Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Great Education Debate: My Two Cents

Teachers are getting a bad rap this week, as if our admittedly powerful unions are responsible for all our country’s problems. I find it odd that teachers’ pensions are an area of concern, yet the regulation of the mortgage and banking industries, which got us in the financial quagmire that has deemed bills like the one in Wisconsin a viable option, remain largely ignored in the debate. I get it, tax dollars pay for my health benefits and retirement plan (as well as my salary), while many Americans are forced to buy into their own 401Ks and pay for health insurance out of their own pockets. I get that. Keep in mind, however, that I pay taxes, too, which essentially means that I’m paying a portion of my own salary and benefits with MY OWN SALARY.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Our remodeling adventure

I’m really proud of Atticus’ room…I mean really, really. Some of you know the complete chaos that existed in our home in the days and weeks before our son arrived. Our house was a crazy maze of bedrooms and not much living space, and in order to get to our master bedroom, we had to walk through what we wanted to be the nursery. As a result (and when I was 5 months pregnant), we embarked on remodeling journey of moderate proportions that ended up becoming epic (did I mention I was pregnant?). The result was incredible and well worth the dust and stress and holy-shit-will-we-finish-this-before-Atticus-arrives? conversations. Our living room got bigger and I got a completely closed-off nursery to nest…here’s the result:

The mural I painted to match my owl theme. My older sister surprised me with the gorgeous Dwell Studio sheet shet and I built the room around it (she's also responsible for the crib, which belonged to my 10-year-old niece when she was a baby...she kept it all these years for me).

Our reading nook: for my baby shower, all my friends gave me a copy of their favorite books from when they were kids, which built an incredible library. Also notice the origami cranes hanging from the window that my friend Julie made for Atticus + the cool blanket my sister sewed a patchwork owl on to match my theme. I have such awesome friends!

And for good measure (and because Brian worked his ass off to build it for me and deserves a little appreciation), our new living room:

I love hearing Papa jam...

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Can Facebook Save the World?

The recent Middle East developments have forced me to ponder the pros and cons of social media. Sites like Facebook, Twitter, and the like get a lot of guff from cerebrals who claim that these venues are cheapening communication, and I can’t say I argue with them. Add to that obvious privacy issues and a consumerist culture that was out of control before people were updating their status every few hours with the beer they’re drinking or the clothes they’re coveting this season and we're that much closer to trouble. I know a part of me worries for Atticus, who will grow up lacking the knowledge of what the world was like without his picture posted across the internet (without his explicit permission, no less). As a teacher, I directly see the ill effects of acronyms and a custom of communication that celebrates brevity to a fault; an essay that uses “because” instead of “cuz” is likely to bring me to tears.

Friday, February 18, 2011

A Poem for Friday

By Kenneth Koch

One day the Nouns were clustered in the street.
An Adjective walked by, with her dark beauty.
The Nouns were struck, moved, changed.
The next day a Verb drove up, and created the Sentence.

Each Sentence says one thing for example, “Although it was a dark rainy day when the
Adjective walked by, I shall remember the pure and sweet expression on her face until
The day I
Perish from the green, effective earth.”
Or, “Will you please close the window, Andrew?”
Or, for example, “Thank you, the pink pot of flowers on the window sill has changed
Color recently
To a light yellow, due to the heat from the boiler factory which exists nearby.”

In the springtime the Sentences and the Nouns lay silently on the grass,
A lonely Conjunction here and there would call, “And! But!”
But the Adjective did not emerge

As the Adjective is lost in the sentence,
So I am lost in your eyes, ears, nose, and throat
You have enchanted me with a single kiss
Which can never be undone
Until the destruction of language.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Baby cheeks

District Layoffs

Assuming you don't live under a rock or spend ALL of your time reading, you've likely heard that the state of Texas is facing a pretty significant budget crisis and that education is bearing the brunt of proposed cuts. Forgive me for the following political rant, but Rick Perry is a fucking moron. I mean, seriously. He was just reelected based on a campaign claiming Texas is not facing any serious financial shortfalls, and then three months later turns around and cuts $10 billion from educational spending because Texas is facing a huge budget deficit. Wherever you fall on the political spectrum, you've got to admit that's pretty shitty behavior.

The Austin Independent School District just announced massive layoffs, somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,017 positions, many of which are currently under contract. This hit our campus hard and we're losing 12 teachers next year, 4 in the Math department alone. Naturally, no actual work is being done today because these teachers were notified yesterday afternoon that they will likely be pink-slipped, so it's all anyone can talk about. There is talk that these announcements are intended to scare the State Legislature, which is currently in session, into avoiding such drastic measures and giving the schools more money than originally planned. Either way, the district has handled the crisis poorly and has made quite a mess of teacher morale. While my job is safe now, who knows where I'll stand by the time this showdown is over.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Cloth Diapering 101

We got a lot of strange looks when we announced our decision to use cloth diapers with Atticus, though they were mainly from our parents, aunts, uncles, and others who remember the days of folding and safety pins. Cloth diapers have come a long way over the years and we've established a system that works really well for our lives. And hell, we feel pretty damn good that we're not contributing more waste to our overcrowded landfills. That said, we don't have a high efficiency washer/dryer, so I'm assuming our energy use is higher than it should be. My hope is that, once you factor in the energy used to make disposables, it's a fair trade (though please let me know if I'm wrong).

Here's our system:

1. We use all-in-ones, which function pretty much like a typical disposable. There's an insert that goes inside the cover that we pull out when it's washed, then stuff back in before we put it on baby. We were told by many that these are the only type of cloth diapers that most day cares will mess with.

2. If you've read any of my previous posts, you'll likely see that Atticus is not quite eating solid foods on a regular basis, so his solids aren't, well, solid. At this point in the game, we're lucky enough to still just drop the dirty diapers, regardless of the type of mess it contains, into the washing machine. At some point we'll have to dump more solid messes into the toilet.

3. When we're down to one or two clean diapers, we run a short, cold cycle with only 1/4 the amount of detergent you'd use for any other load. Detergents build up on cloth diapers and will eventually render then ineffective, so to make up for the lack of soap, we run an extra rinse cycle. About once a week I add a small scoop of Oxyclean to prevent stinkiness and the general grossness that comes from reusing something my kid poops in.

4. We toss the inserts in the dryer, but not the covers. The elastic and velcro closures will wear out from the dryer heat, so it's best to let them air-dry.

That's it! It's really nothing to be afraid of, I promise. We typically put the kid in a disposable at night to prevent that awful screaming-bloody-murder-at-3am-because-I'm-wet thing. Seriously, if you have kids, you know what I'm talking about. Cloth diapers are great, but they tend to get full after 4 or 5 hours (at least for us).

Atticus rocking out his cloth diapers

Friday, February 4, 2011

Snow Day

It's not often that we Texans get a glimpse of snow; and when we do, it rarely sticks to the ground. Brian and I both got the day off and we spent it drinking cocoa and watching season 4 of "Lost." All in all, it was a damn good day.