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.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Copy T

Tiana is so funny lately in her complete and utter desire to copy everything Vinny does. Shopping is a problem because she won't sit in the cart unless Vinny does. At the beach today, she just wanted to copy him. They spent like half an hour just laying in the sand together.  Oh my. Perhaps this might be a good time to potty train?  Except his plumbing is a whole lot different.

I am really having a difficult time with my quest to lose weight this summer. I promised myself that I would work out every day, and that I would not eat diet food. Diet food does not really help a person diet. I want to develop a healthy lifestyle, not a diet lifestyle to lose a few pounds. Because I want it to be something I can manage long-term, I promised myself that I would have to do this without feeling deprived. So, I have been trying to eat like normal but just make better choices, and I have felt genuinely better about the choices I've made, but as I have been tracking my calories, I am disgusted with how many calories I consume a day.  I'm never going to lose any weight.

Unless I decide to really stop eating or unless I become a crazy fitness nut. I don't like either option.

Monday, June 25, 2012

The Importance of Routine

Things are looking up. 

When things started getting a bit odd with Vinny right after he got out of school, I knew it had something to do with his lack of routine. I had hoped that we could make it without a really set schedule, as the idea of a schedule just didn't seem to mix with my ideal of summer. But... today... I decided that we needed to sit down and talk about a schedule and rules. 

Something in me says that a normal five year old would not enjoy this discussion. Vinny could not have been more excited. When I explained that we needed to sit down and talk about a schedule and rules, and that we would decide them together, he was actually excited and could not decide whether we should talk about the schedule first or the rules first. I determined that we would talk about the schedule first. 

It took about half an hour of talking, but we worked out a schedule that is loose enough for it to feel like summer, but structured enough for Vinny to know what is coming next. Throughout the day, he kept saying, "What time is it? What are we doing next?" and then running to check one of the schedules that we posted all over the place. It is helping him practice telling time and keeping him in a healthy mental place. 

Even the rules were mostly determined by him and 100% agreed upon by him. He even added the no "re-closing" things rule. We added a "Vinny will help Mommy/Daddy/Grandma if they ask for help" rule, and this afternoon, I asked Vinny if he wanted to help me make lemonade. Now, this wasn't like a chore type help request (in other words, he clearly knew he had a choice). He loves using the juicer, so he was having a good time, and he looked up and excitedly said, "Mommy! We put on the rules, 'Help Mommy," and I am helping you!" He was so proud of himself. He prides himself in being great at following rules, so making rules that he feels he can follow plays on his strength. 

We had such a peaceful day. He ate his dinner without complaining (okay, without much complaining) and even spent time on his own trying to read a book way above his level and scolding me for trying to help him. 

I don't like the idea of being scheduled in any way (it really goes against my very spontaneous nature), but I think this will work for all of us. 

Sunday, June 24, 2012

It's baaaaack

I feel so helpless right now. This has been such a bad, bad day. I am a wreck.

Vinny has OCD. I started writing about this at the beginning of this year when Vinny's anxiety was out of control and running our life. In January, I wrote, "The tension in this house is so thick you can practically smell it."  I was sick of walking on egg shells. I was sick of the anxiety attacks. Five-year-olds should not have anxiety attacks. We found Vinny a therapist. I didn't feel a perfect connection like I had hoped I would, and she was kind of far, but I had trouble finding someone with availability who also takes our insurance. Although the twenty minute commute and the overall process of it all frustrated me, we made progress. She worked with Vinny, but she also worked with Marc and I to understand our role in all of this. It turns out that helping him with his irrational desires (i.e. retightening his belt, closing a bag extra tight, holding his hand through a sweatshirt) was actually more damaging than good. It reinforced his mindset that this was okay.

Through therapy, we grew to understand that OCD is so much like an addiction. It is a slippery, slippery slope. There is such a huge snowball effect to the compulsions. Our therapist kept emphasizing that compulsions have to be stopped cold turkey. This was really confusing to me at first, especially since we were trying to tackle Vinny's irrational behaviors one at a time. How can something be so slow, but cold turkey, all at once?  Well, it eventually made sense, but it is not easy.

Let me explain as best as I can. When a person with OCD is obsessing about something, they think about it constantly, and they feel this urge to act on it. The experience great anxiety. In their minds, they think, "If I can just (compulsive action), I will feel better." They think that acting on it will make them feel better... and it does for the moment. But it also has an effect on the brain. It somehow reinforces the irrational feeling that the compulsions

Over several months, we were able to conquer some of the larger compulsions in Vinny's life, and as we got through the regular compulsions, the little irregularities started to disappear too. The anxiety attacks were fewer and far between.

Around Easter, we conquered the biggest of Vinny's complusions: his bedroom door. He had an obsession with closing it. It needed to be closed all the time, and closed just right, and huge anxiety attacks would ensue if he didn't get to close it multiple times and make it feel like he wanted it to feel. It took threats of removing his door altogether, but he eventually got used to leaving it open. Once we scaled this proverbial mountain, it was all downhill from there. By May, Vinny exhibited no symptoms and was overall happy. We all agreed (Marc and I, Vinny, and his therapist) that therapy was no longer necessary, which was a relief. She said it might have just been a rough time in his life, maybe just part of fully recovering from PANDAS, or it could just be that he is in a good mental place right now. He could flare up again, and she would of course be there if it did.

It has.

Ever since Vinny got out of school, symptoms have been creeping back. He has been giving in to his obsessions and compulsions again. He completely lost his head over a missing drumstick last weekend. Yesterday, he spent half the day begging for us to give him his bathing suit to put away in his drawer. It was wet and drying in the bathroom, so Marc said no. Vinny wouldn't let it go, and the last thing he said before bed was, "Can I have my bathing suit back first thing in the morning?"  It gave me such an ominous feeling. I knew it was a bad sign. This morning, he started begging me to close his bedroom door. He had no good reason to, so I said no, but he begged and begged. The pleading in his voice was very upsetting. A bit later, we were all playing in his room, and I was blowing bubbles for Tiana. Eventually, I said, "Okay, it's time to get dressed," and I closed the bubbles and put them back on his shelf. He said, "Give them back to me, I want to close them." I looked at him and said, "No, they are already closed, and you don't need to close them again." He jumped up to get them. I grabbed him and held him and reminded him that this is not something good and that it will make him feel worse. He said okay and agreed to get dressed. I let him close his door to get dressed, as that is an agreement we have. I waited a minute and went to get Tiana dressed, but then I realized I hadn't heard his closet door open. I swung open his bedroom door and caught him red-handed. He was just about to grab the bubbles.

He looked at me and jumped back away from the shelf saying, "I'm sorry, I'm sorry." We sat down together, and I talked about his feelings and he admitted that when he wants to do stuff like close his bubbles, he just feels bad, and I tried to remind him that closing them might make him feel better for a minute, but it will make him feel worse in the long run. He cried. I held him close and held back tears.

We eventually were ready for church, despite Tiana's refusal to wear shoes, but as we attempted to head out, I realized that my keys were missing. Vinny did a fantastic job of helping me frantically search the entire house. He asked, "If I find them before you, will you give me a dollar?"  I of course agreed.

I never found the keys. Neither did Vinny. When he started crying that he didn't want to miss Sunday school, I called my mom to come bring him. She did. I continued to look, fruitlessly. It turned out my keys were in Marc's car. Such typical me behavior.

Yuck. What a yucky day.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Pretend City

Today, a friend and I took a summer field trip down to the OC to see a children's museum I read about in the Westways magazine.  Very cool. This was perfect timing for both of us, since our older kids are just young enough to still really enjoy all the stuff, and our younger kids are just old enough to be able to do everything.

It was a long drive. There is just no quick way south in the mornings. But it was worth the drive, particularly since it wasn't that crowded (I imagine it is much worse on the weekends). I was really impressed with how clean it was and well staffed, and they had staff occasionally cleaning up after the kids in each area. It was worth the price, especially since we had 2-for-1 admission coupons. The kids had a blast. The place is really set up like a little city. There is a fountain and park in the center, toy vehicles to drive around the little roadways, which lead to a grocery store, a community garden, a fire station, a beach, a boat marina, a construction site, a health clinic, a Sushi restaurant, a gas station, a library, an art museum, etc.

Tiana's favorite part was the boat marina, which was basically a bunch of water fountains and toys, little foam boats, fishing poles, etc. Vinny's favorite part was the theatre (shocker). Even Tiana got in on the dress up action at the theatre though. At one point she donned a technicolor dream coat, but then swapped it out for a piece of orange tulle that she had me wrap like a dress. Logan just loves dancing and put on quite the little dance show on stage. Tyler dressed up like a police office and walked around Pretend City keeping the peace.

Logan's dance show

The kids had a great time for almost 3 hours. At that point, Tina and I decided that we should probably quit while we were ahead, and leave before the "it's naptime" meltdowns started. We found a local park (which actually proved to be more challenging than it seemed --  OC is full of private parks for the private communities) where we ate lunch. It actually worked out to be the perfect park. The playground was right near the tables, so we were able to eat and watch the kids play (after they ate). All in all, it was a perfect day. By the time we headed home, they were all completely exhausted. The little ones slept the whole way home.

Vinny and Tiana at "dispatch"

The beach

Vinny being the dentist

He self-diagnosed himself with a broken leg at the doctor's office

Getting her to keep this out of her own mouth was kind of gross.

I was pretty proud that she paid for her food at the fake market. A lot of kids just shoplifted.  Haha.

Tiana's technicolor dream coat

Watching the proof that "trash drains to the ocean"
Mom friends: if you are planning a trip there, know that they DO have a little "real" cafe, but it's basically just vending machines and some snacks and drinks. They do have a couple of areas that would be okay for infants, but it would be difficult to watch your other kids from either infant areas, so keep that in mind if you are bringing more than one kid. We pretty much trusted the big boys to be on their own while we followed around our toddlers (but they did have people at the exit keeping an eye that no kids wandered out alone. No adults are allowed in without kids, and it seems overall pretty secure). Also know that they charge for each member of your family over 12 months old, including adults. We were able to find coupons online (the ones we used were just for this week, but I gather that there are frequently coupons offered). With the coupons, it was actually a great deal for a really cute place.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

How did this happen?

How did this happen?  It's so depressing...

I am referring to... of course... my weight.  Somehow, over the last few months, I have gained weight. I couldn't tell you how much because I decided to stop looking at scales about a year ago. But I know I've gained weight.

I haven't been pleased with my weight since... well...  high school?  I never thought I would be this type of girl. I've always been somewhat curvier than other girls, but it didn't bother me. Once my high school fast metabolism disappeared, being somewhat curvy turned into getting really chunky really fast. When I was 18, I had no shame about being seen in a bathing suit, but now... well, yuck.

Last year, I had really hoped to lose weight before Hawaii. I didn't really lose enough, but I also didn't totally hate what I saw when I looked in the mirror in my bathing suit. However, when I ended up needing to buy a new bathing suit while we were there, I ended up really having to buy like a "big girl" style bottom. Nothing else fit. Yuck. Whatever. At least it fit and looked okay.

Yesterday, I went to the gym with my friend, and we went in the hot tub after we worked out. This is something we do regularly, but because of busy schedules (mostly mine) haven't done in several weeks. Last night, my bathing suit was really tight. It wasn't tight the last time we were there. Somehow, in the last few weeks, I have gained a lot of weight.

I would have almost thought it would be the opposite. I missed a lot of meals during Willy Wonka. I came home each day so exhausted from running back and forth from stage to booth to my classroom and back, I felt like I was going to collapse.

But if I really think about it, I know how this happened. I had a lot of stress this semester. I felt like I dealt with it so much better than other semesters. I didn't let it get the best of me. In fact, I would barely have used the word stress. I was under a lot of pressure to get a lot done, but I didn't really feel stressed. I actually felt pretty good.

However, I kind of took a Marley-esque, "Don't worry about a thing," attitude towards life.  I just worked towards getting everything done and chose not to stress the small stuff. Like my weight. Which sort of meant I ate like a queen to bring myself joy on my weekend breaks from the craziness. And that I ate late at night while writing my Masters research proposal and other papers. Ice cream, candy, and soda really help me stay awake and in a good mood while writing.  I ate way more than I would like to admit during this time.

Plus, the decent workout habits I had developed during the year feel by the wayside in May and June. There just wasn't time. I would love to say I will manage my time better next year, but I just don't see how.

The funny thing is, since watching Food Inc a few weeks ago, I have became really conscious of what I am putting in my mouth, and we pretty much haven't been eating fast food. I've cooked more meals at home in the last few weeks than ever before. As I have been reminded of the great taste of all natural foods made with farm fresh ingredients, I think I have been just eating more. We had my parents over for carne asada a few weeks ago, and it's just hard not to overeat when you have grass-fed steak, homemade salsa from freshly picked organic veggies, and slow-cooked organic beans. It just all tasted so good. Even my dad was like, "This is so good, I can't stop eating it."

So... I need to get this under control. I am going to use a nutrition tracking app and a fitness app to track my progress. I should probably weigh myself at the gym today too. I think I'm off to a good start.  I told myself I would work out every day this summer, without missing any days, and I am on day 3 in a row (I'm headed for the gym in a few minutes).

Friends... please, please, please help me stay on track. If you are looking for a gym buddy, I'm here. If we go out to eat together, remind me of my commitment to portion control and healthier choices.

Yuck... I hate this process.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Perfect Weekend

I had the perfect summer weekend. It was beautiful.  

Friday night I went out for drinks with my friends. It was a perfect night for chilling on the patio, and the live music was just tame enough that we could still talk. I know some of them were hoping there would be dancing, but that just kind of doesn't happen here. Haha. For me, it was just a perfect way to end a terrible hectic week by reconnecting with friends, some who I haven't seen in a really long time. Teaching can be very isolating at times, so I crave breaks to spend time with my friends. 

Saturday morning, Marc decided to accompany me on my shopping trip. I've always been a somewhat conscientious shopper, but ever since watching Food Inc., I don't have lazy days where I just buy everything at the supermarket. So, Saturday, we headed to the farmer's market. The one here in town is on Fridays but closes really early, like 5pm or something, so we go to one a bit farther, but it's a really good one, so it is worth it. The kids really love the farmer's market. Tiana wants to eat everything in sight, and luckily, almost every booth has samples so she can. Vinny likes flavored honey sticks. He thinks they are candy, which is fine by me. This time, we even treated ourselves to ridiculously expensive (but crazy good) fresh squeezed lemonade.  I got a bunch of fresh fruit and veggies for the week and for our barbecue that night, then we hit up Target and Trader Joe's for the rest of what we needed. Making multiple stops is difficult, particularly with kids, but it is worth it to really have the best of everything at the best prices. Yeah, I could probably get it all done at Whole Foods, but I would spend twice as much. By the end of our trip, Tiana had somehow managed to grab a tiny bottle of Orangina off a shelf. I don't even remember seeing Orangina, I just looked up while picking out hamburger buns and Tiana was wrestling to open the cap. I eventually just opened it for her. It is easier to risk her spilling soda all over herself than it is to deal with her freaking out. When she is unhappy, she tries to climb out. No shopping cart straps can withhold this child. 
Saturday night we had a great barbecue with friends. What I've most been looking forward to this summer is seeing friends, so it was how I wanted to start my summer. Many friends came and we had a great time. My favorite moment was towards the very end, when we were sitting around chatting in the kitchen, and I looked in the living room, and all the kids were just chilling together. Even my 17-month-old niece was chilling on the floor, eating a piece of corn on the cob, watching the boys play video games. 

I'm making great progress towards buried life goals this summer too. #25 (grow enough vegetables for a full salad) is going pretty well. I've tried in the past, many, many times, but failed. Now that I am having success, I am finding that I really, really love gardening. I love reading about how to make it grow better and what nutrients my tomatoes might be missing. Unfortunately, living right at the edge of the hills means we get critters in our neighborhood at night, and my tomatoes are being nibbled on in the middle of the night, which is really frustrating. (I think its a raccoon. Marc thinks its a coyote). I ended up picking two tomatoes that were not quite ripe yet, just because they hadn't been nibbled on yet and they were ripe enough, so I didn't want to chance it. My lettuce died a few weeks ago, but it is sort of coming back now. A friend said that it is because lettuce will burn if you over water it, which sounds funny, but I planted the lettuce in between the tomatoes, which need quite a bit of water, so I guess I will live and learn for next year. My cucumbers are having great success. Looks like my "full salad" is going to have to be a caprese salad, since my basil is going well too. 

I started out on a path towards goal #69 (run a half marathon) yesterday too. This is something that sounds impossible to me. I don't like to run, and I am not good at it. When we had to take the fitness tests in high school, even when I was on swim team and in great shape, I never passed the mile test. Ever. I am asthmatic and running, probably because it puts me in the atmosphere surrounded by allergens, makes me deal with asthma symptoms, which I hate. However...  I've been better about working out this year than ever before. I haven't had an asthma attack at the gym in a really long time, so I decided to give running outside a shot. Turns out I really like running outside. I was able to play music on my phone without headphones (I kind of hate headphones). I just wore a waist pack, which feels sort of ridiculous, but I need it for my inhaler anyway. Don't worry, I wear it under my clothes, I'm not a complete nerd. I loved running to the beat of La Vie Boheme, and I actually live in a great neighborhood for running. I couldn't run the whole time. I had to walk at some points, but I ultimately ran a little more than a mile and a half, and I had a 13min/mile pace. It's not a half marathon, that's for sure, but its a start. 

Tomorrow, my friend Tanya and I are going to attempt #18 (make homemade tortillas). Yea! Very excited. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Goodbye Class of 2012

Can't believe I had my advisory since they were 14
 Yesterday, I said goodbye to a sweet young man who has been in every one of the 7 shows I have produced. This sweet kid calls me "mom," and I felt as proud as a mom as he walked that stage. I will miss all of my drama seniors, and my advisory students (most of whom I have had for four long years), but saying goodbye to Mr. Willy Wonka himself was the most emotional.
The end of the year makes me a proud teacher in so many ways. I love teaching the arts, and I see my impact on this community most in the area of the arts. When I started at this school, many of my students had never seen a professional live play... ever. I have a junior right now who has already seen one professionally done performance of Shakespeare (Comedy of Errors), four professional musicals (Chicago, Mary Poppins, Phantom of the Opera, The Producers), an Eastern-influenced play (Three Year Swim Club), and live tapings of four different television shows. He has acted in two musicals and three plays, co-directed an abridged version of Midsummer Night's Dream, and acted in a professional documentary on internet safety. In his three years in drama, he has really covered a lot. When he leaves this school, he will have a very well-rounded background in performing arts. One of my veteran girls proudly informed, upon returning from Greece over Spring Break, that when she stood in the ruins of an ancient Greek theatre, she already knew how the acoustics worked, and that she proudly could point out the parados. I feel like this is stuff to be proud of.

As soon as I can get through this pile of papers and submit my grades... I am going to be really excited for next year.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

So close I can taste it

Summer is so close I can taste it. I've been so busy with the variety of responsibilities on my plate and particularly overwhelmed with drama that I  haven't even been able to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Now, I can, but the light at the end of the tunnel might look like an oncoming train right about now.

I've put a lot of stuff off because of the play. This always happens during productions. I always feel both relieved and overwhelmed when it is done. Now that the show is over, I have just 5 days to survive, 500 papers to grade, and a mile-long checklist to sign off before my 5-week sabbath.  Sigh. Gonna be another stressful week.

My goal this summer is to take care of myself and my friendships. I need to work out and eat right this summer. My body is begging me to. As I've been focusing on positivity and happiness this year through The Happiness Advantage, I have found that my perspective on people has widened a lot too. I am realizing I've been rather narrow in my friendships in the past, overlooking people whose company I really enjoy.

The musical director Jasmin and I carpooled to and from the impromptu cast party yesterday, and when we got back to school, we weren't done talking and sat there in the car talking for quite a while. I miss having friendships like this, and I really enjoy Jasmin's company. We have so much in common, which is one of the first things I remember realizing about her as I got to know here during Beauty and the Beast two years ago. When I walked into her room and realized we had both purchased the same exact $4 purple stool from Walmart, I laughed. In China, we had a great time climbing the Great Wall together and searching for a warm spot to have coffee. We discovered a family of kitties living behind a store and took tons of pictures. I want to make sure I nurture friendships like this.

I also really miss my mom friends. I have a group of mom friends whom I have really love, but feel so distant from during the year.  This is just a reality of my incredibly busy life. Many of them are stay-at-home moms, and a lot of them only have one young child, which is a little bit different from having an elementary age kid with busy activities all the time. My life keeps me monumentally busier than theirs, so they all get to hang out together a lot. I do get to go out with them at night sometimes, which I really try to always make sure to make time for, because I do want to grow these friendships. I don't mean to sound jealous, because I am not. I chose my life, and I love my life, and I also know that being a stay-at-home mom can be a terribly lonely thing. It is practically insanity inducing to talk to no one over the age of 5 all day every day. I am so glad these women have each other, because they are awesome women. But I crave the beauty of my time off when I can hang out with them.

And it is so close. So close I can see it now. I can smell chlorine pool play dates. I can taste an ice cold happy hour drink with friends. I can feel the warm sun of sitting at the beach with my mom.  It is so, so, close.

Just 500 papers to go.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

20% insanity

I can hardly believe I just concluded my sixth full-length show. I have directed six shows.  Wow...

      Thinking about it today, I think that directing is 30% creativity, 50% hard work, and 20% insanity.

      There is a very real part of directing that involves believing the impossible. When I think of how to make scenes different from the prior scene, or with a show like Willy Wonka, how to surprise an audience who knows the story, thinking outside the box is just a necessity.  When I thought about the "I've Got a Golden Ticket" scene, I decided it would be fun to have Grandpa Joe suddenly jump up on top of the bed, over Grandma Josefina, and off the bed to the stage while singing, "Good morning! Look at the sun!" The student looked at me like I was crazy and said, "That's not gonna work."  But I believed it would. Enough to try it myself several times. Poor Grandma Josefina looked at me with great terror as I leapt over her, but I made it every time. Grandpa Joe finally believed me and gave it a shot. It took a few rehearsals to get it right, but he did, and it was a nice touch. It's these little details that make theatre magical, you know.

     Last night, we had some technical failures. The computer hooked up to our ceiling mounted projector froze during intermission. Unfortunately, it is not hooked up to a monitor with the ability to do a dual display or go off and on, so we were unable to reset the computer without the entire audience having to watch the reboot process. We did some troubleshooting, but ultimately gave up. My techies think there's a bad cable. Anyhow... so today I decided we'd use the portable lcd projector from my classroom on the a/v cart; however, I knew that just leaving the lcd cart in the middle of the aisle would look bad and detract from the magic. Plus, the light from the monitor would be distracting. So, I came up with a solution: we'd build a hut.

     I contacted some of the students and told them I had an idea but needed help constructing it. I bought purple spray paint on my way to campus. They showed up early to help. When they got there, I looked at them and said, "We're gonna build a hut for the projector."

      Wonka looked at me and said, "Are you joking?"  When he realized I was serious, he helped me dig cardboard boxes out of the dumpster.

      Soon, Mike Teavee showed up. When we explained the project, he said, "Are you serious?"

      Wonka replied, "That's what I said," but these kids have been with me long enough to know that I rarely give up once an idea pops into my head, so they grabbed the tape and went to work. Eventually, my assistant director showed up, and by then the vision was already taking shape. She trusts my insanity completely and jumped right in to hold boxes while we taped.

As Mike Teavee and I painted and Wonka got started on his make-up, my techies showed up. "What's that?" my media tech asked.

      "A hut for you," I replied.  He laughed, then realized I was serious.

      "You want me to sit in it? I'm going to get high on the smell of the spray paint."

      "It'll be dry by then, and it's VOC free spray paint. You'll be fine."

       It was actually dry by the time we were ready to open the house. My assistant director held the door while I got inside the hut to carry it in. We must have been quite a sight. But you know what?  The crazy idea really worked, and we had all of our projections. Vinny saw the show twice. Today he said, "I loved it today. The factory had Wonka gates. And today I was able to use my imagination when Charlie was flying! And Mike Teavee was funny!"  So... Vinny loved all the special effects. My boss popped in during the flying scene and agreed that the effects did make quite the difference.

20% insanity.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

There's Mohr to Life

I'm so tired and so completely burnt out right now, I can't even believe I am blogging right now, but I just have to blog about this day. You all (my readers, friends, family members who care about me) have to hear about this phenomenal (albeit long) day. Will show it in tidbits.

7:38am - My senior advisory students are supposed to be giving speeches to underclassmen. They've been underprepared and worrying the heck out of me for the past month. They all show up professionally dressed and ready to go. Some of them need to print their speeches again in larger font and cut into notecards so they don't end up reading it, so we rush through that together, then I send them off.

8:20am - My seniors wander back to class. Some of the ones who were most nervous proudly report receiving scores of proficient and even distinguished. I feel like one proud teacher. All those hours watching speeches and reading speeches and giving blunt feedback paid off.

8:30am - I happen to be in a public speaking unit with my sophomores, so I wander over to the MPR to make sure everything is set up. The students set to speak today are all dressed professionally. None wore leggings or mini skirts. Yes! Victory! Almost every student scheduled to speak today brought a guest.

9:00am - Speeches are going wonderfully, so I am excited when my boss walks in to hear the next few. They maintain consistent eye contact and share about interesting topics. The experience clearly has been meaningful and worthwhile. Highlights include when 10 members of Luis' family wander in to hear him give a speech about resisting bad influences and that his family was right in their warnings, and the 5 minute speech that Alex gave about how his mom inspires him. I am pretty sure his mom was in tears. He's right... he and his brothers are no walk in the park.  :-)  As speeches end and I thank the family members for attending, my boss chats with parents and my students pose for pictures with their family members, former teachers, etc.  This is what this was supposed to be. Yea!

10:10am - Break. I need another cup of coffee. I hit brew on my Keurig while Melissa retakes a test she mysteriously bombed. Neither of us were sure why she did so poorly, so she is taking it again. Brianna stops to ask what my "you sort of had two topics in that speech" comment meant. I explain what nepotism is and how her speech about competition in the work place is sort of about nepotism too. Some students wander in to buy tickets for Willy Wonka and I breath a sigh of relief that the tickets are finally starting to sell.

10:15am - I look up from locking up the ticket money to see some of my drama students through the window. I wonder what they are up to, so I step outside to observe some of my advanced drama students in an independently planned rehearsal for a scene they were struggling with - the fight between Hermia and Helena in Midsummer Nights' Dream. They work to solidify the blocking. The girls' cat fight looks real. I stifle my excitement to offer Demetrius some tips on emotionally sustaining his character.

10:30am - Honors English has started now. As the 41 students fill the room and #41 asks where her desk has gone (I find it under a pile of costumes), I remember my coffee. Joy. I run it through the microwave quickly before taking advantage of the students' journal time to distribute their copies of the book they self-published this week. They titled it "There's Mohr to Life," and it is about their experience creating a buried list and working to cross things off this year. They did a great job, and I know its a good book.

1:15pm - Where did lunch go? The musical theatre kids came by to help with stuff, but they've grown so fond of each other, they did more chatting and eating than helping. The bell has since rung, and I have found myself finishing the faux suspenders on all the Oompa Loompa shirts. I run out of ribbon, realize we never found the fabric to cover the doorways of the flats, and that I am completely out of paper and need to print a bunch of stuff, including programs for the show. I am on my prep period until 2:30pm. Can I make it to Wal-Mart by then?  I decide yes and race out the door. As I am walking to my car, I receive a text from my mom: "Reading the book. Inspired to start my own list."   :-)

4:00pm - Is this actually happening?  Are we actually starting rehearsal on time? With 6 working mics?  It is not the 7 I hoped for, but hey... it's better than the 1 we had working on Monday.

5:00pm - Need to break rehearsal to give the oompa loompas notes before they run off to open house. Their talkativeness is making me crazy. They are only in 3rd and 4th grade, so it is to be expected, I guess. My musical director looks at me and says, "It is really like herding cats." I look at the choral director with wide eyes as if to say, "How do YOU manage them?" His expression offers no answer.

5:15pm We wrap up and explain the importance of knowing where you are supposed to be and when you are supposed to be there. I make myself a note to beg the high schoolers to help with this part. We all three (the other two directors and I) conclude that this has gone much more smoothly.  The loompies leave and the high schoolers take their dinner break while I try to figure out how we went from 6 working mics an hour ago to 2 working mics by the end of that act. I decide to let the tech guys take a real break and aim to fix it myself. I DO and feel incredibly proud of myself (tech is not my strong point).

5:40pm Break over. I determine that we WILL get through this run through. I promise not to stop unless necessary. I hang out in the back to polish tech. I manage to get through the whole thing without calling Steven. It turns out Alexis is a pretty good lighting technician and knows the transitions better than I do, so I shut up and watch.

7:00pm We wrap the run through. The energy is high and everyone is doing well. Musical director takes Wonka to polish solo numbers while I go over my notes.

8:00pm We miraculously manage to get everything cleaned up and put away and leave campus on time for the second night in a row. Woo hoo!

10:00pm Sitting at home on the couch, I finally get a chance to check the system for my benchmark results. They are leaps and bounds better than last semester, and one kid actually scored 100% And he's not even in honors! I heave a sigh of relief.

11:00pm I realize I have not graded a single paper this evening, but decide to call it a night anyway.

It's been a really good day.