Monday, October 12, 2009

Diversity, is it really so bad?

After reading a post by my blogging (and real life) friend Heather, I wanted to put in my two cents. Rather than retyping the history she listed, check out her entry to get the background. Also, as a teacher, I am very sensitive to the publicness of a blog and I don't like to post negative things about my school or district. I also love my job and love my school and wouldn't ever want to jeopardize that.

I started posting this as a comment on her blog and then, after it started getting way too long, decided it would be best posted here.

Heather, I join you in your disappointment with the changes that will likely come from the recent school board elections. Lke you, I can understand both sides of the issue but I also felt very disenfranchised as a parent because the seat for my area was not up for reelection. Instead, the choices made by parents in other areas has made the decision for me and my child. As a teacher of ESL students (NOT all Hispanic) I worry that my students will all be shuttled together to a high need, high poverty school, that the "extra money" being promised to said schools will not be enough to combat the high needs of its students and will be the first line cut in a tight budget year, and that the needs of my students will be lost in the sea of so many other needs. My students are each so special and have special strengths and abilities as well as needs. Their strengths can not be nurtured when there are so many other pressing concerns. How can anyone be a priority when everyone is a priority?

As every parent wants, I want my child to go to a good school that is reasonably close to home. As a middle class white parent whose child will likely go to a good, high achieving school, regardless of the changes, however, I don't want my child to a school where no one is different. How will that stunt her social growth? I want her to meet, learn with, and become friends with people from other nations, other backgrounds, other abilties and other colors. How much richer will her life be for knowing them? I would be doing her a disservice as a parent if I did not seek out that kind of experience for her since our world is made up of all kinds of people, all special in different ways. How can she learn to look for the strengths and special qualities in others when she only knows one kind of person who looks and talks like her?

I am so blessed to teach at my school where, in one class, I teach students from 6 countries, spanning 4 continents who use 5 different alphabets. They come here legally and not, long-term and temporary, high literacy and low, with solid, interrupted, and sometimes non-existent education. They are rich and poor and just getting by. Some of their parents are university professors, others work at Wal-Mart. They bring to our table perspectives formed by all of that and more. Such diversity of backgrounds and experiences brings untold richness to any school and all of the students therein.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


Our third offer was finally accepted and we got the news this morning. Well, that is all I really have to say at the moment. I was up late and then Katie woke up at 2:45 and was up until about 3:30, crying every time I tried to leave the room. I'm going back to bed now. I will definitely be excited later... :)

Monday, July 27, 2009

only a little news

I promise, the rest of the summer will not only be about moving, and offering for a new house, and moving, and painting, and...did I mention moving? Yes, we moved into an apartment this weekend and its...interesting. I haven't lived in an apartment in 11 years and I love love love living in my own house. The apartment is nice though and I do love the fact that we went from no swimming pool to a swimming pool 600 ft from our doorstep. On Sunday when we moved in, we went swimming right after dinner and it was great. We might have done that again today but we had a thunderstorm so, maybe tomorrow or Wendesday. Having a nearby neighborhood pool is definitely something we are looking forward to!

As far as the new house is concerned we are still waiting. We received a counter offer from the sellers on Friday night. We countered Saturday evening. They came back to us Monday late afternoon. We still haven't agreed. They said in the MLS that they would replace the carpet and now they don't want to replace the carpet and they really want to get their money out of the house. We are debating what our next offer will be and whether we will make it a final offer.

Keep praying. This is really trying my nerves. :)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

The word

The word on the new house is...we're still waiting. The owners of the house are from a state that requires many more things than NC does to sell a house and so they want to follow the regulations of the other state. So, they are requiring that a lawyer look at the contract. And they are requiring that we prove where the down payment is coming from and have numbers and addresses on our proof of pre-qualification for the mortgage letter. None of this is required in NC and the bank kind of balked at it. Also, telling them how much we qualify for is kind of like saying, "Please up the price, we qualify to pay more!" So, the word is: we're waiting for them to counter. We believe that they have a counter offer ready and are awaiting another signature/approval on it and we may (note the emphasis on may) get that today. Then we go back and possibly forth again.

We have committed, however, to the course of action. As of this morning I became an apartment dweller again. We have rented an apartment and a garage at the apartment to move our stuff to. We have engaged movers for Sunday morning. The home stager has been through and will be bringing a painter to evaluate this evening. Work will begin next week on repairs and painting/staging stuff.

It's still a little unreal but getting closer to being solid. I will feel SOOOO much better when I know that house is ours and this will all be worth it.

In the meantime...AAACK! (and hairpulling ensues). :)

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

New House!?!...maybe

Over the last several years, I have become dissatisfied with the house that we live in. It's not a bad house, it doesn't have any major problems, and is large enough to raise at least 2 kids in, probably 3 if we wanted to. But the lifestyle that I increasingly want for my family is harder to have in this house. I envy my friends with a neighborhood pool, a walkable neighborhood that isn't scary to let kids ride their bikes in, a flat driveway and/or a cul-de-sac that allows kids to play basketball, ride tricycles, etc. Jim and I have even talked periodically about what would be in our perfect house. We had a very comprehensive list, but it was all hypothetical. Every 6 months or so I have trolled the house listings, just looking, not really serious and knowing that Jim wasn't interested in moving so I'd have an uphill climb to convince him even if I somehow managed to find the perfect house.

And then I did.

To be truly honest, it isn't perfect. There are some issues to deal with, some we may not even know about yet. But this house is as close to exactly what we want in a house, cul-de-sac, lot, and neighborhood as we may ever come. I sat on the house for weeks before even really talking to Jim about it. Even when I talked to him about it, it was only in a partially serious tone. Then I kept watching it. Weeks and weeks later it was still on the market. Then, during our Denver trip, the price dropped to a more reasonable number (still kind of high but within the realm of posibility). My folks encouraged me to go see it because I would always wonder "what if". I went to see it with a realtor on my own, making sure that I looked for problems and flaws. Perfect on paper does not necessarily transfer to perfect in reality. I didn't want rose colored glasses to get me into trouble. Even looking for flaws, it was so close to everything we had talked about we wanted it was amazing. The real kicker was when Jim fell in love too and started trying to figure out how to sell our house.

After much debate (and I do mean MUCH), hemming and hawing, talking to lenders, discussing our options, we decided to offer for this house. We are offering without a contingency that we sell this house first which puts us in scary territory because we will then own two houses if we somehow can't sell this one. We are taking a leap of faith and we will move heaven and Earth to sell this house as quickly as possible. I'm scared, terrified really. And super excited.

We made the offer official this morning. We've been notified by the realtor that this particular owner may take up to 48 hours to let us know their answer. Please keep us in your thoughts for the next couple of days as chaos ensues in our current house as we prep it for sale not knowing if we are going to get the golden egg at the end.

And now we wait...

Friday, July 17, 2009


So, we got back from Denver over a week ago and I've been too crazy busy to post anything. We got back from Denver on a Monday and Ricarda, our exchange student from Germany, was leaving on Saturday. We had about 80 things to do before she left. She wanted to go to a few restaurants one more time, or try ones that she had been meaning to try.

She also wanted to get senior pictures. Although she won't be in any yearbook, she wanted the photo session that you get as a senior and she found a deal that allowed a free buddy picture. She wanted Katie to be the buddy. I think the pics will come out well but I was amazed at how busy they were. This was like the conveyor belt of photography. 4-5 photographers, each is a different room, they crossed off your card when you had done each room, it was crazy. Nothing like my senior pictures. Katie was antsy because we had to wait so long to get the pictures taken but I think they got some good ones, I'll see in another week or so when the proofs arrive.

Heather and I cooked again and I came out with NINE dishes. I was shocked when I realized that. I haven't been able to do any extra cooking on my own yet so my count for the summer is only 14 total but I am so much farther ahead than I would be otherwise.

After taking Ricarda to the airport on Saturday, Jim also went to the airport to leave for New Mexico to visit his mom. Katie and I had a good time on our own over the weekend with a limited amount of craziness.

The master to do list has been started in earnest:

I vacuumed the car (well I cheated and paid someone else $8 to vacuum the sea of goldfish out of the backseat, so worth it), which is actually on my list twice, once at the beginning of the summer and once at the end. Although it is kind of the middle, I'll probably have another sea of goldfish by late August so I'll leave the second vacuuming on there for now.

I also acquired bookshelves for my classroom closet and started cleaning it out. I replaced a deep industrial shelf with three bookshelves that are not as deep but will give me better access to my resources. I have moved everything out of the closet (with the strong back of a friend's teenage son) and moved the bookshelves in. I have also started thinning the materials and managed to dispose of a large trashcan full of stuff (think cafeteria sized). The next step is to start putting things back on the shelves so that I can get everything off the floor and set up my furniture. One thing at a time!

Of course, as mentioned before, Katie and I completed a set of swim lessons just before leaving for Denver.

Several goals are in progress including weight loss, making my back more healthy, and cooking 30 frozen meals. I rejoined weight watchers on Monday and I exercised everyday this week so wish me luck!

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Cooking with Heather

Since Heather posted about our cooking session last week, I wanted to put something up as well. It was really awesome and we both walked away with 5 or more meals worth of food (when I say meals, it will usually feed my family of 3 adults and 1 3-year-old for 1 dinner and at least one lunch or two lunches for leftovers. I use to make larger dishes and put everything in 13x9 pans but I am now aiming for more 8x8 or, even better, 9x9 pans to freeze good meals. (We are also losing an adult in our house so we will be back to two adults and a little one eating meals so the smaller pans will still give us plenty to eat with leftovers until the kid(s) are bigger.

This last time went especially well, I thought. We were prepared, we had all of the ingredients, we didn't need to go to the store for a last minute item and, since the recipes we used this time mostly used ingredients we had on hand, neither of us spent a lot of time or money going to the store to get a lot of special ingredients.

I wanted to add some of my recommendations to hers as we are trial and erroring our way through making larger batches of food and how working with someone else works.

1) I second Heather's comment about the fact that not everything you love to eat will freeze well. Somethings freeze well before you cook it and others will freeze well after you cook it. Others don't really freeze well at all and should be kept for meals that you make when you have more time/energy/etc.

2) Definitely invest in a freeze ahead cookbook or two. We both like the Super Suppers book (there are two but we only have the first one right now) and I recently got The Freezer Cooking Manual from 30 day Gourmet. I haven't eaten any of the meals out of the book but it has a really nice set up where it tells you exactly how much you need of each ingredient if you are going to make more than one batch of each thing. It also has different options for some recipes, so when we made the chicken enchilada casserole, I made mine more like a casserole and Heather made hers more like rolled enchiladas. Same ingredients, slightly different presentation. You can try to get some out of the library to try and see if you like it enough to buy. I got both of the above books out of the library first (I haven't bought the 30 Day Gourmet book yet, I'm still deciding about that one). Our library does not have many freeze ahead books that I could find so I may end up perusing a bookstore to buy others as we branch out.

3) I never know what we are going make because I am not the better cooker in our pairing but the big thing I have learned is to buy meat on sale and just stock up. You can decide what to make with it later. When the chicken breasts were buy 2 get 3 free, I bought 5 bags. I should have bought 10. I mean, what can't you do with chicken breasts? Good choices that I am starting to stock up on: boneless, skinless chicken, ground beef, and some beef pieces like flank steak or fondue pieces.

4) When you choose the recipes, choose no more than 4 or 5 and make sure that two of those are easy recipes that can be thrown in a bag. Casseroles are nice but the prep time and mess can be difficult to get as much done. We've done a great orange beef and broccoli that took less than 19 minutes to throw in a bag as well as several chicken marinades that could either be thrown in a crockpot or on the grill. We cook them and make instant mashed potatoes or a rice mix and a box of frozen vegetables and a balanced meal is on the table in short order.

5) Learn what you and your cooking partner think is a meal size. I grew up in a family with 5 people, 2 of them large growing boys. When I cook, I think in big portions. Almost everything I make is meant to go in a 13x9 pan. While I am now thinking in smaller portions, 8x8 and 9x9, I don't hesitate to make 13x9 dishes because I often freeze meals after cooking in one meal leftover dishes for Jim and I to take for lunches. Both Jim and I eat normal portions at a meal and enjoy having leftovers for lunch so that we don't end up with Lean Pockets or PB&J everyday. Heather's family eats very differently and as such she needs to make much smaller dishes. Knowing that ahead of time helps with planning so when I make one dish, she can make two of the same recipe and we have made plenty for everyone.

6) Definitely invest in some kind of tracking system. I still need to figure out what and how I am going to put on my freezer to track what we have and what we still need to eat. Next week, when I am back in town, I will work on implementing something since we are getting together to do a beef-a-thon soon!

7) My personal favorite: get your (older) kids involved and have a teenager or husband do the clean up. Ricarda, our exchange student, has been very tolerant and helpful this whole year. She helped us cook several times when we got together this past spring. She also did most of the clean-up last week after our chicken extravaganza since I had to leave for a doctor's appointment as soon as we were done. It was awesome to come back to a clean kitchen after spending 2+ hours on my feet doing the cooking.

8) You can definitely freeze cooked meat or cooked meals afterwards. It depends some on what you cook but most meals can be refrozen in smaller dishes for individual dinners or lunches. I cook a few things in the crockpot and in a casserole that are just as good frozen and reheated after you eat it fresh.

9) When you write the name and cooking instructions with your sharpie, make sure you include the date. I need to go back and do that for our last round but all of my books say you should really only freeze things for about 2 months. I think many things can go longer than that but you don't want to get to the back of your freezer and pull out a dinner that is too freezer burned to eat because it accidentally stayed in there for who know's how long.

Freezing ahead is really helping my family to eat a more varied and, in many ways, a healthier diet. We don't eat out a lot but we are certainly tempted to eat out more and we end up with little variety in our diets and a lot of stress about what we are going to make and eat for dinner. With freezing ahead, our weekly meal plan might look something like this:

Monday: freezer meal
Tuesday: spagehetti
Wednesday: easy cook from scratch meals (always have a couple of those you can rotate through)
Thursday: smorgasboard leftovers
Friday: pizza night! (cheap-o frozen pizza in my house)
Saturday: grill/crockpot
Sunday: freezer meal or scratch meal depending on time