Sunday, April 20, 2014

Easter Bunny Train


Yesterday may have been the best day of my son's life.  You see, J has an obsession with trains.  We have so many train books, train toys, train pajamas, train ... everything currently cluttering up our home that it is difficult to believe so many varied train THINGS even exist.  Furthermore, we cannot go anywhere in the world without noticing that hey--over there are some train tracks!  Wow--look at that train!  Hear the train sound!  Trains--totally exciting.

We often walk to a small park near our house and along the back of the park runs an old train track.  I found out, through googling, that the track is used only by a small, historic rail company operating out of Walkersville, MD called Walkersville Southern Railroad and Museum.  They run mostly day train excursions on weekends in spring, summer, and fall with occasional dinner trains and events.  One of their more popular events is the Easter Bunny Train.

We rode the train yesterday with the Easter Bunny.  He gave J a little bunny toy.  Then, we went to the little museum and had juice and cookies.  It was a lovely afternoon and a beautiful trip.  It ran through the back of some neighborhoods, through the two parks near the center of Walkersville, past the high school where a baseball game was happening, and through several farms--mostly dairy I'd guess from the presence of the cows.  The best part was the little bridge over the Monocacy River.  Spectacular views--I wish I had brought my camera.  Min Gi remembered his on his phone, so we got a few shots, but not the ones I would have taken.


J has not stopped talking about it since then.  And probably won't for awhile.  I love how easy it is to make his day these days.  I am very excited for this summer and the toddler adventures to come.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Motherhood and Time

J is at a wonderful age where I have started being able to read again.  Not that motherhood is really any less demanding or time consuming.  Nor have I stopped working two jobs (actually, I also started taking graduate courses toward a new certification).  I just feel like I'm getting a grip on what it actually feels like to be myself and a mom at the same time.  I know that's weird, since I've been a mom for almost a two and half years.  I don't know how else to explain it, though.  I just suddenly feel like my identity has merged with motherhood in the last few months.

Maybe it has more to do with not being so sick all the time.  I've been dealing with cyclical bouts of UC since J was about 5 months old.  They seem to have (knock on wood) slowed down for the time being.  Just the last few months, I've emerged from a bit of a fog.  I'm feeling less depressed and more settled.

Maybe it is because my son is talking more and is really an independent little person.  I deal better with people with a certain level of self-sufficiency and babies really, really lack that quality (no knock on them, now.  It's part of the process).  I'm certainly enjoying motherhood in this stage a lot more.

Well... whatever it is... I feel like I want to write here again.  At least for today.

I read a really good book the other day.  The Fault In Our Stars by John Green is a beautiful, sad, moving young adult romance.  I think I loved it so because, as the Shakespearean allusion in the title promises, it is chock-full of literary joy.  Everything from William Carlos Williams to video games-turned-novels is referenced and woven into the love story.  I really cannot imagine this part of the novel carrying over well to the screen, although the movie is set to come out soon.  We'll see.

Anyhow, it only took about two days for me to read it.  I recommend you pick it up.  Have tissue box handy and enjoy.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Anxiety... and EXCITEMENT: Back to School!

Monday morning, the students return.  We teachers have been back for a (little under) a week.  Starting my second year in this particular school, I am definitely in better shape.  However, I'm feeling the strong pull of the "a little knowledge is a dangerous thing" paradox because I feel less prepared knowing how much I have to do.  I have been overwhelmed all week.

A few things have me particularly anxious:

  1. I got a pretty decent rep at my school last year as being alright at what I do.  This will help, but it also means I have hype to live up to now and the expectations are higher.  I'm not a "noob." What I did last year won't be good enough.
  2. I'm teaching all new preps, save one (the AP class), and have three different preps in fall.  No, I don't know what we might be reading on Wednesday yet...
  3.  I have a student teacher.  I'm so excited for that--I think changing jobs so often has kept me "in touch" with new to service teachers more than other people with my experience, and I so respect and empathize with how awesome/challenging/impossible/wonderful/horrible that first year of teaching is.  He's cool so far.  However, I feel like I should feel a lot more like a "master teacher" than I actually do (see #2 and my lack of plans for Wednesday).  I know I've been doing this for nine years on two different continents, but still... Doubts eternal.
  4. My spring students' AP scores were... not good.  I hesitate to post about this because it is somewhat questionably private student information that they need not have broadcast on the internet and because I really shouldn't (even in this political climate) put so much stock in scores.  As much as I truly believe that standardized tests tell you little more with accuracy than the income range of the test taker's parents, I cannot avoid the reality that (1--and more importantly) the AP test has the potential to help my students avoid taking an extra class in college and therefore is great if they pass it and (2) we teachers not only are judged by others on our students' scores, we really feel overwhelmingly personally responsible for their failures.  Like, I see a student in my class get a high score on a test, and I'm like "WOW... John did so GREAT!!!"  I see a student get a bad score, and I'm like "Oh MY GOD!!!  What did I do wrong?  I'm the worst teacher in the entire world!"  I realize this is ridiculous, but it is my first reaction to credit students entirely with success and blame myself entirely with failure.  Reading too much political educational rhetoric?  Perhaps.  It's one of my few remaining holdovers of growing up with sub-par self-esteem.  All this is to say, that I'm feeling the test score pressure.  AP Language and Composition is basically my favorite class to teach (only American Culture came close; though perhaps Creative Writing and Drama would be up there, should anyone ever give me the chance to teach those).  I don't want it to be taken away from me next year because of scores.
  5. My schedule blows.  I won't go into details, but I got screwed*.  These are the things about teaching in public schools I don't love.  At all.
  6. New principal/bosslady = extra pressure + extra uncertainty.  However, over the last few days, I have a very strong positive first impression.  Cautiously optimistic?  Yes, I am.  Aw... I'll just admit the truth now.  I'm giddy with glee basking in her positive glow.  I love this woman already so much, I know she's bound to disappoint me sometime because she would not be human if she could live up to the amazing feeling of AWESOME I'm getting from her at this point.  I will have to temper my giddiness.  Fortunately, I have my anxieties... see above.

Typing out my anxieties has made me come back around to my blinding optimism that always seems to win out around this time of year.  The students I've met so far have been really awesome.  At Back to School night, some of my kids from last year stopped by to tell me about their summers and said really kind things to me (and apparently about me to other teachers).  I have a new classroom that is way bigger and more flexible than my previous one.  I'm in much better shape with preparation for the whole semester than I was at this time last year, even if my day-to-day is not fleshed out...  Overall, most of what I'm feeling is excitement.

I have a feeling I will not be sleeping much this weekend.  I plan to spend my last day of summer with my lovely menfolk at the pool.

*honestly, I believe no one did this to me intentionally, so I hold no particular grudge about it.  And I have the most supportive colleagues in the world who made me not only NOT run for the hills, but find some positive ways to approach some classes I'm less than enthusiastic about teaching.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Craigslisting

craigslist n. an internet site posting classified ads in local areas v. (1) to engage in commerce through the website craigslist.org; (2) to buy or sell used items through the internet; (3) to be awesome.

Today we had access to my mother's SUV because we purchased a twin mattress for J (in hopes that he will one day sleep in it rather than just jump up and down on it, declaring his undying love for the airplanes on the sheets) and needed to haul it home.  I decided to make use of this to the fullest and spent some time digging around on Craigslist for things we need/want.  We ended up with two bikes and a dishwasher at very reasonable prices from very helpful gentlemen who spent some time explaining to me how to properly maintain/use the items.

I love Craigslist (and similar things, like Freecycle.org).  When you're trying to keep costs down, it opens up a lot of options that the local thrift shop might not offer.  You can also sell used junk items there if you like, though you'll hardly get rich doing that (unless you are a super thrift shop/yard sale maverick with exceptional marketing skills--I know of at least one person who made a decent living that way when he was unemployed).

Craigslist is great; it is also a time-consuming rabbit hole of internet nonsense.  Craigslist is full of scams (one of these is responsible for about 90% of my junk e-mail now from back when I was job-hunting in 2010).  The personal ads are endless source of entertainment and depressing examples of the failures of humanity.  But those aren't even the things I'm talking about.  I'm talking about the way it makes you covet used crap delightful items of joy.

Sometimes nothing at all is listed there you actually need or want, but while perusing it for, say, size 2T boy clothes, you see all these things you don't actually need for your toddler, but find yourself thinking: "Wow... look at that spiffy scooter!  It's only $12--I should get it.  J will love it when he's 4!"

So you e-mail the person who put up the ad.  And then you obsessively check your e-mail every three minutes for a reply.

The next day, you get a response back--a flippant one liner:  "Well, someone's coming to check it out tonight."  And you get sucked in, because even though you didn't even want the darn thing two days ago--the thought of it had never even crossed your mind--you've become so invested in it that you try to figure out how to rearrange your whole afternoon to beat the other potential buyer out there so that you can buy the scooter.  That no one in your house will use for at least three more years.  You have to have it.  So you offer more money if she'll hold it for you, and not for the other person.

Seriously, that's how it works.

Ok, not really, but sometimes those surges of MUST. HAVE. NOW. hit you the way they would in a regular retail store, but even more so because you get so invested in the e-mail exchanging and the plans to meet and the potential rival customers that it becomes more than just a transaction; it's life drama!

I try to keep it all in perspective, while maintaining good internet manners (instead of just never responding after expressing interest, which can seem rude), but it's not easy to do all the time.

That noted, I'm very happy with my purchases today.  Not looking forward to witnessing my brother, father, and husband attempt to install the dishwasher on Saturday (because they are such odd personalities), but am definitely looking forward to some sweet rides on my new (to me) bike.

And now... about that Gourmet Chef Cheese Shaker for $6...

Monday, August 5, 2013

Coming Home... as a Homeowner.

Coming home to your own house after vacation is a new experience for me.

I was shocked by how reassuring and comfortable it felt to return to our place, our shelter.  I never really thought I'd be the homeowning type--too much responsibility--but Min Gi and I got a really great deal on this three floor, end-unit townhouse in a beautiful neighborhood just under five miles from my job.  It was appraised at $223,000, and the bank accepted our offer of $197,000 plus they covered 3% (or about $6,000) of closing costs.  We moved in at the beginning of March and have been updating it slowly since then (it was a foreclosure and was... missing some things... like door knobs and light fixtures and a refrigerator).  To give you a sense of just what an awesome deal this is, two similar units in our community sold in May for over $250,000 each.

But late at night, after traveling for more than 24 hours, crashing in our bed, seeing our kitties greet us, with our comfortable, familiar surroundings was just different than coming home has ever been for me.

I need to write more about the (unplanned) process of homeownership--which involved even MORE paperwork than the immigration stuff for Min Gi--but I am still a touch jetlagged and have cleaning and paperwork to catch up on.  Just wanted to share that things are good.

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