Thursday, September 11, 2014

Sinking Ship

I don't have anywhere to put this, so here is goes, I've decided it's time to throw in the towel on my public school teaching career. I'm not cut out for this job anymore.

Today I was informed that the Superintendent, of the county I teach for, has declared that using crayons after Kindergarten is not supported. I can't direct quote because I didn't write it down, I was quite distraught after hearing these words, but I can paraphrase. His statement went something like this, 'Every time I see a child drawing a picture in response to a book they've read [over the summer] I cringe. Crayons should not be used past Kindergarten.' A part of me died upon hearing those words, a part of me saw red, and another part of me felt so defeated that I drove home in tears. These were not the first tears I've shed this year. Can I add quickly that we are only in the third week of school. I've cried almost every day that I have left my classroom. I thought my tears would be over leaving Little Miss at home, but that is not the case. I am teaching in a county where we are dishing out a curriculum that is not developmentally appropriate for a majority of its students. I am teaching in a county where the message is, "It's not about you [teacher] it's about the kids." I am teaching in a county where the purpose of learning has become to score well on "The Test." I am teaching in a county where children, after Kindergarten, are not allowed to use crayons.

Let's start with the curriculum. There are plenty of articles on the web about Common Core and the havoc it is wreaking on our country. I'll admit, when it was first introduced I was kind of on board. I thought about my student teaching experience in Pennsylvania. I thought about how baffled my colleagues were at what was being taught in Maryland and not being taught in Pennsylvania. Clearly, having a common set of standards in education for our country is a good thing. It can only help address issues when a child moves from state to state, and hold educators accountable for making sure ABCs and 123s are taught. The county in MD that I work for had decided to create their own curriculum to address Common Core. I thought, "Thanks! This will save time in planning." Boy I couldn't be more wrong. I've found over the years that I have been teaching this curriculum I am left frustrated. I have students, 1st graders, breaking into tears because they just cannot grasp the concepts being thrown at them. Many of my students are still working on basic skills such as counting past 20 and reading books with more than two words per page, but instead of building on those foundational skills, I am forcing them to write essays. I'm frequently left asking myself, "When did I stop becoming the expert of my students?"

Now on to, "It's not about you [teacher] it's about the kids." If what I do and what I teach is about the kids, then it IS about me. I, the teacher, am the one that is in that classroom, with those kids, teaching the curriculum. If I'm feeling defeated, frustrated, and down right embarrassed at what I have to teach, then I can only imagine how my students are feeling.  I make it a goal of mine to advocate for my student's learning on a daily basis, but who is advocating for me, the teacher? I want my students to leave my classroom feeling successful and motivated to come to school every day and continue their learning. I have many days where I know I have failed in that mission because I am not leaving feeling successful or motivated.

Next, "The Test." Since this school year has begun my colleagues and I have heard nothing but, "We need to get the kids prepared for "The Test." In fact, in a recent meeting, one of my colleagues informed us that we are prepping students for "The Test" starting in pre-K. For those of you who may not know, pre-K consists of 4 year olds beginning their educational career. Instead of working with those 4 year olds on appropriate social and emotional skills, and early learning skills such as their ABCs and 123s, we are beginning to prep them for "The Test." "The Test" which they will take when they are budding 3rd graders. That was another day I left work with tears in my eyes. Jeannie Fulbright reminds us, "If the purpose for learning is to score well on a test, we've lost sight of the real reason for learning." In recent decades "The Test" has become the driving force for what we do.

On to, the no crayons conundrum. The words I heard today were the straw that broke the camel's back. I have been struggling for the past year or so with the decision to stay in the teaching profession. Upon hearing these words I knew I was in the wrong place. In fact my teammate put it best when she said, "We are raping our children of their childhood." The county I work in has become so focused on the curriculum that they have forgotten what we are here to do. They have forgotten that our first goal as educators is to inspire. We are here to create positive social change. They have become so wrapped up in becoming "Groundbreaking" that they are beginning to fail their employees, and their students. They are creating a society of test takers instead if life makers.

Lastly, I have to add that while everything in me is screaming to leave, I simply can't. I can't leave my students to deal with this mess without me. I'm a good teacher. I don't say this to be smug. I say this to remind myself that I am a good teacher. That I am the expert in my classroom. That I am the one who knows what my students need best. That I am the one who cheers them on every day telling them that they can.

I know I'm not alone in this. Our nation is grappling with a toxic educational reform. We as educators are teaching in a time with unprecedented expectations. 20 years ago teachers were teaching in a time of unprecedented expectations, and I know 20 years from now the same will be true. I just hope those expectations will be ones that can actually help create that positive social change.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Ticking Away.......

In just 12 short days I will be returning back to work. I've had five months at home with Hazel and it's been no where near enough. I have to add that I am so thankful for this time. Shortly after Hazel's arrival, Joe and I thought I'd have to return to work when Hazel was only 10 weeks old. Luckily that didn't happen, and I got to extend my time with Little Miss. I told myself it'd be a little easier leaving her at five months. She'd be older, a bit more independent, and she would be able to handle the adjustment easier. What I didn't account for were my feelings. 

New parents are always told how much life changes when they have a child. They're told that the love they'll feel for that new life is indescribable. It's all true and more. What they don't tell you is that the love you'll feel actually does have a word, primal. Every single thing that I have done, or felt, since Hazel arrived has had a primal nature to it. There are so many schools of thought out there about the best way to raise a child, and I looked into all of them, but once she came, all bets were off. I no longer cared if letting her cry it out was right. I no long cared if there was such a thing as nursing too often, I only cared about what felt right to me in the moment. I paid attention to my feelings and emotions as well as Hazel's. Sometimes it feels right to go away from the crowd so Hazel and I can have some alone time. Sometimes it feels right to carefully lay her on the floor, or her crib, and let her cry for a bit so I can gather myself, and sometimes it feels right to ask for help when I know I've reached my limit. For five months our lives have been progressing like this. At times it's been very hard, but it's alway been very beautiful. 

Recently I've found myself second guessing my decisions on parenting. Should I have set a schedule for Hazel, so my return to work would be easier on everyone. Should I have let her cry a little longer so she could figure out how to self sooth. Should I have tried my hardest to not form such a close bond with this little creature. The answer to all these questions is, no. Everything I have done up to this point has always been right for us. 

As I prepare myself to return back to work, my hesitation is just as strong as it was when Little Miss was only 10 weeks old. Hazel will be staying with Joe and his mom while I am away bringing home that bacon. I'm frequently told how much easier it must be to return to work knowing Hazel will not be left with strangers. It doesn't make it any easier. It's hard leaving your child in the hands of others. Even when those others are family. I know that she will be in loving hands, and I know that she will have every need met, but they will not be met by me, and my heart breaks thinking about that. My little Lady Bird will be growing and changing, and I won't be there to witness every second like I have been. 

I know I'll adjust to being a working mom. Every working mom does. I'm going to work hard to respect my feelings as I go through this transition. I'm going to lean on that supportive husband of mine. The one who is alway holding me up. The one who dries my tears, pours me that glass of wine, and just listens calmly as I frantically worry. I'm going to trust that loving husband to look after our little creation, and I'm going to cherish these last few days I have left with Hazel.


Cheers.

Here's what I'll miss the most:


























Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Four Months!

Little Miss turned four months old yesterday! Since we're in Colorado, we thought we'd capture this amazing milestone by taking advantage of this lovely place. The three of us headed out to Garden of the Gods and attempted a little photo shoot. Although the sun was too bright, and the three of us sweated off our morning meals, we got a few good shots (and with this backdrop and subject how could we not?)

A few of Little Miss' favorite things:

  • Chewing on fingers (any fingers)
  • Reaching and grabbing for anything in sight
  • Flashing smiles
  • Putting anything she possibly can in her mouth

A few of Little Miss' not so favorite things:

  • Tummy time
  • Napping
  • The car seat

Cheers!

This girl thought her 4 month sticker was awesome!
Hanging with my girl 
Can I have those fingers, please?
Such a good sport :)


I'm over this, mom.....





Saturday, June 21, 2014

You are My Sunshine

All those cliches, those things you hear about having a baby and motherhood - all of them are true. And all of them are the most beautiful things you will ever experience.
                                                                            -Penelope Cruz

Today our baby girl is three months old. She has brought so much joy and love into our lives, that I'm having a hard time finding the words to describe it. Personally, I have never been happier. As someone who's experienced many bouts of depression, I never really understood what happy meant. I thought it meant being content. I was wrong. This is happy. Every time Little Miss shoots me her crooked smile, or gives us a little giggle, I feel nothing but pure joy. My heart literally sings. Every little thing she does, from the way she looks around a room taking in what she's seeing, to changing her dirty diaper, is the best thing I've ever seen or done in my entire life. 

I've also never been so sure of myself. It amazes me that at a time when I should be feeling like a fish out if water, I feel perfectly at home. It's a great feeling, and I hope it continues as this little girl grows. 

OK, enough with the mushy crap ;-)

Here are a few of Hazel's favorite things;

  • She loves to smile, all the time :)


  • She is the happiest little baby when she wakes up in the morning. I am greeted every morning with her crooked grin.


  • Hazel has found out she has a voice box and is not afraid to use it. She likes to yell for no reason other than to hear herself.


  • Little Miss has found her fingers and they are her favorite toy, and as soon as she can figure out how to get to her toes I know she'll be a happy girl. 


Joe and I are also convinced Hazel knows she is a cutie. We are going to be in for it....

In July we will be taking Hazel on her first flight. The three of us will be going to Colorado for three glorious weeks! Pap Pap's job got transferred to Pueblo, CO (not permanently). We are going to take advantage of the move and spend some time out west. I am very excited about this trip. The past two summers have found me taking new adventures, and I am so looking forward to taking this adventure with my new little family. 

Well that's all for now folks. Here some pictures of our little girl at 3 months old. 

Cheers!

Hazel was not impressed with turning 3 months.


This smile :)


Our beautiful girl


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Two Months

Time has been flying by since Little Miss entered our lives. She's already two months old, and yet it still feels like we just got home from the hospital with her. 

Frequently we get asked about how our lives have changed since having Hazel. I think the biggest change is time. Everything takes just a little more time now that she's here. I can't just clean the house in two hours, now it's an all day affair with many, many, breaks inbetween. I have to say, the breaks are pretty amazing though because I get to hang with my little girl, and that beats cleaning any day.

These past two month have been the most amazing, scary, and exciting months of our lives. Every day I go to bed thinking there's no way I could love this little life any more than I do, and every morning I wake up loving her more than ever. 

Thankfully I won't be returning to work until school starts back up in August. This will give me the chance to be a stay at home mom to Hazel for 5 amazing months. I am looking forward to the next three months with her, and I know they will be just as spectacular as these first two have been. 

Cheers!


       
   Our little family 


    Little model

    Morning smiles 

    Get this kid some coffee! STAT!

    Pure happiness






Monday, May 5, 2014

Breathe

A miscarriage is a natural and common event. All told, probably more women have lost a child from this world than haven't. Most don't mention it, and they go on from day to day as if it hadn't happened, so people imagine a woman in this situation never really knew or loved what she had. 

But ask her sometime: how old would your child be now? And she'll know.
- Barbara Kingsolver

I thought what Ms. Kingsolver said couldn't be more true. Our little boy would be turning 7 months this month, and there is not a day that goes by that I don't think of him. 

I titled this post "Breathe" because that is something I forgot to do this past year. I know I didn't take a real breath until Hazel was born. I mean a real honest breath. I had been holding it in since we found out we were pregnant again. I didn't even realize I was, until she was here. I know her and I took our first breath together. 

I had an easy pregnancy with Hazel and I really enjoyed it, but I never let myself truly enjoy it the way I did with BabyV. I do want to let everyone out there know that I always had a name for BabyV, but that name is for me alone. I keep it to myself because saying it out loud is too painful. It's not a name I will give to our other children because it belongs to him. One day I may share, but for now it's just for me and BabyV. 

When Joe and I found out we were pregnant with BabyV, I was ecstatic. I knew we would wait to tell the world until we hit the 12-week mark just as a precaution, but I remember thinking it was a silly precaution. I wanted everyone to know and to share in our joy. I know I was walking on air in those early days. I did what every newly pregnant mama does - I pictured what this little baby would look like thinking would it be a boy or girl. I immediately started thinking of names, and what the nursery would look like, and I got to reading about what our little baby was up to inside the womb. It was an amazing feeling and I'm thankful that I felt it. 

When Joe and I got the news that there were some problems with the baby it was immediately after we shared our joyous news with the world. I mean that literally. We told the world, and then went to PA for a family visit and that's when everything started to change. I had some spotting, so we took a trip to the ER and found out the baby was doing OK, but that I could lose the baby. I remember thinking, they have to say that because they didn't find anything medically wrong. BabyV's heartbeat was strong and he was moving and shaking in there. I got home and  had a check up a week later and that's when we were told the blood work wasn't looking good. I couldn't believe what I was hearing. The wind had been knocked out of me and I was back on the ground quite bruised from my fall. I knew immediately we were not going to keep this baby. I worked hard to keep positive and continue like it would work out, but I always knew we would never know BabyV on the outside. 

I'm a planner and I had not planned for this. I never even let myself think for one moment that this could happen. The funny thing is before I got pregnant I did think about miscarriage as a reality, but once I was pregnant I had the gall to think it would never happen to me. 

When our pregnancy was finally over I never imagined we would get pregnant again so quickly. The initial shock helped with some of the mourning, but soon I found myself a worried mess. I was angry that I couldn't enjoy this pregnancy the way I had the last. I was angry that I'll never be able to enjoy a pregnancy like I did with my first. I can guarantee that all women who have lost a baby feel they can never relax during their next pregnancies. It doesn't mean it's not a joyful time, we just know that this little life can be gone in a moment. 

It's amazing to me that I can still be grieving the loss of BabyV as I sit here with Hazel sleeping soundley on my chest. The day we brought her home from the hospital I cried and cried and cried. I was practically inconsolable. I talked with my sister-in-law about it and she told me;

You can try to be cool and blame it on hormones... But you've waited a long time for that little girl. You love her too much to contain it.  You have to cry. You have no choice. 

Man was that true! I know the entire pregnancy I never thought we'd be bringing her home. I wanted her home more than anything, but I didn't think it would happen. Every appointment was worse than the last because I just kept waiting for them to find something wrong. When we finally walked in the door with our baby I just lost it. All that time, all that energy, all that grief just came pouring out. 

I didn't write this to keep picking at the wound. I wrote this because BabyV is an important part of my life. I wrote this because losing a child is hard, and some people still squirm when I bring it up. And I wrote this because even though miscarriage is a natural and common event, I did know and love what I had. At one time I had a little boy and I loved him. 

Cheers.

Here's some memories from our short time with BabyV


8 weeks
10 weeks

8 weeks

13 weeks
16 weeks

14 weeks

12 weeks
14 weeks




Thursday, May 1, 2014

When a Baby Moves In, the Dog Moves Out....

Well, not exactly, but sort of. These wise words are spoken to Lady ( from Lady and the Tramp) as she inquires about what a baby is. Her new pal, Tramp, lets her know the hard truth.

About a week after we brought Hazel home I finally got why so many people re-home their pets when baby arrives. Now Joe and I are by no means thinking of re-homing our fur babies, but I can understand. I don't think it has anything to do with no longer loving your pet when baby comes, but just trying to make life a little easier while adjusting to becoming a new parent. Our pets are not even as needy as others are, it was more the "extra" work, like making sure they were fed and let out to do their business, which seems like a lot more when you're slightly sleep deprived. Hazel's been such a good baby, that I can't imagine how much harder it would have been had she been extremely fussy or hard to sooth. I can be sure I would have gone slightly insane trying to make sure the pet's needs were met as well as hers. The sad thing is, I've hardly dealt with the pets in the past 3 or so months because it was just too tiring to walk them, or down stairs to feed them, in the final months of pregnancy.  Now every time they need something so does Hazel, so poor Joe has been a single pet parent in recent months. We are slowing getting back into the swing of things, and the pets are getting back to becoming members of the family again like they used to. 

And yet even with our frustrations, Joe and I found out today that we are still quite attached to our beloved pets. Poe, who is Joe's shadow and buddy, has always had stomach issues. He's on special food, he's always emaciated looking, and he can barely look at people food without yaking all over the place. Well he has been quite a mess since Little Miss came home. Oh, I forgot to mention he is also one energetic stress ball! If he's not walking around the house whining, he's trying his hardest to get you to play. His anxiety about being second best got the better of him and we woke up to a pup who was throwing up blood. He's very dramatic, I know. So off to the vet we went, to find out he's pretty much fine. We were sent home with some meds to get him, and his anxiety, under control. In that short time, Hazel became second best. We made sure she was well fed and content and then our attentions turned to Poedidly. Even though I knew everything was going to be just fine with Poe, I couldn't help but worry the whole way to the vet that we were going to get the worst news. I even commented to Joe that I've not been the nicest to Poe this past month, and how bad I felt about that. I was quite relieved that everything was OK. 

The thing is no matter how frustrated I get with the pets, or how many times I think how much easier our lives would be if we didn't have any, I would not be a happy camper if they weren't here. Not only do they give unconditional love, support, and company, they are what makes our little family complete. 

I am so looking forward to Hazel growing up with the pets. I look forward to Sweetums stealing food from her highchair, and Poe making sure the floor is spotless underneath where she sits to eat. So for now the pets will have to endure this adjustment period, and I know they will because that's what pets do. They stick around for the long haul when we can't.  


Cheers!


Here's Hazel with her new fan club :)

Poe seems a bit attached to this kid, or maybe he just misses the attention :)




Seriously cute

Little Miss with daddy's Little Girl

Sweetledeets and Hazel