Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Everybody's Gotta Be Somewhere

Just a quick check-in tonight -

I got back from a fantastic weekend with Emily in Seattle yesterday. Hanging out with her and her family was tons of fun, and I'll tell you all about it after I get back from my next adventure.

Happy Spring!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Spring, Spring, Spring


AND they called it tonight at 9:00, instead of waiting for 5:30 AM. Given the four inches of snow outside my balcony already in the last two hours, they could have called it a while ago. But I'll take what I get.

AND I took a gamble and drove home today instead of staying in MT. Fourth snow day of the year, and it's the first where I get to sleep in my own bed.

AND I made cranberry apple crisp tonight. Which has nothing to do with the snow day other than the blizzard outside made me want a warm, nutty, buttery, fruity dessert.

AND I get to turn off all of my morning alarms and go to bed! And sleep as long as I want! And then get up and do laundry and pack to go see Emily!

SNOW DAY! Nuh nuh nuh nuh Nuh nuh nuh nuh SNOW DAY!

(That's the Batman theme, if you couldn't tell.)

Monday, March 22, 2010

Pretty Little Picture

Do you know Miranda? She's pretty spiffy, and I don't get to hang out with her nearly as often as I'd like to.

She threw the baby shower for my sister this weekend (along with Sarah, another awesome lady). As I predicted, it was ridiculously cute. Seriously. Just take a look at these pictures, if you don't believe me.

She also took the picture below of my sister, my mom, and me. Look at how pretty my mom is! Look at how adorable my sister is with curly hair! Look at the glimpse of the skirt that I made last weekend (without a pattern, I must add)!

Yup, Miranda's adorable. I envy her color-taste. And her macaron-making skills. And her skirts. And her camera. Is bad, my camera envy.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Mean to Me

Last Thursday the superintendent sent out an email saying (and I paraphrase):

Due to the Winter Warning forecast, tomorrow might be a school closure as a result of snow.

Now, I appreciate his attempts to communicate. Really, it's nice when the administration lets us know what's going on.

However, this was just mean. If there is a snow day, we would know it when it was called. If there's not, you just have a lot of disappointed/upset students and teachers at school on Friday, wishing for what might have been.

The drama class play was Thursday night (it went well by the students' standards, not so hot by mine). I left the school at about 9:00. There wasn't any sign of snow other than that strange, oppressive warmth that comes before a storm here. It was brewing and it was going to be a doozy. All of the parents and students were buzzing about the possible snow day at the show, asking if anyone's heard anything yet.

As I drove away, I had a dilemma. If I drove all the way home that night, I knew it wouldn't be a snow day and I'd have a hellish commute in the morning. If I stayed at the condo as planned, it'd certainly be a snow day and I'd be stuck up there.

I got dinner at the Subway at the gas station, checking my phone constantly with the hope that they'd call it early. I went to the condo, thinking that if they called it before I was asleep, I could still throw everything back into the car and head down the mountain. I went to bed with no sign of snow and a silent phone.

At 5:30 in the morning, they called a snow day.

At 10:00 that morning, I braved the roads to make it home. It wasn't the worst drive I've done (Thanksgiving '08) - there were a few times when my brakes didn't stop my car from going forward, especially on the driveway down from the condo. Fortunately, I have no pride when it comes to driving - I was totally fine with being the slowest car on the road.

Once I got home, I worked out for an episode of Torchwood, then tackled the mountain of dishes in my kitchen. My dishwasher stopped working a few weeks ago, and I've been slowly working my way through all of my dishes since then. It took me three hours (and four more episodes of Torchwood), but I cleaned and dried every one of my dishes, plus a few loads of laundry, and made lemon squares for the baby shower.

Not the most exciting of snow days, but much needed. I got to spend Saturday hanging out with my family, feeling much less guilty about the state of my house.

I was going to vacuum Saturday morning, but Rachel called me up and said, "I'm going to go get a manicure/pedicure and I want you to come," so I did that instead. See?

(Also of interest - how much I love Emma Thompson in the Harry Potter movies and how much my cat (that dark blur behind my feet) loves the fireplace)

It was a nice weekend AND! we only have four days of school to get through this week before a very-much-needed spring break.

P.S. There's a 70% chance of snow on Tuesday this week. What are the odds of another snow day?

P.P.S. One of the bishopric wives at church today grabbed my arm and said, "I have a picture in my purse of who you look like! I'll go get it!" and ran off. She caught up with me again later and presented me a picture of Neve Campbell. "You're just like her! Your mannerisms, the way your eyes scrunch up when you smile, everything!"


Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Children Sing, Priests Chant

Remember how I wanted to go to Africa? How I was all dead-set on it, this time it was going to happen, I need to go?

I've had qualms. Financial ones, specifically. Although I was prepared emotionally/spiritually to spend practically all of my savings on this trip, I just can't squelch that practical side of me. It goes against all of my instincts and upbringing to spend my savings like that.

I spent some time researching other options, and I think I've come up with one. If it comes together, I'll give you more details. Essentially, I'm thinking Thailand (I just keep flip-flopping between those two T-countries!). But this is with a different company. It's a little precarious, since unlike CCS and Pueblo Ingles, I don't know anyone who's worked with this particular company before. But I like their structure, the options they're offering, and I like that I can do at least a month's program for $500 less than 3 weeks with CCS. Plus, plane tickets to Bangkok are a heck of a lot cheaper than tickets to Dar Es Salaam. Go figure.

There's two options I'm looking at with this company. One is a "Volunteer Vacation" - a week of cultural orientation (language classes, history lectures, see the sights, visit a market, take a cooking class, etc.), then a week or more of volunteering (probably teaching English either to monks or at orphanages). The second option is a "Buddhist Immersion Experience". I would go live in a Buddhist temple, spending part of my day teaching English to the monks in the university there and part of it learning how to meditate/chant.

I think I want to do both. The first one is more what I was looking for originally - a way to get to know the culture through tourism and volunteering. But, oh! The thought of doing something as wild as "I'm going to live in a Buddhist monastery and meditate for three hours a day" - it scares me in that way that makes me want to make myself do it. Like a Turkish bath (Man, I'd do that again in a heartbeat!).

I want to discuss this more with my advisers (i.e.: my parents). I'll keep you posted, of course.

A run-down of other news:

- We're in day 6 of 8 for CSAPs right now. Aside from the political, philosophical, and pedagogical problems with state tests, they're FREAKIN' BORING!

Seriously. The students complain, and I point out that at least they get to take tests. I have to WATCH them take tests. We're not allowed to grade papers or read or do anything other than watch the students take the tests. I mean, seriously.

- My drama class is performing on Thursday. Today's run through was rather awful, and I'm still very lassiez-faire about the whole thing. Props not found, posters not made, no sound effects, many lines forgotten/unlearned, and I walk away from class each day with a general "Meh." They can do it and be awesome or they can do it and suck. Or somewhere in between. Whatever. It's their call.

- The musical on the other hand I care more about, although I'm not near panic time yet. That'll be after spring break. I worked with the soloists today. The kid playing Agwe has this amazing, deep, resonate voice. Deep as in he hits a D two octaves below middle C. And holds it all dramatically. It's really cool.

Another cast member quit this week, though. Well, quit as in stopped showing up and his friends say he's not going to do it because he wants to play rugby instead.

I told the friends to tell him he's being an irresponsible coward by not coming to tell me to my face.

Do you see why I would not make a good elementary school teacher?

- My sister's baby shower is Saturday. If the invitations are any indication, it's going to be a remarkably adorable event. I had all kinds of awesome plans for handmade gifts. Probably isn't going to happen this week. I also have awesome plans for homemade lemon squares. They will probably be from a box, if not store-bought (Oh! I can feel the female crafty-baking-bloggers wincing at those words, judging me just for typing that. The guilt! It's palpable, I tell you!).

No worries - I'll make it up to the kid by chanting at him in Thai.

Friday, March 12, 2010

By Threes

For balance after my last post, here's three pictures of things that made me happy:



A handy tip for you theater teachers out there: If you're willing to make a lot of phone calls, you can get free sheets!

I first tried this trick for my theater at DPJH a few years ago. I called about 10 hotels before hitting the jackpot - 100 free sheets! We used them for everything - painting drop cloths, giant Seussical puppets, ghosts, movie screens, all kinds of stuff.

I handed my MTHS assistants a list of 30 hotels in the greater Denver area earlier this week. They were quite dubious when I told them to ask for housekeeping and then ask if they had any sheets they could donate to a high school. That is, they doubted me until one housekeeping manager said, "Sure. How many would you like?"

And so I drove downtown today and left with 50 free sheets and an offer for more anytime I wanted them, just in time for my drama class' performance of a scene from "Funny Thing" next week. Togas, here we come!



When I bought my Vibe it was still under warranty until April. I figured I would drive it around for a few months to figure out all the kinks, then I'd take it in for repairs before the warranty ran out. With April just around the corner and a busy next few weeks, the time had come.

The problem, though, as always, is figuring out how to get around without my car. Today was a teacher work day, which meant no rehearsal, which meant I could carpool with Tiffany and John, which minimized the driving, but there was still some transportation needed.

I looked into car rentals, but at $40 a day, I was very reluctant.

Then I called the dealer I was taking my car to. They told me they would "arrange transportation" for me.

I dropped my car off last night to discover that the warranty actually covers a rental car as well! Within twenty minutes my car was in the shop and I was in a white car from Enterprise heading home. Woot!

I had a marvelously quiet work day of grading papers, 504 accommodation meetings, previewing Terry Jones' Medieval Lives episodes, and filing papers. Tiffany decided she wanted to go home early, so we took off down the mountain a little after 2:00 (man, I love teacher work days - I got tons done and we got to leave early!). I headed over to the dealer to check on my car.

My list of repairs and their results:

Brakes are squealing off and on
- They checked them and cleaned them, all's well

One of the lights in the radio's display is burned out
- They ordered in a new radio today and installed it

One of the cubbies pops open every time I go over a bump
- They tweaked it as much as they could, and have ordered a new one for a better fit

Something rattles every time the heat/cooling system's on (which was my biggest complaint - the constant rt-rt-rt-rt-rt-rt-rt sound drives me batty!)
- At first, the tech guy couldn't hear it. Then the owner of the store checked it out, and she could hear it. Then a third tech guy tried, and he could hear it, too. They think it's the blower motor, since it gets louder when they press on that. A new one is on it's way.

When I got to the shop, they were still working on it (they had asked me to swing by so I could help them identify the rattling sound, but found it right before I got there). They called Enterprise to pick up my rental for me, and I graded two more sets of assignments while I waited for them to put the dash back together. Then they washed my car for me, which was very nice and much needed after a week of peeling up the muddy hill to the MT condo, and promised to call as soon as both of the ordered parts were in.

I left to pick up said sheets without paying a dime. Best warranty ever!



This week I split my Humanities class into pairs and assigned each pair one of 14 Bible-Stories-to-Know-to-Get-Western-Culture. They had to research the story, write a summary for me, then come up with an entertaining way to teach the story to the class without using any written language, illiterate Dark Age peasants that they are.

Some of the presentations were lousy, obviously done without much thought. Some were hilarious in both good and bad ways. Some just made me want to watch a movie again (the Moses group showed the opening scene of "The Prince of Egypt"). Some made me look twice when I realized that was David Cross:

And one group made me absolutely delighted when they showed up to class toting two bags of stuffed animals, two naked Cabbage Patch Kids, a bunch of fruit, and two trees on a push cart. "It's Eden!" they said, matching my own excitement while the kids who had slacked on their projects looked on with apprehension and fear.

Don't Dream It

I had a vivid dream two nights ago. I'll spare you most of the details, since it was long and windy and manifested all kinds of school and social anxieties.

At one point, Rachel, Jason, and I stopped at an outdoor cafe in the mountains. They sat down at a wrought-iron table while I ducked inside to wash my hands, pleased that we were hanging out together. Just as I joined them again, a strange-looking elongated van pulled up alongside the cluster of tables. The middle window rolled down and a shadow inside started shooting. Simultaneously I felt two shots hit my neck, slipped from my chair while worried about Rachel, and I jerked awake (quite literally - in my sudden flailing, I flung my laptop, which had been next to me on the bed, to the floor. Luckily no damage was done.)

Ever since then my neck's been killing me. Not in a bullet-wound kind-of-way, but stiff, sore, and all kinds of muscle-y stress.


Monday, March 08, 2010

Do You Wanna Dance?

Have I told you how awesome my sister is?

Hanging out with my sister is probably my favorite perk of living in Denver. This Saturday, for example. We went to see a matinee of Alice in Wonderland (meh for the movie - aside from the occasional awesome Burtonesque visual image, this review pretty much sums up my disappointed sentiments), got dinner at Parisi's, ran to the grocery store (we both needed to), and then went back to her place to watch Every Little Step. I definitely recommend that one if you're into theater/dance (especially to you, Kelley), and not just because you get to watch Tyce Diorio not get cast because of his ego (I'll be much happier with So You Think You Can Dance when they get Susan Stroman to show them what the Broadway dance style is supposed to look like).

It was a great way to spend the latter part of the day. There just isn't that many people who would agree with my opinions on Alice AND want to watch a documentary about A Chorus Line AND share a mutual fondness for Kevin Kline just because of his turn as a Pirate King.

Sunday night I joined Rachel, Ben, the Walkers, and others at Brian's house for his annual Oscars party. Good food, snarky comments - 'twas worth staying up two hours past my bedtime.

When I dragged my tired self out of bed this morning to drive to school, the one thing I was looking forward to today was getting to see my sister again. She is choreographing three dances for our musical and has come about once a week to teach my white mountain town students some African dance moves. She covered the opening song of the show today, and I really like where it's going. Her philosophy is "If I can do the move at 7 months pregnant, you can do it!"

So we'll have at least three good dance numbers for the show, I get to watch my sister teach my students (which I get a big kick out of), and I get to see her a little during the week. There's not really a good reason for her to drive and hour and a half on her day off to teach dance to a bunch of distracted high schoolers, but I'm really glad she's doing it. 'Cause she's awesome.

P.S. For no reason other than wanting to see if they figure it out, I haven't told my students that the choreographer is my sister. It helps that we don't have the same last name and we don't look like we're related. During the first dance rehearsal, though, one girl said, "I can tell that you and Miss Mason are really good friends."

"Oh, yeah?" I said.

"Yeah. You're both very passionate. And energetic. And kind of..." (she does a move very much like Mrs. Fox describing how her son is "different.")

Which I take to be a very nice compliment.

Nobody Here But Us Chickens

I meant to brag about this a few months ago. I didn't, so I'm bragging about it now.

For the children's show my drama class performed in December, one character was supposed to gnaw her way through a bucket of chicken during her scenes. Trickily, the actress playing that part is a vegetarian.

One of the reasons I love theater is the creativity it demands of me. What other circumstances give me puzzles like that to solve?

I picked up a loaf of cheap white bread, peeled off the crusts, leaving some brown bits on for coloring, and started molding.

Fake Chicken

No chickens were harmed for our show, and she could still eat away to her heart's content. See? I am awesome.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Children and Art

I'm back from three days at the condo (I got to sleep in until 6:00! Three times!) and ready to tell you all about my Humanities class.

Some of the staff at MTHS warned me that students there tend to resent electives that aren't easy-A's. I knew the Humanities course I was planning was much more like a history class than a "just-for-fun" elective. So, I've tried to come up with at least one hands-on project for each unit we've done. I've also tried to take photos along the way so I can share!

Unit One: Pre-History

Cave Art

I hung butcher paper along the hallway outside my room and borrowed chalk from the art teacher to have the students draw symbols and icons for what's most important to them.

Unit Two: Mesopotamia


In small groups, the students created a comic-book style summary of the Epic of Gilgamesh (each group had their own tablet to do).

Unit Three: Egypt

Hunifer Grid

I laid a grid over this famous illustration from the Papyrus of Hunefer and cut the picture up into 1x1 inch squares. Each student got a 5x5 inch square to transfer their square into, without knowing what the final product looked like (I hadn't figured out how to print the original in color at school yet, so I let them pick their own colors - hence the crazy-colored product). An introduction to the Egyptian art style, the Book of the Dead, and also to the use of grid in art.

Book of Dead

I gave them a choice for their final project for the Egypt unit - either make your own Book of the Dead (with an account of your life, a description of your post-death journey, and an account of how you will be judged)

K's Death Project

or make your own tomb (containing a sarcophagus identifying you, pictures in Egyptian-style of your life, and models of any possessions you want in the after-life).

Unit Four: Greece

No photos this time, I'm afraid. I revived my Adopt-a-God project from DPJH and had them make PowerPoint presentations to cover the myths. They also worked in groups to describe their versions of a Utopian society when we talked Plato.

Unit Five: Rome

Aqueducts! 2

Big kudos to my dad for this idea and to my sister for the supplies! To demonstrate the physics of the Roman Aqueducts, the students hooked up IVs to bags of saline and played with gravity. This group was particularly proud when they figured out they could warp the tubes up around the legs of a chair and the water would still flow!

That was yesterday. Today we wrapped up Rome talking about mosaics and I turned them loose on this website to try to make their own. I also taught them about the "Print Screen" function so they could turn in their projects.

Some tried geometric patterns

while others tried to make a picture.

Their "This is hard!" comments made while they continued to click away, engrossed, made me very pleased with this activity.

With an exam on Friday and Rome wrapped up today, I hit my goal of getting us past year 0 by Midterm. Whoo!

By far their favorite project was the aqueducts. They asked if they could do stuff like that everyday. I told them that I tried to come up with something like that for each unit.

"Then we can do more!" Trey said. "Like... build a bicycle. You should give us supplies and we figure out how to make a bicycle!"

Laughing I said, "And how does that fit in?"

Trey and Nick looked at each other, thinking. "You mentioned the Renaissance. Are we going to talk about Leonardo da Vinci?"

"Of course."

"Then we can make a bicycle!"

"And flying machines!" Caedi chimed in.

Their enthusiasm for projects continued today. When I rejected their suggestion that I let them figure out how to build fire ("For pre-history!") and their pleas to show "Saw" in class (because I had cited it as an example of how people's taste for bloody shows hasn't changed), they kept thinking about it as I talked about the Colosseum today.

"We should build one of those," Nick said.

"A colosseum?" I asked.


"I don't think that'll go over well with the administration," I said.

"We can do it, like, underground. And then use it, like the Romans," he continued.

"An underground Colosseum? I don't have supplies for that."

"Nah, I mean underground like secret. That way the administration won't care."

"Ah. So the first rule of the underground Colosseum is you do not talk about the underground Colosseum?" My joke fell completely flat.

"It'll be awesome," Trey said, joining in Nick's dream. "We can spread sand and everything like the Romans."

"It would be interesting..." I said, playing along. "But who would be the emperor who decides who lives?"

Half the kids immediately volunteered; Nick vocally. "Me! I'm the one who came up with this project!"

"And who would be the slaves fighting for your entertainment?"

Seven or eight of the students said in chorus, "The freshmen."

If any of you have ideas for more aqueduct-y projects for the rest of history, do tell! I'm already planning on sticking paper on the bottom of desks to have them paint a la Sistine Chapel, but the Dark Ages come first.