Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Efforts Not Rewarded

For the past three years I have been working on earning a reading specialist endorsement. This has excited my building's administration, who have been following my progress closely for over a year now. About a month ago I finished my last class and took the Praxis (which is a required test to earn the endorsement). Unfortunately for me, I did not pass it to Oregon standards the first time. Because both principals have voiced interest in moving me to a specialist position once the coursework is done and the test passed, I felt more than a little pressured to pass the test before the next school year.
This is why, the second that I found out that I had not passed, I signed up for the next one offered. There are only two more options before September, and I wouldn't get the scores back for the last one until a week before school starts. I wanted to give myself the best chance for passing before they needed me. Today, all of that changed. We've known for about a week that we will be cutting some programs/positions due to the budget projected for next year. Unfortunately for me, one program they will be "scaling back on" are reading intervention classes.
This means that the work that I have done, the stress that I have felt, the pressure that I have put on myself, was not at all needed. I have at least another year before there will even be the possibility that I will use the degree. It's not only frustrating because I have been expecting a new focus for quite a while (with admin. reassurance), but I'm also frustrated specifically about the next test that I am now signed up for. It just happens to fall on the day/time of my mom's college graduation. When I thought people were relying on me and that there was a time schedule, I was frustrated, but willing to take the test that day. But now that none of that is happening, I'm more than frustrated.
I've already looked into canceling the session, but in perfect ETS fashion the deadline has passed and at this point, I would pay for the test either way. I still want the degree for myself, and would re-take the test either way, but I would not have chosen the day of my mom's graduation and would not have been so stressed had I known this would be the situation. I do not blame the administration at all. I would much rather they "scale back" a bit on some things than loose people, days, or programs all together. It just would have been so nice to know a while back, so that I wouldn't be missing an important moment in my mom's life. : (

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Everyone Says "They Come in Threes"

Everyone says that terrible, horrible, very bad things come in threes. Well, I sure hope so! That would mean that Joe and I have met our quota and should get some good luck for a bit. Over the weekend, Joe mowed the lawn. Well, sort of. It took him three times longer than usual because the mower was running slow and not really doing its job well. By the time the front and back yard were done, it was almost dead and now it won't even start. Looks like we will either be buying a new lawn mower, or paying to get it repaired.
A few days ago, I started the dishwasher and it made several new sounds that I have never heard before. The dishes came out clean (this time), but I have a feeling the end is near. We can handle washing dishes by hand for a while, but eventually that will be another thing to replace.
Then just today Liam and I came home to a very cold house. I thought that the timer just wasn't working, so I turned it on and walked away. A little while later, Joe came home, noticed it was still cold, checked the furnace, and realized that the igniter was broken. This too is not a huge deal. It's an easy fix, and is relatively inexpensive to fix. However, we leave tomorrow morning for Bend for the long weekend. My poor sister is going to house-sit. Hopefully in a warm house.
This is only our third month on our new budget, but situations like this seem to keep popping up. This is making it quite difficult to stick to our cash-only, money-allotted financial plan. As I said above, hopefully this is the end of our crappy luck and things will turn around just in time for my summer days with my little man.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Writing Makes Me Happy!

This week has been extremely crazy! So many ups and downs, and it's only Wednesday. Yesterday, I found out that although I passed in every other state (by far), I did not pass the reading specialist Praxis to Oregon standards. This means that I will be taking the test @7:30am on the day of my mom's college graduation, which will begin at 10:30am. It's going to be a busy/stressful morning. I hate to miss any part of my mom's graduation, but I don't have much of a choice considering that the test is only offered two more times before I begin teaching again in the fall. It makes me feel like a horrible daughter, but not passing the test the first time is making me feel like a terrible teacher and as though I have let down my principal.
As for work, I have spent the past two days, full days mind you, scoring sixth, seventh, and eighth grade writing assessments. I don't want to read another word! I'm exhausted. Also, the SSD budget for next year was approved last night, which has caused a great deal of stress within out building and throughout the district. I think that we (myself included) are in a much better situation than many other districts in the area, but it is still scary to think that we could loose friends in this process.
But in the midst of all of the hoopla, there are some very bright spots this week! We leave for Bend on our annual "friend va-ca" as soon as I get off work Friday. It will be a short trip, but I think it will be just what I need to get through the school year. A change of scenery, relaxation, a hot tub, shopping, and great friends is exactly what I need right now! Also, Liam's little sickness passed very quickly and his nightly routine, miraculously, was unchanged. Work-outs with mom have been a great stress-reliever, and the school year is quickly wrapping up.
When I began to write this post, I was thinking about all the tiring, stressful, sad stuff that has been weighing me down all day. But as I wrote, the positives started to jump out at me. Now, all I can do is think ahead. All of the great plans and the milestones in my near future are exciting and exhilaration. Life is so funny! One minute you feel like junk, the next you can't stop smiling. I love it!!

Friday, May 18, 2012

A Disappointing Day...So Far

I woke up this morning with an excitement associated with test results. Today was supposed to be the day when I would learn my PRAXIS test score. I have been waiting on pins and needles to see if I have to take the test over, or if I can officially call myself a Reading Specialist. Unfortunately, after listening to ten minutes worth of ramblings on the other end of the phone line, I was asked to give my credit card number. When I declined, I was informed that the test results would be posted online next week and if I wanted them sooner, I would have to pay a fee. This was irritating! I have already paid this company $210 so far (that's if I don't have to take the test again), and now they want me to pay $30 to get my score?! No way! I will wait, in a horrible mood, but I will wait.
I told myself that this was just a minor and short-term set back and tried to move on with my day. For the past week or so, I've been waiting to receive a reimbursement check from the school district for a class that I took in the spring. Joe and I have a long list of household chores that we plan to accomplish with this extra money. But was it waiting for me? No. I checked in several times today, hoping that it would be waiting so that we could get some projects done this weekend. This is important to us since our weekends are booked pretty tightly from now until July. So this weekend would be our only hope of getting it all done at once.
Also, Fridays are supposed to be the relaxing part of the week. We are supposed to go home, put our feet up, and enjoy our family. However, this is one of those magical Fridays where I have to go back to work in the afternoon. Now don't get me wrong! I'm so appreciative that the school district gives us time to meet with our colleagues and that they are willing to pay me to attend. But it's difficult to come home, relax for an hour or two, and then head back. My mind is already turned off. My work ethic, at this point, is shot, and I miss my baby boy!
Ok. Now that I was able to get all those frustrating feelings out, I'm ready for an exciting and optimistic second half to my day.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Movies in Our House

It took me quite a while to notice this, but since Liam has been old enough to watch whole movies, I lost my ability to watch  them. There are two main reasons for my inability to see a movie all the way through:
#1- Every time I turn on a movie that I would like to watch, suddenly his life is ending and he is in need of my full and complete attention.
#2- When I turn on a movie that he wants to watch, I'm instantly in "get something done" mode. I have always known that I try to utilize any time I have to clean, grade papers, cook/bake, read, do homework, make phone calls, etc. But I didn't realize the full extent of it until this past weekend.
On Saturday morning Liam asked to watch Cars 2 for the.....I don't know.....2,546th time. I argued with him just a bit, trying to talk him into another movie that we haven't watched quite so often. It didn't work. As I sat with him, sipping my hot chocolate, I realized I didn't recognize whole sections of the movie! Later this week, he asked to watch Kung Fu Panda (yet another movie we've watched countless times). Yet again I noticed complete, plot changing parts of the movie that I couldn't remember seeing before.
It's so strange how we can get so tired of "watching" something that we have never really sat down and watched! I learned two things about myself through this realization:
#1- I use my Liam-movie-time very well.
#2- I really should sit down and watch some of these movies with him. They are pretty entertaining!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Super Daddy!

Mother's Day is a holiday devoted to all of the things that mamas do for their babies. However, today I learned how truly blessed I am to have such a wonderful husband! I woke up at 7:30 am.....yes 7:30! Joe got up with Liam so that I could get some much needed rest. When I finally made my way downstairs, there was a very happy little guy waiting to say, "Happy Mother's Day Mommy!" I also had a beautiful antique fruit bowl, that matches our kitchen decor perfectly, waiting on the kitchen table. If that wasn't enough, it was filled with all of my favorite snacks and there was a Sunday Oregonian (for coupon clipping) sitting next to it. Joe and Liam had already taken a trip to the store just to help me getting my couponing fix!
Within minutes, my breakfast was made and served. It was so yummy! We went for a walk to Target to get Liam some much-needed warm-weather-wear and stopped at a park on the way home. It was so beautiful and warm this morning, that we spent almost an hour just relaxing at the park. When we got home, Liam was ready for a nap, so Joe and I were able to relax. Well, sort of. Joe cleaned the garage (which was a huge gift to me!) and I spent hours in the backyard gardening and enjoying the sun.
When Liam finally woke up (it was a three and a half hour nap), we headed to my mom's house for a family BBQ. My grandparents, mom and step-dad, three of my sisters and one fiance, my niece, and our family were the attendees. We made delicious food and played on the slip and slide. It was so relaxing and enjoyable to sit at the table on the deck, talking to the other strong women in my family, while Joe chased Liam all over. I was able to eat every meal in peace, get through an entire conversation without interruption, and lay back and get a tan.
My mom gave me a very pretty pink geranium as a gift, which means more work for Joe. I have been trying to talk him into tearing out an ugly plant in our front flowerbed, and receiving this plant sealed it's fate! But did my husband complain? Nope! He smiled and said he would clear the unattractive plant out by next weekend, so I can plan the new one.
On the way home, he insisted that we stop. Where?......Burgerville! He went in and got us fresh strawberry milkshakes (my favorite!). Once home, he got Liam dressed and ready for bed, read him books, and is currently rocking him  while I get some distraction-free mommy time. Next on the agenda, a bubble bath and some girly tv before heading to bed to dream about days like today and husbands like the one I have.
Today was supposed to be all about me and everything that I do for my family, but it ended up being a day full of reminders of just how lucky I am to have my boys.

Happy Mother's Day to all the mommies out there!

Friday, May 11, 2012

Mom Enough!

Why do we do this to ourselves?! Why do we feel the need to put others down or insult their choices? The answer make ourselves feel better. But if we all just made the best decisions for us and kept that in mind when judging others, we would all have higher self-esteem and would be happier in our lives.

The most recent Times Magazine cover is insulting to parenting on so many levels it's a crime! Don't get me wrong, I nursed my son exclusively for 15 months. It was hard work, but it was important to me and I was blessed enough to have it work out. But that doesn't make me more of a mom. It makes me a happier mom because it was a personal goal, but it in no way makes me better than someone who couldn't or just didn't choose to nurse.

Being a parent is 100% about doing what is best for YOU and YOUR family, not doing what is "best", because honestly, there is no such thing. Every child is different, every parent is different, every situation is different, reactions-different, etc. As a parent, the most important choices you make are personal and individual. This is why it drives me crazy when social media, people you know or people you don't, magazines, tv shows, etc. paint a cookie-cutter picture.

No I don't look like you, that doesn't make me ugly. I don't parent like you, that doesn't mean that you are better mom than me. I'm not as skinny as a model on a run way, that doesn't make me unhealthy. I'm not talkative, that doesn't mean I'm not as smart as you. The list goes on and on. We are bombarded with images of what is "best" from the moment we are born. Until people learn that there is no such thing, we are going to continue to deal with a society of name-callers and insecurities.

Why can't we stand up for other mommies instead of put them down? You don't have to agree on parenting choices to be kind and understanding. We make choices based on things that no one else knows or understands. It's important to keep that in mind when you are about to put someone down for the choices that they make.

Are you "mom enough" to be excepting of the choices that others make without criticism and judgement?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

I Guess I Surprise People.....

After taking a few minutes to share in the wonderful lunch that our administration set out for us in honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, I was heading to my classroom to get my things, when a familiar face stopped me in the halls.
"You went to Newberg High School, right?", she said.
"Yep. That's right......Oh, that's why you look familiar! You were a teacher there." I said.
She gave me a bit of an up-down look, then said, "Wow! It looks like you've done pretty well for yourself!"
I responded with an enthusiastic "Thanks!" while really thinking, "Hmmm. What is she trying to say?"
"Being a TA is an amazing job, isn't it?" she asked.
I had to think about this for a second. Apparently, she had the wrong impression and I needed to find a way to let her know without making the conversation uncomfortable.
"Yes, being a TA is a wonderful job. I loved it when I was one at Chehalem Valley a few years back, but I really love being a teacher. It's so rewarding!", was the response that I came up with.
"Oh my! YOU are a teacher here?!"
I tried really hard not to take this personally. I told myself that she responded in this way because she thought I look too young to be a teacher. Or because based on her observations of me in high school, she thought I would go into another field. Certainly, she was not surprised because of my grades in high school. I worked very hard while there and earned a high GPA. My ability to work with kids couldn't be the issue either. I spent 3 years of high school working in the Life Skills classroom with disabled children, and volunteered at two local elementary schools.
So why then, was she so surprised to see me at a middle school as a 6th grade teacher?
The short answer is, I don't know. She told me that she was extremely proud of me for making it "this far". To which I said, "Thank you." With what I'm sure was a confused look on my face, I walked out to my car. It wasn't until I was halfway home, that I realized how many people have had that reaction to me and just about anything that I accomplish.
Why is it that people have such specific and strong ideas about who I am and what I am capable of? I have wanted to be a teacher since I was very young. I spent my days lining up my stuffed animals and reading to them. Being a teacher has almost (there were a few years, after Free Willy, where I wanted to be a dolphin trainer) never been a question for me. Yet no one seems to "see" me in this role.
Maybe it's because I tend to be quiet and I'm short. Believe me, both of these qualities come in very handy when dealing with the middle school population. I don't know why people react to me the way that they do. But I'm going to learn to take it as a compliment and be happy that I seem to exceed most people's expectations of me.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


I have always struggled with being content with the situation that I'm in. Not because I want more things, but because Joe and I seem to have set backs pretty regularly. I'm always thankful and happy about what we have and who we have become. I try very hard to be positive about the situations that we find ourselves in, but just like everyone else, there are times where life makes us feel inadequate and behind the curve.
I teach both ancient India and ancient China which come consecutively in my yearly curriculum plan. This year, I paid extra attention to the teachings of the major thinkers of that time period. Laozi, Confucius, and Buddha were instrumental in the development in these ancient super-powers, and now, in my life. Ever since writing a research paper about Buddhism in my Freshman Inquiry class in college, I have felt very close to the teachings that make up the religion.
I have mushed these three belief-systems into one to create my own spiritual path. Laozi focused on nature and our need to respect/protect it. Confucius believed that we should put or families and communities first. The Buddha believes that we create our own suffering and that needing/having possessions is not the way to true happiness. I think that the biggest take-away of these points is that I need to remember that I need to focus on all of the amazing things I have (family, friends, health, safety, a community, the beautiful nature that surrounds us, etc.).
Several situations have arose recently that have reminded me of all of the wonderful things that I have to be thankful for: a scary situation with my son,  a documentary about the need for water in other countries, the fact that I still have a career that I love even in this horrible economy, my son's birthday party attended by all of the amazing people in our lives, my students, having a roof over our heads, the sunshine we have been experiencing these past few days,.......and the list goes on and on.
I get one life and I'm going to make the most out of it! Both for myself and for the people who come after me.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Imperfection and Insecurity

Why is that we put so much pressure on ourselves to make others think we have it all together? I'm not perfect, my life isn't perfect, my body isn't perfect, my relationship with my husband isn't perfect, my son isn't the perfect child, I'm not the best teacher, etc. I will willingly admit this to anyone and everyone. I love the saying:

 "Aim for success, not perfection. Never give up your right to be wrong, because then you will lose the ability to learn new things and move forward with your life." David M. Burns

I look at being imperfect as a right and privileged. I know that we say this to kids all the time, and that most of adults think it's crap, but I really do appreciate that we are all unique. I have strengths that others don't and they have abilities in areas that I lack. Associating with people who possess things that we wish to have (emotionally, educationally, personally-not monetarily or possessions), is how we learn and grow into the people we want to be. 
I have learned so much from the people around me, that I wouldn't be who I am without them! My husband has taught me to be open, laid-back, and responsible. My parents have taught me to be independent, respectful, and work hard for what I want in life. My students teach me on a daily basis, but their lessons include patience, laughter is a daily requirement, listen when spoken to, etc. My son has taught me that there are things in life worth far more than a nice car and the clothes in my closet, that you can love something far more than you ever thought was possible, and that life is all about the small things.
It makes me so sad to see/hear all of the people who think that the only way to be happy with themselves is to pretend that their lives are perfect, and to put others down for the things that they lack. No one has it all, no one ever will, so stop pretending and be proud of what you have accomplished rather than what you have. 
We are to blame for the feelings of unhappiness that plagues our lives. When we are critical of others it not only causes hurt feelings, anxiety, and stress, but it also causes the insecurities that riddles our society. If we just gave everyone some slack and respected their right to be different, look different, have different plans in life, believe different things, and have different goals, we would all feel better about ourselves!

"The reason that we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else's highlight reel." -Steve Furtick

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A Theory

A few months back, while teaching my 6th graders about hominids (early forms of man), a great discussion came about. I was specifically talking about the changes from hominid to hominid (walking upright, skull shape, facial features etc.), when a student asked if their hair loss was a form of evolution. At the time, I told her yes and explained that the earlier hominids needed more hair to protect themselves from the elements. As they evolved, and became smarter, they learned how to protect themselves in other ways and the hair slowly began to disappear from their bodies.
Another student then asked if their extra-hairy uncle was still a hominid, since he still needed so much "protection". Without meaning to, this student had created what the rest of the class thought was a pretty funny joke. We all had a good laugh and moved on with the lesson. It took some time, but as I recently recounted this story for a friend of mine, I realized that my students may have been on to something.
All this time people have said that Alopecia is a disease, that it is a genetic mutation, the product of stress and an overactive immune system, but what if they're wrong?! What if those of us with Alopecia are just the next step on the evolution continuum? It is a scientifically proven fact, that species loose the features that they no longer need, and hair has always been one of these features.
Maybe, just maybe, those of us with Alopecia have more advanced bodies, that have already learned to adapt without hair. This would make sense when you take into account that it tends to be more prevalent in families that have a history. Are Alopecia sufferers really suffering, or are we leading mankind to the next step? To be honest, when I had the idea to write about this, I thought that it would be a funny explanation for my alopecia friends and I to share with the curious people that we encounter. However, the more I write and the more I think about it, the more I believe that I (and my students) may really be on to something!

Is it just me, or it there a bald head at the end of the line!