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The Worry Gene?

Last evening, my husband, three kids, and I went to see the new Star Wars movie – “Rogue One – A Star Wars Story.” It was good. It was exciting. It was entertaining. And yet, while I was sitting in the crowded theater, I couldn’t help but think about the newest member of our family…


Kanga, the betta fish

You may go ahead and laugh.

Yesterday, my youngest brought home her new fish. We’ve never had a pet, and never had a betta before, so we weren’t sure what to expect. I will say that I assumed it would be a breeze to take care of a fish. (I mean, how hard can it be?)

My daughter first got her tank about a week ago from her two best friends (it was a Christmas gift). She set it all up herself, including conditioning the water. All we needed was the fish. We acclimated him to the water and let him go. Within the first hour he’d somehow got himself into the water filter. With a little assistance from me, she freed him and fixed it so he (hopefully) wouldn’t be able to do it again. Then we went to the movie and I worried about that little fish throughout the movie.

When we got home and fed him, he still seemed a little… lethargic? 3 hours later, when I went to bed, damned if I didn’t check in on that fish before going to sleep.

I have always been somewhat of a worrier. I assume that I get it from my mother, who worries about a lot of things – mostly my brothers, my children, and me. It seems to have manifested itself more strongly when I had children. I worry about them even when deep down I know they can handle whatever it is I’m worrying about. Still, it’s unavoidable.

First day of school? I worry. Will they make friends? Know how to find the bathroom? Will they get lost? At a birthday party – will they get along with all the kids? Say thank you? Wander off? (this last one actually happened, and not with a 6-year-old, but with a 14-year-old who didn’t want to play tackle football, so he walked around, meeting people. 3 phone calls to me later and we were able to talk him back into finding his party.)

I worry about far too many things; not just my kids. My husband when he flies. My parents and their health. Our political climate. Our future president. My family members. My students. My own health and future and ability to teach. Money. Traffic. Did I leave the lights on? And now fish.

Do you worry? Is there some sort of worry gene that is handed down from generation to generation? Is it a female thing? Is it a mom thing? Is it universal?

I’d love to get some insight, and to know that I’m not alone in my worries.



A New Year, A New Outlook

A New Year, A New Outlook

School has been in session for two weeks and my team, the students, and I are all trying to get in the swing of things. Routine takes time, and we’re trying to get it right. Overall, things are going well. I have a very chatty but overall good group of kids. It’s a big class (34 students in one and 33 in the other), but so far they’re manageable. I like my new partner, and working together is going well.


Me by my tree, that changes with the seasons just like me.

I am really trying to keep in a good headspace this year. It’s so easy to get mired in the negative. Last year, I had a lot to mire myself in – including inconsistent leadership and kids that I was pretty sure were trying to get me to quit. Add to that  going back to teaching after 14 years off, seeing less of my kids, losing the daily support of my “mommy friends,” moving homes (and all the stress that goes with it)… it was a bit crazy, erratic, unstable, and sometimes I just felt ridiculously under pressure.


This hammock saved my sanity on numerous occasions last year.

This year, I actually started out under a lot of stress. I was (am) taking online classes for a CLAD certification. At one point, I was taking three classes at once, while planning for the first week of school. It was very stressful, but thankfully I managed to eek out 2 A+s and am almost done with my 3rd class and so far so good. I’m still not getting enough sleep, and its something I’m working on.

What’s different about this year? Well, for one I’ve got one year under my belt. Instead of starting work 3 days after I got hired, I had a whole summer to think about things, and relax. I knew what I was teaching. I was somewhat familiar with my students and I knew who my partner was going to be, which is so helpful. I’ve also got a big support staff in my corner. Not only do I have two amazing aides in my classroom, but I’ve got my husband cheering me on, my girls telling me I’m doing a good job, my own parents supporting me, and my son who inspires me every day to be positive. He reminds me of the good things when I’m in a bad mood in the morning. The other day I was ready to snap and I was just getting in the car. He reminded me of a time a few weeks before when we ran into a friend who stopped her car when she saw us walking and literally told me that I inspire her. If that didn’t snap me out of my mood, I don’t know what would have! As my son got out of the car when I dropped him off at high school that day, I told him that HE inspires me.


This kid… meditating at Vasquez Rocks.

I’ve found one last thing that makes me happy and helps me destress, which was completely unexpected. Last week, my husband brought home Coldplay tickets. He likes them and wanted to go. I admit, I was coming down with a cold and wasn’t sure I wanted to go, but I did. We hadn’t been on a date in ages, and we haven’t been to a concert (not at the Hollywood Bowl) in years. (Probably the Police reunion concert or Flight of the Concords) Anyway…


I’m just going to say it. That concert made a fan out of me. I’ve been listening to their music every day for the last week and it just makes me… HAPPY. I want to dance (and do) and I have to say, Coldplay may just get me through the stress of being a student and teacher at the same time. I’ve also been watching interviews with Chris Martin (or rather of Chris Martin… sadly he’s not sitting here with me 😉 ) and he is just SO positive. I have to remind myself to be positive and grateful, and thanks to not just Mr. Martin but my son, my daughters, my husband, my parents, and my teammates at work, I think this year can be a great one.


Hometown Tourists -Walking In L.A.

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I have lived in the greater Los Angeles area for 24 years. When I was younger and single, every now and then I’d do a touristy thing with friends, but for the most part, we worked and then we went to the beach or to hang out or dance at clubs or go shopping.

Once we were married, we did a few touristy things, like the Huntington Gardens, but honestly – not much.  “The Internet” wasn’t available as a quick source to find things to do, and I didn’t have a social media outlet that would let me see what cool things friends were doing that would give us ideas.

Now, with all of the above, and more (podcasts, vacation advisor sites, etc), we see things to do in our own area that we never knew existed. So, now every once in a while (especially during the summer), we find touristy things to do around L.A.

On Sunday we headed to the MOCA – Grand Ave. (Little did I know when I Googled “MOCA” that there would be so many options to choose from. What I didn’t realize was that it was so close to Angel’s Flight. I’m still waiting for them to open it again, and am so saddened at how horrible the stairs next to it have gotten – urine smell, what I think was human feces. Come on, Los Angeles… why is our city so horribly dirty? 😦


I enjoyed a lot of the art in the MOCA. This one in particular stood out to me. “Hourglass on legs” made a statement to me as a woman. THIS is what society wants from us. To be nothing more than an hourglass on legs. We are so much more.


We walked a few blocks to a bookstore I’d heard about through friends on facebook, honestly.

We saw these cool Metro run bikes that you can rent to ride around the city. What a great idea.


The bookstore was neat, but hotter than hot, as there was no air conditioning. There was a cool little knitting room, but sadly their collection of knitting books was paltry. (and no, they didn’t have my book, nor ANY of my knitting friends’ books)

We enjoyed the museum and the bookstore, but as a whole, L.A. can be overwhelming and depressing. We have been to other big cities – Denver, Portland, Seattle, Salt Lake City… none of those are as dirty or smelly as L.A. and none of them makes me more nervous than walking in L.A. can, depending on the day.

The next day the kids and I went to Griffith Park to do some sightseeing. We went looking for Bronson Caves (aka the Batcave from the Adam West tv series). There are no real signs letting you know, and there are lots of signs like these:


Luckily, there were other people we could ask and we finally figured it out.


Heading up, it was a short, 10 minute walk.



Can you picture the Caped Crusaders pulling out of this cave in the Batmobile?


The boy found higher ground.



Once out of the cave, turn left and you’ll see the Hollywood sign.


And just outside the cave are these rocks.


After the caves, my youngest daughter had found some photos of “neat parks” and steered us to a place called “Shane’s Inspiration” that is a playground for kids of all abilities.


I read while they played.

It happened to be right next to the carousel, which the girls wanted to ride. My son isn’t a fan of carousels, but he went so that the girls would walk up to the old abandoned zoo, which he wanted to visit.


Happy girls.


He is not amused.


It turns out this is the very spot Walt Disney thought up Disneyland. I had read it before, but had forgotten.

We had lots of fun in the cages at the old zoo.

While Los Angeles has its ups and downs, it does have some great gems to visit if you have time. Wherever you live, I’m sure you can find gems of your own, and be a tourist in your own hometown.


Heartbroken, Angry, and Lost. America is Broken

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There has been SO much horrible news lately. When we were on vacation, we read about the shooting in Orlando, the toddler who was drowned by an alligator  at Disney, and a man who fell into one of the boiling hot acidic pools in Yellowstone days before we arrived. There have been more shootings and more bombings since then. There is so much horrible out there right now. (Not to mention all the hate being spewed around our Election Year.) And yet, there’s no respite.

This morning I read about two black men who were killed by police officers. Again. I won’t watch the videos, because I can’t. I don’t handle watching fake violence, much less real violence. I know that they were horrible.

It’s not the first time this has happened. It seems like every week there are videos and reports of police brutality against African American youth. A boy gets beaten by several cops for jaywalking. A group of kids gets beaten and dragged around for swimming in a pool.

I find myself heartbroken, as so many others are. I can’t pretend to know what it’s like to be African American. I can’t pretend to know what it’s like to be targeted. To be afraid of the police (more than usual, at least). I do, however, teach African American children. I teach the boys who will grow up to be men. I worry for their future. I worry for their families. I worry that they are going through life knowing this is a truth about America right now. That this is something to worry about as they get older.

I don’t know how to fix it. I don’t know what to tell them. I don’t know how to make them feel safe outside my classroom. Inside my classroom, I will show them kindness, love, and challenge them to do their best. I will expect them to be their best and for ALL my students to treat each other like brothers and sisters. Like friends. With respect. No matter their differences.

But how do I help them outside my classroom? How do I help them feel like the world is a safe place for them? How do I help them when I don’t know that this is true. How can I teach them the world will not let them down when I don’t know that I believe it myself?


I’m angry. I’m angry at institutions that allow their officers to shoot innocents. That they treat white males with respect – even if the white male is beating up on the officers. Even if the white male has slaughtered people. And that officers will shoot a black male almost immediately, whether or not they are complying with their requests.

I’m angry that our society has allowed this to happen over and over again. I’m angry that NOTHING IS CHANGING. I’m angry at myself because I don’t know how to fix it.

I’m lost. As are so many others. I’m lost as to how I can help. I’m lost as to what to do. I’m lost, because the country I’ve grown up thinking is great is now starting to feel evil. My rose colored glasses are off, and I’m lost as to what will change things.

America is broken. America needs to wake up. America needs to stop allowing African American citizens to be gunned down at the drop of a hat. In front of their children. America is broken for so many reasons. There is no such thing as a “good guy with a gun” as so many people think…

Road Trip Part One – Yellowstone I

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Summer in our family means it’s time to pack up our things and cram into the family car and head out on a great adventure. In the past, we’ve gone to National Parks, National Monuments, a great meteor crater, cute small towns, big cities, and many places in between. This year, my husband booked a trip he’d wanted to make for a LONG time, which included most of the above listed destinations.

Stop 1: Salt Lake City.


I can’t say too much about the place, as we were only there one night. It was clean, pretty, and pretty windy. Sadly, we didn’t see the actual Great Salt Lake. Hopefully we can make it back again someday in the future.

Stop 2: Yellowstone National Park, Old Faithful Inn

Our first stop in Yellowstone was at the Old Faithful Inn. My husband and I have wanted to visit Yellowstone for several years. Last year we weren’t able to go on a big trip, so he took matters into his own hands and booked our trip a year in advance. He didn’t ask advice from anyone we knew, but just tried to figure out what to see based on reading a book and searching the net. He did a pretty darn good job.


The entrance


Old Faithful


The giant clock on the giant mantle in the lobby


These people I love, exploring the hotel walkways.


lobby, from above

Old Faithful is just outside the inn. Just beyond Old Faithful are a few walkways to explore several geysers. I have to say that there are signs EVERYWHERE telling visitors to stay on the path for their own safety.


The paths keep you safe from wandering into a dangerous hotspot.


Castle Geyser. When geysers aren’t active, they are always emitting some gas and steam.


We walked up to this geyser JUST as it was going off.


The Grotto Geyser went off in waves, like the ocean. (Where’s Ariel?)


Just starting


Girls taking a break by the river

I’m going to make a confession right now. I thought that Yellowstone was JUST GEYSERS. And, of course, a National Park that would be pretty and have trees and trails and whatnot. My husband did his research. I did not. I was treading water all year trying to survive my first year back to work and let him take care of the trip planning, so I didn’t do my research.

Imagine my surprise when we headed to a basin filled with one the most beautiful sites I’ve ever seen.


Walking by the river on the way to the Midway Geyser Basin


I was always fascinated by the tiny flowers thriving among the treacherous landscape.




Reading the no swimming sign and discussing the landscape


Hot springs. The lighter blue the water, the hotter it is.


Beautiful but deadly


A waitress in Salt Lake City told us she’d never seen so many colors as in Yellowstone. Now I know what she meant.


My favorite of all, which isn’t done justice by my photograph. The Grand Prismatic Spring. Just amazing.

Click HERE to see a breathtaking overhead view of the Spring, from Getty Images.

We bought me a pair of earrings and necklace that were inspired by the Grand Prismatic Spring.




An example of the boardwalks everywhere to keep everyone away from danger


Bubbling in the water


On the left, you can see where some runoff from a spring is making a little waterfall, altering the ground around it and heading into the river.

The next day we drove to the Lake. We saw more geysers and springs right on the lake, stopped to get a closer look at the lake, and had dinner right on the lake.


pools next to the lake


Beautiful but deadly, part 2


Touching the lake


boy on a log


Enter a caption


taking in the beauty


3 kids in front of the giant fireplace


the lounge of the Lake Hotel


beautiful view



That night, when we got to our lodge, we took a silly picture. 🙂

Since there are so may photos and I want people interested in Yellowstone to be able to see as many as possible, I’m splitting up the blogs into pieces. Stay tuned.


Help us Blast Off to Astrocamp!

Help us Blast Off to Astrocamp!

Every year, my daughter’s school goes to Astrocamp. If you are a regular reader of my blog, you may remember that I’ve helped organize all the trips my own children have gone on.

The first year we went at their school was the year my son went. Two years later, my middle child went. Finally, my youngest child went earlier this school year.

When I got hired at the school where I teach, I let my principal know I needed those three days off for the trip. When she heard me talk about Astrocamp, she got very excited about the prospect of taking our own 5th graders on the same trip.

Our 5th graders have been through a lot. In 4th grade, half the class had no stability and had substitute teacher after substitute teacher all year. The other half had a teacher who was burned out and had no patience for their behavior issues. And while I get frustrated on a daily basis with how hard it is for so many of them to focus and be present, the truth is that the majority of these kids have seen more trauma in their short lives than anyone should have to go through.

Going on a field trip like this would be amazing for them.

We’ve paid for our deposit for the trip, but we have a lot more to raise. $5000, actually. We’re trying to set up small fundraisers at the school, including the parents selling popcorn after school on Fridays, but it won’t be enough.

I’ve set up a Donors Choose page to help raise funds. You’ll notice that it isn’t for the full amount, because this is my first project and I’m asking more than I’m technically allowed (if I had more “points” I could ask for more money).

If you can help in any way, or know anyone else who can help, please forward  THIS LINK to them. If you donate by March 6th and use the code LIFTOFF, we can get double your donation!

Thank you so much for your help and support. This will be such an amazing experience for these students!


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.


Kids being kids, playing kickball