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Teaching in Today’s World

IMG_2403Being a teacher TODAY in the social and political climate of today, in the broken district of today, in the social media nightmare of today, absolutely sucks. Everyone thinks they need to tell me how to teach. Right now my job is this – I not only teach my students how to read, write, do math, and be a good citizen. I also teach them how to cope with their own traumas. I feed them. I need to protect them from threats.
Every day on facebook I read posts from contacts who tell me that I (as a white teacher) shouldn’t be teaching black students. I have facebook friends who post articles telling me how to discipline (or not). I have facebook friends who tell their friends that the teachers in our district aren’t really doing the best for their kids. People in positions of power want to put a gun in my hand. When will this madness end?
Not only do I worry about how best to take care of and teach the 20 souls in my daily care, I am also a mother of three- one boy and 2 girls. Two high schoolers and one middle schooler. This week has been so incredibly sad and stressful. I shouldn’t have to talk to my children about what to do in the case of a shooter, or ask if they’ve noticed any kids who seem “off.” Nor should I have to think about what would happen at my own school in the same context.
I’m not here to debate why this is happening. I’ve done enough of that lately. I’m here to say give teachers a break. Give teachers your empathy. Give teachers you know a little kindness. As worried as you are about your own children at school, remember that there are many teachers worried about their own children AND yours.

Late to the Hamilton Party

So, I’ve been wanting to see “Hamilton” for some time now.

I’ve seen friends fly to New York and see it, travel to Chicago to see it, and lots and lots and lots of friends see it here in Los Angeles. My husband has a great aversion to spending so much money on tickets. I have to say that I don’t blame him to a degree. 

See, tickets to Hamilton here in L.A. START at $358 for seats in the back. They go up to $1520. (To compare, “Aladdin” tickets at the same theater start at $90. “School of Rock” at the same theater starts at $58.) Granted, I don’t expect them to be as cheap as that, but trying to get decent seats for all 5 of us would be a few thousand dollars.

I decided to try for the lottery. It would only be two tickets, but it would be cool if we got to go- at least my husband and I. Stupidly, perhaps, I mostly shot for weekends, because trying to go to Hollywood during the week is so difficult. If I had it to do all over again, I’d try for every single day.

Screen Shot 2017-12-29 at 3.49.37 PM

This became a regular message to pop up on my phone.

Soooooo, knowing this, I held off on getting the music. I (mistakenly) thought I shouldn’t get the music before seeing the show. (This is what I did for “Wicked,” “Into the Woods,” and other shows we’ve seen.)

My husband, knowing that I’d been trying to get tickets via the lottery, bought me two things that have changed everything.

  1. This speaker. Screen Shot 2017-12-29 at 3.55.36 PM
  2. This!  Screen Shot 2017-12-29 at 3.57.06 PM

Luckily, he knew I’d want to combine the two, and play it loudly in the house, so he bought me the “clean” version. 😉 My 12-year-old loves it almost as much as I do, and we sing it all the time. She’s got her favorites, and so do I (this can be another post, if necessary).

BOY, all I have to say is that I’ve been depriving myself of listening to this soundtrack for TOO LONG. I’m so happy I have it and can listen to it whenever I feel like it. It truly is amazing, and I am going to figure out how to get tickets to this at some point in my lifetime (hopefully not too far into the future).

Go ahead, you may mock me. I’m late to the party, but I’m FINALLY AT THE PARTY.



If It’s Fall It Must Mean Apple Picking Time!!

Before I was a mom, I had no idea that the tradition of apple picking existed. Being part of an online community with moms from all over the country opened my eyes to what has become an Autumn tradition in our family.

We first went apple picking when the 2 oldest kids were but wee little babes.

baby apple pickers

My girl is wearing a pumpkin hat I knit

My son was almost 4 and my daughter was about 16 months old. We went during the week and churned butter, picked apples, and made cider.

We had so much fun, we kept going back. My husband and my dad took the kids when I was hugely pregnant with the youngest and was on restricted activitiy (my mom stayed home with me and kept me company). When the youngest was about 10 months old, we went with all three kids.

baby apple maddie

She’s wearing a more appropriate apple hat

Apple picking was always so much fun when they were little. Half the fun was the excitement on their faces when they picked an apple – especially when Daddy or Uncle Pat held them up in the air to reach the fruit.


Now that they’re older, it’s not quite as magical for them, although we do still enjoy the tradition – especially with friends. Last year was the first time we’d skipped in a long time, so this year, we were really looking forward to it (at least the grown-ups were) and we headed out on the first Sunday of Fall.

Duran Duran Is Responsible For My Hair Color

Duran Duran Is Responsible For My Hair Color

When I was born, I had a head full of dark hair. By the time I was a year, it had all fallen out and lighter hair grew in. (Oddly enough, my own daughter was the same way.) It was fairly light for a long time, but as I got older, it got darker.

first communion.jpgwristband


And, though it bummed me out, I was a kid. What was I going to do about it? I was stuck with it as far as I was concerned. Until I fell in love…

When I discovered John Taylor and Duran Duran, suddenly I felt the need to make my bangs blonde.


Thanks to this product, I could do it myself.sunin

Sadly (or thankfully, depending on how you look at it), I have no photos of my tragic hair mistake. What I do have is photos of what came next. See, I wasn’t able to keep it JUST to my bangs, and so to fix the mistake, I had to put the sun in EVERYWHERE.


My mother wasn’t crazy about the brassy/orange tone, so we went to a salon and I got highlights. The rest, they say, is history.


Here’s my senior portrait, highlights, bangs, and all.

Over the years, my hair has been several shades of blonde, and I decided to try going brunette at one point after I had my first child.


Eventually, that was too dark for me and my hair faded and my roots were lighter than my hair, which was the opposite problem that I usually faced.

For now, I feel more “myself” as a blonde. I suppose I’ll be blonde for several more years. At least until I decide to just let the gray take over. Until then, you can find me at the salon every few months.



Nerd Is The Word

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I wasn’t always a nerd. I mean, I suppose I was and just didn’t realize it. I didn’t attend conventions or read comics as a child, but I “geeked out” over so many things… Duran Duran, The Monkees, Wham, everything 60s, certain book series, and certain TV shows. Back when I was a kid, there wasn’t a great acceptance of being a geek or a nerd, so I guess I was less aware. But also, I’ve completely embraced it in the last 10 years. And now that there’s the internet, I can completely deep dive into things I love.

Things I’m a nerd/geek/fan of: Harry Potter, Star Trek, Star Wars, knitting, Superheroes, vampires, and more.

The first time we went to Comic Con was 2010. This was right before my first book was released, and my biggest motivation was that my publisher was going to be there, and they’d have some marketing materials for it.



We went in 2011 and then missed a few years, because we weren’t able to get tickets. In fact, we didn’t find ourselves with tickets again until last year.


Comic-Con 2016

It’s extremely hard to get tickets, and I know we’re lucky to get any at all, but one my goal is to get tickets for Saturday, where all the big panels I’m interested in take place. Nevertheless, Sundays are great for shopping and people watching.


What was under my Trek boots. 🙂


My youngest as Eleven.                                       The Trek couple.

My daughter and son’s homemade costumes – Batgirl and Clark Kent.


I visited the Outlander booth.


We bought some fun Star Wars art to hang in the house.


As cool as this coffee table was, I had to put my foot down.


We ran into Darth Trump


Heading for the train.

There seems to be more people attending every year, but I’m still going to try to come back next year. Maybe I need to find a way to volunteer, or work there, so that I can spend more than just a half-day there.


School Choice, Judgement, and Blame

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DISCLAIMER: This is NOT a blog about Vouchers. While I believe that parents should be able to choose the best school for their child, I do NOT believe that vouchers are the answer, and you will not find any discussion about vouchers in this article.

There’s a LOT of talk lately about our school district and who should be doing what. Recently, several students in our district petitioned to be transferred to another district to attend a new arts focused charter school. (It’s a long story that I won’t go into.) I will say that I’ve had to hold my tongue while reading post after post of angry parents upset with these parents for leaving our district.

My own daughter is going to this school next year. The difference between my daughter and the other kids is that my daughter is starting high school, and in grades 9-12 the school is solely charter, which isn’t part of another district. Grades 7-8, however, have to attend a middle school in another district before being bused to the new school for their arts conservatory.

Parents are upset because kids are leaving the district. Parents are upset because our middle school arts magnet is being maligned in comparison to an arts focused school. Parents and teachers are feeling defensive about our district and its programs and schools. People are upset because some parents don’t think the arts magnet in our district is “enough” for their kids. The thing is – the arts magnet is a great start for kids interested in the arts who haven’t been studying for years already. At the new school, they audition to be in their conservatory, which takes up the entire afternoon (2:30 – 5pm). It’s not really serving the same students at the same entry level.

Part of the problem is that in the 3 cities that make up our district, People are feeling upset because 46% of families in our district ALREADY send their kids to private or charter schools. Parents are upset that not everyone in our district chooses their homeschool, even though the Parent Education Network and the district itself promotes CHOOSING any school in the district for their children. Parents are upset because their children in the Dual Language Immersion programs aren’t getting the full immersion experience in middle school, so they want more periods in the day so their children can have an elective. Basically, parents are upset.

I have 3 children. All 3 of them have been attending schools in our district since kindergarten – that’s 11 years. They all went through 6 years of public elementary and 2 of them have completed 3 years of public middle school. My oldest is heading into his 3rd year of public high school, and my youngest still has 2 years of public middle school ahead of her. In addition, I teach in the district.

When my now 16-year-old was in pre-school, I attended informational meetings and went on 6 school tours. I weighed each school on a) what I saw happening IN the classroom b) the school environment and feel c) what the school’s priorities are d) did it seem like a place where my children would thrive? Things I didn’t look at were 1) race/ethnicity of the students 2) what “neighborhood” the schools were in (granted, other than one arts focused school, we stuck to schools within a certain distance from our home – solely based on how far we were willing to drive at the time).

Even though my children went to a school in the district, I’ve still gotten flak from other parents AND teachers about where I sent my kids. I heard it’s “almost like a private school” and “they get more money from the district” and it’s a “white school.” (That’s the tip of the iceberg, honestly. I’ve heard some pretty nasty things about this gem of a school in the district.) First, if it feels like a private school, it’s because there is literally an ARMY of parent volunteers who are ready to do whatever the school needs. True, many (though not all) families are upper middle class and have the time and money to be able to donate to the school. They do not get more money from the district. They aren’t a Title I school. They DO have a full enrollment, which I suppose gets them more money solely based on having more students, but that’s not getting special treatment. Finally, we have friends at the school who are Asian, Latino, African American, and Middle Eastern and yes, white. But as I said, I didn’t spend any time looking at the ethnicity of the students.

Here’s a thought.

How about we worry about our own kids and stop judging everyone else?

Some people choose to have their kids in private school. While in a perfect world, they would send their kids to the public schools and give their time, money, and energy to those public schools, that’s not the reality. I’ve heard several parents saying that sure- go ahead and send your kid to private school, but you ALSO have to be responsible for the public schools and do all you can for these public schools where your kids DO NOT attend.

Look. I understand the idea, but its not realistic to expect people to not only donate their time, money, and energy to their own kids’ schools, but on top of that to do the same for schools their kids do NOT attend. Do some people do it? Perhaps. SHOULD everyone? No.

I spend time and energy and money on my children’s schools. I am also a teacher, and I do not expect to get help from sources outside the school community. Honestly, I don’t expect to get it at the school where I teach, because I know how hard it is for many parents to give ANYTHING extra. If they can help, great, but I don’t expect it. I spend my own money for the classroom and sometimes generous friends help me out. I can’t even imagine asking local parents whose kids go somewhere else to come give their time, energy, and money to a school they have no connection to.

Perhaps the point is that we should ALL be connected and invested. It is a nice thought, but not realistic. A great start would be parents from each school helping out in whatever way they can. Some schools have more volunteers and assistance than they can handle. Some schools have almost no volunteers or assistance. As much as I wish it were more equal, it’s not. We need to start at each school site and do what we can to get the parents to be invested in any and all ways possible. Beyond that, build partnerships within the community. Get friends of friends – people who have a genuine interest and investment in the students and teachers at each particular school.

And how about this… I won’t judge you for the choices you make for your children and you don’t judge me for mine.

Out of My Comfort Zone

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My family and I just got back from vacation, where my husband booked a few things that made some of us nervous…

First off, we went on a cave tour. Now, we’ve been in lots of caves before


Last year we visited Wind Cave and Jewel Cave


In 2013 we visited Carlsbad Caverns

We’ve been in lava tubes and other caves in different National Parks, so that’s not new. What was new this time was that my husband booked a candlelight tour for us. This sounded cool (albeit possibly spooky depending on whether there would be bats) to me, but my daughters were not too happy about it.

They had many questions. Were they really candles? Were they electric? What if they burned out? What if we were stuck in the dark?

Their fears didn’t disappear when it was time for the tour, and the sky got dark and started to rain and hail.


the lanterns, before being lit


heading into the dark cave


The group heading up stairs with lanterns

Even though it was a little spooky at first, but everyone really enjoyed the experience of seeing the cave in a different light – literally.

The second thing that my husband scheduled that a few of us were worried about was whitewater rafting. I didn’t bring my phone, because I was worried about ruining the phone. It’s too bad, because the scenery was gorgeous. I do, however, have photos that were taken of us at one of the most exciting parts of the trip.


This smile is me, trying to be excited about something I’m scared of.


Waiting to get on the river

For the first part of the day, my husband and son kayaked while the girls and I went on the raft with Danny, our guide. We stopped halfway for lunch, then we all got back onto the raft and headed down. We had several grade I and II rapids, and then one big III (felt like 3.5 to me). Here’s us below, heading down the III called “Nugget.”


All of us, rowing


Danny told us to hang on




After rapids high-five

There was one more big one called “Powerhouse” (named partly for the old closed down Power mill nearby and partly because it’s a big one). Our youngest daughter was very nervous (as was I, honestly), so our guide took us on the side of Powerhouse to Mugger’s Alley – which honestly I think was more exciting than just going straight down, as we had to row most of the time to keep in the narrow run, and we ended up turning in circles as we went through it.

All in all, we had a great time. Some of us faced our fears and made it through the other side. My husband felt vindicated that we all enjoyed the activities he planned, despite our worries. I’m not ready to go bungee jumping or anything, but I’d probably go rafting again…

When you plan vacations, do you plan exciting activities, or just relax?