Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas 2011

From Audrey:
-A cute headband

From Kara:
-A cute hat

From Aaron:
-A cute hat

From Rachel:
-Two pair of Christmas socks
-A red scarf
-Giant Mr. Goodbar

From Pam:
-Fuzzy socks

From Kelly:
-Coach wallet

From my cousin Brenda:
-A recipe book of my late grandmother's handwritten recipes

From Carmen:
-A ceramic mug plate
-A half apron
-A recipe book of appetizers

From Jared:
-A Relaxation Fountain

From Jake:
-A really cute mini easel and canvas with a bead bracelet

From Jason:
-Lots of cuss words and hostility and violence and drug addiction and drama

From my parents:
-An arm band for my iPod
-Newest Radiohead album
-Lots of candy (dark Dove chocolate, dark chocolate with almonds, 60% Ghirardelli squares, candy cane Kisses, Holiday Tic Tacs)
-Petit Ecolier cookies
-Bahama & Co. Scented necklace
-Loofah sponge
-Drain snake
-Zit extractor
-$10 Target gift card
-A darling black coat
-Clinique Happy
-A makeup bag and Clinique makeup
-Clothing iron
-Wireless router
-New white robe
-Sports bra and new workout clothes
-Palm tree "I'd rather be at the beach" license plate frames
-California mug
-Christmas classics DVDs (Rudolph, Frosty, Santa Claus, etc.)
-Christmas Carol DVD

From my grandpa Gabe:
-Card and money

From my grandparents:

My family all liked the presents I made them--Message frames to promote kind words and love in the house, and heated rice bags scented like lavender vanilla.

Jev and I made leftover ham and eggs and toast for breakfast.

I posted the frames up on everyone's doors.

Mom and I went to church. The talks were really good.

Then I spent the day cleaning the dining room and family room for dinner. I also helped mom with some of the pie stuff. The house looks good and hopefully the pies taste good.

I'd rather forget about the less-than-positive aspects of this Christmas day, suffice it to say it was drug related and has pushed my family beyond what any family deserves to experience.

I will hope that this clean house, yummy food, and company later will make it a little better. I do hope your Christmas was at least a little merrier than my family's.

Saturday, December 17, 2011


I just switched my Facebook over to the Timeline style profile. And what a timely switch that was! I clicked on map and could see my check-ins for this year.

I have had 112 check-ins at 24 Hour Fitness since January 4th of this year.

Considering that I didn't even check in every time I went to the gym, and considering that often times if I didn't go to the gym, I exercised at home with a DVD or Netflix video, I have exercised on more than one-third of the days in 2011.

This makes me feel really accomplished!

I may not have worked out super hard every day. I may not have stuck to a routine or regiment for specific days. I may not have even lost weight.

But I have been consistent.

And for my health, that is what matters.

In the past I have gone through phases and spurts of working out, especially during the summer and tapering off in the colder weather.

The kind of consistency I have demonstrated to myself this year in exercising is something I needed to see tonight. I needed to see that I could be consistent and diligent in doing something good. I needed to see that I haven't been as stagnant or inadequate as I thought. I needed to see the measurement of it. The visual fact right in my face.

Sometimes we just need to know that we can do it; and sometimes we find that out by seeing that we already have.

Here's to 2012... a year of continued consistency and progress.

A Date and Other News

I had the privilege of going on yet another date with the handsome Aaron last night. We went to Planet Play, where he had a $20 certificate to spend on games and activities. We also ate at the pizza buffet. I'm not sure either of us was super impressed with the food, but we were hungry, so we really didn't care a whole lot.

When you walk in, there's a big area to the right for parties. Up on the left there's the buffet. There's a dining room off to the right where we ate. Then the whole back area was where you "play." We did lots of arcade games. Aaron beat me at the car race. We played football and basketball arcade games--yep, even ME! We did a target shooting game which was fun. The gun was super heavy though. Yikes. We played a round of mini golf where someone saved us like $3.50 by giving us an extra golf ball, so that was awesome. We also did mini bowling, which was really fun and very different. I liked it. We just took turns playing on that one lane. We did not do bumper cars, go-karts, or laser tag. Of the games we did play, we used our tickets on such wonderful prizes as: a huge diamond ring, a slap bracelet, an air fist launcher, and something else I can't remember. I'm sure you can guess who got what.

After eating and playing, we headed to the dollar theater and saw The Three Musketeers. There was some corny writing in it--lines where you just knew someone was trying way too hard, but I thought it was pretty well-paced and entertaining. That little D'Artagnan was so darling! Cutest 17 year old I think I've ever seen. I'm totally guessing at his age, but he really is a cute boy. The movie was also good for all the snuggle time I got! I wish the seat arms at the dollar theater would lift up so it could be a little more cuddle friendly, but it was all managed anyway.

It was a pretty fun night, I thought! Thanks, Aaron!

Today I woke up and had tithing settlement with the bishop. It was a GREAT appointment. Seriously, amazing. When things are of a very spiritual and personal nature to me, I don't usually feel OK about sharing it. It sufficeth me to say that I may be taking some very big steps in the next few months if I can keep my act together.

My companion and I visit taught two of our teachees today also, which went really well. I'll do the third tomorrow before church.

Also, I finished BOTH of my craft Christmas projects for my family today. I'll post pictures and explanations later because you never know when the parents will check the blog. It was a lot, lot, lot of work! Like hours of work and frustration and learning curves. But it all turned out really awesomely, I think. My apartment is finally a little more livable.

Tomorrow I've got lots of baking to do and can hopefully get it all done and most of it delivered. I need to sleep. I also need a massage. I'm thinking I can only make one of those dreams come true. Right now.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Baking Noob

I'm making cake right now.

The box is from Western Family.

On it, the directions say, "Cake is done if toothpick inserted in center comes out clean."

Yep, so far so good. Pretty normal.

Then it says, "Do not test for doneness by touching with finger."

Wow. Thanks for that, Western Family.

What n00b messed that one up?

Chateaux at Silver Lake

On Sunday night, my good friend Aaron invited me to his company's Christmas party. Aaron works for Zagg, the company that makes InvisibleShields.

Naturally, I accepted the invitation. Who doesn't want to go to an awesome resort in Park City, dress up all pretty, eat free food, and be on the arm of an attractive man? Well, I just can't say no to that.

We stayed at The Chateaux. We arrived at about 5:30 and checked in. Our room was on the first floor. It was pretty small, but really nice. The bed was amazing. There was a fireplace. It was lovely. I thought Aaron got pictures of the room, but he didn't. So here are some other ones he took.

It took me a really long time to get ready. I triple barreled my hair, which is about down to my waist. So it took a while, but I am thinking it was worth the trouble.

We're cute, aren't we?

So we headed to dinner about ten minutes late thanks to my beautifying process (in my defense, he picked me up 20 minutes later than he was supposed to!).

Dinner was fabulous. I wish I had taken pictures of it. It started with a salad with balsamic dressing, and a tomato and cheese arrangement of sorts. It was yummy. Then dinner was chicken breast stuffed with goat cheese and mashed potatoes and buttered carrots. The potatoes were soooooooo yummy and creamy and delicious. Dessert was a cheesecake with dark chocolate sauce on it. Yum.

Somewhere in between there, we went and got some pictures taken by a professional photographer. He showed us on his camera afterward, and they are REALLY cute. I am excited to see them printed.

We watched some videos about the company and then listened to about an hour and a half of thank yous and highlights for the year. Zagg really is an impressive company.

This company has been known to spoil its employees. Last year, they got iPads for Christmas. In the summer, Aaron and his coworkers got iPods. He was anxiously anticipating what they would all receive this year.

Yeah. A Sharp 40" flat screen hi-def TV. Really!? In case you wanted to know how Aaron felt about this...

They could also exchange that for a $500 American Express card. If you were in doubt for some reason, he is keeping the TV.

We went back to the room to leave his goodies there (certificate, two Zagg chocolate bars, and a "jaunting" sweat jacket thing). I changed shoes, and we went back to dance. We danced until almost 11. It was so fun. I haven't danced in a long time. And I was totally goofy and awful, but I just wanted to have fun, so I did. They played "I Saw Her Standing There," "I Will Survive," "Boot Scootin' Boogie," "Tik Tok," "Dynamite," "Don't Stop Til You Get Enough," and other fun ones. The "slow" songs we danced to included Elvis Presley's, "Can't Help Falling In Love," and "Sweet Caroline" by Neil Diamond.

So we headed back to the room at 10:50. I took a picture of myself after dancing and getting all sweaty. But there's some idea of how I looked, at least.

Then Aaron decided we should wear the amazing robes they had hanging in the closet. So this is what followed.

We're dorks. I know.

And he took a picture of me sans makeup. Yikes.

I also did some videos for his next Webisode. What a goof. I think I made the camera shake from laughing at him, so his video probably won't be as usable. Oh well! :)

After our goofy robe photo shoot, we ate a Lindor chocolate that was left on the bed for us... and settled into that huge, feathery, king sized bed around midnight.

Neither of us wanted to get out of bed this morning. But we did, eventually, after lying there talking about lots of things for a while.

We had intended to eat breakfast at Main Street in Park City, but we didn't plan that out well enough, couldn't find Main Street, and ended up having Subway breakfast sandwiches at Kimball Junction. We hit the road, and here I am. I am super sleepy but had so much fun, as I always seem to do with Aaron.

Thanks for the fabulous trip, Aaron.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Give Me A Break

This is yet another one of those weeks. I seriously can’t believe these keep happening to me. I feel like there was a point not too long ago where I watched a lot of TV episodes on Netflix because I had no other way to spend my evenings.

Here’s what Janae’s life looks like:

-Work 7:15-3:45
-Gym 4:30-5:30
-Quickly throw two dozen cookies into the oven for Sub 4 Santa auction
-Heat up some canned soup. Inhale it real fast.
-Go to Family Home Evening to see how much my cookies go for
-Stay for one hour of a ridiculously slow moving auction
-Find out later my 24 cookies sold for $11!
-Skype with a cute boy
-Watch two episodes of Arrested Development instead of sleeping
-Sleep 12-6 AM

-Work 7:20-3:20
-Drive 45 minutes to Orem for class
-While driving, call supervisors to get Visiting Teaching reported for tomorrow
-Grab a huge fountain Coke Zero at the gas station due to exhaustion
-Class from 4:45-7:00 PM
-Ice cream date in Orem at 7:30
-Drive 40 minutes home to Murray
-Get home at 10 PM
-Skype with a cute boy

-Leave house at 6:35 AM
-Meeting for one student at 7 AM (where the parents didn't actually show up, thanks for that...)
-Meeting for another student at 7:30 AM
-Work the normal day until 3:30 PM
-Feel exhausted and poopy due to a monthly occurrence I experience
-Skip the gym due to said crappiness
-Work on lesson plans from 5:00-6:20 (that's right now...)
-Work on visiting teaching (church calling) from 6:30-8 (hopefully not longer)
-Watch Arrested Development instead of sleeping (1-2 episodes)

-Work 7:20-2:45
-Quickly drive from Kearns to the east side
-Novels committee meeting 3:00-5:00 PM
-Gym if I’m brave and energetic 5:30-6:30 (probably won’t happen)
-Watch my show instead of sleeping (1-2 episodes)

-Work 7:20-3:15
-Gym 4:00-5:00
-Freedom!!!! (I'll probably loser around and watch Arrested Development, or start my case study below)

-Work on Case Study report for my class (this seriously will be an all day thing)
-Clean apartment
-Do laundry

I also have to enter participation points for last week and have lots of papers to grade (reciprocal teaching worksheet for six classes, prefix/suffix Pictionary, and late work). I’ve got to update my absent packet. Midterm grades need to be submitted on Friday (Sunday at the latest).

I don't imagine life will be any easier with three or four or five more people to worry about. Husband and kids just don't sound super appealing. My life is plenty, thanks.


Saturday, November 26, 2011

We've Made Peace

I've lived in Utah for six years and three (almost four) months now--since August 2005.

My parents and brothers came up for Thanksgiving and just left today.  My youngest brother said countless times, "I just don't know how you live in Utah."

I think Utah and I have long since made peace and come to terms on our differences.

For example: I like it hot. Utah likes it cold.

Really, though, I have decided there are a lot of things I like about Utah. I frequently make mental note of all the things I'd miss if I left. Here are some of them...

- Cafe Rio (I guess I could drive 30 minutes to it from Glendora)

- Hole in the wall restaurants, big restaurants--so many options! (Nicolitalia, Tucano's, Hogi Yogi, Lone Star Taqueria, Red Ginger sushi, Happy Sumo, a million other sushi places, Guru's, Communal, Pizzeria 712, Vinto, Five Guys, Smashburger, Peiwei, Blue Lemon, Faustina, Einstein bagels, Mimi's Cafe, Noodles, Rumbi, etc.)
- Dessert places (Cold Stone, Cocoa Bean, Sweet Tooth Fairy, Nothing Bundt Cakes, random pastry shops, etc.)
- Good friends -- Rachel, Brianne/Nephi, cousin Marla, Audrey, Sydnie, Rob, Dan, so many others...
- Seeing three temples coming around the point of the mountain

- Being within driving distance to the temple even if I never go
- Beautiful sunny days

- Fall colors. We don't get them in California, really. Not like this...

- Huge grocery stores with lots of selection -- things you can get at the grocery store here just couldn't be found at a lot of stores in Glendora
- Good people -- policemen (or strangers) stopping to help replace citizens' tires, general politeness and honesty
- Lots of people to date -- there have been a lot of less-than-acceptable ones, but my chances are higher here than anywhere else, I think
- Affordable -- my one bedroom, 650-square foot apartment would definitely cost way more in California. Plus gas, food, theater tickets, everything is cheaper here.
- General safety and low crime in most parts
- The grid system -- being able to find a place without directions is so nice
- Music -- in downtown Salt Lake for free, in Provo at Muse for cheap, or at In the Venue for pretty cheap. We don't miss the good ones, usually
- Dry weather keeps some things from going bad.

Things I can't (and never will be able to) stand about Utah are as follows:

- Horrible drivers (among many Utahisms: at a two-way green, left turners thinking they have the right of way over right turners; general cluelessness; driving under the speed limit; tailgating; etc.)
- Judgment (mostly this big brother feeling occurs in Utah county)
- Snow/cold
- Never ending road construction
- Lack of diversity religiously and racially
- Produce. Terrible, terrible produce.
- No beach
- No theme parks -- Six Flags, Disneyland, Knott's, Raging Waters (sorry, Lagoon and 7 Peaks, but you're kind of lame)
- No (or very few) mom & pop donut shops!
- Dry weather dries out my skin somethin' fierce

I don't think I'd want to raise my family here. Maybe I'll feel differently once I actually have one. But the homogeneity really gets to me. I love where I grew up. Everything cool was in driving distance (mountains, desert, beach, etc.). There's just so much I feel my own little family would miss if we lived here.

But for now, this is OK. :)

Monday, November 14, 2011

Meeting People? What's That?

With 11 days between posts, I think it's pretty obvious how crazy my life has been. Some of it has been good crazy, and some of it was continuing in the pattern of my last post, where I'm just doing too much play before work. That lifestyle really doesn't suit my overly responsible and highly anxious personality, but I kind of figure I should be taking advantage of all the random fun that comes at me while I can. It really is nice only worrying about myself and doing whatever I want to do.

Obviously some nights get old, and I really want company and get tired of being so self-involved. But for the most part I enjoy living my life the way I do.

Now, one of the activities that filled my time pretty recently was a "Why Not?" dinner through my ward at church.

Granted, I put my own name in this box along with someone else's. But as a disclaimer, I was under the impression that it would be a small group of people.

If you know me at all, you know I don't like large groups of people. Even after always being this way, I haven't pinpointed what it is exactly that gives me the "freakouts" about these situations. I have a few ideas, though.

One possibility is that large groups make me feel suffocated. I am an incredibly expressive and opinionated person. I don't have to be the star of the show. I can take on that role if I need to, but it's not something I have to do or be. But I also don't like being pushed to the sidelines or viewed as insignificant. And when this happens, I refuse to compete. Naturally, I become frustrated.

Something that makes this issue worse is that I hate small talk. I understand what it's for, and I get that "getting to know someone" has to start somewhere. I am pretty aware of social mores as I am a highly observant person. But small talk feels trivial and artificial for me. As a blue, I like to create deep, emotional connections with people and would just rather skip all the surface-level crap and find it out later. So here's the rub. When I am forced to wade through the obligatory cesspool that is small talk, I expect to at least be reciprocated. When I ask questions of several people sitting around me, and no one takes an interest in me or requites the questions, I get all flustered. "I am cooperating here, people. I'm jumping through your silly social hoops. Now work with me!"

Obviously this was the case at the dinner I went to. There were 18 people including myself. This was way too many, in my opinion. The conversation was patchy, and the attention of some was spread much too thin.

In true LDS fashion, we had to play some games, right? I mean, we didn't have to. We could have left. But weren't we there to get to know people? Or... one person...? Not wanting to cheat myself out of a good opportunity, I stayed. The games were fine. Some got really into them, which provided a lot of humor.

But I returned home that night feeling like I was about to explode. Eventually, after letting everything sink in for about 20 minutes, I burst into tears.

I think it was the stuff mentioned above--feeling suffocated and uninteresting--plus a few other things. It was the 5th of November, which was a tradition with my past group of friends where we'd watch V for Vendetta together and make a big thing out of it. Having left a huge social gathering with the same number of friends as I had when I came just left me feeling really heartbroken. I couldn't get anyone to watch V for Vendetta with me (believe me, I tried). So I guess this was a night where my occasional loneliness was remarkably apparent to me.

I'd like to point out, just to be clear, that I am not socially retarded. I hung out with two ladies from work tonight who are both awesome in many ways. They are both really different from me, but I feel like I can hold my own in a conversation or count myself out when I don't have anything to add. In a small group like that, or one-on-one, I am quite comfortable. On a date, I can be really polite and conversational, even if I'm not very interested in someone. I'm not awkward. It's very hard to make me feel uncomfortable, to be honest. And I feel like my inclination to be underwhelmed and unsurprised by just about everything makes it so that people's weirdness doesn't freak me out. I can carry on or laugh even after something odd was said or done.

I think that given that on a number of occasions I have: put myself out there, tried to overcome my social frustrations, and pushed myself out of my comfort zone, it's safe to say that these situations will pretty much never be successful for me.

That is not the way I make connections with others. It's just not. Sorry, LDS culture. There are some things Janae just can't do.

Thursday, November 3, 2011


I like being busy. I am a checklist girl. I organize my time, but this week has been just a little too much.

The term ended... I spent all day Saturday and Sunday grading narratives. I got grades submitted on Sunday night.

Monday I worked all day, went to the gym for half an hour, and went to Rachel's family's house for a little Halloween shindig--not getting home until late.

Tuesday I worked all day, went to a school district novels committee meeting from 3-5, and did lesson plans until 8:30 at night.

Wednesday I worked all day, went to the gym for an hour, and then went on a spur of the moment date to Macaroni Grill, then watched Benny & Joon. Instead of that stuff, I needed to do laundry and clean my apartment. Little things like that, that need to be done, really hang over my head and stress me out.

Today I worked all day, went to the gym for an hour, read one chapter for my homework while on the elliptical, did dishes, have a load of laundry (that has taken three cycles now to get dry) in the dryer, one in the wash, and one waiting to get washed. I didn't do laundry on Sunday because I was grading narratives! So now I have no clothes. I ate and then went to church and worked on November's visiting teaching with Kara for an hour (SO excited--that's sooooo fast compared to normal!). I got home and made a bunch of calls so I could finalize the October visiting teaching report. Just a few minutes ago I emailed the report out to the leaders.

Tomorrow I get to work, go to the gym, and do a little more visiting teaching stuff...

And now I sit writing about all of this because even though my time has been taken up with fun stuff this week, the fun stuff has gotten in the way of my more important tasks. I am more of an all-work-no-play type of person, so playing before working makes me extremely anxious.

I need to
-Finish laundry
-Take down Halloween decorations
-Clean my apartment (kitchen and bathroom need a good, deep clean, plus I need to vacuum, clean my blinds, and wipe down my tables)
-Go grocery shopping (it's seriously been WEEKS. My fridge is empty except for milk and condiments, and this makes me want to cry, no lie)
-Finish a financial aid application for my huge medical bill
-Finish reading for class and do a write-up on it (due Tuesday)
-Work more on my case study and do a write-up on that (due Tuesday)
-Do my individual project for class (due Tuesday)
-Plan out some more for this term. I don't want to be barely ahead of the kids like last term. It's too much work. I like having everything mapped out.

So I have my work cut out. And why I went on that date last night instead of doing what I needed to do? I'm not sure. Taking a chance on something, I guess.

This past Saturday I accepted a two hour responsibility for someone that I should NOT have done, so that set me back a lot. I have a church-related dinner that I have to go to on Saturday. I also agreed to make cupcakes next week when I don't have time to do that.

On top of all of this stuff, I just am really depressed and lonely this week for some reason. Having a really hard time. Basically I'm on the verge of a meltdown this week. Maybe I'll see you all in the future. If I don't die of stress in the next few days.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Term 1 Grades

So the past couple of years I have had a huge struggle with how many of my kids couldn't pass my class. Even with grade weights in their favor (as in, all you had to do to pass was CLASS WORK!), I was getting about a third of all my kids failing.

As I described in previous blogs, I have made some changes to help my kids just by building in a little more structure. If you recall, I pondered whether it would help student grades.

Well, term 1 grades are posted. The verdict is in.

I have 63 out of 192 students with an A grade. That's 33%! A third of my students have an A! I think I had maybe two or three students per class last year with an A. This is amazing!

I have 20 out of 192 students with an F grade. That's just over 10%. Most of my classes only have two or three Fs. My 3A and 4B have 5 and 6 Fs, respectively. There's just not much I can say for these kids when I handed them a detailed grade printout and told them to come talk to me--and with many of them, even providing them a detailed packet that they could turn in. The obviously elected not to do it, in spite of the extreme measures I took to help them pass.

These numbers obviously leave 109 out of 192 students passing with a B, C, or D grade. So combined with the A kids, 90% of my students are passing my class! This is cause for celebration, people!

This year, behavior issues are almost nonexistent for me. This combined with the fact that so many of these kids are achieving leaves me with more energy to intervene with my struggling students.

I am so happy to have a group of kids that behaves, that works hard, and that's making me love my job this year. I'm sure a lot of the changes I have built in play a big role in their achievement, but if I'm being totally honest, this is just a great group!

Friday, October 28, 2011

On Your Side

Aren't teachers pretty much on every student's side? I mean... I plan entire terms... I give out rubrics... I model what I expect... I write lesson plans... I grade papers... I accept late work... I reach out to the kids who are failing and try to intervene...

So why, then, do parents insist on making a teacher the enemy?

My friend Cody shared this comic on my wall...

The thing is, that it's not really a comic. It's not funny. It's the truth.

We've even talked about it extensively in faculty meetings: Gen X parents! They're freaking insane.

I have to write this blog because I have 5 more classes' narratives to grade, and I cannot concentrate because I am too upset.

I had this student who pretty much did nothing all term. I'd explain directions two and three times, and he'd be doing something totally different. Or he'd be doing nothing at all. Or he'd be sleeping.

Here in the last week of the term, comes mom to the rescue. She wants to know what he can do to get his grade up. So he turned in a bunch of work and went from an F to a C-, which I think is pretty awesome, all things considered. And he's lucky I even took so much work he had no excuse not to do in the first place.

She calls me today inquiring about why a certain grade was not entered. I explained that it was because I am still grading those and will enter them later today. I told her what her son received on it (10/30), and she was not happy.

"Well I read his draft and it seemed fine!" she defended.

"I graded by the same rubric as I gave the students, so they knew what I expected. He didn't really meet the requirements of the rubric. If you want to sit down and talk about it and why I gave him this grade, we can do that."

She then asked, "Do you have something against my son?!"

Granted, I have lost my patience with this student before. Even before I get angry, though, I try to inquire what students are thinking and what their thought process was behind what they were doing. This particular student never has an answer; it's like he is a mute. That's fine--frustrating, but fine. At least he's not disrespectful. I've never been unfair to him. I have been noticeably (and I think understandably) frustrated with him, but not mean to him. And in front of her, I have been stern, but never mean.

After being totally taken aback by what she was asking me, I responded, "No, I don't have anything against him. I mean I will admit I have gotten frustrated with him throughout the term because of how many times I will give instructions 3-4 times and he is still not doing his work or following directions. But no I don't have anything against him."

She said, "OK, thank you!" in a totally ungrateful tone. I said, "M-hm." And I guess that was how we were saying goodbye, but I didn't know this, so I didn't hang up. I stayed on the phone long enough to hear her say, angrily, "F---ing b---h!"

My mouth dropped open in surprise, and I hung up the phone.

A few minutes later, after my heart rate doubled and after I had gathered myself together a little better, I wrote her an email.

In my email I attached the rubric for the assignment which her son didn't do very well on, his actual submission, and another submission of A-level work, explaining that this should clear up my expectations on the assignment. Then I wrote, "I couldn’t help but overhear what you said after our conversation over the phone. I apologize if you don’t like me or the way I run my class. I will attach the disclosure so my policies, procedures, and expectations are clear."

I went on to reassure her that I don't have anything against her son and that his grade jump is something to be proud of. I explained that in spite of his work ethic, I have accepted and generously graded all of his assignments. I told her that her son is capable of much more than he has been putting out this term and that we both can work together for his success.

I believed it was a very professional approach to the issues she brought up, and a good way for me to have closure about what she had called me.

While I was out of my classroom talking to the administration about what happened, the lady called again and left a message.

In her message she claimed such things as, "I did not say anything about hating you, and you did not hear that out of my mouth." (She's right, I said nothing about her hating me. She chose that word on her own.) "I don't appreciate the email that you sent me. What you are saying is a lie, and I do not appreciate it." "I have noticed the way that you interact with my son, and it's not nice." "I said 'OK thank you,' and I hung up. Nothing ever came out of my mouth after that, so I don't know where you're getting your stuff from." "But I can sense how you interact with my son. It's not an adult way. And you have something against my son." (Actually, now I have something against you, but your kid's OK.)

So all of this totally took me away from being able to grade narratives.

I responded to her by email just a few minutes ago reiterating my intentions to help her kid do well next term. If she or her son felt like I had dealt with him unfairly or inappropriately, or if she wanted to talk about anything else, I said, we could do that with an administrator. Again, I've been stern with her son, and I've gotten frustrated with him, but not unfair or "not adult."

It took a lot of restraint for me to not call her back in a rage. First, calling me an effing B, and then calling me a liar?

"You know what, ma'am, you're right. Since you say I didn't hear it, I didn't hear you call me a f---ing b---h. I'm a liar."

When it comes down to it, she is embarrassed that I heard her call me a name, and she's trying to place blame elsewhere and make the problem into something else entirely. And what was that? "I said 'thank you' and hung up"? Oh. That sounds like a lie to me.

If he switches to another class, where the teacher won't accept late work in the last week of school like I do, then he'll probably fail. See what a "f---ing b---h" I am when the other two seventh grade teachers won't take his work! Good luck with that.

Instead of, "Thank you for taking his late work! Thanks for your help. I am sorry for his laziness. We'll do better next term," I get called names. So fun.

There are good things about my job. Sometimes. But parents rarely have anything to do with that.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

An Ode to Health

OK, so I am no health freak. Baking is one of my most favorite hobbies. And while I don't binge on the cookies, cakes, brownies, or other treats I make, and although I often throw out some of my junk food that has expired, I do have quite a sweet tooth. I try to exercise a little self-control and eat just a little of something sweet instead of a whole candy bar or several servings of something else. Depriving myself of what I wanted never did me any favors in the long run. I consider myself to be a pretty well-balanced person and believe in moderation in most things.

While I may not have the best self-control and love splurging sometimes on an In-N-Out burger or some onion rings at Red Robin from time to time, I have a real interest in all things health.

It wasn't always that way. While my mother is a fabulous cook, and while I have grown up loving vegetables, healthy meal and snack options were not the preference of anyone at home. Soda was consumed in mass amounts (not by me, necessarily) in my house. Doritos and cookies were a regular staple. Fast food was a viable option for dinner on some nights. And our family liked to go out to eat as well. If we were hungry, the fast, fatty option was the desirable one. No way was anyone going to whip up some stir fry vegetables or brown rice or eat an apple instead of chips. That's just not how it was. I never would have eaten a lot of cookies or a whole bag of chips or a pint of ice cream--I still wouldn't. I'm merely illustrating what was typically available and desired by me and others at my house. Then I moved out.

I think my love of and interest in health and fitness started when I was 19 going on 20. I was dating a guy ten years older than I was who had a lot of years of understanding the benefits of health and exercise. I got up to work out with him a couple of times in the week, early in the morning. I didn't learn to love exercise from him; I was still young and very afraid to step out of my comfort zone. But he taught me some basics that still remain the foundation of my current workouts. He planted the seed.

When we broke up, I separated my gym membership at 24 Hour fitness from his account and have kept it for the past five years.

He also encouraged me to eat well. I've always enjoyed healthy food, but like I said before, had never really picked it as the first thing I wanted to eat.

I also took HEPE 129 to fulfill a general education requirement at BYU in the spring of 2006, if I'm not mistaken. I learned a lot about aerobic and anaerobic exercise--the importance of cardiovascular training and the principles of weight lifting. While I'm sure lots of people didn't read the texts in their entirety since it was an online course, I did! I just loved learning about it. I had to set weekly goals for myself and report on how well I had done with those goals. I started trying new machines and new exercises, really pushing myself out of my comfort zone. (I came to the realization that no one was watching me or could tell if I was confused about a machine.)

So from this course and from that past boyfriend, I experienced a dramatic increase in my knowledge of health and fitness within less than a year.

For the past couple of years, I have gone through patterns of exercising a lot and then getting lazy (usually in the cold winter months or when I was really tired from school and work). I typically exercise a lot during my summers because I have a lot of free time and find that sufficient rest and weather are not obstacles. I have been on a couple of different diets, one of them several times. And while I don't recommend dieting (rather, just smart lifestyle changes), I learned some very important health/eating principles from one of the diets.

I have learned much in recent years about reading food labels and making informed decisions about what I eat and how much I eat. So while I may still make less-than-healthy decisions, I at least understand what is wrong with what I am taking in. I know a lot about what to eat and at what times of day it's best, or when something's never good at all (you know, all the joyous things in life, like donuts). I drink at least 2.2 liters of water per day, I don't drink much soda or caffeine, I worked out six days per week all summer. And for the past week and a half have been unable to exercise because of being sick. You can't work out if you can't breathe, ya know? And before this would have been no big deal, but NOW I have missed it so badly! I did the 30 Day Shred today and have done yoga the past two days because that's all I could really handle since I'm on the tail end of this cold. All I'm trying to stress here is that I understand the importance of eating right and exercising--and that I now enjoy doing both--much more this year than ever before. Here's the why...

When I first started on this health kick in 2006, I'd visit home and insist that my mom buy me whole grain cereals, fruit, and non-fat yogurt. I'd try and try to encourage my dad, especially, to start planning his lunch meals and to eat a good breakfast in the morning. He has been overweight and pretty unhealthy for about half of my life. I have nagged and nagged at him to drink water, drink water, drink water! We went to the store, bought him a lunch pale or small cooler, packed him some food, tried to make things better. But with a majority of his day spent on the road for work, a fast and convenient meal usually won the battle.

All of my hounding didn't really do a whole lot until earlier this year, in late March or early April, when my dad was informed that he had type 2 diabetes.

Here he is in 2009...

In April 2010 and December 2010 respectively...

While this was a devastating blow for him, I don't think he or I or anyone else was really shocked given his prior eating habits and sedentary lifestyle.

My dad has always been one to preach that everything humans need has been provided for us by our Creator here on earth. He has been a serious proponent of being self-sufficient, going so far as to construct his own hydroponic system in the backyard and lots of other projects and goals in the making. He's not a fan of medication for various reasons, particularly that there are those who profit financially when there are natural and healthy solutions to health problems. He also believes that almost all of the disease and cancer that plagues modern society has all been brought on by mankind itself--that we have put ourselves into this mess.

But this diagnosis was a huge wake up call for him. And if you know my dad, you know that when he makes up his mind, there's no stopping him.

Since his diagnosis, my dad has naturally, without medicine, lost over 60 pounds and is down to 219 on his 6'1 frame. He has been able to keep his blood count under 100 and sometimes even under 90 for several days in a row by doing some moderate exercise and controlling his diet.

Here he is now with a friend at a reunion...

I am thinking that my determination, commitment, and enthusiasm over the summer and up until now has been rejuvenated by my dad.

I already understood the joys and benefits of health and exercise. I understood it before having any major health issues. I've tried to stress the importance of it to others around me, including my dad! But watching him make a total 180 in his lifestyle has been a serious inspiration to me to be consistent in and better about taking care of myself.

I learn more and more every day about the benefits of certain foods (especially plants) through conversations with my dad and through movies like Forks Over Knives. And I get stronger in my commitment to keeping myself healthy to avoid the most common issues, especially in the western world, of obesity, various types of cancer, diabetes, and heart disease.

I am amazed at the human body, its mechanisms, and its ability to heal itself from seemingly irreversible ailments when we make good, informed decisions. Back and forth "quick solution" diets are no way to go. It's with consistent commitment that we can maintain our bodies and prevent illness.

Thank you dad, for setting such a great example of stubborn dedication to health, and for inspiring me to continue in that vein as well.

My praise goes to all of those who respect and take care of themselves, and even more of my adoration and respect goes to those who take care of themselves in order to better care for others! We were created to be His hands here on earth, after all.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Father's Wisdom

Zoooooomclank! ZooooomCLANK!

He was pushing his Craftsman drawer in and pulling it back out with all the force and frustration he could muster.


I watched as he took a totally different approach to a problem than I might have taken. It looked to me like a tool had angled itself in such a way as to make it so the drawer would not open. Kind of like the middle drawer of your dresser not closing because of the clothes popping up from underneath. Just calmly move those clothes out of the way. Or in this case, the tool.

But heaven forbid a young woman offer a rational suggestion to a logical man twice her age and wisdom. I said nothing.

In the middle of his violent “solution,” he looked up at me, red-faced and angry. “Don’t have kids. They’ll ruin everything you own.”

At some point he took a deep enough breath to calm down and figure out that that was, indeed, what was going on: a tool was in the way. He finally got the drawer open.

I stood there, watching him realize how horribly he had dealt with the situation. My arms were dropped at my sides. I felt completely numb in bewilderment of what my father had just said to me, his firstborn.

A few days before this event, I had asked him for some of his favorite fatherhood memories. He took a moment to consider, looking up at the ceiling while lying on his bed. It was a sunny California day in February. The waterfall in the backyard was audible, and the situation was relaxing enough to invite a positive response. I thought.

He said, “Gosh, I don’t know. All I can think of is stressful times.” He went on to say that he was just always paranoid that something was wrong, always worried for our safety. We kids were a huge burden—a chore. Dad managed to utter something about “all of the times in the spa.” Good! There was a positive memory.

“…But even then, I was worried about you guys drowning.”


I thought of all the times we had run to greet him in the driveway when he got home. I remembered taking off his shoes. I recalled moments on my parents’ bed where my brother and I scratched his back. My favorite moments were after my bath when I’d run to the family room, and Dad would take the towel and dry my wet hair with a playful forcefulness that made me giggle. Or the time where we went to a daddy-daughter dance for Girl Scouts. Fishing.

I tried to remind him of some of these things, maybe to get his memory going. Maybe in that moment, all he could think about was all of the bad stuff. He smiled at my reminders, and followed up shortly with, “But you guys barely ever took off my shoes for me.”

In the moment when he told me never to have kids, I understood what fatherhood was to him.

It was something that robbed him of his rock star dreams. Fatherhood made him do a job he didn’t want in order to fulfill a duty he never asked for. It required sacrificing his hobbies and artistic abilities. It was looking out for the safety of little humans who didn’t have a sense of… well… anything.

Never in my 24 years (18 of them at home) had I wondered if my dad loved me. He was always sure to tell us. We were always provided for. We were always hugged and kissed and spoiled. I could see his love for his children, especially the youngest, in his face as he tried to hold back a smile that just couldn’t be contained.

But I understood his conflict. I understood that even though he loved us, he may have wanted his life to be different. He may have been able to find more joy if he had gone in another direction.

Once he had gotten the tools that he needed, he got up and left. I sat down in the chair and started opening his Craftsman drawers one at a time. With tears streaming down my face, I organized them in the way that made the most sense to me, a young woman of half his age and wisdom.

I hoped that one small act, where I carefully handled all of his things, might bring him some small amount of satisfaction. I sought to make him remember that kids didn’t just ruin everything.

We could fix things, too.


Vicariously Through Me

“I used to run six miles every day!” she’d say. “My measurements were 34-24-36!”

I never knew how to respond to that. I could tell she was proud. Nothing I could have responded with would’ve changed that.

But there was something else in her tone besides pride. I have never been able to put my finger on it. I never could find the word for it.

One day, when I was around 14, I had a lot of energy. Have you ever felt that? Like you had to do something physical or all of your limbs might explode sparkle-dust energy everywhere? So before I exploded said dust everywhere, I put on some comfy clothes and shoes. I told my mom I was going to go for a run.

She beamed, “Oh! Great!” I almost wished I hadn’t told her.

A few days later, I overheard her telling someone with such pride, “I think we may have a runner in the family! Janae likes running. She’s going to take after her mommy.” I really wished I hadn’t told her.

Now there was this expectation. Running never had been my thing. It wasn’t going to just become my thing overnight.

I didn’t let it bother me too much—the guilt, I mean. From disappointing her.

I always felt in my heart that she wanted this hot, thin, model, athlete for a daughter.

I remember being seven and hearing her talk about how fat she was, in such a disgusted way. I knew in first grade that thinness was important to her: that someone couldn’t be beautiful unless they were slim, like she had been.

In third grade, I got a bunch of Lisa Frank stuff for my birthday. One of them was a diary with a penguin on the cover. The first page was a little survey for me to fill in about myself. It asked something about a goal for the year. I wrote, “To lose weight.”

In fifth grade, I drank Slim Fast shakes for lunch.

In seventh grade, I ate a banana for lunch.

Apparently, it was my goal for the next several years.

Looking back at pictures, I was not fat at all. I was perfectly average. And somehow I remember feeling less than appealing up until I was about nineteen years old. No, even at nineteen, I wasn’t a runner…

In my junior year of high school, I joined journalism. I had a knack for writing, and my mom started informing everyone, “Janae’s going to be a journalist!” She’d talk all about what a great writer I was, “like her mommy.” I loved this praise more than the short-lived “she’s a runner” praise. This was something I could latch onto, something I valued. Like my mommy or not, I knew I was good at this.

Even though I never wanted to be a journalist, that’s what I told everyone. “What are you going to major in?” “Journalism.” “Oh, that’s great! So you write?” “Yes, I write.”

Yes, I write. I write. I can write. I write essays. I write newspaper articles. I write editorials. I write personal pieces. I write letters. I write.

I even put “journalism” on all my standardized tests and college applications.

But do I interview? Do I get in people’s faces? Do I care about the news? No, no, and no. Even at eighteen, I wasn’t a journalist…

It wasn’t until I got to college that I actually realized it was my choice what I would go to school for. I could now decide who and what I wanted to be. And it came to me, not as a surprise, because it was always there: an English teacher.

I had had so many good ones in school. I love books. I love grammar. I love writing. All of it adds so much to my life. How could I not share this love with teenagers?

And there was my mother, telling everyone how she tried to convince me to do journalism, to help me avoid a life of impoverished enslavement. Reminding me how I’d never make any money.

But here I am at twenty-four, a self-accepting English teacher.

“I used to care what other people thought,” I tell my daughter. “But I don’t want you to make the same mistake.”

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Conference Saturday

I love General Conference.

It feels like fall officially is in.

I was good and spread my homework throughout the week so I could focus on Conference on Saturday. I finished the last of my homework about 15 minutes in to morning session. (I had three chapters of reading, plus part of an article, plus a reaction paper to the reading, plus my first case study report).

I listened to conference. While listening, I got a lot done:
I did laundry
I made pumpkin spice cookies
I loaded all my Scentsy burners with Pumpkin Roll scented wax
I decorated for Halloween (I put up spider webs and some Halloween figurines, and a trick-or-treat bag)
I did dishes/cleaned my kitchen

Between conference sessions
I went to the gym
I vacuumed
I cleaned my bathroom

After Conference was over, I went to the mall to pick up a new screen shield for my phone.

Then I had a date that included Happy Sumo and wandering around the Gateway, Glee, some Halloween decorating, and conversation. Lots of fun!

My favorite talks were from Brother Jose Alfonso, Elder Christofferson, and President Boyd K. Packer. I was pretty emotional during a large number of the talks. A lot of them were things I needed to hear, about time management (and time wasting, like on social networks), about the atonement, and about how Heavenly Father loves and knows me. I felt like that last part was the theme, at least during morning session--that Heavenly Father is mindful of us and loves us, and not to get discouraged. Lots of "be encouraged" talks!

Anyway, yesterday was a really fantastic day. I got a lot done, was very festive, and was spiritually edified. Yay for fall!

Thursday, September 29, 2011

PT Conferences of September 2011

Well, I offered extra credit to my students for having their parents come to conferences.

I'm not sure if it's that, or the fact that I have mostly 7th graders, which caused such a big turnout.

We have a really difficult area with very low parent involvement.

So when I have 125 parents of 195 students come, that's pretty awesome!

I didn't really have any difficult or defensive parents. All were very supportive of my policies and comments and seemed to want their kids to do well.

I think one of the best parts of this conference was how many positive comments I received.

I had two or three parents tell me how their kids come home and talk about my class, telling their parents how much they enjoy it. Some of my students told me my class is their favorite. Several kids (especially 8th graders--we're reading The Outsiders) told me that they love the book we are reading.

Add onto this how many visits I've gotten in the past 5 weeks from my old students, and all of the positive comments they've had for me... I'm feeling pretty good about what I do.

My most recent comment from a student on Facebook said, "Ms. Balibrea;I'd like to thank you for being such a great English teacher!On my SAT test there was a question about writing essays, & I got it right. (:"

Awesome! Plus I have way fewer Fs this year so far than in years past--some classes with only 3 or 4 kids, which I can definitely remedy with ease!

I am NOT perfect. There is so much I am NOT doing that I need to be doing. My plan for this term is pretty much non-existent. Nothing has been cohesive toward a pre-determined assessment. I'm just doing all sorts of things wrong. My differentiation sucks. I'm not using any assessments to inform my teaching--except informally to know where I need to spend more time (my 7th graders are not getting their commonly confused words and some prefixes/suffixes). I'm not preparing substantially for my lessons--not putting up pictures to help my visual or ELL kids...

But it's term 1. I will get better. I just had to get moving and get by this term--survival mode. We ARE doing our reading strategy: reciprocal teaching. I think the kids will be better at it as the year goes on. One of the positive consequences I can see already is it opens up dialogue and lets kids feel comfortable letting me know when they are confused; it's creating the safe kind of environment they need in order to understand. Though I really do get concerned at their lack of strategies for figuring things out. I hope this helps them.

So they say after the third year you'll know if you should keep teaching. I have to get through the 2012-13 school year because of my endorsement, but this year is seriously GREAT so far. My classes and kids are awesome. And I have all the kids from last year giving me a little bit of payoff and appreciation, which makes me feel like it's worth it. Maybe they're right. Maybe this is the year that decides it all!

Friday, September 23, 2011


I don’t get angry very often. Honestly, I don’t. Right now, I am angry. Really, really angry. And when I take an honest assessment of myself, I know for a fact that I do not feel this way very often. I don’t get angry because I don’t like feeling angry. I don’t like the heat and sweat and increased heart rate, and the frustration and the cloud that comes over my brain.

I am, however, a really passionate, opinionated person. Sometimes this gets mistaken for anger. There’s not really a whole lot I can do about that. If my blood pressure is perfectly normal, but I’m just expressing an opinion in my “Janae” way, people think I’m angry. Then they tell me to “relax.” That’s the thing that gets me angry. One guy in a text conversation the other night was telling me to relax. Um? I am relaxed, first of all. Secondly, don’t boss me around. Thirdly, you’re basically telling me not to say what I want to say because it’s putting you off. Get over it.

Now, for the reason I am angry today, let’s start at the beginning.

I have the day off. I wanted to sleep in. But you know what I wanted more than to sleep in? To get my internet installed. So when a slot between 8 and 9 AM this morning opened up, I was all over that. I’d rather get up and have internet finally than sleep in. The next slot was between 9 and 11 AM or 4 and 6 PM.

So I got up before 8 AM. I got dressed.

Then I waited.

And waited.

And I waited some more.

I had a hair appointment at 9:30 AM. That should be fine if the Comcast internet guy shows up between 8 and 9 AM like he’s supposed to, methinks.

At 8:58, I was pretty concerned because of this appointment I had. I called Comcast. The guy I got on the line was super nice. He said, “Wow, and he hasn’t even called you yet to say when to expect him?” “No.”

Then there was a knock on my door at 9:01. 9:01. Hmmm.

So I told the guy on the phone that I just got a knock at my door and he said, “OK well he’s a minute late, so be sure to tell him to credit your account for $20 because he is a minute late!”

The tech came in and I told him where I wanted it all set up. It’s on the wall behind my bed. He asked me to pull my mattress out so he could access the plug. So I did. He said he’d go down to his truck to get some things and be a few minutes.

At 9:19, he still wasn’t back. So I grabbed my stuff and met him at his truck saying I’d have to be somewhere in ten minutes, and asking how long it would take for him to install. He said fifteen minutes. Yeah, can’t do that, moron. Thanks for showing up late.

See, my impression of “between 8 and 9” means 8:15, 8:30, 8:45… But not AT 9, and certainly not AFTER 9. I had somewhere to be. That is SO rude. And if it were AT 9 or AFTER 9, then that would be in the 9-11 time slot I was offered.

He said sorry. That really wasn’t good enough. He said I’d have to call and set up another appointment because they have no control over that. Um, see, well, this was YOUR bad, so I think maybe you should come back later today to finish the job you didn’t even start because you’re a tardy slowy slowerton.

Ugh. Whatever. Maybe they could come later today. So I called on my way to my hair appointment at 9:20. They gave the option for them to “call me back in 1 to 3 minutes” instead of waiting on the phone.

So I waited.

And I waited.

And I waited some more.

At 10:35 when I was finished with my hair appointment, they still hadn’t returned my call. Uh?

I called again at 10:45. Then I went to the gym. On hold the whole time on the elliptical, and through a lot of my weight training. 50 minutes on hold. Then something weird happened with my phone, like the screen automatically came on and I guess I unintentionally touched the “end call” button. Freaking touch screen. I was angry. Angrier than earlier.

I called again and opted for them to “call me back in 25 to 43 minutes.” That was at 11:40 AM.

So I waited.

And I waited.

And I waited some more.

Come 1:45 PM, more than two hours later, I still haven’t been called back.

Wow, are you freaking kidding me, Comcast?!

FINALLY I got through to someone with a minimal wait.

I explained to him the whole situation. He was very polite but never apologized for these several inconveniences his company has put me through today.

He set me up with an appointment for tomorrow between 11 and 1. That seriously is not good enough. I probably should have yelled at him till he could get someone out to me today. I’ve been without internet since Monday. By tomorrow, that’ll be the sixth day without it. I need to work. I need to blog. I need to do things.

He transferred me to billing so they could credit my account for the technician’s late arrival. You know, it’s not even that he was late. He didn’t even arrive in the right time slot. 8 to 9 was ample time for him to come and install my stuff before I had to leave. I am SO mad about this.

Anyway, homegirl in the billing department listened to my story. She didn’t apologize about the tech. She didn’t apologize about the two unreturned phone calls and ridiculous waits. She credited my account $20 and asked if there was anything else she could do.

Yeah, be considerate, maybe?! The stress you’ve put me through today is more than $20 worth. At least freaking apologize.

Nope. Comcast: “home of the customer satisfaction guarantee.” How ignorant of them to assume that $20 is going to make up for all of this bullsh-- today. I am NOT happy.

Add on to this that after I went to the gym, showered, and blow dried my hair, the lady at the beauty school totally botched my bangs. Like, beyond help or recovery. I’ll have to wait a couple weeks before they’re grown out enough to do anything with. I usually cut my own bangs and have never botched them as badly as she did. Thanks, idiot hair student that’s going to graduate in 3 weeks. Good luck to all your future customers with botched hair. Guess I’m keeping my bangs pinned back for a while.

Then I had to put my mattress back. This wouldn’t be such a big deal if A. it weren’t a queen sized mattress and B. I didn’t have a bed skirt. But it’s a queen. And I have a bed skirt. It’s really, really hard to put a mattress back and get the bed skirt lined up without trying to pull it under the mattress and possibly rip it in the process. So that was another 5-10 minutes of hassle.

You know where just everything has been frustrating in a day? It’s nothing huge, just a bunch of little things piled on top of each other? That is what this feels like. I almost started bawling while I was trying to put my mattress back, I was so frustrated by the events of this day.

The good news: I got some of my reading done for Tuesday. The weather is awesome today. I have a date tonight at a nice restaurant with a guy who will not be a jerk; I’ve made myself pretty clear. And parent-teacher conferences went well. More on that in the next post. 

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

First Week of School (5 Weeks Late)

Well, my first impressions of my classes were all good. I wish I had actually made a detailed account of my first week of school so I could remember my exact thoughts, but here’s what I can recall.

My mom came with me on day one and took care of some of my dirty business—making folders for those who were absent, alphabetizing work, etc. I’m so glad she was there because I’m not sure I would have functioned the next day without her. She got the ball rolling so that I could have a productive rhythm by the second day when she wasn’t there. She gave me a feel for what I needed to get done.

I’m trying out all new and/or revamped procedures this year, and so far they seem to be working wonders for the students’ grades and for my stress level. I’m structuring everything very highly--babying them, if you will. I never realized how little you can trust junior high kids to keep something with them and to bring their stuff to class until last year.

This year, they’ve all been provided with a two pocket folder and some stapled paper for their journals. This took lots of preparation on my part, of course. We also wrote the first few journals together so that they would know what I expect. They need to write complete sentences and be reasonably conversational. They also need to answer all the questions. It also helped (90% of them, those who were listening) them to learn how to format the journals (date first, don’t copy the questions, don’t skip lines, don’t skip space, write on the back of the page, etc.).

My journal scores as a whole were at an all time high when I did my first collection! I’m pretty excited about this. This is because they get their folder when they come into class, they write their journal response, put the paper away, and pass their folder back at the end of class. They never have the excuse anymore, “Oh I lost my journal.” “I left it in my locker.” “I don’t have a journal.” “I don’t have any paper.” Five weeks in, I still haven’t heard any of those excuses, and it is glorious. Let me tell you. Glorious.

I’m getting off topic, sorry. Let’s just say the changes I’ve made are working for me and for the students. I think the most Fs I have in a class is five or six, which is actually really good for me, and expected since there’s so little anchoring their grades. One absence makes a big difference.

We covered the disclosure and procedures in the first two days. We spent lots of time on procedures for the first two weeks of class because I realized I hadn’t spent enough time the past couple of years. It made me super stressed throughout the year that I hadn’t done that. Yes, it’s annoying for them and for me, but by golly, they’ll know my rules like the back of their hand when we’re done. Plus, seventh graders are just getting used to the policies and procedures of EIGHT teachers instead of just one. I had to take the time with them. They even had a quiz on my policies and procedures. They seem to be very on top of it, but I know that’s due to how much time we’ve spent and how much repetition we’ve had on everything (using the absent packet, using the website, borrowing a pencil, using a hall pass, the late work policy, turning work in, etc.)

On A day I have all seventh graders—2A, 3A, and 4A. My B day kids are a different story. I have eighth graders during 1B and 4B. My 3B is seventh grade too.

I didn’t have any behavior issues in the first couple of days. I could tell I might have some difficult students though. Even the “difficult” ones this year are nothing compared to last year, at least so far. The biggest issues are in my English 8 classes, but really, even the chatty kids are good-natured kids. They’re not disrespectful. They don’t have attitudes like my last year’s ninth graders. They’re on the path to perversion, but not quite as bad or crass or dirty-minded as last year’s.

Honestly, I don’t have any kids yet who I don’t like. Even the ones who take me getting in their face and repeating everything a fifth time for them are impossible for me to dislike. That’s not saying I don’t get totally frustrated with them, but I might rather have the challenges associated with younger kids than with the older ones.

I keep getting off topic. Ugh. So! After the first days of policies and procedures—they had time to create a 3x5 card. These were much more successful this year than last year, as I realized how much structure they needed rather than freedom to be creative, since so many will just do minimum, unsightly work. So when they finished those cards, we introduced ourselves. I still don’t have all the names. This is the worst I’ve done out of these first years I’ve taught. Normally, I’m much faster at picking up the names, but this year I just can’t do it for some reason.

My biggest class is either 35 or 36. I’d check, but I have no internet right now. My smallest, I believe, is 32. So it’s not too bad this year.

2A – My smartest seventh grade class
3A – Some pretty rowdy/obnoxious kids in there, but none who are a real issue
4A – Pretty good class for the most part
1B – Depends on the day, but for the most part they are the better behaved of my two eighth grade classes. They’re not too bright as a whole, to be honest.
3B – This class is really good at having discussions; I like it.
4B – A pretty rowdy bunch. Also not too bright as a whole. Even the rowdy kids are really likeable, though.

That was my pretty uneventful first week. Disclosure, policies/procedures, introductions. Getting the folders made and everything was pretty smooth, and so far things are really good.

I have no internet until Friday when Comcast comes to install theirs. I canceled my Qwest internet for today because I don’t want to pay even a partial bill to them. I figured I could hack it since I will be at work until 7:30 on Tuesday and Wednesday night anyway. But really, I feel so disconnected. I thought of a few emails I needed to send and other stuff I had to do online and then realized I couldn’t do it at all! I could on my phone, but that sucks really bad.

I think what I’ll do with my remaining internet-less hours at home this week will be to read, watch the Discovery channel, and do some writing—blogging or otherwise. Maybe I’ll even get to sleep earlier. Yeah, probably not.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Crazy Week

I was supposed to have plans tonight, but they sort of fell through. So I just did my own thing, including going to the gym, eating dinner, watching The Office, running to Costco (not because I needed a hand-dipped ice cream bar with roasted almonds), and writing an article for some extra dinero.

Tomorrow I have work, then I visit Brianne, then class from 4:30 to 7. I might go to my cousins' house after to watch Glee and/or The New Girl. So it will be a late night.

On Wednesday AND Thursday I have work, and then more work. You guessed it: parent-teacher conferences, till 7:30 both nights. I think if I'm going to get any exercise in, it will have to be before work. If you've ever done PT conferences, you know there is no mental (or physical) activity going on afterward.

At least we get Friday off as a comp day. I also have a date on Friday night, so that's something to look forward to after three nights of chaos.

I still have a lot of things to blog about, but I'm spending my meager free time in the next week writing articles so I can pay for the new modem I had to buy. I'm switching to Comcast.

I'm no mathematician, by the way, but here's some number sense. I currently pay $50 for 12 mbps with Qwest. Qwest's best offer when I called them was 12 mbps for $40 for 12 months (locked in) = $480. Comcast is giving me 15 mbps for $30 for 12 months = $360. Plus the modem was $74 which is $434, still cheaper than Qwest's offer. Plus, Comcast's offer will go up to $48/month after that 12 months... Still faster and cheaper than my original service.

Poor Qwest. Had they told me before I called Comcast that the cancellation people would have given me some unmatchable deals, I might have stayed with them. Duh, customer service reps. Duh.

I was thinking it might be fun to blog in detail about my workout routines. I don't really have a routine anymore, if I'm being honest. But I am totally beating myself up at the gym lately. It's awesome.

Also, just as a side note, I hate this idea that "We R Who We R" (thanks, Kesha), or that we can't help our faults because we were "Born this Way" (thanks, Gaga). What a pitiful message of apathy and mediocrity to be sending out. Yuck.


Thursday, September 15, 2011

Too Fast

I just want to say that I think men move way too fast, as a general rule. I don't want to make the mistake of Dicto Simpliciter here. But really, as a whole, I think guys need to just lay off the physical aspect.

Like since when did first or second dates become "make out time"? Or spooning time? Or whatever-else-it's-too-soon-for time?

Nothing has happened recently. I've just been thinking tonight. And I don't know. I think I'm just increasingly uncomfortable with the notion of being even slightly physical with someone if I don't know I'm really into them and feel safe with them.

I just want someone take the time to get to know me before they decide they want to kiss me! I want it to be more than what it is for 99% of people.

Is that weird, to become more resistant to physical interaction over time?

Well, whatever. If that's how I'm going to weed out the crappy ones, I'll do it.

Find me a patient gentleman, and I'll love you forever, readers!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

From the Desks

And now, for an episode of "From the Desks: Messages that Students Write."

Message one, received on Facebook from one of my 9th graders last year:

"Dear Ms. Balibrea

This is your old 9th grade student Erika from last school year. I just wanted to say thanks for everything you taught us. It helped a BUNCH in High School. Today in Language Arts 10, I answered almost all of the questions my teacher asked. I felt pretty smart cause of all of the things you taught us last year.
I honestly miss being in your class, even though it was pretty boring at times. High school is allot different from Jefferson, But I'm started to get use to how it is.
Sincerly, Erika Lopez

(P.S. I hope that you think my writing has improved, I've been working on it)"

Message two, received in an after school visit from my most frequent 9th grade complainer last year:

Student: Hi! :)

Me: Hello! What's up?

Student: I just came to say thank you.

Me (confused): For what?

Student: Just everything. Everything that you did last year is the exact same as it is in high school.

Me: Wow! Well I'm glad. You're welcome.

Student: Like today, my teacher asked us if we know the difference between primary and secondary sources. I was like, "Psh, of course!" So I just wanted to come and tell you thank you, and keep doing what you're doing because it's working.

Message three, left in a note taped under one of my desks by one of my 9th graders from last year when he came to visit me a couple weeks ago:

"Dear Miss Balibrea’s Advisory class,Miss Balibrea is an awesome teacher, so respect her. She knows what she’s talking about. If you don’t listen and if you disrespect her we’ll have some problem. I’m already her favorite student so don’t even try. This message brought to you by her favoritest ever student (Ryan Gibson)! I love you miss Balibrea.Hello =) goodbye now sir/Raquel Eisenzimmer."

Sometimes I feel like I made the right career choice.

Friday, September 9, 2011


Well, I promised that lots of blogs were on their way, but I probably can count the number of free hours I've had recently to do anything that I want to do on just one hand. In that same entry, I mentioned how I have too much to say about everything. It's weird and sad interesting how much my lack of expression affects my state of being. It's like if I don't get my thoughts down somewhere, they're just rolling around in my brain waiting to be released.

Consequently, I'm feeling terribly psychologically unbalanced as of late. And in order to fix that, I know that I can do two possible things. One is that I can write (in this case, on my blog), and the other is that I can go to a shrink. Ideally, I'd do both. But I don't have money to go to a shrink. This is a contributing factor to my psychological imbalance.

Here are some other contributing factors that I can think of:

Things men have said--or I guess what they've said makes them boys, not men
Spiritually not doing my part
Having a too-long to-do list/work
Starting up a class

So for my sanity's sake, I'm writing this blog. It probably will be boring for most of you. You've been warned. Do not read on if you are not interested in the rants that are necessary for my sanity.

The first three topics have affected me in a very negative sense--taking a serious toll on my sense of self-worth. I don't say this lightly, because in all honesty, when's the last time I wrote a blog about something like this? It's been a pretty long while. And normally I'm a pretty confident young lady. So let's discuss...

I have had some dates with some great guys lately. Some have been really interested, and some not so much, and some for totally the wrong reason.

Let's examine the last situation for entertainment's sake, shall we?

First, one person I haven't heard from in the last two days claims to love me and wants to be serious with me. But he's always too busy for me. It's just as well, because I need to stop repeating my mistakes, and his selfishness just makes it easier for me to move forward. I am pretty sure the only reason he cares about me is because I care about him. It doesn't feel good.

Another guy, after two dates with me, got slightly carried away. I was able to muster up what little self-respect I have left in order to keep things at an acceptable level. There were some seriously awkward moments in there that even I am not sure I want in the public realm of the interweb. Seriously weird. Here's the part I can share. This guy told me, and I quote, "You are a very attractive girl. And you have a very tempting body."

Seriously? Who says something like that? This totally made me sick and sent me into a spiral of self-loathing for the next couple of days. Let's be honest, everyone wants to be attractive. But let's be honest again, no one wants to be told that being attractive is the cause behind someone else's disrespectful acts. In that moment, I felt like every inappropriate gesture or violation against me by a male was my fault, for looking how I do. I think that describes it pretty succinctly. I was honestly struck with the desire to inflict physical pain on myself. Don't go calling the cops or whatever. I'm fine. But that's how bad that night and next few days were.

Shortly after that, a guy who had told me he just wanted to be friends also got carried away. Again, mustering up my determination and self-respect, I asked him several times to stop what he was doing. Several times. He was rather forceful, and my physical resistance wasn't much in comparison to his strength. This situation actually traumatized me severely, to the point where I don't really want to even sit close to a man. I feel like they're all a threat somehow. And after what the other guy had told me, I felt like I had unintentionally asked for it, or like I deserved that kind of treatment, or like I have some immoral invitation written on my forehead. A scarlet letter "A," if you will.

Then a few weeks ago I met a guy on a spur of the moment. We watched a movie. He had a hairless cat. He also took off all his clothes the first time we hung out "because it was hot." Uh? It was the first time we met. And we didn't sit near each other or anything. But what the crap?  Obviously I was pretty flabbergasted by that occurrence. Anyway, a few days later I was chatting with a former student about this guy I had met with a hairless cat. It ended up that my student knew Captain Underpants. Student said that Mr. Underpants was a d--k. I said that I could see that that might be possible, which was weird because it's not as though he's super hot. Well, Captain wrote me a message on the website on which we met. I wasn't able to read the message until a couple of weeks after he sent it because I didn't have a paid membership. I finally did. It said:

"Love how I hear things through the grape vine.

Talk %$#!% more fatty.

I'm to much of an %$#!% for how unattractive I am? Are you kidding me? Get fat, and ugly, and please smell more like BO.

Don't talk %$#!% when you're a fat %$#!% and smell.

Me an %$#!%? Yes.

Me unattractive? Ha Ha Ha.. please.. i could of had you if I wanted, but no thanks chubs."

Naturally, being the internally emotional girl that I am, I let all of those nasty words sink in. Fatty, smelly, ugly, fat-ass, and chubs. I'd be lying if I said I had gotten over this message. I've been thinking about it every single day since I read it. This last weekend which I spent fighting illness was as a result of reading this message. I give myself viruses when I stress out about this kind of stuff--not lying.

Now look, the sensible version of me knows that I should disregard the opinion of an obviously insecure, douchey, wants-to-be-naked, hairless cat owner. Clearly, his opinion should not matter. But I can't help but be upset by it. I got an even nastier email than this about three years ago, and I still think about that one on a pretty frequent basis, actually. Words just affect me way too much.

So on top of thinking about his words every day for the last week... I got some texts from my brother today. He said [sic]:

"You are so not my sister... dead to me."

"Your a moron."

"Whatever you closed minded moromonized un loveable person. I can see why you have no relationship."

"Your a little rat. A snitch with no love for me whatsoever."

"Your an idiot."

"Your pathetic."

"Ok moron."

Now I'm not getting into self-injure mode over these texts. But I will say it is salt in the already huge wound. Naturally these texts are out of context. He was mad at me. However, I didn't call him any names at all.

This week I've been trying to get back into regular praying and scripture reading habits. I've been in a good mood. I've treated my students well. I've gone to the gym. I would say I'm trying really hard not to perpetuate negative energy, but wow... I think it's too much to ask lately for someone (who knows me well) to say something nice to me, about a quality that matters. It does sound pathetic, like my brother said, but some kind words would go a long way for me right now.

As for the fourth topic... I just have a long to do list. I've been slacking off big time with planning my unit and objectives out for my students. I'm hoping to get on the ball this weekend and get some serious planning done. But we're three weeks into the school year, and I've still got no game plan. It's stressing me out. I also need money. I need to write some articles for Orange Soda. I haven't done that in a while, and some extra cash really would help me out. But I'm wondering when to do that since now (topic number 5) I have started up my class.

This semester we have to do a daunting case study, another big project, regular weekly readings and write-ups, and lead a couple of discussions. I bit off several of my nails in the first night of class because of the approaching work level and stress.

So now that I've divulged some of my deepest and darkest issues at present, maybe it's a little more understandable why I feel kind of like a psycho.

I think in my heart of hearts I know there's only one place (or Person) I can turn to in a time of so much sadness, discouragement, and stress. I just feel unworthy to approach Him and ask.

Enough serious talk... I am going to eat, shower, and go to the movies with one of the few men who has been respectful to me in recent months. Maybe it'll do me some good.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Something's Wrong with This Picture

Today was picture day at school.

I saw one student wearing the same shirt as I wore to work yesterday.

And I saw another student wearing the same skirt I recently got at Old Navy.

Something is very, very wrong with this...

As a side note, they showed me my picture after they took it so I could approve it. That's good, right?

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Too Much to Say

You know, what this comes down to is that I just have too much to say. About pretty much everything. About everything in my life. And about everything about life in general. And about everything about everyone else's lives. Just too much to say. All the time.

I purchased some little tiny notepads to keep in random bags and purses that I use in case an idea strikes me. And they do. All the time.

But have I used these notebooks yet? No. The idea escapes seconds after I have it, and tragically I am too lazy to write it down before it runs away from my mind forever.

I DID text myself some potential topics. But then I thought of something else today that I cannot remember at this present moment. So I think I'll summarize my life as of late. And then do separate posts for the more detailed thoughts that I have.

Lately, my life has consisted of work, going to the gym, running errands/taking care of other business, and going to bed. The last thing hasn't been going so well. I just cannot sleep. Melatonin, no melatonin. Exhausted, or not that exhausted. Getting up early, or waking up late. I can't do it. I really can't.

I went out to dinner with my mom last week, and we went to the mall. I have more details on that for a separate blog entry. Just a preview: some foreign kioskers told me I have acne. Thanks, guys. Thanks.

My skin has finally cleared up this week. ;) Just for the record.

I went out to dinner with Aaron to Texas Roadhouse on Saturday night. It was so delicious. Rolls, salad, baby onion blossom, chicken critters, yumdizzle. Then Aaron lost his contact. And he single-eyedly drove home to replace it. That was somewhat of a fright. Then we watched Juno. I love Juno. She makes me laugh. So does her dad. "I'm gonna punch that Bleaker kid in the wiener the next time I see him." Yes.

I have stuff to say about my investment in certain things/people. And why I am so ridiculously stupid to repeat my same mistakes about 5 million times. "Don't make someone a priority when they only make you an option." Yeah. No matter how many times you tell me that, I'll never follow the warning. Really.

I also have personal items that I can vaguely describe, as I am generally just in a really difficult place with myself. I have a story (or two or three) about what sort of sent me into an already established spiral of self-loathing. (You know, I try really hard not to hate men, but honestly, they make it kind of difficult.)

I worked on visiting teaching with my coordinator for over 3 hours on Tuesday night. It's nice to have that done, and I am hoping things settle down so it's not such an ordeal every month. We've still got more work to do on Saturday (finalizing the numbers, changing the MLS and files, getting the copies made, etc.).

I love Dropbox. I really do. It just changed my life--especially related to work and church.

I finally got paid yesterday. And after a long time of not visiting the grocery store, I was happy to come home with some fresh strawberries, sweet potatoes, oranges, and salads. I am very excited about this. I was so excited I got myself some Little Caesar's. I will be eating at home the rest of the month. My groceries were so heavy coming in, that a (blog) thought occurred to me: what an amazing burden. To have my arms weighed down with groceries could be so unpleasant and such hard work, living on the third floor, but I was SO glad to have food to carry in. So glad. I even went to Costco today. And I got gas. Oh money. I am watching you fly away so quickly.

My class starts on Tuesday. Ew. It's on reading assessments.

I started a new book today: Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson. It's OK so far. I just needed something to put on my classroom poster for what I'm reading.

The weather is fantastic today: breezy and 86 degrees. I'd love to go on a walk but have no one to go with.

My classroom has finally cooled down significantly. A steaming hot, disgusting classroom was a great way to start the school year, let me tell ya!

A quick note: on a left green arrow, right turners do NOT have the right of way. On a two way green light, left turners do NOT have the right of way. I feel like the only person in Utah who knows this.

I got a Facebook message from one of my students of last year. It was very sweet.

I've been at the gym three days this week including today. And a couple of days last week. I am happy to report that I burned 802 calories on Tuesday and 814 today in 65 minutes on the elliptical. I left today with still more energy--I could have gone for a run afterward, no lie. I probably should have pushed it harder. I love the numbers. I love the progress. It makes me happy and proud. Maybe one of these days I'll start watching what I eat so that all the muscles I have will actually show. ;)

I'm not excited to switch Netflix plans. But in case you were wondering, I went with unlimited streaming. All the TV shows. Too hard to pass up.

Spotify is amazing. Seriously. New love of my life. Good things from Europe.

I'd like to write about living alone. And the pros and cons of such a situation. Like the fact that I laugh at funny things by myself. I watch movies by myself. I want to go on a walk and have no one to go with. I cook dinner for only myself. I pay bills by myself--no splitting. And my coworker Sarah mentioned another challenge: zipping up a dress by yourself.

My home teachers came by unexpectedly yesterday. This was both good and bad. Good because geez, it's been years since I've had home teachers show up. Bad because I had stuff I wanted to get done and was all sweaty from finishing a workout. Oh hi guys. Come on in. Talk to me while I look like hell.

On arriving early, and arriving late. There are good and bad things surrounding each of these situations. Can't we all just be on time? We can thank my visiting teachers for my desire to discuss this topic.

I saw Death Cab in concert last Monday (also the first day of school). My feet hurt. But dang. My obsession increased by a landslide. More deets on that to come.

I'm still baffled as to why people feel the need to go on the elliptical right next to me. When I am on the end, and there are 11 (literally, 11) open next to me--as in, the rest of the row--WHY does someone have to be on the one right next to me? In this case, a young woman. What the crap? Doesn't anyone understand personal space? Anyone?

And really, I need to update y'all on my teaching situation. My classroom, my students, my first week of school, etc. Rachel said she had checked my blog all week to see if I had blogged about my first week yet. I guess because this was my third "first week," it didn't feel like as big of a deal to me. WAY less stressful than the last two years--the first year, and the first year at a new school, in a new classroom. But more deets on that, later, too. Thanks Rachel, for caring!

Speaking of Rachel. I love her. What do we do without friends who listen to our soul's heaviest discontents? Plus, she replaced my round cake pans unnecessarily. That's awesome.

OK, I reek and really need to shower and eat some food. More writings are on the way, though. On. The. Way.