Sunday, January 31, 2010

Golden Apple

At school, the PTA sponsers something called the Golden Apple Award. It's a chance for students to nominate their favorite teachers and give reasons why. Last year, they passed out a ballot for every kid in the school and each teacher got back a little stack of anonymous nominations. The person with the most nominations won. It's always a fun confidence booster to know that you have touched the life of at least one or two middle school kids out there.

This year, they changed the system for some reason. Rather than passing out ballots, they made announcements over the intercom and told students to go to the office to vote. They said some of the nominations and comments from the students would be published in the February PTA newsletter. I wondered how many kids would actually follow through and vote, especially given the age we deal with. We got the PTA newletter online, however, and there was a good size list of about 12-15 teachers nominated with several comments written underneath their names. Several of the kids who voted were students that I also have. I scrolled down, secretly hoping to see my name among the list of nominees....and it wasn't there.

I felt awful. It's so depressing to think that all your work might possibly be for nothing. I figured I shouldn't expect much being a second year teacher...however, several of the names listed were names of first year teachers, some of whom are interns and haven't even graduated college yet. Oh man. Talk about moments of failure.

But, Heavenly Father does not leave us comfortless.

Later that day, one of my students came in to my office and handed me an envelope. I said, "What's this?" and she said, "Just a letter." I put it aside to read during my prep period. When I opened the letter an hour later, I found phrases such as, "You are my favorite teacher EVER" staring back at me on the page. She told me that she would never forget the experiences she had in middle school choir.

No one asked her to write the letter. She probably had no idea that was the day the PTA newsletter had come out without my name on it. I had felt so discouraged earlier about not reaching my students; yet, I know now that I at least got one. And that makes it worth it...the whole kitten kaboodle!!

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Wonder of Wonder, Miracle of Miracles!

With a little help from the BBC four hour romance North and South, I was able to work Mary Poppins magic in my bedroom today! It's nice to see the light of day outside of my room. :-)

Friday, January 29, 2010

You know your life is spiraling out of control when... get up in the morning, survey the mess serving as a sorry excuse for your bedroom, and snap your fingers, hoping that just this once, it might clean itself up like it does in Mary Poppins.

I really did that this morning.


Tomorrow is Saturday morning and I have promised myself that I cannot open the door of my room until it is clean and organized. I'm banishing myself to my mess. So, roommates, if you don't see me until 6:00 p.m. tomorrow night, you'll know why.

In other news, we had talent day today and I had some brand new talents presented that I have not yet seen on the talent day stage.

In my first period, a boy brought in the bugle he uses for hunting. It's looks like the extension tube of a vacuum and you can rotate it around. It makes the sound of an elk or a cow, depending on how you blow into it. As I was watching this talent, I had one of those, "Is this really my life? Because this is wild!" moments.

This semester, I apparently have a lot of kids that are really in to roller skating. They are on a team at the local skating rink (where we had Tina's surprise party). During 5th period, we went over to the auditorium where three girls presented a skating routine. It was SO COOL! I was in awe of the talent I had no idea they possessed. Sometimes, I think the world doesn't give middle school kids enough credit.

What a fun day!

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sweet Talkin' Guy

When I was little, my mom would listen to oldies like Lollipop, Mr. Sandman, and Sweet Talkin' Guy. I have all those songs memorized and I don't even remember how I learned them. I just grew up knowing them. They have a very special place in my heart.

You can imagine my excitement when I was going through the music library in my classroom and came across an arrangement of, "Sweet Talking Guy" for girls ensemble. I introduced it to the girls and though none of them had ever heard of it, they all loved it. Whenever I say we're going to work on it, they cheer.

I thought the feeling was universal for all until Friday. One of my girls who comes from a divorced family situation came up to me after the bell rang and said, "Do we have to sing this song? Because it's about a man who goes out and cheats on his girlfriend and does all this bad stuff." She was obviously sincerely concerned about what we were preparing to present to our audience.

You should have seen me try to talk my way out of that one.

What could I say? She was technically right about the lyrics. I guess I always took them for granted because the song is from the fifties and seems harmless.

Here's my take on it: I think at one point or another we've all liked the wrong kind of boy who sweet talks all the girls. We like the attention and then learn, often the hard way, that we're not unique in his eyes. I think the song is essentially talking about the woes of romance in a younger, puppy-love kind of way.

Is it awful that we're going to sing the song anyway, despite my student's concern? I hope I don't get a parent phone call.

Here are the lyrics for your own approval or disapproval:

Sweet Talking Guy

Sweet talking guy, talking sweet kinda lies
Don't you believe in him, if you do he'll make you cry
He'll send you flowers and paint the town with another guy
He's a sweet talkin' guy (sweet talkin' guy)
But he's my kind of guy (sweet talkin' guy)

Sweeter than sugar, kisses like wine (oh he's so fine)
Don't let him under your skin, cause you'll never win (no you'll never win)
Don't give him love today, tomorrow he's on his way
He's a sweet talkin' guy (sweet talkin' guy)
But he's my kind of guy (sweet talkin' guy)
Why do I love him like I do?

Stay away from him, stay away from him, don't believe his lyin'
No you'll never win, no you'll never win, loser's in for cryin'
Don't give him love today, tomorrow he's on his way
He's a sweet talkin' (sweet talkin') sweet talkin' (sweet talkin')
sweet talkin' (sweet talkin') sweet talkin' (sweet talkin') guy

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Bride to Be

My mom left Santa Barbara at 3:00 this morning to drive to L.A. and catch a flight to Salt Lake where Christina and I picked her up and off we went for a day's adventure.


We were only going to THE BIGGEST BRIDAL FAIR around at the Joseph Smith Memorial Building on temple square!

It was wedding heaven.

The best muffin top in the world (pictured above) that we grabbed in a little bakery in the JSMB before beginning the wedding festivities. Eating beforehand was a big mistake, however. There was food galore at the fair. The whole ninth floor was set up like 4 different receptions with food at each one. We ate soup from miniature bread bowls, feasted on mini cupcakes, mini cheesecakes, tortalini, fortune cookies, asian salad, little drumsticks, shaved ice, gelato, cookies, rolls, brownies, chicken salad, lemonade, and more. Some things they had that I passed on were sushi and bacon wrapped shrimp. I wish I'd had 5 stomachs to eat all I wanted to eat!

Bridal fashion show!!

This is the new popular thing to do at weddings. Shout out to Brie and Nate for being so hip at their reception a year ago when this was still a rather new fad. From the above photo, you'll notice they've added a new diminension with all the dress-up clothes.

After the fair, we went wedding dress shopping, first in Sandy (The Perfect Dress) and then in Provo (Abella's Bridal). To save the surprise, I'm not posting any pictures of THE dress that Christina chose, but a couple that were runner-ups (and some that weren't). She'd look good in a potato sack, but the dress she finally chose is absolutely stunning.

One hint...

When I was about to be married, my dear friend Violet made me a beautiful, ivory veil. I'm saving it for when my turn comes around again; but, in the meantime, it looks absolutely breathtaking with Christina's wedding dress. I am thrilled that Tina and I (and Anna if she chooses!) will wear the same veil. It's amazing to think Tina gets to wear something from my wedding day...and I haven't even had it yet! It makes me feel like a true older sister and I love it. It's a tender mercy!

Only five and a half more months, T! And I'm so happy I get to be there with you every step of the way!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Awkward Phase

All of us have an awkward phase. Some of us, myself included, have awkward phases that last longer than others.

One of the English teachers at my school sent this dreaded email today to all the faculty:

"My students teacher and I are trying to put together a fun game to introduce a novel in class. The book is called Tangerine and focuses on a middle school student named, Paul. He feels different from everyone around him and struggles for acceptance. If you would be willing, we would love to have you email photos of yourselves from middle school."

Not pictures from middle school!

Raise your hand if that was your awkward phase. It was? Mine, too.

My mom has been awesome about getting all our family pictures scanned and organized on the computer. I asked her to send over a few choice pics from this time of my life and I thought you all might enjoy seeing a few fashion no-no's.

Check out this red and white little number I picked out for my piano recital. I want you all to know I was wearing a dalmatian earring in one ear and a fire hydrant earring in the other ear. They came as a set.

This was before straighteners became a staple in the bathrooms of teenage girls everywhere.

I was rocking the over-sized t-shirt look with my beaded Santa Claus earrings this particular Christmas. I won a dollar once from a substitute teacher for wearing that shirt because he liked the message, "So many books, so little time." Those are the kind of shirts I reserve now for sleeping and working out. P.S. Sorry, Violet, for posting this picture of us on my blog.

My brother and I were having a competition to see who could out-gel each other on the bangs. I think he won. P.S. Sorry, Joe, for posting this picture of us on my blog.

Don't ask me why, but I never left a hair salon without my hair cut in a bob. I just loved that look for some reason.

Oh, to be young again.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Texting While Driving

It's rare that I see or hear something that triggers a desire in me to try to convince other people that they have to listen to it, too. I had one of those moments today.

We saved on teevo an episode of Oprah that I watched today about the risks of texting and talking on the phone (even if it's a blue tooth!) while driving.

I was scared stiff after what I saw and heard. And the reason I was so scared was that I understood exactly how the accidents transpired. It felt personal because I myself have not had full control of my vehicle while either texting or talking on the phone while driving. Most recently, I have tried hard to be good about texting, but I don't think twice about talking on the phone. My focus is definitely not there while I'm doing two things at once. Utah has not yet passed a hands-free law, but I hope they will soon.

Oprah interviewed one boy who was texting while driving at age nineteen and caused an accident that killed two middle aged men. One man's wife was present in the audience along with the other man's daughter. That young man could have been any one of us who have EVER texted while driving. And his mistake (that we've all made) cost two very precious lives.

Another woman on the show told the story of her twenty year old son who was texting his girlfriend and he rolled through a stop sign into the path of a garbage truck. He lost his own life. As she said on the show, his death was "100% preventable."

They had a researcher from the University of Utah on the show who made a startling statement that I 100% believe: texting while driving is even more dangerous than drinking while driving. I've felt mostly immune to reckless driving all my life because I don't drink; however, now I am doing something that is equivalent behind the wheel every single day. It is one of the most disturbing thoughts I've had in a long time.

My first thought after watching this was to never text behind the wheel ever again and text all my family members to tell them not to ever text and drive. But then I thought, "Sure, maybe we can all be touched by Oprah and stop; however, what about those I can't text? What about the people who never watched this show or find themselves an exception to the rule?" The life of someone I love could be taken in an instant by unawareness or nonchalence towards texting or talking while driving.

New Year's Resolution #2: Not one text behind the wheel in 2010.

It's a new dawn, It's a new day, it's a new life for me...and I'm feeling good!

It is a new semester! Change is beautiful.

All four of my 7th grade periods are full of new students. There are several students from last semester that I know are glad to be rid of me; however, what they don't realize is I am equally as happy as they are that they are no longer gracing my classroom with their presence. It's fun to see them in the halls and say hello because we both tend to forget the bad and remember the good; however, I'm anxious to begin the new semester with my new discipline policies firmly in place (with the intention of not budging an inch!!).

I learn new things each semester that assist me in beginning a new class. One thing I learned last semester was the die-hard devotion of several students to Michael Jackson music. I decided to kick things off with a rhythm exercise to, "The Way You Make Me Feel."

I also gave a small speech after the activity that went something like this: "I know what some of you are thinking. I hate choir, I hate singing, I don't want to be here, I'm embarrassed to be here, and so forth. I've heard it all before. But I hope this semester to help teach you not only about singing but about music." I hope that verbalizing up front what some (mostly boys) are thinking, it will free the kids from feeling like they have to prove to me by their lack of participation that they don't like singing. Trying to pretend like my kids are going to love choir if I teach well is not a productive way of thinking for either me or them. It's not all up to me. But if they understand that I get how they feel but expect them to get something out of class anyway, then maybe they'll be more prone to participate. We'll see if this was an effective technique or not.

Wish us all luck...

Monday, January 18, 2010

It's a Party in the U.S.A

For Christina's 22nd birthday, her sweet fiancee Jeremy wanted to give her a party to remember. He rented out Classic Skating, a roller skating rink in Orem (pictured below) and invited all her friends to come celebrate with her.

While Tina's birthday is actually tomorrow, she went out with all her girl friends to dinner at CPK tonight. Jer was then supposed to be taking her on a "surprise" date. He blindfolded her and drove her all around town until it was time for the surprise.

When he took off the blindfold, this is what she saw:

She was totally surprised. We were able to keep the secret for a whole week! Fabulous job, Jer Bear!

Because her big sister got put in charge of choosing the birthday cake, she got a fairy princess one.

In attendance were Tina's freshman year friends, old roommates, current roommates, ballroom friends, and more. My roommates and some of my friends came as well. It was a wonderful night!

Friday, January 15, 2010

Performances, Pajamas, Policing

Here are some updates on what's been happening in middle school:

PERFORMANCES: Last night, the band teacher and I had a joint recital with her guitar students and my flex students. Flex is a program for students who are passing all their classes. They get to do something of their choice for a half hour in the middle of the day on Wednesdays and Thursdays while other students get help with classes. They come to my room to sing.

My kids performed a couple of group numbers and several solos/duets. I had one of those, "I love my job" moments as I watched one of my boys and one of my girls singing, "Breaking Free" on stage last night. He was wearing his basketball outfit and she was wearing a (very big) lab coat that she took off half-way through to reveal a pretty little flowered skirt and colored top, just like Zack Efron and Vanessa Hudgins wear in High School Musical. They were so dang cute!

We also had the performing arts faculty sing. The orchestra teacher did an incredible number from Jeckyl and Hyde called, "The Confrontation." The ballroom teacher sang, "Memory" from Cats and I sang, "Astonishing" from Little Women. I was thrilled to hear students say, "Mr. Zentz was so cool last night!" because it meant that my kids were actually enjoying Broadway!! That's like a dream come true. The guitar kids played ensemble pieces in small groups like "Carol of the Bells." They learned so much in one semester. It was an awesome night and we can't wait to do it again.

PAJAMAS: Today was pajama day at school. I was so excited to wear the pajama pants my grandmother and cousin made for me. They have treble clefs and musical notes all over them! They were a big hit. Thanks, Grandma and Keiana!

POLICING: Sometimes I think my students should call me 'officer.' Often more than a teacher, I feel like I am a gum police, a "don't lean back in your chair" police, a "don't move to another seat" police, a cell-phone police, a food police, etc. And I realize I'm just not cut out for that job. Today, I had to take three cell phones and left two girls in tears. When a cell-phone is confiscated at my school, the teacher is supposed to take it to the office and the student can't get it back until a parent comes to pick it up. The third girl was absolutely devastated when I took her phone and then I felt devastated and emailed her dad essentially asking for mercy on behalf of the daughter whose phone I took away. I am the worst disciplinarian ever and I have been paying the price heavily for it this year. I have got to learn how to be firm and consistent early on so as not to have to plead with students to follow the same rules even the last day of the semester.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Student of the Master Teacher

Because Dixon is so close to BYU, I host a lot of pre-student teachers who come one period a day all semester long to observe and practice teaching my students as part of one of their classes. I did my own pre-student teaching at Dixon under the direction of Emily Hawkes. That woman has the patience of an angel. I reflect on that in awe. All of my pre-student teachers have been fantastic and have been very helpful and diligent in the classroom and my kids absolutely love them (shout out to Amanda!).

This semester, I had two pre-student teachers come last week at the beginning of BYU's new semester. Today, however, I found out a third would be joining me for two periods of the day on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. This means that out of the 6 classes I teach, 4 of those will be under constant scrutiny by aspiring teachers.

I seriously can't handle it. I know it shouldn't seem like a big deal, but I am really struggling. Today, my classes were very rowdy and I am still learning (the hard way!) how to be a better classroom manager. I feel like everything that went wrong today was my fault and it was witnessed by three people who are basically my age and studying correct choral techniques and teaching methods daily. It's like I'm back to student teaching again. I have almost no more experience than any of them do. I feel like I'm reliving my worst nightmares of being compared to my peers in the school of music.

I just feel like I'm going to crack under the pressure.

I once had a voice teacher at BYU tell me in front of a master class, "You are very critical of yourself. Not only that, you are very critical of other people. You are critical of other people because you are so critical of yourself." That was probably one of the most pivotal and horrifying moments of my life. He was right. I always knew I was hard on myself, but it was a shocking realization that my low opinion of myself truly was affecting the way I viewed others. This incident in master class happened years ago, but it has haunted me ever since.

When in the music ed program at BYU, students visit many classrooms and observe many conductors. I remember the way I viewed teachers as I was observing them when I was a student. It was so easy to see their flaws and decide what I was going to do differently when I became a teacher. I look back on those times with shame and terror as I sit in the position of the teacher being observed by students who I assume must be just like me, seeing only the weaknesses and not the improvements and victories.

Sadly, the only thing I can do is hold on to the hope that they are nothing like I was. And that's a humbling thought. I can only hope that they understand better than I did how the Savior views each of us.

The scriptures often compare us to clay in the hands of the Lord:

Isaiah 64: 8 But now, O Lord, thou art our afather; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the bwork of thy hand.

He sees our weaknesses, yes; but he doesn't view them with an eye of judgement. He knows that with His help, our flaws can be smoothed and we can become something greater than we once were. He sees our potential to become perfect like Him rather than critically watching as we become cracked and chipped by life's challenges. He loves us. He is rooting for us. He gave His life and so much more so we could overcome our weaknesses and someday live with Him in heaven.

I have put off committing too firmly to any new year's resolutions, but I think I've decided what one of them needs to be. I resolve to try to see myself as the Lord does. What I learned from that professor years ago is that it must begin with me. If I don't love myself and see myself as someone of great worth, I will never, ever truly be able to love other people. That's an extremely sobering thought.

So I guess I need to say thank you, pre-student teachers. While your presence is extremely stressful to me this semester, you are tools in the Lord's hands. You're helping mold this lump of clay into something useful!

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Change Lanes

Yesterday was an awesome experience for my kids. Because it was the last talent day for this semester of seventh graders, I invited my friend Lane to come and play guitar for my last two periods of the day. My prep period is between my last two periods so he ended up playing for the guitar class taught by the band teacher as well.

Lane wowed them by playing the harmonica and guitar at the same time and did some of that rock and roll screaming that kids love so much.

After he played his songs in each class, I opened it up to questions from the kids. I knew I had to brace myself for some of the things they asked, but I didn't realize I'd have to brace myself for some of his answers. In fifth period, the first song he played was, "Turkey in the Straw." He introduced it as blue grass music and explained a little bit about what that was. He played the harmonica while he rocked out on the guitar. He had the kids clap the beat progressively faster while he kept up. It was a lot of fun. Afterward, one of my students said, "Do you have any green grass?" Lane responded, "Well, I have some of that, but it's illegal."

Oh, for the love! Really, Lane? Really? Did we have to go there? I guess I should have reminded him to "change Lanes" when he got to school...aka middle school appropriate Lane versus regular Lane. Sigh.

After my classes were over for the day, I said to Lane, "What did you learn about middle school kids? Can you tell me their two favorite singers?" Without hesitation, he responded, "Miley Cyrus and Michael Jackson."

He's a fast learner.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Baby Boom

Today, I had the following conversation with one of my students:

Student: Hey Ms. Houston! You want to hear a funny story?

Me: Sure.

Student: So my cousin was pregnant and was going to have a girl and one day, she fell and her children came and jumped on her stomach...

Me, in my head: How is this story going to end up funny?

Student: ...and then she had the baby and when it came out, it was a BOY!

Believe it or not, he was dead serious ladies and gentleman. He literally believed that the baby changed genders as a direct result of the fall and kids jumping on her stomach. He was speaking with wonderment in his voice, as though he knew someone who had an experience that defied scientific explanation.

Wild horses couldn't have kept me from laughing hard and loud at that moment.

Over the break, I gave my students an assignment to use music to serve someone else and then write about it. I thought it might be entertaining to post some of the responses I received. Some are funny, some are touching, some I don't know if I believe, and some actually concern me. For better or for worse, here are excerpts of some of the papers turned in to me this week by my students:

  • I went to my sisters house, and she had to go to work. She works at bar, and serves drinks to people. She could not find a babysitter for me, so she took me with her. Her bar is not that famous, so not that many people went there. Her manager wanted something to entertain people with, so I offered to sing for her bar. So my sister was kind of nervous at first, but then she loosened up. She put karaoke on, and I started to sing while my sister gave drinks to people. [. . .] later that day I went caroling with some people in my ward [. . .].
  • I did my sing to serve about 2 weeks ago. I was acquainted by Samantha Wheaton and Kellie Foss. We chose to make a treat for someone in need and sing them a christmas carol.
  • I played a song for one of my friends when she was filling really bad and it cheered her up and that made me feel good it also made her feel good to. The song was called peaches its an really old song but it is really funny and peaches are also really good.
  • My "sing to serve" wasn't really something that helped someone feel better. And I didn't sing. I played the guitar. A tradition in my family is that my Grandpa comes over on Christmas Eve, and we, well, put on a show for him. My guitar playing was in the middle of all this, after my sister's scratchy violin. Any way, I played the melody of Angels We Have Heard on High. Then we all sang songs and such afterward. I don't really know, but I believe my grandpa loved it.
  • Over the Christmas holiday my family always loves to go caroling. [. . .] Our ward has lots of seniors and they are always stuffed in their house with no visitors. Well we decided to visit some of these elders and it was a great success.
  • For my sing to serve, I went caroling with some of my friends. It was very fun. Some of the songs that we sang were Rudolph the red-nosed reindeer, Jingle bells and We wish you a merry Christmas. [. . .] We didn't know if one of the families celebrated Christmas so instead of singing We wish you a merry Christmas, we sang We wish you a Happy Birthday. I don't think any of them had a birthday that day. It felt very weird to sing that.
  • One night I had put my niece to bed a little too late. When my niece goes to bed too late, she doesn't go to sleep until the wee hours of the morning. My sister couldn't stay, because she is a nurse and had to go to work that evening. After she was gone, my neice started crying. My mother said to wait for a couple minutes before we go get her. A couple minutes later, she was still crying, so I went to go get her. I played some soft music for her on my guitar, and she fell right to sleep.
  • For my singserve i played a song called you are so beautiful by escape the fate to my girl friend cause she is always saying shes ugly but when i played the song for her it changed her mind forever. she told me how she felt and i got this little tingle in my stomach. it feels good to know you made someone happy.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Happy Birthday to Two!

On January 10th, Anna turns 15 and on January 19th, Christina will be 22. Because Tina, Jer, and I will be going back to Provo tomorrow morning, we thought we'd throw the girls a little surprise party in the dining room (which basically meant my mom and I locked ourselves in the dining room for an hour and yelled a reminder every five seconds for no one to come in).

I had Christina going that the balloons were legit until she tugged one on one of the balloon strings and it fell immediately to the ground. Only then did she discover my secret...the non-helium balloons were taped to the ceiling. Hey, it's New Years. Vons ran out of helium.

I gave my sisters their gifts a little early to make it feel more like a real birthday party. Christina's were bride themed (below) and Anna's were baking themed (above).

Christina was actually the one to make the birthday dinner we ate, and Anna made the birthday treat. I'm a bit sheepish about that part, but it was dang good! Below are the birthday moon pies.

After dinner and dessert, we played Apples to Apples. We had an eye opening experience when it was Anna's turn and she drew the word, "senseless." She had to select which of five words (chosen by each one of the rest of us) best represented that word. My dad kept bragging, "I have the best word. You don't even need to read the rest. You may as well pick my card and move on because mine is going to win." Anna started reading the cards out loud.

#1: The CIA.

She said, "I don't think that's very senseless" and turned it over facedown on the table (yeah...pretty sure she's not too familiar with the CIA).

#2: Wine tasting.

"That's very senseless!" she exclaimed, and kept it face up on the table in front of her.

#3: Terrorist attacks.

When I saw that card, I thought, "Oh man, that's the epitome of word senseless." I figured that card was a sure win. To all of our surprise, however, she kind of glanced at it, then turned it over facedown and put it on top of the CIA.

Apparently, my face betrayed a substantial amount of genuine shock at her apparent indifference to the card and Christina started laughing which eventually led to all of us laughing hysterically...except my Dad. Guess which one was his "winning card"? I guess he assumed Anna would be a bit more familiar with the repercussions of terrorism. But it wasn't to be. She ultimately went with wine tasting.

In her church class on Sundays, Anna learns almost weekly how important it is to keep our bodies free from drugs and alcohol; in contrast, Anna was only 6 when 9-11 happened. We were all a little startled to see how far removed her age group is now from something that was such a fierce reality to everyone else just a few years older! We were proud of her for so resolutely standing by her convictions to keep her body clean; when we were done playing, however, my dad did say, "Anna, I just want you to know that terrorism is very senseless."

Happy Birthday to my two beautiful little sisters!