Thursday, April 30, 2009

The non-poetry-related DC pictures

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A blur of wonderfulness: our trip to DC

We are home. The time in DC was so amazing that I'm actually having a time absorbing it all. I came back to running embraces and tons-o-kisses from my kids, and it is good to be home. And a little bit hard to know that the poetry-love-fest is over.

There were so many highlights on the last day that it feels like 4 days. Here is the recap.

We started Tuesday with a tour of the White House which was very cool, but I saw not one Obama, not even the dog, and they prohibited cameras, to which I said, "Hello People...I have a blog!"

No luck. Just trust me that it is gorgeous and awe-inspiring to think of all the people who have walked those floors and sat in those rooms.

Then, we went to a Congressional Luncheon on Capital Hill. Will's mom thinks it is cute and funny that I always take pictures of food, so she wanted to take a picture of me with the lunch buffet. Funny, right?

Each student had hopes of meeting either their senators or a congressperson. Some senators popped into the luncheon to meet their student and family. We had a special situation: BOTH senators and our congressman wanted to meet Will privately in their offices! As it turned out, we had to cancel the meeting with Senator Olympia Snowe because it conflicted with the time Will had to be on the bus for the night's competition. So we were escorted off to meet with Senator Collins (in case you don't know, Maine has two female senators who are both Republicans).

We went into the Senate office building and found our way here.

But alas, Susan Collins was delayed, and was still in the Capital building. We thought that meant we wouldn't meet her. Instead, it meant that her assistant whisked us down into the tunnels that connect the Senate and Representative Office buildings with the Capital, and took us TO Senator Collins.

This is the tram that takes the Senators back and forth through the underground tunnels to the Capital. We were told several times that students "never get to do this."

Just before we got on the tram, Will and I looked at each other, and at the man walking past us. John McCain. (no photo, it happened too fast)

On our way to find Senator Collins, we walked past groups of Senators whispering in the hallways, the place all abuzz about the very recent announcement that Senator Specter had just switched from a Republican to a Democrat.

Oh, there's Senator Dodd.

And here is Senator Collins, from Maine. She was gracious and lovely to Will, and after chatting a bit about Poetry Out Loud, and gushing over his having made the top 12, she asked Will to recite a poem.

And right there in the Capital, amidst the hustle and bustle of VIPs whisking around, Will gave her "Mingus at the Showplace" by William Matthews.

I kept thinking: I hope Will realizes how huge this is. And as we walked away, I know he did realize. He was so excited.

Okay, so I was seriously in the hunt for any Obama, or Hillary Clinton, to no avail, though I learned when I got back to the hotel that she and Michelle Obama were in the Capital when we were, unveiling the bust of Sojourner Truth. Bummer.

I was wowed by even this:

The door through which Obama stepped onto the balcony to give his inaugural address, where all of our eyes were glued and waiting.

Next stop: Congressman Michaud's office:

Another poem recitation!

Next stop, for Will: head over to Lisner Auditorium for debriefing and dinner before the show.
Next stop, for me: walk around the city a little and get sushi for dinner and soak in my last summery evening in DC.

And then, it was this, the grand finale: The introduction of all 53 finalists (that's 50 states + DC+ Virgin Islands + Puerto Rico). And the show began.

I love that Scott Simon (who hosted the event) already, but his charming, funny, and gracious tone added so much to the already exciting evening. Here are the top 12:

My Will did not win, but that actually didn't seem to matter. The 12 finalists were all so good, and I was so moved after every single performance, that I didn't think there was any way the judges could ever decide on one winner. But of course, they did. The winner was totally and completely deserving and turned out to be one of the kids we had gotten to know the best: Will from Virginia. At the opening banquet, we were all seated with Will from Virginia and his awesome family. We called him "our other Will" all weekend and were proud to track his success. His reaction to winning (the title and the $20,000) was one of my favorite moments of the whole thing.

He cried, I cried, everyone cried.

He hugged his dad... I'm still crying.

While my Will and I waited for Garrison Keillor to finish chatting with some other finalists, I took this shot of his famous red shoes.

This was a moment that Will had hoped for after first qualifying for the event and hearing that Garrison Keillor was a judge. This is the BIGGEST, brightest smile you will get out of Will.

I'm still riding the high of this experience that I'll probably never have again (though, trust me, I'm going to try). The camaraderie between the kids and the teachers and the Poetry Out Loud staff was a beautiful, beautiful thing.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Poetry Outloud Update

Here are the 18 Performers from the 18 states in our "region." Will is the 4th from the left.

Here are the top four winners who go on to National FINALS. Will is on the far left.

(left to right: Maine, Ohio, Vermont, Virgina)

What does this mean? That he made the top 12 and goes on to the final event tomorrow night, judged by, among others, Garrison Keillor. And the event is hosted by Scott Simon (of NPR fame) and Natalie Merchant (of 10,000 Maniacs fame) is performing. And we are all a little emotional over here.

After lunch, Will and I headed over to the Old Post Office Building where the NEA recording studio is and Will recorded 2 of his poems for the archives.

Then I made Will pose for a bunch of photos (see the Capital?)

And then I walked here: Hello Mr. Obama. Are you in there?

The other highlight of my day is that my Aunt Ann and cousin Paige, both former English teachers and poetry lovers, drove in from Virginia this morning to see the event with me. They got really into the competition with me and we had fun debriefing and critiquing between recitations. We all jumped for joy when Will's name was called. Ann is even coming back tomorrow night to see the Finals.

Then we went out for a great, long lunch and caught up. Because of a bit of a time crunch and an unfortunate parking garage situation, our departure was a bit hurried, and we didn't get a picture of the three of us. (Paige and I are both bloggers who like to document such meetings... I guess we'll have to wait for September, Paige!)

Think of Will Tuesday at 7 pm... the big show.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Helllooooo Washington!

I'm here for Poetry Out Loud Nationals, and
this ain't the Motel 6:

We made it to the beautiful, green, warm, summery Washington DC this afternoon. The flights here are worthy of a blog post all their own simply because of the fact that it was such an uneventful and lovely day of traveling. It was the first time since having kids that I've traveled without them, and let me tell you. I stopped myself after the fifth time I said out loud... "DO YOU REALIZE HOW RELAXING THIS IS? I MEAN, I'M READING REAL SIMPLE AND NO ONE HAS THROWN UP ON ME!"

Right now I'm sitting in my hotel room watching the Sox game in high def on a TV that might cost more than my house. Okay, well the sheets on this bed plus the flat screen TV plus the bathroom towels = more than my house.

I feel a little bit like Annie when she first arrives at Daddy Warbucks' house. You know, I've stayed in nice hotels before, but this place is a big deal. Rumor has it the room I am staying in right now went for one million dollars for inauguration weekend. I did NOT take pictures of the gigantic fresh flower displays, or the TV, or the fresh-fruit-infused water in the lobby, or the seriously beautiful fitness room, or the extra-fancy Starbucks in the lobby of this hotel because that would just be embarrassing.

This place was a bit crazy when we arrived so my room was "not ready." I drank some fruit-infused water and looked up at the pretty chandeliers for almost 2 hours before it was "ready" (again, seriously not complaining. I did not have even one toddler to chase). The Marriott decided to "upgrade" me because of the delay, so now I'm up on the top floor with this view:

Did I mention that it is 90 degrees here?

And if I step out onto the balcony and look left:

Oh wait! I almost forgot! I am not here just to revel in the fanciness of this place. Tomorrow at 9 am is my student Will's poetry performance. We just completed his final rehearsal and he is so so ready. No matter what happens tomorrow morning (whether he makes it back for Tuesday night's finals or not) he is going to do a fantastic job, and I am more honored to be here than I can say. I just can't get over how cool it is that the Poetry Foundation rolls out the red carpet like this for teachers and high school students.

I do miss my family, both my kids and Sam AND my sister and mom, both true-blue Washingtonians. I wish everyone was here to share in the fun. But really, it's pretty relaxing knowing Skyler and Reed are safe at home with Daddy. The balcony outside my hotel room? Reed would definitely jump over the railing if he were here.

Early start tomorrow... I'll be back.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Our fabulous trip to Boston in 20 pictures and 20 words