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.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

My Amazing Family

Today was Vinny's much anticipated 4th birthday party. It was a "Splish Splash Pirate Party." Vinny wanted a pirate party and a water party, so we borrowed an inflatable water slide, bought pirate decorations, and made a pirate cake (which Vinny picked out).

Vinny had fun every single minute, including several hours before and after. It was everything he wanted for his birthday, and being able to give your child everything he wants is the best feeling in the whole world.

I would never have been able to do it without my awesome husband and family. He is amazing. I had to work this morning, and he did so much to get ready for the party. It didn't help that at work today I hurt my back. I don't even know really what I did; I just went to lean back and leaned kind of funny and then realized my back really hurt and it sort of never went away, but only hurt in certain positions. It got progressively worse throughout the day, but Marc pretty much managed everything on his own, and then tonight, when I thought I was going to die in pain when I realized I couldn't even lie down, he rushed out and bought me a heating pad in a last ditch effort at easing the pain. What do you know... it worked. I don't feel great, but I do feel much better. Enough to lie down at least, so I will get to go to bed in a few minutes here. :-)

I have the best family. I can't believe my little man is 4.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

I can do this. Keep telling myself this.

I am so, so tired. Today was a long day of meetings, meetings, meetings. It sucks to be the one person who runs out to pee every 5 seconds. By the time I got back to my room to start unpacking my boxes at 5:00 p.m., I was way exhausted. I don't think I drank enough water today, because the braxton hicks contractions I was having were getting kind of intense. They still weren't really painful or consistent, so I wasn't worried, just way uncomfortable.

My son is obviously enjoying his new school, and I think actually learning a lot too. It is Hawaiian Week at school, and today they had a luau for lunch, but I guess they learned too. Today, they learned about volcanos. Vinny came home from school talking all about them. He informed me that volcanos make fire and smoke go everywhere, but not really everywhere, because not all over them, and that there aren't a lot of them in the world, only a few, and that they have them in Hawaii. He was so cute. In the bathtub, he made a volcano out of the bubbles and kept pouring water yelling, "hot lava!"  :-)

In good news, when I left yesterday, I felt like I had everything I needed except a garment rack (for costumes), a bookcase, and a mini fridge (I had a fridge last year, but it bit the dust towards the end of the year- whatever, it was cheap). Today, another teacher was getting rid of bookshelves so I got one of hers. Woo hoo! It is a perfect fit! I had the opportunity to tell an important administrator that I absolutely love the new room and could just use a garment rack and she looked at my boss and said, "Order her one." That was nice. Now for the mini fridge...

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Now I'm Excited Too

Okay, so yesterday, I was just stressed, and today, I will finally say that I am a little excited about school starting too. Vinny had a fantastic day at his new preschool and came home beaming and excited to go back tomorrow, which is always a great feeling as mommy.

I also had a fantastic day at school. When I first walked in, I was disappointed and a bit nervous about the fact that my room was exactly like I left it in June. Nothing had been moved. Fortunately, thanks to a few super awesome staff friends who offered some great support, everything was moved by 1:30. Even better... I totally don't have to worry about the lack of cabinet space because I was given a big rolling cabinet, got to keep both of my bookshelves, and actually have a whole storage closet that I can use to put drama stuff in. In the afternoon, a couple of my most reliable drama students showed up to help unpack. Believe it or not, I am almostly completely unpacked. My desk stuff is still in boxes, and my personal books and binders are without a shelf to call home and thus still in boxes, but other than that, I'm so close to ready.

I don't have any of my posters on the walls yet, and I don't have a bulletin board to create a unit board yet, but my new room is so beautiful, I don't even want to hang much up. It is an environmentally friendly room, so it has windows everywhere in hopes that natural light will be used instead of electricity. It is working, as I didn't even look for the light switches once today, because it is so bright and beautiful in there. You'd think the windows would make it hot in there, but they are thick and block the heat, so the a/c barely needed to be on. Plus, the a/c is so cool... instead of coming from vents in the ceiling, it comes from these neat little round vents in the floor. I had to move my desk a little when I realized that I had positioned my desk with a vent blowing straight under my legs. Yeah, no Marilyn Monroe for me, so that had to be adjusted.

Seriously, I am in love with my new room. Did I mention I have my own bathroom? Do you know how cool that is? Students will not be able to wander the halls in boredom using the potty as an excuse, and I will not have to wait in line for the staff bathroom at nutrition and lunch. I want to decorate it. I think I want to put a little stand in there for the paper towels and soap (I noticed they didn't install a dispenser for either, but that's okay), and maybe some lotions and stuff like that. It has a nice big mirror that I am thinking  I want to string this purple and silver tulle ribbon I have around. It was around my bulletin board, but it will brighten up the awful gray color that they painted the bathroom walls.

Best part... it is perfect for drama. It is big enough to tape out the set in the back without ever having to move chairs for rehearsal, and there are courtyards outside my room on both sides where I can send students out to practice lines, and still be able to see them because there are windows on all sides. Not to mention that I am only about 10 yards from the backstage door. What a perfect dressing room/green room! Woo hoo!

Back 2 School....

Vinny is so very excited to start his new preschool tomorrow. He keeps talking about meeting his teacher and playing on the playground and making new friends. I am either really lucky to have such a social kid who genuinely loves other kids and making new friends, or perhaps it is just the age, and then I am really lucky that we have only had to make this many changes in school during his preschool years. I know if I were him, I would be missing my old friends and the familiar atmosphere, nervous about starting over, and anxious about meeting new people. However, I am not him, and he really sees it as all a positive. The age or just my son? I really don't know... but I hope he doesn't lose this attitude as he gets older. Of course, as he gets older, school will be free, and I don't anticipate moving, so he will probably be staying put at the school by our house.

I wish I had the same excited attitude as my son. Of course, I also wish that the biggest challenge I had in front of me tomorrow would be deciding whether or not to play in the kiddie pool or go down the water slide first (tomorrow is water day at the new school). I, however, have quite a few big challenges facing me tomorrow. School actually starts Tuesday, but Thursday-Monday will be filled with professional development and meetings, so any getting ready that needs to gets done is going to need to happen tomorrow or in the late afternoons and evenings between now and then. The biggest challenge... I'm getting a new classroom. This is potentially and ultimately going to be a great thing for me, but as of right now, I don't think any of my stuff has even been moved (I have been told it will be moved tomorrow). Furthermore, the building is ready, but I learned today that the room currently has...
  • No permanent lock and key (coming, hopefully this week)
  • No blinds with giant windows that face the street. Doesn't sound like an issue, but I work in a kind of dangerous area. (The issue of getting blinds has been discussed, and something will be ordered). 
  • No whiteboard or bulletin boards (already ordered)
  • (and worst of all).... No cabinets  (oops, I think they just realized this today. My director will be ordering them, but my guess is it could be a while). 

So, it may be a while before I am able to get settled in my classroom, since I don't know where I am going to put anything that is in the 20 some odd boxes I am moving over there. The problem... I don't have a while. I have, at worst, 5, at best, 8 weeks until D-day. Anything that isn't done at that point will just have to be done (or not) by the sub.... the sub I do not have set up yet. There are some ideas on the table, but no one officially chosen yet.

Even if the room was not an issue, this year has some other interesting changes in store that are going to take some adjusting. We have some new programs that will take some campus-wide adjusting to and a bunch of new staff members. I also am officially teaching a year-long, during the day, drama class for the first time, which I haven't really created a semester plan or schedule for yet. I spent the last year developing this theater arts program, which does have a small but dedicated group of returning students, but there will be a lot of new students, and as with any theater program, a new show to put on this semester. I need to get it cast and ideally blocked before I leave so that the sub will only need to solidify blocking, rehearse, and polish. I will be back a couple of weeks before the show actually goes up. I am terrified of walking away from the production elements of this show in September, despite the fact that my amazing students will nevertheless come through for me as they always do. We have no budget, yet I owe the publisher of this play like $100 for production rights. That's honestly not too bad though, considering we raised thousands of dollars last year to get the program going.

Everything will be fine- I just need to take one thing at a time and do as much as I can each day to get as far as  I can before I go. It's just easier said than done because I'm such a "see the big picture" kind of person, which is usually to my advantage, but in this particular situation, I really need to look at it piece-by-piece.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Fun Times in Arizona...

Vinny and I have had a fun-filled long weekend with our cousins in Arizona. We arrived late Thursday night after a quick plane ride that Vinny enjoyed very much. The funniest part was, when we landed in Phoenix, because a tarmac at night pretty much just looks like a tarmac, Vinny looked out the window in great dismay and exclaimed, "Aw, man! We're back at the airport! Now we will NEVER get to Hannah's house!" It was funny. He thought we were back at Burbank. I tried to explain that it was a different airport, in Arizona, but he didn't believe me. "It doesn't look like Arizona!" he insisted. I guess he has been to quite a few airports, and they do all kind of blend together, and it was a really quick flight, so I can see how he got confused. He really didn't believe me until he saw my cousin Tracy pulling up to pick us up.

Another quick Vinny funny.... you know my son spends too much time with his daddy at work because he saw a big red vinyl duffle bag at the airport and yelled, "Look, Mom! That guy has a jolly jump!" Oh boy... When your kid's image of a jumper is rolled red vinyl, you know there is something odd.

Considering that the average temps in Phoenix in July are in the low 100s, Tracy planned a great schedule of indoor activities for us this weekend, but we lucked out and they are actually in a bit of a cool down right now. We actually got to take the kids to the park on Friday, which is something that we have done with them during in my January visits, but never in the summer before, so that was really sort of lucky. Other than that... we've done a Sonic run (my request- love the slushies and yummy ice cream treats), a neat Maurice Sendak exhibit at the Scottsdale Library, dinner out without the kids at a yummy Mexican restaurant, swimming, the mall, the Arizona Museum for Youth, and tonight... Rainforest Cafe. Lots of fun!

:-) We are going home tomorrow night. It's been fun, but I miss my husband and my bed.

Before I became a parent, I never knew...

  • that getting up to feed a newborn in the middle of the night actually keeps you up for like an hour.
  • that watching my child open presents on Christmas morning would be an even better feeling that Christmas morning when I was a child.
  • I would always actively be on the hunt for new things that my child will find exciting.
  • how disappointed I would be when he didn't find those new things exciting.
  • about the amazing natural high that you get when your child does actually find them as exciting (or more) as you imagined.
  • that adult conversation would actually need to be scheduled.
  • how meaningful and recharging a few hours of uninterrupted adult conversation can truly be.
  • that I would honestly rather buy my child a gift than get something for myself.
  • that my child would end up exactly like me... and nothing like me... all at the same time.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Not... enough.... time

My summer is very near to the end. You may be thinking... what? It's only July 21st. This is true, but I go back to work on July 29th, which is unbelievably 9 days away. Particularly because I am going on maternity leave at some point, I really, really, really feel the need for the semester to be solidly ready to go by the time classes start on August 3rd. That is so close, and I am so far from ready. I have been thinking so big picture planning-wise, like getting my unit plan for September done, for instance, that I haven't even updated my syllabus or really prepared the activities for the first week of school. I have learned, however, that I am not the only one who is feeling rushed and like summer is over because there is just so much planning to do.

I spent many hours on planning stuff yesterday, and was up until almost 1am last night finishing my Persepolis unit for September.After a fantastic time at the beach today with some of my playgroup friends (we also brought Vinny's best friend Landon, so it was the ultimate wonderful day for him), I sat down to my computer for more planning. During this planning session, I ended up doing some mostly work-related online chatting with the freshman English teacher. After a bit, she said, "My eyes are killing me... not used to the computer for 10 hours anymore," to which my jaw nearly dropped. I too have been spending hours planning, but 10 hours on a summer day might kill me. I told her to take a break, go eat some ice cream, watch tv, or something, since we still have a week until we even start professional development days. Her response was, "Don't say that... not.... enough.... time." I SO could not have said it better myself. It just feels like there is not enough time. I am tempted to do nothing but work for the next week straight, just to feel confidently ready to go and prepared, but realistically, it would just make me unhappy and stressed, and doing that much at one time I think actually becomes counterproductive because I just have trouble focusing. (In the process of trying to write my unit yesterday, I also researched the "what's up now" with a band I used to listen to like 5-10 years ago, priced Green Day tickets, and posted nothing short of 25 comments on people's facebook statuses and pictures).

Anyhoooow.....  I am going to Arizona with Vinny for the next 5 days for our semi-annual visit with his cousin/friend Hannah and her mommy, my cousin/friend Tracy. Although a little part of me is wishing that this trip didn't fall in the middle of my last week to get this stuff done, the other part of me is really quite glad for the timing, which will force me to have some great last minute recreational time before wholly giving myself to school until the baby comes. In that way, it sort of feels like my last special Mommy-Vinny trip ever. Wow... didn't think about that until right now. Getting emotional. Actually getting teary-eyed. I know this sounds crazy, but this will be like our 4th or 5th Mommy-Vinny trip to Phoenix, and these times of travel and bonding with our cousins are really special to both of us. I mean, I even sort of liked the 7 hour drive alone with him in January. It will probably never be this way again. As soon as I get back, it is back to school and frantic preparations for Tiana who will be here before we know it.... Wow....

Speaking of Tiana, and back to my initial topic of planning, I started to loosely plot my curriculum on a calendar today and found it really sobering to look at September and write in lessons that I really like and feel passionately about for the last couple weeks of September... knowing that it will not be me teaching them. Even for like the lessons on the 13th, 14th, 15th, I found myself subconsciously praying, "Please God, let me still be pregnant for that week." If I remember how I felt at like 37 weeks last time, I am probably really going to be kicking myself for that thought/prayer if I am still pregnant at that point, but I am just having a hard reality check realizing I really will have to hand over my classroom to someone.

On the other hand, I also found myself getting very bitter at the fact that out of the 4 major assessments I have planned for the semester (narrative essay, expository essay, persuasive visual montage, and persuasive letter), the sub will actually only be responsible for grading 2 of them, one of which is the montage, which means I will be grading 2 out of the 3 essays assigned. What the heck? How did that work out? The sad thing is, I should be glad to know that I will have a good idea of where the students' are at with writing abilities and I can feel confident that their grades are substantially mine when I enter final marks at the 20 week semester report card, but instead, I am just picturing big stacks of paper....

Well this blog was a lot of random musing. I am going to take my own advice and go eat some ice cream and watch tv now.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Just eat it... eat it....

"Don't you know that other kids are starving in Japan?"

Yup, last night, I totally pulled the typical "mom" line, but with a little twist.

I am so, so, so tired of listening to Vinny complain about food. About a month ago, he started on a no "hot" food kick, which I really thought would not last. He took some liberties with his self-imposed restriction, requesting such "hot" items as french fries, but for the most part, he pretty much wanted nothing that had been cooked or heated. He wanted only "cold" food. Every night... literally every night... as soon as dinner is even mentioned, he starts with "I don't want hot food. Just cold food" or he looks at his plate and says, "That's hot food," and whines and complains for several minutes until he finally realizes he is going to have to give in and eat it, but then the complaints continue as he eats with others added in...

I don't like this.
It won't stay on my fork.
Ew, it has something on it.

You get the idea. The frustrating part is that he isn't really a picky kid. He will pretty much eat anything and likes it, but has decided that dinner time is the time to whine and complain about what is presented to him, even if given choices. He complains at MCDONALDS that he has to have something with his fries and milk because chicken nuggets are hot. He will eventually give in and eat them, and even enjoy them, but the constant complaining has been making me CRAZY.

After being embarrassed of him doing it at the family's house over vacation, and after 20 minutes of harrassment last night over a quesadilla, rice, and beans, I decided that something needed to change. Because he is a rather empathetic kid, we had a little talk after dinner.

I sat him next to me on the couch with my laptop.
"Vinny, when you complain and whine about your food, it makes mommy sad. Do you know why?"
"Because you don't like listening to it."
"Well, yes, but also because you are a very lucky boy to have all that food. Some kids don't have food."
"Some kids don't have food?"
"Right. Some kids are hungry all the time."
"Because their mommies and daddies do not have any food  to give them because they do not have any money to buy food."
"Why not?"
"Because they are not as lucky as we are."
Then, I showed him a bunch of pictures of starving children. He is a visual learner, and I felt like this was necessary. I mean, seriously... skinny little child sponsorship program poster kids.
"Vinny, do you see how sick he looks?"
"Yes, he is skinny."
"Do you know why?"
"Because he doesn't have any food?"
We did this through several sad pictures, sick pictures, etc.

Finally, I said, "Vinny, from now on, every time you whine or complain about your food, I will take one of your toys, and sell it to give money to these kids mommies and daddies to buy them food that they will be very happy to get."
"But I want my toys...."
"I know you want your toys, but if you will not appreciate your food, then I will take what you do appreciate to give food to kids who would appreciate it."
"I can't whine?"
"No, you cannot whine or complain."
"I can't say, 'it's hot' or 'i don't like that'?"
"No, you cannot. Do you understand?"
"Yes, I understand."

I  pretty much left it at that and then called him for dinner tonight and he said, "Not yet," because he was watching a tv show. I turned it off and said, "No, now," and he replied, "Because if I do not eat it I will be like those skinny kids or you will take my toys for them?"  Well... at least it stuck. I feel a little bad about the threat, but you know what... it is the first time we have had a happy, peaceful dinner in weeks! He ate his food and did not complain at all. He got a little distracted with a song about his fork somewhere towards the end, but other than that, our battle-free dinner was wonderful.

I know that it is still fresh in his mind, so the battles could return, but I have every intention of keeping my word about the toys. It was not an idle threat. He has seen mommy sell toys and freecycle toys before, so it would be an image he would be certain to remember, especially if it was a favorite toy, which I would be likely to choose. I know, I am a meanie... but I refuse to let this continue or to write it off as "typical" childhood behavior. Um, yeah, it maybe in typical spoiled suburban American, but not in my house.

Perhaps if the good behavior keeps up, I will try a more positive approach as well. Perhaps I could reward especially good meal times with a dollar in a jar with which he could personally pick out food at the grocery store to bring to the food pantry. He does like helping people, and I don't want it to be just a punishment for not doing what he is supposed to.

I bet you think teachers just go to the beach in the summer...

Okay, I admit, I do spend a lot of time at the beach in the summer. And I do travel a lot.

But, seriously... if you are not a teacher, I bet you think we just relax during break....

If there are teachers out there that do this, I would love to know, because I have found it not possible. In fact, I thought that I had found a happy balance by forcing myself not to work on anything for a few weeks, but all I have done is put myself behind and give added stress. There is so much I need to get done. Do any other teachers feel like the first month of school should be teachers paid only, but no students? Do you know how much I could get done with a month of paid planning time? Particularly paid planning time with the other teachers actually there? I would love to have a day to meet with the English department, a day to meet with just the 10th grade history teacher, a day to meet with all the 10th grade teachers... but alas, that would never work.

I have my unit plan for August mostly done, just not plotted on a calendar. It will be the same for my honors and regular class, so that is good. My unit plans for September are semi in my head, but not totally on paper, and the honors and regular are completely different. Now, normally, this semi-formation in my head would work for now, but I could go into labor any time during that unit, and I definitely will not be the one finishing it, so I really need to get it written out in great detail to ensure that what I want to happen actually happens with the sub. Then October has again two very different unit plans for honors and regular, neither of which I have completely written. The good news is, I did almost all of this last year or the year before, although somewhat different, so I am not starting from scratch, but it is still a lot of work... that isn't done yet, and should get done for the sub. I will come back some time in November, but I don't think I am going to completely write that unit in advance. I will probably write the culminating assessment for it and then see how it is going with the sub and the other teacher who is teaching 10th grade this year. Why do more work than I have to?

Speaking of sub... I now have a phone number for someone who I think will be great, but I do need to actually call him and work out details.

Now, before I start on writing any of those units, I need to finish up scoring work from an assignment I was given in June that I am disgustingly late on. Time sort of ran away from me....

And there is still so much left to do for the baby's room. Bleh. I am moving into teacher nesting mode, but I am not at all ready to be finished with mommy nesting mode.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Northern California Family Vacation

After an approximately 36 hour stay at home (for me), we headed out on a family vacation to Northern California. Marc has family in Sacramento, and we have enjoyed staying with them from time to time for a cheap vacation. This time, we hit up the California State Fair and Lake Tahoe.

The state fair was fun, but well...  hot. It was just too hot. Sacramento in the summer is really hot and we also happened to go on a really hot day. It is also an asphalt jungle, which doesn't make it much better. This year's highlight was the fact that they had the rides acquired from the Michael Jackson Neverland Ranch.
There was also a neat dinosaur exhibit that Vinny liked, but from a distance. He found them very frightening. Vinny was the only one who didn't seem just paralyzed by the heat, as he kept saying. "More rides, more rides!" Fortunately, the highlight of the whole trip for him was probably Carl and Linda's beautiful pool and "his" playground (their boys' old playground that they had cleaned up for Vinny); he was in heaven. Following the state fair, heading back to the house to swim was well, a necessity.

Friday, Marc, Vinny, and I took a day trip to Tahoe. It was wonderful. Best part of the trip. It is about a 2 hour drive, but it is such a nice drive, the drive is half the fun. Vinny and I loved rolling our windows down and enjoying the beautiful mountain air and scenery as we drove along the South Fork of the American River.

Tahoe is just so beautiful (and not to mention, a good 20 degrees cooler than Sacramento). We would like to plan a camping trip there next summer. We ate lunch and spent a few hours swimming at an out-of-the-way (so not at all crowded) but beautiful beach at Meeks Bay.

Then we took an unconventional approach to experiencing Eagle Falls. I had seen beautiful pictures of it, so we stopped at the Emerald Bay ranger station to find out how to get to it and were told it was a 1.5 mile hike, steep uphill in one direction, to the base of the falls. I didn't think I could do that, especially not in flip flops, so we pulled off the road near the trailhead to the top of the falls and hiked down a little ways to a stream that is, from what I could tell, kind of a part of the falls, and it turned out to be our favorite part of the trip. We wished that we had planned to eat lunch and spend the day there. It was just like a little piece of heaven.

Saturday was a day of shopping for the girls, the train museum for the boys, and then we saw a movie, and spent some more time swimming in the pool. This morning, it was time to pack up and head back to Simi Valley, where I have to admit, the 97 degree temps are a bit of a relief.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Home from DC

It was a good trip, but I am actually really, really glad to be home from DC. Did some good thinking about my curriculum next year and about focusing on priorities for the year, which is much more easily done in July for some reason than in the middle of the year with all the stresses of daily teaching pressing down.

I have the best husband. Not only did he pick me up from the airport, he looked up my flight number, noticed that the time it was coming in was earlier than I gave him, watched the flight progress online, realized it was going to be early, and left in time to be there when I got there. Plus, he gets extra brownie points for finding a super close parking spot, meeting me at baggage claim, and having my favorite candy in the car for the drive home.

He also is just the super bestest daddy ever. I am so lucky to have a husband who is such a great partner as a parent. Some moms get anxious about leaving their children with daddy, but Marc is just so fantastic. Friday night, he took Vinny with him on a trip to a Dodger game that he was being the bus driver for. Vinny loved getting to be daddy's co-pilot in the front seat of the bus, and getting to hang out with the "big kids" on the trip. On Saturday, Marc took Vinny for a special daddy-vinny trip to Hurricane Harbor and Magic Mountain. He spent the whole day just doing fun Vinny stuff. Today, Vinny wanted to tell me all about floating on the lazy river, going down water slides and splashing, and seeing riding the Percy the train at Magic Mountain. Monday, Marc took Vinny to work with him and Vinny got to hang out with Marc's students at CityWalk. Daddy bought him a new toy and Vinny had a lot of fun. Then, he got Vinny a haircut so he is not Mr. Shaggy Boy anymore.

See.... isn't he a great dad?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

DC - Day 2 and 3: So much walking...

Why is it that vacationing in major cities just always means a TON of walking? I really don't mind walking that much, but wrapping up with day 3, it is really starting to wear on my body. Judging from the distance guide in the subway station map, I would guess I had walked about 10 miles in the past three days. This is the second time I have done a major city trip pregnant, but there are two major differences:
  1. 1) In NY, in 2005, I was only a few weeks pregnant. I wasn't heavy, so the walking was hard because I was tired, but not hard from carrying around 20 extra pounds (yes, I have gained 20 pounds since the start of this pregnancy. Cry) like I am now.
  2. 2) In NY, there were bathrooms everywhere, because there were at least businesses everywhere. Here, it is like mostly monuments and offices, and a business or bathroom every so often if you get lucky. There is a head in my bladder, so I have to go like every 20 minutes. That part has NOT been fun.
However...  by day 2, when we ventured out at 5pm, we had actually mastered the subway system, for real this time, and we managed not to get lost. We made it to the The Mall in time to visit one of the Smithsonian Museums that was still open, the Natural History Museum, where we learned the history of Western culture and saw the Hope Diamond and mummies and interesting stuff like that.

Then we took a rickshaw to The White House to take pictures in front, since Vinny really wanted to know that I visited Obama's House (although, according to Marc, I think he expected me to go inside.... sorry V, tours are pretty limited and have to be requested months in advance).

We then made an effort at finding somewhere for dinner, not an easy task for some reason, considering it is a tourist area, but finally (after much walking) made it to a cool Italian restaurant with a live Pianist who apparently had a thing for show tunes and the Beatles, because that was all he played. Good food. :-) Much more walking an a long subway ride and we made it home relatively early, around 10ish.

Today's excursions took us to the National Botanical Garden and the Capitol building, although only outside. That's the thing about being at a conference all day... our tourist options are limited. We ate dinner at this place called Old Ebbit's Grill that is apparently very historical and famous. It had taxidermed animal heads on the walls that were the hunting mastery of Theodore Roosevelt. I am not gonna lie... the walrus head freaked me out.

The food was very good (although not necessarily worth the hour we waited). We had this great goal of getting to Georgetown Cupcake for dessert, but alas, they close at 9, and we finished dinner just after 9. Sadness. Well, maybe tomorrow.

By the way, can someone please explain to me why the department of agriculture building takes up several city blocks and even crosses a street (there is a north and south side), yet the department of health and human services, the department of labor, and the IRS building are all like half a block or less?  Do we really care that much more about fruits and vegetables than we do about health and human services?

Friday, July 9, 2010

DC - Day 1: Metropolitan

I am in Washington D.C. with some colleagues for an international education conference. My friend and colleague, Alicia, and I went out last night and tonight after the sessions ended, to see the town. I have been here before, but I had never seen the monuments or anything at night, so I thought it would be fun. Last night, the conference ended at 9:00, so heading out then was a big late, but it was only 6:00 in our bodies, so what else were we going to do?

Our hotel must have been a better deal for the conference than the one we were at last year, because, while very nice, it is rather far away from the downtown area. It is in Rockville,  Md. It took us about 30 minutes by subway to get to downtown where we wanted to go, still we managed the subway transfers and whatnot and made it to the Washington Monument. From there, we figured, might as well walk to the Lincoln Memorial... I mean, it's right there (actually, it is about a mile, but it looks so close), and on the way, we had to stop at the World War II Memorial, and it was all amazing. It was actually the perfect time to go see it all, as it was not terribly hot (still hot, but not disgustingly) and there weren't a ton of crowds (still some people, but not bad).  At 11:50 p.m., standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, realizing we were so tired and our feet had blisters, we remembered that the Metro Center subway station closes at midnight. With the urgency of two cinderellas about to have their carriage turned back to a pumpkin, we quickly hailed a cab and got a ride to the station, where we could hop on the red line back to the hotel. At 11:57p.m., as we paid the cabbie, scurried down the escalator and through the gate, we were so very proud of our metropolitan selves.

At 12:02 a.m., I even posted "Feeling very good about manuevering subways and taxis," on my Twitter account. 

What is the expression? Pride cometh before the fall? 

At Metro Center, there are several different lines that converge. We knew we had to get on the red line, and we got on the red line. Only a moment after the train sped out of the station, we looked at the sign at the first stop and realized that it was not one we had seen on the way there. Uh, what? We got out the map (yeah, we totally should have gotten it out before getting on the subway, I know, but we were so sure of where we were going at the time) and realized we were on the right train, going the wrong direction, and it does not make a circle. We start discussing our options, thinking that getting towards the end of the line on this end might be best, because at least it seems to end up in Maryland, even if it is the wrong end, but we consult with the woman behind us, who lives there, and she says we should get off on the next stop and talk to the station manager and make sure we get immediately on the next train headed the right direction. Alicia and I had really thought we'd made it on the last train, but hey, maybe not, so we took her advice and got off on the very next stop. When the station manager saw us, he was about to lock up and looked at us like we were the two most foreign people we'd ever seen. He was very much American, but well, I guess we looked out of place. We explained that we'd got on the wrong train, and he pretty much got us some taxi numbers, ushered  us out the gate, locked it, and took off. As we called taxi companies (all of which, except one, were closed) and looked around, we realized we really, really got off in a bad neighborhood. Finally, a cab driver comes to pick us up. He turns out to be the world's most reluctant, unknowledgeable taxi driver ever, who apparently had never even heard of Rockville, let alone been there. Still, two phone calls to the hotel and an unexpected tour of Embassy Row and Georgetown later, we arrived at the hotel at 1:52 a.m., practically kissing the ground beneath us in joy. 

Nonetheless, it was a great time, and well, a great story. 

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

My son is obsessed with Disneyland...

Vinny talks about Disneyland on almost a daily basis. This probably has a lot to do with the fact that at almost 4 years old, he has probably been do Disneyland 50 times. (I am not even kidding- we had an annual pass for a year and went often). This summer, when we discussed fun things to do together, Vinny brought up that he wants to go to Disneyland with me, several times in fact. I have explained to him that Disneyland is too expensive, and we can't go this summer. Now, when I ask him, "What do you want to do today?" he often responds, "Well, Disneyland costs too much money. Let's go to the park."

Here is the very funny part. While he does understand that Tiana will be too little to go to Disneyland right away, he has started making a list of things that we are going to take Tiana on when she is old enough to go. Today he told me, "Mommy, when Tiana is bigger, we will take her on Dumbo, and Peter Pan, and Alice in Wonderland... but not the Matterhorn. You can hold her and she can watch me and Daddy go on Matterhorn."

Oh boy... he is already planning Tiana's first trip to Disneyland.

Right now, he is in his room creating a pretend Disneyland out of his toys. He has shut his door and told me I can't see it until it is done.

Monday, July 5, 2010

I somehow knew I was doing this parenting thing right...

After a day of working on the baby's room Saturday (still a work in progress, but the walls are painted), we let ourselves have a totally fun Fourth of July yesterday. We had a beautiful time at the beach, had a delicious barbecue, and then watched the fireworks with friends. Great times. Vinny didn't even get to bed until like 11:30, but it was all worth it. :-)

Today... it was back to work on the various "summer cleaning" projects. (I know most people do spring cleaning, but that is a very busy season for us). The garage is finally completely clean and organized; I can even park my car in there finally!

Now, here is my good story for the day:

After cleaning out the garage, I brought bags of stuff in the house that needed to be put away. I sorted out all the random toys of Vinny's that I had found while cleaning out the garage and handed him the bag to put away, since he is the one who recently organized the toys in his room, and he really knows where everything goes better than me. Here is how it went:

Me: Vinny, I need you to go put these toys away. (Hands him the bag).

Vinny (whining) I'm too tiiiireed.

Me: Oh, do you need to take a nap?

Vinny: NO! I just want to play (as he plays with his Ni Hao Kai Lan tree house).
 Me: I understand, but I need you to take a break and put these toys away, and then you can go back to playing.

Vinny: Nooooooo.......

Me: Okay,  fine, I will just throw these away (turn towards trash can with bag).

Vinny: No, don't! Don't throw them in the garbage!

Me: Fine, then put them away.
Vinny: I need you to help me (whining). I can't do it myself.
Me: Yes, you can.
Vinny: Can you carry the bag in my room?
Me: Okay, fine.

He then proceeded to go about putting away his toys, whining for about the first five minutes before I finally started to hear, "Mom! (gasp) Look what I found!" Then he comes running in to show me that he had found his favorite Mickey Mouse pirate toy. "Great!" See... I knew there was a reason I wanted him to put these "lost" toys away. "I need to go put it with my pirate toys!" That same process was repeated with his pirate map, his Curious George police car, etc. It totally reaffirmed  my reasons for wanting him to do that task himself.

My favorite moment was when he came in and said, "Mom! I found my Mickey Mouse stickers," and then asks with great concern, "Where should I put them?" I suggested that he put them in the coloring book section of his art supply organizer that hangs on his door. He looks at me and says, very matter-of-factly, "No, not there, they aren't coloring books." Sigh... "I know Vinny, but... where else would you put them?" He looked at them very hard and then finally said, "In the drawer with my other Disney toys. They are Disney stickers."  I love it. I love that he organizes his own room and that he problem solves. I like that, although I don't really think about these things in advance, I know that forcing him to do things like put away his own toys helps him develop higher order critical thinking skills. I don't even make him do any other chores, since I feel like he needs time to be a kid... but even something as simple as organizing his own toys I really do think is very valuable and something he can learn from.

Mission Accomplished

Yup.... car is in garage.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

What a productive week...

... and starting on a productive weekend!

While the garage is admittedly not finished yet, it is SO close.

I also got my petunia picklebottom diaper bag clean, which I didn't know if I would be able to do. It was so dirty and disgusting, but I really want to be able to use it again with Tiana. It says "dry clean only," but when I brought it to the dry cleaner, he looked at me and said, "Dry cleaning is not the way to go on this." So... if any of you need to know how to clean a petunia picklebottom bag... I followed his recommendations and soaked it in very hot water and oxyclean then rinsed it by hand, scrubbing the grosser parts with a sponge, then I dried it outside in the sun. I machine washed the detachable bags and straps and sun dried those, and seriously... despite the slightly worn corners, it looks as good as new. I was a little nervous when I dumped the hot water, as it was totally tinted purple, but the bag does not appear to be any lighter in shade, and I am very excited.

I also cleaned the rug that was in Vinny's room. Also was kind of a lot of work, but it too is now drying in the sun, and no longer smells disgusting. Fantastic.

After a quick trip to the farmers market this morning, we began on the rest of the weekend projects. Today's project was the removal of the wallpaper border in the spare room and now we are getting ready to move on to actually painting. Purple and blue for Tiana. I'm very excited to get it done. (I admit, I bribed my uncle to come help, but hey... it is getting done). When it is done, I found an artistic friend of ours who is going to come paint a neat tree mural on one wall. It will be beautiful. :-)

Tomorrow's will be a fun holiday, and then Monday's project... mow the lawn and finish the garage.... and maybe finish the two end tables that we have been in the process of refinishing for weeks.


Thursday, July 1, 2010

Today's Adventure at Simi Hospital...

Of course the one day that I barely leave the house is the day I end up in a car accident. Joy....

I got rear ended. It wasn't that bad. He hit me really hard, but Vinny was fine (he barely seemed to notice... weird) and my car was fine. I braced myself pretty hard against the steering wheel to keep my belly from hitting it, but as a result my back immediately hurt pretty bad (and it is still really achy), but other than that, I was fine too (so to the people who ended up praying for me, thank you, really I am fine).

The thing is, it was pretty hard, and since my back was hurting pretty bad, and I am 7 months, I figured I better make sure the baby was okay and that I wasn't going into preterm labor or anything, so I decided to head to the hospital, Vinny in tow. (He was an angel, btw. I am so lucky to have such an amazing son).

The new wing of the Simi hospital is beautiful! Serisouly, what an improvement. What a huge difference between the room I delivered Vinny in and this room where I was while they checked out Tiana. She was fine. They had her on the monitors for about an hour, but I wasn't having any contractions or abdominal pain (just the back, but that was probably from bracing myself and will get better over time) and her heart beat was steady and she was a moving and a grooving, so they let me go home after about an hour. It was kind of funny because she was like kicking the monitors like crazy, and Marc hasn't really been lucky enough to see or feel her kick yet- she just will not seem to do it for him- but he could hear it on the monitor quite clearly. It was like she could sense the monitors because she practically kept hitting directly on the monitor,  so all of a sudden the sound of her heartbeat would be interrupted by a loud "boom" as she kicked it. Funny...

Anyhow, this was probably a somewhat good experience for Vinny anyway, especially because he didn't have to stay with me long, since grandma came to get him pretty quickly. He has had a lot of questions about the whole baby thing lately, and I have been very honest with him, as he has wanted very specific answers. I don't really believe in sheltering my child, so he can know what is really up. I mean, I am not exactly having a home birth that he'll assist in or anything, but if he wants to know, he can know. So... since he has been very worried about how she will get out of my belly and my answers were not exactly working for him, I showed him a delivery video online. It wasn't that graphic or close-up or anything, but the one thing he picked up on was that there was a lot of blood. He says, "Mommy, her bed is really messy!" (He couldn't see that the woman herself was messy, but noticed the bed). So then, when it fast forwarded and showed the mom a bit later breastfeeding and holding the baby, he says, "Did they give her a clean bed?" I explained that yes, she got a clean bed. He was very concerned with this aspect apparently, because later in the day he says, "When Tiana comes out, it is going to be very messy." I said that this was true and he asks, "Will it get all over me?"  I couldn't help but laugh and explain that he will not be there for the messy part. He can come see the baby once mommy has a clean bed.

Well, he somehow picked up on where we were today (I didn't explain- I didn't want to confuse him- but he heard me on the phone with my mom, so I guess he knew) and when we walked into labor and delivery, as we were standing at the counter he says, "Are they going to give you a clean bed mommy?"  I just laughed. He was excited when we walked in to the room and he said, "See, I told ya they would give you a clean bed!" He told the nurse "I am going to be a big brother" and she said, "Yes, but hopefully not today." He said, "No, not until after my birthday." He's a smart kid.... gosh I love my son.

To purge or to keep...

So, partly because I am nesting and partly as the result of the flooded garage motivating me to clean it out, the garage is finally getting cleaned out. Plus, I have discovered something about people and junk... if you post it, they will come. I posted "free stuff" on craigslist and freecycle, and told the neighborhood kids, and seriously, it was almost all gone within hours. There are only a couple of items out there still.

When you are trampling through junk you haven't used in years to save things from wet boxes, it suddenly becomes much easier to feel the intense desire to part with some of this stuff.It is also more in my nature to not want to pack stuff away... unlike Marc.Marc is not as simplistic as I am. He'd rather find creative ways to save EVERYTHING, even if it hasn't been touched in years and years and years.

Of course, the apple doesn't fall far from the tree because both of these are totally reflections of how we were raised. When I was young, my mom frequently told me to fill bags with the toys I didn't play with any more... which were then donated to some less fortunate family or young single mom that my mom would find, or they would go to charity. I also remember having garage sales almost annually. It was a regular occurence. If it wasn't being used, it was being sold. That was just the way of life. It kept things simpler. Once I got old enough to pick my own stuff for the garage sales and my mom let me keep the money for these things, I LOVED garage sales, because it usually meant that I got something new out of it. Good deal, right?

Marc's family, on the other hand, I think had a different mentality. Although I did not know Marc growing up, I do know this... When I was pregnant with Vinny, my mother-in-law whipped out Marc's crib AND bassinet. I am so not even kidding. Marc was 27 when Vinny was born. That is a freaking long time to save something like that. Turns out that safety regulations on cribs change rather frequently (tell me about it... I had to get rid of Vinny's crib because, in the 4 years since he was born, the powers that be have determined that drop sides are "death traps" or whatever), and Marc's crib was far from up to safety regulations, and also missing some of the hardware, although amazingly, 90% of it was there. But ya know what... the bassinet was totally functional, and we totally ended up using it when we were visiting them. Here are some pictures of baby Vinny napping in Marc's bassinet:
Totally a trip, right?

Then, as the years progressed, the bassinet went back in the garage (I am sure it will be coming out again soon for Tiana) and new stuff came out... Marc's hot wheels, hundreds of them, and the garage and everything, among other toys. Vinny LOVES playing with them, and it really is a trip that they were daddy's. Pretty much, if they had it at one time, they probably still have it. That's the Mohr way. But, as you can see, there are certain really neat benefits to that.

So... this is probably why Marc looked like he was going to cry yesterday when he realized that his surfboard (which he has NEVER once actually surfed on) was gone and his fish tank was on the front lawn. I had good logic here though. See... Marc says he wants to surf some day. I totally do too. In fact, I have fond memories of the 2 of us back in 2001 attempting to learn how to surf together at Solimar. However... I know that one does not learn how to surf on a short board (which was what the one I got rid of was); you learn how to surf on a long board. So, if we ever actually learned to surf, we'd need long boards. If we actually then learned how to surf and wanted to try a short board, we probably would want one that didn't have dented fins and a duct taped leash, right? So... I felt rather justified in getting rid of the surfboard.

The other reason that I have become so intent on purging the garage is because I know that we differ from Marc's parents in one crucial element- an amazing ability to organize. In summer of 2006, it took Bill (my FIL) less than 20 minutes to extract the crib from the far reaches of their very organized garage. When I started outgrowing my regular clothes this spring, it took us 30 minutes to find my maternity clothes, and I still couldn't find the bag that had my favorite items in it (I had put those aside so I'd be sure I'd have them when I got pregnant again... ironic, huh?). I was thrilled to finally find that bag yesterday... after only 3 months of searching. Yeah... See, Marc's parents garage is like a miracle of modern organizational science. If Bill hadn't gotten a Masters degree in administration, he could have gotten one in library science. That is how organized their garage is. The rafters have things suspended from them, the walls have layers of shelves... even the area above the extra refrigerator and freezer (which is also categorized I am sure. my MIL probably knows exactly where the leftovers from last month's casserole are) is remarkably full of stuff, but in a completely organized way. Now the real miracle... you are probably picturing one of those garages that looks like a storage unit, right? Something like this... (random stock photo- not our garage)
But they can actually still park two cars in there! I am so not even kidding...

Marc and I, however, have had a garage since we moved into a condo in 2007.  We have NEVER parked our cars in it. If we could somehow manage to keep everything, be able to find it all instantly, and actually be able to park our cars in it, I would be totally okay with keeping everything. But that type of intense organization just does not come naturally to us, and frankly, we do not have the time or energy to become that way... and it wouldn't last anyway; it is just not in our nature.

So... I save the important things... I still have Vinny's crib mattress, bumbo, high chair, baby bath, playpen (although it is junky and I want a new one), all his best  baby toys, and 4 years worth of clothes, bibs, receiving blankets, etc. A lot of this will get reused with Tiana, but then it will go on to a good cause, whatever it may be at that time. And we still save the really sentimental stuff too.... both Marc and I have photos and programs and mementos from our extracurricular high school activities. I have boxes of scrapbooks that I started compiling when I was like 11 years old. I have a poetry project I made in 10th grade (in which I, humorously enough, told my teacher I didn't believe that poems had "a meaning," hahahahaha). Marc has baseball cards from the 80s. We have all our yearbooks. I have my class pictures from elementary school. We worked hard to save this stuff from the flood and have now repacked it away for further reminiscing at a later date.

But today... my goal is to park in the garage. We are so, so, so very close for the first time in years. In fact, I am so sure that it will happen, I think I am even going to try to order a garage door opener for my car.