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.


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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.