Thursday, March 22, 2012

What we've been doing...

If you've ever moved, you know there is a constant to-do list full of errands, phone calls, packing, and purging.

If you've ever moved with the military, you know that there is all that, plus inordinate amount of red tape and seemingly purposeless paperwork. So we've been busy.

A part of me almost felt guilty for ending my job a full three weeks before our move date. I thought, "Man, joke's on them, I'll use two days to organize and run errands and the other two and a half weeks to work on my tan before we ascend to cloudy NoCal!"

That part of me had never done a military move. That part of me was wrong. That part of me is currently sitting in time out and cannot have any wine.

We've been crazy busy every day with all sorts of things. The logistics of moving two people, two cars, a boat trailer (that we apparently don't own... DMV headache), a boat, and a Chiweenie are infinitely more detailed than I ever would have imagined. Which has actually been a blessing, because it has made it much easier to let go and move away.

I haven't missed my job very much at all this week, mostly for two reasons:
1. I can pee whenever I want. Whenever I want. Only teachers truly understand how precious of a gift this is. I can also go to the bank, the post office, the dentist... all luxuries previously restricted to summer.
2. I forgot what #2 was, I was so excited about #1. Literally!

Also, our closing date for Rawlings has come and gone, sadly. This doesn't mean that we lost the house (Lord knows no one else is going to buy it!), but it does make it far less likely that the repairs we need done will be completed by the time we get there. Which likely means we will be living in a hotel and our stuff will be living in storage, at least for a little while. When buying from a bank rather than another human, this kind of thing happens. We are just hoping and praying that everything works out and that we can make this house what it really could be. We are keeping our fingers crossed that everything will work out, and soon!

My next post will (hopefully) be from California, as we are having our Internet disconnected on Monday.

So, bon voyage Del Rio. You were a lot like high school. I had a fun time while I was here, I learned a lot, and I had several embarrassing moments... but I very sincerely hope I never see you again! :)

Saturday, March 10, 2012

The end.

Yesterday was my last day at work.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I didn't enjoy my job most of the time. For many reasons, it just wasn't a good fit. And then, in the same breath, I loved it. I loved my students so much. For many of them, my classroom and my school was the only place they felt loved. For those who have ever worked with low-income, minority, or low-achieving students, you know what I mean. My students were all three. I felt like I was their parent, and now I am abandoning them.

Yesterday, I was fine all day long. We said goodbyes, we laughed, we told stories about the year. The kids signed a poster for me and helped me clean up the room and pack my stuff. Many of them asked their teachers if they could stay in my room all day, and a lot of them did. I was happy the whole day, because like I said, I'm happy to leave that job. Then, the last bell rang, I went to the cafeteria to pull duty, and I just lost it. Not shed a little tear, but full blow sobbing. Of course my kids saw me and they seemed so shocked that I was finally showing emotion. I tried to be the strong, mature one (hello, I'm the teacher) all day and I just couldn't hold back anymore. I'm just going to miss them so much, in all their rotten, bratty, whiny, insubordinate, disrespectful glory. I also feel an enormous amount of responsibility and guilt.

I did what everybody always told me NOT to do: I took my students home. I worried about them constantly. Everything I did at school was for them, and everything I did at home to prepare for school was about them. One student in particular is a little girl who I also had last year (yes, that means she was repeating the 8th grade. We called it a "victory lap" like they do with 5th year seniors in college), and I'll call her Elizabeth here to protect her. I would have adopted this little girl if she needed it, and I'm not joking. I love her dearly and I'm going to miss her terribly. When all I could think about was taking the day off because I hated my job, I would think about her and get out of bed. Sometimes, she was the only reason I went to school. She wasn't the only student of mine that I cared for, of course, but because we had spent two years together, and because she was one of my worst kids last year and had totally turned around, we had a different relationship than I had with my other students. I remember the first day of school this year, when I found out she was repeating and I had her in my class again, and I remember feeling so comforted. Starting a new school year is terrifying, even for the teachers, and seeing a familiar face was so nice. We kept up the rapport the entire year, and when I told my class that I was leaving, Elizabeth burst into tears right away. I knew I was doomed.

The thing is, I really believe in these kids. I really believe that they are all smart enough to go to college, cure cancer and all that. I'm not just saying that because I'm a teacher and I'm supposed to. Remember that I taught a tutorial math class, specifically for kids who had failed a grade and/or the state math test. My school definitely didn't send me the "best and the brightest" as they say. Do you want to know what I taught them the last two weeks I was there? Polyhedrons. Interior polygonal angles. Plane geometry. Surface area of compound figures. Basic principals of engineering. None of those things are explicitly on the list of state standards I'm supposed to teach in the 8th grade (although they use concepts that are, of course), but they are on the list of standards for 9th, 10th, and 11th grade. My kids loved it. One of my students told me at the very beginning of the year that I was the first teacher he ever had that told him he was smart.

Stop just for a second and think about that. Can you imagine?? What if no one EVER told you that you were smart, worthy, capable?

By the way, I also told that student's father that he was smart, and do you know what he said, "No, he's not."

My point is, I feel terrible. I'm so sad and I've been crying intermittently since I left campus yesterday. I want to be the person that these kids can count on. They need consistency and a solid adult role model. I was that, and now I'm just another adult that let them down. That's why I was crying. Elizabeth will be fine. She really will. I expect her to send me a picture of her college graduation, and I bet she'll become a teacher. I'm so proud of her. I'm proud to say that I was a part of her life, even if I had to leave early. But I wonder about if I could have been to all my students what I was to Elizabeth. When we move to California, we'll be living in a much wealthier area with much better schools. Those kids, no matter where I work, won't be as desperate as some of the kids here. They won't need me. It makes me want to stay. Don't worry, I reality check myself quickly. I'm so excited to move to California and my obligations to Art exponentially outweigh my obligations to my kids. But it still doesn't feel very good. I'm still so sad.

I wrote a letter to my students, fully intending on copying it and giving them each a copy. In the end, I decided not to. I thought it would blur that teacher-student boundary more than I wanted to. I already feel like their mother, and I thought it would be bad for them if I made them feel like my children. So I'll post it here, because I want to document how I feel about my kids and my job. I hope my kids go on to be successful, and remember what I tried so hard to teach them this and last year.

My Dear, Beloved Students,

I have tried to send these messages to you throughout our time together through our work and your learning. Since our time is unfortunately being cut short, I find the need to say them explicitly.

You can, and you must, go to college. This assumes your graduation from high school. This is not what I hope for you, it is what I expect of you. It will not come easily, your higher education, but it is your right and you must fight for it. IT is the only way to ensure comfort for yourselves and your families. You all (and I do mean all) are capable of doing it. Believe me, you're ten times smarter than some of the dummies I went to college with. Your performance in high school will determine the colleges that will accept you, so take your work seriously. Study. Ask questions. Challenge your teachers (with respect). Do not listen to anyone who tells you you can't, because I have told you you can. And clearly, I'm the smartest person you'll ever meet, so my opinion has more weight.

Find your passion in life and pursue it. Do not settle for mediocrity or low expectations. Whatever you do, ensure that your whole heart is in it, or do not do it., This world is full of amazing people and experiences. Live it up. Celebrate everything. Do not let another human being meet you without leaving you a better person. Cherish your loved ones and give everyone second chances. These are the codes I live my life by, and they brought me to you.

You all can't possibly know the impact you've had on my life. You have made me more patient, kinder, happier, and more passionate about my work. You all have challenged me in was I never expected. I have loved watching you grow and I look forward to meeting the adults you become. Many people think I'm crazy for working with middle schoolers on purpose, but they don't know what I know. I'm the lucky one.

Good luck in the rest of the year and in your lives after.

It's been a real pleasure.

Much love,

Mrs. Bull

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Baptism by fire

I knew this was coming. I consider myself a pretty intelligent person, and I don't think I am by any means naive or blaise. However, when it comes to managing ourhome, I'm a sous chef at best. I don't have a very active role in the finances and day-to-day operations of Casa del Toro.

There are 2 reasons for this. The first is Art and my personalities. I am a procrastinator. I wait until just before there is an emergency to do anything about a situation. It's why I excelled in journalism. As I type this, my lesson plans aren't complete for tomorrow. I never really studied for a test (except the PRAXIS) before the 23rd hour. It's not my favorite part of my personality, but it is something I'm aware of and try to work with. Art, on the other hand, is a planner. And at the risk of causing all suffragists to wail in despair, we take on pretty traditional roles in our home. I'm just not the head of the household. Art is. I'm the partner, worth just as much, but not the CEO. I hope that makes sense.

The other reason is that Art lived by himself, home and vehicle ownership and all, for 3+ years before we got married. You know what I was busy doing? Going to college for 6 years. This isn't an exercise in putting myself down, but it just took me longer to figure out my path in life than it did Art. I'm very lucky he is willing to share all his hard work with me. But it does put me behind the power curve.

The point of all this? Art's gone for a while, leaving me with all the responsibilities of the house. He gave me a rundown on what I needed to know, and he's sometimes available by email. I'm now responsible for paying the bills, renting our current house, closing on our new house, communicating with the realtors, appraisers, underwriters, etc., securing movement for our vehicles, talking with the movers, etc. etc. etc. etc. And it's overwhelming.

Feel sorry for me yet? NO, of course you don't. This is what EVERYONE has to deal with. Most married people don't have to do it on their own, however, but all military wives do. I've been so fortunate to have almost two full years with my husband home for dinner every night. This is not something that military wives have the luxury of. I feel very lucky, and I know that this honeymoon is surely coming to an end once we get to California and have to deal with a deployment schedule.

So, for now, I'm keeping super organized with a reminders list on my fancy iPad, to make sure all the bills get paid and a house gets purchased. Thank goodness for my parents. My mom, for emotional support and venting, Mikey, for practical advice and construction expertise, and my dad, for all things legal and renovation, and for reading complicated paperwork when I am too overwhelmed to tackle it all. I am really, really lucky to have such great people to help me out when my #1 is away!

Winter Blueberry Baked Oatmeal... for one!

Being that I don't love breakfast food, bacon, eggs, pancakes, and the like usually only get served in our house when Art decides to make them. Being that he is probably out of his mind with hunger right now in the middle of the woods, two feet deep in snow, I've decided to enjoy every meal and be grateful for every bite in solidarity.

What's that, you say? I don't know the meaning of solidarity? That I should be going without food just like Art, if I'm going for true solidarity?

While you ponder that, let me share with you this recipe from Lauren at Healthy Food for Living. I knew I didn't want to go to the store, so I started googling for some recipes. I thought to myself, "Self, there is not going to be a recipe out there for oatmeal, without bananas, without eggs, using only frozen fruit. And even if there is, it's going to be for a family of four and not for some pathetic loner eating breakfast with a Chiweenie."

I was wrong. This recipe is exactly that! Please visit Lauren's site to read all about how good for you this recipe is. I was just happy I didn't have to go to the store! I didn't have almond milk or almond extract, so I subbed vanilla soy milk and vanilla extract. I do think the almond would be delightful.

Here's how I made it:

Rolled oats (normal old fashioned), vanilla soy milk (the recipe calls for almond milk), sugar, frozen unthawed blueberries, maple syrup, cinnamon, salt, baking powder, almonds, an egg white, and vanilla or almond extract.

Next you want to butter an oven safe dish. I wasn't sure, should I use the ramekin or soup mug?? Stay tuned.
 Toast up some almonds by... putting almonds in a skilled. No butter, no oil, no nothing. Just nuts. Don't burn 'em.

 And if you could seal your bag of almonds with a paper clip, I would feel much better about myself.

Can we talk for a second about my measuring spoons? My best friend Clara's mom bought them for me shortly after Art and I got married. They are so, so me. 

Back to the recipe. Mix up your dry ingredients: rolled oats, sugar, cinnamon, and baking powder. Maybe my baking powder has cinnamon in it because I used the same measuring spoon. Don't judge.

 Shaking was the best way to mix up the dry ingredients. I felt like a chef!

Then, in a separate bowl, mix up the wet ingredients. Shaking is not the best way to mix up the wet ingredients. You'll feel more like a slob than a chef.

Pour dry ingredients into wet...

And add in blueberries (frozen, I added more than the recipe called for) and the toasted almonds from earlier. Best part!

This is what the oatmeal looked like before it went in the oven for 20 minutes. 

I would show you what it looked like when it came out, but... I ate it. Right away. With an oven mitt because I couldn't wait for the dish to cool down. I was also standing up leaning over the oven.

In short, make this recipe. Make it right now. Make it because it's good for your heart and stuff. Or make it so that you also experience eating like a neanderthal in an oven mitt.