Category Archives: my son

Throwback Thursday: stuffed animals

delia's bed.jpgWhen I was a kid, one of the many things that drove my mother crazy was the fact that I was, well, kind of a messy kid. Like most kids, it’s not like I was trying to be messy, I just had a TON of toys and didn’t really like to clean them up. I used to make up elaborate stories for all of my dolls and I was convinced that if I put my toys away, I would forget the stories I’d created and have to start all over again. Never mind that I have a crazy good memory and could easily recall all the very, very, very intricate details of the fantasy worlds I created for my toys. Or that I loved creating new stories. I didn’t want anything, or anyone messing with my narratives.

It did not help matters that I had about a million toys. While this is slight hyperbole, like many children of divorce, in order to help make up for the devastation of not having my family together anymore, my parents and my extended family bought me things. Since I only got to see my dad and his side of the family for 6-8 weeks out of the year, and never on my birthday, every holiday was accompanied by truckloads of presents. Within reason, if I wanted it, I got it.

I am not trying to brag here, I’m just trying to paint a picture of just how many toys I had. Among these toys were a heck of a lot of dolls and stuffed animals. I don’t know exactly how many I had, but I know I had 13 Cabbage Patch Kids, a CPK horse, Koosa, Furskin bear, Rainbow Bright, and at least two dozen other small stuffed animals. And they all slept with me…every night.

My mom would get so frustrated, in part because there was barely enough room for me on my bed. However, I always managed to find a perfectly comfy, tiny bit of my bed to sleep on, usually while cuddling at least three of my stuffed toys. I was actually pretty good about arranging them so that I could get in and out of my bed with relative ease.

I’m sharing this story because now that I am a mom, I finally understand my mom’s absolute wonder and disbelief with how I managed to sleep each night. My son, who is 10, has always had a few favorite stuffed animals. They reside on his bed, but his monkey George, who he has had since birth, is the only one he really cares about having on his bed. My daughter, on the other hand, is truly my child. The picture at the top of this post is of part of her bed. I have lost count of how many animals and dolls she sleeps with, but I think she surpassed my number a long time ago–and she’s only 7.

While the majority of her stuffies are tiny (many of them she’s won from the claw game at our local bowling alley/arcade), even tiny stuffed animals can create quite a pile. She has so many animals and dolls on her bed that I do not understand how she can sleep on it. And yet, just like I did, she does.

It’s amazing how with no prompting from me whatsoever, she has picked up the same habit I had in my childhood.

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Throwback Thursday: Travel mugs

owlI have lost another travel mug. I don’t quite understand how I have done this, but this is the second mug I’ve lost in the past two years. And once again, it is not one of the random travel mugs students or extended family members have gotten me as gifts.

This mug was one from my children’s first school. It was not only easy to carry and easy to clean, but also the exact perfect size to hold the water I heat up for my tea in my Keurig. I don’t actually make the tea in the Keurig…I think it’s too weak that way, but I get the hot water from my Keurig and the mug that has gone missing perfectly held one run on the medium fill and one on the small.

Although I did love this mug, it was not quite as important as the first one I lost. The first one, which I’d had for several years, was full of pictures of my kids and my dad, who has passed away. I know exactly where I left it: at an education conference on a university campus. When I realized it was gone the next day, I knew I’d never see it again. I lost it the Tuesday before Thanksgiving break and the only reason the building was open was because of our meeting. I knew everyone would be gone until Monday and that by the time I called about it, some janitor would have tossed it. I was right.

I should be clear that I am not someone who loses things often. I may misplace my keys for a few minutes or forget where I set something down in my house, but I never just leave things behind. So to do it twice, in two years, is a big deal. Especially since I used these mugs all the time. I had the one with my kids on it for about 3 years and the one from my kids’ school for 6.

The only upshot to losing my mug is that I had to use one of those generic mugs someone got me as a gift. It is not a great mug: it’s too heavy, is not insulated so it gets way too hot and is a sort of ugly plaid color. The reason I’m calling this an upshot is because I do get to use the adorable drink koozie one of my best friends got me a few years back. She bought it not just because it was adorable, but also because an owl was the mascot for my kids’ school. Every day when I see it on my desk in my classroom, it makes me smile.

So even though I’m drinking from a new mug, I get to see my old friend the owl every day.

 

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Teaching Tuesday: Back to School

It’s official, we are back to school. While I was completely ready for my children to go back–they were extremely argumentative that last week–I was not ready to go back.

Ok, technically I was ready. My lesson plans were done. My courses were set up in Canvas, our classroom management system. My room was clean, in order and even had new posters and bulletin boards up. I had student books ready for distribution and class lists printed. My new grade book was sitting on my desk (although I can’t put names in it until the end of the second week as students are still dropping and adding classes now).

Anyone looking into my room on Monday morning at 8:00 am, would have seen a very prepared teacher.

Except, of course, I wasn’t. Not mentally anyway. My daughter woke up in the early hours of Monday morning. At 3:45 am to be exact. She had a nightmare about a zombie apocalypse. Despite not watching any shows/movies with zombies or playing any games with zombies, she has seen her older brother’s Plants vs. Zombies books and so bad dreams ensued. Even as I tried to console her and tell her zombies were not real, all she could do was cry, “but what if they are?!?!?!” There was no reasoning with her. So, I made the mistake of letting her spread her sleeping bag on our bedroom floor to finish out the night.

Not that either of us slept. I dozed off for just long enough to have not one, not two, but three dreams about sending her back to her room to sleep. Each one was interrupted by her making lots of noise. First she was “whispering” to the cat to come down and play with her. Then, she woke me up to tell me she heard some kind of buzzing noise in my room. Next, she woke me up again to tell me about the mysterious buzzing noise. She had a string of coughs that sounded decidedly fake. There was also general tossing and turning…all of which my husband slept through.

Finally, five minutes before my alarm clock was set to go off, she shouted out “YES!” so loud I almost fell out of bed. It seems it was close enough to wake up time, so she thought we should all just get up and get ready for our first day of school.

I did, but boy was I unhappy about it.

It doesn’t help that I don’t drink coffee and all my school teas are herbal, so there was not even an artificial pick me up for me.

I made it through the day though. My students all seemed fairly alert and as I looked out over my classroom to gauge how well they were handing the first day back, I got several enthusiastic head nods, a ton of smiles and even some laughter.

Although I was exhausted by the end of the day, I made it. And, when I picked my daughter up after school, even though we still had to get through some pretty major traffic and swim lessons, I liked her a lot more that afternoon than I had in the morning. At 4:00 her enthusiasm about her good day was endearing.

Despite a rocky start, I think it may be a good year.

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Throwback Thursdays: Doll Houses

dollhouse boxWhen I was a kid, one of my good friends had the most amazing dollhouse I’d ever seen. I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was something straight out of a museum really. It actually reminds quite a bit of the dollhouse at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum, although it might have been a tad bit smaller. I know the house had 8 rooms in it and was almost as long as we were if we laid down beside it. Not only was her dollhouse huge, but it was fully furnished with the tiniest and most detailed furniture and accessories I could imagine. The kitchen had tiny little fruits on the table. The baby’s room had a tiny cradle, and even tinier blankets and rattles. The laundry room actually had infinitesimally small boxes of laundry soap that we could actually read the names of.

While it was not behind glass, she was never really allowed to play with it. Or at least not when she had friends over. I’m not really sure if she got to play with it when she was alone. Not that it mattered to me. I was perfectly happy to spend hours just staring at all of the tiny fixtures in that amazing house. I am not sure I have ever envied anything the way I envied Tiffany’s doll house.

Well, maybe the Colleen Moore Fairy Castle dollhouse at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, but that was in an actual museum and had a weeping willow try that “wept” real water. Even though I got to see the Moore castle at least once a year when I visited my dad, to me that doll house was a true fairy tale, whereas Tiffany’s doll house, which I saw every couple of weeks, was a reality.

I had a few dollhouse-like toys. I had a Little People A frame dollhouse when I was really young. One year I got the Barbie Dream House for my birthday. That was amazing and I loved it greatly, but it didn’t quite fit the niche of the dollhouse I always wanted. Everything in it was plastic and for giant Barbies. There was nothing small and delicate and artistic about it.

I knew my parents couldn’t afford a dollhouse like the one Tiffany had, but it didn’t stop me from wanting one.

old dollhouseWhen I was in my late teens, my great-aunt, who knew how much I’d always loved dollhouses, gave me this one. It only has one room and after some recent research, I’ve learned it was sold in catalogs between 1910-1920 for about $1.25. When I was a kid, I remember it had some metal furniture that looked very old-fashioned (there was an ice box). While I don’t have any of the furniture, it looked just like the furniture found on this dollhouse history website that was manufactured between 1920-1930. This makes sense as my great-aunt was born around 1915 (there is some debate about what year she was actually born).

It was very sweet of my great aunt to give me this treasure of hers, but I was not only afraid of breaking it, but also a bit disappointed that there was only one room to decorate.

Even as an adult, I still wanted a dollhouse. There was a store, about two hours from my house in a crafty little town that sold doll house kits and all that perfect little, tiny furniture and whenever I visited, I used to spend forever in it. There was a hardware/crafty store I used to go into when I’d visit with my parents and they always had these amazing dollhouse kits. I knew I could never build one, but I would just stare wistfully. I remember telling my dad that when I had a daughter of my own, she was getting an amazing dollhouse.

Seven years ago, I finally had a daughter of my own and one of my first thoughts was: this little girl is getting a dollhouse. For her first birthday, my aunt got her her very first dollhouse: another Little People one. She definitely loved it. So did my son. It was perfect for her because at 1 most of her toys went straight into her mouth. It also got me dreaming about her “one day” dollhouse.

daddy doll houseFor Christmas that year, my dad surprised both my daughter and me by refurbishing a dollhouse that had belonged to the daughter of a friend of his. He didn’t tell me about his project because he wanted to surprise both of us. Even though he put all that time and effort into painting it and finding new carpet for the my daughter, as soon as I saw the house, I knew that he’d really done it for me. He knew how much the dollhouse meant to me and that while my daughter would eventually love it, she wasn’t even two yet, so she couldn’t appreciate it the way I did.

Little did I know that it would be my dad’s last Christmas with us. His beautiful gift, to both of us, is still something we both cherish, although my daughter is still a bit too young to realize the full importance of it.

Since he fixed up the dollhouse over 5 years ago, my daughter has added a couple of additional “dollhouses” to her room. Two Christmas’s ago, my aunt got my daughter Elsa’s Frozen palace. Although it’s a dollhouse the same way Barbie’s Dream House was (at least in my eyes), my daughter still calls it her dollhouse and loves it.

doll house backAnd earlier this week my daughter spent her very own money on a 3-D dollhouse puzzle by Melissa and Doug. Of course while my daughter spent her money on the dollhouse puzzle, it was really my son and I who put it together. My daughter has never been a huge fan of puzzles, however my son is obsessed. The newest dollhouse is pretty cute and actually has movable furniture, two dolls, a cat and a dog to play with. Unlike her Elsa castle it did not come pre-assembled, but the hour and a half we spent putting it together was considerably less than my dad spent on her first one. She loves it and it appears her room is now turning into a small village.

Unlike my friend Tiffany’s house, my daughter plays with all of her dollhouses. Right now two of them are full of large plastic doll furniture and dolls, but my daughter is only 7 and not quite ready to turn any of them into art pieces. She may never be. And that’s ok. As much as that perfect, beautiful dollhouse with the tiny oranges and paintings and delicate bedding was my dream, I love watching my daughter actually play with her dollhouse. I won’t lie and say that when all the furniture gets turned upside down, I don’t sneak in there and fix it. And it does pain me greatly when I see the mess she makes in the rooms. But, I take a deep breath and try to remember that my dreams are not her dreams. Just because I liked to play one way doesn’t mean she has to.

I may not have gotten to have the dollhouse I always dreamed of, but she gets to.

all three dollhouses

 

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Teaching Tuesdays: Balanced Calendars

Five years ago my school district started kicking around the idea of a balanced calendar. When I first heard the idea, I had horrible flashbacks to when I was a kid and my sister’s elementary school went to year round schooling. It was quite a pain for our family because I was in middle school at the time and my school was still on a traditional calendar. So while I was off, enjoying my summer, my sister was in school. For every 3-4 weeks of school my sister had, she had anywhere from 3-10 days off. It was odd and confusing. Despite being in the same school district, we had very little time off together, so not only was my mom constantly taking one of us to school, with the exception of Christmas break, family vacations were pretty much out of the question.

Since this was my only experience with any sort of “balanced calendar,” I was not at all in support. Especially since my kids were in a different school district, on a decidedly traditional school schedule and the thought of all those extra child care expenses gave me major anxiety.

Luckily, it was quickly explained to us that while there are a variety of balanced calendars, my district was interested in going to a 45/15 calendar. Basically, what this means is that students go to school for 45 days, have a 15 day break and then just continue the cycle. After a great deal of discussion within the schools and the community, we decided on a modified version of this schedule.

The result is that our students have four grading periods with 45 days each, then they have 10 full school days off before the next grading period of 45 days begins. Basically, we get a 2 week fall break, 2 week winter break and a 2 week spring break, followed by an 8 week summer break.

Although it sounded great on paper, the first year was decidedly rocky. That extra time in the fall and the spring sounded awesome until July 29th rolled around and while stores were just starting to get all of their school supplies out, we were showing up for our first day of classes. After over 15 years of teaching, I was used to going back to school in mid-August, so staring classes in July just felt so very wrong.

I kept telling myself it would all be worth it as soon as we made it fall break. It probably didn’t hurt that since I had two full weeks of vacation, I scheduled our family’s first trip to Disney World during my fall break. My daughter was in pre-school at the time, so it was no problem to take her out. Even though my son went to school in another district, he was in 1st grade and with some preparation with his teachers, I was able to take him out of school for the week as well.

And that fall break trip was glorious! Not only was it one of the cheapest times to go to Disney World, the weather while still warm, was far more reasonable than the June and July temps I was used to suffering through when I went on other family vacations. Plus, the parks were not nearly as crowded. My children were over the moon about the trip. It is still the best vacation we’ve ever taken as a family. And we couldn’t have done it without the balanced calendar.

We did have a few snags with students whose families had planned vacations using the original proposed calendar for 2013-2014 (which only featured a two day fall break, a week later than our actual fall break fell). For the first year, we excused all of those absences with the understanding that moving forward, any vacations scheduled outside of the breaks, which we call intercessions, would not be excused absences. We’ve had few problems since.

Not only was the fall break a great chance for my family to take a wonderful break together, as a teacher, it was immensely beneficial to me. My school is on a Block 4 schedule. For those of you not in the know, this means that our students have 4 classes every single day for 85 minutes. Each grading period is 9 weeks long. At the end of the 9 weeks, a new grading period begins. So, instead of completing English 9 in a full year like students on a traditional schedule do, our students complete the course work in one semester. Some of our courses, which only meet for a semester on a traditional year-long schedule, meet for only 9 weeks on Block 4.

On our old calendar, this meant that some years students would finish a grading period on a Friday and the following Monday would start an entirely new grading period. In some cases, that also meant starting an entirely new classes. For teachers, not only did we have to prepare for a new grading period (and in some cases brand new classes with brand new students), we also had to have all of our grading for the grading period that just ended done by Wednesday before school started. So basically, we got four days to get everything from the grading period graded and prepare entirely new lesson plans for entirely new courses.

And that was if things ended on a Friday. Several times, we would end a grading period on a Wednesday and start a new one (and again, brand new classes) the very next day. In those cases, our grades would be due before school started on Monday.

It was a NIGHTMARE!

Enter the balanced calendar. Now, our students get a full two weeks off after every grading period to relax and refocus. Teachers get two weeks to finish up all grades and prepare for the next grading period/set of classes. The breaks are short enough that there are fewer learning gaps, but just long enough to give everyone an actual break. The kids actually come back to class with focus.

Now that my kids are in my school district and on the same schedule as I am, I can see the benefits both as a teacher and a parent. And even though it is the first of August and we are already back in school, I don’t ever want to go back to a traditional schedule.

Now if we could just get off the Block 4…

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Throwback Thursday: Strawberry Shortcake

Old School Strawbery SCWhen I was a child, there was not much I loved more than my collection of Strawberry Shortcake dolls. I can’t even count the number of hours I sat in my bedroom, Shortcake and friends spread all over my floor, creating elaborate stories of their lives. Although I saw all the 1980’s TV specials surrounding the Strawberry gang (Big Apple City being my favorite)* I preferred to have my dolls live out the adventures I came up with for them.

And I had to come up with a LOT of stories because I had a lot of dolls. With the exception of Peach Blush and Banana Twirl, I had every single member of the Shortcake collection. I even had both villains, the Peculiar Purple Pieman of Porcupine Peak (my mom loved to say his name) and Sour Grapes. My favorites were Mint Tulip (a world traveler from Holland) and every single one of the “baby” characters, but especially Lem & Ada because they not only smelled like lemonade, but came from England. Even in my early years I desperately wanted to be British!

I even had two of the large “blow a kiss” dolls, which really did live up to their names. Push on their tummies and they “blew” strawberry scented air at you. Plus, they were fairly cuddly, so I slept with mine.

I loved those dolls.

Sadly, when I moved in with my dad during high school, my mom decided to get rid of pretty much all of my toys. Out went my collection of Cabbage Patch Kids (including original preemies, astronauts, cornsilk hair, twins, and circus dolls). Out went all of my Barbies. Out went two first edition American Girl dolls and several of their accessories (Kirsten and Samantha). And out went my good friend Strawberry and all of her friends.

When I found out the fate of my beloved childhood toys, even though I was in college and married, the tears were real my friends.

Fast forward a few decades. I had a niece and while shopping for a present for her, I was delighted to see Strawberry Shortcake attempt a comeback. Sure, she wasn’t quite the same ol’ gal, but she still had a cute, if more modern dress and the delightful promise of a room filled with the light scent of artificial strawberry. Although my niece was a bit young for the dolls (she was born in 2003, same as the re-release), I was excited.

new strawberry shortcakeFast forward another decade later and I now had a daughter of my own. Not only that, she was just starting to hit the age I was when I got my first Strawberry Shortcake doll. I couldn’t resist. I had to get her one.

Even though Strawberry and her friends have been updated (their skirts are decidedly shorter I noticed), my daughter still loves them. She loves their brightly colored hair. She loves their yummy smells. She loves that I not only know the names of all of her dolls, but can tell her stories about playing with my own dolls…just like hers.

Strawberry classic in boxLast year when Kenner released the 35th edition Strawberry Shortcake, I thought I would lose my mind. Sure, she wasn’t the actual doll I played with as a child, but she looked just like her. She smelled just like her. With one click of a button, I was able to get a piece of my childhood back. Turns out, I wasn’t the only one nostalgic about her. My aunt, knowing how much of my life I devoted to the dolls, also bought me one. This meant that while I got to keep one, I could give the other to my daughter. Who loves her nearly as much as I did.

My happiness was increased while visiting Comic Con earlier this year. I came across a display of Pop! figures and found not just my beloved Strawberry Shortcake, but Lemon Meringue, Blueberry Muffin, Huckleberry Pie and even the nasty ol’ Pieman. I bought both Strawberry and Lemon (I’ve always been a sucker for lemon scented anything). They are both currently on display in my classroom. My students LOVE that the smell like fruit. That’s right, even the Pop! figures are scented.

I was even happier to find remakes of the original dolls on sale at Toys R’ Us. Although I haven’t bought them for my daughter yet, Christmas is coming and I think Santa might have to leave a pack (or two) in her stocking.

*I actually still can recall some of the lyrics to songs in several of the movies, specifically the movie song from Housewarming Surprise and the song Strawberry and Orange Blossom sing when they first meet each other in Big Apple City. My brain is a strange, strange place.

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Wildcard Wednesday: Back on the treadmill again

I do not like to exercise. I have never liked to exercise. And, no matter how hard people try to convince me that if I just get into the regular habit of it I will start to enjoy exercising, I know this is not true. I know this is not true because people have also tried to convince me that I will learn to like coffee and beer and after a great many years trying all three, I can say with absolute certainty that I dislike all of them. Not equally, but still, my dislike for each is strong.

This means that in my life I avidly avoid coffee and beer and for the last year or so, I’ve been pretty good at avoiding exercise as well. The avoidance of coffee and beer actually has real benefits both for my overall health and my waistline. The avoidance of exercise…well, not so much.

While I’m not actively avoiding exercise the way I am coffee and beer, for the last few months, my excuses for not exercising have really been piling up and are, quite frankly, lame. They are also partially to blame for the fact that over the last year it’s gotten harder and harder, and in some cases impossible, to fit into my favorite clothes. Hell, it’s gotten harder and harder to fit into some of my clothes I don’t even really like anymore. My “fat” jeans are now my every day jeans.

And that’s a problem.

I’ve struggled with my weight my entire life. I’ve tried a variety of crazy diets and even did some probably beyond questionable things to keep my weight down. Thankfully at this point in my life I am old enough and sensible enough to realize that the only “diet” that has ever truly worked for me is counting calories and exercising.

About 15 years ago, I was at the heaviest point of my life. That summer I took a group of students on a trip to London during what turned out to be a horrific heat wave. We’d all packed for the 70 degree weather that historical trends and forecasts were promising, only to arrive to 8 days of 90+ temps. Not only that, but the tour company I booked with had us on daily forced marches. We’d be out and about the city by 9 am and wouldn’t be back at our hotel until about 9 pm. Some of that time was spent on buses that were more akin to saunas, but most of it was spent walking, walking, walking. We were so hot and so tired and probably so dehydrated (they do not have the never ending supply of water in restaurants that we do in the US), that none of us really had much of an appetite.

When I got back from my London adventure (which despite my description above was one of the best times of my life), I was 10 pounds lighter. And I knew exactly why: I’d hardly eaten and I’d walked and walked and walked.

This adventure kicked off my most successful diet ever. For countless months to follow, I lived on no more than 1300 calories each day and went to the gym at my apartment complex at least 4 times a week. It took awhile, but I dropped 50 pounds, which meant I was at my lowest weight since my junior year of high school. It was glorious.

And I kept that weight off for almost five years. Then I got pregnant with my son. After he was born I managed to lose all but 5 pounds of my baby weight, and I was ok with that. I kept that off…until I got pregnant with my daughter. After she was born I managed to lose all but 5 pounds of my baby weight again, so I was still only 10 pounds up. I had to go up a size, but that size was really steady for about 5 years.

Over this last two years it’s been slowly creeping again. I stepped on the scale last week and was appalled to see that while I was yet up to my absolute heaviest, I was only 5 pounds shy of it.

So here I am, back on the treadmill again. Well, actually I’m alternating between the Arc Trainer, the exercise bike, the elliptical and the treadmill, but you get my meaning. I’ve re-opened my My Fitness Pal account so that I can track my caloric intake and my exercise. I’ve set reasonable starting goals for myself: 1600 calories per day and 120 minutes of exercise each week. I’m ignoring the calorie adjustment the program gives me for my exercise and strictly adhering to my calorie goal. In the six days I’ve been working on this, my calorie count has been below 1400 each day and I have 130 minutes (I plan to do 30 more today).

My plan is to lower my calorie limit to 1500 per day and up my exercise to 130 minutes per week starting 8/1. Then in September, I’ll put it down to 1400 calories and 140 minutes. By October I want to keep things at 1300 calories and 150 minutes. Once I’m there I hope I can stick with it until I get things back under control.

I know this will not be easy, but I have to do it. I want to be healthy.

 

 

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