Wednesday, January 28, 2009

notes from the ESL

A lady came to speak to my class tonight. She had acrylic nails. They were painted a really dark red and looked exactly like kidney beans. So kidney beans were all I could think about during her talk.

Tonight we talked about how everyone came to the United States. My students are from Mexico (Michoacan, Guadalajara, DF, Durango) and El Salvador. Some have been here over 20 years. Some have been here for less than 6 months. Some spent one day traveling to the US. Some spent an entire month. They walked. They took buses, planes, cars, boats. Some weren't scared during their trips to the US. Most were. Some walked across the border with coyotes. One student told me that didn't worry him at all. He paid the coyote a lot of money and was confident the guy knew what he was doing. Turns out he did.

The same student also chatted with me about those who come to the US and work hard and those who don't. From his observations, those who worked in their native country and came to the US as a late teen or adult generally appreciate what it took to get here and they work hard. He also observed that the those who don't work hard here in the US and get in trouble are generally people who came to the US as children (or early teens) with their parents. They didn't work before the came here, they don't appreciate what it took to get here, and they take for granted the opportunities they have here. I thought it was very insightful. This is a student who gets up at 5am, drives up to 2 hours each way to work sites, paints all day, and comes straight to my class without having dinner first. I have a lot of respect for him.

I have spent more time this session making sure my students know each others' names. It really has made such a difference. They are much more comfortable with each other now. Class is always better when the students are comfortable. Slowly getting the hang of this teaching thing.

Note to self: Even if it ties into the lesson, do NOT teach "used to" (accustomed to) before you teach "used to" (marker of past tense). I am positive they will now be saying "I was used to playing" when I try to teach them to say "I used to play." We learn from our mistakes, right:?

Sunday, January 25, 2009


1. Justin Timberlake
2. Trader Joe's
3. Finding awesome deals/discounts
4. Seinfeld
5. 24
6. American Idol
7. The Jolie-Pitts
8. Oprah
9. Settlers of Catan
10. Monty Python

Somehow I missed the boat on these things. My feelings can be described as lukewarm at best. I certainly don't dislike anything on this list (I will play Settlers and have fun, and I will read about Brangie in the checkout line), but I am far from obsessed. Of course, I'd never actually admit that in public, because I would be met with a million reasons why they are all the hottest things since sliced bread... (Admit it--you are obsessed with Seinfeld and Oprah.)

Don't worry. I'm not being a hypocrite. I have my own obsessions (Lost, running, Target), but sometimes I sit back and wonder why I didn't fall in love with "the list."

Maybe I'll never know. The world is full of mysteries, eh?

Friday, January 23, 2009


It just occurred to me that I painted a big tree on my wall right where I was planning to put a big mirror (the big mirror that has been stashed behind my brother's shed for way too long). Oops. Well now where am I going to put the mirror? That's what I get for doing impromptu art projects.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

hippity hop

In honor of my elegant KMEL shout out in the last post, I was going to finally write about why I don't like most of the hyphy music. But as I started doing more research on the songs that almost drove me from listening to hip hop stations, I realized most of them aren't even hyphy. Add hip-hop genres to my non-specialization list. Turns out I don't dislike hyphy. Just certain songs that took over the local hip hop stations over the last year. The following songs annoy me to no end. Christian, on the other hand, likes them. We spent 2008 as a house divided.

First, let me give you my dislike list.

#1: Souljaboy. Gag me with a spoon.

#2: Smack dat. I can handle it if I have to, but I'd rather change the station.

#3: Snap yo fingers. Seriously--I would rather listen to 3rd Eye Blind than this song. Or not. Hmmm. That's a hard call.

#4: Walk it out. Annoooooying.

Now let's move on to hip hop music I do like.

I am currently enjoying T.I.

Always love A Tribe Called Quest (De La Soul, Q-Tip):

Aaaaaand I'm officially too tired to look up anything else. So I leave you with one last song. Although I can't stand half the songs in this mash-up, I never tire of listening to it. Check out DJ Earworm's United States of Pop mash-up. 25 top songs from 2008 mashed into one. That takes serious talent. Granted, you'll only truly appreciate this if you know the songs:

So tell me, my blogger buddies. What kind of hip hop do you listen to? Or do you even listen to hip hop?

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

thoughts on our new president

Am I obsessed with politics? Hardly.

Do I have any idea what I'm talking about when it comes to government? Not usually.

Do I pretend to know what I'm talking about? Never.

Modern society runs on specialization. Division of labor. Trade. I do not specialize in politics. I specialize in teaching English and running and, um, I'm really not sure what else. So you specialize in politics and I will specialize in whatever it is I specialize in (like ending sentences with a preposition). And thus I play my part in making sure society remains in balance. That's how it works, right? Follow me, people. Pay attention.

Considering the range of people who read my blog, I'm sure you could all debate Obama's political agenda 'til the cows come home. Spare me.

So here are my English-teaching-running-whatever-else thoughts on President Obama: I am thrilled. What I am most thrilled about is how excited people are about him. There is electricity in the air. That may sound trite to some of you, but trust me--this is not just because I like to jump on bandwagons. (I like to jump on bandwagons?)

Like many other countries, we have a history of slavery. We have a history of oppression. We have a history of civil rights movements. And while we have taken many steps forward, racial conflict is still very much present in our country. To many people, seeing our country elect a black president means that we are one step closer to judging people not "by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character."

You could say Obama was elected solely due to the color of his skin and not the content of his character, but I think you would be mistaken. The color of his skin played a huge role, but people like what he stands for--people have hope in him.

I thought the best part of the inauguration was Reverend Lowery's benediction. If you didn't hear it, you can read it here. "With your hands of power and your heart of love, help us then, now, Lord, to work for that day when nations shall not lift up sword against nation, when tanks will be beaten into tractors, when every man and every woman shall sit under his or her own vine and fig tree and none shall be afraid, when justice will roll down like waters and righteousness as a mighty stream." When the lamb shall lie down with the lion...

President Obama is no miracle worker. He cannot possibly fix every problem in our country, he will inevitably make mistakes, and he cannot please everyone. But he has created an electricity in the air. People have a lot of hope in him. And I think that hope alone can do wonders for our country. If he surrounds himself with good people, puts his trust in intelligent advisors, and leads with compassion, with love, and with the interest of the people at the forefront, his electricity can lead our country in the right direction.

As a final thought, I'll leave you with some interesting tid-bits from my English class (since that is my self-proclaimed specialization). In my class last night, we talked a little about the inauguration and the concerns that are on the minds of our country's people. My students divided into groups and rated some of these issues by importance, 1 being most important. Here is what they decided:

And if you haven't gotten emotional over our 44th president, just listen to KMEL 106.1 for a little while. They practically had me in tears with people calling in and expressing their excitement. Of course, I was immediately jolted back into reality by an Akon song, but what can you do?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

saturday birthday parties

Birthday party #1: 1 year old

We love Jacob and Nicole. And little Jared is adorable. Adorable! He did a great job of giving himself a chocolate frosting beard. And it was 70-degree weather in January, so they had the party outside. We were all in t-shirts and loving it.

Birthday party #2: 95 years old

Grandma Bernice turned 95th! Ever seen 95 candles on a cake? It took 4 people to light them all. And Grandma blew them all out. We love her, too. My mom put out lots of pictures of Grandma, so I snapped pictures of some of my favorites.

Bernie's first car.

With Uncle Bud.

In silly costumes.

Grandma Bernice and Uncle Norm (our grandpa--"uncle" was a nickname) met ice skating. They did partner (ballroom) ice skating.

Happy Birthday, Grandma!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

star wars

Perhaps some of you have seen this, but I am laughing so hard I'm crying. A special thanks to Ryan for sharing this with me via his Google reader.

Go to this link. Watch this video. Thank me (and Ryan) later.

Star Wars Retold (by someone who hasn't seen it):

Honestly, she does a WAY better job retelling the story than I EVER would. And that is pathetic.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

wii shmee

Wii got a Wii. No, Christian and Richard got a Wii (and they ever-so-kindly told me that I could borrow their controllers if I really needed to).

Christian has been looking for an excuse to spend his allowance on a Wii for a looong time. When Richard's report card came (A, B+, B, B-, C, and enough graduation credits accounted for that he is no longer behind), Christian decided that was reason enough. So they went on a shopping spree.

The Wii had only been in our house a matter of hours before I convinced Richard to get out his old-school nintendo so that I could play Super Mario Brothers 3. It's the only game I can play. Scratch that. The only game I could play. Scratch that, too. I really only played it at our cousins' house in Oregon using the Game Genie and flying through the levels.

I don't think either of them really understood the degree to which I suck at video games. I think it was hurting them to the very core to watch me die over and over (and over and over) without even getting halfway to the castle in the first level (or world or whatever they are called). And they gave up saying things like "If you do such-and-such you can get an extra such-and-such" after I assured them for the millionth time that I wasn't interested in extra stuff. All I wanted to do was jump over the little mushroom guy without dying! I am bad. Bad. Video games really aren't my thing.

So while it is fun to kick Christian's butt at Wii boxing and hurt my arm playing Wii tennis, I can't really say I'm necessarily ecstatic about having a Wii. Oh wait. I don't have a Wii. Christian and Richard do.

And since I really have absolutely nothing else on my mind to share with all you blog friends, I'll leave you with some super cute pictures. That's all people really want anyway. Here is my cute husband minus anywhere from 23-28 years.

Monday, January 12, 2009

new primary class

Christian and I teach primary at church. (Primary = classes for the little kids.) Ok, technically Christian teaches. I just help with crowd control.

You might wonder why you would need crowd control for a handful of 7-year-olds. Well let me tell you--before we started teaching this class, they had the class split because teachers couldn't handle them all together. No joke--there were only 7 or 8 of them. Sure, some of the kids were angels. But others had trouble sitting through church, to say the least. Clothes came off, chairs magically moved around the room, Star Wars was mentioned an average of 6 times each class. And that was after our weekly "how to be reverent" review. Poor Christian did his best teaching lessons, but the lessons usually consisted of 5 minutes of actual content intermingled with 30 minutes of distractions.

Now let's move into 2009. New year, new set of 7-year-olds. Class went about like this:

1. Lesson: Finished in about 10 minutes, leaving Christian with about 40 minutes to waste. Nice.

2. Reviewing rules--Take 1: You have to sit in your chair with either your legs pointed toward the floor or indian style (which is not called indian style anymore--crisscross applesauce). One sweet little girl looked at us in complete shock that those were the only two options and said, "Um, can I sit on my legs like this?" and proceeded to sit with her feet modestly tucked under her. It took us a second to realize that we obviously didn't need rules on how to sit with our new group.

3. Reviewing rules--Take 2: You only get snacks if you behave in class. And we're not joking. If we have to tell you over and over that you're not going to get a snack, you will not get a snack. We don't believe in empty threats. Just ask last year's kids. It's a cold, cold world. Again--blank stares. I think they were having trouble imagining behavior so horrendous that it would warrant snack withholding. Check that off the list of rules we will be taking off our radar.

4. Reviewing rules--Take 3: We used to review the steps of praying every Sunday before almost every prayer. "Everyone fold your arms. Everyone bow your head. Everyone close your eyes. Don't talk. So-and-so, stop talking. No, really, fold your arms. Stop kicking so-and-so. No, we're not talking about Darth Vader. Close your eyes. Ok, you can go ahead and say the prayer." But with this class? "Who wants to pray? Ok, go ahead." And that's that.

Don't get me wrong. I saw our old kids walking with their new class and I was proud of them and missed them. They have come a long way. But this year is going to be awesome.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

i love girl friends

Tonight I went to a baby shower for my friend Aubrey. Very fun. Her baby theme is pirates. Seriously, does it get any cooler than that? Arrrrr! It was great to see a bunch of girls I rarely see. I really do know so many marvelous people.

On our way out to our cars, a few of us proceeded to--in true female fashion--stand around chatting. And we talked. And laughed. And told stories. And laughed some more. In 45-degree weather. That may not sound very cold to some of you cold-climate dwellers, but we stood there talking for over an hour. My fingers are frozen. My toes are frozen. In fact, even my inner ears hurt (not good). But it was so worth it.

I love my girl friends.

This year I will be brave. This year I will pick up the phone and call my friends to hang out. This year I will be the one to initiate getting together. This year I will not take my friends for granted. Enough wishing I hung out with them more. This year I will hang out with them more.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

christmas vacation

Bringing home the tree:

Gingerbread houses at Tyler and Ashley's house:

Posing for Christmas pictures:

Christmas morning at our place:

Christmas evening in Hollister:

Smores at Jenni and Jared's:

The beach on New Year's day:

What a great vacation.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

i am a tree hugger

Here I am--hugging a tree. Or rather, hugging the branches of a tree, which is now a house plant.

But let me start at the beginning. Late one afternoon, Christian, Richard, and I drove up into the Santa Cruz Mountains in search of a Christmas tree. We missed getting into our usual farm by a couple seconds. And I mean that quite literally--the guy locked the gate right in front of us, glared at us for a moment (yes, glared), and walked away. Thanks, man. So we drove on in the fog until we found another farm. The guy said we had 10 minutes to find a tree, so off we went. Richard and Christian were in search of their "equal opportunity tree" (as in--every tree should have an equal opportunity to be in someone's living room). This was the tree they had their hearts set on for this year, but luckily for me we didn't make it to that farm in time.

After searching and searching for the perfect tree, I convinced them that this tree was half what they wanted (missing branches on the entire bottom back half) and half what I wanted (gorgeous).

So we brought it home and fed it according to Kaylynn's fool-proof Christmas tree instructions. And other than having to anchor it to the wall so it would actually stand up, it was perfect.

So perfect that it never lost needles. It never had any sap anywhere on it. It never dried out. And I never wanted to take it down. Even so, today is January 3rd and I figured it was time for it to go. But after wrestling with the tree to take all the ornaments and lights off, we noticed it still barely dropped any needles. It is alive and thriving. I just could not bear to throw it in a dumpster. As I started cutting off some of the bottom branches, I noticed the tree was so alive it was actually soft (hence the picture of me hugging the branches at the top of this post).

So I made a decision. The tree would stay. I hacked off all the bottom branches and now it is a gorgeous house tree in our living room. I can't get enough of it. I love the long lean trunk. And I love how clean and natural it looks without all the ornaments and lights cluttering its branches. So until it dries out, we have a house tree.

Who needs a yard when you can have a garden inside?

Friday, January 2, 2009

RIP gracie and young blood

The holidays have been hard on our pets. And very sad for us.

A couple days after we found Herbie and put him back in his home, we found Gracie dead. Maybe she didn't miss him as much as we thought. We're trying to convince ourselves that Herbie didn't kill her, but let's just say we are very very mad at him right now. In fact, his temporary name is "jerk" around these parts. And we are very sad Gracie is gone. I waited to post about it since she was the star of our blog Christmas card, and I thought I'd let her have her fame before announcing her passing. RIP, Gracie.

And tonight we lost Young Blood. Young Blood was our beloved (and oldest) betta fish. We adopted him at Scott and Denise's wedding--June 18, 2005. He lived with us in 3 different apartments and survived 2 other bettas. He was always excited to see us, knew the difference between fighting with us through the side of his bowl and begging for food at the top of the bowl. He was our hungry hungry hippo. Always jumped for his food. Sometimes nipped at our fingers. Such a rebel.

In honor of his passing, Christian rearranged our blocks.

I am very very sad.