Tuesday, September 29, 2009

meanwhile...back at the baby

Today I noticed that while I've been busy slugging it out with this god awful month, Ramona has grown a lot. While I gossiped and lamented with fellow grownups, let my driver's licence expire,watched my car break down, and got sick, Ramona has grown another month older.

She has begun to eat solids, she can roll around on the floor, turn herself on her tummy in her crib, and sit up without help. She grabs things with her hands! She splashes and swims in the bathtub!

She did this all with sweet, diligent practice. Calmly ignoring her crazy mom.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Friday Night Book Review - The House in the Night

So......tonight I'm going to talk about The House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson (Illustrated by Beth Krommes). This picture book was the Caldecott Winner last year and the pictures are obviously wonderful, but the illustrations are not the only great thing about The House in the Night.

It's like a traditional poem with a cumulative pattern. Here is the key to the house.....in the house burns a light....In the light rests a bed.....and so on. In the beginning, Swanson simply references concrete objects, but as the pattern grows the objects are less literal and more lyrical:

On that bed waits a book.
In that book flies a bird.
In that bird breathes a song...
all about the starry dark.

Read this to your children. They will want to hear it again and again.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

this lower form of UN-happiness

It was brought to my attention by my mother that this family happiness that I've been experiencing is very nice, but that in a Buddhist sense, it's a lower form of happiness. It's not as low as the happiness of excess (you know, sex, drugs, rock and roll), but it is still a happiness that is rooted in attachment. That it's not an enlightened happiness and that it exists only when things are "working".

Goodness, she's right. For about the last two weeks nothing has been working and I have not been happy. I really think it all goes back to two Fridays ago when I listened to a "demotivational" speech. By coincidence, it's all been bad since. I think I'm going to write a book called Nova and the Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad MONTH.

There is the matter of my expired drivers licence (gosh darn it people, I GET IT, don't write about illegal actions on the internet, I GET IT, I GET IT. But it's really taken a toll on me and it's FIXED so I'm going to talk about it), and then work being very stressful, and then me getting sick, and Ramona and the not sleeping at night thing.

I feel so far away from my family. I feel like a bad mom. I feel like a bad wife. I feel like a bad teacher. And I also feel like a big, fat whiner.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

ramona and her father

I'm feeling a little under the weather. I'm not sure if this is a little thing, or something that is turning into a big thing, but this has caused me to do something I have not done in the 4 months of my daughter's life. I took the evening off.

Since my Ramona is nursing, I did that part, but I left everything else to her dad. All the playing, entertaining, holding...he even gave her a bath.

I just laid around. I rested and read. I also noticed. I noticed something that I had been suspecting for the last week or so. Ramona is a daddy's girl. My first clue was when I picked her up from daycare last week. This is usually Brian's job, but he was working late. Our daycare person had told me before that she loves seeing how happy Ramona gets when Brian shows up. So, she made a huge deal announcing my arrival...."Ramona, GUESS WHO's HERE....It's your mama!!" Despite the nice intro, I didn't get the excited face. She was very busy looking at the carpet.

This is a new development. For the first three months of her life I was IT. I was the only one that could soothe her when she was super fussy, the smell of me calmed her immediately. I found it absolutely exhausting and it was hard to hear my husband say "I think she hates me."

So, let's hear it for Ramona and her father. Thank god.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Friday Night Book Review - Not a Box!

Sometimes I get to the end of a lesson in the library and I've run out of steam, patience, or stuff to do. When I taught first grade everything was paced differently. It was like marathon running, where as teaching in the library is like sprinting.

This week during a kindergarten lesson (dear god, kindergarten teachers should get paid more than the rest of us) I just gave up. I had about 10 minutes left and was tired of doing what I had planned for them. I grabbed Not a Box by Antoinette Portis and we had a ball with that silly thing. I love books that encourage shouting, like the Pigeon books by Mo Willems. It just cracks me up when little kids get indignant about the antics of line drawn characters.
In the book, a bunny pretends to do fun stuff with a box and the kids get to shout at the book to make guesses about what the bunny is pretending.
This is how it works:
Librarian : Why are you sitting in a box?........... Oh, it's not a box?
Kids: It's a SPACESHIP!!!!

The illustrations are very plain, quite like a cardboard box. It's a fun, easy book. Now I just need to go buy Not a Stick.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

when wednesdays attack!

Yesterday was a bad day. Sometimes tragically funny.....mostly just god awful.

Stupid things happened, along with lots of little tiny things that have been piling up. Also, I have a lot more work to do than time to do it and people are sad/mad at me all the time.

Rather than go on and on about all the things, I'm just going to provide a snap shot of yesterday's crap fest.

I owe T Mobile a phone. I've been absent minded and busy. No kidding, they have been calling me at least 10 times a day. It's demoralizing.

Other things happened too, things I really shouldn't write about on the internets....the whole day was not good. I was so busy holding the pieces together I didn't get to eat lunch or pump the milk!

Today wasn't that much better. It was a mess, minus the hilarity. I stayed a few minutes late today and made a Covey's Quadrant. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Things_First_(book)
My plan is to do one thing at a time and get it done, or not. I'm going to use the weekend to cuddle my baby and get my milk supply back up. And above all, not indulge in the drama of everything going wrong.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Artemisia Revisited

On Friday, a student came to the library to discuss the book, Paint the Wind by Pam Munoz Ryan.
She said Artemisia was her favorite character because she was "wild and free". I told her that my heart broke when Artemisia's baby was found out in the wilderness, dead.

Then to my surprise, the student said "I didn't really get the point of the foal, and nether did my friends". This completely floored me. "What do you mean you didn't get the point of the baby horse??"
But I realized, that a 10 year old girl is wild and free too. And isn't that wonderful.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

No Child Left Behind

I've been a teacher for seven years. I became a teacher during the Bush administration and No Child Left Behind education reform is all I know. By the time I got my first job as a first grade teacher, educators had decided to quit fighting it and make the best of NCLB. Some good things have come from this very flawed legislation. Attention was given to sub groups that in the past may have been ignored. Hard working teachers found a way to work harder. We decided not to worry about the political aspects, we would teach the kids and let someone else worry about 2014.

Ah....2014. This is the magical year that 100% of students will become proficient in reading and math. As we get closer to 2014 the standards have been raising dramatically. The school in which I teach has entered this school year having not make the goal for the last two years. This is when things start to become scary. The pressure is being applied. We are like the Kansas City Royals. We have lost, we keep losing, our moral is low, we are losing faith. And it's only September.

Last week when our president was set to address the students of this nation plenty of people, some without children in the district, called our Central Office outraged that we were going to allow the students to hear the address. Suddenly everyone was political. But why is it that no one has called to express outrage that the Kansas City Star has released that our schools are Failing? Doesn't that bother people? They should either be outraged about their failing schools, or outraged that their schools are being held to impossible standards. But nothing.....no one cares.

The best thing about this country is that education is available to everyone, and it's the best there is to be had. We will educate you no matter what. If you don't speak English, if you have disabilities, goodness....we'll even educate you if you try to burn the darn building down. Bless this institution and protect it. And fight for it's good name.

Now, I'm going to do my job and I'm going to love it. I'm going to let other's worry about the blame and the praise (thank you, Karen). But I'm going to stop being so complacent about this destructive piece of legislation.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Friday Night Book Review - 39 Clues

I have a lofty goal as a modern mother. I am hoping to keep Ramona away from Harry Potter.........until she is ready to hear the books and be able to comprehend the story. It will break my heart if she watches some Harry Potter movie on TV at someone's house and the story will be spoiled for her. Sure, the movies are fine, I've watched them.....but they are just movies. I think for the magic of the story to hit your heart, you have to not know about it before you read. It ruins it if you already know this ordinary boy turns into The Harry Potter. I want this for Ramona. I imagine us cuddled in a chair and me opening the book and reliving the magic with her. Oh friends, let me have my fantasy.

Now, this brings us to 39 Clues. It's nothing compared to Harry. But the premise reminds me of what I like about the story of Harry Potter. Ordinary kids finding the secret to who they really are and then living a totally new life. This is a theme I very much enjoy. I think most people like to imagine that their real selves have yet to be reviled.

Also, 39 Clues has fun gimmicks. Each book is written by a different author that specializes in action, adventure, and mystery. There is also an online gaming and trading card element that I'm not interested in, but I can see how it would appeal to kids with money to spend and lots of Internet time. However, the books are able to stand on their own.

I'm not going to go too much into the plot, and it's pretty much all plot. Two tweens, Dan and Amy Cahill, set out to win a dangerous and mysterious contest/deadly scavenger hunt posed by their deceased grandmother.

I am ambivalent about this series. It's fun, I like the books, but it's like a Dean Koontz primer. In my adult life as a book snob, I would have nothing to do with Dean Koontz or anything Koontz-like. Then why am I ok with this for kids???

My mom used to get onto me for spending all my money and reading time on Babysitter's Club books because she didn't think they were worth reading. I loved these books so much and read them like crazy. I learned to be entertained by books and I learned to be a fluent reader with that crappy series. I outgrew them and went on to much more substantial books. This is all part of becoming a reader. Some of my 39 Clues readers will never move on, and some of them will. If I can at least get them to read something, then we have something to work with.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

she shines pretty darn bright - aka Buddha Nature

In class, we were once asked to explain the difference between unattachment and indifference. I couldn't do it. I knew I wanted there to be a difference, but I just didn't understand. Now I know. Ramona is delightfully unattached. I drop her off at daycare. She smiles, I leave, she smiles some more. She holds something soft and wonderful in her hands, it goes away, she moves on. Does she love stuff? Oh yes, very much so. But she doesn't know how to hold on.

Every morning after I feed Ramona she puts her head back and stares at the room like she has never seen it before. This morning I gave her a big kiss on her softie baby cheek. She gave me this lovely happy/surprised look. Like she had never had a kiss in her life and it quite delighted her. "mommy, did you make that up?! Kissing!!" If I ever doubted that the purpose of life is to be happy, I believe it now.

This makes up for the fact that we have backtracked a bit in the quest to sleep through the night. Ramona has devoted her nights to diligently practicing turning over. She's doing it in her sleep and then waking herself up. This bugs me, but it has also inspired me. I wish I felt so driven to practice.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Friday Night Book Review - Lucky

This week I was delighted to run across Lucky Breaks by Susan Patron (yes, I'm surprised by the books I find in my very small library, yes, sometimes I'm not the greatest librarian). I had read The Higher Power of Lucky by Susan Patron in 2007, but had no idea there was a sequel (once again, I'm not the greatest at my job. Sometime remind me to tell you about a picture book that I'm going to write about myself called The Librarian that Couldn't Find Anything).

The Higher Power of Lucky is an example of my favorite style of children's fiction. It's deep and quirky. Realistic fiction without being all that realistic. I was so excited to read the sequel and review it for Friday Night Book Review, but instead I reread Higher Power and have only just begun Lucky Breaks.

Lucky is a little girl living out in the middle of the desert in a small town/large trailer park called Hard Pan. Her mother has died (btw....what's with dead moms and children's lit?) and is being fostered by her absent father's first wife. One of the noteworthy things about this book is that the word scrotum is on the first page. Because this book was the Newbery winner, a lot was made over the word being on the first page. The loveliness of the story was a bit overshadowed by the drama.

I haven't finished reading Lucky Breaks, but I will say that it is just as lovely as The Higher Power of Lucky. Lucky's new mom says that grown ups have more candles on their cakes because they have more wishes. And when Lucky feels lonely for her first mom, she imagines sitting on the edge of her mother's green chair and thinks about how she used to breathe with her. So nice.

Now, I'm off to finish the book and start working on a will. Moms are dropping like flies apparently.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

dog abuser

A teaching from the book Words of my Perfect Teacher (paraphrased by myself, who is far from perfect): Do not cause the suffering of someone that you hold authority over. It is especially important for you to be kind to those in a position lower than yourself. You know.....servants.....animals..........it’s bad karma to treat others badly. Period.

This brings us to our current dog/friend drama. Brian and I were sent a very condescending forward about treating your dogs well and the friend that sent it added this little note: “thought of you when I read this….dog abusers”. I was outraged. A texting war ensued. I believe I won when I called her a friend abuser.

Seriously people, if you are friends of new parents, do what you can for them. Love them, support them, and coo over their baby.

But also, if you are a very dear friend, call them on their shit. We have been treating our dog badly. I have been ignoring dear small Sophie, and treating her like an un-family member.

I’ve been hard on her to protect my baby……my responsibilities have me overwhelmed……we are fragile right now........ None of that matters when it comes to the karmic baggage I’m carrying around. And like all the endings of my posts…..I resolve to do better…..I resolve to do better…..I resolve to do better.