Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A whirlwind holiday..but not in the way you might think!

The last couple of weeks before school gets out were unusually horrific this year. The time seemed to be flying and yet dragging at the same time. I love my students but I am able to love them better after a little break. Anyway, the first week and a half was taken up by some projects we have been doing around the house.

Here are the before pictures:

Boring, I know. But hey, I can blame it on my staid Mormon upbringing and the fact that my mother never let us paint her house anything but white. However, she did not count on my bold, creative, temperamental and hot-blooded Spaniard husband! Also remember that I am NOT decoratively gifted. I finally just had to stand aside while JC created his vision. Be forewarned: he definitely did not choose white.
And here are the after pictures:

It turned much more, um, bright than I had anticipated and though I didn't love it at first, JC did, so I was happy. I have to admit though, that it is nice to come in out of the cold and the grey that is New England in winter and feel like I am in the south of Spain, so it is growing on me. We did two upstairs rooms as well, but we haven't finished putting those rooms to rights as of yet.
I also have to say that the favorite Christmas gift that we bought this year was.....(drum roll)
A vaccuum cleaner.
It sounds like a very unromantic gift, but after spending the last 18 months scraping dog hair off of the carpets by hand, we both went into ecstasies when we turned on the new vaccuum cleaner and it actually picked up all the dog hair stuck on the carpet. We couldn't be happier, and neither could our backs.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Spirit of Christmas Past

Christmas has always been a favorite time of year for me, not least because of the Christmas break that teachers get. The holiday season has always meant great music, beautiful winter weather, and time with friends and family.
Since Christmastime is such a favorite, it is hard for me to understand how Scrooge-ified I have become over the last few years. Maybe it is because I am married to JC and Christmas is not the big she-bang in Spain that it is here. Perhaps it is because that during four of the last five years, we have traveled for Christmas and didn't feel like putting up decorations. Maybe it is because the opportunities for singing at Christmastime are virtually non-existent here, and I am just not getting into the spirit. Or it could be any combination of graduate work, thesis and dissertation-writing, or the fact that we don't have small children around to inspire us. Anyway, We haven't put up a Christmas tree in 5 years, at least. So this year we decided we were going to haul out the tree (fake on top of everything else) and all our old decorations and see what we could do to help ourselves get back on track. I can think of a lot of things that I could have done with the time that it took to move furniture around, put up the tree, find the decorations and get them onto the tree, but we did enjoy talking about the things that we did during Christmases past.

Juan Carlos and I made these the first Christmas we were married. We were living with my parents for a couple of months before they left for Guatemala and we were going to be staying in the house while they were gone. I actually have a picture of us putting the potpourri into the glass balls, but no scanner, so no luck! In my scrapbook I have the picture and pieces of wrapping paper from that first Christmas together, when we wrote each other love notes all over our gifts to each other.

I made these our first Christmas in North Carolina. I am not sure whether we went to Utah to visit that year, but I remember that we were trying to save money so we didn't go too all out for this one. We sat at the kitchen table and JC told me what to put with which flower, (JC is much more artistic than I am and if we disagree on aesthetics, we always go with his decision, since if I decorate it without question always ends up uglier.) and helped me tie them all together.

This year, instead of making ornaments (which, let's face it, we have not a lot of time or talent for), we decided to add to our Christmas village. One thing we have learned living here is that we will probably always need to live near the ocean. So we added a lighthouse this year and a pet store (for obvious reasons but also because it is cute).

Anyway, our tree is a big mess of ornaments but as we said to each other today, at least we have one this year. And we had a great time remembering.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

My New Favorite Books

I confess to being an avid fan of science fiction and fantasy. I love it. I am enthralled by it. I am envious of people who can even conceive of alternate worlds, languages or realities, let alone being able to write an understandable and entertaining novel about them. Don't get me wrong, I love the other stuff too, but I have had a passionate relationship with fantasy since I was small. I think the first example I remember was The Juniper Tree and Other Tales from Grimm, edited by Lore Segal and illustrated by the wonderful Maurice Sendak. My mother bought me this book when I was 8 or 9 after realizing that if she wanted me out from underfoot, books were the way to go. Anyone who has read the real version of Grimm's fairy tales knows that in addition to being wildly entertaining, they can be very dark, as well. I remember being completely fascinated with Godfather Death, which is perhaps a bit morbid for a 9 year old.

A few other favorites from elementary school and junior high are The Hero and the Crown and The Blue Sword, by Robin McKinley. McKinley had such an impact on me that to this day I instantly buy anything she writes. She is a wonderful writer for girls of all ages, and she even worked her magic on a boy I once dated and whom I harrassed into reading one of her books.

I remember well two novels by William Sleator that I read while on forced house arrest while living very much against my will in Guatemala. Since it was dangerous for young, American girls to be out on the streets by themselves and since my parents could not afford private school, we were home-schooled for six months and loathed every minute of it. Books became my number one escape. Anyway, I was fifteen at the time and the Sleator books were actually for my little brother, who was 9. I enjoyed them very much anyway, and I still have copies on my own bookshelves. Interstellar Pig is about a boy who gets drawn into an exciting board game with some local tourists involving interstellar wars and conquest (think Risk in space with lots of creatures) and how he reacts when the interstellar wars turn out to be real and Earth is the next planet to be conquered. Singularity is about a teen-aged boy who is resentful of his twin brother who is both popular and condescending. He finds a space warp where time in the warp is faster than in the regular world. He gets the idea to spend a night in the time warp (one year in warp time) so that he will be older than and therefore less a victim of his self-centered brother. Very appropriate literature for an angry 15-year old who hated being stuck with her family 24/7.

In high school a boyfriend of mine introduced me to the Robotech books and also David Eddings. Again, fantasy and sci-fi with very little reality involved and perfect for escaping teenaged angst. I first read Ender's Game in high school, as well, which opened the door to many more Orson Scott Card novels. Though I love Card's books and look forward to when they come out, the bonus has been his weekly column, Uncle Orson Reviews Everything. He really does review everything, and almost all of it is very entertaining reading, but what I love is that he reviews all sorts of books. I really don't know where he finds the time to read as much as he does, and I don't always agree with his reviews, but his fantasy and scifi recommendations are always excellent. Which leads me to my favorite of the moment, the Inda series by Sherwood Smith. Smith writes mostly literature for young adults but this series is intended for adult readers. The series follows Inda, the second son of a military regional leader who ends up in the wrong place at the wrong time and as a result is exiled from his home and academy training and ends up at sea on a trading ship. If you are looking for light reading this is not the series for you, and Smith's Inda world is built entirely on a military society, so if you don't like to read about war and intrigue, then you should pass this one by. However, Smith's characters have great depth and even within a story built around war the focus is on human nature and human relationships and all the complexity involved. I keep thinking about that world even though I finished the latest installment, King's Shield, weeks ago. That is the sign of great writing.
So, until I find new favorites, these are the books that I must now find space for on my bookshelves, so that I can pull them off and dive in whenever I want.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Wasting Time

There is a lot that I avoid doing on a periodic basis. I avoid doing dishes, grading papers, going shopping, folding laundry....need I go on? Well, lately I have found a way to avoid doing all of these things at the same time.

This is a livecam that I check in on at LEAST five times a day and through which I am endlessly entertained.
If it does not work in Internet Explorer, try Firefox. Yes, it's worth it.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

A Day At The Museum

Today my AP class went to the RISD museum which is about a half a mile from the Wheeler School in Providence, RI. One of my friends does tours in Spanish for the museum so the class was able to have a tour and discuss Spanish and Latinamerican art in Spanish!

It was a wonderful visit. The students really enjoyed going through all the different periods and learning the history behind some of the art works. The favorite of the day, however, is an exhibit that is on right now by Dale Chihuly, a glass artist who actually attended RISD in the 1960's and began their famous glass program.

For those of you who think you have never seen or heard of Chihuly, I bet you have! He did several glass structures for the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City. Remember?

Anyway, here is a picture of my students in front of their favorite piece. It made them feel very dramatic. I am afraid the lighting is not very good, but you can get the idea.

This weekend we are off on another adventure as we visit La Arepa, a Venezuelan restaurant that specializes in arepas, which are a kind of corn cake that you split open and stuff with meat, cheese, vegetables, or whatever else you want.

Don't you wish you were in my class?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

A Fun Quiz

I haven't had the time or the inclination to write much this week, but I saw this on my friend's blog and it was fairly painless, and pretty interesting. You take a two-question quiz and then you are told which Mad Men-era icon you are. (I have never actually watched Mad Men since it is usually on after I go to bed, and usually that means I am not interested in making a habit of it. Who has time to watch TiVo'd shows?)

So here goes:

Your result for Are You a Jackie or a Marilyn? Or Someone Else? Mad Men-era Female Icon Quiz...

You Are a Grace!

You are a Grace -- "I need to understand the world."

Graces have a need for knowledge and are introverted, curious, analytical, and insightful.

How to Get Along with Me

  • * Be independent, not clingy

  • * Speak in a straightforward and brief manner

  • * I need time alone to process my feelings and thoughts

  • * Remember that If I seem aloof, distant, or arrogant, it may be that I am feeling uncomfortable

  • * Make me feel welcome, but not too intensely, or I might doubt your sincerity

  • * If I become irritated when I have to repeat things, it may be because it was such an effort to get my thoughts out in the first place

  • * don't come on like a bulldozer

  • * Help me to avoid my pet peeves: big parties, other people's loud music, overdone emotions, and intrusions on my privacy

What I Like About Being a Grace
* standing back and viewing life objectively
* coming to a thorough understanding; perceiving causes and effects
* my sense of integrity: doing what I think is right and not being influenced by social pressure
* not being caught up in material possessions and status* being calm in a crisis

What's Hard About Being a Grace

  • * being slow to put my knowledge and insights out in the world

  • * feeling bad when I act defensive or like a know-it-all

  • * being pressured to be with people when I don't want to be

  • * watching others with better social skills, but less intelligence or technical skill, do better professionally

Graces as Children Often

  • * spend a lot of time alone reading, making collections, and so on

  • * have a few special friends rather than many

  • * are very bright and curious and do well in school

  • * have independent minds and often question their parents and teachers

  • * watch events from a detached point of view, gathering information

  • * assume a poker face in order not to look afraid

  • * are sensitive; avoid interpersonal conflict

  • * feel intruded upon and controlled and/or ignored and neglected

Graces as Parents

  • * are often kind, perceptive, and devoted

  • * are sometimes authoritarian and demanding

  • * may expect more intellectual achievement than is developmentally appropriate

  • * may be intolerant of their children expressing strong emotions

This is pretty interesting because this is not how I would have perceived myself as a child. It is, however, a pretty accurate representation of me now. Anyway, take the quiz here to find out which icon you are!

Friday, October 10, 2008

I Love 9th Graders

I had a very bad year last year. It wasn't ALL bad, but it was MOSTLY bad. I was very nervous about coming back to school this year since it was a very difficult transition to the school where I teach now. There are still some difficult things, but this year is unbelieveably different--I almost feel like I am at a different school. Things are going very well for the most part and I am more relieved than I can say. I tried to figure out what the difference is and I think one big part is my 9th graders.

This year I am teaching two sections of Spanish 2 at the honors level. There are two sophomores in one of the classes, but otherwise they are all 9th graders (13 and 14 year-olds) --and I have never had so much fun with classes in my entire teaching career. The combination of fun and hard-working is really tough to beat. From the first day these kids have come to Spanish class ready to go. We always have "talk-time" at the beginning of class and it is by far the best part of every day. They come in the door bursting with news to tell me in Spanish. Whether it is telling me about a soccer game that was won or telling the class about getting in trouble in handbells for laughing at something the handbells teacher didn't think was funny, we all start the class smiling and fully into Spanish mode. I don't know why they are so awesome, it must be that they are still young enough not to let inhibitions or fear stop them from trying. My two sophomores are definitely more sedate, so I must be onto something. 9th graders just rock.

Since they are so awesome and yet so focused, I have been able to do some very fun things with them this year. I think the best one so far is called "Sr. Español". I happen to be very lucky in my choice of a husband, since he is a great teacher and a native Spanish speaker (and because he is just amazing generally). We set up an activity where I give him the topics that we are working on and a time that we will be in class. While we are in class he calls my computer from home (we use Skype) and asks to speak to a student (whose name I give him ahead of time). When the Skype tone rings on my computer the whole class goes ballistic and everyone wants to be chosen. He will have a 2-3 minute conversation with the student about things the class has been learning and then ask to speak with a different student. This way everyone gets to talk to Sr. Español a couple of times each quarter. We do this once a week and the kids love it. The conversations are hilarious, because one of the rules is that they have to ask Sr. Español something about his day, so they ask him things like what he ate for breakfast that morning or if he is feeling tired from speaking so much Spanish. I can't wait for those two classes every day.

Sometimes I wonder if I am just very easily entertained, (or maybe my maturity level is just the same as theirs) but I think there is nothing more fun than watching kids learn. So this year I am appreciating my 9th graders and feeling grateful that I have 8 whole months left with them.

Period E

Period A

Monday, October 06, 2008


Ever since I married JC, I have heard about how bad American bread is. Although he is a little bit of a food snob, I have to allow that if I had grown up with his mother's cooking I would be, too. And, having eaten European bread myself, I have to concede that he is right--Wonder Bread just can't be compared.

Anyway, a goal of mine has been to make European-style bread. It has taken eight years, and I know more about yeast and gluten and flour than I ever thought possible, but yesterday I finally got it right:

JC ate the whole loaf right before my eyes. I wish I had taken a picture of that!!! Too bad it takes two days to make. At least he will know I really love him when I do!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

A Shameless Wannabe

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a possibly too-negative post about starting school. I have to say that things are radically different this year, at least so far. I am still trying to come to grips with that, so I will write more about that at a later time. In the meantime, I am once again shamelessly copying Lara, who sent a very interesting career personality test and I thought it was cool, as is most everything that Lara thinks or does, which is why I want to be just like her.

Your career personality is decided entirely by the colors that you like or don´t like to look at. It was hard for me, because I love all the different colors so it was difficult to choose favorites.

Here are my results:

You're a CREATOR
Key Words: Nonconforming, Impulsive, Expressive, Romantic, Intuitive, Sensitive, and Emotional

These original types place a high value on aesthetic qualities and have a great need for self-expression. They enjoy working independently, being creative, using their imagination, and constantly learning something new. Fields of interest are art, drama, music, and writing or places where they can express, assemble, or implement creative ideas.

Suggested careers are Advertising Executive, Architect, Web Designer, Creative Director, Public Relations, Fine or Commercial Artist, Interior Decorator, Lawyer, Librarian, Musician, Reporter, Art Teacher, Broadcaster, Technical Writer, English Teacher, Architect, Photographer, Medical Illustrator, Corporate Trainer, Author, Editor, Landscape Architect, Exhibit Builder, and Package Designer. (Does Spanish Teacher count?)

Consider workplaces where you can create and improve beauty and aesthetic qualities. Unstructured, flexible organizations that allow self-expression work best with your free-spirited nature.

Suggested Creator workplaces are advertising, public relations, and interior decorating firms; artistic studios, theaters and concert halls; institutions that teach crafts, universities, music, and dance schools. Other workplaces to consider are art institutes, museums, libraries, and galleries.


You're a SOCIAL MANAGER (I love this title, it is so completely what I do!)
Key Words: Tactful, Cooperative, Generous, Understanding, Insightful, Friendly, and Cheerful
This very social type enjoys working in groups, sharing responsibilities, and being the center of attention. Fields of interest are instructing, helping, nurturing, care giving and instructing-especially young people. They discuss and consider feelings in order to solve problems, lead, direct, persuade, guide, organize and enlighten others.

Obviously I am in the right place doing the right thing for my personality. Take the test and see what career personality you have!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

The Furminator and also some Fun

I didn't think I had much to blog about but there are two things that have made a big impression on me lately, and one of them was today. Last week we went to the Cape to see Amy and Dave Bodah. (Amy is one of my fellow teachers at Wheeler) They have a new baby and we hadn't spent any time with them this summer so we decided to take a day and hang out with them. We walked along the beach, swam, and JC taught Dave to fish. It was a great day. Here are some pictures of JC with the baby--

And some fishing....

And this one of the baby just because I thought it was really cute!

Impression #2:
We had all of our back to school meetings last week and one day I was in the lunch line with some other teachers and one of them said he had just gotten an Australian Shepherd puppy. My friend Summer mentioned that I had a very large hairy dog as well, and another lady in the line asked me if we had "The Furminator". I asked her what it was, and she said it was the best thing she had ever purchased, since she had three dogs. It is a sort of brush/rake that helps with shedding. She said it was really expensive, though. I looked it up and sure enough it retails for $60. We were skeptical about a $60 brush so I shopped around and found one on sale for $25. We decided to give it a try, since Luna's hair sticks to our carpet and we have to scrape it off the floor with a scrub brush. Not very fun. Well, the Furminator came today and JC made me come home as fast as I could so we could try it. It took us about 30 minutes to brush her out and this is what came out of her coat:

Yeah, I know. Look again:

We were stunned, to say the least. All that hair that will never find it's way into our carpet! As you can see, she looks just the same, it doesn't cut her hair at all; it just rakes out the dead, loose undercoat. I know, you just have to see it one more time:

Anyway, we will see what the floors look like in a few days, but needless to say, we are impressed! Problem: FURMINATED!

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Moon Lake 2008

This week my family had it's yearly camping trip to Moon Lake, up in the high Uintahs. It is one of my favorite times of the year because everyone who can comes and brings all their kids. It is the best time for me to get to spend some time with my nieces and nephews, since we live about as far away from them as is possible. Anyway, this year we planned a few games to keep the little ones interested. So we had a treasure hunt. I asked my brother-in-law Paul to draw the clues since he is a brilliant artist and he did a great job (and Sue looks lovely as she holds them up!). Here are just a few:

The treasure hunt itself was a lot of fun for the kids:

The kids dug up a treasure of chocolate gold coins and Ring-Pops (since they look like jewels). The hunt actually ended up being more exciting than the treasure!

In the interest of not making this post the longest post ever, I will post more about the trip later.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Timpanogos Falls

Today was the first day that I was not completely busy with family members, and Luna's and my favorite walk (Bridal Veil Falls trail) is closed because of a fire. So I decided to take a short hike up to Timpanogos Falls. It turned out that it was not as short as we thought it was and we were very hot and tired at the end of it. However, I enjoyed the sights and Luna enjoyed the smells. Since I was the only one around with a camera, the pictures are all of Luna. (And it was a camera phone so the pictures are not that great) I love my beautiful girl!

I wish there had been some shade for me!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

A Good Visit

I am having a nice visit at Mom's and this week Sarah's family is here. We had fun yesterday going to see Wall-E. Maegan got some pony books and both she and Austin love to be read to, so we have been doing a lot of reading!!!!

Austin enjoyed having his bath in Granny's sink.
The kids are all terrified of Luna (she is a big, scary looking dog) but they are getting to know her a little at a time. Adam is doing the best:

I learned how to play Dance Dance Revolution with Jason and Nathan today and it was pretty fun but I got my behind kicked! Jason and Nathan are the dance masters! And last but not least: Sandra, Sarah, Samantha, Rachael, Maegan and I went to Seven Peaks on Wednesday and we had a great time. Other than Annie tipping the tube over on herself and Maegan and Sandra falling in the water trying to get out of her tube, we all did well. Fortunately for you all there were no pictures taken!

I also received a call from my department chair on Thursday to let me know that out of my 8 students who took the AP test, There was one score of 3, two students scored a 4 and five of them scored 5's! I am so proud of them!