Sunday, February 28, 2010

What's 10 feet tall and made of brick? And...Olympics

Sydney's wall! Every night for about the past 2 weeks, we've begun to die down at about 5:30. By 6 pm, we're struggling to keep him entertained for more than 5 minutes at a time until it is bathtime. We take our nightly bath, and then nurse and he's down for the night. Even though it can be difficult to find what will distract him for the next hour, it is rather nice to know, for now, his schedule. It makes it easy to keep him from getting so upset, he can't calm down. And even when he does get uncontrollably upset, the running of bath water has, up to this point, been magical. He is a water baby. I included this photo because, like his mommy, Sydney is NOT a morning person. We bought the Grumpy doll for him merely to show that they have similar facial expressions. I hate getting up. Especially after a really nice nap, or in the morning. Apparently, he feels the same way...

We started 'solid food' this weekend. As of now, his eczema is under control enough to attempt this, and boy, was he ready! It took perhaps 2 spoonfuls before he was trying to force me to get it in to his mouth more quickly. I say 'solid food' oxymoronically because the rice cereal was more like a gruel. Have you ever looked at the first steps baby food in the stores? It is less viscous than my homemade soups and stews! Not very solid, but I guess it's a different texture than formula or breastmilk.
After feeding him today, I went ahead and made homemade carrots. Will I be doing this often? Goodness, no. But for today, it was nice to give myself a reason to get out my cutting board, my knives, and my tiny food processor that I got for Christmas (2?) years ago and have never used. I miss my days when I would lose myself in the kitchen, and Steve would walk in hours later with loaves of banana bread, biscotti, and homemade stew all sitting there. It will come, again, but I haven't been able to do this in over a year. Ergo, I felt a slight bit of accomplishment by simply making extremely mushy carrots and freezing them in portion sizes in my ice cube trays. In the meantime, even though I think it will be awhile before we transition to other 'solid foods,' I've been thinking we'll try yogurt and peas next...

As promised, here's a photo of my 6 month bouncing baby boy. Sure has grown, hasn't he? I try to take all these photos in his bouncy seat, since that is where most of the early pictures were staged. This way, we can see his growth measured against the same backdrop.

And, before I go for the evening...The Olympics are over. I'm not the type to stay up exhorbitantly late and watch every single event. I like the opening ceremonies. I sometimes watch the closing, as well. I don't have particular things that I look for (other than the 4x4 during the Summer Olympics). I think I enjoy watching these only because they bring cultures together. I get to experience so much more than what is 'normal' in my every day life. But I can't help feel a little bittersweet, this year. Bitter because I didn't get a chance to watch as much (nor would I have stayed awake for much...) and sweet because I also cut ties with the "It's the can you NOT watch them?" mentality that we so often encounter. It boils down to life has changed this year, and I'm still adapting to those changes. I won't think of the Olympics again for 2 years, and when 2012 comes around, I'll be absolutely startled to realize that it is time for the next round. They don't change my life; they simply offer a different diversion, and I've got that covered for at least the next 18 years.
SOLs this week. Wish my colleagues, my students, and me luck.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

6 Months

I can't believe that much time has passed, already. Sydney is 6 months today. He's grown so much in such a short span of time. He's smiling, giggling, and this week, he started 'crow'ing, just to hear himself. I cannot believe how much my thoughts turn to him on a regular basis throughout the day, or how, when I get home and hug that tiny, warm body to me, it just feels so comforting. The day melts away.

I didn't get a chance to take 6 month photos today, but Daddy's homework for tomorrow is to take some, and I'll be sure to post them this weekend. My little Snickerdoodle is growing too quickly!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Futility of Planning

I have planning right now at school. I have 60+ essays to grade, SOL prep work to do for tomorrow, close-reading journals from my 12 AP students to grade, and the list goes on. Basically, we've hit 'the wall.' Between now and spring break, there are no breaks. Between now and June 12th, there is no reprieve. We have tests, exams, more tests, more exams, SOLs, more SOLs, and then the final exam.

This is the time of year when everyone looks back at the snow days and wonders if it was worth it. On a personal level, yes. Sydney was ill about half the time I was home, so it worked out that I was there to comfort him, take him to the doctor, etc. However, on a professional level, I could have used a few days where he goes to the sitter and I have at least a few hours where I can catch up on grading and planning.

In the meantime, my lack of volition, motivation, drive to do anything other than sit back and read a good book with a hot cup of tea starts to eat at me. I don't really care to grade essays right now. We're at midpoint, and I don't have grades updated. I have the SOL next week, and figuring out who is failing after only 2-3 assignments (snow days, remember?) is, to me, ludicrous. But if I don't buckle down and do it soon...when will it get done? It will just keep piling up.

My goal is to finish the essays by this weekend. That way, I can relax, enter in to the novel unit that we started with a fresh mindset, and focus on clearing up loose ends...for now. Truth be told, Steve asks me on a regular basis if I want to (fill in the blank - watch a movie, go for a walk, run to the store with him, etc.) and I say 'Yes!' Then, he asks me if I have work to do. I respond that, until graduation, I will ALWAYS have work to do. There is no such thing as catching up in the teaching profession. Either you are in the midst of summer break, or you are in the midst of a headache.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

A Breath of Fresh Air

Steve and I went to the 'Meet and Greet' for the University of Virginia's newest coaching staff this evening. Now, regardless of your athletic affiliations, or academic affiliations if you don't follow athletics, I can truly say I enjoyed this evening for a completely different reason, and I only hope that after hearing what I reiterate from this meeting, you agree with me.

The main subject of the evening was, of course, UVA football. But new Head Coach Mike London had me won over before we even got to the football. He asserted that before any change could be made to the coaching of Virginia's young men, the first change that had to be made was to their character. London reinforced the idea that his goal was to shape the character of his players on and off the field. That they needed to realize they weren't any more special than anyone else just because they were athletes, and that they were to be held to the same high standards as anyone should be at their age, regardless of career, occupation, or collegiate affiliation.

As an educator, I appreciated this comment. I saw someone who was making an effort to mold our youth the way I and my colleagues do. But the difference is that he will have his athletes more than we will have our students; we try, relentlessly, to shape who our students become. But the truth of the matter is that we have our students in class for 90 minutes 2-3 times a week, depending on the week, for the 25 or so weeks we're in session. We can only do so much. Frequently, we see our students leading their parents instead of the other way around. Instruction and character start at home and should only be supplemented by the teaching and coaching staff. But it often turns out that the teachers and coaches (sometimes both at the same time) are the ones who provide the majority of the character checks and balances. As it stands, knowing that someone is out there who is looking out for the young adults as they enter a new environment that is, for the most part, without supervision, is comforting. He is not a babysitter, but a mentor and a guide as these young adults learn to be completely accountable for their own decisions. Accountability is key - so few of our students seem to exhibit knowledge of this novel trait.

Regardless of where the evening went, the conversations, the questions, the answers, Coach Mike London repeatedly stressed the importance of his '3 rules': go to class (SO important! Going pro is all good, but it won't last and then what? Never waste your time getting to the pros without finishing your degree. I feel VERY strongly about this.), show class (on and off the field - how someone handles minor situations will show so much about a person), and treat others with respect. The football program and its future were put on the back burner to London's concern for the character of his team. What a beautiful sentiment.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Computer Woes

Our computer caught the flu. It is a BAD flu, too. The Geeksquad representative said that the only way to prevent the 'Security Tool' virus from taking over your computer is to immediately hit 'Alt-F4' and then manually shut off the computer. If you click the mouse or any other keys, it will start eating your information like a little Pac-Man. So, my blogging will be on a break unless I am able to get time before/after school to do it until we get the computer fixed. My apologies to my readers!

Friday, February 19, 2010

A Quiet House

Ah...Friday evening. Sydney has worn himself out today with his 'Daddy Friday.' He played in his exersaucer while Mommy washed the dishes (bottles), then we had our nightly eczema bath, nursed, and went straight to bed with no fuss whatsoever.
Daddy was home all day and got almost all the laundry done. He managed to fit in his run on the treadmill, then went to visit a friend in the hospital. Mommy, after Sydney went down, had the house to herself.
Not a bad thing after this week - the first full week of school since...winter break? It was rather exhausting to go all day, and all week, with kids who are still recuperating from cabin fever. The house is nice and quiet. So comforting at the moment. The static from the baby monitor acts as soft white noise to drown the hum of anything - cars outside, the hum of the furnace, even the buzz from the computer. Such a difference from the kids today.
You could tell it was a Friday, and if I didn't know any better, I would venture to guess it was either a new moon or a full moon. Anyone who says the face of moon doesn't affect human behavior never worked in a hospital or a school. It does. There is a marked difference in the kids.
But for now, the house is quiet. Steve is on his way home, is stopping to pick up whipped cream for our hot cocoa, and then we're going to watch a movie. I don't think I could have asked for more for a Friday evening. Hmm...might need to make some popcorn.
Last thought of the night - check out my rockin' high chair! Isn't it awesome! It has toys that are attached to the tray, too, so when Sydney gets in the mood to throw things, they don't go too far! If nothing else, it has ocean animals on it. Steve is trying hard to encourage Sydney's passion for the water! Oh, yeah - and it reclines! If he falls asleep in it while eating, which I know will happen, he can just nap in it safely with no need to waken him. I'm so proud of it...

Thursday, February 18, 2010


Adjective - excessively optimistic (or, in my own interpretation, annoyingly optimistic)

I recently signed up for the word-of-the-day email from Merriam-Webster. I love it! I delete the emails with the words with which I am familiar, and keep the others in a folder on my email account to remind me not only of what they are and their definitions, but also to try to use them. I started talking about these in my classes, and I have students who beg to write "the word of the day on the board." By all means! Nothing better than increasing the lexicon of our youth so we move away from, like, the way we, like, talk!

Panglossian is one I had never heard of before.

Excessively optimistic. At what point is someone optimistic to excess? Or is that a subjective level - more personal - the level at which we think to ourselves "If this person cries in joy at one more snowflake falling down, I'm going to scratch his/her eyes out!"

What's sad is that we have a particular term for someone who chooses to see the good in all situations, and get to use it so seldom. What's sad is that we, as a society, find those who choose to see the good as fingernails on a chalkboard, get out of my face annoying.

Let's be honest with ourselves. We don't have an actual term for the antonym. There are the episodes of Rachel Dratch on Saturday Night Live playing the role of Debbie Downer (bwah, bwah...), but no actual vocabulary term for these people. And, we all know people like this, don't we? Don't we all have someone who we can only handle in small doses because they are, in fact, annoyingly pessimistic? Do you ever worry that you are sometimes coming across this way? I do.

What it boils down to is this. Right now, things really suck in the world. The economy is in the toilet. People are homeless, starving. Haitians are suffering tremendously. And yet, I have a roof. I have a job that I love, even if I could do without certain aspects of it. I have a loving, caring family. Who am I to force my own problems, imagined or otherwise, on other people? Why am I so important that I have to find it necessary to bring other people down?

I'm not.

So, here is my promise, my pledge, my goal. I swear I will try to be more panglossian. I will strive to answer the ubiquitous "Good morning! How are you!" that we hear going down the hall with a cheerful (though sometimes contrived) "Excellent! And how are you?" No one really needs to know when I am struggling to think straight after only 4 hours of sleep, or when I am drowning under the weight of grading. I will do my best to bring an effulgent light to others (and yes, I have now used effulgent 2x - it was another word I'd never heard of before...aren't you proud of me for managing to use it consistently in my monologues??)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Wish I had a pensieve...

...for days like today.

Didn't get much done today. I got home and putzed for a while, all the while pondering thoughts that circled in my head like vultures at the first scent of a decaying corpse. Swooping in for a sustained moment before darting off at the sound of a car coming around the bend. Feathers ruffled and hooked beak waiting to dig in.

But the pensivness eased as the evening wore on. Sydney was wonderful to come home to - it's been hard to re-adjust to going back to work, especially after all these snow days. I realized I would not do any school work this evening, so I didn't even bother bringing any home with me. But, that didn't mean I didn't have HOME-work to do.

After bathing Sydney (rash is finally starting to abate on his body) and putting him down, I got to work first on getting ready for tomorrow. I told Steve I was out of practice! I forgot I had to have lunch ready, bottles washed, a change of clothes for Sydney packed, new bibs in the bag. But most fun of all, and my greatest accomplishment for today (which is sad, since today is the first day I saw my 'odd' kids in nearly 3 weeks) was the fact that I put together his new high chair. I love puttering around with 'put it together' projects like these. I had so much fun 'building' Sydney's bookcase, I wouldn't let Steve touch it, and I was 8 months pregnant at the time. The high chair was the same thing. It gives me some weird sense of satisfaction to have a floor full of parts, screws, poles, etc., and to make order out of chaos. Well-put together order, too. I've got a blister forming on my palm from making sure the screws were in tight. But that is a direct result of slathering my son with a ton of emollients the past few weeks.

Strange how something as simple as putting together a project of some sort can make the evening not only fly by, but also help the world make some sense. And this is where the title comes in. I was pondering my blog on my way home this evening. All my friends who write blogs seem to have a point. Kathleen is set on staying in touch with her family and friends, while also witnessing to her readers. Steve tries to keep everyone informed of the latest happenings in sports, though it tends to be more college sports and UVA-centered. Rafe has been writing the longest out of all of us - he reviews movies in his blog. But I don't necessarily have a point.

If nothing else, though, I have to wonder if my point is more personal. I've found that, while I initially started this blog in an attempt to jump-start my creativity, it has resulted more in my finding a voice. One I hadn't felt in quite a while. I find myself cogitating over deeper thoughts than merely what to teach, or how to teach it, on the morrow. This is my effulgent lining to the gray skies, I believe (I threw that in for you, Rafe!).
A pensieve would be nice, though...just so I could weed out what I didn't have time or energy for until a later date. But, in the meantime, I've got a Snickerdoodle to gaze at as he sleeps angelically and a completed high chair sitting up against our kitchen table. God bless the little accomplishments.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Surprise Dinner

I told you I would be cooking a surprise dinner for Steve, tonight. We celebrated Valentine's yesterday by getting Grandma-La to babysit and went out to lunch, then to Toys-R-Us to trade in a carseat for 25% off another piece of merchandise (got Sydney his high chair!!). By the way, did we enter a time warp yesterday that went back to Black Friday, or was everyone simply suffering from a serious case of cabin fever? I don't think I've ever seen that much traffic at the mall unless it was right before Christmas...

After getting his high chair, we nixed the plans to visit a few stores in the mall, and instead opted to go to Dunkin Donuts. Steve and I have this odd tradition - 2x a year, we get a dozen donuts. 6 apiece. We don't usually eat donuts at any other point. We go on his birthday (June) and again on New Year's. Well, I can tell you that my previous note about him being a picky eater is somewhat unfair. Ever since we got pregnant, he's suffered from more sympathy cravings than I ever did while pregnant! So, we got a dozen donuts yesterday, too. And they were fresh! Oh, so yummy...

Then, we stopped to get Snickerdoodle from Grandma-La. His rash comes and goes, but his face is, by far, much clearer than before. Unfortunately, his body is breaking out, bad. He looks like he should be Anna's child from 'V.' Instead of green scales, though, he's got serious cradle cap (broke out the Selsun Blue this evening) and red blotchy bumps all over his legs, arms, tummy, and back. And he's scratching. Even in his sleep, he scratches. Poor thing.

So, back to dinner - sorry if I made you lose your appetite. I made cornish hens that I marinated in orange juice, balsamic vinegar, olive oil and garlic. I did take a page from Julia Childs and dried off the birds before rubbing them down with butter so they would brown nicely. And they did. Nice, crispy skin, tender meat, and a hint of citrus. Yum! I also sliced potatoes up and pan fried them with butter and salt, and made some fresh green beans. But dessert...oiy. Yum. I could eat the other two still in the fridge...I made a dark chocolate creme brulee. It really is more of a custard; there is no crunchy sugar on top, but holy cow was it rich, creamy, and ever so satisfying.

So, in the end, we had a truly nice weekend. I hope all my readers were able to relax, as well.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Budget Woes and Eczema

Budget woes...our school system is in trouble. We're needing to cut several million dollars MORE from our budget. That means a possibility of the following occuring for next year:
  • 37 positions being eliminated from the school system. This didn't strike a cord with me until it was brought to my attention that, with the hiring freeze in effect, the school system only hired 37 people last year to replace necessary positions that were vacated. Scary thought for those who were most recently hired. But keep in mind, this may not necessarily mean firing people. The positions could be eliminated by those retiring or leaving for another reason, i.e., moving out of the area, going back to school, etc. I told a co-worker of mine who was stressing that she should not panic until we knew how many people would settle for the early retirement incentives.
  • And that brings us to the next point - early retirement incentives. If we're really struggling with money, how can we offer incentives to those who are 'close enough' to retirement?
  • A 1% salary reduction for all employees. I think it was listed for all employees. I would hope one group would not be singled out over any others. But still...yuck.
  • Furloughs. Yuck, again. I'll be completely honest...I didn't know what this meant until I asked Steve. For anyone else out there who hasn't dealt with this yet, this is when you get unpaid time off. "You don't have to come in next week, but you won't get paid for it, either."
  • These next two really baffle me...forcing the coaches to become volunteers. As a 'retired' coach of, at one time, two sports, there is absolutely no way I would agree to coaching for free. It is exhausting, time consuming, thought consuming work. It is great. I loved it, and I already miss it (resigned last year for several reasons, but that's for another blog...). You build unbelievable relationships with your athletes. But to commit yourself to all that coaching calls for with no compensation, especially when it is not your career, is unfathomable. Most coaches are teachers. That means that they are already swamped with planning lessons, grading, etc. Add the responsibilities of coaching, attending meets, matches, games (whatever your sport is), driving, dinner, babysitting...ugh.
  • And last, elimination of middle and high school sports. Holy. Cow. Aren't we supposed to be producing students who are mens sana in corpore sano? What are the majority of students supposed to do in their free time? How are we to encourage them to make GOOD use of their time and not resort to drugs, violence, sex? What about the nation's increase in childhood obesity? What are we supposed to tell our students to put on their college applications? "Sorry, Harvard...I couldn't play sports because our school couldn't afford it..."

Horrifying to consider. I'll let all this soak in for now.

And, eczema. Or rather, baby eczema. Sydney's face is looking so much better. His beautiful cheeks are smoothing out, again, and the cradle cap is beginning to loosen. However, the rash is now spreading to his tummy, back, and legs. Poor thing. He's teething, he's itchy, and he's now coming down with a cold on top of everything. One step forward, and two steps back...

Thursday, February 11, 2010

What the Doctor said...and School

Before I begin, let me first say that my son's situation is a bit unique, and therefore, though you may wish to try some of these if you or someone you know is suffering from eczema, it is still advised that you see a doctor if the rash gets too bad (yes, I qualified my statements - I kind of like my car...anything worth anything...).

Second, I just want to say my pediatrician's office is awesome. They are incredibly caring, empathetic, patient, and allow Sydney to move at his own pace while still keeping the questions, examinations going. Basically, they treat us like I would expect family to treat us, even though this is the first non-well-baby visit we've had to make. Oh, and it's a small office - only 3 doctors, which means we get to know everyone; each doctor complements the others well. Anyone in this area who wants to know more information about my doctors, just let me know.

  • Now, on to the advice...First, my good friend, Kris, suggested using corn starch under the chubby folds of Sydney's neck to soak up his drool. He is teething, after all. This did help, and it allowed me to apply the medicine prescribed to a relatively dry area - the doctor prescribed Nystatin - apparently, the chubb and drool combination has not only exacerbated his eczema, but also allowed a yeast infection to start. (Nota bene: be careful with the use of powders. Talcum powder is BAD for babies; if you are using baby powder, make sure it is made from cornstarch and not talcum. Johnson and Johnson make both kinds, so read the ingredients list.)

  • For the eczema, itself, I am to continue using Aquaphor - 2-3 times a day, to keep it softened. I like this stuff - it doesn't smell, rubs in fairly well, and has a nice texture.

  • For the severely red areas on his cheeks, forehead, etc., I am to use Triamcinolon - this, I believe, is a steroid. I was told to use this cautiously, and only on the red areas. Once they fade, stop using it.

  • For the poor dry, cracked behind the ear skin, I was told that eczema can cause the skin to crack, and "weeping" can occur. These areas are prone to infections, so I am to use Mupirocin, an antibiotic ointment.

  • I am to continue bathing him every day to help calm the rash and ensure it doesn't spread. And because Sydney is a 'water baby' as it is, I was told to let him play as long as he wants in order to foster his love for water.

  • I was also told that the eczema/cradle cap under his hair could be treated once the skin clears up, and to use Selsun Blue - but only after it clears up so it doesn't burn and cause pain and possibly ruin his love of water/bath time.
So, I have a lot of work to do. The doctor had to write a list of all of these and where to use them so I could remember! But, after only one administration as soon as we got home from Target (Love Target!!), he napped really well for the first time all week, and when he awoke, he already looked a little less red. My little Snickerdoodle started to act like he used to!

I got to nap a bit with him, too, which was necessary. I don't think I've been this tired since we first brought him home from the hospital! Hopefully, he'll sleep through the night, tonight. The doctor said the medicine will help, too, with this. Thank goodness!

School tomorrow. I expect it at this point; we're already making up several days, but it has been so nice being home with him this week. Besides, I've been home with Steve every single Friday since he first started working his 4/10's. It will be odd to leave him to his actual "Daddy Fridays." It will be good for the two, though. I know Steve misses time with him. Ah, me...I think I'm just getting lazy and want an excuse to be home another day! Back to the grindstone.

Alas, the magic is gone...And more discussion on Food!

We did get up this morning. At 3 am. And 3:30 am. I was hesitant to nurse only because I know Sydney is capable of sleeping through the night, and I don't want him to get into the habit of waking up and needing consoling. And because I am nursing, it usually is Mommy who gets up with him.

But at the same time, he's entering a new range of developmental gains, and all evidence points to the fact that during these times, he will regress in other areas. Besides, his tummy was actually rumbling. He's 5 1/2 months, today, and I know that around 6 months is supposed to be the next age of developmental gain. Therefore, I have to assume that after trying to get him to go back to sleep at 3, and having that only successful for 30 minutes, he truly needed me to get up with him at 3:30.

So, I gave him some Tylenol (he was a little warm), nursed him, and put him back down. He slept only until 5:20. Not enough for Mommy to feel like she was human. Thus, we had an earlier date on the couch than I initially expected. Unfortunately, this was not the magic it was yesterday - he was more restless, which means I was more restless.

And his eczema rash is worse. Nothing is helping. I've been polling everyone - from friends to my sisters to my mom...the most common suggestions were to use Aquaphor (FABULOUS on diaper rash...) and to bathe every night, but quick baths, and apply thick lotion after. My sister said her sister-in-law suggests verdeso foam, but it is a prescription drug. I've also tried a weak hydrocortisone cream with little result.

But now, his cheeks are actually swelling - he looks like he has little piggy eyes. As soon as the doctor's office opened, I called and made an 11am appointment. I've got some pictures, but I haven't loaded them from my camera just yet. As soon as I do, I'll post them here for you to peruse.

In the meantime, if anyone has any other suggestions, please let me know.

Now, on to the next order of business. I made some steaks last night that were delicious. I used a cast-iron pan and heated some garlic in olive oil, then seared the steaks on both sides before popping them in the oven (400 degrees) for about 20 minutes. They came out perfect - neither Steve nor I like raw or medium raw meat. Julia Childs would be disappointed in me, I know. These were perfectly cooked through without drying out in the least. And I am convinced that using the cast-iron pan added such a nice umami to the steaks. The rest of the meal was nothing really special...fordhook limas (these are much sweeter, less dry and mealy, than regular limas, which I don't like at all...) and quinoa, which I had never made before. Quinoa is so much in the news these days for being incredibly healthy, though, so I thought I'd try it. I've actually had the package sitting in my cupboard for about 2 mos without opening it. It was time. I did not flavor it at all because I wanted to know what I was flavoring...was it nutty? Naturally salty? How could I add flavor without knowing what I might be ruining? Guess needs flavor. A little nutty, but definately in need of some sea salt in the water. I added a bit of Fleishmann's olive oil butter to mine, too. It wasn't bad at all, but I think next time I'll use chicken stock to make it and add some garlic, and perhaps some herbs de provence.

The meal, though, really made me think about cooking materials. I am a true believer that my soups and stews would be even more satiating if I were to use a cast-iron stock pot. I need to get one. I haven't even looked in this area, but if anyone knows of a specific place in Virginia to pick one up, let me know!

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Why having a teething infant should be an addition to Dante's 9 circles...

Oiy. That's all I have to say about that.

At what point does the administration of Tylenol become 'doping' your little one?

So, we've had two snow days in a row here on the Eastern seaboard. Yesterday, I was certain that because the portion of our street that had been plowed was completely dry, we would have school today. I went to bed dreading getting up in the morning and facing the 50 mile an hour sustained wind gusts that were forecasted for today.

My dread increased exponentially as the night wore on.

Sydney is teething. And we are all paying for it. Well, maybe not Daddy quite as much, as he was able to sleep through the 4 am, the 4:30 am, and the 5 am interruptions. Then the school's automated system called at 5:40 to tell me that we were cancelled today. Oh, and a surprise "guess who's coming to dinner" sustained gust hit us at 3 am that woke me out of a dead sleep. So, needless to say, I was functioning on rote memory this morning. But once I got that beautiful call, even if it did wake me up, I was able to relax a bit about the day.

We fell asleep on the couch today, together, mid-nursing. We slept that way for an hour and a half! And it was real sleep, with REM, dreams, drool, the works. I woke feeling not refreshed, but hazy and drugged and with the knowledge that I could easily sleep another 4 hours if allowed the opportunity.

Anyway...the morning passed well. Sydney was in a wonderful mood and we played and cooed and giggled and just had a good time with a few interruptions for nursing and naps while Mommy texted friends, read the paper, and ingnored any school work she should have been doing. We actually braved the wind to run to the grocery store. But then 4 pm hit. Ouch.

It seems that the wall for Sydney and his teeth is 3:30 to 4 pm. At that point, he is nearly inconsolable until he passes out for the night. Frozen washcloths can only do so much. And I take back anything I said in previous posts about needing to get to the gym. I get a work out with him every day. I have a sneaking suspicion that anyone who has children will shrink at least a half inch in the first year of said child's life. And the majority of that must happen while the child is teething. I also can fully brag about the fact that I've learned the "shoulder block" while cooking - holding Sydney on the far hip, and turning as far away from the stove as possible so as to keep from burning dinner while at the same time comforting a screaming baby who's cries have dissolved into hiccups until I dare put him down on his bouncy seat again, but only because I have to take an extremely hot cast iron pan out of the oven... I gave him Tylenol at 3, another dose at 7, and am contemplating trying to get him to take a dose right now at 11 to see if he'll actually sleep the night through. Oh, and we're cancelled again for tomorrow (another odd poor juniors...). But that would involved waking him slightly, and I don't know if it is worth the risk.

Since we're cancelled tomorrow, we could just have another date on the couch tomorrow morning...

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

What to cook?

Steve and I have been together for over 14 years. We've been married 8 1/2. And I am blessed to be with him, as he is with me. We appreciate the opportunity to have an excuse to spend some time with each other, but the significance of the Valentine holiday has diminished in the past few years.

But now we have our first child, and we have not gone out and been a couple but twice since he's come.

Our plan is to get Grandma-La to babysit for us on Saturday. After Steve's youth basketball game is over and he's had a chance to come down off his euphoria from winning (um...winning - even though these are 7 year old girls and they are not supposed to keep score...), we plan to run a few errands and get some lunch together. That will be our Valentine's Day. It will be nice for me to get out, especially, since we've had so many snow days recently.

But the actual holiday is on Sunday. I'm trying to determine what to make for dinner that evening that will be special. I could, easily, just go with his favorite homemade meal: My meatloaf (he's not a fan of meatloaf, but he'll fight me for the last piece of mine), homemade mashed potatoes, homemade biscuits, and a vegetable - usually corn, though I could go for creamed corn. But I want to do something really special this year. I already have an idea for a dessert. I won't share it with you until after just in case he reads this between now and then...

But the main course?? Any ideas?? PLEASE offer any suggestions!!!

Damn the Torpedos...

...full speed ahead.

I'll accept any suggestions from readers for why this phrase has been cycling in my head the past week. I have no idea where the thought, itself, came from (for any of my freshmen who find this blog, the use of the word 'itself' is an intensive pronoun in this case). I know it is from one of my favorite "I'm-sick-at-home-and-will-watch-this-while-I-drift-in-and-out-of-sleep-for-the-next-2-hours" movies (Henry Fonda and Lucille Ball in "Yours, Mine, and Ours"), but other than that, I don't know why I've been thinking it.

Perhaps it is because February is going by so quickly - we've had a handful of snow days lately, and they all seem to be odd days of the month (I teach at a school with odd/even block scheduling; ergo, block 5 only meets on odd days of the month, like February 1, 3, 5, etc.) My juniors missed nearly 3 months of direct instruction from me while I was out on maternity leave, and now we've missed 4+ class days in a row due to inclement weather, including today. I worry about them being properly prepared for the writing SOL, which is the first week of March. But, I realize that this isn't worth stressing over. We'll just have to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and plug along once we do get back in class and the test and the remainder of the year will work itself out. (*By the way...where, exactly, does the phrase "pull ourselves up by our bootstraps" come from? I imagine some sort of Western or cowboy/herding reference, but am not sure...) I picture Dorie from "Finding Nemo" singing Just keep swimming!

Or perhaps it is the fact that my freshmen have had so much time taken from them, too. Maternity leave, again, is partly to blame for this. I love my long-term sub. She did a good job keeping the students involved as well as allowing me the time to bond with my son with very few interruptions. But, let's be honest, any sub, regardless of who it is, would not be me, and therefore, my classes would be off course. The freshmen had that happen with the novel they were reading, and to help them catch up a bit as well as compose themselves for the remainder of the year, I inserted what was supposed to be a brief unit on poetry in between the novel they just finished, and the novel we were about to start. Unfortunately, because of the snow, the poetry unit is veering wildly out of control and my second novel unit is off course. This, too, is not worth stressing over. Not when I have an adorable 5 month old to play with and attempt (and fail) to catch up on sleep with. No - I love my freshmen classes, but this, too, will pass.

The more I stress, the less I will enjoy my job. And if there is one area where the recipients of your job can sense when you are unhappy, it is in the schools. Children are emotion-sponges and will either capitalize on your feeling overwhelmed, or will empathize so much, neither one of you will get much done. As for me, I'd rather continue to enjoy my job and know that I'm influencing our young in a positive manner. (Yes, that got a little preachy. Mea culpa. In all honesty, though, I truly enjoy 'my' kids and have so much fun passing on my love of literature.)

Or, maybe to lighten the sudden turn in brevity I didn't expect to come from posting today, maybe I'm just seriously lacking in chocolate intake and am craving one of Fresh Market's chocolate napoleons...who can truly know? Damn the torpedos - I need to get Sydney packed up so we can drive to FM...

Oh, and one last note - Happy Birthday, Dawn! You are the best biological big-sis ever!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Check In

My last two entries have waxed long-winded. Therefore, I will try to be more brief today. I just wanted to say that it's a beautiful day - warmer than I expected, brilliantly white and bright outside with the sun glinting off millions of diamonds in my yard.

Sydney slept better last night that he has in a while, though we were still woken up at 4 with a work phone call. I'll give credit to the sleep to Tylenol. I think his gums have been bothering him more than we realized. Frozen washcloths can only do so much.

I made some scrum-diddly-umptious Godiva french vanilla coffee from Fresh Market today. And I even drank it out of my little teacups that I scrounge for at antique malls rather than my huge mugs I use every day. I have rules about my teacups - they have to have a matching saucer, and they have to be an 'orphan' - I only want one, and I don't want to break up any sets. I currently have 8 cups, all different designs, colors, etc. When girlfriends come over for tea, they get to choose which design they want to drink from. Simple, but elegantly fun!

Back to Fresh Market. I could seriously spend an entire paycheck there. Organic foods, items you can't find in a regular Kroger, homebaked goodies. Yum. They have a Chocolate Napoleon and a Peanut Butter Napoleon-y type dessert that are, dare I say, orgasmic. And the seafood salad is, in the words of Julie Powell, YUM-MERS! That is one thing I craved on a regular basis when I was pregnant. That and their homemade Greek green salads with extra kalamata olives. Oiy. I'm hungry just thinking about those.

Dinner tonight will be a simple but delicious affair - homemade chicken spaghetti with some decent Bertolli garlic and olive oil sauce, and salad. Steve is learning to like salad, so to help him along, I picked up some Olive Garden salad dressing. It is the only one he will willingly eat, and it helps him eat more salad than he would otherwise. The Bertolli sauce is very nice, not expensive, but I still always end up adding to it - tonight I think I'll open some merlot and add that to the sauce as well as enjoy a teensy bit myself. In the spirit of Italian, ciao for now!

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Weight and Food

It's been 21 weeks. I waited until I had an empty stomach and then stepped on the scale. I had completely dried from my shower, so no excess water weight there. And yay! I'm at my pre-pregnancy weight! I'm not down to pre-pregnancy size, but who cares? That will come, I hope. I did not suffer from morning sickness (I was blessed! I am aware of that!), but I did suffer from mind-numbing, catatonic exhaustion. Therefore, the gym was out of the question during my first trimester. By the time the exhaustion was gone, I was into my track season at school and barely had enough time to do anything much less go to the gym.

And now...well, if you read yesterday's post, you'll know I'm struggling with balance. So, as it happens in life, my gym membership has simply been existing in my credit card with no other apparent presence in my life. I miss it, though. I miss going to the gym and simply following my own routine - not having to talk to anyone unless it is the polite "excuse me" or "thank you." Not having to follow any specific train of thought - merely threading my way from one idea to the next and floating along with every whim. There were times I would actually try to follow a train backwards to figure out how I ended up where I did. A reversed "telephone" game with myself. That can be rather entertaining at times, exasperating at others.

We have exercise equipment at home that Steve uses regularly. But I've tried that route, and unless I'm absent from the house, I will be a mother and wife first, a teacher second, and a human working on health and stress-release third. I cannot run on the treadmill while there is laundry to do, vacuuming, or, heaven forbid, papers to grade and lessons to plan. I can not look past what I "should" be doing to focus on myself. Ergo, the gym membership, which always worked in the past. I do get a workout of sorts, though. I carry Sydney around while I clean - front-loading baby carriers help a lot. And while the weather was nice and I was home on maternity leave, we took walks nearly every day. But not in 2 feet of snow.

The big problem is that I love food. My goodness, I love to eat. I enjoy cooking, as well. It relaxes me - even when I make mistakes. I am a natural foodie. My best friend, Jody, knows that whenever she travels out of town on business, she is not to tell me what she did, what she wore, etc., until after she tells me what and where she ate. I do the same.

My students always share food with me. When they take Intro. to Culinary Arts as a class, they bring me a sample of what they cooked. And I eat it. All. Once I became pregnant, it seemed the food came from all directions. What is it about a woman with a belly that makes everyone bring her food? I didn't complain, mind you! I ate it. All. And sometimes even asked for more! I'm saddened, now, though. Now that I've had my baby, the food isn't coming to me anymore.

I used the fact that I'm nursing as an excuse after Sydney came to continue to eat as much of and anything that I wanted. It's amazing to think that it takes more calories to feed a baby (between 500 and 1500, on average) than it does to develop a baby (only 300 more calories a day). Doctor's orders were to keep the calories up. So, I did. I will still eat whatever I want, but I no longer eat as much as I want. And believe it or not, something about this weather makes me crave the healthier stuff. I still go nuts over carbs, but I yearn for salads, stir-frys, veggies.

I bought Julie and Julia sight unseen. I truly never do this because it never fails, you'll end up with something you wasted $20 on that you don't really like. But I had to try the movie. I enjoyed it. The project interested me a great deal and I thought how novel an idea to cook your way through a cookbook rather than picking out specific recipes to try. After watching the movie, I started reading Julie Powell's blog. It's still up. But I could never go through Julia Child's cookbook. I enjoy French food. I just don't think I could eat a year's worth of it and not keel over. The recipes Julie describes are too decadent to eat on a regular basis. I prefer more the Mediterranean diet. If I were to do such a thing as this, it would have to be Mario Batali or Giada de Laurentiis. Besides, Steve is rather the picky eater. He claims he isn't "as long as you make something I'll eat." But I don't think that counts...

All that being said, I will strive to post my own food experiences on here. Til then.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Another Snow Day

We're in the midst of the 5th major storm in one season here in Virginia. We haven't seen this much snow since my first year teaching public school. It was a blessing then, as I was desperately trying to adapt my collegiate-level lessons to high schoolers as well as figure out the curriculum. It is a blessing now, since I am still/again trying to adapt to new classes I've never taught before and therefore, the time away from school is nice. Plus, it doesn't hurt in the least that Steve now works 4/10's and has "Daddy Friday" with Sydney. I get a three day weekend with my boys! And depending on how this storm leaves us tomorrow, it may be a four day weekend. The only thing I can say regarding school and this storm is that, while it is nice now, it will be regretted come mid-March, when we lose our days off that were built in to the year. Spring is always the longer stretch - it certainly feels so, and I don't know if it is because we suffer from SADD as a society, or if it is a time where stressors culminate into one big headache. Either way, I am reminding myself to enjoy the snow now and reminisce about it later.

Sydney was sitting calmly in my arms this afternoon. A slimy hand knotted around my hair, and the other fist appropriately shoved as far in to his mouth as possible. We're teething. He watched the snow fall out the patio doors. He loves to watch the flakes float softly to the pile of still unmelted snow on our back patio - he takes after his Daddy in that sense - anything water will calm Steve, and apparently the same holds true for Sydney.

So, he's watching the snow, and I made sure to take a few photos. I ruminated about how this would probably be the last time he saw real snow until he was about 5 years old. My first year teaching high school was in 2005. That's the last time I recall getting anything near this amount of snow - or rather, snow days. We have, since then, suffered through La Nina and a rather severe drought before El Nino hit this year, ending the drought and bringing all this glorious white. I grew up in Wisconsin, so this truly is beautiful in my eyes, though I'm glad I haven't had to go out in it at all.

But the extra time off has also afforded me a chance to ponder random thoughts, as well. And Balance is at the forefront. Has been for awhile. Five years ago, it was balancing the change from collegiate academia to the public school system.

Four years ago, I was teaching at two schools within the same system - split every day, teaching 2 classes at one school in the morning and 3 classes at another school that afternoon. Balance with my responsibilities to both schools, both administrative staffs, to both demographics of students. I was also coaching two sports that year. Oiy.

Three years ago, I was teaching a demographic of student I had absolutely no experience with - they could not be handled the way I normally conducted my classes. I had to find balance between my convictions, my intentions, and my battles. But I did finally begin to force myself to take time for - myself. I joined a gym and loved getting out of class and heading over to a date with the elliptical and treadmill.

Last year, new prep, again, and new textbooks to boot. Just as I started to feel comfortable with my lessons, I had to relearn the textbook. Not all that difficult, but I couldn't just coast on what I had developed before. And, not necessarily a bad thing. Just...different. But I held true to the gym dates, and finally began to make progress on a few battles I had with repercussions from some medication I had been taking. Then, we got pregnant.

This year - well, we're undergoing construction, which is difficult to contend with any way, but kind of fun, too - there's always something to watch build up. Or get torn down. Cement mixers fascinated me when I was a kid, and now I have one parked outside one of my classroom's windows. Oh, yes...I have my classes spread out, which I know is also something common and nothing I can't handle. But that doesn't mean it isn't a pain. And I have my son.

Balance. Even if we didn't have construction and I didn't have 4 classrooms, finding balance between me (the school teacher) and me (the wife and mom) has been difficult, to say the least. I find myself wondering what job I might enjoy that makes use of my skills and talents but also doesn't require me to bring my job home with me at night and on the weekends. But then I stop and think of how I have 2 months off of active duty during the summer. I say 'active duty' because I am a glutton for punishment and I will still review all my lessons, files, etc. during the summer to tweak. And I will plan. Goodness gracious I plan. I sift through what I've stolen from others and alter. Yes, I said stolen. The primary goal of a teacher is to touch the lives of his/her students. The secondary goal is to beg, borrow, and steal whatever is useful from other teachers - even in different fields. And I love my family at my high school, because none of us hoard. We throw our plans at each other, excitedly spout off what new and shockingly effective lessons we've encountered that could be changed to suit X, Y, and Z. We're all such English geeks, and I say that with the utmost love and respect for each and every one of them.

But, I digress. 2 months off - with my son. I can't think of anything more glorious. And he'll be just ready to walk, which means he'll be so much fun. I can't wait to have that time, though I am by no means wishing the time away because he's already grown so quickly, and he's our only.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

My Title

"I'm facing a quandary." I say to my supervisor at a previous position I held a few years ago.

"So, turn around, then." he says with a straight face.

Haven't we all faced a quandary, a conundrum, a riddle that we'd like answered at some point? Haven't we all trudged along waiting for the epiphany that will eureka its way into our insight, foresight, or sometimes, sadly, hindsight? Well, knowing that I'm questioning some things in my life at this moment sparked the title. Nothing more than that.

The tag line is also indicative of life, in general. Robert Burns wrote the line in the poem "To a Mouse." It references a farmer or field hand overturning the hay in mid-winter to find a nest that is subsequently destroyed. The mouse planned ahead for the weather, as humans metaphorically try to do, and everything went awry, as things literally do for humans. But knowing that things will always go awry, even when you REALLY want things to go perfectly, I think, gives you room to enjoy and even find the humor in the everything life has to offer. Even if that means, ahem, trying to fix a faucet that, though it doesn't provide hot water, it does not leak, in the middle of a snowstorm on a Friday evening when it is impossible to get a plumber (or your close friend who usually, aside from the storm, is willing to drive out to help) out there for that purpose only to find that the mechanism that won't allow hot water through is now so thoroughly damaged, the faucet won't shut off unless you shut off water to the entire house and therefore, no one can shower, flush toilets, or do the dishes before your 4 house guests arrive the following morning...

One of us was near tears. The other was trying very hard not to giggle. Sydney was a welcome distraction at that point...

But hey - we got it worked out and had two clean showers working by the time our guests got here. The best laid plans can be planned til you're blue in the face. But the laws of entropy will always take over.
Sydney is growing so quickly. He's five months, now, and is learning how much fun jumping in the little door-frame swing can be. Heavens, he's nearly mobile at this point! I have a feeling he'll skip crawling and go straight to walking.

And, as a closing thought, I just want to add that I make a mean soup! We had it last night for dinner - leftovers tonight. Yum! With fresh rolls and a big glass of milk, it really satisfies.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

And I Begin

So, why a blog? I'm sure many of my fellow neophytes out there are asking themselves that same question. And the answer varies for everyone, and I'm sure we all have multiple reasons. I, like my close friend Kathleen, found Facebook to be too difficult to boil down to a few kitschy comments on my life for all to see in an instant. I joined Fb just so my family, who are spread all over, will be able to see my son (5 months last week) grow up. But I do not enjoy Fb - I find it difficult to keep up with all my friends and I've never been exceedingly inclined to sit in front of a computer and do random searches - for friends I haven't found yet as well as the pages already established. Looking up friends, checking out the latest information, adding my two cents in on comments that catch my eye, and yes, reading all those mundane "I have nothing to do but sit here" comments that are posted incessantly is tedious to me. No offense to my friends and family, but I'd rather have a conversation. With you. Over the phone or via email or in person. I'm left feeling hungry after logging on to, and off of, Fb. Ergo, a blog.

But what do I hope to accomplish? Well, this past year has caused me to reflect quite a bit. My wonderful husband and I have had to face a lot of changes, and not just from adding to our family. In fact, Sydney has been the best part of this year. He's like nothing I ever expected and I am so glad he decided to surprise us and become part of our family. No, my reflection stems from dissatisfaction in other areas - career, future, dreams deferred. Steve, too, has had to ponder some things about his life. Now, before anyone reads way too much in to this, I am still as much in love with my husband as the day he accidentally slipped and told me he loved me while sitting in my dorm room waiting for me to finish getting ready so we could go out. He's my life, and I feel home whereever I am as long as I'm with him. This is more two people moving in parallel form towards something intangible that leaves them both asking. What is next? How do we satiate this odd hunger we feel? As my profile states, I had a book. I had three chapters to my novel that I foolishly foolishly foolishly did not back up (because our computer was less than a year old, so what could go wrong? I'll get a pen drive next time I'm out...) and lost. Since then, all my creative energy goes in to teaching. Planning. Grading. Tweaking. Maintaining my feet. In fact, I pondered starting a blog just about the time we found out we were pregnant but put it off. Now, after my friends have started and proved they can keep up with it, I have to think that I can do the same. Thus, the start of this, my attempt to bring some personal creativity back into my life. Welcome, and I hope you enjoy what I have to say.