We're Off To See the Wizard

I'm glad I have a forced rest right now. (See the post about the whole stupid foot-in-an-inflatable-cast thing.)

I'm happy to be able to catch up on some photo organization and scrapbooking. In going over my stuff I realized I had never printed the photos from the Spring Musical that my son, Jonathan was in. (Working on the scrapbook now.)

King of the forest

Jon played the Cowardly Lion in his high school production of The Wizard of Oz.

Captured by witch

I was in charge of designing and costuming the show (as usual). And, if you recall, I dolled up a pair of Ruby Slippers that looked pretty fantastic, if I do say so myself. Click here for my step-by-step tutorial on How to Make the Ruby Slippers from The Wizard of Oz. Also, "Dorothy," who just happens to be our next-door neighbor and friend, Tessia, wore the Ruby Slippers at graduation. Made me so proud.

Ruby slippers

This kind of "work" is such a delight for me. It reminds me of the hours I spent as a child dressing Barbie (don't judge). I spent most of the semester frantically searching, begging, borrowing, and stealing every green article of clothing I could get my hands on for the Oz Citizens.


Oz citizens costumes

Of course there were also Munchkins to dress.

Munchkins totally know how to celebrate. "Ding-dong, the witch is dead!"

And witches, bad and good.


And the Wicked Witch of the West's enslaved Winkies. (I didn't know they were called Winkies either, until I started working on this show, but that's not important right now.)


In the stage version of the Wizard of Oz, there are also Talking Crows and Singing Trees (they were actually my favorites, but I'll deny it if you tell the rest of the cast).

Wizard of oz trees

The fantastic makeup was done by some of the talented students, themselves.

Oz friends

And there were Flying Monkeys. Of course.

Flying monkey

My job was basically to "style" the show and make everything and everyone look pretty. It's a lot of hard work and I invested a ton of hours along with an incredible group of parent volunteers.  It was a bit of stress getting the kids to rehearsals and shopping thrift stores and brow-beating my seamstresses.

Why do I do it?

Off to see the wizard

1) Because I think the kids deserve for everything to look amazing if they're going to give their best performances. (Which they totally did.)

2) Because it's usually a family affair with Lucy doing the stage lighting design and cheering on her little brother from up in the sound booth. So, it's a lot of fun for us as a family.

3) Because I get to appreciate Lucy's lighting artistry. The yellow brick road was done with a light. It's called a "gobo" in stage speak. You're impressed now, right?

Yellow brick road gobo

4) But I do all this mostly because of this guy...


Here's Jonathan, as the Cowardly Lion, singing his, "If I Were King of the Forest" song. (Get popcorn.)


5) And because I'm always amazed at just how much courage it takes for him to do this. (See what I did there?)

Lucy & jon

How to Make Ruby Slippers from the Wizard of Oz

I've been up to my eyeballs in costumes, props, and set painting for my son, Jonathan's high school production of The Wizard of Oz.

Unlike some of the other shows he's been in, this one has a lot of moving parts to it. (Which, I'd like to just say right here that the original creators of the old-school 1939 Wizard of Oz were genius. *bows down*)

And like every single other time my kids have been in stuff and especially when I vow I'm just going to sit it out, I've done nothing of the sort. In fact, I'm not only designing and gathering costumes, I'm building and painting sets and making (technically begging, borrowing, and stealing) props. (And chewing on Tylenol like it was candy, but that's not important right now...)

Jonathan plays the Cowardly Lion (one day he'll forgive me for putting him in that uber-furry suit under the hot lights. I don't think today's that day) and our sweet next-door-neighbor and good friend, Tessia is the beautiful Dorothy.

Wizard of oz cowardly lion

So again, I've been collecting/creating costumes and props and all that and the most famous prop of all was a little disappointing. The Ruby Slippers.

I looked. In costume and party stores and online and all the Ruby Slippers I found left me wanting. Besides the shoe itself, my Dorothy has tiny feet. 5 1/2.  So, I was a bit discouraged, but then I remembered that, "Hey! I can make stuff!" And so the quest began for the perfect Ruby Slippers to fit our very own Dorothy With the Tiny Feet.

As it turned out, Tessia had a pair of old character shoes (those are the Mary Janes with the slight heel used for stage people) that she was willing to let me mess with. Plus, they fit her uber-tiny feet perfectly.

Here's the instructions:

DIY - How to Make Dorothy's Ruby Slippers in the Wizard of Oz

You will need:

  • A pair of shoes to be sparkled.
  • Sandpaper.
  • White fabric glue. (Very important that you choose fabric glue. It works 100% better than just regular white glue and adheres beautifully to the leather. Trust me.)
  • Super fine glitter. In this case, Red. (Don't choose Kindergarten craft type glitter. You will not be happy with the result. Again, you really must trust me on this.)
  • Clear Spray sealer.

1) Start with a pair of shoes you want glittered up. Once you commit, there's no going back.

Ruby slippers before

2) Make sure the surfaces are all clean and sand the shoes very lightly, just to rough up the surface. This was kind of painful. They were really nice leather shoes.

3) Generously paint the white fabric glue on one side of the shoe.

Ruby slippers glue

4) And add glitter immediately. You're going to do a few coats so don't make yourself crazy worrying about getting perfect coverage on the first pass.

Ruby slippers glitter

5) Take your time with the glue and glitter and do one side at a time. Be very patient with the spots you may have missed and just wait until the first pass is dry before you go filling in. (I found this out the hard way because I got so excited I tried to do more and ended up with bald spots in the shoe from where my fingers had accidentally touched some spots.

So, again. Just wait between coats until everything is dry.

6) Paint the other side and sprinkle with glitter. You will already be thrilled at this point with how beautiful it's turning out. Go ahead and celebrate. Just be patient and wait for the coat to be dry before applying the next one.

Ruby slippers half done

7) You're halfway there and they look fantastic. This is the point where you start looking around the house for other things to glitter. You're so good! You're a Glittering Goddess! Resist the temptation and just get the shoes finished, please.

8) In this case, the shoes had a strap which I waited patiently (!) to paint until the rest of the shoe was dry. It was at that point that I also addressed the bald spot issue. The glue goes on easily over the dry glitter and that second coat just makes it sing,

Ruby slipper with strap

9) Spray the finished dried shoes with a Clear Sealant in a well ventilated area. And wait for it to dry.

10) You've spent about three good days on these shoes. It's best to wait until they're completely sealed and looking fabulous.

Ruby slippers on dorothy

11) Dorothy was thrilled with her new shoes. The glitter held up beautifully under the lights and because we had sealed them she wasn't constantly leaving a trail of glitter. WIN!

12) I love the added special effect, too. Kudos to our photographer, Dan Shalaby for that.

Ruby slipper with special effects

I'm sure you're anxious to try this yourself.

However, if you're in the South Orange County area next weekend, I'd like to personally invite you to see the Ruby Slippers live and in person and the cast of  Pacific Coast High School Drama perform The Wizard of Oz. You can see my props, too. And of course, my son, the lion.

Performances are on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. May 30th, May 31st, and June 1st at 7:00 pm. The tickets are reasonably priced at $10 apiece and there are also 2 matinees on Friday, May 31st and Saturday, June 1st at 2:30 pm.

The shows will be performed at: the Attic Community Theater • 2834 S Fairview Street •  Santa Ana, CA •  92704

"Oh, Auntie Em! There's no place like home!"

NaNoWriMo is ON!

For the uninitiated, NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month.(Pronounced "Naa-No-Rye-Moe.")

It's basically Creative Writing on Steroids. The challenge is to write a 50,000 word novel in one month. And so, both amateur and professional writers take to their keyboards and write.

My people have been using the book, No Plot? No Problem by Chris Baty as their guide.

The goal is to just write. Every day. For 30 days. No editing. Get-the-story-out-of-your-brain-no-matter-what writing.

Because we have homeschooled for so many years, this isn't our first spin around the NaNoWriMo block. Lucy already has two manuscripts that she has produced during other 30 day writing frenzies (she has them hidden in a dark vault somewhere, unseen by human eyes, but that's not important right now).

This is the first year that Jonathan is enthused about the project.

They write together. Well, not together together. They usually both sit in the same room, tapping away at their computer keyboards with their ear buds firmly in place. They stop occasionally to inquire about a plot twist or the validity of a character's action. But they keep writing.

Their friends come over for hours of uninterrupted NaNoWriMo-ing. (<--I wonder if that's already been added to the popular lexicon?) It's the best kind of peer pressure I can think of.


Will their novels make the New York Times Bestseller List? Not likely (at least, not without a lot of editing and revision). {Fun Fact: The novel and eventual movie, Water for Elephants began as a NaNoWriMo project.} And, while getting published is maybe their long-term dream, the magic comes in the doing of the thing.

They are writing. At least 1500 to 1600 words a day. They are crafting new worlds. And creating. And honing their storytelling skills. And they are making the time in a culture where a teen's attention is in constant demand.

The creative energy in our home is palpable. This is the part that makes me the happiest.

Lucy & jon writing

Of course, if the whole novel writing thing doesn't work out, they could always just start a blog.

Where in the world is Marta today?

I realize I haven't been posting as often as I like and I apologize, but that doesn't mean I'm not around. In fact, I seem to be all over the web today. I'm guest posting in a couple of places:

I have an essay about Mother's Day over at the Tiki Tiki. I tell you a lot about Luza. It's titled "My Mother. My Inspiration."  Or as I like to call it: Not your typical Mother's Day tribute. (But that's not important right now.) Click on over and leave some comment love. I think you'll enjoy it.

Luza and me

I also have a homeschooling article about how I taught both my boys to read over at Mommy Maestra. It's called "Tintin and the Reluctant Reader." Please click on the link if you're interested (or at least curious).

J today

Thanks for your patience. I'll be back in my own neighborhood very soon. And have I got stuff to tell you!


"What About Prom?"

I have homeschooled my kids for over ten years now. I am still constantly surprised that one of the greatest concerns (right after the ignorant "socialization" question) is "What about prom?"

I sigh a little bit and carefully explain how we do high school: He actually attends a high school that offers Independent Study. His classes are mostly on-line, except for Spanish and Drama. On the days he has those classes, he is physically at a campus and interacts with his many friends. He also leads their Improv team. (See this post.)

Back to the original question: "What about prom?"

The high school independent study program sponsors a prom every spring. It's a lovely and intimate affair with maybe 100 students attending. Some of the kids take dates. Many just go with a group. It's usually held at the always fabulous and iconic Disneyland Hotel and unlike "real" high school, there is very little peer pressure to look or act a certain way - unless you count the good kind of peer pressure, but that's not important right now.

This was Jonathan's first prom. (Yes, he's wearing tails. He looks very "Downton Abbey," doesn't he?)

Jon and disneyland

He did not take a date, but instead chose to go with friends. Aren't they just lovely?

Jon and friends

He enjoyed dancing with almost all the beauties represented here. (Because, seriously, if you were a sixteen year old girl, could you resist this?)

Jon with Miranda & Savannah

I love that the girls were all wearing modest and flattering gowns.

Prom friends

I especially love that they were smart enough to know that a night of dancing would require they wear comfortable footwear. (I may or may not have been on the ground when I took this, but that's not important right now.)

Girls with shoes

Most of these kids have also been homeschooled for years. We've known them and have watched them grow up into the amazing people you see represented here. (These three were members of the cast of Willy Wonka Jr. which they performed a few years ago. What a looker Violet Beauregard grew up to be!)

Jon veronica nathan

I think the implication inherent in the "What about prom?" question is that surely because these kids are homeschooled they can't possible know how to act in public. They couldn't be expected to know how to dress or behave or even which fork to use for their salad.

I don't think the question is meant maliciously in any way. I just think that people sometimes make assumptions over what happens with homeschool education. Or should I say, "independent study." In this case, the emphasis should be on the independent. Most of these kids are not driven by worry of what their peers will think. They've grown up to be...well, independent.

As Jonathan was dressing for the dance, I asked, "Do you need some help?"

"No, mom. I've got this."

Tuxedo closeup

Yes, son. You most certainly do.

Teaching Generosity?

As you know if you've been reading this blog for a while, we have homeschooled our kids. I often say that one of the reasons we have chosen to homeschool is that we're not as concerned about their academics as we are concerned about their character.

We have attempted to teach them kindness, thoughtfulness, hospitality, and generosity - high values for us - mostly by modeling them as best as we know how. Because, seriously, has anyone ever learned these kinds of things by being lectured?

How to pack a shoe box

During this time of year we love participating in Samaritan's Purse Operation Christmas Child in which we thoughtfully and lovingly fill up a shoe box with gifts for a child on the other side of the world. We pray for our small recipient as we do so. We look forward to this small act of charity every year.

We get to go and shop for little items to put into the shoeboxes. As we're shopping, we think about what would bring a child joy.

"These trucks, Mom. I would have liked them as an 8 year old. Very cool."

"Let's get this little doll with an extra outfit. I think she's very sweet."

"Crayons! Modeling clay! Watercolors! YES!"

Shoeboxes are collected at various churches all over the country and then packed and disbursed to different places to kids around the world. What's very cool about this is that we get to track our shoebox to see where it ends up

From the Samaritan's Purse Website:

National Collection Week: November 14 - 21

Use an empty shoe box (standard size, please) or a small plastic container. You can wrap the box (lid separately), but wrapping is not required. Most importantly, pray for the child who will receive your gift.

Determine whether your gift will be for a boy or a girl, and the child’s age category: 2-4, 5-9, or 10-14. Print out the appropriate boy/girl label by downloading the artwork to the right. Mark the correct age category on the label, and tape the label to the top of your box.

Fill the box with a variety of gifts that will bring delight to a child. 

Please donate $7 or more for each shoe box you prepare to help cover shipping and other project costs. You can give online by using our “Follow Your Box Donation” option, or you can write a check to Samaritan’s Purse (note “OCC” on memo line) and place it in an envelope on top of the gift items inside your box. If you or your family are preparing more than one shoe box, please make one combined donation.

Place a rubber band around each closed shoe box and drop off at the Collection Center nearest you during our collection week, November 14-21.

For locations and hours of collection visit our Drop-Off Locations page where you can find the nearest place to take your shoe box by entering your ZIP Code or you can call 1-800-353-5949.

You can also send your shoe box gift to:
Samaritan’s Purse
Operation Christmas Child

801 Bamboo Road
Boone, NC 28607


Our kids have all grown up to be very generous people. I say this, not to brag but as a matter of record. Apparently the lessons were picked up somehow. My theory, then is correct. Character values are more "caught than taught."

Do you support any charities? Tell me.

{Disclaimer: Samaritan's Purse is a charity we believe in and support. I have not received any compensation from them to write this post. It's my privilege and pleasure to tell you about them.}

Exact change.

I've homeschooled my kids for years now. Ever since Lucy and Jonathan were both in elementary school.

Last semester they both went to the Cooler-Than-Thou Local Art School. But the days there were way too long for people who were used to having lots of time to do their own creative stuff and they both independently decided they wanted to come home again. (This, of course, made me deliriously happy, but that's not important right now.)

And so they did. Lucy came back to finish her senior year and Jonathan his freshman year. They came back so much more appreciative of what an alternative home education has provided them. Both of them plunged back in to their new (old) environment with lots of energy. Lucy especially.

Yesterday was graduation.

Lucy's graduation

Commencement is already such an emotionally charged event. The graduates are excited. The parents are nostalgic. And for one brief and shining moment, your teenager can do no wrong. ;-)

Lucy was chosen to give one of the two speeches at graduation. She chose to do it in a "spoken word poetry" style (of course, she did). She didn't leave a dry eye in the house.

Please enjoy, "Exact change."

As she spoke I quietly wept in the dark auditorium. I had done my job well and this moment was my reward.

In this moment, Eric and I knew that our homeschooling "experiment" was a resounding success.


God speed, my girl.

Congratulations to all of the members of the Pacific Coast High School Class of 2011. You did it!

Here's the full transcript of Lucy's speech:

    Change. Exact change.

    Stepped onto the bus for the first time, handling the weighty stack of quarters my mother had given me the day before. The bus driver smiled not because I was new but because I was welcome. Light blue carpeted floor and walls that slid back and forth to create new rooms. It was smaller than I had expected but more spacious than any bus I had entered before. A subterranean hum of conversation played tag with the necessary silence.    

    Wide-eyed and comfortable as long as my lips remained pressed together, I spotted the older passengers, the ones who had been there for ages already, fidgeting because their stop was fast approaching. Absent-minded and exhausted, they offered me their charmingly sarcastic advice, ready to move on to their next adventure. My small hands were tempted to draw faces in the chill of the windows but I restrained myself because I felt too new.    

    I sat myself next to the girl who wrote poetry on her hands and drew pictures of dinosaurs on her guitar like the dozens who found their freedom and their passion as soon as they took their seats. She pulled me aside by the arm introduced me to Santa Claus, who wore a blue-buttoned shirt and ironed trousers. The tour guide described the economy of the English language while encouraging respect and responsibility, familiarity and friendship, patience... and enthusiasm. I once sat next to a boy whose hair was far too long and I played games with the actors. To them, everyday was Shakespeare and the evenings were his sonnets; our world was a small stage and all of us were merely players, constantly ad-libbing our lines. I paid appropriate wonder to the ones smarter than myself and nudged the quiet ones out of their corners, asking them who they were and why they chose this curious mode of transportation.   

    Three times on our journey we stopped, each time was as long and memorable as seventeen sand-coated summers. I admit we had our favorites, like the restaurant surrounded by palm trees which served only burgers or the two patriotic cafés. Different drivers took their turns and the familiar faces left the bus, quickly replaced by the wide-eyed expressions I once wore.    

    The hot days leaked through the glass and stained our clothing with the heat, inciting frustration and self-doubt. But even amid the gray sunrises when our breathing was visible and painful, we still took photographs and danced as we changed seats. The drivers who had chosen to take cars instead were struggling with maps, distractions, backseat drivers, and meetings they were always late for. The same destination; just a different way of getting there. Accused of becoming lonely, the term “socialization” was thrown at the windows often.   

    By the time I knew everyone as well as they’d allow me, we were sitting near the front of the bus. We knew where we were headed and which stop was ours. The new visitors shuffled towards the back, warily observing the rest of our eccentric, chatty, absurdly lovable and thoroughly modern family. When our drivers questioned us about the trip, we wrote on colored post-it notes and decorated the windows. We had learned how to be honest with ourselves and we learned how to ask for help with our baggage.    

    As we finally step off the bus, in tasseled caps and ill-fitting robes, we may stumble over to the ones who have been there our entire lives. We are able to raise our heads, look them straight in the eyes and thank them. Even though we’re older and a bit worn, almost too exhausted for expressions, we manage to turn and smile at the bus drivers as they each offer a large wave goodbye. On a Wednesday afternoon, in the year 2011, we’ll remember that these drivers got us where we needed to be when we needed to be there which happened to be every Friday before 3 o’clock. But I implore you to recall that the ones standing outside paid for our fare and were always waiting for us to get home safely at the end of the day. After some tearful goodbyes and hugs that aren’t tight enough, you will board your next bus, heading towards somewhere only God knows. And wherever you may be going, please remember that you got to be where you are today because of change. Exact change.

Thank you.

Gleeks in Training

Lucy is a senior in high school this year. We've been talking about college options for a while now. But our conversations began in earnest at the beginning of this year. She's already taken a few courses at the community college level, but what did she want to do? Where would she be interested in going? What schools best provided what she wanted?

The questions were coming fast and furiously.

Obviously, because we homeschool, we're very proactive about our kids' education. So together we began our research.

Lucy's high school experience to date has been through the Orange County Department of Education. The high school provides online classes and supportive classroom instruction as well as varied programs and clubs that meet on campus.

They have a yearbook (which she worked on last year) and they host a prom each year. There is a wonderful full drama program, which we've enjoyed immensely.

But now both Lucy and Jonathan began to want more.

As much as I love homeschooling and as much as I think people who have the temperament for it should do it, I am not "militant" about homeschooling.

Like I've said before, my highest goal has always been to raise decent human beings who have "learned how to learn." Homeschooling has been one of the richest, most rewarding experiences of my life. It's been the best educational choice for our family.

So, what to do with homeschooled kids who are curious and talented and ambitious?

In January both of them applied to the Orange County High School of the Arts. (OCHSA - pronounced "OH-SHA").  Think "Fame" but without the hoodlums. =D

Their best friends (and beloved neighbors) also put in their applications.

From January to March there was a lot of waiting and fretting and hand-wringing while we waited to hear back from the school about audition dates.

Beginning of March ALL FOUR OF THEM (!) received auditions for their respective conservatories.

Final decisions were made and letters of acceptance received in May. Again, ALL FOUR OF THEM got accepted. (A lot of happy dancing ensued, as you can imagine, but that's not important right now.)

Train riders
Lucy, Jon, Tessia & Tori waiting for the train on the first day of school.

I've homeschooled both Lucy and Jonathan for most of their formative school years. (Read about our homeschooling exploits here.) And while I was happy for them and so proud, I went through a weird sort of grieving.

I just realized that I had worked myself out of my own job. But, I think this was a very good thing. ;-)

As of this week, Lucy is commencing her senior year of high school and Jonathan is a freshman at the Orange County High School of the Arts. (<--I can't believe I just wrote that. I know. Shut up.)

Ochsa sign
They get to take the train to school each day, along with their best friends, and take creative classes. They are out-of-their-skin excited. (Eric and I are out-of-our-skin proud.)

Train girl

[Fun Fact: Famous OCHSA alum, Matthew Morrison plays Will Schuester on the hit tv show, Glee.]


So, I'm technically very happily "unemployed" now.

As we went through the new student orientation on the campus, I giddily kept hearing Irene Cara singing "Fame" in a loop in my head. All the kids were so happy to be there. They had worked hard for admission and were excited to start school.

To my everlasting delight, one of the veteran parents actually said to me, "You should come down at lunch sometime. It's like 'Fame' but without the drugs and the dancing on the cars."

What am I going to do with myself? Well, for now, I've suddenly become a "Lady who lunches." This pleases me.

As for Lucy and Jonathan Darby....all I'm saying is.... remember their names. ;-)


Guest Contributor - that makes me sound taller, right? ;-)

Like I mentioned in an earlier post, I sometimes find myself in various corners of the world-wide-web.

Today I have the distinct pleasure of being a Guest Contributor (<--doesn't that make me sound taller?) over at the wonderful Mommy Maestra site.


Monica is doing a phenomenal job of not only homeschooling her own children bilingually, (I know! Get this woman a cowl and a cape!) but also of sharing her many homeschooling resources.

I tell (in great detail) all about our own Homeschooling Journey, which you've gotten bits and pieces of right here.

Go check out Monica's site. I promise you'll be impressed. Tell her Marta sent you. Better yet, tell her in Spanish. ;-)