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My Students Are Afraid of Donald Trump

I’ve been afraid of Donald Trump for months. At first, it seemed ridiculous and funny, like it had to be some crazy joke. Some people were thinking he was running for president to ruin things for the Republicans and we’d all see his great master plan in the end when a Democratic president was elected because there were no other viable Republicans in the race.

I don’t believe that. I believe that he’s a racist, bigoted, power-hungry man, and the closer he gets to being our leader the more scared I get.

Recently, my 5th graders got into a presidential discussion. It began with one of them saying that Obama wasn’t going to be president soon. This caused panic with some of the kids and they asked me what was going to happen. I explained that the president could only be elected to two 4-year terms and we would be voting for a new president later this year.

One of my students said, “Are you voting for Donald Trump, Mrs. Miller?”

I looked at him and said, “Absolutely not! You could offer me one million dollars to vote for him and I wouldn’t.”

There was a group of my students who seemed relieved when I said that, and one of them said, “If he becomes president, then he’s going to send my family back to Mexico!”

This man has children and families all over worried for their future. When I heard my students discuss this fear, it broke my heart. I really hope the American people don’t elect this man as our next president. I don’t believe that he would be at all good for this country.

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Kids being kids, playing kickball

Yesterday, In A Galaxy Not So Far Away

I wasn’t always a Star Wars fan.

When I was 7 years old, my family went to see Star Wars in the theater. I remember thinking Luke was cute and wanting to be like Princess Leia, because she was both pretty and pretty strong. Yes, she did get captured, but she led the rebellion, knew her way around a gun, and wasn’t going to let any handsome scoundrel give her orders.

We saw The Empire Strikes Back and I know I was affected by it – I started writing a baseball parody called “The Umpire Strikes Back.” I lamented that my hair wasn’t long enough to put in braids like Leia. And at the age of 10 I could appreciate both Han Solo and Yoda. (I was a big Muppets fan.)

I honestly don’t remember much about watching Return of the Jedi as a child. Maybe I skipped that one? Maybe I just didn’t like it enough to remember it later on. When the movies were re-released in the 90s, I missed that one, because I was working when my husband (then boyfriend) saw it with friends. And when we were finally able to buy it on DVD, I couldn’t remember a lot of it – especially anything having to do with the Emperor.

When the prequels came out, I saw the first one with my husband. He was really excited about it, and I was curious to see how the Darth Vader story unfolded. When Episode II came out, I wasn’t super gung-ho to see it, as I was a mom of a toddler and was basically always tired. My husband really wanted to see it, so I welcomed him to see it without me and I saw it when he bought it on dvd later on. I saw Episode III on my own. I was pregnant with my youngest child and had one of THOSE days with my toddler and preschooler. My husband took one look at my tear-stained face and shooed me off to the movies and handled the kids while I ate popcorn and watched Anakin take his final steps to the Dark Side.

I liked the movie, but I didn’t fully embrace Star Wars until my son was 5 years old. (Side note: my husband’s plan was to show him episodes 1-6 in order. I suggested he start with the originals like we did. He showed my son Episode I and then agreed with me. :P )

Seeing the movies through your child’s eyes makes everything seem more exciting. Jedis, Darth Vader, ships, The Force, lightsabers… all of it! My daughters loved Princess Leia and Queen Amidala. In fact, for many years, Star Wars was well represented in our Halloween costumes.

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My son as Anakin

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One daughter as Leia, one daughter as Padme

 

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My son as Jango Fett

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My son as Anakin again and my husband (in mirror) as a Jedi

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My husband as Han Solo and my son as Luke (with Yoda)

We have really embraced Star Wars in our house, as you can see. We’ve been to conventions like these and seen Star Wars in 30 Minutes, and seen Star Wars Exhibitions and I spend time thinking about Star Wars.

So, you see my background. The Force is with our family. So of course we were all excited (and a little apprehensive, truth be told) about the new Star Wars movie – The Force Awakens. Each time a new trailer came out, we got more excited. My faith in JJ Abrams grew with each new peek at the movie.

We finally saw it on Tuesday, and we were NOT disappointed. I will not give any spoilers, but WOW. The new characters are great, but it’s so wonderful to see some old friends. I think young girls will want to be Rey just as I wanted to be Leia as a child. Young boys will think Finn and Poe are awesome (because they are), just as my husband and brothers thought Luke and Han were cool. And the bad guys are scary, just as they were in the original trilogy.

No movie is perfect, but boy oh boy – props to JJ Abrams and Lawrence Kasdan! Well done. I can’t wait to see the next episode.

Have you seen Star Wars? Did you love it? Did it live up to your expectations?

~Genevieve

 

 

Who Were Their Teachers?

Now that I am back in the classroom, whenever there’s a tragedy, a disaster, or a mass shooting, I think of things slightly differently than I used to.

As a mother, I always think of my own children’s safety first. But when I’m at school with my students, I’m thinking of their safety, too. And when a shooting happens – whether it’s armed people shooting up innocents or a cop overzealous and a little too quick to draw fire, I wonder who are their parents? Is this the type of person they thought they were raising?

And I wonder who were their teachers? Did they teach with compassion? Were they dismissed? Were they star students? Did they fade into the background? Were they always troubled? Did they always seem like normal kids?

And what do their teachers think? Do they feel that they’ve failed in some way, or are they completely surprised and taken aback? Did they even go to school? Did they have parents?

Some might answer “who cares?” But I do. I spend 6.5 hours a day, 5 days a week with children. I hope and pray that I can help them along their journey – not just in their academics, but as people. I want them to be good, kind, caring, warm people. I want them to care about each other and humanity. I don’t want them to bully. I want them to give a damn. I try every day that I’m with them to instill these behaviors in them. I want them to know that I give a damn. Even when they don’t listen, or get in trouble, or don’t do their work, or even talk back or fight with someone, that I care. I may be very disappointed, but it doesn’t mean I don’t value them as people.

I hope that what I’m doing is making a difference. I hope that in all the noise that they take with them every day that they somehow hear my words, notice my actions, and remember to care about each other. Because if they don’t, I really am scared for our future.

On Being Happier

I’m trying very hard to be happier. I have recently realized that I don’t always seem like a happy person. Anyone who drives with me on a regular basis can see that I’m usually very unhappy with most of the drivers on the road around me. I’m constantly asking drivers what their problem is, why are they in such a hurry (or why are they going so slow), or why they don’t seem to know where they’re going, and why they have to be in front of me when I’m in a hurry.

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I’ve been unhappy with my weight. Getting older, stress eating, having thyroid problems, and eating when I’m bored have left me weighing more than I want to. I won’t get into numbers, but I am at least two sizes bigger than what I’m comfortable with. All over the internet, I read that I need to love myself for what I am and who I am, no matter what size. I’m trying. Though it doesn’t mean I’m not going to keep exercising and do weight watchers, I will try to be more forgiving and gentle with myself as I would do with anyone else.

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I’ve gotten good at hiding behind my kids for photos.

 

I’m stressed in my job. Going back to work after so long has been very difficult. The field has changed tremendously since I’ve been gone. Also, being a working mom is difficult for me. I’m sure it’s difficult for most women, but it’s definitely difficult for me. It’s getting better, but it hasn’t been easy. I don’t want to let my students down and I don’t want to let my family down. And in feeling this way, I worry that I’m doing both.

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I have daily headaches. I get annoyed and frustrated because it’s the Christmas season and we aren’t sure when we’re moving, so we don’t know if and when and where to put up decorations and a tree. This feels bad to me to not have any signs of the holidays at our house, so I need to figure out what to do in order to help us ALL get into the spirit. Which reminds me that I have to start shopping, which has to be mostly online, which is daunting to me at this point.

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I find myself so agitated that I can feel myself tightening my forehead and my frown lines are getting deeper and deeper.

But this week, I’m not sure what happened, but something changed. Maybe it’s all the Ted talks I’ve been listening to. Maybe it’s because I don’t want to be the negative person that I think I might becoming. I wonder if the reason why I don’t have nearly as many friends as others have is because I’m not a happy enough person. Am I spreading gloom everywhere? Am I bad company to be around?

Whatever the reason, I’ve decided to be happier. I try to tell myself stories about people making terrible driving mistakes. Maybe they’re not paying attention because someone in their family is sick and they’re distracted. Maybe they’re stressed and overstretched. Maybe they’re not sleeping well. Maybe they’ve got more problems than I can imagine. I try to just smile at people, rather than look past them. When the checker at the grocery store returns my question of “How are you?” I will not tell her how I’m exhausted and whatever else is happening. I will smile and say “pretty good.” Maybe soon I’ll be able to say, “Great!”

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not UNhappy. I have more than I need. I am loved. I am healthy. I am living in a country that – while so many events are making me very sad and very angry and somewhat afraid – is free. I live in a community that pulls together and helps each other. I have friends. I have an amazing family.

This week, I’ve made a concerted effort to be happier, and so far, I am. I noticed this evening that my forehead is smooth, and my head hasn’t hurt as much as usual this weekend. (I did have headaches, just not as many, and I tried to take notice of the times I didn’t hurt.)

Of course, it’s easier to be happy when I’m on vacation and home with my family. I hope I can take this with me tomorrow as I drive to work and during the day when my students aren’t listening. I hope that I can just choose to be happier, and in doing so will truly be happier and perhaps even spread it around a little every day.

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~Genevieve

 

Thanksgiving and Finding Old Recipes

Yesterday was Thanksgiving and we had a great time with my family. We always have good food and good conversation.

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As I was peeling potatoes, my older daughter asked if she could help. :)

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My brother & my husband deep in conversation

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Everyone at the table (but me, taking the photo)IMG_0158

Since the women did the cooking, the men did the dishes. (Yes, I know, we were very old school.)IMG_0194

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Double thumb war!

My mom showed me a cookbook that belonged to my great-grandmother. She bought it in 1924 and someone in my mom’s family rebound it, as it was falling apart. I love that it’s really well-worn, complete with coffee stains.

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I’m guessing my great-grandma used this page a lot – I can see her putting her coffee cup down on the one side to keep the book from closing. :)IMG_0165

This Mystery Cake recipe is interesting to me. I’m wondering why it’s called mystery cake. So many of these recipes have no actual measurements (this one actually does) and often there’s no specificity with temperature of the oven and baking time. This one says “bake in a moderate oven” which perhaps is the mystery.

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I’m surprised to see that they were discussing calories back in the 1920s! I guess some things never change.

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This page seems to be very well-worn as well. I’m so curious about the “Butter Gebackenes” – something I’ve never heard of that sounds perhaps German. What I’m most curious about is the “XXXX sugar” and the “two knifepoint of hartshorn” (both about what on earth hartshorn is and how on earth you’d add “two knifepoints”). It also says to “bake” but gives no indication of the temperature, the time, or what to look for when it’s done (i.e.- when a toothpick comes out clean). I’m wondering if bakers were more intuitive back then, or if we are too busy these days to sit and watch an oven so we need very specific directions (or if we are just dumber).

Either way, I’m so curious about some of these recipes! I think I’m going to attempt to make one “old” recipe a week and maybe blogging about the results. Would you as my reader be interested in this? I’ve also got a cookbook from the 1960s that’s got some really interesting recipes in it. :)

Well, I hope everyone is having a great week and my fellow Americans had a great Thanksgiving. I’d love to hear from people about their own OLD recipes.

In the meantime, here’s my daughter with one of my favorite cake recipes. She turned my cake into a turkey with her creativity.

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How to Fail at Everything

Confession: I’m not very organized. If you know me well, you are laughing right now. If you are someone who was mistakenly under the impression that I must be pretty organized to do all the things I do, you’d be grossly overestimating me.

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When I was a teacher without being a mother, I could stay at school till 6pm every day and make sure I got everything done. Now that I am a teacher and a mother, I am struggling. I stay 45 minutes to an hour after school’s out every day and then pick up my son from high school. I bring work home with me that usually gets halfway done, or I get as much done as possible and call it a night at midnight. In the meantime, my classroom has piles of papers needing to be filed or handed back or thrown away.

Me, when I was younger, cuter, and had more time to organize.

Me, when I was younger, cuter, and had more time to organize.

I come home and there’s laundry and papers to sign and bills to pay. (Thankfully, the husband does most of the bills now that I’m working.) There are always dishes to do, and I need to workout and stop eating candy (thanks, Halloween!)

Every morning I try to get out the door EARLY so I can make copies and get things ready for the morning. Every morning I’m so exhausted from working late at night that I’m struggling to get out the door to be exactly on time (which is still 20 minutes before school starts, and is still not enough). Every day I tell myself that today will be better and somehow someway it’s not.

When I first taught, I never had to worry about district assigned trimester assessments, performance tasks, or online behavior assessments for the district. I had textbooks for every class, and an actual curriculum to follow. Now, we have no real Language Arts or Social Studies curriculum. Instead I’m given standards to work on and then the students get “assessed.” The “curriculum” is “Hey teacher, try to figure out how to do this on your own.” It’s ridiculously frustrating and difficult.

When I was hired, one thing that seemed to impress my principal-to-be was that I had organized a big overnight field trip for all my children and that I was willing to do the same for the students at my school. 59 students in the classes. I begged and pleaded and bothered the camp until they found 40 spots for us. I sent home letters (in English and Spanish), held a meeting at night, sent home packets, reminded, cajoled, rewarded students for bringing their paperwork in time. Our due date for our deposit came and went. I asked for more time, as I had 4 students who had turned in paperwork and $ and nothing else. I sent home emails. I reminded. Weeks later and I still only have 17 students out of 40 (out of 58). I’m not entirely sure what is going to happen, but I’m really disappointed that I’ve worked so hard to bring this trip to our school and there’s such a lack of interest and excitement.

I have a talkative class. They get easily distracted. They fool around, eat in class, and walk around. They talk back. They give me attitude. They question everything I do. They were mad that I didn’t bring THEM treats on MY birthday. They question why they can’t get on chrome books and why I am giving them a quiz. When I switch their seats, they throw fits about who they have to sit next to. They use language they shouldn’t and they take far too long to get in one straight line. But somehow I still love them all and I still want them to have this field trip, dammit!

Today I found out that I have an assessment due tomorrow. I had no idea. Thankfully it’s not a task I have to prepare them for, but it’s still something that I wasn’t prepared for and that will throw everything off tomorrow.

As I sit at my dining room table that is piled with mail and lunch boxes and papers and abandoned water bottles, I think about how I’ve managed to fail at everything today.

Step one: Start off with less than 6.5 hours of sleep.

Step two: don’t get to school in time to completely rearrange all the desks, so the students walk in to this mess:

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which of course makes them go completely nutty because, “Where do we sit?!!”

Step 3: Find out your students have to take an assessment you should have known about but didn’t.

Step 4: Panic and go talk to a veteran teacher about how freaked out you are during lunch.

Step 5: Not realize lunch is over when you’re talking to said teacher and as you head back to the classroom a few minutes late, see that the vice principal (who you’re not entirely sure even likes you in the first place) is standing outside your door with arms crossed, surely judging you because you’re late.

Step 6: Accidentally text your son on his iPad instead of his phone, so he doesn’t get your text saying you’re leaving a few minutes late to pick him up.

Step 7: Get home the exact time the piano teacher is pulling up to the house so that your son doesn’t have time to practice before his lesson.

Step 8: Have to tell the piano teacher you weren’t able to order the piano book she asked you to get for your daughter.

Step 9: Weigh yourself after not working out for 2 months.

Step 10: Eat chocolate, or drink wine. Either is acceptable, because at this point, it’s the end of the day and you’re exhausted.

Bonus: At 9pm, as your son is getting into bed, you realize you need to wash his gym clothes for school tomorrow. (or you don’t have anything for your daughter to wear for picture day)

I Don’t Blame Disneyland for the Price Hike

I grew up in Orange County, just minutes away from The Happiest Place on Earth. I went back when there were E tickets.

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A Disneyland book of tickets

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E tickets always had the best rides.

Even though we lived close, we didn’t go all the time. We would make a BIG deal about going to Disneyland. We would pick our favorite rides that we HAD to go on. We ALWAYS started with Pirates of the Caribbean – not sure why. It was just a tradition that stuck. It always got us in the mood for more Disneyland!

And there were always things we’d do – like have a Frozen banana, go to the Tiki Room, eat lunch at the Tomorrowland Terrace, hit It’s a Small World… We’d stay all day and wear ourselves out and have the best time after getting the most of our day there. We’d sucked every last drop of fun we could out of the Happiest Place on Earth, and it would hold us over until our next visit a year or so later.

Disneyland could get crowded, but not insane. An hour wait was a unique experience rather than a common occurrence.

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6 years ago, when we celebrated my daughter’s birthday at the park.

These days, there are SO many people who have annual passes. I know my point of view won’t be very popular with a lot of my friends, but I sometimes think that the whole annual pass idea takes away some of the magic of Disneyland. When you can go after school any time you like, or you go for just an hour because your kid wants to go on one certain ride, or your kids come to expect it as a common occurrence, I think it’s too much. When as many people have annual passes are going to the park as are the people coming in from all over the world, that creates a problem. I can’t imagine traveling hundreds or thousands of miles to see Disneyland only to be thwarted by too-big crowds and hour-long lines at every ride. That’s not magical. It is no longer the happiest place on earth at that point.

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And I get it – I really do! Every time we DO go to Disneyland all I want is MORE Disneyland! We actually did buy annual passes one year, when the price of an annual pass was paid off by the second visit.

I just think there has to be some middle ground. Perhaps a pass when you could go on whatever day you wanted, but you were limited to 20 visits a year. (Good lord, 20 visits a year is an awful lot!) Maybe 12? Once a month? That still seems like a lot.

I’ve also worked at a theme park. I was working at Universal Studios the day we broke records. It was the year Jurassic Park, the Ride came out and everyone got a t-shirt commemorating the occasion. As someone who works at a theme park, I can tell you that while it’s nice the park is making money, the employee doesn’t get anything more except more work. More crowds. More inane questions and more cute kids. More nice visitors and more rude ones, too. More of everything. More attempting to rush as many people through an attraction as is possible. More trash. More people complaining about how long everything takes because it’s so crowded.

So, I know a LOT of people are upset with Disney right now. I am hearing a lot of threats and “maybe this is it for us” status updates.

Maybe we can all go back to going to the happiest place on earth once a year and truly making it our happiest day of the year. Or maybe Disneyland will have to revisit some of their policies. Whatever the case, I hope that Disneyland can remain such a wonderful place for old and young, and the crowds can perhaps thin out a bit, so that everyone entering those front gates will have a truly magical time.

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