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.

Monday, February 28, 2011


Lately, I have been really good about complaining. It is easy. There is a lot to complain about. Every day, in fact, it seems there is something new I could complain about.

But I need to stop.

I don't like complainer me. I like joyful me. I like the person I am when I am assuming the best of people, not picking out their flaws. I like the person I am when I am encouraging others, not complaining to them about everything. I really need to find that person again.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

I have turned into my mother...

Today, as I was getting ready, I was thinking through my day. This is something I often do; it is kind of a way to help me focus on the various tasks on my list.  Today's list includes rehearsal, DK, church, lunch, grocery shopping, insane amounts of laundry, dinner with my parents and then prepping crock pot dinner for tomorrow before I go to bed. I'd also love to fit in a trip to the gym with Mo and some lesson planning for this week, but I wonder if there are enough hours in the day.
So then I start thinking about my mom... and my childhood. Every Sunday, my mom would rush around all day frantically doing laundry and cleaning the house and readying things for the week. When I think back to Sundays, I recall them as an overall time of stress for my mom. I honestly remember trying to stay out of her way to avoid getting put to work.
When I got married, I remember thinking, "I will never have sundays like that. Sundays should be the sabbath... a day of REST." For the first few years, this worked well. We would go to church, do lunch with friends, then come home and take a nap. Those times were sweet. We'd get up in time to head to my parents for dinner. We'd bring a load of laundry with us to take advantage of machines that didn't require quarters and we'd put it away when we got home, then watch our favorite shows before bed.
Then we had kids...

Now, the laundry is a neverending battle that I always seem to be losing. When I was 20, ten o'clock at night after class seemed like a perfectly good time to grocery shop. Nowadays, the weekdays are a whirlwind, and I do my best to tread water and keep my head above water. Ten o'clock at night is time for frantic lesson planning, not grocery shopping. Needless to say, Sundays have become a much needed time to catch my breath and get things under control for the week. I have become my mom.

I am starting to get the weekdays under control, but it involves a lot of focus on the weekends. I think there will be much less frantic lesson planning at night, but I do not forsee Sunday afternoon naps returning to our routine any time in the near future

Thursday, February 24, 2011

I Want to be a Teacher When I Grow Up

"Mommy, I changed my mind," my son informed me on the drive home today, "I don't want to be a train conductor when I grow up. I want to be a teacher." Considering that both Marc and I are in the field of education, and considering that he plays school in his room with his toys all the time, this was not exactly a shocker... but it did make me smile.  :-)

Today in my English classes, we were doing impromptu persuasive speeches. The kids pulled topics out of a hat and then had 1 minute to prepare and 1 minute to speak on the topic they pulled. One student pulled, "The key to having a happy life is...." She declared that the key to having a happy life is doing what you love. According to my sweet 15 year old student, "You can do something you hate and make a bunch of money, or you can do something you love, regardless of the money, and be really happy; it's better to choose happiness." I give each of the students a little slip of paper with their score and my comments. On the bottom of her paper I wrote, "You are very right. It is the key to my happiness."

And it truly is. I am happy. Tired... but happy. This week is a student summit for the network of international schools that my school is a part of (ISSN). Two schools from New York brought a group of their students out here, and we have been doing activities with our students and the other two ISSN schools here in the LA area. One of my co-workers and I brought 8 students down to Inglewood last night to have dinner with the students and staff members from the other schools. We had a great Mexican food banquet at a neat little restaurant with some great charm. It was a fun night. Our students were great! They were good about not just sitting with each other, and they actually really talked to and got to know the students from the other schools. I was proud of them.

Today, our school hosted all of the schools. I basically coordinated it all, which was exhausting, but fun. The teachers went around and observed classes, while the students were paired with our students of similar grades and they went to class with these students. I had a cute little 7th grade boy in my drama class during 6th period. Turns out the kid is actually an actor who has even been on TV. There was a student absent today, so he even got to fill in for a role. I think he had fun. My favorite part of the whole day was probably at the end of the day, watching the kids run around to get phone numbers, email addresses, pictures, Facebook info, etc., from all their new friends. I think it would just be so neat if the students kept in touch with their new friends from Manhattan. :-)

I have a really cool job. I'm glad my son wants to follow in my footsteps.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Waste not, want not

A confession. When I found out I was pregnant a year ago, I cried. I cried a lot. It was just not good timing, in so many ways. Life had just been getting easier, and I knew that having a baby was not something we were ready for. And we weren't.

But God wanted Tiana to exist... and she is a blessing. I am so very blessed  to be her mother, and to have my perfect little family of four, even though this new addition to our family has definitely meant some changes in our lifestyle. In many ways, it has been a much needed wake-up call.

I did my best to scramble all year long to get as ready as possible. I saved all my bonuses and income from side jobs, so there would be money for maternity leave (I don't get paid disability). I researched day cares and found the best one that would meet our needs for the cheapest price. I tried to mentally prepare myself for what was to come, but, I knew it would be like this- when paying for day care for two children is eating up every spare penny and any unexpected costs have the potential to just ruin us for a few weeks or months.

And it has come. This week, in fact. Some unexpected costs have eaten up the savings much quicker than I thought and we are "scraping the bottom of the barrel." I withdrew the last of the savings account on Friday. It was a sobering feeling to have the safety net gone.

If anything, it has shown me how much we wasted before. I have become VERY good at using everything to its full potential. It used to be that if there was nothing I really wanted for lunch in the house, I'd just run through a drive-thru, but today that was just not an option. Marc gets paid on the 20th, but since that was Sunday, he got paid today. It is a bank holiday. This means waiting one day extra to deposit/cash the check. I have our finances so precisely budgeted right now that an extra day was kind of a problem, particularly with the road trip we took to the family reunion this past weekend. So, today, I am making do. I had a bowl of rice crispies for lunch. I thought they were too old, but I checked the expiration date and lo and behold... still good.

Angel Food has been an AMAZING blessing during this time in our lives. It is a nationwide nonprofit food co-op where they buy food in bulk at ultra low prices and break it down into smaller packages to sell. The box we buy is $31. It comes once a month, and this box has lasted us literally the whole month for dinner. It has required some supplementing, but not much. We eat dinner at home about 4-5 nights per week, so I imagine if we ate at home all 7 nights it would maybe be a bit harder to stretch it that far, but it could be done.  Let me tell you, it feels really good to fill the freezer completely full when that box comes. It is a feeling of security during a time when I am feeling very insecure.

Eating like this has involved a changed perspective and some creativity on my part though. I am a somewhat picky eater, but I have forced myself to use every single thing that came in the box. It just involves thinking outside of the box to cook things in a way that I will want to eat them. This week is the last week from the box we bought in January and I have been trying really hard to come up with things to make from what is left.  I've basically got half a pound of sweet Italian sausage, 1.5lbs of meatballs, 2 chicken breasts, a few chicken tenders, some frozen waffle fries, and a lot of frozen veggies. I was trying to figure out dinner tonight without much supplementing, and I came up with meatball soup. I only had to buy an onion and a couple of boxes of broth. A HUGE batch of soup is now slow cooking on my counter, and it is going to be delicious. Plus... it will last for days. :-)

As hard as the past few months have been, and more so, as hard as the next few months are going to be, I am grateful for what the change has opened my eyes to- being less wasteful and saving more when things are good.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Healing Just Means It Doesn't Hurt Every Day

Grief is a strange thing. Unlike physical pain, healing doesn't mean the pain goes away. It just means it doesn't hurt every day, but there are still some days when it hurts a lot- hurts fresh hurt.

Late Christmas is this weekend. SO much has changed in the last 10 years in my extended family. This year will be very different, since like EVERYONE in the family had a baby this year (literally 5 babies). It is kind of exciting thinking about that.

But then I started thinking about the worst change of the last 10 years... the one person who will never be at late Christmas again... Jimmy. He died from multiple organ failure from pancreatitis in December of 2004. I was thinking about him yesterday when Marc was mentioning that he wants a DVD player for his birthday (our is broken). I thought about the Christmas in 2002 when I was an "adult" for the first time and was in the drawing for names for gifts. I drew Jimmy. Jimmy and I had become quite close. He had moved to Northridge a few years before that and sort of become like a big brother to me. I really wanted to get something good, partly because I wanted him to have something nice and, honestly, partly just because I wanted to be like, "See, I am an adult- I buy good gifts!" I remembered that a few weeks before that my parents had offered to lend Jimmy a DVD he wanted to see and he said, "Thanks, but I don't have a DVD player." By then, these were pretty common items, so that was kind of odd, but they were still pretty expensive. When I pulled Jimmy's name in the drawing, I remembered this, and decided I would watch the ads until I found a good deal.

I'll never forget when he opened it. He had this total look of shock on his face. I think he was surprised that I remembered he needed one, surprised that his 19 year old cousin bought him something that expensive, and kind of surprised that I drew his name.... 'cause he drew mine too. He got me a really nice bath set from Bath and Body Works. It was Sweet Pea. I will always have an emotional attachment to that scent because it makes me think of him.

When Jimmy died and we cleaned out his apartment, I saw that DVD player, and I cried a lot. I think my sister ended up taking it home since she didn't have one.

I am really looking forward to late Christmas this weekend. But right now... it hurts to think about the fact that Jimmy will never again be there to share it with us.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Much to Blog About Today :-)

If you were looking for some exciting news or something (upon seeing that title), I am sorry to disappoint- nothing really exciting to say, just a lot of thoughts in my head.

So, yesterday was a wonderful day. Upon trying to squeeze Tiana into a 3 month outfit (that fit perfectly last week) and realizing it wasn't really working, I decided it was time to move up a size. I dug out the box of bigger clothes and hung up all the stuff that will fit her now. I have a lot because I have gifts from my shower that are that size (Amber, so excited to finally put the cute pink shirt and purple peace sign shirt on her now!), and a lot of hand-me-downs from my cousins and various friends. It was wonderfully exciting- kind of like coming home from a shopping spree without spending any money. It was odd that when I was looking at some of the clothes I was thinking, "This looks too big for her," but then I would go hold it up next to her and realize it would totally fit. Its like the picture I have in my head of her is smaller than she actually is. When I look at her, she looks so big to me all of a sudden.

Then, Marc and Vinny and Tiana had a wonderful time together playing outside in the morning while I got dressed. They were so cute. Vinny has a tree swing out front now that he could spend hours on, and Marc dragged Tiana's activity mat out front so she could enjoy the beautiful sunny day too. Eventually, we headed out and decided to treat ourselves to Panera for lunch since our tax return came. We brought it to the park for a picnic. So beautiful. Tiana just loves the sun, so it was nice for all of us. Afterward, we had some shopping to do for late Christmas. (My extended family celebrates Christmas in February). Since Vinny has been such a good boy all week, we bought him his one request- a new CD to play in the CD player in his room. Guess what he picked? The Princess and the Frog soundtrack. This kid loves jazz and zydeco more than anyone I have ever met except my mother-in-law. The only other CD he listens to is a Mardi Gras mix I bought last year. He has been singing "going down the bayou" all day. He sure has Cajun blood all right. He said he wants to have his birthday at the bayou in Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland. Expensive request for a 5-year-old, but I think we may be able to make that happen if I get a good bonus in July.

Anyway... back to yesterday. As we were out shopping, we saw a sign for "Free Smartphones" at T-Mobile. We didn't think we were eligible for the full discount upgrade yet, but I called customer service to check, and it sure is a good thing I did. We were eligible, and the sale was that day only! So, we spent an hour at the very crowded T-Mobile store, but walked out with brand new phones. I got a really nice Droid that has a touch screen and a slide out keyboard- best of both worlds. I never thought I would turn to the smartphone side really, but this was too good a deal to pass up. If any phone I picked was gonna be free... might as well go for the nicest one. It has taken a little getting used to, but I like it a lot. Once I figure out how to blog on the internet thing, I think y'all will be seeing more pictures on here now. Its just been so long since I have had a phone with a camera I have to get back in the mindset of actually being able to take pictures of things quickly.

Last night was the cherry on the top of an awesome day. Marc and I got to go on a date. My favorite restaurant- Cheesecake Factory (thank you Grandma Wanda for that one!)- and a movie. I love that combination, especially since I always get the cheesecake to go and then sneak it into the movie. If there is one thing better than  popcorn at the movies, it is Godiva Chocolate cheesecake. Seriously.

In other news... I have been able to return caffeine to my diet. This has been a very exciting thing for me. I have started drinking it in little bits to see if it bothers Tiana and the verdict is no. However... I thought perhaps her stomach was just not as sensitive now, so I had several glasses of lemonade last night at dinner (I love the fresh lemonade at Cheesecake Factory). Citrus= uber cranky baby. Oh well... I guess if I had to choose between caffeine and citrus to avoid for the next 7 months, I'd choose citrus.

The only negative to going out last night was coming home to be reminded about everything in our house that doesn't work. See, I get very used to dealing with all the problems of being a broke homeowner,  but when your parents come over to babysit , it is easy to forget to tell them that the dishwasher, the kitchen faucet, and the DVD player don't work, although they figured it all out. At least they didn't have to use the shower or the garage door opener. Both of those are barely working. Well...someday. Little by little. The biggest loss of all of this is honestly the DVD player. It broke Wednesday. This wouldn't be that big of a deal since we have streaming netflix, showtime on demand, and a dvr, but Baby Mozart is only available on DVD.  No baby mozart= no showers for mommy when daddy is not home. Totally not kidding. That is the only way I ever get a shower when I am home with them alone.

Well, better go get dressed. Almost time for church! My dad's character in Discovery Kidz has a good sketch today, so I don't want to miss it.

Friday, February 11, 2011

What a Week!

Whew! What a week! 

I worked really hard this week at starting to balance my time at work and home by not bringing papers home during the week and doing a minimal amount of emailing and whatnot for school in the evenings. I even forced myself to leave early on Wednesday and Thursday, so I got to Tiana at 5:00 on Wednesday and 5:30 on Thursday. Today was not so luck though. We had auditions for the Spring show this week. It is a night of social justice one acts. I have enlisted student directors for each play. Today, we met to decide the cast of each show. Oh my gosh was that hard! Casting a show is normally hard for me (I hate disappointing people, which makes the casting element of teaching drama very difficult), but this was an entirely different role. I basically played the mediator and adviser between the 3 directors. The best actors were wanted by everyone, of course, so it was hard to choose who fit where. The funny thing was, there was one very tough battle where two directors both wanted the same guy for their leading male role. The amusing part is... this student wrote on his audition form that he only wanted a small part! But then he came in for his audition and blew us all away with how great he was! It took an hour and a half, but we got it done.

Drama keeps me SO, SO busy. Managing the financial aspect of it alone is hard. We deal in cash only- our school doesn't have a booster club- so I have to collect cash from fundraisers and ticket sales, store it in a safe, and take out the portions I need when I need to pay bills or buy something for drama. The hard part is keeping it out of my bank account. I don't want it to ever look like personal income if I get audited, so I buy cashier checks every time I need to pay a bill and pre-paid credit cards when I need to buy something online. It is a challenge to say the least.

Unfortunately, deciding to just not take home work all week has its repercussions... like a ton of work to do this weekend. When I looked at my to-do list at the end of the day today, there were more things still to do than crossed off, and most of them are needed to be ready for next week,  so work came home today. At least I have the whole weekend.

My cutie boys are cuddled up together on the couch next to me fast asleep. Vinny is totally spooning with Marc. SO adorable.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Making Good Use

So pretty much the crappiest thing that can happen to a nursing mother happened to me today. Yesterday, one of my drama kids unplugged my refrigerator to plug in the microwave and forgot to plug the refrigerator back in. There was some condensation from the freezer defrosting, but other than that I didn't really notice that it wasn't that cold this morning. I noticed when I went to get my milk OUT of it this afternoon and realized that the fridge was completely warm, which meant that my milk had been unrefridgerated all day. I had to pour it out. So, so, so sad. At least I have some in the freezer, but seriously... what a WASTE. So, so, so sad about that.

I have so much going on at school right now and so many responsibilities and various things going on, but I am really trying to make good on my goal to gain some balance between home and school this year. I stayed afterschool today trying to get my lesson plans for tomorrow prepared, and I pretty much finished; I just didn't have time to photocopy the handout. I would normally just do it in the morning, but now I have to bring Tiana in the morning, and her daycare opens at 7, which puts me at school right as the passing bell is ringing, so it is going to be a hectic morning. Plus, I didn't leave campus until 5:30, which meant I was racing with the clock to get to daycare by 6:00pm. At least I would have been able to declare myself free from school work this evening, if it weren't for BTSA that is. Ah BTSA... how I hate you. I am so close to being done, but I have like 4-5 pages to get done tonight. (It is all due on Thursday).

Last night was rough. I was SO tired  at like 10:00pm, and then Tiana didn't sleep well at all. She was up off and on all night. It was exhausting and I woke up totally not at all feeling rested. I need a better night tonight. Hopefully she cooperates.

I have been trying desperately to get on top of things financially this year and pay off our debts, even in spite of putting out about $1000 a month for childcare. I believe we are going to be able to do it, but it has taken some sacrifices and changes in the way that we live. Instead of shopping at Trader Joe's for mainly organic foods (although I am quite the bargain shopper in planning), we decided to go even cheaper and buy a food box from AngelFood, a Christian food co-op. At first, I was afraid it would be crappy quality or old, but it is not. You can tell it was just all purchased in bulk and then separated into individual boxes. Hey, whatever... works  for me. I am determined to stretch the $31 box as far as possible, which means trying to really use everything in the box. That meant figuring out something to do with the bone-in chicken... and with the 1 pound bag of dried northern white beans. I ended up giving in and deboning the chicken and making a white bean and chicken chili in the crock pot. It was actually pretty good. I was impressed. I am starting to understand what my great-grandmother went through in the Great Depression... nothing goes to waste.

Saturday, February 5, 2011


It has been an interesting few days. I was a little bitter about not going on the trip at first, but I am getting over it.  If I wouldn't have been here, I would have missed Tiana's little inch worm crawl. Its so cute. One could hardly call it really crawling, since she barely gets her tummy off the ground, but she gets from point a to point b, that's for sure. She just scrunches up her little butt, reaches her arms out, and flings herself forward, face first. It is so cute. She totally looks like a little caterpillar. This is all suddenly going so fast, it really feels like my little caterpillar is going to become a butterfly and flutter away in a matter of days.

The highlight of my week was finding out that my book project funded! I am going to create a bookstore experience in my classroom for my students! They are going to get to shop for books to keep. Books that they really want, that are brand new, that no one has owned before. That's really, really cool. I am so excited.

The leadership unit that I am doing with my honors students is getting to me too. There is a line in one of the chapters that is convicting me lately. It's sort of an old proverb of sorts, but it sticks. It says, "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." It is so true and something I want very much to focus on more this semester. It is easy to show the more outgoing students that I care, but I often leave the more quiet students by the wayside. I am going to try really hard to show them I care too... because I really do.

I just wish everything in my life wasn't so darn busy. There is so much I would do if I had more time.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Expect the Unexpected

What a crazy week this has been! I was supposed to be going to Houston for a business trip, but as most of you are probably aware, like 75% of the country is frozen.... thus, trip canceled. I have mixed feelings about this. I was really looking forward to the trip, as I really appreciate the group of English teachers I was to meet with and the activities are always engaging. In that way, I am very sad about this. On the other hand, I am getting a crazy lot of stuff done at school today, so that is good. I was also having crazy anxiety about being away from Tiana for so long, so perhaps it is a good thing. Unfortunately, since my being able to go was because someone else had dropped out of the trip originally, I don't know if I will get to go when they reschedule in April, but if I do, it will probably be better at that point when Tiana is a little older. It is also really annoying that I saved up breastmilk for 6 weeks and now have 15 bottles defrosted in my refrigerator. Once you thaw milk, you are not supposed to re-freeze it (plus I mixed it with a little formula to make it stretch longer), so I need to either use it this weekend and just pump all weekend or something like that so it doesn't go to waste.

I know Vinny will be glad I am not going. He normally has no problem with me going out of town, but when I told him this morning in the car, he got seriously sad and was so choked up he could barely get the words out when he asked, "Why are you going?" I tried to explain I was going to work, but he didn't understand and kept asking "Why?" and then "Will you be back tomorrow?" Eek. I felt really bad. I think he is really craving time with me lately. Since I have all this extra milk now, maybe I will send Tiana with Marc tomorrow night and I will take Vinny to do something special.

In other crazy news, there is never a dull moment when you work with kids, which both my husband and I can attest to. I don't normally talk much about Marc's work, but while I have "140 kids, he has a good 30 or so of his own where he works. He is a much braver sole than I, as he works with the little ones. Yesterday, he got bit on the thigh by a young autistic kid. The kid bit him so hard it ripped through his jeans and punctured his skin. Like seriously punctured. He had to go to the doctor for it. You certainly have to be called to do the work he does.

One of my 140 kids today said something that threw me for a loop. We were watching a video clip from ABC Primetime's What Would You Do, and it was a scene where a store clerk makes a bunch of antisemitic remarks to a Jewish couple. I asked the kids to talk with a partner about what they would do if they witnessed the scene, then had some students share what their partners said. One kid actually said he would support the clerk. I clarified that he really meant he would support the one saying the hateful things and then asked why, and all I got was  a shrug and "'cuz he's right." Oh my. I have work to do this semester.