Sunday, March 30, 2008

'Tis the Season

There are dozens of songs about the beauty and magic of wintertime. While that is a lovely time of year, I've never lived in an area where it snows, so I miss out on much of the magic of the season. I came to the conclusion today as I was running that spring is the most magical time of year hands down.

Normally, as I run, I try to think of any I can to not pay attention to what I'm doing to my body. Today was a totally different experience. My run takes me by a creek, which is abloom with grasses, and Mexican lavender. The ornamental plum trees have lost their blooms and their leaves are a fresh green. Poppies, dandelions, and little blue flowers I don't know the name to dotted the sides of the paths. Any time I felt too warm, a lovely, brisk breeze cooled me down.

There are many reasons not to like this time of year, especially as a high school teacher. Love, or whatever you want to call it, is truly in the air. I cannot use the restroom at school without shrieking at two kids groping each other in the hall. Yuk. In addition, the year is wrapping up and it can be very stressful making sure all your students are passing and prepared for the next grade level.

However, all my troubles indoors are no match for the beauty outdoors. And having a little daughter to share it all with is a boon. Today we went to Elk Grove park and chased after ducks (well, that was mostly Em), walked around the park, and ate lunch outside. I got to show Em how to blow dandelions and make a daisy chain. It was pretty much one-sided on my end, but she put a lot of effort into it. She kept pointing out dandelions and blowing at me. She'll get it eventually.

I know in a few short months the weather will be unpleasant again, and I'll need to run either at 6 am or 7 pm to avoid the heat. For now I will enjoy the longer days and blooming trees. I hope everyone is able to get outside and enjoy this wonderful time of year.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

I am Woman...?

These past two weeks have been odd. My husband has subbed at my high school, and while we try to ignore each other as much as possible, kids are figuring out we are married. It's not a horrible thing, but it's strange to have your personal life intersect with your professional.

One nice aspect about this has been driving to work together. Yesterday afternoon, we chatted in my class room after school, picked up our daughter together from day care, and planned our evening together. Very pleasant.

My husband made fantastic enchiladas with turkey he had grilled earlier in the week. He is seriously the best cook ever! I went running, bathed the baby, and lifted weights.

By the time I was done, dinner was ready, the kitchen was spotless, and I had a fresh strawberry margarita in my hand. This got me to thinking: am I woman enough for my husband?

My husband jokes that he and I have switched roles. He cooks. He cleans. He puts Em to bed at night. He's actually much more maternal than I am. He can sooth her perfectly. I do an okay job when she's upset or sick, but I'm much better playing with her, running around, and being goofy. Basically, I feel like the stereotypical father figure.

I wonder what defines being a woman. My husband argues that most women care about planning special meals, decorating their houses, and making everything just right. Is this true?

My whole adult life (and maybe even earlier), I always wanted to be the smartest in the room, the most capable, the shining star. I don't always hit the mark, but I try very hard. But this all applies to my professional life. I wonder if I'm letting another aspect of myself slack.

Maybe I should attempt to be more domestic. It's not that I don't contribute: I pay the bills, do the shopping, and fold laundry until the end of time. But I don't contribute anything to our home that has any style. All the nice touches are my husband's.

I'd like to be more "feminine" but I don't know where to start.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Our second Easter

I suppose I should have blogged on this a few days ago, but now's better than never. :)

Last year, my daughter was 8 months old, so Easter was a bit beyond her. We put Cheerios in plastic eggs and gave her a big, fluffy, yellow duck and she was pleased as punch.

This year, I tried some activities with her prior to the holiday: dyeing eggs, making bunny cookies, etc. She was very the stickers that we put on the eggs and the frosting (yum, yum.) I know that these activities were probably more fun for me, but I loved spending time with her.

On Saturday, we traveled to Redding, where my mother-in-law had a great party planned. The weather was beautiful, and we spent the whole afternoon outside. My daughter actually hunted for eggs, but once she figured out they had jelly beans, she stopped and just ate the candy. She loved it!

Easter seems like the perfect holiday for my girl: she loves bunnies and ducks and sheep and anything mostly made of sugar. My niece, who's four months younger, is quite the chocolate girl. It's amazing how early they know exactly what they like.

I'm getting very excited for my daughter's upcoming birthday in June. She had a great time this weekend with her family, and I think she'll have a great time turning 2.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Nonstop Mama!

I felt very productive over spring break. Well, I must have forgotten what it means to get things done cause today was bonkers.

My girl slept all night in her own crib. Not a normal occurrence, so of course I kept waking up panicky. I got up around 6:15 after grunting at the alarm for 20 minutes. Made coffee, put together my lunch, and actually ironed (Whoa.)

My sister and brother-in-law were still staying with us, so my sister got to hold Em as she woke up. Hay loves to take care of my daughter: get her dressed, do her hair, and sing her songs. It is one the most beautiful things to behold.

Because of everyone's help, I got to leave for work early. By 7:30, I was in my class room, planning for the week, deleting emails, and tidying things up. The first three periods flew by and it was 11:30 before I sat down. (Funnily, I needed to use the restroom between each class...don't have my school bladder back yet.)

I ran around getting things done during my prep, taught two more periods, and all of a sudden it was 3:19. I taught 8th period, got ready for my sub tomorrow (I'm going to UC Davis with students), and by 5, I was out the door.

At home, I had two seconds to say hi to the cats, and then I was off to the gym to run. I had a pleasant 30 minutes to watch re-runs of America's Next Top Model (I love watching skinny girls struggle to walk in high heels.)

By six, I was back at home, bathing my very sticky girl and making dinner. Nothing fancy, just garden burgers and a salad, but for me that's an accomplishment.

Now, I finally feel like I am winding down. It was a great day, and the weather was great. I can hear my husband reading "Ten Apples up on Top" to Em, and it's very hypnotic. I hope I can stay up to watch that New Amsterdam show (very cute cop), but I don't know. My bed looks good.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Wish me luck

t's back to work for me tomorrow. Spring break was lovely, but way too short (as usual.) I have to hold on to the pleasant memories until Memorial Day, since that's my next day off. I'm aware that I may get little sympathy from those not in teaching because I do get the summer off; however, it's amazing what one can get used to.

So, it's almost two months until my next day off, and there are some potential important dates coming up. I should have my hearing with the school board in mid April about contesting whether or not I should be let go. Then, I should find out in mid-May if I really am losing my job.

What the challenge will be is staying positive and not taking out my frustration on my students. I need to remember that they are innocent (as much as 15 year olds can be), and that I do like them. That's often difficult to remember every April, regardless of being pink slipped.

As long as I can stay positive and focused on things I can control, I think I will make it through. The tricky part will be avoiding the negative co-workers lurking in the copy room. I just need to keep my head down, be focused on doing a good job, and counting to ten (maybe 15) when students start egging me on.

Wish me luck.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Winding down

My spring break is coming to a close, but rather than feel badly about it, I will revel in all the personal things I accomplished.

On Monday, I took care of much-needed applications. Tuesday, we tried to go to the library, but it was closed. Instead my daughter and I dyed Easter Eggs. (Well, I dyed and she tried to lick them, but whatever.)

Yesterday, I made a TON of sugar cookies and frosted them fun spring colors. The house completely smells of strawberry frosting and it's wonderful. Em keeps swiping cookies off the table, so that's an issue (the girl's got wicked long arms.)

Today I'm going back to my old school to visit. I haven't seen a lot of my friends since last June, so it'll be great to stop by. I'm taking Em so she can see where mommy used to work.

Tomorrow we'll head to Redding for a big Easter egg hunt at my mother-in-laws. I'm so excited to dress Em in her little Easter dress. It's yellow with polka dots and it's adorable.

Amazingly, I feel well rested and almost ready to go back to work. Well, not really. But if I keep telling myself that, I'll feel it eventually, right?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Deep breath...

I am on vacation and it is a lovely thing. I had almost forgotten because this weekend was full of distractions. First, the pink slip (and that's all I say.) Second, my father and girlfriend came over to dinner on Saturday. It wasn't awful, but tense didn't even begin to explain how I felt.

Today is the first day I feel relaxed. I have many reasons to be wound up. Em woke up at 3 and didn't go back to sleep. My husband got sick last night. And we got the date wrong for my daughter's 18 month doctor's appointment. It was last week, not today like we thought.

Typically, these events would have caused me to lose it, but I feel very calm. Maybe I'm just too tired to get excited.

I do feel a sense of accomplishment. My husband, Em, and I all went to Sac State. I took care of some paperwork for my clear credential and my grad program and my husband turned in his transcripts. The campus was beautiful and busy, and we made it to the office right before lunch.

Now we're back home, and Em is settling down for a nap. I'm not quite sure what we'll do with the rest of the day. I'd like to go to a park or find a local library. I may just take a nap with her.

We still need to make an appointment for Em, and we have a mountain of laundry to fold. But I am grateful for quiet time with my little family.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

A Sobering Dose of Perspective

Today is March 15th and most people in the Elk Grove area are aware that teachers are receiving pink slips today.

I knew this as I went to the mail box before heading to Trader Joe's. I saw the little slip indicating that I have a piece of certified mail at the post office. (Yes, we all have to drive to the post office for this particular bit of bad news. Can you say "insult, meet injury?")

I took my daughter with me to the store because she has a great knack for helping me keep my mind in the moment. We had a great time naming all the fruits she knows. (She generally just ignores vegetables.) And she was getting a lot of attention by calling everyone in the store "baby." Adorable.

In the back of my mind, however, I was still feeling sorry for myself. In fact, a Lisa Loeb song came on and I teared up.

At checkout, though, I received a wake-up call. All of a sudden I hear, "Are you Hillary?"

I looked up and saw D, a lifelong friend of my aunt's, and I crumbled. This is a woman I have known for 20 years, a woman with a career, a husband, and two small boys. And she was wearing a head scarf and looked so tired and thin.

I knew that D was diagnosed with breast cancer over a year ago and I knew from my aunt that it wasn't going well. However, it's very different when you see it in person.

She just finished chemo two weeks ago and is about to start radiation. She hadn't been outside in months, so she decided to go to the store.

This woman is not even 40.

I am not happy about my current situation, but I see a new side of things. I have always struggled with seeing the big picture, especially when it comes to money issues.

Okay universe, message received.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Just the two of us

This week has begun oddly for me.

My husband, daughter, and I spent the weekend in Redding with his family. The weather was beautiful and my in-laws had installed a swing set. My daughter (20 months) and my niece (16 months) had a ton of fun watching the grown-ups push them (Whee, whee, whee!)

Yesterday, my husband and I drove back home to Elk Grove alone, leaving Em with her grandparents. She is going to stay with them until Wednesday, when they'll drop her off and my mom will come up to watch her for the rest of the week.

It's so strange because she's not even two years old, but being without her feels so lonely. Driving home without her left a big pit in my chest. I couldn't sleep last night, and I was really restless at work.

My husband and I were together for five years before her, so one could think that we would be comfortable with each other. We aren't.

This evening we've been warily circling each other, not quite knowing how to talk to each other without a little one vying for our attention. I was unaware of how much my husband and I had lost contact with each other.

In fact, I think I need to get off this computer pronto and go talk to my man! (That sounds kinda silly, I know, but you get the point.)

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Kids are cool

Here are three reasons why I am so pleased to work with teenagers all day:

1. They are truly kind, sweet individuals when it comes down to it. There was a newspaper article about teacher lay-offs yesterday, and so many kids came to me and said things like, "This school wouldn't be the same without you," "Who would I talk to?", and "I'm not worried about you Ms H; you'll be here next year." So unexpected and so kind.

2. They will do almost anything I ask. We read Shakespeare's sonnet "Shall I Compare Thee to a Summer's Day", which is rather difficult to understand. I gave them the assignment to write an original poem responding to the speaker (he basically tells a woman she'll be ugly one day), and I was worried they wouldn't do the assignment. But they amazed me! Their poems are clever and funny and totally wonderful.

3. They show up when it counts. I teach an 8th period for upper class men who need to repeat English 9, 10, or 12 for an hour after school every day. I have at least 30 kids show up every day and they are respectful and intelligent. We have great conversations about literature and they obviously care about doing well.

I have the best job.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Ah, the rosy memories of youth

This weekend I was in Tahoe with my husband. We were celebrating our anniversary, and it was all-in-all a very pleasant time. We rented a lovely cabin, ate meals with no high chair, and didn't have to bathe anyone but ourselves. Fantastic time.

However, I spent most of the past two days in considerable pain. My knees are killing me, and it's all my own fault. I have forgotten that I'm not 15.

We spent Saturday walking around the village at North Star, where they had an ice rink. After lunch, and a glass of wine, I said to my husband: "We should go ice skating. It would be so romantic." HA!

After two seconds on the ice, I realized my fantasies of skating hand in hand with Justin were out-of-this-world crazy. We can't do anything together. It would requires one to follow the other one...nope, not happening.

So we skate on our lonesomes, but it's actually rather fun, when you get past the ankle pain and gasping for breath. We are somewhat racing each other and marveling at the little six-year olds whipping past us. Justin reaches his exercise breaking point, and I say I'm going to take one more circle around, which I totally know is a BAD idea.

I'm starting to pick up speed, and I'm feeling confident, which is never a good thing in these situations. And BAM! I'm on my knees. And I want to cry so bad cause it HURTS. Of course, I'm wearing a big orange jacket, so it's not like I'm hard to notice.

My first thought is "Crap, did Justin see?" Of course he did. I can hear him laughing from the other side of the rink. Needless to say, skating is not my friend.