Saturday, August 28, 2010

It's Been Awhile - Anyone for Catch-up??

So...the new school year is off; the starter pistol didn't have quite the spark it usually does and I feel I've been stuck in my blocks, trying desperately to find a release so I can attempt to catch up with the race. It will be a long race - 9 months to go. But as long as you don't look at the finish line, you can find small, achievable, goals to make, and I have to remember to focus on those.

School started Monday. Wow. The kids are truly wonderful, but I can tell which ones will be a handful already. The good thing is that most of these are athletes, and our school does a wonderful job of utilizing all resources, meaning the coaches help the teachers in ensuring behavior and grades stay in line.

In the middle of finding my feet as an instructor again (and that means forcing myself to sit down and know...GRADE), Sydney has taken steps towards his next developmental milestone. Literally. He's toddling on, taking 2-3 steps at a time on his own. He's also been clapping along with patty-cake, but I honestly don't recall how long that's gone on. As soon as his steps are more consistent, though, I'll snap some photos and perhaps, perhaps, perhaps finally FINALLY load some video.

One thing I've enjoyed, though, is the beginning of an opportunity to discuss literature with my 12 AP students. Already, with summer reading assignments coming in, I've renewed my interest in my "homework" column I have posted on the right. I started Turn of the Screw, which I have at home, and 'borrowed' a school copy of Things Fall Apart. Been awhile since I've read multiple things at the same time, especially for pleasure. I have no intention of teaching these during this year, in particular. Though I may broach Hardy's novella since it is shorter and fits well in to our year's theme. I truly am interested, though, in incorporating Oscar Wilde's The Picture of Dorian Gray - excellent novel, though there are some slower moments in it. The ending is worth it, though.

So, this is our first weekend during the school year, and my goal is to straighten the house, which I'm well on my way, and grade my 12 AP summer reading tests. Tomorrow, Sydney has a photo appointment. His first birthday is coming in just a few weeks, and we thought this would be a nice investment, especially since we have family spread all over who may not be able to attend his party. I hope he naps well so he's in a good mood...

My hope is that as I find my feet, I will return to more contemplative thoughts, especially since my mind's eye naturally returns to more scholastic cogitations during this time. The summer was focused so much on Sydney, primarily since we didn't find out what we were teaching until last week, that I feel it's taking a bit longer for the cogs to turn. I can't let my 12 AP kids think they are smarter than me... :-) Nah, that won't happen!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

WOW! This is Going to be Interesting!

Holy Guacamole! I am astonished by:

  1. The way our school will look after construction is finished. Some parts are really beautiful; for a public school, the entrance is inviting, open, airy. The cafeteria, prior to the inundation of students, is bright, has sound reduction paneling up, and is updated with modern kitchen appliances that one would expect to see in a college dining hall. The changes are truly wonderful. But at the same time,
  2. How BAD it looks now... How are we going to be ready enough for the kids to come back Monday? Cluttered hallways, filthy air with sawdust, paint fumes, and debris in general, and furniture absolutely everywhere. Almost everyone is changing rooms, so the frantic moving of file cabinets, desks, bookshelves, etc. has settled down just in time for all to scramble to get the textbooks they need before Monday. And if it IS ready for the kids (passes inspection for safety reasons, etc.), then the construction workers and custodians deserve a huge bonus, additional vacation hours for later in the year, and a lobster dinner.
  3. How unbelievably unprepared I feel right now. My first year teaching, I was as ready as any brand new teacher can be, physically. I felt unprepared mentally, but I found my feet and pulled through. And years later, I am getting ready for next week with a mental list (and several tangible lists) of things I know I need to do. I feel relatively comfortable that I can easily get syllabi printed off and copied, etc. since I've taught all my preps before. But I feel absolutely lost physically. No, Rafe, I am not whining - simply stating the truth... The facts are that we are all being patient and flexible with the construction. My room was still under construction Monday and Tuesday of this week, and was being cleaned today. I am allowed to go in tomorrow and finally do work in my classroom. I'm hoping it is ready first thing in the morning so I may move my furniture in and unload all my materials. Nonetheless, I've made peace (yes, I have, so shut up) with the fact that my kids will have a fabulous room but few decorations to excite them about the new year. Regardless, I am still curious to see how other changes unfold...

Thursday, August 12, 2010

My Son...the Ham, and Things I Never Thought I'd Do

Sydney has learned what the camera is. I don't think he fully recognizes what it does, but he knows that we love to have him smile when we use it. He now hams it up unbelievably as soon as we point it at him. It really is quite entertaining, since he may be in the middle of fussing and switches it off to smile like he's on the red carpet until the flash goes off. Smart kid. He's going to keep us on our toes, this one.

Also, I was reading a parenting email I received that had a link to a father's "5 Things I Never Thought I'd Do." I thought I would start my own list. This may be updated as I discover new things I never thought I'd do. And heavens - my son is only 10 1/2 months, so I'm sure there will be plenty more. Here goes:

  1. I never thought I would 'finish' eating Sydney's food. I pulled him out of his high chair yesterday and a puff was stuck to his butt. In the process of getting him settled with toys so I could clean up, it stuck to my arm. Puffs are only sticky after they've gotten wet. In my haste, I simply licked my arm to get it off. Maybe I shouldn't admit this...
  2. Use 'Mother's Spit' to clean him. And I tell you - the old wives's tales are real. M.S. really CAN get anything off you. From meconium when they're first born to stubborn, ground in teething biscuits... Powerful stuff that M.S.
  3. Actually stick my nose in the seat of his pants to see if he needs a diaper change. Seriously. Can really be gross if you inhale too deeply...
  4. Shrug off my child chewing on _______ (fill in the blank). Stereotypically, new parents are uber-cautious regarding what their firstborns do/eat/play with/etc. I am probably a little over-protective, but I know I'm not uber protective. Let him chew on the flip flops, the cat toys, the puff that has been under the microwave cart for 2 weeks. Seriously. It keeps him happy and he's exposed to things that he needs to be exposed to. I wouldn't let him do that with things that I know are absolutely disgusting and let's be honest...I will come home, wash my hands, change my clothes and give him a hug and he'll still probably come into contact with worse things that I somehow picked up at school. My kid has a teacher for a mother. We know what that means.
  5. All the previous numbers were posted the day of the blog time-stamp. This is 8/15/2010 - I recollected another instance of something that I never thought I would do, and that is laugh out loud - completely tickled by - the fact that I had a stream of liquid excrement fly through the air and land, and drip, on a wall in the baby's room. It caught me absolutely off-guard. He was only 3 weeks old, so it was by no means intentional. And I guarantee that if anyone over the age of 6 months ever did that in my house, I would be utterly and irresolutely disgusted.

That's all I can think of for now - let me know what you've done you never thought you would do!!

Monday, August 9, 2010

As Promised - More Pics

As promised, here are the most recent pictures taken.
On a side note, I would also like to say that we have successfully 'Ferber'ized Sydney! He had been waking at 4 or so for the past month due to teething. Frankly, with school starting in a week for me, that would not do. It only took 2 actual days of work. Yesterday, he was up (actually UP) at 5:30, and today, it was a glorious 6:15. Yay for Sydney! Here, my precocious son is redecorating the kitchen. He found the paper bag in which we keep the paper recyclables and decided the floor needed to be redone.

Sydney will be 11 months in a week. He's standing up on his own without holding on to anything. We thoroughly believe he'll be walking within a few weeks and he's already been taking a few tentative steps on his own.

My beautiful boy yesterday morning playing with his silkie.

We 'contain' him in his pack 'n play in the morning while we get coffee. He was saying bye to Daddy in this pic.

Sydney was playing 'footsie' with Mommy while eating a snack.

The lighting here was perfect for my All American Baby.

Sydney loves to jump/bounce in time to Daddy running on the treadmill. Here, he cheers Daddy on to finish!

Sydney plays with his popper. He loves this thing and dances to the music it plays!

Saturday, August 7, 2010


Patience - that thing we're told as children to strive for even though it is an abstract concept that no one understands til later. I have a great amount of patience. I never used to, but I blame/credit my younger brother with helping me learn it.

I have copious amounts of patience for children and animals, especially ones who have few means to express to me what they're thinking and feeling. My son, for example, is just starting to learn sign language, which helps tremendously. And by now, Steve and I have learned the majority of his cries and babbles. But prior to this stage, it took a great deal of patience to try, one after the other, methods by which to calm him down. And even in play, he'll yank my hair or get so excited he bangs his head against my _____ (fill in the blank: head, chest, etc.) which can be quite painful. But he's happy, and we're playing, so I can let it go.

In life, I've got patience. I took my GRE's, was told 6-8 weeks for the test results, and didn't even think twice about the scores until it was 6 weeks. That's the thing - if I have a deadline, I can forget about what I'm waiting for. Sometimes I even forget past the deadline, which is a nice surprise when I suddenly get X, Y, or Z.

But go past the deadline and leave me hanging, or don't give me a deadline at all, and I can start to get rather anxious. Such as it may be for this upcoming school year. Now, obviously, there is a deadline. I start back on the 16th, so I would hope I would know what I'm going to encounter (schedule, classes, classroom? etc.) by then. And this is not a complaint, as I know my new administration is doing everything they can to alleviate our (English departments) concerns. It is merely a statement - I've never experienced a shake-up over the summer that causes certain basic information to be so delayed. And though I know I can handle any of the classes - I've taught everything from 9-12, and almost all levels - It is more that I want to KNOW than am worried about what I'm teaching.

Chalk it up to my predisposition to be a glutton for punishment - I have never gone in to anything that would take time or effort without spending quite a bit of time preparing for it, whether that is planning out lessons for school, packing for an extended vacation, etc. And though I appreciate the fact that I've been able to spend more quality time with Sydney, I still feel unsettled.

Either way, I have one week left to enjoy unlimited time with my son, and then I have all the answers I could hope for...probably more than I would like to have, too. Here's to the sun setting on summer, and enjoying the effulgent colors of the clouds.

I hope to download the camera this afternoon. Pics to follow...

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Flight of the Bee

The natural world is fascinating.

I was driving Sydney to the babysitter yesterday when I came to a stop at a light. Lost in my own thoughts and bee-bopping to music on the radio, I noticed a honeybee land on my windshield and walk around, staying near the inspection sticker. I turned away to look at the lights (I was first in line), looked back, and assumed it had flown away.

Five minutes on to the interstate, I noticed it walking around again, desperately trying to hold on to the windshield. I cannot explain my thought process, but I can say that I automatically started to slow down a bit - even 3 miles an hour, I thought, would help it hold on so it wouldn't be hurt. I even contemplated pulling over early so it could fly away.

Let me preface the remainder of the story by explaining that in our area, the plight of the honeybee has been a hot topic lately. I think this may even be a national issue, but at least in this area, the honeybees have been disappearing. The bees are necessary for cross-pollination, honey production, etc. Needless to say, this knowledge certainly stayed on my mind as I watched the bee.

So, we're driving along. I'm trying to be "gentle" when changing lanes; I'm driving a few miles per hour slower than I normally do, and I am glancing at the bee in line with all my mirrors: rear view, road, side view, road, bee, rear view, road, side view, road, bee. It becomes a cadence with which I try to determine the health and safety of the honey bee on my windshield.

The bee, so intelligently, changed positions. It initially was facing my driver side mirror, body aligned horizontally with the car. After a few minutes, it turned, face towards the hood of my car and body pointed up the windshield towards the roof. By doing this, it became more aerodynamic and the threat of its wings being torn off by the force of the breeze reduced or eliminated. It remained in this position until I reached my destination.

Amazing watching this. As soon as I arrived at the sitter's, I obtained a long blade of grass, coerced it to climb on, and laid it safely in the grass. It wasn't there when I returned from taking Sydney inside. I know how smart bees are. I did a report on their dances when I was in middle school. But even knowing this information about them, I wonder at how well this one will find his way home. Regardless, I learned more about the honeybee yesterday, and I just wish Sydney were old enough (for this moment) to understand a discussion on it. Soon enough, though, we'll be examining the natural world together.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Thoughts on Nursing and Socializing, Two Birthdays, and A New Era

Breastfeeding my son is one of the best things I can possibly do for him...ever. There are so many benefits, for us both, that it is sometimes hard for me to fathom those who CHOOSE not to breastfeed. But everyone is different, has reasons for what they do, and this is not about judging you for your decisions. This blog is about the sleeper shock that I never would have considered regarding nursing until I experienced it.

Allow me to digress briefly to apologize for my extended absence from the blog. Last week, I was commuting, taking my son out of my way to the sitter so I could then turn around, go in the exact opposite direction, and way beyond, to a conference an hour away. I had the option to stay at a hotel, but since I am still nursing, I thought it would be better to commute. Ergo, I really was too pressed for time to post any entries.

But along that line, my topic for today's entry came up. Benefits of nursing we're aware of... weight loss for Mommy, bonding between Mommy and newborn, digestive consistency for baby, antibodies for every infection (viral - i.e., colds, flu, etc.) Mommy has ever had, saving money rather than buying formula... There are many more, but suffice it to say, the public is well aware of these as a whole. Drawbacks to nursing we are aware of, as well: needing to find privacy (at least until you are more adept at baring the nipple for the baby), depending on your comfort level, having to pump and/or schedule every feeding and pumping session around everything, EVERYthing you do, making sure the milk follows set storage guidelines, etc. But there's one more that doesn't come to light, that I never thought of until I experienced it, and that is the Social Absence.

The first time I really experienced the S.A., I was at a relative's house for dinner. Steve helped me get settled in a bedroom so I could nurse Sydney while everyone else was waiting for dinner to be completed. He left to give us quiet so Syd would relax and nurse, and by the time he was done nursing, dinner was not only finished, it was eaten. I had one lonely, limp piece of pizza left to me because everyone had forgotten that I wasn't joining in.

The next time the S.A. reared its head was after I went back to work. I had to pump during the day. As a teacher, there are not many opportunities to do so. I used my lunch, as well as a portion of my planning period, which altered depending on the day of the month (we have block scheduling). Other than taking my planning and breaking it up, making it harder to get anything done at school, it wasn't as big a deal fitting it all in. What was frustrating was that I lost all opportunities to converse with my colleagues. I'm not referring to talking about students, or planning out lessons, just the mere connection with other adult humans. I would manage to get time to talk with someone and feel completely out of the loop because I had missed out on many day-to-day conversations.

Most recently, the S.A. was felt when I was attending the AP conference last week. I needed to obtain a private, easily-accessible place to pump while I was away. My fantabulous instructor, Dr. Betty Moss, overheard the conversation with the front desk. She had an extra room key made up for me so I could use her room as needed. It made for a much more convenient experience. Thank you so much, Betty! I cannot possibly express how deeply I appreciate your trust, hospitality, and understanding since I was tardy a few times coming back from lunch or break.

The S.A. was noticed when I would leave to pump at lunch, come downstairs to get my lunch, and find that all the seats were taken and the food nearly gone. Food, eh - the Hilton did a wonderful job of keeping everything replenished and I would just have to wait a little for them to bring more out. The seats, however, were another issue. I would have the choice of either going and sitting by myself in the conference room until others finished eating and came in, or I could dawdle long enough for a seat to open in the dining area to join others, just to have them finish and have to get back to their individual sessions, leaving me alone at the table.

It is all something you get accustomed to, but every once in a while, it gets a little lonely. I'd do it again in a heartbeat, though. Anything for my special little guy!

This week was exciting. Both my best friend and I (sorry BFF!!) had our birthdays. Jody and I turned 34, and to celebrate, we went to Carlos yesterday. YUMMERS! Now, my faithful readers know how much I enjoy food! So you can imagine Jody and me contemplating what we were going to order, tasting each others' dishes, and comparing notes. Excellent all around, and our 'boys' had a good time, too. Happy 34th, honey! Love ya so much!

That being said, on my actual birthday, I kept Steve and a former co-worker of his company at the TNA Wrestling match. That was interesting - a completely unexplored sub-culture awaited me as I entered the door, inserting ear plugs as I walked to our front row seats. WOW! I won't watch the stuff on tv, but sit in the front row, have a beer, and the show is quite entertaining. I will go so far as to say that the actors are athletes. Some of the acrobatics taking place were quite impressive. But foremost, they are actors who take their craft seriously. We had a good time.

It's August. This summer passed much more quickly than summer has ever passed before for me. I can only assume it is the 'Parent Vortex of Time' (say it with a booming voice - makes more of an impact). Yes, tempus fugit. But become a parent and the lack of sleep as well as milestones and exponential growth of your child somehow seem to speed time up. Hermes lent us his shoes. School begins, for me, in two weeks, and I/we have no idea what we're about to encounter.

For that reason, I am excited. I don't think I've anticipated the new school year this much in quite some time. I am anxious to see what classes I have (still don't know, definitively), where I'll be (my trailer is supposedly gone...we'll see...), or what the dynamics will be. For the first time since I started teaching in the public schools, we will have a completely new environment. Physically, the place is nowhere near the same. Construction poses many questions and elicits many reactions. Mentally, our department has shifted several times over and will by no means have the same chemical makeup. Also, our administration has taken quite a few steps towards change and we don't know what kind of school we will be in regards to policy, discipline, intrapersonal relationships and support. Altogether, an interesting mix. I plan on taking things one at a time and watching. Observation will be key this year. Oh, and I think I have a good chance of being in one room, which means I get to take my toys out of storage! Yay!

Last, excitement for the new year, my birthday, and my relief to be at home again aside, I have to tell you what I made for dinner. It was scrumptious! A very easy, healthy salad thrown together - I plan on making this for lunches this year to keep me full...

Tuna Avocado Salad
1 can of tuna (in water), drained
1 bell pepper (or, 1/2 of two - I did red and yellow halves), diced
a handful of kalamata olives, cut into fourths
depending on your tastes, 1/2 to 1 whole avocado, diced
olive oil
lemon juice (necessary to have the acid)
sea salt

Toss together and season to taste! I want to add some basil, but I didn't have any fresh today. Also, I think that for lunches, I'll add some brown rice or quinoa to help me stay full. But the creaminess of the avocado and the crunch of the pepper mixed with the saltiness of the olives and the lemon - YUM! Very healthy, very quick, and so easy. Try it and let me know what you think! You've got to love what happens when you start poking around your cupboards...