Judgement day is on my birthday. Plan accordingly.
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How We Roll....

Sometimes I wish for a confessional blog. You know, a place where I could rant and rave and confess my shortcomings and drop the f-bomb. And say things I'm hiding from my husband. However, this is not an anonymous blog. Most of you know who I am in real life. But, if this were an anonymous blog, I might just confess the fact that I misplaced my debit card. Again. And several weeks may have passed. I might describe how this is a rather frequent occurrence for me and that usually I blame (and rightly so!) my 14 month old daughter, who somehow knows the difference between the used up Victoria's secret gift card that I keep in my wallet to distract her, and the actual debit card that represents my actual hard-earned money. I might then tell you about how we searched up and down, high and low, every time Daddy went out for a run or was late coming home from work. And then I could write excitedly about how we found it tucked in the pocket of a red blazer I hardly ever wear. Whew.

Laurel spent the afternoon occupying herself by pushing her toy school bus off various surfaces. It's fun to hang back and watch her entertain herself from time to time. Not from too far a distance, as she is a bit of a daredevil and also seems to have a complete lack of understanding about the dangers of glass. She took a break from the school bus every now and again to page through a book. And then she switched to pretending that an old iPod of mine is a cell phone. Watching toddlers figure out imaginary play is hilarious.

Only part of what I wanted to accomplish by Sunday night is actually done. Do I have too high expectations or am I just bad at getting things done? I was on track to be in bed by 9, but then M sliced his finger in the kitchen and he probably needs a stitch but is toughing it out because nobody wants to sit in the ER for six hours on a Sunday night. And he's fine, nobody worry. We just need new knives. We are people who cook, from scratch, at least once or twice a day and we have the most god-awful, dull, cheap knives. We cooked for ages on beat up, hand-me-down aluminum pans, but eventually got around to buying a nice Le Creuset pot and a cast iron frying pan. So we'll get around to the knives. Perhaps sooner, rather than later now that the knives have actually drawn blood.

Now I'm waiting on the last load of laundry and I just don't want to open up gmail because there's a million to-do items buried in that inbox and Monday seems like a much better time to deal with them.

Tomorrow I'll wake up at 5 and then the next thing I know it will be Friday. And so on and so forth until summer vacation and then maybe I can decide what the heck I'm going to do with the rest of my life, because I'm going to need a change of pace from this. There's one thing to be busy, but it's quite another thing to look down and realize that you've put your shirt on backwards or there's baby snot in your hair.



Or Wii. Somehow I wrote a grant that was convincing enough to get me a Wii for my classroom. Today we bowled. If this was an education blog, I would go into greater detail about how and why this is a valid instructional strategy. However, I'm finding it difficult to write realistically about life as a teacher, while maintaining the confidentiality of my students.

This week in the lunch room somebody said "It's only Thursday? This is the longest week ever!" and I thought "It's Thursday already? Where did the week go?". The weeks never seem slow to me now. The days march by with an even, but quick tempo and I look about as good keeping up with them as I do keeping up in Zumba, which is to say, it looks awkward and I never make the right move at the right time, but I mostly manage to have fun with it.

In some of my previous teaching jobs I can remember being desperate for the weekend...constantly counting down days until the next break. I never do that now.

Maybe because a day "off" isn't as much of a break as it once was. I have about 12 minutes to decompress after I leave school, minutes that are quiet and belong to me. When I get to daycare, all the kids shout "it's a mommy!" -presumably any time the door opens, but who knows? Once they see who it is, they shout "Laurel! It's your mommy!" and Laurel runs around the classroom pointing at various things and babbling.

She never wants to leave, or rather, she never wants to leave quickly. She wants to show me the play kitchen and the desk and the penguin art projects that are hanging on the wall. Eventually I wrestle her into her coat and mittens and carry her out the door while the kids are all shouting "Bye Laurel Bye Laurel Bye!" Every dang day they do this. Everything is exciting when you are 2 or 3, I guess.

During the last two weeks, I've tried to get together with mamas and babies after school. This has been a very good thing for my soul. Lessons learned include 1. Make sure there are ample snacks, 2. 45 minutes is a perfect amount of time and 3. Plan ahead and have something in mind for dinner.

So, who's coming over next week?


Adventures in Homemaking, Part 1,756

M and I can be patient. Or maybe it's busy. Or lazy. Anyway, something kept us from replacing the sink faucet after all attempts to fix the cold faucet drip failed. For literally the last six months, we've been turning the water on and off under the kitchen sink. Very annoying. (So annoying that some members of the household would forget to turn it off and then we would have a very high water bill. Ahem.) I think M was inspired by the visit from our friends at Restano, who came regarding a different plumbing issue. And I must say, he looks like he means business, surrounded by tools and pipes underneath the sink. I am confident that we will soon have a new, fully functional faucet. And if for some reason we don't, we're moving. I mean it. We're selling the house and finding an apartment.

I just noticed there's a grapefruit on the floor in the corner. I vaguely remember bringing home a grapefruit in my purse. Someone at work gave it to me. Note to self - look for other missing contents from purse. I think the resident toddler may have done a little pickpocketing.

There are 14,000 cheerios on the floor. Lindsay and Teddy came over and there was some excitement over the snacks. As in, Laurel spilled them all, and then she and Teddy went wild...grabbing handfuls and stuffing their little faces. It was pretty hilarious. I thought we cleaned most of them up, but cheerios are one of those things that inexplicably multiply...like unmatched baby socks and parking tickets.

Laurel played lots of hide and go seek with me from behind the living room curtains. She just started pushing a toy car around (I would never have know this was a developmental milestone except Sarah came over on Sunday and "experimented" on Laurel by giving her a language assessment for one of her classes. All of a sudden I am acutely aware of developmental milestones.)

And finally, I just made a brilliantly simple and delicious lentil soup from Vegan Planet. Even if everything else in our lives is mildly chaotic, or sometimes, frankly, just plain weird, at least we can cook. We'll always have that.

Indian Spiced Lentil Soup
2T corn oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 garlic clove, minced
14.5 oz. can of diced tomatoes
1t peeled and minced fresh ginger
1/2t ground cumin
1/2t ground coriander
1/4t cayenne
1 1/2 cups dried lentils, picked and rinsed
6 cups stock or water
1/4 cup minced fresh cilantro
salt and black pepper

Heat corn oil and add onion, celery, sweet potato and garlic. Cover and cook until softened. Add tomatoes. Stir in ginger, cumin, coriander and cayenne. Add lentils and stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes. Note - do not add salt to lentils until they are all the way cooked, or they don't get soft. Add the cilantro, salt and pepper to taste.


Children's Museum

Sarah had the awesome idea to go to the Children's Museum today. It was nice to have something fun to do as a group on one of the coldest days of the year. The kids absolutely loved it. They are a little young for a lot of the stuff that's there, but one of Sarah's friends who has a three year old came, and it was neat to see what she was into. We spent a lot of time upstairs in the "nursery" - which had a sand table, a giant Lite Brite, a ramp, train table and fish tank, among other things. We did not venture into the water table room, because even a place as fun as the Children's Museum cannot stave off naptime. I contemplated buying a membership...for $99 you get unlimited admission for a year and $3 parking.

After the museum, we had the all-too-rare opportunity to hang out at home. Mark and Laurel made egg parathas while I ran out to stock up for the Steeler game tomorrow. One thing we noticed about Laurel this weekend is that her language is developing like crazy. (Note to self...no more cursing!) Today she said "dough", "no", "uh oh", "up", and "nanana" for banana. She is awesome at taking trash and putting it in the garbage can when we tell her to. She is also vastly more cooperative when I'm getting her dressed if I give her directions and let her help. (If you've ever been at my house during bath time you know it involves a lot of chasing a naked toddler around while she alternately howls and hides behind the furniture.)

The other thing she is really into is writing with a pen. I think this has something to do with all the worksheets they do at daycare. Since she's moved up to the toddler room, they have art and activities together with some of the preschool kids. This week they worked on the numbers 3 and 4 and the letter I. She brings home a worksheet that is scribbled all over with crayon pretty much every day. I am reluctant to give her crayons, because she doesn't seem to get the difference between writing on paper vs. everything else. However, she hasn't yet figured out how to take the cap off a pen, so now it's just a lot of pretend writing at home, unless I'm there with her. I know, I know, it's only a matter of time.

Anyway, enjoy the photos of Laurel and her friends at the museum.

Most Shocking Responses to the Midterm

3/4 + 3/8

The sales tax is 7%. Calculate the total if the subtotal was $84.04.

If you could change one thing about this class, what would it be?
Give us more homework (from the student who never does homework)

Yesterday was a full-blown clerical day...that is, no obligations, meetings, or trainings. Show up, get a bagel from the cafeteria and work. For a special education teacher, this is pure bliss. I have so many things to do in a typical day - tracking down students and talking to teachers about accommodations, parent phone calls, writing documents for IEPs, holding meetings, etc. Oh yeah, and don't forget teaching six classes a day.

Several of my students are pure slackers. They don't do homework, they lose their books, they complain endlessly and loudly in class, they refuse to take notes. But because they have IEPs it's my responsibility to document all the ways we're helping them to overcome the incredible (sarcastic) strains we place upon them. Bring a pencil. Do the six homework problems I assigned (in the time during class that I give you to work on them. Shut the hell up when the teacher's talking.

Last week, several of these students, independently, said that they weren't worried about their grades because last year they "didn't do any work at all in social studies/science/math/consumer science and still passed" because their teachers were "nice". Cue laughter among students. Hmmm....

I warned them. High school isn't like that. You need credits to graduate. Your grades are a permanent part of your record that will be released to any job or school in the future that requests them. High school teachers will fail you. High school special education teachers bear the burden of documenting all the things we do to help (tutoring, extra time for tests, having your tests read aloud, shortened assignments, preferential seating). But we will still fail you.

One semester down, one to go. I'm putting together a sort of writing/reflection component for our pre-algebra class for the second half of the year. I finally have access to edit my course websites, so I'll be building those. I'm excited about some problem solving activities I'm introducing in my lowest level math class. I got the grant to fund my classroom Wii, so we'll be starting to use that for motivation and team building. I rearranged the desks into group tables.

When you teach lower level math to students who have historically struggled with math, you can easily fall into a trap where you eliminate higher level thinking. Instead of showing how or why a linear equation works, we just say here are the steps for finding the solution. No context. Just follow the instructions. The only question some math teachers ask is "what do you do next?" Last semester, I worked on asking more difficult questions - why does that work? Can you find the error in my work? How did you know you were right? Is there another way to solve that?

This semester, I want to teach them to talk about and puzzle over a problem with a partner or two. All attempts to have students do this to date have utterly failed. They sit there like lumps until I prompt them along. They are afraid to be wrong or to try things out without knowing that it's the "right way". We'll see what happens.


Here's What I Love....

I love when a friend texts me at lunch time and invites us over for cappuccino (thanks Elaina!) and the kids fight over toys and giggle at each other and almost-but-not-quite start a game of chase.

I love a last minute decision to drive into town to pick up M and getting stuck in traffic but the whole family is together for a change and we almost run out of gas and have to stop to fill up the tank and our bellies with Nutter Butters and cheese sticks because it takes an hour and a half to get home.

I love all of us getting into our pj's and reading stories in bed and Laurel insisting that she read the stories now, not us.

And I especially love the announcement by Swissvale police that there is a warrant out for the arrest of one of the bad guys messing with our 'hood. Go away bad guys, you are not wanted here.


Back in the Swing...

It was back to work for Laurel and I today. After a strange long weekend with house-guests and a burglary, a sick day, canceled plans, and finding a dead body in the river, we were ready. A rush hour ice storm granted us a two hour delay, so Laurel and I got to leave the house after sunrise, for a change. I thought I would get to work early and catch up on my paperwork, but of course, Laurel took the worlds biggest crap right before I put her coat on, necessitating changes of clothes for all parties involved. Then we both took spills on the icy driveway getting into the car. I thought it might be a rotten day, but it got better from there.

Because there were other kids at daycare when we arrived, Laurel immediately went to work greeting her little friends and hunting down her favorite toys. It's a lot easier to leave your baby after a long weekend together when she doesn't even watch you walk out of the room.

The students weren't too bad today. I reread my Fred Jones book over the weekend, and relaxing my jaw really does go a long way towards "meaning business", as he puts it. I'm worried about the midterms tomorrow...I had 7th period all cranked up to play a review game today, and when I put up the first question, it was all crickets and gulping. But maybe I'll ask you to describe how the base 10 number system works, and see what you do.

After school we had an impromptu playdate with my neighbor Stephanie and her daughter Olivia. Olivia quickly gravitated towards the tea set, but there were only a few minor scuffles over tea spoons and saucers. Stephanie gave me an excuse to brew a late afternoon pot of coffee and we chatted in two and a half sentence segments in between scooping toddlers off the stair case.

The whole neighborhood is on edge because of a rash of escalating armed robberies. I called my neighbor Marlene after I put Laurel to bed, while I was waiting for M to get home, and we made plans, as we always do, for rescuing each other from various criminal scenarios. When M arrived home safe and with bounty from the restaurant supply store, I finally relaxed. Not a peep from the babe, and I'll make it to bed before 10PM. I know I can't count on a two hour delay tomorrow, so I'll be ready to get up at 5 and start the whole thing over again.

One thing I have to say, is there may actually be something to my Uncle Joe's advice to say "I get to go to work today" instead of "I have to go to work today".

Oh, and relax your jaw.


Grandparents Day

Laurel and I recuperated from our colds with the help of a visit from my parents. Honestly, I don't know what I would do without them. My mom brought her infamous "B Bag" and my dad helped me dispose of our Christmas tree and took my trash out. They even got us dinner and did the dishes! My nose is still stuffy, but I feel very relaxed going into the week. Here you can see Laurel practicing her geography with my mom. Laurel is really obsessed with writing with a pen or marker right now. However, she does not yet understand to keep the pen on the paper! So, for now, she has to pretend, unless she is strictly supervised. Otherwise, we find pen marks on everything!

Hopefully this week will be better than last week. We have only three days with students, and I will be giving midterms for most of them. Friday is a clerical day for staff, which usually means they promise that we will get to catch up on our paperwork and grades, but then last minute schedule a bunch of pointless meetings. However, rumor has it that it will be a real and true clerical day. I hope so, because I am in desperate need of some time to work on an overdue re-eval.


a Meal with a toddler

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No sooner do I, .....

That child likes to make a liar out of me. Also, M warned me about typing anything related to her sleep. She woke up Thursday night with a fever and a cough, which naturally disrupted her sleep. I took yet another sick day on Friday, but to be honest, I needed the day off, too.

Yeah, I've been going nuts this week. Cursing this working mom crap. Angry at winter. Hating my students. Having a sick kid was exactly what I needed to refocus. Laurel was wandering around this morning, looking bleary-eyed, and rubbing her head a lot. We asked her what hurt. "Gogle gook," she said. I have no idea what that means.Then she brought over a bottle of tylenol and opened her mouth wide like a little bird. So maybe goggle gook means "I have a headache, please bring me some tylenol and put me back to bed"? She napped all morning after that.

I was reading the New York Times this morning and came across this piece on mom blogs. Mom blogs are all the rage. People either are passionately devoted to a mom blogger or they despise her and flame her blog with all kinds of hateful comments. This article is about how mom bloggers seem to attract tragedy, or sometimes the blog is born out of a tragedy. One of the bloggers cited just happened to be a victim of the Tucson shooting.

I was suddently very grateful for the lack of tragedy in our lives. For all the concussions and vandalism and burglary and traffic accidents of the recent past, we are all alive and healthy. I was in a terrible mood last night because someone stole the porch lights off the side of our house. Luckily my dad came to the rescue and put some new lights up. And then packed Laurel up and took her home with him.

I have a good dad.

M canceled his camping trip and we instead stayed at home and ordered a pizza and ate it right out of the box, both of us sitting in the armchair together with a blanket over our legs. We had a heart to heart about living here and life dreams and where we want to go in the future and what we should do with all the anger you feel when someobody screws with you or your stuff.

I have a good husband.

And even as I'm typing those words, a whole flood of other kind acts starts washing over me, and even though I'm sitting alone at the dining room table I suddenly feel like Patti and Karen and Sarah and Stephanie and my mom and Leah and Caveman and Marlene and David and my great aunts and the executive director from the Community Design Center of Pittsburgh are all sitting here giving me a giant hug. And then I feel like I'm at the Academy Awards making a babbling speech where I suddenly realize there's a whole lot of other people to thank, and the music is playing and I'm chased off stage.

So now I will tell you a funny story about Laurel. She is in that stage where she likes to find things and bring them to us. Or alternately, she likes to take things from us and stash them places. There are blocks and pacificers and pieces of toy trucks hidden in the pantry. When she finds crumbs or old cheerios on the floor she puts them in the little sauce pot on the bottom shelf, that is, if she's not hungry at the moment. On Thursday morning, as I was getting dressed she ran off with my glasses. I'm terribly blind without my glasses. There is no possibility of me being able to drive or function at work whatsoever without them. So picture a half dressed mama and daddy chasing a half dressed toddler yelling, "Where did you put them? Where are the glasses? Go bring the glasses to mommy!" And picture also Laurel running around with excitement because we don't usually have time to play chase in the morning and isn't this fun! And when we finally caught her and asked her again, she said "dadish" and pointed at the record player, and of course they weren't there.

Eventually, I found them under the radiator.


First words? And other milestones?

An ad popped up on my browser today for a service that turns your blog into a soft-cover book. It reminded me that this blog serves as a Laurel's baby book and therefore I must be diligent about recording all the little milestones that pass by in the course of ordinary days. And so, I will record....

As a linguist, watching Laurel's speech develop has been a fascinating real-world example of things I learned from textbooks and lectures. I don't remember the first time she said mama, although I think she said dada first. She uses the word baba to mean milk, or bottle at this point, but it used to mean nursing. Miss Sue heard her say "crackers" the other day when she pulled her lunch box out at daycare. I heard her say something that really sounded like "record" as a request to put on a record (we have a record player in our bedroom and it's become a comforting ritual for us all to listen to a record both in the morning when we get up and as we're getting Laurel settled in the evening). But it's hard for me to say that she actually talks. It's more babbling, with the occasional syllable that sounds recognizable. She says something all the time that sounds like "gogle-gloock", and looks at me with a serious expression, blue eyes wide and blinking and waiting for me to get it. But I don't know what it means.

Her receptive language is obviously far more developed. She points to her nose, eyes, mouth, fingers, toes and belly on command. She can follow a single-step direction like "put that in the garbage can" or "give that to mommy". She likes to mimic nursery rhymes, and she pretend reads her books.

As for other milestones, she's getting better about using her potty chair. We don't have a reliable way for her to communicate when she wants to go, although if we happen to go upstairs, she will just go and sit on it. But I put her on it when she gets up in the morning, after naps and before the bath tub and she very often goes. I've had a couple of dry diapers in the last day or two, which I consider a true victory.

She is also, thankfully, sleeping all night. A few weeks ago she started to reliably sleep for 6 or 7 hours at a time. Technically, this is the definition of sleeping through the night. However, a baby who goes to bed at 7:00pm and is awake 6 hours later...well, you do the math. So, while it was an improvement, it was not awesome. I was still getting up twice a night with her, before the 5 am alarm, and that does not make for a very happy math teacher. During the last few days, she has started to sleep 10 or 11 hours at a time. That, dear readers, is awesome. I've had three solid nights of sleep in a row and feel like I'm starting to recover from a long illnes.

The best new milestone that I can think of is her desire and ability to play. She loves to be chased and to hide under the covers. We play tea party and pour pretend tea into her cups. She makes the same sound I do when pretending to fill up the cups.

She's also starting to be kind of helpful around the house. She does whatever I'm doing in the kitchen, so if I'm cooking at the stove, she grabs a pot and stirs vigorously. But she'll actually help with the chores, too. Yesterday we mopped the floor together. She will put things away if I tell her. The other day I took her downstairs to the laundry and she was helping to toss the wet laundry into the dryer.


Snow Day!

School was canceled today. Of course, the announcement came rather late in the morning, after we had already answered our 5:00am wake up call (which comes in the form of an alarm clock, as well as a toddler). The three of us bundled up and went outside to tackle the sidewalk and driveway.

Today reminds me of last winter when Laurel and I were snowbound for half the winter. We ventured out when we had to, but for the most part, we spent January and February snuggling upstairs in her cozy nursery. I think being cooped up in the house every day would drive her crazy now. She went through all the downstairs toys before I even gave her breakfast, and moved on to trying to figure out how to hold the picture she colored up on the fridge with a magnet.

Laurel conked out for an unusual morning nap, so I am lingering over a cup of coffee and searching online for recipes that use lentils (we have a five pound bag).


Not smug at all....

Stupid autofill. I have nothing to be smug about. Life is kicking my butt all over the place. But right now I am once again snug in my bed, not smug as I wrote yesterday.

Today I looked up and Laurel was sitting in this drawer. She is a goofball, but also very interested in helping...she helped me put the wet laundry into the dryer, and put her books away when I told her to. And she peed in the potty. Her babbling is sounding a lot more conversational. She definitely said Elmo, cheese, and record today (she likes Bin Iver too).
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I can't stop listening to For Emma. Forever Ago

That has nothing to do this photo. For Emma, Forever Ago is the name of a not-so-new Bon Iver album that we happen to have on vinyl. It's been in heavy rotation since we moved our record player up to our bedroom. There are a many awesome things about January and being tucked all smug in my bed listening to records is one of them.

Making the family holiday visit rounds is another one. This weekend we traveled down to the Eastern Shore of Maryland for a little Camp Manzi fun.
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Lunchtime and a Promotion (?)

Lunch rolls around early for me. School starts at 7, and I've taught four classes and homeroom by the time the bell rings at 10:35 and my lunch starts. I can not handle sassy teenagers on an empty stomach, so I stocked up on Luna bars and frozen burritos and keep them at school in case I don't have time to pack a lunch. However, thankfully, I live with M and he doesn't just pack a lunch, he makes it pretty and delicious. These lunches are packed in the bento tradition, which in Japan is traditionally rice or fish with small cuts of vegetables. You can read more about it here. M's version this week was made up of what we had on hand...but he made use of the fancy waffle cut blade on the mandoline. At first, I thought it was kind of a waste of time...I generally just slop some leftovers in a tupperware and call it a day. But I have to admit, it was really fun to eat, and more fun to show off. You might be wondering how M has time to make such elaborate lunches with all of his other commitments. Well, I'm not really sure, but he has also managed to make a batch of soap and is milling some wheat berries that he sprouted and dehydrated. (And it's only Tuesday!)

In other exciting news, Laurel is trying out the young toddler room this week. Basically they send the kids upstairs to the toddler room for a couple of hours at a time to see how they handle a new room and a new schedule. She loved it. Today I went to pick her up at 3 and she was sitting at the table having a snack with all the "big kids". Then she showed me her new coat hook and mail box. She even took a nap on a cot today. But one of the changes we have to make is to send food that she can eat herself. So bento is a perfect approach to packing her lunch. For anyone who is searching for foods to give to their toddlers visit this website for some great ideas. The blogger has a four year old and tons of ideas for foods to give a little one that are not goldfish crackers or cheese, which I must admit, I fall back on from time to time. I think the only thing you need to be cautious about for the under 2 crowd would be choking hazards...nuts, chewy dried fruit, etc.


Christmas 2010