Friday, September 23, 2011

The one with my occasional awesome

I have a tendency to spend a whole lot of my time thinking I suck.

It's not that I'm not confident in myself or that I have poor self-esteem; it's just that I always try to be realistic.  And very often, I see how very far I have to go.  So throughout my life, when it turns out I'm good at something, I'm genuinely surprised.  

Besides, even if I am good, there are lots of people who are better.  And there's always lots of room for improvement.   

Teaching falls into that category.  Teaching is one of those professions for which the measure of proficiency is difficult to gauge.  What really makes an effective teacher? 

I am extremely fortunate to work with some truly amazing teachers, and most of the time I feel like I am definitely the weakest link in their very strong chain.  I wouldn't tell you I'm a bad teacher... but I have a hard time saying I'm a good one, either.  Compared to the teachers I had growing up, who so inspired and amazed me?

Yeah... I can't hold a candle.  

Which leads me to my story.

Today, our staff sat down to look at data from our state's assessment.  The data was broken down by the percent of students who showed growth from one year to the next.  We looked at the school's average (about 30%), and were informed that we would be looking at a document that broke this data down by all the teachers in the district - by name - and by class period. 

In other words, I teach 4 language arts classes, so each class was included individually in the data compared against all the other individual classes by every other language arts teacher in the district. 

The lowest growth was at the top, the highest on the bottom.  As the document was opening, I had to shut my eyes.  I knew I was going to be on the low end, so I just said a quick little prayer that I wasn't the lowest.  I'm still a relatively new teacher, I reasoned, and I already know I have a lot of growing to do.  All I could do was hope I wasn't too far off the average. 

I opened my eyes and somehow I wasn't the first name on the list.  I sighed, relieved, and knew that whatever came next would be okay.

But my name wasn't second.  Or third. 

They continued scrolling down.  And kept scrolling so long I had honestly concluded that my data must have been left out.  I literally had my hand halfway raised to alert someone to this mistake.

And then... there was my name.  At the very bottom of the list. 

Three out of my four classes showed the highest percentage of growth in the entire school, and the fourth was very close behind.  Where the school average was about 30%, my classes' scores were in the high 60th percentile.

Better than that?  My scores were some of the highest growth in the entire school district!!!!

Better than that?  This was consistent for both reading, and writing!!!

I was stunned.  So stunned I literally cried.  Not in a big, overly-dramatic way, but because I'm just so grateful that this is my talent.  That I not only get to do what I love to do, but by some miracle, I'm good at it too.  That I get to work with such incredible people, who make me better and push me to the next level.  That is a rare and wonderful gift.

It was overwhelming to see the proof - in numbers, glaring me right in the face - that I don't suck.  That maybe, in fact, on a few rare occasions, I'm just a little bit awesome. 

In no way does it mean I get to hang up my hat and call it a day.  All that growing I think I have to do?  Yeah... I still have to do it.

But in a profession where compliments are tough to come by, and the yardstick for measuring "good" teaching is all but invisible, it's also worth celebrating when there is something to celebrate.  And this, my friends?  This is definitely worth celebrating!

(And let's not go into the irony of the fact that there's an ooopsy on this poster!)

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Some days are like that, even in Australia

It wasn't terrible.  It wasn't horrible.  It wasn't no good, or very bad.  It wasn't even kind of bad.  It didn't make me want to move to Australia.

It was a lovely day.  It was a fantastic weekend.  We started Music Together after a break for the summer, we ran errands, we mowed grass, we went to a fall festival that included a pony ride and petting zoo.  We had lots of Leah and Mommy time, because Daddy was working.  It was delightful.  Picturesque.  There was peach cobbler for desert.

Daddy did get to join in the fun for this part...

Most of the time, I think, "I'm fine.  There are tons of reasons to be grateful," even though things didn't end the way I wanted them to.  Most of the time, I genuinely believe that, and all I feel is ready for the next step, whenever that should arrive. 

But I almost lost it at our class.  All the babies, all the new mommies.  The lullaby that sang, "sleep, sleepy head, I will keep you safe and warm" and it reminded me that the little one I was trying to keep safe wasn't. 

There was a brief moment - a tenth of a second - where one of the other mommies asked me whether we were going to have another, and I almost told her we were pregnant.  It flashed through my mind for one joyful instant before reality sucker punched me in the gut. 

I have had to block more than one expectant mommy from my facebook page.  It's not that I mind the pregnancy stories.  In fact, there are several I am so beyond excited to hear, because I know bits and pieces of what it has cost them to make it to their pregnancies.  So of course, never, ever would I begrudge them that happiness. 

Besides, their comments are different.  They're just telling stories about being pregnant, and it's abundandly clear the gratitude they feel to get to experience even the worst, most challenging parts.  I get that. 

But the others.  The others are whining.  And I can't take it.  Not when a miracle is happening to you.  How do you find it in you to complain?  

Okay, so some parts of pregnancy suck.  Some are totally weird, and you feel like an alien has taken over your body.  I remember.  But all I really remember feeling is completely, beyond words inspired and awed that I should be that lucky.  It was a transformative experience in all ways possible, second only to the actual experience of motherhood.  It is one I can't imagine longing for and not being able to experience.  Just the thought breaks my heart. 

And yes, I recognize that I, too, am now whining.  One of the many things I feel is guilt over how much this has hurt me, and how much I wish I was just a little stronger; just a little more trusting and faithful.  I don't for one second take for granted how lucky I am, and how I have so very much more than I deserve already.

It's not the whole of my day, or even the majority of it, that I spend feeling this way.  I write because it's cheaper than therapy, and frankly, it's more effective.  I find safety and grace and catharsis in letting these brief moments of weakness pour out of me so they don't eat at me from the inside. 

So that's that.  One week down.

Saturday, September 17, 2011


1-2.  This pool I bought on sale for $5 at Target.  Last weekend, it got up to 85.  I'm so glad we used it, because it may be our last chance time this season (Yaaaaaaay!)
3. Par-um-pum-pum-pum!  Our one-lady marching band
4-6. How hard she worked to put this silly jacket on, and how happy she was when I finally put it on her.  Even though it totally doesn't fit.
7.  Our girl, eating a peanut butter and jelly sandwich - all by herself! 

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Big Fat Thanks

So at the risk of getting all sappy and revealing just what a big crybaby I am (as if you didn't already know...), I have to take a moment to tell you all thanks.  Great, big, weepy thanks. 

Comments, e-mails, facebook messages.  You're awesome. 

I'll spare you the details of my doctors appointment and other fun things that come with the after.  Instead, I'll tell you that I'm fine, that getting on after all of this is easier the second time around, and that the best news to come from the doc is that we don't have to wait three months to try again.  In fact, once things go back to normal, we're in the clear.

So... that particular chapter is over.  But the story?  It continues.

And I feel awfully lucky to have so many out there in the great big unknown of the internet rooting for me.  Have no doubt, I'll happily get my pom poms if I can ever return the favor. 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A reason to celebrate

Today, our girl is 18 months old.  (Okay, actually it was yesterday.  But yesterday I wasn't really in the mood to celebrate, and she deserves FULL celebration!)

It seems incredible to me that it has been a year and a half since we met our sweet little pumpkin.  Each day brings so many discoveries and so much learning, I am just awed by her on a daily basis. 

Some things about our girl at 18 months:

  • She is working on stringing sentences together.  She's not quite there yet, so she ends up talking a little like E.T. where the ideas come out without any modifiers. "LeeLee, good girl."  It's adorable.
  • To her mother's intense delight, miss Leah loves to read!  She pulls a book off the shelf, comes to me and insists, "Lap!  Read!"
  • Her favorite books are "Curious George" and "Are You my Mother?"
  • When we read these books, I always pause at random words, and without hesitation she fills them in.  It doesn't matter which words I leave out, she always knows what comes next.
  • She is no longer our shy little wall flower.  At the Taste of Colorado last week, she began walking up to random strangers, saying Hi and insisting to sit in their lap. 
  • No, really.  She wanted to sit on her lap.  And steal her hat.
  • She has been known to ask to hold strangers' hands at the zoo, and tells the check out people at the grocery store, "I love you!" when we leave.  Yep, she's definitely coming out of her shell. 
  • She repeats everything, and sometimes she hears conversations I wasn't even aware she was paying attention to.
  • She knows everything.  Seriously.  Stuff I'm not even aware that she knows, and suddenly she'll pipe in with the right answer.  I'm left standing there with my mouth hanging open. 
  • She can count to 9 (although someone always has to get her started.  It's never yet occurred to her to count spontaneously)
  • She gets so excited to tell you what she knows that sometimes she forgets to give the right answer.  Especially when it comes to letters. She just runs through all the letters she knows because she's so darned excited to tell you. 
  • She is very specific about what she wants to eat, and what she doesn't. 
  • She adores Sesame Street, and legitimately learns a lot from the show.  We regularly discuss the various characters on the show: Bert and Ernie, Elmo, the Count, Abby and Cookie Monster. 
  • She is a great sleeper and a great napper, sleeping from 7pm-6am and 11:30-1 every day.
  • She is definitely beginning to exhibit toddler behaviors, like random fit-throwing and screaming when she doesn't get her way.  She has had a few "time outs," where Mommy goes away from LeeLee for 1 minute.  So far, they work pretty well... we'll see how long that lasts.
  • She loves babies, and loves to play with other children.  She can't take her eyes off them when we're out and about.
  • I love going places with her, because she keeps up a running narration of what she sees.  "Grass!"  "Dog!"  "Bird."  "Tree."  "Leaf!" 
  • She is still a momma's girl.  She loves other people, but nobody quite does it like Mommy.  (I still love it, too!)
  • She wears size 3 diapers and size 5 shoes, and still fits into her 12 month clothes.  I have a few 18mo and 2T items, but they're pretty big on her.  Especially pants - she won't be ready for the 18 month pants for a while. 

And just because they change so much in a year, we had to have a little celebration, complete with presents and cake to mark her year and a half. 
    Curious George, some new musical instruments and 18-month jammies.  Now we're set!
    The copy we have is in an anthology, so it's missing a ton of the pictures.  Plus, this one I can write in.  I can just see her learning to read this book all by herself.  That day is coming...
    We love you, monkey, and we are beyond blessed to have you as our daughter!

On being 1 for 3

Three pregnancies.  One baby.

It's a darn good thing that one baby is so over-the-moon awesome, otherwise I'd probably feel a lot worse.  Yes, she makes up for an awful lot of her momma's heartache.

Still... one for three.  That's not a good batting average.  If I'm a football team, I'm the Detroit Lions. (Or the CU Buffs, but I don't really need to kick me when I'm down.)  Yikes.

It's a strange feeling. 

One minute, I'm kind of amazing.  I'm making a person with this incredibly bright future ahead. 

And then the path splits: there's the one I've seen ahead of me, full of ultrasounds and heartbeats and childbirth classes and maternity leave.  Somehow, the road I took veered off and doesn't much make sense.  This is the road where I don't have a baby in May, and I shouldn't even be sitting here writing this post, but that other road is suddenly blocked to me and I can't get back on.  ROAD CLOSED, it reads.

Two roads diverged on a Friday evening, and I took the one I never again wished to travel.  The one I've been worried about literally since we started talking about getting pregnant.

But here's the worst part.  The very, most worstest part of all:  I think I may have done this to myself.

Here's what I said in February: "We should start trying early, just in case I have a miscarriage."

Then again in May: "I hope we get pregnant soon so if I have a miscarriage, we'll still time to have two close in age."

Even after the positive pregnancy test, I made Casey go out and get another box.  "I'm going to want to test again in a few weeks," I sheepishly explained, "just in case."  My mom even joked that I just like peeing on the sticks.

I didn't want to write the 1 week-post-find-out letter.  The one I wrote to Leah.  It seemed too early and I put it off.  I did it of course, but more out of obligation, and I found myself wishing those were words I really felt.  Knowing that, when the baby turned out to be healthy, I'd be really glad I'd written them. 

With Leah, I had such confidence in the pregnancy.  Sure, I worried.  Every pregnant woman worries.  But I also bonded with her from day one.  I didn't this time around, and I think it's because I knew this was coming.  In some Shakespearean twist of fate, did I bring this on myself?  Was it simply a self-fulfilling prophecy?

So I'm mad.  And sad.  And kind of mad at God, because He knew this was what I feared from the beginning and still, here we are anyway.  When I get up there, we're having words about this.  Harsh words.

And I'm again struck by the sense that it's silly to grieve for something that never really was.  Have all the early abortions you want, people, because I've seen what's in there, and I'm telling you... it's nothing.  Physically, it's nothing.  Unless you really wanted it to be something, in which case it's everything

When that everything is gone... well, it leaves you sad, mad and cursing at God a little. 

One day soon, I'll count my blessings and have a reasonable person's perspective on this.  One day soon I'll recognize that we can have another baby, and this isn't the end of the road.  But for today, I'll stamp my feet like a toddler and cry, because I don't want another baby.  "I wanted this baby!"  I'll stubbornly yell, as if by yelling I could will it into being.   

And then, I guess, I'll pick up and keep going.  Because that's what the rest of the world will do.

Even though it feels like a little piece of my world has ended.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Party's over.

Those hard-won babies.  The ones that just don't come easily.  The ones who are cherished by their mommies, because the mommies know the long, painful and scary struggle it was to smell their pretty little heads and have their tiny fingers wrapped around our own.  The ones who heal the cracks in their mommies' souls purely by existing.

That is the baby I'll be waiting for.

Because this little one I've been treasuring in my belly is gone.

My life is priviledged in so many ways: I have a wonderful home, a job I love, safety and security, and of course, my absolutely adored 18 month old daughter.

So it is hard to find it in me to complain about the things I don't have.  But I also have this image of Leah as a big sister.  An image of her kissing my very pregnant belly.  An image of making Casey a daddy again. 

I know that picture isn't gone forever.  But I'm a little heartbroken that it's gone for now. 

So, my hard-won baby...  I'll be eagerly awaiting you.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Because you are wildly loved

You throw the cups, brightly colored to attract your little toddler eyes, fiercely off the table and yell, "NO!"

{You are wildly loved}

Your fists pound in an uneven rhythm, beating out the words of frustration you cannot say.

{You are my heart, my wild love}

Little hands raise that pink sippy cup above your head, and bring it down with the full force of your strength.  Right into my nose.  You laugh, entertained by my cry of pain.

{A mother's love is endless}

The whole grocery store wincecs as we pass by and you yell out the opposite of sweet nothings at the top of your lungs.

{The sunshine of your laugh gets me every time}

Your head rests against my shoulder, your arms circle my neck and your eyes flutter with the heaviness of sleep.  You are warm.  You are beautiful.  You are mine. 

{The answer to my life's question}

I will do it all again tomorrow, with  more gratitude than you'll ever know.

{You are wildly loved}

Monday, September 5, 2011

I used to worry when you were loud. Now I worry when you're quiet.

Casey was out of town until Saturday morning.  So Leah and I reverted back to our summertime routine: with no one else to watch her, I turned on Sesame Street, got out her toys and hopped in the shower. 

Typically, I don't worry about her, although I do tend to rush through my showers and sometimes can't remember if I washed the conditioner out of my hair.  But really, the outlets are covered, there's a gate at the top of the stairs, the cabinets are childproofed, and generally I feel pretty confident that she's at an age where she can't do too much damage in a matter of 15 minutes.

Besides that, she always comes into the bathroom to check in on me, and I hear her babbling away to herself and her toys, so I always know she's okay.

So when I was washing the shampoo out of my hair and hadn't heard a peep from her, I got a little worried.  I called her name, expecting her to come running.

No answer.

I tried again.  Still no answer.

Edging a bit closer to panic, I stuck my head out of the shower. 

Which is when I saw what she'd been up to the whole time:

It seems Casey has a hidden stash that a) I didn't know about and b) was somewhere Leah was able to find. 

No wonder she was so quiet!  She wasn't too pleased when I got out and had to lay a finger on her Butterfinger...

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Size matters

I have lost 3 pounds since the beginning of the school year three weeks ago.  I want this noted because of what I'm about to tell you next, so you don't think that being pregnant has given me some kind of license to eat everything in sight. 

Because, as luck would have it, I have gained 3/4 of an inch in the belly region.  No, seriously.  I measured a few weeks ago (I was ordering pants of the internet, before the sense got knocked into me and I decided to go to a real store with real people and real pants), and I measured again on Friday. 

It sounds impossible, but when I was pregnant with Leah I got a little rounder by about week 6, so I suppose being 5 weeks and already a different size shouldn't surprise me, especially the second time around.

The difference this time is just how big a difference that 3/4 of an inch makes.  I'm rockin' a belly that hangs over the jeans, people.  Leaving me in a constant state of having to hike up my pants.

So, in honor of my growing tummy, it's time to play guess how pregnant I look!

September, 2011
5 weeks (ish)

September, 2009
14 weeks

October, 2009
16 weeks
Yeah.  So can we call that 'nuff said???

Now, to be fair, last time around I was starting at a size four and weighed as much as I did in high school.  Clearly, that's not realistic for me without a crazy diet and more exercise than Jillian Michaels.

This time around, I'm a little bigger and admittedly carrying a little more fat on my body.  What is amazing to me though is how it has shifted.  As long as I stood up straight, two weeks ago I had a flat belly. 

Now, well... there is just no way for me to suck it in enough that I don't look three months pregnant (or, er... more). 

And you know what?  Even though I might wind up the size of a circus tent before this is over (let's recap: I'm the same size this September as I was two Septembers ago, even though that one was due in March and this one is due in May), I'm happy. 

Like, really, really happy. 

Friday, September 2, 2011

It's finally fall! (If only it would stay that way)

It was the hottest August on record in Colorado. 

And at the risk of offending our friends who recently moved to Arizona (where it was 116), it was awful.  I felt like my body was melting, Wicked Witch at the end of Wizard of Oz-style.  Yesterday - the first of September - it hit 99 degrees.  Anyone else care to move to Alaska?

Tonight, though, it's a totally different story.  This view from our back yard is priceless, because it feels like fall.  The air has that crispness to it that I always eagerly await come September.  And oh the smell of that fall air.  The promise of so much of what I look forward to throughou the year.  The rustle of leaves whispers, it's coming.  It's there tonight. 

I'll sleep with my window open, snuggled happily under a blanket as the temperature begins to drop.

It makes me 101 shades of tickled (not just pink!).  If it never hit above 70 for the rest of the year, I would be one happy camper.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The one with my best friend... the psychic

Some of my favorite conversations with Jessica have begun, "So I had this dream..."

It's not me that does the dreaming.  I almost never have dreams that I remember.  Jessica, on the other hand, dreams all the time.  About everything.

And occassionally, about things that actually come to pass.

She's been known to predict an engagement (or like four.  Seriously.  She dreamed it, and within a week: ta da!  Enfianced.)

The night before we found out Leah was a girl, she dreamed it.  And, of course, Leah turned out to be a girl, even though I was convinced she would be a boy.

All summer long, I kept waiting to get a call that said, "I dreamt you were pregnant!"  But it never came.  Finally, the day of my period came and went, and I tried desperately not to get excited. 

The same day, I got a text that read, "I dreamed you had another baby girl!" 

I hadn't shared with her that I was late, because I didn't want to have to take it back if it turned out to be nothing.  But when I got her text, well... it was pretty much over.  And, as it turns out...

...she was right.  I'm telling ya.  Psychic.

(Which also means I'm already convinced our baby is a girl, even though we're nowhere remotely near finding out, but more on that later...)

Now if we could only get her to dream about the lottery numbers.

I changed my font at