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.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Building Tomorrow's Leaders

A little confession to make...  my Honors class this year is totally my favorite class. A good teacher would say she doesn't have favorites, I suppose, but I can't help it. This is a great class. I freaking love these kids. These kids are totally the leaders of tomorrow. Something I have learned about myself over the past couple of years is that I truly have a passion for training and equipping leaders. I love to see students grow to be true leaders.

This is the second year that I have taught a unit on leadership using John C. Maxwell's "The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership." Last year, I tried to do this book with the entire sophomore class. This year, I decided to just do it with the students who already desire to be leaders- my honors class. I gave them the book to read, journal on, and discuss online over the 6 weeks of winter break. Their online discussions have been amazing! The true leaders, out of the class full of leaders, are coming to the surface, just through the online discussions. Let me share with you some quotes.

"If relationships are never built, a leader will never be able to ask for a helping hand and deserve it, because they never did anything for anyone or made the effort to show others that he/she cared."   -J.V.

"I agree with Marco when he says that sometimes people are put in charge because of their popularity. Sometimes we don't notice it, but the people that do notice are the people with real leadership potential."  -C.P

"The way that I determine the strongest learder in a group is by the way that they add value to others- if he/she is loyal to others, if the leader cares for his/her followers, if he/she is successful in their work, if the/she has the courage to say something when somethimg is wrong, and if they have respect for others, then that person is probably one of the strongest leaders."  -K.G.

"A quick way a person can lose someones trust is by lying to them. Many people lie because they are afraid to say the truth. I personally hate when someone lies to you to make you happy. Its going to hurt even more on the long run."  -S.L.

"Not many leaders strive for their best in creating a legacy. I think its because they are so preocupied with staying on top that they make hasty decisions."  -D.C.

     This is just a little sampling of some of the great insights they have had on leadership. (I wish I could share more, but a lot of their examples are personal and I wouldn't betray their privacy like that).

Doesn't reading stuff like this give you hope for the future of our country?   :-)

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Restaurant Style Barbecue Rolls

If you have ever eaten at Red's Barbecue in Simi, or at any of the Wood Ranch Barbecue restaurants (FYI... it always bothers me when people spell it "barbeque"), then you have probably overindulged in the deliciousness of their garlic rolls. If you have ever wished you could make them yourself... read on.

In carefully meal planning this week to use as many similar ingredients as possible while still having very different meals (trying to save money), I decide on asian style chicken lettuce wraps, minestrone soup, and barbecue chicken salad.  Relatively healthy choices overall, except what is a barbecue chicken salad without garlic rolls, right? 

So, I figured there were two options-  buy a pack from Red's or make them myself. Since I had a loaf of leftover bread dough in the freezer, the economical choice seemed to be to make them myself. I was nervous that they wouldn't come out quite right, but I decided to just give it a shot. I'm glad I did. They were a huge success. Marc declared them better than either of the restaurant rolls.

Thus, I share with you my recipe. (Be forewarned, I don't like to measure anything).
1. Thaw a loaf of ready dough. You can buy it in the freezer section at Albertson's. It looks like this:
2. Thaw the dough according to the directions on the package (there is an option to microwave thaw it, in case you forget to do it overnight).
3. Cut the dough into 12 pieces and throw it in a big bowl.
4. Melt a few big spoonfuls of butter or margarine in the microwave.
5. Add a spoonful chopped garlic (depending on how much you love garlic). I recommend getting a jar of it pre-chopped garlic; this recipe uses a lot.

6. Add a spoonful of garlic powder and a spoonful of italian seasoning or parsley flakes, and mix it all together. Pour the mixture over the dough pieces in the bowl and stir to coat.
7. Place the rolls a few inches apart on a baking sheet sprayed with non-stick cooking spray (I highly recommend Trader Joe's olive oil spray).
8. Follow the "Quick Rise" instructions on the bread package (but don't worry if you don't have a full hour... even like 30 minutes is okay).
9. Preheat the oven to 375 and then bake them for 15 minutes.
10. Meanwhile, mix up a couple of spoonfuls of butter or margarine, about a 1/4 cup of extra virgin olive oil, and a few teaspoons of chopped garlic (depending on how much you love garlic), and about a tablespoon of Italian seasoning in the same big bowl you used before. Microwave it for about 30 seconds. Stir it altogether, then add a bunch of parmesan cheese.
11. Once the rolls are out of the oven, let them cool for a few minutes until they are cool  enough to pick up. Put them in the bowl a couple at a time and stir to coat, making sure they each get to the bottom to get nice and coated, and they will start to sort of coat each other too.
12. Serve. YUM!

There you are. The secret to yummy, delicious, diet-destroying, garlic rolls. :-) (You can tell when I have had a totally rough day, because I decide to cook foods that soothe my soul).

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Motherhood is Just Tough

I know it get easier, and I know it is only a season in my life, but seriously... mothering small children is really, really tough. It starts out tough, and it doesn't get much easier.

My sister (who had her baby yesterday) is having a hard time getting the hang of breastfeeding, and she wants to. The baby latched improperly yesterday and she didn't really know it or know not to let her keep nursing with an improper latch, and it did enough damage to make the whole learning-to-nurse process much more painful than it even normally is (and as any nursing mom will attest to, it is difficult no matter what). However, I don't know a single nursing mom who didn't have a hard time with it at first, especially in the first couple of days before your milk comes in and the baby wants more milk than you are making. Breastfeeding is very hard in general, and only certain parts about it get easier. The funny thing is... it is kind of a perfect metaphor for mothering young children in general.
 You might think I am crazy, but follow me here...

The beginning is WAY harder than you ever imagine it will be. 
Gone is any spontaneity that used to be part of your personality.
You suddenly find yourself willing to sacrifice things you truly loved before.
There are times when you love it and wish this stage would never end, but there are also times when you feel the end of this stage will never come fast enough. 
Going out on a date or a girl's night out suddenly involves a whole heck of a lot of advanced planning. 
You occasionally feel trapped. 
You sometimes feel like this level of closeness between two people is just miraculous.

Some of your are probably thinking, "Wow, I can't believe she actually said that," about some of the things I said, but some of you who are or have been nursing mothers are probably thinking to yourself, "Wow, I have felt that way too..." even if you would never have actually said it. Well, I said it. Yes, I do sometimes feel trapped. There are parts of me who mourn things I have lost, even temporarily. I mourn the temporary loss of caffeine and citrus. I mourn the spontaneity that used to let me decide to go out with my friends on Friday night at 10pm on Friday night. There, I said it.

I love my children dearly. That is why I am willing to sacrifice so much for them.

But it has been a tough past week. The sun has been nice. The wind has not. I have been off my allergy meds because they bother Tiana's stomach. This means that the 9 trees, 7 weeds, and 5 grasses that I am highly allergic to (allergy tests back in 2009) get me crazy congested, and because of my asthma and allergies, it never quite flushes out, so I always end up with a sinus infection. Argh! When I went to the doctor today, I said, "Hello Doctor. I'm here for my monthly sinus infection." He laughed, but agreed that this is getting ridiculous (I was there less than a month ago for the last one), and at least he found another allergy med that he thinks should work and not interfere with breastfeeding or bother Tiana. I hate having sinus infections. It makes me wear down so easily in the day, and it makes it really hard to sleep at night because I cough so much. Bleh.

Okay, I whine too much, but seriously... rough week, particularly last 48 hours. While Natalie was having the baby, I wanted so badly to be there for her, but was barely able to because I just didn't have a sitter, even though I tried really hard to find one. I know we don't always get along very well, but seriously...  I'm her big sister. Its like my job to be there for her. I especially wanted to be there for her today when she was having trouble with breastfeeding. But it wasn't to be.

It was an awful night last night. It took me almost 2 hours to fall asleep because I couldn't stop coughing. Then, shortly after I fell asleep, I woke up at 1:30a.m. because Vinny had thrown up all over everything. Ugh. Thank God for my wonderful husband who took the awful job of cleaning the throw up off the high bunk of Vinny's bed. I got the much easier task of washing the throw up out of Vinny's hair. We made Vinny a bed on the couch, and went back to sleep, for like 30 minutes... and then it happened again. And we were changing linens again. Ultimately, my self-sacrificing husband slept in the living room with Vinny and managed to handle it himself the next 5 times it happened. I couldn't believe it when I woke up at 9:30 a.m. to find Marc had let me sleep while he handled the mess and even called in to work late so I could keep my doctor's appointment for my sinus infection today. When I finally got up and made it into the living room, there was my little baby boy (okay, my big baby boy), lying miserably on the couch. He didn't do much more than watch a lot of t.v. today, and I couldn't get him to drink much, but hopefully he will be alright tomorrow. I think it was just a 24 hour bug. I hope so, because I have plans to go to work tomorrow for a while.

Parenthood is tough.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Guess What? I'm an aunt!

My sister had her baby today, which makes me an aunt. It also gives Vinny and Tiana their first first cousin. Beautiful Isabella Newbill was born at 1:40p.m., 6 pounds 13 ounces, 19.5 inches. She is beautiful. She has her mommy's lips.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Mommy Funnies

My kids make me laugh. I walked up to my laptop to find these miniature people with their miniature RV parked nearby. I guess they were watching a drive-in movie?  Does anyone else think this is as funny as I think it is?  It was an ugly day in many ways, but my kids make me laugh.

 Tiana is sick. She has bronchiolitis. Vinny had it when he was 6 months old, and it was a nightmare. The poor thing was miserable. He just coughed and coughed and coughed. Couldn't eat, barely slept. Miserable. When I started hearing Tiana wheezing Thursday night, I wanted to cry. Not again! Fortunately, it hasn't been nearly as bad as it was with Vinny. When Vinny had it, he actually developed pneumonia. She has not and actually seems to be getting better. Perhaps there is something to be said of the antibodies in breastmilk.

Anyway, back to funny Vinny. This morning, on the way home from the doctor's office, I told Vinny we could stop for donuts. I got myself a root beer as a little treat, since I saw they had Mug, which is caffeine free. I put it on the roof while I put Tiana in the car (I bet you can tell where this is going). As I drove away, a loud "thump thump thump" sound reminded me about my soda. "Great," I thought, as I watched it hit roll off the roof spilling all over my trunk. I got out and grabbed the cup, and Vinny asked, "What happened to the soda?"  When I told him, he seemed confused... until we got out and he saw the trunk and said, "Wow, what a mess. Daddy's gonna have to clean that up!" Hahahahaha! I love it! He sure knows how it is.

My other favorite part of the day. I let Vinny wear his clothes to sleep last night, since he fell asleep on the couch. He didn't want to change, so I let him wear it to the doctor this morning too, but after I said, "Come on, you need to get dressed," and he answered, "Silly mommy, I am dressed, see! I'm not naked!"   Ah Vinny. He knew what I meant.

Later in the day, Vinny was taking pictures with his camera (he has been begging me to put more batteries in it for ages and I finally did) and he kept taking pictures of Tiana. After each one he would say, "Awwww!" in a high pitched voice. So cute! Then, I was cleaning up in the kitchen and I hear hysterical giggles from the hall. I find Vinny in the bathroom, hysterically laughing, taking pictures of the toilet. He is such a boy.

Okay... last Vinny funny. At my parents' house, Vinny was playing in the yard while my dad was cleaning up dog poopy, but unfortunately, Vinny stepped on some before my dad got to it.  I made him give me his shoes to clean them off. "Why?" he asked. My mom told him, "Because there's poop on them."  He looks at her and asks, "Who pooped on them?"  Hahahaha.

Tiana started solid foods this week. I made peas and she really enjoyed them. The funniest thing was, I chose peas randomly because they were what I had in the freezer, but she actually had on an outfit that day that was the exact same color pea green. :-)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Highs and Lows

Parenting, and well, life, has such highs and lows and this week has been no exception. I have the rest of this week and next week left, and then I go back to work for the second semester. This is the real thing. When I went back in December, it was only a few weeks (since winter break was coming)... kind of like a trial run. Now I have to go back for real and send Tiana to day care for very long days. I am sad about this. In addition, I really wanted to accomplish A LOT more work on this break, and I didn't get as much done as I need to yet, and I don't feel like working right now.

Yesterday was a beautiful day, in more ways than one. It was wonderfully warm and sunny, and I took the kids to the beach with a good friend. It was nice to have time with a friend. It was nice for Vinny to play with one of his favorite friends. Tiana loves the beach and the sun and the warmth. She just basks like a lizard.

It got me really excited thinking about summer and warmer weather and how nice it is to live in Southern California. This year, I really want to try to waste less days sitting at home or mindlessly running errands around town and spend as much of my free time out in the beauty that is this wonderful state.

The evening was just as nice. My mom came over, and she is like my best friend, so that is always fantastic. I decide to invite her to stay for dinner, so I called my dad too and he came over too. I love my parents so much. I enjoy being with them a lot, and I had a delicious dinner in mind. Good food is always better when you have more people to share it with. So, Marc and Vinny and Tiana and I had dinner with my parents, and it was as good as I hoped it would be. I made homemade bruschetta, new york strip steak, fresh grilled green beans, and blue bayou potatoes (like at Disneyland). I tried to copy this bruschetta recipe we had at a restaurant in Scottsdale on our anniversary. I was relatively successful, and it was absolutely delicious. We had it on bread, like the traditional appetizer, and also as a topping on the steak. DELICIOUS!

I thought it was just a perfect day, but then it ended really sourly. Vinny got annoyed at something- I don't know what- and he dropped a toy truck on Tiana's face... quite intentionally. When I asked him why, he told me, "Because I wanted to." I was shocked. In the 4 months she has been alive, he has never done anything intentionally mean to her. I was horrified. This morning, he felt like talking about it, and he told me it was because "You were being too loud." I think what he really meant is that he was upset I was talking on the phone instead of talking to him. Considering I give him plenty of attention, particularly over the past 3 days, I don't know why he would react like that. It is like Vinny lashes out if I am not paying attention to him and Tiana cries constantly if I try to put her down or do something else. Both my kids want 100% of my attention 100% of the time. It is exhausting. I need some time for me too.

Tiana had a dr.'s appointment this morning, and she got three vaccinations, which she later had a bad reaction to. Her leg swelled and she got a fever and cried uncontrollably for like 2 hours. It was awful. She finally calmed down when the Tylenol really kicked in, but it was an awful afternoon. I had a meeting today that I thought was going to be encouraging, but was actually sort of discouraging, and I although I am trying not to let it get to me, it is.

I had planned a fundraiser for my students today too- 4 students were supposed to go to a show taping (we get paid for being a studio audience) and one of the student's parents was going to drive. I drove down to school to meet them and send them off, take care of the permission slips and paper work and whatnot, and when I got there, 2 of the kids were there, but most importantly, we were missing the one whose father was supposed to drive.  I finally called her, and she sounded like she forgot and then told me her dad was out of town, something unexpected came up. Ugh. I had no back-up plan, so I had to call the audience coordinator and cancel. They make a really big deal about cancellations. I had a really big one planned for March, and she told me that their normal policy is that you get completely banned after one no-show. Since we have a history of reliability, she said her boss will probably let us continue to do tapings, but she wants to cut my big one for March in half, and I will need to do a free one (meaning we go, but they don't pay us) with at least 5 people before then. There are only so many shows that meet the age group of my students (most of the tapings are for 18+), so this is really going to be a challenge. It is really discouraging. You work so hard to build something up and then have it cut down so easily. We really need this fundraising money to keep our program going, especially if I want to take a group to Broadway next winter.

I was trying to still stay in a good mood in spite of it all, especially since we have Bible study on Tuesday nights and I really love that time of the week. I made a nice dinner- bruschetta chicken pasta (inspired by the Friday's dish, but frankly, I think mine is better), to use the rest of the bruschetta, and mini pesto french bread pizzas. It was again a delicious meal. After dinner, we cleaned the house in preparation for our Bible study, but for the second week in a row, only one person showed up. They do all have genuine stuff going on (heck, one has been in the hospital for the majority of the past week), so I understand, but it was discouraging nonetheless. This always seems to happen to us in small group Bible studies.

For dessert, at least I got to have a delicious cookies and cream cupcake that Marc picked up for me yesterday. I don't know if I enjoyed it so much because it really was tasty, or if it just tasted better because of the sweet fact that my husband picked out something I love and brought it home for me, or because food is just so soothing to the aching soul, but either way, I enjoyed it very much.

There is a lot to look forward to in the coming weeks and months, exciting potential opportunities, family gettogethers, etc. My sister is due with a baby that should arrive any day now, so for the first time, I'm going to get to be an aunt. I am excited about the stuff I have planned for my students in the Spring. A majority of the 2nd semester is going to be focused on the Holocaust, which sounds depressing, but it isn't because it is exciting to see the major impact it makes on the students' lives as they study it. Then, we will end the semester with studying the Slumdog Millionaire scripts that the screenwriter actually purchased for us. How exciting is that!

See... this is why I continue to write in this blog, even if only a few people read it on a regular basis. Because it is cathartic. It's nice to feel like someone cares. Dear readers, I PROMISE, I will not write again until I have only upbeat things to say.


Friday, January 14, 2011

Savings and Sickies

Vinny is sick.  :-( 

His preschool teacher told Marc he is not the only one in the class, apparently there are several of them,  so I guess there was just a little cold going around his class. He wasted the rest of the box of tissues last night by using like 3 at a time to wipe his nose once, and I don't like to buy tissues (waste of money- soft as they are, they are still just overpriced t.p.), so I did the much more eco-friendly thing and gave him a handkerchief today. Good decision. He has been carrying it around with him and wiping his nose, so I don't have to hear him yell, "Tissue! Tissue!" every 5 seconds, and it still is not completely gross yet. I think it is softer on his nose too. I forced him to take a nap today, which was not an easy feat. I had to convince him that all sick people need three things- drinks, berry flavored medicine, and sleep. He added that they also need soup (an idea contrived from an episodes of Blue's Clues called "Sniffles"), and argued that soup could replace sleep. I disagreed. I am mom, so I won. We compromised though... I let him sleep on the couch bed in his room instead of in his bed. We spent the rest of the day watching movies. For some reason, he's been in to cheesy 80s movies. If I have to watch 3 Ninjas or The Karate Kid again, I am going to scream.

I spent my day being the queen of savings both online and in real stores. Exciting. I love great deals. It felt great today to use my 20% off coupon and my $25 in Rewards Dollars to buy a $50 toy box from Babies R Us for less than half. Yup, that was exciting. I also discovered Amazon Prime. Woo hoo! Doing well on the goal of financial stability this year. I have been thinking about saving money with literally every purchase I make, and doing really, really well. We even saved $21 on dinner in Hollywood before the show last weekend. Go me.

Tiana did her fair share of making Marc miserable while I was out shopping though. I think she may be teething, as early as it is. She has been pretty good lately, but she just gets so cranky all of a sudden. It would make life so much easier on all of us if we could put her down some of the time, like maybe while she's sleeping... yeah, that'd be nice.

In other news.... some updates on my goals for 2011. I have yet to actually exercise consistently. Things just keep getting in the way. I have yet to cross anything off my buried list, but I have a lot of ideas and some solid plans. It is going to happen this year. I did pretty well on last year's goal though- we ate at home 5 nights in a row this week. Let's see if I can keep it up when I go back to work in February.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

I love my little man

Vinny has become such a little man. Tonight, before bed, he prayed for one of the students in our college group (Bible study group) because he heard us talking about him being sick. He is growing up to become such a compassionate little man. Considering that one of my major goals for him is to grow up to be compassionate, this is a wonderful thing.

He really is growing up so quickly. I was looking at pictures of him from just last summer, and it looks like he has gone from baby to boy:

 He has just grown to be so fun and so funny. Today in the car on the way home, I told him I had a surprise for him at home (a video that I ordered in the mail) and he said, "Mommy, look at my face?" I looked back and he was smiling really big and I said, "What?" He answers, "Look at my face! I am so excited!"

Monday, January 10, 2011

Work work work

I'm off work right now... but there is just so much to do.

If you asked me one thing that teachers in America consistently need more of, it wouldn't even be more money. It is honestly just paid prep time. I get approximately 5 hours a week of paid time for planning, preparation, collaboration, etc. This is so far from enough time to do a sufficient job at writing lesson plans, grading papers, planning units, working with other teachers, etc. It is a big part of why I have so much trouble maintaining a balance between school work and my home life during the school year. If I could have 3 hours a day every day, for a total of 15 hours a week, paid time, then I think I would feel sufficiently prepared for each day. Since I don't, I live in survival mode, only doing as much as I can handle, working myself to the bone, and getting by with what I can, making a lot of sacrifices in things I would like to do (plan better lessons, read all my students' papers, etc.), and then holding out until the breaks. In January and July, I just go crazy planning and getting stuff done.

Tonight's project...BTSA. I have supposed to be doing it all the first semester, but I put it off until now. I have a lot that needs to get done by the midway checkpoint on February 10. I am meeting with my BTSA mentor next week, and I want to get through it all quickly by having it all done for the checkpoint. That means a lot of work this week. The final deadline is May 27, but there is this note saying that we can turn it in early if it gets completed early. I'd love to set myself a goal of right after spring break, but we'll see.

Tomorrow- all units for next semester. Yup, that's right. I am meeting with the other sophomore English teacher and she emailed me her lofty goal for tomorrow's planning session:
Plan all units, including instructional activities.
 Wow! That is a lot of work. I am bringing the kids too, so I guess I am going to have to bring a lot of snacks and toys. 

Sunday, January 9, 2011


I saw HAIR this weekend weekend. It rocked my world. I saw it once before when they did it at the Simi Cultural Arts Center, but this was the Broadway touring cast, and they were AMAZING. Seriously, amazing. I would kind of give anything to go see it again... and again... and again. They made the cast part of the show and we felt like part of the tribe. It was this beautiful reminder that there is a community of people out there who still share my beliefs in life and love and community above all else... that killing is wrong... that people are too judgmental... but that good people exist. Ah.... the hippie movement may have died with the drug addictions and AIDS that ended the feel-good era, but I believe they started something that will never die.

I encourage you all to see the show, it is worth it. See the commercial:

The only bittersweet part of this...  #7 on my buried list. Be in Hair. I would give anything to be a part of the Hair tribe for just one show. I have very few regrets in life, but I will tell you what I do regret. My second to last semester at CSUN, they were doing HAIR, and I wanted to audition, but I found out I was pregnant right before the auditions and decided not to audition. The show would have been when I was 6 months pregnant. I should have just auditioned. One of the main characters actually IS pregnant, and there certainly could have been a pregnant tribe member, but I just went through this stage of "my life is over" when I found out I was pregnant and let it really destroy my perspective towards life for several months. I had a relatively flexible schedule at that time (at least more than I do now with two kids), and I should have auditioned.  I think I would have got a role just because of my sheer passion for all things Hair.

But, in the words of my other favorite musical, "forget regrets, or life is yours to miss." I must now just hope and pray that someday I get the opportunity again. Well, either that or convince my dad to produce and direct it someday. It will have to be a while from now though, because I am sure rights will not be available until the national tour is over.  Someday.

Saturday, January 8, 2011


Did you know funny changes over time? Not even a lot of time really. I bought the first season of SNL on DVD. (One of many things I bought with a Target gift card I received for my birthday- thank you friends). I thought, "Man this has got to be great! Chevy Chase, Dan Akroyd, John Belushi... this is gonna be GOOD." Plus, the guests- George Carlin, Paul Simon (worth the purchase for this alone, I must say), Randy Newman, Carly Simon, and more. I will say that it is funny to watch, but it is funny more because of time than because of comedy. Apparently, comedy really changes over time. Some of it was funny (particularly Andy Kaufman), but some of it was just... wow. There was this sketch about The Blaine Hotel killer, and the sketch really wasn't funny. I didn't even understand why it was supposed to be. We did thoroughly enjoy listening to jokes about President Gerald Ford, which was just funny because, well, seriously... Ford? Has it really been that long? There was another sketch about husband insurance,  like to replace your husband with another one, and it was kind of funny, but just felt weird. And the other thing that was strange is apparently, they didn't work the live audience then (even though they had one), because there was no background laughter. It was weird. I wonder when they started doing that for comedy.  You can also tell how time shapes jokes in other ways too. Like things were simpler back then that people could laugh at things that they can't any more. Like George Carlin was doing jokes about airport security and how they make sure you are "clean," but then give you a fork and knife to eat your meal with, and all the wine you can drink. Plus, then he makes a joke about taking over a plane with a sheet of paper, threatening to paper cut the stewardess to death. Yeah... time has certainly made jokes about taking over a plane not generally funny any more.

It was really interesting to think about how much simpler life was then, and how much simplicity has died over the years. I've been thinking about that a lot lately. Yesterday, I was watching a documentary on the musical Hair with my dad (in preparation to see it at the Pantages. Yea! Happy Birthday to me!), and it ended with talking about how the Hair tribe fell apart as free love fell apart... with AIDS. They showed the pictures and names and dates of every Hair cast member that died of AIDS. It was so sad. There was also a part where the actor who played Woof touring the show was talking about how they started to receive death threats from militant groups, so he decided to leave his wife and baby at the hotel that night just to be safe, only to find out mid-show that an arsonist had set the hotel on fire and his wife and baby died. How terribly awful is that? What is wrong with people?

Anyhow, not to be totally depressing, that was just what was on my mind.

In other news, I dyed my hair yesterday, but it didn't turn out so great. (No, I am not posting pictures of it. Gonna fix it first). I wanted to go blonde, but like a dirty blonde, kind of like this look on Drew Barrymore (right). That's not what I got though. The colors are really inconsistent. Some of it is really light, but a little bit of it is kind of orange.  I kind of have the Miley Cyrus look (left). She also didn't get close enough down to the roots at all, so it already looks like I need my roots done, particularly if I pull my hair up at all, even like just part up in the front. Plus, she kind of did that weird two tone thing, where it is darker underneath in the back. I am not certain if she did it intentionally (even though it is not what I asked for), but I think she did, because she even cut my hair in layers, which totally accentuates it, and I specifically told her I didn't want layers. I like it even. It looks very much like this:

This is not a terrible look. I get that it is very fashionable right now, but it is not what I wanted. In fact, I've even commented to friends and family before on how stupid I think this style generally looks. I call it the skunk. My best friend Mo confirmed, "Yup, you got skunked." Overall, it looks okay right now if I wear it down, but it is totally not what I want. Thank God, I found a friend who is going to try to fix it for me on Monday, so I only have to walk around like this for a couple of days. I've heard it is easier to fix blonde gone wrong than to go back dark, so that's what I'm gonna do.  Sigh.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

My Dual Mom Life

Sometimes I feel like I live a double life. There is the life I live when I am home with the kids, and then there is the life that I live during the school year. During the school year, the vast majority of my energy is focused on my students. During the breaks, I get to be just "mom." Of course I am still a mom when I am teaching, but the "mom" that I get to be on break is a different mom. When I am on break, I am rather domestic. I like to bake cookies and cupcakes from scratch. I make fresh squeezed lemonade. I cook dinner every night. I organize the kid's clothes. I schedule playdates for my kid (and sometimes, I even get brave and have them at my own house!). This week, I conquered the mountain of junk towering precariously high over the microwave.Tonight after dinner, we took a family walk with the dog. I like the me that is "mom."

You'd think this would make me want to be a stay at home mom... but it doesn't. I think I like home mom better because working mom exists. Because there are also parts of being "mom," the primary one responsible for keeping up my house and caring for my children, that kind of suck. Yesterday, we slept in a little (til around 8:30), which was nice, and then I set out to accomplish my goals for the day: tidy the house (without shoving things in places where they don't belong), cook dinner, and bake cupcakes for Bible study. That's it. That's all I wanted to get done. Tiana had other ideas.

Some days, she wants to be held non-stop. Yesterday was one of those days. She kept falling asleep while nursing, but then I'd put her down and she'd wake up right away. By 4:00, I had only straightened up one room of the house (the kitchen), which I had done through a method of throwing everything that didn't belong in there into the living room (I intended to tidy it up next) and then cleaning and organizing what did actually belong in the kitchen, and Tiana still hadn't taken a real nap. I set about trying to get her to nap. At 4:50, I really truly thought I had succeeded, and I walked out of her room, leaving her asleep in there alone. I felt so proud of my sweet success and so ready to complete my tasks. 10 minutes later, a whimper from the bedroom told me it was not to be. I took a deep breath and strapped an overtired baby into the swing, and I let her cry while I finished everything up. I took a couple of brief breaks to calm her, feed her, hold her, and then it was back to "self-soothing," which never really happened. At least by the time Daddy came home for dinner at 6, the house was clean and the cupcakes were baked. I couldn't take the crying any more, so I decorated cupcakes with a baby wrapped to my chest (fyi... not an easy task). I love my children... and I love my house, but days like this are only tolerable because I know I only get a few of them a year.

I sometimes feel bad about the fact that, during the school year, my students often receive more of my energy than my own children, but I do my best to make sure that Vinny and Tiana aren't missing out on anything significant and not to compromise on anything I feel is really important. Like the week that I had rehearsals and performances for the play until late at night, I worked like 15 hour days. I didn't have enough milk stored up for that, and I could have easily just had my family supplement with formula, but instead I had them bring Tiana to me so I could feed her. More than it even being about the milk, I just didn't want her to feel completely abandoned by me. It was hard to feed her in between solving every little drama crisis, but I made it work. The students learned that they could solve their own problems most of the time, and my daughter knew, in her own baby way, that she will always be my #1.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Retrospection, Introspection, Prospection

Thought I might do a little reflecting today. In the end of 2009, I blogged (not on this site), and made some goals for 2010. They were:
1) Show my husband I appreciate him more.
2) Less eating out, more eating quality food at home.
3) Get more involved at church and make some real friends there.
4) Discipline myself to somehow start working out.
5) Balance my work-home time better, without feeling overwhelmed in either 

Hmmm... how did I do? Well, I think I did pretty well at showing Marc he is appreciated. I did get more involved at church. I wouldn't say I necessarily have real friends there yet, but I definitely made some solid acquaintances. At least I am no longer wandering around there feeling like no one knows me at all.

I am not sure how we did with eating out less. I think we sort of crashed and burned on that one... but I didn't expect to spend the majority of  2010 pregnant. That certainly threw a screw in the works, in many things really, particularly #5. It is really hard to not feel overwhelmed at work when you are planning for maternity leave or returning from maternity leave, and I spent most of this year in "planning for maternity leave" mode, while also trying to stay on top of all the current stuff. Needless to say, I most certainly did not achieve balance.  I didn't really manage to consistently work out while pregnant, but I didn't gain that much weight, and I lost it pretty darn fast. During maternity leave, I joined stroller strides, which I think I will keep up with this when I am off of work, but I really still need to find a good consistent way to work out during the school year. Sadly, it must be something that doesn't cost any money at all, because there is no room in the budget for a regular fitness expenditure. I'm not very disciplined, so it needs to be scheduled and preferably involve other people (for accountability). Any ideas from the peanut gallery (the many many people who tell me you read my blog but never comment)?

And now... my goals for this year. (I never make resolutions, but I do like to set goals).

In 2011, I would like to....

#1) Balance my work-home time better
Yup, that one needs to be carried over. Perhaps I can actually manage to achieve it this year! I really need to find some way to not completely let school rule my entire life from Feb-June and Aug-Dec.

#2) Cross at least 4 things off my buried list
There are 50 items, so I better do at least 4 this year!

#3) Manage our finances well: Pay all of our bills, preferably on time, give more to the church, and somehow make a dent in our debt.
We really don't have much debt, but this year is going to be a very tough one financially with paying for both kids to be in full-time day care (at least until June, then Vinny goes to kindergarten), and it could be very easy to get financially behind this year. It would be really easy to give less to the church, max out our credit cards, and fall behind on bills, but I want to somehow not let that happen. Gonna be a lot of sacrifices.

#4) Be a quality friend to my few quality friends
I'm gonna be honest- I don't have a lot of time for friends. Work and family pretty much take up the majority of my time. But friendships are really important. In the past, it hasn't mattered that much to me who my spare time is spent with, as long as I am fostering friendships of some kind, but I think I should expend that effort better. Instead of feeling bad that I am not close to more people, I am going to remind myself constantly how lucky I am to have good friends, and I am going to be a great friend to those people.

#5) Exercise Consistently 
Okay, this one is kind of a carryover too, but it is important. I need to figure out some way to get into a consistent routine of exercising so I can maintain a weight I am happy with. Sounds so much easier than it actually is.

My Buried List

I have posted this before on FB, but I am posting it here, just for reference. I made this list last year (based on ideas that have been in my head for many years), but sadly was not able to completely cross anything off last year. This year, I'd like to cross off a few.

My “buried” list

1. Spend a week lying on a remote-ish tropical beach drinking delicious drinks and swimming in warm water.   (Condo reserved, airline tickets booked! - Maui- October 2011!!!)

2. Visit Venice and eat real Italian food and gelato.

3. Experience Mardi Gras in New Orleans.   (tentatively planned for February 2012!!!)

4. Sit in a Jacuzzi, in my backyard, sipping pink champagne, eating chocolate covered strawberries.

5. Spend a summer in Romania with the orphans. Maybe bring one home.

6. Learn to dance hip hop.

7. Be in a stage version of Hair.

8. Learn to surf.   (maybe this year in Hawaii???)

9. Be in a movie.

10. Write a recommendation letter for a student to go to an Ivy League school  (December 2010 Estefani & Cynthia, but neither got accepted)… and see him/her actually get accepted and attend (and ideally graduate)

11. Bless another teacher with something really awesome. (June 2011 - Going into details would kind of ruin this, but this was far easier than I thought. I forgot how much little things mean to us poor teachers).

12. Take a group of students to work with orphans in a 2nd or 3rd world country.

13. Get published in something real… like in print… not just on the internet.

14. Go to a protest for something I truly believe in.

15. See Alaska in the summer, when it doesn’t get dark (and isn’t cold).

16. Direct Rent with a perfect cast and as much time and money as I need to make it perfect.

17. Be in a Shakespeare play as a lead role.

18. Make homemade tortillas.

19. Spend 2 hours floating happily in a lazy river.

20. Cruise the Caribbean, stopping at several different islands.

21. Spend a week at Disney World at a nice resort, with a meal plan and everything, not having to worry about money while we are there.

22. Be on the Amazing Race.

23. Convince my mom and dad to go out of the United States, preferably on a mission trip. I would ideally like to come too, but will consider this one accomplished if they go without me.

24. Be in a Flash dance mob.

25. Grow enough vegetables to make a complete salad.

26. Completely and totally surprise Marc with an unbelievable gift.

27. Go to the airport on a random Friday and take the first flight out on Southwest, no matter where it goes (like in Yes Man).

28. Camp in Encinitas for a week with a really awesome RV.

29. Own a Jacuzzi.

30. Learn Spanish… like, fluently.

31. Tour Jerusalem.

32. Go to the Olympics (just to watch, hopefully to watch Marc)

33. Write a letter to the president and my congressmen about something that is really, really important to me. Hopefully get a response.

34. Sit in a tropical waterfall (I have to say tropical, because I have done this in the mountains, but I want to do it in a warm one).

35. Drive across America, coast-to-coast

36. Go whitewater rafting through the Grand Canyon.

37. Be in the pit at a Green Day concert.

38. See a concentration camp in person.

39. See Phantom of the Opera professionally (like on Broadway, but LA or Vegas would work)  Tentatively possible - Taking the drama kids to Broadway in January 2012, but I am letting them pick the shows, and I don't know if it will even be there then

40. See the Cirque de Soleil show “Love”    April 2011 - See blog for details; it was amazing!

41. Go kayaking in the ocean.  (Going with the Pacific Camps junior highers in July - Thanks for letting me tag along Cynthia!)

42. Visit the Channel Islands.

43. Hike a volcano.  (This October in Hawaii!)

44. See the Sistine Chapel ceiling.

45. Speak at an educator’s conference.

46. See Robin Williams do stand up comedy.

47. Go tubing in Kauai

48. Take my students on a totally awesome surprise field trip, probably funded by me.

49. Share my faith with students at my public school campus, somehow without getting fired.  Spring 2011 - Rather subtly, but found a few ways. We did a "relationship rating" activity while learning about drama, and when I modeled the activity, I rated God as my closest relationship and explained it. I even did it in front of an administrator, and I didn't get fired.... yet. Haha.   :-)

50. Plan a huge “thank you” banquet for youth pastors’ wives.

(New Additions- Added June 2011- some inspired by my students)

51. See the Hollywood sign up close and personal

52. Go to a foam party.

53. Ride a mechanical bull.

54. Try doing stand-up comedy in front of an audience.

55. See the aurora borealis

56. Visit India.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Give It Away - Selfish Confessions

Today's message at church was interesting. It was about making 2011 less about "me" and more about... well, everyone else. It was a fantastic and a well-needed reminder that my life is not that bad, yet, to be perfectly painfully honest, some of it doesn't sit very well with me, all at the same time.

First, let me summarize the message:
  • We would have a "sweeter," happier life, if we lived like Jesus wants us to... focusing more on others than on ourselves. His suggestion- give unto others out of what blessings you have. If  you have money, give to those who need it. A warm coat? To those who are cold. If nothing else... give an ear to listen. Some people just want someone to talk to. He also made the point that people who are miserable with their lives are usually miserable for their own selfish reasons. Because they can't give things up to God for selfishness and pride. They are miserable because they can't stop drinking. Because they "just can't forgive" or whatnot. All in all... stop putting so much emphasis on yourself and focus more on others.

This seems like sort of the typical church message, right? So, why wouldn't it sit well with me? I love giving to others. So many of my dreams for life, for this year even, are for others (particularly my students and my children). I desperately want to make my drama students January 2012 trip to Broadway a reality. It will mean raising somewhere around $25,000, but I want it for them so bad, I am willing to do the work. I want my "Give Students the Gift of Book Ownership" Donors Choose project to fund SO badly, so that my students can each get to choose a book to keep. I want Vinny to be able to do something recreational again. We haven't had the money to let him keep up any extracurricular activities, and I know he wants to do gymnastics so badly. I wish I could give that to him.

So, what's the issue then?
Well, not to sound prideful, but I give so much of myself to others- my children, my husband, my students, my community, my friends, etc., and, honestly, sometimes there is so little left for me. Sometimes, I don't take very good care of myself, and then I get sick. I put more of my energy into caring for my students than into cleaning my house. I pretty much gave up any semblance of fashion, and I will even sometimes wear stained clothes. Not to make myself sound like a martyr, because this is sort of just whatever, part of my life. The one person I know who gives significantly more to others is my mother. And you know what? I'm sorry, but her life isn't sweeter because of it. She gives of herself until there is nothing left, physically, financially, and emotionally. She supports so many family members and even non-family members, and sometimes, in my opinion, she actually gives too much to where she is stressed out. I don't want that for her.

In theory, a life of giving constantly is a wonderful concept. But it is possible to give too much. The Christian church (as in big church, not any specific church) often makes it feel like taking care of yourself is a sin, and I am sort of starting to take issue with this. I know that Jesus says whoever wants to be first must be last, but not taking care of myself makes me just stressed out, which makes me a bad wife and a bad mom. When I take time to take care of myself, to pamper myself a little, to vacation, etc., I find myself to be a more relaxed wife and mother, and I treat my family more like God wants me to treat my family and even everyone else.

And you know what... there were a lot of  "for me" things I was hoping for in 2011 that finances have made clear will not be happening, and I am still kind of grieving those.
  • I wanted to take a nice trip somewhere as a family after Tiana's first birthday. (We will be lucky if we can scrape together enough for a family day at Disneyland).
  • I wanted to join some sort of hobby or team to help myself stay active and lose weight. (These things cost substantial amounts of money, and we can't afford excesses like this right now).
  • I wanted to buy more organic and natural food this year, since the increase in healthier and organic food last year really was for the best for our health. (It looks like we are actually going to need to go backwards this year and just buy whatever we can to keep tummies full, since the grocery budget is going to need to shrink to be able to pay for day care).
It just didn't sit very well with me today, because when I was thinking about my personal goals for 2011, honestly, I was thinking more along the lines of "I will take better care of myself this year." Is that really such a bad thing?