Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Google Followers

I noticed that last week I got two new followers. Welcome, Eleanor (what a beautiful name!;) and Jennifer! I hope you enjoy Gapesnest.

To be honest, I'm not very savvy on the whole Follower widget. How is it different from just using Google Reader? Is it just that others can see what blogs you follow? A combination of a feed reader and a blog roll, perhaps?

If you use Follower, I'd be interested to hear why you like it!

Class Came up a Little Short

It was not the most auspicious beginning to a teaching career ever. I was five minutes late to class; all the students were already seated and waiting. As soon as I rushed into the classroom—having just picked up the copies of the syllabus hot off the presses—I swear I could feel the sweat pouring off me, because of nerves. "Just keep your arms by your side and no one will notice," I told myself, two minutes before I reached up to write on the board.

Other than one student who had a career in industry and is coming back to school for a career change, I think the entire class is fresh out of high school. Which is good, because it makes me feel like more of an authority. But it makes me feel old when I realize that I'm 13 years older than my students. 13 years! When I was their age, they were just starting kindergarten.

The lesson I had prepared went pretty well, I think. There was more class participation than I was expecting, which I think is a good sign for the rest of the semester. If they're willing to talk on the first day when they don't know anyone, there should be some lively class discussions down the road.

My mentor professor, who has been teaching this class for several years, did warn me that it's highly unlikely my entire class will pass. It's hard to look around at my new students and wonder who will be the one(s) to not make it. Him in the corner? Her in the second row?

I had tried to plan the class to the minute, to calm my nerves. We'd spend 5 minutes taking attendance, 10 minutes on the syllabus, 10 minutes on writing, then 10 minutes discussing the writing .... I thought it might be a stretch to get it all in, but I thought it would be better to be overprepared than run out of things to work on.

Fast forward to the end of my lesson plan for the day. As I'm wrapping up my final points, I realize there's nearly 40 minutes left in the class. 40 minutes! Class is supposed to be 2 hours long, so that's a good chunk of time (36% of class, actually). But it's too late. I know I can't come up with another 40 minutes of material on the fly. So I dismiss them to have extra time for reading, purchasing the book .... doing something vaguely class-related.

When class was over, I was so relieved. I made it through the first day! Now I just have to go through it all again tomorrow. And Friday. And next week .... although at some point, I'll start to feel a little more prepared and authoritative, right?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

To-do: Break Another Finger

I really don't get search engines sometimes. Every once in awhile, I'll wander over to Site Meter to see what my stats are like. I like to view recent visitors by location, to see where in the world my blog is being read.

Nine times out of 10, when it's a place I'm unfamiliar with and I'm not expecting on the list, the details will reveal that this person mistakenly ended up on my blog through a search for random terms, and stayed a grand total of zero seconds. (I really must change the design if it's so off-putting they leave in less than a second, because surely no one has time to be offended by the writing yet.)

Roughly 99.9% of those searches? They reference broken fingers in some way, and point back to when I broke my finger almost 2 years ago. Two years ago! And that's still generating more traffic than anything I've written since? Oh wait, sometimes the searches refer to some technical point about pregnancy like gestational diabetes or ultrasound images.

But mostly, it's the broken finger. So I'll just type that phrase in here a few more times, maybe describe some symptoms like bruising or feeling nauseous ... and we'll see what happens with the traffic! And rest assured, if I have any other exciting ailments or injuries, I'll be sure to tell you about them in detail.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

You May Call Me "Professor"

I'm happy to say that I'm making a big change. Next week will be my last week as an office manager, and my first week as a part-time English professor at a community college. I will also work as a tutor in their drop-in writing center.

This has been in the works for quite some time, but I didn't really believe it was going to happen. For many months now, I've been working part-time at a job that should be full-time. I had hoped that it could be turned into a job-share position, where 2 people work the full 40 hours. But as time went on, it looked like that wasn't going to happen and I was going to need to find something else.

But what? I really didn't want to work any more than I am currently—I was willing to be flexible on type of work, salary (to a point!), work time of day .... but spending more time away from Eleanor is one area that I wouldn't budge. So I've been stressing out over it a lot since January.

But slowly, things fell into place. We got to know some neighbors—a husband and wife who were both English majors, as well. He is a full-time, tenured English professor at this community college. Keith was doing a little looking around online and saw the posting for a part-time adjunct, and the next time I ran into the neighbor while we were both walking with our daughters, I asked his opinion about it. He got me in touch with the right people and reassured me when I didn't hear anything for months that it wasn't a bad sign, it's just a slow process.

And finally, it's happening. I'm wrapping up projects at my office, and planning my syllabus for class. I have a lot of anxiety right now, but I can tell that it's the good kind of anxiety. Anxiety about making a large life change .... one that is daunting from here, but I know that it will be a good, positive thing in the long run.

Wish me luck!

Monday, August 17, 2009

A Momentous First: Avoiding Bedtime

Eleanor cracked me up the other night. She knows the sign language for "diaper"' and "all done" (like when she's finished eating). Friday night we had friends over for dinner and she was not very happy about going to bed while there was so much going on. But we went upstairs and I gave her a bottle and read a few books and was singing her to sleep. After much squirming she settled down and rested her head on my shoulder.

She suddenly lifted her head and patted her chest (her modified sign for "diaper"). I said no, we had just changed her diaper and it was fine. She laid her head back down, but it popped up again a moment later as she gave me the sign for "all done"—hands out to the side, palms up.

She looked so hopeful. Like, I can communicate! She must obey my wishes! It was hard not to laugh, but I sternly told her that she was not "all done" with going to bed, and she wasn't going to get out of it. Finally she settled down and went to sleep with just a short cry of protest when I laid her in the crib.

I'm sure this is only the first of many many times that she'll try to put off bedtime. Such an exciting development in communication .... that I'll probably be cursing by next week!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Greeting the Dawn

At 5:45 this morning, it was still dark out. I finished lacing up my shoes, turned on my iPod, and leashed up Beckett for our morning run.

I used to really enjoy running before work. Mondays, Wednesday, Fridays, Beckett and I would get up and head out for 3-5 miles and be back in time for me to shower, get dressed, and still be only my typical 10 minutes late to work. As long as I could drag myself out of bed, it was a great way to start the day.

But then I broke my finger, tripping in the pre-dawn darkness. And then I got pregnant and wasn't running anymore. And then I had Eleanor and REALLY wasn't running anymore. Or walking the dog, or sleeping regular, or anything else that defines the parameters of a normal, balanced life.

Slowly over the past year, I've been reclaiming some normal activities. Sleep came first, because our wonderful daughter is a great sleeper. Then occasionally walking the dog, working part-time, and even the rare occasion of hanging out with friends or going on a date with Keith. Finally, in the past few weeks, I've been making much more of an effort to run regularly.

To be honest, it hasn't been working that well. My long runs on the weekend get bumped because of going out of town, camping, etc. And it's still hard to fit in the weekday runs, even being home all day on Wednesdays and Fridays. The problem, I've decided this week, is that Eleanor is still too young to really enjoy the running stroller. When she's awake, she wants to be on the move. She doesn't want to be kicked back, taking in the scenery. And I can only take her when she's very awake, otherwise she'll fall asleep for 15 minutes during the run and then refuse to take her nap at home, which should actually be 1-2 hours. Not good.

I decided this last Friday when, for the 3rd time in a row, she got fussy after 20 minutes in the running stroller. The other two times I managed to placate her enough to make it to the end of the run. But trying to sing "Short Skirt / Long Jacket" while powering up a hill is not my idea of a good time. On Friday, I just gave up and headed for home, very frustrated.

So, although I've been avoiding it for some time, I've finally come to the conclusion that, if I want to be certain of my weekday runs, I'll have to do them in the morning before she wakes up. This means getting out of bed by 5:30am. It was a bitter pill to swallow, but now that I've made that decision, I'm really excited about it.

I thought Beckett might be slow to catch on. I figured today I would have to roust his sleepy butt out of bed and shove him out the door, and maybe by Friday he'd be back into the swing of things. But he surprised me by hopping out of bed while I was brushing my teeth, and waiting for me at the back door when I came down the stairs. I think he missed our morning runs even more than I did!

The sky was just starting to lighten at the edges when we walked down the driveway and headed away from the house. I think I may have to steal Keith's headlamp to feel confident I won't have another spectacular wipe-out, as the days are only going to get shorter. But by the time we were home, the sky was light, I was tired but happy, and Beckett was ready for water and food.

I got a quick shower, since Eleanor was already talking to herself by the time I headed upstairs. I threw on some clothes and, for the first time in a long time, was ready to greet Eleanor cheerfully and happy that I already had my run in.

I think this is going to be a good thing. I had forgotten the difficulty of picking up a pile of steaming dog poop in the pre-dawn light. But other than that, I had a great time!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Dog Days of Summer

A few years ago, my family all met up at Findley State Park for a weekend of camping and relaxing.

Little did we know, we just happened to pick the one weekend per year that is the Dog Gone Campout, where everyone brings their furry friends and there's "games, crafts, and demonstrations geared to dogs." It was insanity. So many dogs everyone. And Beckett and his cousins, Scout and Bailey, had to bark at every single one that passed within 25 feet of our campsite.

We did partake in the games, running Beckett and Bailey through an obstacle course and letting them swim after a toy. And it was nice that the campground was filled with other dog-loving campers, so our canine's outbursts were very well tolerated. But even so, if I had to do it all over again, I think I would stay away from the park for that annual event.

Except, we went camping at Findley this past weekend .... and it somehow managed to collide with their Dog Gone Campout weekend AGAIN!! I'm not sure if we've even camped once at Findley since the last doggie extravaganza, and we just happen to pick that same weekend.

Beckett barked and strained so much at his chain that, after one night, he was hoarse. And then it started to rain. My sisters and brother-in-law had already left on Friday night. Keith and I were planning on leaving Saturday anyway, but with the dogs and the weather, my parents decided to join us, too.

We always enjoy sitting around the campfire and catching up, but this was not the most relaxing camping trip of all-time. When we got back home, I drank in the peace and quiet. For a few moments at least, until Beckett ran to the front window and barked at the dog walking on the far sidewalk, across the street.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Happy Birthday, Beckett!

Beckett also enjoyed Eleanor's birthday. We ended up taking all of the presents outside, so everyone could gather loosely around the deck and either watch Eleanor (me and Keith, for the most part) opening her presents, or play. After opening the presents, we brought out the cake and homemade ice cream and Eleanor's high chair and large bib for her first taste of cake.

Keith was getting Eleanor situated in the high chair and I started cutting up pieces of cake, to be served with the ice cream. Keith's cousin started making her way around the deck, taking orders. Plates with cake started lining the bench, patiently awaiting ice cream and distribution to party goers.

And Beckett saw his opportunity. He came up out of nowhere, grabbed an innocent piece of chocolate cake, and gobbled it right down. Before Eleanor or anyone else had even tasted the cake.

He was, as always, unrepentant. I guess I should just be glad that it was only a piece of cake, and he wasn't on top of the table eating the whole entire cake in one go. It's been known to happen!

Monday, August 03, 2009

Such a Poor Child

On the morning of Eleanor's birthday party, there was a lot to be done. Final cleaning, cooking, organizing, etc. So of course, on her big day, I'm just trying to keep her occupied for a few minutes so I can actually get something done.

We were in the kitchen at one point, and I ended up handing her a spoon to keep her occupied. Shortly after that, my in-laws unveiled one of her first presents: They gave her the little rocking chair that they had bought for Keith when he was one-year-old.

We took many pictures of Eleanor sitting in the chair for the first time. And in all of those pictures, she is chewing on that spoon.

My brother-in-law, Jeremy, observed, "You know she's going to look back at these pictures and claim that you never gave her any toys. She had to chew on a spoon!"

So, future Eleanor, please note the sideboard in the picture below, piled high with presents on your 1-year birthday. You also can't see many of the larger presents that are on the floor around the sideboard and in the other room. We, and your family and friends, gave you many presents! If you choose to chew on a spoon instead, that's your choice. But I swear, you do have options.