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Monday, April 30, 2012

I'm going to have to get back to you on that.

Gavin has always been an inquisitive child.  He began asking "why" well before his 2nd birthday, and he never stopped.  Normally, his questions are things I can either answer or provide a reasonable guess to.  Usually, I can answer, "Why?" with, "Because that's just the way it is."  But lately, his questions are becoming increasingly difficult to answer for a variety of reasons.

The other day, in the car, I told Gavin he couldn't put his window down because it was too cold and windy.  His response: "Where does wind come from?"

Uh . . . .

"Does it come from the blue clouds or the white clouds?"

Um, well, the blue is the sky.  So, I guess it comes from the white clouds.  Sounds good to me!

Seriously, how are you supposed to explain wind to a four-year-old?

While discussing babies one day, he asked me, "How do they get the baby out of the mommy's belly?"

Um . . . well, the doctor opens up the mommy's belly and takes the baby out.  (Not a lie.  Gavin was a c-section baby, so I was telling the truth.  I just left out the part that some babies get out of their mommy's belly a different way.  Honest omission.)

But, he didn't stop there. . .  "How does the doctor open up the mommy's belly?"

Really, you want me to go into detail about this?  Because it's pretty gross, kid.  So, I'm either going to go with, "Magic!" or "Very carefully!"  That works for me.

Clearly, Gavin wasn't satisfied with my answer to the question because the next day, he informed me of exactly how he got out of my belly:

"The doctor didn't take me out of your belly, Momma.  You downloaded me off of the computer, and then I came in a box.  You opened the box and since I didn't have a mommy, you got to be my mommy."

Okay, I'll buy that.  Works for me!  Awkward and uncomfortable questions averted.

For today.

Or at least for the next hour.


Thursday, April 26, 2012

It's not like it's rocket science . . .

I'm often amused by the articles I see flashing across the screen on sites like MSN.  Attention-grabbing headlines promise new and revolutionary information, but then you start reading, and you see that it's just more of the same old information being recycled in a different format.

The other day, I happened to see in the headlines an article entitled, "10 Reasons Why it's Hard to Lose Weight," or something similar to that.  Honestly?  Someone needed to write an article about why people have a hard time losing weight, as if this is ground-breaking, earth-shattering information that no one knew about until this very article was written, enlightening us all and forever changing the health of millions of people across this country?  Do people honestly not know why they have a hard time losing weight?  Because if they don't, let me offer some insight.

Reason #1: Donuts
People have a hard time losing weight because donuts are incredibly delicious.  So is cake.  And danishes.  And ice cream.  And brownies.  And cookies.  And pizza.  And hot wings.  And cheeseburgers.  On top of that, none of these things are very expensive to buy.  You can get cheap, deliciously unhealthy food everywhere.  And, you can disagree with me all you want, but there is no way a spinach salad will EVER taste better than a slice of New York style cheesecake with a chocolate crust that's been smothered in a delicious berry sauce.  Never ever.

Reason #2: Restaurants
I love going out to eat.  I actually enjoy cooking, but there's just something about the atmosphere of a restaurant that makes me feel all warm and cozy.  The biggest problem with eating out is that most places give you about two-and-a-half times the amount of food that any normal person should ever consume in one sitting (or in a single day for that matter).  On top of that, they usually give you bread, chips and salsa, or something else to eat BEFORE you even attempt to wrangle the elephant-sized portions of food they're about to serve you.  The worst part is that it usually tastes so good, you just want to keep eating . . . and eating . . . and eating until there is no way you could fit one more morsel in your mouth.  Now you're stuffed, and you're feeling quite ill, but damn was it good.

Reason #3: Too many channels to choose from
Most people would probably spend more time outside going for a walk, riding a bike, or playing with their kids, but it's hard to find the time when you have 12 new episodes of Glee to catch up on.  And, when you're done, you have 6 episodes of some other show, and 4 of another, and on and on.  (I honestly can't think of any more shows to name because I may be one of the rare few who don't actually watch TV unless it's sports . . . or Cupcake Wars . . . because cupcakes are delicious, too.)So many TV shows to watch, so little time.  And, let's be honest, it takes WAY less energy to plop your butt in front of a TV than it does to go for a walk.

So, if you want to lose weight (and I warn you - this is about to be EARTH-SHATTERING information), eat healthy, avoid things like donuts and cake whenever possible, and exercise.  I know this is new, and you'll need some time to process it, but I think it might just work if you try it.  I'm almost certain.  You're welcome.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Inspiration has struck, but, beware, it's serious.

Lately, I've been uninspired.  Frankly, life has been trying and exhausting, and my energy has been spent just trying to sort it all out.  Most of my writing has been in the form of text messages to friends and family or emails to my students and co-workers.  Occasionally, I'll vent a good five pages worth in my journal.  But, other than that, I've had nothing I felt was worthy of sharing.  Gavin hasn't done anything exceptionally naughty, hilarious, or cute.  I mean, he's always cute, but nothing worthy of a 500-word post. 

I also know that most people like humor.  People don't want to listen to me preach or shout from my soap box.  But, sometimes, what I'm inspired by is, unfortunately, serious.  And so, I've been inspired and feel the need to share.

Lately, I've been again reminded of how short life can be.  We take so many things for granted without realizing that we're doing it.  The other day, I was worried about my highlights.  Too blonde.  Gotta get them fixed soon.  Too much upkeep.  And then, I got on Facebook, and saw that one of my high school classmates had passed away after a battle with cancer.  And I thought, really?  Here I am worrying about my hair when someone else just lost their life?  I can't imagine anything more ridiculous.

It got me thinking about how much time we waste worrying about all these incredibly unimportant things.  So much energy is spent worrying about picking the right paint color, finding the perfect pair of jeans, fretting about a snide comment someone made, or feeling bummed because Starbucks was out of our favorite flavor of latte.  The truth is, if we choose to, we can find dissatisfaction in a lot of things in life.  Nothing ever really goes according to plan, and if it does, we never take the time to thank our lucky stars.

How often do you wake up and think, "I am so lucky that I woke up this morning and, despite the small pain in my lower back, I'm incredibly healthy!"?  How many of us take a few moments each night before we go to bed to recount all the good things we have in our lives, even if life isn't remotely close to what we imagined it to be?  When were constantly engulfed in worrying about things that don't really matter, it's hard to gain that perspective.  And that's when life steps in and does it for us - gives us that perspective we've been needing.

Just over a year ago, a former student took his life at the young age of 21, and it got me thinking.  I came to the conclusion that we spend too much time on things that don't matter.  We expend so much energy being angry, holding grudges, and fretting over materialistic things when we could be using that energy to show love and compassion to the people who are important to us.

And, in the midst of a chaotic time in my life, I needed that reminder again.  So, once again, I turn my focus to the things that I think will matter most when all is said and done.  Most importantly, my children.  Every moment I have with them is precious.  And while there is still laundry to be done, bills to be paid, and sleep to catch up on, I am committed to savoring as much of my time with them as I can - putting down the cell phone, turning off the television, and giving them my undivided attention - even if it's only for an hour at a time.  At the end of my life, I want nothing more than for my kids to know how incredibly important they are to me.

Instead of wasting my time worrying about the opinions and choices of people who have hurt me, or don't deserve my attention, I'm going to use that time to invest in the relationships I have with the people who truly love me and want the best for me.  Rather than fretting over the gossipy co-worker, I'm going to take a moment to catch up with the co-worker who has been nothing but kind and compassionate towards me.  The fact is, I can't change the way people think, the way they act, or the choices they make.  And, the more time I spend trying to change them, the less happy I will be.  I'm happiest when around people who make me happy, people who care about me, and when I'm returning kindness to those who have shown it to me. 

Rather than dwelling on the past or losing sleep over the future, I should do my best to enjoy what's going on right this moment - reality.  It feels great to take a moment to just stop and enjoy how the sunshine feels on my face, so why don't I do it more often?  Why don't I take a few more moments to be thankful for what I have?  To cherish the people who love me?  To enjoy what's going on right this very moment?  To find something incredibly wonderful about my life, even if it feels like a lot of things are wrong?  To say, "Today might have been really shitty, but man am I lucky to be healthy!"?

When my time is up, I want to be remembered in a certain way.  I want my kids to be incredibly proud of who I was, the choices I made, and the way I treated others.  I want them to know that I loved them more than anything on this Earth and that I considered their well-being in every single choice I made.  I want them to say that I enjoyed life - every last second of it.  So, I continue on my path to try to live the life that would allow my children to one day say those things about me.  It's not an easy road, it takes a lot of effort to stay on track, but I only get this life, and I don't want to waste any more of it.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

This is the part where I stare at you blankly.

As any teacher will tell you, the job has its moments.  There are times when it's very rewarding, and there are times when it feels like you're bashing your head against a brick wall repeatedly.  Near the end of the semester, it's often more of the latter.

The semester is winding down, so consequently, students are beginning to panic.  They panic about their grades, final exams, and various other things.  So, on a daily basis, students say things and ask me things that leave me no other option but to stare at them blankly - not because I'm trying to be rude, but I'm so astounded that I literally don't know what to say.

Example #1:
Last week, a student raised his hand and said, "Do we have to take the final exam on the day that it's scheduled?"

My response: "Yes, you do, unless you have extenuating circumstances that prevent you from taking it at that time on that day."

Student: "Well, I was hoping I could take it early because that's my birthday."

My response:  Blank stare.  Blank stare.  Blank stare.

And then, I realized he was serious.  I had to stifle a laugh.  It didn't go well.  I laughed really loud.

I then explained that by "extenuating circumstances" I meant you were deathly ill or had to have major surgery. 

His response: "Oh, so you're saying I can't take my exam early?"

No, you can't.

Did I mention that the exam is at 10:30 . . . in the morning?

Example #2:

Today, I was approached by a student who has missed three times more classes than she's actually attended (even though attendance is required).  When she does come to class, she doesn't take notes because she's too busy trying to keep her eyes open despite the four Red Bulls sitting in front of her.  She doesn't do her homework.  She's missed 4 quizzes and 1 test.  Most of her test and quiz answers are "IDK" (I don't know). 

Student: So, um, I wanted to talk to you about my grade in this class.  Um, I'm not sure if I'm going to pass or not, but, like, do you know if I studied really hard for the final could I pass?  And, if I'm not going to pass, what are my options?  I mean could you just withdraw me so I don't actually fail if I'm going to fail?

Me:  Blank stare.

Student: Or, like, is there some extra credit I could do so that I can pass?

Me:  Blank stare.

Student: So, um, do you think there's a chance I could pass or bring my grade up?

The final exam is in a week-and-a-half.  12 days.  You haven't passed a test or a quiz yet.  So, yes.  Yes, you can still pass.  You study really hard, I'll make the final exam worth 1 million points.  I'll also give you 2 million points worth of extra credit.  And then you can pass.

Me:  Have you looked at your grade?

Student:  No, I haven't.  I also haven't picked up a lot of my tests and quizzes because I've been gone and stuff so I don't really know how I did on them.

Well, considering that you put IDK for 90% of your answers, how do you think you did on them?

Me:  Well, the first thing you need to do is see what your grade actually is.  Remember that the final exam is worth 25% of your grade, so if you did well, it would help but not an enormous amount.

Student: Oh, yeah, well I'll totally do that.

And then I pounded my head against the wall because, frankly, it just seemed more productive.