Monthly Archives: May 2008

More automotive woes

So there is something wrong with my car again. Despite dropping it off at the repair shop at 9am, by 4pm, they still didn’t have it pinned down and wanted to keep it at least until tomorrow morning to run further diagnostic tests. I’m sort of wondering if that is not so secret mechanic code for, “we didn’t even start to glance at your car today, maybe, if you get real lucky, we’ll look at it before noon tomorrow.”

I suppose that’s not really being fair as this shop is usually pretty good about getting back to me quickly. Apparently my computerized whatchamajigger that helps modern mechanics figure out what is actually wrong with the car is sending out mixed signals. Most of them seem to be pointing to a cylander problem. However, one little bugger claiming to be a transmission emission jumped in there to mess everything up. I’ve been told I should hope it’s a cylander as it will probably much, much cheaper than a new transmission.

All I know is that as I merged on to the highway Friday night, despite pushing down on my accelerator, I didn’t accelerate. The car didn’t lose speed; it just didn’t gain any either. It was sort of stuck at 55 mph. When I pushed harder on the pedal, the only result was my foot getting closer to the floor. So I put my hazards on and set the cruise control. That’s when it got funky. My engine started revving up and my car would appear to speed up for a few seconds. Then it would drop back down to normal. Five seconds would pass and then jerkagain. Then eight seconds and normal. Then two and jerk. Then four and normal. I’m sure you get the picture.

Although annoying, I could deal with it. My biggest concern was what would happen when I finally brought the car to a stop at the end of the exit ramp. I kept hoping I’d reach the end only to have the green arrow. No dice. And I was the first person in line for the turn, so if my car died, I was sure to piss off a lot of people. When the arrow lit up, I pushed down with my foot and it sputtered a bit. Thankfully it kept going, just really, really slowly. I couldn’t accelerate more than about 10 mph.

I decided to take the back roads home in an attempt to come into contact (and consequently piss off) with as few people as possible. Unfortunately I forgot the back way has a few hills. Normally my car takes them without a problem. I barely made it up the first one. I hoped the acceleration from the first hill would make the second one easier. Yet again I was disappointed. At one point I actually thought my car would roll backwards. If the hill had been a few feet higher I think it might have. I made it to the roundabout though.

What should have been a 35-40 minute drive ended up taking me about 70. The last few miles were the most painful as my car was chugging along at a whopping 10-20 mph. When I pulled into the garage and turned the car off, I smelled burning. I had a feeling it wasn’t going to fix itself.

And it didn’t. It was slightly easier for my husband to drive it to the shop (I followed behind with the baby in the “reliable” car). He was able to keep the car at respectable speeds of 40 mph. The check engine light came on about two minutes into his drive, but the engine never revved and there was no horrid smell when we pulled into the shop.

Now, I just wait until tomorrow when they call and tell me what I’ve done to it now and how much it’ll cost. It figures this happened. I just made my last car payment. Which almost tempts me to say to hell with it and buy a new car if the repair is going to be more than $1000 or so. I guess $1000 is nothing compared to the next several years without a car payment. And I’ve only had this car for four years. I feel really wasteful getting rid of it when it can be fixed.

I just hope it’s the cheap(er) fix.

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Hemmoraging intelligence

We were invited to a cook-out at our neighbor’s house today. She’s an older lady, I think her oldest daughter is about our age and her youngest in his early to mid 20’s. She was planning for twenty or so people. Nothing for us to bring except our good company. Appetizers at one-ish and burgers and brats around two. It sounded like something out of a childhood long since past.

I mean, not my childhood. We were apartment people. We purposely saw as little of our neighbors as possible because we heard and smelled them so often, we already felt like we lived with them. Plus, grills aren’t exactly encouraged on the third story. This whole neighborhood community thing is a bit odd for me. Growing up in Southern California, my mother rarely encouraged me to make eye contact with our neighbors, much less actual conversation.

I smiled and was rather non-commital. Not that we had anything planned for today. My husband was enthusiastic. This was his childhood. He lived in the same house from the time he was 3 until he moved away to college. I lived in more apartments than I can count (and one house we rented briefly that seemed like a mansion to me, and that I based my dream house on for a 9th grade Spanish project). He not only knows all of his old neighbor’s names, but has lots of stories about them. And not just the people on either side of him. Heck, he knew the entire block. I can only remember about half a dozen neighbors and aside from Glenda, who became my best friend from grades 2-8, despite moving away from her after two years, I couldn’t tell you any of their last names. Heck, only two of them were even friends of mine. The others I rememeber because they played with my sister. I don’t remember any of the adults except for Glenda, Dawn and Holly’s moms. And even then, I only know one last name.

To appease my husband and in honor of the great spirit of neighborhood’s past, we went. I was excited that my son wasn’t the only little one there. There were two other little boys, Dom and Jerry (and I swear I thought she said Tom and Jerry at first and I had to control my giggling), ages 2 and 3. They had little shaved blond heads. Their mother smiled, a cigarette dangling from her lips. She had on a very large white t-shirt over what I think were supposed to be capri pants. Unfortunately they were those strange stretchy pant capri material that only seems to come in violent shades of pink, orange, greens and purples. Hers were pink.

She was introduced as our host’s sister-in-law. She must have taken an immediate liking to me, because within five minutes she decided we needed to share our stories of child birth. It started innocently enough. She asked how much my son weighed at birth. She then proceeded to give me her children’s birth weights, all five of them. The first, her smallest, was with his daddy. The second, her second smallest, was also with his daddy. I got the distinct impression they weren’t at the same place. Her third child, who was only a year older than little Jerry, was her smallest at only 6 lbs. 9 oz, but she assured me she is tall. Oh, and mixed. Then she got to little Jerry. Who apparently was not little. Not the biggest. No, that was Dom, and boy did she bleed with him. Yes, that’s right, just like a stuck pig.

Dom, or Gigantor as I like to call him, weighed in at 9 lbs. 6 oz and he was the only one who didn’t tear her. Amazing, huh? Especially since he was 100% natural. Heck, aside from the first one, they all were. Yup, she’d always intended for them to be natural. She wasn’t really ready for the first one though. She attributed the drugs to being 18 and too scared to say no. The rest though, they were natural. Hurt like a motherfucker, but she didn’t have an epidural. No sir.

And let me just say, so freakin’ what? I don’t know what is with this new trend of women who somehow think they are superior because they went through the wonders of birth without the help of drugs. To me, it’s not a badge of honor, but an obvious sign of stupidity. Birth hurts. Epidurals and spinal blocks make them not hurt nearly as much. The don’t hurt the baby. Medical science has evolved. They have found away to make birth an experience I not only remember, but remember positively. And, am actually not terrified to have happen again. My aunt didn’t have drugs with my cousin, and ya know what? She never had another one. Know why? That’s right…she didn’t have drugs and it hurt too damn much.

My new friend asked me how long my labor was. I told her 20 minutes. She was shocked I had time for an epidural (she asked, so I told), since her second one shot out not five minutes after she got to the hospital. I had to have one (actually it was a spinal block) because I had a C-section. She kind of looked down her nose at me and told me she never wanted a C-section. I hadn’t either, but I didn’t have a choice. Why? Was he breach? No. Late? No. Not breathing? No. I could tell the questions were going to keep coming, so I quickly and quietly mentioned I’d had a previous surgery. She agreed that was terrible, but I could tell she thought herself superior for enduring the birth of her children without any sort of drugs.

So what if I want an epidural? It’s just like the damn breastfeeding thing. People get up on their high horses as if they are somehow superior because they were able to have a child without any assistance. Or at least that’s what they imply. You’d think there wasn’t a doctor there. I’m surprised some of these women even bothered going to the hospital. Let’s ignore the fact that thanks to advances in medicine we have the lowest infant mortality rate ever (at least here in the U.S.). Instead it is better to shun those advances and revel in the fact that they were able to give birth naturally. Unselfishly. Purely.

After carrying around my son for nine months, having to pee every ten minutes, nearly passing out because my sugar and protein weren’t balancing out, not being able to sit, stand or lay without excruciating pain every time I tried to move from one position to the other (he was sitting on a nerve–for the entire last trimester), or being able to do any sort of real exercise/lifting/anything because of a previa, not to mention the swollen everything, the roller coaster emotions and the random nausea, I think I deserve to be just a little “selfish” and have the miracle of birth hurt a bit less. It’s not like the gaping hole they had to sew up didn’t ache as soon as the block wore off. Try getting out of bed, laughing or even going to the bathroom after a C-section. Heck, try getting out of bed and walking. Plus, in addition to the adorable little boy I got to take home, I also have a lovely scar from one side of my belly to the other. Good thing bikinis have never been a part of my future.

So forgive me if I needed, no, I don’t want any misunderstanding here, wanted, no,demanded drugs. Life is full of more than enough pain. It’s not brave or selfless to forgo the pain meds. In this day and age it’s just stupidity and really wierd, backward snobbery.

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School’s out for summer!

I’m not sure how I managed it, but all of my grading is done. That’s right, I’ve got it all graded, recorded, handed back and even exported to our registrar. The only reason I even have to go in to work tomorrow is to clean up my classroom and attend a school wide meeting.

As much as the idea of giving a multiple choice final makes me feel like a bad teacher, I have to admit I like the fact that instead of frantically grading essays tonight, I’ll be exploring my latest Sims expansion pack…Seasons. And while I realize it’s not actually the latest expansion, it’s the one I’m excited about playing right now! Most importantly, it’s the one I get to play tonight.

Plus, after seeing the results of my multiple choice test, I know I didn’t make it a cake walk for them. Despite claims by one class that it was “so easy” and boasts that some finished in 15 minutes (not true, the earliest test took 20), the highest grade in either class was an 89. On our grading scale, that’s not even a high B. I tried to warn them. After all, I teach AP…I know how to write good multiple choice tests. They didn’t listen. I guess the fact the test was worth 20% of their overall grade didn’t mean that much to them. Their minds had already turned to summer. As has mine.

The only difference, of course, is that unlike about 20% of my class, I won’t be taking English 10 in summer school!

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Chocolate explosion

I can’t believe I’m saying this. I’m sure I will regret these words. I think I might actually have too much Godiva in my fridge. Believe me, I know how ridiculous this statement seems. After all, I pretty much operate under the premise that once can never have too much chocolate. I have been known to follow up a breakfast of little chocolate donuts with a snack of mini-Hershey bars a few hours later. That same day I’ve had a chocolate chip cookie for lunch and since the day isn’t complete without dessert, two Godiva chocolate biscuits and a strawberries n’ cream truffle. Ok, so all of that may have been today.

I am, without a doubt, a choco-holic.

But right now, even I may be at my limit.

Since my birthday and mother’s day happened to fall within two days of each other, I got several gifts. One of my dear friends got me a small Godiva sampler of eight. My darling husband bought me an extravagant (and much hinted at) decorative box filled with 30, yes, 30 truffles. He paired it with two gigantic dark chocolate bars. And while I’m usually not a dark chocolate fan, Godiva has taught me to love it…although only theirs. This is in addition to the partially filled sampler box I had left over from Valentine’s Day (I bought it for myself and have been replenishing it a few pieces at a time each trip to Godiva). Plus I had a box of these delicious chocolate biscuits (ready stuffy British way of saying cookie) I got free because I spend so much money at Godiva. And, when we were there buying my best friend a gift, the strawberries n’ cream truffles were marked down to half price since they are technically last season’s truffle. How could I resist? They are one of my favorites and they only come around once every year.

Wow. Reading that list it sounds like even more chocolate than I first thought. Sure, it’ll take me awhile to eat it all. I’m lucky if I eat one piece a night usually, and it will mean I don’t have to spend any of my own money buying new truffles. But wow…with all I have I think I may be eating truffles until my next birthday. Maybe I better rethink that giant Valentine’s Day heart-shaped box of chocoaltes I’m always harping my husband about.

Naw….

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Things that are annoying me right now

1) That instead of taking personal responsibility for your actions, you can just call someone a racist and you’er off the hook. Obviously the reason your kid is failing has nothing to do with the fact he didn’t turn in 15 assignments (so far) or that he plagiarized his research paper. No, it must be because his teacher is an evil racist. Yes, I know, I need to let this one go, but it’s hard. I’ve had my integrity questioned and as much as I hate to admit someone so ignorant and racist himself has gotten under my skin, he has. I just hate that some people scream racism and seem to assume all white people are racist. I also am extremely annoyed by the fact that instead of using this as a lesson to his son on why he needs to do his homework and not cheat, he is using it to perpetuate tension between two races. GRRRR!!!!

2) While we are on the school subject, let’s hit big educational annoyance #2…the fact that my school insists we challenge kids and keep high standards and then gives us less than 24 hours after finals to have all of our grading turned in. Somehow our finals are supposed to cover everything we’ve done this nine weeks, ask thought provoking questions requiring them to go beyond meer memory, and yet if there is any hope of having them graded on time, they have to be multiple choice. GRRRRRRR!!!

3) While I’m on a roll, here’s my last educational gripe: parents who want to argue their kids’ grade. I’m not talking about parents with real concerns about scores or questions about how things were graded. I’m talking about parents who question every point their kid gets. Parents who actually expect that I will go back and add more participation points to their kid’s grade because a) he says he participates more than that, b) if he just had those points he could get a C and c) he may not be an A student, but he’s at least average. Granted this is the same parent who told me her son wasn’t able to get his work done or remember to make up a test despite having it told to him before the field trip, after he returned from the field trip and having it written in the homework binder because “it was his birthday and he was excited.” I didn’t realize birthdays lasted for the entire week. She also let out a huge sigh when I told her when his final is because it would have been his dead grandfather’s birthday. I know she was just setting up the excuse for why he’d do poorly, but I think she actually wanted me to move his final or tell her he didn’t have to take it. Mind you, he has never once asked me about his grade. Instead, Mom emails me at least once a week to question something and try to make a deal for a higher grade. She actually asked me what we could do to raise his grade. I told her nothing. He had to do his work. GRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!!1

Ok, enough already with the school irritations. Let’s move on.

4) On my morning to sleep in* my husband left the bedroom door open (again) and I could hear in great detail every conversation he had with our son. I heard him singing the theme to his favorite show. I heard my son screeching. I heard him banging a cup on the table. I heard him laughing. I heard everything, gave up and got up before 8:30. Last night my son woke up around 12:30, jarring me out of my sleep. My husband was on the couch playing XBox, but instead of getting up and taking care of my son, he waited until I did. I rocked and quieted him, but when he went in to the crib, he started screaming again. So, I got to listen to that for awhile, finally falling asleep around 1. Then the baby work up at 5:57, fussed, cooed and generally made noise until I couldn’t take it anymore and got up a little before 7. My husband, however, slept in until after I’d put the baby down for his morning nap…nearly 11 am. GRRRRRRRRR!

5) I bought a new expansion pack for my Sims and I really want to play it, but I have so much grading and am so behind on housework that I just can’t. I have to use the precious baby nap time to grade or do laundry. The booklet with all the cool new stuff is sitting in front of me right now, taunting me. I want to make my little Sims garden! I want them to eat leftovers! I want new career paths for them. And gift giving and I want to unlock the secrets of the juicer! When will I finally be able to get them into the new garden club? And why, oh why do I torture myself by buying a game like this when I know full well I have far too much to do to actually enjoy it. Someday my little virtual people…someday! GRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!1

6) I’m kind of hungry right now but really don’t want to cook anything. Not so much an annoyance really. I guess it’s more of a state of being. But my husband went to throw things in the big dumpster our neighborhood gets twice a year and, well, since the baby is sleeping, I can’t go anywhere and get anything tasty to eat. GRRR!!!!!!!!!!!!

I realize they are all minor annoyances in the grand scheme of things. Soon, in fact, the first three will be over with…at least for the next three months. I’ll work my tail off and get the grading done. I have already checked with the guidance counselors to make sure I won’t have either of the students in class again next year. Plus once summer comes I will be able to play my Sims and maybe push my son’s bed time back a bit so he actually sleeps in again. Plus, I know when my husband is done throwing out the trash he will be happy to go get us something to eat.

But, I’m annoyed now…

 *I get to sleep in on Saturdays since M-F I get up at 5:30 am and Sundays I usually get woken up around 6:30-7:00. My husband gets up around 8:30 M-F and then on Saturdays my son usually sleeps in until 7 or 7:30. Sundays I usually have to pull him out of bed between 10:30 and noon.

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An unexpected trip

I did something today I thought I’d have at least a few more years before I’d have to do: I bought my son a Happy Meal. Yes, I know, he’s only 14.5 months old. According to every book I’ve read and every personal belief I hold, that’s way too young to be pulling in the drive thru and asking for a bag packed with saturated fat, high cholesterol, and potential heart disease. Oh, and don’t forget that cheaply made Ronald McDonald in a pirate ship that was made in China and no doubt contains lead paint.

I had no plans to get him a Happy Meal, but I really had few options. He was screaming and nothing seemed to calm him down except the tiny pieces of rice cake I found stuck to his snack bowl. When I saw food would appease, I was relieved. He’s been sick since Friday and over the course of the weekend, we got a bowl of applesauce, 1/2 cup of yogurt and a few cups of milk down him. Since he threw up most of that, I figured his gnawing on those tiny scraps was a good sign his appetite was coming back.

Normally I’d stop at a grocery store and grab him some toddler crackers, which aren’t really that different from adult crackers, except they have lots of extra fiber and less salt and sugar. However, the route from the sitter’s to my house is fairly sparse and the closest grocery store I knew of was a good 20 minutes down the road. The volume level was rising and the vein on my temple was throbbing, so searching aimlessly for one was out. A gas station market might have been a better idea, but when I tried to put my son in his car seat at the sitter’s, he threw an absolute tantrum. He screamed. He arched his back. He made it virtually impossible to strap him in. At the sitter’s no one was there to witness his fit. There was no way I was going to attempt to put him back in that chair at a gas station. Someone would probably think I was kidnapping or abusing him. It was that kind of scream.

When I saw the Golden Arches, I knew I could fix the problem…at least temporarily.

Now, my son has never had anything fried, much less actual fries. He hasn’t even had juice. He’s strictly water, milk, veggies, fruits and my home cooking, which for him consists mostly of mac n’ cheese, grilled cheese, muffin pizzas, and lots of pasta. All made with whole wheat and lots of extra veggies snuck in for good measure. I was suprised to find that the Happy Meal of today is not quite the fat fest it was in my day. I was able to get him milk (granted, only 1% and he’s still on whole) and apple dippers. The apples were even already peeled, so I could just pass them back and let him munch. I got a cheeseburger, figuring I’d reheat it for my dinner. My husband plays cards on Wednesday nights, so it’s always just the baby and me.

As the first apple hit his mouth, he was quiet. Well, not quiet really, but happy. And giggling. And most importantly, calm.

Later that night when I went to feed him dinner, I was excited he might eat something substantial. I got out my little baby spaghettios and some yogurt. I microwaved the burger and figured we’d eat together. I tried to give him a spoonful of the o’s (a usual favorite of his) and he turned his nose up in disgust. He stuck his chubby little arm out and grabbed for the burger. I took a bite and tried a spoonful of yogurt instead. No dice. He looked at the burger, looked at me and then started to wail when I lifted it toward my mouth. The little booger wanted my cheeseburger. I gave him a tiny piece, sure the ketchup, mustard and onions would turn him off. No, not my kid. He proceeded to eat nearly the entire burger. I got three small bites, two of which I took before I realized he would eat nothing else.

I know I should be happy since for the last four days his diet has been mostly Pedialyte and thinned out oatmeal, but I really kind of wanted the cheeseburger. I’m not a huge McDonald’s fan, but once I got a small taste of it, I was actually looking forward to finishing it off. Even without the fries. Now though, the baby is in bed and my husband won’t be home until well after I’m in bed as well, so it looks like no cheeseburger for me. Why couldn’t he stay sick for one more day?

Oh well, at least I still have the caramel to dip my apple in tomorrow!

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T-minus 10 days and counting

The end of the school year is quickly approaching, just 10 more days left, and I am not at all ready for it. Well, that’s not entirely true. Emotionally I am ready to be done. Physically I am ready to be done. Mentally I am ready to be done. But as far as actual amount of work I have left, I need at least another month.

Right now, I should be grading. I brought home an entire shoulder/teacher bag full of papers plus two large manilla file folders full to work on over the next 10 days.

Friday was my birthday and I’ll admit I got nothing done except for a two hour dinner that was delicious, but left me so full and so tired all I could do was come home, watch the last episode of Lost and fall asleep.

Saturday I had a sick baby on my hands, so the only time I got to grade was during naps. Duing his wonderful two hour nap, I got some research papers graded. I was able to get a few more done after he went to bed. Ten total. Now I only have 45 more to go. Oh, and I have 60 some business letters to grade, 75 journals, and 60 vocabulary tests. I also have a final to finish writing since I’m adding material and, in an effort to save what little remains of my sanity, I’m getting rid of the essay my kids usually do with their final. This is not simply laziness, although I won’t deny there is a spark of it mixed in there. Our finals finish up on Thursday and our grades are due the very next day by 3pm. This year I decided to be like just about every other teacher in my building and give a multiple choice final and be done with it. After all, I will no doubt still have a research paper or two to grade Thursday night.

Don’t get me wrong, I like my job. It’s just amazing how the work piles up so quickly. My kids tell me the solution is easy: just stop assigning work. I realize that would make my life amazingly simpler, but it would also do them a big disservice. Not that they realize it now. I’m not a busywork teacher. My assignments tend to be rather long and involved (as in they have at least a week to do the assignment, but they require quite a bit of work and real effort). Even my multiple choice test won’t be easy. I teach AP afterall, I know how to write some pretty difficult questions. My kids generally really on my “short answer” and essay questions to pull their grades up. They always get excited when I say multiple choice, then they remember what mine are like.

Still, there are definitely days where I wish I could be the teacher who lets them go to lunch early. It’d be nice to show a movie for a few days and catch up on my grading. I’ll admit I’ve thought about cutting my paper down to paragraphs (and love the business letter because it fulfills a state requirement and is only one page). I wish I could mark everything with checks and not spend hours giving thoughtful comments I hope they’ll use for improvement. There are days I’d like to be that teacher.

Then I remember that I’m trying to prepare my kids for the real world. Sure, some of them won’t ever have to write more than a quick memo or a receipt, but about 75% of my kids plan to go to some sort of college. It’s hard when I see teachers who do the bare minimum and are “loved.” I just keep reminding myself that they don’t necessarily love their kids and want the best for them. They want free time and everything to be smooth and trouble free. It’s a pain in my ass now, but considering that some of my kids always end up dropping me an email or coming back in to see me and telling me that even though I pushed them really hard and they hated me at times, I got them ready for college.

Still, right now, I kind of wish the stress level was a little lower. I think my face is breaking out. Yuck! I need summer.

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