Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Snow Day

Kids are sleeping, Tom doesn't feel well, so he is sleeping...this means I have some time to myself. I have a little grading I might do (I graded some earlier, so there is a strong emphasis on the might), but I decided that I could give the blog a real update and not just post pictures (though, most people would rather see pictures, I am sure).

Today is our 4th snow day (I think). The past two winters have been very mild, so this very cold, and very snowy, winter seems a bit odd. Like any teacher, I love a well placed snow day. One in the middle of February when we have a longer spell of school. But lemme tell ya-- I am getting really tired of the snow and cold. I know, I live in a state where there is the potential for anything-- heat, humidity, earthquakes, blizzards, freezing temps, rain, hurricanes, etc...(literally, the good old line state does not discriminate when it comes to weather)--but I am tired of this frigid cold. I want to go outside. I want my kids to be able to go outside. We have been trying to come up with fun indoor activities-- we built a fort (Lily calls it a fork), we fingerpainted, we played playdoh, we built legos, we played puzzles-- but the energy that a 2 year old possesses is not meant to be contained by a house! Yesterday, we got her outside for a bit, but she came in crying because she was cold and her boots hurt. Today, it is VERY cold, so we are inside. Boo.

This impromptu break has allowed me to catch up on grading and long term planning. I still have one or two things to grade (I accidentally left some at school), but other than that, I am good to go for report cards. I am pretty well planned for 11th grade, and have reviewed the 10th grade for curriculum for Night. I don't like it, so I am adding a few things of my own. My AP kids are in the middle of reading 3 books, so they are busy with projects. Things are going along fairly smoothly school-wise...except our schedule is so disrupted because we have at least one day a week off. I feel so off because of that. I hate feeling off.

Other than the weather, and plodding along with school, things have been quiet around here. Well, I suppose quiet is relative, things have been normal (I guess that's relative, too)...things have been...things. The kids are growing and growing. Sometimes, I am sad they grow so quickly, sometimes I am so excited to greet the new stage, new experience, new challenge.

Lily is just a kid. For real. A kid. Her toddler days seem firmly behind her. She is potty trained; this little snow-cation has sealed that deal-- she asks to use the potty now, and knows when she needs to go. She is talking more than Tom and I (I know, I know hard to imagine). She loves to dance, and sing, and do arts and crafts at school. She says things that are hysterically funny. She is really just an awesome little girl.

Jack is moving all around. He can walk behind his little push toy walker thing. He started crawling on his hands and knees, which is a step up from the army crawl he typically does. He loves to climb the gate in the basement, and thinks he is really something when he does it. He smiles all over himself, and loves his sister. He is just becoming a toddler before our eyes. The infant Jack is almost a memory.

Speaking of Jack-- he is starting to stir from his nap. I keep hoping he might fall back to sleep because this has been a shorter nap, but it seems he is awake. I suppose those are all my updates for now. I do have some pictures to post later once I get them on my computer, so keep a lookout!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Lily is 31 Months!

I still feel like these titles are lame...31 months. Really? She is just 2.5 years old. 
Whatever, at 31 months Lily loves...

1. ...calling us "mom" and "dad". I suppose she is too old for mama and dada or mommy and daddy. 
2. ...using phrases like, "pretty please", "no way!", and "of course". Sass to the max.
3. ...playing board games using her own rules.
4. ...going to school to do arts and crafts.
5. ...using the potty! She does it consistently without being prompted.
6. ...helping with, taking care of Jack, grading papers...
7. ...watching Disney Jr. Her new love is Jake and the Netherland Pirates.
8. ...using her binoculars to watch birds. She likes to look into them backwards. It's quite the sight.
9. ...spinning around in circles, and then walking around like she is drunk. Because...why not?
10. ...and, of course, mom and dad!

Lily at 31 months. She is a beauty!

Monday, January 20, 2014

Jack is going to be one...

...and, in the words of Little Einstein's Quincy, "I cannot believe it!"

This year has just flown by. One year ago, I was 9 months pregnant, huge, wondering when little Jackson would make an appearance. One month and 3 days later, he did. And now, here I sit, planning his first birthday party.

I decided that this year's theme will be little monster because, well, he is a little monster! The child gets into everything. Everything! He is in the toy boxes, up the stairs, pulling on doorknobs, trying to climb gates, and that isn't even half of his antics. I found some super cute invites and decorations on That combined with Oriental Trading, and I think we will be good to go. I decided to go with a brunch for Jack's party because it's winter, and he is only one, so he won't remember it. Let's be honest, this party is really for me. I am celebrating his birth. And my quick labor. And a great epidural.

I am slowly roughing out the menu: fruit, an egg casserole, a french toast casserole, some bacon and sausage, coffee, juice...

I am mostly keeping it to family and close friends. He doesn't need a whole crazy friend party yet. I will save that for a bounce house or bowling ally when he is older.

And now, a few picture updates because I haven't posted pics of my munchkins in a long time...

Jack's first snow experience. Sorry for the pink pants.

More food please! I like these eggs!

Who is bigger?


Learning to walk!

Jack is shocked by Lily's love.

She is so sweet. Except when she's hangry. Or too tired. Then, not so sweet.

I can't get enough of this kid. Look at those teeth!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Digital Natives?

Today's post comes via the email I received from my principal last night about the topic of Monday's faculty meeting: the one-to-one technology conversation in the county. Essentially, students and teachers will each be given a laptop for home and school use. The conversion will be over the next 3(ish) years, during which time teachers and students (starting with elementary, then middle, and finally high school) will be equipped with their own computer (or tablet, or whatever company has the most competitive bid). This conversion is a part of the move to a digital future in education. One that leaves textbooks and paperbacks behind, and gives students a piece of technology outfitted with e-texts and e-books. While the roll out will likely a high up front cost, it should, over time, save money because the e-texts are far more cost effective than printed textbooks.

This all sound great, right? Shiny new tech toys for kids and teachers. Access to word processing, the internet, and other wonderful apps and tools at our fingertips. The perfect learning scenario for the digital natives that fill the seats in my room.

These natives are adept at texting. They can send a text message faster than I can blink. They know how to use the camera setting on their phones, taking selfies in the middle of class (maybe they should be called narcissistic natives). They can snap chat, and tweet. Beyond this, though, they seem a bit, well, lost.

The new English curriculum calls for a lot of computer time to complete lengthy writing assessments. Each assessment seems to have a tech piece built in that requires students to create a Prezi, or Glog, or Animoto (these pieces appear to be more for "fun" (thrown in just to say technology is in the lesson) than to serve a real purpose). Before each assessment, I explore the website that is in the lesson and learn how to use it, so I can teach my students. I write detailed directions on how to use the website and encourage the students to play with the features on each of the programs before they begin their assignment. And still, after all of this, my students sit at their computers confused. Then the questions come, "How do I embed a picture? A video?" "How do I add text?" "How do I change the colors?" I ask the kids if they tried to play with the features, and they say "no". It's too hard. Too confusing. They don't get it.

Don't get me started on the lack of understanding of Microsoft Word or Power Point. Their MS Office skills are worse than their ability to navigate a website.

Knowing all of this, it's no wonder I am a bit skeptical about one-to-one technology. That these digital natives, aren't so native at all. That my generation, one that was introduced to technology over a number of years, is likely better at navigating new technology than the students who were born never knowing a world without a smart phone.

My English class has moved so far away from anything an English class should be-- I essentially teach a civics course (and, even worse, the English 11 curriculum doesn't include a novel...not one novel)-- that I shouldn't even be called an English teacher.

Maybe what our administrators think the future will be, or should be, isn't what is best. Maybe, just maybe, that in looking forward at education, we only need to look back.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

A bit on vaccinations

Vaccinations. To get them, or not to get them? That seems to be the question. When I had my daughter, I knew I wanted her vaccinated. I did a lot of reading about vaccines. About alternate schedules, regular schedules, alternate-regular schedules (ok, that last one,  I just made that up). I read about parents who a pro-vaccination; I read about parents who are anti-vaccination. I read statistics. I read side-effects. I decided my daughter would be getting her shots. 

There are many people who blast vaccinating children. They say washing hands is enough. Eating fruits and veggies will combat sickness. They say the side-effects of the vaccines are worse than getting sick. 

They say a lot of things.

This is what I know: I know I never want to experiences the pain of watching my child suffer through a needless illness that could be potentially fatal. I know I don't want to subject a newborn, who hasn't been vaccinated, to an illness that would almost definitely be fatal. I don't want my child to become a statistic of a disease. I also know there is a very small, very tiny chance that my children could experience side-effects from the vaccine they receive. And sometimes they do. They run low grade fevers, they lay around the house, they get a little bit red at the injection site. I know that there could be worse side-effects; however, for me, the benefit of the vaccine outweighs the risk. 

Recently, the flu has been in the news; this year it is hitting hard again. I already got my flu shot, as did Tom. Both of our kids are over 6 months, so they got their shots, too. I know the coverage of the shot is about 60%, but that is 60% more coverage than I would have without it. Also, it lessens the effects of the flu if you get it. Apparently, the age that is getting the flu the most this season is my age group. Why? Probably because people my age tend to think they won't get sick. They are strong, healthy, and can fight it off on their own. When they do get sick, they don't take care of themselves as they should, and get worse. My cousin, Greg, who is a paramedic, wrote this on his status the other day:

"So I just walked out of an icu that had 4 young adults intubated due to the flu. You think a flu shot is expensive? Try multiple days in an icu. You think you'll get sick? You won't need a tube down your throat from the vaccine."

Maybe I am crazy, but I would rather a little shot than a hospital stay.

A few misconceptions about the shot: it won't cause autism, it won't give you the flu (the virus is a dead virus, if you get sick after getting it, it is likely because you contracted the flu before getting the vaccine), and you can get a mercury free shot if you are pregnant. I did get the flu shot during both pregnancies-- I did not want to risk contracting the flu and potentially harming the baby. The shot also gives some coverage to the baby after birth, so Jack, who was born in peak flu season, had a little coverage from my shot.

So, yes, be sure to wash your hands. Eat well. Exercise. Get sleep. But, please, also consider getting vaccinated, not only against the flu, but against other diseases as well. Do it for yourself, do it for your kids, just do it.

(Also, watch the Christmas episode of Call the Midwife. It takes place in 1959 London, at the time of a polio epidemic. One of the boys contracts polio. It is powerfully moving, and makes me glad that there is a vaccine.)

Saturday, January 4, 2014

2014 Commitments

I decided I am not making resolutions. Resolutions never stick. They last for a few days, weeks maybe, and then, well, the year is in full swing and they are long forgotten. I decided this year I am making commitments. I like the word commitment. It says that you are staying with something. You aren't giving up on it. My commitments for a better 2014:

1. Be a better person. Always a plus, right? This encompasses being a better mom, wife, daughter, sister, teacher, etc...If I am just a better, more positive person I believe each area of my life will improve.

2. Get fit. After having 2 kids my body needs to remember what it's like to be back in shape. I haven't totally lost my figure, but it definitely needs a little toning. I got a running double stroller for Christmas, so I have no excuse for not running (especially since I can take my kids along for the ride!). I also looked up some yoga classes at a local studio that I am going to try. My two goals for this: step out of my comfort zone and try something new (yoga!), and run 250 miles this year.

3. Eat healthier. I have decided I don't want to follow any eating programs, but I do want to eat healthier. I already eat a fairly healthy diet, but I could stand more fruits and veggies and less sugars and fats. I have already bookmarked some recipes from to try. There is even a meal planner function on the website.

4. Give a s*it. Ok, I really don't like typing cuss words, but this one needed a cuss word. Again, I will be blaming my kids for this, but I have really fallen out of caring what I look like. That's not to say I am a total slob; however, I haven't put much thought into what I wear or how I present myself. This is partially due to a severely limited wardrobe after my body changed from two pregnancies (see commitment #2 for my goals on changing my body back (as much as possible, my hips will never be the same...)). So, this goal revolves around putting some make-up on for work, popping my contacts in (I finally got some new ones), and wearing things that say, "hey, I give a s*it about how I look". This goal should be fairly easy to achieve because I am already doing some of these things.

5. Last one-- don't need too many commitments-- and that is to be above the negative. For serious. At work there is negativity all over the place. Why? Because things are changing and teachers be like "AHHHHH THIS SUCKS." But really? It's just change. And the change will become practice, and then...POOF! it will change again. Teaching is change, plain and simple. I know I easily fall into the trap of negativity and it is just no good. My goal-- do my thing. Be positive ray of sunshine that blinds all the naysayers and negative nellies.

So those are my commitments. I will keep them. None of this "maybe I will keep them" crap. I need a mix up in my life, a little change, a small adjustment to get me back on the track of feeling good, and strong, and positive, and these are the things I want to focus on (on which I want to focus, for the grammarians out there). I truly believe we should always strive to be better versions of ourselves, and these are my steps to a better Emily. How are you going to be a better version of yourself in 2014?

(Also, who wants to be my workout buddy?!?)