Thursday, September 30, 2010

Jeannie's Packing Up

Tomorrow we leave for the first speech meet of the season. It's an overnighter with 36 kids. Here's my packing list as coach:

- 1 list of names
- 4 Copies of hotel room assignments
- 1 stack of emergency release/insurance cards
- 1 file folder of behavior contracts
- 3 notepads
- 1 set Post-Its
- 10 pencils
- 10 pens
- 5 stopwatches
- 1 bag of medications released by the school nurse to carry for students
- 6 granola bars
- 10 fruit snackpacks
- 1 travel first aid kit
- 1 box of Tampons (assorted sizes)
- 1 set of emergency pantyhose
- Printed directions to the hotel and host school
- 2 checks (to the hotel/host school)
- My personal overnight bag & purse (with contents)
- My DS
- My Kindle
- My Laptop
- My notes for corrections to "Making Waves"
- My motion-sickness bracelet
- 2 Rolls masking tape

Why the masking tape, you may ask? I fully credit Ruth for this stroke of chaperoning genius:
At the appointed hour, the other chaperons and I make the rounds. We check each room to make sure the assigned students are in there (and no one else!). Once the room is approved, we bid them good night, shut the door, then place three pieces of masking tape scross the door's seam (top, handle, and bottom).

The students know that
1) We will untape them at the designated hour in the morning (usually 6:00)
2) We will be making rounds during the night to check the tape
3) If the tape is found broken, the entire room gets in trouble with me/their parents/the administration and are banned from further overnight meets.

See, it is impossible for someone to exit the room without the tape being broken. Even if they manage to open the door in a way that doesn't tear the tape, it is impossible for that person to get back into the room and reattach the tape from the inside.

Brilliant, I say!

As for the windows, well, I request rooms that are not on the first floor. If the hotel only has one floor, well, the kids currently believe that I tape the windows, too (and don't you dare tell them otherwise!).

Wish us luck!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

High Hat

My awesome pere recently took up the cause of costuming my student for their upcoming production of The Importance of Being Earnest. Which is really very nice of him, since I have a working budget of, like, zero dollars.

In the last 24 hours, I've had a slew of packages arriving with such treats as top hats (including one that collapses!), a monocle, a necklace-magnifying glasses, and a padre hat. This is in addition to the awesome set of hats for the female characters and the smoking jackets for the men my dad got for us at a vintage store downtown when he came out to visit last weekend.

Padre Hat
Dr. Chasuble, I presume?

Jack & Algy
Jack and Algy in smoking jackets and top hats. Despite the evidence to the contrary, we've had many discussions about how you actually wear pants with smoking jackets. Algy is similarly stubborn about wanting to carry a briefcase around. I might lose that battle.

But the best package of all was one that I just can't justify putting into the show.

I mean, is there really any reason why Algernon would have a headless butler?

Headless 1

Any reason at all?

Headless 2

Oh, come on. You know me better than that. I'm not one to sacrifice the integrity of a show for one joke.

Headless 3

And I've explained this to my students over and over again.

But then they came up with this idea that I kinda love -

At the end of the show, as the audience exits the theatre, they want there to be a tombstone with "R.I.P. Bunbury" on it.

And standing next to the tombstone?

Our headless butler.

Headless 4

Thank you, Dad, for getting my students really excited about doing this play!

Monday, September 27, 2010


My awesome Friday morning started when I saw this comment via email.

Dude. Am I right? Dude!

So, as soon as I got to school, I booted up my computer and fired off an email to my new favorite actor clarifying that we were actually seeing the show in two weeks and yes, yes, yes! we are interested. (He wrote back, by the way, and we're setting it all up for the later date and the cast is all on board).

And so began the rekindling of my love of the DCTC.

Amid the fury of sending an email, answering all kinds of questions, collecting speech contracts and money for the hotel for this week's meet, and getting the room set up for a sub, one of my Advanced Drama kiddos announced that he had a couch in the back of his truck for our production of "Earnest". Hurrah! It's missing its cushions, but still! Free couch! Hurrah!

(Side note: Today's conversation in class -

Me: Let's head over to the theater to rehearse and to see if any critters crawled out from our new couch over the weekend.
Kalen: It was covered in frost. That'll kill any critters that might have been in it.
Bri: Critters?
Me: Yeah, but you never know. Plus, the moisture could be an issue.
Bri: Critters?!
Kalen: Nah, it'll be fine.
Bri: CRITTERS?! What kind of critters?
Me: You know... bugs...
Kalen: Mice...
Me: Giraffes....
Cody: Giraffes would be awesome.)

So, I dropped off the failing kids in the main office for the period, opened up the theater to drop the couch off, and we headed off on the short bus to downtown Denver!

We arrived about 20 minutes before our appointed time, so after some discussion with the bus driver over where to park a bus in downtown Denver on a weekday, I led my kids up a few blocks to the nearest Starbucks. Once they had drinks in hand (and three minutes to chug them), we went back to the National Theater Conservatory building to meet David, our guide for the day.

David introduced us to Jessica, one of the resident actors/educators. Jessica led my students through an hour-long workshop. By my request, she focused on character development. To my delight, when I mentioned to her that my students were working on "The Importance of Being Earnest," she quickly made that a part of the workshop. She exclaimed with delight over their doing the show, then asked "Who's Chausible? Who's Cecily?" and so on until every student had a chance to share their part. She then started working with them on it, going around to each person and having them name an adjective for their character, then helping them build a pose/expression around that. It was wonderfully specific, and I loved watching my students suddenly realize that "Hey, this is a famous show! Other people know and love it!"

When David came to fetch us at the end of the hour, the students groaned with disappointment over having the workshop end. Jessica bade us farewell, and David started telling us about what we'd be seeing.

He did a great job as tour guide, joking with the kids, building immediate rapport, and saying just the right things to make them feel like extraordinarily special guests. He led us through the scenery shops (wood, metal, paint, design), the costume room (where the costumers were all quite busy getting everything done for the show opening this week), the costume storage area, the shoe room, the prop shop, and the lighting designer's office. The kids were great - they were respectful, totally into it, and asked great questions. David treated them like avid thespians, using all kinds of specific terms, letting them figure things out, and admonishing them to go to college and get at least a bachelor's degree ("Yay!" cried the former AVID teacher in me).

After the tour, we slipped into the technical rehearsal of Dracula. I was concerned that my students would get bored - after all, we spent an hour watching the actors work about 5 minutes worth of the play. They ran a few lines, stopped to fix a sound cue, ran the same lines again, stopped to talk about the blocking with the director, ran the lines again, stopped to adjust the placement of the coffin, ran lines... and so on.

I was excited - they were seeing so much! The difference in the volume of their voices when they're talking to the director vs. saying their lines, the way they always do the lines with the same level of emotion and focus no matter how many times they've said them already, the lighting effects they were playing with in the background, the step-by-step process for blocking a few basic moves in a fight scene. I kept looking at my students to see if they were paying attention. And they were! They were engrossed in it, and asked to stay a little bit longer to see them run the fight one more time.

During one of the mini-breaks, one of the techies pointed us out to the cast and crew, naming us as "special guests" and saying where we came from. Everyone turned to my kids and shouted "Hello!" and waved. Then the technical director for the show came up to where we were sitting and asked "What do you love to do?"

"Act?" Molly said, uncertain if that was the right answer. I pointed out my techie at the end of the row, and the technical director went over and spent about five minutes talking to her and the others. He asked about their plans, their theater experience, and encouraged them to go to college ("Yay!"), look into particular programs, keep doing theater. My techie told him she wanted to do what he's doing for a living, and he told her to go for it.

Just before they broke for lunch, we snuck out the back. David took us to two other theaters in the complex, showing the students a theater-in-the-round and a more traditional, albeit tiny, proscenium stage (where they're performing 39 Steps, so some of the students will get to see it in action next week) (the space where Dracula is being performed is a modified thrust stage). He encouraged them to take advantage of the student rush tickets (something I've been plugging for months), answered questions about the summer and weekend classes for teenagers, and bade us a fond farewell.

In short, my students got to see live and in use everything I've been teaching them in class. It was huge, and I so love that the DCTC recognizes the importance of this (for us and for them) enough that the tour was completely free of charge. I definitely want to make this a tradition for my classes, and I hope to build a strong relationship with the DCTC myself.

We walked outside and, after a very exciting spotting of one of the actors on the street ("It's Dracula! Look, it's Dracula!"), I led my students up to the 16th Street Mall. There, in a fit of bravery that I so wouldn't have done a year ago, I said, pointing, "McDonald's is that way a few blocks, Goodtimes is over there, I'll be in Tokyo Joe's, meet me here until the clocktower in 40 minutes. You have my cell phone number - call if you need help or get lost. Otherwise, be safe, be smart, and have fun."

And they were off. I enjoyed a quick salad at Tokyo Joe's and browsed the street fair a little before meeting up with my kids. Two were late, but they called me at exactly the appointed time to say that McDonalds was just making their food now and they'd be there asap. And they were.

We walked back (while I discouraged Zack from asking our workshop leader, Jessica, to Homecoming; declined to follow Sean's plan for me to hit on the Budweiser truck driver while they stole some beer; and agreed with them that yes, David was very cute and charming, but he also had a wedding ring on and therefore I was not going to ask him to Homecoming), met the bus, and arrived back at the school around 3:30.

It was, in short, everything I'd hoped it would be. I asked them on the way down how many had seen a show there before. Of the 9 on the trip, 1. ONE of them had seen a show at the DCTC, and that was just one show several years ago.

I asked how many had been downtown. Only a couple raised their hands.

While we were walking up to Starbucks in the morning, one of them looked at my face and said, "Ms. Waterhouse, you look really happy."

"I am," I said. "I love this city!"

And I do.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Happiness is...

...getting to spend Sunday night with Rachel, Ben, and Jack. They're a fun bunch to be around.

Also? Happiness is a field trip done well, which I'll tell you all about tomorrow night (hopefully). For now, I'm going to do a load of laundry so I have clothes for the week and then get myself off to bed.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Standing on a Corner


Well, tonight's conferences kept me hopping!

My desk is still covered in papers, although I did make tidier stacks for the sake of my half-day sub.

Right after my last class, I grabbed the food from my office desk (hidden from the chillen's) and took it down to the main office for the faculty. I made Peanut Butter-Chocolate Rice Krispies Treats, Fruity Pebbles Treats, and had an array of fruit for the healthy types at the school. All were a hit.

I allowed myself ten minutes to hang out with adults before abandoning the conversations to go back upstairs and do some Speech Coaching. I worked with students until about 4:30, stopping twice for conferences. After another conference, I grabbed some dinner at the cafeteria and then held a Speech Parents meeting to address all of the questions and mysteries for the parents new to speech. Following that, I had back-to-back conferences straight through to 8:00. Good, since the parents were all very nice and complimentary (apparently I'm a popular dinner conversation topic around Mountain Town) and I talked two girls into trying speech out this year (which brings the total number of kids on the team/class to 47). Bad, since I had all kinds of plans for things to do today.

So, I stayed an extra half hour to type up sub plans for tomorrow and am now hunting around on Google Maps for places for me and my kids to eat tomorrow. Many of them have never been downtown before, so I planned some extra time for us to grab a bite there. If traffic behaves, we'll have about 45 minutes before we need to be at the theater, so I'm thinking we walk over to Market Street/Writer's Square for breakfast of some kind. Then, after the stuff, we'll walk a few blocks up to the 16th Street Mall for lunch. I was worried that the restaurants would be too pricey/sit-downy for my kiddos to grab a quick bite, but there's a McDonalds, a Goodtimes, a Tokyo Joe's, and a Paradise Cafe there, so we should be good.

I'll still have to get to school on the early side tomorrow. I have a few students who are coming by in the morning to drop things off for Speech, and I still need to put together some work packets for the boys who are staying behind due to grades. If I leave the condo by 6:30, I should be in good shape. Unfortunately, I tend to get to school later than I should for being only 10 minutes away. The lure of sleeping just a bit longer is intensified by knowing how close I am, I suppose. Shame on me. I'll try to get everything shut down and packed up in the morning so I can go straight home after the field trip. If I don't, though, I'll be back up here Saturday for Homecoming, so there's still that.

Wish me luck tomorrow for my first official MTHS field trip (not counting speech meets)!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Every Day a Little Death

I'm in my classroom right now, just starting hour 2 of the 10 hours of Parent-Teacher Conferences to come in the next 28 hours.

I'm guessing this round will be the annoying ones - the conferences that come in spurts just far enough apart to keep me from getting anything done (like cleaning my work area - I didn't set up a filing system when I changed classrooms, so since then the papers have just been languishing in piles. When I filled up my desk with papers, I added an extension by pulling a student desk over. There's now three students desks attached to mine, filled with papers).

And since I don't like to file unless I can sit down for two or three hours and create folders and color-coded tabs to my heart's content, I am choosing to blog instead.

Topic #1:
Death keeps coming up. So many friends and students are dealing with death in various forms lately that on one hand my prayers are full of names and my heart just aches for them, while on the other hand I'm terrified that at any moment death will slip through that bubble film between these people and the ones I hold closest to me - that next it will be one of my family or my close friends who's coping with brain cancer or bone cancer or leukemia or suicide or an eating disorder or a car accident. It's brushing against me now, and my muscles are tense, in a constant flinch, waiting for it to move in closer.

Topic #2:
It's foggy and raining right now. Last year at this time we had snow. I prefer this.

Topic #3:
With Conferences going until 8:00 each night, I'm staying at the condo until Friday. I'm sad to leave my cat alone for three days, but I'm really excited to get to sleep in until 6:00.

Topic #4:
One of my goals this year is to get my students to see more professional shows. I've really noticed a difference in their performances between them and my DPJH kids. Despite being younger, my DPJH kids were definitely better on stage than these MTHS kids. After last year, I concluded that it came from exposure to "real" theater.

The MTHS kids are quite isolated, as you may expect from a "Mountain Town". A few have been to Denver to see a play. Some have gone to the local community theater. Some have seen the past shows at the high school.

And here I come in talking about cheating out and telling the audience the story and asides and minimalist sets and they just stare at me blankly because they have absolutely no idea what any of that looks like. All they know is it doesn't look like what they know and therefore = bad & scary.

So I'm taking my Advanced Drama class to the DCTC Friday to let them go on a tour of the theater, do a workshop with an actor, and watch a technical rehearsal. It's a small class, so we're taking baby steps.

I also arranged group tickets to an evening performance of The 39 Steps at DCTC in a few weeks. The student matinees were sold out weeks ago, but in a stroke of genius the DCTC does shows on week days starting at 6:30. 6:30! That means that even with the hour-long drive back up to Mountain Town, my students will be home by 9:30!

So I hung up a sign-up list, told the kids they had to get their own rides (I'll meet them there), and invited all of my students to attend. 35 signed up. Which is, honestly, more than I expected. I'm thrilled for them to see the show and so excited to see if what comes out of it, performance-wise. If it works, I'll have to work on arranging a lot more side-trips like this.

Topic #5:
I'm still mad about the rules for acting in Speech that say that 1) the actor(s) cannot change characters and 2) it must come from a published (i.e. text) source. Alas for the loss of Mary Zimmerman's works and Rowan Atkinson's sketches!

Topic #6: DUDE! While looking for a link for that last sentence, I discovered a video for "Lookingglass Alice". Kelley! Jason! - the chairs! The Caterpillar! The White Knight!

Oh, how I love Lookingglass Theatre! Let me count the ways:

Topic #7:
They brought in boxed dinners from Qdoba for the teachers. So that wasn't too bad.

Topic #8:
I want to create theater like Mary Zimmerman and the Lookingglass Theater. I doubt I can do it here at MTHS.

Topic #9:
I like speech better now that I know what I'm doing. However, I still fiercely disagree with the competitive philosophy.

Topic #10:
This is not the first time Conferences have coincided with Spirit Week. I am glad that Decade Wars were yesterday, since I imagine the parents would have been a lot more mystified by my mid-1800's dress. Still, today being Superhero/Villain Day, I am wearing black head to toe with heavy eye makeup and a lot of scarves. I had a beret on too, but removed it in the heat of my classroom, so instead I'm sporting awesome hat hair. I created the outfit mostly based on the feel of a good villain, without a specific one in mind. It quickly became clear, though, that today would hold a series of people asking, "So, who are you?"

So, I've been telling people I'm the evil Drama version of Miss Viola Swamp. Sadly, very few know the reference.

Topic #11:
Most of my conferences today have been reassuring parents about the overnight hotel trips for speech meets. As one mother just put it, "He's just too excited about this." I nod in sympathy, explain with confidence and authority, and then leave the choice completely up to them. Ha, ha!

Topic #12:
It's now 7:15. 45 minutes to go. So, I'll post this now and see you all tomorrow.

Monday, September 20, 2010

On the Twentieth Century

This is quite the week at school:
- Parent/Teacher conferences (Wednesday and Thursday, from 3-8)
- Homecoming Game/Parade/Dance on Saturday
- Spirit Week (=dress up!)
- A formal observation of my teaching by my principal
- The official start of after-school speech practices
- A speech team parent meeting on Thursday and
- and a field trip on Friday

Oh, and I'm also in charge of snacks for the faculty on Thursday.

I enjoy Spirit Week at school because it gives me an excuse to dress up. We're not allowed to wear costumes for Halloween, but in honor of the sports season? Mais oui!

Today was "Twin Day". The faculty was all supposed to dress alike, so we wore jeans and staff shirts. Boring.

Tomorrow is "Decade Day". The seniors get the 80s, the juniors the 60s/70s, the sophomores the 90s, and the freshmen get the 20s/30s. (The only thing weirder than the years I went to high school during being declared suitable for dress-up is the posters up for the middle school's dance: "Retro Dance! 70s, 80s, and 90s!" My friends, we have been declared retro.) Despite my rooting for the faculty claiming 1900/10s, the faculty settled on the 40s/50s. I have an outfit that could work for the 40s, but I think I'll dress up in my pioneer costume instead. They didn't specify which century the decade was from, after all.

Wednesday is Superhero/Villain Day, Thursday is Color Day (the teachers get orange, which is an improvement from last year's brown), and Friday is my field trip so I'm wearing normal teacher clothes.

Speaking of the field trip, I'm not inclined to plan another. After a lot of phone calls and running about getting various permissions and forms and so on, I finally booked my Advanced Drama class for a workshop, backstage tour, and viewing of a technical rehearsal at DCTC. It's a great opportunity, and I was excited. Then this morning the secretary informed me that students can't go if they're failing any classes. Which takes out 4 of my 13 students. Add in the other one who somehow forgot to tell me that she'd be gone all week on a family trip to Disneyland (how do you forget such a thing? Moreover, how do you go through the actions of filling out and returning a permission slip and not recall that you will be gone on that date?).

So, with half the kids not going, I'm trying to stay perked up for the thing that took me so long to put together. Oh, don't get me wrong - it'll be fantastic for the ones that are going. But it'll kill the group dynamic I've been working on, and the kids who aren't going were really the ones who needed such a thing, you know?

In other news, I had a lovely weekend hanging with the family. We enjoyed many of our favorite Denver restaurants, viewed the splendors of the King Tut touring exhibit at the DAM, and shopped a bit. It was a perfect way to spend my last free weekend for the next four months.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Like Father...

I fell asleep riding in the backseat during the carpool this morning, then snarked myself awake.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

High Flying Adored

Scene: Advanced Drama class, first period. The students and teacher sit on the floor of a classroom with a stunning view of the aspen trees that just turned gold this weekend. The teacher holds a clipboard on which she's taking roll. The student to her left raises his hand.

Zachariah: Ms. Waterhouse, for check-in today can we ask who everyone wants to take to Homecoming?

Me: Sure, Zachariah. Start us off.

One by one the students check in, naming current boy/girl-friends, celebrities, or the occasional, blushing truthful confession. Then it's the teacher's turn.

Me: Hello! I'm Ms. Waterhouse. Today I feel accomplished. And I'm chaperoning Homecoming, so I won't be bringing a date.

Students: (Groan)

Molly: Why not? (Other teacher's name) brought her boyfriend last year to all the dances.

Students: Yeah! Who, Ms. Waterhouse? Come on!

Me: Fine. I suppose I'd bring my friend Jason.

Students: Whoo!

Sean: So are you bringing him?

Me: No. He lives in DC.

Sean: We can call him for you, Ms. Waterhouse. We'll ask him for you. Who's got a cell phone with reception here?

Cody: (Scoffs) That's so junior high! 'My teacher wants to know if you'd go to the dance with her.'

Sean: Would he say yes, Ms. Waterhouse?

Me: Given the price of plane tickets, probably not.

Kalen: What if we paid for his ticket?

Sean: Yeah! If we pooled our money and paid for his plane ticket, would you bring him to dance with you?

Me: (Re-directing) Okay, and that's us! Let's talk about the field trip next week....

That evening, Jason happens to call to discuss other matters and I relate his narrow brush with chaperoning duties. He enjoys the tale, and says that if they pay for it, he's game for a free trip to Denver.

The next day, same setting.

Me: Guess what? I talked to my friend Jason last night. He says if you pay for his plane ticket, he'll come to the dance.

Sean: If we do, will you make out with him?

And... scene.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

In Our Lovely Deseret

Turns out that interview did become an article - they just bumped it to the Deseret News proper!

It seems email interviews are the way to go - my quotations are much more accurate and eloquent-sounding when I get to write them.

Click here for the full article, if you like.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

See You in the Funny Papers

Given the press I was getting a year ago, the wording of this headline might not have been the best choice (warning - it's just a photo of the front page. They're not quite up to having the paper online in little Mountain Town).

Still, it's a decent article and I hope it will get me a little more street cred in the community.

I've been checking The Mormon Times, but it's been two weeks and there's still no sign of the article I was interviewed for before. Perhaps my answers weren't spiritual enough. They do, however, have an article on how to sneak healthy food into your family's meals, so at least there's that.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

You Oughta Be in Pictures

I'm in GJ this evening. My parents and I drove back from Cedar City today, following a delightful quick weekend trip.

We arrived on Friday just before the last performance of "Waves". It was a good performance - I made a list as I watched of things I wanted to change. Most of them were items on my list already, so this was a nice confirmation of my thoughts from two weeks ago. The audience was incredibly nice - very positive comments, very enthusiastic about the show and its effects. So, yay!

For me, the joy was in the people who were kind enough to come see it - my parents, Andy and Jenn, Grandma Cook, Teresa and Nick, and Kelley all came to see it, and it means the world to me that they would come to see this thing I helped make.

It was also fun to see my new USF friends again, too. It was too quick, and I know I probably won't see them again, but they made for a wonderfully friendly "Welcome Home"-type of feeling.

Teresa, Nick, Kelley, and Grandma took off pretty quick, but I got to hang out with the rest of the family until Sunday morning. We went to the three Shakespeare plays (second viewings for me, but still enjoyable because 1) they're good shows and 2) I got to watch them with company and discuss afterwards), checked out a candy and nut store, and generally enjoyed each other's company.

Here's some pictures from the event, mostly courtesy mon pere:

USF Banners

The Auditorium Theater, where my show played:
Auditorium Theater

The NAPP Plays

That's me!
Hey, That's Me!

Look! I'm an emerging playwright!
An Emerging Playwright


Diane, one of my hosts for the week:
Diane and Me

These are the crane bookmarks I made for the cast and crew as thank-yous. Cute, huh?
Crane Bookmarks

We took the long way home so we could see Cedar Breaks:
Cedar Breaks

And we stopped off in Thompson Springs to check out the petroglyphs:
Petroglyphs and Clouds

P.S. Get this - twice people came up to me later that weekend to say how much they liked my show. I've got fans!

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Isn't This Better?

A year ago I held my first speech team meeting.

The room was packed with somber-looking kids and a few worried-looking parents. It took a lot of courage, manufactured enthusiasm, and a bit of love 'n' logic to get through that meeting. The kids were upset about their beloved teacher leaving them, mad at the decision to get rid of overnight meets, angry about things being different than before, and very uncertain about this new teacher who was the face of all this bad stuff.

There were tears, yelling, cries for rallying on Facebook, and a grumblings about me being the wrong choice for the job. It led to weeks of answering emails, reading the anger in the local paper, constantly reassuring parents and students and administrators, all while trying to get the season off and running.

But that was a year ago.

Today was the first speech team meeting of the new season. The crowd was a little smaller, but the kids were ecstatic to be together again and moved when I asked them to sit in a circle with smiles and a sense of routine. We ran through the agenda, laughed, and argued over the hoodie design in a speech-y way. I signed a bunch of bus passes and dismissed them amid cheers for a great season ahead. Then I was swamped by kids who wanted to show me potential pieces, ask questions, and, mostly, tell me about their summers and get some validation through repeating shared jokes from last year.

I'm calling it a win.