The Author

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I am a high school English teacher, and mother of two charming little ones of my own. I teach in a high poverty urban charter school, while I live in a typical American suburb that has frequently been rated one of the safest cities in the country. It is a paradox I struggle with constantly, but it is my life.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Guess what? We are surviving without cable!

So, we cancelled our cable this week. We got all set up with our Roku last week, but the office was closed by the time we were ready to bring our cable stuff back, so we did it on Tuesday.

Guess what?  I don't miss it. I would definitely miss it if we only had Netflix. Although Netflix has a decent selection, it just isn't wide enough and doesn't meet all of the things I want television for. The other options on Roku make our viewing selection well-rounded enough for me to not miss cable.

So, here is the scoop (since when I was searching, I really could not find this information). What do you really need to pay for on Roku? What is free?  We paid for Netflix ($7.99/month, only includes streaming- DVDs are extra) and HuluPlus ($7.99/month). Everything else we are using is free. There are some interesting channels. I imagine we will explore a greater variety later, but here is what I have loved so far:
1) Tune in Radio. Internet radio- you can pretty much get anything that streams. To be honest, all we listen to is Native 92.5, a Hawaiian station. I love it for several reasons. First of all, they play all reggae. I could possibly listen to nothing but reggae (okay, and maybe The Beatles) for the rest of my life and be completely happy. (Side note... I wonder if there is a station that plays nothing but Beatles music? Anyone know?) Second of all, I love the commercials. I know, I am nuts, but listening to commercials for restaurants in Kihei and stuff like that just makes me happy. It is kind of like I can pretend I am there or something.

2) TED Talks. I practically cried tears of joy when I found the TED channel. If you do not know what TED is, you are SO missing out. TED stands for Technology Entertainment Design. Their motto is "Ideas Worth Spreading" and they have conferences all over the world where they invite some of the greatest minds in the world to speak about technology, entertainment, and design to, well, spread their ideas worth spreading. I love, love, love these and have used these in my teaching for years. Among my favorites are Carmen Deedy's "Spinning a Story (hysterically funny Cuban woman)," Birke Baehr's "What's Wrong with Our Food System?" (smartest 11 year old I have ever heard), and Ken Robinson's "Are Schools Killing Our Creativity?"

Anyhow... so there is a TED channel with thousands of TED talks on it, and I love them. Some are TED minis, which are 3-10 minutes long, and others are full length, meaning 18-22 minutes long. A new favorite is this TED mini about Life Edited that impresses me so much. My sister would totally love this guy.

3) NBC News. My mom will greatly appreciate this one, and it has been my favorite during Tiana's naptimes this week too. You know how sometimes you just want light tv, little clips you can watch that you don't have to get completely engulfed in? Like something to have on while you do chores or eat lunch?  The NBC news channel has the Today show, among other things, for free. I like the Today show a lot. The female hosts kind of irritate me, but not enough to stop watching.

- Sports
They do have Roku channels for pretty much every major league sport, but they cost money. On average, about $4.99/month. This was too much to be worth us subscribing too, at least right now, but we are not huge sports people. If there is a big game on that Marc does want to watch, I will have no problem with him making plans to hang out with friends at a sports bar.

- Amazon Instant Video
Honestly, Amazon Instant Video has practically everything you could ever imagine wanting to watch. You can rent or purchase movies individually on here, which is very much like pay per view on regular cable, only for the cost of renting on there, you usually get to purchase the digital copy on Amazon.

However... they do let you watch almost everything for free if you are a Prime member. As of now, I am only an Amazon Mom Prime member, which was free, so I do not have access to this; however, my Amazon Mom rights are expiring in about 2 weeks (gasp), and I don't know what I am going to do. I think I am going to have to pay for the $79.99/year membership free. This would pay for itself in 20 shipments, and I ship almost 20 things per month, let alone per year, so this is probably going to need to be a necessity.  I guess at least if I will be paying for it to get the free shipping, at least it comes with free instant video access.

So.. overall, we do not miss cable. I know that next month we will most certainly not miss the $145 a month bill. Our total cost now for cable internet only is $45. Add to that the subscriptions to Hulu and Netflix and we are still saving $84 a month! 

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Just goes to show...

My children are so adorable and so unique in their own ways. Tiana loves shoes and loves walking around the house in my shoes. Vinny... well, Vinny is not your typical 5 year old. While I hear stories about other 5 year olds having to decide between the 3 or 4 sports they love best, Vinny is having a hard time deciding between dance, gymnastics, and theater. While most little boys are building dragons out of legos or climbing on trees, my son thinks he is a rockstar.

He really does think he is a rockstar. He has decided to grow his hair out like a rockstar. Since he has never asserted any opinion over his hair before, I am letting it go, even though he looks like a mess.  He got a drumset, a karaoke machine, and a disco light ball for Christmas, and he pretty much never wants to leave his room now. He comes running out this morning, "Mom! I'm doing a concert on tv! Everyone in the whole word is watching it. Are you watching it?" I reply, "Oh... um... yeah!" So he asks, "Was I awesome on that last song?" Hahahahaha. Some day, he is going to be a famous rock star, and I am going to be in the wings, and crowds of people will be cheering him on, but he will still look back at his mommy for my seal of approval, "Was I awesome, Mom?" he will ask.  Sigh. Well, I guess it just goes to show, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree. He is most certainly his grandfather's legacy...

When I told my dad that Vinny wanted to grow his hair out, he said, "Well, he doesn't really get to make that decision does he? Take him to get his hair cut." Um, yeah, dad, it doesn't really work that way. He is old enough to care. Yet, this comes from the man who basically let himself get fired from his first job as a supermarket box boy over keeping his long hair.
Food that catches fire is just the best ever!

In other news, I went out with my friend Katrina and friends for her birthday night and had a lovely time at the Melting Pot. It is amazing how good meat can taste just because it boiled in broth for a little while. Yum. My favorite course is dessert though. The dark chocolate fondue is the best. I think I might want to get a fondue pot and have a fondue party.

So... Katrina brought a friend along, Tanya, whom I had not met before despite having tons of mutual friends, and she was way cool and we got along great. I love when that happens. You go out with a friend and mix groups of friends and find that everyone jives perfectly together. :-)   Anyhow... so towards the end of dinner, we are chatting about things and she mentions that her husband taught at Santa Su for years. I said, "Oh, I went there for a year, who is-  wait..... what's your last name again?"  "Levy."

Oh my... her husband was my 8th grade math teacher. I hated math, especially in junior high. Until about May, I hated him too. Haha. By June, I realized he might be okay. I actually have rather fond memories of our 8th grade class trip to Raging Waters. I remember going on that giant raft ride (the one that fits like 8 people) over and over, and everyone wanting to go with him because it flew so much faster with him on it. He was a great sport. I also recall him singing along to every song on the radio on the way back on the bus.   :-)  I have very few fond memories of my junior high years, but that day stands out as a rather pleasant memory.

Well, Tanya and I had a good laugh. Such is living in a small town I suppose. She texted him on the way home and he does remember me (which is kind of funny, because I was only there for one year), but he (jokingly, I think) text her back, "You need to get older friends." Hahahaha. Actually, I am the baby of that group of friends, but I rarely think about it. I sort of think age is irrelevant. We work as friends. We have similarly aged children, and we all enjoy good food and good music and good company.  Life is sweet. Friends make it that way. :-)

Monday, December 26, 2011

Forget Spring Cleaning....

Doesn't post-Christmas really feel like the "Spring" cleaning time?  It should just be called Winter cleaning. Well, I am in Winter cleaning mode anyway.  Tomorrow will be a big Freecycle day. 

We had a very productive day today though. It worked out well that Marc was off today and it was like another weekend day, so we could get a lot done. Fortunately, Tricia and Andy were able to come over and watch the kiddos today, and it worked out really well, since we had post-Christmas shopping rounds to make. It is MIRACULOUS how much we got done in two hours without kids. We went out to a semi-sit down lunch at Panera (courtesy of my aunt Jane, who remembered it is one of my favorite places and got me a gift card for my birthday), bought ink at Staples, made a return at Macy's (necklace Marc got me was beautiful... but too tight for my tastes), went to the post office, exchanged Vinny's broken karaoke machine for a working one and did our grocery shopping. I was amazed that we got all that done in just a little over two hours. I knew that kids slow us down on the errand running front, but wow...  I never realized how much, because that was seriously miraculous, and I wasn't even tired at the end.

I think Andy and Tricia kind of enjoyed it too. Andy helped Vinny paint and build a birdhouse that Vinny got for Christmas, and Tricia played dress up with Tiana with all her new clothes. Fortunately, Tiana actually likes getting dressed. When Vinny was that age, he would kick and scream because he just hated the fact that he had to stop playing long enough to do it, but Tiana is pretty okay with it. And Tiana's new clothes are really cute. She's such a girly girl already. She loves clothes, purses, and shoes. I don't know what I am going to do when she grows up.

For dinner, we decided to run to the new Freebirds burrito place in town, hoping to get there early enough to beat the line. Well, we still had to wait in line, but it was worth it. Yum, yum, yum. It is not that much different from Chipotle, but I think I like the flavors better and the myriad of choices is very cool. Plus... that place is so my vibe. :-)

A Beautiful Christmas

It was a beautiful Christmas. We spent Christmas eve with my in laws. We had a wonderful time opening presents, eating too much delicious food, and just spending time together. My sister-in-law, Tricia, gave Vinny an elf hat, since he is so obsessed with the movie elf. He had fun being an elf all day. I spent much of the day chasing Tiana around, since so much of my mother-in-law's house is, well... fragile. Tiana managed to almost break one picture frame, but we did avoid any real casualties.

It was a rather loud Christmas morning at our house, since Santa Claus brought Vinny a drumset and his grandparents bought him a karaoke machine. We got Tiana and my niece Isabella both this adorable musical cat keyboard. Can you tell what our family's gifts are?  :-)

We spent Christmas day with my family. It had been such a long few days for Tiana that by dinner time she was just completely melting down, kicking and screaming and laying on the floor crying for no reason at all. An after dinner bottle and some cuddling with grandpa meant that Tiana fell asleep at 5:00. Oh well. At least we got some peace, and Isabella got to play with her keyboard without her bossy cousin butting in.
All in all, it was a beautiful, beautiful Christmas. :-)

Happy Birthday to Me

Having your birthday 2 days before Christmas is not ideal, but it does make for an especially exciting December. This year, my friends decided to really surprise me by having a party for me two weeks early. It was way fun. We went to my favorite Mexican restaurant in Burbank (strongest margaritas ever and best enchiladas I think I've ever had) and then to my favorite karaoke bar, Dimples. Woo hoo!  Dimples has live streaming feed on the internet, which sort of made it especially fun, since friends who didn't come were able to make fun of my husband via the internet. Hahahahahaha. Everyone was a great sport though, and my dad had an awful lot of fun. I had been waiting years to get my parents down there and was so glad they finally came. 

On my actual birthday, we had a low key day, since there were still many holiday preparations necessary. I do have to tell a super cute story though. Vinny decided to make me a birthday card. Vinny made me a "Target card," because I do so much shopping at Target. HAHAHA. He gave it to me and told me I needed to go buy myself something at Target. He is so cute. So I did. I went to Target that morning and bought myself some picture frames to finish the photo wall in our kitchen (okay, the shopping trip was planned before I received his card, but he didn't know that). He got quite the look of satisfaction on his face when I returned that morning and showed him my purchase.

We went to lunch with my inlaws and the kids. Tiana ate several bowls of salsa. (Weird, right? A friend told me it was probably because I ate so much Mexican food while I was nursing her and flavors like that do seep into the milk, so she really loves spicy food). My in laws gave me a very generous Amazon gift card that I have been dreaming about spending ever since. I am seriously giddy about the Amazon shopping spree that I will be having soon. I'm thinking Mishka CDs, maybe a necklace, some books, a new hand mixer, some candles, hmmm... what else? 

That night we had dinner with my parents and they gave in and did not get me a cake. See, I love to bake, but I only kind of like cake. I do like cupcakes, but I only like them with homemade yummy buttercream frosting and stuff like that, which is a pain. So, instead, they got me a chocolate pie from Claim Jumper. Yum!  I love chocolate pie. Probably my favorite dessert ever. 

My parents got me a canning pot, which I have been wanting for quite some time. I borrowed a friend's pot a year ago to make applesauce and I have been dreaming about canning my own sauces and such ever since. 

Overall, it was a nice birthday.   :-)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Deep Things...

Have you ever tried to explain faith to a child? Vinny has been undergoing a rather interesting spiritual process lately. He asks questions about faith related issues on a daily basis. It has really stretched me in my faith and my concept of faith.

It is important to me (and always has been) that I not preach to my children, but let my children discover and decide for themselves, as faith is, by nature, personal. I recognize that, yes, their spiritual discovery process is influenced heavily by Christianity, as this is what we believe is truth, but I try to be careful in how it is presented to Vinny. It is information, and I present it as that. More importantly, I present it in chunks, as he asks for it. As he hears information at church or in life in general, and he asks questions, I answer them. I answer them as completely and honestly as I can, while being as simple as possible, considering that he is only five years old.

Well, last night, I had to clarify for Vinny a common Christian saying that "We nailed Jesus to the cross."  This did not make sense to Vinny, for good reason, as it is merely a symbolic saying, and five-year-olds don't really understand symbolism. In trying to explain the whole "he died for our sins" concept, I found myself thinking, "How can I possibly explain this in a way that will make sense?" As I thought about it some more, I realized, I can't. Because it doesn't make sense.

Messiah. Savior. LORD. What do these things mean? In explaining it to Vinny, I listened to myself and thought, "This doesn't really add up logically." But it doesn't seem to bother Vinny, who accepts my simple explanations and has boldly proclaimed, of his own accord, "I believe in Jesus," and "I love Jesus," and I truly believe he does. And suddenly, what does make a lot of sense is Matthew 19:14, where Jesus declares that the kingdom of heaven belongs to the little children. Because children do just accept what doesn't make logical sense.

It could bother me that my beliefs don't make a lot of logical sense... but it doesn't. Not at all. Because He is my LORD. In Hebrew, LORD meant God's personal name, which he told Moses was just "I am." And that is so true. God just IS. He IS who He IS. And if we could completely explain him or understand him, then, well, in the words of the character I played at church this past week, "Well, then He wouldn't be God, would He?"

Christmas Lights

So, one of my favorite holiday traditions is driving around looking at Christmas lights. When I was little, I used to go with my mom every year.  We would drive around for hours looking at lights and oohing and aahing. This year, my mom and I took the kids out. We drove through Starbucks for Peppermint Hot Chocolate and hit several stops, all while listening to Christmas music on the radio.

For those who have asked, here are some of my favorite ones from this year:

(Obviously) Becker Christmas House
Sycamore Drive between LA and Royal, Simi

The Character House
Corner of Fearing Street and Timberlane, off of Yosemite and LA, Simi

Giant Christmas Tree
Wycloff Ave (South on Yosemite past LA ave, turn right on Damon, right on Wycloff), Simi

Lots of neat ones
Highland Road, top of Sinaloa Rd, Simi

Featured on Fritz Holiday Lights - Entire Neighborhood
Moorpark - Neighborhood near Moorpark High School
Google Timerbdale Road, Cedardale Rd, Pinedale Rd, etc.
Basically, turn left on Countrywood Dr from Tierra Rejada, then left into the neighborhood.
Drive around this neighborhood for a while, as there is something cool around every corner.
Pinedale was my favorite and there was also a person with a horse drawn carriage offering rides around the neighborhood.

Christmas Shopping

For the many of you who have listened to me complain about Christmas shopping in the past week (i.e. Barb), you will appreciate this update. For the rest of you, I will start with some background info. 

I hate last minute Christmas shopping. I hate how crowded the stores get. I hate that the shelves are picked over. I hate cranky shoppers. For this reason, I usually get my shopping done early. This year, I really did not have time to go out Christmas shopping in the past few weeks, with finals for me at CSUN and getting my grades in, and all of the activities Marc has going on at church, it just got busy. However, knowing that this was going to happen, I brought up shopping for the kids with Marc many weeks ago and tried to get him to join me on Amazon shopping. 

I am addicted to Amazon. They have practically everything under the sun, and the prices are usually comparable to retail stores or significantly cheaper. It is so easy and convenient, and as an Amazon Mom, I get free two-day shipping, so it really is just so shopper friendly. I love shopping on Amazon so much, I even buy some of my groceries on Amazon. Anyhow... so I had made both the kids Amazon wishlists with things I knew they would like and was trying to get Marc to look at them, but NO. Marc insisted that he wanted to go to a store, and preferably that we do it together. "Why?" I asked. "Why do you have to go to the store? We can shop together here from the comfort of the couch while our kids are asleep. We get to shop together and we don't have to get a sitter."  But he insisted. 

I started to realize this week that our schedules were not allowing ANY time for us to shop, not only together, but even alone without the kids. We pretty much are trading off the kids this week because of busy schedules. So, last night, I tell him to decide what he wants to get them, and I will go to Toys R Us after I get home (late, like 10:00, but TRU is open 24 hours until Christmas eve). But NO. Marc wants to shop, because he hasn't done any of the shopping yet (including for me, I assume, but he is on his own there). So, he says he is going to bring Tiana with him and go. He insists that he will somehow manage to hide from her what we are getting her. 

Now, shopping with Tiana at all is a challenge, let alone trying to prevent her from seeing what is being purchased. She is not like Vinny. She does not sit still in the cart. She tries to climb out, or rather, not quite climb, just stand. She likes to ride the shopping cart standing, like a surfer catching a wave. No shopping car restraint system can contain her. I prefer not to do ANY shopping with her, but he could not be dissuaded, so I made a list and wished him luck. 

When I got home from the movies with Vinny last night (we went to see The Muppets at El Capitan in Hollywood, more on that another time), Marc said he went, but he didn't buy anything. He said the store was a disaster, the people were cranky and rude, the prices were high, etc. He had a cart with a few things he had grabbed, but ultimately, shopping with Tiana was too difficult anyway, so he left.  Finally... he agreed that we could shop online. 

An hour of Amazon browsing later, we had found great deals on presents for Vinny, Tiana, Isabella (my niece), and a bunch of other family members we still had to shop for too. As we checkout, Marc says, "That's it?! That was so easy! I like Amazon." Geez... this could have been done weeks ago, and the presents would already be here for me to wrap, instead of showing up on Friday for me to rush and wrap. 


Saturday, December 17, 2011

No more alarm clocks for WEEKS! Yea!

So, so, so happy to be on break. I don't have to set an alarm clock for several weeks. The next time I set an alarm clock will probably be in New York with my drama kids. I can hardly believe that I do not have to teach again until January 31st. YEA!

Time to get in Christmas mode. I have pretty much been on "Christmas can wait" mode for the past 3 weeks. At least Christmas break came pretty early this year and I have an entire week until Christmas. There are so many exciting things going on. Tomorrow is an exciting day at church. I am doing a Christmas monologue at church tomorrow morning (that I actually still don't really have memorized, but I will work on it today), and Vinny's Sunday school class is performing Christmas songs.  This week my dad is in an interactive show called "Back to Bethlehem" where they recreate Bethlehem the night Jesus was born. He is a tax collector. I'm not sure what night we are going yet, but it is free, so if anyone wants to go with, let me know.  We will probably try to go early so Tiana isn't too cranky.

I also still have a ton of Christmas shopping to get done. I have only got a couple presents each for the kids (although we aren't really going to get them a lot this Christmas, but I do want to get them each a couple more things). I still also need to shop for our families. I rarely ever do Christmas shopping quite this late, but it just was best for me to put Christmas on hold this year, and I managed to get ALL my grades completely done on time with only one night up until 2am, and that was only to get my CSUN final done, so this has been a good thing.

There is so much I want to do with my kids over the next couple weeks too. I want to set up playdates with Vinny and his friends (I confess this is also because I want to hang out with my friends while Vinny is entertained by their children. This works particularly well with Tina, since Logan and Tiana somewhat entertain each other too). I want to take Vinny ice skating, since he has never been before. I want to take Vinny to the see the Muppets movie. I kind of want to take him to the one at the El Capitan where there is a sing a long before the show. It is a bit overpriced, but I've always wanted to do one of those shows with him (we never have because the movies are always 3d and my eyes don't do 3d, but this one is not).

Next week we are going to take the plunge and cancel our cable television. We ordered a Roku on Amazon, which should be here by Wednesday. Then... I am going to drive our cable box down to Time Warner and save $100 a month. Yes... $100 a month. Is that insane or what?  I am very, very nervous about life without television, as I am a little addicted to some of my favorite shows, but from what I understand, we should be able to get our favorite network shows for free with the Roku, and we'll subscribe to Netflix so the kids have plenty of choices. We'll survive. We'll have to. $100 a month goes a long way.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

7 alarm clocks 'til break...

Tomorrow is a big day. Final projects are due in both of my classes. I just finished my last paper and sent it to my partner to check. And now, I am blogging to help myself process the anxiety in my head.

It has been an unbelievably hectic time for me. I feel like Christmas is whirling on around me while I watch. I did manage to go to the Travel Town Santa Train with Marc and the kids and my parents this weekend, which was very fun, but other holiday type stuff is just passing me by. I don't think I have ever been so passive about the holidays before in my life, even the year I was a junior in college during my first trimester with of my pregnancy with Vinny. (I am not sure how I managed to get through that month at all. I was a leading role in a Christmas play during finals week- and I was taking a full course load of 15 units, plus working 30 hours a week, while terribly "morning" sick 24 hours a day).

This is the infamous Christmas "bush"
It lead to me insisting on coming on the tree shopping trip each year
We got our tree last night, since I didn't see when we would get it otherwise, and I really like to have a say in the tree. That year I was pregnant with Vinny, I let Marc go get a tree, a small one that would fit on an end table, and I made many jokes about how ugly it was. I called it our Christmas bush.

Anyhow, so we got our tree, and while I frantically graded essay revisions (I am completely caught up on these now, which is a wonderful feeling), Marc put on the lights. All of our ornaments are sentimental, since they are all keepsakes that Marc's grandma bought him, my mom bought me, or we bought the kids. Each has the year, and each has memories, and I usually very much so enjoy the process of putting them up and thinking about the people they represent- people like my sweet first grade teacher who made me a hand-painted ornament the year I turned 6, and Marc's grandma- who was an amazing woman and Marc's best friend. She passed away 4 months before Vinny was born.
Vinny's decorating prowess

But this year... I just don't have it in me. I wouldn't enjoy the process, so I was glad that Vinny enjoyed doing it with my mom. She let him get on a chair and decorate the top of the entertainment center all by himself. It is basically a pile of garland mixed with decorations, but he is very proud of it, and we are NOT allowed to touch it.

The tree turned out very nice, even if my mom did add a strand of white corded lights on it (Come on Mom... white cords for white walls, green cords for the tree). Baby proofing it worked out relatively well. We opted not to use the entire superyard, so it wouldn't be so obtrusive, which means Tiana can still get relatively close to the tree, but no breakable ornaments are at the bottom and she loves being close to it, so I think it is okay. Besides... Vinny is SO protective of the tree, he sounds the Tiana alarm any time she reaches for anything, yelling, "NO!!!" It looks pretty good, for all its baby-proofed awkwardness.

Vinny is rather particular about things this Christmas. I let him help me design our Christmas card online. I normally have these done and mailed by now, but the thought hadn't even crossed my mind until other family members started asking me for other family members addresses. (Sorry that I replied to no one, I have not had a chance to dig up the address book, so I imagine you coped without me). I realized that I would end up paying ridiculous prices for same day service if I didn't order soon, so I ordered them online tonight. Vinny and I decided on pictures from our Hawaiian vacation and decided we didn't like any of the ones of the whole family, so we ended up with a collage card. We had many arguments about which ones would make the cut. I wanted the cutest ones, but of course my class clown wanted the ones where he looks "funny." We compromised. There is one cute one of him and Tiana, and one funny one of me and him. We agreed on the one of Marc and Tiana, since I think it is adorable and he thinks it is hilarious. When did my son get so darn opinionated?

Tomorrow is Vinny's big Christmas performance at school, and he is very, very, very excited. My little performer could not be more excited to be getting to sing "Christmas in Hawaii," given our recent vacation and his current obsession with Hawaii. His teacher told them to dress in festive colors, and he is insisting on wearing the red Hawaiian shirt he got in Maui, since it is both red and fits his favorite song. Sadly, I will be missing this performance. My eyes are tearing up just thinking about this. Although I have worked full time since Vinny was 2, I don't usually miss this stuff. I even took off during finals and had a PE teacher cover my final exam when Vinny's preschool class did a performance when he was only 2 years old. I take off work for all of the important stuff, but when I saw the date of his performance, my heart sank. This week is Amnesty International's Write for Rights Write-a-Thon campaign, and my students' Write-a-Thon is today and tomorrow (different classes each day- we have block schedule). I cannot miss this. It is extremely important I am there and extremely important to my students, and I genuinely believe in what we are doing. So... I will be missing "Christmas in Hawaii." My mom, my dad, and Marc are all going. I hope they are able to get a semi-decent video.

I am glad that Christmas break comes relatively early this year so that I can have some time to enjoy the season without school on my mind. And... hopefully help my best friend move into her new house too!

Sigh.... 7 more alarm clocks until Christmas break.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Papers and Parenting

      It has been a long time since I last blogged. Life is eating me alive pretty much. I don't know what I am doing blogging right now, actually. I am way behind on papers that needed to be graded from our last unit and from revised papers the students turned in. I love that they revised their papers... but I am not in the mood to grade them. I have final projects in both my CSUN classes due on Thursday. What am I doing blogging right now?  Trying to vent and feel some sanity I guess.

     Marc's new job has been an adjustment for us, as his schedule has changed significantly. It is so nice that he goes in later and that he can get off at a decent hour when we want him to. He was able to come to Vinny's parent teacher conference this week, and he has been coming home earlier, which is great, since we didn't use to be able to eat dinner til 6:30-6:45 at the latest. That was hard since Tiana goes to bed at around 7. Having time to play and just hang out as a family between dinner and bed has been wonderful. Marc is out more nights now and busier on weekends and actually had his first of many trips out of town this week, so I do spend a little more time alone. I sort of felt like it would stink not having him to help with the kids when I have so much on my plate... but honestly, Vinny is a pretty independent kid and finds stuff to do, so when Tiana is asleep, I can actually get a lot done without the temptation to chat with Marc.

     As I mentioned before, we had Vinny's first parent teacher conference this week. Marc warned me, "My teachers always complained that I talked too much and needed to pay attention."
     I laughed and assured him, "Vinny never gets in trouble in school! He's more like me. I never got in trouble for talking in school." I ate my words.

     Vinny's teacher had a lot of wonderful things to say about him. He is coming along wonderfully academically. He is very much like me... academically. He is making great progress towards reading and sufficient progress towards math, just like my elementary school report cards. He also got the trademark "N" in neatness that was characteristic of all of my childhood report cards. It isn't that he rushes. I understand this more than anyone else. It's just that fine motor skills don't come naturally to me, or apparently to him. In preschool, it took him longer than pretty much ever other kid to figure out how to use scissors. He just doesn't have control of his fingers. Sigh. Its why I never learned to knit and still have to take my time and really focus to write neatly on my white board. However... I do love that his teacher gave us a bunch of tips for him to develop his fine motor skills. I never thought about how picking up small things makes a difference, but I will now. Last night, I busted out the Lite Brite. (Blast from the past, right? Marc picked it up at a garage sale).
This morning he is sitting on the counter so Tiana doesn't eat the pieces

     Anyway, so he's a smarty pants, but sure to Marc's prediction, his teacher says, "Vinny really likes to talk." With carefully chosen words, she proceeded to explain that Vinny is the class clown. She didn't call him that, but she did say that he loves to make the class laugh and that he has the uncanny ability to get the entire class singing. He sings that Neon Trees song Animal so much that apparently all he has to do is sing, "Oh oh," to get the entire class joining in on "I want some more."  Ah... sound like anyone you know?  Yes, that would be my darling husband.

     He is a sweetheart though and so funny (Vinny I mean. Well, Marc is too, but I am talking about Vinny). As much as I was dreading the holiday season this year, Vinny has made it such a joy. He talks about Christmas and Santa Claus pretty much non-stop and derives so much joy from Christmas movies. Plus, he is finally getting old enough to appreciate some of my non-animated favorites. We sat and watched A Christmas Story last night, which he totally got into, although he could not understand why the heck they actually bought the kid the gun. Later, we started watching the Jim Carrey Grinch on tv, but I woke up at 10:30 with Vinny snoring by my side and my computer on my lap with half an APA citation on my screen.

How does one fall asleep mid-citation?

     As one of my CSUN classmates lamented, "10 more alarm clocks to winter break."

December 16th cannot come soon enough.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Here come the holidays...

I love and hate the holidays all at the same time. I love Christmas lights and music. I love spending time with my family and baking. I love seeing my children light up over things like visiting Santa or seeing Snoopy on Ice.

I hate the fighting that happens because both our families are close and both our families want to see us. I am incredibly thankful for the fact that we are surrounded by people who love us and want to be with us. It is hard to be frustrated with that... but I hate the fighting, stress, and tension it causes. 

And although I kind of like Christmas decorations, I kind of hate decorating. (It's the ING). The process is just exhausting. Vinny wants a Christmas tree like... NOW. We never get one this early, but the funny thing is we were debating on not getting one at all this year. Tiana is into EVERYTHING, and the only place we could really put a tree is our living room, which is our "Tiana Safe Zone." I suggested we get a superyard and surround the tree. If we get a smaller tree and put it on top of a pedestal with a tree skirt, then we will still be able to see the whole thing and decorate it and put the presents ( and plugs) within the superyard gate. But the gate costs like $50, so that plus the tree and everything... this is getting costly sounding, which we cannot afford right now.

It is for this same reasons that I do NOT like Christmas shopping. We can never buy everything we want for everyone we want, and I hate the feeling of guilt of not having a gift for someone we probably should have a gift for. I even doorbusted for the very first time ever this year. Marc has done it a couple of times (oddly, for things for himself- not gifts), but I have never done it. Yet, there I was at midnight at Target, trying to save a mass amount on the drum set my son wants for Christmas. It was a big item I did not think we could afford, but at Black Friday prices we could, so I did. My mom commented that Vinny also wants a bike, but two big items will just not be happening. We are trying to get financially stable this year, and Christmas feels like a big looming black cloud, getting ready to rain on the rays of slight financial stability rising on our horizon. 

I know a lot of people can join with me in knowing what this feels like, particularly if you choose not to overspend every Christmas, yet some of you right now are probably thinking about commenting that Christmas isn't about presents, remember the reason for the season, yadda yadda yadda. Yes, I know. But society has made it about other things. Family. Gifts. Lights. Parties. Etc. Things that cost money and sadly cause stress. And THAT I do not like.  

Monday, November 21, 2011

Worth the Wait...

Tonight was our exhibit. Our sophomore students presented a progressive art exhibit with their visual arguments.

This is a project that started 3 years ago when I saw another teacher's work at the Partnership for Global Learning conference. I agreed to pilot the unit the following year- taking her unit and adapting it for my standards and my students. It has grown each year. This year, I really felt the students needed an outlet to display this art, so the exhibit was born.

We also decided to let them vote on the topic this year... and they chose sex... which was awkward, awkward, awkward. I never imagined myself spending so much time talking about this topic in English class.

But there it was, and there I was, and there they were... and well... yeah.

It came out well though. Ultimately, the students learned a lot, and not just about sex, hahaha. There were some beautiful moments tonight. They were actually using the language of our unit, and it was beautiful to hear. I felt like I was successful. Like when one group asked their audience, "So what do you think of our montage and our claim?" and Cristina answered, "I loved how you juxtaposed the music with the pictures perfectly, especially at the end." (Yes, she actually used the word juxtaposed). Perhaps even better was when Carolina pointed out that Tony and Saul's "claim had a great structure, especially how it came around the show that the guy ended up sad again in the end," and then Saul came back with, "Well, we just wanted to show that being pro.. promiscuous.. (looks at me to confirm his pronunciation) is not beneficial in the long run." I was so pleased. I had used that word to clarify their claim when they first presented it to me, and when I realized they didn't know what it meant, I asked them to look it up and then discussed it with them afterwards. Clearly... they learned it.

Despite the very long day it was for us all, it was worth it. Two food trucks came, The Surfer Taco and The Chunky Chiller, and the "gourmet food" atmosphere really made it feel like a special event for the students. While waiting for my chocolate muffin and ice cream dessert from The Chunky Chiller, a student said to me, "It went so well! As we were explaining our views on the way media portrays women as objects, so many of the parents were nodding their heads and agreeing."

It was truly an awesome event.
Here is a taste.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The solidarity of teaching...

I am not a very good friend. I recognize this. I do not like this. I wish I could change this. But it is so hard...

Would you believe that teaching is a really lonely profession? I have been more and more reminded of this lately. It sounds strange, since I am surrounded by people all day long, but it gets very lonely. So much of what I do is by myself, and it consumes all of my time and energy. I sit up here on my couch until the wee hours writing lesson plans and exams and what not, and it is by myself, after the family has gone to bed. I feel like I am always racing with the clock, the calendar, etc., and there is never enough time in the day, week, or month.

Working in my classroom with my students is my passion, and there are such great moments. Today, something so beautiful happened. Today, I refused to answer any questions or assist with discussion, but merely guided students through a reading analysis chart (which they had prior practice using)... and an amazing phenomenon, which I almost did not think possible, occurred. At the beginning of class, I asked them to journal their responses to two Blake poems they read for hw. The majority of them said something along the lines of "It is about child labor, and it is sad, but other than that, I don't get it." But by the end of class, they were explaining the poem to each other, summarizing the story and asking good questions. One student asked, "Why are all the poems about God?" Another student answered, "Because they [the people in England in the 1800s] were mostly Christians." Then another girl said, "But I wondered that, so I just looked it up, and it said that William Blake only went to church like three times in his whole life." Another student answered, "Well, maybe THIS [pointing to the poems] is why he only went to church three times. How could he believe in a God that would let this happen to innocent kids?"   Wow... I thought. Wow...

This may not seem like such an amazing conversation to you, but what I see from this, is that my students learned how to learn this week. They learned how to get through a difficult text, and not only comprehend, but actually analyze, using their heads, each other, and their resources (including their cell phones, which many of them used to Google words or phrases while they read... I love teaching in this day and age). Ah... I live for these moments. 

Meanwhile, I live in relative solidarity. I have my English department friends. We plan together as much as we physically can, but there is so much to do that there is so rarely time to just shoot the breeze. I spent a good 10-15 minutes just chatting about life stuff with friends at work today and it felt SO good. My job is so stressful that it feels like every conversation is about something that needs to be done, and so little life discussion happens. This can make for a very lonely life.

I try really hard to have and sustain friendships, but when I have so little time to put into my friendships, it is hard to build and maintain the close friendships like they do. Don't get me wrong... I am grateful for the friends I have and happy for all of them. And I blame no one but myself. 

I just wish teaching allowed me more time for deeper relationships with my friends. Teaching can be very satisfying... but sometimes I think doing it well makes me very lonely. 

Saturday, November 12, 2011

No more quarters

Vinny's television watching is monitored by money now. It helps us ensure he doesn't spend his entire life watching tv. He gets 10 quarters a week. A quarter buys him 30 minutes, so this ensures he doesn't watch more than 5 hours a week. The quarters do NOT roll over, but if he has extra at the end of the week, he gets to put them in his piggy bank to save towards buying toys or other things he wants. The hope is that he will learn that time is money. Believe it or not, he appreciates the structure. He actually told me, "Mom, Ben [friend at school] doesn't have quarters and he watches tv all day. He's going to be dumb. But not me, 'cause I have quarters."  Okay... my bad, probably shouldn't have overemphasized that watching too much tv will make you dumb, but hey... at least the point was made. 

Anyhow... so this week, he ran out of quarters. This is the first time he has run out of quarters. He is usually pretty good at making them stretch, but this week he overspent. So this morning, he comes in and says to me, "Mommy, did you know that Jack in the Beanstalk is On Demand?"  
"Yes," I reply, "Do you have any quarters?"
"No, but I'm not gonna watch it," he replies, "I just thought you might want to watch it."
"Oh, well thank you," I laugh. 
"You don't want to watch it? I'm not gonna watch it," he insists, "I'm just gonna be in here playing with Tiana. You'll really like it. It's on demand." 

Hahaha.  That's my clever kid. Figures if he can't watch tv, he will just try to find a loophole. He is SO going to grow up to be a politician.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Thoughts on Banking

I've had a very frustrating week with banks that has made me actually consider the "move your money" movement. When I first saw it, I rolled my eyes and thought, "as if." Although I do, in some ways, agree with those who blame the economic downturn partially on banks, I also think people need to look at how complex the situation really is and what a huge part of society banks are. Everyone can't just pull all of their money out of major banks and expect it to be okay. While it may be an overly simplistic metaphor, I just keep thinking of that scene in "It's a Wonderful Life," where they all rush for their money and George Bailey has to beg them all to reconsider and realize that their money is in each other's houses and that's just how it works.

If we want to fix the economic crisis, we need to focus on lasting reforms that prevent banks and other companies from taking advantage of stupid people who overspend without thinking. And realistically, we need to make it a priority to raise up a generation of children who don't expect instant gratification without thinking of the consequences. But I digress...

I cannot wholeheartedly get behind the "move your money" movement, because even if it did get large enough to make a difference, I don't believe this difference would be positive. Do we want big banks to hurt? PEOPLE work at big banks. And 99% of those people are not "big bankers," if you know what I mean. My best friend works for a big bank. Three of my family members work for big banks. If the big banks hurt, the people at the top will not hurt. They will lay off the people at the bottom, making people like my family members hurt.

In addition, my mortgage is with Bank of America. I have no control over who my mortgage is with. If you know anything about home loans, you know that even if you refinance, your loan gets sold, and you usually end up with one of the big banks servicing it. If Bank of America has to lay off employees, they will lay off employees in every area, including mortgage. Do I want customer service to suck more? Do I want to force them to export more jobs, so that I have to deal with someone on the other side of the world every time I need to have my escrow account analyzed over the phone? No... frankly, I do not. Big banks may be making some sucky decisions, but convincing the world to move their money is not the solution.

That said... I am angry nonetheless. I feel like banks did nothing but make my life difficult this week. On Tuesday, Chase refused to cash a check for a drama thing. It was over such a tiny stupid technicality too. They insist that I deposit it and then they will "release" the funds at midnight. What is the point? They will not have the funds from the other bank by then. Do you just want to keep making me come in? I am not available during business hours every day. And it is not my money- it is school money- so I didn't want it in my account. The bank manager would not budge.

For this reason, I usually cash school checks at the bank that the checks are written on, even if it means visiting several banks. Well, one of my major sources of fundraising writes their checks from Bank of the West. In the past few months, Bank of the West has started charging a $5 fee to cash checks. This is ridiculous. Even Wells Fargo hasn't stooped so low... yet. To try to avoid the $5 fee and an extra stop, I attempted to cash the check at my own bank, only to run into this stupid "must deposit" bull. It makes me so angry. I don't have all the time in the world to spend doing school banking, so I decided to just deal with the fees and attempted to just cash it at a check cashing place next to Chase, since there is no Bank of the West here in town. The check cashing place couldn't cash it, since Bank of the West now refuses to verify funds (so you have to go in there, so they get to charge you their $5 fee I am sure). The check is actually still in my wallet.

In addition, the very simple online banking payment I am trying to reverse is turning into a ridiculously complicated issue too. I made a payment to Tiana's day care. They sent the day care a check. I pulled Tiana out of day care, so they gave me the check. I went to the bank to just get the cash for it instead (since it is ALREADY out of my account- has been for weeks; that is they way online bill pay works), but they are making me do a stop payment and deposit the money in my account. Sigh. I did this on Tuesday, and because of the holiday today, the money is still not in my account and probably won't be until Monday. That's almost an entire week. This is ridiculous. I am starting to feel like they do this stuff on purpose.

I used to get free checks and free cashier checks for the $20 a year we paid for our "premium" account. Now I don't get either of these things for free. When I tried to cancel the "premium" fee for our account, I was told I cannot do so without closing my account. Geez.

I don't want to abandon big banks. I don't think it is the answer. But man... these stupid policies sure are starting to tick me off.

Super Star

So, Vinny is the "super star" at school next week. He is VERY excited about this. He gets to bring a picture of our family on Monday, an object that starts with the letter of the week on Tuesday, his favorite toy for share time on Wednesday, his favorite story to read to the class on Thursday, and a small trinket for each student on Friday.

He is completely set on brining his SnowWhite book on Thursday. Vinny has always loved loved loved Snow White. He got a Snow White doll for Christmas one year (much to the chagrin of my father) and he loved it so much. This is not a girlie princess obsession though. He doesn't want to BE Snow White. He wants to marry her. He tucked the doll into bed with him and kissed her good night.

When he was two, we waited in line for almost an hour for him to meet Snow White at Disneyland. The pictures were priceless. It was like watching a teenage boy with his first crush. She kissed his cheek and he just about melted. He showed everyone he met that day his kiss. 
I am hoping that revealing his princess obsession to his classmates does not cause him any problems, but I appreciate that my 5-year-old boy is proud to be himself, and I have to believe that his confidence and self-esteem will continue to magnetically attract friends as it always has. 

In also preparing for this super star week, I set out last night to find the family picture we took at the luau in Hawaii, since it is the most recent picture of all of us together. It had gotten buried in a pile of Vinny's school work somehow, and it took me almost 45 minutes to find it. Our house is crazy clean right now (because my mom is a super human- my house is never this clean when I am home with the kids), so I couldn't figure out how it could have gone missing. In searching for it, I did, however, find my work keys. I had been looking for them ever since we got back from Hawaii, and on my wild hunt for the picture, I found them on top of the fridge. What the heck... how did they get there?  At least I found them.   :-) 

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


Last semester, for various reasons, mostly students not following through with their responsibilities, the show we had planned for drama fell apart. In light of the Broadway trip we were planning and many of my drama students graduating, it was a hard blow to take.

Drama this year had almost 50 students. Less than 20 of those were returning drama students. I was worried about being able to produce a quality show. In so many ways, it has felt like starting from square one. Without Brenda to run the business end, without Steven to just rely on for tech, without John to count on to rally and inspire the actors, I felt sort of alone

But boy did they pull it off. Although the veterans were few, they were strong. Samantha became my new right hand woman. She was usually one step ahead of me. Not having Steven forced me to actually learn the logistics of how tech actually works and gain some confidence in the booth. My new sophomore techies stepped it up and demonstrated some pretty awesome professionalism. Luis lead the "let's give it our best" rally by constantly overacting, forcing everyone to just try to match his energy. Despite some bumps in the road, the final product was amazing.

I love these kids.    <3

It's gonna be another tearful graduation come June.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Ch ch ch ch changes...

Chaotic week, but good things happening, and at just the right time. 

This has been a terribly chaotic week for me. Being a teacher, I have some points where life is really calm, some where it is middle of the road, and some where I drown in responsibilities and tasks. The past two weeks have been a period of drowning, but particularly this week. 

On top of it being Halloween, we are in the final tech week of my drama students' show, my English students are in the final week of their biggest project of the year, and I had probably the heaviest load of work for my Master's program so far. Most weeks have been relatively manageable, but this week was intense. Tons of reading and two papers due in one class, presentation due in another class. Yet, I have a pervading sense of peace and calm that is rare in my life, even when it is not quite so chaotic. 

Why?  Mom. 

Having my mom here is amazing. In a week like this, I am normally scrambling to pick up the kids on time or make arrangements for someone else to. I am normally pretending my house is not a disaster and promising myself to clean it over the weekend. I am normally hunting through laundry baskets for things to wear.  Not any more. 

Mom is here in the morning. Tiana is usually still sleeping in the morning when I leave. Mom does Vinny's homework with him. Mom does my laundry and puts it away. Mom cleans my house. She even scrubbed the fronts of my cabinets and fridge. While I am at work, Mom texts me pictures of Vinny playing in the leaves outside. Mom wraps the present for the birthday party Vinny is attending on Sunday. Mom made dinner so it was ready when we got home last night, and Mom cooked dinner for my family tonight while I was at school until 10. Mom is clearly an angel sent from heaven to keep me from losing my sanity. 

There is another new change happening as well. We have a new church home. 

We have kept very quiet about this for necessary reasons, but over the past few months (since July), Marc has been interviewing at a Lutheran church here in town. It is for a youth pastor position, which is Marc's passion and gift. It will be so nice for Marc to feel like he is in his element again, but I too am excited to have a church family again. 

It is hard to feel like you are part of a family at a large church. Even if you feel like you are comfortable there and like you belong there, it doesn't feel like a family in the way a smaller church does. This isn't a tiny church, but it is small enough and definitely has that family feeling. I especially knew it was a fit because of Vinny. You can tell a lot about people by the type of children they raise. The first time Vinny went to Sunday school, he had a good time. The second time, when he walked in to Sunday school, all the kids cheered, "Vinny!" When they escorted the children back to us at service for the ending, he did the robot down the aisle to where Marc and I were sitting. No... I am not kidding. The next week, when we were not going to that church, Vinny said, "The kids at Sunday school are going to miss me. They'll say, 'Where's Vinny?'"  The fact that my son felt he was wanted and was going to be missed solidified my decision about this church.   :-)

Although this means our family jumping back into full-time ministry and all of the hours and interesting things that come with it, at this time in my life, I very much welcome it.  With Marc's current job, he has little flexibility with his hours and from April to August often works 55-60 hours a week. This creates a lot of stress for us, so a more flexible schedule is going to be nice.  It is also going to be nice that Marc will get to put in the hours he longs to put into ministry and it not be in addition to another full-time job. Yea!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Budgetting Makes Me Cringe

I am very excited about many transitions occurring in our life right now, the first of which starts tomorrow- my mom becoming our nanny.

In trying to redo our budget to make everything fit and pay off our debt from Hawaii, I decided to really budget every penny, based on our previous spending and annual expenses. We heard this message from Mike Yearly at Rocky Peak a few weeks back and he had talked about financial security, which we have been working very hard to attain, and he pointed out something interesting- you should always have some savings (duh), if not for emergencies, at least for annual expenses. I know that sounds really obvious, but there was something about it that I guess just wasn't clicking for me. He made the point that people sometimes have a bad month that sets them back or knocks them on their feet and they make comments like, "Had some unexpected expenses this month- the car needed new tires" or "my registration was due."  This should not be a surprise to us. Cars do need new brakes and tires regularly. This is not technically an "unexpected" expense. Registration is due annually. It is even less of a surprise. This should have been so "duh," to me, but I guess I am just bad with math or not a good logical thinker, because we have never budget for these things, and our budget is tight. I am going to try to budget for Christmas too. December always sucks so much, and it wouldn't be so hard if we planned all year for it. 

I love that gives me the ability to see averages and spending trends on things like auto, food, etc., so I can plan well for all this and really budget. I hate that plugging it all made me see why we have such a difficult time any time things like auto repairs or stuff comes up. We spend too much. Gas is expensive. We spend an average of $315 a month. Wow... And we spend, way, way too much on food. I am too embarrassed to even say how much. I feel like we try to be budget conscious about it, but we are going to have to cut it down by A LOT. Ugh....  I do not have time to be an extreme couponer. 

Time to cut things down.... It's just gonna take spending less. Sigh. 

What a concept.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Show Business Meets School Business

So today, there was a PSA being filmed at my school. It was about bullying, I think, and I am fairly certain it is going to be nationally televised. It was a professional production crew, with all the bells and whistles. My boss introduced me to the director a little over a week ago, as they wanted to know if some of my students could be in the PSA. I was excited to give them the opportunity, so I of course said yes, and asked how many they wanted. They asked how many I had. I told them that if I just went with second year drama students, who I trust and for sure know what they are doing, then there would be about 15. She said that was fine.

Although I did work as a background actor for one year in college, I guess I have forgotten what the world of show business is like, with vague information, lots of people, and long hours... because we somehow had some communication issues. The director gave me a couple of shooting locations and times, making it seem like she would be using my students for a couple of short scenes, but then she called me before I even left the house this morning to see where my students were. Uh... at home? I told her that school starts at 7:45, but that I would page them all to come to me as soon as possible. Once I got my students together, it turned out she needed more. I ended up very quickly rallying 10 of my new drama kids that I trust to join in. It was chaotic, and I felt really bad for asking their teachers to let them go on such short notice, but ultimately, I am glad I did. 

The students got to be involved for the entire day. They received a ton of compliments. The production crew was impressed with their professionalism and acting abilities. The director apparently liked them so much, she included them in pretty much every scene. In fact, she liked them so much, she begged to keep them all day until 5pm, even though I had asked her to send back my main cast members for our 6th period drama rehearsal at 2:30.  (I ended up asking for my 4 leads to come back, but letting the other students stay). 

Overall, the students really loved the experience. I think they especially enjoyed craft services and getting to eat catering with the cast and crew for lunch. Several of them were featured in scenes. I heard some great comments like, "You should have seen when they told Christian to look at the 'dirty email' sent to him and look shocked. What a face! He's gonna be famous." They take direction well, although I bet they needed a little reeling in, since we have been focusing on children's theater, which is a lot of intentional overacting. The ones who came back for rehearsal tried telling me their underwhelming rehearsal today was a result of being in "film mode."  (Imagine me rolling my eyes). 

I can't wait to see my kids on tv.  :-)

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I am tired. I have been a single mom of sorts this week, since Marc is at a conference for work. I haven't gotten any of the errands I needed to run done since he has been gone, because I just haven't had the energy to do more than be here with the kids, but it has been good.

There has been great bonding between Vinny and I.  Tiana went to bed early both last night and tonight. Tonight, Vinny stayed up after she went to bed and we did homework. He has just discovered the wonder that is hot cocoa, so he sipped hot cocoa while he played his "alphabet game" that the teacher assigned him. We shopped online for presents for the birthday parties Vinny has been invited to over the next two weeks (oh my... this could get expensive, hence the online shopping). It was funny, when I opened the invite today and I asked Vinny who the kid was that sent the invitation to this birthday party next week, he told me, "He eats sandwiches at lunch and chews with his mouth open and talks and its disgusting and I throw up- not really, but I want to- but he is nice." Oh my. I nearly died laughing. He is so incredibly obssessive-compulsive for a 5-year-old. Well, he always has been. He hated having sandy hands when he was a baby, so he never left the towel at the beach until he was more than two-years-old. If his hands are dirty, he kind of panics. He eats sloppy joes with a spoon because he hates the the "sloppy" part. Yup... that's my kid alright.

Last night, Vinny went to bed early and my friend Barb came over for a paper grading party. I love paper grading parties with Barb. They are not incredibly effective for quantity of papers graded, but they are amazingly effective for quality of thought. As we think aloud, muse aloud, complain aloud, problem-solve aloud, I think I learn more as a teacher than I do in some other very expensive professional development experiences. :-)

The BEST news of this week is that my mom quit her job!!! Hip hip hooray!  Why is this such good news?  Well... for several reasons. My mom is one of my best friends. I talk to her every day. She is the first person I want to tell when I get exciting news or when my kids do something cute. She is my shoulder to cry on, and in many ways I am hers. We talk every day on our way home from work. And pretty much every day for about the last two years (maybe three or four even), I have listened to my mom lament her hatred for her job. She loves her co-workers, but she works in print advertising which has been on the decline every year since the invent of the internet, so it is tough business and she hates it. She has worked very hard without more than 10 days off in a row for more than 17 years, and she is just done. She was such a dedicated employee too. When I worked with her in 2006, she won "Employee of the Year" at the annual department banquet, and she totally deserved it. It was so exciting to applaud her and watch her get terribly embarrassed as she took the award. But the poor thing is just burnt out. She has had a really tough life, and she deserves a break. I have been begging her to quit for a long time because it is just so sad to see her unhappy, but an ideal job has just not come up and she hasn't financially been ready to just quit.

Until now. A variety of circumstances have made it financially possible for her to quit now, and she decided that she wants to quit her job... to BE OUR NANNY!!!!  Yea!!!!  This is like my dream come true.

Like a week ago, as I was returning from vacation, I was thinking to myself, "My everyday life is so hard. I wish I had a nanny." Now, to be fair, my life in general is a cycle of work hard, play hard, work harder, play harder. And when I do have time to play, I get to play really hard. As my best friend Mo pointed out, I have a lot of fun. It is true.

But the trade-off is a really hard life on a day-to-day basis. Getting up early enough to do everything I have to do is really hard. Packing perfect meals for picky Tiana for day care and making sure she has fresh linens and diapers and supplies for school, putting out the diapers for the service weekly, keeping the house tidy, doing Vinny's homework, cooking meals, getting all of my work for work done (which is really like a 12-hour-a-day job), getting all of my work for school done, and just taking care of all the little errands and tasks for soccer practices and birthday parties, etc. It wears me out.

I am so excited to have my mom. It is hard for anyone who has not been through it to really understand the difference between having my kids in day care and having them at home with my mom, but there is a huge difference. It takes such a weight off my shoulders. Sigh..

Now, to bed. Hopefully I have heated the house up tonight that Tiana won't wake up freezing 3 or 4 times again tonight.  :-/

Friday, October 21, 2011

So, I pretty much came home to a nervous breakdown...

Coming home from vacation sucks. Really sucks.  I basically came home and completely lost my mind because my life really does not allow for me to take vacations without totally paying for it (pun intended).

 Sunday, I tried to get done far more than was realistic. I wrote a lesson plan for Monday and tried to get mentally prepared for a week at school, but I also felt I could not be mentally ready unless we unpacked and did some laundry and went to the store to get groceries for the week, which took some planning, since I knew I pretty much would not have time to cook dinner all week and needed to get easy things. The house did not end up getting as in order as I would have liked it, which might explain why I could not find my school keys on Monday morning, despite tearing the house apart for like half an hour.

And then there were all the papers. Grades were due Monday night. I had planned to grade papers on vacation, but with homeschooling Vinny and doing my college homework, I never got to it. I got as many papers as I could done Sunday, but I still was frantically grading papers until minutes before the deadline on Monday. Talk about stressful. I have never been that close to that deadline before. I was literally trembling with anxiety and nearly broke down in tears and just completely lost it at around 8pm.

Tuesday, I tried to catch up with work for this week and my college homework. I feel like I barely made a dent in it, and I was up until like 1a.m. Why then, did I go to class last night looking like a totally irresponsible jackass? Because I lost the book I was supposed to read. I realized I did not have it when I went to bring it on the trip to read. I assumed I would find it at school when I got home. Well, I looked all over my classroom on Monday and Tuesday and couldn't find it. I tried emailing a friend from class, but she lives too far away for me to get it from her in time. What the heck could have happened to it?  I gave up, admitted to my professor that I had lost it and so had not done the reading, which meant I basically could not participate in discussions in class yesterday. Whatever, I was too tired anyway. We had conferences until 6pm on Wednesday and Thursday, and these completely wore me out. By the time I got out of school last night, I was completely spent and just went to bed.

Today, I felt terrible that Vinny had to miss his soccer practice because my inlaws are out of town and they normally take him, and I had drama afterschool and Marc was working a carnival. He didn't go to practice last week either because of our trip, and the week before it was cancelled, so it really sucks that he missed. Oh well, there is only so much we can do.

While the drama kids were painting the sets today, I cleaned out my desk. I genuinely need to become more organized. I am making progress this year, but I need to somehow get it together and stick with it. It is just not in my personality, and it is really hard for me. I did, however, find my book, which I realized I had put in a "safe" spot on my bookshelf. Darn it. I just ordered a new one last night too. I guess I'll just return it.

Sadly, I STILL haven't found my keys.

At least I don't have a lot planned this weekend, so I can hopefully try to pull my life back together.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Day 6: A Pristine Beach and an Active Volcano (and a little about the trip home)

Wow.      Wow.        Wow.
T is for turtle. I like unschooling (as long as it isn't all the time!
In the center, that is a mountain goat.

Makalawena Beach (a.k.a Paradise)

Wow.... Those were Tiana's words upon our arrival at Makalawena Beach. I swear she said "Wow" a good 17 times. It was not a surprising reaction, since I actually gasped upon reaching the top of the sand dunes to view this piece of paradise. I could hardly believe it was real... but it was.

A shout out to Colleen for telling us about this amazing beach. It was truly our personal piece of paradise. While there were a few other people there, they were so spread out it really felt like our personal paradise. The sand was so soft that Tiana didn't think it was sand (and she had been playing with sand all week), since it felt more like oatmeal, and she tried to eat it. Had the wind not kicked up after a while, I could have stayed here all day.

We made it through the lava field to the most beautiful beach ever.
You know how they say "it's not about the destination, it is about the journey?"  Well, in this case... that is only half true. The journey was out of this world, but it was certainly about the destination. To reach this tiny piece of paradise, you have to hike through about a mile or so of lava fields. It is like lava rock as far as the eye can see, and it totally feels like you are on Mars or something, except for the fact that there are herds for, ready for this, mountain goats, trotting along beside you. I wish I had been smart enough to wear the hiking shoes for this. The flips flops made for some sore feet, but we made it anyway.

In the lava tube.

Ah... it was worth it. Maybe my favorite part of the trip, but hard to say at this point.

After this adventure, we set out for the 100 mile drive to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. This was amazing. The park has 11 of the 13 climate zones found on earth. Yup. We must have driven through like 10 of them. I don't know if it was the volcanic gas or the plants or just the multiple climates, but my sinuses still have not forgiven me. Oh well. It was worth it. We saw rain forests and giant lava craters and hiked through a lava tube. We even saw the active eruption of Mt. Kilauea. Oh my gosh. Amazing. Breathtaking.

Yes, that is lava. 

The day was so exhausting, I didn't blog that night. I slept.

Our family, outside the lava tube.
The next morning we packed, got breakfast on the beach, visited a real Kona coffee farm, and then set off on a terribly long day of travel. And now... we are home. Sigh.

I can't believe I have to teach tomorrow.