Wednesday, November 26, 2014


This week a student was dropped from my roster.  This happens all the time for a variety of reasons: they moved, they transferred to another school in the district, they've been expelled, they dropped out of school all together.  This particular student was different.  He had already moved this year and started at my school after the first quarter.  His first day in my class he seemed on top of things.  He was quiet and very polite and did his work.  That same week I attended his IEP meeting.  I found out he lived with his mom and his cousin, and had been diagnosed with Oppositional Defiance Disorder.  This surprised me because, as I said, he was so polite and well behaved in my class.  I also learned that my class was his favorite because he wanted to go to college to study Psychology.  I was hooked.  I wanted to do everything in my power to help this kid, and make that happen for him.

The next week he was suspended for fighting, threatening to bring a gun to school and use it.

I was shocked and disappointed. I then found out that his records from his previous school finally came, and his diagnosis was being re-evaluated.  He was now diagnosed with bipolar disorder.  In a lot of ways this made more sense.  When he came back after his suspension, he was different.  He refused to work.  He told me he didn't like my class anymore, or any class for that matter.  All he wanted to do was fight.  He was going to be a professional boxer.  That was his dream now.

He continued to get in trouble, get suspended, or just miss school.  The cousin he moved here to live with could no longer deal with his behavior and his mom was fed up too, so he was moved to foster care.  He turned 18 this month, which meant he could now refuse services that came with his IEP and he was free to leave school.  Last week I attended another IEP meeting with him.  He chose to continue services, but transfer to adult day school where he could finish his credits in a non-traditional setting.  This is probably better for him, but it leaves me feeling a bit empty.

At the same time that all of this is happening, my father-in-law was experiencing a manic episode.  In an attempt to relieve his tremors, the doctors had introduced a new medication and lowered the dose of previous medications, which resulted in a manic episode.  He was fully aware of the beginning stages of the episode.  He asked my husband to watch out for him, be on the look out for manic behavior.

Within a few days, the symptoms were worse.  My husband tried to remind him of his request, but now he just wanted to call it his extra energy.  Over the next couple weeks, he's signing up to audit a class, he's not sleeping, planning business presentations, and then the big kicker: he buys two cars.  So today my husband and his sister spent almost 12 hours at the hospital going through the ridiculously long process of having him admitted.  This is after weeks of daily phone calls, visits and doctors appointments trying to get the right dose of medication.  The mania won, they're at the hospital, but the battle isn't over.

I can't help but think about my student.  His mom and cousin couldn't deal with his behavior anymore.  They left him.  The school system doesn't know how to deal with his disorder.  They punished him.  He's 18 now.  Our country doesn't know how to deal with his disorder.  We have quit on him.

I'm not saying I blame his family.  It is not easy to be the one on the receiving end of the behavior, the mood swings, the recklessness.  But I realize how lucky my father-in-law is to have family that will sit all day at he hospital.  That is love.  It is painful, relentless, difficult, unconditionally supportive love.

What about Keeshawn?  Who is going to love him unconditionally?  Who is going to support him when he's down?  Who is going to monitor him when he's manic?  Who is going to take him to the hospital and get him the help he needs?  Who is going to sit there all day with him?  What will happen to him?

The reality of his future is too overwhelming to think about.  He is a victim of a lack of mental health awareness in this world.  We are not equipped to help him, so we just don't.  We assume his behavior, his choices, his outbursts were of his own volition, and so we punish him.  We punish him for his chemical imbalance.  We punish him for being born different.

On this day of thanksgiving, who will be thankful for Keeshawn?  Where will he be?  Will he be eating a big meal, surrounded by family members?  Will he feel loved?

He will be in my thoughts, and I hope that he has a happy day, a full meal, and a warm bed.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Tasty Tuesday: Zucchini Linguine

How to turn this:

 Into this:

This is actually my version of a recipe my mom used to make (back in the day before Celiac Disease).  It's super simple and a really nice, light summer dinner.  You could easy add some grilled chicken to this, but I love it just the way it is.  My favorite thing is that we are growing all the produce for this recipe in our garden, so if all goes well, I'll be able to make this with my own zucchini, tomatoes and basil! (Actually I made it with my basil this time, but the rest of our garden isn't ready) I did get the zucchini from a local co-op, along with some super yummy peaches.  Trying to to decide if I'll make something with those…or just devour them.

Anywho, back to the recipe.  

Zucchini Linguine (serves 4-6)

1-2 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 zucchini (or any similar squash), sliced
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes (you could also use a can of diced tomatoes)
1 pkg linguine (or just your favorite pasta, but, come on, linguine rhymes)
1/4 cup parmesan cheese (extra if desired)
1-2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped (optional)
1 tsp red pepper flake (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

  1. Fill a large pot with water for the pasta and put it on high heat.
  2. When it reaches a rolling boil, drop in the pasta (be sure to move the pasta around several times so it doesn't stick).  I do cook the entire package because the leftovers are great for lunch.*
  3. Add the olive oil to a large pan over medium high heat (I use a large nonstick skillet.  Whatever you use needs to be large enough to toss the pasta in at the end).
  4. Add your zucchini slices (and your red pepper flake, if you're using it).  Usually when I make this recipe I use one zucchini and one yellow squash, but I had three different kinds here, so I used half of each.  The amount isn't crucial.  If you love zucchini, add more!
  5. Sauté the zucchini for 5-7 minutes.  You're not looking to brown them or cook them down a lot, just soften them.  
  6. Toss in your tomatoes, and add a ladle full of pasta water.  Then place a lid on your veggies and turn the heat down to medium low.
  7. Your pasta is probably ready, so go ahead and drain that, but do not rinse it.
  8. Dump the pasta into the sauté pan, add the parmesan cheese and basil and toss.  If it seems dry, add a tablespoon or two of olive oil.  I use tongs to toss it together, it's just easier with long pasta.
  9. Serve it up and top with extra cheese!

*Reheats easily in the microwave, but I recommend adding a bit of water to your microwave safe container as this pasta recipe tends to get a little dry.

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Thursday, June 05, 2014

30 Day Ab Challenge: Day 3 & 4

Yesterday was Day 3 on the Ab Challenge, so I did 25 sit ups, 10 crunches, 10 leg raises and a 15 second plank.  I've noticed that, for me, the sit ups and leg raises are the most challenging.  Is anyone else following along?  Which parts are you finding most challenging?

We also took a trip to the zoo yesterday, which involved a lot of walking.  Nothing fast paced, since we were frequently stopping to look at animals, but 3 hours on your feet is still burning calories.

Today was Day 4, rest day, so I spent my day working on another project: organizing.  Another one of my goals this summer is to get the house more organized so that we can more easily keep it clean.  The last few days I've been focusing on clothes.  I went through Ellie's clothes, organized and stored her baby clothes and sorted out some to give away.  Then I went through the master bedroom closet.  I do this pretty regularly, but I still managed to fill three bags to donate.  I kept one small bin of clothes that are too small.  If they don't fit by this time next year, they're out (including my favorite pants from college).

Tomorrow I'll be working on the guest/craft room.  That room is always a challenge.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

30 Day Ab Challenge: Day 2

You may have noticed I'm already a day behind on my challenge. 

Yesterday was my last day of school. I spent the day cleaning up my classroom. I wasn't required to clear out my room to the extent that I did.  I'll have the same room next year and is not being used for summer school, so I was free to leave posters up and such.  However, I want to paint over the summer and just start fresh so I took everything down.

I didn't work a terribly long day.  I was finished by 1:30. I dropped off paperwork at Ellie's school for her summer program.  Isn't the playground awesome? She's moving up to a new class and I'm so excited for her. Her best friend from he previous class will be in this new class with her.

I had big plans to work out when I got home, but I felt awful.  Seriously awful. No idea why.  So I did nothing.  Actually I took a nap.

So today we're starting back up with Day 2. I just finished it (20 sit ups, 8 crunches, 8 leg raises, 12 second plank).  Today was busy in general.  We finally got the raised beds planted! That was a workout (as was chasing Ellie in the sprinkler). 

I'm considering going to the gym tonight. Ellie didn't nap today, which saves me a struggle at bedtime. I'll either put that energy towards the gym, or a relaxing glass of wine.  We shall see.

UPDATE: I chose wine.

Sunday, June 01, 2014

30 Day Ab Challenge: Day 1

So I decided to do this 30 Day Ab Challenge.  It's like a kick-off to my summer exercise challenge.  My goal this summer is to go to the gym every single day.  Yeah, you read that right.  Every. Single. Day.  I know it's summer and I could exercise outside and nature blah blah blah, but Tennessee hates me.  I'm pretty sure it's trying to kill me and despite allergy meds, outside makes my eyes water, I sneeze, all that phlegm, and that humidity…UGH!  So yeah, screw nature.*  If I have to get sweaty, I'll take indoors and air conditioned.

Back to the Ab Challenge.  This is the entire 30 Days:

So today I'm doing 15 sit ups, 5 crunches, 5 leg raises, 10 second plank.
It seems like a really easy day.  I mean, I am really out of shape, but I know I could do more than this.  However, I agreed to the challenge, so I'm sticking to the rules.

We're also going swimming today with my brother, his wife and their daughter so…two toddlers and a pool should be a pretty good workout.

*I love nature, but only when it's below 80 (or snowing!)

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Epic Post: First Year of Teaching

I keep thinking I should write, and then can't seem to think of where to start.  My big lull in blogging started about this time last year.  My grandmother passed away and I wanted to write some meaningful tribute to her, but it was just too overwhelming.  The rest of the summer flew by and then I started my Master's program in August.  It was only two classes, only two days a week.  It was going to take me about 2 years to finish, but life likes to shake things up.  Nine weeks into the program, a job opportunity opened up.  I interviewed for it thinking it would just be good experience for future position, but I was hired on the spot during the interview.

I was both ecstatic and terrified.  I mean, on the one hand we would finally have two incomes again after over two years living on one.  I mean, we had manage, but things would certainly be more comfortable on two incomes.  However, going into a high school teaching position with no student teaching experience seemed overwhelming (actually it seemed like way more than overwhelming, but I don't know a word for that…unless there is a word for hyperventilating and frequent nightmares).  I mean, I knew this was what I wanted to do and I was excited, but I knew it would be a serious challenge.

Coming in during the middle of the first semester is rough, especially when the class you teach only lasts one semester.  Also, teachers who come in mid school year don't get any kind of orientation to the building, many faculty/staff assume you've done this before and have some understanding of policies, and if you need anything (like desks) you have get it done yourself.  I teach at one of the largest schools in the state that has, in the last five years, gone through a lot of change (for the better).  I griped on here because there were times that I didn't know how to deal with difficult students, or the demands of taking class at night, teaching during the day, prepping for teaching, and attempting to also have family time.

I was grateful that we found a Montessori school near my school that Ellie LOVED.  I can't even express how much stress it took off me to know that Ellie loved going to school.  In fact, my school gets out at 2:05, and if I attempted to pick Ellie up before 3:30, she would cry.  She loved it there.  She made friends there, and has grown so much (not in size, she's still tiny).  She really came out of her shell.

Second semester was better, but not without its challenges.  At one point, around February (a particularly challenging month because it felt like we were all constantly getting sick), I almost called it quits.  For several reasons, the worst moment was a turning point.  My Assistant Principal was incredibly supportive and understanding, it made me feel like I could keep going.  Around that time I also volunteered to go on a field trip as a chaperone, and little did I know that a great friendship would come out of that, as well as validation that I was an effective teacher (if only on a very small scale).  I now had more reasons to come to work each day.

By the end of the semester, I felt more confident in my ability to teach, I finally felt like my classroom was mine.  I took ownership of it, started to rearrange and redecorate.  I took every ounce of feedback from evaluations to heart and sought out more experienced teachers.  I asked questions and kept a journal to figure out what worked and how to improve what didn't work.  I no longer felt lost and overwhelmed, I was learning.

It wasn't always fun, but there were some amazingly rewarding moments.  The first semester, I had a student who was intentionally failing.  She didn't like me, which she regularly told me.  This made me so angry, but after talking to another teacher she gave me great advice.  So I finally pulled the student outside to chat.  I explained that she needed to swallow her pride and get her work done because I wasn't going to put up with her attitude.  She passed my class with a B.  Second semester, I had a student whose life was a setup for failure.  Honestly, I don't know her whole story (and probably wouldn't share it if I did), but I knew that she had a lot on her plate; enough that would probably send most of us running to a corner crying with a big, fat "I quit." Instead, she was mustering everything she had.  She was always extremely engaged in my class.  She participated, and it was usually like pulling teeth to get some of these kids to participate.  She didn't love me at first, but on her last day she gave me a hug and said, "How do I do what you do?"  At first I didn't understand, and then I said, "You mean teach Psychology?"  And she said yes.

We exchanged contact information, and I told her to let me know how her first day of college goes (she's going for free thanks to a new state program, and a lot of hard work on her part).

I may have teared up when she received her diploma (and I might be a bit misty eyed just talking about her).

I didn't expect to feel emotional at graduation.  I didn't even wear waterproof mascara or bring tissues.  I should have.  I teach at an inner city school.  Some of these kids didn't expect to graduate high school, maybe their parents never did, many are new to this country.  Graduating high school never felt like a huge accomplishment to me.  College was the challenge.  High school was just easy and expected.  This was the first high school graduation ceremony I've ever attended that felt important, a genuine sense of accomplishment.  They had truly achieve something, and I felt that sense of accomplishment with them.  I had finished my first year.

Thank you to all of you who sent supportive and encouraging words during this past year, you helped me believe I could keep going.  I truly appreciate all of you!

Thursday, May 01, 2014

I probably should have put this up awhile ago:

Hoping to start updating again over summer break!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

This is familiar

And I'm officially overwhelmed again.  I'm seriously questioning if this is actually what I want to do.  I think I still want to teach, but I don't think high school is the right fit.  Maybe I really should be an elementary school teacher, despite my complete 100% resistance to it.  Or am I just questioning this because, in fact, I don't have what it takes to be any kind of teacher at all, no matter the grade level.

I don't enjoy teaching psychology.  I love the material, but I'm pretty sure I would only enjoy teaching the material to students who give a crap.  I don't have that.  Well, I might have about five that give a crap.  The rest are just disruptive.

And then there's classroom management.  I feel like all the forums online and the classes I've taken just talk about "Classroom Management Strategies" without ever giving specifics.  "Spend time on classroom management", "Classroom management is key", blah blah blah.  I need specifics.  And the literature is either heavily focused on elementary classrooms, or the theories are based on the assumptions that my students have any desire to be in school.  There's no managing a student who literally sees you as zero.  Maybe even less than zero, it's like I'm not in the room.  And if you get more than one of those students in the same class, that's the end of any meaningful learning.

Oh and let's talk about learning.  I don't feel like I've taught them crap.  It's defeating.  Trying to explain abstract concepts, or ask tough questions, or get them to think critically on an issue, the response is always the same:
                               "What's the right answer?"

They literally ask that.

So what do I do?  I mean, obviously I'll finish out the year, but what about next year?  Am I up for this again?  Do I just cut and run and say, well that was an experience.  I've learned and I'm over it.

Until I figure this out I just feel overwhelmed and helpless and completely defeated.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Random thoughts for the day...

I realized recently that I'm way cooler than I let myself be in high school.

Right about now you're probably thinking, "Wow.  Modest much?"or "Duh! No one's cool in high school!"  But hear me out.

I was very shy and insecure in high school.  There were plenty of things I wanted to do that I just never had the guts to do.  I was really involved in speech and drama, but mostly behind the scenes.  If I got a part it was minuscule, and while I was ecstatic to have the part, it also created a sense of sheer panic.  That insecurity made it easier to hide behind other people.  Not in a debilitating way, but in a way that shaped my taste in music, or clothing, or hobbies.  I usually felt comfortable being around my friends, around what felt familiar.  If they liked a certain band, sure, so did I.  If they loved horrible B horror movies from the 70's, sure, why not?  To some extent, this continued through college.

But at some point in my twenties, something clicked.  I started to realize what I liked, and I was ok with it.  I was comfortable with it.  I could do things, new things, on my own, and it didn't send me into a panic.  After I had Ellie, even more of those old insecurities went out the window.  I was comfortable with me.

I realize this is all a work in progress, and when I think back I'm actually grateful for the time I spent following.  If I had been stubbornly set in my ways, and my habits, and my preferences, I wouldn't have discovered music I still love today, I wouldn't have learned that I'm terrible at first person shooter video games, or that I hate B horror movies from the 1970s (or all horror movies for that matter…much to my husband's dismay).

I see Ellie, and all her shyness, and sometimes I worry that she'll go through school as timid and insecure as I did.  While I came out with a few positives, it took me until my late 20's to find my confidence.  I'm hoping she gets there a little faster.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

I think I need to vent...

Ok, so the meetings have started, I'm giving a quiz next week, the kids have a group project assigned.  This semester is in full swing.

…And I'm already stressed.  I'm already overwhelmed.

It started in a meeting.  We were asked to turn in our unit plans/lesson plans for the semester.  Seriously?  I'm still writing them.  This semester is different than last because I get to start from the beginning, teach the whole curriculum, instead of picking up where the last guy left off.  I'm excited about that, but I'm still writing.  I hadn't even figured out what each unit would be, let alone complied a semester's worth of lesson plans.  What?

Oh, and they're needed so that our evaluations can be scheduled.  Fabulous.

Last semester I got evaluated after just two weeks.  Two weeks.  Two weeks of teaching.  Ever.  No student teaching under my belt.  No finished master's degree, tons of practicum hours, no.  Two weeks of what-the-hell-did-I-sign-up-for, complete and total insanity.  I was still trying to figure out which office I was supposed to call for which issue (we have five offices), or which Academy I was in, or whose team I was on.  Meetings?  Am I supposed to go to meetings?  How do I know?  No one emails me.  No one knows my name yet.  I literally knew two people in the whole building (a building of 2400 students, another 200+ teachers, and countless administrative and support staff).  Yet, I was about to get evaluated.  Luckily I have an amazing Vice Principal who sat me down and explained the process, explained the rubric, it was all very helpful.  I was proud of myself when I came out of it all with a decent score.  Nothing to write home about, but decent for two weeks on the job.

Somehow this second round feels worse.  I feel panicked about it.  I feel nervous.  She's expecting improvement, and rightfully so, but I just don't feel prepared.

And new things keep coming up.  I'm not asking for special treatment because I'm new, but I almost want to send out a disclaimer:

 "I'm new.  If you email me, understand that I probably have no idea what you're talking about.  Explain it to me like I'm 5.  Do not use acronyms.  Thank you."

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Ready, Set, …No, Not Yet

We were supposed to start school today.  We were supposed to have our "no students" day Monday, and then school would start back today.  The weather postponed that, which was fine with me.  I wasn't ready to go back.  So today was our inservice day, and tomorrow students would start back.

I spent the day working really hard in my classroom.  I got organized, better than last semester.  I have a better understanding of the expectations I should have of my students and how I should arrange my bulletin board to show course goals and state standards (and student work, eventually).  I replenished supplies, and I planned some lessons.  I worked, without slacking off at all (honestly!), from 8:30 until 3:00.  I went in this morning not looking forward to this semester at all, and when I left I was excited.  My room was organized, and I had a good plan in place.  I was really starting to feel like my classroom looked a bit "lived in."  I was actually looking forward to tomorrow.

I picked Ellie up from preschool.  We get home, get settled, and I get a phone call.

No school tomorrow.

By the time we get to Thursday, I'll have lost my excitement about going back to work.  Guess I'll just have to think about my pretty bulletin board, and my new clipboard system.

Wow…I get excited about the weirdest things.

Monday, January 06, 2014

a little cleaning, and a few memories

Today was Ellie's first day back to school.  I was actually a little sad about it.  I stayed home with her for 2 1/2 years, and even though she loves preschool and I'm really excited she is in preschool, having a two week break made me nostalgic for our time home together.

While she was gone, I used the time to clean out her closet.  I sorted her clothes, donating some of the items that are too small, and putting others in storage.  This didn't help.  It's so strange going through her clothes, knowing she'll never wear them again.  It's like boxing up a chapter of her life.  I realize that might sound really sad and I'm being melodramatic.  I love watching her grow up, it's exciting, and she is amazing, and every new achievement makes me so proud of her.  I love the songs she makes up, her shocking grasp on sarcasm, and the new concept of making up games that she has recently discovered.

But there is still a part of me that misses baby Ellie.  I'm sure it has to do with the fact that I know I go back to work this week, which means I won't get a full day of Ellie time.  I also wonder if this is my mind telling me I'm ready for the next baby.  I've gone back and forth about the timing of the next one for a long time.  I know we'll have another, I just didn't feel ready.

Ellie is ready.  She came home from preschool one day talking about her brother.  Brother?  After asking a little more, I find out she has just decided one of her classmates is her brother.  She knows other kids have sisters and brothers, and I guess she was just playing along.

Despite my nostalgia, I did get Ellie's clothes put away.  I also managed to get the new curtain rods put up in the master bedroom.  No more wimpy, cheap, bowing curtain rods for us!  Our room is starting to look like grown ups live there.

I also tried to put towel bars up in the bathroom.  I got 2 out of 3 finished, and then stripped the last two screws.  Seriously?  The last two?  I was so close!  I had to walk away from that.  There was no fixing it today.

Tomorrow I go back to work, but it's an inservice day so no students.  I'm a little excited to get back to my classroom and set up for the last half of the year.   Thanks to the weather for a short week!

Sunday, January 05, 2014


If you're interested in psychology, I have started a blog (yes, another one).  It might have some very random and interesting topics, since the topics are often by student request.  Enjoy!

A New Year

I survived my first semester (9 weeks) teaching.  We were supposed to start back tomorrow, but thanks to the weather that has been delayed.  I used my extra day to prep a little more for the week ahead.  I made mason jar salads for lunches this week.  Part of an attempt to 1. eat healthy and 2. actually eat lunch while at work.

The first week of break was of course spent with family celebrating Christmas.  I was excited that I actually got all my handmade Christmas gifts finished (almost) in time.  There were some unexpected setbacks in the form of an awful stomach bug, so my mom's slippers didn't get done.  She's coming to visit soon, though, so she'll still get them.

The second week of break has been spent frantically cleaning and organizing.  I had a lot of ambition for this house, but it was only one week.  I got the bathroom closet done.  Whatever, I'll take what I can get.  It was awful, and now it's better.

I am determined to be more organized this semester so that I don't become overwhelmed, stressed and exhausted.  In order to do that I have set some goals.  I don't want to call them New Year's Resolutions, but I suppose that's what they are:

1. Clean and Organize the house.  This way a clean house will be easier to maintain, and I won't spend my days off digging us out of the piles of crap collected throughout the week.

2. Eat Better.  First, I have to eat, period.  When I get stressed I forget to eat…until 2 am and then I eat junk.  I plan to shop over the weekend and prep Sunday so that healthy grab-and-go food is at my disposal.

3.  Exercise.  I do need to lose weight, I have for awhile, but aside from that I think this would help my stress level.  I know it would.  I struggle to justify the time for exercise, especially when I'm overwhelmed, but I just have to make it happen.  We own an elliptical machine and I've been to enough yoga classes to do something on my own.  I really have no excuses.

4. Craft.  I managed to knit quite a bit this past semester and it really helped.  It's very relaxing, and I want to keep going.

5.  Write.  Everyday for the first year we had Ellie I wrote in a journal.  I have felt guilty every day since her first birthday because I stopped writing, primarily because that summer I took care of her and a friend's little boy, six weeks younger than Ellie.  It was like having twins.  I was exhausted, and the last thing I wanted to do was write.  I never started again.  This year will be different.  I'm going to write as often as I can, maybe even daily, on this blog.  It might be about my day at work, or something hilarious that Ellie did, my latest knitting project, or how I've been craving cheesecake for three days, but I'm resisting because it's bad for me (true story).  Whatever is going on, I'm going to write.  If you're reading, I hope you enjoy.