Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Portrait of a Drama Teacher by a Freshman Boy

 (Kid's still getting a 21% on his final.  Cold hearted teacher that I am, last minute suck-up attempts have no effect on me!)

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Hell Week* Indeed

My "normal" job
+ musical rehearsals
+ speech practices
+ the Advanced Drama play performances (x3)
+ one of my lead actors being out sick for three days
+ a 4-day bout of some nasty virus (the flu?) for me
+ an irate and irrational woman who yelled at me for five minutes in front of students and other parents three minutes before curtain Friday
+ a 12-hour speech meet
+ a 4-hour drive to/from the meet
+ a burst pipe at the Bailey condo
+ an RS lesson I had to teach today on a subject I really don't like
= A week I'm glad is over.

I am thrilled, however, that for once there was not even the whisper of snow during our performances and speech trip.  That was really very nice.


Musical Theater FTW

Sunday School today.  The topic: "The Gathering of the House of Israel".

Teacher:  Okay, let's list the sons of Israel.  Can anyone name any of them?  Without pausing for an answer, he turns his back to us and begins writing numbered blanks on the board.  I know we might not know all of them-

Me: Reuben.

Teacher:  What?

Me:  Reuben.

Teacher:  What?

Me:  Reuben.  He's the oldest son of Israel.  Reuben.

Teacher:  Oh.  Okay, good.  Any othe-

Me:  Continuing Simeon, Levi, Naphta-

Teacher: Cuts me off  Levi?

Me:  Yes.

Teacher:  No, Levi's not one of them.

Me:  Yes, he is.

Teacher:  No, he's not.

Me:  I promise you he is.

Teacher: Pauses. Hard look at me.

Me: Looks back at him, unwavering.

Teacher:  Acquiescing.  Okay, Levi.  Any others?

Other student:  Benjamin.

Another student:  Judah.

A pause.  I wait in case someone else wants to go, then:

Me: Naphtali, Isaacar, Asher, Dan, Zebulun-

Other student:  Are you looking these up?

Me:  No.  I hold up my iPad screen as proof.  We're doing "Joseph" for our musical.

The other students chuckle knowingly.  The teacher looks confused.  I'm pretty sure he has no idea what I meant by that.

Teacher:  Okay.  He writes those names on the board.  Who is missing?

Me: Gad and Joseph.

Lisa: Under her breath.  Go, go, go Joe!

Friday, December 05, 2014

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

This is What Happens When We Talk

Perhaps it's a good thing that we don't talk more often than we do, since our conversations frequently have results similar to this:

A Phone Conversation with Jason (Abridged)

Me: Happy Birthday!

Jason: Thank you!  I bought a rug!

Me:  Gasp!  Without me?

Jason: I know!

Both of Us:  Sigh... Morocco.

Jason:  I want to go to Portland.

Me:  Me too!

Both of Us:  Click, click, scroll.

(A little bit later)

Jason:  I cleared a weekend!

Me:  I booked plane tickets!

Both of Us:  Hurrah!  A trip!

Jason:  Well, good to talk to you.

Me:  You too!  See you in a different city soon!

Both of Us:  Bye!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Holiday Travel

Natasha's in that red carrier, about ready to be loaded on the charter flight we're taking to GJ for the holiday weekend.

She's done this flight a few times before, but she is as determined as ever to make sure everyone in this lobby is aware of her displeasure.

It occurs to me that my cat has flown more than some adults I know.

How sad!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

An Unexpected Weekend

My principal was sitting in his normal spot in the main office lobby greeting students when I arrived at work Friday morning.  He waved me over as soon as he saw me.  "What are you thinking about the speech meet this weekend?" he asked.

I threw my hands up.  "I don't know," I said, exasperated.  "I can't get a clear weather forecast."

"The transportation department is worried," he said.

We discussed what I knew, what he knew, what various weather reports are saying.  The meet was in Eagle, about 30 minutes past Vail, which meant driving over mountain passes no matter which route we took.  Snow was in the forecast, but not a lot of it (1-3 inches, by most reports).

During first period, my principal came to find me.  "They've got chain laws in place for both routes," he said.  "I say we call it."

I agreed, and the announcement soon went out.  The kids were disappointed, but I could barely contain my glee - I didn't have to work for the next 38 hours!  I got a weekend!

It felt a bit weird driving home Friday afternoon.  The sky was blue, the roads were dry - hardly conditions that supported a cancelled meet.

By Saturday afternoon, however, I knew that we had made the right call.  Snow fell all day Saturday, and I slipped and slid my way home from the store in the afternoon picturing all too well what a mess the roads further up the mountains must be like.  The speech team and I spent six hours on the bus trying to home from this very same meet last year in a blizzard, and I was so glad not to be repeating the experience.

Instead, I got to sleep in, work out, go to the eye doctor to update my prescriptions and order new contacts and glasses, catch up on laundry and dishes for the first time in months, and even clean out my closet to pull things for Goodwill.

This morning I skipped my ward to go to Rachel's to see Jack perform in his first Primary Program.  He waved his tie in the air like a lighter during most of the songs, spent one number closing his eyes with his hands ("pretending that I'm blind" he later explained), and only occasionally sang along.  Your typical four-year-old.  However, he also delivered a short talk he had written himself and memorized a few months ago that his teachers asked him to reprise for the program.  It put the older kids' mumbled short scripted sentences in the dust.  Four years old and speaking fluently in public?  The kid's got talent.

Not that I'm biased.

All in all, it was an unexpected lovely weekend, and a wonderful chance to rest up before musical auditions this week.

Monday, November 10, 2014

Early Halloween

In blogging earlier, I discovered I never posted this entry from last month.  Whoops!

Because I have a speech meet on Halloween proper, when Rachel invited me to join her and the fam. at their ward Halloween party, I jumped at a chance to share in a bit of the spirit.

Plus, it gave me an excuse to play with the new eyeshadows Andy and Jenn gave me for my birthday:

When I asked what I should wear, Rachel gave me a rundown on their costumes:

Jack: A knight (with awesome knitwear courtesy of Rachel)
Sam: Samwise (the hobbit)
Ben: A king
Rachel: A queen

Sensing a bit of a castle theme, I threw together a fairy godmother costume and shoved my giant poofy ballgowned-self into my car.

Here's a photo of me and Jack I stole from Rachel's blog:

Lest you are shocked by my scandalous dress (in a church, no less!), let me assure you that what appears to be bare shoulders on my part are actually the pink ribbons from the fabulous fairy wings Rachel lent me.  Please note also the red and blue fairy wand Jack made and generously let me borrow for the night.

I spent the first part of the evening coaching Jack on the various games in the cultural hall.  They included:

Doughnuts on a String
(the hands-free concept proved a bit tricky)
Bean Bag Toss
Plinko (easily the favorite)
Photo Booth Posing

and others.  Ben spent the night looking majestic:

while Sam was just freakin' adorable.  I mean, look at the little pack Rachel made him!

The second part of the event was Trunk or Treating.  I enjoyed the moment when Sam figured out just what was in that bucket of his:



Yes, please!

It was a low-key fun kind of way to enjoy the holiday, and I'm glad I got to share a bit in the festivities!

A General Update

Why, hello there.

It's snowing.  Not enough to make me worried about the drive tomorrow or the next speech meet, but enough to make it finally feel more like the Colorado autumns I'm used to and less like this 4-season freak show of the past two months.  I mean, 60-degree weather and pretty leaves that fall of their own accord and not because they get two feet of wet snow dumped on them right after they change?  Crazy.

The snow did make a pretty pattern on my tire today:

Despite the odd weather, this time of year feels familiar.  Speech is well on it's way and turning routine.  I put out the occasional fire, encourage the kids to stick to their pieces rather than dump them for new ones just because they're bored, and manage signup after signup for meet after meet.

The last meet was more eventful than I'd like.  I expected a bit of craziness - it was Halloween after all.  I firmly squashed their hopes for Trick or Treating at the hotel and offered a compromise - everyone bring some candy and we'll pool it all to share.  We wound up with a bag of candy that was slightly larger than 1/3 of a freshman:

It turned out that the booster club at the high school to which we were traveling was hosting a haunt that weekend, so after we checked into the hotel I took all but four of the kids back out again (the wimps stayed behind with my assistant coach).  I don't frequent haunts myself, but I did go through with the kids, much to their relief - I brought up the rear of the middle group, and the freshman girl in front of me repeated this pattern throughout the haunt:  
1) Shriek when something springs out,
2) Bury face in hoodie of the friend in front of her,
3) Call out "Waterhouse, are you still there?  Waterhouse!",
4) Hear my reassurances that I was in fact still there, 
5) Calm down enough to peek out from hoodie just in time for next something to spring out,
6) Repeat.

The craziness of the weekend turned a bit much when one of my students had a medical emergency during the meet that necessitated a visit from the paramedics.  She's fine, but it took me a few more days to recover from the meet than usual.

There's been a bit of fun between work - Fara and I went to see Colorado Ballet's popular production of "Dracula" (or is it "Dracula!").  It was glitzy and over-the-top and quite fun.  The fellow playing Dracula had wonderful control and the dance between him and Jonathan in Act II was one of my favorite partnerings I've seen in a while.

My Advanced Drama class and I enjoyed a matinee of "Lord of the Flies".  It was a really good production of a book I really don't like.  To my delight, they liked it far better than the production of "Molly Brown" we saw earlier in the month.  The meatier material, the better production values, being in the round, a stronger script - all excellent reasons for their preferences.  Of course, the named-except-for-briefs-and-war-paint muscular 20-year-old boys with British accents running through the aisles and flexing next to them helped as well.

We announced the musical around the same time as all of that excitement - "Joseph and the Amazing Techicolor Dreamcoat."  To make December less insane, Jesse, Rachel, and I decided to move up auditions.  Believe it or not, they're next week.  I'm excited to get that project full underway, and I'm looking forward to collaborating with Rachel and Jesse again.  I always get excited about the days when Rachel comes to my school.

Monday, October 27, 2014


It's not unusual to see deer on my commute to work, but this one made me look twice:

Like much of nature, it was difficult to capture the fleeting beauty, but I tried my best to snap a photo of the herd as I drove past:

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Now We Are 35

My birthday weekend began with a trip to Alamosa with the speech team.  While spending 7 hours on the bus wasn't an ideal way to celebrate, we did kick some serious butt at the meet.  On top of 35 awards including 7 first places (out of the 9 events we competed in), Alamosa's coach decided to give out an award to the school with the most points overall.  We won it by a landslide, much to the delight of the students.

I got home a little after 11 PM Saturday night and crashed.  When I got up the next morning, I though I was going to be a little late for church but it turned out I was super-early for Stake Conference.

The afternoon was spent doing laundry, cooking meals for the week, and talking to friends and family members on the phone who called to wish me a happy birthday.  Rachel, Ben, and the boys descended on my house to bring gifts, dinner, and a birthday pie:


They also brought chaos.  There's nothing like a couple of children to show you how incredibly not child-proof your house is.

It was really fun to see them all and celebrate.  Rachel got me a labelmaker (hurrah!) and made me a crocheted baby Groot for my desk at school (much to the delight of my students).  Ben got me a canvas print for my bathroom, which I love, and Jack made me some artwork for my fridge:

The "M" stamps are for "Manda", he explained.

After the Masons left I talked to Mom and Dad for a bit and opened their gifts.  In a revival of my childhood years in San Francisco, they got me some tap dance accessories, including a portable dance floor that Natasha immediately laid claim to:

As if that wasn't enough, Fara told me a few weeks ago that she was taking over birthday celebration plans.  All I had to do was give her a guest list and a couple of open dates, and she texted me back a bit later this cryptic message:  "We're picking you up at 6:00 PM on Monday."

I was ready and eager Monday evening to find out what they had in store.  I had no idea that my friends would find one of the best possible things to do on a Monday night.

Fara, Rachel, Tammy, Lisa, and Cindy surprised me with tickets to a quote-along viewing of The Princess Bride at the Alamo with a live screening of Cary Elwes reading from his new memoir before the film and a Q&A with him after the film.  Plus, the tickets came with a slew of bonus items:

  • An inflatable sword to use during the fencing scenes (bonus points if you start out with it in your left hand), 
  • Bubbles to blow when Buttercup jumps out the window, 
  • A bell to ring whenever there's kissing (since it is a kissing book), 
  • An Alamo-exclusive souvenir pint glass with art depicting the tumble down the mountain side, and 
  • A signed copy of Elwes' new book.

It was ridiculously fun.  I've never seen it on the big screen (and, oh, the textiles!  I did not appreciate the use of trim in those costumes when I watched that movie as a youngster), and I loved seeing it in a room full of fans.  There were even people in costume.

Truly, my friends outdid themselves.  Fara told me her first suggestion to the group was that we all go paint vaginas on dinner plates a la Judy Chicago (an excellent example of why I like Fara so much), but "that idea flatlined."  I assured her that this was absolutely perfect.  It made my month that I got get together with such good friends to fan girl over Cary Elwes (and Mandy Patinkin and Wallace Shawn.  Yes, he's short, but he's a writer, an Oxford alum, and a Fulbright teacher so he also = HAWT.)

This pretty much sums up how I feel about the entire occasion:

Friday, October 24, 2014

For the First Time in Forever

During Check In for Speech class:

"Hi, I'm Waterhouse, and I'm super excited that we don't have a speech meet this weekend."

Gasps of (mostly) mock shock and horror from the students.

"But, Waterhouse!  Don't you love us?" they exclaim.

"Those two things are not mutually exclusive," I say.

"How can you say that?" they exclaim.

"I can still love you and want two days away from you," I say.

"But what will you do without us?" they ask.

"Not speech!" I say.

Hello, weekend.  I've missed you.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


A member of my church's stake presidency stopped by on Sunday to visit with me.  He asked me to be a member of the stake's mid-single committee (i.e. adults aged 31-45).

I told him I was concerned about the time commitment.  He said it wouldn't be much - a monthly meeting and the occasional activity.

"Here's the thing," I said.  "I'm a high school teacher, and I am the theater director and the speech coach at my school.  That means that from October to the end of January, I work pretty much every weekend.  I wouldn't be able to commit to any activities on Fridays or Saturdays during that time."  I didn't bother mentioning the long weekdays, the musical, or my habit of running away every summer for weeks on end.

He said he'd have to think about that and get back to me.  I told him I understood and walked him back to my door.  As I opened it, he turned back.  "So that sounds like a fun hobby," he said.

"What does?" I asked.

"That speech and theater thing," he said.  "Quite the hobby."

I dropped some of my conversational politeness in my surprise.  "It's not a hobby," I said flatly.  "It's my career."

He left after that, but I find his off-hand remark so belittling, so insulting, that I'm having a hard time letting it go.

It doesn't help that he said this at a time when I am wondering whether I can even continue as a teacher.  With my own district continuing to shrink in population and in funding and with districts across the nation moving more and more towards using standardized tests to determine not only what teachers should be paid but what should be taught, I cannot say with any certainty that I can hold this job for the rest of my working life, let alone for the next ten years.

I don't know if theater teachers will still exist in the public schools in the near future, and I don't think I want to keep teaching if all I teach is English.  Public education is changing.  It's changing dramatically, and I'm weighing the wisdom of waiting to see how long my position lasts against getting out ahead of the game.  Suddenly I find myself wondering something I thought I'd already decided:

What do I want to be when I grow up?

Honestly, I want to be a teacher.  I want to teach theater and Humanities and, heck, even speech and debate.  I want to do what I'm doing now, ideally with a bit more money and a few less hours riding a school bus.

I want to be a teacher, but I no longer think that'll always be an option.

But if I'm not a teacher, what am I?

I Have Spirit!

It's football season, which means it's time to play dress up!

I'm referring, of course, to the bi-annual high school spirit week, which necessitates a series of themed costumes.

While I abstained as usual from the ever-popular "jersey day," I do feel compelled to participate in the other costumes of the week.  One of them posed a bit of a challenge this year, though: Superhero Day.

I pondered out loud what I should wear as Tiffany and I drove home from school the day before.  "Just tie a sheet around your neck and call it good," she said.

Clearly, she did not understand the obligations I am under as The Drama Teacher.  Tie a sheet around my neck?  Really?  Without creating a personalized decal in color-coordinating fabric and lining the entire thing in something shiny first?  I mean, has she even met me?

I banished the thought of a cape.  It was too obvious, and it's not yet the time of year when my sewing machine stays on my kitchen table.  I needed a superhero that a) I liked and b) wore clothing that I already owned.  Then, around 8:30 PM, inspiration struck:

Black dress?  Check.

Black high-heeled boots?  Check.

Blond hair?  Well... not so much, and my blond wig was put out of commission by the last play we did.  Purple hair will have to do.

Accessories?  Hmm....  If I was going to be a vampire slayer, I needed a crucifix.  Curse my Mormon devotion!  Not a crucifix in sight.  I'll just have to make one.

My first attempt involved cutting bamboo skewers to size, wrapping them together with string, sealing the string with candle wax, then coating the whole thing with a bit of spray paint.

It turned out well:

...but then I discovered that I had no way to hang it as a pendant.

So I busted out the soldering kit and my jewelry supplies and soldered myself a cross:

It's a but rougher on the edges than the first version, but it works!

The necklace was too subtle, though.  There are plenty of students and staff at MTHS who wear crosses on a daily basis, and I wanted to stand out.

I needed a stake.

And that's how I wound up using a butcher knife to whittle the handle of my meat mallet to a point:

But to too much of a point.  It was for school after all:

I spray-painted the rest of the meat mallet handle to give it more of a "fresh stick" look, and my accessories were done!

It was subtle enough that many students didn't even realize I was in costume until I pulled Mr. Pointy out of my boot.  They liked it, and were impressed by my soldering.  "I can picture you spending your weekend making props like this," one of them commented as he admired my rough carving.

"The weekend?" I scoffed.  "Try 10:00 PM last night!"

Such is my measure of devotion  - enough to stay up late carving a fake vampire stake, but not enough to buy a sports jersey.

Monday, October 06, 2014

Zen Stress Levels

Sometime early this morning I reached a new state of stress.  I just stopped feeling all of the pressure and frustration and suddenly I was just fine.  The stack of papers to be graded and 62 unread/unanswered emails and the lack of judges for the meet this weekend were all still staring at me, but I sipped my glass of Carnation Instant Breakfast and felt totally okay about it all.

This was a nice change.  Some last week when I noticed I was developing my third cold sore in six days and my right shoulder started clicking when I rotated it from muscle tension I finally tallied what exactly was causing me so much grief.  In the last two weeks or so I have:

- Set up and run two field trips
- Arranged judges, concessions, and materials for the Home Speech Meet this Saturday
- Handled group ticket sales for eleven different shows for a dozen or so people
- Held auditions for the fall play
- Started pre-production for the musical
- Coordinated a on-site playwriting workshop for my classes and the entire English department
- Repainted the dressing rooms and backstage area
- Taught my classes
- Tried to keep on top of grading
- (Begrudgingly) accepted a new weekly detention supervision duty
- Fulfilled various church duties
- Fought off a minor cold (still ongoing)

It might be okay that I've been feeling stressed.  Or, rather, that I was feeling stressed until I found my new Zen level.

Om, etc.

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Speech Meet No. 1

 Well, the speech season has begun. Yesterday I took 25 students to a nearby high school:

And they brought home first place trophies in three events. They did very well for the first meet of the year. In fact, these are all of the students who placed in the top six:

Don't they look smart?

Because it was a novice meet, The students could only compete in the events that were totally new to them. This meant that a couple of my varsity players spent the day judging instead of competing.

I think the power may have gone to their heads.

Friday, October 03, 2014

This Year's Speech Hoodies

In case there was any doubt that geeks do speech:

At least I talked them out of capes again.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Teacher Technology Training

I'm in the midst of a Teacher Inservice Day.  As seems to be the tradition here at MTHS, the district has slated this as yet another all-day training workshop on a new program that, if tradition follows, will be obsolete in two years.

This one's extra fun since it doesn't currently support any of my course curricula.  I pointed this out to the workshop leader at the beginning of the meeting.  "Oh," she said.  "Yes.  We don't have those classes in there yet.  Could you use the World History curriculum?  Is that close enough to yours?"

"Not really," I replied.

"Well, you can just watch what your neighbors are doing instead."

My neighbors dutifully worked on their assessments for about an hour.  Then, as humans do, they gradually stopped paying attention to the presentation.  My neighbor on the left is researching trips to southeast Asia.  My neighbor on the right keeps nudging me to show me pictures of her latest Renaissance Faire exploits.

I gave up on today actually being productive a while ago.  Instead, I've been making this list in my head:

Things I am Expected to do as a Teacher
That Teacher Trainers Never Do

- State the objectives of the lesson at the beginning
- Use a pre-assessment to determine what your students already know
- Cover more than three items in two hours (seriously - two hours in and we've only looked up the website, logged in, and clicked on the first link)
- Differentiate the instruction to account for different student abilities (Man, I miss IB during days like this!)
- Adjust the environment to make sure all students have access to the materials (As gorgeous as the full-length windows in our cafeteria are, they do not make seeing the projected instructions easy)

I'm trying to be a good student.  I promise, I am.  It's just difficult when I don't have access to the examples, the instructions, the assignments, or the settings to create for my dang self what doesn't exist in the first place.

Le sigh.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Grandma Cook

My grandmother, Lois Cook, passed away two weeks ago.

I wanted to write about this sooner.  I was asked to give a speech at her funeral, something I was glad to be able to do, but for the week in-between her death and the ceremony I found that composing a blog entry in my head was muddled with composing a eulogy in my head.

The weekend in Salt Lake and the funeral itself was as nice as such things could be.  It was good to see family again; and although I miss her and I'm sad that it feels like a door has been permanently locked on one part of my life, I know that this is what she wanted.

I learned a new favorite story about her.  She was serving as Gospel Doctrine teacher in her ward.  She's done that calling before - we used to talk about her lessons when I would go over to her place for Sunday dinner, and I know that she enjoyed it.

Apparently she was called into the Bishop's office several months ago.  He told her that she was going to be released from the calling.

She said no.

That... that just doesn't happen.  It's rare to say no when they offer you a calling.  It's downright unheard of to decline leaving it.  She kept the calling for a few more months.  Then, when she was too tired to continue, she informed the bishop that now she would be released.

She was smart, stubborn, opinionated, devout, compassionate, and she was my friend.

She decided when it was time to go, but I'll still miss her.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Dig Brush Step, Dig Brush Step, Dig Brush Ball Change Dig Brush Step

One of the benefits of travel is the humility it brings.  I find that having my vocabulary reduced to less than a dozen words, my ability to understand the written and spoken words around me minimized, and my knowledge of basic etiquette and routines befeuddled works stagnant areas of my brain and reminds me how much a little kindness, patience, and assistance matters to someone in a new situation.  It's healthy to be the minority once in a while.  To be the stranger or the foreigner.

Rachel and I attended our first tap class last Wednesday, and as I struggled both with the basic moves and with being the one in the class who couldn't do even the basics, I recalled the humility in travel and realized that this class was giving me a healthy dose of humility in education.

I'm not used to being at the bottom of the class.  The studio offers classes on a rolling basis and people seem to come and go as they can, so last Wednesday's class consisted of me, Rachel, and two other women who have been taking tap for several months, possibly a year.

This meant that when the instructor, a gray-haired lean and angular man named Dennis, had each of us take turns crossing the floor to practice shuffle-flap-ing or flap-heel-toe-ing (or my least favorite: step-toe-heel-heel-step-ing which takes you backwards across the studio), Juila in a spandex skirt executed the moves with little hesitation; Maria of the Yellow Shirt tap-tapped her way across in double time with little spins thrown in every now and then; and I ventured forth slowly, skipping beats, and cursing my left foot for its inability to hit with the same volume and finality as my right foot.  According to Rachel, I also apparently twitch my hands in step with my feet, giving me a semblance to a marionette jerking on its strings.

I found myself entirely out of my comfort zone, but I was quite pleased to be there.  I was nervous and embarrassed, but I was also having fun.  It also felt really useful to be there as a teacher. Being the one who's behind, noticing which accommodations worked and which ones didn't, feeling frustrated when my mind understood perfectly what I was supposed to do and yet being unable to get my feet to do it right - these are good things to be able to recall when I go back to my comfortable classroom and encourage terrified freshman to stand up in front of everyone and act.  By 30 minutes in, I decided that every teacher should be required to take a class in a subject they know nothing about as part of professional development every few years.

I was also gratified when Dennis told Maria of the Yellow Shirt and Lithe Julia that it was my and Rachel's first tap class ever.*  They both exclaimed in disbelief (and kindness), and I breathed easier knowing that they knew we had a good reason for being so terrible.

Happily, when we returned tonight for class #2, I discovered that I actually improved!  I am still nowhere near graceful, precise, or quick; but I understood the terms Dennis threw out, I was better at the floor work, and I even recalled a bit of the combo we worked on at the end.  When I realized the hour was almost up, I was disappointed that we had to stop.  I was sweating, and I was getting it more and more.

I'm really looking forward to next week's class.

* My mother will argue that it was not my first tap class.  True, I studied tap for a bit when we lived in San Francisco.  I had to give it up when we moved to Germany,  and I truly do not recall a single thing from the class except for watching episodes of "Square One" in the back room after class, the way my shiny tan tights felt, and the fact that the two songs we performed at the recital were "That's Far Out!" and "Accentuate the Positive."

This was 26 years ago.  I think I'm justified in claiming that last Wednesday was my first tap class.

Sadly, though, I did not wear a fabulous leotard tonight like the one I had before:

Nor was Rachel wearing a tiara and puffy sleeves, although I'm certainly going to encourage her to add them to her outfit for next week.

P.S.  Rachel took a video of the combo tonight so we could practice and/or laugh at ourselves when we're tapping experts a year from now.  Head over to her blog if you want to check it out!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

New School Year, New Hair Color?

I was originally only going to keep the purple hair until the end of the school year.

Then it was just through New York.

Then it was just until after Asia/Seattle.

Then it was until the end of summer.  The school year was a good time to go back to brown, right?  It's a clean break, a time to start over.  Except the closer I got to school starting up again, the sadder I was to lose the purple.  When I tried to make an appointment with my stylist, I discovered she was on vacation all week.  The soonest I could get in was Saturday, the day after I had to report for duty.  I figured it would still work - I would be brown before I saw any students.

But the more I lamented the change, the more I wondered if I needed to change it at all.  Surely I could find the time once every few weeks to redye it ("Ha!" laughs future mid-speech-season me).  I wasn't sure if purple hair was really kosher for teachers at my school, though.  I mean, I could justify it easily when I did it since it was a result of a bet with the students - I was motivating the Promise of Tomorrow!  But now....  now it was just for me.

Since I couldn't change it beforehand anyway, I went to school Friday planning to see how my principal and superintendent reacted.

And they didn't.  Neither one said a word to me about it or even gave me a questioning glance.

And so I gleefully told my stylist Saturday, "We're keeping the purple!"

"Oh, good," she said.  "I wasn't really sure how to undo it yet."

In progress shot with judgy Luke Perry wanna-be pursing his lips at the camera

Results shot

New Things

Work started up again for me on Friday.  It seemed odd that the Powers That Be decided we teachers should come back on a Friday (the students resume next Wednesday), but it certainly made the transition more bearable knowing that I would get a weekend after just one day's work.  

Of course, it also means that we have to put in an extra-long day on Monday for Back to School Night.  That is a less-than-pleasant way to begin what will surely be an exhausting week.

Tiffany and I met up Friday morning to carpool to work.  John normally drives with us too, but he was diagnosed with a brain tumor over the summer and was operated on just last week.  Happily, his prognosis is good, but he is the second teacher at our school to be diagnosed with and operated on for a brain tumor in four months.  We only have sixteen teachers on staff, so the remarkable statistics led to many jokes at staff meeting about the need to get the water tested and/or issue foil-lined hats to the staff.

Anyway, as Tiffany and I drove up the mountain she lamented the number of things she didn't accomplish over the summer.  I thought about my own list and was pleased to discover that I didn't feel like I had any projects left undone.  I certainly traveled, I checked off the housekeeping projects I wanted to do, and I spent the last 1.5 weeks of summer (post-travel, pre-school) trying out new things.

For instance, I taught myself how to sew shirts:

This was shirt #3.  I felt more confident after the first two shirts, so I played around with the sleeves and collar and I tailored the overall shape much more than the original pattern called for.  You can see the difference if you compare it to this shot of shirt #2:

Additionally, Rachel and I together are finally doing something that's been on our lists for a while.  Can you guess what it is from this picture?

How about now?

Yup!  We're taking tap dancing!

After a lot of schedule comparison, we found a class that might work for both of us.  We're going to do a drop-in this Wednesday, which will certainly double the anxiety I'll already be dealing with for the first official day of school.  I took tap in San Francisco (so... 7 years old?  8?) but gave it up when we moved to Germany since that type of dance class was not available there.  Rachel's never taken tap and, in her words, she wants to learn enough to quit having to fake it whenever a tap number comes up for musical choreography.

I'm nervous, as I always am before things that put me squarely outside of my comfort zone, but I'm excited to try it out, especially with Rachel.  I am also thrilled that I had a good excuse to buy a pair of tap shoes.  They make such happy noises!

Blue Apron

About a month ago, one of the bloggers I follow wrote a sponsored post for a new company called Blue Apron.  A subscription to their service gets you a weekly delivery of groceries for three different meals, recipes included.  At $10 per meal, it's about what I pay normally for dinner since I tend to eat out a lot during the school year.  I decided to give it a whirl to see if this would be a good option to cook more from home.

The Wednesday after I got back from San Diego, I found this waiting for me in the afternoon:

As promised, the box was refrigerator-packed and the food could absolutely sit on my porch for several hours without being compromised.

The recipes were on top, along with a weekly letter that talked about the three meals on the menu.  The tone of the letter was a bit overly enthusiastic, although I appreciated learning that in some versions of the Prometheus myth, a branch of fennel was at the center of the infamous flame.

Here are the full contents of the box:

I especially liked the packaged bags of "knick knacks"

which turned out to mostly hold spices.  Here are the beef ones:

And here are the resulting meals:

Roasted poblano peppers, rice and beef sautee with peptias and currants topped with lime-cilantro Mexican crema

Pan-seared salmon with marinated fennel root and an heirloom potato salad made with whole-grain mustard.  I added a bit of pain Greek yogurt on the side to cut the bitterness of the fennel.

Chicken sate with jasmine rice, marinated green tomatoes, and peanut sauce

The meals were tasty, healthy, and certainly more varied than I usually get.  I liked learning how to make peanut sauce, the green tomatoes in sweetened rice vinegar were a tasty discovery and my favorite food of the week, and I cannot describe how much easier it was to only shop for food for breakfast and lunch.  I signed up for the minimum order - 2 servings each of 3 different meals - and had enough to cover 6 dinners plus a couple of lunches.

The downside to the whole endeavor is the time - the fastest meal (the last one) took 40 minutes.  I've made a few more since this first week, and generally they clock in at 45 minutes-1 hour to prep and cook.  I don't mind that so much now, but I have my doubts about my willingness and ability to sustain this when I start getting home at 6:00.

P.S.  Blue Apron just notified me that I have earned credits to give away meals to three friends/family who haven't tried them yet.  Nice!  If you're interested, shoot me an email.