Thursday, December 31, 2009

New Year's Resolutions?

Should I make resolutions for next year?

When I first started this blog, I was all about it. I broke them down into different categories and reported back periodically on my progress. Not because I thought anyone was really that concerned, but to keep myself honest.

And then, Eleanor was born. All that went out the window. My goal for 2008 was pretty much to just still be alive for 2009. Success!

In 2009, things improved a lot. Eleanor is becoming more independent all the time, allowing me to still bits of time here and there to get things done. I switched to teaching part-time (or professoring, if you prefer), which offers a good schedule and that I enjoy.

Most importantly, in 2009 I've worked a LOT on calming down, going with the flow, not being so hung up on my to-do lists. I need to learn to accept that days don't always go as planned, and it's okay if sometimes my to-do list is barely touched, much less finished. It doesn't make me incompetent or lazy or a bad person. It's life.

This is a big lesson for me to learn, but I'm getting there. So, in the spirit of that lesson, I think I'm going to forgo the New Year's Resolutions. I definitely have some ideas in mind: about fitness, about writing, about leisure. But I am going to resist the urge to write them down and then see them as set in stone (absolutely must happen!) in my mind.

Maybe, at the end of 2010, I'll let you know, generally, how I did on achieving my goals. And you'll just have to believe me!

Happy New Year, everyone!

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas!

In my opinion, there's two types of people. Either you look forward to Christmas Day, or you live for Christmas Eve.

I love Christmas Eve. I love the anticipation. You could be getting anything you've ever wanted—or the best present you've never even thought of. But once you have it, you'll know it's perfect. It could still be a white Christmas, no matter what the meteorologists say. Everyone could wake up happy and at peace with the world and it could be the best Christmas ever. The Christmas Eve gathering is a big party, filled with excitement and expectations and giddiness. Anything could happen!

Compared to the anticipation, the reality can never live up to that. Christmas is just a day. One filled with presents and much loved family, it's true. And one (almost entirely, I did try, but I don't want to forget to bring anything to my parents!) devoid of to-do lists. But it is a day. You will never get EVERYTHING your heart ever desired, or those perfect gifts you never knew you wanted, but will forever cherish. Nor should you get everything, because then what? You eat a lot of good food, and then feel a bit ill from too much indulging. You still need to clean up after the presents have all been unwrapped, and that laundry isn't going to wash itself.

So now that I'm writing this, it sounds really depressing. But that wasn't my point. My point is that I entire the Christmas season as a whole much better than just Christmas Day. Which I think is a good thing, because it means I get to savor a month of preparations and decorations and gift wrapping and Christmas movies, instead of enjoying just one hour of opening gifts on Christmas morning.

I hope that it can be considered a key to how I approach life. I would like to think that I have that kind of attitude, anyway. It's not the destination that matters, but the journey. Appreciating the preparation, whether it be education or pregnancy or saving up the money to buy a house. The journey has endless possibilities to be explored, while there is just one singular destination. Where's the fun in that?

Let's all enjoy the journey. And Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Not Santa!!

As suspected, Eleanor was not a fan of Santa. She fell asleep in the car on the way there, and was still half asleep when we got there. The American Legion was PACKED with kids and parents and grandparents. It was noisy and crowded, and she just wasn't sure how she felt about it all.

She made her feelings about Santa clear, however. We went up to put Eleanor on Santa's lap and she flipped out. She gave a few short warning screams when we were milling close by, but as soon as I made a move towards the big man in red and he waved his bell at her, the scream became much louder, longer and more urgent. Get me away from him!!!!

So, no pictures with Santa this year. But we did collect a present, which she opened in the safety and calm of Grandma and Grandpa's house. It was not one, but two! baby dolls. She carried them around the rest of the day, clunking their heads together, dropping them, carrying them upside down .... doing everything a caring mother does. I suspect that they are just the beginning of a much bigger collection.

Hopefully she's starting to associate Santa with presents. And next year she will be happy to sit on his lap, tell him everything she wants, and hold out her hands for her gift. For this year, I can't wait until she opens the doll stroller we got her and she can take those babies for a ride! In the meantime, maybe we can get a picture of her holding a Santa ornament?

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Visit with Santa

I can't believe this was Eleanor on Santa's lap last year. She looks so tiny!

We are going to visit with Santa again this weekend. I hope that she enjoys it. We've been reading "The Night Before Christmas" and she recognizes Santa now. She even chants (an Eleanor version) of "Ho, ho, ho!" when asked what Santa says. Which means it sounds more like "Ooo, ohoooo, oooo," and she repeats it about eight times, instead of three.

She is much more involved in everything Christmas this year. We have three old Advent calendars that we display on the dining room windowsill. One is a "repurposed" calendar of Santa in nature—a snowy woods scene, where he is followed by a moose, squirrel, wolf, and other animals of the forest. When you open the doors, however, my Mom has replaced the original pictures with pictures from throughout my childhood, and made up her own rhymes about the family (the cats play a particularly prominent role). She gave these calendars to me and my sisters one year, and I always enjoy looking at it.

The other two aren't as personal, but still memorable. One is a very modern style calendar, featuring Santa and the elves at a Christmas feast, that Keith and I bought the last time we were in England. The other is a glittery, snowy scene of old half-timbered buildings that my parents brought back from their trip to Germany.

Anyway, point being: every morning for breakfast, Eleanor looks at all three of the Advent calendars and enjoys opening all of the doors. It's amazing how much she has changed since last year. She has adopted a stuffed snowman; she carries him around, puts him on a chair at the table, covers him with a blanket to go to sleep, and hugs him profusely. I wish I got half as many hugs and kisses as the snowman!

It is so much fun to have a child at Christmastime. It makes me feel like a kid again. The season is so much more magical.... But. We met Erin and Gavin at the mall today. Most of the time, Eleanor was excited to look at the people and the stores and the decorations. After getting pretzels at "an autonomous unit for mid-mall snacking," we stopped at a playground. Gavin immediately loved it, and started playing. But Eleanor was a lot more fearful of the unknown equipment and the oversized turtle. She needed Mama to play with her on everything once before she was okay, and even then she still had moments of panic where she looked for me or Erin.

And it made me wonder about how her visit with Santa will go this year. She is very friendly and outgoing, but in large groups it can take a long time for her to warm up. I'm actually guessing that it's not going to go well. I don't think we'll have another picture like the one above. If she stays on his lap long enough to get a picture at all, I think it will be one of a toddler in abject misery.

Maybe she'll prove me wrong. And I know that, by next year, she will probably be throwing herself at Santa, reciting her Christmas wishlist before she is even on his lap. We'll see what happens this year, though. The fact that she is so much more aware and involved, but not yet talking or understanding everything we say can be a mixed bag.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Free at last .... to worry about next semester

Well, this afternoon is the final exam for this semester. Not too many students have availed themselves of the opportunity to turn in the essay early via email, so I'm expecting to see quite a few in person this afternoon.

Ever since our trip to Costa Rica, I have been fantasizing about my Christmas break. A whole month off! Classes done by Dec. 7! I imagined myself taking the time to relax and enjoy the season.

I know this will surprise no one who knows me, but I haven't been as relaxed as I'd hoped—so far, anyway. There's plenty of holiday-related errands and chores to do. But mostly I am getting worried about being prepared for next semester. I've felt like this semester, I was always working so hard to stay one step ahead of the students because I got hired at the last minute. I promised myself I wouldn't ever let that happen again, and that next semester I would be better prepared.

And yet .... so far, I haven't found much time to get ready for next semester. I'm teaching two new classes (new to me, anyway), so that means entirely new syllabi and texts and quizzes and exams. All of which is in a very early state of preparation. Suddenly, this vast break is starting to look a lot shorter and more crowded.

But, I need to keep in mind that the worst-case scenario is that I'm staying up late a few days before the semester starts to finish my syllabi and get them to the copy center for the first day of class. Just like I was this semester. But even if that happens, I will still be better prepared than I was last semester. Because now I will have the experience of teaching and creating lesson plans and the reassurance that I do know more about this whole process than I gave myself credit for a few short months ago. So, even in the worst-case scenario, I'm still better-prepared than I was for this semester. And that's a relief to know.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Angie's List

I don't think I blogged about this before, but it's been coming up in conversation lately so I thought it was worth mentioned. We have been members of Angie's List since we moved to Cleveland 3.5 years ago, and have found it invaluable.

The theory behind it is that the list gives consumers an opportunity to talk about horrible and wonderful contractors, and also gives other consumers a better sense of whether they should hire a contractor or not.

When we moved to the East side of Cleveland, we didn't know anyone on our side of town and couldn't get any personal recommendations for plumbers, carpenters, etc. So we signed up for Angie's List to see what contractors other Angie's List members either recommended or suggested we avoid.

We have used Angie's List to find our plumber, who is great, and the roofers from last year (pretty good), and some others. We have never been displeased with a highly recommended contractor on Angie's List. Conversely, we did NOT find our window contractor on Angie's List because he was recommended by a local restoration society. And we had to take him to small claims court to get him to finish the job.

I was just reminded of this because I was talking to a friend who got screwed over by a moving company. I told her that, for future reference, Angie's List might be helpful. And that made me think that I should mention it to all of you! So if you're looking for contractors and don't know where to begin, I highly recommend Angie's List!

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Winter Treasure Hunt

I don't always like the cold weather. I resent bundling up every time I go out the door ... or even get out of bed. During the cold months, it is rare that my toes are ever bare, because my feet turn into icicles (just ask Keith). I have a slew of scarves and have been known to wear that one particularly thick, chunky sweater for an entire week if the temperature stays below 20 or so.

But there is one part of winter apparel that I enjoy. And that's getting out all of my winter coats, and checking the various pockets. I always keep lip gloss in my pockets throughout the winter, because my lips are as dry as my feet are chilly. So I always like to be prepared. And then, when warmer winds blow and I gladly put away my winter jackets, I forget all about them.

Until this time of year comes around again. In the past week, I've found a tube of Vaseline lipcare, shiny Neutrogena lip gloss, and even a dark-hued Burt's Bees lip gloss (a big splurge for me). Typically, I don't use or carry many lipsticks, but rely on the cheap and tasty Bonne Bell Lipsmackers to get me through the winter. I think I've found one or two of those, too .... it's sort of like an early Christmas present, from Winter 2008 me!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Free at Last!

Class and tutoring are over for the semester!! I have finals next Wednesday, but that's it. I feel a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders!

My first semester teaching has been a real challenge. I always felt a step behind, having only been hired a week before classes started. I would sit down on Sunday and plan the coming week's classes, then do it all again the next week. The only time I was much further ahead than that was when I had to get everything ready for the sub during the Costa Rica trip; and that meant a night up until about 4 am to get it all together.

I also spent a lot of time wondering whether I was doing the right thing or not, in certain classroom situations, with grades, with assignments. Are they really learning what I'm teaching? Is this helping anyone?

But at the end of the day, I think it went pretty well. Some failed, but some passed. Some seemed to really improve their writing. I made plenty of mistakes, but I hope that I learned from them, and next semester will be smoother.

Until then, I'll be glad to take a break from grading and teaching. I still need to plan for next semester, but at least I have a few weeks this time, instead of just one!

Friday, December 04, 2009

And extra exercise!

Since passing out from dehydration in Costa Rica, I've renewed my vow to drink "enough" water. I feel like the numbers are always being debated, but generally I do aim for 64 ounces a day. I think this may be a bit of overkill, considering how much tea I also drink, but better safe than sorry.

The week of Thanksgiving, I didn't do a very good job of it. It's only been in this past week that I've met my goal or come close most days. So it's only recently that I've been peeing about 20 times a day.

When not well-hydrated, I always forget about this "side effect" of proper hydration. But it's encouraging to think that I'm not only better hydrated, but also burning more calories with my frequent trips to the bathroom! That's serious multi-tasking. Now if I just get a pair of those ridiculous Shape Up Walking Shoes, I'll be set.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Real Love

You know how I know Keith still loves me, even after all these years together?

He, like most sane people, is driven crazy after a few minutes of listening to sappy, repetitive Christmas music. I, on the other hand, can't get enough of it and usually listen to it nonstop from Thanksgiving evening until New Year's.

And yet, knowing full well what he was in for, he voluntarily programmed the living room tuner to the 24/7 Christmas music light rock station. The tuner that is hooked up to 4 SPEAKERS.

That's love. Selfless (self-flagellating?) love. Thanks, Keith. You can talk to me about Fantasy Football statistics all day on Sunday, and I will do my best to follow.