Monday, September 18, 2017

House Improvements!




In the last 15 months we have completely re-done our lemon of a house. We have built an entire BAR area downstairs, put on new gutters, bought all new window shades and treatments, put in almost all new lighting fixtures, fixed the sprinkler system, built a little patio in front of our back gate, had our gate re-done, put in two dog doors, fixed the garage door, painted several interior walls, re-finshed our table, put in ALL NEW doors and windows (fancy double paned ones), cut back our front tree, pulled out our dying backyard tree, planted two new trees, planted landscaping, pulled out ALL of our old floors (except my bathroom), put in ALL NEW carpet and ALL NEW LVT planking, put in new baseboards in many rooms, pulled off old nasty lumber off indoor trim, moved the kids room's downstairs and basically shuffled all of our furniture in the house, had our heater and A/C tuned and updated, pulled our old deck off the back of the house, had new siding and new trim put on the house, built a Little Lending Library, put on NEW GIANT DECK, and had full EXTERIOR paint job done. It's been a lot. A lot.
But it's done. (Except for the master bedroom and all the painted doors and fixtures, but that HAS to wait as we are BROKE. But we are happy. Our house feels like US now. And we are snug and safe. And we have transformed our lemon house into a beautiful, wonderful home. Huzzah!

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Teaching

I love teaching. At least, I love teaching theater. I love the kids and I completely get off on sharing some amazing new skill or idea about theater with them. I'm engaged. I care so much. I'm exhausted.
I love our school. It is the most unique, exciting school I've heard of. It's a free charter school that focuses on innovation. We do backwards design from a PBL model. The kids are presented with a problem that they can engage in and work through their skills by solving the problem. This way they are invested and take ownership of their learning. Homework is not busy work, but an extension of skills. We are on block scheduling and this gives us huge chunks of time to teach and explore and reflect.
Davis and Samuel respond well to this school. Samuel loves it because there is very, very little teach from the front of the classroom. He is on his feet, or working in small groups or creating almost all the time. He also loves the technology as he struggles with the physical act of writing and typing has been a godsend. The school runs a grade ahead and still Sam is flourishing this year. Davis loves it because he is encouraged to follow his own ideas. Recently he studied (on his own) angular momentum and moved on to perpetual momentum. He designed and created a machine on the 3D printer and even though he found that his concept didn't work, he found it out himself and proved and it that was encouraged by his teachers. Davis is carrying all honors classes and is still struggling with the work load, but he is learning so much.
I am learning too. I get up in the morning and drop the kids off at school by 7:30. Then I drive home and quickly do 30 minutes of weight lifting and then take the dog out for 30 minutes of cardio. Then I shower, do some household chores and get on the computer to pay bills and or make appointments, but mostly to work on my daily lesson plans. I head off to school by 10:30AM and teach from 11-4. Then I grab the kids from after care, drive home, clean lunch kits and supervise homework, drive kids to lessons, prep dinner, eat dinner, and finally sit down to answer all the emails and work on my shows.
I'm directing and producing two different shows right now. I initiated and cultivated two local community partnerships for our school. Littleton Town Hall Arts Center and Vintage Youth are both now STEM's partners. With those community partners, we are putting on MTI's Into the Woods Jr. I ran audition workshops and then had casting last week after school. This week I held our first read through. The cast is immensely talented and I am so excited about the show. I'm producing and the music director of the show. It will be performed at the end of February.
When I was hired for this job, it was to create a brand new theater program as there has never been one at the school before. This means that I am writing ALL the curriculum as well. I teach both high school and middle school, so I am creating two different curriculum. I wrote them both this summer, but after teaching them for a month, I decided to re-write the high school one.
I've decided to create an immersive theater experience for the whole school. I'll have my high school kids create and write it and perform in it and I've recruited various teachers to help. I have HS history doing dramaturgy, video production filming scenes, HS business helping us with marketing, HS music department writing music and performing. I'm trying to get other teachers involved too. We are setting our show at a World's Fair and hoping that other classes might use that theme to show off developments their student's have created. It's a big project and I'm scared, but I'm also so excited about it.
So is the administration and I'm getting lots of support which is really nice. But. I'm writing new curriculum based on this project for my HS and trying it out and refining it every day. It's exhausting and exciting and uses almost every bit of free time I have. If I can get through this year though and write all this as lesson plans and refine it, I will have created something I can use again.
I'm also applying for alternative licensure through Colorado so I will have my teacher's license. I qualify, but I have a lot of legal hoops to jump through, plus I have to participate in induction through my school and meet with my innovation coach and my mentor regularly. It's a lot.
So that's what is going on with me. I feel like I'm behind on real life and that I'm missing all those small gestures of friendship and thoughtfulness I used to pride myself in. I'm missing birthdays and not sending cards and not preparing home made bread and thoughtfully prepared meals. I'm not writing long missives to friends or even calling on the phone. I'm sorry. I can only say that I think I will have time for all of that again. Next year. Or next semester even. Or during fall break?
In the meantime, our school is doing a fundraiser and if you feel inclined, though I know everyone is already donating for Harvey and Irma and all the other important needs around us, please donate to help support this amazing school that I am lucky enough to be a part of.
Colorado Gives

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Scottish Festival In Estes Park


Last Friday, Michael picked us up from school and we drove up to Estes Park for the Scottish Festival. We stayed at Jellystone again, this time in a loft cabin which was much more enjoyable than last year. Friday evening, the kids played at the playground and arcade and then we watched Back to the Future 3 in our little bedroom.
Saturday morning we drove out to the festival grounds and had a wonderful time. It was warmer this year than last and so it wasn't quite as magical, but we still had fun. We met with our family clan (the McLeod clan) and I spoke with national president and it was so interesting! We watched the professional athletes compete. We ate festival food and listening to celtic rock and watched the dog agility show. Sam spent lots of time in the renaissance armory and both boys enjoyed shopping for swords and playing on the big rock with all the other kids. Unfortunately, our time at the festival was caught a bit short when it began to rain. We ran to the car and took a scenic drive around Estes Park before heading home.
Jellystone does a big Halloween weekend every weekend in September with trick or treating, a monster mash dance party, and a haunted hike. We had planned to build a campfire and sit by the fire while handing out candy, but rain dashed that plan. Still a break in the rain allowed the kids to play laser tag in the woods and then it evened out to a sprinkle while they trick or treated. We sat on our tiny porch and played music and handed out candy. It was fun. Davis has had a terrible chest cold for weeks and so stayed in for the rest of the evening while Michael and I walked with Sam down to the dance party. He was not that enthused and was nervous about the haunted hike and so we went back to the cabin at dark and all read and relaxed.
The next morning, we packed up and drove home, giving us plenty of time to get ready for the week and prepare for a visit from Manie and Sean. We had a great trip and love the festival. We plan to attend again next year and hope the weather is on our side. We hope to maybe stay at the Stanley hotel next year, but won't let the kids watch see the Shining first.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Aspen


We drove up to Aspen on Friday after school. The drive was incredible beautiful and we stopped at Independence Pass on the way. It was truly awe-inspiring. I felt like I was on top of the world.
We stayed in a cute Wyndham condo called Woodrun Place that we found in VRBO. We shared it with Suzy and Jason and their kids. It was nice and in a good location. It was oddly situated though, in that it was on four different floors that started three floors up. Lots of stair climbing was required.
Saturday we got up and leisurely made our way to Maroon Bells. We took free public transportation which meant transferring lots and finding our way. I enjoyed this tremendously as we saw lots of interested and different people and places and the getting there was half the adventure. We ate amazing eggs benedict in Aspen and finally made our way to Maroon Bells. We saw a yellow bellied marmot (whistle pig) and gorgeous aspen (already changing!) and had a nice tour guide. At the top was the most beautiful sight I may have ever seen. Maroon Bells reflecting in the lake below is incredible. The weather was perfect and we decided to hike the creek trail. It was four and half miles of down hill trail, weaving along a creek in and out of meadows and aspen groves. It was wonderful!! Even the kids thoroughly enjoyed it. Then we hailed a bus and went back down to Snowmass to swim at the pool at our condo. We ended the evening with pizza, wine, popcorn and Catan. It was a win.
Sunday we attended the Aspen Jazz Festival. This is a bit of misnomer as there is really no jazz there. It was hot and shining, but it was a beautiful location. We saw The Revivalists which I didn't love, the Roots which I did and Maroon 5, which was good, but not my favorite. I'm not so much into Pop. But Adam did a great job. We ate festival food and the kids enjoyed the kids area. It was fun, but I'm not sure it was my kind of festival. Maybe after Jazzfest in New Orleans, nothing can compare. Still, it was a nice day with sunny skies and soft, green grass. And the wine was good.
Today we packed up, ate brunch in Snowmass on a nice balcony and drove home. The drive was long, but very scenic. We even saw a big brown bear running in the meadow beside us! We are listening to the Raven Boys on audio book and it kept us entertained.
Colorado is just so beautiful, especially in the mountains at this time of year. The aspen trees shimmer shake and the wildflowers still color the meadows and the streams tumble over rocks. The mountains are crisp cool and sunny and the air is clear.