Monday, December 31, 2012

2012: A Year in Review

I want to try to do this without looking at old posts so I'll focus on what really stood out. 2012 certainly gave me quite a bit to ponder and look back on. In a scant 365 days,

  • J turned one, began walking fully, learned to sign, and started to make a few noises that sound like "mama" and "dada"
  • He started speech and physical therapy, which have legitimately helped him
  • I'm also VERY proud to say that if you ask him what sound a duck makes, he will indeed respond with a recognizable "quack quack quack"! 
  • He knows where his tummy, hands, and head are and understands quite a lot.
  • He made a great transition into day care, going from crying for half the day to barely registering when I drop him off
  • After months of searching, networking, and resume variations, I got a a field other than teaching. I learn something new every day, including the fact that I don't really miss the classroom. Had I not lost my previous job, I wouldn't have known that. Yet I still get to use my skills as a lover of English, grammar, and words. How lucky that I was able to wait it out and find something that suits me.
  • I learned that you can, indeed, function on one salary and unemployment and still go out to the occasional movie, with help from very generous parents
  • My niece and nephew each turned one, another set of twin nieces and nephews turned two, and my youngest sister married the love of her life in a gorgeous outdoor ceremony, perfect for them
  • My sister M started a new job 
  • My grandmother made it through one more year when we all doubted that she would due to illness and sheer age (she's 97 with a birthday in April) and got to see her great-grandson smile and wave at her
  • One cousin started college and another is a junior in high school, earning top grades
  • With the help of a new eating plan, T and I have lost over 60lbs and 25 lbs, respectively. We feel healthy and more energized than we have in years.
  • T and I grew as friends and in our marriage in so many good and healthy ways
  • We finally made it to Tadoussac after four years and introduced J to that gorgeous, special place
  • I made some new friends and reconnected with old ones
  • On that note, I began to do more for myself outside of my family and realized that that's not selfish; it's good and necessary for me
  • I read more books
  • I found a system to help me and my family become more organized, and I've discovered there might be something to this Type-A way of living
  • I got to spend time with J, teaching him and watching him grow in all ways
  • I learned to knit
  • I changed my hair
  • I learned a great deal about the ins and outs of health insurance, more than I'd ever want to know, yet not enough to truly understand it
  • I fell in love with cooking and finding recipes that work for us (thank you, Pinterest!)
  • I came into my own as a person, understanding more about who I am and what I can do to be the best, healthiest, strongest version of myself. It's still a work in progress, but that's the best way to be, I believe. And I thank you all for reading this blog and sharing some of your responses with me. It truly means a great deal to me.

I've always made resolutions, but I feel that that word leaves no room for error. If I "resolve" to do something and then it doesn't happen, I feel guilty (and boy, am I still learning that lesson--to stop beating myself up because it accomplishes nothing) for not doing it. So instead, I want to make some *goals* for 2013. Maybe I'm nitpicking with words, but hey, it's my job. So I have a few goals:

  1. Stay with my eating and exercise routine...but recognize that missing an occasional workout or eating a decadent dessert every so often does not make me a terrible person who fell off track.
  2. Continue reading books, either in paper or electronic form
  3. Stay with that organization--all it does is make my life less frantic in all aspects, particularly personal and work
  4. Continue to communicate well with my husband
  5. Reach out to friends I've lost touch with because they help enrich my life

I can come up with more, but let's stick to five for now. I think that makes it more manageable, and if I want to add more, I can. When I look back, yes, I had a tough year financially, but it made me truly focus on all the other riches in my life, and I am fortunate enough to have many.

So here's to 2013 and what it may bring. Happy New Year, folks. May it bring you much love and happiness.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Brief Reflection, Useless(?) Information

First of all, to briefly address the recent terrible events in Newtown, CT, my heart aches for the 20 children and 6 adults who lost their lives. I suppose if this means actual, productive discussion about gun control and how we treat mental illness (although autism is not a mental illness, and it gets me fired up when it's treated as such), that's something good. Focus on "actual, productive": Tragedies like this produce way too many knee-jerk reactions and bring out a lot of bile and finger-pointing, which accomplishes nothing. I'd also like to see the names of the victims used a little more instead of the media un(?)intentionally glorifying the name of the shooter. In my little opinion, if we let the name of the person pulling the trigger fade into obscurity, perhaps others wouldn't try to imitate him later. The victims seem way more important to memorialize. I also like the idea of the 20 random acts of kindness that have sprung up--a positive coming from such an awful negative. For now, I hug J a little tighter and wonder where and when this kind of thinking will end or what we can do to lessen it a bit.
But on a different note (and I need to do this for myself, this blog, and anyone reading it), I got this idea from another blog and figured I needed a lighter post than my previous one and as a counterpoint to the great sadness that's weighed so many of us down recently. So here goes:

Five Facts You May Not Know About Me
  1. I still choke up a little every time the Christmas tree grows after Linus wraps it in his blue blanket and tells the rest of the gang the story of the nativity
  2. I can't stand for labels in a cabinet to face in/away from me.
  3. Goldfish crackers are my biggest food weakness. I'm taking that on one fish at a time.
  4. I've never read any novel by Ernest Hemingway.
  5. I sometimes talk to myself in the bathroom mirror, just vocalizing the thoughts in my head. I realized this when I caught myself doing it at work recently and wondered just how loudly I was talking and whether my co-workers could hear me.

Monday, December 10, 2012

300 more hours of school: THIS! IS! EDUCATION!

...or is it?

I read an article recently about how certain states, including New York, plan to add 300 more hours to the school year as of next year. As a former English teacher, I have a lot of strong feelings about this idea and several questions. This may come off as a bit disorganized; I wrote from my heart and less from my paragraph-organized, can't-bear-to-abbreviate-a-text-message head.

1. What exactly will this 300 hours be used for? Can we use some of it to get recess and gym back for elementary school kids? They desperately need that run-around time to get their energy out and stimulate their litte minds. Can we use some of it to get arts and music and the other "extras" back for middle and high school students? I see from the article that the intention actually is to use that time for those extras, including possible internships, so I suppose I could get on board with that. Look at the jobs of today and consider the ones that don't even exist yet--so many of them require some form of creativity that those "extras" help reinforce. If this 300 hours will consist of more time for testing and test prep, forget it. Our students are being tested to death; no wonder so many of them don't like school. And I can tell you, good teachers can't stand taking time away from learning to prep for these stupid tests.

2. With the teaching workforce getting steadily cut every year, how will adding on time benefit the students or the teachers? Already teachers for the past few years have been asked to "do more with less." The money isn't there is the cry. Somehow, these 300 hours need funding: More supplies, higher utility bills...all right, apparently government funds and grants will help support this. So if we can find money for it, why couldn't government find it to hire back some of that cut workforce? Teachers can only give so much of themselves and their time to the students when they have to deal with six classes of 30.

3. Why do we insist on the One Best Way for all students? On some level, the administration and bureaucracy understand that students learn differently; everyone has strengths and weaknesses, and so teachers must (and do) try to differentiate education so all students are reached. Then they throw these standardized tests at them again, and some students simply don't do well on them because their brains don't work that way. So they get pigeonholed and held back, and the fact that that kid who scored poorly on his math and English is an amazing artist or a gifted engineer or incredibly intuitive with animals doesn't mean anything because there's no room for those talents to blossom. I hope this extra time will help with that.

4. If we add time to the school day, something has to be done about homework. As a teacher, I didn't give homework every night--I tried to give it only if it reinforced something we would cover the next day from the lesson learned that day. I did this partially for the kids and, frankly, partially for myself because the sheer volume of assignments to grade could get pretty overwhelming. If we're putting kids in school for longer each day, let's please give them a break once they get home instead of bombarding them with hours more work. There has to be time to do other activities, to play, to rest, to eat a relaxed meal, to spend time with the family.

The entire American educational system needs a major overhaul, and it's about time that the people making the decisions had some better knowledge of the classroom itself and the students in them. I don't pretend that I have the answers, but when decision are made from on high for a large number of people without consulting those who work with those people, a disconnect occurs. If New York and other states insist on adding these hours, I truly hope they do make those hours enjoyable and educational for the students. I want students (and parents and bureaucracy!) to understand that those two terms are not mutually exclusive. More time spent grinding kids into the ground with testing will not help them enjoy school or learning, nor will it make life-long learners.

What do all of you think? Feel free to disagree; this is, of course, my opinion, and I'm glad to read others' thoughts who give me a different point to consider or add to one of my own.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012


I try. I try to have patience. Most of the time, I do. When I taught, my phrase was that I needed about eight oceans of patience to deal with the students and all that went with them. Now I have my own child, and he's the dearest darling of my heart. He is smiley and gives hugs and sturdy and climbs all over everything. He shrieks with laughter at the dog and when we tickle him.

I just wish he could tell us some of that.

I feel selfish and terrible for even writing this. He could have so many other problems that I don't even dare *think* about, and I know that every child progresses at his own rate. I *know* in my heart that with guidance and time, he will form words and one day T and I will look at each other in wonder and say, "God, remember when he didn't say anything? Now he won't stop talking!"

But I get scared. And frustrated. And impatient. He's learning sign language, so that's been HUGE. Currently he only knows the one, but "more" covers an awful lot of territory. It gets hard on some days to focus on what he *can* do rather than what he *can't* because the latter include things we've been waiting for and seeing other kids do. We don't always concentrate on the former enough.

I feel as though we should play with him more, that if we find the right combination of toys and gestures, maybe something will connect. That's it, though, really, keep trying different methods until he makes that leap (baby step?) in his little mind. And then the questions: *Are* we doing enough? Should we do something different? More? Should he have more therapy? Should we just relax, considering we've heard all sorts of stories about kids not talking for a while and then suddenly coming out with full sentences? How long will this lack of words go on? Is he OK????

We'll just keep doing a little, every day, and I will work my hardest at not letting the what-ifs and the uncertainty get to me. I, unfortunately, can be a champion worrier; combine that with my first-time motherhood and the overpowering love I have for this child and my feeling that I would do anything to help him, and...yikes.

So I will say the Serenity Prayer more often and do what I can from my end, and I'll wait for J to be ready. That's really all I can do. And I'll remind myself that it's enough.