Monday, January 28, 2008

Last First Day

Tonight was the last "first night" of classes I will ever have! So far, so good. I have a lame assignment for EdTech (come up with an obscure question for your classmates to Google), and the only time we meet for our MA project is to party at the end of the semester (with individual meetings with the professor in between). NICE!

On the homefront, things were a little more exciting. Our neighbor, who has three girls and a husband who works late evenings, shattered her arm in early December. When I saw it two weeks ago, it looked like someone had cut an arm off a cadaver and attached it to her body. It's BAD. So we've had phone calls here and there to, say, dump the boiling water from a pot of potatoes. You know, things you just can't get done with one hand, even if you are a supermom (which Tami is). Tonight, Tami called and told Nikki, "I need an adult right now!" and hung up. Scott ran next door to find the youngest hysterical with blood all over her arm, the middle daughter passed out cold, and the oldest and Tami, motionless arm in tow, running around the room.

As it turns out, the youngest was playing with the rat when, somehow, the end of the rat's tail was amputated (we're still unclear on the details with that). The middle daughter passes out at the sight of blood, so she was gone immediately. Tami and the oldest were trying to catch the rat, which was, understandably, panicking and running away from them. Scott stayed for about fifteen minute until the rat (which apparently clots well, thankfully) was back in its cage, the youngest was no longer hysterical, and the middle daughter was lucid once again.

Perhaps I should write a question about rat tail amputations for my EdTech assignment. Or not.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Diaper Disillusionment

We switched to cloth diapers when Caleb turned two. It took me that long to decide that I could do it. While I've always hated the idea of filling landfills with my child's excrement, when Nikki was born, cloth diapers were not at a point in their development where I even considered them. Caleb's godmother did it so easily, though, that I became convinced I could do it. I've been okay with the Happy Heinys and flushable liners. The wash load is not that bad, and the process itself is easy. The problem is my son. He poops at least three times a day, sometimes more. With Nikki, we fought constipation from the time she started cereal to the time she was potty trained, so cloth would have been no big deal. But with Caleb, it's bad whether we use disposables or cloth. It's just bad.

To make matters worse, Caleb is pushing four and has no interest whatsoever in learning to use the toilet. He did poop on the toilet twice last summer (weeks apart, mind you), but not since then. Nikki, at 2 1/2, decided she wanted to wear underwear. I sent her to school in training pants on Monday, and by Friday she was done. No accidents, day or night. I'm not expecting it to be that easy this time, especially with a boy, but I know that without him expressing any desire to do this, it would be like trying to herd cats.

I went to the book store to find books about potty training. They were inane and disgusting. I HATE reading bad children's books, and they were ALL bad. I suppose I could check some out from the library and make Scott or Nikki read them to him. I just can't bring myself to do it.

I've read all the books and suggestions. I am reaching out to whomever may read this blog, or whomever reads YOUR blog, for inspiration. Please help. Any and all suggestions are greatly appreciated.

Now you'll have to excuse me. I just changed Caleb into his last clean diaper, so I'd better go do some wash.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Your Greatest Fears...

We are watching "The Fall of the House of Usher" in American Lit. Why, you may ask, are we watching it? Google it and read about a paragraph, and then imagine trying to help a group of teens, the majority of whom don't speak standard English, understand what the heck it means. So we're watching it. The premise is that the protagonist is consumed by the fear that he will go insane. There's more to it, but for our purposes today, that's all you need to know.

As a warm-up today, I had the kids write about their greatest fears. They looked at me like I was crazy. Then they thought about it. Then they started writing. One asked, "What's yours?" I said something about arriving at the time of my death and realizing that my life hadn't been enough. I hadn't been a good enough wife or mother. I hadn't made a difference in the world. I hadn't done enough for others. One kid said, "You're teaching us. I'm learning. Isn't that enough??" Aww...

But the answers were interesting. A lot of them fear death. Totally understandable for a group of sixteen-year-olds. But others were more original. Here are some that piqued my interest:
  • Not being able to support my family. -T, whose family is currently homeless
  • Growing up and having to support myself. I'm terrified. -L
  • Never seeing my mom again. -I, whose mother is still in the country she and her father immigrated from
  • Getting old. -R
  • Not graduating from high school. -Y, who is currently failing several of her classes. Again.
Wow. I feel so inadequate. And blessed. And overwhelmed.

I think I should stop doing warm-ups. They keep me up at night.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Puke Update

Nikki just came back from confirmation. Apparently, attendance was light tonight. Five of the kids were home with the stomach flu.

There but for the grace of God...

A Good Day

We had some very productive parent conferences today.

One of my students lost both of his parents by age two and is being raised by his aunt and uncle. His uncle is a highly respected pastor who recently retired because he is dying of cancer. The aunt and uncle are much older, having successfully raised their son who is in his forties. Then they have S, who just turned 16. Did I mention this family is highly respected? Anyway, S has goofed around for two years at our school and finally decided to start paying attention this year. Auntie is now very concerned about his grades and was pretty sure it was my fault he had failed my class for two years. We've been playing dysfunctional phone tag for two months, and she called this meeting so we can all sit down. Our counselor, dean of students, school-to-work coordinator, and three teachers sat down with her and everyone else explained how much time, energy, and effort we've put into this boy for three years. Then the counselor showed them S's transcript, with all the Ds and Fs highlighted. By the end of the meeting, Auntie was clear that we are all trying to help S, but he needs to get on board. S was clear that we all know that he's not doing what he needs to do. And we set up counseling for S, who shed tears over his uncle for the first time today. We walked away with a contract, for which S will be held responsible. Overall, a great way to spend 80 minutes. Even though I didn't get one essay graded.

M is a senior with outstanding grades who wanted to drop her AP English class. Unfortunately, she didn't talk to any of the parties who could facilitate that until November. At that point, the drop deadline had passed. She also didn't bother to talk to her teacher about wanting to drop her class. Instead, she stopped turning in work. Two months later, we finally met with M and her mom about the situation (we've been trying all this time to arrange the meeting, but mom couldn't get away from work). M took ownership for letting this situation flail in the wind all this time and we talked about ways she can be more proactive in getting her needs met. Mom acknowledged that she should have pushed the issue sooner. More tears, and more resolution.

Our students have so many needs. If only we had time to sit down with each of them and their families...

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Grand Central Station

Nikki's friend Janet is going back to Korea (she was here to study for two years) this weekend, so she came to spend the night with Nikki. Tuesday wouldn't have been my choice for a sleepover, but we have plans every other night and I thought she was leaving on Friday. I guess it takes the pressure off of us since homework will provide the entertainment. :P So tonight, we are five.

Also tonight, the family of one of the girls from Nikki's Girl Scout troop (Kayla) was coming over to pick up a hamster. My nephew has decided to leave home and, since they don't allow hamsters in homeless shelters, my parents wanted the hamster to go to a home with kids who would play with her. Kayla's family arrived shortly after 6:00 to pick up the hamster. Then we were eight. Things got very loud.

About ten minutes after Kayla's family arrived, there was a knock at the door. Caleb looked at me, shocked. "MORE PEOPLE?!" Apparently.

It was Trina (neighbor), bringing down some fresh-baked banana muffins. Then we were nine. Things got louder.

Fifteen minutes later, everyone went home. And then there were five. Minus one hamster.

Does this happen at other people's houses, or just mine??

Monday, January 21, 2008

Puke Watch

Nikki just got back from a fun-filled weekend at camp with her confirmation group. She excitedly told me about several activities they enjoyed, and followed with a report about how one of the girls in her cabin (also from our church, so add two car rides to sleeping time) started vomiting yesterday evening.

I just put everything she brought home into the wash on hot. She is in the shower.

Should I change my clothes now?

Pray for us...

Change is in the Air

Here is the list, in no particular order, of things I may be teaching this fall:

Spanish 1-2
Spanish 3-4
Spanish 5-6
American Literature
Honors American Literature
Public Speaking
AP Psychology
AVID Junior Seminar
AVID Senior Seminar

Any combination thereof is a possibility.

At least there's no math involved...

Sunday, January 20, 2008


San Diego's Catholic schools do their standardized testing at the beginning of the year, before the kids have a chance to learn anything at their grade level. They also choose to use the Iowa Test of Basic Skills (a norm-referenced test) instead of the California Standards Tests the public schools use. By doing this, they have ensured that there is no possible way to measure how much students have specifically learned in a year. Which is fine. As an inner-city English teacher, I'm not a fan of judging teachers by their test scores. ;)

We just got Nikki's test scores for this year. Her composite score indicates she scored better than 96 percent of sixth graders. Her language scores indicate she is in the 99th percentile. It also gave her a lexile score, which indicates the level at which she reads. Nikki's indicates she reads at grades 11.4-12.4. They also indicate a website,, where you can go to see a list of books your child can read at his/her level. Nikki's list consists of many non-fiction books about a variety of things from continents to gender and sexuality issues among doctors and patients, along with literature like The Bell Jar, An American Tragedy, and Beowulf. And I only read through the beginning of the Bs.

That's great. My child is eleven. What a helpful resource this has proven to be!

I think we'll continue to rely on the librarian and the nice lady at The Yellow Book Road to recommend titles for Nik.

Friday, January 18, 2008

The Happiest Place on Earth

For many years, I have visited Disneyland and been annoyed. It's too crowded, too expensive, too much of a pain for me to have any fun. Maybe it's because my kids aren't very adventurous and all the rides they want to go on have had a four hour wait (okay, maybe I'm exaggerating, a little).

In 2006, we went for Thanksgiving and Scott kept telling me that it wasn't crowded. "This is great! I don't know what you're complaining about??" Maybe it's the fact that Caleb has enough time to have three meltdowns before we can go on any ride, or the fact that people keep running into me. Maybe it's the fact that none of the children we have with us (my niece was with us, too) are willing to eat food that can be found in one location. Or that it's costing me a million dollars to be here. I just don't know...

But yesterday, we went to Disneyland and had a BLAST! We started the day by gorging ourselves on a tasty breakfast buffet with Lilo & Stitch, which Caleb LOVED (the characters mostly, but the food, too). We walked onto the rides (we even took a picture of the sign saying there was a 0 minute wait on Space Mtn!). We went with Caleb's godparents, which meant that everyone had someone to play with. Caleb's godmom is an organizational genius and brought great snacks that enabled us to postpone eating in the park until dinner, at which time they found a restaurant that provided food that accommodated everyone's dining idiosyncrasies. Fantasyland was navigable, even while pushing a stroller, and the kids were able to go on all the rides with negligible wait time.

We went yesterday because it was my birthday. We used to go to Disneyland for Nikki's birthday, but since it's in March, there are always hoards of people on Spring Break. Scott's birthday? Also in March. Caleb's is May-even worse crowd-wise since the rest of the free world gets out for summer vacation before California. Since I don't enjoy people making a fuss over my birthday (really, what is there to celebrate about getting older at this point??), this was the perfect way to spend it. Yeah! A new tradition. :)

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Something Old, Something New...

I am the something old.

I have a birthday coming up next week, and as I creep closer and closer to forty, I am realizing that I have now become what I once thought was old. I'm sure that working in a high school doesn't help, nor does the fact that my daughter is in middle school. One thing in particular that made me feel even older was the fact that my hair is turning grayer and grayer (is that a word?). My hair started turning gray when I was sixteen, so it shouldn't be surprising that it is quite gray at 37, but I was tired of having it work against me.

So today I got it colored (something new). No more virgin hair. It still looks pretty much the same as it did before I got it colored, but without threads of gray poking out here and there (curly gray hairs are particularly proud, apparently).

My stylist says that gray hair isn't something that you notice is missing, but you definitely notice when it's there. So tonight something is missing. Funny, I don't miss it at all.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008


12:30 am. Done with one set of essays and one set of tests.

"But I have promises to keep,
And piles to go before I sleep,
And piles to go before I sleep."

Sorry, Robert Frost.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Be Present

I had this inspirational lesson all planned for my seniors today. They watched a Tony Robbins (I know, I know, but it was actually pretty good) PowerPoint my mom sent me that had twelve tips for living a more fulfilled life. The twelfth was to "be present." That really struck me when I first read it. How much of my life do I fritter away stressing about something that's not even happening in that moment? I want to be present. It's what I tried to do over break.

So I got home today and tried to be present with my family. During our gourmet dinner (rotisserie chicken from Henry's and salad-except for Caleb who doesn't eat meat and had pasta instead), I began to feel the stress of the piles of unread essays waiting for me in the other room, so I distracted myself with conversation. Scott informed me that Caleb wet through all of his clothes and bedding during his nap (how this happens with a disposable diaper in an hour and a half I have NO idea-have you seen those things after a trip in the water at the beach??), so the whole lot was waiting for me on the washing machine. Nikki told us that she now has soccer practice on Tuesdays and Thursdays until 5:30, which is a conflict with Academic League, so we'll have to wait until she is done with that at 4:00 on Tuesday and then transport her to practice. All of this happens at school, so one of us will have to be available to take Caleb home and make dinner while the other parent waits for Nikki to finish with practice. Caleb told me he had "pun" on the "swide," which reminded me that I need to follow up on his assessment referral.

I sum, I am very, very bad at being present. Maybe I should pick a new goal.

Oh, and I registered for my last two classes today. At least that insanity will be over in May. Better yet, the classes don't start until the 28th. So I can just sit around and eat bon bons until then.

And yes, it has occurred to me that I should be grading essays instead of typing this.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

False Alarm & Farewell

I have been looking forward to today for a week now. Actually, I have been looking forward to it for thirteen years, which was the last time the Chargers advanced in the playoffs. Last year, when I just knew they would be going to the Superbowl, I bought Chargers plates and cups in preparation for my Superbowl party. They've been sitting in the garage ever since. I thought about returning them, but I never did. I know that the Chargers will go. And I won't use them until then!

This blog is about why I didn't watch the first half of the Chargers game today.

Yesterday, Caleb went down for a nap. Well, it was more like Caleb went down for a nap, and then got up, and then we put him down again, and he got up, and we put him down again, and he got up, and so on and so on until, 90 minutes later, he finally went to sleep. When he got up from his nap, he said he had an "owee" and wouldn't put weight on his right foot. This was baffling. He was fine before the nap. I thought maybe his leg went to sleep while he napped, but we were in a hurry to get to Grammy & Grampy's for dinner, so we got in the car and went. It's also helpful that Grammy is a nurse and can provide free medical advice, which is hard to come by on a Saturday afternoon. Grammy checked Caleb's leg and found no indication of trouble other than the limp and Caleb pointing to his knee when we asked him where it hurt. If you've never seen a three-year-old limp, it's pretty sad. We had our visit, came home, put him to bed, and hoped that it would be better this morning.

But it wasn't better this morning. By the time nurse triage called us back, it was too late to go to church. The nurse told us to take him to urgent care (which was fine) which opened at 1:00 (which was 30 minutes before kickoff). This facility had radiology facilities, so at least we would know for sure if anything was broken. So at 12:30, Caleb and Scott and I (all dressed in Chargers gear) got in the car and headed for City Heights.

By 2:30 we had done x-rays (for which Caleb had held surprisingly still) and had the results-no breaks of any kind. The nurses were giving us updates each time we walked past their station (on the way to radiology, 3-0 Titans). We called Grammy on the way home to give her a Caleb update and she updated us on the game (6-0 Titans, Gates is injured and carted off the field). Scott was very grateful he hadn't been home watching the game because he would have just been frustrated. I reminded everyone that we're a second-half team.

We came home and watched the second half, which was MUCH better, on our big TV. And guess what? THEY WON! So Caleb may be on the DL, but it's definitely temporary, and the Chargers are in their way to Indianapolis. All in all, not a bad day!

Sadly, though, today is the last day of Winter Break. :( Tomorrow, we all go back to work/school (which is really the same thing). I chose to take all of my break off and didn't grade a single paper, so now I have about four sets of essays waiting for me when I get back. But Break was blissful and fun and gloriously grade-free, so now I can go back to work refreshed and ready for all that awaits. Right?

Farewell, Winter Break! I'll miss you!!