Friday, May 27, 2011

The Summer is Upon Us

The end of this frustrating, frantic, incessant year is finally near. For the first time in my teaching career, every student of mine passed both SoLs. Whether or not that is because I'm coming in to my own (dubious) remains to be seen.

But with the end of this year comes a summer of...time. Opportunity. A chance to ensure that I've made a difference in Syd's life as well as plan for the future - professionally and personally. And boy, do I have a laundry list of what I propose to do with my time.

The first few years I taught in the public school system, I half-heartily attempted to get a summer job. I say half-heartily because I was coaching and teaching at the end of the year - 12+ (sometimes 2 day) hour track meets, SoLs, exam approval, exams, traveling with athletes, cleaning out my classroom - yeah, I had time to look for a summer job. And all the college kids who were done in May beat me to them.

But the past two years, I've seen how actually planning out what I feel I have to do, developing a calendar, and marking what I've accomplished actually makes me realize how much I HAVE done over the summer months. And now, with a toddler at home and finally finally FINALLY feeling like I belong in academia at a high school level (doesn't mean I feel prepared, mind you...), I am relishing the idea of time off to accomplish everything I have been putting off for 6+ months. Sydney is older, now, too, which means I actually get to put him physically down for naps (nursing nightmare, and not on his part - neurotransmitters released in me made me extremely sleepy every time he nursed, which means that we both fell asleep...for hours...). I may, in fact, get more accomplished this summer than ever before!

Last year, the summer flew by, but that is, in part, because I kept track of everything I did each day and monitored what I wanted to accomplish and what I was willing to let slide. This year, my list is even longer. I hope I have the fortitude, now that I have more sleep (not much, though) and time, to get at least 3/4 of my list done. I'll keep you posted on my progress.

But one thing I really want to do is to start writing a - what is it...not really a biography, not a novel (I tend to perceive novels as fiction, though that's not accurate), a tangible documentary? of my struggles with my health, which have increased ten-fold since the hormones of having a child hit me. Not for everyone, but definitely something I feel I need to record for anyone else who may be experiencing the same thing.

Regardless, I am looking forward to spending time with my son, to learning Italian with him, and to seeing him experience the world. And I am also looking forward to cleaning, de-bulking, and organizing my home, in hopes that it will run decently in the fall, when the next slam of deadlines and obstacles hits us all.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

It's Potty Time!

"Look Who's Talking Now" is not the best movie, by any means. But it does have one of my favorite scenes as far as parenting goes. John Travolta and Kirstie Alley are trying to potty train their son. They bring home the kid's potty. Mikey looks skeptically at the thing, and sensing his trepidation, they try to make light of the situation and start dancing around with the potty singing Beastie Boys ('You gotta fight - for your right - to POTTY!') and Rick James ('My girl wants to potty all the time, potty all the time, potty all the time!). Funny before, but now that I have a toddler, hilarious.

So, cut to last night. Keeping Sydney entertained while I prepare dinner, I put Elmo's Potty dvd on. He found it fascinating. We've talked about the potty before. He got one for his 1st birthday, and every time he followed Mommy or Daddy in to the bathroom, we'd ask if he wanted to sit on Sydney's potty while Mommy or Daddy sat on the big potty. He plays with it often, and I think he knows, basically, what its for, though we've tried to be more specific lately with explaining why we sit on the potty.

Lovely details, I know. Bear with me. Yesterday we were playing after dinner. He came up to me at one point and said, "pee poop," which is what he calls going to the bathroom. I asked if he needed to pee-pee, and he ran for the bathroom, opened the door, and stood looking at the little potty.

Following him in there, I asked him if he wanted to sit on the potty. He nodded yes, and we sat on the potty, fully clothed, for a moment. He grunted, his signal that something was wrong, stood up, and pulled at his pants. I was hesitant to strip him down since we hadn't practiced this yet, but went ahead and removed his pants. He sat again, in his diaper, looked around, grunted again, and stood up. "Offfffff"

I called Steve because I certainly didn't want to be trying to control a possible mess and a naked baby all by myself. We took off his diaper, sat him down again, and talked about going pee-pee in the potty. He looked down, unsure of what was happening, then stood up and asked for his diaper back. In the midst of trying to get him re-diapered, he then decided he wanted to try again. We sat, naked, on the potty again. Again, he wasn't sure what he was supposed to be doing, and got up.

Steve asked me a question, distracting me. At that moment, I heard "Uh oh." I looked behind me and a rather large puddle of urine was spreading. I felt my clothes to discover he had peed on the floor and my back, and I burst out laughing.

Mess aside, and panicky child reassured, Steve and I are actually really proud of him. He's only 19 months and definitely showing signs of readiness for potty training. I plan to go full force once school's out, but I know its considered REALLY early for toddlers, regardless of gender. The truth is, he's been aware for a while now of when he's gone to the bathroom, and he is also able to keep his diaper clean for several hours at a time.

My little baby is growing up!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

As Promised - Veggie Spaghetti Sauce

This is quite a yummy recipe, and if you're anything like me, you're looking for more ways to get veggies in to your children's (and yours!) stomach. I found it in a parenting magazine, and credit the recipe to Jamie Oliver, the British chef who is trying to change America, one school at a time.

The Best Tomato Sauce Ever (His words! - my thoughts will be italicized)
Prep your veggies:
peel 2 small onions
trim 1 small leek (wash thoroughly to remove all sand)
trim 2 stalks of celery
halve and de-seed 2 red bell peppers
(I add garlic - I used 3 cloves, but I think it needs more)
-Roughly chop all of these

Use the coarse side of a box grater and grate 2 zucchinis and 2 carrots
(I recommend, if you have one, a food processor, since you'll want to use it later on the butternut squash - may as well get on dirty on this...)

-Heat a large saucepan over medium heat and add olive oil. Add all your veggies, a large pinch of dried oregano (I also included basil) and 2 bay leaves. Cook slowly, with a lid, stirring occasionally, til the veggies are soft but not starting to brown.

(I would definitely add sea salt to these to help them sweat as well as add flavor. In fact, I would add sea salt with every addition to help maintain seasoning. Also, use sea salt instead of table salt so you add flavor without the sodium. I would also recommend that after the veggies start to soften, you take off the lid to let excess moisture evaporate, as my finished product was a little too runny for my [our] tastes.)

While the veggies start to cook down, peel 1 small butternut squash, then carefully cut in half and scoop out the seeds. Coarsely grate the flesh and add to the saucepan (with sea salt). Allow to cook down.

At this point, I absolutely had to transfer everything to my huge stock pot, as my pans and regular pots were waaaay too small.

Add 4 (14.5 oz) cans of plum tomatoes with juice, 2 cups of water, a pinch of sea salt, and freshly ground black pepper. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes or until the squash is soft. Take the pan off the heat, spoon out the bay leaves, and let the sauce cool before blitzing with a stick blender until smooth (I was so excited that I finally had an excuse to purchase one!!)

The recipe says it makes 13 cups, but I got a solid 18 out of it. I also found that, though the stick blender was AWESOME, it didn't bring a texture my 19 month old son wished to eat, so I still need to blend the sauce further to correct the texture. As I stated, though, I saved a large container for dinner that week, and froze 3 baggies of it (4 cups in each) to use later in the year.

My only recommendation would be to add protein (tofu, chicken, beef, whichever you like), taste it again as it warms up (sometimes freezing can affect flavor and you may need more herbs or salt), and make sure the texture and consistency is to your liking.

I also think that the next time I actually cook this recipe, I will add frozen spinach, for more greens, and possibly reduce the # of peppers, or alter the type, as I found, personally, that this had a rather heavy pepper taste to it. But then again, I'm not huge on peppers.

Also note that this can be used as stock for roasts, as a base for soups and stews, and since it can be frozen, you will always have a basis for healthy meals for your family! Yay! Please tell me when you try it so we can share our experiences and tips. Enjoy!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

I'll Try to Catch You Up...

WOW! So much has happened recently. I'll try to be brief and quick...

  1. My school's Writing SoL scores came in, earlier than we all expected. Our school has a pass rate this year of 98%. Very cool. I'm proud of us all.

  2. Reading SoLs are in a week. I'm more nervous about this one than the Writing...

  3. I was pooped on by a bird on our way to the Chili Cook-off Festival. I've always heard that that is good luck. We'll see if Sydney will sleep the whole night through tonight.

  4. Sydney, in the past 3 days, has sprinted past his previous record for cutting teeth, gaining 2 (a front bottom cuspid and a top molar) to move his total from 7 to 9, at 19 months. Thus, see #3 above...

  5. I found a veggie-loaded spaghetti sauce recipe that both Steve and Syd love, which makes me very happy since we can all never eat too many veggies! It makes a ton, too, so I froze 3 baggies of it to use later. I'll post the recipe soon.

  6. Spring break has come and gone. It was glorious. We went to the zoo for the first time as a family on Sunday and Syd loved seeing all the 'kitties.' :-)

  7. It was a rude awakening coming back to school after break. I was anxious to get back, if only so I could finish this stressful year, but goodness...The week back I had an average of 2 meetings every day (yes, I know...not much for you in the private sector when your day is filled with meetings, but when you come in early and leave late on top of dealing with 120 kids...exhausting...)

  8. My AP kids took their literature test this week, too. I took them breakfast in the morning. I don't think I've done a lot for them, though some have told me that I've done more than I realize. Regardless, I was happy to do it, and we got leftover food the next day in class! I have the utmost faith in their abilities and look forward to hearing from everyone over the summer as they receive their scores. Here's hoping they get to make use of their time and skip past freshmen English in college! (Especially KL, who HATES English!!)

  9. Syd is so enraptured with lawn mowers he'll pause in the middle of playing and tell us to 'Shh!' so he can listen for mowers in the vicinity. So much so that Nanny went out and bought him a play lawn mower. Now, he mows everything - grass, the carpet, the kitchen floor...

  10. And last...I figured I'd stop at seems Murphy's Law is hitting - many of our 'things' are breaking all at once, ...came home today from the Chili Cook-off to find the kitchen floor wet from the dishwasher, our kitchen faucet leaks, had to reset a breaker in the kitchen because a whole wall of outlets weren't working, etc. Ah - the joys of home-ownership!

Pics and a recipe coming soon!