August 31, 2012

Back to Life

After two miserable nights without electricty, I nearly cried tears of joy and relief when the power came back on at 10:00 this morning. I've never been so grateful to have air conditioning in my life. Ever.

We checked on the price of generators at The Home Depot yesterday: $600. Originally, we scoffed at the price, but after last night, I'm thinking that it may be a worthwhile investment. Especially if we have to deal with these hurricanes for another 3 months.

It's incredible how much happier I am with cool air, ice, the Internet, and Bravo. I know... I know: first world problems. Whatever.

This experience has confirmed what I've always said: I prefer to be cold over hot any day. You can always add layers, but you can't always take them off. Trust me on this one.

As we tossed and turned in bed all night, I was brought back to my days at Silver Birch Ranch, a Christian camp in Wisconsin I visited in my childhood summers. The cabins weren't air conditioned, and usually only our counselors had fans, since the rest of us rode up on a school bus. Sleeping while hot is nearly impossible for me, and I remember many nights, lying frustrated in my bunk, unable to catch any Z's.

Last night was definitely like that... only way more sauna like as the humidity was definitly higher. I finally gave up trying to sleep around 6:30 when the guys got up to go to work. Poor guys! I know they're dragging today with no sleep, no coffee, and no food.

Now that we can all say we're hurricane survivors, I need to figure out something nice to for the guys tonight since they had to deal with my general crabbiness for the past two days. Good thing I apologized in advance. :-/

August 29, 2012

Spoke Too Soon

Our power literally just went out. Boo!

Isaac Update

The fact that I'm able to both write and publish this post is reason enough to celebrate because it means that we still have power in the midst of this storm. Hundreds of thousands of people have not been so fortunate.

We were prepared to lose power yesterday, but Isaac is so terribly slow that the rain didn't even reach us until this morning. It started with a slow, constant drizzle (comparatively) and has since morphed into a steady stream of water from the Heavens. It's probably about as consistent as a shower, if my shower head were as wide as the sky and constantly hanging over my house.

The winds have been up and down all day. There's a huge tree in our front yard that's lost some branches, but we haven't seen any real damage yet (nor will we, hopefully). The storm doesn't really seem to be intensifying at all, so it looks like we're just going to have several days of wet and rain. At least, we hope this is the case.

Our greatest fear in all of this (besides being uncomfortable without electricity) has been tornadoes. Yes, I grew up in the Midwest, but I'm deathly afraid of those giant spirals of death. When we were kids, my sister and I would scare ourselves by watching nothing but the weather channel as soon as we were alerted of a tornado watch in our area. Then, we'd stare out the window, convinced that everything was a funnel cloud heading straight for us. On many occasions, we'd run next door to "grandma's house" (really, just the nice lady next door) to wait out the storms in her basement until our mom got home from work.

I know why no one in Louisiana has a basement, but my Midwestern state of mind is convinced that it's impossible to survive a tornado without one.

Needless to say, I had to take a Benadryl last night before going to bed so I could knock myself out rather than lying in bed all night having an anxiety attack over our impending doom. It's probably safe to say that I'll need another one tonight (which will be awesome for Babe beacuse I always have the weirdest dreams when I take that stuff for multiple nights in a row).

No... I'm not a drama queen at all. ;)

I'll be back tomorrow with more updates (as long as the giant river in our backyard doesn't swallow us whole first).

August 28, 2012

How Preparing for a Hurricane is Like Preparing for Labor

Isaac is coming! Isaac is coming!

My friend Elaine has a son named Isaac. If he were the Isaac in reference here, I would certainly be celebrating. Unfortunately, though, I'm talking about the anxiety-provoking hurricane that is currently heading straight for us.

Preparing for your first hurricane is a lot like preparing for the labor and delivery of your first child. At least, what I imagine it will be like to prepare for the birth of my first child because, as you know, I have no experience yet in that arena either.

What I do know, though, is that both experiences will be somewhat unpredictable (even given advance warning of the impending doom), messy, a little scary, and definitely uncomfortable. In either instance, I have the ability to turn to my significant other and ask, "How the hell did I let you get me into this mess? This is all your fault!"

See? They're pretty much identical.

School closed early yesterday and is set, at this point, to resume Thursday. We have parent conferences on Friday, so really, in my opinion, it would be stupid to bring the kids back for only one more day. Also, the weather centers are predicting that we'll still be experiencing some pretty strong storms at that time, and with the inevitable power outages, I predict school will not be in session again until next week. I plan to use my hurricane days (as opposed to snow days, since I won't have those anymore) to catch up on all the things my administration wants me to do but I never have time to complete because I'm... you know... teaching and things.

Although, as soon as our power goes out, I probably won't get much done.

In preparation for Hurricane Isaac, Babe and his brother are at work today. Because it's obviously a wise choice to have your cable/Internet/phone installed the day a hurricane is set to destruct your entire neighborhood, right? I can't believe they're expected to work today when we should be fleeing the state!

I get crabby when the electricity goes out, y'all. I need air conditioning. I loathe being hot!

Yeah, I'm sure I'm gonna be a big, ball of fun for the next few days.

I should probably apologize in advance... I'm sorry for being a crabby bitch.

There. That should make everything better.

Anyway, while the two of them are busy installing cable and Internet that will no longer work by the end of the day, I'm at home doing all of our laundry and cooking everything in our kitchen (including the $200 in frozen fish, chicken, and ground turkey I bought at Sam's Club last week) so it doesn't all spoil... and so we have things to eat as we stare at each other over candle light... except that it won't be nearly as romantic as that sounds.

So far, I've made the following:
  • crock pot dump (kinda like a Mexican, chicken chili)
  • a double batch of two timin' pasta with ground turkey
  • an entire Sam's Club bag of frozen tilapia with parmesan and lemon
  • two bags of chicken nuggets
  • a party pack of mozzarella sticks (I think Babe snuck those into our cart)
  • 2 loaves of banana bread (I needed to use the Greek yogurt)
  • chocolate chip cheesecake dip (I needed to use the cream cheese)
  • three tubes of cinnamon rolls (requested by the guys)
At least if we're crabby, we know it won't be because we're hungry!

August 22, 2012

People Here Can't Drive

So, I know I'm a little biased, but I think Chicagoans are probably some of the best drivers in the world. There are some things to be said about those that have learned to drive in such a driving in such a densely populated city:
  • We're good at navigating both expressways and sidestreets.
  • We've all learned how to be agressive yet defensive.
  • We undertand that you cannot, under any circumstance, come to a complete stop while trying to merge onto said expressways.
  • We know that the left lane is for speeding and the right is for slow drivers.
  • Slow drivers in Chicago = those doing the speed limit on the expressway.
  • We know that the real speed limit is 5-10 over on the side streets and 10-15 over on the expressway.
  • We know how to make a right-hand turn without feeling the need to come to a near stop.
  • The ever-present road contruction has taught us about the wonders of the zipper merge.  
  • We know that it's okay, when making a left-hand turn, to inch your way into the intersection so you can proceed when the light turns yellow/red.
I could keep going... but these are some of the things I miss about driving in Chcago. People in Baton Rouge drive like idiots. There's just no nice way to say it. The three of us agree that people down here just haven't learned these rules of the road. Every day here feels like an accident waiting to happen. Maybe that explains why this is the most expensive state in the country for car insurance.

It's been about a month already, but I was rear-ended by a guy on my way to the bank. He was pulling out of a car wash and decided not to look to his right as he pulled out into traffic to see that I had slowed down to make a turn at the bank next door.

Luckily, he hadn't accelerated enough to do much damage. I was completely fine. my bumper needs to be replaced (again... this makes three times on this one car). And the next day, Babe saw a crack in my winshield. Our only explanation is that it was cracked when the frame of the car shook on impact.

Oh, joy!

So, as if I needed yet another thing on my To Do List, I have to go get a copy of the police report and an estimate on the damage to submit to his insurance.

August 19, 2012

The Maid Is Gone

I've been working seven days a week since I was first called for this job interview. I feel like I'm still playing catch up, both at work and at home.

All of us, in this house, are working 12+ hours a day, which means housework (lawn care, laundry, dusting, scrubbing, vacuuming, etc.) has taken a back seat. The only reason our laundry has been washed at all is because the school is closed on Sundays, leaving me working from my couch (not the ideal space for lesson planning, but convenient for hearing the washer and dryer chimes).

None of us like the fact that our house desperately needs a good cleaning (okay, Babe and I don't like it... his brother probably couldn't care less), but we understand that there are only so many hours in a day. I'm good about keeping things clutter-free, but I haven't found the time to bust out the steam mop in the past week and a half... and trust me, we need it. Most nights, I'm counting the minutes until Babe walks though the door so we can eat dinner and collapse into bed. We're a fun couple, huh?!

Speaking of dinner... since I'm home first, this task typically falls on my shoulders. I've never really been a huge fan of cooking, but I especially hate the pressure of, "Oh shoot.. the boys will be home in an hour, and I didn't thaw any chicken for tonight's dinner."

If I were only feeding myself, I have plenty of options:
  1. Skip dinner (I skip every other meal now, so one more can't hurt, right?)
  2. Cereal
  3. Peanut butter and jelly
  4. Toast
But... I have a family to take care of now. And these boys... they like to eat! And, apparently, no meal is complete without meat. And since Babe is on this "red meat kills you" kick, many of my go-to meals have been banned from our repertoire (I'm sorry, but ground turkey doesn't taste good in a taco.. it just doesn't). 

To make matters worse, I usually come home to a kitchen that needs cleaning (a dishwasher full of clean dishes, and breakfast/lunch-making dishes on the counter/in the sink) before I can even start prepping dinner. This has been a huge frustration for me because I cannot cook in a messy kitchen, but I don't think I should be responsible for cleaning their mess (I leave before them in the mornings.

So, I had a sit down with the guys and simply explained that if they want to keep eating dinner, they have to help me out. The two of them can be in charge of unloading and reloading the dishwasher each morning so I can come home to a clean kitchen.

And while they both agreed to help, I've yet to see it happen. Not because they aren't willing to do the work. Both of them are great about doing anything I ask of them. But therein lies the problem... I leave for work before they get up, so I'm not there to ask/remind them!

Apparently, it's not just my students who need some procedural training!

August 17, 2012

It Gets Better

Happy Friday, y'all!

I'm sitting in my classroom as I type this post. Yes, at 5:30 on a Friday. I feel like this is the first time I've been able to sit down and really concentrate on work the entire week. My "To Do" list is a mile long, and I'm still overwhelmed by the procedural and paperwork things I need to have in place. I plan on spending a lot of time at school tomorrow catching up on everything and getting myself organized.

The good news, though, is that it does, indeed, get better. To say I have some tough kids would be a gross understatement, but I also have some really great students that genuinely want to learn. They're not oblivious to the world around them. They know they're behind in their education, and I have some students who are very serious about their goals to catch up.

The public high schools here are atrocious. I wouldn't want to send my child to any of them. The best shot my students have at a future is to get into the few charter schools that exist. Most of them will need some sort of scholarship to afford tuition. And all of them need to improve academically to meet admission requirements.

The great news is that most of my students are not yet defeated by their circumstances They still dream big. I have classrooms full of children who want to become doctors, lawyers, presidents, professional athletes... they have dreams! This is oh so important for this demographic because too many children in their situations have had their dreams stifled. I want them to dream big. I need for them to dream big. It's the only motivation we have for their continued education.

I've gotten to know my students well enough that I can see the good in pretty much all of them. Children are not bad. They make bad choices. And often because they haven't been taught how to make the right ones.

We have so far to go... but I have hope that we will get there.

August 13, 2012

Hoping for Better Days

I really wanted to sit down tonight and share about how great it felt to be back in the classroom today and how excited I am for the year ahead... But that's simply not how it feels.

Today was a Terrible, Horrible, No-Good, Very Bad Day.


I knew this would be hard, but woah! I feel like a first-year teacher all over again. I'm questioning everything I thought I knew.

I'm exhausted... mentally, physically, and emotionally. I feel so defeated.

I'm desperately holding onto the hope that it will get better. It's the only thing that will propel me from my bed in the morning to try this another day.

More to come...

August 10, 2012

Long Story Short

I got the job!

To be honest, I wasn't sure how I was feeling about it when I got home last night from the interview. The principal had pretty much deflated any excitement I had about the job when he talked about virtually nothing but the stupid standardized test for the entirety of my interview. I don't believe in teaching to the test - it's not how I was taught to teach. And coming from where I have, the tests haven't really mattered all that much because our students/schools/districts performed very well. There honestly wasn't a lot of pressure.

But this school is all about the pressure. The scores are pretty much the only factor in validating the program's effectiveness, and if they don't perform, they will be shut down. And the students' scores directly effect their high school options. And their ability to graduate from the 8th grade (because this IS a school that holds students back... something that's unheard of where I come from).

Anyway, I was feeling very apprehensive about the position, so when the principal invited me to spend the entire day at school today, observing, I happily agreed. And I'm so glad I did. My department head was super encouraging and basically told me it would be impossible for me to do anything but help these students.

It's going to be a challenge for sure. This is a completely different population than I've ever worked with in the past. I'm sure there will be days of frustration and tears. But I also think that this is a population that I can really impact in the way I envisioned during my teacher training.

More to come because I have two days to set up my classroom and get lesson plans together... because I start on Monday, baby!

Wish me luck!!

August 9, 2012

The Interview Scramble

I really shouldn't be writing this post, but if procrastination were an Olympic sport, I would be a great contender for the gold medal.

I just wanted to let ya'll know that I have an interview today! It's for a middle school ELA position at a charter school. I don't know much about the school, but what I do know is certainly not ideal (low pay, under-achieving, Saturday school, really early start time). 

Earlier this week, I reluctantly applied for the position online thinking, "something is better than nothing, right?" and never expected a call. Much to my surprise, the principal called yesterday around 4:00 and asked me to come in for an interview and to teach a lesson. He asked if I was available yesterday or today, and I asked him if I could do this afternoon so I could spend the morning putting together a lesson. 

Now I'm scrambling to put together a formal lesson plan (which I haven't done since grad school) that I can teach to adults in 15 minutes that will give them a sense of my teaching style. No pressure or anything. Oh... and I have only my electronic files to work with because all my teaching stuff is in storage. Awesome. 

And I can't help but laugh at myself because I have reverted back to my college days... the house is spotless, laundry is mid-cycle, bills are all paid, our paperwork is organized in the file box, I rectified Babe's paycheck (something I do weekly... just not usually this fast), tonight's dinner is prepped for cooking... and these are all things I've done since receiving the interview call. 

It's not that I haven't been thinking about my lesson... it's just that I haven't committed anything to paper quite yet.

Okay, no more procrastination...

August 1, 2012

I Wanna Buy School Supplies

"Don't you love New York in the fall? It makes me wanna buy school supplies. I would send you a bouquet of newly sharpened pencils if I knew your name and address." - You've Got Mail

Okay, so I'm in Louisiana, not New York, and it's August 1st, not exactly fall... but I agree completely with the sentiment about buying school supplies. I've always enjoyed Back to School shopping: new school clothes, coordinated folders and notebooks, the colored pencils and markers with perfect, never-used tips.

My love for this time of year was only heightened when I became a teacher. I'm not exaggerating at all to say that I literally dream (both day and night) about desk arrangements, bulletin board designs, storage solutions, classroom library decorations, and classroom management techniques. The beginning of each school year is the perfect time to implement all the new ideas I've been stalking on teaching blogs and Pinterest for months.

The only problem, though, is that I still don't have a job for this year. It seems as though the job opportunities are not as plentiful in the Baton Rouge area as I hoped. I have noticed, though, that the pay scale starts at only two years of college, leading me to believe that there are a lot of under-qualified teachers in this area. My application is on file with the schools in the area, but at the moment, the only potential employment I have is a substitute application for a district out in the suburbs. (Their middle school, by the way, starts at 7:10 AM and is a 20-30 minute drive from my house. Have I mentioned how I am not a morning person?) Oh... and have I mentioned that some of the schools here have already started and others begin in less than two weeks? Yeah.

It's not ideal by any means, but I guess I'll be starting the year as a sub and hoping something opens up as the year progresses. At least Babe can be glad we're not spending any money on school stuff now, right?