Monday, May 30, 2005

The terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day

Things I have done in the last 24 hours that I am not proud of:

1. Threatened to sell my daughter to the gypsies

2. Answered someone truthfully when they asked "How are you?" (I said, "Horrible, how 'bout you?")

3. Denied my husband both good food and sex - on his birthday, no less

4. Stuffed an entire egg roll into my mouth in a fit of desperation (I'm an emotional eater)

5. Been frightfully rude to the neighbors (I was just being honest, really)

I have no excuse for doing these things other than hormones. Something tells me that most women can control their mood swings better than this. Am I wrong? Are you all hiding your inner banshee? Or am I really the only person who needs to be sedated before her period to avoid killing people for sport?

There are days I don't like myself very much. The fact that I have days when I don't like myself makes me like myself even less.

Premenstrual self-loathing, brought to you today by the letters P, M, and S, and by the number 5. I have yet to meet someone who copes with this in a worse manner than I do. If you're out there, sister - this Advil's for you.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Wicked Tooth Fairy

We all remember the Tooth Fairy from when we were growing up. She was a magical creature who took our teeth away to heaven when they fell out, and left shiny quarters in their place. I had a special pillow with a tiny pocket to put the tooth in, and I looked forward ever so much to losing teeth so that the Tooth Fairy would come and visit me.

Now, more than twenty years later, I've met her Evil Twin - the Wicked Tooth Fairy.

The Wicked Tooth Fairy is the one who brings you the teeth in the first place. She comes when you are just a baby and gives you teeth one at a time. She is the wicked one who arrives one day and turns my sweet bundle of joy into a howling, shrieking, biting, writhing bundle of anger overnight. She is the foul creature who brings fever, fussiness, clinginess, and sleeplessness in her wake. And she's here, in my house, and I can't get rid of her.

The Bear is teething again. At ten months she has four teeth and is working on cutting about six more. Her gums are swollen and puffy and lumpy and white, and these bad boys look like they're ready to come through at any minute. One of them is already through just a bit, and the poor kid is just miserable. Normally, the Bear is the most charming of little animals. For the last few days, she's been alternating bouts of cheerfulness with bouts of inconsolable wailing and finger-biting. Every so often she will fling herself down on the floor and sob, then get back up and keep on going. She's developed what I like to call the "crawl and cry" where she does just that. It's so sad to watch! I've told her stories about all the wonderful foods that await her once she has more teeth, but she says she doesn't think it sounds worth it. Poor kid.

I feel almost as bad for myself as I do for her - my boundless patience and compassion are running low. I wish I could just cut the teeth for her and save her the pain. I'd gladly do it, but I just can't. So instead, I'm off to shoot the Wicked Tooth Fairy with a harpoon and mount her stuffed head on my living room wall. Call me Ishmael.

Friday, May 27, 2005

The doorknobs worked!

My failsafe method of dealing with people who anger me has once again saved me from doing things I don't want to do. Break out the sack full of doorknobs and use them as a... negotiating tool. Works every time!

Suffice it to say, I no longer have to teach summer school. Crisis averted. I rock. ::does Happy Dance::

Thursday, May 26, 2005

The righteous anger...

So, remember back a while ago when I said I absolutely refuse to teach summer school this summer because I want to spend time with the Bear? Well, I just got a phone call informing me today that I will be teaching TWO summer school classes. And they start - wait for it... next week!

I have nothing prepared - and I mean NOTHING.

I have no daycare for the Bear. I told our provider that she would be back in the fall - there's no room at the inn for her to go there this summer.

This is an age group of students that I have never taught. No experience whatsoever. Fortunately, due to the, um, relaxed standards in this podunk state, that doesn't matter. What was a 6-12 certificate in Civilization is now a K-12 certificate. That's ok - first graders and freshmen are almost exactly alike (or so I've been told).

I have to start teaching these classes for which I have no material to students with whom I am unqualified to deal in Less Than A Week.

I am going to beat someone about the head and face with a sack full of doorknobs. And then I'm going to set that someone on fire.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

The chaos...

Well, my first official day as a stay-at-home-mom (yesterday) went wonderfully. The Bear slept in until 6:15, prompting me to thank my lucky stars. We got up, had breakfast, went for a walk, came home, she had a snack and a nap, I had a shower, we went to the grocery store (where I managed to spend *way* too much money), came home, had lunch, she took a nap, I did laundry and dishes, went to the post office, came home, dinner, bed! We had fun, we laughed, we played... and all that time she was just lulling me into a false sense of security.

I should have known it was too good to be true.

Today (day #2), she awoke at 5:45! In the morning! Wide Awake! So I brought her into bed with us to hang out for a few minutes and wait for the sun to come up. She's rolling between us, poking us alternately and shouting "dada!' when I suddenly get a big whiff of urine, wafted my way on the gentle breeze of the ceiling fan. The guilt in me makes me pick her up to go change her diaper, only to realize that no! It's already full! And it has overflowed onto my bed! Pee on my bed! ::wrinkles nose in disgust::

And then she discovered that if you bang hard enough on the high chair tray, all the Cheerios will land on the carpet, which is exactly where you want them when Mom is vacuuming. Her morning nap was curtailed by a particularly nasty poo, so she only slept for an hour. She ate a coaster (cork - nice and crumbly) and then bit me when I had the audacity to try to fish it out before she swallowed it all. The Nerve!

And it's only noon...

Really, though, we're still having a pretty good time of it. She seems happy, I'm fairly happy, the sheets are washed, the Cheerios vacuumed up, nap #2 is in full swing - it could be worse. It's just going to take me some time to get used to this way of doing things. For example:

How do you get ten bags of groceries and a crawling baby into the house simultaneously? Instinct tells me I shouldn't leave her in the car, but I can't exactly leave her in one spot indoors and expect her to stay there, either. I compromised by taking in the first bag and setting her up with big cans of tomatoes to bang on the floor, and that occupied her long enough for me to unload the car. But still, it was an endeavor that required some finagling.

I can tell I'm going to have to come up with some fun activities soon, lest we both strangle each other from boredom. Hmmm...

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Summer Vacation!

Yay! School is over, and summer is officially in session!

This last week has been an absolute nightmare (as the last week of school so frequently is for teachers), and I've been busy beyond belief. I had to clean out my room since I'm not returning next year, finish grades, give finals, etc. There was a graduation fiasco that involved a shrieking Bear... but now, for the next 13 weeks, I have blessed, blessed freedom.

I have formulated a plan for the summer, and I'm very excited about it. During the school year, I have zero time for cooking dinner, and more often than not, we end up eating in a Less Than Ideal fashion. Also, there is lots of soda and other bad things. Add to that absolutely no exercise whatsoever, and you get slightly pudgy, very tired me. So, this summer, my goal is to eat right (always easier in the summer anyway), cut out soda, and take the Bear on long walks in the stroller for exercise. I just feel so much better when I take care of myself a little bit - I'm pretty run down at the moment. But I don't want to get too crazy right away, so this Great Plan of mine goes into effect on Monday. I'd like to get myself into a healthy state by fall, because I think that this autumn we're going to start trying again for Bear Number Two.

I have very mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, we would really like to have more than one child, and this is as good a time as any for us, financially speaking. They would be close in age, which is important to us (my husband and his sister are eleven years apart). Plus, this one is so sweet, every time we look at her we want to have another. I really, really want to have another baby.*

On the other hand, I am completely terrified of losing another baby. I'm still feeling a lot of grief and sadness from the last one, and I don't know if I really want to expose myself to the possibility of more pain. The first time I was pregnant, I didn't worry about any of this because it was unplanned and I was so depressed that I didn't really care if anything bad happened. The second time, the baby was very much wanted, and I let myself get very excited, and then I was just devastated when I miscarried. If I get pregnant again, I'm afraid that I'll spend the entire time worrying and won't be able to enjoy my pregnancy.

I'm not particularly worried about *getting* pregnant, since we don't seem to have much trouble in that department. ::knocks on wood:: Every time my huband looks at me cross-eyed... well, you get the picture. (We're hideously fertile. We have no decency.) No, it's the *staying* pregnant that I'm worried about. I don't think that I could handle losing another baby right now.

Anyway, enough of that. I also have plans this summer to read several very important books (the new Harry Potter being one of them), and teach the Bear to sleep past six a.m. Every morning, come wind, rain, hell, or high water, that kid is Wide Awake by six. Sometimes it's sooner. I love my child more than life itself, but I am not a morning person, and this has got to stop. So, I'm planning to entice her to sleep later. Not sure how to do that, though. I thought about gradually scooting back the bedtime, but that seems cruel and unusual - plus I like having some time to spend with my husband in the evenings. And I can't really cut back on her naps, because God Forbid she doesn't get her nap when she wants her nap - there's just no living with her. She's on a fairly straight 10-11 hours per night, two two-hours naps during the day schedule. I think she's doing pretty well; I would just enjoy waking up *after* sunrise instead of before it. This is all my fault, however, since I had to get her up every day at six for her whole life, pretty much. I brought this on myself by going back to work, I know it. Bad Mommy, bad!

Also on the Bear front - she says "uh-oh" with great regularity now, although not usually in connection with anything. Today, though, she said it after she dropped the remote on the floor, which was cute and also meaningful. So smart! Also popular are "dad" and "dada," which she uses interchangeably. Very very rarely will she ever say "mama," so I think I'm going to accept that I am uncool and move on. Such is life - maybe after our summer together I will regain my *cool* status. Highly unlikely, though.

*I think... Many people have told me that the second one is always the oppsite of the first, and I wonder if they aren't right. The first one is so laid back, so easygoing, and has such a sunny disposition, it's hard to imagine having a high-maintenance baby. I think I would freak out, quite literally. (I'm totally discounting the first three months here. We do not speak of them.)

Monday, May 16, 2005

The one with the frustration...

A brief musing on the things in life that frustrate me today:

Children. Specifically, teenagers. More specifically, my students. My principal made the shrewd observation today that we should never tell the kids when the last week of school is at hand, because it only causes them to act out even more. Today I witnessed a shoving match that involved the F-bomb, as we like to call it, and made my first trip of the day to the office. Later, I watched as a student sat down and a boxcutter! oops! just fell out of his pocket onto the ground. Trip number two to the office was in short order.

My husband. He is teaching the Bear to play catch. This involves her chucking a tennis ball at anything that happens to be in front of her, and him clapping and praising her. I, personally, am of the opinion that we shouldn't be teaching her to throw things, especially toys. This objection was reinforced tonight when she pegged me in the face with a block and literally chortled with glee. I am Going. To. Kill. Him. I'm raising a bully.

Arnold Bender and E.W. Dickes. These two morons have perpetrated what must be the *worst* possible translation of my favorite book ever. I ordered a copy of this online, because God Forbid any bookstores out here should carry it. It's supposed to be a gift for a student, a birthday/parting gift, because she's a truly special kid. Well, I got the long-awaited box in the mail today, cracked it open, and discovered to my horror that all translations from the original German are *not* created equal. These plebian frauds have managed to rob the novel of its haunting, lyrical quality and leave it sounding like it was written by the people at E! True Hollywood Story! So then I had to hunt down a copy of my edition (hardcover, William Morrow, New York, 1953) to purchase used, and I don't know if it will be here in time for graduation, which really irks me, because this book is so effing fabulous, and these men (the nerve!) managed to ruin it. I could never give this edition as a gift to someone I cared about. They should be forced to watch reruns of Saved By The Bell until their brains self-destruct.

Yogurt. Can you feed yogurt to babies? I love yogurt and so does my husband, and so I bought some for the Bear to try (organic, no preservatives or artificial sweeteners), thinking that it might be a nice snack with good calcium. She eats tons of fruits and veggies, but not much of anything else except for her bottles, and so I thought, hey! variety! Well, the result wasn't pretty. It went down ok, and she seemed pretty happy with it. But it came back up with a Vengeance, and I'm not exaggerating. So, what's the deal? Is she allergic? Does yogurt make babies sick? Or was it just the worst possible timing? Coincidence?

And last but not least, people who use the word "reveal" instead of "revelation." It all started with those damn home improvement shows. The always call the moment of truth "The Reveal" instead of the revelation. "Reveal" is a verb, people. It's an action. "Revelation" is what happens when something is revealed. It's a noun. There's a difference! "Are you going to be at the big Reveal on Wednesday?" "Not until you learn to speak properly! Freak!" (The person who committed this most heinous of crimes was, I am ashamed to admit, an English teacher. My only comfort is that she's not a very good one.)

Saturday, May 14, 2005

The one where she crawls...

Yay! My daughter can crawl! ::does the Dance Of Joy::

A day of feasting and general merriment (with a fair bit of wenching) has been declared in my household. All the villagers are rejoicing, because the Bear has finally crawled. Seriously, though, I thought she might not get there. And then the Spouse read this scientific "study" that claims that children who skip crawling and go straight to walking are more likely to have learning disabilities, so I was all worried that my child would be all LD because she never crawled. All my fears have been allayed. Well, most of them. I've decided that motherhood is just one big worryfest.

Like today, for instance, when she woke up from her nap and had blood in her ear canal. A worrisome sight to even the hardiest of mothers, I assume. She has tubes, and they said if we saw blood it might mean that the tubes were working their way out before their appointed time, or that she had an earwig or something. (No, the ENT did not make an earwig reference, but if you ever saw that particular episode of the Twilight Zone, that's pretty effing scary!) So, off to the doctor, where it turned out that the tube was just blocked and he pulled out tons of brown gooey scabby looking stuff. (TMI, I know. Sorry.)

But she can crawl! I'll understand if nobody else in the universe is impressed that my child has learned to crawl, but Wow! I am so darn happy I could spit.

On yet another positive note, the last day of school is next week! My summer vacation is looming large on the horizon. I have several projects I'd like to accomplish since I'll be home with the Bear all summer, and several places I'd like to go visit. There are serious doubts about how much of this will actually get accomplished, but I've always been a dreamer. I want to organize the closets in my house: mine (still full of maternity clothes and skimpy clothes from my pre-baby figure, but very few currently wearable items) and the Bear's (full of various shapes and sizes of likewise outgrown clothing). I would like to get rid of all superfluous crap and take it to Goodwill in the vain hope that someone else will be able to use it. I want to *start* the Bear's baby book. Yes, I know she is nearing her first birthday. Better late than never, right? I'm a busy lady. I want to visit relatives, many of whom have never seen the Bear at all, except in pictures. These relatives all live in fairly unexotic locations, but at least they're all near each other so that it only takes one trip! I want to make jam. I love making jam. I want to train the Bear to sleep past 6 a.m. (this is very high on my list of priorities, believe me). I need to plan for the fall, since I'm moving to a new school district and a new grade level - I have to start from scratch! (The geek in me finds all that planning very appealing.) Oh, there's so much to do... now watch, I'll spend all summer frittering away my time with pleasant but frivolous tasks and not accomplishing anything on my to-do list. Motivation has never been my strong suit...

I just love summer - my birthday, P's birthday, and the Bear's birthday are all between Memorial Day and Labor Day, so there are always presents and festivities to be had, plus the weather is great, and I don't have to go to work. I get to be a homebody for almost three months! (I'm always chomping at the bit to get back in August, but in May I'm always ready to be done. All part of the great circle of life, I suppose. ::hums Elton John tune::

And I have a Crawling Baby! All other concerns pale in comparison.

A question for next time: is it normal for an almost-ten-month-old to suddenly double her food and sleep intake? I mean, literally, double them both? It's like she has a tapeworm or something (or is this just a growth spurt? It mysteriously coincided with the learning to crawl, but that might not mean anything). Anyone know what this is?

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

The one with the survey...

Okay, Internet - I need your help.

If you are one of the people who stop by here, please take a second to give your input on this tough question.

So, yesterday, a student made a rude comment to me. I'm talking, beyond the bounds of public decency rude. He is, needless to say, barred from my class for the rest of the school year. He also received some in-school disciplinary action.

School is almost out. I am moving to a new district next year and will not be returning. We've almost reached the point of just plain not caring (which is awful, I know, but most days I'm doing good just to keep them in their seats).

The question is this: Must I call his parents? I mean, really. Do I *have* to?

Ordinarily, I would have been on the phone within minutes, requesting a meeting with both student and parents. However, in this case, it Just Doesn't Seem Worth It.

My reasoning is as follows: a) he's in just as much trouble in all his other classes; b) I've spoken to them multiple times, with no perceptible results; c) I'm not really sure anymore what good it would accomplish. (Also, d) repeating what he said would only cause more unpleasantness.)

So - to call or not to call? If you're browsing and you have a thought on this, I'd love your feedback.

UPDATE: Thanks to the few of you who did offer advice on this front. I appreciate that so much. After careful consideration and conversations, I've decided to forego the phone call. I am convinced, as is my principal, that it will do no good. If I was returning to this school district next year, that would be a different story, because you don't want to set that kind of precedent. However, I feel safe in saying that nobody will give a crap one way or the other. That's terribly sad, and, like I said before, I think it all comes back to bad parenting. But as a *bad* parent myself, hey, what do I know? Anyway, thanks for the input!

Sunday, May 08, 2005

The one with the toffee...

So, I make really good brownies. Outstanding effing brownies. I make them because my husband is a chocoholic. These brownies are so damn yummy...

Suffice it to say, they're good brownies.

I put things in my brownies, because my husband likes brownies with things in them. I'm okay with this. Sometimes I add mini chocolate chips, or mini M&Ms (his favorite). This makes a chewy/chunky brownie that's truly delightful.

Today I made some brownies. I put in them a few toffee bits - like the crushed-up Heath bar toffee bits. Toffee and chocolate taste great together. That was the extent of my thought process.

Had I thought for an extra 30 seconds, do you know what I would have remembered?

What's that you say? Toffee is made of BUTTER?

Yes, that's what I would have remembered. Do you know what happens when you add extra butter to your brownies?

Wait... could it be that the butter melts and turns your brownies into a gooey pan of Something That Refuses To Solidify?

Ding Ding Ding! That's the correct answer! I win! (I always win when I play games with myself.)

Do you know what my husband is doing right now?

Eating brownies with a spoon. Just one of the many reasons I love him.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

The one with all the accidents...

So this morning, the Bear looks directly at her father and says, "hi dada." How sweet is that?! And then I pick her up, and she looks me right in the eye and says, "hi dada." ::bangs head on table in frustration::

Anyway, I mentioned earlier that my life is a series of accidents, and I thought, hey, perhaps I should explain about all these "accidents." Does this lady crash her car all the time? Does she wet her pants? No...

A brief run-down of the "accidents" I've encountered in the last five years, which have pretty much managed to define my life:

Accident The First: Wherein I run into the ex.

So I'm in college, having fun, doing the whole college thing (read: drink, screw, smoke, write term paper, lather, rinse, repeat) and I meet this guy. And he's cool. And he's popular. (Soooo hot! Want to touch the heinie...) And he's just fantastically unique and different, and I'm smitten. We date. This does not work out, and I am dumped. I am, also, heartbroken. ::damn him::

I move on, meet and date other guys. I meet The One. He is wonderful. Sensitive, caring, modestly attractive, loves me to bits, stable, etc., you name it, he's got it. Poor but hardworking, honest, punctual, thrifty, in touch with his emotions... he was The One. So we talk, we date, we get engaged. We set a date, we make plans... At this point in time I'm still living with the roommates, doing my single thing. One night, we go to a party. Wasn't really planning to go, but I got suckered in by the friends. I'm at the party, talking (loudly, to be heard over the music), playing games (don't get me started on the drinking games we used to play in college), and generally having a boring evening. Enter... my ex-boyfriend (the only one who ever dumped me).

We stare awkwardly, then he comes over. We talk, and surprisingly have way more in common now than we did at the time of the Great Breakup. He offers me a ride home, and asks if he can call me. He emails me, he calls me, we go out for coffee and french fries, and I am, once again, smitten.

Very long story made very very short: I dump The One (8 months before the wedding) and take up with the unemployed ex-boyfriend.*

Accident The Second: Wherein we procreate.

Fast forward several years, and the ex-boyfriend and I are now married. We have a lovely wedding, and settle in to our new home to live the married life, which in our eyes means lots of sex, hours of deep conversation over glasses of wine, and exciting exploration of our new surroundings (did I mention we moved?).

About two days after the wedding, three things happen. 1) I get very, very sick. This is finally diagnosed as a kidney infection. 2) I cry. All the time. About everything. Loudly, bitterly, and as though my heart will break. 3) I hate my new husband. He is a horrible man, and I want him to #%&$ off and die, and I tell him so frequently. He, on the other hand, thinks we've made a horrible mistake, and can't figure out why I'm so damn unhappy. Neither can I.

Turns out, I'm pregnant. Can I possibly explain in words how very unhappy I was about this? Literally, I was convinced that my life was ruined. Again, there are several reasons. 1) We didn't want a child until our 30s, if ever. That's IF EVER. We weren't set on having one at all. 2) I was on the Pill. What idiot manages to get pregnant while she's on the Pill? 3) I had just finished graduate school, quit my job, gotten married, moved 500 miles away to a place where I knew nobody, and was ready to start a new career - looking for a job. This was Not The Time.

So, more crying (approximately 8 months more crying) and contemplation of Bad Things. I was severely depressed throughout my pregnancy, which was unplanned and, frankly, unwanted. I wanted to die more at that point than I ever had before. But, calmer heads than mine prevailed, thank goodness.

Enter the Bear. She's the cutest damn baby ever, and I don't know what we did without her. (Sleep. That's what we did. I can vaguely remember sleeping.) She's so charming, in fact, that we decide she needs siblings.**

Accident The Third: Wherein Biology fails us.

Since the Bear is such a lovely and easygoing child, we're silly enough to decide to space them relatively close together. We're ready to start "trying" (read: not using any contraception, but not really making a concerted effort) when she's about five months old. That way, they'll only be a year apart, and everything will work out well. And lo and behold, we got pregnant again. The Bear Cubs would be exactly 14 months apart, and would be the best of playmates. And lo, it was good.

Right up until...

Last February, when we lost the baby. It was a very hard time for me, because this second pregnancy was very much wanted, unlike the first. I was devastated. I spent lots of time in bed, just being depressed. Eventually, I got out of bed, but some days I'm still pretty depressed. We'd like to try again for a second one some day, but I'm scared as hell now.

So, somehow things never seem to work out the way I plan them. At this point, P and I have made a plan to stop making plans, because whenever we make them, they invariably go awry. I've decided that from now until eternity, we're just going to fly by the seat of our collective pants. If we have another baby, it will happen when it's ready. If we don't, it just wasn't meant to be. Moving, jobs, etc. all fall under our no-plan plan. Somehow, the accidental things have made life so much richer for me... I'm interested to see what's in store for us next.

Geez, I said this was going to be brief, and it's so... not brief at all. Oh well. I have brevity issues.

*This makes me sound like such a flake, which I am not. This man is compelling in a way that nobody else is. Women fawn over him - men envy him. I have yet to figure out why this is... suffice it to say, he's a man who can play sports, fix things, and write amazingly well, which is not a combination you often find. A brilliant, talented writer, and did I mention soooooo hot?! Also - he fights with me. The One was such a doormat, and he always let me get my way. Which was fun at first, but boring and also slightly unhealthy.

**I am an only child, and my husband is not. After a protracted discussion, we decided that having siblings is better than not having siblings, because otherwise who will pay to put us in the home when we're old?

Thursday, May 05, 2005

The one where it's cinco de mayo...

First off, feliz cinco de mayo! I just love celebrations (of all persuasions. I also celebrate several wintertime holidays. Can't be content with just one of anything...) and this is a favorite.

On to less pleasant things... I am irate. And frightened. And a few other nameless-yet-terrifying emotions. Here's why:

So I'm driving to work this morning, having deposited the Bear at her loving home-away-from-home (aka Daycare), and listening to NPR on the radio. Since I'm rarely home in time to watch the news (and when I do watch it's pure and unadulterated CRAP), I get my news from NPR in the car. (I have an hour-long commute each way, so I'm usually fairly well-informed!)

At any rate, they're doing a series on the move toward conservative Christianity in politics, and I was reminded afresh why it is that I so fear my government. They had interviews with several people regarding the Ten Commandments statue that was removed from an Alabama courthouse. After the courts ordered it removed, someone apparently loaded it into the back of a pickup truck and is making a pilgrimage around the country with it. He stops in small towns and people hold rallies where they come to venerate this statue and reaffirm their desire for America to be run according to a strictly traditional, conservative, Judeo-Christian ideo-theology.

Let me pause here to say that I am, in fact, a Christian myself, and that I respect and admire people of faith. I *am* a person of faith.

However, I also respect and admire The Constitution, which, as I was always taught, provided for the Separation Of Church And State, and I admire the people who defend it and its purpose. (I mean the people who *actually* defend it, not the ones who swear they will uphold it, but only the parts that they like.)

What gets me is that this entire country was founded on freedom. The first settlers came here because there was no freedom of religion at home, and they wanted to live and believe and worship as they saw fit, without government interference. So, to America they came, to have that freedom.

May I also say at this point that there are two kinds of freedom: freedom *to* and freedom *from*. I think that in order to be truly free, we must have both kinds of freedom - the freedom to practice our own religion (or to practice no religion at all), and the freedom from having someone else's religion force-fed to us. Only when both freedoms are embraced can we truly consider ourselves free.

So why is it that, today, our government defiles the Constitution every waking minute, bringing conservative Christian values into our laws, into our homes, into our bedrooms, and even into our schools? I have absolutely no problem with people of faith being in charge of our country. What I DO have a problem with is the fact that they are imposing that faith on everyone - even people who do not share those values. Why should an atheist student be forced to recite the words “One nation, under God” in a public school, if he or she doesn't believe in a God? Why should a Buddhist juror be forced to serve jury duty in a courthouse dedicated to Judeo-Christian imagery? Why does my big green English textbook contain excerpts from the Bible, but not the Torah or the Koran? Why can't a non-Protestant get elected to the White House?

Why can't we let the people decide for themselves? This is not a theocracy - it's a democracy! (I think...)

I think that religious and/or moral instruction should be the province of parents, not the government. If you want to instill virtue and morals in your own children, excellent. It's all part of the “family values” that bind parents and children closer together. However, this is a country - not a family. George Bush is not my father, and his values are not my values. Why must I live my life according to his values? If you want to impose your religion on other people's children - we have a problem. Our government marginalizes people who don't buy into their religious values. That's not fair - or free.

It just seems to me that our country's decision-making process has turned from “what best serves the common good?” to “what would Jesus do?” And since millions of voting, tax-paying U.S. citizens don't claim Jesus, why should they have this set of values imposed on them?

So today, on a day that celebrates independence, I say a prayer (yes, a prayer) that some day we will truly gain the freedom that the first pilgrims were seeking - freedom for every single person, not just those who share the values of the majority.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The one where she feels appreciated...

Today, I believe, is National Teacher Appreciation Day. In honor of which, we received free sandwiches for lunch, and tiny flashlights to hang on our keychains. Oh, I feel the deep appreciation as it cascades over me. On this day of days, I would like to commemorate the occasion by saying, "#@!% you, George Bush, and your stupid #@!%ing No Child Left Behind Act!" ::extends the International Symbol of Goodwill::

Of all the things which could possibly prove not beneficial, but detrimental, to our nation's public schools, this is one of the biggest (right up there with vouchers, but don't get me started). Since when has it ever been a good idea to skip important concepts like, oh, critical thinking, in order to Teach To The Test? Since when is it a universally accepted truth that standardized testing is an accurate means of assessing a child's intelligence? Since when does it make sense to reward people who do well on these standardized tests (usually white upper-middle-class suburbanites in wealthy school districts) with *more* money, and punish those who do poorly on these standardized tests (usually very urban or rural students in poorly funded school districts) by TAKING AWAY their money? Since money is obviously a main indicator of how a particular district will perform, wouldn't it make even an iota of sense to give more money to those who need it most?!

I have some issues with standardized testing. I've seen the tests. I've administered the tests. These tests, on the whole, are not adequate to accurately measure a student's ability. And there's no hope of measuring progress, since a different group of students takes the tests each year. The only thing these tests are capable of measuring is the extent to which one year's class is better at taking tests than the previous year's class.*

I teach in a severely underfunded school district. I mean, underfunded to the point that I had to beg three different people to have my heat turned on. In November (which is a cold time of year, here). Our school is can't-afford-the-electric-bill poor. And my students know this. And they know that the reason that we have our budget slashed every year is our mediocre performance on these federally-mandated standardized tests. And they feel bad about that. (Oh, good, let's make the kids feel guilty for something that isn't their fault. Way to build the self-esteem and model responsible behavior.)

Late last October/early November, I taught (as part of my state mandated and approved curriculum) a unit on propaganda, bias, and faulty reasoning. (I, conveniently, got to choose the timing. ::grins subversively::) As our assessment, I had the students design political ads using one of the techniques we had covered. I had some really great ones (from those who got it), and some pretty crappy ones (from those who didn't), but my favorite slogan of all came from a team of sophomores. I still have a bumper sticker of it in my room; it says "No Child Left Behind! We'll come get them... later."**

At any rate, I feel as though we're failing our students on so many levels. It's an uphill battle just to make a dent, and so many of them seem to slip through the cracks of the system. So, today, as I sit here feeling underappreciated, underpaid, and unequal to the task of molding these children into adults, I want to send a prayer out into the universe for the health and wellbeing of our public schools. I love my job. I love teaching, and I wouldn't want to do anything else, but it would be nice if I felt as though we were moving in the right direction. But I can't say that I do. And that saddens me.

*These tests are also capable of accurately measuring, to within a hair's breadth, the amount of smoke our government can blow up the ass of the general public. At least they're good for something!

**There was also a really lovely poster that went with this... If only I knew how to scan things and link them... perhaps at a later date. ::crosses fingers::

Monday, May 02, 2005

The one where kids are cool...

See, this is the reason I love what I do...

So, all my seniors have gone off to the Bahamas on their senior trip. They're gone for a whole week (two extra planning periods every day! woohoo!) and are having a blast. When I got to work this morning, I saw that they had left me a little parting note* on my door, and they just called me - on their cell phones, from Florida as they board the cruise ship - to say hi. My students call me on their vacations - how fun is that?

Of course, I *was* hoping that the phone call would be from the pediatrician's office, getting back to me, and not from the kids, but I'll take what I can get...

Update: the pediatrician's office called and says that it sure sounds like hand, foot, and mouth disease (not to be confused with foot and mouth disease, better known as MAD COW!). I love the fact that they can diagnose my child via telephone, conveniently eliminating the need to actually look at my child's freakish mouth ulcers. Oh well... it's good enough for government work, I suppose. Anyway, if you google that like I did, you'll discover that it's a simple viral infection common in small children, usually caused by... say it with me now... the COXSACKIEVIRUS! (This only sounds funny if you say it out loud, preferably when no one is listening.) Anyway, she should develop a lovely rash on her hands and feet in the next 24 hours to go with this; meanwhile, we're supposed to push fluids and rest, and give Tylenol as needed for fever. And not to worry, only rarely does something like this end up causing, oh, say, VIRAL MENINGITIS!! But if she doesn't develop the rash, then it's probably thrush, which... well, who knows where she might have picked that up. All this in a five minute phone conversation. Grrr.

I usually like my pediatrician(s) just fine. They're always very helpful and willing to consult by phone over the silliest of new mother fears (me: There's no poop! Why isn't she pooping?! pediatrician: ma'am, do you poop every day? me: ummm...) and they're really quite good about scheduling and drop-ins. But frequently, my pediatrician can assume this condescending attitude toward me (she has, like, 245752542 children of her own, and therefore knows all, while I, with only this one baby, know nothing) that makes me feel silly for bothering her. She has actually told me to calm down, relax, and trust her - over the phone! I just want to make sure that the Bear is happy and healthy, and if that involves having the pediatrician call me while I'm out of state just to assure me that blue poop is not a cause for concern, then so be it. But she makes me feel very inadequate sometimes, and Ideally that's not what a good doctor-patient relationship should do. But I digress...

So, today must be the laziest day in the history of teaching. My two classes of juniors are in with the counselor all day, one of my classes of seniors (they of the notes and calls) are away on vacation, and 2/3 of my other senior class are also gone. That's 3 completely empty classes and one with only 3 girls who didn't go on the trip. These three girls came in today and petitioned first me, and then the principal, to go on a field trip to “the store” down the highway. If only you could see our setup here. “The store” is the only place of business in this town of <200 people, and it's a one-room shack that reeks of old grease and stale smoke. It's like Mecca for these people. So, to the store we went, on a pilgrimage, as it were. We stocked up on junk food, came back, and watched “The Princess Diaries,” which I will admit I think is kind of cute, if only because I like Julie Andrews. (Also, I find it ironic that the girl's name is Anne Hathaway - Shakespeare's wife!) Anyway, I'm officially avoiding my grading, but I *almost* miss my students. (Well, not the juniors...)

*The parting note, by the way, was part of a mission on their part to say the word I hate most in the world at least once a day until they graduate. It's a running joke, and they say they're planning to email me from college next year just to say this one word. The note on my door contained only this one word, and the purpose of the phone call was for them to hold the phone up and have everyone shout this one word. I have to admit, I admire their persistence. They're not doing it in a malicious way, so I don't mind the teasing.

Sunday, May 01, 2005

The one where it's almost Monday again...

Ah, the weekend. I love the weekend. This weekend in particular was quite nice, for several reasons:

My husband actually got up with me and the Bear on Saturday (at six-freaking-thirty in the morning) and we all had breakfast and hung out together - so exciting! The Bear is a morning-baby, and she's always particularly cheerful around seven a.m. She gets that from me, since my husband is *such* a night owl.

I got to nap on both Saturday and Sunday. The nap is like the Holy Grail of my weekends - I'm always seeking it, but almost never find it. I took THREE naps this weekend. I feel so lazy (and so rested)!

My daughter HUGGED me yesterday! I don't know at what age kids start giving hugs and kisses, but yesterday she leaned forward and put her arms around mine and leaned her face on me and *squeezed*. An actual hug, like grownups give! I was so proud of her, and it just about melted my heart. Luckily, P was there to see it, and even he got a little misty. This totally makes up for her saying “dada” all the time. ::beams::

Of course, no weekend is perfect. I couldn't go five minutes without hearing about this *stupid* woman in Georgia. For the love of Pete - if you're that scared about getting married, talk to someone!!! Don't a) run away and then b) lie about it... moron! I don't think that people should go through with a marriage if the bride is so uncertain that she has to fake her own abduction. Something about that sets off the warning lights, you know? Geez...

Also, I discovered some sort of weird white bumps inside the Bear's mouth... not quite sure what that is. It's only on the inside of her cheeks, but it looks strange, and I don't like things that look strange to grow in her mouth. Also, she was particularly fussy this evening and couldn't stop sticking her fingers down her ears, which is concerning since she just got tubes put in a few weeks ago.* So, it's off to the doctor for us tomorrow - better safe than sorry.

Tomorrow it's back to school again - only 13.5 school days left until graduation. Not that I'm counting... I'm leaving my current school district and moving to a new one next year. I'm very excited about this move, but that's a long story.

Anyway, the Bear calls. I'm off to put her to bed, then put myself to bed. A happy May Day to all - if you happen to know what causes funny white mouth spots, please share!

*Yes, I know the tubes are a controversial decision in one so young. But for pity's sake, the kid was going deaf, and her eardrums burst. She had seven ear infections in four months, according to her doctor. Really, it was just one big bad ear infection that nothing could kill - she went through drops and antibiotics and who-knows-what, and finally they just stuck the tubes in. And now she can hear us.