Saturday, February 28, 2009

Like a rolling stone...

We are actually FREE to leave this state (well, not quite, but soon enough). For the last 6 years (6 long years) we've been stuck in Texas because this is where I have gone to school, and I couldn't leave till I was done.

I finished up this summer (whew!!!) and am now working. We're still stuck here for a couple of reasons, but it finally dawned on us that we could actually PLAN the next place we move to. We've always just been like dandelion fluff, going where the wind blew, and we've really felt stuck in Texas. We don't like Houston much, although it has its appeals....lots of jobs, low cost of living, lots of culture, etc.

So, we're trying to narrow down our search. Here are some of the things we are looking for:

1. A mild climate, although seasons are nice, so we're willing to deal with snow if the town is awesome.

2. Good public transit. This indicates a desire to help the people, and also to help our Earth.

3. Liberal politics.

4. An artsy vibe.

5. Beauty. I want to live somewhere that inspires me.

6. I'd like a small town feel, but close enough to drive to a larger city.

That's enough to start.....any suggestions? Thanks!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Don't be a hater

Eat a salad!!

I have a lovely friend who is jovial, funny, and loves to cook (not a vegetarian, but she'll come around, in time). All of these things just make my heart smile!

And yet.....she was berating the beloved SALAD! Oh! The horror! Salads are so amazing! Full of life and vibrancy. Crunchy and silky, sweet, salty, savory. Fresh and delicious. I love salads.

Now, I'll admit that salads can be downright terrifying. Those old salads, sitting for who knows how long, made up of limp iceberg lettuce and white (Heavens, NO!) tomatoes. I mean, WHITE!!! Maybe a sad little sliver of red cabbage, if they are trying to be "fancy." Shudder.

Plus, the dressings! They can be nightmares! I mean, I never that ranch could be good until I tried a friend's Hidden Valley Ranch (and I realize that homemade would likely be superior, but you have to understand that I've always thought that ranch was gross till I tried this stuff, only a few months ago). Thick, gloppy, gloopy, full of sugar and chemicals. Yuck!

But a nice vinaigrette, made with citrus juice and olive oil, or even a store bought dressing that does not taste so processed (and hopefully, isn't processed to death), can be wonderful.

So, that brings me to MY salad. Yum! I love salads, and love to have big, decadent salads for dinner (did you hear that!!??!! I said, have a salad for DINNER! What? No meat? Crazy!). I recently made an especially inspiring salad, and I want to share it with you now.

Yummy! That looks divine, no? There are organic mixed greens, topped with red onion, kidney beans, grated carrot, a bit of shredded cheese, and some organic grape tomatoes. Some lovely artisan bread and roasted red pepper hummus are my side, filling me up and adding some protein.

Not too long after this was shot, the salad was lightly drizzled in a dressing of fresh salsa mixed with the current guilty pleasure, Hidden Valley Ranch (even the light version is good!!!).

Oh, how happy I was, just munching away on this salad. Yum yum yum!

Now really, can you honestly tell me you wouldn't eat that for dinner? And happily forego meat? Look deep inside yourself, now....

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Trials of Life

As an evolutionary biologist who loves animal behavior most of all, I really, really, really love Sir David Attenborough's Trials of Life series. I have them all, on DVD even (because I had access to a DVD burner. For some stupid reason, these are only available on VHS. That's practically Beta)!

So, today's Natalie Dee comic just amuses me to no end....

Please check her out! She's a funny lady, yo. And it will only take 30 seconds out of your day. You know you spend more time contemplating your split ends than that, and she's funnier than split ends!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

What are the hippies up to this week?

Let's take a peek, shall we?

MamaBirdie offers you a transcendental meditation:
The Inside Life

BunnyGlitter has found a fairy tale that doesn't need a prince to have a happy ending:
Because we're fabulous

CrazyCase is making some amazing changes in her life:
In my crazy life

Luscious Decadence has some great ideas to pamper yourself that are recession-proof:
Top Ten Indulgences Under $10

Just because Melia has lost some weight doesn't mean you need to shout about it:
Total Embarrassment

Fashion, Evolved tells us about a new shoe line that is designed to help, not hurt, your feet!
Vive la Vivo Barefoot Revolution!

Braided Diva tells us about the use of pot as a weapon of political corruption. You wouldn't think that stoners would have that kind of devious ambition.
An Uncommon Occurrence

A Hippy Chick gives us a reminder to live our lives as if we had what we want:
As if

The Q tells us why we are fat and scares us with baby pictures:
10 things

Moving, Shaking, and Breaking it down reminds us of Jump Rope for Heart, which was my favorite fund raiser when I was in school (I used to be able to jump double dutch!):
Money, Money, Money....

AuroraHope is blessed!

Have a fabulous love day, everyone!

Friday, February 13, 2009

File under: Kids These Days

Sigh. Remember how when you were in school, if you (or your friends, if you are the honest sort) were going to cheat, you'd be all sneaky? Well, things are both the same and different.

I gave my kiddos a test this week. Scores were not great, for the most part. The highest score was about an 84%, from my very best students. Plus, it took the kiddos between 1-1.5 hours to complete the test (unless the bombed it and were willing to give up the ghost).

Enter Beth. Beth missed school on Tuesday and I don't see her Wednesday. When I saw her Thursday, all but a handful had taken the test. So, it's definitely possible that answers had leaked into the populace. Heck, I remember getting the answers to chemistry tests before we took them at all! (I should probably explain myself about that at some point)

Beth asked to take the test in the hall, and since this is common at my school and she has never cheated before, I said ok. The test then took her 20-30 minutes, 50% less than the average student. I graded the test, and missed only 2, which netted her about 11 points more than my BEST know, the ones who study, who pay attention and are engaged, who come to tutorials.....Well, Beth is none of these things. Her current average in my class is a 60, and when she DOES turn in work, it's not good quality. She received a score lower than a 50 on a recent quiz. During class, she enjoys yelling across the room to friends while I'm talking (a lovely habit, to be certain).

With this evidence, I told her that I wanted her to retake the test. I told her why, and she understood why I thought that cheating was a possibility (that I can't prove, since she was in the hall). She refused to retake the test, telling me that she didn't want to prove herself and that I could just give her a zero. You see the added suspicion here? We went round and round, I had her call mom, who she conveniently couldn't reach. At this point, I was not going to continue to discuss this with her, so I told her she could leave. I wasn't angry at any point, just trying to figure out why all of a sudden she was the smartest kid, as far as evolution was concerned. Oh, she did better than a preAP teacher's "nerdiest" student, too. Hmm.

I emailed my AP, telling him the situation. The I called Dad, who told me he was on his way.

We had a lovely conference, with mom in some slight denial about her daughter (not dad, though!), and Beth continued to refuse to retake the test. Nothing could get through to this child!

Finally, I told her and her parents that my suggestion was that she think about this over the weekend. I would make the new test, and if she wanted to take it, it would be ready for her. We'll see what she decides. I hope she chooses to be smart, rather than stubborn and dumb. If she chooses not to take this test again, I predict her behavior worsening in my class, and her effort declining to the point of nonexistence. Sigh.

Adding to this is the fact that her answers to her review sheet where mostly incomplete or flat-out wrong, as least as far as evolution is concerned.

The sad part is that if she were a better student, I would have undoubtedly given her this grade, as I had another student "lose" her answer sheet (she was THERE on Tuesday, I have no grade, no answer sheet for her) and she had to retake the test and ALSO got a 95%. Which, in light of these events, is obviously highly suspicious. However, although I know her to be two-faced, I also know that she is very intelligent and her work can be quite good. So, in this case she gets the grade.

It's unfortunate that Beth is getting caught up in this, and my mistake was in letting her go into the hall where I couldn't see her. I apologized to her for that, as well as for her being in this situation.

Nevertheless, I think I just gained one more flunky. Sigh.

I hope I'm wrong.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Warning: Stress leads to bad decisions

News flash! You didn't know that, right?

I do, too. And yet, I keep making those bad decisions when I am stressed out. Usually, my stress leads to some comfort eating, and since I doubt that my life will ever be stress-free, I need to figure out how to deal with my stress in healthier ways.

Yesterday, I had a long day. My kids were taking a test, and it's always a bit depressing, since they don't study and won't do a review, and then do poorly. After school, I had a meeting that lasted 2.5 hours! Thud!! By the time I got outta there, I was getting panicked from being cooped up too long, and also because I was afraid that I was going to be late to pick up P. He goes to school so early that I like to pick him up early, and it bums me out when I can't.

I got stuck waiting for a train, and then something was wonky with the traffic lights near P's school and traffic was backed up! By the time I got him, I was so panicked and unhappy!

I didn't have anything QUICK at home (well, I probably did, but not instantaneous and honestly, it wouldn't have mattered if I did at this point, since I was so stressed out) so I decided we would eat out for dinner. I've been trying to avoid that to save money and also so that P doesn't think that we can just eat anywhere we want, at any time.

At this point, I could have taken us somewhere health-ish, like Subway. But no! Do you think that my mind would let me do that?? Heck no!! It was gonna be a buffet. It had to be. Sigh. I was out of control. Either Cici's, Souper Salad, or the Chinese Buffet. Souper Salad would have been slightly healthy and may have calmed the beast, but I didn't take that route. Cici's isn't healthy, but at least the choices are limited. Pizza and a kind of sad salad bar. But Chinese Buffet.....drool. The cheese puffs, eggrolls, noodles, jello, sushi....YUM!!!

I succumbed to the buffet and just shoveled in that food like I hadn't eaten in weeks. I don't usually eat to bursting, and tonight was not an exception, but that is the only redeeming feature of my bad choices.

I need to think of some healthier ways to deal with my stress. The problem is that food is something I have to eat daily, multiple times a day even, so I can't get away from it! If I was an alcoholic, I could simply not drink. But every day I have to make healthy food choices. And I just don't have willpower to do it every time. I obviously need some better strategies.

Any ideas?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Well, so much for the lovey-dovey stuff

Because I'm now seriously irritated. I didn't J hardly at all this weekend, and he was supposed to come over last night so that he could take P to school. He never showed, so I called him this morning to tell him he is still expected to take the child to school. Well, I'm now going to be late for work, starting off my day on a seriously sour note, because he was on the phone--his cell phone, mind you--with work. And he somehow can't talk and move.

Thankfully, I don't have a first period. Still, this starts my day on a down note. I'm supposed to be planning with my team--teachers who teach the same subject I do. And I have a long day, as I run after school detention on Mondays, and now I'm wondering if I will need to get P as well, since J is being incredibly unreliable these days.

Any lovey-dovey feelings I had have run for the hills.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Happy Anniversary!

Today is my 6th wedding anniversary! Honestly, I'm surprised to be here. J and I are still living separately, but not for long. We have gotten MUCH better at communicating, and I am much better at being honest about what I want and need, and telling him when he does things that make me angry.

Take yesterday: because he is moving home soon, we need to clean out our garage to have more space. So, we were going to begin this scary process yesterday. He had to go into work for a bit, but after P and I went to the market, I called him and he was going to come over. He was also going to bring me a rootbeer with vanilla flavor from Sonic. Well, he fell asleep. When I was finally able to wake him up, it still took him forever to get here because he had to go BACK to work. Since today is our anniversary, we were going to go out to dinner. Recall that because we are trying to pay off debt, we are only going out on special occasions.

I was so frustrated by the time he got here, I wasn't in the mood to have fun. We did go out to dinner (Red Robin, which is not romantic, but IS delicious with the best Boca Burgers in the entire world! Plus, it's child-friendly, and since we don't have a regular baby sitter, we generally take the kiddo with us), but it just wasn't as fun as I had hoped. I did tell him that I was upset and told him that it is things like this (flaking out on me) that have made me angry in the past.

The difference now is that I'm not holding onto those grudges. I'm telling him about them, and then letting them go. This is definitely healthier, and I think that it helps me become secure in the knowledge that I can indeed get upset and not be left. Part of why I'm not good at communicating is because I think that if I voice my grievances, I will be left all alone. My parents did not fight in a healthy manner when I was a child, so I don't have a healthy example to follow. I do know that what they did was not appropriate, so I don't do that, but I just don't know WHAT to do. That is slowly changing, as I allow myself to be upset.

With all of that said, I'm very happy to say that today is my wedding anniversary. I'm glad that J didn't give up on us, and I'm glad that I wasn't too stubborn to let him in. My relationship gets better each day, and while there will be rough spots, I hope to have a good enough suspension to weather them relatively comfortably!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A day in the life...

Today was an interesting day at work. My days are full of ups and downs, and today was no different.

I talked to my department head, who asked if I would be staying at our school next year. I honestly told him that I'm not sure. He asked me what classes I would like to teach, since he would really like me to stay. He told me that he's been very impressed with my teaching and classroom management, which is very flattering, although I know that I certainly have a long way to go. However, all teachers can always learn and change and grow. If you know any that don't believe this, run, because you are not in the presence of a good teacher!

This interaction made me feel really good, and I have been thinking a lot about what I want to do next year. I get incredibly frustrated with my students lack of motivation, desire to learn, and just the general apathy that surrounds the campus. It's also very frustrating to have to teach to a test, which is a problem most teachers face (I envy electives' teachers).

However, I then had an interaction with a student that has left me stewing all night (off and on. I do my best to leave this stuff at school. I can't seem to drop this, which is partly why I'm posting. The other reason is so that you can get an idea of what it's like to be a public school teacher now-a-days). I have this student who can't stop talking. I'm not sure what is wrong with him, but he does not appear to be able to stop talking. Seriously. I've had a lot of issues with him about this. I've moved him ALL OVER the room. I've talked to him. I've talked to his coach. I'm talking to a parent tomorrow. I've threatened. I've kicked him out. I haven't tried to bribe him, but that's because he's so arrogant that it can be hard to even be nice to him. This is really sad, because when he came to our school (he transferred in a few months ago), he was really nice, polite, and intelligent. He made a thoughtful and worthwhile addition to the classroom, and I was really excited.

I don't know if our campus got to him (really. There's a serious apathy problem here), or if he was just acting, only later revealing his true self. However, he quickly became very arrogant and rude, and the incessant talking began.

Today was an average day. He was talking, but it wasn't too bad (I mean, I do have to deal with him daily. Most of the time it's fine). Now, I ought to point out that HIS voice really gets to me. He has a really deep voice that goes under everyone else's voice, and it distracts me. It's like this deep, rumbling, insect buzz that is incessant. It literally kills my train of thought, and I find myself having to really concentrate on what I am saying in that class. In addition to that, if ONE person talks, another person is listening. And replying. And that leads to another person talking. And another. And another. . . . You get the drift.

Things took a very bad turn, however, when this student informed me that I had "better wrap things up because we only have 10 minutes left." I was flabbergasted. Are you really going to tell ME that I need to wrap things up? And 10 minutes? Well, I can do a whole hell of a lot in 10 minutes, but that's not even the point. Even my other "bad" student was shocked that he said that to me, and that's saying a lot (typical questions from this other student include, "Can I have an Oreo?" and "How do porcupines have sex?").

Well, I just lost it. I started yelling at him for what he said, and demanded that he stop talking till the end of class. Dumb move. Do you think he's going to do it? Oh, heck no! So, he starts talking. Immediately. I tell him to move to the back of the room (I have a lab area where no one sits unless we are doing lab). Does he move? Of course not.

At this point, I called the office and informed them that they had better send someone up to get him before I hurt the boy. Now, I'm a pacifist. But these children can drive me insane!

My AP came and removed him, and I'm not sure what happened after that. Probably not much.

I know I should have handled that better, although I'm not sure how. I think that is why I can't seem to stop dwelling.

I also know that I need a game plan for the next time I see him. Fortunately, that's not until Thursday. I also have a conference scheduled with his mom tomorrow. I don't know what good that will do, but I'm willing to give it a shot.

To wrap up the day, I held tutorials, and more students came than is typical, because I told them that if they are failing, it is mandatory that they attend tutorials (I still didn't have NEAR as many students as I should have. In most of my classes, 1/2 are failing). I was able to talk about evolution in a small group, which was fun for me and I think helped clear things up for the kids. Then, a student asked if I wanted to see this video he had on his phone that they were all laughing about. I watched it, and it was one of those "Ring"-type videos where a little girl rushed the screen. I screamed, and the kids thought it was really WAS hilarious! I left that tutorial feeling really good, and headed to the park to get some exercise on a gorgeous, sunny, 70 degree day (it was 2 this morning in Chicago, where I nearly moved a few years ago. Brr!).

My days are like a roller coaster, full of ups and downs. When I think of all the students who say "hi" when they see me in the halls or in the morning, when I think of tutorials where I feel like I'm HELPING, when I think of my kids who WANT to learn, I love my job. But then I have students like the one above, and I have AP's who are inconsistent, and I have all these demands that won't teach the kids but might gain us a few more points on a test, and then I hate my job.

If I could only get to a 60-40 love-hate relationship, I think I would be ok. Right now, however, I think I'm at 40-60. That's better than a few months ago, but is it good enough? Only time will tell.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

February Recipe

I know! It's only Feb. 1, and here I am, with my new recipe! I can't help it, I love to cook! (Also, I like to update my blog a lot at once, and then ignore it for a while. It's how I approach exercising, too)

I made Orecchiette with Roasted Broccoli and Walnuts from Real Simple, except that I had to use pecans because I had thought that my pecans were walnuts, and when I recipe calls for 1/2 cup nuts, you can't leave it out.

It was exceptionally good! The garlic gets all roasted and yummy, and this broccoli would make a really excellent side dish on its own. This is the first time I've had orecchiette (except possibly at a restaurant) and I feel very sophisticated!

I also feel cool because while everyone else is currently gorging themselves on hot wings, pizza, chips and dip, and any number of foods that make ya fat and sluggish, I'm here eating this lovely light pasta! I also made some Italian greens, which basically means chop up a bunch of garlic, saute lightly in some olive oil till golden, remove with a slotted spoon, add greens of your choice (I had kale) and saute till kinda crispy and good. All right, all right. I could give a better recipe. And if you want it, let me know in the comments. :)

Plus, I did Pilates today and took stuff to the thrift store! Hooray! It makes up for eating a piece of pizza and half a Reeses Whipps at 9 p.m. last night.

Help make my bedroom magazine worthy!

Because right now, it's pretty uninspired. Take a peek at these photos and make some comments on how to fix things....preferably on the cheap!

Bedroom Photos

Reeses Whipps

They sound awfully kinky, don't they? Unfortunately, Reeses has not expanded to the sex market. Wouldn't that be a pretty day?

I tried this candy bar last night, courtesy of CVS. It was free, since I had a coupon and they were on sale! I've gotta tell you, though, they aren't that good. They are nougat-y, which I like, but just not peanut butter-y enough for my tastes. If you are a big Reeses fan, I don't think you will like these.

However, I'm really proud of myself because I actually only ate half and threw the other half away! For you, this might not be a big thing. But I've been a member of the "Clean Plate Club" since I can remember, and I'm also pretty $$ conscious, so it's really hard for me to "waste" food. Throwing away something that I don't enjoy is a huge step in a great direction for me. It's a step towards trusting that the Universe will keep me fed (has all my life, I've got no reason to believe that will change soon), and it's a step towards believing that I am only worthy of food that nourishes me, or that I love, and preferably both.