Archive for February, 2010

All teachers fired at R.I. school. Will that happen elsewhere?

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As a former high school teacher I tend to follow education related news pretty closely.  In today’s economy when education is once again being held in low regard, I find I am continually frustrated by news of budget cuts, layoffs, and canceled courses.  Even with this current trend I was shocked by this story I came across the other day: every single teacher, administrator, support staff member at an under-performing school in Rhode Island was fired.  Every last one of them!

See the CNN article and video of protest here.

I am outraged!  While the layoffs were qualified by the fact that 50% of those laid off may be re-hired, I still can’t grasp how this plan is a good idea.  I do believe the teacher tenure system is deeply flawed and that we need to change the ways in which teachers are evaluated; however, is mass firing the answer?

Teachers and the Board of Supervisors could not come to an agreement over payment for the additional hours and weeks teachers were being asked to put in.  Some of these additional activities included extending the day to 7 hours, tutoring outside school hours, weekly after school planning meetings, and additional two weeks of training during the summer.  Apparently the local government and parent community thinks that teachers only work the 6 hours they are in the classroom.

Let me tell you from personal experience, that is not the case!  Teachers often work twelve hour days, typically incorporating many of the activities listed.  They meet with and tutor students voluntarily.  They meet with other teachers to work on lesson plans and coordinate projects.  They attend endless meetings for departments, school-wide changes, and “training”.  On top of this they must grade papers, meet with parents, write lesson plans, accommodate special needs students with specialized tests and lesson plans, mentor a club, etc.  So just where are they supposed to fit in these other mandated activities?  (On a side note, anyone who ever went to a mandated government created training or meeting knows that absolutely nothing gets done in them and they are a colossal waste of time!).

Now I also know from experience that not all teachers do these things voluntarily.  I know many teachers skate by doing the very minimum.  We all know who they are.  They teach from the text book word for word.  They use the pre-written tests and assignments from the book.  These teachers sit in a corner at meetings, saying nothing, head down, usually grading rather than participating.  They shirk their lunch time duties.  They are, basically, the kinds of teachers we want out of our education system.  But are they the norm?  In my experience, they are not!

So here’s where I’m going to say something extremely unpopular.  Here is where you might get passionate about this post.  Parents need to be responsible for their children!  Parents need to be involved in their students education.  Parents need to be responsible for making sure their children succeed!

It is not the teacher’s job to make your student pay attention in class!  They have any where from 34-179 other students to worry about every single day.  The teacher cannot sit with every student while they do their homework.  It is your job as a parent to do that!  You, as a parent, must check your child’s homework, their report schedule, their progress reports.  If you don’t want to do this or you can’t make the time, don’t be a parent.  Your first priority as a parent is to BE A PARENT, not their friend, not their buddy, not the guy who watches football and gives them a $20.  You are their parent.  So act like it!


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Page update

I decided to bite the bullet and put up a picture of Baby C.  Yes, those are his little feet!

If I’m going to get serious about blogging (and I think I am since I need a project other than raising my son) I needed to make my page more personal.  So there it is, my personal touch: C’s feet.

C's tiny feet

This photograph and every other beautiful photography I’ve ever been in/apart of is all due to the fabulous team at Evoke Photography.  Please check them out.  They are truly, exceptionally gifted photographers.

To continue my blog commitment, I’m pondering purchasing a domain name.  What to name it though….

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Given last night’s epic failure, I have been thinking of a list of my favorite (and baby C’s favorite) go-to baby foods.  Some require no cooking, others just a little prep, and just a few require you actually turn the stove on.

1. String cheese (cut or torn into pieces)

2. Yogurt (the kind with actual fruit in it so it counts as a fruit or veggie)

3. Scrambled egg yolks (yes, you actually have to separate the white from the yolk since they can’t have egg yolks this young, but C loves it so it’s worth getting egg on my face–just kidding, bad joke!)

4. Graduates wagon wheels or cheese puffs (they are whole grain so they count as somewhat nutritious in my book)

5. Lunch meat (again torn into pieces)

6. Rotisserie chicken

7. Berries (I hate berries, but I try to make an effort to get them on C’s plate)

8. Joe’s spaghetti Os (Joe as in Trader Joes.  These Os are organic, in an organic tomato broth, with only a quarter of the sodium in Chef Boyardee.  Are they as delicious as that magical Chef? No, but if you top it with a little shredded cheese they are pretty good and, more importantly, C will never know the difference.)

9. Applesauce (again, I try to buy organic, which is not as yummy as say Motts, but still pretty good).

And here’s a random one to round out the list to an even ten:

10. Gyoza–If you don’t know what it is, gyoza is a Japanese or Thai potsticker depending on where you get it from.  Personally, we get ours from the frozen food section at Trader Joes.   Super easy to make, soft, and filled with yummy vegetables, gyoza is possibly C’s favorite food.  It doesn’t hurt that I love them too!

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On this blog I like to share my successes  in the kitchen: recipes I like, recipe C likes, healthy or quick recipes, etc.  Sometimes, though, everything just goes wrong.

For someone who experiments with different recipes as often as I do, failure is just part of the game.  Sometimes it’s my fault, sometimes its the recipe.  Today, I think it must have been both (although I think it was more the recipe than me).

In my never ending search for quick and easy recipes, that also include vegetables, I signed up for daily emails from Real Simple.  Usually there recipes are just that: real simple.  Usually they’re pretty tasty too.  Usually….

A couple days ago I got a recipe for a “fake it” chicken and biscuits.  Having never made the dish before, I thought this would be a great way to try out a new recipe without devoting a considerable amount of time.  The recipe calls for ready to bake biscuits, shredded chicken, a bag of mixed vegetables, and cream of mushroom soup.  These are all items I pretty much have on hand at all times!  It was a match made in heaven!

Yet somewhere along the line it all went terribly, terribly wrong (I think I’m leaning more and more towards faulting the recipe instead of my cooking).

Here is a list of problems with tonights dinner:

1. the carrots never softened, so it was like eating biting into a crunchy carrot with a mouth full of soup.  That’s just not right.

2. the biscuits didn’t cook properly.  The recipe called for placing the uncooked biscuits on top of the partially cooked casserole and allowing them to brown for about 15 min.  Let me tell you the effect this had: the top 2-3 layers became extremely crispy, while the bottom layers morphed into warm, gooey, dripping uncooked-dough balls.  It literally made me gag.

3. the casserole never cooked all the way through.  the edges became very warm, but everything else was lukewarm at best, cold uncooked peas at worst.

4. it was watery.  For some odd reason the recipe called for 3/4 cup of water to be added to the casserole mix.  So I added it.  And when I pulled out the casserole, there were little puddles of water here and there on top.  Disgusting.

So after pulling off the biscuits, weeding out the hard carrots and uncooked peas, and finding the warm, non-watery spots of the casserole, C enjoyed a dinner that was essentially peas and chicken warmed in cream of mushroom soup.

Let’s just say this recipe will not be making the rotation.  Excuse me, I can’t talk about this any more.  It’s making me feel a bit sick.  Ugh….

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To continue…

As I mentioned before, my dogs are not the easiest to walk alone.  Adding the stroller only makes it more complicated.  I thank goodness everyday though, that I opted to get the stroller with big, off-roading wheels and shocks.  It has come in handy every single day!

Initially, getting into a walking groove was difficult for the dogs.  They didn’t know what to do with the stroller and I wasn’t too steady myself.  We spent a few weeks trying to establish a pattern.  How should I hold their leashes?  I sure as heck wasn’t attaching the leash to the stroller given Penny’s propensity to run away and Dodger’s love of chasing squirrels.  It would end up like a scene from one of those terrible Beethoven movies.

I couldn’t just casually loop the leash around my wrist, hoping my dogs would behave themselves for the first time in their little lives.  No, I had to have a firm grip on the leashes, leaving me one hand to navigate the stroller.  And, as many of you know, I am not the most coordinated of people.  Thus, we spent a lot of time running into trash cans and street signs.  My favorite is when the dogs would go on one side of the street sign, while I went on the other.  I then had to park the stroller and disentangle us all from the sign (as Dodger would wrap himself around it trying to get back to the pack).  I’m sure the neighbors enjoyed watching this.

It doesn’t help anything that my neighborhood is pre-WWII, meaning my sidewalks are tiny in places.  Why only in places, you say?  Because back in the 70s and 80s when developers started tearing down the cottages on the large lots to build 2-3 in their place, they also widened the sidewalks.  But not too much.  Just enough for two average sized people to walk next to each other.  Or one woman with her large stroller.  These sidewalks are not the glorious wide berths you might find in lovely suburban communities like, say, Irvine.  This is the only time I ever wish I lived there….sigh…

My neighborhood does have one are of walking glory and that is the “green belt” or, as my husband calls it, the “green mile” (which is all too reminiscent of the death row movie).  This green belt runs under the enormous electrical stands.  You know the ones shaped like ladies on bathroom stalls, but with no head?  You know what I mean!  I have no idea what they are called.  It is not important.  All that is important is that I walk underneath them.

That’s right, the “green belt” runs under these electrical giants, given to the city as a “gift” from the electric company.  Prior to C’s birth, the green belt was just an undeveloped square of land that grew wild.  Many people walking along it for years had developed a well-worn path through it.  Dogs were frequently let off leash to fetch or frolic there.  Yet, just a few months (or perhaps a year) before C was born, the city accepted this “gift” on the terms that the electric company pave a path and put up some safety lights on it.  So I was also given the gift of a place to walk with my dogs and stroller, even if we may all be developing brain cancer from a our daily excursion.

Well, not daily.  I do not walk the dogs on Tuesdays, as it is trash day and I cannot (read will not) navigate the sidewalks obstructed by trash cans.  Penny already jumps two feet if she gets too near the stroller!  Dodger, on the other hand, tends to walk diagonally when he is held to close to me, meaning he often gets hit by the stroller tires (like I said, love-able but dumb).

These days, after months of practice, we have a pretty good system.  I hold on to the dogs for dear life with my right hand and I hold on to the stroller for dear life with my left.  If offending creatures (small angry dogs, squirrels, prowling cats) cross our path, I keep Dodger on a short leash, at my side, even if he does run into the stroller every 20 paces.  Penny gets the short leash on the way home, since by then Dodger is too tired to chase anyone.  Both are smart enough to know when I tug on their leashes, I won’t do it twice without them getting in trouble (which means I’ll tell them they are “bad”, enough for both of them to hang their tails and ears in shame).  Both also know that if the baby is crying, we’re going home.  They’re ok with this, because they too are worried.

As for baby C during all of this.  He couldn’t be happier!  He loves being outside, looking around.  He laughs when Dodger pees on bushes or when Penny starts prancing.  In the last few weeks, C now tries to “help” me walk the dogs.  He leans one arm out of the stroller to grab onto the closest dog leash.  And for their part, the dogs never pull or yank when C’s got ahold of their leash.

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I’ve been thinking about this post for a while, so it might end up being a two-part post (depending on how long C’s nap is).

Walking my two dogs has always been a challenge.  Penny, as I may have mentioned before, is a bit skittish.  And Dodger is incredibly curious.  There is also a difference in intelligence that makes it challenging.  Penny exhibits a nearly constant desire to go home while out on a walk.  She is happy for about two, maybe three blocks.  She prances, she sniffs.  But as soon as we exit her comfort zone, she immediately starts pulling on her leash towards whatever direction home is in.  Now here is where her intelligence plays a part.  Penny could find her way home from any corner in our neighborhood.  We can literally be miles from home, with many turns and twists to get back, and she will know exactly which corners to turn at, which blocks are a straightaway and will pull accordingly.  Dodger, on the other hand, my love-able, friendly but dumb puppy, couldn’t find his way home from down the street.  So this means that sometimes we get to corners and Penny starts for home, while Dodger keeps plowing ahead.

Dodger’s plowing ahead is somewhat problematic because he is a large pit bull/lab mix. He is 65 lbs and strong!  Dodger, in all honesty, is stronger than me, but don’t tell him!  He is so curious, as well, that we stop at nearly every flower, shrub, tree, light post, weed to sniff.  I play along as if I allow this, since it would really require all my body strength to prevent it.  I’m such an indulgent mommy.

All this would not be a problem if I could take them on runs or if I rode a bike alongside them.  But I don’t run and Penny is afraid of bicycles.

Did I mention that already?  Penny is afraid of bicycles, scooters, roller bladders, skateboards, groups of three or more boys, tall men, loud cars, and delivery trucks, making her all the more nervous on our walks.  I try to plan our walks for times of the day when exposure to any or all of these elements will be minimized.  I also have to plan our walks to minimize our exposure to other dogs because Dodger either wants to play with them or scare them away.  It’s a fine line.  I’m not even going to go into the number of irresponsible dog owners in my neighborhood (particularly small dog owners who allow their tiny dogs to growl and bark at my very large dogs as we pass by).  So this gives us about 5 possible walk times during the day: 10am (after all the morning walkers, before lunch walkers), noon (when it’s usually too hot or people are eating), 2pm (after the lunch walkers before school is out), 4pm (when school’s been out for an hour, so the kids have gone home and before the after work walkers), 7pm (after work walkers are all at home).  I’ve obviously given this a lot of thought.

Add to this a large stroller and we have them makings of a very challenging situation.

People see us on the street and say things like “Wow, you’ve got your hands full!”  On good days, I smile and reply “Yeah, I do! Ha ha”.  On bad days I just glare.

More later…

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It’s 7:35 pm on a Sunday and I am already in my pajamas.  Yes, I am tired again. So I’ll make this short and sweet.

Earlier today I shared, via Facebook, that I love that my son whispers when he sleeps.  I do! I don’t know what he is whispering, but it makes my heart melt every time.

A friend of mine wondered aloud what I think about every time I watch him sleep: what does he dream about?

I wonder this all the time.  Do babies simply dream of their favorite toys and people?  Do their nightmares consist of these things being taken away?  Do their best dreams have rooms full of bouncing balls, plenty of paper to tear, accompanied by warm bottles and cookies?  Or as expressed in the Barenaked Ladies song, are their dreams something greater altogether?

I’ll leave you to ponder that with the lyrics to the song “When You Dream” by the Barenaked Ladies.  For me, this song perfectly encapsulates not only my musings over baby dreams, but the wonder of new parenthood.

With life just begun, my sleeping new son
has eyes that roll back in his head
They flutter and dart, he slows down his heart
and pictures a world past his bed
It’s hard to believe
As I watch you breathe
Your mind drifts and weaves

When you dream,
what do you dream about?
When you dream,
what do you dream about?
Do you dream about
music or mathematics
or planets too far for the eye?
Do you dream about
Jesus or quantum mechanics
or angels who sing lullabies?

His fontanelle pulses with lives that he’s lived
With memories he’ll learn to ignore
And when it is closed, he already knows
he’s forgotten all he knew before
But when sleep sets in
history begins
But the future will win

When you dream,
what do you dream about?
When you dream,
what do you dream about?
Are they colour or black and white,
Yiddish or English
or languages not yet conceived?
Are they silent or boisterous?
Do you hear noises just
loud enough to be perceived?
Do you hear Del Shannon’s “Runaway” playing
on transistor radio waves?
With so little experience,
your mind not yet cognizant
Are you wise beyond your few days?
When you dream,
what do you dream about?
When you dream,
what do you dream about?

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