Friday, December 31, 2010

New Thoughts for the Year

I was perusing a 'Mommy Mag' and saw a statement from the editor - she was expounding on the guilt most of us feel when we set, and fail, at resolutions for the new year. She made some very valid points - why would we resolve to get into shape, lose x number of pounds, etc., when we can barely drag ourselves out of comfy, warmed-through beds in the pitch black to get the day started? She went on about how we should all, male and female alike, cut ourselves some slack and try for resolutions in a few months, when Spring beckons.

I agree, to an extent. But I make resolutions on January 1st regardless. Yes, it is difficult to do it this time of year. But as a teacher, I find the end of the first semester to be a 'sweet spot.' I know my students now. I didn't in August. I know, more so, what I'm dealing with at school. I didn't in August. I have an opportunity to redeem myself where I've had shortcomings with the same students, the same material that I've been using the first half of the school year. The new year marks the very end of the first half of the school year, and I have a second semester to make amends with students who I haven't paid enough attention to, with duties I've half-heartedly accomplished - if only because the first half of the year I was trying to 'find my feet.' I know I'm a good teacher, but I always strive to be a better teacher. And I know - I KNOW - I have failings - every year, but especially this year. I feel as out of place this year as I did my first year teaching. A rather disconcerting feeling to say the least.

In addition to this 'sweet spot' in my occupation, there is the sense of calm that comes from spending time away from school. I allowed myself the majority of this winter break to forget about school. I spent one day grading. One day. Believe me, I needed more, but I also needed the break, the time to spend with my son, to go back to being a full-time wife, daughter, sister, friend. I managed to put my hats in order, and I will attempt to keep them in order, and prioritized.

So, this pause in my life marks another opportunity to take stock of where I stand and what changes I should make in the new year. Yet another reason I begin January 1st. I am lucky in that I didn't have to work the past two weeks, unlike my husband and many people I know. I have this period of time to set my goals in order and pursue them.

I find, too, that writing down my goals help me make them more permanent. The years I don't physically see them, they don't usually come to fruition. I try to be reasonable. I'm human. But I try to truly put them into effect, too. As long as I know I've put forth effort, I feel at peace with myself, and that, ultimately, is the most important goal.

Thus, I wish everyone a Happy New Year, and I wish everyone peace in 2011 - peace with yourself, whether you decide to pursue resolutions and changes or not, that you know who you are and are content with that person. Peace with the past - we all have regrets, decisions we'd alter, if given the chance - let them go and live your life. Peace going into the future - that you see your path, regardless of forks in the road, and feel the confidence and grace to follow your bliss. Happy 2011!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

As Promised...

Sydney steps outside for the first time on his own, into snow.

He looks like he should be in The Fiddler on the Roof in this outfit! But he was warm!

Playing over winter break!

Syd plays with his reflection in the dish washer.

Christmas morning, we awaken to snow! Here, he's pointing out the neighbor's inflatable snowman, soon to be his favorite item outside.
Daddy and Syd on Christmas morning.

Mommy and Syd on Christmas morning.

My personal favorite - Syd was wandering around the house, found his hat, which he used to despise, and wanted to put it on. As soon as I did, he broke out in this grin.

Mommy and Syd were playing with Crayons. Syd decided he wanted to taste them.

Syd played football in the snow, though he doesn't like touching the snow. Kinda difficult to play football...

My little Snickerdoodle one morning this week - he was trying to get Leia's attention. She didn't want his attention...at all...

Just another shot of these adorable jeans...

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Thoughts on the Holiday and Parenting

Quite a few years ago, I made the comment that a parent cannot possibly, and probably should not, get everything his or her child wants for Christmas or birthdays. A friend looked at me in absolute horror and said that, when parenting, you want to get your children everything they want, just to see them smile and be happy.

Now that I am a parent, I understand the statement. I want Sydney to be happy. Nothing makes me feel better than to hear him giggle, to see him totter over to me to give me a hug or a kiss, to hear his excited voice as he calls out "Mama!" or "Dah-dee!" But, in a sense, I still hold true to my original statement.

My reasoning for this is simple. Christmas and birthdays are not about presents. One should not send out copious invitations to graduation, just to see how much money or how many gifts one can receive. Life is not about what others can buy you. Humans have allowed greed to take over their lives, and it shows in society, as a whole.

I am pretty proud of myself this holiday season. Steve and I were very responsible and did not allow the season to get out of hand, as so often happens. We restricted ourselves with the gifts we purchased each other. And since Syd is only 15 months old, we were conscientious of how much we spent on him. In essence, we bought him things we knew he needed - a few clothes and only the toys that brought him to his next step of development. It is so easy to walk down the aisles of the stores and think "Oh! He'd love that!" and go wild. But we didn't.

The same friend who looked at me, appalled with my statement, is now beginning to rethink her response. Her child is responding the way someone who has received everything he wants will - "Is this all I get?" I cannot fathom how that parent must feel to hear her child say this. And if this cycle continues, this child will pass this down to his children, as well. I know there will be days when I wonder if I'm going overboard with Sydney. But I desperately want to make sure he grows up without that entitlement, and cherishing family and friends over material objects. I've taught those entitled kids, and they are never satisfied with their grades, and it is never their fault that they didn't do well. I don't want to see Syd act like that. Ever.

So take a moment and reflect on the season, and on life as a whole. Consider what you're teaching your family, and if it is the path you want to continue down. Do not look to today to see if your choice is correct. Look to tomorrow. Consider the etchings in the clay you are molding that will become hardened and permanent over time.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Syd Update

Monday was Sydney's 15 month check up. He is doing very well, though is still on the small side. I, personally, thought he was huge (except for his weight - he could easily have gone down a diaper size after his bout with the stomach flu over Thanksgiving), but apparently, that is just in my mind since I see him every day.

Syd is hitting every milestone he should - he's even reaching some that are not expected for a 15 month old. But the point is, he's healthy and happy, and busily eating blueberry waffles as we speak.

I love this little guy so much. I understand, now, when parents of kids told Steve and me how much fun it is to have a little one. But this is simply something one cannot fathom, regardless of nieces, nephews, or siblings, until one experiences it for oneself with one's OWN child. I know I've tried to pass the feeling on to friends who are still childless, but I feel like I talk in circles. Until you experience it, there is no explaining it.

So, we're winding down the clock until the first Christmas he can really interact with. Other than a few attempts to yank the lights off the tree, he's been very good, considering decorations, etc. He has been transfixed with the snow, pointing it out everywhere, even on my clothes and on the ornaments. And his new favorite word is "mau" - long, drawn out, and whenever he sees a cat. So, it's more like "maaaaauuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuu."

Happy Holidays, everyone. I'll post pics next week.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

My Battles with Sleep and HOs, and Snow Break #1 of 2010-2011

So...no idea what possessed my son on Wednesday night, but we were not interested in sleeping. Syd woke up at 1 and didn't go back down, not really, until after 3. Along with a few other interruptions, I legitimately got 2 hours of sleep. I am so glad Mother Nature pulled through and gave me a snow day.

And wonder of wonders! It has turned in to an early dismissal for the holidays! We're out again, today. Good thing, too, since the city hasn't even plowed my road, yet.

In good news, I've made some serious strides on getting rid of my baby weight. I made my first weight goal shortly after Thanksgiving. I'm hoping to make my second weight goal by spring break. We'll see how that goes.
While I can't help but think that not all the weight is falling off due to healthy methods (Stress. Oiy.), I truly believe that my attempts to remove hydrogenated oils from our diet is significantly impacting my health and weight in a positive light. I first mentioned my intention to minimize the use of these additives in October. Since then, I've gone a little crazy. I'll admit it. I've also run in to some road bumps.
I've heard, numerous times, that the best place to be in a grocery store is the perimeter of the store. The perimeter houses the fresh veggies, the fresh meats and fish, and the dairy section. The center of the store does have some good items. But it also holds the processed foods that are, albeit yummy, not very good for you. I still travel through the store the same way - I always start with fresh veggies so I can make sure I pack my cart in a way that doesn't damage any of them. I then travel up and down the rows of the store, sometimes moving rather quickly, sometimes taking my time depending on what I need. But I've increasingly found that even small, mid-week trips are taking more time, and I think it is because I'm checking everything out. You would truly be surprised what items contain hydrogenated oils.
Steve thinks I'm taking this too far. I don't think I've gone too far, yet, but I do know I need to keep it in check. I make all baked goods from scratch, now. I tried to make my own creamer, since the type and flavor we like the best (and that doesn't use artificial sweeteners - blech!) contains HOs. That fell flat. I forgot how sensitive I can be sometimes to liquid dairy. I'll use up the rest of my creation (low fat half and half, sugar, vanilla bean heated up on the stove and then chilled quickly and stored in the fridge), but then I think I have to give in on my creamer. I've also discovered that our peanut butter has HOs in it. Now, we had a horrible time finding a peanut butter that we liked after Peter Pan was recalled for salmonella, several years ago. They finally started restocking the shelves after a year. I don't think I can ask Steve to go to a different brand.
Why the panic? Hydrogenated oils are fats that are altered - hydrogen gas is forced in to the fat molecules to make them more stable - essentially, they are used to improve the shelf life of food. Think about it - are humans intended to eat something that sits on a shelf for who-knows how long? No. HOs are beneficial only to the food companies that make a buck from us. They have adverse health effects for humans - diabetes, coronary artery disease, infertility, etc. Why would I feed this to my son? Why would I put my life and my husband's in danger?
Like everyone else, I am, still, subject to the whims of life. I will continue to buy our peanut butter. I purchased another brand to try, but we'll see. I will resort to the creamer, but only because I truly need something I can just 'dump and go' with in the morning. But I will not make concessions in other areas that I can control. And I will not question myself when I am out to dinner or eating out in other areas. I cannot possibly monitor every single bite I eat. Not without winning the lottery and retiring and being wealthy enough to buy everything fresh, hire a chef, etc. The things I can control, I will, and the rest will fall under the "in moderation" category. Here's to trying to do the best I can for my family with what I've got.
Ok - enough with the HOs. I've been thankful to have the snow days the past two days. I've gotten a lot of my holiday baking finished, managed to clean the house, somewhat, and mapped out a plan, of sorts, for winter break. We'll see how closely I am able to follow that. But in the meantime, I've got Snickerdoodle. He was so much fun today! We made his first fort out of the blanket my Grandmother made for me - I was about 10 when she made it, and the couch and bench.


See him peaking around the corner? He loved it!



Syd plays 'peek-a-boo' through the fort!


I really don't know what this was about. I can't remember. But he looks so happy I had to put it in my blog.


Oh, and this is just for Dawn!! You asked about my recipe for the Pumpkin Creme Brulee - the misconception about creme brulee is that it is difficult to make. It's not - it is a custard. The excitement comes from the brulee - if you do not have a torch, I've seen the ramekins put into the oven and broiled so the sugar hardens. Let me know how it turns out!!

Pumpkin Creme Brulee

1/4 cup of pumpkin

1/4 cup of sour cream

3 egg yolks

1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/8 teaspoon allspice

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

generous pinch of nutmeg (fresh ground, if possible)

pinch of salt

1/2 cup of heavy cream

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Combine all the ingredients, except the heavy cream, using a whisk. Set aside. Put the heavy cream in a small saucepan and stir while heating - just to the point of boiling. Whisk the cream into the pumpkin mixture in small amounts to temper the egg, until you mix in the entire amount.

Pour the mixture into 4 ramekins, which are placed in a cake pan. Add a hot water bath (approximately 1/2 to 1 inch. Place in oven at or slightly below the middle rack and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until the centers are softly set - not liquid-y. Cool the ramekins in the water bath until they are cool enough to handle. Cover and refrigerate from 1 hr to 2 days before using.

To make the brulee - I spoon a tablespoon of granulated sugar on top and then tap the sugar around, almost as if you are flouring a greased pan, to coat the entire top. Use a torch just until bubbling and browning, or try to oven broiler.

For anyone who tries this, let me know how it turns out!!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Compassion

Mary Warren says "We must all love each other now" as she hands over a hand-made poppet to Elizabeth Proctor, shortly before Elizabeth is taken in to custody for suspected witchery in Arthur Miller's The Crucible. Mary was an official of the court (basically, served jury and witness duty) and was frightened by the revelations in the small town of Salem, Massachusetts. She made the poppet in an attempt to, not only pass the time in court, but also to make peace with her employer.

It is a golden lesson that needs to be reinforced daily, whether it be the 1690s, the 1950s, or the early 2000s. We must all love each other. Now. Compassion is, at times, a scarce commodity in our society. It is truly horrifying to contemplate the number of people who decide that their id is more important than their ego or superego. They want to give in to their impulses, to satisfy urges that should not be given in to lightly when the community, as a whole, is taken in to consideration.

We recently had an Amber Alert in our community. The young girl, age 12, was missing for nearly a week after her mother was found murdered. She's been found, but at what cost? She is now orphaned, her world is turned upside down, and communities spend heaven knows how much money searching for her. All because the man who took her gave in to his id.

About a month ago, our school held a presentation for Rachel's Challenge. It was truly a beautiful presentation not only because it helped the memory of this brave young lady carry on, but because it also touched many of the kids in our school. Several students from the class I accompanied to the auditorium broke down in tears. Many in the school did due to circumstances in their own lives, but a few because they saw, in themselves, that which needed to be changed to make the community a better place to live. We can only wait and see how long the change will last, but it was a nice awakening for the students, regardless of how short-lived it may be.

Certainly not lastly, as many changes need to be made in our communities, our nation, our world, but to close this entry out, compassion is needed in my own life. Someone I am very close to is suffering from a terminal illness. This is a huge adjustment for our family as we try to fathom the changes that are taking place within this person's mind. It is difficult to put aside our preconceived idea of what behavior should occur on a daily basis and to accept that certain common sense activities and behaviors are no longer present. It is an exercise in compassion on my part to acquiesce to not having things go the way I want them to, and allowing a little more chaos in to my life. I cannot control everything. I've done a good job allowing the controlling to subside some since having a child - but I need to move aside more.

For the sake of my family and this person, I am striving, every day, to let go, to enjoy the time we have with this person, and to ensure that Sydney is able to make some mem0ries that he will, hopefully, retain into his later childhood. But it is unfortunate that not everyone in the family is responding this way. Compassion is needed for this person, as the disease has taken over the mind. I pity the members who do not realize what gifts this person brought to us over the years, and worry that they may regret not being more compassionate in years to come.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

To Sum Up...

Ah... November. I will look back on this month in future years and wonder...

WHY ME?

Ok, a little overly melodramatic.

Suffice it to say that November came, November saw, November conquered.

I had a laundry list of things I wanted to accomplish during the month of November. If you recall my previous post, I had a list of 5 different things I would be working on / towards during the month, plus a few added points of interest. Here is a summary of the results:
  1. My classes - still going strong, still plugging along. My seniors say I'm too hard for AP, which I take as a good sign, even though I don't feel I'm pushing them enough. My juniors say I'm too hard for CB. Good. I'm trying to prepare them for their SATs, the SOLs, and college. My freshmen decided that, as a whole, they did not like reading the full The Odyssey. I haven't been told I'm too hard, but I do know I'm pushing them. I've somehow kept up with all the assessments, hoops, and requirements. Let's hope I'm able to continue.
  2. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - um...didn't happen. Besides, I figured that, rather than doing as I did in the past, rereading the book before the movie then being disappointed by the movie, I would, instead, view this movie as a movie. I know it was part I, but Steve and I were still disappointed by it - he thought it moved too slowly. And as cinematic effect, I understand the theory behind the shaky-camera, but that only succeeds in making me nauseated. I hope the last edition of the HP series is more stable. Movie did better in catching up some important points, but I will now have to truly reread the book to determine how good of a job it did...
  3. CPR certification. I am a card-carrying life saver. Or so, I hope to be if I ever need to use it, and I hope I NEVER need to use it. My training included infant and child. I have to renew in 2 years, but for now, I am, hopefully, capable of successfully assisting anyone who may be in need until professional help can arrive.
  4. Three Cups of Tea...hmm...well, I had some extenuating circumstances develop. I, unfortunately, had to contact my discussion leader and inform her that it just wasn't going to happen. I knew I was being ambitious, but I had hoped...
  5. NaNoWriMo - I learned a lot from this venture. I am very proud of what I accomplished, little as it may be, and I am quite excited to try again. I understand now, the writing process when it comes to novels - before, I would read through and edit what I had written. Write. Then edit. It's no wonder I only got 3 chapters done. This time, I didn't worry about chapters. I didn't edit. I didn't even reread what I had already written, save the most recent paragraph so I knew where to pick up from. I would give myself an A for effort. I made it just shy of the word count for my freshmen, which was 17,000. I wrote 26 pages of single-spaced prose. I had so much fun doing it, and the kicker was that a lot of it wrote itself. My fingers were merely the vehicle for discovering my story. I have a LOT to work on - I still don't know the major conflict; I have only 3 characters; I truly don't know where it is going. But I have a fascinating start that, if nothing else, intrigues ME, and I have a desire to finish it. I think, though, that all things considered, November is one of the worst possible months for this program or challenge.
November houses the true kickoff to the holiday season. November embodies the kickoff to the 'ill' season. I was side-lined several times over, and not just by my own ambition.
  • The month started well - I only got off target by a small margin with my novel. However, it was compounded by my desire to be certified in CPR. I took a weekend break from writing to finish my class, and then had my skills test.
  • After my CPR break, I was determined to not fall any further behind and did quite well for a few days. Then, Sydney got the stomach flu. Good golly - the vomitous erruptions were actually quite impressive and did, in fact, strike awe in Steve and myself
  • I had family come in for Thanksgiving, which means I was doing more cleaning (especially since I didn't want them to catch the flu), shopping, cooking, etc., which impeded my work on my novel. I knew it was coming, though, so I was trying to keep up and work ahead (hahahah!).
  • Family caught the stomach flu. I truly don't think they caught it from Sydney, though I don't know the actual incubation period for this virus. However, there was isolation, cleaning, and entertaining of the healthy ones to work around. Oh, and I had more family come in for the day after Thanksgiving, which meant, too, more cooking.

Ultimately, I gave up. I changed my goal from the 50,000 I was supposed to accomplish, since I'm older than 17, to half of that, to the 17,000 my students had. I didn't make any of those. Sigh.

But, I had a wonderful time visiting with my family, albeit the illness, and Sydney is flourishing again. He also has his 6th tooth. FINALLY! And, last, I will close this with a slew of pictures taken from the month of November so Reed can see how much Syd has changed. Hugs to everyone!


Syd LOVES being tossed in the air.

Syd and his Great-Grandfather, Charles. Handsome pair, here.

How do you entertain 3 tweens? Grab some old eye-liner, draw faces on your chin, hang upside down, and tell jokes! This particular specimen is Megan.

Here we have Morgan. I attempted to do a Cleopatra-ish eye...

Youngest is Maci, who had lovely lashes!

This villainous face would be my sister, Shelly.

The girls had a lot of fun coming up with the facial features on my own chin. I think I'm a mix between a pig, Cindy Crawford, and Betty Boop.

Mommy, Daddy, Sydney getting ready for the Drumstick Dash. I didn't get a group photo on my camera, so you'll have to wait for Shelly to send them to me for me to post.

Here, we're all dressed in aprons and preparing Thanksgiving Dinner! From left to right: Morgan, Maci, Megan, Shelly, Me, and Syd.

Syd was still recovering from his stomach flu. The only thing I could get him to eat that day was my pumpkin creme brule, which I made instead of pumpkin pie. This picture also documents the first time he fed himself with a utensil! I loaded the spoon, layed it down on his tray, and he would feed himself, which is why there is so much custard on his face. Gotta love it!

Last, Sydney is helping Mommy by pushing the laundry basket to the stairs. He's such a big help!