T H E 6 T H F L O O R

Life in 6 Land

T H E  6 T H  F L O O R - Life in 6 Land

6th Floor Haunted House: Tonight

enter_if_you_dareAfter nearly 3 weeks of construction and countless hours of work, the Vintage Parkway 6th Floor Haunt is ready to open doors. The haunted house has been in development for nearly a year, unfortunately some of the ideas I had hoped to include this year fell by the wayside, as I ran out of time, money or just made the decision not to include it this year. Tackling on this project last year, we failed to develop a theme in which to build around, so buying assorted props and adding more “sutff” to the haunt was how we approached this project.

This year, in the months leading up to the haunt I decided a carnival/fun house theme would work very well with the overall Harvest Carnival theme that the school does to support this PTA sponsored event. By the time I got going, it was too late to implement this theme in conjunction with the Harvest Carnival, but we were able to include a few.

Mark Greer and I spent many hours, between shuttling kids to practice and other events, as well as work and other priorities to put together the 2014 version of the haunt that will debut (and end) tonight beginning at 6pm. While it’s tiresome work and at time expensive we had a great time being together the resources to make this haunt happen. Vintage Parkway is going to have a great set of resources when Mark and I no longer have kids in the elementary school, it’s my hope VOLUNTEERS can keep it going.

After walking out of the stage last night, I felt good that we had accomplished something this year. Unlike last year, there were areas that felt incomplete and we were rushing to throw things together in order to open up on time. Problems plagued us before the doors opened and we had to settle for how the haunt looked. This year, we were better organized and many of the resources were already in our possession. We had most of the material for the layout, minus the wood we needed for our 16′ hallway we built.

Unfortunately, I probably spent more than the PTA President wanted me to (sorry Amy), but as we were developing and putting together the haunt, we have been trashing many old props that are damaged and old, which wouldn’t be used in ANY haunt. I know re-purposing older props does happen, but some of these were not worth making that effort. We did however add many new props, most clown related to be included in our haunt the next 2-3 years. We picked up numerous masks, a few costumes and other hanging items that we have strategically placed this year.

It’s funny, but I am already thinking “next year we will…” and we have not even opened the doors for the 2 hour Harvest Carnival this year. We will have to see just how organized it is. We request more help than we have asked for in years past. We will have 5 actors (responsible teens or adults) in the haunt, not only participating, but as chaperones, in order to monitor kids (usually middle school and high schoolers) who seem to think it’s fun to f*ck around and piss off Mark and myself. In addition to the actors we are including 4-5 fifth graders, who participate as  a “scarer” or “guide” for a 20 minute period of time. While I was hoping for a list of 90 students to round out the matrix I created, we did get 57 students to help out, some I am sure will stick around for more than their allotted 20 minutes.

I have been looking back to last year and some of the problems we had. The biggest problem, people purchasing tickets to use at the Harvest Carnival. That piece was our of our hands, but many people were let through without providing tickets, which on some level was fine. We also failed to have enough flashlights for the guides to us, so it seemed the line was never ending and groups of people were not being processed at a good rate.

This year I am hoping for a total of 800 people to go through in 2 hours. Those might be some loft goals, but I think we could achieve that number. We know kids love to go through more than once. Parents will usually go through with younger kids and friends of kids who go to Vintage Parkway usually end up showing up. So while I am not dwelling on the number of people or the amount of money the haunt makes, I will be curious to see how well we do in 2 hours.

With the time and effort we put in, it would be great if the school district and PTA could run the haunt for the Harvest Carnival on Friday and then for a few hours on Saturday. Not sure if there would be any added cost to have some staff on hand, as well as a janitor and PTA folks to manage the haunt. Might be an opportunity to make the teachers even more money, which in turn is spent on the kids.

The other idea we will look to implement next year, adding a photo booth in the haunt. Just like the roller coaster rides at Disneyland, I checked with the gal who does much of our photography at events and it’s definitely affordable. Just like selling ticket for food, drink and the attractions at the Harvest Carnival, we would sell tickets for a photo and provide the individuals with a numbered receipt in order to claim their picture. Add a $2 or $3 charge and it’s more money donated to Vintage Parkway.

Regardless of the number of people who walk the haunt or the amount of money we make, being safe, scary the kids and having fun are the priorities for this evening. We look forward to having a great time “clowning around” the 6th Floor Haunt. As a reminder, the Harvest Carnival begins at 6pm at Vintage Parkway Elementary School in Oakley. 

Print Friendly

Haunted House: Update

scaredHaunted house update, as it’s just under a week until the doors open for the 6th Floor Haunt at Vintage Parkway Elementary School. This is the second year Mark Greer and I have been in charge and have update last year’s layout to hopefully bring forth another successful haunted house, as the centerpiece for the school’s Harvest Carnival. Back in July I thought I was well ahead of the game, I had the layout nearly complete, we had many props already to go and should have been able to come in what I spent last year (just over $1000, which was reimbursed by the school PTA. Thanks a lot!) Unfortunately, as life goes you get busy and work for a project in October gets pushed to the back burner until you MUST get going in order to complete the project.

I hit that point last week, as I probably overdid it when it comes to what I spent in order to get the haunt done. But it’s materials and props that are needed if the school wants to continue making money (for the teachers accounts) during this carnival. Thankfully there are so many other attractions going on during these event, but the draw is the haunted house. Take nothing away from the ladies who have spent countless hours prepping, making signs, coming up with games for the kids to play and deciding on what food and drink will be served. It all takes time and volunteers in order to be successful.

As for the haunt, we were about 9 days later getting started. School let out on the last Friday of August for 2 weeks, which allowed us (last year) to get started building the haunt on the school stage. This year, we were delayed because the janitor had to wax the floors in the auditorium, which put on hold. We got access to the stage Wednesday of last week and started erecting PVC pipe and 16 feet of walls we were going to use. Actually, as Mark and I talked about, it might have been a blessing in disguise, as it gave us time to hang out and build the 16 feet of walls we were going to use. We made use of this time and didn’t sit back doing nothing.

Even with long hours and constant work, we are still behind. Maybe that is common or maybe it just appears that way. The entire layout took parts of 2 days to get build. The layout did go up much faster this year, thanks in part to the advanced planning and the fact most all of the PVC pipe was cut and I had laid it out in July and bundled it together by sections. Much like last year, we ran out of room as we approached the last section of the haunt. As the saying goes, measure twice, cut once. I know I measured and remeasured, yet we still had to make some changes on the fly. Thankfully I had accounted for potential changes to the layout and we were able to fit the entire layout in, almost as it was drawn up.

One thing we failed to decide upon early was a theme for our haunt, which is key to anyone wanting to tackle this challenge. Last year, being my first year it was a matter of just filling each room and making it fun for everyone. This year, the theme came to me too late and I was not able to order enough props and have another project half completed, as I await the resources to finish it. Next year (and we still haven’t had the harvest carnival this year) we will be moving to a fun house/carnival theme centered around evil clowns.

It’s amazing to hear and see the reactions of people when the word, “clowns” are mentioned. Something seems to strike a chord with individuals that evil clowns are not something they want to be associated with. Mark and I on the other hand saw this video:

…and we knew we had a theme we could bring to our haunt. While it’s only the first year with clowns, we know this will be a continuing theme for the next 2 years until my son is done with elementary school. We have also added a new scare to the haunt, but I won’t go into until after the haunt, as it’s the centerpiece of our haunt this year. With any luck I will have some video to upload after the haunt to show the reactions we got.

We are bringing back the dot room, which was very successful last year. I know many kids will expect this and know there will be someone in this room, hopefully with an upgrade in the black spandex costume (that’s me) with the dots painted on it will improve how I blend in to the walls.

clownsMark will be our king clown this year, I had intended to give him a nice large area to run around in scaring kids. With the changes to the layout his realm is not as large as I would have liked, but should still prove to be a good scare. We are also bringing back the hall of faces, which didn’t work well last year because I waited too long to buy white faced masks and paint them fluorescent colors to be lit up under a black light.

While there is still confuse and questions to be answered about the haunt, things are coming together. My hope is we won’t be running around on Friday, hours before the haunt putting finishing touches on decoration. Hopefully we can have all of that done by Thursday and relax a bit before the lights go off and the frights begin.

Print Friendly

Right On! Write In!

vote_writeinNear the end of the 2013-2014 school year I was introduced by my son’s teacher to a third grade teacher, who was the Vice President of OUTA (Oakley Union Teachers Association), as I showed an interest in possibly running for the school board. As a volunteer and PTA board member, I wanted to become more involved and this position was a worthwhile venture.

Under her instruction I attended a few school board meetings, following the agenda and listened to what was going on in the Oakley Elementary Unified School District. After a few meetings, the Superintendent introduced himself to me and I explained my reasons for attending the meetings and considering a run for an upcoming board seat in November and offered his support

Over the summer I procrastinated on my submitting my paperwork, it was always, “next week I will get to it.” I was having a challenge finding a position I wanted to run under. I contacted teachers I knew and inquired about issues and complaints they had with the district in an attempt to find a position I would be passionate about in order to back my campaign.

That passion never appeared. As deadline day for filing approached I still had not written my statement. On the day I was supposed to be submitting my statement, I was finally writing it. The words, the passion never came together in a single 500 word statement. I finished a rough draft and decided to email the union and apologize for getting their hopes up, but I would not be running for the school board.

As a new school year dawned on us, I started volunteering again at school and faced my PTA responsibilities at treasurer. I was approached by the PTA President, who was inquiring on behalf of the teachers if I would accept a nomination as a write in candidate for the school board. After the filing date passed I had not thought much about it, but told her I would accept the nomination as a write in candidate.

While facing an uphill battle, the teachers are backing my campaign as a write in candidate for the Oakley School Board. Business cards (as seen above) were made and distributed to myself and Kim Beede, the other challenger to one of two seats up during the election.

Since that time I have had an interview with the OUTA political action committee, answering their questions regarding my position on a number of different topics. I have also given feedback to a new of the local newspapers as well. My position is “Kids First” as school starts and ends with our kids. Any other topic usually impacts the kids. I support OUTA, as the teachers in our district are in dire need of a raise and continue working at 2007 wages. Sadly the district has not released excess funds in their reserve for things such as raises or material for the newly implemented CCSS (Common Core State Standards). I have been asked by a few individuals on Facebook where I stand on CCSS. As I replied to another parent,

I can’t say I am a big supporter of it. Started seeing it last year, when my son’s second grade teacher started teaching CCSS to them (addition/subtraction). I had to ask the aide how to do the math because I had no idea. I don’t complain about it, since it appears it is here to stay. However, I do think the district needs to shake some money loose from the reserve fund in order to get teachers the necessary materials in order to teach from. CCSS is not only requiring students to make an effort, but teachers as well to adapt and learn the methods. I also think that some students who aren’t up to speed will end up falling behind very quickly and won’t be able to get caught up. The sad thing is many students go home and ask their parents for help. Guess what? They can’t help because they don’t know the methods and revert back to, “this is how I did math when I was your age” answer. I, like many grew up in that age, asking kids to learn new methods that make them think is great, but I don’t like how it was rolled out without the necessary cornerstones in place for the teachers.

Regardless of the outcome, I am very pleased to have the support of the teachers union. It’s really a wonderful feeling, as a father and volunteer to have all these great individuals coming together to provide support and their endorsement. Hopefully the results turn out in my favor after the election, regardless I have nothing but praise for the teachers and everything they do at Vintage Parkway and the other schools, both in our district and outside. Education is very important and these folks do a great job teaching our kids.

My name is STEPHEN TOUMI and I am running as a write in candidate for the Oakley Unified School Board.

Print Friendly

Surgery Success!

shoulderpainSurgery success! It was still dark on Monday when I left for my surgical appointment to decompress and debride my left shoulder. It was nearly a year ago I had to have my left bicep tendon reattached, as it was torn and shredded due to repetitive movement, yet the origin of the injury is still unknown. I was the first patient to arrive at the surgical pavilion, as instructed by the surgery scheduler and the first to be operated on.

After the initial paperwork was filled out, it was a short wait before I was being prepped for surgery. Yet I don’t remember a damn thing after the anesthesiologist hooked me up with his “cocktail” fed through my I.V. The next thing I know I am waking up in the recovery room. As expected I was a bit groggy to come around, but was given some juice and crackers as I came around. Bandages covered my left shoulder and I couldn’t feel anything because of the nerve block that was in place. I did however feel my pinky and ring finger, as well as the outside of my forearm. It would about 20 hours before feeling had returned to my arm;.

Talking to the nurses and the surgeon, the procedure when as expected, cleaning up the shoulder joint, which was limited due to inflammation. Much like the original injury, I am not quite sure what caused this relapse, especially after making great progress the few 2 months after the bicep tendon repair last October. This time around, there was no actual repair in the shoulder, only cleaning and recovery was expected to be quick. I could point to the fact I might have done too much too soon, as I was working on the haunted house just days after my surgery. Still I don’t think that accounts for the good progress I made early on.

This time around, I laid around the remainder of Monday but got up early on Tuesday and ready to go. I had to leave the bandages on for 2 days and was told not to shower for 7 days. Really? 7 days, I would smell terrible, so my wife helped me cover the shoulder in plastic and I showered. Very little pain even after the nerve block wore off and I was busy working around the house. However I did use the sling much of Tuesday, but shed it on Wednesday, as the only pain I experienced was the actual incision points (3) in my shoulder.

Once the bandages were removed I appeared to have full motion in my shoulder, there was no more pain when I brought my shoulders together. I could get my left hand/arm behind my back and there was no pain when I lifted items with my left hand. It feels great to be on the road to recovery. Thankfully this recovery won’t hamper my running. Physical therapy begins on Monday with the therapist I was working with previously who already knows the state of my shoulder. I suspect it will be 2-4 weeks and I will be able to start lifting weights again.

Print Friendly

No Batteries Required

IMG_20140903_182832September is here and it’s been very busy. School is in full swing and we are already staring at the fall break at the end of the month as well as progress reports. Zachary has suddenly gotten busy with soccer, which is about 3 games in. Scouting just had their first pack meeting last night and now add I write this I am watching him perform karate.

We are still trying to find him a niche that doesn’t require a controller. He is a matter at the Xbox, but we don’t want him sitting in front of the TV for hours on end. So far our weeks are busy. Soccer had 3 practices a week with games on Saturday. Friday practices are optional but we try to stress him to attend to get the most out of the sport.

Scouting is a family event and I am sure my wife will join us at pack meetings and some of the outings. I took on the role of quartermaster for the pack and have a lot of training I am looking forward to. No word on our first den meeting, but the will be on Tuesdays, twice a month.

Finally there is karate! A flyer came home last week and my wife wasted no time in calling American Karate. Zach and I stopped in paid the intro fee of $79 for unlimited sessions through October. After that point it’s $99 a month for two sessions a week. It seemed to be a bit Joe and miss today while we were discussing it.

He didn’t like the fact he didn’t know anything when he stripped onto the mat. It’s trial by fire, as he is learning as he goes. Just moments ago he tested for hiss first yellow stripe for reciting the karate creed. I’m proud of him!

Hopefully karate will teach him some life skills; discipline, confidence, respect, integrity, honor, just to name a few. Unlike the other sports he had played, karate solely depends on the effort he makes. Looking forward to see him grow.

Print Friendly