Monday, August 16, 2010

School Venting

Today was the first day of teacher pre-planning week. It was full of highs and lows...

Low: We were not given a schedule/agenda for the week until this morning. Despite being scheduled to work daily from 8-3 this week, we actually have very little "classroom time" (meaning time to prepare our classrooms and create lesson plans.) It is frustrating...many teachers moved classrooms and have a TON to do to be "ready."

High: For the first time I was one of "those" teachers. The ones who have a child accompanying them to school. The previous school years Emma has attended private pre-school/daycare, and thus when I went back to work at the end of summer, she returned to school too. This year, since she'll be in public school and on the same school schedule as I am, she went to pre-planning with me today. She was SOOOO well behaved! We had a 2 1/2 hour faculty meeting, during which Emma played quietly and colored in the back of the room. There was another little girl there who Em was able to play with a bit, and they behaved together...whew! After the faculty meeting and some training sessions, Emma was able to play and do "arts and crafts" in my classroom while I did some classroom work. I can't wait until she's older and I can put her to work with classroom preparations... ;)

Low: The guy who had my classroom last year (and resigned last May) left a TON of crap. File cabinet drawers full of old worksheets. Storage cupboards full of stuff. Desk drawers full of junk. I had to spend a lot of time moving his crap to the trash pile in the hallway in order to have room to unpack my stuff. After cleaning and scrubbing first, of course! Argh.

High: I will still have 7th period (last period) planning this year. Sweet! I love it!

Low: I am the only person in my department with THREE lesson plan preparations...meaning I will be teaching 3 different courses. Two people in my department have one prep. One person has two preps. Why can't the schedule gurus spread the load a bit? Seriously.

High: The new hire in my department was the department chair at her previous school. I think she will be very helpful and will share the load with me a lot more than the department guy who left at the end of last year. We've already been idea swapping...I am glad to finally have a collaborator like I did at my previous school.

Low: Our reading, math, and science FCAT scores dropped school-wide.

High: We still scored high enough to be considered an "A" school.

After 2 years, I finally have "friends" not just "co-workers at school. It makes a huge difference!

High: Though irritated about my multiple lesson preps, I am still excited to work with the Sys.tem 44 program for the first time this year. This is a S.cholastic program that was new to my county last year and correlates with the Read180 program I've been teaching for 4 years (and love!)

High: Though disgruntled about my multiple lesson preps, I am excited that I will have 6th, 7th, and 8th graders this year. (Two classes of 6th, and one 7th/8th mixed class.) I'm glad not to lose complete contact with 8 graders.

2010-11 school year....bring it on!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

A Playdate Gone Astray

The post below was co-authored by Katie from Double the Blessings. Last spring, Katie was the first blog-friend I met in person. How fitting that she is also the first "guest author" on my blog! The events below are what happened yesterday when we tried to meet for our second playdate. I hope you enjoy reading about the circumstances that occurred, as much as I enjoyed the email correspondence we had in order to co-write this post. :)

A Playdate Gone Astray

Alana: It started with a wonderful plan. Katie had two free family passes for a really amazing indoor play center. We were stoked to see each other again, and were thrilled to have something air conditioned and fun to do, as the heat index here has surrounded us with temperatures feeling like 110 degrees. The plan was to meet at the mall at 9:30 a.m., in order to leave my car in the mall parking lot. Em and I would join Katie and her kiddos in their car to carpool to the play center. It was a sunny and beautiful day.

We arrived at the mall. Katie helped transfer Em's booster seat to the center of her car (which Em gets a kick out of, as she gets to sit BETWEEN Katie's 2 kiddos.) We buckled the kids in, popped a movie in the DVD player and Katie started the car.

Katie: So everyone's loaded in the car and we're ready to times await! And I look down at the dashboard for some random reason. And my check engine light was on. Ugh. Between May and June I took my car into the shop a total of five (count 'em, FIVE) times because of the check engine light. The problem was fixed in the middle of June, but what could possibly be the issue now?

I looked at Alana and at first I said, "We can probably make it..." but then started thinking about it. If we got stranded 30 minutes away I would feel like a complete goof. Alana offered to follow me to the service shop, which is right down the street from the mall anyway. We could leave my car there for maintenance while we had our grand adventure, then pick my car back up on the way home later in the afternoon. Alana hopped back in her car, intending to follow me to the shop. Much to our surprise...

Alana: When I turned my key in the ignition, there was a clicking noise, but MY car would not start. My immediate thought was that something was wrong with the car battery. However, I was perplexed. As the car had been sitting idly for only 10 minutes, how could the battery have died? After a quick check of all gadgets (paying special attention to the interior dome light Emma sometimes plays with) indicated that nothing was amiss, I held my hands up in a "surrender" to Katie. How could we BOTH be having car problems at the same time? I proceeded to empty my trunk of the back-to-school crate and bags full of supplies, along with Emma's beach play-gear so that I could get out my jumper cables. Meanwhile, Katie sat in the car with three kiddos (Emma age 5 and twins Megan and Jeremy age 4) trying to entertain the kiddos and explain why we were sitting in a parking lot rather than going on the adventure we had promised. After clearing my trunk, I lifted the flap where my spare tire is stowed only to determine that the jumper cables and emergency kit my Dad purchased for me several years ago were not there. (Oops...I seem to remember moving them to the garage when I needed extra trunk space a while ago. Sorry Dad!) Doh! My thoughts of having Katie jump-start my car were dashed. Guess we'd have to move on to Plan C. Wait! What's Plan C?

Katie: Plan C? I was still trying to figure out why Plan B wasn't working out. I am a cop's wife, so you think I'd be smart enough to keep jumper cables in my car. Nope. I had taken them out a while back when we had the car in the shop for repairs. Oops.

We tried to find a mall security guard, then tried asking the maintenance people at Sears about how much a battery would cost for Alana's car. We wound up taking my car to the shop, since it was still in driving condition. They have a kids' playroom there, and we basically vegged out in the waiting room until the service rep came and told me (almost an hour later) that the check engine light was not caused by the same problem as before. It appeared to be the catalytic converter, which "lucky" (and I use this term loosely) for me is still covered under the warranty. Just one problem...the shop we were at used to be an official Saturn dealership, but Saturn went out of business early this year and the shop had become a used car lot with a maintenance bay. To get warranty repairs done, I'd have to take the car to a different dealership that was an "authorized maintenance location." But first, I had to pay $65 to the shop for the diagnostic fee. Ugh. Already out that much and haven't had any actual repair work done.

The bright side of this part of the story is that the service rep had checked into an issue with the rental car company down the street...they had rented a car for me for one day when my vehicle was being held overnight for service, and somehow the rental agency had charged my card twice the amount of a one-day rental when I wasn't supposed to be charged at all. The rep from the shop told me they had me listed as a three-day rental, not a one-day rental. We ran by the rental place after leaving the shop and Alana stayed in the car while I straightened that mess out. Yay for progress!

Alana: Two things to add before I forget. One: The guy working at the Sears car shop at the mall told me it would be "at least a four-hour wait" AND $120 - $140 to replace my car battery....NO WAY, buddy! Two: Cracked me up when Katie said her kids thought our "big surprise" (intended to be the indoor play center, of course) was just the small play area at the car shop. Are they sweeties, or what? Back to the story...

Next, we went back to the mall parking lot and met up with my AWESOME father-in-law, Craig, who had agreed via phone to come to my rescue. Katie kindly volunteered to take Emma with her and her kiddos to the car dealership so they could play together in the dealership playroom while she had the "check engine" light on her dashboard investigated.

This is where our story separates for a bit. Craig and I stayed in the parking area while I did my womanly best to hold his flashlight while he dug through his tool bags trying to find the correct-size wrench to loosen the cover on my car battery. Katie and the kids...

Katie: After dropping Alana off with Craig, the kids and I made our way to the "authorized maintenance location." I had talked to one of the service reps there about four or five months ago when I was getting quotes on tires for my car, so I felt pretty good since I at least had a name. The kids and I unloaded and walked into the service department to explain our story. I brought juice boxes to distract them (which worked for about 30 seconds before my kids started harassing the service rep and asking him where all the toys were). Long story short...the other service department had switched off the check engine light, clearing the error code, when they ran the diagnostic on my car. And this service place wouldn't even look at my car unless a) I had a check engine light on or b) I was willing to pay for another diagnostic, which wasn't even guaranteed to work since the error code had been cleared by the other guys. Even when the service rep who had helped me with tire pricing came to my rescue, it was obvious that they couldn't do anything to help. I decided to wait and see if the check engine light comes back on in the next week or so. Car maintenance is a necessary evil.

The kids and I piled back into the car and got on the road. We headed for Chick-fil-A near the mall because I figured it would be less crowded than another one close by (wow...I was so wrong). We ordered kids' meals (all four of us...because you get free ice cream if you trade your "toy" in at the counter without opening it) and settled in for our lunch. The kids ran around in the playground at the restaurant for a while, and when Alana called to say she was on her way with Craig we left the playground and went to get our ice cream so we would have a treat while they ate their lunch. It was probably about 2:30 when they got there...and I was anxious to hear how Alana's car was faring...

Alana: When Craig found the correct size wrench to undo the cap on my car battery, we discovered a lot of white/green corrosion. The Amazing Craigster was able to use a pocket knife and screwdriver to clean the majority of the corrosion off. We were then able to jump start my car. (By the way---the jumper cables Craig used were made by DH's Pappaw years ago. Cool, hey?) As with the jumper cables assistance my car started quickly, I was hopeful the battery had died due to age and corrosion, and we'd be able to replace it and my car would be fixed. However, as a precaution, Craig followed me to the mechanic to verify how much "juice" was left in the battery and to verify all was okay with my car.

After running a diagnostic test, the mechanic informed me that the battery appeared to be okay. It had most likely been drained due to the car needing a new alternator. Gulping at the $380 fee, but knowing it was necessary, I "approved" the work order.

Craig kindly drove me to meet Em, and the gang at Chick-fil-A in order to pick Emma up while my car was being repaired.

Katie: Alana and Craig got their lunches and sat with us so we could catch up. Megan and Jeremy took an instant shine to Craig, so now he's got two admirers. If I'd been thinking about it, I would have had a picture taken of the whole group of us to go with this blog post, but I wasn't exactly thinking clearly after such a long and drawn out day. We parted ways right around 3:30 to head home, and I felt pretty foolish driving home and wishing that my check engine light would click back on. It was definitely "the playdate that wasn't," but somehow we weren't too much worse for the wear, and the kids really enjoyed themselves and the time they spent with Emma. Although I feel pretty bad that Alana's car repairs were so expensive, since our intention for the day was to use the free passes I've been holding on to since June and then eat lunch at O'Charley's (since the kids' meals are free). It was such a great plan! We'll definitely have to attempt it on a different day. :)

Alana: Emma fell asleep in Craig's backseat as he drove us to pick up my car from the mechanic. Thus, I asked him if he would mind if I followed him to his house to allow Emma more "nap" time. He kindly agreed. I paid the mechanic, waved at Craig that my bill was taken care of, and walked to my car. Just as I saw Craig turn out of the parking lot, I tried turning the ignition on in my car. Guess what? It was the same clicking noise that had occurred at the mall. ACK! Though annoyed, I was relieved that if my car was not going to function, at least it "chose" to break at the car mechanic's.

I returned to the inside of the mechanic shop. The guy was aghast that the car wouldn't start. "We turned your car off and re-started it several times before calling you for pick-up." They had replaced the alternator, thinking that the battery would be fine with a new alternator. However, turns out the battery was also fried.

I called Craig...who I had inadvertently pawned Emma off on. He said I could just pick her up at his house whenever my car was done. $70 bucks (battery cost, no charge for labor) and 40 minutes later my car was finally "done."

What a day! Despite the financial and logistical burdens of my day, I had two HUGE blessings: Katie and Craig. Both stepped in, helping with my car woes and childcare without prior notice. I don't know what I would have done without them! And while car issues are always a hassle, I'm also grateful that the alternator/battery issues occurred during the summer instead of when I'm back to work in 2 weeks.

I have to smile at the odds....what is the likelihood of BOTH cars having issues at the exact same time? Katie reported that her check engine light did not come back on during her 20-minute drive home. As for me, I can't wait for our next playdate...maybe DH will let me borrow his car next time, just in case! :)

Monday, August 2, 2010

Life Updates

Wow...I've been away for a month?? A busy summer it has been!

  • Vacation: We had a great time during our Ohio trip! We stayed at my parents' house and were able to spend lots of time with them and my sister Laurel. Photos below...
July Fourth:

Em as we headed to the July 4th fireworks. LOVED the headband (from $1 section of Tar.get.) TOO cute! :)

Em took this pic of my sis and I as we waited for fireworks.

Grandma and Grandpa (photo by Em)

Me and DH (another pic by Em)

My Dad took this pic of us at the July 4th parade. Dad rode on the Knights of Columbus float in the parade. Emmaism: "My Grandpa is in the parade! How cool is that?" Smiles.
BTW---This pic looks cute cropped and zoomed...but I couldn't get my "edited" pics to post. Sighs. :)

Laurel took this self-portrait of her and Emma

Beach Day:
We had a great time at the Alum Creek beach! (Though the thick, kitty-litter consistency sand wasn't as fun to play with as the sand on our Florida beaches.)

Em and Grandpa didn't seem to mind the rough sand.

DH spent time writing. He's working on his 3rd novel. The umbrella cracks me's the only one we could find in my parents' garage.

Self-portrait of moi.

Em liked that the sandbar went out nearly 40 feet, so she could go farther out independently, than she does in FL.

Museum Day:
We spent a day at the COSI museum in Columbus. Not too many pics...I was having too much fun to stop and take photos!

Em on a ride in the "Progress" area of COSI. (Hallways with 1880's and hallway with 1960's store fronts.)

Em building a bridge in the "Gadgets" area of the museum.

Scientist Mouse Emma

Emma and Auntie Laurel pose as aliens.

We met our friends the Palus Family in Richmond, IN for a playdate at Mickey D's. The Palus' are our buddies who moved from our neighborhood in FL and now live far away in IN. How I wish they still lived near us!

Me--acting silly with the wings from Em's "Airbender" toy.

Katie and Em

Left to Right: Zack, Katie, Nick, Emma

Me and DH

Cousins Time:
Em loved being able to play with her 3 year old cousins Summy and Jack. As the boys are no longer babies or young toddlers it was the first time the cousins could play independently. (We actually had grown-up conversations while the kiddos played...yay!) The kids had a great time in the playroom and on the swing set at the boys' house.

Jack, Emma, Summy

This was the 1st time Emma ever hung upside down on a moving object independently. She LOVED the trapeze and spent lots of time on it.

Summy enjoyed going down the slide on his back, but head-first.

Jack followed the upside-down-on-the slide action.

Young's Dairy Farm:
We met our friends' the Uptons at the Young's farm. We had a great time feeding the goats, viewing the animals, playing in the play yard, and eating the freshly-made-on-the-farm ice cream.

Me, Laurel, and Emma

Shannon and I have been friends since we were in the 3rd grade.

Baby Oliver (turned 6 months old the week of this pic.)

DH and Travis are buds too.




Ice cream time!

Sights I've never seen in Florida:

This sign in my hometown cracks me up every time I read it. Anyone want to join me for some "joint recreation?" JOKE!

Hay in the field diagonally across the street from my parents' house.

Em flying a kite in my parents' amazing, ginormous back yard. (Note the corn fields in the rear of the photo.)
  • Family: --Shout-out to my sister Laurel who finished her Masters' in Ed degree while we were in Ohio. Woot-woot!
  • DH continues to plug away on his writing. He is nearing the completion of his 3rd novel and continues to seek representation for a publisher for his books. I'm so proud of him!
  • My bro-in-law and his family are in town this week. We had a nice dinner at my In-law's house last night. It was great to see everyone! Watching Em and her cousins play together is especially precious.
  • School: Only 2 weeks of summer left. It always passes so quickly!
  • I attended an awesome 2-day training last week. 3 other people who are on the "Data Committee" with me at school attended the training as well. It helped provide insight on what the Data Committee's role should be within our school. In addition, it helped us to set measurable and attainable goals for our committee for this year... WAY important as last year I don't feel we were effective. Now we just have to get the other committee members on board when we meet as a team after school starts.
  • Emma: Has been swimming up a storm! She has learned how to swim independently, but still needs to master the art of taking a breath while swimming. She tends to only swim to a ladder/person to grab on to/wall, come up for air, and then swim some more. I'm pleased with her progress though. :)
  • We went to the beach with bro-in-law and his family today and the new inner-tube Em got was a big hit. She loved to "ride the waves" and it was fun watching her enjoy herself.
  • We went this weekend and spent $85 buying all of the items on her school supply list. We just need to get a backpack and she's set to start school.
  • Orientation to meet Em's teacher and get acclimated with the school is on the 20th. I still can't believe my baby is going to be in Kindergarten. Wow.
  • IF Issues: I was SUPER angry and disappointed this morning. Remember back in January when I met with my OBGYN and agreed to use an Ovulation/Fertility Monitor for 6 months and then return for a follow-up visit if still not PG? My appointment was scheduled for tomorrow afternoon. It has been scheduled SINCE JANUARY. This morning the office called to cancel because my doc is "on vacation" this week. ARGH. I'm disappointed because I am ready to meet about my next steps. I am angry because I have been off work ALL SUMMER....and of course they couldn't re-schedule the appointment until the middle of the month when I'm back to work. GRRR.
  • I won a book-give away at the wonderful Sunny in Seattle's blog. Yay! I am halfway through "Understanding and Coping with Infertility: Unsung Lullabies" and am really liking it (as much as one can "like" a book about an issue they wish they didn't have.) The language is easy to understand and is written by 3 doctors who have all experienced IF issues (2 of the 3 are a married couple, it's been cool to have a male's perspective included.) I felt validated...and especially like this quote, "Infertility is a trauma because it attacks both the physical and emotional sense of self; it presents us with multiple, complicated losses, it affects our most important relationships, and it shifts our sense of belonging in the world."
  • Books: I have been reading of my favorite things about summer! This week I finished the Kingdom Keepers III book and The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. I recommend both! The Tattoo Girl took nearly 100 pages for me to get into...a bit of a difficult beginning. However, once I was into the plot, it was great...and I want to read books 2 and 3 of the trilogy now. :) One of these days I'll get my list on the sidebar updated.
  • Blog: My 2 year blogoversary was last week. THANK YOU again to my sweet readers who lend an ear, offer support, share ideas, and give blog love. I heart you!!!