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, July 30, 2013

The First Day of School

     Tomorrow is my first day of school.  It will be interesting to see how much I have grown from my 140 kids when I first started this blog. Anyone want to venture a guess as to the new number?  My guess is somewhere around 165-175.  We will see tomorrow and I will update then.

     For the first time in my 7 years of first days, I am not stressing tomorrow.  It is started to feel like a beautiful cycle of ins and outs.  My first few years, I had the night before jitters every time:

     "Will they like me?"
     "Will I like them as much as I liked the last bunch?"
     "Will I have a lot of trouble makers?"
     "Will they do their work?"
     "Will they think I'm fun?"
     "Have I forgotten something important I was supposed to do?"

     I feel very prepared and I am starting to realize that every year is different, but the same too.  Some will like me. Some won't.  Each group of students has things I love and things that are difficult, and they are always different, which keeps things interesting. There will always be a few trouble makers.  Most of them will do their work. A few will not. I will be better at responding to those few this year than I was the prior year. Some will think I'm fun and some will laugh at my jokes. Some will roll their eyes and wish it was a bigger school with more teacher options so that they could beg their counselors to switch them to the cool guy who just shows movies all year. I will for sure have forgotten something. I will make it work at the last minute somehow anyway.

     There is much to be excited about right now. There is a positive energy among the faculty, and I just have this feeling that great things are going to happen.

     First day of school... here I come!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Rejection x3 (and moving on...)

I wanted to make this say to the third power, because emotionally it feels exponential, but I couldn't figure out how to make blogger do superscript.

Since May, I have auditioned for three different musicals. Each audition has been better than the last. The most recent audition I felt really, really good about, and I was only auditioning for an ensemble role (the show didn't have any female roles I would fit) but I still didn't get a part. I took this pretty hard. You would think the rejection thing would get easier... but it doesn't.

I was talking about it with my mom and she said, "You have achieved so much, I don't know why it is that it seems you always feel like it isn't enough."  But that's just it... I KNOW I have achieved so much. This isn't about achieving.  I don't want to act again to accomplish something. It is exactly the opposite.

I feel like I have spent the past eight years just working hard to accomplish things -- becoming a mom (yes, I see this as an achievement -- becoming a mom is different from "having kids"), graduating college, getting a teaching credential, establishing myself as a teacher, becoming a drama teacher and really learning to direct (I sometimes still feel like I don't really know what I am doing in this area, but I get more confident with every show), getting a Master's degree, supporting my husband in his youth ministry career, being a youth leader myself, etc. All of this stuff is incredibly meaningful to me, but really hard work.  While acting is hard work too... it doesn't feel like work. It feels like recreation because it is so satisfying and so much fun and I just derive so much pleasure from performing. I feel like I am ready to and have earned the right to turn to a new chapter in my life. Chapter "My 20s" has been all about working to achieve my goals. I'm just hoping that Chapter "My 30s" will be include (among other things) me doing some things I enjoy, and acting is one of the things I enjoy most in life.

Although my mom assures me I am wrong about this, I am starting to feel like the time I have lost is a big deal, like that the reason I am not getting callbacks is because I have not been on stage in seven years. Worse than that... I am pretty limited in the things I can audition for because I can't really dance. I mean, I definitely have the ability to learn simple choreography and movement, and I do not have two left feet, but I haven't had any formal dance training since I was like 8 years old. I am not a trained dancer. It takes me a LONG time to pick up new dance moves. I took a couple of beginning jazz classes in January and found them really challening. Not impossible, but definitely challenging. Can an old dog really learn new tricks?  Is it worth returning to the beginning jazz class? There will always be so many people so much better than me, it kind of makes me feel like... why bother?

But if I don't learn to dance better, then I can't really audition for any musical that involves dancing (well, I could audition, but I wouldn't be likely to get a part), and a lot of musicals involve dancing.

Unfortunately, this really is the end of the audition season for me, as there aren't really any local shows coming up really soon that I haven't auditioned for, and the next round of auditions are for shows that go into November, and I can't really be in a show that goes into November because my students' show for the fall is in November and I need to be available for tech week and performances for them. (We are producing a children's theatre production of Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing this fall). So, I guess I will wait until November to start auditioning for winter shows. There are a few good ones coming up, but most of them do involve dance, so it is back to dance class for me. Sigh.

Vinny's Theatre Endeavors...
And then there is Vinny, who has also been auditioning and hoping for a community theatre production to get involved in. His dance auditions haven't gone very well (although he has improved, as he has taken dance classes over the past year), and his voice is pitchy.  It is a crapshoot whether he will hit the right notes or not in his audition pieces. As his summer camp wraps up, he is eager to know what is next.  Last year, we paid for musical theatre workshops that ended in shows (Sound of Music and Peter Pan), as well as dance classes (a lot of them).  I'd say we spent around $2000-$3000 on his artistic development over the course of first grade. We really cannot afford to do that again.  My student loans are coming due and we are also making a valiant effort to pay off credit card debt.  He cannot do multiple things like that this year. I started talking to him about it last night and that was an interesting conversation.

There are several community chorus groups that are holding auditions next month, and I encouraged him to get involved in those. The membership fees are really reasonable (like $300 for the entire year) and I think it would help his singing and improve his chances of getting a part in a community theatre show.  Or he could do more dance classes, which would also help him with theatre. His problem with both of these?  They are mostly girls. In his words, "I want to take a dance class where it is all boys." Well, they only have those for hip hop, but he needs to learn stuff like tap and jazz.  And dance just isn't as popular with boys. Vinny totally doesn't understand this.  I tried explaining it to him last night.

"Vinny, most boys your age are in baseball and basketball and football and stuff like that. Not dance. That's why it is mostly girls in the dance classes."
"I don't EVER want to do baseball or basketball or football!"
"I know that. I'm not saying you should. I'm just saying... Would you rather be at practice or rehearsal?"
"Well, you are unique in that way. Until you are much, much older, like an adult, you are going to be one of just a handful of boys or the only boy, and that's just how it is. You need to just get used to it."

I wish he could understand that this actually makes him very lucky because he will have WAY less competition, even as an adult.  Even the local theatre groups I have auditioned for end up posting notices after auditions that they are still looking for more men.  The professional theatre world is competitive for males, but not really the community theatre world. And as a high school teacher, I have frequently had to double the male parts or turn some into female parts. So, Vinny is lucky to have so little competition. He just doesn't see that yet.

In the meantime, he has requested that he be able to do just theatre stuff right now, not dance classes (although he hasn't completely ruled out chorus, so we will see). I want to find a better one than the ones he did last year. They have moved farther away and they always have like 300 people in each show. I just don't think he learns that much when he cannot get personal attention from the director. I'd rather he do a program that has less kids.  I have begun my search and I have found a few... I just hope we can find a good one that won't totally break our budget. Sigh.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013


Ah, how much I enjoy summer.  I cannot believe July is here already (and that my summer break is almost half over)!  We've had a wonderful time making the most of summer the past few weeks. Here is some of what we have filled our time with...


Every summer, I spend a few days with my cousin in Phoenix. Our kids are the same age, so they always have a great time together.  Tracy always comes up with all kinds of fun adventures for us, and the kids love even just hanging out in the pool.   Usually, I go on my own when Marc is busy with youth group stuff,  but this time, he wanted to come. This time, since it was sort of our family vacation for the year too, we stretched it out stopping at Knotts Berry Farm and Palm Springs on the way there.  Wonderful family time.  I really enjoyed just being with my kids and getting to know them again. 

Tiana and her friends playing in the backyard
Mostly, we have been just appreciating the life that we pay so much money for to live here.  We've been having friends over for play dates and going to the beach and other stuff like that. We took the kids to Medieval Times last night. I was kind of worried that it wasn't going to work for Tiana, like that she wouldn't sit still long enough, but she actually LOVED it.  The vegetarian meal was better than I thought it was going to be. When we went to leave, Tiana started crying and didn't want to go.  It was adorable.

Tiana with my mom and my niece at the beach.  It was totally overcast, but way hot.

Movie in the park. Tiana was so excited and ran around nonstop until the movie started, then pretty promptly crashed and fell asleep. 

Backyard Update
I also spent a lot of time this summer updating my backyard with help from Pinterest.  I just got into Pinterest this past year and have used it mostly for collecting recipes and whatnot, but when I started looking at backyard ideas... oh man... HOOKED.  I thoroughly enjoyed looking at other people's ideas for inspiration for my own backyard and collecting the ideas in one spot.  Suddenly, Pinterest seems genius.  Here are some of my own "pin-spired" updates:
After deciding that vegetable gardening is apparently not my think (although I wish it was), I decided to take apart my cinder block square foot gardens and turn them into this bench, inspired by ideas I saw on Pinterest.  The cushions were on clearance at Big Lots (I tried to find some secondhand, but couldn't), which made this an amazingly cheap project. It's a very comfy place and has become one of my favorite spots to chill and talk on the phone with my mom. 

I made Vinny this backyard Tic Tac Toe game out of stone tiles and rocks that we painted. He loves it. Makes a cute play space out of the corner of our backyard. 
I also bought solar twinkle lights for our fence and hung up mirrors and bought a sail shade for the side yard to make it a better place for the kids to play, and we even got a sandbox for free!  My backyard is really becoming an oasis for my family, which is exactly what I had wanted.  I still have some other projects in mind too -- I want to fix up our Little Tikes picnic table with an idea I saw on Pinterest to paint it and cover it with shelf paper. I bought paint to match the cushions on my bench so I can try to tie the entire backyard together with a theme color.  :-)

Vinny's Busy Summer
So, this summer, to help Vinny stay in a structured routine, I bit the bullet and paid for a four week intense performing arts camp that concludes in a production of Beauty and the Beast. He LOVES camp so much that he declined our offer for him to skip the day after Fourth of July and come to Knott's Berry Farm with us.

It is costing us a lot in gas to bring him there and back (it's like 25 miles away) each day, and I miss having him around during the day, but I am glad that he is so happy and having such a good summer. Last summer, it seemed like he just fell apart emotionally without the structure of school, so this has been a much better solution.

      Next week is his last week of camp and they are putting on four performances of the musical, and he is really excited. After the last performance there is a big cast party (late Saturday night), which is going to be interesting because he has to get up the next day and go to church and then leave for summer camp in the mountains.

      Yes, Vinny is going away to camp too this summer.  It is a trip to me to think that he is going away for a week by himself.  Many of my friends have commented that he seems very young for this. Well, yes, he kind of is, but I think it is healthy and fine and good for him. He went last year with Marc and really liked the camp, and so he feels like it is a familiar place that he loves and is excited to go to.  Every LRCC counselor I have ever met has been nothing but warm and loving, so I know that they will care for Vinny and make him feel special.

     In France, even preschool children go on overnight trips. I guess I kind of buy into some of the "Bringing up Bebe" stuff (not all of it -- I don't think infants should be pushed towards independence, but I like the rest of it).  I don't