Friday, June 17, 2016

Yearly Update

LOL. It's been almost a year since I updated - and a crazy busy year it has been!

So I'll make an obligatory update. ^_~ What's happened in the past 11 months? SO MUCH!

Being a teacher, and having the gift of summer break, I always try to make the best use of it. Every summer, I always aim to go to somewhere different, and learn something new. Aruba, Hawaii, Beijing & Shanghai, or even if it's close by. I also learn something new and different, such as martial arts, scuba diving and snorkeling, and modern calligraphy.

In terms of going somewhere new last summer, I was able to go to Philadelphia for the ISTE 2015 conference. It was great! Although many of the workshops showcased things we already did at our school, I still learned things here and there, and had a great time with my colleagues. I did miss the women's soccer game, as one of the other teachers, Melissa, and I were caught in a sudden thunderstorm. I had to run out and hail a cab, so I was drenched anyway, heh heh, so I opted for a warm shower instead that night. However, I love how much history is on the East Coast, and was able to see buildings and places that have been around for hundreds of years, which is always amazing to me! I also got to run up the Rocky steps. You know, how Rocky Balboa runs around in Philly with the Eye of the Tiger song going on in the background? Heheheheheheheheh. I even got a fellow teacher, Kerri, to run with me! ^_^

As for learning a new skill, I worked on modern calligraphy, instead of the traditional type that I've known since middle school. I also tried brush and watercolor calligraphy, and have only worked on that a little since then. I think I like the metal nibs and dipping them in my little inkwell a bit more. There's something satisfying about using the correct pressure and strokes to create letters that flow on paper!

So anyways. This past year, I had joined the PL team, and have changed the way I teach in so many ways. At the same time, it's still me and the way I teach - but I've learned new strategies, used more technology than I have in the past (and hey, not to boast, but I've always been ahead of the tech game. This past year though, we've had so much support to go forth and go crazy with whatever ideas we may have, it was great!), and have been testing out lessons to support the NGSS that are going to become mainstream soon enough. I also had the toughest class I've faced in a long time. You would think 14 years of teaching in the area and school I teach at would pretty much allow me to handle anything. Nope. No matter what strategy I tried, new or old, it didn't work. Nothing did - positive, negative, encouragement, support, forming more solid relationships....nothing. My 6th period made me reevaluate my career choice for a while, and I would go home feeling like a pathetic first year teacher whose soul, purpose and hopes felt meaningless, and drowned a little bit in tears! I know. I'm a little dramatic here...but it definitely felt like "the depths of despair", of Anne Shirley would put it. However, I had a lot of support from my friends, fellow teachers, and family - and was reminded that:

1) I can't save everyone. As much as I want to, I have to come to terms that it doesn't always happen. Most of the time, I don't have management problems because I have such strong relationships and positive rapport with my students, and there may be a few here and there that I don't feel like I make too much of a difference for. But never has it been pretty much a whole class.

2) "Did you have a bad 5 minutes? Or did you have a bad 5 minutes that you milked all day?" That saying reminded me that though the last hour of my day made me feel like the whole day was worthless, I had 5 other class periods that were really, normal - which means wonderful. I had amazing students and classes the rest of the day, and shouldn't go home feeling like I hadn't achieved anything.

And the year ended well - my 6th period started shaping up around December, and by the end of the year, though they weren't the best ever, they were much improved, and there were more than 5 that actually paid attention and tried anything. Hee hee, I used to joke that NO WONDER GOD DESTROYED SODOM AND GOMORRAH. Because he couldn't find even 5 righteous souls in those cities...and in the same way, that's how I had felt about my 6th at that time. >_< But in reality, so many of them came from broken homes (more so than my other periods, actually! There's tracking that goes into which classes students are placed in, and well, that wasn't a good group to put together. We need to fix that educational system, by the way, somehow!), and what do you expect a 13, 14 year old teenager to respond like when things at home are so messed up? Most of the time, their priorities aren't for their education, understandably. They need to be shown that they matter, and that someone does love them and care about them. But sometimes they don't get that at home, and that's so sad! But teaching them has taught me much. Meanwhile, it also forced me to update my resume and CV (I've not applied anywhere else. It just made me think about it and get that taken care of!).

I also had absolutely AMAZING students. Even many more than normal this year that ended up calling me "mom" and that I "adopted". ^_^ I did the Catalina trip again this year, except it was in March, so the weather was a little colder than usual, and also took a group of students to Disneyland as we had extra funds! We had an insane amount of field trips it seemed - besides the two just mentioned, we took the 8th grade academic trip to the California Science Museum, the usual Cove Waterpark field trip, and took the PL kids earlier this year to the Bodies Exhibit. The school year ended with lots of love: hugs and laughter, long conversations, water balloons and glitter. LOTS OF GLITTER. ^_^

On the home front, my dad had gallbladder surgery not too long ago. He's mostly recovered now, but the events leading up to that were scary. My brother's family finally moved out of my parents and they all live near us now, with Diana's mom moving in with them from Asia.

Aiva has finished Kindergarten, with lots of awards for achievement, attendance, effort, and all that good stuff, with the highest marks on her report card. She loves to read so much that at night, I'd catch her reading by the night light - which is bad, but good that she's reading so much. She had advanced to 2nd grade sight words months ago, and continues to read whatever she can get her hands on. Penny is starting to take an interest in reading and writing more, though her 4-year attention span isn't too long, and her fine motor skills are continuing to develop so she can write/draw more details. She's more intelligent than she lets on though, memorizing the name of the planets, knowing many Spanish words, and facts about Obama, hee hee. Whatever they talk about in preschool, she picks up and retains. She's still tiny though - most people think she's about 2 years old, but are always surprised when she says she's 4!

Both girls are also dancing at a new dance studio (Aiva's classmate's mom actually owns the studio!) nearby, so we don't have to drive as far, and they love it, of course. They also just finished their swim lessons for the summer - Aiva continues to be a natural mermaid, diving for things at the bottom of the pool really well, and jumping in the deep end happily with me. Penny will swim simply because she must. but can swim really well. She doesn't LOVE it just yet. And both have been crazily into My Little Pony for the past year. I've learned so much MLP Lore that it's insane, lol. >_<

I ran my first 15K at the Hot Chocolate Run this year! It's a goal I had, and was glad I was able to do it well. Next goal? A half marathon. Don't know if I'll do that this year or next though. We'll see. =)

Oh! I also have seen some amazing musicals this past year:

  • The Little Mermaid (that "If Only" song is still stuck in my head)
  • Beauty and the Beast (Ugh. So good!)
  • If/Then with Idina Menzel (who SLAYED it)
  • Carrie (a totally-different-from-the-norm-musical)
  • The Book of Mormon (OMG. It was so hilarious! I died laughing and came back to life.)

This summer, I hope to run more. Craft again. Cook and bake again. I'm currently learning the guitar - just started, and I think I am actually doing pretty well. Slow, but going good. ^_^ I might take Jiu Jitsu classes! I'm just debating because of the cost; I'm not sure how consistent I would go once summer is over, and I don't want that to be a waste. We're traveling to one of my favorite countries and visiting some places I've not been to in Canada. I'm hoping to go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter because it's Harry Potter! And we're going to a Conan taping! And paddleboarding! And seeing old friends and family that I've not seen! I know. It's a lot of goals. But I have a couple months, right? =)

Right. Hopefully, I add a few more entries in here before another year goes by. ^_~

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Ohana means Family...

(Ignore this giant space up above. I'll fix it later, LOL.)

June was a busy month - school ended, Catalina happened, and then we were in Vegas for week, followed by a few more days in Philadelphia for me (more on that later!). I felt like I was living out a duffle bag for about 3 weeks, which I didn't mind, but it wasn't as comfortable as just being at home, right?

And despite the craziness, family is always going to be there. =)

I can't wait to see these cousins all grow up together! In the meantime, they can stay little together. Noah just ADORES Aiva, in case you can't see that here, LOL, and Micah, though he's not smiling here, is generally ALWAYS smiling. ^_^ Growing up, my cousins were pretty cool, but they were all much, much older than my brother and I. My dad being the ninth child born in his family meant that some of my cousins were even my dad's age! So it'll be neat to see these four share adventures together. =)

The rest below are all Vegas pictures from our week there. We don't usually do what people think people do in Vegas. ^_~ It's mostly to hang out with family and friends. This time, it was mostly to take care of things for Shelton's dad, as well as get things that Shelton's mom wanted from their house. We didn't stay in the house, as scorpions are just a problem in some houses in Vegas >_< and their house has had scorpions in it in the past. I worry about them and the girls stepping on them or them falling out of the vents onto the girls! So we stayed at South Point, which was close enough to the strip and anywhere else we may want to hang out at, but far away enough from the strip, because WHO WANTS TO DRIVE ON THAT STREET? Nobody. That's right. It's horrible. LOL. =)

Uncle John has been a part of Shelton's life since he moved here. As their next door neighbor back then, UJ helped watch and teach Shelton almost everything he knows - Chess, Football, How to Fix Anything in the House, and everything else. He's family. =) Even at our wedding, he sat at the table with our parents, because he means that much to us!
We had dim sum one day...
...and brunch another day, before we left. =)
We had lunch with Melody while we were out there too! We didn't get a picture with her, of all things. O_o But she got this lovely family picture of us. =) See that fried chicken? It's the size of my head. And it was delicious. We went to DW Bistro, one our favorite little spots off the strip in Vegas. =)

Of course, we always eat big in Vegas. Because food is everywhere and it's open until the wee hours of the day, unlike here in SoCal, where many places are closed around 9pm or 10pm in the suburbs. When it's summer break, we're night owls, and will stay up pretty late, so having places to feed our hungry bellies at that time is perfect. I know, don't eat after dinner, people say. But when you stay up late, and 4 -5 hours has passed since dinner time...^_~

Shelton and I snuck in few late night dates. One day, we went and watched Jurassic World during $5 movie night, and another day, we had some sushi around midnight at the famed Tokyo Boys in Hendersen. They supposedly have some of the freshest cuts in the area. I can only agree. =) This Tokujyo Chirashi bowl was heavenly!
Hamachi sashimi with jalapenos in a light sauce. =)
We also visited the Container Park in DTLV. Super cute, though the surfaces can get hot in the 115 degree weather we were getting while we were out there. Like the Anaheim Packing House, there were tons of little food vendors everywhere, a movie out on the lawn, but unlike the Packing House, they had a giant tree house play area in the middle of the park, and a giant, fire-breathing praying mantis in the front that would light up the sky once in a while!

If you like hot dogs, Cheffini's is your kind of place. They serve loaded up hot dogs with all the fixin's! I prefer burgers over hot dogs. But it was still good to try. =)
The Classic Cheffini Hot Dog has chips crushed into it! I love crushing potato chips in my burgers and sandwiches, so I understood why they did this, LOL. According to the menu, other things in here included: Grilled frank, onions, tomatoes, jalapeños, mozzarella, crushed potato chips, pineapple sauce, mustard, mayo and ketchup.

Pinches Tacos. No, I'm not cursing you. ^_~ But I do have a weakness for good ol' Mexican Street Tacos. Cabeza, Lengua, Carnitas...whatever. I love them. And I've passed on this love to my girls, hee hee hee...they must know the wonder that is the taco that is NOT from taco bell and what-not! ^_^
We had dim sum with Aiva and Penny's cousin on Shelton's side of the family! Zoe is being taken care of by grandma and grandpa during the day (Shelton's dad's sister and husband) so we all had tea lunch together one day. Family!
And of course, we could not avoid at least ONE buffet while we were there. We tried to go to Bacchanal, but the wait was insane, especially with hungry little ones (and hungry me!). So we went to our other go-to at the Aria! =)
Like daughter, like mommy. We both just need to eat. Or we're grumpy. Or HANGRY, as we like to say. ^_~
Shelton and his mom at one of our other favorite Vegas spots, Babystacks Cafe. Their red velvet pancake is one of my favorite things on my list of Foods I Like To Eat. =)
Um. Aiva and I playing around in the car while waiting for Shelton and his mom to take care of things at the bank. Penny was sleeping. ^_~

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

A Pirate's Life

Maribell came as one of the chaperones on the trip!
I've slacked so much on blogging the past few years. This thing called REAL LIFE totally got in the way. ^_~  I can't believe I've been blogging since...well, 18! Back when computers were first publicly connected to the internet, and when I had to figure out how to use HTML to start my own little blogs and webpages. The internet has definitely changed all of our lives, but sometimes, I don't think it has necessarily changed us that much more for the better. With us being able to simply google everything, that journey to search for understanding - and as Ralph Waldo Emerson so wisely puts it, "Life is a journey, not a destination" - is basically lost. Scientists in the past studied and made observations of natural  phenomena for years, and had to be creative and at the same time, logical, so that they can make sense of our world. Nowadays, the majority of us, me included, simply can search online for an answer, and our brains are no longer forced to create and understand things deeply.

I used to remember phone numbers and birthdays like the back of my hand. But after having a cell phone, I'm horrible at it. My brain no longer needs to think and recall information to use it, as it can depend on having my cell phone around for me to swipe for the answers...and that's probably not so good for my brain.

We don't even talk much nowadays - even though calling someone on your phone is at many times free, we choose to text instead, which uses data, which then raises our phone bill. When it wouldn't have cost a thing to call someone and speak to them and build that relationship more.

Does it mean all is lost, and we are doomed to be in misery with mushy, useless brains? Definitely not. It just means we have to push harder to use our brains. That definitely applies to me as a teacher who is responsible in educating some of the public, but at the same time, for me personally, it means I need to use my brain more. It means I need to make myself put down that cell phone and hang out with important people in my life. It means I need to not only search for an answer, but then start thinking of the whys, and how it connects to different aspects of my life, and what I will do with what I know now.

Anyways, how does this relate to the Pirate's Life in the title of this post? LOL. Not too much. But going to Catalina, and not using my phone for several days, and seeing my students not get stuck on their phones for several days, reminded me of how much more functional we can be when we put down the phone. WE DID SO MUCH. Without cell phones in hand. At the start of our trip, one student had ear phones on her ears, but her phone wasn't even on to listen to music! She was comfortable just having them plugged in. And that's kinda scary - we're not robots. We're humans, social creatures who yearn others to belong with and be a part of. Social media is fun, and can even be useful, but it's not the meaningful, social world that we desperately need.

On the side, the Catalina trip was a blast! This year, the students in charge of each crew took leadership and did a fantastic job leading their crews in various activities, and many braved climbing the lines of the boat to get to the bowsprit and jumping off into the 90 feet deep ocean that our tall ship sailboat sat upon off the coast of Catalina. Living in such close quarters allowed for all of us to get to know each other better, and to appreciate the time spent with others as we all bonded over amazing adventures that nature had in store for us! We saw dolphins everywhere this year, and a pod even swam in the wake of our sailboat as we sailed at a tedious pace  of 4-5 knots (which is 4-5 nautical miles per hour, which is basically 4-5 miles per hour). Up close, we saw sea lions, little crabs, weird swimming earth worms, and continued learning about marine biology by kayaking out near caves, snorkeling to find lots of orange Garibaldi (our state's fish) and other fish, sea urchin, abalone, and learning about marine life through dissection (mackeral and squid) and discussion.The students did daily chores, such as raising the sails, hosing down and swabbing the decks, shining the brass, cleaning the hull and heads (toilets), as well as their own galley gear after each meal. Students learned to navigate and actually steer the boat manually with the captain's wheel and marine compass. We hiked the island and learned about plate tectonics and how the island was formed, as well as some botany and biology of how various living things could grow on the island. We picnicked on the beach, we created awesome skits (my students decided they had to teach me how to whip with the Little Einstein's song. And we had way too much meaningful fun and learning overall. It is too bad I could only take 30 students!

But we could have never gone on this trip without the generous donation by two very generous and kind sponsors! I seriously didn't expect to be chosen again, as last year, we were the FIRST public school ever to have been sponsored for such a trip. We were told we were their favorite group of students last year, so they were looking forward to having us again this year! I wonder if this will keep up? =)

Like last year, many of the students and adult chaperones got seasick at first. I don't get sea sick. In fact, I quite love the rolling ocean waves, and the front of the boat, like Luffy, is my favorite spot. So maybe I have sea legs. And I LOVE the ocean. Don't like swimming pools too much, and the beach is just alright. But the ocean is different - majestic, deep, and seriously magical. I think I must have been a pirate in another life.

Yo ho, yo ho....^_~

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Update: June 2015

It's been such a crazy few months - at home, Shelton's father passed away on March 18. He is now singing praises and celebrating in the company of our God, one of his favorite things to do while he was here on Earth. We are grateful for the time he spent with us, and he spent almost exactly a year living with us, in which there were lots of doctor visits, but also lots of joy, as evidenced in his pictures. His digital camera shows his last year of life, as he didn't erase any pictures and they were full of everybody's birthday, friends who visited from far away, and good times. 

There are more things I want to say, but will keep them private for now (all good things, mostly reflective). 

Meanwhile, as the school year ends, I have to admit this group of students has really been one of my ultimate favorites. They're just amazing, and bring me joy everyday in the classroom! I really am not supposed to have favorites, but it can't be helped. There's this one that makes me laugh every day, and not just is he crazy smart, hard working, athletic, and witty, he also has a deep creativity and imagination that I don't see in many others. There are lots of others that have high marks and grades, and he is one of them, but it's his creativity and way with putting it together with reality that makes him special, and I have no doubt that he will do amazing things one day in the future! I wish I could follow him and all my other students and see how their futures turn out to be like!

And then there are those that are failing academically but are great and wonderful people with kind hearts who take care of their families and siblings because they simply have to due to family circumstances, or those that go through abuse at home and yet come to school and treat others better than they are treated. There are those that are awesome soccer players, top jujitsu fighters outside of school, awesome rap artists, fashionistas, cooks and bakers, writers and artists, those that come in with a smile every day, that are eager to share good news and bad news with me. It's individuals like these that affirm how much I love teaching! Although I had started out in college wanting to be a doctor, I'm so glad I took a different path to become someone who makes a difference in others - what better way to do so than to directly work with a group of students day in and day out, to find ways that allow them to learn in the best way possible? It's no easy task. Just ask any good teacher. But it is worthwhile because that is how we make that positive difference in their lives. 

They have such bright futures ahead for them, and my heart hopes the best for them. I found a little thing I wrote the first day of this school year. Thought I should share it here...

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Sayonara, 2014!

It's been too long since I've posted, and this thing called LIFE keeps getting in the way of blogging, hee hee. =)

So what's been going on with this LIFE thing?

- Being blessed with a big home, we've been able to share it by opening it up to dinner parties, fellowship, friends, and all sorts of things. Hooray! We even had the annual Lau Christmas party at our house this year, which was way too much fun. I'm so blessed by wonderful relatives, seriously. =)

- I've ran more, and I fit clothes that I used to fit pre-Aiva. WOAH. =) No, I'm not anywhere near marathon ready, and that isn't even a goal in any way, but maybe a half marathon. One day.

- Calligraphy workshops! It might be a regular thing - there's been 2 so far, and it's been fun teaching others to learn this skill that I've had since middle school. With technology all over the place, the whole sitting-down-and-writing-by-hand is something that we shouldn't lose, so it's nice that it's appreciated.

- I've learned to can and make my favorite jam that Cara used to make me - Spiced Caramel Pear Jam. Only I'm still perfecting it, and, and my last batch still came out too liquidy (but the previous batch before that was PERFECT, so idk what I did...). Other favorite things made in the kitchen this past year includes Vanilla Bean Scones. Like the ones from Starbucks, but better - more moist and fresh. =) And Curry Beef Pies. And Redneck Caviar. And Rugelach. And fresh Watermelon Juice with some Lime squeezed in.

- My girls are SO BIG now! Aiva will be 5 in 10 days (we're throwing her a Frozen party, of course! LOL), and Penny will be 3 in April (though she still wears 18 months pants. She's tiny.). They're both so beautiful, smart, caring, and wonderful. I'm so blessed! Aiva had her first Ballet Recital (the Nutcracker) for her class, and she did the best she could, and loved twirling in her sparkly tutu.

- Babies, babies, everywhere! They're either getting bigger, or new ones are appearing - my new nephew Micah, Noah will be 3 at the end of January, and we went to Connie and Perry's 1st birthday party for Dylan this summer. Baby Zoe, Sara, and Mia are getting big and beautiful, Deborah's about a month old, Bradley looks JUST LIKE CHERYL and Madeline will be here in a few months. Kyle though - he's probably the cutest baby I've ever seen and met. His smiling face and round little self is irresistible.

- With Shelton's parents living with us now, we've been able to go out at night more than usual, so we've taken advantage of the opportunities to watch a few musicals - Once, Jersey Boys, and Pippin - eat out with friends and go out on a few dates even. Fun fun! =) (Thanks Mah-Mah!)

- Shelton's dad's cancer is progressing along, which is not a good thing. See, the tumor was growing around a blood vessel in his pancreas, so it couldn't be removed surgically, plus he's older, and surgery can be risky at this age. So the past month and some, we've had quite a few complications that either were related to the cancer, or not, where we had to call the paramedics for help. It's a long story, and you can ask in person; I'd rather not go into detail on here. But prayers and good thoughts are appreciated. =)

- There's been so many changes at work too! Rochelle's up in the DO now, Sandra's going to the high school, Jeffrie has retired, and others have moved here or there. But friends always remain friends. =)

- And crafting! Besides the calligraphy workshops, I've also made a few wreaths this year - all from Dollar Tree flowers, and I don't know what obsessed me to start, but it's fun! Shelton got me some Copic markers for Christmas, so I'm learning to play with those. And I've not made as many cards since summer ended, but plan to get back to it soon enough.

Aaaaaaand I'm sure there's more, but the sun is coming up on a new year, and the kids will be up soon (I'm up because I'm sick. I know, no fun. And couldn't go back to sleep after I got up around 4am, so I came downstairs to grade projects, LOL).

Helloooooooooooooo, 2015! ^_^

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

FroYo Reward

Because she was the only one that got two stickers in her Ballet class, due to following instructions right away! (it's rare. Every student gets one at the end of class; I've never seen a student NOT get one. But TWO? Ooo la la. ^_^)

Sunday, August 17, 2014

The Kurt Chang

Kurt! What can I say about this guy? I've known him since he was a little middle schooler, quite possibly shorter than I am, and now, he's graduated from OTIS, and official artist, starting out to live a life and career that utilizes his passion in art.

He's done some amazing things - check them out at his blog:

Kurt made this sketch of the girls based on a picture I posted; of course, I've commissioned him now to make a finalized version of it - I want it on a giant canvas to hang between the girls' room. ^_^ It is ADORABLE.  And yes, he can do art for you. Contact him. Do it. Tell him you know me. =)

He came over for dinner and to catch up with us, and of course, to see Aiva and Penelope, whom he's known since they were born. "Uncle Kurt" gave Aiva a few drawing tips, and drew some of their favorite characters for them in a quick 5 minutes. The pictures are up in the girls' rooms! =D

Happy Birthday Shelton! =)

Another year older. ^_^

Friday, August 15, 2014

Excavating Nature

Presenting their findings of mini pinecones, leaves, rocks and other random stuff to add into the fairy garden...