Monday, January 31, 2011

Cold Feets

Tomorrow's high here in Mountain Town?


Happily, it was that plus the 4-10 inches of snow in the forecast that led our superintendent to declare tomorrow a snow day shortly after we all skedaddled out of school today.


Boy, do I need it. I've still tired from the speech meets and all. In fact, I had moved up to Mountain Town for the week last night in part because of the forecast and in part because I get to sleep in an extra hour up here.

So Natasha and I are going to spend a delightful day off tomorrow. Plans include enjoying selections from my Netflix queue (like The Secret of Kells), reading The Weird Sisters, working on Making Waves, and doing some serious price-comparison itineraries for trip possibilities for this summer (round trip to New Zealand for $1160! That's less than to Madrid! Oh, the possibilities!).

As you can see, it will be a busy day. So long as the power holds, that is.

By the way, the speech meet went pretty well. We got 25 awards all together. 12 students made it into the finalists rounds (i.e. top 6). One girl won Best of Event for Creative Storytelling, and the rest got mostly 2nd or 4th in various events. Not as good as last year, but certainly not bad either.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

People Will Say We're In Love

When I boarded the bus this morning, my students greeted me by raising their fists and shouting, "Hail Waterhouse!"

I've decided I'm okay with that.

Friday, January 28, 2011

And They're Off

Hello from the 2011 State Festival Speech Meet!

I'm in the ballot room at the moment. Today my job is to stuff ballots, i.e. sort the completed judging sheets into the folders for each school.

On one hand, it's a dull job as there's not much to do until the ballots come in. Even then there won't be much to do, since they've got three of us in here.

On the other hand, it puts me in a prime place to see how my kids are doing each round. So that's something.

I have 25 kids here today. Not bad, considering. It was a bit of a rush getting out of school. Ruth had always left after 2nd period and let the kids get lunch down here. I opted this year to wait until after the kids finished lunch at school to come down. Two reasons:
1) The kids who are on free lunch would actualy get to eat withouut worrying about paying for food out and
2) I would only have to get a teacher to cover one class of mine instead of 2.

Still, it was a rush to get down here in time. I'll have to reconsider that plan next year.

In any case, we're here until about 9pm tomorrow night. And while I'm here, I'm going to tell you a little more about Speech.

There are actually several different types of events students can compete in. Each state tends to pick its own, so there is some variation. In Colorado, there's even further division according to school size - we're under 1440 (we're actually at about 450 this year), so that means we compete in the Festival group of schools. Here's a break-down of the Festival Speech Events:

Interpretation of Literature (Drama, Humor, or Poetry)
In this event, students "interpret" a piece of literature orally. They must read from a script (although most have it memorized by now), the piece must come from a published source, it must ber 10 minutes long (most are around 8-9), and they are restricted to "minimal movement."

This year my students are competing with selections from The Green Mile, The Hobbit, Love Bites, Life Among the Savages, The Hunger Games, some creepy murderer book I don't recall the title of, and some kinda-funny book about a girl stalking a boy she met in math class. The poems are from Rives, Taylor Mali, Roald Dahl, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

They've done decently in those categories, but Poetry's the strongest this year. My Rives girl and my Mali girl have been trading 1sts back and forth since the start of the season. Yay slam poetry!

Impromptu Speaking
In this event, students draw three topics; a word, a phrase, and a sentence. One of those must be a current event. For example:

No internet in Egypt
You get what you pay for.

And they get 5 minutes to prepare a 3-5 minute speech on that topic. They are allowed 1 3x5 notecard to use for prep and while speaking.

It's a popular event for beginning speechers, since they think that it's less work than an interp round. Impromptu-ers are also the worst about showing up for practice, since they "don't have anything to practice." Au contraire! And it shows - the ones who work with me on how to plan out a speech quickly, how to organize your thoughts and arguments, how to reach the 3-mminute mark, how to deliver your speech, how to move appropriately, how to hook your judge and create a call-too-arms, and so on inevitablly do better at meet. Funny how that is.

Impromptu is very similar to the other "draw" event...

Creative Storytelling
CST attracts the same kind of students as Impromptu. In this one, the students get 15 minutes to prepare and act out a story based on one of three prompts that consist of a character, a setting, and a situation. For example:

Character: A hotdog vendor
Setting: On a street corner in New York City at lunchtime
Situation: At the peak of the lunch rush you discover that your wedding ring has fallen into the vat of hotdogs.

You have 3-5 minutes to tell/act out that story. And it is more about acting than speechifying. Most of the events are, actually.

Original Oratory
OO is probably what you imagine when you think about competing in speech. The students research and write a 7-10 minute speech on a topic of their choice, then deliver it from memory. This year's topics from my team are The Coffee Trade, White Slavery, Ducktales, and Youtube addicts. My Coffee girl had won a lot of awards this year, but then she's been competing in OO all of her high school career and she usually wins. The others are all strong speakers, too, so we've got a good chance in this category.

Solo Acting
... is a 7-10 minute monologue performance. it's a tricky one to find material for, since it's rare in theater to have a character give such a long monologue. One of the rules is that you "must retain the original persona" - in other words, you can't play more than one character. As a result, a lot of competitors pick schitzophrenic pieces so they can be flashier for the judges. I think it's a stupid rule myself. I have two kids in this category who have held their own all year, including some firsts - a girl doing a piece from Wintergirls and a boy doing Paul's monologue from A Chorus Line.

Duet Acting ( Dramatic or Humorous)
These events are scenes, basically. My kids are doing the Alcyoone and Ceyx myth from Zimmerman's Metamorphoses (and they've taken first almost all year with it), a scene from Miller's Playing for Time, a reduced version of the Reduced Shakespeare Company's Complete Hollywood, and a shortened version of Alan Ackburn's The Boy Who Fell Into a Book. These are probably our strongest categories this year, actually.

And, finally, there's debate. At Festival we have two kinds:

Public Forum Debate
...which none of my kids are doing. It's in teams of two and they debate a topic that's released monthly. The idea is that they should debate it without debate jargon - it should be for the "public." That doesn't really happen, though. The other type...

One-on-One Value Debate
... is where two competitors go head-to-head to debate a topic that they are given 1/2 hour before the debate. They don't get any resources to prep with, so the arguments are based on their prior knowledge and are written for them to argue a value rather than a policy. Something like "After-school activities detract from high school students' academic achievements."

I have two students doing it 1:1, both of whom are sorta new at it. One's a sophomore, though, and once he gets some more history classes under his belt, he'll be great.

And there you have it. That's what my students are doing right now and what I've been spending my after-school hours and weekends doing since August. I think we'll do well today, but theree's really no way to tell since the judging is pretty completely subjective anyway.

Still, fingers crossed!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

You Boys Are Gonna Get Me In So Much Trouble

As I mentioned previously, I am dutifully persuing my goal to be more outgoing in the hopes of actually going on date-like outings. Naturally, given my work schedule for 10 months of the year and travel schedule for the other two, "outgoing" means "trying to meet people online".

Annie gave me some very good advice when I bemoaned the awkwardness of writing profiles about yourself earlier this week. Rather than trying to "tell us a little more about yourself and what you're looking for in a match," I'm telling a travel story. After all, my tale of fighting a monkey on top of a waterfall does a much better job showing who I am than something along the lines of "So, I'm a high school teacher? Who likes to travel? And reads a lot?"

After cutting my 7000+ characters blog entry down to less than 2000 characters (Whoo!) I finished my profile last night. I even found a headshot I tolerate (which is an entirely different issue. Turns out, I don't like any pictures of me taken in the last seven years. Or rather, I don't like any pictures of me when looked at with the intention of trying to convince someone to want to know me. If you already know me in person, no problem. You can see me covered with blood, sweat, or Shakespeare. But if you've never met me before, well, I just don't have anything picture-wise that I think makes me look attractive enough to click "yes").

But then I hit the wall of "Oh, yeah, this stuff costs money." A lot. wants $50 for a one-month membership. So, I'll put that on hold until either 1) I decide that their service is worth it and/or 2) they offer a truly great sale.

In the meantime, I've been thinking about what kind of person I am interested in. One recent conundrum aired by internet "dating" by is how very much the pond shrinks with the Mormons-only restrictions. I don't know how to solve that pickle yet - if the choice is between not marrying at all and marrying someone outside of my faith... well, I just don't know.

What I do know is how much I like nerds. Don't get me wrong, this kind of thing is also very nice:

But what does it say when I like the fact he mentioned the mighty sequoias of the Redwood forest more than his abs?

It means I like nerds, my friends. You want to see hot? Watch this. (Sadly, embedding is verboten.)

Categorizing your home library? HOT.

That's John Green, author of one of my very favorite YA novels, Looking for Alaska. One of my speech kids is doing an Original Oratory at State tomorrow all about the glories of YouTube. At the top of her arguments is the awesomeness of nerdfighters. I have read all of Green's books, but I was not aware of his vlogging goals. Hence my research and subsequent attraction reveries tonight.

So here's the question: Where are the single nerdy LDS boys my age hiding?

And the scarier, bigger question: If they do exist, would they even be interested in me?

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


For my upcoming spring break, I get to go visit Emily and Co. again. After all, it was a pretty great trip last year, so why not?

Happily, Emily is not only okay with my inviting myself up for a visit, she is a fabulous adventure-planner. Shortly after I booked my plane tickets, Emily and I had the following email exchange, which I submit to you now as evidence for why she remains one of my very favorite people:

(Click for easier viewing)

Monday, January 24, 2011


1. I'm very tired, so this will be an unthoughtout post.

2. I'm tired because of the speech meet last weekend. It was an overnighter again, this time in Brush. The meet was understaffed for judges, too, so it went long. Essentially, I worked from 7 AM Friday until 10 PM Saturday.

3. The kids did pretty well, though. We took first in the duet humor, duet drama, and poetry categories, plus a bunch of other awards, so yay.

4. I was very good and got up for church on Sunday, too.

5. I got a new calling in church a few weeks ago - they wanted me to teach the 4 and 5 year olds. Not my ideal, but I'm starting to get in the groove of figuring out how to plan for teaching the squirmy little things.

6. (For example - I brought a bagful of scarves and we acted out the story of Moses to learn about the 10 commandments. I especially liked it when the girl playing Moses flung the sparkly red scarf around her neck and announced to the Israelites, "I'm a fancy lady!" as she flounced her way across our pretend desert.)

7. But then they called me in after church Sunday to say they wanted me to switch jobs. Now I'm going to be playing the piano in Relief Society.

8. I'm really, really glad they didn't make me Relief Society president again. I'm rusty on the piano, but that I can handle right now.

9. The state speech meet is this Friday and Saturday. I'm hoping I'll have time for a nap on Sunday.

10. I spent my naptime last Sunday having lengthy perplexing and intriguing discussions by phone with friends.

11. CU Boulder's Theater Department is doing Rent next month. I'm organizing an evening field trip to see it.

12. 52 students have signed up so far.

13. We might have to take two buses. To Boulder. In February. At night.

14. I decided we'd leave for the show an hour early, departing right after rehearsal that day. This is largely because I want to release them onto Pearl Street for dinner. Because Pearl Street is awesome, and they need to figure that out.

15. I am completely dissatisfied with the LDS dating sites. They are ad-ridden and fruitless.

16. Jennifer suggested I try I've taken the personality test, but am stumped by the final pages where I'm supposed to
a) Write a headline for myself (2-128 characters) and
b) Write an essay about myself and what type of person I'm looking for (200-2000 characters).

17. Complete writer's block and general annoyance at the perpetuating pick-up-line-iness of the "headline." Really, ew.

18. (And for my wealth of married friends out there who have expressed envy over my summers of travel, I hereby point out that you do not have to write a headline for yourself, write an essay about who you want to date, nor do you have to find a photo of yourself that will not make someone immediately decide against getting to know you better. I call the game severely in your favors.)

19. The musical's going well. No issues with the double casts, from what I can tell. So, yay! They ran through the opening dance today, which Rachel taught them last Thursday. And they remembered it! They needed a lot of polishing, and we practiced being more like Martha Graham, but really not bad for a three-day gap.

20. Three cold sores in the last two weeks. I'm just sayin'.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


We got different kinds of alerts at DPJH and STMS.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Once a Year Day

I've decided that the reason I'm not that neat is actually because I'm far too neat.

See, it's not that I'm messy. No, it's that I like things to be totally and completely clean and organized and labeled and awesome. And since I hardly ever have time for that level of cleaning, I choose a disgruntled hardly clean instead.

In any case, I am putting my day off to good use. I was going to go to DC this weekend to see Arabian Nights at the Arena Stage, but I just couldn't bring myself to spend $500 on a short weekend trip (shakes fist Plane fare!!). So, I am getting somewhat organized instead. I have cleaned all of my dishes (which, given that my dishwasher broke 7 months ago, is a big feat) (I should clarify that I do not mean that I haven't done my dishes in 7 months, but rather that it's a far more time-consuming job than simply loading-and-unloading a machine), vacuumed, fixed a broken curtain rod, reorganized part of my bedroom, sorted out a boxful of clothes for Goodwill, and I'm on laundry load #7 (some of that included the towels and sheets from our Christmas in Mountain Town) (Oh! And, Rachel, I found a red-and-black-striped baby legwarmer tangled in the sheets. I'll bring it by next time I'm up your way).

My exciting evening plans include ironing and ... actually, that's pretty much it. There's quite a load to be ironed. But I do plan on watching a movie while ironing. So that's something.

Really, it's nice to have a day when I'm rested and able to do all these sorts of things. I've got speech meets the next two weekends, including the big state competition, so it's nice to have clothes and such already taken care of. I have so many more household projects I'd like to do today - updating and hanging family pictures, organizing my craft room, filing papers, and so on. But the sun's already setting, so they will have to wait for my next non-traveling three-day weekend. Which will be...

...Hm. Well. Maybe this summer this'll be me:

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Where Do I Go From Here?

I'm working on summer travel plans. Jason and I are planning on doing a trip together, and we've ruled out the more expensive options (Egypt, Israel, Ireland).

The current idea is Canada. Not the entire country, but maybe Toronto, Montreal, and Quebec? The Montreal Jazz festival is going on during one of our possible chunks of time (in fact, Pink Martini and Madeleine Peyroux are playing at times when we could go), and there's this that also looks enticing.

I'm not as excited about this as I have been about past trips, but I think that's just because a) it's not that adventurous and b) Canada hasn't been at the top of my travel list. Sure, it's on there (but then what place isn't?).

So, I'm wondering. What do you know of Eastern Canada? Any recommendations? Things we simply must do? Any adventures-in-the-making to rival a Turkish bath or a monkey fight? (And I did look into the Hotel de Glace, but alas, it closes at the end of March for the season.)

O, Canada!

Simple Joys

Step 1: Make this bread.

Step 2: While making said bread, marvel at the incredible deliciousness that comes from such simple ingredients - water, flour, yeast, and salt. Feel connected to the mankind through the ages as you knead the bread. Don't knead the bread because you need to, but rather knead the bread because you like to pretend you're a farm girl in rural 12th Century England making bread for your bairns.

Step 3: About 10 minutes before the bread is done, pull it out and slather it with butter. Because, as the sign in my parents' kitchen states, "Du beurre, du beurre, et encore du beurre."

Step 4: Eat bread.

Step 5: Eat more bread. You'll want to, trust me.

Step 6: A day or two later, assuming you pried yourself away from the warm buttery crustiness before it was all gone, slice the bread on the thin side. Put on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Then slice a tomato really thin and lay that on top of the bread. If you wanna, top with a little shredded good cheese.

Step 7: Bake at 325 until it's good.

Step 8: It's really good.

And it's so dang simple.

P.S. I thought about taking a picture but a) I was feeling guilty since I knew it wouldn't be as pretty as the bread is tasty and b) I was hungry.

P.P.S. Natasha's version of Simple Joys: Catnip toy + fireplace. That is all.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Back in the Saddle Again

Hello from Limon, Colorado!

I'm at a hotel there in preparation for a speech meet tomorrow. To be more precise, I'm in a lawn chair in a corner of the swimming pool room at a hotel in Limon. I'm on pool duty, watching a gaggle of girls and one boy splash each other. I've positioned myself so I can see through the window into the exercise room where another 5 of my students are working out. Hopefully, they'll all tire themselves out shortly and move into the breakfast room that the hotel has so kindly opened up for us to practice in.

Since I can't swim nor can I go out on the town ("town," I should say) and since the hotel has wifi, I thought it would be a good time to inaugurate my iPad & keyboard's bloggingness. How''s it looking?

Reallly, I've been almost shamefully attached to my iPad. I love using it to watch tv shows on, especially while working out since it easily rests on my elliptical's "dock" - better than a book and certainly better than a laptop. I went without it all day at school today, and I missed it. Then again, I did watch old episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer while I was working most of the day yesterday. A fun background to work to, but I had to turn down the volume on occasion lest the passing teachers wonder what those screens and stabbing noises coming from my room were. During a normal school day, sure, but when I'm akone in the room? Strange.

So, today was the first day of classes for this semester. Since our school is on a non-alternating block schedule, that means everybody has all new classes.

I have 1st period consultation. It could be good for getting me to eat breakfast, but it does mean I work straight through the rest of the day without a break.

2nd period is Humanities. A very different vibe this year. There's quite the spread between all the grades (4 freshmen, 3 sophomores, 2 juniors, 5 seniorss), whiich will make it harder what with trhe range of prior knowledge. However, 1) the class will probably grow in size over the next few days and 2) the kids were really great at discussions AND almost all of them have been to at least one art museum before..

After the usual preliminaries, I showed them the Discovery Channel's "The World is Just Awesome" video (boom diada) and "Where the Hell is Matt?" We talked about what those videos meant about the world, then I asked them whether the second video was "Art." That lead to an activity where I showed them a series of 24 other things that may or may not qualify as "Art" and had them write for each one whether they thought it was. Most of the things were from a slideshow I put together last year to introduce 20th century art. It's a hodge-podge of stuff, and I was pleased to hear how many of the item from the Denver Art Museum the kids recognized.

We spent the rest of the period discussing what was art. Ahd they got reallly into it! They tackled questions like
- Is art always beautiful?
- Is art more about the object or the process?
- Does the art or the idea come first?
- Can art change society?
and so on with thoughtfullness, disseention, and with good examples to back up their arguments. A few complained about having to talk about hard things, but even they had good things to contribute.

In short, I think it will be good. One of the freshmen had me later in the day, and she came running into the class to tell me how much she likes Humanities. Well, good!

3rd period is Advanced Drama. For the first time here, I've been strict with the counselors about who gets enrolled in that. As a result, I have a class of 26 kids who have all had drama before. Most were with me, although there are three who took it with Ruth as freshmen.. They were so, SO excited to be there, to know what they were doing, to hear what comes next. Itr'll be an interesting and exhausting group.

Lunch was next. Between cleaning up the last class, setting up the next one, and helping a duop team practice their speech piece, I had about 5 bites of soup while putting the finishing touches on my sub plans for tomorrow. A few of the kids who had be last term pointed out my fondness for missing the first days of class. They couldn't complain too much, though, since most of them were coming with me to the speech meet.

I finish the day with Intro to Drama. A lot of the speech freshmen from the class last term signed up for this class, too. I explained at the beginning how speech was a Venn diagram bubble completely encompassed in the bubble of theater, and that therefore there would be soome repeats of activities. Over and over again they kept asking to do stuff - "Can we play Hunter-Hunted" "Can we do dinosaurs?" "Can we sing the Belly Button Song?" "Can we do the Romeo, Romeo speech?" "Can you do the flying squirrel?" I chastised them, saying I had a plan, alll willl be revealed in its due course, and pointed out that they didn't get to learn all of that the first of class last year. "You weren't here the first day of class last year!" they exclaimed.

It's down to four in the pool noiw, and it's almost 8. I'm going to start herding them towards rehearsing. Bon nuit, and thanks, parents o' mine, for the mobile blogging hookups!

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

White Christmas

One advantage to holding Christmas a week later than the rest of the world is that it timed out beautifully for a snowstorm. We were all safely tucked in at the Mountain Town condo when it started to snow. Mom, Dad, Ben, and I did venture out to the local hardware store for a ladder in the afternoon and had a little trouble getting back up the hill to the condo. Fortunately, we had snow chains in the back. First use of chains this school year! Whoo!

We had a grand morning of opening presents and enjoying each others' company. We were all well and duly spoiled (new iPhones!) and shared in the awesomeness of handmade gifts (A mini-bomber jacket for Jack! Cigar-box guitars for Ben and Andy! "Blanket Statements" for me and Andy!).

It was cleared up enough to head back down the mountain the next day, but our planned activities were curbed by rotten roads. We did a little shopping, ate some seafood, and enjoyed an ice cream cake in honor of Ben's birthday.

All in all, it was a splendid couple of days with the whole family together. I've also enjoyed having a few days tacked on the end of the vacation - I slept in, got my haircut, ran errands, did some housework, and watched some Ally McBeal and Buffy the Vampire Slayer on my iPad (yay Hulu Plus!). Love it.

School starts again tomorrow with a teacher work day. I've got sub plans to make since we've got a speech meet on Friday. Nothing like missing the second day of new classes, yeah?

My cat is chewing on my arm. I think she wants attention.