Monday, February 28, 2011

Tie the Knot Already

In speaking with another mom at soccer today about being "ahead" of friends in terms of marriage and kids and then seeing on Facebook that a cousin of mine who is 21 is engaged, marrying young has been on my mind. Mark Regnerus wrote this article in 2009 in defense of marrying young. Mostly, I like where he's coming from.
"Marriages that begin at age 20, 21 or 22 are not nearly so likely to end in divorce as many presume." Right, go on... "The age at which a person marries never actually causes a divorce. Rather, a young age at marriage can be an indicator of an underlying immaturity and impatience with marital challenges -- the kind that many of us eventually figure out how to avoid or to solve without parting." Maybe. But, more likely a young marriage can be an indicator of an underlying MATurity and the ability to know what one wants and needs. I love this next part.
"Marriage actually works best as a formative institution, not an institution you enter once you think you're fully formed. We learn marriage, just as we learn language, and to the teachable, some lessons just come easier earlier in life. "Cursed be the social wants that sin against the strength of youth," added Tennyson to his lines about springtime and love." You know the saying about the old dog and tricks. This is exactly the point... we learn better in youth. When I was engaged a friend told me her fear was that we'd grow apart since we were still forming ourselves. My reaction was that was the most ridiculous idea, but my response was simply that we'd grow together because we'd be together. Okay, here's where Regnerus veers off.
"There is wisdom in having an age gap between spouses. For women, age is (unfortunately) a debit, decreasing fertility. For men, age can be a credit, increasing their access to resources and improving their maturity, thus making them more attractive to women. We may all dislike this scenario, but we can't will it away." Regnerus says the average age a man marries is 28. He has no problem with that. It's women who wait until 28 he has a beef with. He'd rather see a twenty year old woman get married to that 28 year old man? He doesn't like that the average age difference between spouses is now less than 2 years. Well, guess what Regnerus. It's not women who have the problem in this scenario, it's the men who want to sow their oats. Same as it's always been. Why should a young woman have to marry someone who has been with way more people than she? That's nowhere near fair. Not that I want everyone to sleep around willy nilly before tying the not. No, I think partners should have many similarities and sex lives prior to marriage should be one of them. A 20 year old woman who has had maybe a couple or more partners is not a great match for a 28 year old man who has had a dozen or more.
But then Regnerus redeems himself.
"Say what you will about the benefits of cohabitation, it's a categorically less stable arrangement, far more prone to division than marriage." It's true. It's easier to leave when you have no further paper work to worry about. But also, the planning, preparation and commitment of having a wedding strengthens the bond between two people and makes for a more safe and secure partnership.
In the end Regnerus tells about a 23 year old woman who decided to get married though her friends, who became bridesmaids, initially balked. Those are the state of things. Getting married young is socially rebellious and I can't deny that I liked that aspect of it when I married at age 20. I was ready to "prove them all wrong!" Now, though, I think the stronger reason I wanted to get married was to be happy. I loved Will and I wanted to be with him. I wanted to see who we would turn out to be together. It's not been easy and it's not been a smooth ride. What would be the fun if it were? It has been life changing and I wouldn't want to change anything.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Time flies

Apparently the earth is spinning faster or will spin faster sooner than later. Will we feel this quickening of time? Time is such an interesting concept. It's a difficult, intangible thing for young children to understand. G is always trying to figure out if something is a long time or not a long time and what amount of time is longer than another amount of time. Car rides seem to be a good starting point for comparison and time spent in the car feels longer than time spent elsewhere, such as playing on the computer. We all experience time going by faster when we're busy or absorbed in doing something. I once read an article that talked about slowing down time by changing activities and habits drastically whenever life becomes routine. I've always loved routine. At the same time, though, I do like doing new things. Each year with growing children gives rise to new routines. But maybe our changes aren't enough to slow time. The time between birthdays seems much shorter now for me. I have been looking forward to my next birthday for years because I always thought that age would make me grown--REALLY grown, but now that it is less than six months away I am not thrilled to be leaving my.... twenties! That's right, I'm almost 30. Will's 30th just wasn't that big of a deal. My mom made a cake, we had dinner and sang Happy Birthday with family. And then he was 30. That was that. Probably my birthday will pass with the same simpleness and lack of bravado, but that's how I like my life. Family is most important to me and it's not all my birthday anymore, it's G's, too. She'll be 6 and I'll be 30 and we'll be another year older. Before that happens, though, there are exciting events in the coming months: We're all in our first musical together! S will have her First Eucharist. G will be in her first dance recital and S in her second. Both will finish another year of school and summer--our favorite time--will be here and that means staying up late, running barefoot in the yard catching lightening bugs with neighbors while Will and I sit on the porch drinking Natty Bo and chatting with the other parents. There are always good times to be had. I hope they are the memories that are strongest for my girls and each time-out/grounding fades. For me, that's how it is.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Dear Diary

My 8 year old daughter just started her first diary! And it's a PRIVATE diary. So private that she threatened to punch her sister in the face should she ever read it. News flash: G can't read... yet. Guess S wanted to get a jump on keeping G out of her private life. Yes, of course I commented immediately when I heard S quietly, yet severely, say this to her sister. S! I said sternly. She apologized, but reiterated that her diary would be private. Her sister accepted and agreed. Then G asked me if I had any more notebooks for her to start a diary. I looked, but I took all extra notebooks to school, so I told her I'd bring her one later this week. That didn't stop her, she got some paper and got started on her diary. G's first entry (she's 5) was a treasure map. Except her entry wasn't very private because she showed it to me as soon as she finished.

S's diary is a pretty little journal that I never used except for four pages, so I ripped those out. I've also been journaling again. As I've said I never did "Dear Diary," but instead wrote, "Dear Journal." Now I just date the pages and include the day of the week. After S started her diary she called down to ask me how to spell broccoli. So, it's that kind of diary: boring food stuff. Just kidding! I love food blogs, S knows I put my own recipes on my blog and S loves food, so of course she'd write about food!

I started my first journal at age 10. I hope S keeps it up and I hope it provides an outlet that she needs for venting her frustrations and focusing on her hopes and dreams. It beats biting her own arm, anyway. She used to do that whenever she was frustrated and recently I've noticed she has stopped. She had stopped before, but started it again. Maybe this time, though, she won't need it. She certainly uses books to escape and I'm so grateful she enjoys reading and writing.

I'm sure G will follow in her footsteps as well. From infancy both girls looked at books on their own. Up until this past year G fell asleep looking at books. Early this school year she started keeping paper and pencils in her room and playing school or simply writing before bed. Usually she'd just write letters she knew, but then through school she learned new sight words and wrote those. That was really a precursor to journaling.

S had journals in preschool, kindergarten and first grade. Free writing is very good for early education and for anyone's creative thinking, really. To take the initiative to write on her own makes me very proud. I hope when/if you read this one day, S, you won't mind my sharing these details of your life and you'll see how much I love you!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Teacher Conduct

A while back I found a Baltimore City teacher's blog and actually called her school because she had listed her student's first names, the name of her school and her classroom number (which was the title of her blog). I left the website address with the secretary, who didn't really understand what a blog was, and after that day the blog was not updated again.

Recent news about Natalie Munroe prompted me to go through my own blog. What I found was some pictures in posts from my first year blogging. I left a few pics of my kids taken from behind but deleted any that showed our faces. I found one post that had my children's names rather than just their first initials and I cleaned that up. I also cleaned up a couple posts that were too negative and revealing and deleted, I think, four posts completely. My goal in having this blog is to share thoughts about myself and my life without negatively or inappropriately commenting on real people in my life. I could probably go and delete a few more posts that discuss my marriage, but those posts are not disparaging to my husband's character, or my own, and show the truth about the work marriage takes and the stress of raising kids.

I'd love to be like Heather Armstrong and show pictures. But I do not want that kind of public exposure. In fact, Ms. Armstrong coined the term "dooce," also the title of her blog, which is defined as being fired from one's job for one's blog. She sort of paved the path on that one. She also learned a valuable lesson and put it out there for other people to learn from.

Apparently Munroe wasn't familiar with this or just didn't care. In fact she is still supporting her right to blog as she did. I do think she has the right to blog as she wishes, but the school also has the right to, and should, terminate her employment. It is a teacher's responsibility to keep information about students confidential.
Here's what Munroe wrote in a recent post defending herself:
"But the fact remains that every year, more and more, students are coming in less willing to work, to think, to cooperate. These are the students I was complaining about in my blog. The same way millions of Americans go home at the end of the day and complain about select coworkers or clients or other jerks they had to deal with, I came home and complained on my blog about those I had to deal with."

I do share stories from teaching with my husband and my parents and sister, but I keep specific facts, such as names, confidential. A teacher should not share negative or divulging information about his/her school, the administration, the students, the parents or anyone else involved. If you don't take pride in your work or work place, find another work place! As Jackie says, teaching is a vocation.

Venting is something we all need to do from time to time, but vent where appropriate. The best people to vent with about work are colleagues. This is especially important for teachers. I'm sure Munroe and other teachers had discussed the things she put on her blog. It's necessary for teachers to discuss students because it helps us to serve them better. For instance, if I'm having an issue with a student that I want to resolve, I'll ask other teachers who have taught that student. They can give advice such as whether or not it's helpful to contact parents, or methods for motivating the student, or just generally comfort me that I'm not alone in having the issue(s). That's the type of support teachers give one another. Outside of that and talking with one's spouse/partner/closest best friend and family, it's inappropriate to blab about students or complain about one's school. The fact that millions of Americans come home and complain about work does not make it okay to do so on a PUBLIC blog when your job is a TEACHER!

Doctors, lawyers, therapists, social workers, counselors and teachers must keep work place information confidential. It's part of the job. I want students and parents to love my school. I don't like it when students complain or talk about the school being inferior. I think it's a great school with many teachers who love their subject and want it to be enjoyable for students. We do fun things for the students, like spirit week and field day and we have a lot of activities for students to do. It's often the "cool" thing to complain about high school when you're a high schooler. But when you're on the other side, as a teacher, you need to be professional. Optimism and positive energy are very helpful in the teaching profession/vocation and if you don't have that, then get out now because you'll only make yourself and your students feel worse.

Blue skies

Waking up to a blue sky today felt so wonderful. (I changed the background on my blog, I love it so much.) We were also able to leave the house wearing just jackets! It was too blustery to do much outside, but the girls played soccer this morning so at least they got their exercise. Now it's supposed to dip into the 20s over night and there may be snow by Tuesday morning! Well, like my principal reminded the school at the assembly Friday, it's only February and we have a long ways to go until the end of the school year. Fine with me, I'm not wanting it to end. I just like the sun and warmer temperatures!

I dream about living somewhere that is warm all year, but I'd miss the winter around Christmas. It's just that after January I'm over it. Then I think about what a warm climate has: B-U-G-S! Fire ants, flies coming in the house anytime the door is opened, (killer) bees, bigger spiders... all the creepy crawlies we experienced in North Carolina. Then I really value the respite winter gives us from these creatures.

So, bring on the snow for one, or two, last harrahs and then I will rejoice when spring arrives.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Food Blog Winter 2011: Variation on Vegan Soup

Today I added a little extra to my Vegan Chard and Potato Noodle Soup. I kept everything else the same and put in a cooked and mashed sweet potato. This gave the soup a more orange color as well as a thicker and sweeter broth. This is my favorite soup because it has everything I like: sweet and savory flavors, greens, noodles and ginger--don't forget the ginger!

Friday, February 11, 2011

On Valentines

What are YOU doing for this holiday? Will and I had dinner out last Friday while my sister and brother-in-law babysat. We hadn't been out just us for a loooong time. Not that we don't get time together, it's just that our basement hangout gets a little old. I made Will a card at school. That reminds me...

Will and I met in January. I'm pretty sure Valentines was our first kiss. I do remember I made him a little Valentine's card and gave it to him in my dorm room. That was the first thing I ever made him. I've made him little things through the years. That first Valentines was a little awkward. Even though I knew he liked me and I really liked him, we hadn't professed our love for one another, nor had we verbalized dating exclusivity. I remember being nervous to give him the card. It wasn't super romantic. My roommate may have even been in the room at the time. I played it off as not being a big deal. But then, a little later, sitting on my dorm couch together, with his arm around my shoulders, he leaned in and it was the most beautiful, wonderful kiss. When it was over I responded, "I was wondering when you'd get around to doing that." He then reminded me that we HAD kissed. But I didn't count it because it was a little goodbye peck which was kind of a mistake. I was just leaning in for a hug and he went for the kiss. I don't know if I pulled back in surprise or if he only meant it to be quick. Either way, the real first kiss, the one I count on Valentine's Day 2000, was unforgettable. Fireworks. For real.

Monday, February 7, 2011

20 Questions Part 2

11. Where am I wrong?
"Your ego wants you to avoid noticing where you may have bad information or unworkable ideas."

I think this is most helpful in personal relationships, such as with a spouse. I am wrong when I think "woe-is-me, I have it so hard." I don't.

12. What potential memories am I bartering, and is the profit worth the price?
"Every time you choose social acceptance over your heart's desires, or financial gain over ethics, or your comfort zone over the adventure you were born to experience, you're making a similar deal. Don't."

This is definitely something I considered when I chose to go to Kris Carr's book signing. At first I thought I probably wouldn't go. I'd just get home, get cozy and not want to go out. But then I realized it wasn't worth missing! So I went and I'm glad I did. It's the same with going to the gym. I had the best yoga workout yesterday and I almost didn't go.

13. Am I the only one struggling not to {fart} during {yoga}?
"Substitute your greatest shame-fear: crying at work, belching in church, throwing up on the prime minister of Japan. Then know you aren't alone. Accepting this is a bold step toward mental health and a just society."

I hadn't read this question before I mentioned yoga, but I certainly thought about this last night! I actually had a great yoga instructor the first time I ever took the class and she actually said not to worry if it happens. I had a terribly embarrassing incident in middle school gym class concerning farts and sit ups. Reading this blog post reminded me, but also made me feel better about it. Of course, it's one thing to have such an incident happen as a preteen and another to have it happen as an adult. Take today, for instance. I had sweat marks on my shirt and it was more noticeable than usual, so I put a sweater on to cover it up. As I did so I chastised myself for even worrying about it, but then I told myself that if it makes me feel better to wear the sweater then I shouldn't give myself a hard time. (Do you have this much inner dialogue with yourself?) I have gotten over a LOT of stuff while growing up and am less embarrassed about faux pas now than when I was younger. Still, I obviously have some growing to do.

14. What do I love to practice?
"Some psychologists believe that no one is born with any particular talent and that all skill is gained through practice. Studies have shown that masters are simply people who've practiced a skill intensely for 10,000 hours or more. That requires loving—not liking, loving—what you do. If you really want to excel, go where you're passionate enough to practice."

My answer is obvious to those who know me: art. But why don't I do it more? And there's another question.

15. Where could I work less and achieve more?
"To maximize time spent practicing your passions, minimize everything else. These days you can find machines or human helpers to assist with almost anything. Author Timothy Ferriss "batches" job tasks into his famous "four-hour workweek." My client Cindy has an e-mail ghostwriter. Another client, Angela, hired an assistant in the Philippines who flawlessly tracks her schedule and her investments. Get creative with available resources to find more time in your life and life in your time."

I left this entire quote in because I find it kind of ridiculous. The examples are a little over-the-top compared to the life of an average person. No ghost writer for me. But then again, I don't get more emails than I can manage. I think I do a pretty good job of using my time wisely at work. I utilize my planning periods to type up handouts, worksheets and tests. I grade in the time after school before my girls are done their activities. All this makes it easy to focus on other things outside of work: exercise, dinner, my family and their activities, play practice. I don't bring much work home, if any.

16. How can I keep myself absolutely safe?
"Ask this question just to remind yourself of the answer: You can't. Life is inherently uncertain. The way to cope with that reality is not to control and avoid your way into a rigid little demi-life, but to develop courage. Doing what you long to do, despite fear, will accomplish this."

This goes along with "why worry?" I want to travel, I want to drive to new places, I want to fly in a plane. If I worry about the dangers, it won't be enjoyable.

17. Where should I break the rules?
"If everyone kept all the rules, we'd still be practicing cherished traditions like child marriage, slavery, and public hangings. The way humans become humane is by assessing from the heart, rather than the rule book, where the justice of a situation lies."

I was once asked this question in a job interview: "What would you do if you didn't understand why there was a certain rule? Would you have a problem adhering to the rule?" I responded that I'd uphold the rule, but if I was curious or didn't understand the purpose I would ask just so I would be better informed. It was easy enough to answer. "Rules are made to be broken" jumped into my head, but of course I wasn't going to joke in a job interview!

On a larger scale, there are two rules that I would like to be changed: gay marriage and legalization of marijuana. Not allowing two consenting adults to have legal rights in a civil union is against freedom. Why do I want a DRUG legalized? Because I want it regulated (i.e. not in the hands of 13 year olds) and because it is on the same level as alcohol. A student once asked me if it were to be legalized would the legal age be 18 like cigarettes. I told him that it would more likely be 21, the same as alcohol. Why? they asked. Because it's a mind altering substance! It kills brain cells! Same as alcohol. That's why children and teenagers who have developing minds and bodies should not use either substance. (BTW, I did not share my thoughts on this subject. A student just asked me the question. They must have been talking about it before class.)

18. So say I lived in that fabulous house in Tuscany, with untold wealth, a gorgeous, adoring mate, and a full staff of servants...then what?
"We can get so obsessed with acquiring fabulous lives that we forget to live."

I can't deny I think "if only I had more $." I'm not dreaming a crazy fantasy of wealth and luxury, but seriously, what if I didn't have to worry about finances. How would that change the focus of my life. I would be less restricted and I'd probably have more crap (clothes, shoes, manicures, etc.), but would it really improve my life? Would it improve yours? My answer is "no." I have what I need and I have people I love and who love me. I really do not need any more than that.

19. Are my thoughts hurting or healing?
"Your situation may endanger your life and limbs, but only your thoughts can endanger your happiness. Telling yourself a miserable mental story about your circumstances creates suffering. Telling yourself a more positive and grateful story, studies show, increases happiness. "

I agree 100%!!! This is something I am trying to ingrain in my children, especially S, who is a victim of "stinkin' thinkin'" much of the time. A few years ago I told her we all have energy and it can be positive or negative. After exercising, I explained, I felt full of positive energy and her whining and complaining was giving me negative energy. Her response was, "I don't believe in that." Ha! She's finally getting it, though.

20. Really truly: Is this what I want to be doing?
"It's been several seconds since you asked this. Ask it again. Not to make yourself petulant or frustrated—just to see if it's possible to choose anything, and I mean any little thing, that would make your present experience more delightful. Thus continues the revolution."

Actually, it's been a few days since I first answered this question. Today was a pretty easy day, as far as my job is considered, which makes it even easier to say "Yes! Coming to work every day IS what I want to be doing!" But even on days that are less enjoyable (or even awful) I still want to be doing this job.

Let me put the focus on my life outside of work. Is going to the gym what I want to be doing? Yes. Is blogging what I want to be doing? Yes. Is watching a Disney movie with my kids what I want to be doing? No, not at first, but then I realize it can be fun. Is cooking dinner what I want to be doing? Yes. Is going to bed each night with the person I chose to spend every day of my life with what I want to be doing? Y-E-S!

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Food Blog Winter 2011: Vegan Chard and Potato Noodle Soup

After sitting in a chilly high school gym for two hours this morning while my kids played soccer, I wanted something warm and comforting for lunch. I'd had a cup of coffee while at the school, but I'd also had two jars of cold green juice. The juice gives me energy and mental clarity like nothing else and I wanted to eat something that would keep me feeling light and zippy. The perfect option was a fresh, homemade soup. I looked in my fridge and cupboard, which is kind of bare since we're due for a grocery shopping trip this weekend, and from what I found I devised this soup. This isn't just a soup for today, though. It's a recipe I will certainly do again. The ingredients are items I like to have in the house and eat on a regular basis.

Without any further ado, for your cooking and eating pleasure I present to you,

Chard & Potato Noodle Soup

Will had juiced chard yesterday, but there was one bunch left. I think it's so beautiful!

In addition to the veggies, I added half this package of rice noodles.

The Recipe:
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 cloves of garlic finely chopped
1 Mediume white potato peeled and cubed
1 Medium sweet potato peeled and cubed
1 small sweet onion finely chopped
2 cups chopped swiss chard (remove stem)
8 oz rice noodles
32 oz vegetable broth + water (3 cups)
salt and pepper to taste
grated ginger to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large pot. Add the garlic, potatoes and onion and salt and pepper and saute until beginning to soften and brown. Pour in vegetable broth and water to cover vegetables, leaving room for chard and noodles. Cover and bring to a boil. Then simmer covered until the potatoes are cooked (20-30 min.). Turn heat to low, add swiss chard and rice noodles. Cover 5-10 minutes until noodles are soft. Grate fresh ginger into soup, stir and serve.

Ginger tip: Peel and cut the ginger into 3-4 inch pieces when you buy it. Then wrap each piece in cling wrap and put them in a baggy to keep in the freezer. The frozen ginger can easily be grated into your dish.

G gives the soup 5 STARS!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Food Blog Winter 2011: Okonomiyaki

Before leaving school yesterday I had some free time while S was at chorus practice. I read some of the blogs I follow and came across this post from Your Vegan Mom. I've never had okonomiyaki before, but Vegan Mom's pictures and description looked and sounded like something my kids and I would enjoy. The only thing I was missing was tofu. I figured a large pancake would be doable without it, so I set about making it with the ingredients I had at home. First I whisked together 2 cups of whole wheat flour, 2 tsp sea salt, and 2 tsp baking powder. Then I added two eggs equivalent of egg replacer and 1 3/4 cups of water. This made your average looking pancake batter. Next I put zucchini, yellow squash and kale leaves (minus the stems) through the salad shooter. It added up to 4 cups of vegetables. I added this to my batter and mixed it well.

Then I put about 3/4 cup of batter into a hot, oiled cast iron skillet and I let it cook until it was almost cooked through.

When it started looking mostly cooked I put it under the broiler until it was browned on top as well. Then I flipped it onto a plate and voila! G is asking for more pancake. They'd each already had 1/2 of the the first one.

I ate some of the second one. It was very tasty.

We dipped it in soy sauce mixed with agave and a little yellow mustard. I served it with salad, hence the fork, but here's S demonstrating how she preferred to eat her okonomiyaki.

I had a great time making and eating a new food, so thanks Vegan Mom for the recipe. My girls thank you, too!