Saturday, December 27, 2008

Favorite Food Swap

I recently participated in a Favorite Food Swap hosted by Laural and Elaine. The premise is that you get hooked up with someone in the U.S. who's in a different region than you. You send them some of your favorite foods and they send you some of theirs. Even better is if you send them something you can only get in your area!

I got my Food Package from Elaine a couple days before Christmas. If you visit her blog (link above), you'll see that she provided a picture of all the items she received from me. Uh, as for me, I didn't think of that before I devoured the awesome locally-made peanut brittle she sent. Oops.

She also sent me a box of two chocolate and caramel-covered pecans. I'm pretty sure they had a proper name, but seeing as though I ate those the night I got them, the box is no longer around. And thank god there were only two because I seriously loved them and would've eaten all of them, no matter how many there were, in one sitting.

She also sent me "K-Ann's Strawberry Jam," which, surprisingly, is the only thing I haven't wolfed down yet. It won't last long, though, once it's opened. It's pretty obvious that I have no self-control.

Thank you, Laural and Elaine, for hosting this fabulous event. You have made a valuable contribution to my holiday weight gain. : )

Friday, December 12, 2008

They Missed the Mark

I love reading with my daughter and I think she really likes it, too. She's a very touchy-feely baby, so books with paper pages are kind of dangerous for her right now. She's already gotten one paper cut, so I'm sticking to board books for the time being.

There are series of books called "Baby Touch and Feel" in which each page contains a different texture for baby to feel. They're usually about animals and you touch the animal's "fur." My/her favorite is called "Frosty Friends." Not only does it have awesome pictures of animals, but it also has information about each animal, plus it rhymes, so it makes it that much more fun to read aloud.

Here's an example from the book:

Fluffy little penguin chicks
huddle close together.
Mommy's fur protects them
from the cold and icy weather.

or

The polar bear is king
of this cold and snowy land.
No other creature on the ice
is quite as strong and grand.

Both of those are good, yes? They're factually correct and they're cute! However, the authors really missed the mark on some of the animals:

Can you feel the wolf's pink tongue?
Forget about your fears.
He's just a big and hairy dog
with furry, pointed ears.

Uh, yeah...wolves are real friendly! Nevermind that if you tried to touch a wolf's tongue he'd probably tear you to shreads.

This one's a little less ironic, but still:

With big and furry antlers,
this reindeer is so sweet...

When I think of reindeer, the word "sweet" doesn't come to mind. Hell, even fictionalized, reindeer are mean with not letting Rudolph join in their games and all!

There are others, like calling a seal gorgeous and friendly, that make me laugh and wonder how difficult it is to write these things without freaking kids out. I'll have to try my hand at trying to make tigers sound cute and fun or making sharks sound like great swimming partners.

Any requests or suggestions?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

They Say Everyone Has a Twin

I'm getting really bad at posting. I guess I feel I don't have much to say anymore. I mean, I'm home all day doing pretty much the same thing over and over: nursing, reading, playing, changing diapers, cleaning...repeat. There's not much interesting stuff going on in my life right now. This is not to say I don't like my life right now. I just wouldn't call it exciting.

However, I will share this: What the hell is up with my upstairs neighbor? I really hope he never reads this because he will totally know I'm talking about him. The reason he will know is that I'm going to tell you his name. Arnie. But I call him F'Arnie. You can guess what the "F" stands for.

The worst thing about Arnie is that I like him. He's a really great guy (even though he's a Scientologist. Uh-oh...I've offended somebody. Please don't send me weird comments, people, like someone did with my "Good Thing I Don't Believe in Hell" post. I'm sorry if I've offended you.). Anyway, he's a really nice guy, very funny, pleasant, blah, blah, blah...but he is ALWAYS on the phone. ALWAYS. I know this because I am always home and our building is very, VERY noisy. I can hear his alarm go off in the morning and, after pressing snooze 4 times, he gets up and gets immediately on the phone. Yeah, I can hear all this...it sucks.

F'Arnie keeps strange hours. He is in business for himself and always seems to come home whenever my daughter is trying to go to sleep. Mind you, she sleeps, like, every 3 hours and whenever she is on the verge of falling asleep, I'll hear him (and so will she) walking around (the floors creak terribly) yapping away on his phone. It drives me crazy! I just want to yell, "SHUT UP!!!!!!!!!!!! PUT THE PHONE DOWN!!!!!!!!!!!! WHO THE HELL ARE YOU TALKING TO ANYWAY????"

Because, seriously, who the hell is he talking to all the live-long day? I know that somewhere in the world is someone who lives below the person he's on the phone with, rocking her baby to sleep, cursing the name of her upstairs neighbor, and wondering just who the hell her neighbor is talking to. Well, whoever you are, you now know he's talking to F'Arnie.

Friday, November 21, 2008

She Did It!

This is probably not big news to anyone else except me and my husband (who has mysteriously and annoyingly quit blogging, hopefully to return soon), but SAMANTHA ROLLED OVER! I guess if you have kids, you know what a big deal this is.

Rolling over is pretty much the first thing she can do by herself. Okay, granted, I have to put her on her belly so that she can roll over to her back, and once she's rolled over she'll pretty much stay there forever until I move her elsewhere, but that middle part she's got down ALL BY HERSELF!

She, by the way, doesn't find this a big deal at all. In fact, the first time she did it, I freaked out and was all like, "Oh my god, you rolled over!!! That's so wonderful! Incredible!! WOW!!!" She pretty much laid there like, "What?"

It's exciting since it's the first in many, many firsts. Just thinking of all the things to come kind of boggles the mind: sitting up, rolling over the other way (from back to front), her first tooth, crawling, walking, talking, her first day of school...I could keep going but frankly I don't want to think about her getting too old too fast.

For now I'll just relish in the fact that my baby can roll over all by herself.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Halloween

I am not going to dress up my daughter for Halloween. I know, I know...how could I not??? It's her FIRST Halloween!

She's 4 months old, people. A. She will not remember this. B. What am I supposed to do, parade her around so that I can get candy? C. I have to spend $20 on a costume that she will wear once and not remember?

People tried to convince me to do it: various friends and family members (especially grandparents), and I did waver a couple times, but have decided she is not dressing up.

That is, until yesterday. The pediatrician of all people convinced me to dress her up! She didn't give any new reasons that others had not yet given that made me change my mind. I think it's just her position of authority that did it. I wonder what else she could get me to do?

So, Samantha will be dressing up for Halloween. We stopped yesterday on the way home from the doctor's office and got her a butterfly costume. (Awwww!) I even thought of a place to bring her on Halloween so that she's not just sitting around the house in a butterfly costume looking silly (but oh-so-cute!). I'm taking her to visit my former class at school! We're also gonna stop by the in-laws for what I'm sure will be a one-hour photo session. And I believe my sister's kids and Samantha will be going to nonna's house the day before Halloween to take pictures.

So what started out as us doing nothing for Halloween has now turned into this 2-day extravaganza. But my reward for waiting until the last minute is that I got the costume for half price AND I didn't have to spend 45 minutes choosing between the ladybug, the butterfly, or the pumpkin. I got the last costume the store had left in her size!

Now I have to figure out how to score some candy.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Good Thing I Don't Believe in Hell

I was raised Catholic, but I really don't believe anymore. No, I don't know what happens to us when we die, but I personally don't think that our souls go to heaven or hell. However, I've done something so terrible that it's a good thing I don't believe in hell or I'd be going there for sure.

My daughter was given this cute little stuffed animal lamb. It's seriously so cute, soft, and cuddly...EXCEPT that when you squeeze it, an oddly high-pitched voice starts reciting, "Now I lay me down to sleep...". As my husband and I have decided to raise our daughter without a religion, we thought this toy inappropriate (and as I said before, creepy). So what to do?

For a while I just ignored it. It's not like she's playing with it anyway. The only thing she really wants to play with are her hands, which she shoves into her mouth, sometimes both at the same time, so far that she gags. So for weeks, the fluffly little lamb sat on her rocking chair with all the other stuffed animals.

Then the other day I was in the kitchen crushing some whole pecans with a mallot.

Do you see where this is going? Am I going to hell?

Yes, I beckoned my husband to bring me the lamb. Yes, I took a mallot to its middle where I could feel the mechanism inside, and, yes, I pummeled it. The first couple hits did nothing. In fact, each time I hit it, it kept starting, "Now I lay me down to sleep...". So I had to hit it continuously, over and over, until the thing finally stopped. Am I a terrible person?

I'm just so glad that it didn't go into that distorted slow-motion voice, "Nooowwww I laaaay meeeee dooooooowwn tooooo sleeeeep....". That would've haunted me forever. Hopefully I'll only be temporarily haunted by the vision I have of myself, mallot in hand, pummeling this poor lamb.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

These are a Few of Her Favorite Things

My daughter, the crazy baby, cracks me up. If you read the last post (from a million years ago...sorry), then you're aware of how she suddenly started refusing the bottle. Well, I'm happy to report that she is over that now. It turns out all she needed was a little distraction. Seriously, it wasn't the usual suspects (according to baby books and websites): nipple shape, milk temperature, mommy being around during bottle feeding, taste of frozen milk, excess lipase in the breastmilk, etc., etc. No, she just needed to be distracted by her FAVORITE THING.

Samantha has lots of cute toys. Her mobile, for example, is one of her favorite things. She literally squeals when we turn it on. She stares and stares at it for hours and talks to it. I even named the group of fish on it her "Swimmy Friends" and have given them a whole background story about how they are pairs of brothers and sisters who married the other pair --they even had a double wedding!-- and then each had a set of fraternal twins (one boy, one girl). Then they created this sychronized swimming group known as The Swimmy Friends. Hey, it's really important to talk to your baby, and, really, what is there to talk about? Please tell me I'm not the only mom who does this. Wait, I KNOW I' m not the only mom who does stuff like this because when I asked my friend, Marcie, what the heck she talked to her baby about, she said she told her baby the whole story of Dallas (as in the 80s tv show).


Another of Samantha's favorite things in the house is our biggest plant. I actually just pruned it a bit, so it's not as huge anymore, but she still stares at it. It doesn't play music or move like her mobile does, but there's something about it that she loves to look at. I named the plant Felix, by the way, but he doesn't have a background story yet. Feel free to share any ideas...



But neither of these, nor her other myriad beloved things, like the butterfly (named Fifi) that lights up and plays music or the 2 animals on her glider (that don't have names but my husband deemed a bassoon and viola player), nor the other plants (Harriet, Curly, and...shit, I can't remember the other one's name) were the trick to getting her to drink from the bottle.

THIS is the thing that Samantha needed to stare at in order to get her to drink from the bottle. And she stares at it pretty much any chance she gets. THIS is her favorite of all things:

Yes, the ugly-ass light fixture in our entryway. We had to hold her while standing under it to feed her...not very comfortable. It was literally the only way Samantha would eat. Our friend, Angela, came up with a plausible reason for this: it looks like a giant boob! I guess since Samantha wasn't eating from a boob, the next best thing was to stare at one. Crazy baby.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

My Crazy Baby

Samantha, who is exclusively breast fed, is one crazy baby. While I truly do enjoy breastfeeding her, it's nice to get a break every once in a while and have my husband feed her my expressed milk from a bottle. S's pediatrician thought it would be a good idea to introduce the bottle at 3-4 weeks, after S had established a strong latch on the nipple. (Sorry to any guys who are reading this. I'm sure that if you want to read about nipples, this is NOT the context you prefer).

She did have a strong latch, so at the 4-week mark, Brian gave her a bottle. It went great! We intended to do this every day, but, well, we didn't. But we did do it a 2-3 times a week with no problem. Until...

I dunno, 2-3 weeks ago, S all of a sudden would NOT take the bottle. And when I say she would not take the bottle, I mean that when Brian put it in her mouth, she FREAKED out. She cried as if someone is was...I dunno, physically harming her (I can't even bring myself to give an example of how someone may physically harm my baby). It's the kind of cry where the baby doesn't breathe for a really long time. The kind of cry that makes me want to cry.

So wtf? This happened a couple of times and thank god I was around because I finally ended up breastfeeding her after the hysterics died down. We read the baby books to find out just what the hell the problem was. And you know what they said? The problem was ME! Supposedly, some babies do NOT take a bottle if mommy is around. They apparently can smell their mother's milk and want it from the source. Crazy babies. But this is NOT what makes my baby crazy.

For the next couple of weeks, whenever we wanted S to take a bottle, I had to make myself scarce, which in all honestly, is kind of annoying unless I legitimately have someplace to go. Then S took the bottle fine. When I did stay around, even if I was in a different room or on a different floor, forget it, the baby was not having it.

Last night, I wanted her to take a bottle because this weekend, Samantha will be sleeping over at Nonna's (grandma's) while Brian and I go to a wedding, and I am FREAKING out that she won't eat. Yes, yes, I understand that she'll probably be fine because I won't be around, but I can't help it. It's the first time we're leaving her.

So at about 7:30, in the middle of dinner, I notice S giving her hunger cues, right on time. Brian starts to prepare her bottle and I got out of there. I told him to call me either when they were done or if it wasn't happening. 20 minutes later I get a call from Brian...I assumed they had finished, but, no...crazy baby had been in hysterics for the past 20 minutes. I came back in to a baby that had calmed down, but to a husband that was totally frazzled.

I sat on the couch to BF her when Brian asked if he should throw the milk away (once heated up, you can't use it again). Usually I would say yes, but something made me think to keep it a little while longer and I asked him to bring it to me. I fed S. the breast on one side and she passed out on my lap for a couple minutes (What a life!). But when she woke up, instead of putting her on the other breast, I gave her a bottle AND SHE TOOK IT! FROM ME! WTF????

When I called Brian upstairs to view this, his jaw almost hit the floor. WTF, CRAZY BABY??? No, seriously, wtf? He thought it was just him, but I assured him it was not. I mean, she's taken the bottle from him many times before without incident, and in fact, I handed her over to him last night so she could finish the bottle, which she did.

I searched for an explanation: Had she been tired? Had she been too hungry? Was the milk too warm? I think it's no, no, and no.

She's just a crazy baby.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Worst Thing in the World

I have discovered what the worst thing in the world is. No, it's not the fact that many species of animals may become extinct due to the impact of global warming. No, it's not the crisis in Darfur. It's cutting a baby's fingernails.

If you are thinking, "How dare she compare the turmoil in Darfur to something as innocuous as cutting nails?" then you've obviously never done it before.

We all know babies are small, right? Well, these small babies have even smaller fingers. And these small fingers sport tiiiiiny fingernails. I mean tiiiiny!

I learned quickly that one cannot cut the fingernails of a baby while said baby is awake. Babies NEVER keep their hands still! So, you have to wait until s/he falls asleep, usually not a problem since babies sleep A LOT (more on this in a subsequent post). Hopefully the baby has fallen asleep on your lap, making it easier to maneuver his/her fingers to an angle where you can actually cut the nail without contorting your own body into some uncomfortable position. Now that you're all set, you will realize that you've forgotten all about the nail clippers and they're in a completely different room. If no one else is home, you'll need to get up and get them, but this will probably wake the sleeping baby, thus postponing your nailcutting endeavor. Whenever you do manage to have the clippers by you AND have your baby sleeping on your lap, you will notice that you are not the only person who thinks that baby nails are so incredibly tiny because the makers of your nailclippers have ATTACHED A MAGNIFYING LENS TO THE CLIPPERS!

When you examine the nails, you will see what feels like little sharp razor blades are truly only these soft little things that, I swear to god, are only 2 mm long. How the f*** are you supposed to cut something off that's only 2 mm long??? Answer: You just go for it.

So I went for it on my precious 2-month old daughter's little nails. It took forever because I wanted to be so careful to not catch her skin that most of the time I caught nothing. Then I got to her thumb. And I did catch her skin. From her peaceful slumber, Samantha let out a howl followed by some infant sobbing. I MADE MY CHILD BLEED! I felt so bad that I vowed to never cut her nails again. That is, until, she scratched my neck so hard that I thought I was bleeding.

So really, the only thing worse than cutting a baby's fingernails is NOT cutting a baby's fingernails.

A quick update: I actually wrote this post several days ago. Now Samantha's nails have become a little bit stronger and I've discovered that I can bite them off! Yes, gross or not, I bite my baby's nails off. My life is SO much better, as I'm sure is hers. Global warming and Darfur can go back to being the worst things in the world now.

Monday, August 25, 2008

This is What I'm Doing Now?

My daughter, who is almost 2 months old, is napping, and while there are about 7 things I should be doing, this is what I am actually doing:

81 words



I actually got up to 82 wpm, but stupid me didn't save the proof, so you'll just have to take my word for it. Thanks to Laural for this big (and many other) time wasters, er, spenders.

Monday, August 4, 2008

The First Month

The first month of my daughter's life has flown by. It's really incredible how much has happened and how much has changed. She went from being this little ball of mush that couldn't really do anything but eat, sleep, poop, and cry, to a big ball of mush who has added smiling and cooing to her repertoire. Oh, AND sleeping through the night! That's right, my 5 week old daughter sleeps through the night in up to 7 hour stretches.
*ducks from being hit by stuff being thrown by other new moms*

Her sleeping routine goes like this: She falls asleep at 1 a.m., sleeps til about 7 or 8. Eats for an hour or so. Then goes back to sleep until noon. Not bad, not bad. I'm NOT complaining.

So in this first month, I've tried to keep mental track of some observations I've made about babies and being a parent:

1. BABIES MAKE WEIRD SOUNDS. I was warned about newborns being noisy sleepers, but I had no idea that my infant daughter was capable of sounding like a variety of jungle animals (mammals, birds, and insects included), Yoda, and a gremlin all at the same time. It's really quite bizarre. Add on top of this my husband's snoring and it's a miracle I fall asleep at all.

2. BREASTFEEDING IS HARD. While Samantha and I have mostly worked out our problems with this, the first 3 weeks were NOT fun. I don't know why I expected it to "just work," but it "just doesn't." Is it the media that portrays bf'ing as easy or is it just that nobody tells you how painful it is? Sorry if it's TMI for some of you (does anyone even read my blog anymore?), but the redness, blistering, scabbing, peeling, and irritation of my poor nipples make we want to just remove them and soak them overnight in cool water. Or trade them in for rubber ones. Nevertheless, I stuck with it and the aforementioned symptoms subsided. So, we're sticking with the bf'ing.

3. PARENTS NEED AT LEAST 3 ARMS. When you hold a baby who can't support her own head, you need to use one hand to hold her under her butt and one hand to support her head/back. Uh, what happens when you need to answer the phone or write something down or basically anything else that you need to do? Well, at first you don't. Then you learn ways to hold your baby that only require one arm and learn how to do things that usually require 2 hands with one.

4. MY BABY IS FOREVER DESTINED TO WEAR PINK. Everything that was gifted to me during pregnancy was green and yellow. Now everything is pink. Funny thing is, I think my baby looks "better" in greens and yellows!

5. MY HUSBAND AND I ARE SCREWED. This is one cute kid. She gets cuter by the day and now that she's started smiling, we are sucked in by her cuteness. Hell, it's not even her smile, it's everything: her sneezes, cooing, burps, hiccups, farts, poops, cries...EVERYTHING. I'm hoping this infatuation will last.

6. EAU DE BABY SPIT-UP. I think I am forever destined to be covered with and smelling of baby spit-up. It does not smell good, but I only have so many clothes and only so much time to do laundry, so now half the time, I don't even bother to change. I'm like, "Eh, it'll dry!" and just leave it.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Samantha's Birth Story

I pretty much wrote the following for me, so I wouldn't forget how it all went down. But I figure that I would share it as long as I have it! Sorry if it's TMI for some, but nobody said birth was pretty.

June 27, 2008

I woke up for about the sixth time that night to use the bathroom, about 4 a.m. When I came back to bed, I couldn’t fall back asleep. At about 4:45, I felt the baby move A LOT and heard a “popping” sound. I had heard of this happening to others with no effect, so I just ignored it. About 5 minutes later, I felt slight wetness, but not enough to wet the bed or anything, so I just ignored that, too (there’s a lot of wetness/discharge during pregnancy). About 5 minutes later I felt even more wetness, so I got up to check it out. Once I got into the bathroom, there was a sudden gush that came out, the end of which was tinged with blood. I figured my water broke! So I woke Brian up (me: “Brian, my water broke!” Brian: “Really?”) and called the doctor. She said that if it was my water breaking, it would probably still be trickling, so she wasn’t convinced. She said that my baby’s head might be blocking the rest of the trickle, though, so she told me to go to the hospital. No rush, though, just be there within the hour and eat something light. So Brian and I took our time, got our stuff together, and ate something light: toast. I started having non-painful, but time-able, contractions which were coming about 10 minutes apart. I had just taken 2 bites into an apple when a contraction hit me more strongly and I just knew that this was it. “We gotta go,” I told Brian as I threw the rest of the apple away. My contractions continued in the car and got slightly closer together. When we got to L&D, the doctor checked me out and said I was 2 cm dilated and that she did not feel my bag of waters inside me, and I was admitted at about 6:15 a.m.

My contractions were very regular at this point and getting more and more intense, but manageable. I breathed through each one with Brian’s help as my coach. At some point, however, they got INCREDIBLY PAINFUL, so painful that I threw up. I cannot even describe what the contractions were like. The closest I can get is comparing them to menstrual cramps x 4,000,000. At about 9 a.m., I requested (demanded?) an epidural. The anesthesiologist came in and set me up. It was a longer process than I thought and difficult to stay perfectly still to get the catheter and shot (or whatever he did) in my spine while having these insanely painful contractions. I remember, though, when the medicine hit me. I was sitting up and slowly the room came back into focus. I remembered where I was and was again aware of who was around me. Yes, the pain is so intense it bends your mind like that. I cannot believe that women go through labor naturally. They have super-powers that I do not possess.

So from about 10:00 a.m. on, I felt nothing. That’s right…NOTHING…from my waist down. It was strange to not be able to feel or move my legs, especially my left one. (For some reason, the anesthetic usually affects one side more strongly than the other). At this point, I think I was 3 cm dilated and almost completely effaced. I felt great, carrying on conversations, answering the phone, etc. My mom and father-in-law showed up. Around noon, Brian, my mother and my FIL went down to eat lunch. By the time they returned, I was 7 cm…progressing very, very quickly! Around 3:00, I was 10 cm dilated and ready to push!

Brian and my mom stayed during the pushing. It was pretty grueling and repetitive. I had been worried that with the epidural I wasn’t going to feel the urge to push, but I did, even though I didn’t feel the pain of the contraction that accompanied it (yay modern medicine!). Brian was an awesome coach, helping me lift my head and put my chin to my chest, reminding me to use my arms and pull up (on the bed handles). The contractions were slowing down, not coming as often as they were before, so my doctor gave me a shot of pitocin, which helps move the contractions along. When that didn’t help, I had another round of pitocin, which also didn’t produce the desired effect. After 2 1/2 hours of pushing, the baby was NOT moving down. The baby was faced the wrong way and had a big head. Between contractions, the doctor would reach in (yeah, this part was greeeaaat) and physically turn the baby around, but when I started pushing, the baby just flipped right back over. (Stubborn like mommy). The doctor was afraid that the baby’s head was just swelling in the birth canal instead of moving down. She said that she usually gives her patients 3 hours of pushing before considering a C-section and that she was absolutely willing to go for another 1/2 hour. I asked her for her professional opinion: Would another 1/2 hour of pushing move the baby down at all? She didn’t think so since the past 2.5 hours had barely moved that baby. After some crying, I decided to have a C-section.

This part is kind of a blur for me. I think it was about 5:30 p.m. when I was wheeled in to surgery. I remember seeing Brian dressed in scrubs. He was told to wait in some holding room for about 5 minutes until I was ready. (He later told me it was the longest 5 minutes of his life). I remember being moved from my rolling bed to the surgery table by many people. I remember the anesthesiologist, Dr. Eng, was really, really nice. He stayed up by my head and told me exactly what he was injecting into me. Brian was brought in and was sitting right next to me (on the “safe” side of the curtain). It was weird to be awake the whole time and not feel my body being cut open. I remember the doctor announcing when she was making the incision. During the next hour, I pretty much just laid there and listened to the doctors’ idle chit-chat. I remember finding that to be strange, but I guess this is routine for them. After about an hour, the doctors announced, “Okay, this is it!” I felt an intense amount of pressure and then heard the most joyous sound I have EVER heard in my entire life: my baby crying. Of course, Brian and I sobbed. Then we heard the doctor say, “It’s a GIRL!” I was shocked. I was so sure it was going to be a boy. The doctors were all surprised at how big she was and I heard them betting on the baby’s weight. One said at least 9 lbs., another said 8 lbs. 5 oz. She ended up being 8-3.

Brian was beckoned to the table where our daughter was being evaluated and cleaned up. They handed her to him and he brought her to me, or as close as he could. (There were lots of machines in the way). Out of the corner of my eye and through my tears, I could just make her out: our daughter.

I was then sewn back up with stitches and staples and brought into recovery where I spent an eternity before they brought the baby to me. At this point, it was about 2 hours since she was born and I still hadn't really seen her, let alone hold her. Even though I was totally out of it, I was going crazy waiting for her and Brian. Finally, FINALLY, they brought her in. She still had no name at this point because I wanted to see her before we chose one of our two girls' names we had picked out. We chose Samantha Florence, which I think is the most beautiful name in the world.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

A Star is Born

I have a really, really good reason for not posting in such a long time. My baby was born!

Samantha Florence was born on Friday, June 27, 2008 at 6:25 p.m.

She weighed 8 lbs. 3 oz. and was 20 inches long. I will eventually post her birth story (in the process of writing it), but for now,

here are some pictures of the day she was born. Looking at them, I'm amazed at how much she's already changed!

My husband and I feel so lucky to have her in our lives. All our nervousness and fear has been replaced by happiness and thankfulness.






Thursday, June 19, 2008

Closing Thoughts

I found this blog entry saved as a draft and figured I could use it as a way to sum up my school year. (There are actually many other school-related happenings I didn't blog about, so those may pop up from time to time).

While I'm happy to have this year off to care for my baby (if s/he EVER SHOWS), there are definitely some THINGS I WILL MISS ABOUT TEACHING:

1. Field trips: I've been to countless interesting places in my tenure as a teacher, from boat tours to obscure museums to weird (and bad) plays. I'll miss bringing my kids as they experience things in Chicago for the first time. It's a pain in the ass to schedule field trips, and sometimes not worth it when all some kids do is complain the whole time about how boring this is, but for the most part, who doesn't love a field trip? It's like a day off!

2. A Paycheck: What the hell is wrong with the USA? No obligatory paid maternity leave? What the hell is that? According to a USA Today article that came up when I googled "maternity leave in other countries," Canadians get 14 months of paid maternity leave. Swedes get approximately 24 months.

3. Humor: While I live with quite possibly the world's funniest person, I will miss the humor 4th graders provide.

4. Structure: While I'm a relatively flexible person and can move my schedule around when needed, teaching (or working in general) gives me a sense of structure to my day. Y'know, like I have to wake up by 6:20, and I have to have my kids to library by 11:00, and we always eat lunch at 11:40. Yeah, now...not so much. Don't get me wrong: the best thing ever (in my opinion) is to not have to wake up to an alarm clock and I appreciate that this past week I've pretty much been able to do whatever the hell I want whenever I want to do it (or not do it!), but after a while without structure to my day, I tend to fall apart. I guess this is something I don't have to worry about too much, though, because I have an 8-pound ball of structure headed my way, don't I?

5. That Feeling: I will never forget when I realized that I wanted to become a teacher. I was a sophomore in high school in the reading and writing lab, a place students could go for extra help. Mr. Silverwood was helping me answer an essay question for my English class about Huck Finn that I just did not know the answer to. We reread the part together in the book and he helped me realize the answer. He didn't tell me the answer, he helped me arrive at it on my own. Apparently I gave off some visible cue that I got it because he said to me, "See, that right there! That's why I became a teacher." And I knew what he meant. And I wanted it, too.

Okay, so granted that feeling doesn't happen every day, but it's something a teacher strives for every day, and when it happens, it makes the rest of the bullshit worthwhile. Speaking of bullshit...


THINGS I WILL NOT MISS:

1. Lack of supplies: Not having paper towels in the bathroom with which to dry my hands has gotten old after 11 years. I always have paper towels at home! Stealing toilet paper from the teachers' bathroom so my kids can use some toilet paper when they go to the bathroom OR having to bring my own from home is something I could use a break from as well.

2. Weird sounds: Dealing with kids making farting sounds, tapping sounds, and general weird sounds is a-n-n-o-y-i-n-g. Not that I'm expecting peace and quiet with a newborn, but at least the sounds s/he makes are not purposefully annoying.

3. The "computer" teacher: who does as little as possible all the time. Get this, she's not teaching computers next year! Hey, maybe the kids will actually learn something about technology now that she's not going to be teaching it. She is assigned to 2nd grade next year, so god help those 30 kids. I think her reassignment was a ploy to get her to retire (I think she's at least 70 years old!), but it failed.

4. Complaints: like, "He keeps bumping my desk when he walks by," or "She keeps talking about me," or "They called me dumb/ugly/retarded." Y'know...at the beginning of the year, I was on top of this behavior. The kid would immediately "pull their card" and apologize. By the end, though, I just wanted to yell, "I DON'T CARE" or "JUST DEAL WITH IT!" That's what spending 160 days with 9-year olds will do to you.

5. Preparing students for assemblies, like Christmas or Black History: What. A. Pain. Like I don't have enough to do without having the kids memorize a song or poem.

6. Meetings: 'nuff said.

7. Preps/specials being cancelled with no advanced notice: Or is this good preparation for babysitters?

8. Clueless parents: Parents of all the students I've taught, thank you for preparing me to not be a total idiot who has the wool pulled over my eyes by a 9-year-old. While some of you are great parents, others of you need to get a clue.


I feel bad that my lists are so uneven (5 things I will miss vs. 8 things I won't), but not so bad that I'm going to sit here and think of 3 more things that I will miss. It's time for me to go eat some breakfast. That's right...breakfast at 9:30 a.m...when I want to eat breakfast...not at some prescribed time that my job says I should eat breakfast.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

The Next Chapter

School is officially over. The next 14 months are mine, all mine! Okay, who am I kidding? The next couple days/weeks are mine-all-mine...after that, they belong to my future son/daughter.

*giggles nervously*

While I can't wait to meet him/her and start this next chapter of life together, part of me is like, "What the hell was I thinking???" I was perfectly happy before getting pg, why did I think I needed to be any happier? Have I bitten off more than I can (or want to) chew?


Mothers assure me that having a baby is "the best thing there is," and then follow it up with horror stories of labor, complaints about how little sleep they got the first month, difficulties breastfeeding, and so on. "It's all worth it," they say. I hope so, because at this point, this kid has GOT to come out of me.


Being pregnant has been great...up until about 2 weeks ago. Now, not so much. The little things I used to take for granted are now some of my greatest obstacles. Tying my shoes, for example, is the hardest thing I do all day. Turning over in bed without waking up...forget it.


So while I'm ready to get this kid OUT, the aforementioned fears make me want to keep the kid IN. Better yet, I wish there was a hidden option "C," in which I wake up from this dream and I'm on vacation in Belize or something.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Polka Dots

I'm all about the comfort these days. At 9 months pregnant, you gotta be because you're so friggin' uncomfortable most of the time! One of my most comfortable items of clothing (besides my pjs) is my pair of white capris. I swear, I could wear them to bed, they're that awesome.

I wear them to work at least once a week, always careful to wear the right color underwear underneath, y'know like a nude or white.

Well...I was walking my kids outside the other day for recess where we encountered another class coming in. I stopped for a minute to talk to the teacher and then we continued on our way. Once we got out to recess, some of my girls came up to me.

Q: Ms. M, do you know why that other class was laughing? [and, yes, I have a female student whose name starts with "Q"]

Me: No, I didn't even notice anybody was laughing.

Q: Oh, it's because you can see your underwear.

At this point I look down and, sure enough, I'm wearing orange and blue polka-dotted underwear! Crap.

Me: You sure can, huh? Oh well, I'll live.

Q: We were going to tell you this morning [at this point it's 1:15 p.m.], but we didn't want to embarass you.

Me: We?

Q: Yeah, the whole class noticed right away.

Me: Terrific.


In all honesty, I really don't care. (I'm finding you really don't care about much when 9 months pregnant). But I am glad she told me because I had to go to the dentist and Target after work, so I stopped and changed before going to these places. Thank god there's only 3 school days left. The white capris will probably only be worn to work once more. I'll make sure to have the right color underwear on.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Food Fight!

I've been bad, I know. I haven't posted for a while. At least I'm not as bad as my husband who hasn't posted in over a month.

So I witnessed an honest-to-god, real-life FOOD FIGHT! Just like in the movies! It was unreal. My fourth graders have lunch at a time when the lunch room is filled with 5th and 6th graders. As we leave, 7th graders come in. However, on this particular day, I kept my kids at lunch late because we arrived late and they didn't have time to finish their lunch. Despite the bad feeling I had about staying 5 minutes late, we stayed. Yes, I literally had an intuitive feeling that we should not stay, but damnit, I'm 9 months pregnant and hungry!

From where I sit in the lunchroom, I have a wide vantage point. I can pretty much see everybody. It started with a 7th grader throwing an orange. Then another kid throwing an orange. Then hamburgers started flying. Then chocolate milks. Then whole trays of food were going all over the place. We're talking over 100 students in this room, in this mess.

My class was pretty much out of the way (as we're all the way at the front of the room) so we weren't in the food fight, but we witnessed the whole thing. My poor little 4th graders either ran out of the room or took cover under the table. I pretty much just sat their, mouth agape, and watched the chaos unfold. Crazy, but the whole thing lasted under 30 seconds...there's only so much food you can throw, right? Good thing it wasn't spaghetti day. ( ;

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A Gazillion Dollars

So CPS (Chicago Public Schools) spent a gazillion dollars on this computer program. I'm not sure if "program" is the correct word to use, but that's what I'm calling it. It's actually pretty cool. We now submit our daily attendance on it, we submit our report card grades on it, we can look up our students' test scores and pull up references and worksheets to work on their areas of weakness (based on the aforementioned test scores). Supposedly there are a million other things we can and should do with it, but who can remember all of this...especially when they are 9 months pregnant? I'm just happy I don't have to have an attendance book in which I manually have to count up how many absences and tardies each one of my kids has.

In one respect, this "program" makes life easier. BUT...

At our staff meeting last Wednesday (May 21st), we were informed that we would have to submit our 4th quarter grades on IMPACT (oh, that's the name of this computer program) by today, May 27th. Uh, hello? The last full day of school is June 11. WTF?

The reason is that the "program" needs time to average the grades for each quarter to come up with final grades for the year. Are you kidding me? So something that costs a gazillion dollars needs 2 weeks to do what I can do in 10 minutes for all my students in all the subjects?

Seriously:

Math:
Quarter 1: A
Quarter 2: B
Quarter 3: A
Quarter 4: A
Final Grade: A

I'm curious to see what the computer do when it runs into this conundrum that I'm faced with every year:

Reading:
Quarter 1: B
Quarter 2: A
Quarter 3: B
Quarter 4: A
Final Grade: ??????? (by the way, there are no plusses or minuses)

The program just may explode. Hmmm....maybe that's why it's going to take it 2 weeks.

I just feel bad for my (and all the) students who were told that they have "the rest of the quarter" to raise their grades when they got their progress reports like 2 weeks ago.

Well, whatever...my grades are done and inputted. OH, and that's something ELSE that's dumb. The program that we use to record each individual grade from each assignment (and it averages them for us) is a DIFFERENT program than what we use for report cards. So when I input my grades into IMPACT, I have to have 2 different programs open so I can see what Karim got in Social Studies and type it into the other program.

There are actually many, many more things wrong with this b.s. program, but they're so stupid, I'm just gonna get pissed off.

That's your money hard at work, Chicago!

End of school countdown: 11 school days
Baby countdown: 32 days until due date!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Comments? Questions?

3 things my students said to me today:

1. "Ms. M., a fly landed on my head twice." What does one say to this? Seriously. Someone tell me.
2. "Ms. M., can I pay for my [$5] field trip in dimes?" Are you kidding me? I had to say yes. This kid is pooooor. So, yes, I accepted 50 dimes. Ugh.
3. "We don't have a garbage can." This was in response to an assignment I gave them to record anything that their family throws away in their home's "busiest" garbage can for a unit on conservation. It never occurred to me that a home would not have a garbage can.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Haircut

I got a haircut this weekend. A pretty substantial one at that, like 5 inches cut off. With a drastic cut like this, one is sure to receive comments like, "Hey, you got your hair cut!" (I never know what to say to this). Anyway, when working with kids, one is bound to receive less innocuous comments. Here's the first exchange of the day:

H: "Ms. M, WHY did you cut your hair????"

Me: "Well, I just needed a change."

H: "But WHHHHY? You don't even look like a teacher anymore!"

Me: "What does that mean?"

H: "I don't know. You just don't. You shouldn't have cut it!"

Me: "I'm not worried. It'll grow back."

H: "I hope so!"

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Another Reading Response from R.

If you don't know what Reading Responses are, you need to click here.

Dear Ms. M,

I just finished Ripley's Birds of Prey by Richie Chevat. I read about vultures and owls and found out they're both gross. I knew vultures were gross, eating anything that's dead, but owls??? Owls eat their own poop (pellets) and live underground and they look like blood! Yuck.

Sincerely,
R.

[I have no idea what he means when he says "they look like blood." Anyone?]

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Life 1 and Life 2

I overheard 2 of my students speaking yesterday:

H: "...yeah, my mom says that in her 'other life' she..."

A: "Oh, you mean before you were born?"

H: "Yeah..."

A: "My mom says that, too!"


I guess this is a good lesson for a mom-to-be, huh? Only 7 weeks left of Life 1.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

My X Hurts

I'm a teacher, right? Okay, so even though I'm responsible for my 18 kids throughout the day, I can't take care of their every need even though they expect me to. What the hell am I supposed to say to a kid who approaches me (as one did today) and says, "Ms. M, my tooth hurts."

In my nice moments I say something like, "I'm sorry, honey, but there's not really much I can do about your toothache. Did you tell your mom this morning?"

In my, uh, less nice moments, I say something like, "And?"

Seriously, kid, what do you want me to do? Now it's been 11 of years of teaching and I've heard about all kinds of aches and pains, most of which I can do nothing about. So unless you are visibly hurt (like your arm is bent between your wrist and your elbow), or you have a fever I can judge without a thermometer, or you are throwing up in the garbage can, there's not much I can do for ya.

A couple things I have learned about children's ailments are:

-having a child put their head down on their desk or lay down in the library for 20 minutes seems to cure most illnesses.

-bandaids work wonders, even for cuts that aren't bleeding.

-an upcoming recess cures most (if not all) illnesses.


Countdown: 30 days!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

You're Seriously Not Going to Believe This

Seriously.

Most Wednesdays we have staff meetings. I, however, could not attend because I had morning duty (yes, I said "duty"). This one week-long responsibility keeps me from meeting my kids outside in the morning and escorting them up to my classroom. During weeks like this, by the time I get to my room, my kids are already there waiting to be let in.

Today, H. supposedly pushed R. on the stairs, and he fell and hit his head. On the way to my room (after morning duty), I encountered R. being brought to the office by another boy. At least I thought they were going to the office. The other boy informs me that, no, they're going to the gym teacher. "Uh, why?" I asked. The boy explains that they already went to the office and they told him to take him to the gym teacher. "Uh, why?" I asked. "Because that's where they told me to go." (Wow, school really does prepare you for the real world!)

Now let me back up a sec. You may be wondering why they didn't go to the nurse's office. Remember the nurse's office in elementary school? It was always pristine and smelled like rubbing alcohol. She always had cots for you to lay down on when you didn't feel well? Yeah, this is CPS, people. There is no nurse's office. We have a nurse 2 days a week. I'm not kidding. So when somebody is sick or hurt, they get sent to the counselor's office (who, by the way, doesn't counsel. Again, I'm not kidding, but that's a whole other blog entry). If the "counselor" is not there, the kids go to the main office.

Aaaanyway, after 5 minutes R. comes back from the gym teacher (sans ice pack or anything) with the other boy who informs me that the gym teacher said to tell me that if R. seems sleepy later, I should let him sleep since he hit his head. Uh, isn't this contrary to everything you've ever heard about head injuries? Aren't you NOT supposed to let the person sleep? I'm reeaaaalllly hoping that the kid heard wrong and that this was not the true advice of the one person apparently doling out medical advice to 700+ students.

Later on, I found out that the staff meeting that I missed was about sending kids down to the office when they're hurt or sick. "Great!" I thought to myself before hearing the rest. "I really hope they work this system out so the gym teacher isn't the acting nurse on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays." Yeah, what They've decided to do is not allow us to send any sick or hurt kids to any office anymore! They gave everybody first aid boxes and now we're on our own. I'm hoping this is more misinformation and isn't actually true, but I didn't have time to find out today. I'll let you know what happens.

Countdown: 34 days. Hopefully nobody gets something hard to diagnose within that time.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Makes Me Smile

Bet you've never heard this at YOUR job:

[over the P.A.]: "If anyone found a Hello-Kitty backpack, can you please bring it to the office?"

*hee-hee*

Monday, April 14, 2008

Hanging My Head in Shame

Today I said what I think is the worst thing a teacher could say to a student. I said:

"I don't care what you think."

J. was talking back to me for the 8,000,000th time after I reprimanded him and it just came out. Hearing the words come out of my mouth as I said them, I regretted them immediately. I didn't mean it. I swear. And I told him so. I made sure everybody heard me tell him I didn't mean it and that I was sorry I said it. Then I went on to tell him what I really did mean.

I guess I'm being hard on myself. I've heard teachers say a LOT worse. A LOT. And they didn't take it back.

Countdown: 41 days

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Cue the Circus Music

I guess I'm not getting much out of my job lately since I haven't posted in...I don't even know how long. Either that or I'm just so effing tired by the time work is done that I can't even function. Seriously, by the end of the day I'm spent to the point where my husband is worried about me. Awwwww. Really, though, I'm fine. I'm just 7 months pregnant. (Yeah, holy shit.)

Yesterday was a no-school day for kids. Those are the best because I can actually get work done. This may sound silly to you because kids are my work, but imagine this: Everyday you have to give a presentation that has to last from 9:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. Now these presentations cannot (or should not) be repetative. They should be hands-on and interesting, use engaging supplies and manipulatives, and your audience will be tested all the material you cover, which, by the way, has a very wide scope as you must cover 5 different topics.

Uh, when do you prepare for these presentations? Right, you get to the presentation early and you stay late. But some presentations require much more preparation than others, so sometimes you are preparing for one the day before and sometimes a week in advance. Add on top of this a shitload of paperwork, many phone calls to make (and no phone given to you), materials to gather and/or make, field trips to plan, interruptions from the office, and...oh, yeah, your audience doesn't really like to listen most of the time.

Basically, teaching is like being the ringmaster of a 14-ring circus while you yourself are juggling 23 balls in the air. Ask any teacher...s/he will agree. There is just so. much. going. on. And while you can't really understand it until you're in that situation, I hope I've given you a glimpse.

So yesterday, when I had a whole 3 hours in a row to work in my room, I got SOOOO much done, but not even close to what I needed to get done. I could probably use, like, 3 more DAYS, but there's no way in hell I'm going in on a weekend.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Reason 699

Another reading response letter from the same kid who wrote the ones I've previously posted. His always are more interesting to read than the other run-of-the-mill (read: "boring") ones:

Dear Ms. M,
I'm reading The Tiger Rising, a great book by Kate DiCamillo. It's about a boy and girl who found a tiger in the woods. The boy, Rob, was feeding the lion. His father found the meat and Rob had no choice but to lie about it. When Rob and Sistine finally went to go free the tiger, Willie May had told his father and he murdered the tiger!
I think it was bogus that his father killed the tiger. I mean, endangered species, hello!!!
Sincerely, R.
Countdown update: 45 school days left!

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Final Countown

I've started doing something unhealthy. I do it every school year even though I shouldn't: I start an end-of-the-year countdown.

I shouldn't do it because I try to subscribe to the "it's not where you're going, but how you get there" mentality. Y'know enjoying and living each day, not just trying to get through it? Up until this week, I feel like I've done pretty well, but now...well...not so much.

It's part of my nature, I think. Hell, it's one of the reasons I went into teaching in the first place: because there is an end to every school year (conveniently followed by 2+ months off). I don't know how you civilians do it, working day in and day out with no end in sight. I could never EVER do it. I think I'd kill myself.

So I guess I've started my countdown early this year because I know that once this school year ends, I will have a whole new part of my life starting. That and 14 months of not having to go to work!

Oh, and by the way, we're at 48 school days (full school days with students in-session). Woo-hoo!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

It's Official

I'm officially taking the year off next year. It's weird and I have mixed feelings about it. On one hand, I'm grateful that I have the opportunity to spend a maximum amount of time with the baby during its first year of life. I'm happy that my husband and I are the kind of people who save money by living below our means (I don't buy killer shoes and we drive practical, gas-saving cars) which allows me to stay home. I'm excited by the idea of not having to pick out an outfit to wear everyday (at least one that matches) and not having to sit in traffic. I'm excited to have a break from what I've been doing for the past 11 years in a row. I'm happy that the crazy third graders across the hall are the class that I'm going to be skipping. They seem nuts.

But...

I'm also kinda freaked out. I've always worked. I'm not good at relaxing. Okay, not that I'm going to be sleeping in and eating bon-bons all day during the year I stay home. Ha! Far from it, I'm sure! But I don't do well without structure. Even over my summer vacations I get a little stir-crazy by the end and almost look forward to school starting again. Almost. I fear being bored. I fear not enjoying motherhood. I fear feeling guilty for not enjoying motherhood. I worry about being lonely...I mean, a newborn doesn't make a very good conversation partner. I don't want to turn into the kind of person who talks baby talk all day to her little one and then can no longer hold an intelligent conversation with an adult because the only things she is exposed to are binkies, blankies, and poopy diapers. I will need exposure to grown up things.

So if you are a person who knows me. Please call me next year and talk to me about things that don't end in the long e sound. Invite me out to lunch. Go to a movie with me. Anything to remind me that I am still a real person.

I'll tell you one thing, though. I will NOT miss grading papers, which is what I've blown off by writing this blog entry.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

It's Over

Today's the last day of Spring Break. As usual, I brought home stuff to work on. In fact, I brought a special, more easy-to-carry bag to work on the last day before break so I could bring a lot of stuff home. Guess where that bag is? Yup, still in the car. ( ;

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Spring Break - Friday

Friday, April 14 - Day 8
We checked out and were pleased at what a value our hotel was -- not that we didn’t know how much it cost per night, but we had been charging drinks, meals, and snacks to our room, not to mention our tour of Tikal. We went to town to have breakfast before heading to the airport. However, everything was closed due to it being Good Friday. We found one open restaurant called “Pop’s,” which was very good even though it had mediocre coffee (surprise, surprise!). We drove towards the airport and tried to take a shortcut, which somehow ended up taking us in the wrong direction. We needed to get gas before returning our rental car, but everything was closed (again due to it being Good Friday). We did find an open gas station, filled up, returned our car, and got back to the States without any problem.


Notes on Belize in general:

There are many stray dogs and cats in Belize. It’s kind of sad.

There are very noisy birds at sunrise and sunset.

People tie their horses up on the side of the “highway” so they can graze.

All highways are 2 lanes (one in each direction).

There are many speed bumps on “highways” and other roads. Many are marked, but many are not. We called the unmarked ones “stealth speed bumps.”

Humidity can have an awful effect on hair. Simona’s hair took on a life of its own.

Belize lacks adequate signage.

Papaya jelly is good.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Spring Break - Thursday

Thursday, April 13 - Day 7
I woke up early to go to the bathroom and discovered the world’s biggest spider in the sink. I debated for about 15 minutes what I should do: should I ignore it and go back to sleep? Should I turn the water on and see if it goes down the drain? Should I douse it with some kind chemical like face wash or hairspray? No matter which option I considered, I imagined the end result being this huge, nasty, hairy spider running up the bowl of the sink followed by its entire family of other huge, nasty, hairy spiders, jumping on me and getting caught in my hair.
I finally woke Brian up and told him. He was evidently annoyed that I would wake him up because of a spider, but said he would “take care of it.” All I knew is that I did not want to be anywhere near whatever was going to happen, so I got dressed, grabbed a book, and went to the pool to read, even though it was like 6:30 a.m. Brian came up half an hour later and conceded that I was justified in waking him up: the spider was huge and nasty, but luckily, it was already dead. Eeeeeeeeewwwww.

We left for breakfast at Erva’s and had some very good coffee. Finally! We were going to Rio on Pools, which, according to our guidebook, is a series of remote waterfalls reminiscent of Ochos Rios in Jamaica. The waterfalls were in the middle of the country in the mountains. The road leading there was another moon road. Not only was it full of huge rocks and craters, but it was over 20 miles long! We made it after an hour, and it was absolutely worth it. The falls were incredibly beautiful and we had them all to ourselves…very romantic. We climbed around on rocks, found pools safe for swimming, swam to other, taller waterfalls, and just had a fantastic, adventurous, and romantic time. (The picture doesn't do the falls any justice at all. Plus, we couldn't take pictures of the coolest falls because we had to swim to them sans camera). We stayed for three hours and had forgotten all about the impending ride home, which was just as horrible as the drive there.

We returned to San Ignacio and got some sour sap ice cream. Brian bought a Belizean cd. We returned to the hotel and went swimming. This annoying woman started talking to me and within 15 minutes, I knew her entire life story. We went to dinner at Hannah’s and had the same waitress. We also saw the annoying woman there, but thankfully she did not start talking to us. We drove back to the hotel where we discovered we had a flat tire (probably due to the 40+ miles of moon road we drove on that day!). Brian changed it. I hung out by the pool and read while Brian showered. I left when I saw the biggest cockroach ever (even bigger than the one at the zoo. Yes, they had cockroaches on display at the zoo!). I went back the cabana and watched tv. I was watching What Not to Wear when we saw “Big Bob,” our friend Jen Burn’s husband, on tv! He was one of the friend’s of the makeover-ee, and he was commenting on how great her transformation was. It was weird. There we were, in Belize of all places, when we see the most unlikely guy to ever be shown on What Not to Wear.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Spring Break - Wednesday

So if you happen NOT to be one of the 5 people who regularly read my blog, let me catch you up. I am on SPRING BREAK this week, which is great except for 2 things: it's supposed to fucking snow tomorrow AND it's already Thursday, which means the week is winding down. Therefore, I don't have any elementary school mishaps, happenings, or stories to relay, so I am sharing the blog entries I wrote on my husband's and my trip to Belize 2 spring breaks ago. Y'know, when it DIDN'T snow...

Wednesday, April 12 - Day 6
We awoke early and had breakfast at the German Bakery with high hopes of having some good, strong coffee and yummy pastries. We scored on the pastries and completely missed on the coffee. We drove to the Belize Zoo, which is a natural treasure of Belize. All the animals at the zoo have been either rescued, found, or donated: none have been taken from their habitats, which we thought was nice. We parked the car and began loading up on sunscreen. Brian tried to make out with me in the car in the parking lot, and tried to convince me that it was okay since there was “nobody around.” I conceded, and about 30 seconds later, a gigantic tour bus pulled in and very white American tourists began disembarking. Brian started making fun of how uncool a couple of them were, and I had to remind him that he, too, was a very white American tourist and that he was barely cooler than them.

The zoo was wonderful and full of funny signage. (A zoo with humor = a zoomor). Amidst seeing really cool animals we’d never heard of, like curassows, we got stuck in a brief, yet torrential, downpour. While walking around the zoo grounds, we turned a corner and saw a giant alligator just sitting there on the sidewalk. We freaked out and ran away. After calming down for a minute, we deduced that there would never be a real alligator just wandering around the zoo and carefully, carefully turned the same corner again and realized that the alligator was fake. Yeah, we felt really dumb, but it made for a good laugh.

After the zoo, we stopped at a restaurant called Cheers to have lunch. We decided to then go to the Blue Hole or cenote, which is a hole filled with water that shines a brilliant blue. This phenomenon is the result of an underground river meeting an above ground river. So we got there and realized we were not wearing our bathing suits, so we changed in the car (NOT an easy feat). We walked to the blue hole (and passed some changing rooms on the way – information that would’ve been helpful before) and found many other people there, which was reassuring, because god knows how deep this hole was. We went swimming in the rather chilly water, and it was sooooo refreshing. A family there had a tour guide with them and I overheard him saying that he was taught (in tour guide training) that the hole was created by a meteor millions of years ago, but that he doesn’t believe that because he knows that God created it.
After swimming, we went back to the hotel and went for dinner at the ever elusive Café Sol, which we finally found even though it didn’t have an address. After dinner, we had many many drinks at the hotel bar and took goofy pictures.







Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Spring Break - Tuesday

Tuesday, April 11 - Day 5
We “woke up” (I didn’t really sleep) and ate our crappy pre-ordered hotel breakfast with crappy coffee to match. We met the people with whom we would be going to Tikal with: a family comprised of a father with an English accent, and two sons (Will and James). They lived in Davis, CA. We got into the van, drove to the border of Belize/Guatemala, went through immigration, switched vans, got a new driver, and drove for 2 hours on the world’s worst road to Tikal. The scenery was kind beautiful, but devastating: definitely the poorest area either of us has ever seen in our lives. We arrived at the entrance of Tikal where the driver receives a paper with the time stamped on it. From that moment, the vehicle has 20 minutes MINIMUM (yes, minimum) to arrive at the parking area. This is to ensure that nobody drives too fast in this protected area. It is home to many wild animals, including jaguars. If you take less than 20 minutes to arrive from the front entrance to parking, you are not allowed in.

So Tikal was the capital of the Mayan civilization. It is located in a protected area that is bigger than the entire country of Belize (which actually isn’t saying much seeing as though Belize is the size of my living room). We met our guide, Walter, who was the most amazing tour guide we have ever had for anything anywhere. He was incredibly knowledgeable. From the amount and depth of information he had, he could easily have had a PhD. He had been to Chicago for the sole purpose of seeing an ancient Mayan text at the Newbery Library. I am not going to go into all the ruins we saw and learned about in Tikal as it would take days. I will say that it was incredibly HOT. After the tour, which ended at about 2:00, we ate a lunch of grilled chicken and rice. We got back in the van and headed back towards Belize. We stopped at a gift shop where I bought a set of placemats and napkins for our house (fascinating, I know). We returned to the hotel, swam, and relaxed. We tried to find a restaurant called Café Sol, but it was nowhere to be found. It probably would have helped if the restaurant had an address. (While driving around trying to find the restaurant, we saw what we dreaded ever seeing: MS13 graffiti). We ended up eating at a place called Hannah’s where the same waitress who waited on us the first night we ate at our hotel (when I discovered sour sap ice cream) waited on us again. This was odd because she didn’t even work at our hotel! The manager just needed extra help that night, and she was available. Go figure.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Spring Break - Monday

Monday, April 10th - Day 4
Monday morning we had breakfast at the hotel, where we discovered fried jacks. Fried jacks are just like paste fritte (you'll know what these are if you're Italian)!!! Basically, it’s fried dough. Yum! Unfortunately, our hotel made the WORST coffee ever, which goes to show that it doesn’t matter how close you are to the best coffee-producing countries of the world. What matters is the coffee-to-water ratio you use when making coffee.

We decided that we would spend the day “cave tubing,” which is exactly as it sounds. You ride an inner tube through caves. We read in our guidebook that this hoity-toity resort about 30 miles away hosts the tubing on the Caves Branch River. The resort is called “Jaguar Paw” and their address, and I am not making this up, is “Western Highway Mile Marker 37.” We drove to said mile marker and turned onto a “road.” This “road” was in the same condition as the driveway to our hotel. It was a moon road (remember with craters and rocks as big as my head?). Before we drove down this road, I got out to ask a man in a little snack stand if this was the correct road to Jaguar Paw. He said yes, and that we just had to drive SEVEN MILES down the moon road to get there. SEVEN MILES of moon road!! The drive was not fun. It was bumpy and I didn’t think our little jeep was going to make it. But we did and got to see a baby cow on the way. (Little things make me happy).

We got to Jaguar Paw, which we later learned has had such distinguished guests as Bill Gates (who avoided the moon road by arriving by helicopter) and Leonardo DiCaprio. We met our guide, Israel, who made us feel kinda old since he was a whole whopping twenty years old. We got our tubes and started on a half hour hike through the jungle to the drop in point of the river. On the hike, Brian’s shoe broke, which did not make walking easy for him, but he managed. Israel taught us all sorts of stuff about the jungle, like that pineapples grow from a bush, not from a tree (and one at a time, not in a group like coconuts), and that there is a tree that is nicknamed the “tourist tree” because the bark turns red and peels off. (How droll). He was really knowledgeable about the jungle and used the word “symbiosis” several times. Israel was also pretty funny. I told him I was kind of nervous about tubing through caves and asked him if he’d done this a million times. I was obviously looking for some reassurance, and he responded with, “No, it’s my first time.” (Of course it wasn’t). So we got in the river and began a very slow journey through a series of limestone caves. We were wearing headlamps so we could see all the stalactites hanging from the ceiling. When we turned off our lamps, we were in total darkness. It was really eerie. On this very slow journey, we learned a lot about Mayan culture from Israel, specifically about how the Mayans thought caves were portals to the underworld. All in all, the cave tubing was disappointing since we were drifting at about .0001 mph for approximately three hours.

Seeing as though we were going to be doing a lot of walking the next day in Guatemala, we thought it best to get Brian some new tennis shoes (since his broke). We drove to Belmopan, the capital of Belize. Belmopan is to Belize what Springfield is to Illinois, NOT a major city. When we asked a couple of women where we could find a store that sold gym shoes, they said that we’d have to go to Belize City to find brand name shoes like Nike or Reebok. Belize City is ALL THE WAY ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE COUNTRY (okay, granted that's only like 75 miles, but still!)! Since we were willing to buy non-brand-name shoes (think “Reebork” or “Nikey,” they pointed us in the direction of a very weird, Indian-owned store that sold shoes (and an odd amalgam of other things). We found Brian a pair of tennis shoes and we were on our way.

We drove back to San Ignacio. It was too early to eat dinner so we walked around to kill some time. We found a German Bakery that sold sour sap gelato. I was happy. We ate a fantastic and incredibly cheap dinner at Erva’s and returned to the hotel where we had some drinks and went swimming. We realized we had to be up before 7:00 the next morning since the van leaving for Guatemala was leaving at 7:30, but that we had no alarm clock. We figured out that Brian’s iPod has an alarm clock and set it for 6:30. Seeing as though it is the World’s Quietest Alarm™, I was totally unable to sleep for fear that we would sleep through the WQA™.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Spring Break - Sunday

Sunday, April 9th - day 3

This morning we woke up sad because we knew we had to leave the island. We went to breakfast where we had yet another delicious cup of iced coffee and people-watched. We packed up our belongings, checked out, and then half rolled, half-dragged our suitcases further along the beach to the dock from where our boat was departing. The boat was running late and we had to wait for about half an hour in the sun. Unfortunately, the wonderful breeze that had served as air conditioning for the past two days had stopped, and this was probably the hottest day of our vacation. We finally embarked and said goodbye to Caye Caulker. (I'm not sure if it was mentioned in a previous post, but the official motto of Caye Caulker is "Go Slow." Isn't that the best thing you've ever heard?).

After a forty-minute ride, we arrived in Belize City, and were immediately whisked into a cab to get to the airport where we had arranged to rent a car (poor planning on my part). We got there earlier than we had arranged, so they did not have a car for us. (Again, poor planning on my part). However, the guy talked to another rental car dude next door, and we ended up getting a car from another company called Jubaru. So we got our little Suzuki Jeep and off we went towards San Ignacio, all the way on the other side of Belize (about 75 miles), except that we ended up back in Belize City and could not find our way out. We stopped and asked for directions at a (thankfully) very modern gas station that also carried Diet Coke (Coca Light). The woman told us to go this way and that way and when we come to a roundabout with a statue of a hand with a golden leaf in the middle, turn right. Somehow (luck), we did find this statue, and did find our way out of this “city.” It took us about 2 hours to get to San Ignacio. We could’ve made better time except for two things: random, stealth speed bumps and police checkpoints. Both were scary at first, but we got used to them. Oh, and it was also interesting to have no (or little) idea how fast we were going: the speed signs were posted in miles per hour, but our car was in kilometers per hour. Seeing as though we didn’t have a calculator to do the necessary computations (and we also didn’t know the ratio…we do now: it’s 1 km = .62 miles), we just went as fast as what felt right.

We approached San Ignacio, but really had no idea where our hotel was. I remembered that it overlooked San Ignacio, so we pretty much turned onto roads that looked like they were going up. There were also signs all over for Cahal Pech Village Resort, our hotel, but they didn’t give any mileage (or kilometerage) or have any arrows or directions of any kind! Miraculously we found it without getting lost! So we get to the hotel’s “driveway” that pretty much went up a mountain was totally unpaved. I’m not talking American unpaved, which would mean dirt or gravel. I’m talking like the moon: craters, rocks as big as my head, and, of course, stealth speed bumps.

Okay, so we checked in and the resort was beautiful: A gorgeous pool, lovely open-air restaurant and bar, incredible grounds with flowers and flowering trees everywhere. We’re led to our cabana which had its own screened-in porch with chairs and a hammock, and then to our room, which had a bed, desk, bathroom, and a Konka brand t.v. Konka somehow struck us as hilarious, and we laughed about it the entire rest of the trip (and a little even now). It was about then that we discovered geckos. Geckos are everywhere on the mainland. Wherever there are people there are geckos! Did you know that geckos make a weird clicking sound? We didn’t know for days what the hell the clicks were and they ended up being the geckos. Now, I was totally freaked out that there were geckos in our front porch (none in our room, thankfully), but I realized that they totally leave people alone, and I now kinda miss seeing them crawl around the walls and ceilings.

That night, we wanted to go to a restaurant, Erva’s, recommended by our guidebook. We went to the front desk to ask for help in getting directions. The extremely nice woman drew us a very complicated map (San Ignacio is not the most well-planned city). After some trial and error, we got there and it was closed. We returned to the hotel and ate a very mediocre meal at the restaurant followed by some delicious sour sap ice cream. Yes, there is a fruit called sour sap. We went to bed listening to the hooting of an owl, and woke up to the hooting of the same owl. This was to pass for the next five nights. And, no, we never did get used to it!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Spring Break - Saturday

Shit, I'm already behind on my Spring Break posting:


Saturday, April 8th - Day 2
We awoke at, like, 5:30 a.m. to the sound of an army of about 20 different species of birds. Belize is a birdwatcher’s paradise. It is not, however, conducive to sleeping in. We did go back to sleep, and waking to the birds was really cool, but I could not believe HOW LOUD THEY WERE! It was really something else. When we got up for real, we went, sans shoes, to get coffee at one of our recommended coffee spots, and since it was about a million degrees by 10:00, we opted for iced coffee (and it was delicious). I also ate a giant chocolate chip cookie for breakfast and I wondered if it could really get any better than this. (It can’t, by the way).

We then decided to go snorkeling for half a day. We stopped at a little place to make reservations and the guys told us he recommends going the first half of the day since, and I believe he used these exact words, “you are so white.” (It’s okay, I’ve embraced my paleness). We ran back to our hotel, got ready for snorkeling, and made our way back to the guy, who gave us all our equipment and off we went to his boat along with some other people, one of whom was Italian, and two of whom were Australian and annoying. We were taken to three different locations to snorkel. The first two were pretty cool: beautiful coral, big fish, but a MAJOR current, so that by the end of each locale, I was NOT feeling well and was popping Dramamine like they were tic-tacs. By the time we get to the third location, I didn’t think I was going to make it without puking, but then it ended up being shallow enough to stand and there was no current at all (thank god). This third location was called “Shark and Ray Alley,” and (no surprises here), it was full of nurse sharks and stingrays! I mean full! Literally dozens of each! It was SUPER cool to actually touch these 2 animals and swim among them.

We went back to the mainland, back to our hotel, and relaxed under a palm tree for many, many hours in a row. That night, we had dinner at Rasta Pasta, where Brian had the world’s largest burrito. We were pretty wiped out from snorkeling and went back to our hotel to just relax. We ended up watching this National Geographic special about this gang that originated in Central America, but has spread through Mexico, through 35 of the united States, and through several European countries. This gang is called MS13, and Brian and I were totally enthralled by the program, and promised that we were going to be on the lookout for people with MS13 tattoos and for MS13 graffiti (foreshadowing).

Friday, March 14, 2008

Spring Break - Friday

I realize I've already posted once today, but since it is now officially my spring break, I've decided to do something different. 2 years ago, my husband and I went to Belize over my spring break immediately after which I wrote what ended up being blog entries, but I never posted them anywhere. So, in order to relive the past, I'm going to post them now -day by day- so that you can hear all about the best vacation of our lives (so far) and so that I can relive the past.

So here goes:

Friday, April 7th - Day 1
We flew from O’Hare to Dallas without any major event except that the Iraqi National Soccer Team was on our plane. I couldn’t decide if this made us safer, put us in danger, or had no bearing on anything whatsoever. (Now that we’re home and safe, I believe it was the latter, or at least I hope.) So then we flew from Dallas to Belize (no teams of any kind on this flight) where we then got on THE WORLD’S TINIEST PLANE to Caye (pronounced “key”) Caulker.

We landed on what is basically a driveway, and one other couple got off with us. They hopped a “taxi” (a.k.a. golf cart), and we decided to walk. I mean, the entire island is about as big as our neighborhood at home, so how far could it be? We asked someone to point us in the right direction, which they did. They told us it should be a 10-minute walk along the beach. Sounded good to me! The walk was incredibly scenic, but rolling a suitcase through sand is as difficult as it sounds, and we partly rolled, but mostly dragged our suitcases to our hotel. Of course, because we look like big American potheads, we got offered weed right away from a guy with about two and a half teeth. We politely declined.

We got to our hotel where, Doris, our hostess, accommodatingly gave us a map of the island, and highlighted places she recommended we should go to eat, drink, snorkel, etc. This could have been helpful, except that she ended up highlighting the majority of the map. She also asked us with what airline we came over from the mainland. When we told her, she raised her eyebrows and said, “You guys are braver than me,” which did not make me feel good. Right then and there, I decided we were going to take a boat back to the mainland when it was time to depart. We played with her five dogs for awhile, went to our room, and then headed out to explore the island, which took about 30 min. We watched the beautiful sunset (left) on the western side of the island (which unfortunately is the home to a lot of garbage –apparently a problem on many islands) and then ate at a restaurant called The Sandbox. It is here that we made 3 discoveries: Brian discovered Belikin Beer, the national beer of Belize; I discovered Rum Punch, the official drink of my spring break; and the beauty of not having to wear shoes in a restaurant (or anywhere else on the island).

Reason 319

As I've mentioned before, my students have to write me weekly letters about what they've been reading. The first paragraph is supposed to be a summary. The others are about their thoughts while reading. Most of my students don't have a voice yet, which is to say that their personality doesn't come through in their writing. This kid's, though, definitely got one. (He's the same one I wrote about last time.

Dear Ms. M,
Today I finished The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo. By my point of view it was about a tiny mouse who fell in love with a princess and was sent to the dungeon because of that. And the princess was kidnapped by a rat (who fell in the queen's soup and the queen died) and a girl (who was near death and her father traded her for a cloth). The mouse comes to beat up a rat and saves the princess. That's the short story.

In the 24th chapter, Sow's mother had squeezed her hand three times and dies, but how? Kate DiCamillo kept on saying "Zip. Zero. Nada. Goose eggs." What about goose eggs, though?

It had not so much action, but it was like an action-fairy tale. But why on earth would a mouse love a human!?!?!?!?!?!? That's only like 5% possible. Even dressed up in a mouse suit, it's only about 10% possible!

Sincerely,
R.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Advertising Works

I have a beautiful commute. Even with the crappy weather we've had for the past 500 months, my commute remains beautiful. I work 20 miles from home, which actually doesn't take very long as I can pretty much take one main road: Lake Shore Drive. For those of you unfamiliar with Lake Shore Drive (LSD), it runs along Lake Michigan pretty much the length of the city. I pass such iconic places as Buckingham Fountain, Soldier Field, and get to view the Chicago skyline every day. Even when stuck in a traffic jam, hell, especially when I'm stuck in a traffic jam, I can admire the beauty, both natural and manmade, that surrounds me. Unless...

I'm not on Lake Shore Drive. The part of my commute that's not on LSD is slow, boring, and not very pretty. Yesterday I had the pleasure of sitting at a verrrrry long traffic light behind 7.5 thousand other cars and a bus. For approximately 15 minutes, this is what I stared at on the back of the bus:

(Yes, I took a picture of the back of the bus...I wasn't doing anything else!).

In case you can't see it, here's a close-up:

So guess what I'm craving? Yup, new Chocolate Chex Cereal! I can't stop thinking about it! The worst thing is, I don't even like Chex! But staring at this bowl for so long made me want some.