Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Spring break is so close, I can taste it. A post in 3 pictures

By 2:30 today spring break will start for the next week and a half.  Thank you Gods that oversee winter (or lack thereof) delays that we didn't have to make up one single day.

While I've worked my butt off prepping this US History class in the last 9 weeks, I'll let you know a little secret:  I love this material.  I've been blessed with wonderful, compliant students who I wanted to thank for literally going with the flow and my changing up on them so, so many times at a moments notice.  At present, almost 100 students have signed up to take AP Government in the fall, many of my current students included.

I busted out the 1970s wretched Barry Mantilow song "Looks like we made it" as they were coming in this morning.  I also left cupcakes on their desk.

*note that I made 110 cupcakes for a fraction of the cost of stopping for doughnuts.  

*2nd note, comment from Bill, "were you trying to subliminally influence on the current gay rights debate by giving them with the same color Sweet Tart chicks and bunnies on top?

While I still have to post grades and plan a WWI unit on the workday tomorrow, this is my IN basket.
Beautiful to behold.

My parting advice to 16-17 year olds going on Spring Break?  Be safe, come back without a cast, and please, please don't post pictures of yourself online that you wouldn't want a college admissions officer to see.

Why?  From my classroom last week.

* note that I highlighted the most important reminder.

Happy break for those off around this week and next.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Update on Ben

Yay to Ian being back at school, feeling better.  I knew when Ian and Ben were throwing Easter eggs at a tree in our front yard yesterday in competition as to who could hit the top branch that he was better.

*Note that two boys throwing a basketful of eggs at a tree garnered the attention of other boys under 10 that live on our street.  Yes, I was that parent that let them have fun and throw eggs in my front yard and videoed it on my phone per Ben's request.

Later today I will take Ben to his weekly appointment with his counselor at Lucy Daniels.  Unlike last year when around this point we were just starting treatment and diagnosis, most of the sessions were with us as parents, not him.  The flip flop is that he is now the one on the weekly couch trip.

We are on week 3 of a med trial to find a medication that would not depress his appetite and continue with helping him during school hours.  With crossed fingers (and toes) he has put on 1 1/2 lbs, had an appetite to eat more at least 2 meals a day, has had an all green month so far for March on his school  behavior chart.  He also has been helpful with Ian. That last part is especially helpful as 3 year old are tools.

This is not the magic bullet and that the boys still fight like cats and dogs over typical sibling stuff, but it a marked change for the best. Repeat, this is really good news.

The other part of his treatment has been an increased number of parent appointments.  In the last two months each of us have met privately with Ben's counselor as well as several joint meetings with her. We also meet monthly with the clinic director/child psychiatrist for medication checks.

I'll be honest that meetings with the counselor leave me feeling like a giant parental failure.  I know that it is not the intention, and I'm not looking for accolades in this space that I am just being hard on myself .  If you lived with our family for any amount of time you would understand that Bill and I are part of the problem. Addressing the vast differences in our own upbringing, our expectations, how we interact with the boys, how we interact with each other both verbally and equally important non verbally is part of our ongoing issues we are working on in our time with the counselor.

In the game of parental misery poker there are so, so many more issues that are much worse. I'll take this diagnosis anyday over so much else.  It helps to keep this idea in check, especially when I leave yet another meeting wanting to know that A+B=C. Instead it feels like so many sessions I leave confused, angry at myself or Bill or just the situation at large. 

So many times in the last year I feel like we've been brought to our knees in questioning what we are doing right vs wrong. Too many times I've questioned what mistakes we've made and vow not to repeat them with Ian.  Too many times I play the what if game and 2nd guess myself. I am frankly just as emotionally exhausted as I am physically. 
Tomorrow we are back again for back to back appointments for med checks and then another parent appointment.  I have to tell myself that Ben is better, he is having a more positive year at school, he feels good about himself and believes he is a good boy.  

Any of these outcomes seemed so far away last year when we were just at the start of treatment.  I'm happy to report that a year out, seeking treatment has made a world of difference for our family and most importantly Ben.

Today he is on a field trip with Bill chaperoning in the classroom.  This time last year we took away the Spring kindergarten trip due to behavior.  Ben reminded me yesterday that he didn't get go last year and he was so sad, but that tomorrow he is going because he has made better choices.

A simplistic view but one that means the world to me.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Oops I did it again

last night

cutting up some awesome Pioneer Woman apple pie

using my friends cake server from her recent a knife to open ice cream

feel free to call me stupid for slicing the top of my finger and adding a compression dressing to what was a nice night of chatting, dinner, and dessert

at least the pie was good (as was the rest of the dinner)

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

If you know me, you know the importance

A couple of weeks ago on a random Monday I was following international news of the Kenyan elections.  When I was there last summer I noted that the President's photo is everywhere including shops, in homes, it even hung over the bar in the hotel.

After the 2007 election there was much protest, many people died and one of the key suspects in the post election violence recently won the 2013 Kenyan Presidential election.  Luckily, while the <1% difference in the 2013 has been taken to the Kenyan Supreme Court there has been little violence, especially tribe upon tribe violence that was even spoken about to us by Michua community members during our visit. It is insane to me in a civilized, even fairly developed country that someone being investigated for crimes against humanity could be a candidate for national office.

So why do I care?  It's not like after the handful of days there last year that suddenly I have a interest in Kenyan politics or feel like I can do anything from thousands of miles away.

I care because at least once a month I get this:

And we sent back this (Ben wanted to draw his own picture of a volcano)

I care because on the other side of the world I know the Atieno family is going about their business just as I am mine.  I care because when I hear about a great injustice either globally or even here in the US in which women are disrespected for nothing more than their gender I have a name and a face that I attach. My hope is that through staying in school instead of staying home to help raise her deceased sister's young child will bring more choices into her life.

I had truly hoped to return this summer.  I even put a deposit on the summer trip. But, after much thought and discussion about some things going on here at home, I can't be gone on a large trip this summer.  It is my hope, my prayer that if possible next year, or the one after that I will be back.

In 2013 I have made keeping a gratitude journal part of my week.  I jot down prayers for family and friends as well as small things that have happened to appreciate.

Weekly I offer up hopes that Siprin is safe, continues to be able to attend school, that her village is moving forward on the water project, and that the opportunity to be with her again will present itself.

Monday, March 18, 2013


High hopes on Friday not completely a wash:

Positive- Insanely beautiful "all windows open" weather on Friday and Saturday, even part of Sunday Belated anniversary gift to see comedian Jim Gaffagin Saturday night, came home to find sitter had cleaned up the entire kitchen and emptied the dishwasher.

This week Bill is volunteering on the first of two spring field trips for Ben's class.  I went to bed crazy early Friday and Saturday expecting to be up with Ian.  He slept through the night both nights, including one night on the floor behind a chair in his room.  Much needed sleep for all concerned = life is hella better.

Not so positive- Ian is sick going on 5 days.  He has been home from school since Thursday and again today with a fever of unexplained origin.  He also has a nasty cold, as the "day care funk" had been going around his class.  Luckily no one else is sick due to vigilant hand washing and trying to limit exposure.  Bill and I are juggling who can miss how much of work.  He's on a release at work, I'm on the last 2 weeks of the quarter with a midterms to roll out as well as piles of late work graded before quarter end.  I'm taking Ian to the doctor later today in hopes of some resolution for him.  Poor guy, you know he is sick when he turns down a sand and water table or sleeps on the floor.

*From Saturday while tending to Ian and grading this stack. At least I did it on the porch with nice weather and Ian was content for much of the time brushing dirt off our fossil/rock collection.

Bill and Ben went to Monster Jam with their Y Guides group on Saturday.  Ben was happy at the pit party before the event but was sobbing at the noise within the first minutes. When asked when if wanted to leave it turned into "everyone will laugh at me" ugly meltdown.  Bill again offered to take him home but Ben compromised by watching it on TV outside the stadium sitting on the concourse floor.  Even with double ear protection I think we need to pass until he can handle it without a meltdown.

Spring Break is at the end of the month and I'm trying hard to minimize having to work over the break by hauling ass the next two weeks.  While we are not going anywhere, I would like to do some day trips with the boys since everyone will be home for the bulk of the week.  I'm hoping that Saturday's weather was a preview since it was so, so nice outside.

Hoping for Ian feeling better, Ben's continued weight gain!!!, Bill/my work-life balance dance during crunch time. Doing a big happy dance for Spring weather!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Love List March

Spring is coming!  With a 70+ degree forecast this weekend and these beauties on a recent walk with the dog, I'm so glad the cold and rainy days of winter are fewer and far between.

The Dovekeepers- I'm currently listening to this book on audio while walking the dog and commuting in the car.  I first tried reading just before I left for Kenya and but had to return. I'm glad I gave it another chance as listening on audiobook has helped with the extensive Hebrew terms and language which on the first attempt was difficult.  

McDonalds Shamrock Shake- Yes. I am actually putting this on my love list.  A few weeks ago I was picking up  happy meals for the boys and while waiting in line started thinking, "just who orders this unnatural green beverage?"

What came over me to answer, "make it a small," when the attendant asked if I wanted to try was a total moment of weakness."  Honestly she had me at the words, "limited time flavor, mint."  I cannot tell you how many times I have thought about driving through on the way home just to pick up another.  So far I've squashed the desire, but with St Patricks day this weekend, I made have to just get one more before gone.

DST- This is a love/hate relationship.  I hate having to get up again at o'dark thirty, drive to work, basically teach a chunk of 1st period in the dark.  I love the extra hour of playtime for the boys at the end of the day.  Last night the boys were playing fort with a gaggle of boys until I had to force Ben to come in for dinner.

Speaking of dinner, while to most anyone else this is just a plate of half eaten pancakes.  To me the is the proof the Ben's new medicine has been to date a good fit.  This was the most food consumed in a single sitting in months.

Love you March, good things are on the horizon starting with this weekend.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

T-shirt quilt

My good friend Katie has mad sewing skills. Bill mentioned to me he wanted to retire some of his older t shirts, most bought from the website TeeFurry.  Bill is frankly a walking billboard for the company and buys a couple of new shirts each month.

Some wives deal with porn addiction, for me it's a husband with an obsession with crytic t-shirts.  Sadly, most if not all have to be explained to me.

For Bill's birthday Katie made the following quilt.  I love it, Bill loved it.  It's super cozy and displays some of his most loved but worn out shirts.  No comment on him NEVER wearing the 1982 Wargames-esque TRON shirt.  I have given him so much grief every time he wore it in public. She even found matching Star Wars cloth to fill in the spaces between the shirts. 

Thank you Katie for a great gift as well as our ongoing friendship.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

PSA- Splinter Removal

Once we were over at a family friend's home when Ben got a splinter.  My friend quickly brought Ben into her kitchen where I watched as she cut a sliver of raw potato pressed it into his hand and then taped a bandage over with the instructions to leave it on over night.

Said treatment was compliments of her country mamma's upbringing as one of 9 children. She commented that give it a chance, that a "piece of produce stuck to the skin was better than a howlin' toddler with you diggin' at his hand with something sharp."

Cue to some random weekend when I was about Ian's age when my dad made a deal with me that if I let him remove a splinter I would get a Sesame street magazine.   I don't remember actually getting the splinter out, but did remember being scared to death and my hand hurting afterwards. I remember the magazine because I threw up on it in the car shortly after getting the splinter out on an afternoon family trip into the mountains. 

When I picked up Ian at daycare Monday his teacher had commended that he on Day 1 of Potty Camp had made it until after nap dry, but had gotten a splinter on the playground and sobbed when she tried to get it out.

After bath we gathered our tools.  Ben went to get the play Dr bag and insisted he help.

Ian was more concerned with getting a Transformer band aid and was sad when I covered it up with painters tape to keep him from pulling off my masterpiece overnight. Ian was a little unsure but by morning the splinter was gone.   Seriously try this on the next splinter.  It works, for real!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

How to be proven 100% wrong

Players:  One long week, two kids heading into DST weekend sure to be off on sleep, One set of parents both tired and ready to collapse on a Friday night.

Add:  One mother in law + One brother in law driving up for seemed like a waste of a 12 hour drive times 2 within 3 days.

Result:  Kids were beyond surprised when after dinner our guests arrived in time to eat cake and be tucked into bed by Grandmommy and Uncle James.  Ian was beyond ecstatic and was jumping up and down screaming "Grandmommy" at the top of his lungs on the front porch.  I wish I had gotten video it was so, so sweet.

I frankly was a big ol' ball of nasty when Pam told Bill they were coming up with little input from us on when would be a good weekend.  It wasn't that I didn't want to see them, but wanted them to come on my timetable of spring break when they could stay longer.  I selfishly didn't want to be stuck grading and doing the usual weekend chores that only get done during the weekend if I want to stay afloat during the work week.

It didn't matter to the boys that basically they visited for 36 hours in which we enjoyed the beautiful weather at one of our favorite parks and then enjoyed a late brunch filled with biscuits and hushpuppies.  Pam and James took Ben to the Hurricanes Devils hockey game Saturday night. 

Sunday we headed over to Mellow Mushroom for pizza under a warm and sunny day and then said good byes.  Unlike the sobbing from both boys when we left Atlanta in December, this trip they both did well with promises we would see them over the summer and later this fall at James and Kate's wedding.  James officially asked them both to help him get married by being ring bearers.

At the end of the weekend, while I had to get some work done, it wasn't a wash out weekend of me grading and everyone else having fun. I streamlined what was a must and what could wait and enjoyed Ben and Ian's excitement over having Pam and James in town.

I was 100% wrong and owed Bill a big apology for thinking that the weekend would be anything less than what it was.  Ben and Ian only know that she loves them unconditionally without a timetable of convenience.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Friday Gumbo

Positive that went down this week:

- Ben is almost a week out on a new mediation and has been eating more.  Proof in the pudding if his weight is actually up tomorrow at weekly check in. Also he had had a good week behavior wise. Negative is he has been more emotional.

-Ian has also had a better week with no notes home about ugly behavior and/or refusing to nap. More potty progress!!!! Thank you PCA teachers!

-Ian stayed in bed most nights without us having to lock him him.  Last night he came downstairs long after I thought he was asleep in one sock, his pj top, and a diaper half off crying that he was trying to potty.  Winner of the cute but pitiful category

-We did a whole week off of freezer meals. I'm experimenting with a new two large grocery runs a month with a short 15 min runs for perishables in the in between to save money and time.  Boys + tired mom = buy too much stuff and run takes SO freakin' long.  

-I almost talked myself out of not going to bookclub last night as I needed the time to grade. Also I hadn't finished the book.  I'm glad I didn't bail as the discussion of a book, we all agreed appealed and was targeted to teenage boys, was filled with lots of great commentary by the attendees.

-I'm applying to several week long summer teacher institutes since Kenya is off the table.  1st choice is a whole week studying the evolution of financial crisis in American History at NYU.  What do you think the competition is like to really want to know the backstory behind the Panic of 1837? Fierce teacher geekdom? You bet!

-I made a total winner of a freezer, to crockpot, and leftovers back to freezer meal involving pork tenderloin and 12 hours.  Score that even the boys ate it.

-My friend is making a cake to celebrate my brother in law's new job doing customer support for Apple.  MMMMmmm I'm getting to eat Sugar Mama cake by day end.

-Mother in law, brother in law and future sister in law all here for the weekend. With nice weather on tap we are looking forward to seeing them for a short, but filled weekend.  The major even is everyone is going to the Hurricanes game Saturday night.  A quiet house after they leave minus getting Ian to bed? I totally won this round.

I hope you are ending your week on a positive note.  I'm trying to push aside negativity for being really tired for gratitude that the week is ending in a better place than it started.

Did I mention there is Sugar Mama cake involved by end of day?

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Almost Wordless Wednesday

Ben came home last week with a book he had written about a friend as a class assignment.  Listed in the back was the about the author page.

"The author's name is BEN VINSON.  He likes to play video games.  He is 6 years old.  His birthday is June 9th.  He lives in Cary, North Carolina.  In his free time he likes to ride his bike."

While his dust jacket self-portrait includes a pig nose, everything about this assignment makes me smile.

Monday, March 4, 2013

My weekend captured by lots of crappy iPhone photos

A gazillion, child-free years ago I had a teacher friend who would take a sick day, not for a mental health day but for a true workday.  She would take her kids to school and grade for the next 8 hours.  I now totally get it. 

Can you pick up the theme of this weekend?

Friday night after I got the boys in bed I'm unpacked my school bag and made a weekend to-do list to prioritize.  I'm also starting the first of 6 loads of laundry.

Friday 8:30 pm

 10:00 pm Matching up tests to essays (this is one class of students)

Go to bed around midnight and luckily Ian stays in bed all night.
Saturday- TAL is on, I'm not freeze ahead cooking today.  Instead I'm sorting an upcoming unit on the Gilded Age and Progressives.

1:00 pm

Bill is gone for the night with Ben to a Y Guides.  I take a non- napped Ian to the grocery and then to pick up dinner.  We have a hot date at my favorite cafeteria for take out.  Ian has an ugly melt down while we are waiting for the 5 mins we are inside.

* Note if I wasn't so hungry I would have walked out.  Instead I put the death grip on him and ask how fast they can sling some collard greens, mac and cheese, and baked chicken in a container.

Once home I get him in bath, books, teeth, and bed where he thankfully stays after only a 1/2 hour of wrangling.  I work until around 1am making a test and grading 2 stacks of essays plus doing housework as a "break."  Sadly I would rather mop a floor then read anything else about Manifest Destiny.  Somewhere in the night I find Ian has left his room and is in bed with me.  A plethora of stuffed animals have joined us.


We hit the early service at church then head down to school which is open on Sundays as the building is used until noon.  I work another two hours copying, entering grades, pulling supplies for the week. Note that I got my lanyard caught in the copier hence the staples.  Fairly sure my cause of death will be MacGyvering a copier with only my wits and a pen. 

10 am

After lunch we head home to realize they have fallen asleep in the car.  I take a 15 min power nap in the car with them then go in the house with all the doors open and clean up the kitchen and do more laundry.

Boys are awake so I taken them over to the jump house place across the street where we stay and I grade.  I really appreciate the mom drive-by from another parent noting that "wow I must be super busy since I'm not playing with the kids, pointing over to my boys playing air hockey near by." She goes on to say she teaches too and tries to save a part of each weekend for her kids.  Thanks Ms. Judgy Judgment. 

3 pm *note other lazy parent just siting and not playing with their kids

Once home I pull together a quick dinner, make lunches, more laundry, go through Ben's backpack, and get the kids to bed.

9 pm

Grading slow down as it's Will Gardner time.  By weekend end I logged around 13 hours of some type of work for school and unfortunately still have one class of essays not finished and sadly more work coming in tomorrow.

Not the most exciting of posts, frankly it sounds SO negative, but a weekend of keeping it real of what sadly what many a weekend looks like around Casa Vinson.

When I hear of 1st year North Carolinas teachers making it through the 6th year of a state-wide salary freeze making the choice between filling their gas tanks or living on cereal and pbj sandwiches until the next payday I want to punch someone.  Or when I hear that instead of editing our contracts to say, "instead of a pay increase, even one matches to inflation (again, what pay increase?) that a portion of our pay, our base pay, is going to now going to be tied to student achievement I again want to punch someone.   

Anyone who wants to criticize that I'm am a lazy overpaid mooch living off their taxes   or those at the helm legislate away any chance to hire good teachers walk a day or better yet weekend in any of our shoes.

My goal for the week is to stay ahead of the work as best I can and to spend any additional time finishing a book, sleeping, maybe making it to the gym, preparing for inlaws decision to make a last minute trip up this weekend.  I would like to actually see them, and not with a red pen in my hand next weekend.