Wednesday, November 27, 2013

30 Days of Thankfulness: Days 15-21

15. I'm thankful (again) for being able to do T25 at home--getting in a killer calorie burn (762 cals in 50 mins!!!), and just feeling all around better mentally and physically. I'm also thankful that my knee has held up!

16. I'm thankful that we have so much family nearby--I've been leaning on them pretty heavily this month with Justin's crazy work schedule! It's so nice to have them around to visit!

17. I'm *so* thankful for the couple ahead of me at the grocery store who bagged up all my groceries for me AND helped me load them into the car. I absolutely dread doing our big shopping trip alone with the girls, especially having to bag up all of the groceries while trying to wrangle the girls who are inevitably melting down by that point. It really made my day so much easier, and I appreciated it so much I nearly cried.

18. I'm thankful for my unexpected IG shop, @buenavidasparkle. It's the little things like that that ease a bit of the holiday budget pressure, and I'm thankful for it.

19. For Wednesday visits with my sister, and for Lizzy who always makes me laugh.

20. For snuggles with Becca, even if I do sometimes wish she were napping in her crib instead.

 21. I'm so thankful to watch Lizzy & Becca play together more and more. Becca already looks up to Lizzy so much, and it is just *so* sweet to watch them together like that :)

Monday, November 18, 2013

30 Days of Thankfulness: Days 8-14

8.  For homemade bagels, and conquering a silly culinary fear!

9. I had such a hard time with breastfeeding Lizzy, and I was bummed for *years* that we didn't make it until 12 months, even though I knew it was the best decision for our family at the time. Breastfeeding Becca was not without challenge, but was much less difficult, and I'm thankful that we were easily able to make it to a year (and still going!) without needing to supplement this time around!

10.  For Becca smiles :)

11. For Lizzy's sense of humor. She makes me laugh every day!

12. For sweet little moments between sisters.

13. For my sister, who brings over all sorts of goodies when she comes to visit, including delicious FRUIT! 'Cause there are way worse things that one could emotionally eat ;)

14. I'm thankful for a quiet double nap afternoon, and the opportunity to catch up on Scandal! (SERIOUSLY with that last episode?!!! I was making weird faces like this throughout the whole thing!)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Apples & Oranges {On Comparison}

Lately, I've gotten a few calls about coffee dates, Tupperware/Trades of Hope/Origami Owl/Mary Kay parties, and play dates. And I keep saying no. And I feel badly about that, because I want to do all most of those things, but I just feel so behind on life that the thought of adding even one more thing to my plate right now makes me want to cry. Because I'm sorry, but I can't go have a coffee date when I have no clean clothes. Or no silverware. Or haven't showered in....many days. I just can't.

But I also feel like a terrible friend, because we've all had those friends who you keep inviting to go do things, and they keep saying no, no, no, to the point where you just want to tell them, 'Look, when you can make some time in your schedule for me, why don't you give me a call?' I TOTALLY AM THAT FRIEND RIGHT NOW, and I hate it.

And the other day, I got kind of down and started thinking and wondering how they all do everything so well while I feel like I can barely keep up. How do they have time to start the day with quiet time, do their hair and make-up, make elaborate egg and waffle breakfasts, iron their husband's clothes, work out, shower and do their hair/make-up again, do the school drop off/pick up, clean the house, have coffee or shopping dates, write thank you notes, craft cute little Christmas decorations, stop at Starbucks, make dinner, read books to their kids, bathe their kids, do the budget, spend time with their husband, and read bestsellers. How do they do it?! Are they taking meth, because they seriously must not sleep...ever.

And then luckily, I kept thinking: but what if they don't do it all either?

What if they have a housekeeper?
What if they workout at a gym where there's childcare?
What if they only have one kid?
What if they have more than one kid, but they're in school all day?
What if their husband works a predictable schedule and isn't often called in on weekends?
What if they're an extrovert and make time in their schedule for coffee and playdates because it's important for their sanity?
What if they don't work out at all?
What if they eat out a lot?

Because I'm not any of those things. I don't have any of those things. I don't do any of those things. Justin's work schedule is weird, and sometimes he doesn't have a day off for 10-14 days at a time. I have two kids, one of whom only sleeps if we really, really keep to the same EXACT schedule every day, which doesn't leave a lot of room to just play during the day. Right now for me, working out is more important for my sanity than coffee dates are. I'm an introvert, and I really need some time alone with a good book to feel recharged. I spend most evenings and naptimes either working on our budget, editing photos, or folding laundry. There are probably people out there who are better at managing and scheduling their time than I am. I like to sit down next to Justin at the end of a long day, snuggle up, and watch some Bones. That's just the way things are for me.

But so what if someone does have a housekeeper? Or if they can afford to eat out a lot? Or if they can work out while their kids are awake because their gym has childcare? Or if they tend to clean after their kids are asleep instead of watching TV? It doesn't make me better than them, nor them better than me. It makes our circumstances different. It makes their needs, and wants, and priorities different than mine. I forget sometimes that what is true for our family isn't necessarily true for everyone else. It's apples and oranges, really.


And as for the being a bad friend business...well, I don't know. 
I haven't figured all that out yet. 
Hopefully, they'll grant me a little grace until the yes's can become as frequent as the no's, because I just can't do any more than I can do.

Monday, November 11, 2013

The One Where I Rant About Common Core

On Sunday night, I rounded out a great lazy weekend by snuggling up on the couch and reading an advanced copy of a book that's being released this next week. This particular book is fiction, and based during WWI, and I've been continuously amazed how readily I've been completely transported all over the world--from the French Battlefield to small towns in America and back again. When I'm reading, it's like I've been granted the ability not only to travel to places I've never been, but also to climb inside the mind of someone else, and get to know them.


Guys, are you familiar with Common Core? It's a new curriculum that's been adopted by almost all 50 states. It's in schools right now. The "mission" if you will, is to make sure that all students across the US receive the same education, and to ensure that they're better prepared for college. Sounds really good, right?

Unfortunately, as with most of the U.S. education reform in the last decade (like the Accelerated Reader Program, which I wrote about here), though it may sound good, it has a lot of problems. A LOT. The problems with the Common Core math curriculum are so absurd they're almost comical, but today I'm focusing on the English component.

One of the problems is that Common Core utilizes the Lexile Complexity Score in order to "match" students with books that are at their reading level. The problem is that the Lexile Complexity Score uses an algorithm of sentence length, word use, and syntax, but does not factor in content at all, which is how Twilight came to be rated as more "complex" than any book by Hemmingway (I believe Twilight is considered to be about 5th grade level, for the record.). No, I'm not kidding.

Here's a fun little quiz that you can take--pick which book has the higher complexity score

The other problem with Common Core is that it greatly stresses nonfiction over fiction. Under Common Core standards, by the time a student is in 12th grade, they should be reading about 70% nonfiction in schools. The list of suggested reading material for high school students? Wackadoodle. You can read many of the selections here, but I've pulled just a sampling for you guys:
  • Invasive Plant Inventory by the California Invasive Plant Council. This is just a list of invasive plants in the state of California, and how they were classified as high, moderate, or limited.
  • The EPA's Recommended Levels of Insulation. This is a chart that shows how much insulation is needed for buildings built of various materials.
  • Executive Order 13423- Strengthening Federal Environmental, Energy, and Transportation Management. I found it interesting that the selection included some of the provisions of the order, but not others. For example, Section 6(a) which reads, "This order shall be implemented in accordance with applicable law and subject to the availability of appropriations,"was omitted. This is important because it speaks to the government's responsibility to do this if appropriations (i.e. funding via congress ) are available, not universal authority, as the snippet included in Common Core implies.
  • “FedViews,” by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. This report from 2009 states that financial markets are improving, the federal stimulus stabilized the economy, 
  • "The Cost Conundrum: Health Care Costs in McAllen, Texas". Here's a snippet: “'The greatest threat to America’s fiscal health is not Social Security,' President Barack Obama said in a March speech at the White House. 'It’s not the investments that we’ve made to rescue our economy during this crisis. By a wide margin, the biggest threat to our nation’s balance sheet is the skyrocketing cost of health care. It’s not even close.'"
Guys, I just can't even. I have no words. Regardless of your political affiliation (I do have to admit, I was totally surprised by how many of the snippets provided for Common Core tended to align with current political agendas or issues), can we please agree that reading lists of noxious weeds is NOT HOW WE CULTIVATE READERS.



Recently, we read The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe aloud to Lizzy before bed. The Lexile level for the book is 940L. It took about an hour of searching to figure out that "940L" translates, roughly, to a sixth grade level. I think. Maybe. I remember reading that book in second or third grade. I remember my 4th grade teacher reading it aloud to the class. I read it again in seventh grade, and again in high school. Now, we're working our way through the series again with Lizzy.

Did I understand every allegory or all the imagery in second grade? Nope. Neither does Lizzy when we read it now. I understood it on a different level in sixth grade than I did in fourth, and I understood it differently when I read it this year than I did when I read it in high school. Every single stinking time I've let myself disappear into Narnia, I've gotten something out of it.

But by the Lexile and Common Core standards, it's a book to be read in sixth grade, only. It's "above level" for elementary students, so they shouldn't read it. It's "below level" for high school students, which means it isn't challenging enough, so they shouldn't read it.

With Common Core, we're not cultivating people who love to read. We're cultivating people who can read technical materials in order to do well on a test so that the US appears to be "competitive" with other countries.


To bring this back full circle, I learned about WWI and WWII in school. I could recite rote facts about how many people died and which countries were involved when. I had the sterile knowledge. But it was reading A Farewell to Arms, Sarah's Key, Night, The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, The Book Thief, and now Stella Bain where I learned about empathy. About the people behind the numbers, fictional or not. I want that for our kids too, and it makes me sad that Common Core simply doesn't do it.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

30 Days of Thankfulness: Days 1-7

1. For Justin. Lizzy asked him to wear his Perry shirt so that they could match. He went along with it, and it made her SO happy.

2. For the rare occasions where I still have the opportunity to snuggle a sleeping baby.

3. For being able to cook healthy, yummy meals at home.

4. For being able to workout at home, even though it can be a little crazy sometimes! Some days, I would KILL for a gym that offered childcare in our town. But there just aren't any right now, so I'm trying to re-frame my thinking, and be thankful that because I have to exercise at home, the girls often see that happening!

5. For the rare double nap, which allows for a quiet lunch and catching up on a good book.

6. For Lizzy. Three is SO hard sometimes. The sass. The disobedience. The strong-willed stand-downs. But they are also tempered with so many sweet, lovely moments with this girl.

7. For being able to celebrate Becca's first birthday with extended family last weekend, and then our small family this past Thursday. I love that we have so much family so close, and I seriously cannot believe that she is already ONE. No really, when did that happen?!

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Things Remembered.

I've missed this space lately.

I've wanted to write, to pour out my thoughts and my heart, but I've also kind of felt like I have nothing to say. Well, not nothing, but lately life has been lots of Justin working late, and lots of me in the parenting trenches until I fall into bed. Lots of trying to keep up with T25. Rocking a baby that really isn't a baby anymore, and snuggling with a toddler who has been needing more and more one-on-one time lately.

It's been softball games in the cold and rain. It's been totally proving the jerk-o on the other team wrong, after he patronizingly suggested that I didn't know how to play first base (take THAT!). Last minute photo shoots, and editing, and wondering where to go with photography in the future--thus far, I've intentionally kept it defined as a "hobby" (and before anyone asks, yes I still pay taxes), and lately sometimes I've found myself vacillating between wanting to push into a "real" business, and then questioning whether I have the skills/equipment/desire/client base to do that, or whether I should just drop it all together. Or stay where I'm at now.

It's been Harvest Fests and pumpkin patches and birthday parties and visits with friends. It's been playing trains and supermarket and tickle fights on the floor. It's been enjoying fall TV (Bones!) curled up next to Justin on the couch. It's been feeling so lucky to have received a bunch of advanced reader copies for books, and wishing that I had a weekend (or two!) to do nothing but curl up with a blanket and a hot coffee, and travel to different worlds.

It's been good, I just feel a bit like I've been tossing 100 plates into the air at any given moment, trying to juggle them all, and it's come to a point where I've had to choose to let some fall. Hopefully, I'll be able to pick them back up soon. Because I miss it. I miss you guys.
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