Monday, November 30, 2009

Blackness Without Depth or Dimension

I'm having a pretty difficult time reading McCarthy's The Road. I'm pretty sure it's the darkest, most depressing and bleak book I've ever opened.

Here's the honest truth: I feel like the book is crushing me.

My students are having a different experience. "This is the first book I've liked all year," one of them said. They're fascinated by the nature of the apocalypse - what happened to end the world? When did they start becoming cannibals? How long have they been traveling south?

I don't really care about those things. "Do you see ANY EVIDENCE of hope in the first 77 pages?" I asked them. "Is there any reason to think things are going to turn out WELL?"

Yes, they said unanimously. The dad loves the boy. The dad is never going to give up on that.

So, okay. I'll keep trudging through. It's not like I have any choice.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Poor Planning

What's happened is that I'm overcome with stress and anxiety because of the volume of schoolwork that's piled up.

Sometimes I feel okay about it, like, I'll say to myself, "Calm down! It's all going to be fine!"

And then, like two seconds later, I start to hyperventilate.

The bottom line is that I'll be performing for 140 kids tomorrow. I hope to heaven that I can be moderately prepared for this endeavor.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

I'm On the Bleachers

Shef is now obsessed with making comments on Voice Stream. About fifty times a day, he says, "Let's make a comment!" So, of course we made several comments on Lee's family hand turkeys.

Because he's so into recording his voice and playing it back, I suggested that we try making a podcast. He thought that sounded good.

I posted the podcast here because I couldn't figure out how to upload it to blogger. We had fun doing it, and we'll probably make more.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Shining Through

For Mothers' Day '08, Dan got me a Flip video camera. I loved it! It even had pink accents! I uploaded a bunch of great videos from it to this blog.

The camera broke just before Jdoc's wedding a year later, and when I called the Flip people for help, they said I should just take out the batteries and let it rest. Then when I put the batteries back in three days later, they said the problem would be fixed.

I was skeptical and asked for clarification, but they insisted that resting would help the Flip.

In the end, the resting did not help, but I kept the Flip in a closet hoping that someday I could revive it.

And then, today I did! I put some batteries in, it worked, and I got a great video of Mac saying, "Happy Thank You!" But when I plugged my camera into the USB port, my computer wouldn't recognize the camera. I sent the Flip people an email asking for help, and they sent a form message back asking me to answer about a million clarifying questions and provide tons of information about my computer and my Flip.

To tell the truth, I might not do that. It would probably take about an hour for me to answer the questions, and then I'm guessing they'd just tell me that my Flip is broken and can't be fixed and my warranty is over or never activated or something.

Perhaps I'm being a pessimist, but that's my best guess about how this situation is going to resolve.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

My Heart is Like an Open Highway

Thanksgiving was lovely as usual. Dan's cranberries were a highlight for sure, and in terms of the company, my niece Ilse is totally divine.

For one thing, she's a baby GIRL. She was wearing this perfect red tartan dress with matching bloomers. Also she's quite curious and obviously a brilliant genius.

After Ilse and everyone else left, we remembered as an afterthought that we'd like to snap a Christmas-card worthy family photo. Well, Shef refused to smile, Mac was obsessed with locating his pacifier, and I look like a total lunatic.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Mmmmm What Did She Say?

I've taken a lot of flack from my colleagues in the past couple of days because I don't like dogs that much.

I know! It's unAmerican! They told me that. They called me heartless and communist. They looked at me with hurt in their eyes. "You don't like DOGS?" they whispered.

Then, when dogs appeared in a film we viewed for staff development yesterday, they looked at me pityingly - "See?" the looks said. "Isn't THAT dog cute?"

OKAY! YES! The dog in Colonial House is cute! When Shef and I were hanging in a coffee shop this morning, we saw this dog through the window. I loved this dog! It was some kind of small white terrier that I'm sure doesn't shed and also probably doesn't poop. I would totally get this dog.

You can click the pic to enlarge. It looks like a passenger in the car! That cute wittle dog is just the greatest. Seeing it made my whole frickin day.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Hey, Bust a Move

I got to see these adorables in Philadelphia:

I'm trying hard to become their favorite aunt-type person, but it's been hard because I haven't seen them in a long time. Or, in Ryan's case, ever. But now I'm well on my way, since I let Shef pick out fun and probably dangerous toys for them.

I can tell I'm making a big impression. Sophie asked, "Where did Katie go?" when I went to the bathroom at this restaurant. Katie is another nickname for Kathleen, so close enough.

And then later, her parents made her give me a hug.

Monday, November 23, 2009

No Really, She's Brilliant.

This day was interminable.

First, I read my sub notes from last week. Here's how the missive started: "I don't allow students to sit on desks or jump on furniture. I don't know what you do." The ending was like this: "I think the class did not find me delightful but I tried and they did do some work. Some called me a bitch when they left."

I rolled my eyes and set that down.

Later, after about 5 hours of conferences, I graded a paper by a student that read, "What is courage? Courage changes depending on the situation. One example of courage was when Henry Dobbins wore his ex-girlfriend's panty's around his neck even after they broke up."


Still later, after I'd conducted a total of 45 conferences, I really started to lose it. Tim, Kari, Rachel and I were all between customers and standing near my table. I noticed some parents hovering. "Are you looking for one of us slackers?" I smiled, assuming they were waiting for me.

"Yeah," they said. "Rachel?"

"Oh!" I said. "Well!" Oh, crap! "She's right here!"


"And," I continued, "She's not really a slacker. She's brilliant!" Rachel was already turned around and marching toward her table, creating as much distance between us as possible.

Did I stop talking at this point? No, I did not.

"She's a genius!" I continued. "So. Have a good conference!" And then I patted them each on the shoulder. Both the mom and the dad.

Tim was bent double with guffaws, and Kari told me I'd officially lost my mind.

8 hours of conferences! Really, what do they expect?!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Contest

Lee and I are engaged in a Challenge to revitalize our blogs. We're going to blog every day from now until the new year. JDoc is doing it too, thank goodness. I asked Pronto if he would play, and he said, "No."

Party pooper.

Anyway, it was a great weekend at NCTE. Next year, it would be terrific to have a crowd of fantastic people from Bloomington and from Minneapolis meeting together for fun times at NCTE. Let's do it!

When I got home the children were happy to see me. Shef said, "Stop copying me, Mom." And Mac said, "Did it!"

Tomorrow I have eight hours of conferences. Nothing could possibly go wrong.

p.s. I had a little trouble with the Voice Thread below. The Voice Thread with all the comments is here.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Do I Have Strep?

As you know, Mac has strep.

At first, I thought that I was having psychosomatic strep symptoms because they started right after Mac got diagnosed. But now, I think I might actually have it.

But, in the meantime while the strep was potentially incubating, I went to Philadelphia for a conference.

I'm sure they have urgent care here in Philly, so I'll probably seek that out tomorrow if I wake up feeling like I have strep.

I'm kind of pissed about this situation, if you want to know the truth.

However, I'm pretty happy to be here overall. I'm going to have the best weekend ever.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Time Grabs You By the Wrist

It's the end of the quarter, which was always a stressful time even before I had that second child plus a full-time teaching load. The kids start to get panicky about their grades, and then they start to say things in an accusatory tone. Things like:

"But you never SAID we needed a works cited!"

"But my printer ran out of INK!"


"My thesis IS fully expanded!"

And then they turn around and start to mumble things about me. Things that, in my imagination, are not very polite. In order to deal with these interactions professionally and with patience, I've adopted a few strategies.

One of them is I say Hail Marys over and over again in my head. And then I throw in a Glory Be and a couple of St. Francis of Assisi prayers. "SPREAD JOY," I remind myself before beginning class. "SOW LOVE."

This can be really hard, especially when they say things like, "Who's Duena Alfonsa?" when Duena Alfonsa is a main character in the novel, and we're already on page 217.

My other strategy is to repeat the mantra, "Grace and courtesy, grace and courtesy, grace and courtesy." I got it from a book about The Montessori Way. It's important to explicitly teach those things, the book says. And I'm trying to be a model.

It's hard to do when they say things like, "I don't even know why we're analyzing McCarthy because he obviously doesn't know how to write."

But I want you to know I'm trying really, really hard.

Friday, November 6, 2009

You, You Got What I Need

Here's an update:

Mac says a few things now. Like "please," "thank you," "ball," and "I do!" Like, you'll say, Mac do you want some breakfast? And he'll say, "IdoIdoIdo!" And a few other cute little things.

Shef, of course, says tons of things, some of them cute and others not so much. Just today, his teachers sent the kindergarten feelings book home in the e-Friday Folder. I was having a great time scrolling through the photos. Kids saying things like, "I felt confident when I was the flower girl at my uncle's wedding," and "I was ecstatic when I built a tall tower." Those kids were beaming in their photos, looking totally adorable.

Shef was toward the end. Here's what he looked like:

The text said he felt disgusted because he ate tomatoes. The kid really doesn't care for produce.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Guest Post

Well, that title is a little misleading. It's still me. (Hi!!) But I planned to type up this story that Shef wrote last night:

I weint to a frm and bobd for applers.
I weint baek and the hoem was a tornado.
I had to goin the basmint.

God, I love that kid.

I've been having a little trouble blogging lately, and it's partly because, as I've previously mentioned, my life is insane; and also partly because I'm afraid to write the funny kid stories from work (For example: Me: Cara, are you dressing up for Halloween? Cara: Yes, I'm going to be an Indian. Me: Do you think your costume is culturally appropriate? Cara: Well, I'm doing the fringe and everything.)

The problem is I'm on Facebook and the link to this blog is on Facebook and I'm friends with some former students now.

Probably I should just take the link off of Facebook and keep writing. That sounds like a good idea.