Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Pleasant Surprise

Today was a really good day for me. I had good attendance in my classes across the board (a rare event), and I realized that I have actually taught my students something this year. Lanier High School is piloting strategic compensation based on student performance. On the whole, I believe there are more problems with performance-based compensation than positives, but the model we are using forces teachers to do something very valuable: use pre- and post-tests to measure student learning. Using the data from the pre-tests, teachers were asked to set student learning objectives to be measured later in the year. In 10th grade English, we have two objectives, both of which are to measure student growth; success is determined by how much the student improves from pre- to post-test, not on an overall percentage mark set for all students. 

The first was chosen from two options, and the test, which tests knowledge and understanding of literary elements, was given to us. This test is very problematic, as the reading passages are very high level. Lanier has an extremely high population of language learners, as well as a vast majority of low-income students who traditionally struggle with reading; for the purpose of this test, the high reading level is troublesome because we have so many students who come to us reading drastically below grade level. Basically, if I have a student who comes to me reading at 3rd or 4th grade level, something that is not uncommon, even if I double their reading level, the passages used on this test are still very challenging for them, making the assessment of literary element understanding ineffective. 

We were able to choose our second objective as a 10th grade English team, and we chose the reflective essay, a key component of the students' state assessment. My students are in the process of finishing their post-tests for the essay, as I need to administer both tests before I go on maternity leave. As the students' tests are coming in, I have been scoring them and comparing the students' marks to their pre-tests. I am very proud to say that all but one of the students who have turned in essays thus far have improved by their required amount. Obviously, the pay attached to this improvement would be nice, but at this point, I am equally glad to know that my students have actually learned something substantial from me this year. 

Again, I have a lot of issues with performance-based pay, especially when the assessment systems are set up in a way that are really skewed against teachers with a high population of language learners, students with learning disabilities, etc. I also question whether or not performance-based pay actually provides an incentive for all-around better teaching or just teaching focused on more specific objectives, let alone wonder whether it encourages unethical behavior and divides among colleagues. These questions still float around in my head, but as I near the end of my time with my students this year--a group that has came in at an unquestionably higher level of need than my students in the past--it is nice to reflect on what they have done well, and today, comparing their writing scores from October to now allowed me to do that.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Making Progress!!

We had our 38 week OB appointment this morning, and I was VERY excited to hear that I am 1-2 centimeters dilated and 70% effaced! While this doesn't mean that the baby is speeding towards her grand entry into the world, it was good to hear that I had made so much progress since last week, when there was no dilation or effacement! The physician's assistance shared her "gut feeling" that I will not go the full 40 weeks, and I am hoping that she is correct!

We also met with our doula this evening. She will be accompanying us to our doctor's appointment next week, and then the next time we will see her will be when I am in labor! She gave us some tricks to get labor moving and is also giving us the name of an acupuncturist to contact next week if I am really desperate. (Our doctor was actually the first person who suggested acupuncture when we realized we had a large baby on our hands. She gave us permission to try it at 39 weeks.)

We're keeping our fingers crossed for next week!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Getting Down to the Wire

Tonight, Robin and I packed our hospital bag. Our doula had suggested waiting until I go into labor and making this one of my "labor projects," or tasks to do when you are in the early stages of labor to keep occupied, but after my mom reminded me that she was in labor for a total of 6 hours with me, I realized that I might want a labor project that is a little less necessary. 

Between the list we were given at our birthing class and the cushy list in Rock Star Momma, one of my more frivolous pregnancy reads, I feel like we are pretty prepared on the bag front. The funniest thing is that we also have a birthing ball (read: exercise ball) that we are bringing along for coping with contractions. I keep picturing Robin loaded down with my huge bag and the huge ball and me in labor... I'm sure we will be quite the sight. The most fun part about packing the bag was definitely picking out Baby G.'s "Going Home Outfit." We are lucky to have LOTS of clothes for this little girl, so the choice was not easy!

Our nursery is pretty much ready, and we have checked every item off of our shopping list other than a few things that are not necessary to have pre-arrival of Baby G. I've attached some pictures for your viewing pleasure!

The crib is the Graco Lauren, the bedding, a gift from my parents, is from Restoration Hardware, and the crib mattress is a gift from my grandma. We picked out the mobile, also a gift from my parents, after watching our friends Jessica and Aaron's son Aidan stare at his for a shockingly long time.  Most of the "L"s were custom-made for Baby G. by Robin's dad in his shop at work, other than one that I bought on The "L" idea came up pretty randomly, and I really love the collection on the wall. The bassinet in the corner is a hand-me-down from one of Robin's co-workers; it might be the nicest piece of furniture in the nursery!

Like the mobile, we totally copied Jessica and Aaron on the changing table/shelf combo, even down to the baskets. The shelves are from Ikea, and the perfectly-fitting baskets are from Target. Please note the plethora of books, all gifts--from Robin's mom, from one of my co-workers, and from a very generous gift certificate from Brian and Elizabeth, some good friends of ours in Austin. Also note the shelf of blankets: we have beautiful blankets given to us by Robin's boss and his wife, my aunt Judy, Lynn Ruter, a very special family friend, and Mary Schmida, my Wested coach at school; a few were mine growing up. The piggy bank is from a high school friend of mine and was given to us with the words, "Start saving for college!"

I included the closet photo for two reasons: 1.) to display the sea of pink and 2.) to show off my beautiful diaper bag, given to me by Robin's mom. I am really looking forward to carrying it! I am also pretty pumped about my Maya wrap, a gift from another good friend from high school!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Confession... plus the Must-Haves

I am going to come out and say this. I have not really enjoyed being pregnant. Why do I feel the need to confess this sad little fact about myself? Largely because it seems there are very few women who will openly admit this. I have lots of pregnant peers who have genuinely enjoyed the whole experience of being pregnant, and I am really happy for them. On the other hand, I know lots of really fantastic mothers who have told me along the way that pregnancy just wasn't a phase of life that they enjoyed. At 37.5 weeks, I am ready to say that I am part of the latter group. Really, I have been pretty blessed with a relatively smooth pregnancy. I had morning sickness for a long time, but not nearly as severely as some friends of mine. My feet have been swelling in these last weeks, but after some experiments, I have figured out how to keep that (somewhat) under control. I haven't had back or joint pain, heartburn, or any of the other nagging things that pregnant women so often talk about. At the end of it, I just haven't enjoyed this. I am really ready to have my body back, and to be honest, I have been at that point since the beginning. For me, pregnancy really is a means to an end that I am very excited about.

So again, why do I say this? Because I know that during the first 20 weeks or so of my pregnancy, I felt really guilty about this. Why? Because the majority of people will say things like, "Enjoy this magical time," or "I just loved being pregnant." And me, being a pleaser, nod and smile, secretly thinking to myself, "Am I going to be a terrible mother because I can't seem to connect with pregnancy magic and really just want a margarita and some sushi?" While some women love their bellies, I was crying over my designer jeans that I still fear I will never again be able to button, let alone pull over my hips. It may sound ridiculous, but all of this really made me question whether or not I would be a good parent, and I really think I am not alone.

So now... the list of must-haves for women who need a little push to enjoy pregnancy. (These things will probably benefit the lucky ones who love the whole process from beginning to end, but my target audience here are the ones who are like me. Sorry!)

--A really fantastic pair of maternity jeans, and at least one top that makes you feel fabulous. Just buy one pair, or if you can afford it, two. I have worn my maternity Citizens to death, and I firmly believe they were worth every penny!
--Prenatal yoga. This was one of the places where I did not feel like a fitness failure. I continued practicing power vinyasa through week 34, something I am very grateful for, but I have loved prenatal yoga because it was one place where I didn't get frustrated when postures were so much easier for everyone around me. (You try doing dancer pose with 30 pounds of belly on you!)
--Maternity photos. This was one of the few times that I felt pretty during the past nine months. The woman who took them was so affirming and complimentary. I am really looking forward to seeing the photos!
--Fancy soda. For me, this started as Izze soda, but now has switched to Fizzy Lizzy. I need a little something when Robin gets to kick back with a beer or glass of wine.
--Cocoa butter, shea butter... any kind of butter. The real kind. Not lotion that says "Contains Shea Butter." Spring for the 100% cocoa butter or shea. (Bath and Body Works has two great products... Shea It Isn't So Shea Butter Balm and "Four Butters" Lotion. Thanks Kris!) While I know that stretch marks sometimes pop up during the last two weeks, I am knocking and wood and counting my blessings so far. The butters have helped me feel a bit of control. Plus I haven't experienced a whole lot of itchy belly, which just sounds uncomfortable.
--A box full of all of your clothes that don't fit. Don't leave them in the closet! Put them far, far away, where they don't remind you of that nagging will-I-ever-be-able-to-wear-my-clothes-again question!

I may think of more and add to this list. For now, I am going to get ready for my day and dream of the things that are to come. Baby, yes... but also wine, sushi, soft cheese, workouts (we have a baby jogger, thank you very much), at least some of my clothes, my ankles.... just 2.5 weeks to go!

Who will buy???

Ten points to the first person to complete that song lyric!

Robin is busily getting the other duplex unit ready for our open house today. He has been working so hard! I am really hoping that the open house goes well. I plan to stay hidden, in part because I don't want to scare off any potential buyers who aren't baby people. They can find out after they close! ;) I will be on duty to make beer, wine and cheese runs should we run out.

I had a really fantastic work shower at Genuine Joe's Coffeehouse, one of my Austin favorites. We had yummy cake from Russell's Bakery and sat around to chat. It was very low-key--just how I wanted it. I also did very well in the gift department!

Today I am hoping to make one of the final Babies 'R' Us runs pre-arrival of Baby G. The list of things to buy is actually quite small, but includes a big one--the breast pump. For a working mom, buying a good breast pump is really not even an option if breast feeding is a priority. We have decided on the Medela Instyle after hearing some mixed reviews of the Freestyle (their latest, fanciest option). Other items on the list include diapers, wipes, etc... We are getting down to the wire!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Power of Cupcakes

Apparently,  bribing high school students with cupcakes is highly effective. My students performed beautifully during their NABE observation! Literally every student was on task, which is pretty amazing, and they engaged well in the task and might have even had some productive learning moments. When one of the women said, "This is such a nice class!" I had to hold my tongue and resist spewing the statistics of the number of ninth-grade repeaters in the class, the number of kids with parole officers... because today they really were nice! It was amazing! (They also enjoyed their cupcakes after the visitors left.)

Full term!

I am now officially full-term! The hope is that we make it until March 3rd, when the TAKS test is. I will be willing the baby out the following Friday. 

Monday, February 16, 2009

Check and check...

Daycare option number one: Toured and approved!

Today I stopped into the daycare at Gethsemane Lutheran Children's Ministry, where one of my administrators takes her daughter. I was very comfortable with the facilities and liked the teacher-to-student ration (2:8 or 10). I especially liked that when we walked in, both teachers were holding babies and sitting on the floor with the other (awake) babies around them. It's also about five minutes from school. It is $25 to get on the waitlist, and they have openings in August, so I am relieved to have one good option.

We also had childbirth class #2 this evening. It focused on relaxation techniques and drug-free pain coping techniques, which I really appreciated. Next week we learn about medical pain intervention.

This week is a big one--Robin is getting the second unit ready for an open house on Saturday, and amidst the stress of prepping my kids for TAKS (the big state accountability test) in two weeks as well as TELPAS rating (a very time-consuming responsibility that pops up every year at the very worst time), my classroom will be opened to participants in the NABE (National Association of Bilingual Education) Conference that is being held in Austin on Thursday. While I was originally told that this observation would be during a very reliable class and 10 minutes long--a breeze--it has now been switched to my worst behaved class and will be 25 minutes long. (This may not seem like a lot, but when there are 5-10 strangers sitting and watching you and your already volatile students, 25 minutes has the potential to be an eternity. I think I am going to bribe the kiddies with cupcakes.) All of this paired with my growing desire to just stay at home and get ready for the baby is not putting me in a very good mood. On the upside, the people I work with are throwing me a baby shower on Friday, so that should be a fun end to the week!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Sunday Projects

Robin and I have had a very relaxing Sunday morning! We made breakfast and enjoyed it on the lawn while watching runners in the Austin Marathon go by. We were able to catch a glimpse of and cheer on our friend Aaron, the one and only person we know that was running the marathon and were particularly impressed that at mile 20 (where our house is on the route), he was still able to shout out "Nice house!" Here's hoping to a great marathon for Aaron!

 Weekend projects include:

--Finishing the railings in the house.
--Getting car seat assembled and bases installed. (see note below)
--Getting bottles organized and ready to be washed and sterilized a little closer to Baby G.'s arrival. 
--Mounting the "L"s in the nursery. 
--Trim and other paint touch-ups.
--Unpacking and organizing our clothes. We have a lot of them!

We are also eager to have people over for dinner for the first time in the new house! Friends Brian and Elizabeth (who are expecting a baby boy in April) will be joining us tonight! 

On the car seats:
The statistics on the percentage of car seats that are improperly installed are terrifying! Thanks to Jessica and Aaron, mom and dad to Aidan, we found Safe Riders, a project of the Texas Department of State Health Services and the Texas Department of Transportation. Safe Riders does "Child Seat Check-ups" free of charge, where they inspect the installation of your car seat to insure it is correct!

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Officially on the Home Stretch!

We are now four weeks out from our due date! We had our 36 wk. appointment today and learned that Baby G. is still quite large. Our ultrasound weighed her in at 7 lbs. 3 ozs., putting her at an estimated 9 lbs. and some at 40 weeks. Her abdomen is particularly large, meaning our baby has a pot belly. Our OB told us that because Baby G. is so big, she would love for her to come a week or so early, so we are beginning our "get the baby here" tactics a week from today, and I have decided I am going to will her out on March 5th or 6th. If I successfully do this, I will be amazed.

On a more superficial note, my feet are disgusting. At the end of each work day they are so swollen that if I press on them with my finger, the indent stays. (This is called "dimpling," according to my college roommate Elise, who is also a nurse.)

Finally, we thought Stanley was over his nursery issues, but as I type, he is upstairs barking in the nursery. Crazy dog!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Baby Makes Four

As most of you know, Stanley Shih-tzu has been our surrogate child for the past two years. Generally he is pretty good with kids, but I am starting to get concerned about his transition to the new addition. Since we have gotten the nursery into somewhat of an order, he has "left his mark" in the room twice, and when he is in the nursery with us, he barks and scratches at the crib and bassinette. We have now tried carrying Stanley around the nursery and explaining everything to him per my mom's suggestion, and when he continued barking at the crib and bassinette, we finally decided to just put him in them. He sniffed around, and it has seemed to help. Any other suggestions?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Baby Classes and Blood Pressure

We had our first birthing class this evening with Shelley Scotka at Any Baby Can. We took one class at Seton Hospital, but our doula recommended the one with Shelley. It meets four Mondays for 3 hrs. each. After the first class, I am really glad we are taking the series! Shelley is much more thorough, and puts a much heavier emphasis on relaxation and other natural methods of coping with labor. The class is mostly grant-funded, so it only costs $10 per mom and birthing partner, which also means members of our group range from married, middle-aged couples to teen moms attending with their own mothers as their birthing partner. The first class was very cool, and I am looking forward to the next one.

On a health note, we had a little blip last week that I am now confident was just a blip. After a couple days of very swollen feet that weren't going down at night, I called the doctor's office. At their request, I had the nurse at school check my blood pressure to look for signs of preeclampsia. The nurse checked my blood pressure and it was 140/82--very, very high for me. After calling the doctor's office back, they asked that I come in to get checked. In the office, my blood pressure was high, but not quite that high. When talking with the physician's assistant, I started doing some real thinking about what might make my body freak out: a move, exhaustion, crazy stress at school, not getting enough water, and so on. The p.a. sent me back to work with strict orders to check my blood pressure every day, relax, and take care of myself.

Now, the reason I am sharing this: after following her orders, my blood pressure has been back in the 100s-110s over 70s for the past three days, a true testament to the effect that stress and simple things like sleep and drinking water have on our health! Crazy!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Moved in and getting settled!

With the indispensable help of Robin's dad, Dale, we moved into our new house on Monday! We have been slowly but surely getting unpacked and settled. It feels wonderful to be back in our old neighborhood in Central Austin! We are so much happier here and have confirmed our suspicions that we are not cut out for the 'burbs.

Robin is working very hard on finishing touches of the house--the second bathroom upstairs, a tile backsplash and hoodfan in the kitchen, medicine cabinets, paint touch-up, and caulk in the master bath, as well as lining up people to come and work on the back porches and the floors in the second unit.

This weekend, we spent a lot of time setting up the nursery, washing clothes, bedding, etc., and trying to get everything organized. We still have a lot to do, but the room is finally taking shape.

More on the baby front, we have our 36-week doctor's appointment on Tuesday. This will include a final ultrasound to check Baby G.'s growth. At our 32-week check, she was measuring as quite a biggie, so our OB wanted to monitor her weight gain. We also met with Kristen, our doula, today to discuss more specifically what to do when I go into labor, and tomorrow we begin birthing classes with Shelly Scotka at Any Baby Can.

Finally, this morning Andrea Turner came over and took some maternity photographs. This is something I've wanted to do since before I was pregnant, and after looking at a few of the shots from this morning on her camera, I am VERY excited to see the rest!

And now, a sneak peak of the new digs...

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Getting close!

Tomorrow we move into our new house. Robin's dad, Dale, has been here since Thursday helping us get everything done that we possibly can before we move in. They have been working very hard and tomorrow will find us in an (almost) finished new home. Meanwhile, I have been trying as hard as I can to get our apartment packed. Yesterday, I also assembled our crib and the shelving for the nursery, as well as our crib mobile. Being over 34 weeks pregnant, I am definitely tiring a lot faster and can't get as much done as I would like, but today has been productive.

Pictures of the new house soon to follow!