The Author

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I am a high school English teacher, and mother of two charming little ones of my own. I teach in a high poverty urban charter school, while I live in a typical American suburb that has frequently been rated one of the safest cities in the country. It is a paradox I struggle with constantly, but it is my life.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Odds and Ends

So, I went to the doctor today, and I didn't get the flu, my sinus infection just got really bad. I went to see my allergist, since it is most likely related to that. He has a terrible bedside manner, but he is a great doctor. He didn't even remember that he has seen me before for my allergies, but that's okay. He said that it probably got so bad since I haven't been using any decongestant, since it bothers Tiana. The one night I took it she screamed for like 2 hours straight. He gave me some allergy/decongestant spray that doesn't have counterproductive effects (like Afrin) and a much stronger antibiotic. Should get rid of it.

 Fortunately, my sister-in-law took Vinny to Magic Mountain today, and Marc got off a little early today to help me, which was really nice, since it is really hard to take care of a baby when you have a fever and feel crappy. Well... at least I am not contagious and the doctor said I should be better within a couple of days. I think I am starting to feel better already.

Mom got me a juicer for Christmas. I've been having lots of fun making fresh juices and homemade lemonade. My favorite. I found that making a simple syrup instead of just stirring in sugar made a huge difference in the consistency of taste throughout.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

I haven't blogged much this week. I could attribute it to the holidays, but it is half that and half that I've been sick. I was coming down with it the weekend after school got out, and it just got progressively worse during the week before Christmas. Combination of the weather kicking up my allergies and I think a cold, because Marc then got it too, although he got over it really quick. On the 23rd, I spent 2 hours of my birthday at the doctor's office with two cranky kids, trying to get seen for my sinus infection. My doctor wasn't there, and he is my asthma specialist who knows about my polyps (I have lumps in my nose, makes my nose not drain the allergy congestion) and how to treat them. This doctor only gave me the antibiotic, not the prednisone. I think she was worried about compatibility with nursing, but had she taken the time to look it up, she would have seen that AAP says it is compatible. I have some left from last time that I am debating on taking. I also have tons of it for my nebulizer, but it is time consuming to use it. By Christmas eve, I was a mess. My eyes were so watery (from sinus pressure- very annoying), I spent most of the service with head on Marc's shoulder and my eyes closed just to try to focus on the service and not on my eyes. (Incidentally, either it worked or God was working on me, but I was able to focus on the message, and it was amazing. It was about how the "wise men" were astrologers, and how astrology tells the story of Christ. If you are reading this Mark McKinney- awesome job! I'd love to hear more about it.).

Got through Christmas okay, despite feeling crappy, and it was a wonderful couple of days. Vinny loved, loved, loved all his toys and has been wanting to do nothing but stay home to play with them ever since. Tiana was an angel. My dad served the family tradition of Roger's Goulash burritos (family recipe) and they were delicious. My favorite. (It is his grandma's recipe, and you can totally tell it is a dust bowl great depression recipe- makes a lot of food for a little money).

Unfortunately, right as the sinus infection started to drain on Tuesday, I came down with the flu. Totally something separate. All the typical flu symptoms. It was a miserable night last night. Fortunately, I think it was just a 24 hour bug. Fever broke sometime in the middle of the night and I am feeling significantly better today... despite the sinus infection still draining slowly. When it rains it pours, I suppose. (Or I suppose, in this case, since we are talking about slowly draining sinuses, perhaps that is the wrong metaphor...)

I kept Vinny home from school this week so he could have a winter break. He has been loving it. He asks to get in his pajamas at like 5:00 each night. I asked him, "Right now? But it is really early," and his response was, "I want to be comfy." Well, considering I haven't changed out of my pajamas at all today, I suppose he has the right to "be comfy" too.

I am going to start working on getting Tiana in her own room after I get better. I decided I needed to start just putting her in there awake first, so she doesn't wake up wondering where the heck she is. That sounds easy enough, but considering that she spends 80% of each day in someone's arms and cries if she's not, it is somewhat of a challenge. I found a decent solution though today. Vinny has been loving being her big brother, and always wants to cuddle her, but I am always afraid he is going to drop her. So... today, I put him in the crib with her. He is small enough. He had a BLAST cuddling with her in the crib. He kept winding up the mobile for her, turning on the projector. It was so cute. After I fed her and put her in there next to him asleep, he just stayed there cuddling her while she slept for like half an hour. Adorable! This may be the perfect way to transition. If she can't get cuddled by mommy in the crib, at least she can get cuddled by Vinny, and then hopefully she will eventually feel comfortable enough on her own.

In other news, I am yearning to give her some real food (because she is yearning to eat it!). Lately, when we eat, she sits there and watches the path of the fork from the plate to our mouths. Monday night at dinner she kept trying to sneak pieces of pasta off our plates. She was even trying to stick them in her mouth. Not yet baby, not yet.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Why Value Added is No Magical Answer

There is a lot of talk about value added in the education world these days, particularly when it comes to performance based pay. I recently read an editorial on value added by an education blogger named Ben Johnson. You really should read the article first to understand my comments here.
"Why Performance Based Pay for Teachers Makes Sense"

For those of you who are inevitably will not click the link and read the whole blog, it can best be summed up with this comment he makes towards the end:
"It wasn't until recently that I understood that the real concern about performance-based pay was not about the money at all. It is about performance of the teacher. Performance is shown when each individual student's progress is connected directly to his or her particular teacher or set of teachers. Based on how much the student learned, as demonstrated by the pre- and post- tests, a teacher will be assigned a value-added score. Teachers won't be able to blame the prior school-year teacher, nor the parents, nor society as some have done. If the score is low, it is either the kids are stupid, or the teacher is ineffective. We know that kids are not stupid, so..."

Well, it sounds good, right?  But it is not. There are so many things not factored into value added. I know that at the heart, this thinking is based in the idea that kids can learn and are not stupid, but this actually sort of does students an injustice. First of all, it devalues their creativity. It devalues the ways that they are smart that tests cannot show. If you asked kids if they wanted to get a grade based on what they learned through this pre-test post-test method, I bet they would say that this is unfair.  Especially because, as I have experienced, the only time-efficient way to do this is multiple choice tests, it misses several things. You cannot test if a student has become a better writer through a multiple choice test. You have to read essays. You might say, okay, give a pre-test essay and a post-test essay, right? But who is going to grade those? In addition, that is faulted in the fact that a student might be a terribly narrative writer, and only slightly improve that, but the student may have learned to write persuasively for the first time. Unless you gave an essay test, both pre and post, in every different mode of writing (expository, persuasive, narrative, reflective, literary, etc.) that is taught throughout the school year, then you couldn't really see the true value added when it comes to writing. And that type of testing is ridiculous and not effective, partially because of the very nature of good writing. If the student has learned to be a good writer, then the student has learned that writing is a process and the student now needs more than an in-class essay test to produce their best work. Considering that writing is one of the most valuable skills any student must learn, it seems rather frustrating to me that value added, simply by nature of being based on test, cannot truly assess the value the teacher has added to the student as a writer.

In addition, what about things like music? A test cannot determine the value that a teacher has added to the student as a musician. Even if the teacher tests the student "musically," it does not show that the music teacher has taught this student how to dress for performance, how to pay attention and count during rests while other students are playing so he/she does not miss an entrance, etc. What about performing? If value added could be assessed fairly, I would be getting paid for the amazing fact that students who had never acted before are now giving polished performances where they don't forget a single line, stay in character the whole time, and give the audience chills? Do we really want to show students that all we value is test scores? Or do we want to value the fostering and training of talented children who will grow up to wow us and entertain us on the big screen someday? If we spend so much money on entertainment each year (we do- just look at movie box office prices), then why are we valuing it so little in the educational setting?

And even in the things that multiple choice testing really can assess, like reading comprehension and math, they can say that the test only assesses how well the current teacher has taught, but that's not true. If the teacher teaches reading comprehension, he/she can only teach using texts that are at the students reading level. From someone who has students with 3rd and 4th grade reading levels, trust me when I say that this is a challenge. In addition, you can design programs to help these students catch up, but if they refuse to read at home, their reading level does not improve. Then, when they go to take the test, if the text used to assess reading comprehension is say... Nathaniel Hawthorne, it doesn't matter how well the current teacher taught reading comprehension. They will not do well on that test simply because the test is above the student's level of reading fluency, which is not the current teacher's fault; even if the current teacher has done everything he/she can to improve that student's fluency, students don't gain 6 reading levels in one year.

None of this even takes into account that teachers do not have control over what students have going on in their lives, particularly in low income communities. What about the student who sneaks vodka to school in a water bottle and is a little while drunk while taking the test? Or what about the student who just had an abortion last weekend? Do you think either of them give a rip what's on that test? Do you think their results are really a fair reflection of what the teacher taught or the value she added?

I do believe in performance pay- I really do. And I will continue to believe that performance pay should be taken into consideration, but it should not be based solely, or even significantly, to multiple choice tests. If you asked my boss how much value I add to my students, he would probably say a lot.... because he has really seen my students grow. But if you look at my value added style benchmark tests from this semester and note that the median is exactly the same, then the answer would be... none.

Such a lucky mom... such a lucky kid

I am such a lucky mom. I love getting to be home with my son at the holidays. Yesterday, Tiana napped in the afternoon and Vinny sat at the kitchen table with me making playdough gingerbread men while I made ennchiladas for our Bible study potluck. It was so wonderful. We talked a lot. It is so neat that he is growing up and able to sit and carry on conversation with me. Yesterday, he said, "You know what? Christmas is not about Santa. Its not about presents. Its not about lights. Its not about reindeer. Its about Jesus. Its Jesus' birthday." He makes me so proud.

He is such a lucky kid too. He has all the relatives vying for his time and attention right now. My sister- and brother-in-law took him to spend the night last night and they took him to a "Back to Bethlehem" thing at a local church. He must have just loved it. 

Then today, my mom wants to take him to see the Yogi Bear movie, and tonight he is going to eat crab with my mother-in-law.  I swear, he's got a busier social calendar than I do. What a lucky kid.


Monday, December 20, 2010


Seriously, Vinny has said some pretty funny stuff today alone. If he's this cute every day, then I am really missing out while he's at school.

This morning:
"I have to get ready because my friends are coming over and if I don't get ready, then they will look at me and say, 'Oh my! He's in his pajamas!' so I have to get ready!"

 While out shopping:
"Mommy, is this town?" 
"Yes, Vinny, this is a town." 
"Yea! Then Santa Claus is coming HERE!" 
While putting away the groceries:
“Mommy, can you be Mary? And Daddy’ll be Joseph? And Tiana will be Jesus?”
“Who will you be? A wise man?”
“No, I can’t be a wise man.”
“Why not?”
“Because wise men have curly hair.”
While waiting for his friends to come (an hour before they were scheduled to arrive):
“Are my friends still watching tv or what? Or are their moms just slow?”

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Concluding the year

Yesterday was the last day of the first semester. My students had finals this week and then grades were due Thursday. Friday we just wrapped up the year, giving grades and whatnot. It was a really, really rough week. I was running around like a madwoman trying to get everything graded and entered, and there were meetings and stuff, and I barely had time to pump. Hectic hectic. I was up late almost every night grading papers and it was just exhausting.

Yesterday was really nice though. I felt very loved. The neatest thing happened. I got a Christmas gift from one of my students. They have given me candy and stuff before, which is always sweet, but a student actually wrapped a gift for me- handpainted candle holders. They have little purple flowers on them. I love purple, and he even wrapped them in purple tissue paper. I was really touched. I almost cried. This may sound really trivial, I mean you probably think kids get their teachers Christmas presents all the time, right? Well, not in a high poverty school, and especially not in high school when they have 5-8 teachers, so it was really sweet of him to do that. He gave some of his other teachers gifts too. It was a small gift, but it made my day, especially since I know that funds are really tight in that community, so it meant all that much more.  I've only gotten a gift from a student one other time, and it was when I was teaching at Taft. I helped one of my juniors revise her research paper like 3 times and she gave me a really sweet card telling me I was one of the best teachers she'd ever had, and it had a $5 starbucks gift card inside. I saved the card she wrote, since it was just so sweet. I hung it on my memo board at home.

My department chair gave me a gift too. I felt kind of bad that I didn't have anything for her, when she has done so much for me over the years, but the gift she gave me was so sweet. She gave me this candle from Bath and Body Works called "Forever Sunshine." When I opened it and smelled how nice it was, she said, "I know, isn't it? I thought it was perfect, because it is bright and fresh and beautiful, just like you!" She said it so genuinely, I almost started crying (I did a lot of almost crying yesterday).

Then I got off early and picked up the kids and prepared for my sister's b-day dinner. As far as sister relationships go, our has been rather rocky this year, but I did my darndest to make sure she felt special, and for her to know that, in spite of it all, she's still my baby sister and I still love her. I'll never forget that day 21 years ago when she came 12 days early, leaving my dad to throw my birthday party by himself- which had been planned intentionally a week before my birthday to ensure my mom could be there for it- haha!

And now, it is quite a relief to be off of school for the next 6 weeks, even if there is a ton of stuff to do during the break. I need to prepare for ESY (equivalent to summer school, but during winter). I'm not teaching it, but I need to get together the stuff for the teacher who is, catch up on paper work, finish planning the second semester- oh, and figure out how I am going to pay for day care next semester. The place we found for Tiana is great and one of the cheapest in town, but we still don't really have that money. We have been just making ends meet lately, with very little or nothing leftover. Plus, not only did I not get paid for maternity leave (so all the money I saved last year is gone), but I guess I misunderstood the performance pay structure this year and how it works with me being on maternity leave, and I busted my butt to prove that I do deserve it, only to find out that I- according to them- only worked 33.7% of the semester, so I will only get 33.7% of my performance pay for the semester. I am not sure how that is accurate, considering I worked 9 weeks of the 20 week semester, and in my book, that's 45%, but whatever. When I did the calculations and looked a the numbers, I was so disappointed... you guessed it, I almost cried.

It is just very unfair considering that I prepared all the lesson plans and major assignments for my sub, kept up with my end of the grading, showed up to all the department meetings while I was gone, had constant communication with my sub and the students and parents via email, and even showed up to supervise Saturday school. I feel like I deserve more than 45%. To a certain extent, had I realized how much I was going to get screwed on all this, I would have just left a list of standards to cover and completely checked out for those 11 weeks. (I say that, but I never could have done it). Another annoying irony... this past week, the school invited in an Aflac representative to talk about disability pay, since we do't get any of it (one of the downsides of being non-unionized) and can't even claim state disability, and I found out for only $40 a month, I could have been paid throughout maternity leave, had I only known about all of this a year ago. Well, this is what happens when you have an unplanned baby, as much of a blessing as it is. Long story short- I though I'd be getting enough performance pay to cover at least 2 or 3 months of day care, but it looks like I'll be getting enough for about 1 month, 1.5 if I am lucky.

So I am trying to figure out how we can come up with an extra, say... thousand dollars a month. I thought about perhaps writing a book and self-publishing it, since really, I am a writer and writing is probably the easiest way for me to make money, but the process actually sounds like it could cost me quite a bit out the door before I actually make any money from it, which defeats the purpose, and most of my book ideas have already been written anyway. So if I want to write for this extra money, looks like I'm going to have to go my traditional route and return to writing associated content articles and start trying to get my stuff in magazines too. Now where to find the time....

Anyhow, I am glad to have the next 6 weeks to be at home with my baby girl, even if there is much to be done while I am here. :-)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Not Really in the Christmas Spirit

I don't feel like doing Christmas this year. We are broke. I don't want to go into a bunch of debt to buy gifts. We have the kids taken care of already, but we can't buy much for anyone else. Despite the fact that everyone will most undoubtedly say, "Its not about the gifts," there is always the awkwardness of someone giving you gifts when you don't have much (or anything at all to give in return), and besides that- it feels good to give gifts to those we love. It hurts to not really be able to buy what we'd want to buy at a time when we'd really like to give to the people we love. Plus, there are so many other expenses right now too. There are many friends/family having babies right now, and all the baby showers are hitting pretty much right at once, so there are gifts for those. There are potlucks and parties to bring food to. There are birthdays to buy gifts for. I have a fix-it ticket because my registration was suspended by no fault of my own. Although we pay our car insurance through automatic monthly payment deductions from our checking account- and have for years- they for some reason didn't send the info to DMV and now DMV wants a reinstatement fee and the court will want me to pay a small fee to clear the fix it ticket.   I wish I could get our housekeepers a Christmas thank you gift. I wish I could get Vinny's preschool teachers a Christmas gift. It is all overwhelming. If I had all the money I wanted, I wish I could get each and every one of my students a present, but I don't know if I  will even be able to get all of my family members a present, so that would never happen. It is going to be a tough two weeks.

Besides that, we've been too busy and stressed to enjoy most of it anyway. Saturday we went to Knott's Merry Farm as a family, and that was really nice, but it went by so fast and then it was back to work. I spent 80% of my day Sunday just getting ready for the week. Grades are due, and I am trying to tie up all the loose ends for this semester, which is not proving to be an easy task. It is hard to be gone for 10 weeks then jump right in and put on a play the week before finals, and then be ready to turn in grades. Not an easy task.

Our Pastors message this past Sunday was about slowing down and not missing Christmas. It was a really nice idea, and he even tried to give some pointers about how to slow down and not miss Christmas, but none of them will work for me right now. Spend more time reading the Bible. Gee, thanks, but I can't seem to find enough time to read the papers I need to grade to honor my obligation to my students. Come home 30-60 minutes early from work. Okay, great idea, and I am trying to get out of there earlier this week... but there is just as much work to do at home. Give a gift to someone who can't give you anything back. Great idea... not sure its doable though. It is just all harder than it sounds.

I'm tired. I was up til almost 2 grading on Sunday, and although I went to bed at like 10 last night, I still felt like a zombie. I had a Dr. Pepper today when I got home, just missing the caffeine and the comfort of my old favorite. I figured, Tiana is 3 months tomorrow, and even if her colic did seem to be associated with caffeine, colic is supposed to go away at 3 months, right? So, I drank it... and it was nice. Unfortunately, she woke up promptly 30 minutes after I finishd it and she wanted to eat pretty quickly. Call it a coincidence, or call it evidence (I lean towards evidence), but she was super fussy and crying for nearly 2 hours afterwards. Sigh. Sometimes I want a latte so bad it hurts.... but I guess I'll need to just deal with it for the next 9 months or so.

On the positive note, since it feels like I do an awful lot of complaining on here, and I really don't want it to be all that... we went to a beautiful Christmas party today with some of Vinny's friends and their moms' (my friends). My favorite moment of all is when I told Vinny, "Okay, we gotta go, say bye to your friends," and he stood up and said- without any prompting at all- "Bye Sean. Thank you for having me over to play."  It melted my heart. I know that sounds so simple, but I didn't tell him to thank his friend, and he did, and it sounded genuine, not routine. I think my son is actually starting to appreciate things like that when his friends have him over to play, not only do they have to share their toys (which can be hard for a 4 year old to do), but it also leaves them with the massive task of cleaning up afterwards (friends can try to help, but really a kid knows where he wants his own toys to go). It is moments like this that assure me I must be doing something right in parenting this kid. :-)

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Decompressing after a long day

Have you ever had a day that got so busy that you realized hours after dinner that you completely forgot to eat it? A friend (Thank you Yolanda) even brought me food that looked so good I was so excited to put in the fridge to heat up for dinner when I got a chance to eat, but I remembered at like 8:30, while driving home from school, when I noticed that my stomach felt funny and then I realized I had completely forgotten to eat it. Oh well. At least I ate a big lunch. At least I can look forward to heating it up for lunch tomorrow.

I ran around like a crazy person today. Picking up the benchmark exam, giving the benchmark exam, preparing for my review with my administrator (put together like a 50 page packet for her!), rushing to Frends Beauty Supply to spend way too much money on restocking stage makeup and buying wigs for my students, conference call with English teachers all over the country for Asia Society, getting ready for rehearsal, shopping for more stuff the kids still needed (I was handed a list that included bobby pins, hairspray, a booklight, and a bathrobe, among other things), and then dress rehearsal. By the time I got home, I was just plain exhausted. I hadn't been able to pump as much as I wanted too, and since I have been drinking this "Mother's Milk" tea to increase my production, that became just painful at points. I missed her a lot.

On the plus side, I guess God decided to give me a little gift to make this week easier on me. Tiana finally seems to be on a real schedule. She's been going to bed every night around 10pm, and she was waking up at like 4a.m., but last night she actually slept straight through, in her OWN bed (okay, bassinet, but this is still an improvement for us lately) from like 10:30 to 5:15a.m. I think I call that "sleeping through the night." Praise the Lord, hallelujah!

Actually, God has blessed me in one more way this week. I most certainly could not be getting through this week without my mom. She took the week off to watch Tiana. Knowing my mom is at home with her this week has been such a relief to me, and plus, my super mom doesn't know how to sit still, which works out well for me, because she has cleaned my house and done my laundry. Could I ask for more?

Tomorrow is the show- the real thing. It will be sort of a soft opening. Tickets for Thursday night haven't been selling all that well. I probably should have made it 7pm that night instead of 8pm. Friday is in real danger of selling out though. Almost half the tickets are already gone. People are questioning the logic behind my deciding not to put seats all the way to the very back of the auditorium, but I just wanted the show to have an intimate feel. Its not a big musical- its more of a "black box" theater type show, only in a big auditorium with a proscenium stage. I sort of feel like we shouldn't have people sitting at the very back. It doesn't have the same feel from back there. Well... maybe I will change my mind tomorrow. We'll see. I'm excited. I'm also really tired, but mostly excited.

Last year, in a FB note (cuz it was before I started my blog), I wrote this after my very first show at Vaughn:
"During the curtain call, Stan (my boss) thanked the kids and gave flowers to our lead actress, and then they called me up there to take a bow and get some flowers. I totally wasn't expecting it. It was surreal....
See... I remember doing things like this when I was in high school for our drama teacher, but our school is just different. Tonight shook me. Surreal is the best way to describe it. I was standing there, staring up at these kids who did such a good job and had made me so very proud, and they were looking down at me, clapping for me, and then audience members were thanking me, and I was thinking "for what?" and then realizing how different it feels to be on the other side of this.... It's like living a dream."

As exhausted as I am and as hard as these past two weeks have been, I'm glad I came back to finish this semester. I'm just so lucky. I AM living my dream.

Monday, December 6, 2010

This is so hard....

My days have NO breathing time in them at all. I am moving, acting, thinking, doing, supervising 24/7. I fit like 6 pumping sessions into my day at work today to try to up my milk supply, since it seems to be slowly dwindling now that she's not nursing constantly and I'm just pumping, but I still got less than I did last week. Frustrating. I am going to drink Mothers Milk tea all day tomorrow. It is really, really, really hard to exclusively breastfeed when you are working 13 hour days with no real breaks.

My lesson plan for tomorrow is to review for the student's benchmark exam. They are only 38 minute periods, but I don't really know what we will be doing yet and its in less than 12 hours. I feel like I just got home and its back to work.

Rehearsal today went really well, but selling tickets for this show at Christmas time has been a challenge. I hope we have a good turnout. We need high ticket sales. I spent $100 providing dinner for the kids tonight and $50 to replace a  lapel mic that broke (including the overnight shipping), and right now, that's all just on my credit card in anticipation of ticket sales.

Here's hoping.

Sunday, December 5, 2010


Man, what a whirlwind week. Meetings, rehearsals, shopping, craziness, and emotionally draining.  I need to try not to let myself get so stressed, but it is hard. The administrator who has been coming to observe me for my bonus told me she wants to meet next week so that we can discuss my scores and I can discuss with her anything I disagree with. This is slightly disheartening to me, because if she was giving me all good scores, then I obviously wouldn't disagree with any of it. Sadness. Plus, I honestly didn't know when I could tell her that I could meet. I told her Thursday before the show was an okay time, but literally every other second of my week seems to be full (plus, I still have to make it to Frends Beauty Supply to stock up on make-up at some point in the week- I do not know when).

In addition, I got a chance to look at the benchmark test that the students will be taking next week, with the opportunity to veto questions that were not related to what was taught this semester. These tests are supposed to measure student performance. The students' performance will determine a large percentage of my bonus pay because the school where I teach believes in giving performance pay, and starting this year, a significant amount must be tied to student performance because Race to the Top is giving funds to schools that pay bonuses to teachers "who are highly effective in the way that they instruct students," which my school has decided is best measured by these tests. Unfortunately, most of what was on the tests was so ridiculous. I don't know how they chose these. They were like half based on standards I am not teaching until next semester. Ridiculous.

I may be frustrated by the kinks in the system that I feel may result in me not getting my full bonus, despite the fact that I truly believe I am a highly effective teacher, but I do still believe that performance based pay for teachers can be a good thing... there just has to be a better way to do it.

So, back to the whirlwind this week- wrapping up my last unit of the semester, giving benchmark exams and lexile tests, and biggest of all, producing "A Christmas Carol."

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A new approach to instructional materials?

There is a whole section of the California State Standards for English that focuses on informational materials, and some of them are very specific, particularly these two:
2.6 Demonstrate use of sophisticated learning tools by following technical directions (e.g., those found with graphic calculators and specialized software programs and in access guides to World Wide Web sites on the Internet).
2.7 Critique the logic of functional documents by examining the sequence of information and procedures in anticipation of possible reader misunderstandings.

To me, the standards are so specific its like... um, how do you really teach this other than just having them do it? But the "it" to me is always so... what do you do? If you make something up and it is not real, then it is sort of pointless and the kids don't get into it enough to really learn from it.

But today was fantastic. I think I figured it out. But it wasn't in my English class. It was with my play production class. You want to teach kids the critique the logic of functional (or sometimes dysfunctional) documents by examining sequences and procedures? Buy them furniture from Ikea and tell them to assemble it.

I literally handed each group of students a box. Most of the boxes contained chairs (one of the more simple Ikea pieces, as far as assembly goes). Two of the groups got a desk to assemble. When they finished with the chairs, those groups moved to helping the groups with the desk. I let them get from opening the box to finishing the piece of furniture with very little assistance from me.

Critique the directions they most certainly did. If you've ever looked at Ikea directions, they are not very descriptive. At one point, a student said, "This is like a whole book, yet I somehow still have no idea what to do."

They argued with me about the necessity of actually screwing in the seat part of the chair. "Can't it just sit on the base?" one girl asked. The same student also kept insisting that it must require power tools, which I would not give them.

But they took ownership. When the bill was ringing at 3:25, I asked them to pack up, but they asked if they could keep working. I had to go to a meeting, but my colleague agreed to supervise them, so they stayed working. When I came back, all 7 of the chairs were complete and one of the desks.

It may not seem like this incredible learning experience, but they learned that Ikea furniture can be put together usually without power tools. They learned how to use an itty bitty little metal tool to put together furniture. They learned to pay close attention to a diagram. They learned to improvise when they mess up. Now, someday, when they go away to college and end up at the local Ikea to buy a desk that they can actually afford, they will not feel as completely helpless when they open the box and find 100 parts.

All, in all, I was very proud of them. Watch the video clip of part of the process if you are interested.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Hit the ground running

Well, here it goes. Time to hit the ground running.

Today I returned to teaching. It was an incredible whirlwind. I forgot how much I love my job. I mean seriously, I love my job. There are days that stink, but there are so many wonderful parts of my job. Like filling out college recommendations for kids who really, really, really deserve to get there and be the first in their families to get a college education. Like seeing kids truly learn. Like hearing them actually remember things that I taught back in August. Like watching my wonderful drama family achieve incredible things without me, because they learned how to take charge by themselves. It is nice to be genuinely missed. I love my job.

I do need to get better about remembering to pump though. I am so used to being able to work through my breaks, but if I forget to pump, Tiana won't have milk, so I need to really keep on top of that. I wasn't so great about remembering today. The bell would ring and I would suddenly realize that I had somehow totally forgot. I only managed to remember twice in the 10 hours I was at school. In that long, I should be aiming for like four times.

 Boy are the next two weeks going to be total hectic craziness. I have lesson plans to write, and I am getting formally observed all week, so they really need to be formal lesson plans too. I need to keep on top of kids about their outside reading.  I have more college recommendations to write. I have papers to grade and enter. I need to shop for drama- we need two matching desks and 7 matching chairs, two wigs, two way radios with headsets, victorian looking bedding, rechargeable 9v batteries and a charger, and a mini reading lamp. I need to somehow make sure we actually have the money to shop for the stuff we need for drama. I have two IEP meetings this week (individualized education plan- for special ed students). There are two students who I really should refer for SSTs (student study teams- it means that I consistently see an issue where they do not seem to be absorbing what is being taught for whatever reason).I just found out today that I will be singing in the kids show at my church this sunday. It is a really awesome rock-style kids show that I always feel so incredibly lucky to be a part of, but I got the set list this week, and because it is Christmas time, it is all special music. I don't really know any of it. Rehearsal's on Thursday night, which gives me a whole, oh, three days to learn the music before rehearsal, 5 days to learn it before the show Sunday morning. Time to put into action all that I teach the kids- practice makes perfect. :-)

Oh boy. Then next week brings a whole new crazy schedule of rehearsal and rehearsal and rehearsal.

Meanwhile, my baby girl has wanted to sleep happily on my chest pretty much ever since I got home today. She's a sweetie, and I did miss her a lot today, but I'd love to put her down to make typing easier.

Here we go. Time to rock and roll.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Trying really hard not to be stressed

It's been a nice Thanksgiving weekend. It really has, but this dark shadow has loomed over me throughout it. Tomorrow is my first day back to teaching. I went back on Wednesday before Thanksgiving for a PD day with the English department, but tomorrow I actually have to teach. The administrator assigned to evaluate me for my bonus will definitely be coming some time (or many times) this week to evaluate me, since their evaluations are due at the end of the week. (Our school is on a merit pay system, so this bonus is a pretty significant part of my income. I need to get the whole thing.) My administrator and I don't exactly see eye-to-eye on everything, I think because she is used to elementary school, and she has very, very high expectations, so this is a stressful thing to walk into on my first week back.

Making things worse... my copy code is messed up and the supply woman at school emailed me that she has the new one, but she didn't email me the code, so I guess she wants to give it to me in person. That's fine, but I have a ridiculous amount of copies to do for this week, even for tomorrow. Since I have heard through the grapevine that the copy situation at school lately has been messy (my sub even completely stopped doing the grammar lessons we start with each day, mostly because he wasn't able to make any copies of the lessons), I think I am going to just bite the bullet and pay to copy what I need for tomorrow so I just have it ready when I walk in the door tomorrow.

Marc was supposed to take this week off to spend with Tiana, but it didn't turn out to be the best week for it. His co-director who runs the site on the other end of town is moving to another state, so things are a bit busy right now without her. Marc is actually going to take Tiana with him to do some work this week. He thinks it is no big deal, but he doesn't know what its like. I have taken  Tiana to work with me in the past few weeks for meetings and whatnot, and sometimes it goes well, but sometimes it is really hard... and all I do is sit in meetings. He is going to be driving kids around. Tiana doesn't like the car. (I know, all babies like the car, right? Well, not Tiana). So, he is probably going to spend a pretty decent portion of his day listening to her scream. And he's going to need to warm up her bottles and points throughout this busy day, so we had to buy him a bottle warmer for his car. I just hope it goes smoothly. I am sort of glad he will be having a minor surgery on Wednesday and physically unable to make a bunch of plans for the latter part of the week.

I also am feeling very guilty lately about my inability to get Tiana back into her own bed. I did not have this problem at all with Vinny. It started with just bringing her into bed with me to feed her when she woke up at like 4 am (she only wakes up about once each night now, and it is usually around 4-5am). I would fall asleep nursing her, so she'd end up next to me until the morning. Then, about a week ago, when it got really cold, when I'd lay her down in her bassinet next to me (already asleep) she'd start whimpering after a little bit. I'd feel her hands and they were ice cold, and I just felt so bad leaving her in there without any blankets or anything, so I pulled her into bed with me. At least with her next to me, the blankets are over me, but they are not near her head or anything, so I don't worry about her suffocating and she stays warm from being with me. But now, even with the heater on for a while before we go to bed so that the house is nice and warm, she just doesn't want to sleep by herself. Why would she? I know a lot of people co-sleep for a very long time, but I really feel like she needs to get back to her own bed. I don't even know why I feel so guilty about it. I am not really worried about the safety aspect as I am very subconsciouly aware of her while I sleep, but I think I just need my space. There are times, like in the early morning, that I really enjoy cuddling with her, but at night, when I am going to bed, I really want to be able to spread out. And I don't want to create a habit of this long-term. I need her to be able to sleep independently, so getting her back to the bassinet is the first step. Once she drops that 4am feeding, I would really, really love to get her in her crib in her own room, but that feels very far from possible right now. Bleh..

Back to writing lesson plans.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Back to Work

Today was my first official day back to work. I say official because I have been doing much work from home, going to school to attend all the department meetings and other meetings, and even working Saturday school, my entire maternity leave, but today I got paid for it. However, I didn't teach today either. I went for a paid day of professional development that was very productive. I let my sub wrap up my unit and was able to get on the same page as him and say goodbye. I will have my classes back on Monday.

It was very hard to leave my baby girl this morning. She woke up in a wonderful mood. I left her laughing and giggling and cooing and smiling. It felt good and bad all at the same time. I was glad she was happy, but sad I had to leave that pleasant little baby. The very thought of spending the entire day away from her made me sick to my stomach.

But it was a good day. I missed my friends. I forgot how much I missed being a professional and interacting with people on a professional level. I actually even enjoyed debating about different definitions of the word theme. (KSho, if you are reading this, I love you!) :-)

I saw a lot of the students and they all seemed happy to have me back. I asked my drama kids how rehearsals have been going and how they feel about the show in general. They said good, but commented that a lot of students have ditched rehearsals. Someone said, "Its different.  Mr. Medway doesn't yell at everyone about the importance of coming to rehearsal." I laughed and commented, "Well, not everyone can be as mean as me. Its a gift." The student looked embarrassed and said, "Oh, I meant it in a good way miss." I smiled. "I know," I replied, then I wished them all a Happy Thanksgiving and told them all I'd see them Monday. I can't wait to get back to the usual routine, and I can't wait to see what my awesome drama kids have accomplished.

Monday, November 22, 2010


Today, I have done some thinking about what I am genuinely thankful for. Not the cheesy obvious stuff, but stuff that I don't always stop to think about and appreciate. This was inspired by my amazing son.

Vinny's class did "What I am thankful for" stuff (of course, what preschool doesn't) and most of the kids said the typical "My mom" or "My dad" or "My toys." Guess what Vinny is thankful for?  Vinny is thankful that he can jump.  At first, I laughed. Then I thought about it. How precious is it that my son is just grateful for the ability to use his legs to do something he enjoys, jumping?

Last night, when he was in the bath, he was reflecting on the idea that God made him (a point that they have really been driving home in his Sunday school) and he kept asking me, "Mommy, did God make Grandma? Did God make Papa? Did God make Aunt Tricia? Did God make Aunt Natalie? Did God make Tiana?" and on and on and on. There were a couple of "Did God make snoopy?" in there that I had to clarify, but for the most part, he just wanted to confirm that God was indeed the ultimate creator of us all. (On a side note, to my Christian parent friends, how do you answer this one: "Did God make Santa Claus?"). Anyhow, I ultimately said, "Yes, God made all those people. Aren't you lucky that God made such wonderful people for you to have in your life?" He thought for a minute and said, "Yeah!" So then I took the time to make the point, "Well, that's what Thanksgiving is all about. This week we Thank God for giving us all those wonderful people." My awesome son immediately said, "Yeah!" and then broke into a prayer thanking God for giving him every single on of those people. I am so inspired by him.

So, what am I thankful for. I am thankful that I have an awesome job that is not a job, it is a vocation. I use the word vocation because it is the most direct translation of the idea for having a calling. I am thankful that my job gives me so much time off to spend with my son, even if it does keep me up until all hours of the night grading papers when I am working. I am thankful that God blessed me with a baby that I didn't think I was ready for. I am thankful that having that baby meant being on maternity leave and getting to spend so much time with my son this year. It was so special to be able to do things like go to his Thanksgiving feast at school today. You've never seen a prouder boy. He was so proud to show off his baby sister. I am thankful for an awesome extended family who are like my best friends. I am thankful for a best friend who is like family.

God has been good to me.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A Nice Weekend

It has been a nice family weekend. Even with the 3 hours I spent at school this morning, it has been a nice weekend. I supervised my sophomores at Saturday school today because it desperately needed to be assigned to students who were way behind on their outside reading. It was okay though. I brought Tiana with me, since I wasn't officially working. They clearly miss me, which feels good and makes me look forward to going back. I had fun with them. I made them read pretty much the whole time, but I gave them two "breaks" to come gather around my desk and listen to me do a dramatic reading of a short story. During the first break, I read Langston Hughes "Thank You, M'am." I thought I would never want to read that story again after an LAUSD prescribed unit I had to teach when I was student teaching that made me way over analyze that story with students who so were not interested. But I guess I got over it, because I enjoyed reading it today. In the second break, I read "The Hand" by Guy de Maupassant. Now THAT is a good story. One that makes you get chills and giggles, all at the same time. Many of the kids made great progress in the books that they were reading, and they can all test on the 2 stories I read them, which at least will be something. I love seeing kids get into reading, especially reluctant readers. I'm still crossing my fingers that I can actually get my super awesome book ownership project funded. Only $1312 left to go! It sounds like a lot, but to many people, it's not, so I'm hoping one of those people comes across it and likes it.

Meanwhile, Vinny and Daddy had a nice father son weekend. They went to Lowe's for Vinny's 3rd build and grow workshop. They made a really cute snowman picture frame. Much props to our good friend Katrina for telling us about these workshops. Vinny LOVES them. He wants to wear his Lowe's builder apron all the time. Which reminds me, I need to sew his patches on it before he loses them.

I met up with the boys and my in-laws for lunch, and then went out with my oldest (meaning longest, not age) friend, Janelle. We've been friends since I was 9. That's a long time. I love her to pieces. Our relationship is different than my relationship with other friends for some reason. Like, both of us do go out at night and stuff, but for some reason, not usually with each other. Lately, we do a lot of lunches and coffee dates. She still has a young fun spontaneous life, and I so rarely get to be spontaneous, so that's okay. She's still one of my best friends, because when we sit down to chat, the hours just fly by.

For dinner, we had a quiet family night at home with take-out and redbox. There is this new Italian place in town called "The Boot." Second time we have tried it and we were not disappointed. It is EXCELLENT. The food is fantastic, high quality, and unique. You can tell the pizzas are homemade because the crusts are not perfectly symmetrical. And the prices are by far the best in town. Everything is under $6! Totally not kidding. If you live here and haven't tried it yet, you really, really, really should, even if you live on the other end of town. It is that worth it.

Tiana is going through a growth spurt. She ate constantly today and for long, long stretches. She was eating for like 15 minutes at a time, but today it has been like 30 minutes at a time, and she just doesn't seem full for very long. I read on the LLL website that this is normal, and as empty as my breasts feel, I just gotta keep letting her go at it so that my body realizes she needs more and makes more at each feeding, so it gets better.

Looking forward to next week, even though I have so much to do. Making cupcakes for Thanksgiving and I found some new recipes I am going to experiment with. Possibly a marshmallow creme frosting like a hostess cupcake.

Every day I hear about someone new who reads my blog that I didn't expect. People I know, but never hear from. Because only a handful of people comment, I sort of forget that so many people read it. Sorry it is so hard to comment right on here. I have it set to accept no anonymous posts to avoid spam. I'd like to make my blog just more viewer friendly in general, utilizing the tags and whatnot, but I'm not very good at that stuff. If any savvy bloggers, want to come over some day and teach me, I'd love to learn.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Sleepover Party?

Vinny likes to sleep over Hannah's
Vinny has been begging me- literally begging- for months and months now, to let him have a sleepover with his friends. He keeps asking if he can have his friends sleepover. He's had his friend Landon spend the night before and had sleepovers with his cousin Hannah, but he wants his other friends to sleep over.

Personally, I kind of feel like 4 is a little young for a sleepover. I would only let Vinny go to a sleepover if I knew the parents really well. I do know the parents of most of his friends, but I don't know how their kids would do with a sleepover. I mean, I think even Vinny would get a little scared or sad in the middle of the night. He sometimes acts strange when he spends the night over his grandparents' houses. When he spent the night at my cousin's house without me, he woke up in the middle of the night crying. I think this is pretty normal though, so I imagine it would happen to other kids if they spent the night.

I mean, I think I remember one of the first times I spent the night over a friend's house just for fun, it was in first grade, and she lived down the street from me. I cried in the middle of the night and made her mom call my mom to come pick me up. I don't remember why, but I do remember that I didn't make it through the night. I think it is because I was never that comfortable there, because if I remember correctly, I had done okay with other sleepovers.

But he just keeps asking, and it makes me wonder. Should I go for it? Should I let him plan a small slumber party for just a few close boy friends? (He has already been informed "no sleepovers with girl friends until your married"). Should I maybe just plan a late night party for his friends and their parents and let the kids put on their jammies and watch a movie while the adults hang out? I mean, they'd probably all fall asleep, but then their moms and dads could bring them home.

Parents... what do you think?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

My Life According to Bob Marley

Using song names from ONE ARTIST, cleverly answer these questions. You can't use the artist/band I used. Try not to repeat a song title. It's a lot harder then you think! Repost as "My life according to (band name)"

Describe yourself: Forever Loving Jah
How do you feel:  Satisfy my soul
Describe where you currently live: I am going home
If you could go anywhere, where would you go:  Roots, Rock, Reggae
Your favorite form of transportation:  Don't Rock the Boat
Your best friend: Punk Reggae Party
You and your best friend are: Crazy Baldheads
What’s the weather like: Coming in from the Cold
Favorite time of day: Night Shift
If your life was a tv show, what would it be called: Stir it Up
What is life like to you:  Redemption Song
Your relationship: One love
Your fear: Waiting in Vain
What is the best advice you have to give:  Wake up and Live
Thought for the day:  Lively up Yourself
How I would like to die: Jah Live
My soul’s present condition: Soul Almighty
My motto: Get up Stand up

Master of What?

I need to go back to school, probably by next Fall, so I need to get on it with applications and financial aid right away. I don't really want to go back to school right now, but it is the right decision for us for so many reasons.

First of all, I will get a raise when I get a masters degree, so I should be working on that as soon as possible. As a teacher, you don't get random raises; they are all calculated on a schedule (each year it goes up a little bit) and with more education. Second of all, right now, I pay $140.00 a month in student loan payments. This is the most reduced amount that I could get; at one point they were trying to charge me $280 a month. Now, this might not sound like a very big deal, but for me... every month that I pay into this is like throwing money away, because after I have been teaching for 5 years, I can have my student loans forgiven completely because I teach in a low-income school. You can get up to $17,500 forgiven, and I took out less than that originally, so by paying it now, it is like throwing money away. I will be eligible to have them paid off in June 2013. The sooner I go back to school, the sooner I can defer the loans for being a "student."  I might have to take out loans to pay for my Masters degree, but as long as I do it within those first 5 years of teaching, they can be forgiven too! So it needs to happen by next fall, because if my Masters takes me two years, then they will all be within the 5 year point. So, clearly, I must go back to school next fall.

The big question... what do I go back to school to get?

The easiest and obvious selection is CSUNs program for a Masters of Education in Secondary English. It is the most directly applicable, and it would be the easiest for me, because it is a cohort program where you are with a group of teachers for two years taking classes every Thursday night for 4 hours. Easy. It would also probably be the most enjoyable in the way that I always get along well with other English teachers. They are some of my closest friends, probably just because we have so much in common. Plus, when doing my credential program, I was always drawn to the other English teachers, just personality-wise, and those were some awesome times. So, in that program, I would probably make some good friends. I like making new friends. In addition, I would be able to use what I am learning every day.

The other option is going back to school for a Masters in English literature. I would like these classes more than the education classes. While I love teaching, I don't love talking about educational theory, and I don't like the work that comes with it. I sort of hate over-analyzing student test results and stuff. I do love talking about literature, and I would love the chance to take classes and read literature that I haven't explored before. I just love to read, so this could be so much fun. I even love writing about literature. It is my favorite type of writing. Plus, with this degree, I could possibly further my education someday to teach college English. I would love that. I am finding especially from doing the college Bible study group we started, I really like college students.

The final option would be thinking outside the box and looking for something like a Masters in International Studies or something like that. It would apply to where I teach (an international studies academy) and the fact that I am passionate about international education. I could also look outside CSUN and find an online program. However, it would probably be very challenging work. I just don't know if I have the energy for something out of the box, ya know?

What to do...

Monday, November 15, 2010

My 4 year old wants an RV for Christmas

All week, Vinny has been begging me to take him camping. Yes, camping. Unfortunately, we didn't go camping this summer. Who'd have thought he'd miss it so much?

Now, every camping trip we've done since Vinny was born has been in an RV. We don't own an RV, we just rent them or share one with my parents when they rent it. We do own a tent and have gone tent camping, but before Vinny was born. I guess I got afraid to rough it with a kid. I tried to explain the concept of tent camping to him, but he keeps getting confused by the play tent with a tunnel he has and can't imagine all of us sleeping in a tent. It could happen. I don't know if it will, but it could.

However,  today Vinny says, "Mommy, can you put a bus house [translation: RV] on my Christmas list?"  I laughed and double checked to be sure I understood this, "A bus house? You have a bus house." (This was me hoping he was referring to a toy one- because he does have a Hot Wheels RV). But Vinny was quick to clarify, "No, a real one, like that!" as he points to one parked in a driveway, "I want to go camping in it."

"Vinny, I'm not going to put that on your Christmas list. It costs too much money." He has certainly grown quickly wise in the ways of the world, as his reply was swift, "Oh, well, then can I call grandma?"  Like any respectable mom, I put him on the phone with her. She had a good laugh as well, and then I had to actually explain to Vinny that grandma can't afford one either, but that maybe we'll try to borrow one and go camping some time soon. Seriously... where do kids get this stuff?

On a completely different topic, I noticed something about myself today. I like to think of myself as having high self-esteem, but I guess I really don't in some ways. It is like I don't think of myself as good company for some reason. It is probably leftover from a childhood where I was made fun of a lot and often ended up feeling like the "pity" friend, whom people hung out with because they felt bad for me. I think sometimes I accidentally still fall into that mindset, even though I know its not true.

When I picked Vinny up from school, he kept asking to see his friend Tyler. I said that he had to do homework, but he asked if he could see Tyler when he finished his homework. Considering that I had no plans to see friends this afternoon, my answer was, "Um,  I don't know, we'll see." That pacified him for the time being, but as he was wrapping up his homework, he started in on it again. "Can we go to the park with Tyler?"  So, I decided to take a long shot at the chance that Tyler's mom might want to join me at the park, and I sent her a text. I really enjoy Tyler's mom, so I was sort of hoping she'd say yes too, but in the back of my head I was thinking, "I don't know- it is so last minute. I hope she doesn't think I'm rude for springing this on her." Vinny and I lucked out! She did want to go. So we finished homework and I finished pre-preparing dinner, and left for the park.

We had a very nice time sitting at the park, feeding our babies (she has a baby a month younger than Tiana), consoling each other over the mutually grieved loss of sleep and other life-with-newborn woes, and watching our boys be boys- playing a semi-tackle version of tag, finding big sticks, sliding down poles, and racing to the top of the playground. We stayed until it was almost too dark to see our kids anymore (darn daylight savings) and then headed home. Later, she commented on my fb to say "Thanks for inviting me."  I was touched. Thanks for inviting her? I was so grateful she had come! I guess I never thought that other people might feel like me- wanting friendships and happy to be thought of first once in a while. Perhaps I should let my guard down and take initiative more often. It is just so nice to have friends.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Where do babies come from?

The whole the time that I was pregnant with Tiana, Vinny had a million questions about how Tiana would come out, but he never asked how she got there in the first place. He seemed content with that it just happened. Today he asked me, "Do boys get babies in their tummies?"  I explained that only mommies, only ladies, get babies in their tummies. He asked if Tiana was in there when he was in there. I explained first him, then no baby for a while, and then Tiana was there. Then came the question...

"But how do babies get in to mommies tummies?"

Oh boy... I am not ready for this one yet.  My answer,
"God just puts them there."

Well, it is mostly true. Besides, Marc is asleep, and I feel like he gets to have that talk with Vinny, not me. And many years from now.... not now.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

2 months

Today was Tiana's 2 month appointment. I thought she seemed bigger than Vinny was at that age, but I just looked it up in Vinny's book, and she is actually like the exact same size as Vinny was at that age. Funny, huh? She is 10 lbs 4 oz, 21 inches. She's my cutie baby.

She got 3 shots today. I don't even really know which ones to be honest. They told me, but I forgot. She had the same reaction as Vinny too. 4 years ago, when Vinny was 2 months old, I spent all night crying and pacing because he had a fever and was miserable and cried if I stopped rocking him. Tiana is just as miserable, but as you might have guessed, I am not crying or pacing this time. Things have gotten easier with the second one, knowing what is going on. Now Marc and I are just taking turns stroking her and rocking her to keep her comfy. Poor baby. Hopefully she sleeps tonight. Although she has been mostly getting a 4-5 hour stretch, she woke up every 2 hours last night, so I was hoping for some good sleep tonight.

I finally got a swing that works for Tiana too. We've had terrible luck with this. We had a great one that we got second hand when Vinny was little, but we loaned it to our church after he stopped using it and it disappeared, so we never got it back and didn't have it for Tiana. I registered for one, but we didn't get it as a gift, so we got one at a garage sale. It didn't work. I bought one new online and it too, ended up really not being any good. It never swung very far or fast, and then it would stop swinging after a minute or two, right as she was falling asleep or getting calm. I contacted the company and they are letting me return it. Fortunately, I finally found one for very cheap on craigslist and picked it up today. It is very much like the one we had when Vinny was a baby, so I'm happy.

Well, my turn to calm the cranky baby.

Monday, November 8, 2010


Tonight, I delivered dinner to a family from our church who lost their 4-year-old son to cancer last week. I do not know the family and did not know their son, but in pictures and from what the mom said about him on her blog, the little boy reminds me of Vinny, particularly because they are the same age and liked a lot of the same stuff.

I can't stop thinking about it. I cannot even begin to imagine what it would be like to be in her shoes... to watch your precious baby go through so much suffering and then to know you'll never again on this earth get to be with him again. I don't know if I would be able to go on.

I do know this.... it has made me hug my son a little harder, cherish the feeling of his sweet soft cheeks, and hold on to every moment with my precious precious children. I don't ever want to forget how it feels to be their mommy. One can never know how long I will get to have them for. Maybe til I die, but maybe not. Nothing in this life is guaranteed.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Perfect Weekend

This weekend was a mix of everything good. We slept in late Saturday morning, ate lunch a one of my favorite places (Panera), Marc took the kids to the park while I got a pedicure, then I spent a peaceful afternoon with Tiana at home while Marc and Vinny saw MegaMind. I had wanted to see it too, but it was nice for them to get out together, and I actually enjoyed the peaceful afternoon just the two of us. Then, I headed out to dinner with my mommy friends while Marc ordered take out and spent time with the kids. After dinner, I hooked up with my bestest friend Monique and we spent some time gallivanting happily around town. It was a wonderful day.

Today was a nice morning with a much needed extra hour of sleep and then a fantastic day at church with a really good sermon, "Real Housewives of Ventura County." It has had me thinking all day about what I want to talk about in regards to it with the college group on Sunday night. So far... my thoughts are "Mirrors and Magnifying Glasses."  Are you intrigued? Well, if you are, and you are in the young adult/college age range...  come!

After church, Vinny and Tiana and I watched Enchanted together. I seriously love that movie. It may be one of my favorite Disney movies ever, in a possible three way tie with Princess and the Frog and The Little Mermaid. Especially the song, "That's How You Know" It is the best ever! I want to break into song walking down the street some time.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Waiting for Superman

Please go see Waiting for Superman. Really. I think everyone in America needs to see this movie. I think President Obama should rent out a stadium style movie theater and drag every member of Congress to see this movie.

I was terribly saddened to read the election results from our local election today in the paper. I knew them from the internet, but today was reading some of the comments by the two people who won seats on the school board. One of them is the head of the local teacher's union and the other made a comment about bringing back vocational education programs. "Not everyone's going to college- and they needn't be," she commented. Really?  Are you kidding me?  They needn't be? Yeah, and I guess they needn't be getting a good job either. There aren't exactly a bunch of jobs out there that will hire someone with just a high school education, vocational training or not. Post high school education is necessary for almost every job out there. Really, almost every unemployed person I know is someone without a college degree. It is very hard to survive without it. Why would you want to track kids into those positions? And would she be tracking kids of our local upper crust (which is incidentally, mostly white) into those vocational programs?  I somehow doubt that. And the other is the head of a union. Fantastic...

What Waiting for Superman points out is how seriously screwed our current academic system is. Most of my friends will know that I seriously hate people, especially middle class people who live in areas with excellent school districts, complaining that public schools are no good and homeschooling or private school is the only way to go. There is a lot RIGHT with public schools. Especially where I live where there are NO failing schools. But what's not right is that in many of America's biggest cities, kids in failing schools have so few options and stinky teachers get to keep their jobs and unions support and protect them as if they have rights. 

I know this is not a popular idea amongst teachers, but I don't think tenure should exist in public schools. I work in a charter school where I do not belong to a union and no one has tenure and everyone waits for the end of the year to see if he/she will get a contract for next year. Do I like getting to the end of the year and worrying if I will have a job? No, I don't. But I don't have to worry very much, because I know I am a really good teacher. Sure there are some  sucky politics to it too, and in this method, sometimes good teachers end up losing their jobs too, but it is a lot better than the alternative, where almost all new, but awesome teachers lose their jobs every single year just because they are brand new, while a cranky old teacher who doesn't really teach and does more damage than good gets to keep his job, just because he has "tenure." Nowadays, districts are playing games to keep teachers from getting tenure anyway, so why don't we just get rid of it altogether? It is really not all that complicated- teaching should be like any other profession. If you are not that good at what you do, your boss will fire you. Why shouldn't teaching be the same? But unions have power, and frankly, unions get in the way. I see why unions are good. I mean, with unions, changes don't get sprung on teachers last minute without any feedback from the teachers. The school where I work has committees and we supposedly get a say in everything. To be fair, almost all major decisions are made with great input from teachers, but sometimes, because we are not union, decisions happen that not everyone had a say in. The positive though... things get done fast (well, in relation to union districts). And bad teachers get fired. In my book, that's a good thing

I think I am going to run for the local school board in the next election. I think I could win. 

But, I digress... Please go see Waiting for Superman.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Day care

Ever since I found out I was pregnant, the thought of sending my child off full-time as a baby has just tied my stomach in knots. I never had to send Vinny off anywhere full-time until he was 18 months. I have always been a working mom, but I just got lucky. Now, I have a great career that I love and feel is my life calling, and incidentally, absolutely need to keep being able to pay for our house, so Tiana will definitely need to be somewhere during the day.

I didn't know what to do. Ideally, a well-qualified loving nanny to spend all day with her would be great, but I will never be able to afford that. A licensed day care center with a quality infant program seems like the next best option, but I hadn't found one I liked. They are so scheduled and so sterile.

Today I checked out the local Montessori school where there is an infant program. I think it is perfect. Well...the next best thing to her getting to be at home. It is a very cozy atmosphere. Each baby has their own crib and even their own baby swing. There are high chairs and exersaucers to be shared. In the 30 minutes I was there, I saw lots of individual attention. Babies being fed individually, babies napping when they felt like it, getting changed because they needed to be, etc. They have great tummy time mats and each baby has his/her own comfy blanket from home to lay on. When they start attempting to walk and pulling up on stuff, they go up to the toddler side where there are lots of push toys and good stuff.

I felt very comfortable with all the workers too. I really felt like I instantly connected to the owner.  She's this beautiful young Indian woman, and most of the other employees are Indian too, but they don't have an accent at all. I am not saying this to be racist, but because it is important to me that they speak very clear English, since my daughter will be in her most formational stages of learning the language and that it is easy for me to understand my child's teacher if she is trying to tell me something. At one of the schools where Vinny went before, I had a hard time understanding his teacher and barely ever knew what she was trying to tell me.

Best of all, it is several hundred dollars cheaper than I thought I was going to need to pay for quality child care.

They are even willing to use the cloth diapers. Smile. Everything is going to work out okay.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Out of my funk

So, I think I have overcome the postpartum blues. I went to check out a stroller fitness class this morning. I did one like it in the valley back when I had Vinny, so I thought I would try it again this time, and I like it. Actually, it is easier than the one I did in the valley too. Not as much running. We walked most of the time, but up a lot of high hills, which was great. I prefer a more intense workout to a higher cardio workout. I have asthma attacks with too much cardio. I'll only be able to do it for the rest of this month until I go back to work, but I am hoping it will help me drop some pounds and tone. I hate feeling flabby, and I need my work pants to fit comfortably again.

I only have a few weeks until I go back to work, so I am trying to make the best of them. I got a really good book that will help with writing my next unit, and I am going to write a unit that will "Wow" my administrator for my bonus. I will even throw in all that elementary style stuff that she wants, even if I don't think its necessary. What the hey, I will only be back for a couple of weeks, so I might as well.

I also have a good book to read that I am excited to start. Having a good book to read always makes me feel good. :-)

Now if only someone would fund the other $1300 needed for my book project on Donors Choose.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


So, in my hunt for a  child care solution I feel comfortable with for Tiana, I have found Montessori. I had heard about Montessori school programs before for preschool and elementary school, which I like the major principles of, but I feel like they lack some of the rigor necessary for children to really succeed in a traditional Western educational system, which is the system of power, and so is necessary. I had never considered Montessori for infants though, but I am starting to think it may be a good solution. I have an appointment to tour the infant classroom on Friday.

It seems like it will not be the sterile cold environment that I disliked at centers I have checked out prior (such as Tutor Time). They follow all of the official Montessori stuff and the teachers are all highly trained. The ratio in the infant classroom is 1 to 4, which is a little higher than the Montessori recommended 1 to 3, but it is a little cheaper as well. It is actually significantly cheaper than what I have found prior to this, although a little more expensive than a home day care, but that's okay. I would rather have a center. I just feel like it is safer.

Here is what the school says about themselves:
"The teachers at Simi Valley Montessori School are qualified Montessori teachers who are highly motivated to train the young mind. The infant care (ages 6 weeks – 24 months) is handled by well trained teachers who have a deep sense of responsibility in caring for little ones. The children are made to feel at home by their gentle gestures and they have a unique way of mothering them in the absence of the parents."

In researching Montessori education, I found that infant progams are actually pretty rare, but here is some of what the Montessori people say about their infant programs:
The Infant Classroom Environment:
A Montessori infant classroom has an area for the youngest babies, with quilts on the floor, mirrors at floor level, mobiles to observe, bat and grasp; balls and rolling toys to “chase” by creeping; and rattles and objects to hold, shake, bang, and mouth. In an all-day infant or toddler program, there are low beds available for naps. During the child’s first year, provide an environment that encourages movement without using containment devices such as playpens or “walkers.” Montessori Infant-Toddler classrooms provide low beds or mats so that the children can get in and out of bed independently when they are tired.
Movement is critical to brain development — it is as necessary as nutrition! Most classes for children under age eighteen months will include a stair with low steps and a railing for use by children who are beginning to crawl and walk. The class will have bars and furniture placed around the room on which young children can pull themselves up. There will normally be walking wagons, which little ones can push before they can take steps on their own. As they begin to walk, there are push and pull toys to take along. The infant classroom typically contains one or two low shelves with fine-motor activities such as puzzles, bead-stringing, rings on posts, a pegboard with large pegs, and various containers to open and close, fill and empty.

If it turns out to be what it says it is, I think I will have found a fit. The director said that they are currently full, but they should have openings with students who will have moved up by February, when I need her to start. Let's really hope this works out, because it could be everything I felt I couldn't live without at a price tag I really can live with.

So... do any of you have experience with Montessori programs? Particularly for infants? Any local moms  know anything about the one out here?

Monday, November 1, 2010

November 1st...

.... is our anniversary. Today marks 7 years. Sometimes it feels like they have flown by, but other times it feels like we have been together forever, because we have just been through so much.

November 1, 2003
On this day in 2003, I married my best friend, a guy I had never called my boyfriend.Yes, that is right, Marc and I were never "boyfriend and girlfriend." We met in high school, but we were not together then because we are 5 years apart and that was a big deal then. When I was 13 and he was 18, I had a HUGE crush on him, but if he knew it, he never let on that he did. After he graduated, we lost touch until I graduated and we ran into each other at Axis, the college group at Cornerstone church (at the time).

We were best friends almost instantly. We talked on the phone for hours every night. We made midnight runs to Del Taco for study breaks on nights when we both had too much studying or schoolwork to get done. We went to the beach. We shared everything with each other, all our inmost thoughts and dreams. It was a wonderful thing, and I knew I loved him then. I think he really knew he loved me too.

But we both saw other people somewhat during this time, although nothing really serious. I made plans to leave for Bible school in another state, which was to be my first stop on the way to the mission field, meaning I may never return to our hometown.We made the best of it, but as the time for me to leave drew near, the time we spent with each other got more serious and somber. We both knew we were about to lose something we would probably never find again... and so Marc told me I couldn't leave, at least not without him.

It was cute, and I thought it was a joke. He said, "Marry me." So we went to the mall and looked at rings. I had butterflies in my stomach, but nothing in my life had ever turned out quite like I had dreamed it would, so I didn't take it seriously. And then he told me he loved me. We had always said we loved each other, but this day he told me that he was in love with me and that he couldn't live without me... and the rest is history.

He asked my dad for my hand in marriage, he proposed  "officially" with the ring I tried on for fun a week before, and we told our friends and family we were getting married. When I told people, "I'm getting married..." The first thing they asked was, "To who?" I got that question so much and I always found it humorous, because usually people ask, "When? How did he propose?" and stuff like that, but in my case, they wanted to know who...   And people thought we were crazy, and that it would never last, but we knew it would, and everyone really close to us knew it would too. 

Trick or Treat

"Trick or treat, smell my feet, give me something good to eat."  Seriously... who taught my son that? I blame Daddy. All I know is, while running down one drive way last night, Vinny was yelling that. Ugh. The kids are learning the finer points of trick or treating though.    :-)
 It was an adorable night last night. Hannah and Vinny are so freaking cute. 

There was the incident where Vinny told someone to smell his feet, the times Hannah told the people she wants chocolate, or the time Hannah told the person, "I'm going to give all the lolipops to my grandma." Or even better, when Vinny reached in the woman's plastic cauldron to grab candy and it broke and fell on the ground. Oh my. Better yet, when the kids, I think both of them, told the woman who decided to give out quarters instead of candy, "We don't want your stinkin' quarters!"  Hahaha. We schooled the kids in appropriate behavior after each episode... and then cracked up as soon as they were out of range.