9th grade projects

BVR has opened a new Research + Design Center. It gleams, it shines, and it is full of amazing spaces and technology that will allow students to play, learn, and design in a setting that feels like a fast-paced silicone valley start-up. Last year, my juniors played with the laser printing and 3D printing for History class. It might not seem like history is a “natural” or “organic” fit for this kind of design or these kinds of products, but my 11th graders took up the challenge and visualized history beautifully.  In the process they showcased their research and creativity and learned the skills needed to manipulate these advanced technologies as well. It was pretty amazing and I was utterly impressed by what they could generate with simple guiding principles and time and support to execute their ideas. This year I wanted to set the goal of challenging my 9th grade to a similar project idea early in the term so that they can (a) feel ownership in this new space (b) feel confident using these new tools (c) cement a deeper knowledge about the history covered (d) be creative designers of their knowledge and research.   It was a daunting idea but it felt like something I wanted to at least try. Here is what happened:  (using colonial data they visualized regional characteristics and presented the comparative data of today)


Swing of things

The hardest day of going back to school is the first Monday after the first school day. The few days of that first week are exhausting  but there is an excitement that fills the air as kids reconnect with their friends and as faculty navigate the transition with their classes and colleagues. It is probably one of the best times of the year because everything feels fresh, new, and inviting. I love when I buy a brand new planner and those first days are living life like a brand new planner: a clean slate and fresh start. The first Monday after though….

It is still exciting, it is still new, and the energy definitely has me thinking big picture planning, like when will I get my classes into Research + Design Center to use the 3D printers and laser cutters. BUT it also hits me that we are doing this for the next ten months. There will be an alarm going off at 5AM now regularly. There will be grading stacks that get bigger before they get smaller. There will be parent meetings, emails, and to-do lists around every corner. This casts a little shadow over me. I know my mantra is “one by one it all gets done” and I know I will get into that mindset and just do what needs to be done, but today I am pausing a little in the reality ahead. I am taking a deep breath, drinking my coffee maybe a little shower than normal, and telling myself that it is okay, it is going to be okay, and you can do this.

By October, these feelings will have subsided (I hope)and the routine of it all will just be. Until October, I need to brace for the roller coaster of emotions that have me flying high after an awesome class but running low when tackling the “after hours” work of a teacher. And, of course it takes time to figure out how to carve out the most important space of the day: that mental space to put everything down and just be present with my family from the time I walk through the door to the kiss goodnight for Owen and Henry. And then giving myself permission to not forget that David and I need to make time for each other through this chaotic return to life during a school year. That our house and home is only as strong as our relationship which also needs to have space, time, and a kiss. I would love to find a podcast where working moms share their life-hacks for “doing it all,” knowing that we cannot really do it all but we can sure as heck try and get pretty close to a balance that leaves us feeling good about who we are and what we are doing and less like we are mediocre at it all. Do you know of any?

Until then…one by one it all gets done.

soaking up the end

In less than 24 hours the official start of year nine of teaching begins. Am I ready for it? Yes, I am excited about the start of the year. The students are always buzzing with excitement as they reconnect with their classmates and settle into their new classrooms. Am I sad for my summer vacation to end? YES! This was a good summer. With each day and week that ticked by, we got “better” at being mobile, heading out, packing the right number of snacks, tackling fun with errands or house chores, and reveling in our time together as a family. I always worry about rebuilding my teacher muscles. It is hard to go from talking with my kiddos and husband to talking to dozens of students and faculty a day. It is hard going from tackling laundry, cooking, and fun times with the kids to doing all of that AND working full-time. Tonight I feel overwhelmed. Tomorrow I am sure things will feel normal-ish but right now, I am anxious to see how we manage it all again and just keep telling myself, “We did this only 12 weeks ago!” Instead of dwelling on these tumultuous feelings, I am going to focus on my boy squad and sneak away to swing at a playground because tomorrow will inevitably arrive. Today though is for summer vibes.

The beginning of the wait update

So here we are day 5,929 of our great baby wait. At least that is how it feels sometimes. Throughout this pregnancy our medical team has pumped me up with hopes of an early delivery: we will have to induce you for the baby’s size, we will have to monitor you for your thyroid, we will have to induce you for fears of shoulder dystocia, we will have to monitor your sugar levels. All these little “red flags” that were tacked onto my appointments gave me the hope that perhaps this time, my baby would come early instead of weeks late. But, this little dude is quite comfortable and each concern sheds away with each passing day. From “let’s just get you to 35 weeks,” we are now hearing, “you can go all the way to 42 weeks!” And, yes I am delighted. I am thankful that we are healthy and that our complication risks are minimizing. I am thrilled that throughout the long months of gestation this little guy and my body got stronger and more adaptable.

BUT, I am SO ready to meet him. Henry and David talk about the little one all the time, and play in his room, and read books about the baby arriving. We have EVERYTHING ready to go from crib to carseat to clothes to burp cloths, to that dreaded double stroller. And now we wait. My new feeling is that instead of an April baby, this little dude is holding out for May, haha. So what am I doing to avoid the painful staring at my belly?

The potty training chronicles are on-going and have been an oddly welcomed distraction!  Henry is doing really well with it too. Almost all of his activities make it to the bathroom and he is getting better and better at telling us. It is really sweet to put him in “big boy undies” and see him playing downstairs and having so much fun. I no longer see him as a “ticking time bomb” waiting to ruin my couch! This weekend to keep our minds busy we are planning to head downtown for a little visit to the North End and some touristy sight-seeing because WHO KNOWS when we will be able to do that again once the new member joins us and on Sunday I am going to my first fitness conference with my fellow coach Nikki. It feels like this mix of teaching, mothering, and coaching is just what I need in life these days. I am busy, and motivated, and feeling strong and healthy (although definitely achy by night fall, I cannot lie that this belly is a burden by the end of the day!). David always has hobbies to keep him busy and to keep him from spinning his wheels. When I was pregnant with Henry it was the summer and I felt very lonely just waiting for Henry to arrive and eventually  I felt crazed. But this time, while the wait isn’t fun (because come on little guy don’t you want to meet earth-side already!?!?!) it is much much more manageable with everything that fills my life and day and I am so thankful to feel like I have real ownership over my day.

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A lifetime ago

I have been a delinquent blogger. The start of the school year hit me harder than I anticipated. It took almost two months to feel like a “pattern” set in and perhaps this is a result of not yet having a full five day week! Isn’t that crazy? But not until the week of October 26 will I have a full five day week. So each shortened week flies by in a blur of activity, grading, lesson planning, adapting, adjusting, life, family, life, and life! How is it that the start of year seven could feel as uncomfortable as the start of year one?! Teaching is a humbling profession. Somehow though I finally feel a little less frantic and settled and will return to updating this here ole blog more regularly!

So what have we been up to?

  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  

cuba band #happeningnow

I would be lying if I said balancing work and life as a new mom was a breeze. Most days I crawl into bed and feel like I just finished round 10 of a prize fight! Friends keep telling me that I don’t need to give 100% to all aspects of my life, and I get that. But it is so hard not to, so inevitably I am tired by the end of the day…truly exhausted to my core. Yet, since Henry has found his new sleep pattern, I have been able to sustain this momentum (for now). If I had five of me, I would dedicate each of them to the following: Wife & Bestie to David Melissa, Work Melissa, Mom Melissa, Life Stuff Melissa, and House Chores Melissa. I feel bad for house chores Melissa because this area of life has really fallen behind lately (sorry!). So yes, everyday is a little bit of a push and pull to get all things done for everyone. But then every so often, there is a treat that makes all the racing around worth it!

Today my class gets to do an interdisciplinary exchange with the school’s Jazz Band that is preparing to go to Cuba. The Cuba Band has been working hard to prepare their repertoire and learn their instruments before their departure over Spring Break to Havana. Simultaneously, my class has been working hard to learn all about the Cuban Revolution and Cuban History. This morning these two worlds will collide for two hours.  My students will present their understanding of the history of Cuba from Batista to Raul Castro and the band will present the history of their instruments and play some of their Cuban music for us. We will all do some activities around beats and syncopation and enjoy the fruits of individual labors during this shared event. When I started the school year, it was a goal of mine to seek out an interdisciplinary opportunity for my students. I thought it would be an exciting opportunity for them to take hold of their learning and truly see its connection across disciplines. Of course, I felt a bit overwhelmed by just the regular daily needs of my courses and my life, but I am SO glad that this opportunity presented itself. It will be great watching my students take full ownership over their knowledge on this topic and, in exchange, have an opportunity to let their hair down and enjoy some fabulous jazz music (and maybe even some dancing)!

favorite things: right now

Since gaining more adequate head control, Henry has really become a little person. Obviously, he was a little person without head control, but now he is SO much more interactive and playful. As a result of this, “play time” is no longer me sitting in front of him and showing him things while he stares through the items. Now he reaches out and grabs for stuff, puts everything in his mouth, laughs, squeals, and bats at things. With this new skill set, we opened up some of the boxes we had stored away as “toys for later.” One of our newest favorite things is the door frame jumper. When I was little, my mom said my Jolly Jumper was my absolute favorite toy. I would sit in it for hours hopping and bopping about. My mom could move it from room to room and my favorite place to bounce was near the kitchen so I could watch my family prepare a meal while I did my “exercise.” Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like you can buy the original Jolly Jumper any more. Canada seems to own the market on the super cool original harness.  We had to settle then for an imitation version, but it will do. We set Henry up near the kitchen and while he was skeptical at first, he batted his feet about on the floor and was able to stare the pups straight in the eye from the comfort of his harness. I can see Henry really enjoying this odd device in the upcoming days.

Similarly, he has been enjoying his stationary bouncer. He goes in here everyday for about 10-15 minutes and just plays and plays and plays. He knocks the little vegetables off their posts and turns the pages of the sensory book. If you take him out sooner than he wants, he fusses until you realize, “Oh hey, I think he wants to go back into that bouncy thing!”

And, where would a new mom be without her diaper bag. We went with the skip hop duo and didn’t really know if we would end up liking it or not. When you are new to this whole parenting business it is really hard to know what you need and what is just excess. Thankfully, the bag we selected worked out. It is small enough that when I carry it around I don’t feel like I am carrying around Henry’s nursery but big enough to actually store diapers, cream, wipes, changing pad, 2 blankets, change of clothes, 2 hats, socks, a monkey mat, a mommy hook, pacifier, emergency bottle, Sophia, and also my personal items as well. While I am not sure what we will need as Henry gets older and his needs advance, I am happy that this bag is working out for us right now (and fingers crossed will continue to work out). Lastly, let’s talk about the Merlin Magic SleepSuit, otherwise known as MY FAVORITE ITEM YET! Henry was struggling with being un-swaddled and rolling over all in one night. Sleep was hit or miss and by the end of two weeks David and I were reeling from exhaustion. We checked out some blogs, talked with our pediatrician, and also met with our mommy friends. With these powers combined we chose to start a gentle sleep training program and included using this sleep suit. We followed our usual sleep routine: bath, books, snuggles, pjs, nurse, pacifier, and bed (this time with the suit on). We were prepared to let him cry for one minute then go in and comfort and repeat this process up to 5 times.  But, once in the suit there was no need for a second of crying. Henry passed out in his comfy suit and slept a 5 hours shift followed by a 4 hours shift!! YAY Merlin Magic Suit!!! Best purchase ever as it bought us the more precious gift of all: Sleep!