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Monthly Archives: September 2012

Off And Away

Well last week was just awful. I managed to contract one of the worst flu viruses I’ve ever had. I literally couldn’t get out of bed for two days. The rest of the week I managed to pull myself around in order to do some bare bones mothering, but other than that I was in a serious, committed relationship with my bed.
And when I say one of the worst flus ever, I’m not exaggerating. I had fever hallucinations! For a short amount of time I came alive in the book I had been reading. It was horrifying! Thankfully that lasted only a few hours. I joyfully returned to my horrible state of illness to escape those terrible visions. The rest of the time I was simply miserable.
Neither Connor nor I would have survived without my mother and the fiance. Though Connor would have been happy enough to skip school all week, he would have been upset trying to feed himself for those days.
And then it was my birthday.
I was so sick all week that I forgot it was even my birthday a few times. I normally love my birthday and get very excited making plans. This year I barely mustered enough energy to go to dinner.  I appreciated everyone’s kind birthday wishes, as well as the gifts from family and friends. And then I happily slept for 12 hours. Best. gift. ever.
Now it’s the day after my birthday and I’m heading to Grenada in a few hours. So, yeah, I’m exhausted but excited. There is a ton of stuff to attend to that fell to the wayside this past week that will simply have to wait a little bit longer. I’m off to recuperate on a tropical island.
Maybe when I return it’ll actually feel like fall around here. I’ll rescue my super-mom cape from the bottom of the sewing pile and life will get back to normal, or at least as normal as we get.

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2nd time around

So I’m getting married…again. It’s exciting, and wonderful, and terrifying.

I never knew that a relationship could be easy until I met my fiance. In my first marriage, or past relationships, I always assumed the “you have to work at it” advice was due to the fact that relationships in and of themselves were difficult. I mistakenly thought that working at a relationship every day, struggling to keep your love in one piece was the nature of the beast.

Then I met my fiance…and it was just easy. It felt like a piece was falling into place, a piece I didn’t even know was missing. It was like I was able to let out a sigh of relief and I hadn’t even been aware I’d been holding my breath.

Our love story is not some epic tangle of ups and downs. There are no massive fights, breakups and tearful reunions. No one will ever make a movie about us. No romantic poems will be written. And the only love songs that will be sung about us will be country songs praising a solid, comforting place in the world, similar to an old arm-chair near the fire, which is not universally recognized as the sexiest piece of furniture.

All this isn’t to say we are perfect. In fact, I would say we’re solidly average. We argue. We piss each other off. We hold things inside until they burst forth in a torrent of anger and emotion. We makeup by talking things through. We follow the same patterns, day in and day out. We have our date nights. We try to slip some passion into our busy schedules. We spend most of our time talking about chores, family business, and various obligations. And my son is the center of our world. Essentially, we’re the same as thousands of other couples out there. And that’s perfect for me.

We’ve both been married before. We understand that epic love doesn’t generally equal happiness. We understand that even relationships that feel easy require work and effort. We’re both scared of failing, but I think that fear keeps us on our toes. We can’t take this for granted because we know what it’s like to go through the falling apart and picking things up again. We’re both painfully aware that nothing in this life is guaranteed.

We’re going to make the most of it, binding ourselves together with ropes of respect, friendship, humor, patience, and a little romance.

We’re going to make the most of this new chapter in our lives and, God willing, finish out our stories together.

Sickness

Nothing quite says back to school like getting sick.  For whatever reason, Connor seems especially susceptible to the various germs flying rapidly around the preschool.  I’ve been told that preschool is the worst because it’s their first time in school, surrounded by other children, essentially changing the classroom into a cesspool.

And I don’t know about any other mothers out there but I feel especially guilty (I saw especially because I seem to have a pretty consistent level of guilt running through me at all times) when the school nurse calls me to pick Connor up from school.  This has happened three or four times since he entered school last April.  The call always starts with whatever is wrong with Connor, which immediately terrifies me, and then manages to somehow imply that perhaps this illness/rash/horrible diarrhea was happening before I sent Connor to school that morning.  I am then racked by self-doubt.  WAS IT??  Did I simply miss the signs????  Or even worse, did I ignore them????  AM I THE WORLD’S WORST MOTHER?!?!

(Granted Connor’s autism makes it impossible for him to tell me if he’s feeling sick, but that never factors into my guilt level.)

I always end up driving like a bat out of hell to get to school, plagued by the belief that I purposefully sent my sick child to school and therefore imparted a miserable day on everyone involved with him.  I curse any red lights or pedestrians that get in my way! I silently stew over the injustice of traffic laws!  I wonder if the nurse is timing me in my trip to school…Am I being judged on the amount of time that passes between phone call and pick up?  And before you say anything, just because it’s paranoid, doesn’t mean it isn’t true.

I usually jog across the parking lot, trying not to look like the hot mess that I feel.  Bursting into the office, the school secretary has to remind me every single time to sign Connor out of school.  Every time!  I’m sure this makes me look even crazier.  The signing in process is also time stamped, just one more reminder that it took me eons to get there.

By the time I get back to the nurses office, I’m frantic.  But every time I find him there, Connor is sitting placidly in a tiny blue chair, playing with trains, and waiting for me.  Sweeping him up into my arms, the nurse begins to tell me what is wrong, what happened, etc.  I usually only hear about a third of what she says as I’m too busy looking over my boy to pay attention.  I nod me head, mutter uh huh a couple of times, and make a bee line for the door.

My raging guilt provides Connor with whatever entertainment he desires.  My poor child is sick and I, his monstrous mother, forced him to go to school.  I’ll make it up to him with endless episodes of My Little Pony and popsicles.

The aftermath of these sick from school days is always a lingering self-doubt.  He seems fine, do I send him to school?  Am I capable of judging at this point?  To assuage my guilt-doubt combo and please my little boy, I keep him home.  Sure, he’s tired and cranky, and maybe there are some lingering symptoms, or maybe they’re all in my head.  I just don’t know.  I JUST DON’T KNOW!!!

At this point if the fiance hadn’t stepped in and announced that Connor needed to go back to school, I think I may have just kept him home indefinitely.  Finally someone with a clear head and an even emotional keel made a decision.  I was only too happy to abide by it.

And wouldn’t you know it, when I dropped Connor off at school this morning, there were no tears, no whining, no trembling lip.  He simply walked up to his classroom aid, took her hand, and waved goodbye.

I’m pretty sure that if motherhood doesn’t drive my crazy in the next few years, nothing ever will.

Under Pressure

As many of you may know, I taught high school English for several years.  I enjoyed my students and the literature I was able to engage them in, but the overall teaching experience was not for me.

People are often shocked that I chose to leave teaching after just three years.  When I tell them that I spent nearly 30 hours a week working outside of the classroom, they were in disbelief.  Surely, that’s an exaggeration?  Sadly, it is not.  With department meetings, parent phone calls, lesson planning, essay grading, as well as chaperone duties, I easily worked from 7:30am-7:30pm each day of the week, as well as spending most of my Sundays on work.

Teaching is a pressure cooker.  Not only do you have the responsibility of teaching all these students, which means doing all the prep work and grading, you are under pressure to perform to a certain standard.  Every class is the equivalent of putting on a show.  You memorize your lines, you have your props, you sneak jokes in here and there, but you’re always mindful that you must incorporate standards, technology, multiculturalism, cross-curricular tie-ins….It’s enough to drive anyone crazy.

And it often does.  Several reports have come out in recent years citing the high turnover rates among teachers, particularly in their first five years of teaching.  These numbers have been quoted anywhere from 25-50%, while most agree that it’s about 30%.  Think about that!  1 in 3 teachers are leaving their jobs in the first five years for other careers!  What is really a shame is that many of these teachers are wonderful at their jobs.  They are talented, brave, creative, and engaging, and they are failing to get the job satisfaction they need to keep them in the industry.

A recent study highlight the problems of retention in teaching.  TNTP (The New Teacher Project) conducted a study focused on teacher retention in urban areas.  These areas are more likely to be dealing with issues of budget cuts, over-crowding, and little teacher support.  Their report found that retaining teachers who were highly effective at their jobs was more difficult that retaining teachers who were not.

In light of all this, it’s hard not to view the Chicago teachers’ strike with some sympathy. They are facing massive budget cuts, severe overcrowding (as many as 43 kindergarteners in one classroom), as well as a flawed teacher evaluation system.  Personally, I hate that there are hundreds of thousands of children out of school while these teachers strike.  Many of these children need school as a day care service for their working parents, as well as a source of meals and support.  However, those facts alone are enough to further support these teachers.  In today’s busy world, teachers often become surrogate parents to their students, spending more time with them than they do their own families.  School provides a structure and a support that many students are not getting at home.

In some cases this is understandable, but in many cases it is not.  Drawing from my own experiences and the teaching experiences of friends and colleagues, I’d like to make a plea:

Parents, please parent your child!  Please look over their homework.  Ask them when their reports are due.  Engage them in conversation at dinner that takes place over a table and not in front of a tv.  If they do something wrong, discipline them.  If they do something well, praise them.  Your child needs your attention.  Teachers cannot do it all.  They need your help!  They need you to parent so they can get back to the already stressful business of teaching.  If you don’t want to do it for the teachers, do it for your child.  They’re more likely to succeed in school (and in life) if you get involved.  Support your schools, your teachers, your child by being a parent.

 

Monthly Meal Planning

Some people think it’s odd that I do an entire month of meal planning at once.  To me, it makes sense.  I’ve always been a planner.  I’d like to plan months in advance if I could, but that might be a bit excessive….a bit.

Though I’m new to it, I’m loving meal planning!  It gives me an opportunity to try all the recipes I’ve ripped from magazines, pinned on Pinterest, highlighted in cook books.  It also gives me a global perspective on what my family is eating.  I’m trying to be more conscientious about using leftovers to make other meals, or to plan for the fiance’s lunches.  If I make a chicken during the week, it will give me a enough leftovers to make a casserole or a salad.  Casseroles and chilis give me enough leftovers for the fiance to take to work for the week. Etc, etc.  It’s one of my many new attempts at frugal living (which I am terrible at).

In addition to managing the food I buy and use, I’m trying to be more aware of the amount of meat we’re eating.  We’re largely sticking to the Meatless Monday philosophy, which seeks to cut down carbon footprints as well as cutting calories and cholesterol.  It’s really not that hard to stick in a couple of vegetarian recipes during the week, especially when you’re using the filling combo of pasta and cheese (sorry Kosher readers).
The last thing I’m attempting in my  monthly meal plannings in mixing it up.  When I was just planning per week, I’d grab whatever was in the store to fit my recipes.  Now that we’re getting twice monthly CSA boxes from the local Tanaka farms, filled with delicious, seasonal fruits and vegetables, I’m trying to fit my recipes to the produce.  And things I wouldn’t necessarily have purchased in the grocery store are becoming some of my favorite items.  Sautéed kale= delicious! Corn and radish salad= crunchy and spice!  Stir fried green beans= how did I live without these!?!  In other cases it’s not so much try something new, as looking at the same old things in a new way.  Instead of having baked potatoes, we’ll have parmesan baked tomatoes.  Instead of bagged lettuce mix, I’m making my own mixes (and actually eating more salad than ever before).

So here’s a look at my meal plan for September.  Below are recipes for any of the meals that I found through various sources.  Any that are my own won’t be linked, but let me know and I’ll write on a separate post.

Enjoy! This took me freaking forever to link, so use it!

Sat. Sept 1:Zucchini pecan muffins; Slow cooker Peking Chicken w/ green beans

Sun. Sept. 2: OUT

Monday Sept 3: Pizza

Tue. Sept. 4: Roast Chicken w/herb sauce & sautéed kale

Wed. Sept. 5: DATE NIGHT

Thurs. Sept. 6: Apple cinnamon muffins; Enchilada pie, black beans, corn & radish salad

Fri. Sept. 7: OUT–Engagement Dinner

Sat. Sept. 8: Leftovers

Sun. Sept. 9: French Toast; Indian Summer Turkey Chili

Mon. Sept 10: Zucchini & Ricotta Tart, w/ herb biscuits

Tues. Sept. 11: Mushroom marsala w/polenta; green salad

Wed. Sept. 12: Carrot muffins; DATE NIGHT

Thurs. Sept. 13: Pupusas & cabbage salad (w/radish & carrots)

Fri. Sept. 14: BBQ with In-laws: bring BLT salad, guacamole, and cheese bread

Sat. Sept. 15: Blackberry biscuits; BIRTHDAY PARTY; Late night Brinner—breakfast burritos & tater tots

Sun. Sept. 16: Braised Chicken w/summer tomatoes & roasted carrots

Mon. Sept. 17: Egg & bacon meltaway muffins; Leftovers

Tues. Sept. 18: Crockpot Chicken teriyaki, brown rice & stir fry green beans

Wed. Sept. 19: Dad’s birthday DATE NIGHT Birthday Dinner?

Thurs. Sept. 20: Zucchini & Penne w/hot pepper pesto & baked tomatoes

Fri. Sept. 21: Orange Rolls; Take out

Sat. Sept. 22: DINNER WITH FRIENDS

Sun. Sept. 23: Slow cooker BBQ chicken & pasta salad

Mon. Sept. 24: Spicy Tomato w/Ricotta Penne Pasta, green salad

Tues. Sept 25: Blueberry MuffinsGrilled Caesar salad & lamb kabobs

Wed. Sept. 26: DATE NIGHT

Thurs. Sept 27: Grill Cheese night

Fri. Sept. 28: MY Birthday! Dinner with Family

Sat. Sept. 29: Eat everything in the house!!! LEFTOVERS!

Sun. Sept 30: VACATION in GRENADA

Here’s the PDF if you need a visual layout, like I do: September Monthly Dinner Plans

 

Happy days are here again

I’d like to personally thank the Lord for helping me survive this summer!

Three straight months with very few days off and weeks on end of just me and the boy.

Man do I love him. I mean I really really do. Cause if I didn’t I would have strangled the little life right out of him or just walked out the front door and not come back for a very long time.

Of course there were things that helped: the fiance, swimming lessons, a few hours of summer school and many hours of therapy.

Actually, the amount of time Connor spent doing his behavior and speech therapies this summer, as well as the concentrated time I spent working with him, have made a noticeable improvement. And to prove that it’s not my imagination and that his behavior is truly better, his teacher stopped me after school yesterday to tell me how well he’s behaving in class.

For a minute I thought she might be talking to someone behind me. I looked around quickly. Nope, no one standing near me. I think I then eloquently said “uh…what?”

The kind woman that she is, she slowly explained that Connor is complying with requests and sitting quietly at his desk, focusing on the task at hand.

My child? My Connor? I mean he’s been better at home but I expected the settling in to the new school year to take at least a couple of weeks. I in no way expected him to start showing off his new and improved attention span the very first week!

This makes me hopeful for other milestones we achieved at home to start cropping up at school:

potty training!

speaking in full sentences!

accepting no for an answer!

waiting his turn!

not hitting me everyday!

Ok well, the last one he can’t really display at school but it makes me damn happy.

All in all, if Connor actually shows all the progression he’s made this summer, he should be in pretty good shape for an excellent school year. Hopefully he’ll be more confident that he looks in this picture…I know I am.