Friday, February 25, 2011

LeVar Burton is One Cool Dude

I'm all in research paper mode over here, and I really should be working, not blogging.  (Special shout out to my in-laws for taking Anna for the night!)  But I came across a few statistics yesterday that are blowing my mind.

Did you know that the amount of time 15-24-year-olds spend per day voluntarily reading (not including school work) was found to be between seven and ten minutes?  And did you know that the same age group spends two to two and a half hours per day watching television?  People, that is crazy!!  This study (done by the National Endowment for the Arts) also found that people who do read have all kinds of awesome advantages in life - they have better paying jobs, they are more culturally aware, and they are even more likely to perform volunteer or charity work.

One of the biggest things I struggled with as an English teacher was the fact that so many of my students claimed to hate reading.  They would literally be throwing hissy fits and whining every day when I announced it was silent reading time.  To me, this was the absolute best part of the day.  I get to read?  For twenty minutes?  And no one's gonna bother me?  Sweet!  Dragging them to the library was a hot mess, too - usually involving the kids scraping the bottom of their book bags or lockers to find the books they had checked out the week before (and had probably been there the entire time, untouched) and a whole bunch of moaning and groaning.  I just did not get it.

If loving you is wrong, LeVar, I don't wanna be right.

They say the best way to encourage your kids to read is to model the behavior yourself, and Anna is going to have an advantage there.  Her grandparents are all readers, and I don't think I would have survived the first year of her life without my Kindle.  (Seriously, if you are a nursing mama - Best. Invention. Ever. Thanks, Mike!).  Even Mike has been a bit of a book worm lately, which makes me happy in ways you will never know.  He's ordering books left and right from and even staying up late at night to finish chapters.  By his own admission, he read a total of ZERO books before we met.  This is a direct quote from lunch today: "I remember this one time, when I was twelve, and I was reading a book.  I think it was about a dog named Scout.  But I didn't finish it."  I would like to think that my nerdy, book-loving self played some part in his new-found hobby, but it could just be the fact that his ADD has calmed down a bit and he can sit still long enough to actually read - and he found something that interested him.

Either way, I can't wait until Anna sees books as more than chew toys, when we can explore the worlds of C.S. Lewis and Roald Dahl together, and discover all the awesomeness that is the library.  And if she doesn't enjoy reading as much as I do, that's okay, too.  I'll just run away with LeVar Burton and live happily ever after with my Kindle.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Everywhere I Was Going I Was Running

I'm feeling a little bit like Forrest Gump lately.  Running.  A lot.  Literally, and figuratively.

I've talked about turning thirty and trying accomplish some stuff and checking things off my bucket list, and one of the biggest is finishing my Master's Degree.  I was supposed to have completed it back in December, but what with having a baby and living in South Carolina and all, it was sort of tricky to accomplish.  I worked with my adviser down at Wayne State and successfully received an extension and what I thought was a good idea of what my final project would entail.  I even convinced them to let me do it as an independent study so I wouldn't have to trek to downtown Detroit once a week.  I met with my professor in October and we discussed my ideas and she sent me on my way with a few samples of other students' projects.

Now, I won't bore you with all the exact details, but basically I am creating lesson plans for a tenth-grade class for an entire year based on five different novels.  The sample projects I was given were both around 275 pages, but I've taken classes with this professor before and kind of know what she's looking for, so I wasn't too freaked out.  Besides, according to my adviser and my new extension, I had until May of 2012 to get it all completed.  Easy peasy.

My professor and I have been corresponding by mail.  She's big on the letter writing and not so big on the emailing, so every couple of weeks I get a letter from her on yellow legal pad paper written in cursive, just like you learned to do in elementary school.  I'm not even sure she has an email address, which is actually kind of ironic, considering I'm doing my project on the impact of the Internet and social networking on the young adult novel.  Anyways, I sent her a rough draft of the first section of my project last week, a research paper that, when completed, will total about twenty pages.  When I say rough, I mean rough.  Eight pages is what I think I sent, and I'm all patting myself on the back, because, after all, I still have over a year to finish.

Three days later, a large manila envelope is waiting for me in my mailbox.  Wow, I think, that was fast. And as I read her eight-page letter, I come to a horrifying realization.  Somewhere in this little pen pal situation we have going on there has been what we call a failure to communicate.  Because she's somewhat concerned about my progress.  Because I'm a little behind the other students working on their projects.  Because I'm supposed to have the whole entire project finished by the end April.  As in, this April.  As in, oh shit.

After a minor meltdown involving half a bag of Dove dark chocolates and quite a few tears, I managed to pull myself together.  I spoke to my professor and she was totally confident that I could catch up and get it all done.  I'm not sure she knows that I haven't even read four of the five novels I'm creating lesson plans for, but that's besides the point.  My mom's going to come up one day this week, and my in laws will be taking Anna another day, and I'm gonna rock those twenty pages out and be finished with the first part before we head to Florida. 

Like a lot of things in life, I think finishing this project is going to be much less horrible that I think it will.  It's been kind of looming in front of me ever since I started the program, and I've been dreading it  And I was having a mini crisis thinking I was going to have to finish it all in two months.  But now that I've had some time to think about it, I'm kind of excited to get it done.  Yeah, the next couple of months I might not be able to spend quite so much time knitting or surfing the internet or laying around eating bon-bons, but at the end of it all I will have a Master's Degree.  This might sound super dorky, but I've found myself kind of enjoying it, because I'm actually thinking about something besides how many servings of vegetables Anna's eaten or how many times she's pooped. 

I know this post is getting long, and I promise I'm going to wrap it up soon.  Along with all the figurative running around I've been doing trying to get this project going, I've also been doing a lot of actual running.  I looked at my training calendar yesterday and realized I'm five weeks into it - about a third of the way.  And I have to admit, that much like my project, even though I was totally dreading all this running and training, I'm finding that I'm liking it.  I look forward to those long runs, because it means that I get out of my house and suck fresh air into my lungs and have some time to just be.  A half marathon doesn't seem nearly as scary as it did a few months ago, and I think it's kind of appropriate that right around the time I will be finishing my Master's Degree I will also be heading to Cincinnati to complete the race - The Flying Pig Half Marathon. 

Take that, bucket list!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Turned Off Tuesdays

Lately, Mike and I have been noticing that we've been spending a crazy amount of time attached to our electronics.  Like, my phone is glued to my hand, and the netbook is perpetually in his lap, and the television is always on.  And instead of having actual conversations, we kind of grunt at each other between checking facebook for the hundredth time in a day or searching for new car listings on Craig's List, again.

So, it's time for a change.  For now on, Tuesdays in our house will be known as "Turned Off Tuesdays".  The minute Mike walks in the door after work, cell phones will be powered down, laptops will be shut off, and the television will take a much needed break.  We will be forced to talk to each other, more than just "Do you know where the laptop charger cord is?" or "Can you pass the remote?"  Tonight, the plan involves a few steaks that need to be grilled, a bottle of wine, and a game of scrabble.  It's an experiment, but one that I'm thinking will be a total success.

On a side note, I hope everyone had a wonderful Valentine's Day.  Anna enjoyed the holiday thoroughly, first with a date with her best bud Cedella at Sweetie-licious for a little tea party and a whole lotta pie.  Well, more pie for her mama, since for some odd reason my child doesn't seem to obsess over the awesomeness of this dessert as much as I do.  Crazy girl. 

Do you take one lump, or two?

Anna is totally unimpressed with pie.  I, on the other hand, am ecstatic.

Then she got to tag along with Mike and I on our dinner date, although our reservations were at 5:30, kind of like Phil and Claire from Modern Family - early bird special, anyone?  (I am a potential AARP member, remember?)  Nothing says romance like a one-year-old throwing cheerios at you.  Anna managed to keep her shrieks down to a minimum and didn't seem to annoy too many of our fellow diners, unless of course they just forgot to put their hearing aids in.  Regardless, it was a great day spent with all my valentines, and eating copious amounts of pie.

Turning off for now,

Sunday, February 13, 2011

A Lovely Little Weekend

Since we moved back to Michigan, Mike has made it his mission to seek out new and interesting things for us to do - little adventures for our little family to take.  I have to say, I'm loving it.  One of the things I miss the most about our life in South Carolina is the exploring we used to do.  When you're living in a brand new place with no friends and not a whole lot going on, you're much more inclined to seek out excitement.  In Greenville we had our fill of hiking in the mountains, small town Friday night football games, and discovering new places to eat.  In Michigan, we've definitely lost a little bit of our exploring ways.  With a baby keeping us occupied and lots of friends and family to spend time with, we haven't had as many opportunities to hit the road in search of something new.

That's where Mike's plan comes in.  He's been finding all kinds of fun things, and I'm pretty much always game.  Besides, I'm a stay-at-home mom - I'll jump at any chance I can get to escape our house!  We've been to a polo match, a ham radio demonstration, and snowshoeing, to name just a few.  And last night, we did this...

Can you see Drew Barrymore?

Bonaventure?  Is that you?  Is it time to shoot the duck??

That's right...the roller derby!  Other than Whip It!,  I had no idea what to expect.  I was sort of picturing the roller rink from my middle-school days, but let me tell you that these chicks are tough.  And they get to wear pretty cool outfits, too.  And they had awesome names like Dawn K. Kong and Gluteus Maxine.  The people watching might have been the best part, though, and this little girl wins the prize for being the cutest:

Well...maybe these girls are the cutest...

I don't think I'll be joining the Lansing Derby Vixens anytime in the near future ever, but it was neat to see all kinds of little girls cheering for women who were gritty and tough and doing something they loved.

Sandwiched around our night on the town was a nine-mile run (yes, you read that right - nine miles!), an afternoon at Costco with my parents, and a lazy Sunday spent knitting, drinking coffee, and putting the finishing touches on a little something for my valentine.

Any suggestions for our next adventure?

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

What is Normal?

I'm going to go all tenth-grade term paper on you and start this post out with a definition from our good friend Webster.

According to Webster's Dictionary, the word normal means conforming to a type, standard, or regular pattern.  (Actually, there were about thirty definitions, but I'm not about to sit here and type them all out.)

Last week, Mike and I were at the local hardware store picking up a few things we needed (thank you, Mr. Snowplower Man, for knocking our mailbox twenty feet into our front yard) and we got to talking with one of the guys that work there.  As Anna was stumbling around amongst the watering cans and bags of fertilizer, he asked us, "So...are you ready for things to get back to normal?" and then sort of started chuckling to himself.  "Because, this is it.  This is the new normal, and it's never going back." 

His words have kind of stuck with me the past couple of days.  Not in the "Oh crap, my life is never going to be normal again" way, but more in the "Wow, it's amazing how fast something becomes normal" way.  Anna has only been in our lives a little over a year, and already our sense of normal has probably changed a hundred times.  For months and months it was completely normal for her to wake up every hour, and then, suddenly, our new normal includes ten straight hours of blissful slumber.  She used to be content sitting quietly in her playpen with a few toys to keep her occupied, now she's only happy if she's tearing around the house, leaving a path of destruction behind her and wreaking havoc on any attempts at straightening up I might make. 

In no time, a new normal will take over, and the one we know now will be a distant memory.  Someday, I will miss finding an entire roll of toilet paper unwound on the bathroom floor, or the entire contents of my sock drawer strewn about my bedroom.  To quote a super cheesy Darius Rucker song (that's Hootie, by the way - he's gone country, and just a little bit sappy): "It won't be like this for long. One day soon that little girl is gonna be all grown up and gone. Yeah, this phase is gonna fly by, so he's tryin' to hold on."

In conclusion (I started high school style, may as well finish that way, too), I would like to state that I know our girl is a long, long way from being grown up and gone. And while I am not always thrilled to find Anna elbow deep in the dogs' water bowl or surrounded by an entire package of baby wipes that she managed to open and pull out in the twenty seconds I wasn't looking, I am going to try to hold on to this normal for as long as I can.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Snow Day!

Snowmageddon.  Snowpocalypse.  Snowtorious B.I.G.  SnOwMG.  Call it what you want - I call it awesome.

Living in South Carolina for four years, I didn't think I missed the cold Michigan winters.  I was happy to banish my winter gloves and hats and marshmallow-man coats to the closet, dusting them off occasionally when we got the rare cold snap.  I loved calling family and friends in January and casually asking about the weather.  Oh really?  I'm actually wearing flip flops.  I think we might need to turn the air conditioning on.  I had myself convinced that I had become a true Southerner, wincing at the thought of any temperatures below fifty and wearing sweatshirts and shivering in seventy-degree weather.

That all changed when we packed up our little family and moved back home.  I can remember the day we had to make our final decision.  Anna was maybe four weeks old, and Mike and I were both still shell shocked from lack of sleep and the fact we were parents.  We were making pro and con lists, charting out reasons for staying, reasons for moving, assigning point values, all in hopes of figuring out the right thing to do.  Ultimately, I think we went with our hearts, but it was far from an easy decision.  And on that January day, it was in the sixties, with blue skies and fluffy white clouds, and we were meeting friends for a walk.  As we loaded Anna into her stroller, we looked at each other and were like, "Are we totally crazy?"

I think as soon we we crossed that Michigan state line, we got our toughness back.  We unpacked our snow boots and sleds with glee and embraced the cold, wet, nastiness that is winter.  The first time the thermometer reached seventy?  You know we were in our bathing suits, doing a happy dance.  (Well, it was probably more like sixty, but who's keeping track?)

So I love a day like today.  I know that I didn't have any where to be, no school getting canceled or missed appointments.  I probably wouldn't have left the house anyway.  But it's the perfect excuse to crank the fireplace, stay in our pajamas all day, and bake cookies while we watch the snow fall and the winds gust.  And it's the best reminder that even though we miss Greenville and the friendships we left behind and the balmy weather, our family is right where it needs to be.

A true Michigan girl

Cedella & Anna: Snow Bunnies

The snowshoeing dream has finally become a reality!

Our partners in snowshoeing crime - Michael, Alexia, and Cedella