Saturday, June 23, 2012

Before School Got Out

This past school year was neither good, nor bad. I really liked my class (most of the time), but found that the attitude about learning (and working to learn) was different than where I had come from. The kids were just not that motivated. As a grade level we tried all kinds of things to get them to achieve at a higher level, and that helped somewhat. Most of the parents were supportive, but I had just one regular volunteer. It's funny how different this school is from where I was, and I'm probably less than two miles from my old school.

The person I work for hasn't been a principal for very long. Her management style is not one I admire. She definitely works hard, but the consensus is that she is a micro-manager and that she favors a small group of staff members over the rest of us. After working seven years for an incredibly professional and fair administrator in the recent past, it is hard for me to work for someone who isn't like that. We did not get off on the right foot at the beginning of the year, and I felt very defensive for several months. Then she backed off for a while, and by the end of the year she was making an effort to be more friendly and complimentary. But after being treated poorly early on, it's not easy for me to believe that she's sincere. Time will tell.

Morale is very low, and anyone who could retire at the end of the year did. Furthermore, our school district is struggling with the severe budget cuts our mismanaged state has imposed upon us, and we're in contentious contract negotiations. The district laid off nearly 40 temporary teachers as the school year closed. It's just a crappy time for public education (and so many industries, for that matter).

Anyway, as we neared the time where we could put in our requests for next year's assignments, I knew what I wanted to do, but I also realized that I was not a person whom my administrator would seek to please. So I began to pray about it. I prayed that the Lord would help me accept whatever was given to me. I have been disappointed with my grade placement every year since 2009, and I have not dealt well with it. It was hard to see others with less seniority get their preference and be stuck year after year in a grade level that I'm tired of teaching. As it turned out, her plans for me initially were for fourth grade, or fifth grade, or a 4/5 combination class. In other words, whatever would be leftover in those grade levels. I just smiled and said, "Sure, whatever you need me to do." That had to be the Holy Spirit because in years past I would have flipped.

During the last couple weeks of school it became apparent that a fifth grade teacher would retire, and at that point I was told I would be teaching fifth grade and moving out into a portable classroom. I surprised myself with being excited about the assignment. The two other fifth grade teachers are ladies I really enjoy having lunch with, and we seem like we'll be compatible teammates. I'm also excited to get out of the open-concept building, and into a room with walls. The noise from the other classrooms made me crazy at times last year.

Lastly, when we made up new classes for the coming year, I was able to keep about a dozen of my current students and "roll up" with them to fifth grade. They are good kids, and I know we'll enjoy spending another year together.

After just three days off, I'm still in school mode. My thoughts are frequently on decorating my new classroom, learning the fifth grade curriculum, and some of the irritations of the past few weeks. I sure hope I can detach myself from all that in the next few days and enjoy my vacation instead.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Michaela @ Thirteen Months (...and a few days...)

I just didn't get my act together for this post to be on time. Nor do I have a picture from June 18th of my dear little girl. I will say that as of yesterday, my camera (Michael's camera - that makes it special to me) has been charged and I am planning on snapping pictures frequently this summer. I changed the settings to the one for pets and kids because she is in motion all the time!

I am still in some kind of awe at how fast that first year went by. When I think back on where we were this time last year, and what she's like now, I'm just amazed. I am so determined to enjoy her babyhood because I realize just how quickly it goes by. I am not one of those moms who complains (too much) about the challenges of having a little one. It's a pleasure, honestly. She's amazing. That she even exists is incredible and wonderful, and I'd be an ungrateful fool to think otherwise. I do wish she'd stop dropping her food on the floor, though. ;)

So here are some things I want to remember about Michaela at thirteen months:

  • She is still wearing 12 months clothing, and some 12-18 months clothing. Her shoe size seems to be a 4 or a 5 depending on the maker. She's still wearing a size 3 diaper.
  • Her hair has gotten long. I have to clip it out of her eyes, but she usually wants to remove the clip. She has cute little curls in the back. Michael had wavy hair and so do I, so maybe she will keep those curls.
  • As of Monday, she had walked a few steps on her own a couple weeks before. But after that she had not done so. She crawls very fast. As of today, she walked quite a lot on her own. Tia Lisa (her nanny) had stopped by for a visit, and Michaela was inspired (with a lot of encouragement from Tia Lia) to walk back and forth between us. I'm just glad she decided to wait on this until school got out. I really wanted to be there when she put it all together.
  • Michaela babbles all day long! She has the sweetest little voice. Some of her favorite words right now are: Buffy (said more like "puppy" and inflected like it's a question), kitty (kih-ee),  and hih-gah! (no translation - seems like something to be said when she is happy). She does say other things, but those are the things I hear her say the most.
  • She is still napping twice a day. She is a good sleeper. She's also a good eater usually. She is crazy about Baby Gold Fish crackers. I call them Baby Crack. When I put them in the grocery cart today, she had a meltdown because she recognized the package and I wasn't giving them to her. She drives me crazy with the amount of food she drops on the floor. Sometimes it's a sign that she's done or that she doesn't' like something. Other times I can tell it's just for sport. The dog doesn't mind, but I do. My floor doesn't pass any kind of inspection unless Elizabeth has been here to clean.
Overall, she's just a wonderful baby. She's easy going and almost always in a good mood. I know I am so blessed to be her mama.

Back to Gymboree

Michaela and her nanny made it to Gymboree once or twice a week during the school year, but I had not taken her there since last August or September. Once I went back to work I just couldn't squeeze it in during our weekends. The times between Michaela's naps were for running errands - which she's very good at, by the way!

However, now that we are on vacation, I hope we can make it to Gymboree two or three times a week. Tia Lisa (Michaela's nanny) had told me that Michaela is "very busy" and "very social" at Gymboree. Today I was able to see that for myself. Mind you, the last time we were there together Michaela wasn't even rolling over yet! Now she acts like she owns the place.

We were the first mommy and baby to arrive, and Michaela went right for all the things she likes the most. She reached into a bin of balls, and dug down deep for her favorite kind. As the other babies came into class, she crawled over to greet most of them. Any time we were supposed to be sitting and singing, she was off doing her own thing. I could not get her to sit still. I'm afraid she was the only baby that was quite so active. I told her that she better not be zooming around like this when she gets to kindergarten! None of the other babies were as confident and outgoing as she was either. I'm not criticizing them at all. I just found it fascinating to watch her interact in a group of peers and see how gregarious she is.

Alas, no pictures because she was just moving around so quickly!

By the time we got back to the car, she was already rubbing her eyes. Once we got home, she got a drink of water and promptly went down for her nap with just the littlest of protests. She definitely wore herself out!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

First Taste of Summer

Today was my first day of summer vacation, and we spent it with our good friends Teresa and Wren who are visiting from northern California. When I first learned that they were going to be in town, I hoped we would be able to have my mother-in-law sign us in to Disneyland, but it turned out that these last couple weeks of June are blacked out on her pass. Bummer!

So, being the novice mom that I am, I began wracking my brains for something fun and cheap that we could do with the babies. In my search, I came across the OC Zoo and the Irvine Railroad at Irvine Regional Park. I think I have been to that park just once to ride horses way back when, and I had no idea that there was a small zoo there as well. It cost us $3 to park the car, $2 for adult admission to the zoo (babies are free), and $4 to ride the train. Cheap fun! My only complaint is that the bathrooms are rather, um, "rustic". There was no soap, the hand dryer did not work, and there was no changing table for the babies. Considering that the place was crawling with preschoolers, you'd think they would have a better set up for little ones. Oh, well.

The zoo was very nice. We saw all kinds of animals, and many of them were native to southern California. Most of the wild animals were sleeping, but the goats in the petting zoo were lively. I'm not really a "goat person", but the babies were delighted by their antics. Out near the railroad depot were the pony rides. The babies are too little for that kind of fun, but Michaela was overjoyed by the ponies on the other side of the fence. She really loves animals.

The train ride was just perfect for our babies - nice and slow. We enjoyed a picnic lunch in the park, too. I forgot to bring a blanket, so the babies had to eat their lunches in their strollers. I told you, I'm a novice mom in many ways still! We did let them explore on the grass a bit. Michaela was fascinated by the dry leaves on the ground.

All in all, it was a really nice way to begin our summer!

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Sunday, June 3, 2012

Summer To Do List

School doesn't get out until the 20th, but I am so ready for summer vacation! I realized recently that I haven't finished a school year since 2009, so I'm out of practice and this seems like the school year that will never end. Weekends are good, but in two short days I have to get our errands run, do laundry, and surface clean the house (Elizabeth does the deep cleaning). I feel so rushed most weekends. During the summer I expect to be able to do a little housekeeping each day, and have fun with my girl.

So here's some of what I hope to do this summer.

Places to go: 
Santa Ana Zoo
Aquarium of the Pacific
The beach
El Dorado Nature Center
Walks to our neighborhood park
Swim lessons
Orange County Fair

People we want to see:
Aunt Maureen & Uncle Jim in San Diego
Teresa, Toby, & Wren in San Francisco
Penny & family in Los Osos

Clean out patio room and garage
Have a garage sale

There are also phone calls to be made and letters to be written regarding our situation with Social Security, and perhaps a lawyer to consult with. As a teacher it is very hard to make calls during the day. So these things will have to wait until then.  There are actually lots of other things that will require phone calls - things about health insurance, life insurance, investments, etc. My gosh! Our modern lives are so complicated. I hate dealing with all these kinds of things. Not looking forward to this part of my vacation, but I hope my efforts will yield good things.

Summer vacation cannot get here quickly enough!!!