Saturday, December 31, 2011

Holiday Pics

It's been a wonderful, rejuvenating two weeks off with my baby boy, who, by the way, is no longer a baby. Today, he officially put his own shirt completely on without assistance from me. Rather bittersweet, but Mommy is very happy and proud of her little boy.

That being said, I've got a handful of pics from the holidays. I hope you enjoy!

Syd and his 'yi-yi' - we have no idea where he came up with the name for his silkie, but here it is. He loves to put it behind his head while he eats. I think he was watching Abby from Sesame Street here. He's just a little obsessed with her at the moment.

A Christmas box! He decided to help Mommy break it down for recycling by playing with... er... in it!

Daddy and Sydney enjoy "Daddy's tookies" after work, one day. Like Father, like son.


Syd was in the holiday spirit as he colored one afternoon.


Mommy and Syd Christmas morning.


Syd is dressed for family visiting Christmas Day. Like his new green shoes? He kept asking for green shoes, but this is all we could find this time of year in his (EXTRA WIDE) size.


I just like the way this one turned out. Playing so nicely, and quietly.


Santa brought him the train table (Thank you, Christie!). Mommy and Daddy bought him the Dinosaur Train. He loves them both, but was obsessed here with watching the Dinosaur Train go round and round and round.


Still watching...


Aaaaaaaand, Scene!



A very Merry Holiday season to all, and to all, a Happy New Year with 2012!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Juuuuust a Tad Terrifying...

Steve saw the follow-up story to this original on the Today Show. I can't fathom doing something like this, but I guess that's why I still owe student loans in my own name...

(Hmm...I actually had the video embedded here, but every time I try to test it, it shows a more recent clip on an unrelated topic. Methinks they recycled the embedding code? Regardless, check out the link to the show. It's frightening what some people will do to get what they want.)


The problem I found is that since Syd is a minor, not even a teen, yet, the credit companies will not let you request a report via the internet. If you look further down the page with the link, though, you'll see steps you can take to check your child's credit as well as steps to take if your child's identity has been stolen. Trans Union, according to the Today Show, is the most parent-user friendly. Happy searching, everyone, and I hope we all obtain the results we want - nothing.

Friday, December 23, 2011

The Darkest Evening of the Year

"As the wheel of days turns into darkness, it reveals the light and hope of spring."

- Loreena McKennitt

I don't know if it is because of the time of year, what with the new year coming, or if it is the absolute and sudden pause in what I previously thought was important to return to what is truly important (family and home, since that is where I find my quickening when the hectic day at work is done), but I find myself increasingly contemplative this time each year.

The shortest day of the year was yesterday. And it felt even shorter than it was due to the leaden skies that broke only briefly, allowing the sun to peer down at us before a torrent of rain hit. And last night was the longest night of the year, and it felt as such. But the new day dawned, and though there is still a heavy layer of clouds, they are more broken up. Syd is feeling better, I still have a full week of relaxation remaining, and the shortest day is beginning to lengthen.

I had quite the mental list of things I wanted to accomplish during the two weeks I am off from school. As of now, one full week in to my break, nearly nothing on that list is done. The thing is, very little of my list was school related. I find, though, that I am so much less concerned with what I had planned to accomplish. Instead, I'm finding myself entirely successful in other ways - things that weren't on my list that I had forgotten about, things that took precedence from my original plans, things that are simply more FUN, like coloring with Syd and baking, and cooking, and wrapping (and unwrapping) presents, and watching cute holiday themed shows, and the list goes on.

My priorities have shifted. I can't help but think that that is the most important gift I have given myself - I've allowed myself to let go of worries and embrace the spirit of this time of year. Rather than sitting down with a list of goals for the new year, I would rather continue with this mindset and enjoy my time here. Syd will be this age only once. My family will be right HERE only once.

The woods are lovely. They are dark and they are deep. I pray I will be able to retain this mindset, since I have miles to go before I sleep. My idea of what I need to accomplish has shifted. My promises have shifted. Promises to myself; to my family; to my friends and to my students. I would like to think in that order. Miles of promises to keep. Now, if it would only just snow...

Monday, December 12, 2011

It's Wonderful

I'm packing up my car with a load to take to school tomorrow - some school related, most not...

Sydney is watching as he finished his spaghetti.

"It's Christmas!"

"Yes, baby. It is!"

"Bite? Bite of Christmas?"

Doesn't that say it all?

Sunday, December 11, 2011

December 11, and This Says it All...

Think Santa argues over semantics?


And who can possibly deny the appeal of the pre-"First Christmas I will probably remember" maniacal grin?


Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Memories



So, last week I allowed myself to be a little more laissez faire when we were going for our nightly "walk inna weeds." It was raining lightly, but, like tonight, it was almost a balmy rain. A driveway down the block from ours does not drain well, or as Steve says, at all. A beautiful, 6+ inch deep puddle formed at the bottom of the driveway. Syd started splashing.

Daddy wasn't thrilled with this, and wanted to know why I didn't freak out. It was a warm night. He had his winter coat on, and we were running the gas tank on fumes to ensure a quick bed time. Syd still takes a nightly bath, so I honestly didn't see the point in fussing over him, in fighting over whether or not we bypassed the puddle, or worrying about laundry, since we had another pair of shoes he could wear until those dried out. Besides, he's growing out of his shoes so quickly (width, not length. THAT's going to be fun soon... Just jumped another shoe size in width, yet he still has nearly an inch of toe room...) it didn't matter if he 'ruined' them.

He was having so much fun. If only that driveway were twenty feet further down the road, we would have been under a street lamp and able to get some footage. The woman who lives in the house came outside to smoke a cigarette. She was quite entertained just watching him jump, run, splash, shriek in laughter, fall on his face (ugh!) and get up ready to jump again.

It tickled me so much just to watch him do this. I wish I wish I wish I had this on tape. Maybe we can capture it again before the sun goes to bed... But it made me think -

One of my absolute favorite holiday memories was when I was... 9? Ish? Grandma made each of us our own blanket - mine still sits on my living room couch - white with pink flowers and blue butterflies. We had spent the weekend making our slew of Christmas cookies - peanut bars (cake coated in frosting and rolled in crushed peanuts. Oh, yum.), toffee bars, Butterfingers (Mexican Wedding cookies), popcorn balls, and those little sugar cookies made from the cookie press - shapes of stars, and diamonds, and all decorated with colored sugar. Yummers...

Anyway - Mom told us all to go get changed in to our pajamas. We came downstairs to find our blankets spread out in the living room. She had trays full of the cookies and bowls full of popcorn. And that was our dinner. We ate Christmas cookies and sat around, wrapped in our blankets and watching Rudolf and Frosty and The Grinch. This was back when that was pretty much all they had - no Shrek, or Elf on the Shelf, or Virginia. And I don't quite recall what we did after - probably went to bed, but I do know that I was so shocked that I got sugar for dinner. And we had so much fun. It was a wonderful time of family and togetherness and throwing the 'rules' to the wind. What's childhood without some of that every once in a while? Isn't that one reason why we want to return to the "Land of Innocence?"

What is your favorite holiday memory? What one time really sticks out in your mind? Share. I'd love to hear from you. And if you're all having issues with commenting on others' blogs like I am (I SWEAR I'm not ignoring you...Just don't know what the issue is.) then send me a text or an email. I'd love to hear your stories.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Magic. And Toddler Talk

This is truly a magical time of year. We put up our tree today. We decided, last year, when Syd was beginning to really get around, that we'd better go fake for a few years. The nice thing about that is the tree gets to stay up just a little longer than normal. So, we, Syd and I, put the tree together this year, and he assisted Mommy with making sure every light bulb worked as well as with hanging the garland and the (cheap) bell ornaments that he loved loved loved shaking to hear them ring.

That's all he got to do. Then, it was bath and bed. But Mommy got to finish, and when he wakes up tomorrow, he'll have a preliminary Christmas morning.

Daddy missed most of this. But Grandad is doing quite well after surgery. And the tree is beautiful, though a little lopsided (cheap bells on the bottom, Lenox "Baby's 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Christmas" at the top...). And our fireplace heater adds just the right ambiance to the room. All that is missing is the snow, hot cocoa, and wide variety of holiday music.

Add - the deer. Steve got home from the hospital and was pulling pack mule duty to clean up the boxes. He went out to the car to retrieve something and called to me. "Hurry! But be quiet!" There were two does, beautiful, majestic creatures, walking down the middle of our road. Seriously, all we were missing was the snow. And I do not live in the rural part of the city. Magical.

And now, the fun part...

Mommy was finishing her holiday cards while Syd napped today. He woke up. Daddy went to get him from the crib while I cleaned off the table.
Syd: Wanna draw sumping
Daddy: You want to draw? Let's get the crayons out.
Syd: Wanna draw Mommy's paper.
Mommy: No, baby - Here's your paper and crayons!
All is quiet as my boy draws.
Syd: Daddy draw
Daddy takes over.
Syd: Its wunnerful!
Daddy: Well, thank you, Syd!
Syd: I draw now.
Daddy: What are you drawing?
Syd: It's bird poop. Bird poop.
Daddy: You drew bird poop?
Syd: Right there. Bird poop onna paper.

Where that came from... No clue. But I thought it was hilarious. And believe me, I had a hard time not slicing myself as I cut up the roast for dinner I was laughing so hard. Now, the question is... Do I frame the bird poop?

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

A Wise Use of Time

So, for the second time in two days (and yes, the only two times I've used school time to do so...), I am sitting in a classroom doing something completely unrelated to what I should be doing - grading.

Oiy. The Grading.

Grading that has piled because, let's be honest, even though I brought home two bags worth of papers over Thanksgiving, I knew, in my heart of hearts, that it wouldn't get touched. Part of me completely underestimated the amount of things I had to do to get ready for dinner(s) with family. Part of me simply relished the opportunity to spend time with Snickerdoodle and family, and part of of me was simply a bit burned out. Not to mention that I had to keep (hah!) up with my novel. Oh, and Friday I had a migraine and truly did not intend to look at a glowing computer screen.

Needless to say, I got behind on my novel. And the grading? Well, when I realized how close I was to "winning" NaNoWriMo, I gave up until this coming weekend. I told my students that flat out, too. Yes, Monday was midpoint, and yes, I have parents who want an updated average for their children, but my novel had to come first. Or it would never finish. As it is, I WON!!! 50,000+ words in a month! I am very excited, but there is still sooooo much work to do, and my story isn't finished, but I have a huge chunk done, and I finally finally finally have a plan for where it should go. But I now need to do school work. And what am I doing? Blogging. It's beautiful...

I will catch up. I will. And I will make sure to set time aside during Winter Break (2 1/2 weeks, but who's counting?) to at least finish the story, even if I don't get started with revising. I honestly didn't think I would be able to do this. Prose was never a strong point in my college classes. But I feel there is something I can use here, so we'll see what happens... In the meantime, I'll take interviews and sign autographs as long as you bring some chocolate.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving!

I can't believe we're this far in to the month of November, already. It has flown by. And since I've been so absent from the blog in order to write (I've kept up with it, too, except for today - I need to catch up tomorrow...), I felt I could at least visit to show you some pics from this week. Here is Syd's newest trick - he climbs up his high chair and sits on the tray portion. Nanny even found him IN his seat one time. Scary. And he has no compunction about disobeying Mommy to do so; Methinks he'll have to fall in order to listen. Such is the life of toddlerhood (or is it boyhood?).

The Nichols' 4th Annual Drumstick Dash. And the city's 6th annual "Move your feet so others can eat!" 5K run/walk. This year, we all walked it. Syd was anxious to play with all the puppies he saw as we waited for the start of the race, but once we began the walk, the jogger stroller became the way to ride in style (Thank you, Aunt Sharon and Uncle David!). Here, Daddy and Syd smile for the camera as we approach the starting line.
A family picture taken by Mommy's talented left arm. A more beautiful day could not await us - mid 60s by the end of the race and sunshine. It was even better as we got to open the house up while the turkey roasted! Fresh air and roasting fowl - no better way to scent a house!
Last, just a picture of the walk at the starting line. Beautiful, isn't it? And such a message for the day. All these 14,000 people were here (plus more!) in order to burn some calories before Thanksgiving dinner, but even more importantly, to help feed the hungry in the area. It was a gorgeous morning with a slight breeze, a happy baby, and a message of compassion resonated through the crowd. Who could ask for more?




So, I'll close this posting out with a conversation I had with Syd while I prepped the potatoes for dinner:


Syd pulls the Cars card table over to the microwave stand and begins to climb.


Mommy: Is that a wise choice?


Syd: Huh?


Mommy: Get down, Sydney. That's an owie.


Syd continues to climb.


Mommy: Sydney! Is that a wise choice?


Syd pauses, sitting on the table, and looks at me.


Mommy: Are you going to make Mommy upset?


Syd: Um...maybe!



Maybe is his new 'yes.' And he finally listened to me, after he played with the microwave door for a bit. Again, methinks he'll have to actually fall before he stops disobeying Mommy. It's amazing how stubborn he can be. Both Steve and I have absolutely no idea (ahem...) where he got that...


Happy Thanksgiving to everyone! I am so very thankful for each and every one of you.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Rockin' It Out

Go me!!

It is officially 10:53 pm on November 15th, and I am at a total word count of 25,001, with 15 days to go! I am very proud of myself. Now, hand over the cookies...

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Just Sayin'...

I'm proud of me. I am 10 days in to the month of November, and I've already passed the word count of last year's NaNoWriMo. Go Me!! :-)

(Though, I still have no idea where this is going. I'm just letting it happen... We'll see...)

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Autumn, and Updates

I grew up in Wisconsin. I miss it terribly at times, especially this time of year. We lived on a street that was lined with huge oak trees. Leaves were omnipresent and we built massive forts in and with them. Halloween was a huge event for the community, but we very rarely participated in the festivities, unless they were school initiated (side note: I grew up "next door" to Jeffrey Dahmer when he was, well, being Jeffrey Dahmer...).

Pumpkins were ubiquitous. I absolutely adore pumpkins. I love the taste. The smell. The usefulness of them. From jack'o'lanterns to roasted pumpkin seeds to pies and muffins, I adore pumpkins. My mother even made pumpkin pie for my birthday in July a few times. Pumpkins are just a happy squash. Round, orange, with its own handle. A splash of color after the leaves fall and the skies turn grey. Or, at least in Wisconsin they were.

The key to getting a good pumpkin that would last until Thanksgiving was to wait until after the first frost to go pick it. In Wisconsin, that didn't take nearly as long as it does here. After we moved here, I once made the mistake of waiting. The pumpkins all disappear after Halloween. The temperatures are usually too warm to keep them all from rotting. Or, perhaps, the pumpkins grown in this area are the ones turned in to canned pumpkin. I don't know. All I know is that if I don't have my pumpkins by the end of October, I can't find them.

Today is October 30th. We've had unusually crisp weather the past few days. I awoke to find frost coating the yard and porch. We already have our pumpkins for the year, but I am so tempted to go out today, before the remainder all disappear, and purchase more. If nothing else, so I have more seeds to roast, but also to hold true to the traditions I experienced growing up.

But this odd turn in temperatures (we actually had sleet on Friday...) also makes me wonder what we're going to encounter as the seasons progress. Syd's first year, we had massive snowfalls (for this area). 17 inches in one night. I hadn't seen snow like that but once in a decade since I moved from Wisconsin. It brought me home. Last year, we had less snow, but still quite a lot, and just in time for Christmas. I witnessed my first white Christmas in years. Granted, it wasn't fresh white, but it was there. This is the first time in a looooong time I remember having anything frozen before Halloween. Does that portend something similar for this winter?

Regardless of what occurs within the next few months, I am finding myself reminiscent and nostalgic for my childhood. The days we would literally build a labyrinth of tunnels from the front door to the street in 4 feet of snow to make it easier to get the mail. Or the time the kids in the neighborhood all banded together to build the snowman taller than our basketball goal. Or, since tomorrow is Halloween, the flourished taping of the milk carton cap over the door bell to prevent trick-or-treaters from ringing, then getting to choose where the family would go while trolls, witches, vampires, and ghosts wandered the neighborhood. My second broken nose happened on one of those trips. But that's another story...

Before I close, just a reminder that November is NaNoWriMo, and I am attempting, again, to write a novel in one month. I will more than likely not be posting any updates until after Thanksgiving. So, be safe tomorrow, take care of you, have a wonderful day of Thanks, and I'll see you in December.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

It's Baaaaaaaack!

Our ghost is back.

What's that you say? There's no such thing as ghosts?

Pish posh on you. We have one. Or...SOMEthing.

Shall I lay out the proof for you?

1. I splurge on soap. I love Bath and Body's foam soaps. Over the summer, I was in the store and saw a huge sale, so I capitalized on it, since I will use it all. One item I obtained was a Halloween themed bottle that has a trigger button on the bottom. Every time the pump is depressed, a green light flashes and a wicked laugh issues from the bottle. I love it. It makes me smile. Unfortunately, the button is quite sensitive, and when I am playing with Syd, or doing the dishes, the bottle sometimes goes off without anyone touching it. It still makes me smile.

Last weekend, at 2 in the morning, with Syd sound asleep in his crib, hubby snoring softly next to me, and both cats curled up on the bed between us, the bottle went off. And off. And off. So much so that the laugh incorporated itself in to my dreams. When I finally awoke enough to determine what that noise was, it was still going and did not stop until I went in the kitchen and turned the bottle on its side.


Big whoop, you say. There was a big truck outside rumbling along. Or we had another earthquake. Or a pipe burst somewhere in the city. But think about it - it went off long enough to not only get in to my dreams, but to keep going until I woke up and went in to the kitchen. This is no truck rumbling along outside, or 30 second earthquake. It had to be our ghost.


2. Steve has been missing a watch for almost a year. It is one of his favorites, and he made the mistake of letting Syd play with it. We've conducted whole-house searches for this watch several times, looking in crooks and crannies, and places where little fingers can reach but ours can't. We've gotten down on Syd's level, pulled the sofa-bed out of the couch, turned everything upside down to find this. It was gone. I told him we'd find it (along with one of his wedding bands - yes, we have several - I married a man who wears more jewelry than me) when we finally pack up and move out, 30 years down the road.


We went, as a family, to the conference I had to attend this summer. That means that we used nearly every piece of luggage we own - one for us, one for Syd's clothes and diapers, one for toys, etc. We store the luggage in "Daddy's room" in the basement. When we put the luggage away, it all fits, one inside the next, like nesting dolls. Steve went downstairs last night to check on a virus-scan on the computer and saw that the suitcases were disturbed. He pulled them out to fix them, thinking the cats were playing too hard, and saw it was unzipped. Inside, laying as prettily as can be, was his watch and a tube of lotion that is kept under our bathroom sink with baby-proofing on the cabinet doors.


It has been only 3 months since we used the luggage.


Now, it is possible, though unlikely, that the cats disturbed the luggage enough to force them to fall. It is HIGHLY unlikely that they unzipped the luggage; and it cannot be possible at all for them to have found the watch, unzipped the luggage, and put the watch inside. And how did they get to the baby-proofed lotion in the bathroom?


We have a friendly ghost, or spirit, or imp, or elf, or something. But we have something. And it's full of tricks, which we find rather incredulous at times, but nonetheless, quite entertaining!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Music Class Shenanigans

My little Snickerdoodle is in a mood today. It's not a bad mood; it's an odd mood. He was more awake at the beginning of music class today than he has been since we started going. He was jumping, singing, playing with the toys. Then, he decided he wanted to just lay down on the floor and force everyone to dance around him. Then, he decided to act out.

Enter: the pumpkin bells. It is Autumn; the instructor, Ms. Smith, brought out bells shaped like jack 'o lanterns. They look like balls, so Syd started throwing them. All the other kids decided to imitate my little leader. It is a fun age, but a dangerous age, to play with metal 'balls.'

Oh, and there was the map we just had to see if we could rip off the wall.

And the lovely stage behind which Gigi hides to knock down.

And the little 14 month old boy who we had to shove out of the way to get to Gigi.

And my little munchkin kept going.

And going.

And going.

Steve looked at me in questioning amazement. I said, "He's two."

Yes, I monitored his behavior and tried to calm him down and scolded him when he ran over the little girl, literally. But I can't help but think that Grandpa Bill would be laughing his tookus off watching Syd. And would be extremely proud if we were the first to get kicked out.

Dad, if you're looking down on us, quit egging him on! I love his passion, but it's rather hard to contain at times and I'd rather not make more of a scene than is absolutely necessary!!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

11:53 pm

And you're already in bed. I hate to think I may waken you when I crawl in beside you. And I promise not to press my feet that have grown cold against the rail of the chair against you just to warm them up.

I am miserable that our anniversary falls on the last day of the quarter. And I am swamped, drowning under a mountain of paperwork that grows exponentially by the day and it doesn't seem to matter what effort I put in to organizing or catching up. I am trying to determine a way to make tomorrow special even though we won't be able to celebrate it until at least this weekend - what with your softball playoffs and my grading. And life.

I love you, Steve. I can't imagine my world without you. Happy 10th, Sparky. Sleep fast and sleep well, and I'll be in there soon, I hope.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Home

I love my job.

No, really - I enjoy the nerdiness, or geekdom, or dorkhood, or whatever term you want to apply to my community of educators. And that's what we are - a community, a congregation of those interested in the minute placement of a comma and the depth attributed to a blue scarf in a piece of writing.

I attended the VATE Conference this weekend, and though I knew only the other person from my school, and was previously acquainted with the VATE president, I felt...home. It was refreshing to see this group of people congregate for the same reasons I went - love of the subject and love of my students, and a passion to serve both well, and an absolute acceptance of myself and my opinions on the subjects. The sessions I attended were chosen for specific reasons, and though I did not feel every single session was what I was expecting nor for which I had hoped, they were all beneficial in some way, and I could take something back to any grade I teach currently or in the future.

The weekend was topped by viewing a production of Henry V, a play I had never seen nor read before, but with my own base knowledge of Shakespeare, and my peers circling me in the theater, or should I say theatre, I was able to follow and enjoyed myself tremendously.

As a side note, I can only say that I feel both pity and joy for those in attendance who were not from the conference - they had to put up with us, and when we congregate, I find we can be rather boisterous. But at the same time, they received a treat that many wouldn't if and when they attended a Shakespearean play - based on the audiences' reactions (mine own, included, when I was caught off guard by a sudden drum roll, and caused my entire row to practically curl in fetal positions laughing so hard), those who weren't teachers, or schooled in Shakespeare, received insight as to what was meant to be humorous, somber, etc. Basically, those not from our community were able to see two shows at the same time.

And the actors - wow - they did a fantastic job with the play! But I can also imagine that for them, performing in front of a room of teachers must be very satisfying.

All in all, I had a rewarding experience at this year's conference, and I regret that I've had too many plates spinning in the past to attend previous conferences. I've come away with an appreciation for Shakespeare's historical plays, with knowledge regarding the direction our SoLs are taking, and numerous other ideas for lessons and units within my classroom, and I've learned that my community is so much larger than I could possibly conceive, with nerdiness welcomed by all.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Stoicism

There are a number of little aphorisms, proverbs, and sayings in general that poignantly inspire us all to better our characters. In the right setting, any saying could have a significant impact on our outlook on life and cause us to either pause in introspection, or merely plunge on with the intent of being a better person and hoping we inspire others to do the same.

It is one thing to hear these and be inspired. It is another to witness them in action.

Stoicism: Merriam-Webster online defines stoicism as "indifference to pleasure or pain; Impassiveness."

My nearly 25 month old son had to get shots today. It was his 2 year well-baby check-up. Yes, he's still "petite," as the doctor so nicely put it at the last visit. He's tiny. But he is one small package of stoic strength.

He regarded the nurses and doctors (and her student-doctor, too) with explicit suspicion, but was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. After they left, he figured he was out of danger and opened up a bit more, until the nurse came back in, carrying the tell-tale tray of doom.

We laid him down, and I held his hands back while he tried to see what she was doing. She stuck him, and he didn't utter a sound. I thought he was still merely watching her when she finally finished and put band-aids on his needle sites. But I looked down to pick him up so we could dress him and his face was screwed up in pain. He still didn't utter a peep.

He reached for me, gave me a hug, and reached for Daddy, all the while staring at the nurse's back as she left the room. He wanted his yi-yi (silkie) and to have Daddy hold him, and that's all we heard. By the time we left the room, he had the same impassive look on his face as when we entered.

Stoicism. I only wish I could stand as such an example for others like my son did for me.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

How Quickly Time Passes

I realized I never posted any pictures from Syd's second birthday party. And nearly a month has gone by - just goes to show how hectic things have been. But, I've got updated photos now and I know you'll forgive me for my latent posting. Regardless, he's so darn cute, so I should be forgiven, right??


Syd checks out a card featuring Mickey Mouse's theme song. I have to confess - we watch more PBS than Disney, so he's not as familiar with this particular ditty.

For his second birthday, we had gluten-free carrot cupcakes with homemade whipped cream and "decorate your own" sprinkles and candies. He managed to blow his own candle out (thanks to all that practice with dandelions in the yard!) and devoured his cupcake, asking for "mo-lah!!"


A year has gone by since Sydney was first really introduced to pumpkins. Yes, he was pictured snoozing in one when he was just a month old,




October 2009

but last year, he got to walk around the orchard, feel them, compare sizes to them, trip over them, etc.


October 2010

This year, he got the full experience, and he loved it. Watching the natural progression of his age and size really brings home the fact that he's such a little boy, now, though he has his baby moments, still.



October 2011


Although we bit the dust a few times, literally (added a nice piquant flavor to baby acetaminophen, since we're teething canines hard...), we made an afternoon of it, and turned it in to a play date at the same time.



Syd loved the cow train, asking for more of this until we had our 'sleepy break down.'



He really enjoyed the bouncy pillow, too, but had enough after falling one too many times.


What's nice about this outing is that, even though I work hard to maintain a balance between family and work, the balance really gets thrown off at times, and this weekend helped restore what should be. The weather was gorgeous, Syd was in a good mood, the company was very nice, and hubby and I treated ourselves to lattes before hand. And it felt like the balance was truly corrected. It helps, too, that Syd took a 3 hour nap when we got home.



Thank goodness for mid 70s afternoons with crystalline, cerulean blue skies and acres of pumpkins, the perfect squash. I love pumpkins, but at the risk of waxing philosophical over a vegetable, I shall end this now. The only thing that tops today is adding playing in the leaves, which haven't fallen yet. But we may take another trip in a couple of weeks...

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Those Who Can

The season premiere of The Big Bang Theory was this past week. I enjoy this show a great deal, and I found some particular merit in this episode. The first half hour, since it was 2 episodes back-to-back, closed with Penny, the show's main female character, conceding defeat in her attempts to become an actress and deciding to go home to Nebraska. The question is asked, "What are you going to do in Nebraska?"

"I don't know." She looks down introspectively. "Maybe I'll TEACH acting."

Immediately, I laughed and texted several friends, saying that that explains a lot about my writing. I am an English teacher. I teach students how to write. 'Nuff said.

Admittedly, there is some semblance of truth to that statement, but only to an extent. I've written several times about how I try to find balance and that I feel all my creative juices sucked out by numbers, data, paperwork, and creating new, inventive, and applicable lesson plans. And by grading, grading, grading. And now, by attempting to keep a relatively sanitary house and a 2 year old fed, happy, and learning so he can be successful in the classes I teach (yes, I do expect him to be in my AP class in 15 years).

But on the flip side, I've also found that some skills have been developed to the point where I have an idea where my classes are going and my creative muscles are no longer atrophying - where I have thoughts that flourish and could be something more. Steve jokes about how I need to get my novel written so he can retire and be a stay-at-home dad. No pressure. But the fact of the matter is I do have ideas, and I think they're wonderful, but I still have yet to find the time to develop them in to something more.

Several years ago, the school administration offered t-shirts to the faculty with a rather poignant slogan.
"Those who can, do. Those who can do more, Teach."
I need to remind myself that, while I haven't accomplished what I want regarding my own writing (and various other creative outlets), there is time, and I already have quite a stockpile that more than likely will be utilized in the future, including a book of poetry that I've written over the past 25 years.

Last year, I attempted NaNoWriMo for the first time. It was an exciting and educational experience for me - I learned more about myself and writing than I had in...how many years of college classes? I failed miserably in the grand scheme of things, but was very proud of what I did accomplish, considering the number of plates I was balancing during that particular 11th month of the year.

This year, the month appears on the horizon to be much less daunting. Things may (and let's face it, probably will) change, but for now, I fully intend to try it again. And my goal is quite realistic. I want to double what I required of my students last year. Ultimately, I want to complete the 50,000 word requirement, but I will gladly settle for 34,000. After all, as long as I'm flexing, nothing will go to waste.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Unexpected Allusions

Seventeen years ago, a line from a movie (and even earlier than that in book form) made a large enough impression on me to remain in my mind to this day. Lestat, from Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire, is in the midst of seducing a prostitute when he says the ill-fated line (from memory, so forgive any lapses...) "Put out the light, then put out the light." As he speaks, he extinguishes the sole candle in the scene, then makes his move on the unsuspecting woman.


Picture courtesy of Google Images



Anne Rice is well known for her work, and I can't help but wonder just how much of a fan of Shakespeare she is, since the line is used in Act V of Othello. Othello, led astray by the conniving Iago, is so consumed by jealousy that he "put[s] out the light, and then put[s] out the light" of Desdemona, his faithful, faultless, yet forgiving wife.


Or perhaps this is more telling of me, since I remembered this line from the book and movie. I've thought about Lestat every year when I reread Othello, but this is the first time it has fallen in to place with another allusion used in class.


My juniors are in the midst of Puritan literature. As dry as it can be, I attempt to liven it up a bit, though my references are starting to become rather dated... Not only is Anne Rice not as well known to today's high schoolers, even Harry Potter is beginning to age out, and Twilight has, I believe, crested. But my point is that, in explaining the social mores and beliefs of Puritan times to the students, I was discussing the convictions of the theocracy. The students looked at me like I was speaking in tongues because, well, if this group of people were so upstanding, why would they have convictions??


Sigh. Yes, the alternate definition of conviction was lost on this group of students. So, I bring in a reference that, too, sticks in my mind from Interview with the Vampire. Louis, before he was turned, is heart-broken and living life dangerously in order to hasten his death. His wife died in childbirth, and the babe with her. He carouses with unsavory people, playing cards, and blatantly cheating. One man, after discovering this, jumps back, whips out a gun, and threatens to shoot Louis. He calmly looks up at the man, opens his shirt to indicate where he should aim, and waits. The man looks lost. He is caught off guard by the actions of the cheater, and puts his gun away. "You lack the courage for your convictions." In summarizing this scene, I asked the students what convictions means in this context.


The fact that few still caught on is discouraging and beside the point. Ultimately, I found myself curious as to how these two literary allusions came to fruition. Where else do we find classical literature being used in contemporary (or even not so much) every day life? Where have YOU seen classical literature? Respond to me and let me know. The more canonized, the better. And yes, Harry Potter is Hamlet.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

It's All Connected...Isn't it?

Our first week of school, we were surprised by a new experience - something we've never known before, though the threat has always been present. An earthquake. A week and a half later, Tropical Storm Lee comes through, bringing thunderstorms, tornadoes, and torrential rains.

And as Pythagoras started to demonstrate (alas, this equation isn't exactly the same as his), and as quite applicable to this particular situation, earthquake + heavy rains = sinkhole. In the driveway to our school.

E + R = S = NO SCHOOL!

I really am quite happy - we needed rain very badly. Check. I needed more time to grade - ahem - AP papers. Check. And as a plus, I get more time with my Snickerdoodle.

And to top it all off, we have finally hit the point in the season where rain can hit and one can sit comfortably with all windows open, airing out the house, curled up while watching Sesame Street with a little one, and receiving a hug from an absolute favorite old, falling-apart-but-I-will-never-part-with-it sweatshirt.

Life is good.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Philosophy in Action

This week, I kicked off a new project with my juniors. I had intended to do this last year, but with the mad rush the year started in (new construction, no copiers, no printers, no Blackboard [online hub for kids to check homework, get test dates and announcements, etc.] etc.), it just didn't happen. This year, I am creating my own mad rush.

I set up a blog for my juniors to use - my blog (not this one) is a central hub, an umbrella under which the others are located. But each student has his or her own, personal, and hopefully personalized, blog where they will conduct 3 types of posts. The first is informal - journal entries in freewrite fashion where they are not penalized for grammar or spelling as long as they do the length requirement. The second is formal - for the first time, we are attempting a Writing SoL online, and the students need practice in NOT using text-speak or i.m.-speak while writing. The third is an on-going project where they are supposed to write, consistently, on subjects of their own thought. They are required to do a certain number of posts at certain times, but anything above that is for their own voice.

I have only gotten a true handful going, due to time constraints (and fire drills, and live announcements on the tv, and substitutes...), but what a wonderful thing this is turning out to be. These kids have so much to say. The few who have really taken off on this project have discussed everything from money (or lack thereof), open-mindedness, philosophical viewpoints, and music. They are showing more depth in a few paragraphs than most people would give credit to the demographic as a whole.

Journaling has always been an important part of my curriculum for the sake of the students and their voices. But there is something magical about finally making this portion of my class technologically applicable that truly speaks to this generation. It seems they feel more freedom in posting online this early in the year than they do in writing this freely just for me. Paradoxical in a sense, but I'll take it.

Their first assignment isn't due until later this week, but I started posting comments on each and every blog that had done something (changed themes and header, already posted writings, etc.) just so they know I am learning who they are, and in an attempt to let them know who I am. I want them to feel free to discuss what is on their minds, and I want them to know that someone SOMEONE is listening. Sometimes, that's all we need.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

An Unprecedented First Week

This week went well. Students arrived, fairly bright eyed and bushy-tailed and ready to learn, though I think the cobwebs from summer are a bit thick and will take some serious cleansing.

Tuesday, we were just getting started in my 5th block class. Syllabus, course expectations, emergency escape routes, lock-down drills, seating charts, note-cards with pertinent information at my fingertips. The classroom started to bounce. The LCD projector and ActivBoard started to bounce. I thought (forgive me) that a rather healthy individual had run down the hall. My room shakes whenever someone stomps by or, joy of joys, when the indoor track team practices inside when it is too cold during the winter months. It felt the same, just amped up a bit more and actually making me dizzy.

The kids made a joke about an earthquake. "Yeah...right. And this is my first day of teaching." I moved on with the plagiarism policy.

The bell rang, and kids dispersed. My last class of the day came in. Joking about the earthquake. "Seriously, ladies and gentlemen. I wasn't born yesterday. Find your seats and lets begin."

Allow me to interrupt to say that we are, actually, on a huge fault line. I know there are comments and questions about California falling in to the ocean, but I think it is actually more likely to happen on the eastern seaboard. But in the 23 years I've lived in this area, I have never seen or felt anything that related to the fault line. Forgive my skepticism.

We are just beginning to go over the syllabus when our principal comes on the loudspeaker and requests that we practice our first fire drill in order to allow administration to check for structural damage. My jaw hit the floor and the kids started laughing. Quickly, I explained the fire drill escape route, and we exited the building.

Needless to say, I was thrown off from my typical first day lecture. By the time we got back inside, I had to collect my thoughts to determine where we were in the first day. But these were my AP seniors, and good kids. And overall, I think this is going to be a very fun year.

Cut to the end of the week. We've gone through both sets of classes (block scheduling) 2x each. We've actually started school. The students are still in the honeymoon period. No one really talks or acts out. The ones who do are the ones who will require more patience as the year progresses. We are attempting to begin developing our first units. And talk turns to Irene.

I've never had a first week of school where the primary concerns are an earthquake and a hurricane. Amazing to consider. In hindsight, the hurricane didn't do much HERE. But we still had some strong winds and gusts and a bit of rain. I would have liked, personally, more rain, but I'll take what I can get.

I, frankly, hope that my future years in education do not require stockpiling non-perishable goods and bottled water. But I certainly hope that my future is just as exciting every first week. I hope I never tire of this profession and maintain my 'yippity-ness' until the day I retire.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Good Night

"Good night [Summer], good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow
that I shall say good night til it be morrow."

Romeo and Juliet; Act II; scene ii

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Buzz Words and Pedagogy

Each season, there is a word or phrase that comes in to its own. It doesn't matter if it is politics, fashion, or education. The buzz words are the new idea with which everyone is supposed to lemming-ly fall in to step.

Let me take a step back to say that I have a very odd, underlying feeling of trepidation this last weekend before the new school year starts. It feels differently than other years, from what I remember. But then again, I have a feeling that the beginning of each new school year is very similar to child birth - we end up forgetting the feelings of inadequacy and unpreparedness once the kids get here.

Ok - back to the main purpose behind this post. Our new buzz phrase in school is "Building personal relationships with students." At the risk of getting fired, I have to ask "REALLY?" Who on earth gets in to teaching to form personal relationships with the students? I don't have time for that, on top of all the data collection, data dissemination, test taking strategies, etc. To have to worry about the kids in addition to our list of duties is honestly asking too much.

Seriously. WE do not teach for the money. WE do not subject ourselves to scrutiny over how effective we are in the classroom for the fun of it. WE do not drag ourselves out of bed every day, wondering if the lesson will work for every class in the same prep and whether we should just scrap the whole thing, doubting ourselves time and again for the mere masochistic thrill of it. WE (and I use capital letters to emphasize true teachers) are there for the kids.

What is disheartening is that administration actually had to come out and state that we needed to work on this. What is disheartening is that, even as it was being said, members of the faculty scoffed and rolled their eyes. These are the teachers who need to retire or move in to the private sector. Teachers, and I mean WE again, are ONLY there for the kids. I posted last year about 2x that I was ready to look for a job outside of public school, and the kids changed my mind. Again. It happens every year where I doubt my future in education and I cannot help but return because I made an impact on some one's life. And even if it is just one student a year, it is worth it.


I was feeling hesitant regarding this year. I was questioning my preparedness for the year and willingness to jump in to it and give up my time and my energies. I think one reason why I'm feeling this way is that, for the first time, I have 2 classes that are almost entirely students I've had in the past (42 kids), and 4 classes with students about whom I know almost nothing (92 kids). After sitting through a week of meetings stressing numbers and testing and accommodations and parental contact, etc., and then being told to form those relationships, I got worried because I know nothing about my 92+ kids.


But then I went grocery shopping with Snickerdoodle. As I was strapping him in to a cart, I ran in to a former student who failed last year. He nearly failed summer school, too. We had a rather candid conversation about what happened during the year last year, and what happened during summer school. And I have hope for him for this year. And believe me, I'll follow him this year to see how he does. At the beginning of last year, even though he was in a class of kids I knew, I didn't know him. But he opened up to me and I formed a relationship with him. And twice over, he is one reason I keep returning to public education. He knows I'm hard on him because I care and because I see his potential. And I know I can do it all again, regardless of the 92 names that do not tell me anything as of right now.


I live close to my school. And unlike many of the teachers who live in this area, I deliberately go to the stores in this area because the kids see me. And I become human to them rather than just a teacher. I want them to see me outside of school. I want them to joke with me about squashing my bread under canned goods (true story) or tell me, after they've graduated, how well they're doing in their college English classes. I want to foster as many relationships as possible from the moment they first see me, even if they don't have me, to the moment they decide to move out of the area to follow a career.


I am a TEACHER.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

My Homework: An Update

Tomorrow I start back at school. I began the summer with a rather lengthy list of activities I wished to complete before my next nine month stretch of "I've got too much on my plate to worry about __" kicked in. I am quite happy to say that, aside from planning for this 9 month stretch, I finished everything on my list, including some that weren't even conceived of in June.

But more importantly than chores and activities around the house, my list of books that I've had a chance to read has finally increased. I am rather proud of myself for making the time and taking advantage of the fact that Syd takes 2+ hour naps now to finish chores so I have the time to read - for pleasure as well as for school.

I started the summer with Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye. Initially, I didn't like it. At all. But after time to reflect, I have to say that her writing, though not my style, is quite poetic. This particular novel, without revealing too much, demonstrates her knowledge as a writer in that she is able to tie together the past and the present seamlessly. The reader sails from the present story, told through the eyes of an unreliable narrator, to the past and the origins of the characters directly involved in the plot line. I think I didn't like it at first because I had to struggle to keep up with the progression forwards and backwards, but in retrospect, the plot was told in an obfuscated way to protect the sensibilities of the reader. I don't like the book. But I appreciate the story and the manner in which it was written, and understand the hype that is made over the book.

From there, I moved to Tess of the D'Urbervilles. And I am happy to report I have a new love. Thomas Hardy, in typical Victorian fashion, has swept me off my feet. I spent the majority of the summer reading this novel, as it is deceptively dense. But the language used, and the style of writing, and the sheer beauty of Hardy's descriptions kept me coming back even when I thought I'd be too distracted by my other activities. I have a particular passion for 19th Century writing. I don't know what it is about the time, but I focused on that in college and seem to find myself at home there more than other time periods. I'd never read Hardy before, but knowing that his particular passion was poetry, and now being aware of his particular style and how beautiful I find it, I don't see that I have any choice but to obtain some of his poetry to see if it impacts me as much as, or more, than Tess did. I also am now looking forward to next summer, when I will make it a point to read his other highly controversial novel, Jude the Obscure. It is because of these two novels that Thomas stopped writing novels. Alas, the world got in its own way yet again.

Needless to say, I am feeling more refreshed as a student of life and literature. And now I find my way back to my own scholastic obligations. I am beginning Othello, to refresh myself on the play before the students return. And I have a list of books that I want to read for myself, as well as one loaned to me that I promised myself I wouldn't keep more than a year, so I've got my work cut out for me.

But for now, I feel I can sit back and relish the thoughts stirred by my literary accomplishments and reflect on where I may bring some of this in to my classes.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Presumption

Thumbing through a (scholastic) book at Barnes and Noble last week, I saw a clear outline of the difference between assumption and presumption. I'd always known they were very closely related, but the book made the line clear: assumption is a guess based on your own mere feelings - nothing factual in any way, which, I presume, is where the "Assumption makes an a-- out of u & me" explanation comes in. Presumption is a guess based on facts - things that can be proven and may lead you to a guess.

The past two days have been gorgeous. They've been hot and miserable, but absolutely beautiful for August in Virginia. They've been like nothing I recall seeing in a long, long time. August in Virginia is hot, muggy, buggy, hazy (when the mugginess takes over and you can't see the mountain ranges very well - almost like a permanent fog...). Triple H is the forecast most of the time (hot, humid, hazy).

Yesterday was hot. Subjective, yes, but when you go a month straight with 95+ temperatures, hot suffices. The difference was that yesterday had a clear, comfortable breeze with it. This time of year, when there's a breeze, it does nothing but make you feel like you're cooking. When you open the door to go outside, it's like opening the door to the oven, except it doesn't usually smell as nice. But when I opened the door yesterday, the sun baked me, but the breeze felt wonderful - a refreshing, revitalizing breeze. It was actually quite comfortable in the shade. In early August. Unheard of.

Today, the haziness is gone. The clouds are puffy and dot the sky. The breeze, again, is refreshing and actually quite strong. And the temperature is starting to come down. We usually see weather like this in late September, not early August.

Based on my previous Autumns in Virginia, and based on the data from these past two days, and without looking at any farmer's almanac or doing any research on the internet, I presume that this will be a relatively early fall. I think this may be a long winter, but based on the coats of the groundhogs, I don't think it is going to be a hard one (they're quite lean and brown). I don't see any evidence that we're going to have a lot of snow this year.

I'd like to have precipitation. Who wouldn't? But my curiosity lies more in the temperatures at the moment. I know many are suffering from the current heat wave we've experienced, and I'd like this trend to continue. We'll see where the weather goes and what develops over the next few months.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Convictions

No, I don't mean arrests.

As I left the nest and entered my REAL life as a college student (come on, didn't you ever think about how your life would actually be starting once you weren't doing everything everyone else told you to do? Parents, teachers, leaders...), meaning, I was legally an adult and made my own decisions, I realized how little I felt convicted in certain common, every day issues. I was rather easy-going. I would take everyone's thoughts and feelings in to consideration. It wasn't entirely a bad thing, since I got along with people from ALL walks of life and persuasions. In fact, I credit my convictionless beginning to my life with opening my eyes and my mind to so much that the world and life has to offer. I still look for every feasible opportunity to experience more in life.

The problem is, though, that I would be in a discussion, usually about something rather heady, and would nod my head to let the speaker know I was paying attention. And I could usually see that person's point of view. But it inevitably was perceived as my agreeing with the speaker on his or her point of view. I found myself agreeing to some things with which I slowly began to realize I did not agree.

I don't speak up well. I don't. I get over-run in large group discussions all the time. And I have a theory about why I let myself get talked over, but this is not the venue for that, at least not at this time, so... moving on... My point is that when I was (am?) in these deep, serious discussions with others, I find myself biting my tongue more than speaking my own piece.

I believe that one reason why I do this is because it is now habit. I've done it for so long, it is difficult for me to step out of that shell. But I've also found, through this process of self-evaluation, that I do have my own convictions. I have grown, experienced enough, matured?? Maybe all three? to develop my own ideas rather than ones that were handed down to me.

One thing I tell my students on a regular basis when they ask me personal questions (religion, politics, etc.) is that is does not matter what I think. My job is NOT to tell them what to think. My job is to get them TO think. They have been handed convictions by their parents, previous teachers, leaders, etc. their whole 14, 15, 16, 17, 18 years. My job is to offer them ideas and let them decide what they want to see in those ideas. Obviously, there are grammar rules, suggestions for writing, etc., but I mean on the bigger scale. I mean their life convictions. And now, I have a son with whom I will be sharing my (our) ideas, ideals, and convictions.

Some students see that, understand, and leave it alone. Some see it but continue to fight for my personal ideas. Some of my ideas are the same as when I was growing up. Some have changed. Some are still forming. As we approach the new school year, and as Sydney begins to comprehend more and think logically on his own, I will continue to, no doubt, bite my tongue in some regards, and will learn to speak up in others in hopes of allowing myself a voice as well as instruct my son to consider all sides of an argument and learn to develop his own ideas.

Here's to life experiences and thinking for yourself. I fear far too little of those happen these days.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Birthday Event

For my 35th birthday, Steve and I drove to The American Shakespeare Center to see Hamlet. I figured it was long overdue since I teach the play, but had never seen it before. What I discovered on this little jaunt was delightful.

Shakespeare's plays are divided in to three categories: his comedies, tragedies, and histories. And Shakespeare, in general, was an expert at drawing in all members of his crowd, from the groundling peasants to Her Highness, the Queen. One way to do this? No holds barred sexual innuendo and tongue-in-cheek banter.

My list of Shakespearean plays that I've seen is shamefully small; it will be remedied, one at a time. But through the plays I have seen, and the film adaptations of a slightly larger list, I've never seen a tragedy take on quite the humor that this particular rendition of Hamlet did. And frankly, it was unexpected and appreciated.

We all know I'm a nerd, a geek, or as Shelly so lovingly puts it, a dork. I care not what you think; I enjoy my literature. But I can't help but immediately envision film noir techniques when I think of William's tragedies. They're supposed to, as Aristotle points out, elicit feelings of fear and pity and sadness, enough to bring on a catharsis. When I read the plays, I seek out the flashes of comedic relief to break up the sheer curtain of mourning that drops down on me. Come on - His expressions are beautiful, but dark. The directors of the film adaptations seem to take that feeling and run with it, though many times their intent seems too contrived.

But here, joy of joys, was an adaptation that fully engaged the banter Shakespeare is known for. Granted, a few errors in the memories of the illustrious actors helped - seriously - Polonius was ranting on about his son, Laertes and forgot what came next. The poor audience member who had the luck to sit in the Lord's chair on stage was asked what came next. "Line? What's my line?" "Um, I don't know..." Hilarious! Yes, some impromptu improvisation took place throughout the play. But the actors still, for the most part, owned their roles. Hamlet, the younger, was quite convincing and would provide much fodder for discussion in my class - was he truly insane? Did he pretend too much until he took on some of the insanity? Or, as Steve thinks (and with this rendition, I tend to agree) did he really know all along his own wits and simply fool everyone else?

My point is that this is the first time I've witnessed any sort of Shakespearean tragedy that made use of the full amount of comedy present in everyday (Elizabethan) colloquialisms and vernacular, in banter, in day-to-day emotions that we have as children, parents, friends, sisters, brothers. This particular troupe truly made the play come alive for me, and I can hardly wait to bring these ideas to my classroom. For now, though, I need to re-read Othello...Summer reading projects will be here before I know it.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

My "Homework" List

I started the summer by discussing the laundry list of chores I was setting for myself over the next 2 months. I am very happy to announce that it has slowly dwindled. Anyone who is/knows a teacher knows that whatever we do not get to during the summer will have absolutely no choice but to wait 9 months until June. Yes, I can do small projects, if absolutely necessary, but let's be honest - teaching is one profession where we have no alternative but to take it home with us every night and every weekend, and try as we might, outside projects fall to the wayside. We're lucky to maintain basic relationships much less attempt to paint a room or rebuild a porch. I have several friends who, though we live in the same city, I see only 2x a year - at Winter Break, and some time during the summer. No more, no less.

Regardless of time constraints and priorities, my list is nearly complete, and none too soon. I have 2 weeks of blissful obliviousness to enjoy. I won't be able to completely relish it, but I can try. Ever since my conference, my mind won't stop thinking about the coming year, but I do not have to stress over what I'm planning and I don't have a deadline for putting together an assignment, or grading it. I can sleep until... oh - wait... I can't, but that's ok, because I don't have to get dressed until I want to. Sydney is still a very early riser. And we think he's cutting another tooth, so he's been on a very early stretch lately (consistent 5 am this week).


I have been more productive this summer than I think I ever have before, as far as the house is concerned. In the past, because I was trying to maintain my footing on the treacherous mountain of teaching today's youth, I focused my energies on re-shaping my curriculum, organizing my folders, etc. This year has been all about the toddler and the house, and I feel so relaxed. I also feel ready. I believe just taking a step back from education and my curriculum have allowed me the quickening I need to look forward to this school year.


I'm ready, in many different ways. My house, though messy right now, is clean. My files and folders await my new zeal for the year. My list of 'chores' I have is greatly reduced, and, for the first time in YEARS, I've gotten to do a bit of pleasure reading. I've also attacked my book list (see column on the right hand side) that I've set for myself. All in all, I am feeling full of vim and vigor and ready to enjoy my last 2 weeks with my baby boy, living it up for all it's worth. I am taking on Summer, and I'm winning.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Long Overdue, But As Promised

It's been a busy summer with only a few weeks left. But here's a bit of what Syd's been up to, since May - I know...I've been remiss in downloading the camera... Oh, and due to my ineptness with planning this posting, the pictures go in descending order - most recent to the oldest. My apologies.



Syd and Zane play "Jump!"

Annie and Mommy make a "frowny face" at Syd and Zane's jumping!


Syd had a long day at the Children's Museum in Richmond with Daddy. Mommy would rather have been there than sitting in class at the conference.



Meet Ines, our French foreign exchange intern! She and Sydney color one afternoon.


Sydney re-discovers his Elmo slippers that sat, forgotten, on a bookshelf since the holidays.




Sydney took swim lessons! He LOVES the water - always has.


Sydney and Mommy after finishing the 'Lazy River' and practicing "scoopies."



Ines and Sydney at the Star. It was a beautiful day to see the city and visit the animals at the zoo.


My big boy loves to run!




Sydney has such a soft heart - kitty Skye was terrified of a summer storm and he was trying to comfort her. Normally, she doesn't let him near her, but circumstances being what they were...


Decked out in carcharodon carcharias gear for swim lessons!


I think the photo speaks for itself.




For anyone who doesn't know, Syd has a deep-rooted passion for lawn maintenance. Here, he decided he needs to try his mower as a riding mower instead of a push mower.




No reason for posting - just cute.


Syd and Daddy spend a moment stretching their backs after a long day at work.


Syd also has a passion for automotive maintenance and helps Daddy wash the cars.


Syd decides to accessorize with Daddy's hat.


There are more to come, but I have to actually download my cell phone instead of just talk about it. I promise, it will come.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Dear Journal,

So often, I forget that you're here and that you are a medium for me to sort things out. I forget that I don't have to always have someONE to bounce ideas off of, that I am capable of determining a path, and sticking to it. I forget that, sometimes, it just helps to write it all down.

Journal, Diary... You've gone by several names over the years. And even though I am inconsistent in my visits, I always come back to you. You are quite loyal to stick around, but you're always there when I need you.

And, here we are again. I am at a crossroads. A parenting crossroads; I do not know which route to take. I know this is only the beginning of many, many times I will run in to a situation that requires and desires contemplation. And I know I will ultimately zero in on the best plan for myself and my family. But for now, I am ensnared by this decision.

I know what I want, but that is not happening. I know what I was told, but I am dissatisfied with that answer. Therefore, I am trying to make peace with the two, and there are several directions for that to take. Needless to say, I am an oscillating queen, right now, waffling back and forth between the routes, turning from one direction to the next, and wondering how to start the process for any of them.

Journal, which do I choose? And regardless of the peace I make with my choice, how do I start? How do I begin that path? I know. Begin first with a step. Find my balance. Put the other foot in front. Find my balance. Repeat as necessary.

And believe me when I say I am fully aware that I am not special. I know women have been making these decisions for generations. But I am special in that this is MY decision. Steve is wonderful and is supporting me, with whichever direction I choose, but it is mine to make.

I don't think this would be as difficult if I knew we were having more children. But even if we wanted more, we can't, so it is truly the end of the line for me, which compounds the choice. But, I will take my time, weigh my options, and determine my best route. I will put my foot forward. And find my balance. And I will move forward.

Regardless of my decision, Journal, thank you for sitting here, patiently, waiting for me to return to you with another dilemma. We'll chat soon.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

It's Been A While

But I promise you I haven't forgotten you.

We've been quite busy the first month of summer vacation:


  1. Swim lessons

  2. Foreign exchange intern from France

  3. AP conference in Richmond

  4. That whole "reorganize, reclaiming" of the house (whew!)

  5. and a few play dates sprinkled here and there

  6. in addition to numerous other things - some fun, some awesome, some not so much

But regardless, I plan to (key word: PLAN) to download the camera this week and catch up on everything. In the meantime, Syd's healthy and happy, so all's good in the world.