Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Not enough coffee in the world...

Here was our evening last night:

Em hadn't taken a nap, so she went down easy-peasy. I played video games, then Justin played video games, and I spent the rest of the evening chatting with my sister online. In addition, I was drinking this Starbucks liqueor stuff. (This turned out to be a crucial misstep.)

Around 12, I tried to go to sleep but I couldn't. So I read. Still couldn't sleep. Dang coffee drink.

Around 2, Justin came to bed. But he couldn't sleep either. So he got back up to play more video games.

Around 3, (I'm still up, so is Justin), Em wakes up. She's been having nightmares lately. Last night, apparently, they were about bugs.

I think I fell asleep around 5. I have no idea when the other two did.

Again, not enough coffee in the world.

Monday, December 29, 2008

It's my HOUSE, Stella and Ripley!

Stella and Ripley are not the names of my children (thank goodness right? that'd be a little movie obsessive.)

No, they are my cats.

Stella, who's about 8 years old, is a beautiful Russian Blue mixed with Siamese. She is beautiful, but psychotic. Absolutely. She will cuddle with you one moment and turn into viper kitty the next. She's actually mellowed with age, but lately she has been driving me crazy.

How, you say, is this cat so maddening? Well, she demonstrates her anger via urination. Litter box dirty--let's pee on the bed. Daddy not being attentive--let's pee in his drawer. Family gone for five days--let's pee on the bed, in the kid's crib, and pretty much anywhere else we can.

I hate her.

Then, there's Ripley. Typically, I feel sorry for Ripley. She's quite large, 20 pounds approximately. I've taken her to the vet, but they couldn't find anything wrong except...get this....she's FAT. (That was a good 500 dollars wasted.) She doesn't eat much during the day, but she just cannot seem to lose weight. Therefore, she can't clean herself.

Eww.

We leave a mat for Ripley by her litter box, and she takes care of her...um, business. But not this week. No, she jumped on the angry train with Stella and wiped herself all over our carpet. All over our house.

I hate both of them.

For those who do not have pets, this all seems very gross, I'm sure. Good. Don't get pets. They're icky.

Stella and Rip are enjoying the lovely weather outside. Once the weather turns, they will enjoy our lovely, spacious garage. I'm sure I'll let them in soon. But not unsupervised.

I do not enjoy.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Ouchie...

I have enjoyed many different foods this holiday...and beverages. Let's see, there was pozole on Christmas Eve, with Sangria, Ham yesterday with some drink Justin made called a coffee frostie, and chili today.

All I have to say now is ow.

I have heartburn and it sucks. It has subsided a bit, but I bypassed my run today (running and an upset stomach does not mix), and I took a nap. I feel better.

But still...

I should probably have a piece of fruit. :)

Monday, December 22, 2008

My Cookie Problem

So, I have a problem. And it has become unmanageable. My problem is this incessant desire to make a TON of cookies every Christmas.

Every year, I finish teaching around the 19th or so. One day later, I'm elbow deep in flour, cocoa powder, sugar, and sprinkles. For two solid days, the kitchen (which I rarely care about any other time of the year) is my domain. This year I made the following: double chocolate, cherry-chocolate bars, glazed lemon cookies, pecan sandies, and molasses spice cookies.

It's really quiet insane.

My problem is not helped by the fact that I now have a food processor AND a standing mixer and a large kitchen and many surfaces to work on.

Now, I have taken steps to control the chaos. I no longer make cookies that require rolling or decorating. The "pinwheel" cookie has been banished from my household: it seems easy but it's a nightmare. And I'm limited to 5 types (I kinda cheated cause I made two other kinds at my grandma's...hee-hee.)

To anyone who wishes to become a cookie maven (or refine the process), here are my suggestions:

* If possible, invest in either (or both if you can) a food processor or standing mixer; cookies have specific requirements for each. If the butter needs to be creamed first, you need a mixer; if the recipe starts with flour, you need a processor
* Try to pick cookie recipes with similar or shared ingredients
* Have the following tools/supplies: parchment paper, at least 4 cookie sheets, liquid and dry measuring cups, two sets of measuring spoons, and several mixing bowls. It's a good idea to have plenty of storage containers. Paper plates work great to transport the cookies as gifts
* Seriously consider purchasing Cooks Illustrated's America's Test Kitchen cook books; they have the best recipes, which never require modifications. Their cookies, cakes, etc are impossible to screw up
* Don't eat cookies as you go--you'll feel terrible. Make sure to have a reasonable lunch
* Know your baking personality. I'm messy and I don't want anyone getting in my business, so I do much better on my own. You may want companionship. Either is fine; just know what makes you happy

I'm all done for this year, and my table is covered. I think I've fully satisfied my inner baker...until next year. :)

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Thanksgiving Pics






Yes, it is almost Christmas. Yes, I waited awhile to post pictures of Thanksgiving dinner at my mom's house in Concord. Better late...

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Running on Empty

I hit that typical teacher skid today. The one where you realize the students are paying better attention than you are. Several times today I was the major cause of annoyance to my students because I was the one off-task, or not listening, or just staring into space.

Here is a sampling of some of my remarks when my students expressed frustration at my lack of focus:

"Sorry I missed your call. Ms Harrell isn't here right now; please leave a message at the beep."

"Oh, whoops. You expected a response."

"And once more for the cheap seats!"

"Really, you need me to answer that?"

"I started break last Friday. You'll have to excuse me."

"Wait...what???"

The school year didn't start off this way. Actually, I felt pretty much on fire until circa Halloween. Here was my typical routine prior to the winter slow-down:

* Woke up at 5, worked out for a half hour
* Took shower, did hair, make up
* Out of house prior to 7 with daughter in tow
* Worked solidly from 7:30 to 4:00 with one 20 minute break for lunch
* Picked up daughter at 4:30
* Home by five, made snack for Em
* Worked out for another half hour
* Made dinner, cleaned, bathed Em
* Greeted husband at 8, completely exhausted but feeling accomplished

That patterned continued until late October, when I no longer could get up early enough to work out in the morning. So, I'd have to work out for an hour in the evening, meaning no time for cleaning. Eventually, too, the hair doing and make up putting on ceased. But hey, that extra 15 minutes of sleep is a non-negotiable.

Tomorrow is the day before winter break. I have finished my first semester of grad school. My husband just finished his semester. And I have graded over 600 essays this semester (okay, I am never allowed to actually count it AGAIN.)

And I'm done. My brain power is all used up. The gas light is on and I'm puttering to the curb. Luckily present wrapping, cookie making, and egg-nog drinking don't take that much thinkin!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Finding my Inner Mama Lion

For all my supposed flaunting of authority as a teenager, I really am a big wuss when it comes to the rules. I follow them. I rarely question them. And I feel a lot of anxiety when I feel that an authority figure is judging me.

This is especially true when it comes to doctors and other medical professionals. I remember feeling just awful when I met with the nurse practitioner for the first time about my gestational diabetes. She was totally harsh and I didn't stand up for myself at all.

When facing an authoritative person, especially women, I turn to mush.

Well, I used to.

Recently, I found my inner mama lion. This all came about because I didn't listen to myself. Which made me both really pissed with myself and with a new target: medical professionals.

Allow me to explain.

My daughter had all of her teeth, even the molars way before her first birthday. She started with two in the front, then six popped in one day (I'm not kidding) and then they all started flying in rapid succession.

I was concerned, so I asked her doctor about it a her first year appointment. She was on fluoride drops, no juice, no bottle at night, etc. All was good.

But the more I thought about it, the more worried I felt. However, every medical expert I spoke to told me to wait until she was 3 or 4 before seeing a dentist. Each one brushed me off like I had nothing to worry about. But I did.

I asked my daycare lady, who was a dental hygienist in the past, to take a look. She told me she thought she saw some decay. I rushed Em into an appointment, and yup, she had 7 cavities.

Seven cavities.

I lost it. The anger and guilt boiled through me for days. But after I calmed down and gained some perspective (I do have awesome dental coverage after all), that anger turned into something remarkably like a back bone.

When the dental hygienist asked me repeatedly if Em still took a bottle at night and arched her eyebrow every time I said no, I told her firmly that I was not lying so she could just stop it.

When the nurse who was monitoring my daughter's anesthesia during her dental surgery to fix her teeth, patted my arm condescendingly and told me not to worry about a thing, I said, "No, you will explain the entire procedure until I understand it fully."

These may not seem like bold moves, but for me they are. I finally figured out that no one will stand up for me except me. And no one can be a better advocate for my daughter but me.

Em is fine. Her teeth are beautiful and I'm so glad we were able to get everything done in one appointment, I was not thrilled about her being sedated, but it went great.

While I still wish this had never happened, I know so much more now. I knew deep down that something was wrong, but I didn't listen to myself. I used to get angry and frustrated with myself for not trusting my own judgment, but I'm so past that now. Hey, if I'm wrong about something, so be it. But I'd rather go with my gut and check things out and be a little embarrassed at overreacting than make my family the victim of my inaction.

All in all, this was a big week.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Adults CAN Have Fun Too!

I think it's pretty typical for most kids to dream about when they grow up, live on their own, and get to do all the things their parents won't let them do, like eat ice cream for dinner. As adults, we, well, grow up and realize our priorities. While we do get much more choice in our daily lives than we did as kids, there still isn't a whole lot of dessert for dinner.

I was no different when it came to this childhood practice. I was constantly telling my mom I would never treat my daughter the way she treated me. Looking back on this, I'm sure my mother loved hearing that.

Although I have gradually changed my mind about the things I would let my children do. I probably won't let my daughter pierce her nose, dye her hair pink, or stay over at her boyfriend's. Yeah, no probably about it. Not happening.

But I did get to realize one childhood dream today that I have waited a long time for: I finally got to buy a Christmas tree.

When I was really little, we did have Christmas trees, but when I was 8 or so, we stopped getting them. My parents gave several legitimate reasons: we didn't have the money, we didn't actually spend Christmas day at home, and my cousins, who came over for the Christmas Eve party, were really allergic. Eventually, my mom discovered she was allergic too. So, no Christmas trees.

Today, though, I realized the full power of my adulthood and I bought my very own Christmas tree, plus ornaments. As we were decorating it, I really did feel a strong sense of that childish awe I used to feel. Decorating a tree on a frosty night with your family (wine not required, but highly enjoyable) is one of my favorite, although new, family traditions.

I felt a little guilt buying the tree and trimmings this morning, as both Justin and I have a ton of work to do for school. This next week will be exhausting to say the least. My head swims at how much work Justin needs to do. I have a huge paper due on Friday. Most importantly, Em has dental surgery scheduled to take care of her extensive cavities. I will be taking the day off on Tuesday so I can attend the three hour procedure. All in all, this week is building to a head...and it hasn't even happened yet!

So the Christmas tree was a gift to my family and to myself. A wondrous time to relax and enjoy the season with the two most important people in my world.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Keep it Simple

Seeing the holidays through the perspective of a two-year old has been quite an experience so far this year.

Here's what I've seen through my daughter's eyes:

Fourth of July: corn-on-the cob, wading pool time, and the excuse to stay up late because the neighbors are shooting off fire crackers. Awesome.

Halloween: candy is not enough incentive to put on a costume, or worst yet, a mask. No thank you. Try me again next year.

Thanksgiving: while pumpkin pie is cool and all, the entire holiday was pretty much a letdown. Parents have to cook the whole time and I have to nap in a weird place. Nice try.

Christmas: Now we're talking. Cookies--good. Twinkly lights--good. Presents--ah, wonderful.

Today I was talking to Em about Santa (my daycare lady has her decorations up, so Em is interested in it.) I told her that Santa brings presents and that we can also give presents to people we care about. Our conversation went like this:

Me: "Emy, Santa is a man who wears a red suit, is very jolly, and brings little boys and girls presents."

Emerson: "That's wonderful mama."

Me: "What would you like Santa to bring you?"

Emerson: "A pink present, mama."

Me: "I think that he would be more than happy to do that."

I need to remember this moment for when she is older and nothing I get her makes her happy. I'll just pull out this memory of a time when just the mere thought of a gift was exciting and wonderful. Hopefully, I will remember the simple joy also.

Maybe Em has a great idea for all people. It's not really the gift that matters. It's the time and attention people put into it, the fact that they would just like to find exactly the perfect pink present you want. :)

Monday, December 1, 2008

What I'm Thankful for

I've always had a preference for Thanksgiving over other winter holidays. The crisp weather is still a novelty. I love, love, love the food (gravy is awesome). Most importantly, it's my first long break from school since summer, so I'm super grateful for that. And this time of year, unlike the crazy busy Christmas time with all the shopping, wrapping, baking, and driving around, lends itself nicely to reflection. (Much time spent on the couch digesting.)

Upon reflection, I came up with a number of things that I am thankful for:

Refrigerated Pie Crust: Instead of spending hours making pie crust, I whipped these puppies out, threw them in a pie pan, and focused on what is really important--the filling (hello!) And I got to play around with Em in the kitchen as I did it.

My daughter's laughs: Not laugh...laughs. The girl has a ton. I was a little frazzled last week: online class, crazy shopping, three pies to make, and my mom invited a "friend" to Thanksgiving. The whole time Em kept me focused with her grunts, guffaws, squeals, and giggles. She is awesome.

Gravy: I do not feel the need to explain this.

My sister: There is not a life experience I have gone through in which she hasn't been a large part. My parents divorce, my wedding, the birth of my child all happened in rapid succession. She was there the whole time, crying and laughing with me. She was there this weekend, and I am so thankful.

My home: I absolutely love living in a house. I love my neighborhood. The holidays are so much more festive when you live in a house and everyone around hangs lights and other decorations. We're getting a tree this weekend. We don't have much to spend, but I'm excited to be able to do this for the first time in a long time.

Most importantly, Winter break is three short weeks away and I couldn't be happier. I will have two blissful weeks with my daughter, no homework, and if I can help it, no cold.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

WE NEED RAIN!

I say this for many reasons. Yes, I am very concerned about going back into a drought. I grew up during a drought and it was no fun.

But this is not an environmental blog I'm posting.

No, this desire comes from purely selfish motivations. I am a bad, bad person for the following reason: all this warm, nice weather is MURDER for high school teachers. The kids are losing it, and I am not far behind. I cannot even imagine how unpleasant it is for high school administrators right now.

Allow me to explain.

Unlike for elementary and middle school students, rain has a very calming effect on high schoolers. They are sleepy. They are compliant. They are quiet. It is wonderful.

Don't get me wrong. I love to hear kids talk. I'm all about engaging them, having a student-centered classroom, and hearing their colorful perspectives on things.

The key term is classroom.

Outside of the four walls of my safe, warm, inclusive classroom lies a very different environment. 1,500 hormonally charged bodies roam our campus everyday, carrying with them agendas, alliances, and bad-a**-ness to prove.

It takes about a month and a half for kids to start to lose their start-of-school good behavior; then, grades come out, tests are administered, conflicts happen, and true colors begin to show. Typically, the weather also becomes cool, so kids are so worried about rushing to class so they don't freeze their pa-tooties off that they don't care to engage.

Not so this year. There has been plenty of engagement on my campus this week. I myself stepped into the middle of a couple (fun), and a student of mine summed up the whole situation quite succinctly the other day:

Student: "Ms H, can I use a cell phone in my skit?"

Me: "No, I'm not really into that. It sends the wrong message if an administrator walks in and you're using a phone."

Student: "Oh, I don't think there will be any administrators in classrooms today. They seemed...busy."

Thank all that is green is this world that we only have two days of school next week. In the meantime, I am praying for rain.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Happy Birthday Niece!





Here are some pics from my niece's 2nd birthday.

Friday, November 14, 2008

There's Something to Those Old Wives' Tales

The teacher next door to me is AWESOME. I consider her my mid-western coffee talk lady. She has a ton of cool stories about being 22 and dealing black jack in Tahoe. Now, at 60, she still has a ton of spunk and one never quite knows what will come out of her mouth.

She has a theory about full moons.

I am beginning to hate this theory.

Because it's true.

Every single time we have a full moon, my teacher friend tells me to beware the crazies. This is not a good thing when you teach sophomores. The name quite literally means "wise fool." The paradox is enough to drive anyone batty.

On any given day 15-year-olds are unpredictable. One day laughing, the next swearing at you. Whatever, I'm used to it.

Or I thought I was.

Yesterday, an absolutely dear student of mine (please note the sarcasm) refused to work. This is not new, but she was being louder than usual, so I asked her to step outside. She complied with the usual eye rolling and hair flipping.

I went outside. No student. She must have magically disappeared. Right.

Anyhow, I still needed to teach, so I moved on. Later, another student, this time one who I typically have a great relationship with, needed a moment to reflect. When I went outside to consult with student two, I found that student one had returned.

Yay me.

Student one proceeded to shout profanities at me when I asked her to kindly move away from my classroom. Luckily, a security guard was coming up just in time to hear her state that she wanted to kick my donkey (you get the idea.)

She was taken away. I was not happy, but I had to move on (after a little cry between passing periods.)

Luckily for me, I never saw her again. But I found out later that once she found out that she was being suspended for five days, she fled from the office and tried to "find" me. Security tackled her.

This child is no longer my student. In fact, she's on her way to expulsion. Neither of these things make me happy. I'm not so naive to think I can save every child, but it is painful to watch a student so completely self destruct.

I love my students. They are great kids, and this particular child is not indicative of who I teach. My school responded swiftly and appropriately. But still...

It was not an experience I needed to have. I'm so happy it's Friday I can barely contain my glee.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The List versus Reality

As a teacher, I have today off. Yay! (I'm trying not to be bitter about those districts that had yesterday off...it's not working, but I'm trying...)

So here was my list for today:

1. Breakfast with Em
2. Grocery Shopping
3. Reading and nap (Em, not me)
4. Working out
5. Nap for me
6. Grading
7. Dinner
8. Bedtime routine

After step 2, everything went to you-know-where in a you-know-what. Em went down peacefully. However, I was 30 minutes into my workout and I heard Em babbling in her room about stickers. So much for her typical 2 hour nap. Sigh.

So I had to eliminate the nap and the grading, but I got to add the following:

* Dancing to Elmo
* Painting
* Watching Gilmore Girls with Em

I still made dinner (though Justin was hovering the whole time), and we still got through our bedtime routine, although Em was a little too sleepy for books.

While I'm feeling a little guilty about not grading (tomorrow is going to be UGH), I did really enjoy my day off. It almost felt like today was Sunday: a nice gift because we didn't really have a weekend. I spent all day Saturday in class, and then we spent Sunday in Redding. Today was a gift.

Friday, November 7, 2008

In 24 hours...

24 hours from now, I will be with my daughter. I haven't seen her all week because she's been in Redding with my in-laws. She's had a fab-o time, but I have missed her so much. Yes, I connected with my husband. Yes, I had some freedom I haven't experienced in awhile. It was wonderful.

But I want my baby back.

24 hours from now, I will be done with my second class of grad school. It is finishing with my least favorite of projects: the dreaded group project. It's going fine, but working as a group, especially with a bunch of high achieving teachers, is a challenge. I'll be happy when it's over.

24 hours from now.

And my week really has been great. My students are doing well. I'm busy and happy.

And, of course, there was an election this week. That was pretty much the most awesome thing EVER.

But I miss Em and, more importantly, I miss our routine together. We are starting to have a very predictable, comfortable pattern of Mommy/Toddler time since my husband started school. And since I'm planning on going into administration in the next couple years, I really appreciate being able to pick up my daughter and spend so much time with her in the evening.

So now I'm home, putting off my homework, looking so forward to seeing my daughter tomorrow. It is so cool to watch her grow up, especially when she gets to have experiences on her own. I know that having these experiences away from her parents is important to making Em an independent, self-sufficient girl.

But, still, I miss her.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Halloween Pictures





Here are some photos from Halloween. We had a great time (once Em was into wearing her costume.)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Feeling Stuck

I'm experiencing an interesting time in my career. This year has proven to be intellectually stimulating and also frustrating.

Here's the short of it: It's my second year at my school--not the new kid, but also not totally taken seriously; I am really excited about what I have learned in grad school, but it's kinda like I'm dressed up with no where to go; Since I teach all periods, I really don't have time to look for leadership opportunities; I'm not ready to be a vice principal, necessarily, but I'm treading water as a teacher right now

Today my overriding emotions were impatience, anxiety, and feeling trapped. While I LOVE my students, the overall environment of my school is limiting. For example, we all have to have the same instructional calendar, assessments, and strategies within our grade levels. I see the value of collaboration, but I've never been a follow-the-leader kind of gal. I can think for myself. What's worse is that we are told that we are respected by administration, but everytime I leave a meeting, I feel the opposite.

So my questions to myself are

1.Am I really ready to leave teaching or is my school just NOT the place to be?
2.Can I lead?
3.Why do I want to lead?

So, yeah, I am stuck. I love the new ideas I am getting and I really think I can lead a school. I want to move on, but there's no path for me. So I wait. Sigh.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

It's been entirely too long

The last time I went out with my husband was in July to watch the Batman movie. The last time we went out to dinner was for Mother's Day. In fact, we spend 80% of our time together on the couch.

I decided to take the couch out of the equation.

My dad was already planning on coming over this weekend, so I called him up and asked if he would mind watching Em while Justin and I went to dinner. That wasn't our original plan, and I felt bad cause I never really get to hang out with my dad, but he totally understood.

So last night, after a riveting day spent in class, I came home, put on makeup, changed into a top that shows cleavage (well, it would on most people), and got ready to go out. Justin and I left my dad and Em in the back yard playing "1-2 Kick-the-ball" (Em's favorite past time), and we headed to a Mexican restaurant.

It was lovely.

They sat us by the water fountain. I ordered a margarita. I didn't have to cut up anyone's food. Fantastic.

After, we went to a wine bar in downtown Sac that was very obviously a first or second date place. We giggled at all the nervous people who were struggling to make conversation.

Driving back home, we laughed and talked. It was a great evening. Even better, I was asleep by 10:30. Perfect day.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Making the world a better place

Yesterday, I had a frustrating experience. It was frustrating for two reasons: 1. Because of someone else's behavior, and 2. Because of my behavior.

Here's what happened.

I had to sell tickets at our football game last night, and I was partnered up with another English teacher. This teacher and I haven't had the best beginning to a relationship, not that she's necessarily aware of that. Last year, she reported something I said at a staff meeting directly to my supervising principal. Not cool. I had this whole stupid situation to clean up, and I did not appreciate it.

So I don't really trust her. Not exactly thrilled to spend 3 hours in a booth with her.

We're selling tickets and I'm trying to make the best of it, chatting, trying to have an open mind. And then she's a complete butt head, and a rather racist one at that.

My school is mostly African-American and Latino. We have less than 100 white students at our school. Our football team is mostly black; since their families attend, our football audiences are mostly black.

Last night we were playing a school not in our immediate area, and it became quite clear that this is a mostly white school, or at least, a white football team. Whatever, not a big deal.

Well, I thought it wasn't a big deal.

I started to get peeved when every time a white family came up, my partner said "You're from the guest school, right?" And to any minority family she'd say "Our school, right." Not necessarily racist, but just rude. (The best part was when this older, black man called her on it: "Why did you assume I was from your school. He was just messing with her, but it was awesome. She totally floundered.)

Then I got real mad when she noticed two youths, both black, standing by her car. She said, "I'm glad I can see my car from here."

And this is where I got mad at myself.

I didn't say anything.

I felt so weak afterwards. How can I expect to make the world a more accepting place where all kids from all backgrounds can excel if I don't even have the backbone to call someone out on their racism?

I need to work on this. I've had this hollow feeling in my gut all morning. I mean, for goodness sake, I'm in a class on equity and diversity in school leadership. Talk about not practicing what you preach.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Harvest Festival Pictures






Last weekend, my mom, husband, Em, and I went to our town's Harvest Festival. Besides paying $12 for a train ride (yikes), we had a good time. Emerson loved the petting zoo and picking her own pumpkin. She had a nice long nap afterwards. Fall is awesome here in the Sacramento area!

Taking Time

When I started teaching 8 years ago, I had a great mentor. She helped me with so many things: putting together lessons, dealing with tricky kids, and learning how to organize myself as a teacher. The most important thing she taught me was to take time for myself.

I remember when we were planning my first six weeks. She sat me down and said, "Plan a day to take off in October, a mental health day." I was shocked, but she had a good point. She said I needed to know that my classes could exist without me. It's a piece of advice I give all newer teachers.

So when I can, it's not always possible, I try to schedule a mental health day in October. Again, it's not always possible, especially the last couple of years. I have been saving my sick days for things like maternity leave, Em getting sick, and job interviews.

This year, though, I'm good. So I took a day today.

Everything this week has been coming to a head. Justin has a nasty, lingering cold (the best kind), Em's two-year molars are coming in (therefore, she's not sleeping or eating well...yay), and I have a group project to work on in my grad class (double yay.)

And I came to a new conclusion yesterday as I was considering doing this. Unlike when I was single and taking days off for myself, these mental health days are for my family too now. Em needs a relaxing day at home as much as I do. And since I have class tomorrow, I won't be much help to Justin in terms of chores, so today I can do my part to help him out.

Today our list includes cleaning the much abused kitchen, going to a park, doing some art, and of course, laundry. I know it'll be over before I know it, but I'm going to try to enjoy this slower, more gentler version of Friday.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

September: the month that would not die

I remember September 14th this month. I remember thinking: "It's only half over...No way!" This past month may have had the same number of days it always has, but it seemed so much longer than its 30 days.

Here's why:

1. I started teaching again. Yes, this began in August, but it started to feel real in September. And this year I have no prep, which means more students and even fewer restroom breaks.

2. I began grad school and my husband started his credential program. So far I have one class down and we are getting a rhythm but it was a long time coming. Our family dynamics have shifted dramatically. I cook now and somewhat clean. While having Justin not work last year wasn't exactly perfect, our house certainly was. This housekeeping stuff is ROUGH.

3. Exercise is my middle name. In August, I got the news that I am indeed pre-diabetic. I had 20 pounds to lose, so I got really disciplined about working out. I'm down 10 lbs. This is all great, but anyone who's been down to her last 10 pounds knows how much work that will be. Ugh.

4. Em's transition back to daycare was not as smooth as anticipated. She had spent the whole summer with Daddy and was used to low-key mornings, lots of personal attention, and, most painfully, sleeping in until 8. She's back to her usual easy-going, social self, but she was downright prickly for a large portion of September.

Almost needless to say, I am very happy it is October. The weather today is beautiful: very cool and rainy. We are planning on going to our town's Harvest Festival this weekend and I'm very excited. It's been a long time since we've done something this. I can't even remember the last time we took pictures.

There's so much to look forward to: Halloween, my niece's birthday, the first holiday of the school year, and of course, many busy, adventure-filled days with my small, precious family.

Whoo-hoo to October!

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

For the Love!

Technology in the workplace is not new. Computers are not new. Especially, in education. I distinctly remember being a TA in 1997 as a senior and entering grades for a teacher into an electronic grade book.

I think that we as teachers can safely say that computers are here to stay.

So, someone needs to explain to me why so many teachers are so STINKING close minded when it comes to technology. (Sidenote: this may be true of other professions, but I have never really worked in any other field...sad, I know.)

Please do not think I am tooting my own horn. I'm no technological wizard. Just ask my husband. I'm sure he'll say something vaguely insulting about my computer skills.

However, I am all about instant gratification, so computers work for me. Especially since the invention of high-speed Internet.

Here's why I left work today saying not very nice things about some of my co-workers:

1. A couple ladies I work with have it in their minds that I can solve ALL their tech problems. This is not true.

2. These same ladies always call me with questions. Not a bad thing, necessarily. But it's not so great when it's for something they need to complete RIGHT NOW.

3. When I am trying to help these women, they act like remaining in the dark ages is a good thing "Well, people your age may know computers, but I remember when we used ditto machines." Okay, you're now LAME and old. Yay for you.

4. Occasionally, they attempt to yell at me.

I say occasionally because when it happened today I gave my co-worker a stern talking to. Seriously, this woman is 50 and I spoke to her like she's 4. I actually asked her, "Do you really want my help or not?" She shut up then.

Still, I'm not answering my phone tomorrow.

*"For the Love!" is a common phrase of one my dear friends Stephanie. It's the perfect way to express frustration without swearing or offending anyone's religious sensibilities. :)

Friday, September 26, 2008

Sitting as a contact sport

As an English major, I spent a lot of time in college sitting on my butt. I'd have an average of 1,000 pages to read a week and could bet on spending at least 10 hours a week writing. I never thought a moment about how bleeping uncomfortable it is to sit.

I cannot do it.

Sitting is killing me.

To be specific, sitting is kicking my butt.

As a teacher, I never sit. In fact, I probably do at least a hundred squats a day. I get almost seated and then someone says, "Hey, Ms Harrell..."

Now, that I'm a grad student, I sit way too much. I spent a good 15 hours last weekend researching and writing, and anywhere from 2-3 hours each night this week.

I just finished my paper (yay), but although I am done writing, my body is not done speaking to me. My knees, back, even my gosh-darn toes are complaining. And then there's my butt. You think something so ample would be comfortable to sit on. Nope.

Here's the interesting thing. How does one prepare for sitting? Can you condition for it? Does it include, dare I say, just sitting on your butt and doing nothing?

I have the weirdest problems.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Whew!

This week was a bit alarming for me. I was really starting to feel that grad school might not be the right fit for me and my family.

Here's what happened this week.

Sunday I started my first research project of graduate school and I remembered something important: I AM A HORRIBLE STUDENT. Really. It's true. I'm not organized. I procrastinate like crazy. And I have a hard time starting projects. I'm a good writer, so I do well in my classes, but it is painful. So I spent the whole day researching, but not writing. It was just really frustrating. I worked hard, but had little to show for it.

Monday I had a staff (ugh) meeting. In 8 years of teaching, I have attended less than 10 meetings that could not have been better dealt with as a lengthy email. I didn't get home until 6. Had to work out, make dinner, get Em to bed, etc. I got precious little done on my research project.

Tuesday I couldn't work on my paper because I had to attend a school board meeting for my class. It was pretty interesting (actually, it was helpful; there was a presentation on the achievement gap, my project topic.) But still, I had no writing done.

Wednesday, the day I was supposed to have half my paper written, came, and I had still done no writing. Ugh. I had to admit to my professor that I didn't get it done. Very embarrassing. It didn't count for points, but still...ugh.

So today has been all about redemption. After a nice breakfast out, Justin took Em to the grocery store so I could get some work done.

And work I did. Finally, I got my confidence back. Whew!

So far I have four solid pages written. I still feel a little out of my element (I am new to research, so I'm not totally sure of what I'm doing.) But I can actually visualize finishing this paper. I was really starting to doubt being in the program. I kept asking myself all week: "Are you really committed to this?"

I can answer yes, I am, now to that question. Thank goodness. I'd feel really silly handing back all that loan money that just came in...

Saturday, September 13, 2008

My Favorite Time of Day

There is one time of day that I love more than any other: when my daughter falls asleep.

Now, that kinda sounds bad.

This is not my favorite time of day because the house is finally quiet (though she is two...I don't think anyone would really fault my husband and I for wanting some quiet.) No, I love this time of day because I can get a good look at her.

I sneak into Emy's room an hour or so after she goes to bed, right before I'm ready to head to my own slumber. I carefully give her a little pat and kiss, rearrange her blankets, and make sure she has both her teddy bears (my husband's and my childhood bears, by the way.)

Then, I bask in the glory that is being a mom of such a cool kid. At night is when I cannot believe I'm so lucky to be a mom. I just look at her and am stunned. She's beautiful and peaceful and I know she feels loved.

There are many times of the day I love and some I could do without (bath time and brushing the teeth are becoming FUN.) I love cuddling with my daughter during Saturday cartoons, cleaning up the kitchen with her (she helps), and of course, there's reading time.

But then there are those moments, late in the evening, when I can just slow down and appreciate her for the beautiful, intelligent little girl she is turning into.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Yay! (This time sarcasm free)

I don't have much time to post this (it's nine and I'm fading fast), but I wanted to give an update on the car situation.

We got one! Yay!

After an entire weekend of poopy trip after poopy trip to different dealers, we finally found a Toyota at a BMW dealership in Elk Grove. I guess it was a trade-in. Good mileage. 2005. No accidents reported on CarFax.

And, although this is not at all significant, it's super cute.

Yay!

Now on to the next thing...

Sunday, September 7, 2008

YAY!

I am not a shopper. I hate it. I do as much as possible online. In fact, I can guarantee that the Internet has improved my quality of life. Or, at least, my husband's.

So this weekend we have one objective: buy a used car. I am less than thrilled.

First of all, we are buying this used car because some dumb-a crashed into my beloved, though abused, Geo Prism at the DMV. Then, this dumb-a's insurance company gave us a pittance for the car, my graduation present from college. So insulting.

Second, we have very limited time in which to purchase this second car. I have this weekend off from school and both my husband and I have little homework...for now. Also, we are using my grandma's car, and I'd like to get it back to her.

So today we traveled to North Highlands. (Charming, by the way.) We found something, but the dealer wouldn't negotiate. Sigh. So, later, we drove to Roseville. With a two-year-old. In 100 degree heat. Double sigh. We found something again, but the dealer again wouldn't negotiate.

We came back home, tired, fried, and dejected. Em was way over tired. We bought a frozen pizza and some wine, and mulled over our options. Tomorrow we're heading to another dealership to try our luck again. Wish us luck.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Ah, This is the Way...

I tried something new this year, and it actually worked rather well. My husband and I decided (it was mostly me deciding, but he went along for the ride) to throw a Labor Day Party. We decided to throw it on Saturday, not Sunday or actual Labor Day, to save our out-of-town relatives a crazy driving weekend.

All week I was regretting this choice for the following reasons:

1. This was my first week back to school and it was a sprint, not a long-distance event.
2. It turned out I did have my grad school class all Saturday.
3. My husband, Em, and myself were all completely pooped by Friday.

Surprisingly enough (which is very good news for my relationship with my lovely husband), Saturday went off quite well. So well, that I might actually attempt something like this party in the future. Not anytime in the near future, of course, but maybe next year.

Here's why it worked:
1. Most of my friends and family could make it.
2. It was a fun start to the weekend.
3. We didn't spend all weekend getting ready.
4. We had one day to party, one to hang out with family members who stayed over, and one day to ourselves (today, which is lovely.)

Because I'm not hosting a party today, I feel that I can get more prepared for the upcoming week. We already went to Toys R Us for a new car seat, did the shopping for the week, and I just cleaned up the kitchen. The rest of my day includes exercise, laundry (yay), a trip to Target (what weekend would be complete without that?), and some other preparation items for tomorrow.

So, if you're celebrating a long weekend, here are my two suggestions:
1. Do it early
2. Or, even better, do it at someone else's house :)

Monday, August 25, 2008

I'd take 29 over 2 any day

All weekend I was a little anxious about making it through today. The first day of school is always a flurry of activity. (Which is ironic, considering that you really don't do a whole lot of teaching.) And this year I have a new challenge in teaching six classes instead of five. That means from 7:30 to 3:19 I had a total of 30 minutes break.

But I'm 29. It's really not that hard. I did just fine today.

However, I was the only one.

I came home today around five to a toddler in full melt-down mode. Justin was cuddling Em in her room, as she wiped tears off her face.

"What happened?" I asked.

"Oh, she skipped her nap at daycare," said my rueful husband.

Uh-oh.

So, we struggled through the evening. Normally happy during my "dancing" DVD (workout time), today she pouted in the laundry basket, not to be comforted by anything. She hated that we made pasta, typically her favorite. She hated her plate, her fork, even our poor cat who sat outside, bemused by Em's histrionics.

Everything came to a head during bath. We rushed our typical nighttime routine, skipping art time, outside time, and reading books. But still, Em was past any type of normal tantrum. She literally flopped on the floor and sobbed. It was rough.

Now all is quiet. My lovely, and sleeping, daughter is hugging her elephant, happy in her little bed. Thank all that is good and green on this earth.

This night reminded me how sensitive kids are, how it's so much harder to get through changes when you don't have the words yet to express your emotions. I have been worried about how Justin and I will juggle everything. But how is Em doing?

Today, not so hot.

Luckily, kids are resilient. And she's already showing signs of being happy in day care. I'm hoping that we get some Mommy and Baby time this week. She definitely deserves it.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Just a shred of dignity please

I am back in the class room tomorrow. And back with a vengeance, if I may say.

Today, I spent a good part of my day getting prepared. I don't mean lesson planning or reading my materials. I'm not a first-year teacher.

No, today was all about preparing myself for what's about to come. I ironed all my work clothes. I painted my nails. I finally unpacked my shoes (yes, we've lived here over a month...shut it.) Em had a really good time trying on every single pair. I'm not kidding. The girl likes her shoes. She was very clear about what was "yucky" and what was "wonderful."

Today's preparations were in line with many of my activities of the last couple weeks. I took care of health stuff, cut my hair, bought some new clothes, and tossed a whole lot of old "yucky" stuff, to use Em's phrase of late.

And I feel good. I feel ready to go.

Well, mostly. I just caught a gander in the mirror and found a new friend: a nice, big red pimple. Right smack on my chin. Lovely.

Now, many of you may note that I don't have much to worry about. It is only a pimple. And I teach 15 year olds. They barely notice the people seating next to them, let alone their teachers.

Still, it's just rude. I teach 15 year olds; I don't need to look like them.

Well, I'm off to assess the situation. Hopefully it'll clear up by tomorrow. Though this is the one day a year I wear make-up, so that's not such a bad thing.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Do we ever grow up?

Today was my first day back at work. Students aren't on campus yet, so we get to spend the next four fun-filled days in back-to-back meetings. Some of these meetings are important, for example, we met our new principal, who seems great, and it was good to know what his goals, attitudes, and expectations are.

Over the past seven years I've taught I've had five, now six, different principals. There are people who think this is a very big deal, but to be quite honest, in a high school setting, it's really not that big of an issue. Elementary teachers may have a different experience because the school is so much smaller, but at a high school the principal tends to serve as a facilitator, and the school can manage without him or her at the helm. Now, I've only worked at two schools, but this has been my experience.

It's always a little dicey for the first couple weeks, sometimes months, with a new leader. Are you going to chafe at his or her leadership style? Is he going to listen to? What kind of baggage does he bring with him?

Well, my principal earned my instant admiration today. We started with a three-hour meeting on nuts-and-bolts issues this morning. Yes, not everything was totally fascinating (I know how to take attendance, for Pete's sake), and the lunch-table benches got a little painful after a while. But most of us sat quietly and listened to person after person who was trotted out in front of us to tell us yet another thing we had to know (like I'm going to remember any of it tomorrow.)

Most of us sat quietly. Most. There was a contingent in the back who insisted on talking pretty much the whole time. I don't mean a quiet comment once and awhile to your partner; I mean full-on, off-topic conversations.

My new principal took the microphone and said to the back table: "I'm serious about honoring your time here. Please be serious about honoring our agenda. Stop talking."

It was amazing. I have never had a boss be that direct. His actions might sound rude, but they were really appropriate at the time. It is amazing to me that the very same people who do not tolerate any kind of off-task or rude behavior in their classrooms are the very same people who perpetrate it in meetings. It's so rude and it has driven me crazy for the past seven years. I'm sure it will still drive me crazy in the future, but it was so refreshing to have a boss assert himself.

My students come into my classroom with an idea of how "grownups" should act. And I feel bad for them sometimes when they realize that some adults behave as badly, if not worse, than their teenage students. I'd like to think I've grown up in the past 11 years since I graduated high school, but I'm not sure how much that is true. Sure, I don't talk during meetings, but I'll admit to stomping my feet a couple times when I don't get my way.

Hey, maybe being "grown-up" is overrated.

Friday, August 15, 2008

There is a God?

Faith is always something I've struggled with. My parents take the blame for this: they didn't want to indoctrinate their children, so we didn't go to church. The result was both my sister and I don't have a religion--sort of a reverse indoctrination.

I've always loved the pageantry of religion to be beautiful and inspiring, even to the point of tears. However, I never believed any of it. I always open an eye during a prayer to see what other people are doing. I never felt comfortable praying to God for my problems because they seemed too trivial for him/her/it to worry about. Really, he/she/it needs to be concerned about my SAT score, or a flat tire, or my petty arguments with friends and family.

And then there's the pain. I'm not a big fan of pain, emotional or physical. I'm not a big picture person. When I see someone in pain, I feel anger and betrayal. When my baby cousin died of a genetic disorder at 11 months, I only saw my strong, brave aunt and uncle falling apart. I didn't see a purpose. When people tried to tell me that Sammy was a gift from God, that we were lucky to have known him, I agreed on the surface, but I struggled with a powerful maelstrom of hate towards God. So much that I refused to believe he exists.

This is not a new argument against the existence of God, I realize. You hear people constantly say things like how can there be so much pain, hunger, violence, and loss in this world and still be a God.

I'm not sure if there is a God, per se, but I'm leaning towards a god-type thing. Maybe some sort of universal force or balance.

Yes, this sounds cheese ball. Allow me to explain.

All year, I have held on to my sanity by a single thread. But I have been amazed at the see-saw affect of everything. My husband couldn't find work, but right when we were almost down for the count, he got a long-term teaching position. I got laid off from my teaching position, and then right before my health insurance ran out, I got my job back.

And here's the big one. Someone hit our second car a couple weeks ago. Not a lot of damage, but enough to cause the car to be "totaled." We will have enough from the insurance company to buy a used car, but I was still really stressed about money for next year. My husband will be a student teacher, ie indentured servant, and will make no money. I figured out a budget for the next year, and was stunned to realize we will need an extra $500 a month. My magic number was $10,000. I was panicking about having to ask family for money, yada yada. I am sure I drove a fair number of friends crazy while complaining about it all.

And here's when I learned to be patient and just WAIT.

Today, my vice principal called. She wanted to know if I would teach an extra period of English per day, meaning I would give up my prep, but I would be paid an extra fifth of my salary.

$10,000.

I laughed. My VP misinterpreted this. And it took a minute to explain that I really did want to take her up on her offer.

Now, it is possible that this all falls through. I'm not getting too excited yet. But I am in awe how this all worked out. I'm not entirely convinced that there is a God, but I can't help but wonder. It is absolutely amazing how things have worked out this year. It takes my breath away.

Now if there is a God, he has a sense of humor. Yes, I will make more money, but 35 fifteen-year-olds will be attached. :)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

New Hair



So I annoyed at going back to work. So I cut my hair. I know, I know, classic girl move.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

You Can't Make Me

Alternate titles for this blog: "I don't wanna," "It's not fair," "Why is the world picking on me?", and "Yes, I will cry, stomp, and pound my fists...I don't care if I'm almost 30." Yeah, that last one is a bit crazy long.

If you haven't guessed it yet, I'm talking about going back to work. I completely realize that I probably sound worse than my actual kids. But I don't care. I'm pouting. I'm almost 30. And I don't give a fig.

If you haven't clicked to anyone page yet, thank you. I don't mean to be a whiney baby (well, I don't entirely mean to), but for some reason I am not ready to go back. I don't know if it was having three weeks of vacation after summer school instead of my usual two. Or if it's the fact that I taught at my school last year--no new-school smell. Or maybe it was today's meeting.

According to my contract, my work is supposed to start next week. Yet, today I had a department meeting. All day.

It wasn't actually that bad, and it was pretty necessary. We have two new department heads, a new v.p. in charge of our department, and a new principal. Also, the end of last year was pretty tumultuous. It was good to air out some of our dirty laundry, talk about things we care about, and start to renew our focus. (It also didn't hurt to find out that my grade level did comparatively well on the standardized tests we took in May...whew!)

But then I found out I have another meeting on Thursday. All day. Ugh. And I started to feel tired, so tired.

I don't wish to miscommunicate my feelings. It is exciting to start the new year. The week of in-services before school is kind of like going to summer camp. It is cool to pick out a new outfit for the first day. I even do my make up and hair. And I still get the butterflies at meeting my new students.

But still...I don't wanna...not yet anyway. I'll get there.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Choose Your Attitude

I learned an important lesson this weekend, and that is one has 100% control over her attitude. I learned this lesson because I had a BAD attitude about traveling to the Bay Area to visit my mom, and lo and behold...I had a rather poopy time. Of course, the whole trip wasn't bad because there were moments where I forgot my need to be Poopy Polly and I relaxed and enjoyed myself.

Here's how a more positive attitude would have improved my situation.

Thursday
My mother insists on us going out to a Farmer's Market and out to dinner. The music at the Farmer's market is awful yodeling, my daughter dumps ice water all over herself, and my mom told me she'd pay and then she sees the bill and backs out. We go back to her place and I'm frazzled and irritated.

How An Improved Attitude Would Have Helped (Remix)
I could have focused on the following: Em had her fill of free fruit at the market, we turned my sister's sweater into a make-shift dress for Em while her pants were drying, my mom did pay for part of the meal, and we did get home in time to watch So You Think You Can Dance.

Friday
As I am trying to workout with a DVD in the morning, my mom starts making breakfast for Em, which is great. Then, she gets a phone call from a guy, she goes into her room, and ignores Em and breakfast for a 1/2 hour. I stop my DVD for a bit, make Em breakfast, and then start working out again. My mom eventually comes out and seems a little annoyed that I made something for Em to eat. Whatever. That evening, we are having dinner at my sister's and my mom gets on the phone with the same guy, ignores us, and talks to him for almost an hour. At this point I want to go home.

Remix
I could have paid attention to the following: I often have to stop working out in the morning to help Em and it's no big deal, I said nothing to my mother to change her behavior so it's no wonder her behavior doesn't change, and Em was having such a good time with her aunt and uncle that she didn't care.

Saturday
I decide to go with my sister and brother-in-law to play "Slosh Ball" with their softball team. Justin stays at my mom's with Em, and I'm kind of out of my element. As soon as we get there, we can tell most of the people there are way more serious that we are. Those of us who are not as serious end up playing kick ball and drinking Bud Lite (Yum...not!). Eventually Justin and Em show up and he is not happy. Em didn't nap, and he is cranky. We decide to leave because I'm tired of hearing the "F" bomb and some guy lights up a joint right there in the park. I'm a little upset because my sister wants to stay, and I don't know why she'd pick them over me.

Remix
Noticing the following could have improved my attitude: I did have a lot of fun playing kick ball, Justin's mood improved once we got away from all the noise and jocks, we got to hang out at my mom's and watch the Olympics. Eventually, my sister and brother-in-law came over to my mom's and we had a great time hanging out, watching t.v., and eating candy. I relaxed.

Today we left my mom's after breakfast. Everyone seemed to be in a kind of funky, cranky place, and I was feeling wiped out, so I wasn't much better. But I was happy to be heading home. It was a relatively short trip, but it felt much longer than three days. I missed my house, my cats, my quiet, private time during Em's nap.

There are things that are very frustrating to me about my family, but I'm sure I frustrate them also. I probably need to arrange a time to talk to my mom about some of the issues that came up. But if I'm completely honest, I headed into this weekend with a somewhat bad attitude. I think I've just been enjoying spending time at home with my family that I didn't want to leave our home and deal with larger family issues.

Well, I won't really have that problem once grad school starts. Pretty much every Saturday I'll be in class. I imagine I will definitely not be up for traveling on my one day off.

Monday, August 4, 2008

1-2-3 Go!...Oh, Nevermind

I'm at a point in my life where I can mostly be honest about my positive and not-so-positive attributes. Again, mostly honest.

POSITIVE: sense of humor (not appreciated by all, but you can't argue that I have one), out-going, physically active, intelligent, and patient (a must in my field of choice).

NOT-SO-POSITIVE: easily distracted, easily frustrated, easily angered, can't find anything (seriously, anything), and slobbish tendencies.

One characteristic of my personality has turned out to be quite a double-edged sword, and that is my high level of energy. Typically I bring a lot of enthusiasim to what I do. I don't go half way. If I want to accomplish something, I can be incredibly determined and dogged. There's a key phrase there--"if I want to accomplish something." My interest needs to be there.

I have struggled with this aspect of myself for as long as I can remember, especially in school. My excitement and drive depended on two things: my initial interest in the subject and the person instructing me. Here's where it got odd: I did particularly well if I perceived that my teacher didn't think I would do well. If I felt challenged, I thrived. If the teacher or subject was too easy: Nope, not interested.

Now that I'm older, I have mostly gotten over this particular motivation issue. I'm an adult, so now I have a better understanding of the consequences of my actions. But my waxing/waning emotion issue has presented itself in a potentially more serious area.

My health.

I have developed a real issue with taking care of myself. I go non-stop all day, every day. Taking care of my family. Taking care of my students. Even taking care of my career. But when it comes to taking care of my physical self, I neglect my duties horribly.

I am not quite sure why this is. True, I'm busy. But I spend an awful lot of time on this dang computer, so I obviously have some time. I am not a big fan of pain, discomfort, or even having people touch me. That could be it.

Regardless of why I avoid medical appointments, this has been the summer of paying my piper. After spending all of my generous allowance with the dentist over a two week period of time, I have been scared straight, at least for now.

I am taking advantage of my motivation to look after my health, no matter how temporary that motivation may be. Today I'm going to the "lady" doctor. Ugh. And I scheduled an appointment for the eye doctor next week. It's been way too long since I've been to either, so it's definitely time.

I'm just hoping next year I won't have to do this big health blitz. I will be 30. Hopefully, I have grown up a little bit. : )

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Just the Two of Us

The past couple of weeks I have re-discovered a lovely thing: sleeping with my husband. Before you click to another blog, I don't mean this in a sexy-time way.

Allow me to explain.

When our daughter was born two years ago, she was just a bit premature, which meant that Kaiser was super psycho about us feeding her every two hours. I was also trying to breast feed, which now that I look back at, my daughter was just not ready for. She didn't get it. She wouldn't even take to the bottle: we had to use a syringe. The upshot was that by the time I finished feeding her, I had about 40 minutes to "sleep" before I was up again. It was rough. Out of our exhaustion, we would let Em sleep with us.

Well, the family bed thing continued as she got older. My husband and I started teaching again when she was 3 months old, and we were unmotivated (lazy you might say) to change anything in the sleeping the department. Em's room was clear across the apartment, and it was just easier to keep her in bed with us. And to be honest, it was nice waking up with her on the weekends.

When we moved to Elk Grove, our new apartment was more conveniently laid out, so we would put Em down in her crib. She'd wake up around 1 or so, and we'd bring her to bed with us. Also (and there's gonna be plenty of parents groaning out there when they read this), we rocked her to sleep every night. Again, we didn't want to change this craziness because it was working.

Then, it stopped working.

Out of frustration, Justin just started putting Em in her crib. She was NOT happy, but then a miracle happened: SHE FEEL ASLEEP. I know to many of you this is a duh moment, but for Justin and I it is a miracle. A beautiful thing.

So now we live in our new house. Em has a cute little room of her own. At 1:30, she goes down for her nap and at 8:30, she goes to bed. No rocking. Very little crying (not every night is perfect.) And now my husband have more free time than we ever imagined.

And we have our bed back. It's kind of strange, actually. Justin rolled over last night and put his arm around me. I couldn't remember the last time he did that. We always had a baby in between us.

My husband and I have talked about having another child, but he's always been wary of it. I think because he was the one mainly responsible for getting Em to bed, and it was exhausting. Now, he seems more relaxed: we can teach our child how to sleep independently. He actually mentioned having another kid (not in the near future, but still, he's open to the idea, which is big for him.)

I'm in no rush. I'm enjoying our new sleeping arrangements, and I see no need to mess with them.

Update: I think it is wise to remind people, new parents and even those more experience, that you are setting yourself up if you brag about something your kid can do. Em was up ALL last night. Wouldn't go to sleep. Kept us up singing. Fun. Of course, she's still sleeping and I'm awake.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Mr. & Mrs. Disaster

When I finally do get around to changing my name officially to my husband's, Moeckli, I think maybe both my husband and I should consider changing our moniker to something more appropriate, like the above title.

Here's why.

Over the past 7 years, my husband and I have seemed to be in some pretty sticky, pretty lame situations. Here are some of the highlights:

* His 68 Volkswagon Beetle stalled at the Benecia Bridge Toll Plaza and needed to be rammed and pushed to 30 miles an hour by a tow truck to get out
* I bought a cat and the next day woke up with a flea in my ear (ICK)
* We went camping and Justin hacked into his knee with an axe and we had to go to a rural hospital (cue Deliverance music)
* As he was leaving for work, he put the laptop on the car roof, got in the car, and drove off (buh-bye Mac book)
* I left the key in my car door and it was stolen...from my apartment lot

And our most recent experience of disaster-ridden lameness happened yesterday. My husband took our Geo to the DMV to get some issues with our registration dealt with. As he was driving in the parking lot, a big-a cadillac back right up into the car. And since the caddie's bumper is made out of titanium, it hooked on to our bumper and RIPPED it off. The lame-a who rammed into our car was at least kind enough to lend my husband some tape to jerry-rig our bumper. And then he took off. Lame.

My husband got all the insurance information. And we are waiting to hear about what to do next. Hopefully, things will work out. And luckily, Justin is fine and no one was hurt. But still, not fun. Ah, well, it's just one more disaster in a long line of similar events. May we have many more. :)

At least I don't have to be Miss Disaster by myself.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Ah, Blessed Quiet!

I don't like to be alone and I don't like to be quiet. Actually, it goes beyond dislike: my husband, family, and pretty much anyone who's spent more than five minutes with me would argue that it's physically impossible for me to be quiet. In fact, my mom used to call me media girl because I'd be at home alone with the t.v. on, the radio on, and I'd be on the phone. (Quiet must die!)

Well, this weekend my quiet side roused itself out of dormancy and presented itself quiet politely. All I want is blissful, wonderful quiet.

This weekend would have pushed any extrovert to the edge. It all started on Saturday. Em and I had had two quiet girl days, and we got up on Saturday morning and after a cleaning blitz, headed to the store. When we got back, camping gear was all over the place and the washer and showers were going full blast. Justin and Jerome were back.

I whipped up two fruit cobblers as the boys de-grunged from camping. Then, we hear a knock on the door: my sister and brother-in-law are here, with my adorable niece in tow. (I like them just fine, but she's the main attraction.)

After a somewhat successful napping session (Em yes, Izzy no), we all pile into two cars and head for the Sac Zoo's Ice Cream Safari, which is an INSANE idea. It's waaaaay too hot and there are a ton of dazed people wandering sugar-high and dehydrated around the zoo. Not good. And I am putting everyone on notice: IT IS NOT OKAY TO LET YOUR CHILD CUT IN LINE. THIS IS NOT CUTE. AND IF YOU DO IT IN FRONT OF ME, I WILL SHARE MY FEELINGS.

We head home for a BBQ and much needed dip in the inflated pool. That's an image, by the way--five adults fighting for room in a kiddie pool. The girls thought it was hilarious.

Saturday evening turned out to be a blast. We ate, hung out, and talked about our college dating pasts. Yikes.

Sunday was bonkers. We made breakfast for our guests, plus a couple friends from Sac. I doubled the pancake batter, which is so not necessary, so I basically spent all morning flipping pancakes, with both a frenchman and a Canadian hovering over me. Notice: IF SOMEONE IS MAKING YOU FOOD, IT IS NOT OKAY TO TELL HER HOW TO DO IT. NOT OKAY. NOT EVER.

We had a nice breakfast, and eventually everyone left, including Jerome. Normally, this is something that would leave me feeling sad. Not this time. Don't get me wrong; I will miss Jerome terribly. But I was very happy to be back with my small family.

We read quietly, watched Lord of the Rings, and had pizza. I was in bed by 10:30. It was lovely.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Fourth of July









Yes, this post is a bit late, but here are some pictures from our 4th of July celebration with my sister and her husband.

Visit to Grandma and Papa's!





For Justin's mom's birthday, we visited Northern California. Here are some pictures of that fun, but warm and smoky weekend.

Jerome's visit, July 2008






Here are some pictures from our dear friend Jerome's visit here from France.

Friday, July 25, 2008

How Sweet It Is...

Today is a lovely day. There are many reasons for this.

Firstly, today was my last, blessed, day of summer school. For the past six weeks, I have dragged my sorry butt out of bed and taught the same 30 kids for six hours each day. It has actually been very pleasant. The kids were mostly (there were a couple sugar boogers out there) good. And I met some kids I will remember for a long time.

Also, today I got some special mommy/daughter time with my girl. Justin and Jerome, his friend from France, left to go camping for a couple days. I have some fun things planned for just the two of us. We're meeting some friends tomorrow for coffee in the morning. Later in the day, I'd like to do some crafts with Em, but I'm open to whatever the day offers us. The freedom is intoxicating.

Luckily, I have two weeks off before I need to really think about the upcoming (yikes) school year and starting grad school (double yikes.) I really don't want to do much. I'd like to just run, hang out in my new home, and take some day trips with my family. And heck, maybe a nap or two!

The end of August will be here sooner than I'd like, but I'm really excited to have some time at home. I could use some quiet and some time away from "Ms Harrell! Ms Harrell!"

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I have Two Husbands

I do not mean this literally, of course. That would be icky. And time consuming. I'm not a multi-tasker.

I am referring to the fact that my husband's best friend, Jerome, is visiting from France this week. I have delayed posting on this because he defies description. I have been searching for the right words to describe him.

Imagine a six-foot, leanly strong, dirty-blond French man with piercing blue eyes. Then, imagine an even more piercing voice, a louder than life French accent. A French accent that tells you how to do EVERYTHING. And you have Jerome.

Don't get me wrong. I love Jerome as a brother. He would do anything for Justin, me, and my daughter. Miraclously, he was able to attend our wedding in Tahoe. Officially, he was Justin's best man, but he helped me, five months pregnant, navigate through the snow drifts while I was wearing three-inch heals. He even carried my train.

However, the past couple days it has been intense. I seriously have two husbands. Now, instead of just Justin wanting to spend hours playing video games, I have two boys who want to play into the wee hours of the night. Justin I can handle; alone he is no match against my whining. But with two husbands, I lose out. Everytime.

And then there's the complaining. I can typically ignore my husband's repeated comments about my less-than stellar housekeeping. But now I have two husbands and I get twice the comments. If Justin doesn't notice that I spilled coffee all over myself, then I get a "Good job, Hill," from Jerome.

The thing I need to remember is that if I have two husbands, then Justin also has two wives. Two backseat drivers. Two people waiting for dinner. Two people making a mess. Poor guy.

Tomorrow Justin and Jerome will be going on a short camping trip, so Em and I will have the house to ourselves for a couple days. We will enjoy the quiet. I hope the boys also have a good time. They truly are brothers.

While the three of us may drive each other crazy occasionally, we are family. I cannot imagine a person who is kinder to our daughter. And he is the best friend I can imagine for my husband. I will be sad to see him go.

But I could still use less of the editorial comments...

Monday, July 21, 2008

I'm a Donny Girl!

I sat down today after my morning run with a cup of coffee and a couple extra minutes before my shower. I turned on the t.v. to VH1 to watch a couple videos, and was incredibly shocked to discover The New Kids on The Block on my stinking television!

Oh, it brought back memories, oh-e-o, it did! Instantly, I was in fifth grade again playfully arguing with my BFF Amanda about who was cuter. She was definitely a Jordan girl, but I wanted to be different. I wanted the bad bad boy, the one who swore...Donny. Oh, he was dreamy. (Still is by the way...)

Now my family didn't have much extra money, so I didn't have any of the tapes or posters or dolls. But I lived vicariously through Amanda. Eventually, TNKOTB fell out of favor during the sixth grade, so we secretly enjoyed them together at sleep overs, never letting classmates know our true feelings.

Seventh grade tragedy struck. We started middle school and Amanda and I were separated. She moved to Reno and I moved on to alternative music. I found actual bad boys, who did more than swear, and we listened to Nirvana, Peal Jam, and Alice in Chains and felt oh so alienated. New Kids on the Block was a thing of the past.

Until today.

Now, their new song is BAD. And they actually brought back the Hangin' Tough dance at the end of video. Not good. It's one thing to do that dance in your early 20's when you don't know any better. It's an entirely different thing 15 years later. You just look like a spaz. And the years have not been kind to all of the "kids", Danny and Jon especially. But Donny still has my vote. He is fine! (To quote my 12-year-old self.)

So anty up. What kinda girl are you? Jordan (typical), Joey (if ya like 'em squeaky), Donny (rebel), or Jon or Danny (yikes.) I know I'm not the only one, so spill the beans!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

You never really lose a true friend

When I was in high school, I had ISSUES. Most of these issues surrounded my desire to resist all authority figures and the persistence of the authority figures in my life to not give up on me. The one constant in my teenage experience, in addition to always being in trouble, was my love of journalism and writing. In fact, I attribute this love to why I avoided teenage pregnancy, permanent residence in a half-way house, and a starring role in my local jail house.

In high school, I was the editor of my school's newspaper. And I had the pleasure of meeting my friend, Sarah. On the surface, Sarah and I are very different people. She was always the girl who knew the right answer, did the right thing, and I was always the screw up, the one who barely scraped by. And when things got really bad, when I ran away from home and pretty much defied all rules, Sarah was still there, my constant friend.

Luckily, I can still count Sarah as my friend. She moved to Texas for college and ended up settling there when she met her husband. In Texas, she has created a happy home with two lovely children.

Over the past ten years since high school graduation, Sarah and I have kept in sporadic contact through email. We let each other know when the big things happened: marriage, babies, etc.

Recently, we have kept in closer contact through our blogs. In fact, she inspired me to start my own book review blog: www.littlebiggrrlreads.blogspot.com. I was very honored when she asked me to join in on her blog: http://princessbride42book....

This experience has reminded me that it takes time to know who your true friends will be, who will stand by your side, who will always want to listen to your story.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Is it Friday yet?!?

Seriously this has felt like the looooooongest week! I am not quite sure exactly what is making it so painful, but I think of a couple possible culprits.

Firstly, this is the second week of the second term of summer school. I have taught summer school six times and I'm used to the pattern. The first couple weeks are fun, or at least fun-ish. I get to try things I don't do during the normal school year. I get to focus on 30 students instead of 150 and I get to stay organized, a major accomplishment for me, a known single-tasker.

However, by this time in the summer school schedule, the newness has worn off. I know the kids too well and I am ready to spend some quiet time at home. It's especially bad now that I have a daughter. She's cute and I want to be with her, not with teenagers who keep whining about the air conditioning.

Secondly, I had dental work done on Monday and am still not feeling "normal." My mouth still aches and the tylenol with codiene is giving me funky dreams. In fact, my husband claims I slept walked the other night, made a sandwich, got a glass of water, and dumped it all over the bed. I remember none of this.

Thirdly, I have plans to hang out with girl friends this week and the anticipation is killing me. Yes, I am an 8 year old. I hate waiting. For anything.

I have seriously considered taking off work tomorrow, but coming up with six hours of lesson plans is daunting. I don't want a day off that bad. Besides, we need the money.

Finally, this upcoming week is very appealing to me. We get to stay home (yay!). The air seems like it will be good and it shouldn't be too hot...hopefully. Also, our dear friend, Jerome, is visiting from France and I can't wait to see him. He was my husband's best man and I swear the two of them were brothers separated at birth. He is very excited to see Em because he hasn't seen her since last fall.

It should be a good weekend...if it'll ever get here...

Monday, July 14, 2008

I'd rather...

I have oft heard (and even said myself) the following: I would rather have a root canal than...fill in the blank--do my taxes, mow the lawn, clean my room, etc.

Well, that is just not the truth. I'd rather do my taxes, fifty times over in one year, than get a root canal. I now know this as a fact because today I experienced my first, and last thank you very much, root canal.

I find all of this very embarrassing, so of course, I'm telling everyone in the world. Whatever. But the reason for this particular procedure is two-fold: 1) I am a VERY bad girl, and 2) I have VERY bad dental genetics. Well, that's not entirely true; my teeth are straight, just weak as all get out.

So last week, I dragged my sorry butt to the dentist to discover that it is possible to spend all your dental insurance allowance in one visit. (Side note: if you can get a job with EGUSD and keep it, the insurance is FANTASTIC, no joke.)

Today I paid the proverbial piper and went to my two-hour appointment. I came to the following conclusions:

1. Marvin Gaye is a very strange musical choice for a dental office, especially when you are getting your teeth drilled (Yes, I do want to get it on!)
2. Being a dental assistant and keeping a straight face while patients make all sorts of funky faces must be really difficult; I wonder if they have classes in it.
3. Novocaine is a fantastic product, but not as good as codeine.
4. I will forever carry floss in my purse...and actually use it.

I am really glad today is over and I am pretty sure I will pause the next time I get the urge to say, "I'd rather..."

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Day 3

Of my new self-flagellation tour: running in the morning. Before work. At 6 am.

I came to this decision grudgingly. It's unbelievably hot. The air is awful. And I need to exercise desperately.

So Monday I started with a half hour run down the path right outside my new home. Seriously, you couldn't ask for better. Here's how it went:

5:45
Alarm goes off. I react with uncharacteristic irritation. Hit snooze.

5:50
I get out of bed.

6:00
I head out the door (yes, it took me ten minutes to get out of bed...shush.) I head out to the path. It's not exactly chilling but I don't smell any smoke, so that's good. I pick the left side and head out. I am feeling pretty good about myself.

6:05
I'm still feeling proud, but I am surprised at how fast I'm not going. Guess I had a different image in my head.

6:10
I'm no longer feeling good about myself. I am an idiot. I have looked at my watch (bad idea) and realize I have 20 minutes left.

6:12
I am a b-word.

6:15
I get to turn back now! Things are looking up!

6:20
Now that I am less concerned about dying, I have noticed that there is some pretty dang impressive nature around at this time of morning. I see a mother duck and her babies (I'm assuming they are hers, but who knows), some tall skinny bird thing (I am not going to even pretend I know what it was, but it was pretty), and a snail migration. Pretty sure some of those suckers were going faster than me.

6:30
I finish my run. Not a great finish. Just more of a sputtering out. But it's done...at least until the next day.