It's the last day of the year and I'm speechless. But here's a picture round up of the year.

I spent some time here staring at tufts of miniature green leaves, trying to determine if they were carrots or some unwanted intruder to be removed.

I spent a lot of time chasing after this girl. She never stops moving. 1106_Chicago_41

I thought a lot about justice and equality. I pondered my role in perpetuating social problems. I thought about the kind of teacher I want to be, and what I want my students to learn about the world.

I fell in love with this guy again. Can you believe it's been 15 years of M & K?

We ate a lot of bread.

Our family changed a lot.

We bought this. Still trying to figure out what to do with it.

I spent some good times with these women.


Merry Christmas to You...

I'm sitting here tonight, the night after Christmas, in a dim living room. It's not quiet, because I have Sufjan Stevens cranked up on the record player. Mark is working in the other room, doing a little coding. Laurel is upstairs, presumably falling asleep. Our Christmas tree is still lit by strings of multi-colored lights that seem to burn out and then come back spontaneously...a different section each time I plug in the tree. Must be a loose wire. Christmas this year was/is magical and chaotic, the way everything is when one of you is two.

I wish I had some photos to share. We tried to take some, and now I don't know where the camera is, and there's no way I'm coming out from my Santa Snuggie to hunt for it. (Especially since I cannot guarantee the quality of the images, when the parents were battling colds and the daughter was moving a hundred miles a minute.)

So, you'll have to rely on my words. Just picture the back of a thirty-some inch tall girl in red polka-dot tights, and bouncing blonde pig-tails, disappearing around the corner. Because she really didn't stop moving the whole weekend.

Christmas Eve and Christmas Day we visited with family. We're entering another phase where there seem to be more and more little ones running around each year. Mark's sister's daughter is just old enough to grab at wrapping paper and stare at Christmas lights. She has this way of making eye contact, bursting into a wide grin and then hiding her face in whoever's sleeve she happens to be sitting with. Also, she's little enough that she stays put. I love that age! (It's fleeting.)

The time with my family was characterized by good food, good drink and chasing Laurel all over whatever house we happened to be in. We did the traditional Christmas poppers, albeit in a very rushed way.

Christmas morning, we spent at home. Laurel definitely started to understand the concept of presents sometime around her birthday, so now she unwraps gifts with anticipation, and makes a lot of cute "oh, wow!" noises, regardless of what is inside. She likes to keep the bags and put other things in them, sometimes old toys or little scraps of paper. Later she'll pretend to go through the whole motion of openings gifts again, making equally cute and excited noises, even if what she's "opening" is a dirty sock.

M bought her (us?) a djembe. We also stocked up on art supplies, including a packet of googly eyes. Christmas carried over into today when we sat down together and did some spontaneous crafting. M surprised me with his early-childhood-educator skills (where did those come from??!!), as he designed a snow-man cut and paste art project on the fly.

The memories I will hold are mostly about things that just happened. Driving around late at night (well, late for us anyway) and looking at the Christmas lights. Listening to Laurel's jumbled Santa-Jesus-Birthday narrative. Secretly looking for mistletoe so I could kiss the guy who reminds me to Keep Calm and Carry On. Looking up at a sky full of stars - a rare event on our well-lit block - on Christmas Eve. Sitting here next to my Christmas tree, getting through the longest night of the year. Remembering that the dark nights are a necessary part of the cyclical nature of our existence.

Merry Christmas. I'm looking forward to spending the next week in reflection and preparation for 2012, and anticipating a happy new year.


Oh, December

December sucked and I've had about enough of it. But one good thing that happened was that this album arrived on our doorstop. Other good things included some incredibly well-timed play dates and moms-nights-out. They just happened, just when I needed them to...fitting perfectly into the fabric of an up-and-down life.

Anyway, I don't have any answers or wisdom. I just know that some days it makes sense to turn the record player up really loud.

I am here
You are all I have
Fire of fire
I'm insecure
For it is all
Been made to plan
Though I know
I will fail
I cannot
Be made to laugh
For in life
As in death
I'd rather be burned
Than be living in debt...



This is Laurel at 2 years 1 month. She smiles a lot. A big, toothy grin. She talks to us about everything, asks questions about how things work, and reminds us of things that happened in the past. Her favorite thing to talk about right now is this car accident that happened the weekend my Aunt Mary's neighbor Stephen stayed with us. The other day while we were driving she told me to go faster and I pointed out a speed limit sign and said, I want to follow the rule that is on that sign, and now she points out speed limit signs everywhere. When we decorated the tree she could find all the ornaments that had her name on them. "Oh my gosh," she says in a hushed voice, "Look at that orDAHment."

Her current favorite book is We're Going on a Bear Hunt, and her favorite activity is walking to school with M in the morning. I know this because on Friday we drove her to school and she completely flipped out because she wanted to walk. Also, people in the neighborhood sometimes approach me and say "I saw your husband walking with Laurel. They look like they're having such a fun time every day!"

We had a really hard week, but closed it out by getting a Christmas tree, and now the house smells good and the colored lights cast a warm glow in our living room.


Let's Talk Animals...and Drupal

Laurel went to the zoo yesterday with my parents while M and I went to Columbus for DrupalCamp Ohio. Drupal is an awesome open source platform for making websites. Drupal is doubly awesome for its community of enthusiastic volunteers who do everything from writing new code to improve functionality or fix bugs, to helping newbies like myself learn about it.

I'm in somewhat of a blissed out state this morning after spending all day with people who drove hours to meet up and talk about something they love, who actively learn new things and who want to help other people learn too.

I wish there was a Math Teacher Camp somewhere, where enthusiastic math teachers would come together and solve problems in our field and learn new things. Where I (a lowly Algebra 1 teacher) could sit down next to a calculus teacher, and not feel inferior. Where we could talk about problems in our field, say "this is stupid", and then actually do something about it.

Maybe I should organize one. In all my spare time.

Anyway, tonight the three of us will all be together again and we will share stories about our weekends. M will talk Drupal. I will talk math. Laurel will talk animals.

It is so important to be curious about something, and to foster that curiosity in your children. And beyond making sure that your kids have hobbies and interests, and access to books and information about whatever they are stoked about this week, YOU as a parent should have a hobby. They should see you reading a book, joining an online discussion group, attending a conference or meeting. Learning something. Loving something. Trying out something that is hard, and maybe even scares you a little bit.

Yesterday I got bold enough to sit in on a session with one of the top dogs in the Drupal community, and learn about building a module from scratch.


Holy crap.

Stretching my mind that far felt good. But it also felt scary. What if she calls on me and asks what a hook is? What if I do something wrong while I'm following along and blow up my computer?

2012 will be here before we know it. New Year's resolutions and all that. This holiday season, I encourage you to think about something new you'd like to learn. Make it bold. Make it hard. Don't worry about how you are going to learn it yet. Just pick it. And leave a comment with your 2012 passion/hobby/skill/knowledge...whatever it is that you can get excited about.