Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Not Sleeping Beauty...

Dress from fancy sorority dance in college:

+ this name tag:

= A Formal Complaint.

Get it?

(It also = a costume I came up with at 11:00 PM after installing a toilet.  I couldn't go to school without one.  I'm the drama teacher.  It's practically part of my job description to dress up!)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Ascend the Throne

When I returned from DC this summer, I discovered that a seal on my toilet was leaking.

It wasn't a big deal, especially in light of the other household issues going on, but it did bug me.  No water was leaking outside of the toilet, but there was a constant, small sound of water tinkling into the tank.

I removed the tank lid and experimented with all of the parts, eventually figuring out that if I twisted one particular part, the dribbling stopped.  Unfortunately it only lasted for a flush or two, and then I had to remove the lid and twist again.

I was busy, so I lived with it for a while.  My parents took a look while they were out, and diagnosed a loose seal.  Their suggestion?  Buy a kit and replace the innards.

So that's what I did.  And, like a good blogger, I chronicled it with photographs.  Luckily for you, this turned out to be a much bigger adventure than I had planned...

Here's where I started:

Toilet Repair

That blue screw is what I kept tweaking to stop the leaking.

Until now, that is!  Now I rip out the guts and install all new ones, for I am a strong, independent woman!

While I was at it, I figured I would also replace the handles on my sink.  The plastic ones with the flimsy, easily-dirtied label caps have been bothering me for years, and I figured the toilet project would only take me an hour, two at the most.  I can totally do all of this on a Monday evening and still have time to vote and scan my insurance papers.

Toilet Repair

Farewell, plastic sink handles!

Toilet Repair

Hello, new handles and toilet innards!

Like a good repair-person, I read through the instructions a few times, then gathered the recommended tools.  I also gathered my stack of blue surgery towels.  I'm not sure why they're not included on the list.  Doesn't everyone have a stack of blue surgery towels?  They come in handy, I tell you. 

Toilet Repair

Blue surgery towels!  They're not just for retinas anymore.

I emptied out the tank, first by flushing, then by scooping water with a cup, then with blue surgery towels.  Once dry, I started loosening the screws underneath it, which made my hands look like this:

Toilet Repair

This is not the most disgusting my hands will look in this process.

Soon the tank was free and perched on the side of my bathtub for a blog photo (oddly, also not a step in the instructions.  These instructions are woefully lacking):

Toilet Repair

I flipped over the tank to dismantle the innards.  I was surprised to discover a few cracks on the bottom.  They were green and rusty brown and had obviously been puttied over by the previous owners of this house.  I didn't see any trace of the cracks on the inside, though.

Toilet Repair

Huh.  That's pretty cool that putty can prevent leaks so well!

I turned my attention to the plastic tube.  The instructions had a friendly little arrow showing how I simply unscrew it.

Not so much, friendly little arrow.  After a lot of straining and attempts with various tools, I took a set of pliers and a flathead screwdriver to it and broke it into small enough pieces that I could wedge the screwdriver between the threads and pry the whole thing apart.  'Cause I'm a tenacious, self-sufficient woman!  W-O-M-A-N!

Toilet Repair

Time for the new innards.  I measured the flush pipe, then used my hacksaw to cut it to length.

Toilet Repair

Behold!  Fitted innards!

Toilet Repair

The end was in sight, and I was pretty proud of myself.  I tightened the new screws to connect the tank back to the bowl, reconnected the water hose, and turned it on.

Water flowed and then immediately began to leak out around all of the screws.

Dang it.

I turned off the water; grabbed my wrench; sat on the floor, straddling the toilet like a three-year-old straddling a parent's leg; and started tightening the bolts.  The rubber seals were in place, so I wasn't sure why it was dripping so much water.  I gripped the bolt on the left side and twisted.

And twisted.

And twisted.

And then I heard a slow, not-so-loud cracking sound.

And then I heard a crash.

Toilet Repair

That would be a giant hole in the right side of the tank.  It seems putty is not such a great way to plug cracks in a toilet tank.  The entire corner fell out, and water was now splashing all over my floor.

Toilet Repair

More blue towels!

I sopped up the water, removed the tank again, and decided to take a break from fixing the toilet to fix my sink.

Behold!  I am a strong, capable woman!

Toilet Repair

Unfortunately, my toilet still looked like this:

Toilet Repair

Fortunately, I have a second bathroom in my apartment.  I decided to clean up what I could and then see about going to buy a new toilet.

The old tank was still sitting in the bathtub.  I hefted it out, measured it for my notes for shopping for a new one, then took it out to the patio.

Then I returned to the bathroom and discovered that the screws in the bottom of the tank had punctured two holes in my bathtub.


I was having less fun with this adventure at this point, so I did not take a picture of the holes.  Just imagine a bathtub bitten by a very large vampire, and you get the picture.

Damn vampire toilet tanks.

But I am a self-reliant woman of pioneer stock!  I have silicone on hand!

I fetched my tube and squeezed out the white goo to fill the two holes.  It was while I was leaning over the side of the tub to scrape the previous-holes smooth that I both heard and felt a pop in my ribs.

Yup.  The underwire on my bra had just snapped in two.

That's when I called it a night.  Bad things come in threes, and I had just broken my toilet, my bathtub, and my bra.  It was time to go to bed.

The next morning I compared reviews and picked out a new toilet, which I purchased online during lunch for in-store pickup after speech practice.

Toilet Repair

There was an accident on the freeway home, so I wound up sitting in traffic for 45 minutes before being diverted to a different road through the mountains that added another hour and an awful lot of switchbacks to my drive.  When the road finally spat me out near Red Rocks Amphitheater, it was almost six o'clock.  I made it to the hardware store though, and in a piece of lovely luck, the new toilet fit in my car!

Toilet Repair

However, as much as I wanted to, I couldn't take the strong young man with leather gloves who put it into my car home with me.  Which meant that once I got to my garage I had to get creative.

How does one get a very heavy new toilet into one's apartment without a strong young man with leather gloves?

With the bottom half of a yoga-ball-rolly-chair, of course!

Toilet Repair

I rolled the new toilet to my bathroom and Googled instructions for removing the old one.  They appear to be:

1.  Drain the water. (Check!)
2.  Cut the seal. (Check!)
3.  Rock from side to side until it comes off.

Um... okay.

I straddled the toilet, grabbed on, and heaved to the right.


I heaved to the left.


Once again, the strong young man with leather gloves would have been handy.

But I am a hearty, autonomous woman!  I heaved again left and right and left and right and felt a seal suddenly start to give way.  With a grunt that sent the curious cat running from my side back to her hiding place in my closet, I peeled the toilet from the ground:

Toilet Repair


The next step was to scrape away the wax ring from the hole in the ground.  I did not take any photos of this because ew, gross.  I scraped, scrubbed my hands, unwrapped the new toilet, and set the new wax ring in place before setting the new toilet in place.

Toilet Repair


Like a turkey, the new tank came with all of its innards.  I set it in place, leveled it, and fastened the bolts.

Then I connected the water hose and turned the faucet.

Success encore!  Water flowed into the tank and bowl, yet didn't flow anywhere else!

Toilet Repair

I fitted on the lid and screwed on the seat, then took a celebratory picture.

Toilet Repair

Truly, there has not been a work of art such as this since R. Mutt.

I packed up the remnants of my former toilet and used the yoga-ball-rolly-chair to haul the load out to the dumpster.  No need for a strong young man with leather gloves to hoist it up into the trash!  I am a vigorous, sui juris woman!

And thus I add a new toilet to the list of home improvements in 2012 (see also new dryer, dishwasher, floors, walls, and washer hoses).

I will also add that I may have broken a toilet tank, a bathtub, and a bra in the process, but I did not break any nails.

I'll say it again!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Students, Students Everywhere

I knew this week was a collision of schedules that would be a beast to survive, but by golly I did!  Between the Advanced Drama play Thursday night and Friday morning, the dress rehearsals and usual pre-show prep, the snowstorm that hit Thursday (because of course), an overnight speech meet in Gunnison, and a lesson to teach in Relief Society today, I am exhausted!

The good news is that it all went pretty smoothly and pretty well.  The shows were fine.  The audiences enjoyed them and the kids were pleased with themselves.  We'll do a post-mortem tomorrow that might be a little tricky to navigate - I want to let them celebrate what they did pull together but also make sure they recognize the issues with their lack of preparation/memorization.  I'm glad they're happy, though, and I'm glad to leave that show behind.

The snowstorm caused a bit of stress for the play, but I was pleased to see it pass before our trip to Gunnison.  There's a few perilous mountain passes between MTHS and there, but we had clear roads and sunny skies.  The hotel was hosting two other schools in town for the meet, which couldn't have been great for the other guests.  I kept my kids contained downstairs either swimming in the hotel pool or practicing their pieces in the conference room until bedtime to try to be as little as bother as possible.

Two of my former speechers/drama/New York kids are going to college in Gunnison, and they both stopped by Friday night to help coach the team.  It was fun to catch up with them, and they really helped out the kids.  They might be telling the students the exact same notes as I do, but when I can point to them and say, "These two are State Champions in these events," the students suddenly listen.

Karen and I herded the team upstairs and taped them in, and I stumbled to a questionably clean but most-welcomed bed around 10:00.  Then, just as I turned out the lights, I heard a loud screaming, followed by the sound of a chainsaw, then a man calling for help.  I switched the light back on and went to the window.  There, next door to the hotel, was an outdoor haunted house in full swing.

"You've got to be kidding me," I said out loud.  I stood there watching the patrons go through the maze of scenes for a while, then headed back to bed.  I thought about donning earplugs, but I needed to get up by 5:30 to wake up the team on time and I was already uncertain about my ability to hear the alarm in my exhausted state.  So I laid there listening to the pattern of noises repeating over and over until the haunted house shut down for the night.

The next morning we were up bright and early, with the exception of one room of girls who were apparently up until 3:30 AM.  It took a few rounds of knocking before one of them groggily opened the door to squint out at me with a pitch-black and quiet room behind her.  "They're still sleeping," she whispered.

I reached inside and flipped on the light switch.  "Morning ladies!" I called into the room over the groans.  "Breakfast is downstairs; bus leaves in an hour!"

They told me later that they were up late texting with the boys next door.  While this means I need to do some discipline stuff (part of their behavior contract specifies no calling/texting after 10 PM), I do have to admire the boys next door.  No grogginess or sleeping late for them - when Karen and I knocked on their door, we heard the tinny sound of "Whopum Gangnam style!" from an iPhone speaker as they flung open the door to reveal all four of them. fully dressed in suits and ties, dancing the Gangnam dance for our benefit.

That dance is all the rage for my kids.  One of them, Ben, had the idea of putting it into our class play for the part that called for a "funky dance beat".  Ben and I taught ourselves the dance, then taught it to the rest of the cast.  It was the hit of the show - the audience went nuts when Ben's character launched into it, but then when the entire cast joined him, the audience whooped and hollered and cheered.  This led to many renditions of it on the bus ride to Gunnison as well as a reprise of the dance in the middle of the cafeteria at the speech meet.

Eighteen of the 19 competitors I brought down came back with at least one award, which is pretty dandy for a group largely comprised of underclassmen competing for the first time (I make it a requirement for the speech class, so a lot of them had never been to a meet before this).  The kids were well behaved, we joked around a lot, and everyone generally had a good time.

We pulled into the MTHS parking lot a little before 9 PM Saturday night.  I had to hang out for about a half hour waiting for parents to pick up their kids, but then I loaded my bags into my car and gladly made my way down the mountain towards home, an angry cat, and most importantly, bed.  When I started to feel drowsy, I stopped off at the Sonic that's halfway home to get something to drink to keep me awake.

"Hey, Ms. Waterhouse!" the server said when he brought me out the drink.  He's a senior at my school, a kid who worked tech for one of the musicals a few years ago and who is currently dating one of my most involved speech/drama kids.

"Hi, Tyler," I replied.  It caught me off guard.  It is the closest drive-through to my school, but it is also 18 miles away from it, so I don't usually run into students there.  It's already been a student-filled week, though, so why not one or two more?

"Have a good night!" he said as he gave me my change.  "Also, Jacob says hello!"  I looked inside and saw another one of my students waving at me.  I waved back, then drove away.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

A (Somewhat Tardy) Reckoning

Now we are 33!

Friday was my birthday.  It followed a very busy (but fun!) week and is followed by a very busy (but not fun!) week, so I am a bit late and a bit rushed with my annual reckoning.

Thank you, everyone who wished me a happy day via text, email, card, Facebook message, or in person.  I am not being trite nor am I generalizing when I say that they all meant a lot to me.

Friday was a Teacher Work Day, so I spent the first part of the day in faculty meetings, then three hours hanging and focusing the lights in the auditorium, then two hours grading and entering data (end of first term!), and then I dashed down the mountain to hang out with my family because, happily, my parents came over to visit!  The last time they were out my home was a literal disaster, so I showed off my new floors and walls before we met up with Rachel, Ben, and Jack for dinner.

Birthday Sushi!

Birthday Weekend

We went to Kobe An and enjoyed a mostly private room with Japanese-style seating, delicious sushi, and very large servings of noodles:
Birthday Weekend

Dinner was followed by ice cream cake and presents at Rachel's place.

Saturday morning we headed to Rock Creek Farms up near Thornton to pick some pumpkins,
Birthday Weekend

visit farm animals,
Birthday Weekend

bounce in an inflatable castle,
Birthday Weekend

and run around on a hay bale maze.
Birthday Weekend

(My use of the plural in that sentence may be an exaggeration.)

This was followed, like all proper Waterhouse weekends, by an afternoon and evening of shopping and eating.

Sunday everyone came over to my place for bagels and visiting before heading to various homes.  Then I took a much needed nap (I was fighting cold #3 of the past few weeks).

This week I'm putting on the Advanced Drama class play (Twisted Tales of Terror, a Halloween-themed spoof) and taking the speech team on an overnight trip to Gunnison (3.5 hours of twisty roads), so things are a little crazy at the moment.  If I can just get through to Sunday afternoon, I should have a relatively easy week after that. ("Relatively" being the operative word)

But before I dash off to put together the soundtrack for the play and pack for the next three nights, here's my 33rd year in list form:

No. of Books Read: 101 (a bit more binging than the previous years)
No. of Blog Entries:  453
No. of Plays Produced: 7
No. of Performances Attended: 54
    Movies - 22
    Theater - 25
    Operas - 1
    Ballets - 1
    Concerts - 4
    Whatever The Lord of the Dance is - 1
No. of Encores by Juan Diego Florez Seen Live: 1
No. of Christkindlmarkt: 1
No. of Students I Took to New York: 10
No. of Students I Brought Home from New York: 10
No. of Floods in My Apartment: 1
No. of Hours Spent Dealing with the Flood in My Apartment: (still counting)
No. of AIDS Quilt Panels Mended: approx. 15
No. of Nights Spent in the Sahara Desert: 1
No. of Camels: 3
No. of Carpets: 2 (+ the new carpeting in my apartment)
No. of Michelin Restaurants: 7
No. of (Non-Speech-Related) Trips: 14, as follows:
  • Paris/Strasbourg, 
  • Grand Junction, 
  • Seattle/Mt. Vernon, 
  • New York, 
  • New York (encore!), 
  • Grand Junction, 
  • DC, 
  • Spain (Pueblo Ingles),
  • Morocco, 
  • Spain, 
  • Assateague, 
  • & Grand Junction
32, you had some definite highlights, but I can't say I'm sorry to see you go.

Hurrah, 33!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Results

Awards, a wee bit of sleep, and a cold

Friday, October 12, 2012

Thursday, October 11, 2012

If The Applications Called for Blog Entries Instead of Essays, I'd Be Golden

This is the photo I took this morning. Jesse and I are writing a grant to raise funding for additional stage lights, and I wanted to offer proof of the woeful nature of our current setup (seen here at full capacity).

It will be wonderful if the grant comes through, although I am regretting writing this grant on top of writing my Fulbright application. They're due at the same time, and I've got the first speech meet of the season this weekend, so my laptop's coming with me in my overnight bag.

Hopefully I'll be able to polish a few more personal essays about my professional goals while I supervise my kiddos in the hotel pool.

Yay! Multi-tasking!

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Yes, There is Such a Thing as a Pilcrow

$#@!: The Punctuation Quiz

Score: 100% (10 out of 10)

So which is geekier - my excitement over this quiz topic or my score?

Apple Blossoms

I received an email from our head custodian today that stated this:

"...More rules and regulations from the CSDSIP insurance pool. MTHS exceptions include: ...(2) Art storage rack outside Art Room needs to be relocated to a non-traffic area to protect students/staff from potential eye cuts from art work protruding from rack."

And I literally guffawed.  Those Christopher Guest movies are all too accurate.  Remember Jonathan Steinbloom from A Mighty Wind?

"I'm a little afraid of these pokey things that are sticking out."
"Apple blossoms."
"Is that what they're called?  They're at eye height. Someone could come over to sniff, admire, and poke an eye out. I'd love to clip it off."

I tried to find that clip on Youtube to no avail.  I did, however, find this likewise-familiar conversation:

Am I right, fellow techies?

Monday, October 01, 2012

There Are Giants in the Sky

Last week while waiting momentarily in the counseling office at my school, I looked at the college posters on the walls around me and suddenly panicked.  "I haven't even started my applications yet!" I thought.

And then I realized that I don't have to apply to college.  I did that already.

While my heart-rate and breathing settled back towards normal, I wondered what caused that momentary chronological confusion.  I realized that with all of the Pretty Big Stuff I've been dealing with this month/summer/year, somehow it felt wrong to hear about a major life decision that I didn't have to deal with.  It has been, as Lisa declared at dinner Thursday night, "an Old Testament year" for me.  "And it's not over yet!" she also helpfully pointed out.

It's true.  It has been a season of many waters - of oceans and tears, of flooding and derechos and rain in the desert.  It's been a season of insurance fights and camping with camels and financial loss mingled with embarrassment and heartbreak and burnout.  It has been a season of finding courage and patience and hope.

My adventures this year were made of both accidents and plans; and even now, even in the midst of fighting for insurance coverage and writing a grant for stage lights and spending hours over the last three months trying to track down a receipt to be reimbursed less than $100 and refinancing my home and teaching and coaching and directing and trying really hard to learn how to be social, even in the midst of all of that I am applying for a Fulbright Teacher Exchange for next year.

I can't help myself.  This is an opportunity to live and teach in the UK.  This is a program that my principal and my colleagues support.  This is a program that asks for this as a part of the application:

This is a program that I would love to do.

It's a really long shot.  Not only do I have to pass muster as a highly-qualified candidate, but there has to be a similarly prestigious applicant from a theater position in the UK.  It's a small, small window; and I am not getting my hopes too high up.

I am applying for it though.  You know, since I don't have to apply for college.

P.S.  I am also pretty proud of this:

And I wasn't even done yet!


I won't dwell too long on Friday's inservice training by the State Department of Education's Teacher Effectiveness Committee.  Those of you in education will be well-suited to imagine what the meeting was like based on the description alone.  I did, however, want to note three things:

1) The new teacher-effectiveness evaluation is intentionally designed for teachers to score on an average level.  "You should be getting threes," they said, referring to a 5-point scale.  "If you score fours or fives consistently, there's something wrong with the scale or with your scoring."

I cannot adequately express the horror and the stress provoked by the idea of receiving (and supposedly being satisfied with!) straight Cs.

2)  I sat next to one of my friends, the art teacher at the school.  Kathy, knowing me and these types of trainings all too well, kept a list of ten Taoist principles on her iPad for the duration of the session.  Whenever she sensed my indignation and/or stress rising, she slid the iPad my direction and eyed me until I read through the list again and calmed down enough to swallow my agitation.

She also gave me a salsa kit while I was dying of the plague last week.  Kathy is very good to me.

3) One of my colleagues asked if there would be any financial compensation for achieving high marks on this evaluation or for showing significant improvement in performance.

The State responded first by laughing and then by saying "We're hoping the culture and the working conditions will make you feel like you're a millionaire while you're making $35k."

 I choked on the water I was sipping.  Kathy slid the iPad over.

Financial Diet - Update

A month ago I decided to forgo all discretionary spending in an attempt to regain some financial stability in the wake of my notorious summer.

It's October 1st. It's time for reckoning.  I broke my rules a total of three times:

1) I paid $395 for a home appraisal in order to refinance my mortgage.

2) I spent $375 on tuition for 3 of the 6 hours of college credit required by the State of Colorado to maintain my teaching license.

3)  I spent $7 on a new broom.

So there it is.  I spent $777 this month on items other than my designated necessities.  It's not the greatest record, but I don't know if I could have done better.  My old broom really didn't work, and I have an awful lot of wood floors now.

I don't know how much I'll lighten up in October.  On one hand, my schedule only gets busier this month which makes it a lot easier to avoid unnecessary purchases.  It's also easier to resist the urge to get new jeans or new earrings or curtains for my office when I have a strict, time-specific goal to keep.  I do feel more financially secure after this lean month, especially now that my extra-duty pay for drama and speech is kicking back in.  So I think I'll keep this up a while longer, add a bit more support to my tentative fiscal optimism.