Saturday, November 25, 2006

How I Spent My Thanksgiving

I am finally home from my Thanksgiving weekend in San Diego. We went to visit H's family, which went pretty well. The parts that didn't go so well were the drive there and the drive back - both rounding on 9 hours. The only good thing was that H drove, and I got to look at sagebrush and knit.

We had a very good Thanksgiving dinner which was preceded by a drive to Oceanside to walk along the pier in the sun and watch the surfers. The only blemish on the day was that I really missed my family.

On Friday, we went to the Wild Animal Park in Escondido and the Meditation Garden in Encinitas. I have to say that I was pretty impressed with the Wild Animal Park (pictures below). We went on a 45 minute tram ride through the different parts of the park where I was able to get some good photos of elephants, giraffes, and rhinos. For those who are so inclined, you can book a truck tour to go right up to the animals and feed the giraffes or watch the cheetahs. Both of those had sold out, but I'd like to do one of those next time. After that, you can walk to the other exhibits like the lions and tigers, and also the bird sanctuary where you buy nectar so that the birds land on you. While no birds landed on me, they did leave me some gifts in my hair.

I'm rather proud of this picture - I just happened to catch him yawning.

A baby elephant with its mother - sooo cute!

This big fella was resting after chasing a younger gorilla that had taken his bananas.

Apparently, a giraffe's tongue is proportionate to his heighth - one inch per one foot!

This dad rhino was on "time out" for trying to impregnate a female rhino right after she had given birth to another offspring. Apparently the park is quite successful in breeding certain animals.

Bonsai tree in the garden of the Animal Park

Flowers and cactus in the Baja Garden in the Animal Park

Flower in the meditation garden in Encinitas

This picture does not do the meditation garden justice. First of all, it's on an elongated plot of land that is set high on a cliff overlooking the ocean. There are beautiful trees, flowers, shrubs, benches, and ponds with huge goldfish. The garden was very peaceful, even with as many visitors as were there. These are two places I'd recommend visiting if you're ever in the San Diego area.

Sunday, November 19, 2006


I work with a gal who is on maternity leave for the year so that she can be with her little guy. I saw her a few weeks ago with C, her little 5 month old bundle, and was talking with her a little bit about how things were going. She was describing things that took me right back to when K was little - about having to plan to go to the bathroom, shower, etc. These are simple things I do now without much thought, but looking back, I did have to plan for those simple things. I also happened to find out that, because C had been a fussy baby, they had been reluctant to leave him with anyone, even for a few hours. I promptly signed H and I up for keeping C company.

Our first time babysitting C was last night. First of all, I had forgotten how much effort it takes to get a sitter - S had typed out two pages of info that we should know for C and showed us his two different bags with all the supplies we would need. Do you know that there are scented baggies for diapers? Where were these when I needed them?!? I was relieved to see a few of the "old" toys like the plastic keys on the ring that are different colors and have numbers on them and the teething rings. Oddly enough, C seemed to prefer chewing on the little board books, his fist, and my arm over the teething rings. In fact, anything he got his hands on went straight to his mouth.

Can I just say that I'm physically wiped out this morning from having babysat last night? He was a little bundle of energy - he loved to "jump", which consisted of me holding him under his armpits and him bouncing up and down on my leg. My shoulders and arms withstood all 17 pounds of him for a total of at least an hour of bouncing. He also, amazingly, had the attention span to look at books when H read him the "Maisy" books from his stash. I just figured that a baby so active would not settle down for anything. I was pleasantly surprised. C's favorite things were to look at himself in our slider, to watch the ceiling fan go round and round, and to giggle uncontrollably while H did raspberries while shaking his head back and forth.

My favorite time was when I was feeding him, then went to burp him. I sat him on my leg facing sideways so that his chest and neck were draped over my forearm. Pretty soon, there was no motion from C as his head lolled on my forearm. I leaned back and had him cradled on me facing outward with his blankie and listened to him while he breathed and let out the occasional sigh.

Ohh... in the words of Lea Thompson on one episode of "Friends"... "I think my uterus just skipped a beat".

Thursday, November 16, 2006


That is pretty much how I feel right now. I have been having a writing slump, simply because nothing noteworthy has been happening. Also, if anything exciting did happen, it would have to whack me over the head in order to get my attention.

More things have been going on in my mind than anything else, partly because it's conference time and my mental energy has been focused on parent meetings, testing my students (which they hate), and writing almost 70 progress reports. Gone are the days when teachers could write ambiguous statements about their students' progress like "approaching standard" or "gets along well with others" or "overly talkative in class". Yes, I'm glad those days are gone, because now there is increased accountability. I actually have to prove that my students are making progress towards goals by giving accuracy levels and percent correct in certain tasks. Johnny can tell me 8 out of 10 times what the proper solution is to common problems, but in carry-over tasks, his accuracy drops to below 50%. No, I cannot pull numbers and percents out of my ass - I actually have to collect data, which takes a lot of time. Some of my conferences have gone well - better than I'd expected. Some parents are actually grateful to me for the services I provide. A few of my parents actually take their kids to private therapy and/or work with them at home. It's quite refreshing. Others blame "school personnel" for their child's behaviors. "Timmy would not have the problems he has if the school would quit labeling him". Personally, I've no more patience left for parents playing the "race" card. Your kid has problems because he does not make wise decisions, he hurts others, and ends up alienating his peers because of his actions. Plain and simple. And, just in case you wondered, "no, I cannot fix it so that other kids will want to interact with your child". One thing that's very frustrating about what I do is that I can teach a child just about any kind of social interaction... and they can actually show carryover. But I cannot make others not have preconceived ideas about the kids I serve. The kids I work with are different, and it shows. Above a certain grade level (about third grade and above), kids get less accepting of differences as each year passes. I agree that it's a problem, and it makes me sad. I don't have a good answer about how to make it different because I'm not in control of others' ideas, expressions, and actions.

On the home front, I'm not particularly motivated to do too much. The place is a mess, and usually I would care enough to do something about it. But I don't care. When work "takes over", then everything else sort of suffers because I use all my energy to channel into work, mostly to keep a level head and not spout off, even when there's nothing I'd like better. To make things worse, I have something in my personality that prevents any kind of change when I am pushed by external forces. It has to come from me. Hopefully I will be back to normal soon, whatever that is.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Strong Women

Some points in my life are tougher than others. Right now, I have a mix - my personal life is settling down, but my work life is acting up. When stress piles up, I try desperately to think through my actions and reactions, but sometimes, try as I might, I act out of instinct or habit. I'd like to think that I make conscious decisions about how to conduct myself through thick and thin, but how much of what we do or how we behave is choice, and how much is handed to us?

Throughout my life, I have been lucky enough to have strong women in my life, each of them with different kinds of "muscle". From my mother, I definitely learned how to be affectionate and loving, as well as the "buck up" attitude. From very early on, even when mom was upset with me, I never went one day without a hug, a kiss, and an "I love you". I think that's where I get my affection for my own family and for the kids I work with. It's very hard for me not to find something endearing about the people I'm surrounded by. Because of the pragmatic approach taken by my mother, I can (and am still learning to) stop and think about tough situations or tough people I run across in my life and think of them as "preparations" for what lies ahead. However, I have enough "me" in me to want to throw a pity party first. It always amazed me that, even when I was in my teen years, mom trusted me to do things that most other kids my age were not trusted with. Because of this trust, I learned to be independent and not always rely on an adult. From driving in a snowstorm, to having my first job, to helping out with the family groceries, I learned how to do things early so that I'd know how to do them when I was out of the nest.

From my Grandma Fran, I learned how to be domestic. Because of her patient teaching, I know how to sew, crochet, knit, and cook/bake. Don't scoff - it's a valuable thing, especially when considering how expensive it is to eat out. Even when I was very young, Grandma never refused my offer of "help", even though I probably made more of a mess than actually helped. She was from the generation that taught their children how to be self-reliant around the house. How else would you raise a big family if people don't pitch in and do their share? This is my grandma who I refer to as "my sugar cookie grandma" when I first introduced H to my family. This is because she has the sweetest and kindest heart. In all these years, I can count on one hand the times she has become visibly upset with me, even through all my mistakes. Grandma's strength, though, is her spirituality. Whatever life brings her, I've never seen her "lose it" or become despaired. The only time I can muster the kind of strength she has is when I made a full-fledged effort, and even then sometimes it doesn't happen for me. It's still something I strive for.

Grandma Jane, out of all the women in my life, had what anyone would think of as "strength". If anyone wore the pants in the family, it was her. She definitely taught me to stick up for myself and not to take any shit. She also was very generous (sometimes too much so), and tried to impart that, if I don't share what I have with others, I will end up with nothing. Like Grandma Fran, Grandma Jane also showed me the ways of the domestics. I truly believe that it's not just because of family necessity, but because both of my grandmas grew up in a time when they didn't have much. You had to find ways to make do - to tough it out. So, even in times of good, you'd better be prepared for what may lie ahead.

I'm lucky to have such strong role models in my life. Practically speaking, I see their effects on me each day, especially dealing with tough situations. Because of their love and acceptance for me, I continue to try to be the strongest and best woman that I can be. When I fall or stray off-course, I have the desire to get back on track. I have a backbone and speak my mind, but try to temper it with some self-restraint and composure. I cannot go through a day without expressing my affection, in some form or another, for those who are closest to me. Yet, I value the time when I have to myself to get re-centered and prepare myself for what lies ahead for me the next day.