed all week about having to create sub plans, especially for my Kinder classes who I had only seen once – thankfully I can put off updating my sub tub for a few more weeks! On Saturday I attended a bridal shower for a friend, Sunday included trying to get ready for the third week of school, and we finally had time for another hike on Saturday!

[Unrelated note: I taught the Star-Spangled Banner to all the students in grades 2-5, which meant I gave them the historical context of the song. The second graders got SUPER excited when they learned that America won the Revolutionary War!]

Since we got the National Parks Annual Pass earlier this summer, we’ve tried to take advantage of it, and if we’ve done our math correctly, we’ve already “made” money off of it! This weekend it was time for our annual fall trip to Rocky Mountain National Park (look back at our previous trips here and here and here). Since we weren’t sight-seeing with friends and family, we actually got the opportunity to go to a different park of the park – Bear Lake.

The trail by Bear Lake can take you to Nymph Lake, Dream Lake, and Emerald Lake with an out-and-back trail. Peter picked this hike specifically so we could choose our length, depending on how we were feeling. We went out to Nymph Lake, which was absolutely breathtaking. I can’t get over how many beautiful places there are in Colorado. I would have loved to sit and relax there, or hike on to the other lakes, but my knee was acting up, so we headed back and took a look at Bear Lake. It was absolutely wonderful, even though we only stopped at a few photo spots. We’re making plans to go back earlier in the day (it’s been a theme this summer of us getting to the trail head around 2:30 in the afternoon – not ideal), that way we can take it a bit slower so my knee holds up for us to visit the other lakes.

Pro Tip: People who are actually pros already knew this, but we got a pleasant surprise – they have a Park and Ride in the park! It was so nice to find parking easily, then just ride 12 minutes to get to the trail head, instead of fighting for a spot in one of the tiny parking lots along the way. So much less stressful!

I didn’t get many pictures, but I hope you enjoy what I have!

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It took a while, but we finally got a nice selfie at Nymph Lake!

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Bear Lake

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It’s A New School Year!

It’s been a great first week of school so far! I never like to see summer end, but I really am excited to be back working with “my” kiddos!

The Classroom

One of the things I was most excited about for this year was reorganizing my classroom. Thanks to getting hand-me-downs from other teachers, I can finally make my classroom more kid-friendly! Not that it was unfriendly before, but the students had to rely on me to always get them whatever supplies and instruments they needed each class, because there was no easy way to store it where I could trust them to put it away responsibly (or trust myself to give them enough clean up time at the end to put things away responsibly). I’m continuing to stick with the Minion theme – why change a good thing?

Teaching Content

I still haven’t mastered the art of curriculum mapping, but each year I feel like I’m getting closer to actually understanding what I’m doing. In this case, K-2 is going to be Kodaly focused, really developing those early musicianship skills. 3rd grade will do staff reading and recorders, and 4th grade will build off of that work by adding in Orff instruments and playing multiple parts. Or at least that’s the plan right now. There’s always the potential for that to be trashed if it’s overly ambitious. And 5th grade will be focused on jazz again this year – spending a whole year introducing them to a different view of American history and music. It’s both exciting and challenging all at once.

Since we’ve got another new schedule (one where I get to see every class every week!), I’m also trying to add in a “Composer of the Month”. Because why not add more onto my plate before I master what I have? August and September is focused on Aaron Copland, so we’ll see how that goes! I’m planning on introducing his music next week, and I’m pretty excited to see their reactions to “Hoedown”!

Oh, and a side note about schedules – I only have 1.5 hours of lunch/recess duty each day this year! It makes the day significantly less stressful. The children are very dear to me, but it’s hard to contain them in unstructured environments, and it’s mentally and emotionally exhausting.

Behavior Systems

I’m testing out a new behavior system that I stole from a 2nd grade teacher at our school (I’ve been told that the best teachers steal from others and make it their own!). The kids each get two verbal warnings before they have to fill out a grade appropriate “Think Sheet” to reflect on what happened. That paper gets sent home to be signed. 3 Think Sheets for the same reason lead to a referral. I LOVE the fact I can use the same system with all grades (because the sheets are modified for grade levels), instead of trying to remember 6 different behavior systems. And I like how clear it is – it takes the emotional component out of it for me. Choices lead to consequences! On the flip side, I’m giving out happy notes and writing positive emails home for students that do really well. So far, it seems like the students understand and are responding well to the verbal warnings.

The Eclipse

Our school district is kinda awesome, and they partnered with a company to purchase eclipse glasses for EVERYONE in the district! Our cafeteria made an “eclipse” brown bag lunch so our dining times could be flexible, and we all got to go outside to watch it together! I went out near the Kindergarten students, and it was so adorable to watch them get so excited! (And all of us teachers were sounding pretty excited too!). It was great to be in a place that encouraged both students and adults to take 30 minutes out of the day to marvel at nature. All stress was put aside for that little bit, and it was terrific!

Cute Kids

One of my greatest struggles as a general music teacher is singing. I haven’t had much training, and the training I’ve gotten has only really helped me to notice the problem areas in my voice. I end up feeling really insecure when I sing in front of my students, especially if I switch between my head and my chest voice to get all the notes. That insecurity wasn’t helped last week by some 1st graders laughing at me while I sang.

I knew it was only going to get worse, because this week I needed to teach the Star Spangled Banner to all our 2nd through 5th grade students in preparation for a performance at a Colorado Rockies game. That meant I was going to need to sing the national anthem multiple times each class. And that song doesn’t fit well in most people’s ranges! (Which is why one of my elementary music teachers wanted to change the national anthem to “America the Beautiful”. I promised him I would if I became the first female president. Still working on that.)

I decided to get “real honest” with my classes today, explain that my voice hasn’t worked well lately, and that it might be hard for me to sing, and remind them of our rules – we never laugh when anyone sings, even Mrs. Foster.

Well, the 3rd and 4th graders didn’t laugh at all, so that gave me the courage in the afternoon to sing all the way through the song for my 2nd graders before teaching it to them. As soon as I finished, one little boy burst out into applause! Besides warming my heart and making me feel better, the kids got really excited to start singing it for themselves! I’ve never seen a group of students so excited – they got annoyed when I tried to make them echo me in phrases. One little boy finally shouted out “I just want to sing this!”. Yeah, I gave in and let them just sing it. They were even a little bummed when I told them we were done with it for the day.

I have no doubt I’ll have more cute anecdotes to share in the coming weeks!

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(My desk has been a mess since day two – I keep telling myself I’ll try to keep it clean this year, but the start is not promising!)

Shadow Pine Loop

If you live in Colorado, it’s almost a necessity that you go on hikes every weekend. Unless it’s snowing, then you need to go skiing. Duh.

I love being outdoors, and I do enjoy hiking, but as I’ve told Peter, “But not Coloradan hiking!”. Short legs and iffy knees mean I usually can’t keep up if we go hiking with “true” Coloradans. So Peter devised a plan to go out twice a month for easy hikes in the area so I can slowly build up to trying some of the “must do” ones  – the first flatiron in Boulder, Sanitas, etc. We picked up a Falcon Guide appropriately titled “Best Easy Day Hikes Denver” and picked out the Shadow Pine Loop at the Flying J Ranch Park in Evergreen!

It’s a 2.6 mile loop (I absolutely love loops – I feel like I accomplish more than walking out and retracing my steps), and we didn’t bother to time ourselves to see how long it took (but the book says it’s 1.5 hours). We went on a hot Saturday, but as is noted in the book “Secluded and sedate, this loop winds through thick stands of lodgepole pine, making it a perfect option for a hot summer day”.

I really enjoyed it, though I was pretty tired by the end, but that’s the whole point, right? One aspect of the hike that jumped out to both of us was the lack of “smell” of the forest. If you take a hike in the woods in Upstate New York, you get hit with all sorts of smells, which I usually categorize as “the woods”. But there wasn’t any sort of overpowering smell, not even with all the pine trees. Just another different between NY and CO!

It’s a beautiful area, not too far of a drive, and if it weren’t for all the other hikes we need to check out from the book, I’d gladly go again!

Oh, and Peter took some fabulous pictures during this hike. Maybe if you help me pester him, he’ll give in to writing another blog entry with his pictures? If you’d like to see them, comment and let us know!

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