Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Unhappy or Thirsty?

We're two episodes into How I Met Your Mother, season 6, and already I'm impatient. It is about time we meet the "mother" or Ted's wife. I've been waiting around a long time in this story time. I keep watching because I'm hopeful and because I love Neil Patrick Harris. I'm always saying, "I'm going to give up if they don't tell us who the mom is soon!"

I was wondering if you feel the same way about my blog. Seriously, if my life and this blog were a romantic comedy, you'd probably be fussy about now too. Because, almost 400 posts later, I'm still a very single blogger living in Virginia. I feel way less glamorous than a year ago and the story lines are start to repeat. Birthday. Baby. Civics. Grad school. Travel. Bake. Repeat.

It's part of an internal struggle I'm having as a writer and a human being right now - am I unhappy? This summer I discovered that I set a lot of idols up on a shelf. They were all neatly labeled "things that would make me happy." They included (but are not limited to) moving home, staying here, finding a boyfriend, losing five pounds, finding a husband, losing ten pounds, people commenting on my blog, making new friends, eating healthier, traveling less, brownies, traveling more, exercising more and Mr. Schuester.

Depending on the day, I would find myself fixating on that particular idol. I would tell myself, if only that one idol were my reality, my life would be better, perfect, fixed.

Beth Moore reminded me so very nicely about idols this summer, and I'm working to take them down off the shelf. Pretty sure that business about idols is one of the commandments. And Pastor Pete asked a question Sunday morning at church that hit right at the underlying issues. "Are you thirsty?" he asked, over and over again.

Yes. I am thirsty. I'm thirsty in a way that only God satisfies. It's different from unhappy, but it feels just as exhausting sometimes. I am walking through some quieter times where I'm confident God is teaching me about being content, relying on him and being fulfilled.

I'm a very slow learner.

Anyways, thanks for reading this blog. As the writers of How I Met Your Mother would say, "At this time, we're happy with our character development, and we'll just see where the season takes us."

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Baby on a Saturday.

Today we went to a birthday party for one of Sol's best friends from Kansas, Riley. I thought I would know a lot of people at the party because Riley went to K-State, and he works on the Hill for a Kansas senator. Surprisingly, I really didn't. But I did know this baby, Calvin, who is one of my favorite Kansans by proxy. His daddy is from Garden City, and I think Calvin is too darn cute. His first birthday is next Saturday, and I am excited I'll get to celebrate with them!

Without noticing, I've entered a new phase in my life: the children years. I go to parties for adults where there are lots of children. Sometimes the number of children is more than the number of adults. I also go to kid's birthday parties now, including Calvin's next week. I will probably go to more baby showers and first birthday parties than bridal showers and bachelorette parties in the next ten years.

That's okay, really. Babies are so much easier to shop for. They look good in everything, always need books, and I no longer fear the Babies 'R Us baby registry. Plus, it is more appropriate to have themed parties for babies, and I LOVE themed parties. I'm ready to be a guest at all sorts of kids parties - just invite me, I'll probably come by.

Friday, September 24, 2010

We Have More Than Cupcakes.

Cupcakes rule in this town. Every local has a favorite, and so do many of my visitors by the time they leave. Don't be deceived, though, we have more than just cupcakes.

When my friend Ally was visiting, we decided we wanted gelato after dinner at Jaleo. There were cupcakes available down the street, but we stuck to the plan. Gelato at Pitango.

It was my first time at Pitango, and it was delicious. But you can't take this gelato lightly. It was very serious stuff, and the ingredients were intense. For example, they start with grass fed organic milk.

I don't think I could taste the difference. But I'm think we're supposed to be impressed.

Ally had straight up chocolate. I mixed the crema (rich, custard flavor) and the orange dark chocolate. I don't know that I would combine those two flavors again. I really want to try the sorbet - apricot, mojito, and maybe granny smith apple.

And the bourbon vanilla. Probably also the straciatella (vanilla with chocolate chips.)

I guess next time I need to get more samples before I commit.

As you can see, they give you those little tiny spoons to eat your gelato. I am pretty sure this is the practice everywhere with fancy cold desserts (at Glace too in Kansas City). And yet, I manage to finish my dessert in the same amount of time. Everyone else seems to savor their dessert using the small spoons, but not me. Small spoons you are no match to me.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Do You Know What She Did?

The she is my sister. Lauren.

Well today, the 23rd, my little sister went and turned twenty-five. 25! A quarter of a century. My little sister is 25. I find there is no better reminder of my increasing age than my baby sister getting older too.

And on top of this whole big birthday, she also started a blog, started law school, and runs 1/2 marathons. Like on a regular basis. She's just thoroughly awesome on top of being older.

Happy Birthday Lauren! You are great, and I am proud of you. Even though you turned 25.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Cooper's Smirk.

This week's photo challenge on "I Heart Faces" features the SMIRK! This is Cooper on his second day of sixth grade, and it is classic smirk. He wants to smile - I can see it in the corner of his mouth. But you know, sixth graders, big sisters, pushy photographers early in the morning...it's okay, Coop, I understand. Smirk on, brother. (Read the whole story about back-to-school here!)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Peyton Corner.

It's "Football Night in America" right now - my favorite kind too. Manning vs. Manning. Go Colts! It's always nice to see my boyfriend play football right before I start the week!

The picture above is a first look at my classroom. There are more photos I can share with you, and more I want to tell you about my classroom. But tonight's story relates to Peyton Manning. Look in the back corner at the left side of the photo. See those two posters of Peyton Manning? Thank you, Scholastic, for selling such things for people like me to buy. My favorite poster says "Nothing is worse than a Manning with options!"

In my classroom, students work in groups at tables. Depending on the student's desk position, they are asked to do certain tasks. I might say, "Person closest to the door, grab markers for your table." But I like to make it interesting so the four corners are - door, window, Peyton Manning's corner, and Wildcat touchdown corner. (I also have a poster that says "That's good for a Wildcat touchdown.")

I get endless delight from using these corners."8th grader in Peyton Manning corner - start the discussion on citizenship." "If you're in the Wildcat touchdown corner, please collect the papers for your table." It's so much more exciting than numbering their desks.

I have this real sweet honors student that I have to remind not to read during class. Yeah nerds! I was so this kid in 8th grade. But last week he totally caught me off guard when he walked up to me out-of-the-blue and said, "Um, Miss Luhrs, no offense. But I don't like football."

I stopped to look at him. I couldn't tell if he was trying to be funny or not. "Look - that's fine. But I don't really care. You still have to follow the directions even if they are related to football."

So far, no further revolts. I guess it would have been more appropriate to put photos of the Constitution in one of the corners. Or photos of the Star Spangled Banner. Probably anything government or civics related. Whatever. I love football. This is the happiest time of the year, and my classroom should reflect that.

You know what else is happy? When ESPN gets some DJ to auto-tune the Manning Brothers.

If the video doesn't work above, you can see the video here.


Friday, September 17, 2010

Vic and Rach at School.

I found these hilarious photos from BlogHer that needed to be shared, so I'm going to use them as I tell this tale of back-to-school with Rachel. We've been back at the middle school for three weeks, and it's definitely been a funny year so far of "Vic and Rach."

Last year we taught at the same school, hung out all the time, and even had the same hair cut for many months in a row. No one really noticed, just an occasional comment here and there.

But this year, people are noticing. Someone says something to me and/or Rachel practically every day.

"Of course you are doing SCA together! You do everything together."
"I was going to ask you to be my partner, and then I noticed you were sitting next to Rachel. Never mind."

"You LIVE in the same house!?!"
"Did you just meet? It's so cute how you finish each others sentences already!"
"You have the same haircut!"
(We definitely don't anymore.)

We probably got ourselves into this situation during the first week of teacher inservice. Our principal told everyone to line up by their birthdays, without talking. Rachel says, "Let's lie and say we have the same birthday." I agreed, and we decided to line up at June 18.

Then the principal says we're going to around the room and say when our birthdays are! Uh-oh. We remain frozen at the WRONG spot in line - for both of us - until it gets to us.

Rachel says, "June 18."
I say, "June 18."

Busted. Then our principal stops the whole game, splits us up, and everyone laughs. We're occasionally funny.

The next day, they tell us to pick up a card on our table and find our "match" in the room. There were objects that go together, famous couples, etc. Rach picked up Wilma Flintstone and I picked up Fred Flinstone. MATCH!

Obviously we stay put. We're not going to fess up to this mess, it wasn't our fault they didn't split up the cards well. In retrospect, it might have been easier if we moved. Every person who walked past us stopped to ask us about it and harass us. We were honest, but no one believed us. Something about the little boy who cried wolf, I guess.

(I have no idea what we're doing in this photo. The end.)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Birthdays on January 1.

I'm writing down phone numbers and birthdays in a spreadsheet so that I can be better about parent contacts this year. And I've always loved birthdays, so why not celebrate them with my students? Or at least try. It gets tough with 113 students.

So I was typing information into a spreadsheet tonight, when I got to something that overwhelmed me. So I had to stop and write about it because it's a story you should know.

There's a darling girl in my fifth period who couldn't harm a fly. She's an English Language Learner, but she is far enough in her English to be in a regular Civics class like mine. I was reading through her answers, and they are all endearing.

"One thing I am really proud of is that I pass all the SOL (state tests here) and that I never got detention so far. During my eighth grade year, I would like to get good grades and new friends."

All perfectly normal, kind answers from one of my sweetest students. I would like to teach 22 of this little girl, but instead I have a more motley crew. For example, I said, "why aren't you in your SEAT?" ten times to this group. Today. During 5th period.

My eyes moved over the paper to her birthday, January 1, 1997. And I stopped.

Maybe her birthday really is January 1st. But when I taught in Kansas City, January 1st was the generic birthday assigned to you by Catholic Charities when you were a refugee. If the language barrier was too great, they just wrote down January 1. Did it really matter? If you were escaping something terrible in your homeland, did it matter what day the social workers wrote for your birthday? Probably not.

Teaching makes me all mushy inside. Sometimes I get frustrated when things aren't going well, and then something like January 1, 1997 reminds me that I don't know where my students came from each morning or last year or when they were tiny babies.

I Used to Have These Friends.

Oh gosh, I use to have a lot of friends. For example, Mitch and Cam, Senor Chang, Patrick Jane, Sue Sylvester, Bones and Booth. There were more to be sure. Last season I was averaging two to four shows a night.

Let that sink in - even without commercials I was watching ten to fifteen hours of television a week. Plus football. And sometimes Leno and the news. (I confessed to my favorites previously here.)

I admit it. I, Victoria, have a TV problem. I just love it so much because it makes me so happy.

But grad school is piling up. It seems there is an assignment due every week, and I've got a lot of work for school too. This year has started rough. My classroom management is fine, but I feel like I'm scrambling around planning like a first year teacher again instead of a fifth year teacher. The moral of the story is that I'm super busy and falling into bed exhausted early each night.

And TV hasn't even started yet! I'm torn because I love these shows, but I'm really enjoying sleep and halfway enjoying work my rear end off doing grad school and civics preparation. I think I am going to start the year off slowly. I cannot commit to what I will watch because as soon as I think of one show that I "can't miss," I think of four more I think I can't live without!

Here's the one thing I'm trying to avoid - I don't want to get to the end of my busy days and look at my DVR like a to-do list. Shows are there for relaxing, not something else I have to cross off my list. At least that's how I feel this afternoon. I'll probably change my mind after discovering this (thanks Jill!).

Monday, September 13, 2010

Some Places Never Get Old.

Technically, Eastern Market is old. Like really old and built in the 1890s. But it never gets old to me. When I lived in DC in 2006, Eastern Market was one of my favorite places. It still is one of my favorites, and I love any excuse to go and walk the brick streets and market aisles.

The great thing about the market is that you sort of feel like a hybrid of a tourist and a local at the same time. There are always a terrific assortment of Capital Hill neighborhood folk out to brunch and running errands inside the market. I love poking around the flea market, considering old maps with the Map Man, and buying stuff I probably didn't need. Like t-shirts advertising farmers markets in DC.

I cannot be held responsible for purchases I make while at Eastern Market. There's just something romantic and magical about buying things there. Everyone thinks so. Ask Tara, Abbey, Andrea, Anne, Emily, Joe or Jennie.

Actually, I take that back. My mother was not amused when I asked her to help carry 20 pounds of used books from Capitol Hill Books in the summer of 2006. Whoops.

There's a great place to eat inside called "Market Lunch." Kate G. gets the credit for introducing me to my love and the bluebuck pancakes (blueberry buckwheat) at Market Lunch back in 2004 when I visited for the first time. I have been known to wait forty-five minutes or more for these pancakes.

Writing all of this makes me want to go back. Like right now. I'm sure there are old maps or used books I need. Do you think my 8th graders would miss me if I went tomorrow? I'm pretty sure they can figure out the traits of a good citizen without me.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Jennie, Joe and the Columbia Room.

Jennie and Joe arrived from Bucktown on Friday night. After a delicious, quick and cheap dinner of Peruvian chicken, we "suited up" for a night out in DC. We weren't headed to the clubs, but a very special location that took reservations and careful pre-planning - a speakeasy!

We rode the metro to the Columbia Room tucked away in The Passenger, just north of Gallery Place and Chinatown. We didn't spend any time in the bar at The Passenger, but it looked fun. And super chill. Instead we made our way back to an unlabeled door on the left. The only mark was a doormat with a C on it.

We met up with one of Joe's friends who lives in the District, and the four of us enjoyed one of the best nights of cocktails ever. There are two choices - enjoy the prepared menu complete with tastings or order a la carte. Jennie and I know little more about cocktails beyond what tastes good, so we went with the planned treats. Joe and his friend know considerably more, so they did lots of picking and choosing.

All the drinks were made carefully in front of us, each one easily taking five to ten minutes to craft. They cut their own ice each day to use in the drinks, and everything tasted so fresh. One of the drinks that Jennie and I had was a watermelon, basil, gin concoction served with fish tacos. We also had royal Primm's cups with chocolate mint, cucumber, lemon and prosecco. It made me extra excited for London! They also served us fancy truffle oil popcorn and FIGS!

The boys were more creative - Joe order a Ramos gin fizz, and the bartender was so proud of how it turned out that he made it for all of us. This drink has to be hand shaken for over ten minutes. There were only eight of us gathered in the small room, and it was so neat. I loved everything I tried - even the gin. I never liked gin before. I guess this is a lesson in the importance of good quality spirits.

Sometimes it is just nice to have an excuse to dress up and try something new. I'd recommend the Columbia Room to experts and amateurs alike. There's another speakeasy in Alexandria that I might try with friends from school. And I hear there is one in Kansas City too. Just try it. It's good for your soul to have a cocktail and whisper secrets with friends.

Monday, September 6, 2010


Tomorrow is the first day of school (more about that later).
I had lovely house guest friends with me since Friday (more about that later).
I just bought a ticket to Dublin and London (more about that later).
Grad school meets Saturday (more homework later).

So if you don't hear from me here for a couple days, know that my return will be triumphant.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

K-Stater in Virginia.

My new license plates came while I was home in Kansas, and I think they look beautiful. In Virginia, personalized plates are only $10 a year. I'm the only "K-Stater" in the whole state, but only in terms of license plates. Lots of K-Staters in the area and our watch parties are way fun!

I'm sitting on the couch watching College GameDay on ESPN and feeling decidedly homesick. This will be the first season in my whole 27 long years where I don't go to a single football game (fact confirmed by my parents). Between London at Thanksgiving and trying to be a diligent grad school student, there's not a great weekend for a trip home. So I'll settle for watch parties with Rach, Sol and FINN or with Capital Area Catbackers.

It's not really about the winning. If it were, I'd be missing basketball games more! It's about game day in Bill Synder Family Stadium with my family and K-Staters, some of the loveliest people I know. The purple, the Wabash, Willie doing K-S-U on the 50-yard-line. Oh dear. I'm tearing up a little bit just writing this all down.

I was whining about missing my alma mater and football season at a staff dinner on Thursday night. One of the vice-principals, Chuck, looked at me and said,

"What's the problem? Can't you just click your heels to go home?"

OOOH! A Kansas joke makes everything better. GO STATE!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Embracing the Camera: Big Sister Style.

Through RV Designs and some of our other blog friends, Rach and I started reading the Anderson Crew blog. If you check it out, you'll even see an ad for RV Designs. So on Thursdays, Emily asks you to get out from behind the camera and take a picture of yourself with your kids.

So I don't have kids. But I have a brother who is 4.75 years old, Spencer. He is currently a soccer super star.

I was very excited to see him play in a soccer game on Saturday morning. He was not so excited about having a lot of pictures taken. After every five minute quarter, he would run off the field for his powerade and say, "NO more pictures." I ignored him.

It was also my dad's birthday. Check out ALL of our dimples. That's three sets for ya - all of us born with those heartbreakers. We had a yummy breakfast casserole and donuts before the big day of soccer - and traveling. After Spencer's game, Emily and I drove ten more hours back to Maryland and Virginia.

While he is still probably too young to know for sure, most signs point to the fact that Spencer will have more athletic ability than me. He scored TWO goals during the game.

It is very important to note that these games are played three-on-three to allow everyone time to play and shoot. They spend less time running in herds and more time actually kicking the ball. And 90% of the time, they score in the correct goal. But not always.

Sometimes you have to take a turn and sit out. Dad & Tracy convinced Spence to sit down on his soccer ball just like his brothers do when it is their turn to sit out. And he did but not so willingly. He kept saying over and over again into his hands, "They're playing without me!"

Which is kinda the point of taking a rest.

Eventually his moaning caught the attention of one of his cute little girl teammates. As she twirled her long blonde ponytail, she said "You can play, Spencer." And just like that, he was back in the game, and the little girl left the field to stand on the sideline.

Clearly I would have preferred sitting on the soccer ball over running. There's hope for Spencer.