Friday, April 30, 2010

A Sailor's Not A Sailor (Till a Sailor's Been Tattooed)


Why, hello. Yes, it is early in the morning. Yes, those are bags under my eyes. Yes, the musical did open up last night; and yes, the kids did do a great job.

But what's that?

That odd purple thing poking out of my shirt?

What's This?

Why, that's a Temporary Tattoo of Courage, Volume, and Memory!

After check-in last night, I pulled out an assortment of Temporary Tattoos of Courage, Volume, and Memory for the cast, orchestra, and crew. They had a ball going through every single one to pick out just the right flower or unicorn or flaming snake skull.

They were also quite good about placing them under their costumes so the audience wouldn't notice. Of course, there was a mom who gave me quite the disapproving look when, while dashing past on my way backstage a student asked if I had one yet. "Of course!" I replied, while pulling down the collar of my shirt a little bit.


Tough cookies, lady. I like my Purple Surfing Octopus, and the kids did indeed perform with courage, volume, and memory.

One down, two more performances to go. Wish us (bad) luck!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

April Showers

You know, just the other day I commented to someone how nice it is to not have to constantly worry about the weather for my daily commute. It's spring after all!

And then a mom at the school called me tonight with a musical question and casually mentioned the 18 inches of snow predicted.

I looked up the weather report:



That should make our dress rehearsal interesting.

I'm going to go check my phone to see if school's been canceled yet.


On a related-but-side-note, during first period today, the kids were very lethargic. After doing a run-though of their play (I love 30-minute-long productions!), I said, "Okay, stand up!"

They reluctantly groaned their way to their feet.

"Good," I said. "Leave your stuff and follow me."

They did, warily.

I led them to the back doors of the theater and opened the doors to the parking lot/mountain panorama. It was raining.

"Come on out," I said to the teenagers huddled at the door. "You can stand under the ledge if you don't want to get wet."

They filed out onto the loading dock.

"Okay," I said, "Now yell 'Plays suck!'" (It's a line from the play they're doing.)

They all grinned and yelled into the storm, "Plays suck!"



"Make the other building hear you!"


"Now, 'I love the earth!'"


"Excellent! Now go run in the rain."

This time they didn't hesitate. The entire class took off running across the parking lot. They looped around and came back to where I waited at the door. Everyone was dripping wet and grinning. A few eyed a gushing rain spout off the roof of the theater.

"Go ahead," I said. "Just watch out for the mud."

And they thrust their hoodies and cell phones into my hands and danced under the mini-waterfall.

And then we all went back into the theater and got back to work.

That's how my drama class celebrated Earth Day.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Who's Sorry Now?

(I'm totally breaking one of my rules. I'm starting to write a blog entry at the exact moment of my bedtime. Bad, bad, bad Amanda!)

Yesterday was a crappy day. Two boys came to freshman drama high (Meg - although I agree that the "holiday" part of 4/20 is debatable, the "national" part certainly isn't!), another one got mad and yelled at me. The show poster, despite sucking up a lot of my time, wasn't working. Rehearsal was really, really hard. I didn't feel prepared (because I wasn't. I had to come up with some kind of quasi-choreography for the danciest number that I didn't give to Rachel, and I just don't know enough about dance to do that well), the kids were angry and tired and stressed. One burst into tears over another kid's joke, one threw a tantrum when she had a suggestion that I didn't listen to right away, one kept up the rotten attitude he's always had, and one was working instead of coming to rehearsal. Which seems minor, but we have never, not once had the entire cast present for a rehearsal.

Oh, and the best part was the parent who stopped by to drop off some cardboard and hangers for us. She kept me after to tell me that some of the kids have been complaining to her about kid #3's bad attitude. So she took it upon herself to have a little chat with him at the end of rehearsal today. (Ominous music begins to play in my head at this point). Among other things, she told him
1) "My daughter's starring in this show and you're ruining it for her!"
2) "I know that Ms. W. is not as experienced as (former teacher). But she's young! She just doesn't know as much about theater or how to do it. Give her time to grow and learn, though, and in a few years, she'll be just as good."

Holy crap, people. Shall I tell you how extraordinarily wrong both of those comments are to make to a student? (Or how very, very mistaken she is about our comparative theater resumes?)

No, I shan't. You probably already know.

So I drove away from school yesterday in a horrible mood, cursing teenagers and the job that requires me to be around them. And then I remembered: it's the week before a show. Moreover, I remembered that while I might be aware of that lovely Hell Week phenomenon, the kids aren't.

Today, then, I pulled them up on stage and had them stand in a circle (big mistake I had been making, letting them check in from house seats). And I apologized. I apologized for not telling them that Hell Week is always like this. That of course the week before a show is stressful and hard to deal with. That there are some things that can help (getting a decent amount of sleep, eating healthy, getting schoolwork done instead of procrastinating, taking the opportunity for a break when it comes). And I also explained in a much clearer way why we check in. That Check In is the chance to let us know how you're doing and what we can do to help. That naming how you're feeling is a step towards controlling how you're feeling. And that we'll hear what you need to say.

And then we checked in.

Their answers didn't change much from what they normally say - some people were having a good day, some were tired and stressed. Nothing I didn't know already, really. But this time they listened to each other.

And then we rehearsed. And we kept listening to each other and we laughed and we got things done.

And I went home in a good mood today.

Monday, April 19, 2010

With So Little To Be Sure Of

I've paid my program fee and got airplane reservations, so I guess it's a certain as will be -

I'm going to Thailand this summer!

To be specific, I'll be doing two programs back-to-back with Global Service Corps. Essentially, the plan is as follows:

Week 1: Tour of Bangkok, cultural activities, and Thai lessons
Week 2: Volunteer work in orphanages (i.e. playing with little kids)
Week 3-5: Living in a Buddhist wat where I'll be
a) Teaching English to the monks studying there
b) Studying Buddhism and the wat lifestyle
c) Learning how to meditate/chant

This trip is an odd one. I'm excited, but I also feel... I don't know, uncertain? A sort-of dread? But when I pray about it, it feels fine. When I think about particularities of the trip of what I'll get to do specifically, I feel good about it. And yet, when I think about the trip generally, I feel out of sorts.

My guess is that it's misplaced emotions about the musical. I think my stress over the show and work are being misdirected to stress about the trip. I have a lot to do still (doctor appointments, getting a visa, learning Thai, studying/background research for the trip, calling AT&T, loading up my Kindle, shaving my cat, bracing myself for 90 degrees with 90 percent humidity, etc.) and no time to work on that to-do list until the show is over. Heck, I'm staying up late tonight to write a Humanities test for tomorrow, and that's after skipping lunch today because I was so busy. Thus, stress.

Makes sense, right?

Still, Thailand!*

* If I ever get my passport, that is. My respect for the US Postal System is dwindling by the minute.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

My Coloring Book

Two remedies for a grumpy mood:

Step 1: Go to bed at self-appointed bedtime and get 8 hours of sleep

Step 2: This:

Sistine Classroom

Can you guess what my Humanities class is doing there? Take a look at the blurry picture of what I'm projecting on the board.

Naked man! Brain-like fabric! Limp wrists! Yup, we're doing the Sistine Chapel. Here's the plan:

1. Find several close-up images from the Chapel.
2. Copy into Word, convert to grayscale, then washout, then size to 1 per page.
3. Print those suckers.
4. In computer lab, send students to the virtual tour at
5. While everyone waits for it to load (because schools have the slowest internet connections in the world), have students select pictures from your stack.
6. Students then a) find their pictures in the chapel

(Them: Where's my picture from?
Me: The Sistine Chapel.
Them: No, I mean where is it in the chapel?
Me: You'll have to look around to ind it.
Them: I have to look around?
Me: (barely containing the Hah!-I-Made-You-Learn! glee in my voice) Yup.)

and b) take notes on colors, figures, etc. that will help them finish the project.

7. Pull out the tape, pastels, crayons, colored pencils, etc.
8. Student stack chairs, tape their pictures to the bottom of their desks, and then start coloring!

It took all of 30 seconds before they were complaining about how hard it was to color upside down and how their arms hurt.

"Yup!" I said, with that not-subtle glee again. "And how long did it take Michelangelo?"

"Four years!" they reply, with a new tone of respect in their answers.

But that's not what fixed my mood. What did it was this:

An office aid came in and handed me a pass for a student to go home.
"Jade," I called, "It's for you."
As Jade picked up her stuff, Trey said, "Lucky!"
Ellie said, "I don't know, Trey, this is pretty fun."
Trey: Yeah, you're right. Saying "Lucky" was pretty much just a habit. This class is fun - I look forward to it.

And my teacher-heart grew three sizes that day.

Now, being the experienced teacher I am, I knew darn well some of them would finish their pictures way before others. I needed another activity. I went through all of my art history texts and flagged copies of Van Eyck's Arnolfini Wedding painting. You know, this one:

Their instructions were to "List as many details as you can find (at least 20)."

As the first student came to turn in his list, I asked, "How many did you find?"

"Twenty," he said with derision for my stupidity.

"Okay," I replied. "That'll get you a C."

"A C?" he repeated, outraged.

"Yup. 20 for a C, 30 for a B, 40 for an A."


"Yup. Would you like to keep looking?"


And he did. And the word spread, as it does, and the students one by one turned in their Sistine drawings and scrutinized the art books, searching for more details.

And it was excellent. One kid waved his hand at me, calling me from across the room.

"What is it, Nick?"

"Right there. The chandelier!"

I looked at where he was pointing, expecting him to say something about there being only one candle in it.

"Look!" he said, "The decoration on the chandelier. It's, you know, that symbol you talked about. That French one. You know, the one like the football team, the Saints."

"A fleur-de-lis?"

"Yeah, that's it."

I looked closer and, by golly, he was right. "Nick! That's awesome! I've never noticed that before. Nice job!" And he positively beamed.

Oh, and for the kids who finished the Van Eyck project early? I was ready for them. I asked if they wanted some extra credit.

"Nah, that's okay," they started to say, as I flipped through the art book to another painting. "We don't need... Whoa. What's that?"

They bent over the picture I had just pushed towards them. "Garden of Earthly Delights by Heironymus Bosch," I replied. "Crazy, huh?"

"Yeah," they said in unison, mesmerized.

"Here, this might help." I handed them a magnifying glass. "See how many details you can list in this one."

And then, like a good teacher, I just walked away.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Something Was Missing

I sent my passport off a few weeks ago with an order for an expedited renewal.

Happily, I got my old one back in the mail (I wanted to keep it, since it's got so many pretty stamps!). There was also a note in the envelope that said the new one might come in a different mailing.

I gave it a week, but still no passport. I hunted down a phone number and called today. That's when I found out it was supposed to have arrived two weeks ago! Grr.

The lady on the phone monotonously told me which form I needed to download and mail in to be issued a new one. She also recommended that I write my departure date on the front of the envelope to get them to process it quicker and that I send a check for $15 to pay for overnight shipping.

So, I paid an extra $60 for expedited processing in order to pay an extra $15 to get my passport when I would have originally gotten it under normal times?

I'm mad at passport agencies and the mail system today.

Oh, also? I'm mad at school for making me get up so early; at my Humanities class for making me spend every single prep period planning and trying to be creative enough to keep them all engaged; and at the kid in the musical who spends rehearsals distracting others, who then rolls his eyes and grumbles every time I ask him to get back on stage, who complains about the show to the rest of the cast behind my back, and who sucks up so much of my patience as I try to stay positive to fight against him.

I think a lot of this madness comes from inadequate bedtimes.

P.S. Less than three weeks 'til I'm after-school-activity-free! Fancy spending my time just teaching!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Paris Original

As promised, Emily, here's a picture:

Gray Skirt

See that skirt? I made it. It's actually #2 in a series, the first being the one I mentioned in my post about Rachel's baby shower. I created the pattern from scratch and found sewing skirts like these to be crazy addictive. Hence "in a series". So when Emily and I went to Ikea in Seattle and I found some gray fabric on sale (spending three days around Emily made me want to wear more gray. Not in a depressing way - she just wears it so well herself), I got some and made it the day after I got home.

It's a good thing the cute fabric at Fancy Tiger is so pricey. Otherwise, I'd spend all my time and fill all my hangers with skirts like this.

P.S. Yes, that is the bathroom at my church. I don't have a full-length mirror at home, so I snagged a moment in between meetings today. I know you're glad I shared.
P.P.S. My offer still stands, Emily! I have leftover fabric!

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Strange and Wonderful

Oh, also? This.


I've been exhausted ever since I got back from New York. After three days of dragging myself through work, I finally figured out what was going on when I developed the sore throat, cough, and congestion that heralds a cold.

So I called in sick.

I slept in and took an easy day, not doing much more than writing two extremely long blog entries about my recent trips. I feel much better now, hence the guilt. If I got over it that easily, I could have gone into school today. I'm trying to appease myself, knowing that without the extra sleep it would have been a lot harder to get through the long day tomorrow (in-service, followed by chaperoning Prom until midnight), let alone the three weeks that separate me from the end of the musical.

But still I feel guilty.

Full Disclosure

With a full week off for Spring Break, I was able to squeeze in two trips. Two days after my return from Seattle, my family and I rendezvoused at DIA for a weekend in New York!

(I took zero pictures while there, so this trip recap's illustrations come courtesy of Jen, Ben, Rachel, and Mom. Thanks for sharing the pictures!)

Mom, Dad, Rachel, Ben, Andy, Jen, and I arrived Thursday night and celebrated by eating pizza at Sbarro's in Times Square. We broke the chain-restaurant rule in favor of the the feed-Rachel-as-soon-as-possible-when-she's-hungry rule.


Jason took the train up from DC and joined us Friday morning at the Farmer's Market in Union Square. I love this market. Check out these wreaths:


We all went to breakfast at Le Pain Quotidien

mixing the hot chocolate





A delicious, lingering meal that inspired a lot of early-in-the-trip photography.

We split up after that, and Jason and I browsed through ABC Home. There were some things that I loved that baffled Jason, some that Jason loved that baffled me (Mirror-topped tables with plastic chairs? Seriously?), some that baffled both of us, and some that we both loved but certainly couldn't afford ($100 hand-painted pillow covers, for example). Oh! And this fantastic section of old trunks, leather arm chairs, rugby equipment, French nautical law books, and other such items that drip of testosterone. Most excellent, indeed.

As we were finishing our fantasy shopping, my mom called to say she had scored tickets to the sold-out Tim Burton exhibit at MOMA. 'Cause she's good like that. We hopped on the metro and headed uptown.

The Burton exhibit was packed with people, which made it hard to enjoy. The entrance was well-done, though, and it was fun to see items from his movies, like the Nightmare and Corpse Bride figures.

The highlight of the trip, though, was the other featured exhibit, The Artist is Present. A retrospective of a performance artist's work, it was fascinating, strange, and disquieting. Although we didn't get a chance to embrace the energy of the moment by sit statutorily across from the artist herself,

Staring Contest

Jason and I took the plunge and interacted with a recreation of another of her pieces - we squeezed between two completely naked people standing facing each other in a narrow doorway.

With the lesson learned that all true performance art includes nudity, we went to lunch at the Stage deli. I ordered a BLT that was more like a BBBBBBLT:


My Dad, who's always generous about sharing his food


let me try some of his tongue sandwich.

Surprisingly delicious!

We went to the Museum of Art and Design to see an inspiring paper-cutting exhibit. I can't quite figure out how to work paper-cutting designs into my current show, but someday....

We also found a Pinkberry's nearby. Yum!


That night we went to the event that inspired this trip:

It was disappointing - the music didn't fit the show and the jokes were obvious and easy. The best part was the simplest - when Fester sang a love song to the moon, floating and dancing with the stage tricks of the Matrix Ping Pong act. It was also, however, a perfect show for a high school to do, so I'll be watching out for the rights to become available.

The cast was so perfect, though, I couldn't resist getting my poster signed. Or rather, having Andy and Jen get my poster signed. Nathan Lane slipped out ahead of the crowd, but we saw Kevin Chamberlain!

and Bebe Neuwirth!

and Ben found pizza!

So we all got pizza!

Saturday morning we went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art.


I communed with the Greeks (or at least the Roman and Renaissance version of the Greeks) for a while, relishing how knowledgeable I am now that I am a Humanities teacher. :) Jason met me there after heroically waiting on hold for 40 minutes to score standing room tickets to La Traviata for us that evening. We had just enough time to admire this illumination exhibit and these remarkable mourning statures before dashing off to Chinatown to meet Rachel's friends Mavi and Jeff for an authentic dim sum lunch at the crowded, noisy, delicious, gold-and-neon-lit Jing Fong's.



at jing fong


That last one is chicken legs. I did not partake.

Then, Pinkberry's #2


as we shopped around SoHo/the Village, including a trip to a great knitting/fabric store and yet another favorite bookstore of mine.

Jason and I were put in charge of dinner, and after a few phone calls we got a reservation for 8 at BLT Fish.


Now, eating tongue was pretty brave of me. Eating dim sum was pretty brave of me (I had a bought of food poisoning from my first exposure to dim sum). But here I met my food-bravery challenge.

Oh, don't get me wrong. It was delicious. We ordered three main entrees and several side dishes to share. We were eating early, so the wait staff hovered attentively nearby, ready to whisk away and replace our utensils as we finished each course. It was quiet enough for us to talk, and one fish was served on an entire bed of roasted garlic cloves.

But take a look at that last picture.

Do you see it?


How about now?

When each of the fish entrees were ready, they presented them to us. Cooked, but complete, head and tail and fins in place, as if they had leaped from the sea to the serving plate. It was startling to turn around and see the Cantonese-style crispy red snapper, perched alertly on a plate with a skewer through his nose, looking at me balefully as a waiter presented him proudly. He (the waiter) offered to bone him for us, and I gratefully watched the fish get carried away.

But then he returned, boned, but looking as perky and life-like as ever.

And there he sat, right next to my plate, gazing at me as I tried to take a bite of his flesh while avoiding eye contact. At least his friend, the baked Maine black sea bass had the courtesy to be lying on his side, so his reproachful eyes were directed at the ceiling. The lobster, meanwhile, was headless. But the snapper. Oh! the snapper.

Ben, across the table from me, asked for a serving and I happily passed the plate. No luck, though. The plate came right back to the only empty space on the table, and the fish continued to stare at me.

Noticing my discomfort, Jason plucked up a bit of the carrot and parsley garnish with the serving tongs and draped it over the snapper's eyes. Thus I spent the rest of the meal being watched by a fish hiding in the bush. That is, until my Dad took the waitress' recommendation and cut off the head to pick out some of the leftover meat.

Dessert, thankfully, completely lacked life-like features: tiny versions of macarons, mango caramels, and other delicacies, and green apple cotton candy in Pyrex jars!

Jason and I bid farewell to the others as they went to see Lend Me a Tenor, and we went to Lincoln Center to attend the opera.

Oh, I love going to the opera there! Standing for the entire show was a bit uncomfortable, but the Met's atmosphere is still my favorite.

As we waited for the curtain, Jason nudged me and whispered "stuffed rabbit." I looked at the lady to his left, expecting to see a stole or muff. Nope, the older woman instead had pulled a small, furry, toy Easter bunny from her purse and was tenderly petting its head. She then carefully positioned it on the armrest, making sure that it had a good view of the stage. She departed during the third intermission, we assume because it was past the rabbit's bedtime.

Walking back to my hotel, we watched the fog and city lights, which Ben so neatly captured:

misty night

We happened to run into the rest of the crew in the lobby of the hotel, who all raved about the show they had seen. Darn it, I'm just going to have to come back to see what I missed!

We flew out early the next morning, thus ending our weekend in New York.

Thanks, Parents, for the fantastic trip!

Come Rain or Come Shine

I met Emily my freshman year of college (13 years ago!). We graduated early together and celebrated with a wild (for us anyway) 6-week backpacking trip through Europe. That trip cemented our friendship. She's one of those friends who I can go weeks without talking to (not by choice! We just haven't lived in the same state for years), but we can click again immediately on sight, updating each other on our lives; our families; our plans; and our memories of bedbugs in Rome, Scottsmen in a pool in Venice, Guy Friday tours in Dover, gummies and caviar with Thor on a train, and Muppet bugs in Smurflet huts.

Which is why I was so excited to go visit her last weekend. While she lived in Grand Junction, I got to hang out with her every time I went home to see my parents. Sadly, that was not to last. She moved to Mount Vernon, WA a few months ago with her family. I figured my spring break was an excellent time to see her and see a bit of the northwest.

I was met at the airport by three very mysterious figures in fedoras and sunglasses. Caitlyn (5) cried, "Manda!" wrapped her arms around my legs, and asked, "Did you bring the swimming pool?" She is a big fan of my parents' house still, it seems.

We marked the first day with trips to three different grocery stores: Whole Foods for lunch at their salad bar, the Co-Op in Mt. Vernon for fun, and Hagaan's for fish and chips for the grown-ups' dinner.

Saturday started slow - I hung out with Caitlyn and Logan watching Curious George cartoons while Emily slept in. Logan wasn't feeling too hot, so we didn't really get going until the afternoon. Fortunately, Ben had finished his work for the day as well by then, so he could join us for our adventure.

We drove north to Bellingham to see a sculpture garden.
Sculpture Girls

It was chilly but not raining, and the flora was beginning to bloom:
Purple Flowers

Sad Logan Riding

Logan still wasn't feeling great, but that didn't deter out next destination... another grocery store! No, seriously. This time it was Trader Joe's. Caitlyn and I shopped for treats while Emily, Ben, and Logan got more nutritious fare:

Customer in Training

While driving around Bellinghmam we spied an enticing sign: Artisan Cheese. Thus we discovered Quel Fromage and sampled many of their wares. Thus, after taking a gorgeous senic route home along the sound,

Ocean Spotlight

the grownups got another grownup dinner - this:

Cheese Store Results

along with orange chicken from Trader Joe's, which we enjoyed while watching the BBC's The Scarlet Pimpernel.

Ultimate-Husband Ben had Monday off work, so he offered to watch the kiddos while Emily and I could run away to Seattle for a few days. Sunday morning we loaded up the car, swung by their church so Emily could fulfill her calling (she's RS secretary and a slave of duty), and drove to the Emerald City.

Emily booked us a room at a lovely hotel with an excellent location. After dropping off the car and our luggage, we ran through this fountain:


on our way to find lunch (gyros and baklava - yum!) at Pikes Place Market:

Em, Gyro, Pier

Then on to the Seattle Art Museum!

We saw a special exhibit on Calder, a Korean Dress Outfit made of dogtags, a giant rat sitting on a sleeping man's chest, and this

Mouth Art

We also found the hands-on section for kids. And for us, of course.

Wire Art

Like good visitors to the Pacific Northwest, we sought out seafood for dinner. At Ivar's Acres of Clams, we discovered the joy of happy hour. We ordered several discounted ocean-based entrees to share:


but declared the argula, beets, and goat cheese salad with vanilla vinaigrette the winner of the meal.

We called it an early night, walked back to the hotel along the waterfront,

Night Ferry

and settled in to watch Iron Chef while eating gourmet popcorn in bed.

Monday we ate several breakfasts while enjoying the sights of Pikes Place Market:

Apple Roll
(Cinnamon Roll with slices of apple baked in!)

Pike's Place Flowers
(The Flowers!)

Pike's Dentist
(A Dentist!)

(The Pig!)

We also found a little used bookstore in there, run by a delightful Russian fellow. From there, we walked to Pioneer Park, stopping off to buy umbrellas since, being Seattle, it had decided to rain.


We walked to Pioneer Park, enjoying the sights,

Pioneer Park Bldg

shopping for fun vintage-inspired clothes, and browsing a mystery bookstore.

We capped off the day by visiting this favorite place of mine


by finding some excellent Thai food at a restaurant near the University, and by stopping off at a third bookstore (a huge Barnes and Noble's) to browse with steamed milks in hands.

Oh! We also found a haberdashery and got ourselves a little style


Caitlyn modeled my hat for me the next morning:

Caitlyn Hat Model

It was a sad morning, since I had to fly home. Logan executed his best grumpy face

Grumpy L

and I bid a sad farewell to Emily and the kiddos.

Sad C

Exactly how I feel, Cailtyn!

In short, it was an excellent trip, the Walls make excellent hosts, and I couldn't be luckier than to have Emily as a friend.

Behind Walls

Thanks, Walls!