Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Who's Afraid of the Big, Bad Teacher?

Evidently my students are not. (Although, are many people afraid of curly haired Spanish teachers who are barely 5 feet tall?)

Today, I didn't let one of my students go to the Omaha Zoo. Last week I saw her texting - she had her phone in the pocket of her hoodie. I made eye contact and told her quietly, but firmly to stop. I made the announcement to the class that if they were caught texting during class, I would take their phone. Hello? - phone in the purse or pocket+ hands in there=not fooling anyone. I explained that if your phone goes off accidentally, I don't like it, but I understand that it happens, it's not intentional. But texting during class? Is sneaky, rude and shows a blatent disregard for the rules of our school.

So today, this same girl had her hands in the pocket of her hoodie, wiggling around- I was pretty sure she was texting, but not quite. Then, when she thought I wasn't looking, took the damn thing out. I just said her name and held out my hand. Surprisingly, she surrendered her phone.

Later, the kids were taking their first vocab quiz of the term. I spoke to them about cheating, and how it not only hurts them, but it shows such lack of integrity and do they really want to be remembered by me as The Cheater when they want me to fill out their National Honor Society apps or write letters of recommendation for them so they can get jobs and scholarships and into college. I told them that if they were at all talking during the quiz, they would receive a zero, and would not have the chance to make it up. I know, I'm such a hard-ass. About 3/4 of the class was finished, and some kids came up to my desk to ask me questions- blocking my view of the front row. It was like being ambushed by gypsies! One girl, who ironically is an integrated BD student told me quietly that the "girls in the front row were cheating". I glanced over and the girl who sits in front of Cell-phone Girl was turned sideways in her desk, textbook open, talking to her. Cell-phone Girl still had a quiz on her desk and was not finished. I said to the girl in the front row "Are you kidding me???" She kind of got this look on her face like "What? I've no idea what you're talking about." I silently, but ceremoniously found her quiz in the stack and tore it in 2 and threw it away. I then walked quietly over to Cell Phone Girl and tapped her paper and said "You can just keep that."
So THEN, when it was time to go, Cell Phone Girl has the audacity to ask for her damn phone back. I told her I was taking it to the Dean and that her parents would have to come get it. To which she responded by storming out of the room and attempting to slam the door, only it's one of those new fancy doors that doesn't slam- ha ha ha.
She came to find me after school with a woman I mistakenly thought was her mother, but is really her grandmother. And here's where I reveal how shallow I am. The woman had a mustache Burt Reynolds would be proud of. How the hell am I supposed to take her seriously when she shows up at school looking like Jo Jo the Dog Faced Boy? She explained to me that her grandaughter was getting a "legitimate text" from her mother, yada yada yada. I told her upper lip that they aren't to have them out in class at all. Ever.
I was still too mad to address the cheating issue right then.
The thing that gets me is that THEY are the ones who fucked up, not me. And yet THEY are the ones who are pissy with ME. I guess it comes with the age. And, they will try and get away with whatever they can. Grrrrr.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Where did My Baby Go?

Today is Claire's 9th birthday. Cliche as it sounds, I can hardly believe it. She has brought us so much joy and we loved her instantly, so much that for the first few months after she was born, I wanted to have 3 more kids. (!)
I worked right up until the Friday before she was born. I stayed late at school to make sure I had everything ready for the sub to come in on Monday. Thurs. night, things had started to "happen" in the labor realm and I just knew I wouldn't be back in on Monday. I had already collected the predictions from my crazy middle school students- boy or girl, weight, when the baby would come, name suggestions, etc. By the 23rd, I had already detatched myself from my students, ready to meet this new person.
I got home at about 5:00 and finally allowed myself to go into labor full force. I called my doula and she asked the predictable "how far apart are your contractions?" How the hell should I know? I'd never done this before. From what I managed to tell her, she was able to determine that I didn't need her right away and she could finish her dinner. Ok.
By 9:30, I was quite uncomfortable, so she came over for a while and told me AND Mr. T to try and get some sleep. No problema for Mr. T. For me? Well, I was horizontal, except during the contractions part. I kept telling myself it was ok, because by breakfast? I'd have me a baby.
Well, the sun came up, I was still having these wimpy contractions, but told myself it was ok, because I'd have a baby by lunch time.
Our doula came over at about 11. She put some washcloths in the crock pot to then put on my back- heaven, even if you're not in labor. I was having awful back contractions, and was trying to will that baby to come the hell out. I squatted, to get those pelvic bones to widen so she could come out. I listened to Art Garfunkel sing beautiful songs to his little boy. I let primal, gutteral noises come out of my mouth. I took blue or black cohosh tincture (gag.)I looked at my doula and asked the question: "Am I EVER going to feel normal again?"
By dinner time, I'd have a baby and it would all be worthwhile, right?
At 5:30, we decided to go to the hospital. The short drive there was awful. Standing in admitting, I remember thinking that I should not be seen by all of these people at the hospital, because I was in labor for christ's sake and that is a very private thing, people!
When the doc finally came in to see how things were progressing, or, in my case, NOT progressing, he said something about my water being broken. "oh, my water hasn't broken, " I said. He just looked at me. "Yes, it has," he told me. What the hell? Nobody told me it doesn't always break with a big splash. That news changed things, since they really don't like your water to be broken for longer than 24 hours before the baby is born- increase of infection.
I had a birth plan that stated my wish to be drug free. Woo hoo. When I got there, they did all those things the earthy doula told me they would- blood drawn, iv, fetal monitor. I did finally get a cool nurse who blew the dust of the birthing chair I requested. And there it sat in the labor and delivery room, waiting for me to use it. Taunting me. But, that was ok, right? Because by the time SNL was on, I'd have me a baby, right?
So, at about midnight, I finally asked for some light drugs- "to take the edge off". They gave me Stadol, which I would like to tell you all, is a VERY disappointing drug. Sure, I slept, but only long enough to wake up for contractions.
I was starting to get weary. I was stuck at 8 centimeters- since like 9:30.
By like 2:00 in the morning, we finally made the decision to do a C-section, and I was actually relieved. Our doctor was so sweet- he stepped out of the room to let us discuss it. When we finally gave the ok, things really started to move fast.
Mr. T was right there by my head, along with the trusty anethesthisiologist(you try spelling it, then). It was so weird. The meds made me shiver and shake uncontrollably. The sensation of having them slice me open and pull out a baby was bizarre. They brought her over and then whisked her away to clean her up.
I was too cold to enjoy the first few hours after she was born. She had to be put into the NICU to be on IV anti-biotics, since she was a meconium aspiration baby and we both had Strep A or D (not B). I ran a low-grade fever for several days, Claire had to be put on oxygen and Mr. T had a bad case of some mono- like virus. It was crazy. Oh, and I had to stay in bed for like 8 hours and lie still and only have liquids because one of my incision staples popped open and bled all over. They taped me up and told me not to move, in case they had to knock me out and re-do the staple. So, I didn't even get to hold Claire until that evening!
The up side was that my room was like a hotel room- I had a nice, private bathroom
with its own shower. The tv was in an entertainment center. It was Super Bowl Sunday- the nurse felt sorry for us and kept bringing us snacks. Someone brought me star gazer lilies that to this very day remind me of my Claire and our journey to get her here.
I've written much more than I intended too. Others have inspired me to write this all down- not having done it before. Part 2 later- the getting her home story.
For my Claire, Happy 9th Birthday, my sweet, sweet girl. To quote Sir Elton John, "I hope you don't mind that I put down in words how wonderful life is, while you're in the world."

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Casa de T

Our abode, looking extra snowy after a nice snow shower. I dare not call it wintry mix
Nothing like some snow to clean things up a bit.

You can just barely see Mr. T and Lydia making a snow friend- Victoria.

And here's a close-up of the front door, painted red, not visible through the storm door:

The view up one side of the street:

And down the other:

The girls had a great day playing in the snow. There is a small park across the street with a small sliding hill. It wasn't too cold and the snow was perfect for packing. I love it when it snows like this- not a blizzard, just nice, steady snow falling.

In other news, the T family is getting a new baño. Please don't pronounce it like the name of the lead singer of U2. I'll show you the "before" pictures, and then sometime this summer I'll show you the "after" shots. Wish us well.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

A Cuppa Joe

I promised adeline over at Chez What? that I would reveal my coffee story. So here goes.

I have always, always, always adored the smell of coffee. To me it meant that it was morning, but not quite time to get up. It meant people coming over. It meant vacation. My mom had one of those clear glass percolators that go on top of the stove. In a fit of nostalgia, I bought one at a garage sale a few years ago. I loved watching the clear water bubble and magically turn into coffee.

My mother and most midwesterners drink black coffee. Black coffee was my first introduction to the taste. I didn't like it. We were for the most part a Folgers family, straying over to Maxwell House or maybe Hills Brothers from time to time. There was always a jar of green-labeled Taster's Choice in the cupboard for the occasional de-caf guest.

When I was in high school, there was a sizable group of German students who came to our school on an exchange program that lasted about 6 weeks. My best friend hosted a German girl, so we spent a lot of time hanging out together. The Germans drank coffee. I was very much into all things European, so I started drinking coffee. I first doctored it up with plenty of milk and sugar and until I realized that I didn't really like the sugary taste and switched to just milk.

That following summer, I made a journey to New York state to spend some time with my long-estranged father. (another story, another time.) At his house, they drank Chock Full O Nuts. Yum. To this day, this is my "basic" coffee. If made just right, it is delicious.

I became a coffee achiever. I was one of few high school seniors at the time who drank it every morning and carried a cup with me. (what a dork)My friends and I tried to achieve a cafe experience by hanging out together late into the evening and drinking cup after bottomless cup of coffee at the Village Inn. Hey, we had no cafes and they were open late. Oh the truths we unveiled under the influence of caffeine! The mysteries of life that were examined!

We used to day-trip to Iowa City, home of the now-defunct Great Midwestern Ice Cream Company. It was a 2-story place with wooden floors, menus written in colored chalk, homemade ice cream and coffee served in thick, white mugs by hippy folk that smelled deliciously of patchouli. They served espresso and cappuccino, which I had not developed a taste for yet- found that out fast. They also served cafe-au-lait, which as you know is basically half coffee and half steamed milk. I loved it. It became my coffee drink of choice.

My junior year of college, I lived in Mexico for a semester. I was really excited about the coffee. I mean, they grow coffee there, right? Go to the source, it's gotta be good, right? Um, no. Most of the people I knew drank instant coffee. And they liked it! ¿No quieres una cafecita? They would ask. Uh, no, I'm good, really.

While in college, the whole coffee shop phenomenon blossomed. I began going to a local downtown shop- a marvelous place with a screen-door, the original hexagonal tile from the 20's, funky jazz album covers that adorned the walls. Again, the menu written in colored chalk. There was always a "word of the day" and if you could define it and use it correctly in a sentence, you won something. I won a piece of biscotti once for the word "diphthong". (no, it's not a thong for Dip)

I have had the experience of chicory-enhanced coffee and beignets at the Cafe du Monde in New Orleans. Tourist trap? Oh yeah. Still cool? Definitely.

Don't even get me started on that sweet/bitter, yummy nectar that is Thai or Vietnamese iced coffee- you know, made with sweetened-condensed milk. Good lord, I think if you poured that stuff over motor oil it would taste good.

Mr. T's coffee story is a separate entity entirely, but when we started to keep company, the lines between our two stories blurred a bit. We spent many an evening at a local coffee shop gazing into each other's eyes. We drank cups of Maxwell House at the kitchen table in his mother's kitchen- she, delighted to have the house smelling like coffee once again. It reminded her of her husband, newly passed away and very much a coffee drinker.

I have maintained my relationship with coffee. I sometimes drink too much and get "coffee stomach", but it goes away quickly. There's a locally owned, drive-through latte place up the street from my school. They serve all latte -type drinks with a stick of dark chocolate and fresh whipped cream. I heart them and have a nice little punch card with them.

I never gave up coffee, but I did cut way back when I was pregnant. For one thing, my body rejected it for the first half of the pregnancy- _ still enjoyed the smell, though. My doctors all told me that I could still enjoy caffeine in moderation and it would not harm the baby. Ironically, when Claire was born, she was sceptic and was in the NICU for a week. THey gave her small doses of caffeine to stimulate her to eat.

I did the Gevalia mail order thing for awhile, until I just couldn't justify the expense anymore.

I had a Melitta cone.
I had a gold cone.
We have a Bodun French press (have to be in just the right mood for that one- yow!). We have a decent Krups automatic drip coffee maker.
We have a Braun coffee grinder. I hate to grind beans. What a freaking mess.
Most mornings, Mr. T gets up and not only makes the coffee, he brings it upstairs to the bathroom for me to drink while I'm getting ready. We drink it with cream, no sugar. Warm up the cup, add the cream first. Then the coffee.

My current struggle is getting to enjoy a hot
cup of coffee. Most mornings, I am scrambling out the door with my to-go cup and I don't ever really get to drink it while it's hot. I don't really like lukewarm or reheated coffee.

When I smell coffee, I think of travel- of diners and airplanes and road trips. I think of the start of a brand new day, or the end of a fabulous evening. I think of cozy evenings by the fire, of summer mornings on the porch. I think of Francie Nolan, in A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, whose mother allowed their family the luxury of pouring a cup of coffee down the drain. Everyone in the family got a cup at every meal and they could have a cup from the giant pot on the stove whenever they wanted. They had little else, but this small little dedacence made their lives just a little brighter.

I leave you with one of those Blogthings. It tells you all what kind of coffee I am. I wish I could get all philosophical, but it's late. So here it is. I don't know how true it is, but it's a Blogthing, it's not like True Confessions.

You Are an Espresso

At your best, you are: straight shooting, ambitious, and energetic

At your worst, you are: anxious and high strung

You drink coffee when: anytime you're not sleeping

Your caffeine addiction level: high

Thursday, January 11, 2007

How Big is YOUR Littlest Pet Shop?

"Please let the dog come back out and say what he needs to say!" (said in big, important voice of 6 year old girl)

Followed by:

"Next we have, uh, well, he hasn't been named yet, but we have a brown dog who can jump through this hoop!"

- Overheard in Lydia's room while she was playing with her Littlest Pet Shop toys. Apparently, there was some kind of talent show and one of the little dogs had prepared a speech that was overlooked by the emcee.

Of course, Mr. T likes to refer to them as "The Littlest Pet Shop BOYS", which would be an entirely different play set. (cue 80's Euro-trash synth music..."what have I, what have I, what have I done to deserve this?")
He's also the same man who thought the bunny's NAME was Pat in the ever-popular baby book Pat the Bunny. That would have been an entirely different book. "See the bunny? The bunny is Pat. No one knows if Pat is a boy bunny or a girl bunny."

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


We have one more day of "real" class before Finals on Thurs. and Fri. The kids were mentally ready to be finished before break. Why don't we finish the semester right before break and start fresh in January? Well, that would make sense, so we don't do it that way.

I just finished typing my final for my Spanish 4's. I get test anxiety in the reverse- I worry that it's too hard, too easy, expectations are not clearly written, questions are ambiguous, somewhere along the line I've made a huge error that will result in the entire test being completely messed up. I worry that it's too long, too short, too irrelevant. I worry that too many kids will do poorly, that too many will do very well.
Gah! Maybe my students should spend some time fretting.

I also have a big stack of make up work to correct. I. Hate. Make-up. Work. Mostly because, once I've tested over something, I move on. I don't want to think about the past. And I have all these students who want to play catch-up at the end and get all agitated about quizzes and tests that they should have made up ages ago. Again, having the Christmas holiday 6 days before the end of term does not help.

To throw a couple of wrenches into all of this, because we are on block scheduling, my time with these particular classes is now over and I will get 3 new batches of students next Wed. We get MLK day off and Tues. is an inservice day, in which we will be required to attend meetings instead of being given some professional time to get seating charts and syllabi ready. Oy. And you know how I tend to behave at meetings.

The other wrench is that our administration has decided to implement a "no back pack" policy that will go into effect on Wed. Oh yay. I understand that many schools already have this rule and that it is to be pro active with regards to security issues. However, students can also carry a weapon in their sock, their big damn baggy pants, their hoodies, or their sleeves. Our school has 6 floors, and some students do have to go from 1st to 6th. It helps to have their stuff in a backpack.
So the kids are all in an uproar about this and I'm not too happy, either. One more thing to enforce, one more thing to have to deal with and not be supported. If I want to give a detention, it must be served with me, so who's it punishing? Me. Gah.

Friday, January 05, 2007

French onion or Bean?

Lydia recently referred to these lovable little rodents as "Chip and Dip".

I like it.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Thursday Thirteen: Happy New Year!

Thirteen things I will try to do to improve my life this year:

1. Organize the plethora of photos that I have not put into albums or scrapbooks in an embarrassingly long time.

2. Exercise. I hate, hate, hate to exercise. This will be hard, but definitely necessary. I will try to remember to set realistic goals for myself.

3. Write people a real letter, like on paper every now and again.

4. Be more patient with my children. Do I want to be remembered as Crabby Mc Crabster for the rest of their lives?

5. Try not to stress out about Mr. Fusspot, a coworker of mine who gives me fits. He will reap what he has sown.

6. Learn to knit. Every flipping year I say I will learn to do this and I don't. I love the look of knitted things and am shamelessly jealous of those who can knit.

7. Make a pot of soup every week, on a Sunday, so we have something decent to eat during the week that is all ready to go.

8. Visit my grandma. She is 84 years old and lives in Bethlehem, PA. I am pretty much all she has left, as my father was an only child and so am I. (there is technically a half brother, but that's a loooong story.) Anyway, my grandmother has survived breast cancer, she still goes out dancing, and enjoys a nice bourbon and water and smokes 2 cigarettes a day "for her bowels", she claims.

9. While the upstairs bathroom (the only full bath) is being renovated, I will restrain myself from messing with other rooms in the house in a half-assed fashion that will ultimately lead to me becoming discouraged and leaving a helluva mess.

10. Read the books I have. It's a sickness, really, how many books I own. I can't help myself, though, when the library has books- good books- for a quarter, or I get cool things like a first edition, signed copy of the Fran Leibowitz Reader
at the Goodwill for 88 cents.

11. Be a better Netflix customer. I joined the freaking Netflix in the first place becaause they had all of these awesome movies readily available and delivered to me in the comfort of my own home. And then I don't take advantage of it- I keep the movies too long. It's still better than late fees and the fact that Ballbuster totally sucks ass.

12. Correct my students' papers sooner than later. Have I mentioned before how I loathe the correcting of the papers?

13. Floss.