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

Wednesday, July 1, 2009


Well, I meant to blog again last week explaining that I would be absent from blogging for a week since I would be in Denver. Unfortunately, every minute of every day leading up to Friday's departure was taken up with preparations, getting a new bed for Katie, getting things for my classroom (eating and occasionally sleeping). I figured that I would not be able to blog in Denver because I am super busy visiting friends and having fun with my folks and my parents, although mostly in the 21st century, are the last hold outs in the country with dial-up internet. I found, upon my arrival, that they have a neighbor who is slightly more advanced and has high speed internet but not advanced enough to have secured his network. Thus, I am "borrowing" internet time so that I don't have to have a coffee while trying to connect to my email.

Here is an example of the super fun time we are having in Denver.

More on our super fun trip later!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Weight and exercise

Oy. The best time to start posting about your weight is when it is increasing...NOT! Okay, so it is a little embarrassing that I started posting my weight talking about my weight loss goals and was exercising and instead have gained, apparently, 3 lbs in one week. I keep telling my scale, "That is the wrong direction!"

I've decided I'm okay with it, though, for now. Ricarda leaves us on July 11th and she has several places that she wants to go eat before she leaves (Schlotzky's and Chili's are on the list) and she really wanted to eat my pear jello and Jim's sweet potatoe casserole (typically a Christmas/Thanksgiving food because they are yummy but deadly) before she leaves. Then, of course, I leave for 10 days in Denver on Friday so trying to maintain any kind of a specific program before I come back is just silly. After we come back from Denver, Ricarda has only 4 more days with us so we will make the most of them, food and timewise. Then, after she has gone, I have decided that I will rejoin Weight Watchers and knuckle down to it again.

In a way, this is good. I have only just begun exercising again and I am finally starting to get to where I can exercise kind of aerobically. My fitness level is still really pathetic but I'm feeling good about it. I've had very little trouble with my back, at least nothing that wasn't quickly fixable at the physical therapy session. That is HUGE. Like monsterous. It's so amazing that I can exercise again without the pain increasing, I don't hardly know what to do with myself. As the exercise can increase, so too will the ability to manage my weight again. By the time I restart Weight Watchers in 2 weeks, I will have enough strength to really start a program, albeit slowly, and I should see some progress after that. I may even be able to convince Jim, my husband, to do it with me. He loves to walk but has fallen out of the habit with a little one in the house and crazy work schedules. We could both stand to lose some weight so here's to a New Year's resolution in July! (We just had Christmas in June so we could have those special dishes for Ricarda so I think I can claim New Year's in July. :) )

Wish us luck!

Saturday, June 20, 2009


On of my ongoing goals for the summer is to learn how to feed my family better. This means many different things to me.

Better means...

-cheaper (at the grocery store and
-less prepared foods (usually frozen meals of some sort)
-more home cooked foods
-less stressful (It's 4pm, what's for dinner?!?)

I'm an okay cook. I have several recipes (maybe 6-8 main dishes) that I can make well but I'm not good at experimenting (especially with a 3 year-old!) so I could always use more cooking weapons in my arsenal. I've actually been improving with this slowly over the last year or so but I want to make some particular strides this summer. A friend and I started getting together last January to cook and make frozen meals to put back for our families as a money saving technique and a stress buster. It has been awesome. Her cooking prowess and my grunt labor and we are a force to be reckoned with!

It has been such a hit for us (good food, good fellowship, good fun) that we've started expanding our cooking time into actually planning what we are going to make beforehand. Planning comes in many different forms. One form is meeting before the cooking day to go over recipes and make sure we know what we want to cook, decide which ingredients to buy or who will bring what, and what, if anything needs to be cooked beforehand like cooking the chicken. Another form of planning is checking out all of the local grocery store sales in the month or so prior and buying large amounts of meat when it is on sale. For example, a local grocery store offered buy 2 get 3 bags of frozen chicken breasts free a few weeks back. I bought 5 bags.

In this case, we haven't had a chance to cook since at least April, maybe March, so I've been checking out sales like crazy and buying whenever meat was on sale. As it stands, I have most of the ingredients for the stuff we're going to make and my friend has the rest so I only have to buy a couple items and I expect that we'll each be able to make 4-6 meals worth of food. Heather has a goal of putting back 30 meals and I am going to take that goal on as my own as well. I want to put back 30 frozen meals before school begins. Ideally, I'll also be organized enough to also know what I have in the freezer!

Another goal I have in regards to cooking is learning a few more recipes (one new recipe a week), especially ones that are easy, go in the crockpot or ones that are actually possible to make on a Wednesday evening when we're all tired after a long day of work and Katie is cranky.

To that end I made Applesauce Chicken from the The Crockpot Lady website this week. Our family's verdict: it was good. Katie ate it (SCORE!) but I think I'll leave out the red pepper next time. I only have ground red pepper, not red pepper flakes and it burned my tongue instead of being flavorful. I think it burned Katie's tongue too because she liked the first few bites better than the 4th and 5th bites when it started burning mine. It's definitely one we are going to do again though. It was super simple and quick to throw everything in the crockpot and I didn't even have to defrost the chicken.

More reports to come as I find more interesting recipes to try! Have an old family favorite that you think my family will like? Post it and I'd love to try it!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


Ah, the life of a teacher...

The three reasons everyone gives for why you should become a teacher: June, July, and August.

Whoever said that is not a teacher.

Don't get me wrong, I love summer. I love having time to get the work done that I didn't have time to do the rest of the year (both home stuff and school stuff). I just don't get paid for it.

For being a "lazy" summer day, I was crazy busy! Katie and I went swimming today in our second swimming lesson (where she blew more bubbles and only spent 10 minutes of the 30 asking to get out of the pool!), I walked (although not very long because I was tight on time), went to school for two meetings (and walked on my partly waxed floor to the annoyance of the people waxing my floor), picked Katie up, ate dinner (made by my beautiful and talented borrowed German daughter, and quickly left for choir practice. After being up super late at Ricarda's ballet recital practice last night (they were two hours behind in their rehearsal schedule) I am zonked so I'm off to bed. Good night!

Monday, June 15, 2009

A beginning

Well, it's Monday and I'm back! I have to say, I haven't gotten much accomplished yet, at least not off my big list (laundry, unfortunately, is not on the big list). As any good procrastinator, however, I have a good excuse (much better than my dog ate it). :)

I have actually started working on several items that are on my list. I wanted to take swimming lessons with Katie this summer and we had our first class this morning. I also really wanted to switch up my blog this summer and I've been spending a little time doing that today. As with last year, I have a few things that will take less than an hour, some that will take several hours, and some that will take much, much longer. My key is trying not to do too much in one day. Have you ever tried to be really efficient and make a list for yourself of all these things you were going to do and then felt defeated when hardly anything on the list got done even though you were busy all day? That's me. I do all of this prep work and then end up feeling defeated because I didn't get everything done and exhausted because I didn't put REST on my list!

My lists now consist of a few big items to do and sometimes include other items like "shower" (important for those busy summer days), "eat lunch", and a few rest items like "watch an episode of Bones". That way, I feel like I accomplished something, even if all I did was take a shower. :)

I debated with myself (and still am) about putting items like a weight tracker on my blog. I'm very embarrassed about my weight, even when I'm not feeling fat. My mother is only about 2 or 3 inches shorter than I am and not especially skinny (I got my good childbirthing hips from my maternal genes) but she weighs about 60 lbs less than I do. 60 lbs!!! I was shocked when I learned this 4 or 5 years ago (especially since my father was kind of appalled to find out that I thought 165-175 wasn't all that bad a weight). Since I am tall, I don't usually look especially fat (except when I was pregnant but that is a story for another day). Subsequently, when people find out how much I weigh, their eyes get kind of big and they make a good show of trying not to show their shock. So, why did I put a weight tracker on my very public blog? I am trying to lose weight and don't have another good way to track it, losing weight is on my summer to do list, and I need some accountability. That is, I need someone else to see, besides me, myself, and I, that I have not lost a single once in a month and perhaps need to redouble my efforts.

So here is my goal: To lose 10 lbs and/or build cardiovascular fitness (sometimes this doesn't always include weightloss, but I'm hopeful). Before I got pregnant in 2005, after 3 years of back trouble and back surgery, (then healing and exercising but then falling off a horse), I weighed 185 lbs, 20 lbs more than I weighed when I got married in 1998. I gained a LOT of weight while I was pregnant: 60 lbs lot of weight. When Katie turned 2 I had lost all 60 lbs plus about 7 more. YAY!!! Then I reinjured my back in July of 2008 and walking or any exercise at all was extremely painful. It was all I could do to care for my daughter, play a little bit, and teach. So, here I am, back at 185.5 as of this morning. Yuck. I wanted to be healthier, lower weight, and stronger when I got pregnant again. I was last summer before getting hurt again. Now I need to rebuild before trying to get pregnant again.

I shall prevail.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Happy Friday

Summer, glorious summer.

As a teacher, I can attest to it being a very happy Friday. The last day of school for us was Wednesday and we had a teacher workday on Thursday but I am technically free with the long (not so empty) summer ahead of me to look forward to.

I started my to-do list weeks ago, of course, and it is already looking daunting. I have two separate lists even. One for school items and one for home items. I will need to remember to take it one day, and one task, at a time so I don't get overwhelmed and stop doing anything.

We've already had an auspicious beginning to the summer. I went to the bathroom this morning, intending to go back to bed to enjoy sleeping in for one day before I got started on a schedule for the summer, and my feet got wet. Yep, there was water all over the floor by the toilet. The tank had overflowed (thank heaven it wasn't the bowl!). To top that off, our poor exchange student was downstairs eating breakfast when the cover for the big fluorescent light in the kitchen fell to the floor covering everything with water. (The water from the toilet upstairs had seeped through the floor to the kitchen ceiling.) That was a bit of a shock for her. While it was fortunate that the light cover didn't hit her, and that she doesn't usually turn on the main kitchen light in the morning, she did, unfortunately, get very wet when the water covered everything.

I find myself in an interesting and introspective place this summer. So much has changed and happened in the last year. Many things have been transferred from last year's to-do list to this year's because I didn't end up accomplishing much last summer. I spent the first half of the summer sick with a cold and then re-injured my back and then had wrist surgery, effectively putting me out of commission all summer. The back pain and problems lasted all year which kept me from doing much at home, organizing anything at school and even from trying to get pregnant as I wanted to be. It got so bad I could barely walk at times and sleeping was often difficult.

This summer is to be one of building strength. After 10 months of nearly constant pain, my back feels good. I am taking a daily pain medicine that really helps and I'm able to get lots of benefit out of only half the dosage I was told to take. Now that the medicine has allowed me to start exercising again, I feel like I will not only be able to build strength but, possibly go off the medicine in the near future. I've known for years that exercise makes my back pain go away and stay away and now I'll have a chance to get back to that. One of the difficulties of the last year has been that the pain was such that walking made it worse, so exercise was out of the question.

This year, this summer, however, I have plans!!! I want to learn to cook new dishes, record memories in new ways, and record ones that have been waiting for months before they disappear! I want to build strength and endurance, play with my preschooler and spend time with my borrowed daughter before she returns to Germany. I want to spend some time in my classroom so I don't have to spend so much time there in October! Who knows, baby-making might even make the list again. :)

As any good procrastinator would do, I have put an item on the list that gets listed every year. That item? Writing on this blog 5 days a week. Even as I write it I want to hedge and commit to fewer days! This year, I shall prevail! If nothing else, I need my own writing to keep me accountable to accomplishing at least a few items on my list. All of those items were placed there to make my life and that of my family easier and more pleasant. So, come along for the ride, I'll be back on Monday (...maybe...). ;-)

Thursday, April 2, 2009


With Katie's new Banshee/Godzilla development, I wanted to revisit our discipline strategy so that Jim and I might work together to counter this issue and get through it intact. Both of us discipline Katie, but we don't always do it in a similar enough fashion to give Katie clearly defined boundaries. This is something that I have always struggled with and it starts early on in my marriage while listening to Jim talk about disciplining his younger brother, Jeffrey.

Jeffrey was 10 when his parents divorced, while Jim was 16. In many ways, Jim became Jeffrey's father figure. Since Jim's mom's discipline was often inconsistent, Jim became extremely strict with Jeffrey. Rules were black and white to him. If you break it, nothing can save you from the consequences.

This is how I interpreted Jim's method of discipline before we had children and I always knew we were going to have issues because I don't agree that the rules are always black and white. I think that chances are needed to get things right and the rules can have shades of grey. I've been afraid of one main thing: that I would see Jim's discipline of our child as too strict and subconsciously try to counteract that by swinging to far the other direction and be a pushover who ends up with a terror for a child.

We decided, when Katie turned one, that we would use the 1-2-3 Magic method to discipline Katie. We don't do it the exact way they say to in the book but we have worked out a way that works for us...mostly. I still haven't felt entirely comfortable with the whole process and end up feeling like I've counted to 2 and she doesn't even understand the consequences so how can I not give her another chance? Unfortunately, my discomfort has led to, I think, my being too lenient at times and keeping Katie from responding to my discipline. Then, sometimes, I undermine Jim's attempt at discipline because I feel like he's being unreasonable. Basically, I've turned into my worst fear, or I will if I don't work on my own attitude adjustment.

Jim and I had a good discussion this evening about discipline and how we can deal with Godzilla/Banshee. I mentioned my issues and feeling like she needs more chances because she's not understanding the consequences. Jim reminded me that the point of 1-2-3 magic is that 1 and 2 ARE her chances. If we count correctly and appropriately then 1 and 2 are the chances she has to reform her behavior. If she doesn't listen, she'll figure out the consequences and she'll figure out that we're serious.

This is more of a thought shift for me. As long as I remember that, by counting, I am giving her the chances that I feel are necessary. This will help me hold a firmer line when Godzilla/Banshee comes out.

I think we still need to revisit the idea of start behaviors versus stop behaviors though. Some of the issues we're encountering are Katie's refusal to put her diaper and pajamas on after bath, or wash her hands after going to the bathroom. Counting and putting her in time out just prolongs the bedtime routine and the longer she's up, the worse it gets (and the worse tomorrow will be). As with all parenting issues, discipline is a process. As soon as I figure this stage out, the next one will knock on my door.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Daily Fight

I always expected the terrible twos to be bad and for things to get difficult when Katie started wanting to do things by herself. I am happy to let her do things for herself and I can learn to be more patient when she wants to do things that I could do in two seconds. I never thought it would be like this. Katie wants to do everything by herself. Note the italics and bold type. She is sweet until it is time to head upstairs to bed. Then World War III begins. If you touch her, or suggest that you might, in the future, sometime, touch her, or help her, or in any way shape or form THINK about helping her, she has a TOTAL meltdown. A screaming, crying, throw down on the floor kind of meltdown. Then you have to start whatever you were doing over again, from scratch. If she was taking her shirt off and you helped her get it unstuck, she has to put her shirt back on to take off again BY HERSELF. That's not the worst part, however. The worst part is the screaming and crying while she insists that she put her shirt back on, then screams and cries over not being able to put it back on, then screams and cries that you helped her put it back on and THEN screams and cries that she can't get it off.

Seriously, that is exactly what happened to me (and more) last night and exactly what Jim is facing right now as I type this Tuesday night before I go to choir.

I'm hoping that some of the problem comes from being too tired. She went to bed late Sunday night because of the ice cream trip and then all the fighting had us going to bed a little later than normal. She's still not up to snuff after being so sick last week. Fortunately, she is going to bed earlier tonight so maybe tomorrow will be better. If not, it'll be like crossing Godzilla with a banshee and putting her to bed with a porcupine.


Monday, March 30, 2009

And one not so awesome day

I went to the neurosurgeon yesterday. Since July, my back has been giving me ever bigger problems. I guess I shouldn't say that they have been increasing, there keep being setbacks. It took 6 months to figure out how to fix the most recent issues I've been having with my back. That took me to December and I was really starting to feel better over the holidays. In January, we had some snow and I slipped on the ice in the parking lot at school and landed hard on the side where I have been having problems. Major setback. I hurt a lot more for several weeks. Then, I finally started getting better and feeling hopeful again. Unfortunately, my hope was for not as, one afternoon after school, I picked up my workbag to carry it into the house and felt an explosion of pain right in my spine. I've had considerably more pain since. It's gotten better in the last week or so since my physical therapist changed my exercises but I was worried that I had herniated another disk with this lifting episode. I went for another MRI on Friday to find out.

That takes me to yesterday's trip to the neurosurgeon. He assured me that I do not have another herniated disk and that I do not need surgery.

This, to me, is both good and bad news. I don't want surgery. It's incredibly painful, it will take a long time to fully recover from it and it will cost a lot of money. I'd have to miss a month of school and it would just be awful. But, if the disk isn't the problem, what is? I'm still hurting, so something is obviously wrong. Although I don't want surgery, I think I was kind of hoping I would need it because then there would be something obviously wrong that is fixable. Instead, I am left with back pain of indefinite origin, and indefinite length and undetermined fixability. I can't continue my daily activities without pain, I can't exercise for my health (and my sanity). I can't ride (which I enjoy very much). I have difficulty teaching and caring for my child and, although I desperately want to get pregnant again, I can't even try until my back returns to a more stable state.

So, where do I go from here? I take every day one day at a time. Today, I am going to bed early so I can get up and walk tomorrow. Tomorrow, I will walk 10 minutes on the treadmill. The next day, I will try to walk more. Soon, I will go to the pain clinic and try some diagnostic tests to find out what structure in my back is causing the problem so that we can figure out what therapy to try next.

I have to keep hope alive that I will be pain free again. God has plans for me, even though I freely admit I don't agree with the current tack he's been taking. In my life, God has always made lemonade from the poor choices and plans that I've made. Sometimes, I truly made poor choices. Other times, he knew what I needed long before I could ever see it. In hindsight, the way he arranged things has always been the best. because of his guidance (or "interference" as I would call it at the time) I am married to a wonderful, sweet man, I have amazing friends who love me and support me in ways I never knew was possible. I have a great job only walking distance from my house at a great school and a beautiful baby girl who is just starting to button her own clothes. Even when I want to shake my fist and cry out at God in frustration or anger (and believe, I do), I have to remember where he's brought me and what would have happened if he'd been listening to my plans instead of following his.

One awesome day

Sunday in our town was a beautiful day. The weather was nice and the sun was out. I opened almost all of the windows in the house and the strong breeze (well, wind really) blew through the house bringing with it the scent of spring. We've had so much rain lately that the yellow snow season didn't last as long as it usually does. Thus, when I opened the windows, I didn't immediately start sneezing. :) Although I love the springs here, I don't often open the windows because that typically just invites pollen inside. I am moderately allergic to half of North Carolina (at least one thing in every season...and dust for any time the outside might be allergen free). But I digress...
Although we didn't spend the beautiful day outside (we were hard at work dejunkifying the house), we decided to treat ourselves to some Goodberry's ice cream after dinner. The Goodberry's is walking distance from our house but it's a pretty good hike for Katie and her short legs. It was great. We walked, we enjoyed, got a good picture on the way there, and ate LOTS of ice cream (Katie's cone was WAY bigger than I expected). Then the rain clouds rolled in the wind blew harder and we didn't have warm enough clothing for the now cold outside and the tired child (whose bedtime was already past) started tripping (a LOT) and skinning her knees, busting her lip, and scraping her hand. She didn't want Jim to carry her on his shoulders (the easiest and fastest way), she wants me to carry her in my arms. With my bad back.

Despite the bumps at the end we still had a great time and I look forward to many more trips this summer (although, perhaps for lunch or afternoon snack...when rain is not in the forcast...). Now that Katie is more potty-trained (note I did not say FULLY potty trained, just closer) we managed to go on the trip with nothing outside of the money we needed to buy the ice cream. that was awesome. I can't wait to go to the pool without swim diapers! I may bring a case of wet wipes and a jacket next time we go for ice cream though. :)

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Train Wreck

Well, every time I come up with a great plan there is not only a derailment but sometimes a complete train wreck. Since my last post, my back has become worse so I spent days in agony and doped up on pain killers trying to finish the annual ESL testing. I couldn't take a sick day because I was the only who could finish the testing before the testing window closed. Then, the weekend came and, after a decent day on Saturday, Katie started throwing up (in my new car no less) and threw up for several days. Then she had a high fever. After the fever went away and she stopped throwing up she got really bad acid reflux that had her screaming in pain for a couple nights. She ate bananas for several days and had another frightened of pooping episode. We recently got past that so I'm hoping it won't last too long.

Time and Mylicon have finally helped and she is healing now. After our crazy two weeks, it's time to get back on track.

This weekend, Ricarda was back from her trip to Washington, DC and she was willing to babysit for us again. This has got to be the best thing we've ever done. On Sunday afternoon, we relaxed some after church and then worked for several hours going through boxes in our bedroom, doing laundry, and catching up a bit from the craziness of the past weeks. I'm really starting to feel like we might finally get somewhere with our stuff.

Now that things have calmed down, we'll see how our Daily 7 routine works.

Monday, March 16, 2009

All by myself

Every new parent (well, at least this new parent) dreams of rocking their child to sleep and sitting with their child in their lap, reading a book together. When Katie was a baby, she was very mouthy. So mouthy, in fact, that even at a year, the one or two board books we gave her are beyond redemption. She would much rather eat the book then read the book. Fortunately, just as I was about to despair, we read Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What do you see? and she was hooked at about 18 months. Now I despair over having to read the Cat in the Hat again. It has been really nice seeing her change and grow into a child who really loves books. When she wakes up from her nap, she will often get books and bring them back to her bed and read. Sometimes she even does that when she's avoiding bedtime (I think I wrote about that once before). She turns the light on and reads until I tell her it really is time to go to sleep.

Rocking has been different. When Katie was a baby, rocking her wasn't an option. She was what I call "a dump job". The only way she would go to sleep was if you put her in her crib and walked away, shutting the door. Rocking, singing, or otherwise staying in her room was too much stimulation. If you left her alone and closed the door, she would sit or stand and maybe cry for a minute and then lay down and go to sleep. To my delight, however, as a toddler, she liked being rocked before bed. It has still been too much stimulation at times. Sometimes she spends more time talking to me about who knows what then relaxing and getting ready for sleep. Or she spends so much time squirming around that 2 whole songs have gone by before she is ready to actually rock (and that's usually when she needs to go down). Despite these times, I have enjoyed sitting and holding my baby in my arms and rocking with her as I didn't get to when she was really little. Now, at age 2.75, she has decided that she wants to rock herself. For the last three nights, after we finished reading her story, she wants to rock "on my bottom, by myself." So, I have left her in her room with the music on, rocking in her rocking chair. After awhile, I go back in and put her in the bed. I don't know how well it's helping her sleep (today she was still pretty wound up after rocking for 7 songs by herself) but I admit I am mourning the loss of my "little one." She's practically too big to rock, at 40 inches and 37 lbs (yes, she really is going to turn 3 at the end of May, not 5). Perhaps this too is just a phase and she will go back to wanting to be rocked before too long. It's just another reminder to me to savor the times I have because, regardless of how long they are, they will always be shorter than I wish them to be.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Awesome NOT procrastinating day

Have you ever felt you were drowning in stuff? That you would rather move and sell the house as is with everything in it, just so you could start over? That's how I've felt in the past several years. Like we were just staying on top of things. As soon as we seemed to be making headway, something would happen and things would pile up. Don't get me wrong, our house is not knee deep in clutter with only paths to walk through the house like some you see on tv, but it is a level of clutter that drains the spirit just by existing. We're trying to fix it, and this time, we just might do it...

This weekend was crazy awesome! Okay, it was nasty and rainy and 40 degrees all weekend, keeping us in the house with the 2 year old all weekend. BUT, I got sooooo much done! First of all, my friend Heather came over to my house and we cooked up a storm. She is such an amazing person I don't know how she does everything. A few months ago, we started getting together once a month to cook and freeze meals for our families. I am always amazed when we get together at how much we get done. My big plan with the cooking was that I would mooch off of Heather's cooking abilities while offering ingredients and willing hands. It's working brilliantly in my book. :) We got together on Saturday morning and planned on cooking 4 dishes. We ended up with 6 or 7. Not only that, but my kitchen is cleaner now than it was when the day started. :) We definitely need to cook at my house again.

We also really worked hard this weekend to get things accomplished. One of our difficulties in the past has been that we try to schedule lots of chores during naptime. But, if we work through naptime each weekend day, then we're tired and want some downtime when Katie gets up again. To counter this problem, Jim and I decided to hire Ricarda, our teenage "daughter" (exchange student living with us), to take care of our 2 year old for a few hours between nap and dinner for one day each weekend. She babysat Katie for 3 hours today and it was great. We got a little downtime during nap as well as getting started on our chores and then we had three blessed hours to get stuff done. Yay! A good hunk of decluttering happened today. A good start to move forward from.

Another thing that we are trying to do to stay on top of our daily and weekly chores better is an adapted version of the daily 7. We can't manage everything that Stephanie does everyday with our full schedules at work but we've added a few things to help us get started. Now, I make the bed everyday (Jim never makes it right anyway :) ) and Jim cleans the cat litter box each day. Three days during the week I will put a load in the laundry and Jim moves it to the dryer before work. Then we put it away together that night. Although these changes are small, I've already seen an improvement in our home life. I have not come home or awakened to the smell of cat poop on the floor. Our cats are old and picky and they poop on the floor if they don't like how clean their litter box is. In the past, this has been every other day. It drove me crazy. Not this week. The bed has been nice a neat everytime I come home and that always makes me feel better. Also, it is easier to sleep when the covers have been straightened each day and the sheets are tight on the bed again. Even the laundry was easier to do. Although we weren't able to stick to putting the laundry away each night we did a load this week, we did get it put away before the weekend and that meant that the rest of the laundry was sooooo much easier to do and get put away. In fact, it is late Sunday night and the only laundry that isn't finished is the sheets I put in earlier today. Everything else is not only clean and dry but in a drawer or hung up. Considering that it is more common for the laundry to hang around in baskets until next laundry day, this is HUGE. I even had time to blog tonight. :) We'll see how things continue but I am hopeful after our start this week on keeping our day to day lives from being too chaotic and making headway in the backlog of things that we need to do and get rid of.

Saturday, February 28, 2009

My "little" girl

I spent some good quality time with my little girl today. I braided her hair for the first time into two little braids. Suddenly, she looked so grown up. Fortunately for my slightly aching heart, she still cuddled with me on the couch while we watched Reading Rainbow and Mama Mirabelle's Home Movies (her serious favorite). Later though, she decided to "skip the songs". Normally we read two stories, then rock in the rocking chair to the lullaby music and then put her in bed. After the stories, she decided that she wanted to skip the songs and the rocking and go straight to bed. I know it's just a little thing and she'll probably want to rock again tomorrow, but right now I'm feeling a little...melancholy perhaps. I'm not sure if that's the word I'm looking for but I want to treasure these days when she's little. The days when she eats "nini" (tortelini) and "tella toast" (toast with nutella) and asking me ever so very nicely (using all of her good manners), for a cookie at breakfast.

I'm not ready for her to grow up while I'm working too hard. This is my reminder that time marches, savor it all.

(P.S. If I'm emotional now, what will kindergarten, college, and marriage be like!?!)

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Coming back...

Well, the fact that I haven't written in awhile can mean one of two things, either I'm busy getting it done or too busy to get anything done! I would say the truth is kind of in between. Over Christmas I was busy enjoying life, much too busy to write about it. Now I'm too busy working to get much of anything done. Every spring all the ESL students in my school (well, everyone's school) need to be tested. I have 87 students to test myself on a four part test. It's more work than I was expecting and I have several things working against me.

It's a new test so nobody knows how anything works. The state had issues with last year's scores so the paperwork is messed up this year and I've spent hours upon hours wading through records to clean it up. The test is more work than it used to be and I'm still a second year teacher teaching at a new school and a new grade level over last year. That means it's like my first year all over again.

Oh, and Katie is still afraid of pooping on the potty. (Although we are starting to have some progress in that department. Stay tuned as the story progresses.)

The good news is that Jim just started a new job that starts to pay in a couple of weeks and the tests are due in to the testing office by March 20th. Then, I may take a personal sanity day and sleep in. :)