Sleepless in Pittsburgh

Well, not totally sleepless. But I did wake up very early this morning to the comforting sound of a steady rain. (Rain is a lot more comforting now that we have new gutters.) But I was famished, so I had to get up and eat breakfast, even though it was still dark outside. There's no more homework to do, and today is the last day of my current job. We're going to head to the beach for a few days, and do some much-needed relaxing. Graduate school hasn't been hard as much as it has been time-consuming, and I'm looking forward to taking few classes next year. I only have two left, and then I can officially declare myself a Reading Specialist.

Speaking of reading, as part of one of my courses, I've been tutoring a fourth grade student with Down Syndrome this summer, and it has been amazing. I don't have a lot of experience teaching kids with cognitive disabilities, and it is really, really hard to teach a kid phonics when they have difficulty speaking. But it's incredible what high expectations can do. Yesterday, she read a story we had written together to the rest of the kids in the program. Sure, it was only a few lines, and we never did get to short e or short u, so the word selection was a bit limited, but she did it! It was leaps and bounds from what she could do on the first day of class five weeks ago. Warm fuzzies all around.


Magee: Oddly Similar to the Hampton Inn

Or maybe not quite...there is no free hot breakfast buffet. But the decor, the ambiance, all resemble a corporate hotel chain.

M and I went on our tour of the hospital today, where we will be delivering Puddin', barring any exceptional circumstances, like not getting to the hospital on time and having a baby in the car. I go to a midwife practice that is based in the hospital, and we got to meet all of them tonight (there are 8 possible people who could be on call). I was greatly relieved to hear that they really do promote a natural approach to birth, and that unless I specifically request it, my labor need not resemble a bad episode of TLC's Birth Day. That is, I will be free to walk around, sit in a jacuzzi, and drink when I am thirsty. There won't be a crowd of doctors and nurses yelling "push!" - which was seriously my worst nightmare since we found out I was pregnant. I wish we did not have cable then, because I watched a lot of Discovery Channel and they really make labor and birth look truly awful. Then I watched The Business of Being Born, which is odd because Ricki Lake is suddenly this rather crunchy natural birth activist...I mean, who saw that coming?? However, this film shows some home births where, although it certainly doesn't look like a picnic, the laboring women are not strapped down in stirrups under bright lights.

I was born at Magee, and I actually do have a few memories of the old part of the hospital when I was really young, like maybe four or five, because my mom taught breastfeeding classes there, and I remember going to pick her up.

So now, we have a onesie, a baby carrier, and have completed the hospital tour. Check those off the baby preparation list. I think I am at that stage of pregnancy where you have gotten so used to it that you just assume you will be pregnant forever, and it's not so uncomfortable to wish you were not. But time is ticking away, and I am now in my third trimester. That means you can tell I am definitely pregnant and not just fat, and that sometime in the month of October, the baby should be fully done and ready to come out.

I think there is still a lot to get done, but I am going to put it out of my head until I finish my much-needed vacation next week.


Ok, now it's hot...

I just checked the weather, and it's 82 degrees with 44% humidity. That sort of depressed me because I was definitely feeling hotter than that. I wanted to be all helpful to M by weeding the front garden so he can lay some mushroom manure down with my dad. But I can only pick up, like, 4 weeds before I have to seek shelter from the sun. Unfortunately I can barely keep my eyes open past sunset, so it's not really an option to wait until later. Now, I don't want you to think I am one of those complain-y pregnant ladies. But really, all I can think about is being hot and tired. And on the off-chance that somebody who rides the 67A in the morning would read this, it would be ok for you to give me your seat. Because I still have morning sickness. And on a side note, I think that morning sickness is supposed to subside in the first trimester, when you can still comfortably lean over the toilet seat. Luckily I go to yoga twice a week, so I am surprisingly nimble, otherwise the bathroom could be a lot messier.

Summer is just flying by. Because I took 3 classes, plus with working, I have not had too much time to bum around town and enjoy my favorite season. However, the building I spend all day in is air-conditioned to Arctic temperatures, so I guess that's a blessing. But I have only 2 days left of classes and I am done for the semester! I can't tell you how happy I will be to have a few weeks off. And really, I am cutting down to part-time this fall, so I will have a much more relaxed schedule. Here's to hoping that next semester provides better intellectual stimulation than this one. We had a very odd discussion on "diversity" today in one of my classes in which people shared insights on the following topics:

1. Jehovah's Witnesses
2. Kwanzaa
3. Taking Mandarin Chinese as an elective language

What's a teacher to do when teaching Reading in the Content Areas (title of class) and faced with such issues of diversity (or whatever)?

First of all, I have to say that a very nice lady named Pearl stops by our house pretty much every Sunday on behalf of the Jehovah's Witnesses...almost as good as the Welcome Wagon lady. Here's the thing, Pearl, along with many other religious people (like Jews) either participates or abstains from customs as a matter of choice, and because it sets them apart from the rest of the us. So, if a little kid in your class doesn't participate in the Halloween parade, you don't have to feel that bad. He's doing it so he will be saved. Don't make a thing of it.

Second, most African-Americans I know do not celebrate Kwanzaa, perhaps because the guy who invented it in the sixties did so as an alternative to Christmas because "Jesus was psychotic". (Ok, so I wasn't expecting that quote to come up when I googled "how many african americans celebrate Kwanzaa", but it is in Wikipedia, so it must be true.) Anyway, I think it's safe to say that most African Americans celebrate Christmas.

Third, my teacher told us today that Mandarin Chinese was now "the most popular language to be offered in schools as an elective language, even more than Spanish." Now, I am not knocking the value of learning to speak Chinese. It's a global market after all. However, this seemed rather absurd to me, so I looked it up, and quickly verified that Spanish and French continue to be, by far, the most popular languages taught. You can read more about foreign language education in Center for Applied Linguistics report here.

Anyway, my point is that it has been a rough semester of listening to this lady present unbelievable (and usually un-cited) "facts". She's a nice enough lady, but seriously, this is graduate school...I expected more. Plus there are a bunch of inexperienced soon to be teachers in the class, about to be unleashed whose minds have been cluttered up by this nonsense. I mean seriously, knowing what Kwanzaa is Will Not help you connect with your black students. Or your poor students. Or your poor AND black students.

But at least it's air-conditioned...


Ashtabula, OH

Two years ago (Egad! Has it been that long?), we met Caveman of Ohio in Pearisburg, VA while taking a break in town from the Appalachian Trail. We saw him periodically over the next couple of months, but ended up hiking with him pretty much every day, towards the end. Since that time, he's been to Pittsburgh a number of times. We had heard lots of stories about his hometown, but had never been there. So, we made the drive up to Ashtabula last weekend. If you've met Caveman when he's been in Pittsburgh, you probably know him as Michael, however, I just can't seem to break the habit of calling him by his trail name. (I can assure you the name is no reflection on his personal hygiene or manners, which are very good.)

Highlights from the trip include the longest covered bridge in the world, which towers above the Ashtabula River. The interesting thing about this bridge, other than its length, which is impressive, is the fact that it was built very recently, and made to withstand the weight and height of large trucks. You can learn more about the bridges of Ashtabula County if you go to the Covered Bridge Festival.

We also made a stop at Geneva on the Lake, where we spent an embarrassing amount of money trying to win a giant stuffed monkey. We never did earn enough tickets, but I used my well developed bargaining skills to talk the arcade manager into giving it to us anyway. We also ate a ton of food, including the best donuts ever at the Madsen donut shop.

And of course, there's the lake. It was unseasonably cool, plus the amount of industry to either side of the beach made us not want to go swimming. Nonetheless, there are some very nice beach parks in Ashtabula! We immediately wanted to move there, for the slower pace, lack of traffic, and pretty views of the lake. Until I remembered that the lake makes lake-effect snow, which puts Pittsburgh winters to shame, and is probably not something I want to deal with.

But the best part of the trip was getting to meet Caveman's mom. I love meeting people's families and seeing all the little mannerisms and customs they share. Caveman and his mom fed us so much food, we had to take a day off eating when we got back home. And I think there is definitely a family resemblance between them.

There was so much to do in Ashtabula that we had to save some for the next trip...Underground Railroad Museum and Nature Museum are on the list. Plus, we'll definitely be going back for more donuts.


Summer Updates

Well, we are about halfway through the summer softball league session and the Sons of Pitches had a great showing last night, scoring our most ever runs (9). Other exciting stats include a double play and the fact that we actually made it through the full 7 innings with no mercy rule. Alas, we did not win, but it was exciting enough that our Number 1 fan (see post below) climbed the 20 foot fence. I really feel a Chuck-E-Cheese trip coming on. Games are Thursday nights in Polish Hill; this is a great (and free) spectator event, so join us next week at 6:15.

We also have tomatoes! I got a tomato bush for my birthday and it is producing little cherry tomatoes like crazy. Thanks DC & company! Next year we hope to have a larger vegetable garden, but we have to get our soil in order first.

I am really lucky to be enjoying a not-too-hot summer. Whenever I tell people we are expecting an October baby, someone inevitably says, "Ohh, you'll be pregnant in the summer" with a pitying tone. However, it has not even been hot enough to prompt an installation of a window air conditioner. Not that I am immune from all pregnancy discomforts...I still have morning sickness for pete's sake! And my tail bone hurts when I sit in a chair, which is an unfortunate occupational hazard these days. And it's getting hard to lean over the kitchen sink to do dishes. I have to pee every 10 minutes. And my concentration is disintegrating...I think I finally know what all my little students with ADD feel like! But it occurred to me last night that thru-hiking the AT was really good preparation for pregnancy. As amazing as it was, I got really used to discomfort. And like reaching Katahdin, I know I have something really awesome to look forward to at the end.