Sunday, March 20, 2011


If you've been keeping up with my updates, then you know that quarter 3 ended on Friday. Thankfully, we have a few extra days to submit all grades and comments before report cards are printed and distributed.

After Treasure Island was finished, I devoted myself to catching up with grading--about a month's worth of tests, quizzes, mindless worksheets, essays, projects, and endless workbooks/journals. I had basically caught up in all subject areas by Friday....but I have barely touched language arts. 62 x 8. Whatever answer you come up with, that's how many language arts assignments I have to grade. I'm not even going to mention their science journals.

Sometime soon I hope to blog about when Adam visited the frozen waterfalls outside our city. I would have gone, except we had rehearsal at the same time.

Last night I had a dream that we had more "Treasure Island" performances to do, and I couldn't find the materials I needed my subs to do for "Charlotte's Web" and then one of the actors called in sick and I was desperately trying to convince the administration that we needed to cancel the performance. What a random and out of place dream!

Adam is at the international fellowship right now, listening to a friend share. I would have gone too, except I needed to use our computer for grading. Ok. Break time is finished.


Saturday, March 19, 2011

Hot Pot & Turtles

Tonight, Adam and I went out with some friends in our community to celebrate another friend's birthday. We were happy to try out a new restaurant and celebrate the beautiful life of our friend!

We went out to a interesting and nice hot pot restaurant. What is hot pot? Boiling broth, usually spicy or blandly flavored, that sits on some kind of burner system on the table. You order vegetables and meat that is brought to your table hot. You cook the food in the broth and then eat it. Sometimes there are sauces and garnishes to go along with it. Tofu noodles, or egg noodles too. Everything is done with your chopsticks, or maybe a ladle if the food is too slippery.

I wish that I had had the forethought to have someone take a picture of Adam and I. Oh well. Here's some of our dear, Shenyang friends! :)

Maddy is such a cutie! She smiled on cue for the camera! :)
The waitresses at this restaurant were a little aggressive in their desire to help with the kids. They wanted to play with the kids and feed the kids....very interesting.

Adam's little set-up.

Now for a few very blurry pictures. The man in white is twirling dough around to make noodles for us. We have a few videos, and I'm trying to post them on facebook--so you can check out his kung fu noodle dance on my profile.

Amber's birthday gift for Rachael included a small, and very much alive, turtle. It's very active and miniature. Adam almost dropped it on the floor later on that night when we were sitting at Starbucks! Oh brother...

I'm so full, I could burst! It's an unusually late night at our apartment tonight. I've been trying to upload pictures and videos, and Adam is playing is 360. Tomorrow, we're going to the international fellowship in our city to hear a friend deliver the message. Lot's of 3rd quarter grading and comments to finish for report cards. I wish weekends had several extra hours to spare. They just fly by so quickly!


Eventful Friday

Yesterday was Friday--and a very fun day at school for me!

1. We had our County Fair during language arts time.
2. I got to help out with the readers theater at chapel time.
3. Third grade went up to middle school for some electricity presentations
4. Lots of specials in the afternoon...and no Chinese lessons for me (which is a definite plus with my pregnancy brain)

It was also a little stressful because we had another outbreak of lice among the elementary students towards the end of the day and everyone had to be checked. I also realized that I was moving from 12 students to 18 students starting on Monday and needed to rearrange my classroom to accommodate the growth. I hadn't thought of how I wanted to change the room before, so at 3:30 I had a little panic attack. I stayed until 8pm to make sure everything was ready for Monday. I guess this paragraph isn't entirely honest. I had planned to stay late anyway (but to work on organizing files). And I already had about 16 students during math, but now the numbers are increasing in all subject areas.

Also, next week is going to be quite crazy with lessons. We're watching "Charlotte's Web" and "The Tale of Despereaux" since we just finished both books. We have five writing projects. We have a big science review and test (and an abnormal science schedule). We have new students in just about every class. I have a new Korean student who is going to be in mainstream--but he wont be able to do any of the language arts lessons that the others will be working on since he didn't read "Charlotte's Web"--so I have to have 75 minutes of separate plans for him...every day...for two weeks. There's also the read-a-thon to help with after school on Friday, and a few new units to start throughout the week. Usually weeks are not this crazy. I had to make a whole schedule for just this week because it is so different than normal and I couldn't visualize what it was going to look like.

Monday is like the first day of school all over again. So many changes!

Here are some pictures from the County Fair. It was a short activity but the kids seemed to be very excited about it. They brought in treats and their prized stuffed animals to exhibit. We played fair-like games and they dressed in the "Sunday best" outfits. We had an "animal competition". They ate a rat's paradise, literally, just like Templeton. If I were to do this again, I would definitely make a limit on sweets. I was shocked at how much they ate while my back was turned! We also awarded some stuffed animals with blue ribbons. It was fun, and cute! Most of them have never been to a county fair before and some had never heard of one before. It's a little hard to emulate a fair in one's classroom--but the kids didn't notice the limitations at all. Before the fair started, I sent them downstairs with our TI to pop the popcorn. While they were gone, I quickly set up the games. When they came back, I handed them their tickets and quickly explained how to play some of the activities. They were all "oohing" and "ahing" as if the classroom had been transformed into a magical place. Really, only minor changes were made--so I loved their enthusiasm.

Some animals in their "pens". And the sharp shooter's booth.

Some more animals.

Dropping clothes pins into a jar...really these are such simple activities, but the students go gaga over them.

The cup game---try to guess which cup has the piece of paper underneath and win five tickets!

These were just some of the treats that we ate. More cookies and popcorn came out as well. I ate too much sugar as well. Oof. Friday was a sugar-fest.

The room was ready for the students!

Later that day, we were in Mr. Johnson's classroom where the 8th graders gave some fun presentations to my students. Both 3rd grade and 8th grade were working on an electricity unit. This was a great opportunity for Adam and I to collaborate together. I wish that we had done this more often in the past!

One of the groups that was running a station had a lot of problems. The computer they were using kept crashing, and the lemon/light bulb demo that had planned was not working. There seemed to be a problem with the wires---I felt bad for the students who had planned this presentation. It's always stressful when technical difficulties inhibit teaching/learning.

Adam tried to fix their lemon/light bulb contraption--but to no avail.

Classroom Spaces

Late on Friday ready as I could manage to get before 8pm.
Just a few minor changes, you might not even notice, but to me they feel huge.
I had to remove 5 pieces of furniture and currently don't have a desk chair.
Pieces were shifted around and desks were rotated. I have a whole new table group.
My easel is gone...most sad about that.

In retrospect, I wish that the little whiteboard (which used to rest on my easel) had been hung several inches lower so that it was more in line with window sill. Oh well. The holes that the nails caused are quite gruesome, and moving it lower will just make the wall look worse at this point. The white board is also crooked. I don't know what it is, but our truly awesome maintenance staff often has difficulty hanging bulletin boards/white boards/whatever so that they are level. It's going to drive the OCD in me crazy!

Rather than get rid of my little reading rug, just found a new corner for it.

Still so much to get ready, but that can be done throughout the week. I hope everything will work out smoothly on Monday with all the new transitions.


24 Weeks

Oh, feeling quite large lately. My belly button is just about disappeared, and that freaks me out. Had another uneventful and very normal check-up, including another ultra-sound. The technician still wouldn't tell us if we are having a boy or girl. Very vague in the usual save-face language that we're growing accustomed to hearing. They don't want to be wrong and they are uncomfortable telling us since the law is to not tell nationals. They didn't even want Adam to be in the room this time, but we wouldn't take no for an answer. The baby is very active and likes to move a lot in the morning, during language arts, after school is dismissed, and at bedtime. The baby also wakes me up several times at night with his/her gymnastics. As the baby continues to grow and has less space to twirl and flip around, I mostly just get punched or kicked!

Oh, so large.


Friday, March 18, 2011

The Last Quarter

In a soccer game, the last quarter is when you should feel the most exhausted. It's when you smell victory, or falsely hope for it still. It's when you've given up trying and just play on auto-pilot. It's the time when you nearly always expect the ref's whistle to blow to end the game and you push yourself to finish well. It's the last chance to score, the last chance to get injured, the last chance to push an opponent whose been driving you insane.

Today was the last day of the third quarter of our school year. Which means on Monday morning, I will beginning the first day of my last quarter as a third grade teacher. The last chance for lessons, concepts, relationships, funny memories, small triumphs, and even frustrating moments. Monday morning, I will have 18 kids in my classroom at certain points throughout the day--which is a significant leap from the 12 I had today. This struck me as the students were being dismissed.

So, with 40 minutes to spare, I started rearranging my classroom. Furniture was moved out, or pushed to a new place, materials scattered or situated in some other location....I made a disaster. Since Adam was staying after school for a middle school game night, I decided to stay as well. We left school at 8pm, and I hadn't touched the grading that needed to be done nor the file cabinet that I desperately need to organize. Somehow, I spent 4.5 hours in my classroom without students and managed to be productive--yet not productive enough. That's a frustrating feeling.

I'm feeling stressed about my new set-up, about new students, and about the week that I planned out. It is intense. Five writing projects, a science test, a math test, spelling and "book" tests, 4 social studies lessons, all the other usual subjects, even a movie mixed in there....bla. It's going to hurt! But then again, this IS the last quarter.

Pictures to follow tomorrow...

Sunday, March 13, 2011

What's on the Agenda...

Now that "Treasure Island" is finished, life is slowing down considerably....not!

Actually, now I feel like I have the time to start concentrating on other important events--like getting our apartment ready, the birth of our baby, and handing over my classroom.

We need to buy our plane tickets. We're leaving in mid-May (hopefully)--which is just around the corner--but our ticket order is a little complicated because of my due date. I've heard that it takes about 10 days to get a birth certificate. I can't apply for our baby's passport until he/she has a birth certificate. I can't apply for our child's Chinese visa until he/she has a passport. If the baby comes when he/she is supposed to, that gives us less than 3 weeks to run through these troublesome paperwork hoops. What will hopefully happen: Adam and I will leave Shenyang together, but Adam with a round trip ticket and me with a one way ticket. During the summer, we will buy my return ticket along with my mom's and Emma's tickets. Adam will return to Shenyang beginning of August, and I will return a week or two later--just in case. Canceling or rescheduling tickets can sometimes cause fines or tickets that will not be reimbursed.

My classroom is basically ready to hand off. There are some documents I want to finish making. There is some major filing cabinet organization that needs to happen. There is some collecting of personal items that will need to be done. And lesson plans for maternity leave that will need to be planned...but it's basically ready to hand off.

Our apartment. Oh brother. There's a lot of work that needs to be done here. Getting ready for our baby, cleaning out the cluttered corners that we will need to utilize, getting our guest room prepared for guests. Lots of little odds and ends jobs that should be done to make life and transitions easier in August. I just have to make sure that everything is as ready as possible by the time we leave for America in May. This includes organizing, shopping, and rearranging every nook and cranny basically. I'm so thankful I was able to get reimbursed for "Treasure Island" expenses this year! What a relief!

Right now, I'm trying to clean every surface that Adam has touched in the past few days. He's been sick with the stomach flu/fever since Thursday and I do not want to catch his illness! I'm trying very hard to keep germ free and healthy. Poor Adam--he's very bored of sitting around in order to recover. He's watched lots of Hogans Heroes, and has been reading a WWII history book written by Churchill.

What am I avoiding at this moment? Grocery shopping. I haven't grocery shopped in months. At first, it was because of morning sickness/fatigue. Then it was because I was too busy with Treasure Island, and too tired to shop for food. But we have absolutely no food in our house. We were supposed to grocery shop last weekend, but never made it to the store. I don't know how we survived a whole week with no food, but we were creative. Now it's absolutely necessary that I head to the store with a massive list. I procrastinated by doing loads of house work, but I should really go soon so that I will have time to work on my pile of language arts grading. I just dislike grocery shopping in general. Having to go out in the cold, catch a taxi, fight the crowds, try to find what we need, stand in long lines with pushy people, fight off the people who want your receipts, find another taxi while holding heavy bags, fight for taxis, fight with taxi drivers, walk home, unpack.....ugh. I hate the whole process. It's almost not worth it.

Off I go!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Long Sigh....

....of relief!

"Treasure Island" is over! In my opinion, it was a success--and there were so many people who made it possible! So many behind-the-scenes individuals who sacrificed time, money and energy to help make the show possible. They are rarely recognized or seen working, but I'm so appreciative to each one of these people. There were about 60 volunteers altogether and the number of hours they worked, the variety of tasks the accomplished--well, they were all extremely important and carried through with grace.

There's a few "Stars" that stand out extra in my mind.

First off, there is my husband, Adam, who cooked and cleaned and did loads of laundry for months while I was struggling through rehearsals and morning sickness. He helped me lug around 50 pound bags full of fabric from the markets for costumes, haggle with sellers, run and get more cash from the ATM countless times while I waited by the vendors...He made me breakfast every day and packed snacks for work. He was my cheerleader, and the set of ears that listened to venting. He was the guy who suggested making the boys do push ups when they missed cues (never again will I do a show with 17 teenage boys). That was a magical piece of advice. He sold tickets at the Will-Call table and took pictures at performances. He helped pass out subway dinners for the cast and mixed the cookie dough because my mixer was broken (cookies to help stock the refreshment tables). Maybe the ways he helped out were not very significant in the eyes of others, but they kept me going when I had no energy or motivation and I couldn't have gotten through the last few months without him.

Here's Adam dressed up in a silly t-shirt he bought on the first day of shows.

Adam and I after the final show. We almost match!

I love Adam!

Then there is my friend, Lauren. Whoa. She was a miracle worker! I could make a list of everything she did to help, but it would be massive, and I know I would forget half of what she finished for "Treasure Island". She worked on gathering props at markets, on the Chinese version of ebay, and through getting loans from people in our community. She painted sets, she painted props, she made the peg leg, she painted the treasure maps, she helped to prep backstage and the auditorium, she came to many rehearsals and was my right hand assistant--always with her trusty notebook taking notes of things that I spit out randomly, like "the curtains need to be re-pinned together" and "that curtain pole needs to be cut" and "we need another black curtain for backstage!"......What a trooper Lauren is! So willing to help, so patient and hardworking. She is creative and a great problem solver. There were many times when I could have pulled out my hair, but I knew that Lauren could figure it out. Whether it was dealing with paint thinner that wouldn't mix with the clay-like Chinese-style paint, or creating a peg leg out of scraps of pleather and cardboard, or making a piece of fake bread look like a pot roast. Did I mention she can wheel and deal? She probably saved the production a ton of money! She organized our messy prop room countless times and sacrificed time in her classroom to help make everything ready. What a fantastic production assistant, prop queen, market guru, and more importantly--what a precious friend!

And then there is Irene who does not get enough credit for all that she does. She helped find dozens and dozens of volunteers and set up information meetings. She coordinated schedules and made things work. She got tons of food and drinks donated to sell at the refreshment tables. She helped me to set up the backstage area for the show. She made sure even small details, like paying for subway and ironing costumes got taken care of. She is an action person with ideas and energy to spare. She collected baking ingredients and even money from those who didn't want to (or don't know how to) bake to be sold at the refreshment tables. She was quick with communication and always helpful--never complained and was very supportive. Although she didn't have a child in the play, she worked with perseverance in everything she did.

Well, there are so many more people who helped so much. It's very humbling to see the scope of the work that was done by volunteers, knowing that it would be impossible to do it on your own.

Overall, I felt that "Treasure Island" went very well. It was fun to see the students "click" into the roles (some, last minute). What a rewarding experience for me to see them on stage doing so well with their parts! Unlike the audience, I've gotten to see this show countless times. To see it on stage, when it was only ink and paper 4 months ago, is such a treat! It's entertaining for me to see all the blocking that I gave to the students on stage....mixed with their personal spins. It's like a game to me: "oh! I told her to do that--but this is new, I never imagined it that way"; "hey-that's exactly like I said it should be done, but this action right afterwards is completely original to the student". It's also incredibly rewarding for me to see students who were a "gamble" do so well with their characters. They were the students who were placed in roles with a feeling of hesitation. We hoped they would be all right in that part, but there was no guarantee. It's satisfying to see them grow as actor, but also as individuals. There was raw, God-given talent there before, but to watch the process as they developed their gifts was special. Whether they believe it or not, their gifts can be used to bring Him glory--and it makes my heart glad.

Hannah (also a director for "Treasure Island") and I accidentally matched for opening night. I'm so thankful that Hannah joined this year's production. She helped to keep me sane and her experience and perspective were very valuable!

The complete directing team! It was great to work with Nathan again this year on the play. He joined the cast once more, this time as a crazy man who was marooned for 3 years on an island.

A bit more normal picture of the directing team, from the program.

Emily and Nathan!


I used to love being on stage. It was among the most satisfying of feelings. Now that I've had a taste of directing two years in a row, I think that given a choice, I would much rather give students an opportunity to be in the spotlight.

Now the brunt of the tasks are over. There is a small post-production to-do list that will wrap up the show logistically. Yet it is NOTHING compared to the last few weeks of controlled chaos. I feel twenty pounds lighter (ironically--since I'm probably 20 pounds heavier) and am looking forward to "free time". Time to say goodbye to my classroom and get our apartment ready for our baby. We have less than 11 more weeks before we'll be flying home to America!

Backstage Tour

Since photos shared must not include students, I can't post any of the great pictures. But I did think of taking some unpopulated pictures to share on here. This is your personal backstage tour.

Here is what the auditorium looks like if you are standing on the stage. Let me point out it's strengths. It seats a little over 300 people and looks very nice. However, the sound booth at the back was not designed very well. The loud machines are INSIDE the booth, which makes it impossible to hear anything while sitting inside. Plus, the window does not open and is tinted, so it's impossible to make sound judgments about lighting design from inside the booth. Equipment has to be dragged out each rehearsal/performance so that anything can be accomplished at all.

This is what the stage looked like for Act 1 scene 1. Reusing some revamped "Secret Garden" sets along with a few borrowed items. The only new items in this set are the curtains, the three stools, and the paint. Everything else is borrowed or reused.

Reusing the little bed. That little bed has come in handy two years in a row. I wonder how much longer it will be able to last. It is incredible feeble. If you don't already know the story, I first saw this bed on the side of a run-down road. It was there for 8 weeks before I made a move to acquire it. My TI and I went to the side of the road and bartered with the people who were nearest to it (coal sellers). They had a tiny shack and spend their days filling large sacks with coal and delivering it. We were given permission to borrow and paint the bed, which was actually a couch, as long as we returned it. By the time "Secret Garden" was finished, however, the little coal place had been forced to leave that location on account of road construction. We had no idea where they went, and they have never returned. So, the bed is now conveniently ours to keep. Strange.

Our school is blessed hugely with a wonderful, beautiful, new auditorium. However, there are a few details that make it a bit of a challenge when trying to put on a production. 1) the ceiling is not insulated and it is tin--making it very loud when it rains, cold, and poor for acoustics. 2) the backstage area is SMALL and split level. Making it almost impossible to move sets on and off. We have little extensions made for us, but they only afford slight improvement. 3) the curtains are on a mechanical motor which is loud and often jams. We take the curtain off the motor, but there are no ropes to open and close manually. So we have to improvise here as well. 4) there are no wings backstage, minimizing the space we can use backstage for people/props/sets because of sight lines. This also makes it necessary to block off several rows of seats. 5) There is no where on the stage to hang a backdrop, and there are no pulley or rope systems which allow us to change drops.

What we do have is two rooms behind the stage with counter space, a small sink, and mirrors. These are lovely to have and I very much appreciate them. Drama just has one of the rooms. There are several closets in the auditorium---10 at least--but we only have 2! The rest are for who knows what (PE equipment). This is a picture of the "prop room". Which has been under lock and key for almost a year now. This is because people think it is ok to borrow things whenever they want, without permission, take things out, rummage through boxes, and not return what they've taken. We've lost several items on this account. Before "Treasure Island" started, this room was mostly cleared of all props and costumes so that there was space for special make-up.

Another blessing of the auditorium is the activity room which resides directly behind it. There are some pros and cons to having this room. A few great things: it provides extra space for make-up, sets, props, and costumes; it serves as a greenroom during performances; it is conveniently located. A few down points: it echoes a lot; we can't leave our stuff because of PE classes and after school activities; it's very tempting for cast members to play sports during performances which causes sweaty make-up and wrinkled/torn costumes.

It may be hard to see, but those yellow things are stars with the cast members names written on them. A cute idea "Treasure Island's" assistant director incorporated. :)

Perhaps some of my comments about the backstage area sound like complaints, so I want to make myself very clear: I am so thankful for our auditorium/activity room area. They facilitate the drama dept. beautifully. We are blessed to have these facilities and I think that no matter how many weaknesses they might have--it still enables us to put on strong shows. I couldn't have asked for better resources and feel privileged to be included in theater again. :)

This is turning out to be a very long post. Other than "Treasure Island" life continues to roll on. Tomorrow starts another week of school, which I somewhat dread. This weekend felt especially short. I'm now in week 22 of pregnancy and continuing to grow. I can't zip my dress pants anymore, and that has definitely been a mental milestone for me. Its the first time in my life I couldn't zip my pants! I'm learning to sleep on my side and not on my stomach and remembering to take my vitamins every day. Baby is moving lots. I guess, in a word, it has been uneventful so far--and that's comforting to me. We'll probably go for another check-up next week or so....maybe even discover the gender of our baby (if the technicians will tell us)! I have a nasty cough lodged in my chest which has not been fun.

Adam's basketball season is over--but soccer starts tomorrow. His knee has been bothering him almost all school year and we are going to get an MRI of it soon. He's reading an alternate history of the Civil War and spoke at fellowship this morning on Nehemiah 4-5. I'm so proud of Adam and glad to be his wife. I'm enjoying the last few months of just the two of us.