Sometimes, I Eat Cake For Lunch

…and other advice you probably never asked for

Month: December, 2014

Pacific Northwest Christmas Part 2

One of the new things we did in Victoria this time was visit the building where their Senate (is that what they call them?) meets. My favorite thing from the self-guided tour was this story: Originally, England would not accept Victoria’s crest (the stained glass below), because it directly contradicted the idea that the sun never sets on the British Empire:


So Victoria had to re-do their crest, and this is what they currently use:


Once we were back in Seattle, we also had to go back to a coffee place we stumbled on last year called Moore Coffee, which we love for their delicious delicious coffee and their amazing latte art. They gave Stephen the Hello Kitty, which Erin and I appreciated (Stephen, not so much).



I also had the joy of experiencing Christmas with the Cheatums. And I got to participate in their very peculiar and wonderful Christmas stocking scavenger hunt. Erin and Stephen fill their parents’ stockings, and Tim and Betsy fill Erin and Stephen’s (they filled one for me this year too!). But it’s more than just enjoying these gifts, because hidden somewhere in each stocking is the *tiniest* of IOUs for $25 — which the finder only gets to claim when they find it. On Christmas Eve, I witnessed Erin and Stephen completing the ritual of hiding their parents’ IOUs — aided by the use of tweezers to insert the IOUs into the most impenetrable of hiding spots, as well as the use of scissors and tape to cut open and re-tape other objects to throw their parents off the scent (it worked). On Christmas morning, we eventually found ours hidden under the label of one of the gifts:IMG_2599See? Extremely tiny!

But the real Christmas came with my BRAND NEW RACLETTE MACHINE WHICH I WAS NOT EXPECTING, AND WHICH STEPHEN TRICKED ME INTO TALKING ABOUT FOR FIVE HOURS IN THE AIRPORT WITHOUT A CLUE THAT I WAS GOING TO BE RECEIVING MY VERY OWN. AHHHHHHH!!!!!!!! (Both of my host families in France had beloved Raclette machines, and I have prayed for my own every day since first my first taste of this delicious, delicious melty meal).

IMG_260010690178_10103508930716519_7961805671314611664_nCHRISTMAS CHRISTMAS CHRISTMAS!! 🙂 On to SF tomorrow!


Pacific Northwest Christmas Part 1

First up, Victoria! We piled into a van (“we” meaning me, Stephen, Stephen’s twin sister Erin, his parents, and his grandma Muzzy), and drove to Anacortes, Washington. We arrived after dark, then left on a very early ferry the next morning, which took us to Sidney, on Vancouver Island. Then it was just a short drive to Victoria, where we met up with both of Betsy’s sisters and their husbands, so there were 10 of us altogether. It was nice being in Victoria in the winter, since the last time Stephen and I went it was in the summer. It was actually warmer than I thought it would be, but that was because last time I was definitely underdressed for the cold Victoria summer nights.

We moved pretty slowly with our group of 10, but we definitely found time to eat a lot. We also found the time to find these delicious lattes at a breakfast place on our last day:

We also made it back to Craigdarroch Castle (pronounced “Craig Derek”), a large mansion completed at around the turn of the 20th century by a wealthy Scottish family in Victoria. Stephen and I had gone about a year and a half ago, but it was nice to see it all decorated in period Christmas decorations.



On our last full day, I made it to two used bookstores. The first one was a bust, though it would have been perfect if I had been looking for more collectible books. But then we headed to Russell books, and I found the MOTHER LODE.


It was as if every copy of every Royal Diaries book that *hadn’t* been in EVERY OTHER bookstore I had ever been to in the US was here in Victoria. The picture above doesn’t even show all of them. ALL OF THE ROYAL DIARIES EVER ARE IN VICTORIA, BC. I freaked out for a long time and probably cried a little, and then settled on three (that, I might add, I had never seen in person before. This was the first time I was holding them in my hands, ahhhhhhhhh). There were more that I didn’t have, but I ended up leaving some behind, because, just like Predator, I have discovered that I too enjoy the hunt.


I also found a treasure drove of beautiful, beautiful Dear Canada books. I don’t collect them, but I decided that whenever I am in Canada, one or two of these will be a nice souvenir. I did not, however, to expect to find so many of them, and I ended up choosing the three prettiest to take home with me (I chose based on appearance because I know nothing about Canadian history, but now I have no excuse!).


The Year So Far

It’s been a truly excellent first trimester of school. Everything went really smoothly and I was pretty much happy every day — something that not everyone can say about their jobs. First of all, I love my co-workers, they are wonderful and really fun.  Originally, when I found out that I was going to be the only returning 7th grade teacher (thereby making me the “veteran teacher”, ugh, I hate that term), I was terrified, but I really like working with my colleagues and I think we make a great team.

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We are all around the same age, and we look like we’re all around the same age, so on one of the last days before Christmas break I decided to have some fun (while encouraging students to use higher-level thinking skills, of course). We’ve never told any of them how old we are, so the task of the day was for them to try to figure out our birth order, using all of the “evidence” they may have gathered over the course of the three months that they’ve known us. The kids worked in groups of five to put us in order, and then they debated as a class. The conversations/questions/pieces of evidence were absolutely priceless:

“Miss, have any of you ever had plastic surgery?”

“Miss, you look soooo young, do you wear make-up?”

“Mr. Gonzalez is probably the oldest because he is the tallest.” [Stephen predicted that this would be a common prediction, he was right].

“He a beard and a deep voice — he must be the oldest” — [I tried to intervene and remind them that only two of their teachers are even capable of growing a beard, but this seemed lost on them.]

“Well, he’s wearing a “Class of ’14” shirt, but he said that he got that a few years after he graduated” [this was a lie], “so he is probably one of the oldest ones”.

“Mr. Martinez [their 6th grade math teacher, who is 23] said that Mr. Gonzalez is old enough to be is father, so Mr. Gonzalez must be in his 40s” [They all bought into this with total seriousness. Never mind that Mr. Gonzalez is 22, and looks MUCH younger].

Half of my classes were dead set on the idea that I had to be the youngest, which was hilarious to me because I am definitely the oldest. But my biggest takeaway was actually a bigger takeaway that I thought I would get out of this very silly lesson. There were so many students whose evidence was that So & So must be younger because they were apparently more down to earth, while the “stricter” teachers had to be the oldest ones. Which, as a teacher, is hilarious to me, because obviously it’s not about age, it’s about experience in the classroom. I’m very zen/down to the earth this year [with a lot of structure and high expectations, obviously] specifically because this is not my first year in the classroom. So it was a big “ah ha” moment for me that kids think that older/more experienced teachers are the strictest/angriest, when it is actually likely the opposite! The lesson ended up being much more profound for me than I thought it would be, I’m so glad I found the time to do it 🙂

This has also been a good year for student work. He’s my “Exemplary Student Work” wall, which primary sources about one of these three transformations in our first Rome unit: the change from the Roman Empire’s capital being in the West to being in the East, the Great Schism, and the Roman Empire splitting in two under Diocletian. I was really proud of their effort and the results!



The last assignment we did focused on group roles, doing research, speaking and listening skills. Students read about transformations happening within the modern Muslim world, and presented their new knowledge to their classmates. This was also exciting to me, because it was the first time I think I actually gave them the necessary tools to create successful presentations, and I felt that they all came away with new knowledge.

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And lastly, to end the trimester, a haiku from a student who ran out of ideas when writing a reflection on the topic of not going to the bathroom during class time:


Goodbye, Trimester 1

And suddenly, it is the last day of school before Winter Break! I actually, truly do not know how that happened. We’re a third of the way done with the year…this is almost going by too quickly!

I’ve been really busy lately because of grades and student portfolio conferences, plus Stephen and I are leaving tomorrow for Redmond, Victoria and San Francisco. What to expect in the next post: memories of Trimester One 🙂

Two Weeks to Go

You know, I’ll be honest: all of my coworkers have been swirling around me with comments about how they are all counting the days until Christmas Break (the current count: 8), but I haven’t been as enthusiastic as they have been. I feel like I’m finally reaching an awesome momentum, and I’m not craving the break like I was last year. Last year, when I was struggling at the beginning of the year, someone wise told me that I just had to make it to Christmas break, and that everything would get easier from there. I definitely think she was right (or maybe I just think she was right because she said it?), but so far this year has not been hard in the same way, so when I consider that Christmas break is right around the corner (along with the end of Trimester 1), I’m kind of just like “meh”. Also, in a way I’m not looking forward to it because I love my content, and we start Medieval Europe when we come back, and I don’t want to wait 5 weeks!

Also: the other day my principal told me that the regional director of the LA region schools (kind of like our superintendent) does not know me well, but that he has a nickname for me, and it’s The One Who Wasn’t Very Good Last Year But Who Is Very Good This Year (!)


We went from 80-something degrees on Thanksgiving Day, to dark and pouring rain, with a flood warning for some parts of LA. It’s very surreal.

Anyway, I had a really nice break. On Sunday, it was EB and Joe’s engagement brunch, for the bridesmaids and groomsmen and their significant others to get to know each other. We played games and drank a lot and had a lot of fun. and then EB, Michelle and Marisa and I went to look for bridesmaids’ dresses. We originally figured we’d all end up with different dresses, but we all ended up with the same dress, which was nice! They are black and very shapely, and we all look good in them. I’m excited because it is NOT my usual silhouette, but I was very pleasantly surprised, and they will look great with EB’s dress.

And now it’s almost Wednesday somehow? Time flies!