Saturday, February 28, 2009

Diary of a Fat Girl: Part Six

I'm obsessed with food. There, I said it.

It's amazing how much of a role food takes in our daily lives. Food isn't just something that sustains us, it also plays many roles in our lives. For just about everyone I talk to, food is a Big Deal. Here are a few of the roles it can play:

The Best Friend and Constant Companion

I am guilty of this. Depressed? Oooh, I'll have some Mac and Cheese, or some chocolate (or hey! Both!). Lonely? Bored? Hmmm...I'm hungry. I can't go to a movie without having a soda and candy, it seems.

For some of us, food is comfort. Food is an activity that keeps us from being bored. We eat to ease away sadness, and then can't stand that we ate so much, and gained that weight.

The Enemy

For some, food is the enemy. In this case, people don't eat at all, or eat so little they pretty much starve. The bottom line is that food is the enemy--it makes us fat.

I've never had these kinds of thoughts, but I know people who have, and it is not an easy cycle to break.

The Social Butterfly

Think of the last five times you met up with friends. Was food the focus of your get-together? I bet you're nodding your head and thinking, "Gah, it's true...we ALWAYS eat out." In this day and age, it's often easier to go to a restaurant than to entertain friends at home, or find something that doesn't involve sitting around stuffing yourself.

Some of my friends and I are getting better about this. Summer and I have scrapbooking days, and while we might go out for lunch, food is not the main activity, but something we need to keep working.

The Stalker

As I said above, I'm obsessed with food. Until I can break some of the patterns I've had for a while, I just will be. I'm glad for SMBT (Sadistic, Muscle-Bound Trainer--and I give him this nickname out of complete respect and humor) telling me, "No Feta cheese. Parmesan is okay, though." I'm glad to have him helping me monitor my diet, and telling me that it's okay to eat throughout the day, just to watch what I'm eating, and to keep myself honest. Hence the food journal we pored over at yesterday's appointment.

I am seeing a light at the end of the tunnel, though. Sure, it was really hard to ignore the fact that there were Girl Scouts outside of Safeway this afternoon, but I did it, and I came home to find that, after a good breakfast and a mid-morning snack of a Luna Bar, I was feeling pretty satisfied. I had a mini-bagel in mid-afternoon (missed lunch due to errand-running and household chores), and a healthy, satisfying dinner. I'm not crying out for Samoas (much). Give me some time and I won't be thinking about them at all.


In other news, yesterday's workout went pretty well. When I got there, I mentioned how sore I was all day Thursday, and he said it will get better, but that I'll always be a little sore after a workout.

Last night we did more squats (sans weights, to the delight of my thighs) and an excruciating exercise in which I had both hands on a platform and then had to "walk" them from side to side while balancing on my toes. THAT was hell. The squats were a relief in comparison.

I did more bicep curls (they were easier this time around!) and then B. said, "Balance on one foot for me." I've never been flexible, but I've always had decent balance. I guess he was pleased, because he said, "I'll be right back." He came back with a basketball and said, "Here, I want you to catch this." I caught it, and only then realized it was one of those weighted balls--an eight-pounder.

B. directed me to face him, standing on one foot. We would toss the ball back and forth. It was easy at first, but then my ankle started to burn, and my balance to waver. Still, I managed it okay.

Next we did some lat presses and rowing exercises, all the while discussing the current situation in my school district. Turns out a friend of his is a school counselor--one of the last hired. She is almost sure to lose her job. I can definitely commiserate.

I had already done my 35 minutes of cardio before my appointment, so I was free to go. I got home at about 8:00, exhausted from a long day (work, school board meeting, work out) and ready for bed. I didn't even have dinner, but just a mini-bagel with some cream cheese and a cup of tea.

I skipped the workout today, instead running errands and doing some chores around the apartment. Tomorrow I'll do my cardio. B. told me to do cardio at least four times a week, this week, I did five. A day off is okay!




All kinds of CUTENESS!

Just an idea I had while staying late after school yesterday.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Diary of a Fat Girl: Part Five

I am exhausted.

More tomorrow.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

I'll Be Wearing Pink!

Friday, March 13 is Pink Friday. Wear pink in support of California teachers, including ME!!

A Day in the Life

Caution: Randomness ahead.

For starters, I weighed myself again today and was 1.2 pounds lighter than yesterday. I know, I know, it must be water weight, but STILL!!!

The weather around here is nutso--rain? Sun? Clouds? I wore my sunglasses while driving to work this morning because the sun would peek out from behind clouds, then hide again, then peek get the picture.

But it sure was pretty! This was taken outside of my classroom, standing on the half-dry, half puddle-filled playground.

A colleague jokingly posted on her Facebook page that she should wear pink to work to protest all the pink slips that are going out. I decided she had a good idea, and wore my adorable pink-and-cream-stripes scarf that has pockets.

I am sore as all get-out today. I mentioned it to some kids after school, after asking them to pick something up from the floor for me. One, who is often a problem, walked up to me and karate-chopped me on my thigh.

Even though he was trying to be funny, I was livid. I think I said something along the lines of, "You. Don't. Touch. Me. EVER."

Not only was it hideously inappropriate--I would get in all kinds of trouble if the roles had been reversed--it also HURT. I'm sore, I hardly need someone karate-chopping my tired, sore muscles!

Needless to say, the associate principal is getting the citation first thing tomorrow morning.

Even though I was hideously sore, I still went to the gym to put in 35 minutes on the cross-trainer. Go me! B., my sadist, muscle-bound trainer, wasn't there for me to get kudos, but I have another appointment tomorrow. P.S. He's not that bad--he's actually very knowledgeable and helpful. Plus, he doesn't let me quit. Hence the Mutiny on the Thighs.

I came home and had a hot shower, then a yummy dinner of scrambled eggs (with cheese and green pepper), a whole wheat mini-bagel with spinach and artichoke cream cheese, and some green beans. Dessert is Ibuprofen.

Tomorrow I'm going to raise some hell at an important school board meeting before going back to the gym for more torture--er, working out.

Tonight, however, I have Grey's Anatomy, America's Best Dance Crew, and my new Snuggie. Awesome.

There Are Some Things In Life Money Can't Buy...

Bachelor of Arts in music education: thousands of dollars.

Buffet R13 professional clarinet: $1,700 (with substantial discount).

Impressing the kindergartners with my ability to play "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" on my clarinet...


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Oh No She Dih-nt.

Oh yes, I did.

I was at Target tonight for a few things I needed, and I ended up with a few things I didn't need--like a darling hat, a new purse, some paperbacks (scratch that--I need good reads!) and, yes, a Snuggie.

When I saw it there, on an endcap, Snuggied in with the Ped Eggs and other various As Seen on TV goodies, I couldn't help it. I grabbed one off the shelf and put it in my basket.

I opened it a few minutes ago, and was surprised to find a small box inside.

Then I remembered--the Snuggie comes with a personal reading light! Not that I need it, but hey! Bargain! All this for $14.99!

I decided to try it on and do some modeling.

One size does, indeed, fit all. And then some.

Diary of a Fat Girl: Part Four

My thighs are screaming the agonized scream of worn-out, terrified muscles. "Please!!" they're begging me. "Don't torture us anymore!!" They're ready to secceed from my brain and press charges against B., the muscle-bound Master Trainer who put them through this hell.

Yes, my friends, today I met with my trainer for the 2nd time.

He took me through several strength-building exercises. We started with squats. I did them with a five-pound dumbbell in each hand, which, upon straightening my legs and finally tucking my substantial butt back in (gah, is there anything more embarassing that sticking that thing out?) I would raise above my head.

Next, he showed me an exercise in which I step up on a platform, about 10-12 inches off the floor, completely straightening my leg, going back down, and bouncing back up. "Try to find a rhythm to this one," he suggested.

"Go to hell!!!" my thighs replied. My brain is more diplomatic. It realizes that this is good for me.

Next he led me over to a machine, where I would do some lateral presses or some such thing. My thighs expressed their glee when they saw that this was a sit-down exercise. My arms were too stupid to know any better.

A few minutes later, the arms had joined the chorus. "Mutiny! For the love of God, MUTINY!!!"

But B. wasn't finished with me. Nope, next we had to do some rowing motions for my back. My back didn't seem to mind, and even my arms and thighs simmered down for a few minutes. Finally, we walked back to a corner of the weight area. On our way, B. grabbed, one-handed, a 20-pound dumbbell. Let me add here that for me to lift it, it takes both hands and a deep breath.

My thighs started laughing at my arms as I started the bicep curls. By the end of my third set, B. was doing a lot of spotting. I was dripping sweat and swigging water. B. suggested we do some stretches. I reminded him that I am pretty much the least flexible person on the planet. Even as a 12-year-old, I could never touch my toes without bending my knees (they used to test us in junior high PE, and it was always embarassing).

"We'll work on that," he replied with the confidence of a Master Trainer. My arms and thighs started to weep.

The stretches were actually pretty easy in comparison to the rest of the, workout. And then, miraculously, we were done. I had made it through a 45-minute, butt-kicking workout with a Master Trainer, without embarassing myself. He told me to do 35 minutes of cardio, which I slogged through at a slower-than-usual pace.

The best news of all, though? I've already lost 1.6 pounds, in less than a week. I hope, when I weigh again on Friday, to have reached a full 2 pounds.

My thighs are just going to have to put on their big girl panties and deal with it. I'm on a roll!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Diary of a Fat Girl: Part Three

Unlike the darling little cheeseburger nommer above, I'm doing quite well. : )

Tonight I had scrambled eggs (with cheese and green pepper) for dinner, and some leftover sweet potato fries from Sunday. I'm finding that it's not so hard to measure portions and keep a tally of the calories I'm eating. I had the last of the Dr. Pepper. Starting tomorrow, it's out of my life. Sorry, Doc, Lent and better health are calling to me.

Also, I did my 35 minutes of cardio today, so tomorrow, when I meet the trainer again, I can tell him I've done all my homework.

Last night, Miz Minka told me I've got that work-out glow, and I'm seeing it in myself, too. And, oddly enough, I had more energy for the two-and-a-half hour Chorale rehearsal. Lately, I've barely made it an hour-and-a-half before being too tired to hit my high notes (and in Brahms' Requiem, I'm required to hit a lot of G, A, and even a couple of B-flats). Last night, I felt more energetic and able to sing longer. Awesome!

Monday, February 23, 2009

I'm a STAR

An exciting little event happened this weekend. Most of you won't get the significance, but some of you definitely will.

A few months ago, I started reading Jezebel, a blog by women, for women. I was hooked instantly. This is a blog that promises "Celebrity, Sex, Fashion for Women. No Airbrushing."

The posts on Jezebel are always well-researched and well-written. I've actually learned a lot, especially during the crazy election season. I admit, the site does have a decidedly liberal leaning, so if you're not into liberal outlooks, it might not be for you. But there are also lots of fun things, from movie reviews to Sadie's awesome "Good, Bad and Ugly" fashion posts from every major premiere and awards event.

I noticed from the beginning that there was a community of women (and men!) who comment on the posts, leaving everything from deep, insightful comments to crazy-funny puns. This is the Cool Kids' Club, only there's no membership fee. Nerds, Social Butterflies and everyone else are welcome--the only requirement is that you refrain from being a jerk.

Eventually, I felt the need to add my own voice to the colorful mix on Jezebel. So I made a profile and got posting. I noticed right away that some commenters had stars next to their names; I did not. After some searching, I found that a commenter must have 40 "followers" (people who click on a small heart next to the person's name) to get a star. I figured I'd never get there, as I only comment in my PST evenings, long after this east coast-based blog shuts down for the night. But, through some awesome weekend posts and a few open posts, I suddenly found myself, last weekend, with the required 40 followers. Since then, the number has risen to 55.

(You like me, you really like me!!)

Through Jezebel, I've met some awesome Jezzies, whose blogs keep showing up in my Blogs I Read list (over there --->). We're establishing a wider community of blogs and Facebook profiles, finding friendships through one really cool blog.

Anyway, it's a little cheesy, I suppose, but I feel kind of cool that fifty-five people have decided I am worth listening to. That my opinion or ability to make puns is respected by the really cool people who flock to Jezebel. It's worth a little shout-out to my fellow Jezzies all across the country. The list includes some awesome ladies.

The Not-So-Religious Girl Attempts Lent

Okay, so I'm not religious, really. Never have been. My knowledge of Lent was acquired recently, while researching Mardi Gras for some lesson plans.

I've decided that this year is the perfect time to participate in Lent. Not so much to achieve a higher spiritual plane, but to help in my weight loss goals.

So, tonight, I bought a bottle of Dr. Pepper. I had half with dinner, and I will have half tomorrow (Mardi Gras). Lent begins on Wednesday...and with it, begins forty days of NO Dr. Pepper. I shall stick to tea and water.

Explosion at the Craft Store...Details Below

Today, my kids made Mardi Gras masks.

It was messy.

I am exhausted.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Sexy Brit

Who cares that he's 8 years younger than me? He's British, and he's sexy. What more could a girl want?

A tux, that's what.

I Love Kate

She is beautiful, and a real woman. Gorgeous, a great actress...and I want this dress.

Diary of a Fat Girl: Part Two

I have been eating very well today, and I find myself quite satisfied.


1. 3 oz of turkey kielbasa sausage
2. Smoothie (one Dannon Light and Fit Strawberry yogurt, one cup of orange juice, and one banana)


1. 6 oz. grapes
2. 3 oz. baby carrots


Leftover chicken and rice from last night

And tea in my favorite Jane Austen bone china mug. Darcy sayign, "She is tolerable." Love it!

For dinner, I think I'll bake some sweet potato fries, sprinkled with cinnamon, and fix some more chicken. I'll have a small Greek salad, and more tea. I've been good today, so I can have a single-serving packet of Cadbury Mini Eggs for dessert.

Too Much Pink

No, not my Little Pink Blog--my Pepto theme is not going anywhere!

I just read a great blog post by a fitness trainer named Bill Hartman, called Too Much Pink. Very interesting, very informative. I've never really bought many fitness magazines, but now I really won't.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

A Goal

To be this skinny again, though a little more toned, especially in the arms.

Yes, this is my junior year of high school, on Prom Night.

Eating Well Looks GOOD

Today I went grocery shopping (after 35 minutes of cardio at the gym--yay, me!!). I piled up my cart with good things, like veggies and fruits, boneless/skinless chicken breasts, and brown rice. I bought Raisin Bran and whole wheat bagels, and a wonderful new thing that Philadelphia has put out: Spinach and Artichoke Cream Cheese. Only 80 calories per serving!

It occured to me while I was unloading all of this stuff that healthy eating really is very pretty.

I coated three chicken breasts in flour and seasonings (garlic powder, salt, pepper, parsley flakes and Italian seasonings) and baked them. I cooked some chicken-flavored brown rice I found at Marina Market. I made a small Greek salad using a basalmic vinagarette that doesn't have any oil in it--so it's only 5 calories for two tablespoons.

The results were very appetizing, and they tasted as good as they looked.

I measured everything, eating exactly four ounces of chicken, one cup of rice, and one ounce of Feta cheese on the salad.

I can definitely live like this. It's healthy, it's delicious. I bought a couple of one-serving bags of Cadbury Mini Eggs because, every once in a while, it's okay to splurge on a little bit of chocolate. The trick is to not eat it every day. I'm also drinking the last of the Dr. Pepper I had in the house tonight. From now on, that will be a rare treat.

Thanks to everyone who has voiced their encouragement--I need cheerleaders!

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Mardi Gras Board

Some stuff arrived from Oriental Trading Company, so my board is looking better than ever!

Diary of a Fat Girl: Day One

Before you all yell at me to not call myself fat--well, here's the facts: I am. I am far too heavy for my height, age and overall health. Forty-five percent of my body weight is fat. This is not good.

But I'm taking the reins and I'm going to do something about it. Depression and anxiety be damned--no more driving by the gym every day on my way home from work and moaning to myself, "I'm too tired, I'm too hungry, I'm too...whatever." No excuses! One of the big reasons I picked the apartment complex I live in is because it is about three blocks from a 24 Hour Fitness.

As you might know, I signed up for ten sessions with a personal trainer. He is what 24 Hour calls a Master Trainer--he knows his stuff. I hope he kicks me in the butt, because I need it. We had our first appointment today, and he gave me homework: I need to keep a food journal, and I need to do 35 minutes of cardio once this weekend, and on Monday or Tuesday (our next appointment is Wednesday).

Today, we did the hard part. No, not endless stomach crunches, or lunges with me hauling dumbbells in my hands. That's the EASY part. The hard part was letting a fitness god weigh me and measure my body fat. I wanted to sink through the floor.

But again, NO SINKING! Nope, this ship is unsinkable (it should be--fat floats). I will soldier on, and knowing that I have appointments with this guy for at least the next five weeks (I might buy more, if I feel I need it), and that his "homework assignments" he is giving me are part of the plan to help me take control of my weight, my eating habits, my exercise habits--hell, my LIFE--is making it easier to put down the Dr. Pepper and strap on my gym shoes.

Tomorrow I will walk to the gym--no driving unless its dark out, or I'm coming straight from work, 10 miles away--and do my 35 minutes of cardio. Maybe I'll do some stretches and crunches while I'm there. Sunday is all about NASCAR, but I might just try to get some gym time in then, too. I don't want to overdo it, but I figure if I feel like working out, I should. At the very least, I could swim some laps on Sunday, in the heated pool.

By my trainer's calculations, I can conceivably be at my goal weight by January 4, 2010. In the meantime, every bit of weight loss, every clothing size dropped, is an achievement. Every time I put down the Dr. Pepper and pick up water, or eat an apple instead of chocolate is a victory. I will take the stairs, and not park in the very front of the parking lot, choosing instead to walk. Soon, I will be posting blog entries under the title, "Diary of a Girl With a Cute Figure." Lane Bryant will be a thing of my past.

And never again will I stand on a scale, embarassed and ashamed.

Thursday, February 19, 2009


That's me!

Yesterday was the first time I saw the infamous 6B since last Thursday's mini-meltdown. I was nervous and anxious, but also hopeful and determined. I was not about to let the little buggers get the best of me!

To prepare, I dug out my trusty copy of The First Days of School by Harry K. Wong. This is a great book, often given to new teachers. My mom gave me my copy, which I read a little at the time, and used in the seven years since as a reference for various papers I had to write for various teacher courses I had to take. Otherwise, it has sat on my bookcase.

I took it to school yesterday and spent most of my morning prep time reading it. At first, I felt as though I was what Wong calls an ineffective teacher. Some of the things ineffective teachers do, I was guilty of.

But I was heartened to see that I was doing a lot of effective things, too. I write the agenda on the board every day, and always in the same place. My kids still sometimes ask, "What are we doing today?" but they're getting better at looking at the board before opening their mouths.

Armed with my review of effective teaching strategies and a huge roll of tickets, I faced 6B with my plan firmly in place.

For starters, every name was on the board--however, no one was in trouble. I had written every single name under the heading Star Students, and I informed them that having their name up there is not a bad thing--I think they're stars simply because they came in quietly and sat down in their assigned spots, getting to work on the assignment I gave them as they came in.

I also explained that for every check they got next to their names, they would get a ticket. Tickets can be submitted for a drawing, in which they can win things like Hot Cheetos (a hot commodity), Skittles, and silly little games.

Those kids WANT tickets. They'll do about anything to earn them. Only one student said, "I don't want my tickets, Ms. C." I replied, "Well, R, you earned them. I'll putting them in the box for you." He ended up doing it himself.

When 6B left yesterday, I noticed my room was cleaner than they usually leave it. They walked a little more quietly to the front of the school for dismissal. They weren't perfect angels, but it was such a huge step up from last week.

Tomorrow they get to see their kindergarten art buddies, and we'll be making Mardi Gras jester hats. : )

That's not where my superpowers end, however.

I dragged my lazy butt to the gym! And not only did I do 30 minutes on the cross-trainer, I also signed up for 10 sessions with a personal trainer. I start tomorrow, and I'm actually quite excited. I told the trainer that I need motivation to get back into working out regularly, and having an appointment is a good start. Hopefully soon I'll also find a workout buddy to meet up with. I figure if I can make it to the gym three or four times a week, I'm doing well.

We'll also be discussing a nutrition program that works for me, and I hope to become more jazzed by working out again. I've been doing the same old weight program for a while, and frankly, it's just not doing anything for me anymore.

So yes, I am Superwoman. I feel really good this week. I got a postcard from Auntie Flo--she'll be back in a few weeks, but she's not bringing Anxiety and Chaos with her. I told her they are not welcome.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Mardi Gras

A few weeks ago, I posted pictures of my Chinese New Year bulletin board, and the various projects my kids were working on. Chinese New Year is finished, and now it is time to move on. After a brief tour of Black History Month, Valentine's Day and President's Day, my kids are ready for the Next Big Deal: Mardi Gras.

I've already posted pictures of the two masks I made a couple of weekends ago, but I have a couple of new pictures--I added glitter glue!

Of course, I need a canvas on which to display my Mardi Gras stuff.

I had bought some feathers and other doodads for my kids to use on their masks, but it was going to be very limited. Imagine my joy when one afternoon, the school's attendance clerk called me in my classroom and said, "Come take what you need--someone donated a bunch of craft stuff."

Yesterday, I sat down and opened all of the packages, sorting things into boxes for easier distribution when my kids make their masks next week. I really started to see just how much good stuff was in there. I have a shoebox-sized box FULL of beads!

With all of this coming up, I'm working on rewarding my kids for good behavior. After last week's mini-meltdown, I've established some reward systems:

All of this stuff is making my desk messy.

BUT--my bulletin board is coming together (I'm waiting on a garland I ordered from Oriental Trading Company), and the agenda for the day on the white board is festive.

Happy Mardi Gras!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Cellular Revolution

It seems everyone these days gives their kids cell phones. I have mixed feelings about this, though I lean mostly towards the good-to-have-in-an-emergency line of thinking.

So, I decided my kids need cell phones. I got a great deal at PetCo.

Nip included!

Monday, February 16, 2009

Snow Day

Today was a great day--Summer and I drove up Highway 50 to play in the snow. We didn't have to go very far--snow is at some pretty low elevations this winter. I have a feeling the spring runoff is going to be especially good this year.

As ever, travel pics are on The Anxious Traveler.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Rain, Rain...Are You Coming or Not?!

I woke up this morning to some fierce-sounding wind outside my bedroom window. Imagine my surprise when I looked outside, expecting a soaked landscape, to dry ground. Throughout the day it has sprinkled a little, but never given the downpour I was expecting.

That said, it is COLD. C-O-L-D. Good news, because Summer and I are going to the snow tomorrow, and we're not going to have to drive very far up Highway 50 to find it. We'll be stopping for a lunch at a place where a fellow Chico choir nerd works, which will be fun. Watch for pics on the travel blog!

Summer is coming here tonight so we can get an early start. She should be here around 8:00. In the mean time, I just made a huge pot of potato-leek soup, and I've got the Oxygen Channel marathon of America's Next Top Model running behind me. I moaned and groaned my way through Dale Earnhardt Jr's adventure-ridden Daytona 500 today with two sleepy kitties.

In other words, it's been a marvelous Sunday.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

My Only Reference to Valentine's Day

Hugs to all of my friends!

Friday, February 13, 2009


A new kitten feed is here!

Click here for cuteness!


Ouch. Just...ouch.

The Thin Line Between Calm and Anxiety

Two years ago this week, I sat in an exam room at the Antioch Kaiser, crying as I told the doctor about the stress and hopelessness I felt at my job teaching high school choir. I told her how my reaction to stress is usually crying--sometimes uncontrollable crying.

The doctor put me on a low dose of a generic anti-depressant. Within a few weeks, I felt better--I still didn't love my job, and I still felt stressed by it, but I could handle the stress without falling to pieces. Slowly, I started getting me back.

I spent another school year at the job, only to be told, on Valentine's Day of 2008, that my services would no longer be needed, thankyouverymuch. So much of what I had regained came crashing back down, and I slowly started building it back up, and moving on.

When I started working at my new job, I immediately felt the difference. Instead of working with teenagers, the endless fundraising, and planning field trips, I was now free to come up with creative lessons. Working with the younger children is delightful, and my middle school kids give me enough challenge, but also a lot of reward.

I teach four middle school classes, two on "A" days, two on "B" days. They alternate, every other day. When the kids don't have my class, they go to PE. Three of my classes, 5A, 5B and 6A, are pretty easy. They have their moments, and I have to watch to make sure they're following directions, but for the most part, I can move around the room helping kids, or sit at my front table working on stuff, without worrying that the place will come crashing down around our ears.

Then there's 6B. From the first day, 6B has proven to be a unique blend of immaturity, lack of care for school, and "we just wanna have FUN!!" mentality. Don't get me wrong--I have some GREAT kids in 6B. Unfortunately, they're surrounded by some of our most difficult middle school students.

In December, I started to finally feel I had a handle on these kids. I even had the most naughty boys in the class doing ballet! Then Christmas was over, Santa went back to the North Pole, and a couple of new kids came to our school. They were placed in 6B, and they came screaming in like poison darts.

The first made farting noises on his first day in my class. He just sat there, making the loudest and most obnoxious farting sounds he could muster. When he wasn't making verbal flatulence, he was yelling impertinent questions in the most obnoxious unchanged voice I've ever heard from a twelve-year-old.

The second came in with his pants around his knees, walking into my room with the "I'm too cool for school" swagger of the gang-ambitious young man.

It's amazing to watch the balance in a class shift from mostly silly, slightly irreverent kids who will humor me and do the ballet to the craziness I have dealt with in the last few weeks from 6B.

As I felt my control on this class starting to slip, I quickly started pulling in on the reins. Some days it works, on Tuesday of this week, I had to send a few kids out of my room and write a lot of citations. Four kids ended up getting assigned to after-school detention, and one was suspended.

Yesterday, I arrived at work to find an email from the second-in-command at my school, asking for me to come talk. She is concerned about my assigning four detentions in one class period. Mine, she said, is the only class this happens in. She thinks it must be my classroom management, and, "I wonder about your curriculum, if they're doing this instead of the work."

I sat in her office and felt all of that old anxiety come crashing back down on my head. This woman has never once watched me teach. She did not care to discuss how my other three classes do the projects I assign them, nor did she listen very much when I mentioned that 6B breaks my colored pencils, loses the caps to my markers, and, in general, makes such a huge mess, that I can't even trust them with Elmer's glue.

Nope, it must be MY FAULT. Because an 8th grader told her that kids were sticking gummy bears to the wall, and that's why he felt compelled to pick up a metal folding chair over his head and run around after another kid with it.

For the record: there were NO gummy bears. I would have noticed. By this point in our "little chat," however, I didn't even bother saying this.

I spent the rest of the day walking that thin line between calm and anxiety. I spoke to my middle school colleagues, who helped me come to an interesting conclusion: BULLSHIT.

I call bullshit! A woman who has never watched me teach will take the word of an 8th grade student (who is known for getting into trouble with all of his teachers, not just me) and form her assessment of my classroom management skills. Ridiculous. Her oh-so-brilliant solution? Bribe them with treats...make them earn donuts or nachos or candy.

Yesterday afternoon, 6B came to my class. It was a nightmare. As one kid walked back to his seat after asking me a question, another kid turned around without warning and stuck a piece of construction paper covered in glue to the passing kid's shirt. Of course, there was retaliation before I could get over there, even though I said, "Do NOT retaliate!"

At the end of the day, my room was a disaster and I felt like a failure. I didn't write the glue-spewing kids up, even...I am now afraid to do so.

As I lined my kids up outside, I could feel tears coming on. I saw a colleague who'd just had prep and asked if he would walk my kids to the front of the school. He took one look at me and agreed right away. I ran back to my classroom and promptly had a panic attack.

It's a razor-thin line, sometimes, that line between calm and anxiety. I waked the tightrope all day, at in the end, I fell off. I sat in my classroom, shaking, sobbing, unable to breathe but for the gasping breaths that come with feelings of anxiety. Finally, I fled to my car and drove home.

I spoke to my parents, and both agreed, pretty much, with my assesment--BULLSHIT. Dad said it perfectly: "She may be wrong, but she's the boss. Make her happy." So I will talk the talk and show her that I'm a dutiful little soldier. Meanwhile, I will run my classroom as I see fit--and not take advice from a woman who taught kindergarten before becoming an administrator.

Needless to say, I woke up this morning with severely puffy eyes, exhausted and apprehensive about the day ahead.

But the most amazing thing happened. I had a GREAT day.

My kindergarteners and first graders were giggly and excited about their coming Valentine's Day parties, but, as ever, eager to have music and sing "Mikey the Monkey." During my prep time, I reorganized the pens and pencils 6B and messed up the day before.

5A came in and behaved beautifully. At lunch, a colleague mentioned writing one of the 6B students up because he was watching a video of gang activity on a classroom computer and he lied about it. I felt vindicated--it's not just MY class. These kids are pushing the limits in all of their classes.

After lunch, 6A sat quietly and made Valentine cards, keeping the talking to a low rumble (which I allow--no one should be forced to do art in complete silence) and the mess to a minimum.

At the end of the day, the only evidence that two middle school classes had been cutting and pasting in my classroom was a small pile of debris I had swept up--little tiny pieces of construction paper that had fallen to the floor. The major debris had been put in the garbage. My markers and colored pencils were neatly put away. I walked my class to the front of the school for dismissal and thought to myself, "You're better at this than you give yourself credit for!"

The bottom line is that I refuse to let one administrator who doesn't bother to know what I'm doing in my classroom get me down. I'm a good teacher--not a great teacher, but a good teacher who is working her way up that ladder of greatness. I love what I do, I put a lot of time into it, and I can get 7th and 8th graders to make Valentine's Day cards, Chinese New Year lanterns, and to try the five basic ballet positions. If, every once in a while, I have to assign four kids from one class to detention, this is not bad management--assigning detention for bad behavior choices is what we're supposed to do. I am not in the wrong.

Once again, the anxiety fades away to calm. I breathe normally. It's certainly not gone forever, but the tightrope has widened into something I can walk with ease.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

One-Woman Slumber Party

Ahh, the joy of cats.

On Tuesday, I found a little bit of kitty vomit on my comforter. I cleaned it up and figured I'd tuck that part away until I could wash it on the weekend.

I came home yesterday to an even bigger puddle of upchuck (it's not Millie-barf, so that leaves Harley--how sad and strange that I can differentiate my cats' barf). There was no question--the comforter must be washed. I dragged it over to the complex laundry room, as my little washer/dryer is not big enough. When I pulled it out of the dryer, it seemed dry, but had a big damp patch in the middle.

This explains why I slept on my pull-out sofa last night.

I pulled every blanket I have, arranged my pillows just so, and settled in to watch a little bit of Shrek 2 before going to sleep. My kitties were a little baffled, but quickly figured things out.

So I had a one-woman (and two cats!) slumber party last night, which explains why today, I was exhausted.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Dear Person Who Cleaned Out a Craft Room,


I got a call this afternoon from our attendance clerk, telling me there was craft stuff up for grabs in the mail room. After school, I went to check it out, and found a gold mine of beads, garlands, little ribbon flowers, and all kinds of crafty gizmos.

Here's the thing: In about two weeks, I'm going to have my kids make Mardi Gras masks. I bought some feathers and sequins, and some sparkly pipe cleaner, but that was it. Anything more, and it started getting too expensive. Plastic beads at the craft store are outrageous!

Your donation just gave me a TON of awesome stuff. My girls will love the little flowers and sparklie garland things, and I know all of my kids are going to make some awesome masks.

Whoever you are, thank you for thinking of my school. Other teachers and I had a blast going through the stuff (after they got over their puzzlement at finding me in the mail room, on my hands and knees, digging through several plastic bags of stuff!), and others were able to use some of the stuff I could not.


Meg of the Little Pink Blog

Misery and Blight


Apparently, Forbes magazine has named Stockton, California as the most miserable city in the United States.

It compiled its findings by looking at the 150 largest metropolitan statistical areas in the U.S., and ranking them on nine factors: commute times, corruption -- the criminal conviction of government officials in the area -- as well as ''pro sports teams, Superfund sites, taxes (both income and sales), unemployment, violent crime and weather.''

From SFGate

I call bullshit.

Let's face it, last July, when I interviewed for my current position, all I knew about Stockton was its reputation, and a few stories my friend Steve told me about growing up here in his high school years. I was wary of finding my way to Stockton, but when I interviewed for the job something hit me. This is exactly the job I wanted. Exactly what I was looking for.

Sometimes the best gifts are not the ones in the shiniest packages.

I got the job, and accepted it right away. At least one person called me on it, saying I should think about it, not be so desperate. But I really wanted this job! Teaching K-8 music, with a little art thrown in for kicks, was a marvelous prospect. So by the end of that month, I found myself calling a two-bedroom apartment in Stockton home, and exploring my new surroundings with enthusiasm and wariness.

Stockton had a few surprises for me. The first? It's not so bad! Yes, there is crime here, but there is also culture. Within hours of accepting my new job, I had found a web site for Stockton Chorale. I am so very happy I made the effort to audition and be involved. I have been challenged musically, and I've met some great people.

Downtown Stockton isn't as happening as other big cities, but it still retains an air of community, and offers some great landmarks and events.

According to Forbes:

Stockton was ground zero for the housing boom and now the subsequent bust. Home prices more than tripled between 1998 and 2005 and then came crashing down last year. Stockton had the country's highest foreclosure rate last year at 9.5%, according to RealtyTrac, an online marketer of foreclosed property.

Okay, so the housing market sucks...but here's a news flash--it sucks everywhere. And yes, 29 police officers were recently laid off, and even Yours Truly will be receiving the inevitible pink slip. (Must say, though, that a colleague told me today that my predecessor received them every year and still had a job when the next year started...I retain my hope and optimism.)

Maybe, on some obscure statistical level calculated by the people at Forbes, Stockton seems like a miserable place. I'd like to point out, though, that they obviously know nothing about my neighborhood, where most of the homes are owned outright, blight is nonexistent, and, while we're all scaling back a little, we're still doing alright.

At last check, none of us are miserable.

What was most appalling were the comments below the article on SFGate. A sample:

Stockton has ALWAYS been the armpit of California. surprise here really. i have family in both stockton and modesto; why they're still there i do not know. my grandmother had enough sense to move her family out of modesto 53 years ago(where they lived for 5 years) and to the east bay where everyone still lives.
(I'm sorry, but I remain unimpressed by the two years I spent living in the East Bay.)

Stockton is a pit. Reminds me of Gotham City on Batman. Dark, dreary and gloomy. Full of dirtbags and fast food joints. THE highest litter problem in the state. The list goes on and on. (Hey, hey! I'm not a dirtbag!)

There were, however, people who supported Stockton:

When Forbes calls a city miserable it means the greed heads that read it have a harder time getting rich there.

Of the towns in the valley Stockton is one of the few that has real character. It has a port, ag related industries and a skid row that makes the Tenderloin look like uptown. Modesto? Too white bread. Fresno? The worst of urban sprawl. Sacramento? All politicians. Lodi? Bedroom community to Stockton fer chrissakes. Merced? There's no there there.

I'm going to step out on a limb here and say something shocking. I'm going to hypothesize that these endless lists that magazines like to put out are, actually, bullshit disguised as news.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

To Mom and Dad

Happy Anniversary!

Today my parents celebrate 41 years of love, friendship, and 30 years with a daughter who has a love of cheesy limericks (as evidenced by the email I sent this morning).

There once was a couple named Cooper
Who, by no mistake or blooper
Through laughter and tears
Celebrated forty-one years!
Their daughter thinks that's just super.

Mom's response:


Thank you my dear. Very cute...

love, Mom

Wonderful World, Indeed

Maybe this pair should run the world.

What if Teachers Ran the World?

I’ve had a lot of time to ponder the state of politics in this country lately. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know the following:

1.There was a presidential election in November.
2.Barack Obama became the 44th president of the United States a few weeks ago.
3.California’s governator and state legislatures have not yet passed a state budget…which was supposed to happen in July.

Yes, folks, we’re over six months without a state budget. Scary? To quote the losing candidate for Vice President: “You betcha!”

I spoke to my boss today, asking her the tough question: can I expect to receive a pink slip? Her answer was, “Yes. All first-year teachers in the district will receive one by March 15th.”

This was only confirming what I already knew—I may very well be out of a job in another few months. I’ve been in this position before, of course. It was only one year ago this Saturday (Valentine’s Day—heh) that I was laid off from my high school choral job. That, of course, was a blessing in disguise. I hated that job, resented the time I had to spend fundraising, and couldn’t believe the brattiness of some of the little divas I worked with. Every day, I had someone pissing on my methods. It was maddening.

This time, the thought of being laid off really sucks. I love what I’m doing here. It is challenging but comfortable. I don’t hate going to work in the mornings. I look forward to finding cool projects for my kids, and don’t resent the time I spend doing lesson plans. I know that every day, I bring joy to my kids in some way. My little kids love music time—some classes were actually sad last week when I took a sick day.

I’m getting sick and goddamned tired of education in this state and country getting the short end of the stick. I’ve decided that teachers should run the world. We’d get a lot more accomplished.

No War

Think about it. If teachers were running things, no one would dare invade another country, even if, “He started it!!!” The offending parties would be placed in separate corners of the room, told to get on with their assignment (running their own countries without interfering with someone else’s) and warned that any more misbehavior would result in detention time and a visit to the Vice Principal.

Lower Crime Rates

Face it—students are always trying to get away with stuff. Teachers have eyes in the back of their heads and a sixth sense for lying that doesn’t let up. Any teacher worth their salt has students who will tell you they don’t dare get caught misbehaving. The students know one important thing: the second they’re caught—and they will be caught—the consequence will be unpleasant. Television in prison? Ha! Those prisoners would be scrubbing the floors with toothbrushes, completing “Cool Down” assignments, and eating school cafeteria food.

Pigs in a blanket, anyone?

What Economic Crisis?

Teachers are masters at stretching a dime.

For starters, a teacher like me, in the seventh year of her career, makes approximately $46,000 a year. Not horrible, but certainly somewhat limiting. And yet my rent gets paid, my bills get paid, my car is running, and I have professional, affordable clothing for my job. I also have extra money for the perks in life, like travel, my scrapbooking habit, and my book addiction. Teachers can budget!

And we can squeeze the very last bit of construction paper out of the scrap box. We save milk cartons for planting seeds in science class, and toilet paper rolls for art projects. White board markers are treated like precious commodities. Copy paper is worth its weight in gold.

An extra worksheet can be turned over and used for drawing paper. Using the school’s laminating machine will ensure that one will never have to buy classroom posters again—those suckers aren’t fading, no sir!

Spending money on new text books would never be an issue—we’d find a way to cut back in other corners. We’d bicker for the length of a staff meeting, then put it to a vote. Majority rules, and no, you can’t buy our vote!

Ahhh, if only teachers ran the world.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Mardi Gras Masks

Today, I decorated two masks. In a couple of weeks, I'm going to have my kids make Mardi Gras masks, and couldn't wait to start making my teacher samples.