Sunday, October 31, 2010

Happy Halloween!

from our little ballerina

Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Horrors of Clothes Shopping

I really wish I could clothes shop with Eleanor. This is one thing that I've not managed to figure out how to do, with a toddler in tow, without driving myself crazy or running out of the store before the clerks notice the pile of white sweaters on the floor, etc.

Part of the problem is that I don't particularly like shopping. So when I get time to myself, that's not what I want to spend it doing. I'd much rather get it out of the way during the day, while hanging out with Eleanor, so I can spend my own time more enjoyably: reading, hanging out with friends, or even just sleeping.

I need some new work clothes, and I need a shirt to complete my Halloween costume. I've known what I wanted to be for weeks (Liz Lemon from 30 Rock—I just need a plaid shirt!), but have yet to actually purchase something. I keep putting it off.

Is is easier to try shopping with Eleanor, or to just think of a new costume that I could make from things around the house?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

My Lesson

My teaching lesson for today: A lesson plan is merely a teaching tool. It can become a cudgel for destruction or a hammer for building, depending on the class that wields it.

My morning class was awful. They kept just staring at me as I tried to get them to discuss the reading for today. It's always a struggle to get them involved, but today actually felt like there was an invisible wall between myself and them, and I couldn't break it down. One student was clearly texting. I told her to put her phone away and she flat out refused; she put it on her lap, so she could easily pick it up again as soon as I looked away.

After that altercation, I tried one more time to engage them in discussion and was met only with blank faces. At that point, I told them instead of discussing the reading, they had almost 40 minutes to write an essay response to the reading, which they would then hand in to me. I didn't have any revolters walk out (I held my breath for the first few minutes), but it was just a miserable, boring class with little actual teaching and learning going on.

And yet, I intentionally did not change one thing about my lesson plan for my other class that evening. I went in, taught the exact same lesson, and had a completely opposite response. The students were engaged; we laughed, we learned, and time passed quickly.

I am still the same teacher. It was still the same lesson content and presentation. But the students in the classes are totally different. I totally underestimated how much student personalities can affect the class dynamic. Just a core group of 3-4 students can effect a change on the class for good or for bad. If they are involved and class leaders, the lesson plans become the start for a mutually beneficial experience. If they're disengaged and unhappy, the lesson plans become a cudgel that rains down painful blows and clunky, boring lectures on myself and the class.

It's fascinating and frustrating. What am I supposed to do about it? Student personality is definitely something out of my control.

I think that I need to continually learn and refine techniques to minimize the damage from the cudgels, and encourage building behaviors. Maybe, over time, I can reduce the gulf between the "good" and "bad" classes—keep the good classes improving, and hopefully bringing the bad classes up from "awful" to "could be improved."

Monday, October 25, 2010

Choking Hazards

I know a lot of my readers, like me, have young kids. Unlike me, you're probably completely aware of all the recommendations for choking hazard foods to avoid. But just in case you're not, I thought it was worth posting a few links:
"Labels Urged for Foods that Can Choke" (NY Times)
"Choking and Choking Hazards" (

I hate to say it, but my first reaction to the list of foods in the article was to feel overwhelmed. Item #5 is "hard foods" and item #6 is "soft foods." What else is left?!? Do I need to feed her smoothies and baby food morning, noon, and night until she turns 5 and then she'll be magically able to chew and swallow?

Anyway, it came up because we had been feeding Eleanor microwave popcorn and apparently it's a terrible, terrible thing. The NY Times story is about a father who knew the Heimlich, etc., and still couldn't save his young daughter from choking on popcorn. It was so heartbreaking.

Do you follow all of the rules? I know we used to be really good about cutting up grapes, but have gotten much more lax after months of no problems. Am I just being naive, assuming that this won't happen to us? But I also don't want to become a safety-crazed Mom who won't let her child go anywhere without a safety helmet and water wings.

Where's the line?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Still buried, but digging

I'm still completely overwhelmed by the amount of work I have to do this semester.

This isn't really all that unusual. I felt the same way—much worse, actually—at this time last year. The difference is that I think I might have reached the point where my efficiency can go no further.

I have done so much since I started teaching to improve my processes. The class I'm currently teaching is one I've taught not once, but twice before. I know the book, the lesson plans, and the assignments. True, I'm tweaking because I'll always be tweaking. But it's not the deer-in-the-headlights, what am I doing tomorrow? feeling it once was.

And yet, I'm still always behind. I still have too much grading and not enough time with Eleanor. And I'm starting to think that this level of work is not sustainable for me right now.

When I started teaching, I was told that there's a cap on how many hours a part-time adjunct professor would work. I immediately assumed I would be working right at the cap, and calculated my budget accordingly. Looked good!

But this is the first time I'm actually at the cap, and I'm completely miserable. I think I need to start rethinking the budget, because it's not worth the time I'm spending away from Eleanor, or that I sit next to Keith on the couch in the evenings, ignoring him because I'm doing work again.

I actually feel a little bit better, having decided that it really is just this much work. It's not me, it's not something I need to be doing differently to be better, faster, smarter. It's just a fact, and I need to figure out how I'm going to deal with it.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Time Flies


and 2010

Does time always go this fast? Parents, please tell me it slows down a little. I can't believe it's been a whole year since that first picture was taken! It seems like just yesterday. And I know I'm going to be saying the same thing about this year's photo, all too soon.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fall Fest

Luckily for me (and the state of the blog), Keith uploaded pictures directly from the camera onto my Netbook from this past weekend, so I actually have something to show!

We went to a local fruit farm this past weekend for their Family Fun Fest. It was awesome. There were the usual enjoyments of a Fall outing:
  • gorgeous blue sky with fluffy white clouds, contrasting with brilliant red, orange, and yellow leaves
  • weather cold enough for a jacket, but warm enough to be comfortable outside
  • apple cider
  • pumpkins.
Plus, they had so much more:
  • Many, many slides

  • A clubhouse in the woods (with additional slide off to the right)

  • A corn maze

  • A wagon ride
  • Tee pees
  • A sunflower field
I don't even know what else. I definitely can't describe it all. We got there and Eleanor was immediately in love. I asked her what she wanted to do first. She flapped her arms, as she tends to do when incredibly excited, and said in awe, "I don't know!!!"

It was a really good time.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Storing in the Cloud?

Right, so, my posting lately has been dismal. There's a couple reasons for this. Work (which is a different post) and our external hard drive.

A few years ago, we bought an external hard drive, which we use to store all of our pictures and music, as well as some other miscellaneous files. Okay, pretty much everything. It's hooked up to the network and we can access it from any computer, so it's very convenient.

Except, of course, when it's not. And it hasn't been for the past month. The drive has been exceedingly flaky, I can never get to any of the pictures—folders just start disappearing and reappearing. Keith has been tearing his hair out over the issue for a few days now, without a lasting solution.

It's freaking me out. At this point, I think everything is still there and we'll be able to retrieve it. But I wouldn't say I'm 100% certain. And that's every picture we've ever taken of Eleanor.

We've talked before about online storage, but have never seriously considered it, since we're always loathe to add another monthly expense into the too-tight budget. But we're starting to wonder if it's actually something we can do without.

Do any of you use online backup? How do you make sure your files and digital memories don't disappear?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Road Trip FROM Alabama

Okay, so I was very optimistic about the trip. And the trip down was good; we did enjoy the wedding and the family and showing off Eleanor. The problems came on the way back.

Where to start?

Well, did you know that Ford Escape Hybrid's apparently have an error message that says, "Pull over safely" and then shuts off power to the engine? They do! And that's exactly what happened to us just barely into Tennessee on Sunday afternoon.

The original plan had been to drive 9 hours on Sunday, staying at Keith's sister's house in Louisville Sunday night, and driving the final 6 hours back on Monday. We were going to be back in time for me to teach my evening class.

Instead, we spend Sunday night at a hotel in Tennessee. Because it was Sunday night, the car hadn't even been towed or looked at yet. By 10 o'clock Monday morning, it was clear I wouldn't be back in time for my evening class—the first time I've had to cancel a class since I started teaching.

In the end, Keith, Eleanor, and I made it home only 6 hours later than originally planned, which seems like a minor miracle to me. It involved a lot of help from my in-laws; we had actually driven separately to the Cincinnati-area from my parents, and left our car at Keith's parents' house in case of a Reds' game 4 of the play-offs. So the revised plan was: my parents rented a car and drove us 3+ hours up to Louisville, where we met Keith's parents and our brother-in-law at his house. To get there, Keith's parents had driven two cars—their own, and ours—so we could leave from there. We all ate some lunch (Thanks again, Jeremy!) and my parents quickly left to drive back down to Tennessee and see what was going on with their car.

We hung around a bit longer (but not much) and then Keith, Eleanor and I piled into our car to head up to Cleveland. At the same time, Keith's parents headed back to Northern Kentucky and Jeremy went back to work.

Fast forward a few hours and we're safely home. Our own beds! Our own bathroom! It was still very quiet, since Beckett and Gomez were staying with family, but it was good to be home.

Road Trip to Alabama

This is the blog entry I wrote last week, which I never got a chance to actually post:

As you read this, we are into day 2 of our road trip to Alabama. My cousin is getting married this weekend, and we will be in attendance.

Hopefully, by the time you read this, we're back on the road for the shorter leg of this 15-hour, one-way trip. It's times like these that remind me how ridiculously large the U.S. is. We live at the very northern end of Ohio, which means we spend over 4 hours just driving through our state. Then, when we reach the northern tip of Alabama, we still have another 5 hours to go, since my aunt lives on the Gulf Coast at the very southern edge of the state.

I'm looking forward to seeing family and having a mini-vacation. I've never been to Alabama; I've never spent much time in the South at all, so that should be interesting. And, clearly, it's a less arduous journey than the one we took to Costa Rica last Fall, for Keith's cousin's wedding.

We've managed to con my parents into taking us along for the ride, which means:
  • More legroom yet less gas, because my parents have a Ford Escape Hybrid
  • More Eleanor entertainers! Someone else to play finger puppets with!
  • More drivers! (The exclamation point is purely for Keith's sake. Since he does 99.7% of all the driving, this one doesn't really affect me as much.)
The plan is to drive about 9 hours on Thursday and 6 hours on Friday. Spend a whole entire day in Alabama, then drive 9 hours on Sunday and 6 hours on Monday to get back in time for me to teach my evening class Monday night. Send speedy thoughts our way!

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Like a Swiss Watch

When Eleanor was just a tiny baby, I tried to imagine what her voice would sound like, once she actually started talking. Just what was going through that tiny, perfect head of hers, anyway?

She's been talking for awhile now. But as her command of the language grows, her personality is becoming more and more evident. I know it's early days, but I'm so happy to report that she loves words. She soaks them up like her once-crunchy Rice Krispies soak up milk all morning long, until she decides to eat them soggy and limp at snacktime. (I'd like to think the love of words comes from me. The soggy cereal tendencies, I have no idea.)

And, in a way that I would never expect from a 2-year-old, her understanding of the language is very precise. If I use a term for something, that IS what the something is, and cannot be changed. Once I read a book a certain way a few times, that IS the way it will be read. And she doesn't hesitate to correct me, although she's usually polite about it. A few examples:
  • The other week, I was trying to offer her water in her water bottle, but for some reason the word "bottle" was escaping me. I held it up and called it her water "jug." She ran across the kitchen to me. "No, mommy! Water bottle. I'm sorry Mommy, water bottle."

  • Last night, we read Corduroy and Ella Takes the Cake at bedtime. In Corduroy, I messed up the page where he comes upstairs and sees "rows and rows of beds." For some reason, I read it as "rows and rows of beads."
    "Beds!" she piped up as I turn the page, already forgetting what I had read.

    In Ella Takes the Cake, at one point Ella asks her mother a question and "'You are helping,' her mother replied."
    I read it as, "'You are helping,' her mother said."
    Even though the meaning was the same, Eleanor still corrected me. "Her mother replied!" I had to go back a page and confirm that yes, Eleanor, the word is "replied" and not "said."
When she was younger, if I missed a word or switched it out, I just kept going. I can't get away with that anymore. She's watching (listening to?) me like a hawk. Just because she likes soggy cereal doesn't mean she's stupid.

What I really need to do is post a video of her "reading" one of the many books that she's memorized. Unfortunately, the only good video I have of that right now is her in her underwear, swinging her legs around, and wearing her hot pink belt as a necklace. Once I get a video that's more appropriate for public viewing, I'll post it.