Sunday, August 31, 2008

Happy Birthday Paul!

Today is Paul's birthday. He's been out of town and won't be home until tonight, but the kids and I have been keeping ourselves busy preparing for his return.

We bought new shoes.

We went to the park.

It was exhausting!
Then we did some coloring!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Dirty Laundry?

This week has been a whirlwind. A recap of highlights:

  • Atticus is dancing. He has a little dance he'll do when he wants a graham cracker and he'll even spin in circles on the floor if he's in the mood.
  • Norah is saying several new words including ball, bye-bye, up, and down. My personal favorite though, happened the other morning when she saw me headed toward her with the comb (she really doesn't like having her hair done). She took one look at it, raised her arms in the air and said, "All done!" This was her first two-word phrase and I probably should have let her go without a hair-do for the day to reinforce it.
  • Atticus very clearly said "bye-bye" last night after we read it from a book. We're anxious for him to develop more of a vocabulary because he obviously has a lot to communicate and gets very frustrated when we don't understand him.
  • Norah crawled out of the tub the other night by herself! Paul and I sat there with our jaws hanging open for a couple of minutes before we could react because we were so shocked. She didn't think it was a big deal and just kept crawling on over to where Atticus was getting dressed. They both try to eat Vaseline whenever we're putting it on them.
  • This morning Atticus toddled off before I could put his clothes on. I went in the other room to get him, only to see him taking off his fresh diaper that he'd just watched me put on him.
  • Norah is getting very close to walking. She transfers from object to object and will stand in the middle of a room for a minute at a time. She's begun trying to take a step from that position, so I predict that we will soon have two genuine toddlers in the house. It seems unbelievable that Atticus started walking less than three months ago since he's a professional walker these days. Slow down babies! I'm not ready for you to be growing up! (At the same time though, thank you for hitting your developmental milestones on-time. I'm so grateful that you're both healthy.)

Thank you to Clayton for the great photos above from Norah's party. I promise I'll take some new pictures of the kids soon!

EDITED TO ADD: I wrote the title of this post and then didn't mention dirty laundry in it at all. How in the heck do other families keep their kids' clothes clean? Why are the majority of baby clothes pastel-colored? They show dirt and stains so easily! I do the laundry in our house and try to expedite the process as much as possible. I separate the lights and darks but still find that much of their clothing comes out looking dingy. Does anyone have any tips?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Party Tricks

Some things I don't want to forget:

Atticus loves to be chased. He'll walk away from where I'm sitting and glance over at me impatiently until I yell, "I'm going to get you!" I chase him into a corner then pick him up and kiss his neck or tummy. He could play this game for hours. Also popular right now is the ridiculously loud popping push toy that my parents so generously gave Norah for her birthday. We've offered to let my mother-in-law keep it at daycare, but so far she hasn't accepted. Additionally, he is fascinated with trying to climb in and out of the bathtub and is pretty frustrated that we're not more encouraging of this new interest. The second most entertaining thing about bath time is drinking water out of the huge pitcher we use to rinse their hair. The child can chug water with the best of them. Perhaps he's preparing to matriculate at Notre Dame.

Norah has begun to say "bye-bye" every once in awhile and yesterday she started to say "yeah". We've been asking her lots of yes-or-no questions about her opinions. This morning as she was trying to put on her bathing suit (?!) I asked her if she thought Paul and I should call in sick so we could all go to the beach. The fact that she answered "yeah" in her tiny little voice made it even harder to resist the idea. She is also trying to climb anything and everything. Tonight she attempted to climb up the walls using the baseboard as a step. She can't climb the stairs as fast as her brother (probably because she likes to stop frequently and applaud for herself), but pretty soon we'll be able to have some competitive races around here.

I reviewed my own advice to teachers tonight. Goodness gracious, my new students are testing the living daylights out of me. It's exhausting and discouraging. I haven't lost my cool so far, but I've been called some really nasty words anyway. I have some nice kids in my class along with a few who are hoping to become king or queen of the classroom. I would rather stay home and hang out with Norah and Atticus, neither of whom has learned to say the phrase "This is stupid". I keep reminding myself that this is par for the course. It will get better with perseverance (I hope). Be firm. Be fair. Be consistent.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Birthday Pictures

Norah was battling a cold over the weekend and trying to grow some teeth too. Poor baby - lots of drool and snot all around. I've tried to find the pictures containing the least amount of facial fluids.
Her hair fits in two pigtails now! It looks adorable, but she HATES having her hair done. Don't expect to see this style too often until she's old enough to request it herself!
The Cake: Chocolate with Pink Frosting
Paul made her a sweet potato pie because she loves sweet potatoes so much.
The corn was probably her favorite part of the meal.
She didn't really know what to do with the cake and didn't eat much. She did, however, manage to glue one of her pigtails to its elastic with all the frosting.

My parents gave her the cow rocking horse (rocking cow?) that my grandpa made for me as a baby.

She loved the pretty wrapping paper on her presents. Later that night she woke up and decided that one-year-olds shouldn't have to go to bed so early. We brought her downstairs and she amused herself by playing with the discarded wrapping paper for another hour.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Conversations with My Students about My Favorite Subject

My favorite subject is my kids, of course.

A few of my female students were concerned on behalf of my children today:

"Miss? Do you know how to fix them Black food? Do you make them cornbread and greens? Have you ever tried chittlins? Do you know you're supposed to mash up their cornbread with the greens for them? That's the only way to eat it."

I found it interesting that their identity as black women was so closely tied to the foods their moms always prepare for special occasions. I explained that our kids traditional foods are all Ethiopian which led to a discussion about whether or not they are actually black. They are, in my opinion, but I'll be curious to see whether Atticus and Norah identify themselves as African-American when they get older. We'll let them take the reins and make their own decisions about the terms they want to use to self-identify. Of course, those will be influenced heavily by us. What terms do others out there who have older children adopted from Ethiopia use?

For the record, I do like (and know how to cook) cornbread and greens. I've never tried chittlins, but I love all of the other filter-organ foods that my nutritionist-friend avoids like the plague (mmm...liverwurst, bologna, chicken livers), so I'd probably enjoy them. I was glad some of my students initiated a conversation about cultural and racial differences - especially since I might want to ask for some hair tips from them in the future.

We actually made doro wat and injera for Norah's birthday celebration this past weekend. It was our first attempt and they came out pretty well. Norah was more interested in the corn-on-the-cob, but everyone else seemed to enjoy it. Below is a picture of an Ethiopian meal we ate in Addis Ababa. Our attempt on Saturday did not look this good.

I'll post pictures of Norah's birthday soon. I'm hoping someone else who attended will send me some photos that are better than my own. At busy gatherings I always tend to be a slacker about taking pictures.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Sprinkler Fun

Atticus decided to help us water the flowers last night. He loves playing in the spray and trying to drink the water. These aren't the most flattering pictures ever, but you have to take note of Norah's movement in the background.

Our week has gone well. The kids both seem to be enjoying daycare at Paul's mom's house. I miss them terribly during the day, but it helps a lot to know they're spending quality time with their Beebee. I have been seeing many of my former students at my new school and that's been wonderful. I've successfully convinced one of them that I took this job just so I could follow her from place to place; she's promised to let me know when she decides on a college so I can start job-hunting there.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Where's My Soapbox? My Own Advice for New Teachers

I spent my first day at my new school today. Classes begin tomorrow and when I left this afternoon the maintenance crew still hadn't moved an enormous amount of AV equipment out of my room and I didn't have a functional desk. Also, half the lights in the room were burnt out... I'm going to trust that those things will be fixed when I arrive tomorrow.

The coworkers I met today were extremely nice and helpful. Several of them babysat me and helped me figure out where I was supposed to be throughout the day. I'm excited about the new friends I will make at this job. Here's something that really bothered me though: I had no less than three separate teachers tell me that in order to succeed at this school I have to "be mean" to the students. This keeps rolling around in my mind because I can't think of a worse thing to tell a new teacher. I don't believe being a b*tch will help anyone truly succeed in life. I certainly have my less-than-rational moments on accident sometimes, but it's not something you should strive to do. If you want your students to act respectfully toward you, to talk to you in a rational tone, then why on earth would you set out to treat them in a sarcastic and "mean" way?

The most valuable life lesson I took away from my last position was the merit of going out of your way to treat others with respect. When I consciously took a few deep breaths, lowered my voice, and took steps to help students feel they were being asked to "practice" a different way of doing things instead of being cornered and forced to defend themselves, I was amazed at the improvements I saw happen. In my experience, the quickest way to escalate a minor situation is to trigger a student's fight-or-flight instinct by making them feel they're being confronted. Whereas people like me who grew up in a Montessori environment might be cowed into submission by a threatening tone, children who have been raised in difficult family situations or tough neighborhoods have almost always honed their verbal and physical fighting skills.

I'm not someone who gets angry easily. I was shocked in my first year of teaching, however, to find how quickly my middle school students could make me erupt. I had never known before that it was actually literally possible to see red. Students have ways of finding your buttons really fast and mine succeeded in record time. When you combine that with the position of power you're in as a teacher, it can be a ruinous combination. I know. I've been there. Figuring out how to refuse the bait and keep my composure took awhile, but it was the single best thing I have ever learned to do in the classroom. (Don't get me wrong - I still need practice sometimes.)

Therefore, here's my own advice to new teachers: Be fair. Be consistent. Be firm in your consistency. Model respect for your students. It may not win you friends among your students, but it will make a positive difference in your classroom environment. I'm not a perfect person or a perfect teacher, so I hope I can live by my own advice. I also hope I can find the teachers' lounge tomorrow, figure out how to print documents, and remember how to use all the buttons on my new classroom equipment. I'll keep you updated.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Another Weekend, Another Lake

We had a fantastic time attending Paul's family reunion this weekend. We don't often have an opportunity to see his far flung relatives, so it was great to get together and relax at the lake for a weekend.

When we arrived, all of the girl-cousins had spent the day decorating for Norah's birthday. She thought the cards were delicious! I don't want to post pictures of other peoples' kids without their permission, but suffice it to say our children had a wonderful time meeting their many relatives.
Atticus and Norah went on their first boat ride. It was a cold morning, so we bundled up. Norah wasn't very impressed by the bulkiness of her life-preserver.

Unfortunately, Atticus started coming down with a cold as we were loading him into the car on Friday. That, combined with the new environment, led to a couple of sleepless nights. He made up for it by sleeping on the boat.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Happy Birthday Norah!

Atticus sometimes calls Norah "Rah-Rah" which is certainly an appropriate moniker. She brings enthusiasm to everything she does and may soon be ready to head up her own spirit squad. She is exactly the baby daughter we always hoped to have.

Here she is on her referral day at three-months-old. According to the paperwork we received, she only weighed 7.9 pounds at that point. She's made up for that slow start!
The Day We Met

Touchdown Jesus!
Last night we had a huge thunderstorm and she ended up in our bed. She crawled over to the edge, realized the dog was lying on the floor, and began to "bark" at her.

She is pulling up on everything these days. Her favorite targets are the moving kind and she usually manages to catch my pants legs as I walk by. She also loves to stand up while holding onto her brother and then walk behind him. This makes both of them crack up.

Atticus and Norah have both learned to say "done" after meals. If I clean Atticus up first, Norah sits in her high chair and yells "DONE!DONE!DONE!!!!" at the top of her voice until it's her turn.

I've been trying for the past couple of days to capture a good birthday portrait, but she's a baby on the move and doesn't have time to pose. Here are some outtakes:

Finally, here's one of Atticus because he was getting jealous:

Happy Birthday Norah! We Love You!