Thursday, January 28, 2010

I might just need a storage unit

My dad has a drawer in his nightstand. It is a drawer where he has tucked away little bits and pieces of our childhood.....birthday cards we made him.....the hat with the ears hanging down the side that used to make him laugh every time I wore it.....letters from summer camp, mine tear stained and Mike's short and to the point......the programs from our college graduations.....little memories of our childhood.

I have already started my own collection.

I'm sure, at some point I will be able to throw away some of her many drawings and pieces of art work. But, for now, I can't. To me, each one is so precious, so special. Evidence of her growing abilities and proof that she is curious and creative and smart. I especially love the artwork I receive from daycare, where they let her experiment with things that I haven't yet tried at home. Things like glue and different texture fabric scraps.....There is a small pile accumulating on top of our fridge that I need to find a new home for, but, for now, it sits there, because I like taking them down and looking at them, marveling at the little girl my baby is becoming.

Then there is The Notebook. Every day that Aliza goes to daycare I fill out a sheet telling them any news or notes and the food I'm sending in with her and they return it to me with a little bit about her day. I've saved every single one. My binder is already growing too small, and clearly I need to either graduate to a larger one or find a spot to store the old notes. The notes, when I reread them are another journey Aliza is on in her little life. They start with comments like this: "Day #1 was a little tough for Aliza emotionally. She has taken to all of the teachers and did quietly observe the other children at play, which she did not do much of, but she did enjoy the purple rocker! Remember, it will get easier for ALL of you!"

To this in early September:
"Aliza had a wonderful day! She danced with me and clapped! She laughed with a full belly at all my silly dance moves. She is a pleasure to have with us!"

To this:
Aliza had such a smiley day! She seems to be crawling less and trying to walk independently more and more!

And this:
"Aliza had a ball outside today! She walked around singing "la, la, la" and pushing a fire truck. The wind was so strong at one point she almost got blown over! But she didn't mind! She keeps talking more every day!"
See why I can't throw the sheets away?

So not only is there art work accumulating, and a notebook overflowing with daycare notes, there are tons of other little things, that I am storing and saving. Like the banner from her first birthday party. Her hospital bracelets from when she was born, of course. Several little photo books from various holidays and events.....I even have paper that she's scribbled on and insisted she's writing her name!
I think it's time for a storage unit.....because a large trash bag is just not an option at this point.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Save Squirt

Nine years ago a teammate decided to buy a snake as a class pet. My class, of course, decided that they wanted a class pet too. I stalled a bit, but ultimately decided a class pet could be fun.... partly because of the person I am and partly because I remember being in fifth grade and having newts and crawfish as a pet and thinking it was the Best Week Ever when it was my turn to take care of them.

I turned it into a teachable moment of course....had the class list all the possible pets (nothing with fur or feathers- school rules), divided them into teams and made them do research and present their findings to their classmates....set up a voting both, made them research again once a winner was selected so that we could get all of the materials we needed to care for said pet and finally, when I had stretched it out as long as I could, bought the class pet- a leopard gecko:

We voted on a name too: Squirt (named after the turtle in Finding Nemo). So I'll admit--and not many people know this secret--Squirt #1 didn't last so long. She was sickly and died shortly after arriving in our classroom. The class never knew, I pretended I had brought her home and returned with a new Squirt.

Squirt #2 has now been with me for nine years. Many students have come and gone in my classroom and have had the opportunity to learn about Squirt and to care for her. Former students check in on her, and will even stop me in the hall to ask how she is doing.

I knew Squirt was special, but I didn't realize how special until she got sick. That's right, Squirt is sick. The first signs started a few months ago. She started having difficulty shedding, and needed help pulling some of her skin off. Her appetite dropped off a bit. I did my research, dropped a pretty penny at my local PetCo and she seemed to be improving. But, recently, her decline worsened. It got bad enough that even my students started thinking she didn't look good. I even had a chat with my class and, in as nice of terms as I could put it, I told them I wasn't so sure she'd make it through the year.

That very night, one of my parent's emailed me to let me know that her sister is a vet, and her old boss specialized in Leopard geckos. I reassured the mom that it wasn't necessary although I appreciated the offer and the mom promptly made an appointment. Two vet visits later Squirt is now on three different medications, has to soak two times a day in a lukewarm "bath", has to be force fed a meal of pureed cat food, Ensure and vitamins (which smells delicious by the way!) and had to have numerous (costly) changes to her habitat.

Crazier than that (because, yes, I know that is crazy) is the outpouring of support Squirt is receiving. My school psychologist emailed to check on Squirt, a special education teacher asked me about her at the start of a meeting, which then prompted a good five minute conversation with everyone at the table and, even more amazing, the parents in my classroom have stepped up to care for her. Two different moms have paid for her vet visits--one late enough at night that the poor mom had to hire a babysitter to stay with her other children and the second visit caused the student in my class to miss her Variety show rehearsal (quite the big deal, trust me!). Both refused to take money, insisting on spending a ridiculous amount to care for Squirt. One of my room parents sent out an email to all parents asking for help and financial support. She also emailed the PTA president and asked if a collection jar could be put in the front office....

All this for a leopard gecko. A very adorable leopard gecko, granted, but, a leopard gecko all the same. Just goes to show you that pets, big or small, furry or not, touch lives.

I just hope she lives.

Monday, January 18, 2010

I really wish there was a pause button

I'm pretty, I'm downright positive that it was just a few days ago that I was feeding Aliza like this:

And I believe it was just yesterday that she sat in her high chair for the first time: And I KNOW she just ate solid food for the first time just a few hours ago:

So how in the world did THIS happen?! Big girl chair, big girl plate, big girl fork and big girl food....

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Parenting 101

I've known all along- there isn't a manual. No directions on how to raise a child, no sure-fire way to ensure that your child is well mannered, self motivated and kind. As a teacher, I've come across a number of children whose parents I wish I could sit down, pen and paper in hand, and ask, "OK, so WHAT did you do to raise such an awesome kid?" I've also come across those kids who, when June 23 hit, I wasn't all that sad to say goodbye to.....As two teachers, Russ and I are firm believers in structure, routines and boundaries. Ten years of teaching experience, and countless years of working with children in other capacities, has taught me that kids NEED those things. It's just a matter of figuring out how to give them those things.

Since there is no manual, you have to use the sense that God gave you, the advice from family and friends, your own recollections of how you were raised and just muddle through, praying all the while that you are doing an OK job.

Aliza is just on the verge of that age where the tantrums are starting. We are seeing little glimpses, here and there, of what's in store for us. Overall she's an awesome child. Loving and sweet with a fantastic sense of humor and a love for singing, dancing and drawing. She doesn't watch T.V. for more than a second or two, she loves to read and be read to and, best of all, she loves to hang out with her Mommy and Daddy. I mean, I'm one seriously blessed mom.

She is, at times, becoming awfully opinionated about what she wants, even if she can't even communicate it. And, being 1 1/2 she wants it Right Now. The other day is a prime usual I was cooking dinner. Also as usual, Aliza decided she wanted to be in the kitchen with me. And by decided, I mean she was standing at the gate to the kitchen, rattling the bars and crying loudly. We finally allowed her into the kitchen, hoping she'd head over to "her" cabinet (that contains only Tupperware) or the fridge phonics, or the pad of paper that she loves to grab and then write all such luck. She came straight to me, clung to my legs, looked up at me and said "Mom-mom, UP!" When I couldn't pick her up immediately (sharp knife, hot oil, frying garlic....bad combo) she insisted more loudly and literally clung to my legs as I attempted to walk around the kitchen cooking. Now, thinking about it, it's a rather funny mental image, but in the moment it wasn't so funny.

Her new thing lately is to throw her food off her highchair. She used to do this in the past, but stopped for quite some time. Now, when she's done eating, or if she just feels like it, she picks up her pieces of food and chucks it right over the edge of her chair. Actually, she doesn't discriminate, she'll throw her fork, spoon, cup, plate....all right over the edge and onto the floor. Russ and I went through several ways of dealing with this. First to say no, of course. Then to remove all food from her tray. Then to make her pick everything up at the end of the meal. Finally, we have decided to try something new. Now, the second she throws something over the edge of her high chair we stop everything, take her out of her high chair, make her pick it up and give it to us and then put her back in her high chair to continue eating. This felt like an appropriate, natural consequence to us.
Last night we did this three separate times.

The thing is, who knows if this is the right move.....we certainly don't. What we do know is that Aliza has to learn not to throw her food on the floor. What we also know is that she doesn't do this elsewhere--like day care, or at restaurants. We also know that both of us were getting tired of picking up the floor every night after dinner. So, we're attempting to stay consistent, even if it is annoying to take her in and out of her chair several times, and we are hoping she gets the message.
Sooner rather than later.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Turkey Roulade....a.k.a. where Aliza gets it from

The other night I tried out a new recipe from this awesome cookbook my mom bought me. I knew (or I hoped), before I even started that it was going to be yummy, so I decided to document my progress.....also to prove that Aliza isn't the only chef in the family!
I started with a mixture of spinach, ricotta and shredded mozzarella:
Then I pounded out some turkey breasts and spread out the spinach and cheese mixture:Next I made a quick fresh marinara sauce:

Then I rolled up the turkey, secured them with toothpicks and spooned the sauce over them. Here they are, ready to go into the oven:
After baking them for a bit, I added shredded mozzarella to the top. They came out looking like this:

I think they ended up looking just like the picture in the cook book:

I would like to add that all of this deliciousness happened on my first day back at work after vacation.....

Monday, January 04, 2010

My little chef

Notice how- mid-way through her cooking- Aliza stops to take a taste before adding more "herbs"....