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.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Productive day... yet not finished.

One would think that I would use summer vacation to be very productive, and that things would just get done, but they really have not. I have been having a lot of fun and doing a lot of relaxing and much needed catching up on working out at the gym.

I have been trying really, really hard to at least keep up with laundry, but other stuff needed to get done. I have somewhat designated Thursdays for this, since I can't really do anything big on a Thursday because Vinny has acting class in the middle of the day. But Thursdays are not enough. I am going to have to really try to get a bunch done tomorrow morning. No more sipping coffee and cuddling on the couch all morning.  Stuff has to get done.

I did really enjoy the gym this morning. I wanted to cry looking at pictures of myself in a bathing suit, so I decided to start trying to go to the ab-focused classes. I went to a "core" class this morning and it kicked my ass. Or should I say, it kicked my abs?  Seriously though. There is something that people don't understand unless they have been through it themselves about pregnancy. Suddenly, there are all these muscles in your core that you are not using because there is a baby in the way. So, in addition to the weight, you have these muscles that get completely untoned. I don't think there is any way to fix that without some work. I mean, I weight about what I weighed before the baby, but my tummy does NOT look the same, that's for sure, and my legs are just... chunkiness beyond belief. I feel like I had just barely gotten back before Tiana, and then it was all out the window. I didn't even gain much with her, but I just look like crap. And I know a bunch of you are going to say I am being too critical, so I am actually going to post it...

See?  Not being too critical. Marc has done SO well at his diet. He needed to lose 20 pounds... and he did it. I, on the other hand, am stuck. If I keep up this hour-a-day workout routine all summer, hopefully I will get there. 

In order to help us keep up, I decided to make a meal plan for the next few weeks today. I went through all the stuff we have in the freezer from our co-op and planned healthy meals for all of it. I consulted websites for kid-friendly meals and healthy meals and assessed the calories and tried to get creative.  The plan includes turkey burgers and grilled corn on the cob, crock pot rotisserrie chicken and baked potatoes with grilled summer squash, potato skin pizzas (which are ingenious since the crust is the worst part of the pizza and potato skins are high in potassium, which is apparently lacking in my diet), stuffed bell peppers, crock pot jambalaya, stuffed bell peppers with brown rice and ground chicken, grilled pork chops, and grilled tostadas (instead of frying- genius- they get crispy as if they were fried).  Yum. 

Bleh, so much cleaning the house to do. Bleh......

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Best Friends: A Tribute to Vinny and Hannah

Vinny and Hannah - 2011
Yesterday evening, Vinny came to me rather upset because he didn't want to leave Arizona. Today, he was a good sport about leaving, and we reminded him that we will see them when they come out for the family reunion in August. He immediately wanted to know how many more weeks. I told him about 8. Later, as we were unpacking he says, "I can count to 8. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8. 8 more weeks and then I will see Hannah!"

 But on the way home from dinner today, he was really sad that we left.

"I wish we were still in Arizona. I miss Hannah. We didn't even use all the clothes. I still had more clothes; we could have stayed."
"I know sweetie. I'm sorry. I wish Hannah lived closer."
"I wish she lived next door."
"I know, but they don't.
"We should move to Hannah's neighborhood."
"That would be nice, but then you would miss everyone here."
"Well, we will bring them all with us. Everyone can come. Grandma and Papa and Mo and Sean and his parents and Tyler and his parents and my teachers and Miss Heather and Natalie and Dan and Isabella and Papa Bill and Nana Tess and Papapa and Nana the Great. Everyone can come. We will get a big van."
(BTW, congrats to those of you who made this list. Apparently, my kid likes you enough to miss you).

I had a nice laugh and explained that it wouldn't work (which I think he already knew), and he just was sad. I really do understand. Hannah is Vinny's best friend.

Vinny has other friends. But there is no one he loves like he loves Hannah. They have grown up together, and they have always had a connection.

January 2007
April 2007

July 2008

July 2008

August 2008
July 2009

January 2010

January 2010

January 2010

January 2010

January 2009
July 2010

She is truly his best friend in so many ways, and they were so great this trip. They never got cranky with each other. They traded off beds (sleeping in Hannah's bed or on the floor) every other night and giggled late into the night (which I disciplined them for and made idle threats, but secretly enjoyed hearing). They played dress up and picked costumes for each other. They played games in the swimming pool for hours (ones they made up themselves mostly, which was adorable). They did really well not competing or comparing and overall didn't get jealous or fight. They are just growing up so much that they have started to sincerely appreciate their relationship. She really is his best friend.

And in many ways, Tracy is one of mine. I can talk to her about stuff I can't talk to anyone else about. Some stuff I have told her I haven't told ANYONE else. There are just things she understands that no one else does. There is so much I don't have to say to her, because she just knows. She knows how I am feeling the 20th time I hear "Mommy, Mommy, Mommy..."  She fully appreciates the significance of a margarita and a long talk at the end of a rough day. She is definitely one of my best friends, and it is always hard to leave.

It is just so sad that our best friends live a 7 hour drive or $100/ticket plane trip away.

April 2007


Tuesday, June 28, 2011


So, so, so worth the trip!
I am in Phoenix visiting my cousins this week, and it has been so very wonderful. On Sunday, we got to be here for my cousin Mia's first birthday party. It was really fun, I think for Tiana especially. She is only 3 months younger than Mia, and they played very well together. A little bit of power struggles over toys- they are too young to really share well- but overall they did very well. Tiana may be small, but boy she can hold her own. It was also neat that day seeing all the second cousins together (well, minus Isabella). There were 6 of them here together that day, and it was beautiful. I love having the relationship that I do with them. I love that I can play with Noah in the pool, watch Ronny and Tiana share toys, and put flowers in Mia's and Hannah's hair. Although these are really all technically my "first cousins once removed" (are you impressed I know this? The whole cousin thing is rather complicated), in many ways I feel like the relationship that I have with my first cousins really makes them more like extended nieces and nephews. :)
Sunday night we ordered take-n-bake pizza, that really makes me wish we had a Papa Murphy's near us. The DeLite pizzas are super tasty and only like 130 calories a slice. Can't beat that.
Yesterday we took the kids to a huge indoor playground. It was way cool. I wish they had stuff like this when I was a kid. I guess they kind of did- they had Discovery Zone- but this place puts Discovery Zone to shame. It was rain forest themed and had huge trees with tunnels and slides and things to climb up. Honestly, it was actually a little bit much for Hannah and even Vinny. They are pretty outgoing kids, but you could tell that some of it was actually a little scary for them. Perhaps we will return when they are like 7 or 8. Tiana had a blast in the little baby area though.
In the afternoon, we left the kids with sitters and Tracy and I  had some girl time getting lunch and pedicures and walking around the mall. When we got home, they begged us to go in the pool, and they stayed in there pretty much til bedtime. We let them eat dinner outside and then go back in the pool til bed. At that point, it was big people pool time. :)
Here, night time is prime time. The heat goes down from 114 to a mere 95 or so, but that actually makes it perfect for lounging in the pool and sipping tropical drinks. We even ate our dinner poolside.
Joby got tiki torches today, and it is funny how such a simple touch can really have a profound effect. It was really almost resort like. Sort of makes me wish we had a pool that we could sit in at 9:00 at night, except realistically, in California, even if we heated the pool, it'd be too cold when we got out, that we wouldn't really be lounging outside at night. What I really want is a spa... in a gazebo that we can surround with little lantern shaped lights. Some day.
Today, we are off to the childrens museum. :)

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Elephant in the Room

Tonight I realized something that is a little hard to admit, but necessary. No one knows how to deal with my son. I didn't realize that no one knows how to deal with him, because, well... I know how to deal with him.

My son, Vinny, is an amazing little man, whom most of you either know very well or have read an awful lot about.

He also has a disability.

I don't talk about it like that often (okay... ever) because I don't think about it like that. That is something that only a parent of a child with a disability can understand. When it is your kid, you don't think of him as "a kid with a disability." It is just your kid. (On a side note, this realization has really helped me as a teacher in the way I teach kids with disabilities. It helps me to remember that they are someone's babies).

Nonetheless, Vinny does have a disability. He has a speech delay. He is behind in speech, and it significantly affects his ability to communicate.

I never realized before that people don't really know the right and wrong way to approach the issues caused by this, so I never said anything, but I probably should. So I will start here, since it is far reaching. If you truly care about my son and want to help and have a positive relationship with him, here is what you should know...

Things you should know:
- Marc and I are aware of Vinny's speech problem. You don't have to whisper about it or wonder if we realize it. We do. We are working on it.
- Vinny knows he has a problem. You will not be ruining some big secret if you let him know you don't understand him. Trust me... he knows.
- Vinny's problem is 100% physical. He is cognitively ahead of many of his peers. The source of the issue is only with getting his mouth to form certain sounds it currently cannot form. It is called a speech delay because it just means he is noteably behind his peers and will catch up, especially with help, which he is getting. He will be receiving therapy when he starts school.
What you should NOT do:
- Don't pretend you understand him because you are afraid you will hurt his feelings if he thinks you didn't. It is actually quite the opposite.
- Do NOT try to correct the sounds he makes incorrectly. He knows they are wrong. Trust me, he knows. He actually does want to make them right and has spent many hours with me just trying to understand things like how to put the tip of his tongue to his teeth to say "lion" not "wion." Unless you are a trained and licensed speech therapist, he does not need your "help" in pointing out that he sounds wrong. It just makes him self-conscious and makes him not want to talk to you. Sorry, but I am just being honest.
- If he asks you a question with a yes or no answer, don't just answer "yes" or "no" because he is so used to people just answering that without knowing what the question was, that he will likely ask you again and again and again. Just answer in a complete sentence. For example, if he says, "Did you get a haircut?" Then don't just answer, "yeah," try "Yes, I got it cut last week." It helps a lot.

What you SHOULD do:
- Ask for clarification if you don't understand what he says. Do make the effort to figure it out. He knows when people are brushing him off, and he gets his feelings hurt. If you have ever watched me talk to him, I say, "what?" a lot. It is just part of our life. He doesn't get upset, but he does know to slow down and emphasize the significant part of what he is trying to say to get his point across.
- If you think you understood what he said, but aren't sure, repeat it back. If you get it wrong, he will usually rephrase in different words to make sure you get it. He desperately wants to be understood.
- Ask me or marc or my parents or someone who is around him a lot if you didn't understand him. We do not get offended. Because we are around him all the time, we understand his substitutions. We comprehend his lingo. He substitutes the "t" sound for the "c" or "k" sound and the "w" sound for the "l" and "r" sound and the "d" sound for the "g" sound. It sounds complicated, but it isn't. He has a couple other weird sounds too, but we get it most of the time and are more than happy to translate. If I see that you are not understanding him, I usually translate anyway, but if you are a good faker, I might not know. Just say, "what did he say?"
- Explain it to your children. Vinny's closest friends have grown to understand that he can't help but say "Tywer," but this is a process, and one you can help along. If your child asks you why "that kid talks funny," you don't have to shush them in embarassment. Just explain that his mouth has trouble making some sounds and so that means he sounds a little funny. Then tell your children the main points of what I am telling you, "if you don't understand what he is saying, ask him to say it again or ask someone else what he said." Vinny really appreciates having friends who try to understand him.

Well... that said, I hope you can appreciate this open and honest look at things you should know if you love my son and spend time with him. Remember, he is just a child, not a child with a problem, but it does no good to ignore the elephant in the room.

Thank you for reading, and understanding, and for all of you who have always made great efforts, thank you.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Flying with two kids...

... is unimaginably harder than I thought it would be. I totally lucked out that they let marc come into the terminal with me to help with the kids, but actually getting on the plane was hard. It was a continuing flight, so there were already people on board. Luckily, the flight attendant convinced people to move so we could sit together, but it was all the way at the back, which meant carrying tiana, her car seat, and both the suitcases all the way to the back. Vinny was a big help, but we just plain didn't have enough hands.

Tiana hated the flight. She did okay with a bottle during takeoff, but it was dinner time and she wanted to sit up more than her stupid infant car seat allows and didn't want to be strapped in. I think on the way back I am just gonna check her car seat.

Once out of the plane, the stroller made getting around with everything easy enough, but the rental car place was a shuttle ride away, and nobody helped me get everything on and the shuttle driver made me break down the stroller and everything. It was the weirdest thing. Here I am, baby in arms, making multiple trips from curb to suitcase rack, and blocking the way, so all the people are behind me staring but no one thought to just offer to grab something and put it on. Weird. But honestly everyone else was super helpful, the flight attendants, etc., so I guess all society is not a loss. Haha.

But we got to the rental car okay, and we made it to my cousin's house just fine, and I am super stoked to be here. Totally worth the effort. It so cute having our babies together, just like Vinny and Hannah were, and our oldest kids are now just so big and self-sufficient, they have a total blast together.

Tracy's new house is awesome too. It has a pool, which is quite the ammenity in Phoenix.

Friday, June 24, 2011

In the summertime, when the weather is hot..

... Niki goes to the beach.

Like every day.

Okay, not every day, we stayed home (ish) yesterday. Today, we went to Oxnard. Good stuff. I love Silver Strand. Brings back memories of all kinds.

We also hit the Tall Ships Festival at the Harbor. I was a little underwhelmed, but Vinny thought it was awesome. Apparently my father was a pirate at the Tall Ships Festival many years ago. Funny stuff.

Vinny is such a water baby. I am seriously considering having him take surfing lessons with me in Hawaii (if I can afford it, anyhow) when we go in October. He is just such a natural. Mimi and I were saying today how kids just don't seem to notice the cold though. Honestly, it wasn't that bad in comparison with my last few beach trips, but it was still rather chilly, yet Vinny was just in there up to his waist pretty much 75% of the time we were there. He is his father's son.

In other news, I had a friend take a picture of me and the kids today and it is totally a "before" shot. (Will NOT be posting it). I am forcing myself to think of it like that. I have GOT to keep hitting the gym and make these fat thighs go away. I spent 40 minutes on the bike at the gym yesterday. If I do at least that every day, it has to get better. It HAS to. They are way worse than before I had Tiana. I have pictures of me in my bikini last summer that make me look skinnier... and I was pregnant. Yeah...  gym.  I am not one of those people who wears a bikini to look hot- I wear my bathing suit to get wet and get a tan- but not looking like a beach whale would be nice.

Now, I desperately need to pack. Leaving tomorrow for AZ with the cousins.  Very, very, very excited... but still need to do laundry. Sigh. Summer. :-)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Almost 5 year old with separation anxiety?

So, vinny lately has been acting all weird about being away from me. He acts like I am going to leave him alone or something all the time. I have NEVER left him alone alone, so I don't know where this is coming from. Even though I always tell him where I am going, he still panicks.

The other day, I buckled him and tiana in the car, in the garage, with the garage door closed but the door to the house open, and then ran back in because I realized I forgot my phone. He was totally safe and secure, and I even said to him, "I will be right back, I forgot my phone," and he still yelled like he was being kidnapped, "MOMMY!" and then he unbuckled and ran in the house sobbing. What the heck?

He does this all the time. When he was watching tv and I went into the garage to change the laundry, he yells, "Don't leave me!" and comes running out into the garage crying. I have never left him, so I am confused about the source of his fear.

This is a kid who is very independent and has always been. He goes to school without a problem, has never cried when being dropped off, loves the kids club at the gym, goes to Sunday school by himself, and even loves to play out front by himself. I have to explain to him that he can't be there without me, yet he fears me leaving him in the garage alone?

Suggestions? Comments?

Staycation, All I Ever Wanted

I am approaching this summer vacation like a real vacation, only at home. Think about it, what do you do during vacation? Sit around a lot? No. You pack your days full of activities to actively make memories with your family. That is what I am doing.

Yup, that's my cutie trying to drink the recirculated water. Beautiful.
Yesterday was another packed day.  We went to the park with our playgroup in the morning. Then we headed off to the Oak Park splash pad. We were initially going to meet friends at the beach, but when plans changed to the water park, that was fine with me. This place was AWESOME, especially since it is totally free. As we were leaving, Vinny asked if we could go to the beach after. I guess he was really looking forward to it. Since we were halfway there, I decided, "Why not?" He's a beach bum, just like me.

So we hit one of my favorite beaches, one we don't go to a lot, the one across from Malibu seafood. If you have never been there, you have to check it out. A jewel of a beach, just along the the highway.  It is this beautiful little stretch of beach with only a narrow strip of sand near the water, but just enough to set out a blanket. It has the softest sand. I love that I can set our blanket near the rocks, but still be very close to the water to watch Vinny, since that's where he wants to be the whole time we are at the beach.

After a long, but scenic drive home (I took the streets to avoid the 101 traffic), I hit the gym. As I was getting out of the car at the gym, I thought to myself, "Man, I am so exhausted and drained from all the sun today, working out is the last thing I want to do."  But I terribly want to have a bikini body by our trip to Hawaii in October, so I keep at it. It helps that Vinny loves the kids club so much he begs to go. That... and I wanted to alleviate the guilt of dinner at Cheesecake Factory.

Yup, after it all, I got to end the day with a beautiful dinner to celebrate the birthdays of two friends. I love, love, love having a night out with the girls, and at one of my favorite places too. Woo hoo.

Ah, it has been a good summer.  I am getting a little sick of all the driving, so I think we will be staying local today and tomorrow. Vinny begged to go to Bright Child this week.  We should just move to Agoura... seriously... too much driving.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A beautiful, beautiful day

Today was a beautiful day. The tile in my bathroom is almost finished. :-)

We started off at the beach. It was slightly overcast, but it stayed warm and eventually the cloud cover lifted. Such is June in SoCal.  I met my new mom friends at the beach, and it was a nice opportunity to get to know them all better. My kids are sort of at an in-between stage though. Tiana is younger than most of them, and Vinny is older than most of them. But I totally remember that stage, and Tiana is almost there. The older they get, the less the age difference means.

Poor babies though. Once Jordan got to the beach, Vinny made a game of chasing him and Alexander around wearing this ridiculous Frankenstein mask. I don't know why I even let him bring it. He was scaring the smaller kids. It was kind of funny though...

Then, we set off on our various activities. We bought Vinny a suitcase that he can roll around all by himself (since we have our trip to Arizona coming up and then Hawaii later this year). We went to Vinny's favorite park- Verde Park- which he loved so much, he asked if we could live there. Hahaha.

Then we went home and I made some homemade bolognese sauce in the crockpot and let it cook the rest of the afternoon. Then we went to the gym. Best workout in a while.  I need to try to go every day this summer. I eat way too much food to lose any weight otherwise.

I decided to give the Simi Town Center Farmer's Market another chance on the way home. When I went last season, it was barely a Farmer's Market. It was like a bunch of vendors (like 15-20) of everything from candles to lotion to artwork, and then like 3 produce stands. It could barely be called a Farmer's Market. So, we blew it off and stuck with Calabasas the rest of the season. But, since I was out of strawberries and also making a yummy salad,  and this was on the way home, I gave Simi a shot again. Much improved. I was talking to one of the vendors, and she said there is a new person managing it. I could tell. Good stuff.  Spent less than $15 and walked out with a row of strawberries,  a basket of blueberries, some green onions, cucumbers, cilantro, and parsley. Fresh and natural.


Tomorrow... back to the beach!

You Look Happy

There is no better feeling than waking up to a beautiful sunny morning, and knowing that you have a whole day to do whatever you want with your two beautiful children.  Okay... maybe the one better feeling would be waking up on your own after sleeping in, and then having that knowledge. I, unfortunately, am awakened by 7am each day to take care of two wide-awake children, but hey, 7 am is still sort of sleeping in for me, so it's okay I guess. That is one thing that I really do wish though... I wish my kids would sleep in. I will probably accomplish a lot more this summer with Vinny and Tiana waking me up early though. 

Anyhow... that is how yesterday started. To be quite honest, I didn't have the whole day- Vinny had a dentist appointment in the morning- but other than that, we were very much free, which is something I just don't experience during the school year, so it is a beautiful feeling. 

Vinny actually enjoyed his dentist appointment. I feel like that credit card commercial...
  • Dental insurance I don't use...   $60 a year
  • First visit to dentist and xrays at the "rocket ship" children's dentist... $114
  • Cleaning at children's dentist...  $98 (with cash discount)
  • Having your 4-year-old overcome his fear of the dentist and come home wanting to brush his teeth and floss and eat "teeth healthy" foods....  PRICELESS    :-) 
The rest of our day was beautifully free. We filled it with swimming at grandmas, lunch at home, laundry, and playtime at Tyler's. We finished off the day with a barbecue and campfire with our Bible study group. It was a beautiful day. 

After Bible study, I went out with some friends. I have been craving nightlife the past few days, and I don't mean like excitement and dancing as much as I just mean time OUT at night. I am a bit of an insomniac when I am out of school. I am so used to burning the midnight oil grading papers and having days that just exhaust the heck out of me to the point that I am practically sleepwalking, that when I have downtime, I just haven't expended enough energy to be sleepy. Anyhow... so last night Mo indulged my desire to be out, so out we went. It's funny, we asked some guy to take a picture of all of us, and he said to me, "You look happy."  Yes... I do.  Because I am. 

"You Look Happy."

Today promises to be just as glorious. I have given in to the fact that I simply cannot clean my own house, so we re-hired housekeepers who just arrived and began cleaning. Yea!  Meanwhile, I am watching Tiana make a complete mess with her breakfast. We have transitioned almost completely to table foods, and I am finding big chunks of soft fruit are her favorite, although she was stealing fruit loops from Vinny this morning. Last night's dinner adventure was a giant strawberry, and today she is covered in banana. Joy.  

Now, it is off to the beach.  :-) 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Summer adventures... here we come!

This is Vinny's last summer before Kindergarten, and I think the first summer he has really completely understood and looked forward to. This was the first year that he was counting down the days. It was so exciting when he said this morning, "Is tomorrow a school day?" and I answered "No, it is summer, remember?" and he cheered, "Yea! Mommy day! What are we going to do?"

Humorously enough, my answer was, "Go to the dentist!" Haha. Fortunately, he likes the rocket ship dentist. Okay, not just fortunately, through careful planning, he likes the dentist. Despite paying an extra $5 a month for him to have dental insurance (yes, I pay for my benefits, most teachers don't, but I do), I have to go to an out-of-pocket dentist for him. My wonderful HMO will not refer him to a pediatric dentist, but I know him and his anxiety level towards stuff like that, and I knew he wouldn't do well at a regular one. As it was, he barely made it through the rocket ship dentist, but with very careful attention, an inflatable rocket ship, a dvd above his head, and a lot of stickers, we made it through his pre-kindergarten check-up okay, although he would barely open his mouth. Now we are heading back for his first cleaning. Oh boy.

Anyhow, that was off topic...  he actually did cheer about getting to go to the dentist tomorrow (whew!), and then said, "And then the park?"  Sure... why not?  It is going to be warm tomorrow, so I am thinking about taking him to my parents to go swimming.

I really want to have fun adventures with him all summer. Like, an adventure a day. It will be a little bit difficult with Tiana, but at least her nap schedule is totally flexible, and when she is tired enough, she will just fall asleep. Okay... so here are some of my destination ideas. I need other ideas, and who wants to join me where? Comments please!

  • Zimmer Children's Museum
  • Maybe the Tall Ships in Oxnard on June 24th. There is supposed to be a "Pirate Camp." 
  • Check out the story time at the $5 bookstore in town
  • Noah's Ark at the Skirball
  • Kidspace Museum
  • Take the train to Olvera Street and China Town
  • La Brea Tarpits
  • Crystal Cove Beach 
  • Ventura Aquatic Center (they have a kids water playground like one at water parks. Me and Vinny will only cost $8 though!)
  • San Clemente Beach 
  • Ventura Pier
  • Bright Child
  • Mommy Movies at Pacific Theaters on Monday Mornings (they show PG+ movies for adults, but are infant-friendly, so no one will care if Tiana is fussy. Tomorrow is Mr. Popper's Penguins)
  • AdventurePlex (random place I found in Manhattan Beach, looks cool)
  • Maybe Universal Studios (a bit pricey, but Vinny can't stop talking about it)

And then there is Vinny's acting class... he starts on Thursday. I am so excited for him I could scream. I think I am even more excited because of how much HE will enjoy it. Trust me, I am not being one of those parents who pushes her own desires on her kids- really, everything in Vinny's life is a show to him, so he is going to love it. Plus, it will be good for his speech development.  :-)

Ah... summer. It is going to go by so fast.

Friday, June 17, 2011


It has been another emotional week. Perhaps I should start off this blog by saying that I have not slept in about 30 hours. I have done a ton of laughing, and a ton of crying, and a lot of laughing 'til I was crying too.

Ten years ago, I graduated high school. I remember that week so clearly, practically as if it were yesterday. I remember listening to the Vitamin C song "Graduation" over and over (which is possibly why I started to get so emotional on Wednesday at a luncheon when the seniors chose that song as their music for a slideshow). I remember being SO proud of the 4.0 I finished the year with. I remember being too sick to go to grad nite (damn allergies). And I remember walking the stage and feeling like I was leaving the best years of my life behind. 

SO not true. 

Truly, the last 10 years of my life have been way better. I think about the lyrics of that song....
"And so we talked all night about the rest of our lives
Where we're gonna be when we turn 25..."
I certainly did that when I graduated high school. But I did more of it tonight. You know where I was when I turned 25?  I had just finished my first semester teaching here. Teaching these students, the class of 2011, who walked the stage yesterday afternoon. 

The graduation was beautiful. Their advisory teachers each read their names along with where they would be attending college. Every student graduating from our school is attending college of some sort, and so many are attending universities. I am so proud of them. They are amazing, beautiful people, who I am lucky to know. 

Then, at 8:00, we boarded a bus for Grad Nite. 
With Brenda and Steven

This was far more special to me than mine own would have been. From the moment we boarded the bus, it was clear the students wanted to share these last few hours bonding with us, their teachers and counselors, but on a different level... as newly "former" students. They told us all their stories of the terrible things they used to do in our classes that they never got caught for and wanted to tell us how much they would miss us and how much we meant to them. 
Maribel and Joe
Joe said to me, "Mrs. Mohr... you changed my life. I'd probably be a druggie lying on the street all strung out if it weren't for you." He was joking- well, about the druggie part- and he has said similar things to me before, but coming from him on this night- his graduation night. It was meaningful. 

They made us so proud all night long. As we passed them in lines or caught a glimpse of them on the dance floor, they were truly "our" students. While students from other schools tried to figure out how to break the rules and not get caught, our students wanted to make 100% sure they were following them to a T. 

While other students "danced" in ways that I would hardly call dancing, our students stayed on the outskirts of the dance floor, partying so innocently and respectfully. Not a one of our cell phones rang with a call from park security, and they were truly the outstanding leaders we have aimed for them to be. 

On the way home, the two boys behind us decided not to sleep, unlike the other 44 students behind them, and they had us rolling in the aisles laughing with impressions of each other, impressions of their teachers, stories from the past four years, and just random nonsense. I have to admit, we woke up the bus with our laughter... more than once. But it was good times. It was a nice way to say goodbye. It was what I needed.

I returned to school just as second period was beginning. It made me feel so good that my 2nd period Honors class was excited that I had made it back in time for their class period. They are such wonderfully sweet kids. They are more genuinely sweet than any other group of teenagers I have ever worked with. I would do practically anything for these kids. They wanted to take a group picture... in fact, we took several (because everyone wanted a copy). When I sat down at my desk as the bell rang and looked at the picture in my camera, I just started to cry. 

It was a combination of everything. The overall feeling of loss of how much I will miss class of 2011, mixed with the pride and joy of knowing they are off to amazing future, and the feeling of loss of this wonderful Honors group of 2013, of whom I have grown so fond of. I tried to hide my tears, but just one student saw and suddenly, before I knew it, I was being engulfed in the biggest group hug I have ever managed to be at the center of. Class of 2013 truly has a special place in my heart. 

By 11:30 a.m., I was falling apart with exhaustion. I was almost sick with sleep depravation. I decided the best way to end the year would be games. (Not to mention, it would wake me up enough to drive home). So 5th period played hook up tag and sharks and fishes. Then, my 6th period drama class had a jumping contest. It was fantastically wonderful stuff.

So this is what it is like to have a legacy of high school students. It is amazing... and hard... and wonderful, all at the same time.