Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Getting the Magic Back

It's that time of year, folks. Not Christmastime, not holidays in general. It's the time of year where my students start to drive me a little crazy.

Now, don't get me wrong. My kiddos are just as cute and hard-working as ever. Easily distracted by mentions of the upcoming holidays, sure, but mostly fine. It's me that's the problem. I'm frustrated that our winter benchmark scores aren't higher, worried about the ongoing evaluations I have to submit to as part of being a non-tenured teacher, and antsy for the two week long break that begins next week but still seems so very far away. Last week, I found myself getting downright snippy over stupid things. I even uttered the phrase "shame on you" to two of my students who were food fighting at snack time. Seriously, I said "shame on you" to two students who are still learning English and are clearly a few generations behind any person that would actually be shamed by that phrase. Except for me, of course. I shamed myself by using it. But I digress.

The good news is, I got my mojo back with my kids at the unlikeliest of places: a field trip. Today, we spent the whole kindergarten morning at the Chicago Botanic Garden Wonderland Express, and it was, quite frankly awesome. I had lots of parents show up to help supervise, the kids were fairly well behaved, and we were all in awe over the tons of model trains, hothouse plants, and Christmas trees that we saw. The museum even had a scavenger hunt bingo sheet for the kids to mark with stickers to help them focus on specific things throughout the museum. It was awesome.

Like married life, I sometimes find myself looking for ways to keep the magic alive with my kids. Spending 8 hours a day with tiny, pesky, humans is a lot. Sometimes it's easy to see their flaws instead of what they are: developing humans who are learning one day at a time to make their worlds better. Days like today remind me that when I find myself in a rut with them, that it's time to start something new, so that I can see the best sides of them. One of my naughtiest kids even begged me to sit by him on the bus today, and asked me to hold his hand throughout the exhibits. Say it with me: awwww.

It's easy to feel overwhelmed and bored with the routine. It's easy to take the people in your life, both under and over five feet tall, for granted. It's harder to do something unexpected, to break out of the norm and shrug off the responsibilities for a day to get out there and remind yourself why, exactly, you continue to fight so hard for the people that you have in your life. But it's so, so, worth it.

I think I might even survive these next three days :)

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

It's Really Here!

Well, folks, I'm writing to you today from the comfort of my couch, where I have been laid up with some sort of heinous stomach virus for the last 24 hours. I would have posted sooner, since I have lots of time on my hands between trips to the bathroom, however I thought that the N key was broken on my computer. Luckily, I whacked it really hard, and it seems to be working. nnnnnn. Yep, we're good to go.

Christmas season has arrived and arrived hard at the Gas house this year. We're stoked. Gifts have been purchased and requested. As usual, my gifts to Kev are probably going to be my favorites that I buy for anyone in my family. He doesn't like to give me a lot of hints as to what he wants, which I take as a personal challenge, however I think I usually guess well. I'll catch you up on what I got him after Christmas, of course.

I'm not going to lie, the first few Christmases Kev and I spent together were kind of tricky. There were a lot of negotiations about scheduling (as in: we can miss Christmas morning at my house to go to your house, but then I will NOT miss Christmas Eve at my Grandmas, etc.) There were also a lot of awkward figuring out of roles. Should I bring a beverage or dish the way real adults do? Do I claim a seat at the kid table even though I married into this family? Why are Kev's cousins making fun of me because I volunteered to help with the clean-up? Tricky business. However, I feel like we've settled in a bit. This is the third Christmas I'll be celebrating with both sets of parents, and we've fallen into a rhythm.

What this means is, I've decided that this is the Christmas that we're going to extend to our home. Now that we have a home that we'll be in for the next 5+ years, we're decorating. Stockings are up. We have a teensy tree that the cats miraculously haven't ruined yet, and I demanded that we celebrate St. Nicholas night on December 6th and fill each other's stockings. Every year since we've been dating, we go downtown to see the Daily Center Christmas tree. Slowly, very slowly, we're inching into building traditions of our own. While Kev thought I was kind of strange at first for demanding a tree and St. Nick's night, he agreed Sunday night after opening stockings that he loved it, and it's something we need to keep. Starting little traditions between the two of us has so far been one of the best things about being married. It confirms once again that I have a partner in crime. It's weird, and adult-ish, but also super fun.

Did anyone else need to take some time to get into a Christmas rhythm with their other half? Do any of you have a holiday tradition or event that you would demand a significant other to participate in? Or are we crazy? Let us know.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays, and this year was no exception. Fun with my crazy siblings (home from college), our crazy college friends (home from being adults) and spending quality time with the crazy adults that played a large part of my childhood (explains a lot about me). However, a few things happened last night that made me really feel how lucky I am. First of all, we put up our very first tree together. It's a 4 foot tall fake one, and we don't have any ornaments to put on it, but a little ribbon and some dollar store glitter globes did the trick. We also put up our stockings (new from last Christmas) and are getting ready to find a home for the beautiful manger my grandma has bought us. That's actually a good story...for another day.

A family that we are excellent friends with has been hit by a tragedy, and we found out about it last night. The contrast between the sad texts and the happy environment really reminded me how lucky I am for the following:

-Laughter every day
-Knowing every day that I am loved, sometimes for good reasons, and sometimes for no reason at all
-a home that is safe and comfortable
-friends from all walks of life
-my education, even when I complain about it (ahem, grad school)
-the fact that I get to educate others
-stupid kittens that snuggle and entertain
-financial stability in these uncertain times
-a job that challenges, frustrates and inspires me, all daily

Happy Holidays! There's lots to be thankful for, and not just on Thanksgiving. Chances are, if you are reading this, you're on my thankful list. So thanks, just for being you.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Great Escape

Last weekend, Kev and I went to the wedding of two awesome friends of ours. The groom had stood up in our wedding, and we adore both of them. Even better, we've known then for a very long time, so we were able to sneak out to the suburbs for a weekend of behaving poorly and dancing the night away.

We came back early on Sunday, since we had grad school homework to do and a house to get in order. As we walked up our courtyard, it appeared that the screen of our second-story living room was out. "Yikes," I said to Kev, "I really hope that the screen doesn't have a big hole in it." "I know," said Kev, "Otherwise the kitties would be very cold."

We walked into the lobby of our building to find two things. 1) Our screen, and 2) a sign.


We walked in and hunted around our place. There was Dante, hissing beneath a couch and being his generally crochety self. No Felix. Disturbing, since the only route of escape would have been out the SECOND STORY WINDOW.

We called the number on the sign and walked into the condo of the woman across the hall. We'd never met before. Turns out, we'd never met because she is a cat woman in every sense of the word. Embroidered cat pillows, framed cat wall art, three cat condos all taller than I am, six cats. I couldn't even look at Kev while we were in there. It was amazing and terrifying, all at the same time. Last but not least, hiding in her bathroom, Felix.

In the weeks since, Felix has seemed fine, although I doubt we'd be able to tell a difference from his usual stupidly happy behavior. Moral of the story: While you are off behaving irresponsibly in a hotel, your cats will behave irresponsibly at home. Being a pet owner is not for the faint of heart.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Ways I Know I'm Getting Old

-I have a headache spawned from work stresses, not booze.
-I'm thinking about going to bed at 9:45 to remedy this problem, rather than going out to a bar. Because again, it's some sort of strange sober headache.
-I am only on page 72 of a book I started a week ago.
-I've worn heels out to events without people calling me ahead of time demanding that I do so.
-I saw one of my second grade students wearing a neon comic-book print rain slicker with aviators and plaid pants. I told him he looked like Elton John. He responded "Who's that?"
-I just heard that New Kids on the Block and Backstreet Boys are touring together and performing mash-ups of their greatest hits. I squealed in delight while driving my Focus.
-I'm going to a wedding this week, which made me realize that if I am ever the head bridesmaid at a wedding, I will be known as the "Matron of Honor." Ew, ew, ew.

Somebody help me.

Friday, November 5, 2010

The Joys of Photography

Recently, we went to Vegas for our friends' wedding. They had an awesome, low key ceremony that was perfect for the two of them, and as a wedding gift, we borrowed one of Kev's coworkers' fancy shmancy camera so that we could commemorate their big day. Before taking the camera to the Vegas wedding, Kev, his dad, and I headed up to Minnesota to visit Kev's younger siblings at college. I spent an afternoon with the camera and I am now officially addicted. As previously mentioned, I'm trying to become more of a creative, artsy person, and I feel this may help. Unfortunately, the camera is way out of our price range, so I guess I'll just have to post wistfully about how awesome having it was, and then hope somebody reads this and takes pity on me. Preferably somebody with a generous heart, a softness for chatterboxes like myself, and lots of cold, hard cash.

I mean, this camera takes very relaxing pictures of tress:

It also takes pictures of delicious grapes at vineyards:

It can document snazzy fashion choices:

Best of all, it has a multi-frame feature which allows you to take multiple shots with a single push of the button. This option is especially helpful for archiving important moments in sporting events. For example, when Kev's dad out putted Kev in frisbee golf:

That last photo alone should be enough evidence. Have I convinced you that I need this yet?

Friday, October 29, 2010

Halloween Madness

It's the Friday before Halloween, which, for my students, means a day of insanity and catwalk-like presentations of their costumes. The world of kindergarten has been an exhausting place lately. I've had a crier in my room every day this week, and a terrible hacking cough has been circulating around my room, which actually makes me grateful for my overzealous immune system. I'm currently writing this in my empty classroom, surrounded by cupcake shrapnel, while the shrieks of the neighboring over-sugared first graders pierce the walls.

Overall, it was a very exciting Halloween party, complete with skeletons made from Q-tips, toilet paper mummy wraps, and a parade around the school. The funniest part about working at a school with a young staff, though, is that we were all secretly whispering about our "grown up" costumes. You know, the costumes that no child should see a teacher wearing. You know, the costumes that remind us that there is life beyond purple glue sticks, keds, and parent teacher conferences. The trend for girls seems to be to dress slutty, which doesn't exactly translate to grade-school friendly adult attire, which means most of us have a "school" costume and a "real" costume. I settled for a pair of butterfly wings with jeans and a t-shirt. My kids told me I looked gorgeous, and I was comfortable enough to endure the treat induced tantrums.

Grown up costuming, on the other hand, is another story. I'm not really into the scandalous thing, and now that I'm married, I really don't see the point. After all, Kev has this locked down. Kev has also announced that he has no interest in dressing up this year, even though it is a good friend's birthday and we will be at a bar celebrating all night. I still have no idea what to be, although I can give you a list of suggestions I gave to Kev about dynamic duo costumes for the two of us, including Coach Q and the Stanley Cup, a Ghostbuster and Slimer, and a lawn gnome and a landscaper. I'll let you figure out who would be whom in each pairing. After a hearty veto from Kev on all counts, I'll be spending the next 24 hours whipping up something awesome. Something.... I just don't know what yet...

Kev and I were out of town the last two weekends in a row, so look forward to some excellent photo recaps this weekend of our adventures.

Happy Halloween!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Itch (the good kind)

I've decided lately that I need a hobby. Or rather, I'm itching to create something tangible. Like a knitted hat, or a fabulous meal, or a series of thoughtful photographs.

Kev has always been the more creatively talented of the two of us. He took years of art classes as a kid, and has some astoundingly beautiful drawings and paintings to his name. He's also a suspiciously good athlete. He hides it well, but he is. It seems like anything that guy touches, he's good at. It's one of the many reasons I married him.

I, on the other hand, am the queen of big ideas. I love to sign up for things or start things, but I rarely finish them. This is a major problem for me, and probably contributes to my lack of really cool talents. Sure, I'm a decent teacher, and I can write things that make a bit of sense, but that's about it. Sports? I'm a disaster. Art? My kindergarteners routinely do better. Crafts? Forget it. The only thing I'm really talented at is setting a goal. Meeting it? That's another story.

I'm going home today to bake some pumpkin cookies, and this weekend Kev and I are going up to his brother's college to visit him. At said beautiful small college, we will have the chance to take lots of outdoorsy photos, which I'm hoping to frame and stick on our wall above our purdy new couches. Maybe, just maybe, if I continue with one of these options, I can start a new hobby.

I have a creative itch that I'm looking to scratch, but I fear this may take some work and practice, two things I don't like. As I'm typing this, I'm realizing I may need to start small. Maybe I'll take my camera out once a week, and I'll bake or cook something new once a week. Maybe it will get easier if I start small. Maybe I will follow through on these resolutions.

Maybe I'll even post about it someday soon....

Friday, October 8, 2010

Señor Justin Bieber

Yesterday, I was walking down the hallway when I spotted one of my first grade friends. She is a teensy Mexican girl in our transitional bilingual program, and I love her because she always has a smile on her face. I happened to notice that she had a large picture taped to the inside of her locker, something that is kind of a rarity among six year olds, since they are generally not as pop-culture savvy as some of the older students. Not this peanut, though.

Not seeing the picture, I asked my friend who was in the picture in Spanish. She didn't miss a beat. Replying back in Spanish, she said "You know him, Mrs. G. Es el señor Justin Bieber. Claro." Of course, indeed.

This makes me laugh for several reasons
1) Justin Bieber is 16. He definitely has not earned the title "Mr. Justin Bieber" yet
2) Justin Bieber is so popular that even a six year old that hasn't yet learned English knows him and loves him enough to put in his locker.
3) I missed an opportunity to ask her to sing me a Justin Bieber song.
4) Somebody signed the Justin Bieber photo in a suspiciously elementary school looking style of cursive. Perhaps a third grader?
5) She used the word "claro" which means of course. Implying that I must be really stupid for not knowing that he would be in her locker.

Wow. Just, wow. The best thing I can say about my job is that it is never, ever, boring.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Think Before You Wed

Hi All! Sorry for the lack of posting lately. Grad school has started again and I was in a bit of a pickle at work that was eating my soul. Luckily, I've given myself a mental pep talk, turned the corner, and now I'm off and running again. I promise more posts this week, but in the meantime, here are some thoughts for today.

Last weekend, I had a girls night with some of my co-workers, one of whom has been dating her boyfriend for 18 months. Somehow, we started talking about how you know if the person you are dating is the person you will marry. Represented in the group were women who had been married anywhere from 4 months to 8 years, so I feel we had a somewhat wide range of experiences to work with. I get asked all the time how Kev and I knew we were ready to get married. I'd like to tell those of you pondering that question that there was one magical moment that made me realize that I wanted Kev to be mine forever, but the truth is a lot more complicated. I can't point to any one thing that makes Kev perfect for me, but I do have a little checklist that the ladies and I came up with that may help.

10 Signs You Should Probably Put a Ring On It:
1) The person you are dating is the first person you call with good or bad news. Or irrelevant news. Or puns. Or for no reason at all.
2) Running errands with that person is something you enjoy doing. Because if you get married, you will have a lot of conversations about boring things, and need to make a lot of mundane decisions (which brand of cat litter to use, should you upgrade your toilet plunger, etc.) together.
3) You would be happy to spend the rest of your life with the person you are dating TODAY. Believe me, the person you walk down the aisle towards will not magically change with the signing of a legally binding piece of paper. When you get married, you will still have the same blessings and problems that you did before you took the plunge. Trust me on this.
4) You have a good belly laugh with that person every single day.
5) You have woken up next to each other and not been grossed out.
6) You can tease your significant other, but damn it if someone else makes a joke that hits a little too close to home, you ferociously defend that person.
7) You've talked about money and can live with the fallout from that conversation. (Side note: Kev had no idea that women's haircuts usually cost more than 20 bucks. He still fails to understand why I refuse to get my hair cut at Supercuts with me, or why I shop at stores besides Kohls for my clothes.)
8) You realize that this person will be your plus one to almost all the events you go to, and it doesn't make you cringe. This includes family events, weddings for people neither of you really like, and extremely boring and shmoozy work functions.
9) You've eaten each other's cooking and lived to tell about it.
10) You realize creating a healthy marriage and creating a beautiful wedding are not the same thing.

Now tell me, what am I leaving off the list?

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Early to Bed

I wish I had more to write about today, but I really don't. I'm tired. Here are some of the things that are making me exhausted today:

1) During reading centers, I thought it would be fun to put some letter stamps and the stamp pad out for the kids to make words on paper using the letters they've learned. Instead, they made butterflies on the table using the hands they have. Also, handprints on their faces like clowns, on their shirts, in their hair. Sigh. I guess we're not ready for that yet. Sometimes I forget that I spend most of September just teaching them how to be at school. At this rate, we won't be ready for stamp pads til graduation. Yikes.

2) I just put in my big assignments for grad school, and realized that almost every major due date comes the Monday after I will be out of town for family visits or weddings. Double Yikes.

3) We had curriculum night at school last night. I worked a 13 hour day, and only 5 parents showed up. Triple Yikes.

On the plus side, I have the following things to look forward to:
1) I get to ride my bike to let out my ex-neighbor's dog today and tomorrow. This combines two things I love- bikes and puppies. (By the way, my bike still needs a name-any thoughts?)

2) Kevin is leaving for the wedding he is standing up in tonight, which means A) I can go to bed at 9:30 (which I will) and B) it is getting closer to Friday, which is when I am taking the day off of work to go to said wedding. I am inching towards a weekend where I wear multiple dresses and pairs of heels and drink enough cocktails to forget about the great Red Ink Stamp incident of 2010.

3) When I take the bus down on Friday morning I can sleep the whole time and read some great books. 5 hours of me time. Yes.

Happy Hump day!

Thursday, September 9, 2010

How's Married Life?

I get that question a lot. I've now been married for 449 days, and I still have no idea how to answer it. Here are some responses I've considered giving:

1) Not all that different from living in sin Because honestly, it's not. Kev and I worked out all the little kinks about living together in the year we were engaged, which was our first year living together. Since we've gotten married, we have joint bank accounts, and we make each other a little more of a priority. We talk about the future more. But, really, that's about it.

2)Great! We bone all the time! I'm hoping that if I announced that, it would stop the tedious small talk immediately. Although, maybe not.

3) Well, I'm hoping I won't live it that much longer Why not answer an inane question with an untrue response meant to provoke gossip? At least it would give the question asker something exciting to talk about.

4) Great! That's what I usually say, because it is.

Honestly, though, I understand that people who haven't talked to me in awhile ask this question. I'm never quite sure what they are looking for in the answer. Life with Kev is really good, but it also has its own rhythm. For a while, we were in househunting mode, then absorbed in all the summer activities, and now, our fall is going to be consumed with a lot of small trips, most of which involve somebody's nuptials (which, incidentally, is a word I can't stand. I'll save that rant for another time, though). I'll go back to something I've said before: Our marriage has given me the ultimate partner in crime for all the mayhem that comes with our crazy and hilarious life. Somehow, though, I don't think that's the answer the question-er is looking for.

What's the best way YOU'VE ever heard anybody answer the married life question?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010


As some of you might have noticed, I'm kind of a resolution maker. I'm forever turning over new leaves, then abandoning them when I get busy or they get tricky. However, as a result of playing The Game On Diet with a bunch of online and real friends, I'm down 7 pounds. More importantly than that, though, I've started using some new tools to keep my life in order and myself more accountable to....well...myself. While I'm not saying that these things are perfect, here are some recent obsessions of mine in no particular order- just so you know what I think is awesome these days.

1) Bikes~~I'm currently lusting for a bike. I begged for one for my birthday, and I think Kev and I are going to kmart to pick one out for me. I don't want anything fancy, just something I can cruise around on instead of using public trans to visit my friends or run errands on when it's nice out. It's also going to go along nicely with my current goal, which is to keep off the weight I lost playing the Diet game. (It ended Sunday, I came in 4th, but more importantly, I lost my grad school weight) I'm obsessed with the idea of a funky vintage-y cruiser with a basket, however I feel my wallet and bike pricing might have more to say about what style I end up with than my dreams do.

2) Groupon and Buywithme Deal sites- These sites sound annoying. They send a daily coupon for a service/restaurant/clothes etc somewhere in your area. Luckily, I live in a big city with lots of options. While usually I look at the deals and decide I don't need/want it, about twice a month I've found ones that I'm super excited about. Most recently, I've bought a $50 gap coupon for $25, and $15 for $30 at my favorite margarita place. I'm obsessed. Buywithme even donates 10% of your purchase to a local charity of your choice. How rad is that?

3) Swaptree.com~~ Swaptree lets you list video games and books that you are finished with and would like to get rid of. However, the awesome part is that it also asks you to make a want list of books and video games you'd LIKE to receive. Then, it matches you up with people who are getting rid of books on your want list, and you can barter. The only costs associated are what you pay to mail your item. Swaptree makes its money by offering you the option to purchase a shipping label through them that has postage pre-paid. I usually go that route because I've found their shipping rates to be about the same as the post office. So far, I've completed 6 trades, and have gotten 5 books for me and one video game for Kev. Awesome.

4) Swagbucks.com- Use my banner below to join if you'd like. While the search engine is pretty crappy, (I'm a google gal myself) you can randomly earn swagbucks for using it. 450 swagbucks= $5 in amazon gift cards. While I personally don't use the search engine for ALL of my needs, they also have daily polls, swag codes "hidden" in their website, and surveys you can complete for more prizes. Like I said, I don't use it THAT much for searching, and I'm not a huge survey gal, but so far I've earned $15 free dollars to amazon. FREE. Like, paying no money. Amazing.

So here's the banner, if you are so inclined. I also highly recommend installing their "widget" especially if you have a google homepage. You can use it to tell you where the swag codes are hidden, and you can get a TON of swagbucks that way.

Search & Win

5) My flipcam- Last year for Christmas, Kevin got me a flipcam. I'm obsessed with this little baby, and am currently using it at school to make an imovie for my parents to watch as part of my curriculum night presentation. Rock on! So handy

Well, now that I've bored you all to tears, those are my current favorite things. Just call me Oprah

Monday, August 30, 2010

Mrs. Kevin Gas

Last week, while I was off the grid, two things happened. It was my birthday week, and it was also the first week of school. So far, the first weeks of work have been chaotic but fun, and my birthday week was an extravaganza, as usual. However, something arrived in my mailbox that was concerning.

It was a birthday card. From my grandma. Addressed to Mrs. Kevin Gas.

Now, I love my grandma and this is not a criticism of her, since I know she is very traditional about mailing cards and addressing them using married names. I will say, though, that it really irks me when I get mail (wedding save the dates, bills, and apparently birthday cards) that are addressed to me as Mrs. Kevin Gas. It makes me feel like I am now property of Kevin, and have lost both my first AND my last name.

I'm traditional in the fact that I took Kev's last name, even though I am an elementary school teacher. Luckily, the kids have been awesome about not making jokes this year, since it's now the second school year I've had it, and I've settled in. Personally, I like the idea of my someday kids having the same last name as we do, but I understand that there are lots of different opinions about whether or not to take the last name.

It's my first name where I draw the line. I'm not "Mrs. Kevin." I'm NICOLE, or Colie, or a host of other nicknames. When I see my name written as Mrs. Kevin Gas it makes me feel like Kevin's property, instead of myself, which is a person with her own career, interests, and passions that just HAPPENS to have fallen in love with an amazing man and gotten married. It irks me to the point that I asked the priest and bishop who married us not one, not two, not three, but FOUR times to make sure he announced us as "Mr. and Mrs. Kevin and Nicole Gas" when he was leading up to the big first kiss moment at the end of mass.

It's weird enough when my mechanic calls me Mrs. Gas, or when telemarketers ask for Nicole Gas. I don't need to lose my first name too. So there

Friday, August 27, 2010

Laminating and Other Tasks

So, as I mentioned in previous posts (and my lack thereof), the school year has started this week. I'm going to try to get into a regular MWF posting schedule starting next week, because I finally feel like I'm getting somewhere with my classroom. My kids are, so far, squirmy and cute. I have a new team member who I love. I sort of feel like I know what I'm doing. Life is good.

In fact, I've redone the way my entire classroom is laid out. While this originally involved a lot of hauling around heavy bookshelves and tables, it now involves lots of laminating. Laminating posters that came with new curriculum. Laminating name plates. Laminating pocket chart stuff. While I love the smell of lamination in the morning, I have run into a slight conundrum, and I need your help to figure it out.

My school laptop has only kindergarten songs on the itunes. Dr. Jean, Jolly Phonics songs, and a whole host of other silly tunes (hello, vintage Raffi) that I keep around because I love a good excuse to choreograph dance moves for a pack of five year olds. However, said laptop is connected to the school's internet, which means that teachers have the same firewall as students. While this really isn't a big deal, I'm annoyed for one reason. This year, because of budget cuts that have led to a ridiculously small bandwith, we aren't allowed to go to any radio station's websites. This includes wtmx.com, where my favorite morning show (Eric & Kathy- no Chicago people I'm NOT a soccer mom, I just like it better than that obnoxious Drex and his lotion hour) has podcasts.

In the past, after the kids left, I'd crank a podcast, and get work done around my room for an hour. Now, if I want a podcast, I'm going to have to put it on my computer at home (which means lugging a heavy bag daily on the train) or bring my iPod to school (which makes me look ridiculously anti social if people stop by my room after school). Kev and I also haven't purchased a CD in a very long time, so I can't just bring CDs to work to put on my iTunes.

Help. What's a girl to do?

I'm currently avoiding cutting out the big pile of laminating in my room in silence by writing this post. I feel my productivity will be down until this problem is solved. Yikes.

Friday, August 13, 2010

How to Name Your Child

***NOTE: I am not pregnant, and am not trying. Nor am I a parent. Nor am I trying to offend you if you have a baby whose name is one I'm ranting about currently. Just some thoughts.

Dear Parents Naming their Children,

As a grade-schooler of the 90s, I had lots of classmates named Jessica, Ashley, Lauren, Anne. Lots of Johns, Colins, Ryans, and Toms. One of my best friends' names was Erika spelled with a K because she's German. This was considered a minor scandal at the time.

At the beginning of a school year, the first information I have about my lil' peanuts is a list of their names. Your child's name will be on the list. My class lists for my students and their classmates, however, get a little more confusing. Kayleigh pronounced KY-lee, not KAY-LEE as I originally guessed. Noah, a girl. Wrigley and Addison, siblings whose parents are not Cubs fans. Joycelyn. Tlaloc. Usually, when I get my list, I spend the first ten minutes of reading it (after I count how many five year olds I will have in my room) trying to figure out how many boys and how many girls I have.

Names are starting to get confusing, people. A co-worker of mine announced the arrival of her new baby niece today. Blayksleigh. Yikes. The spelling is confusing, but I bet it is fun to write in cursive. Which leads me to speculate, why all the counter intuitive spelling? Please think carefully when writing on your child's birth certificate.

Now, you may point out, my married name is Gas. Granted, Kev and I won't have a whole ton of options when we name our someday children if we don't want to pay for extensive therapy for them later. (Jack? Mo? My brothers have supplied us with endless possibilities of names that DON'T work) But, at the same time, I don't understand why you guys seem to feel the need to spell your kids' names strangely. I actually think Blayksleigh isn't a bad name, but I would spell it Blakesly. Or Blakesley. Or something like that. Why set your kid up for endless correcting on the first day of school? Why torment your child's teachers (me among them) with endless re-writing of locker tags, name tags, desk name tags? I mean, honestly, do you all realize how many times a teacher has to write students' names on things?

I'm just saying, a name with a "cute" spelling might be fun for you, as the parent, to doodle in the margins of your notes when you are pretending to pay attention at a company meeting. But for your child, who has to learn to spell the beast, and correct everyone the rest of his or her life it may not be as cute. Just give it some thought. I mean, I'm the one who has to teach your five year old how to write it legibly and correctly. Thanks for your consideration.

Your child's kindergarten teacher

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

And...it's August

It's funny, because as a teacher, as soon as August comes around, my perspective shifts naturally. I dust off my alarm clock and start waking up early. I buy new planners, and start new lists. I also start new habits.

Because I'm a teacher, August is the start of my new year, and the resolutions that soon follow. New kids, new chances to grow, new yearly goals. This is the first year in my four years of teaching that I'm staying in the same position as last year: kindergarten in the morning, and first and second grade ELL groups in teh afternoon. I am, quite frankly, ecstatic about this. I poured a lot of my time and energy into making the transition from teaching second grade to teaching kindergarten a smooth one, and much of my remaining brainpower went into the two night classes each week I attended for my masters.

While I made a lot of career progress last year, areas of my personal life suffered. I tried to make up for my long hours teaching and student-ing by filling my calendar with an insane amount of social events. Kev and I spent last school year in a whilrwind of paper writing, househunting, intramural playing and beer downing. Was it fun? Absolutely. Was it healthy? Definitely not. My rheumatoid arthritis diagnosis didn't slow me down. I took my meds when I could, didn't worry about it when I couldn't.

A big RA flare up was the result, combined with a very stressful series of financial discussions in May. As a result, I realized that I physically can't sustain the breakneck pace that I worked at all last year. So, I made some changes. I spend my summer taking four summer graduate classes, so that I only have to be in class one night a week when the school year starts. I've started making lists and emailing staff, to try and get a head start on the school year. I'm playing the Game On! healthy habit building "game" with Kev and another couple, girls against boys, as well as online with a group of women I've never met in real life. Because of this, I'm getting more sleep, drinking less, eating healthier, and exercising more.

In short, it's August, and I'm bracing myself for the start of a new school year.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010


When Kev and I first started dating, he had a tv in his bedroom, and when we started spending the nights together, I realized that this was pesky. Kev liked to fall asleep listening to White Sox highlights, which was problematic for two reasons:

1) I am a Cubs fan.

2) Falling asleep with the tv on gives me a raging headache when I wake up.

After many negotiations and general grouchiness, we've given away the tv, and switched to sportsradio before bed. I feel this is a good compromise. Kev gets his sports fix, I don't get headaches, and The Score talks about all kinds of Chicago sports, not just the White Sox. Everybody wins.

Last night, a caller called in and made the comment that "White Sox fans are real fans, and most of the people who go to Cubs games treat it like going to a bar where they can get drunk and check out babes." I could make lots of comments here about the general jerkiness about this statement, however it's one that I've heard lots of times- from Kev, from other Sox fans, from other callers on the show. However, the comment also made me start thinking about how you define what it means to be a "real" fan of a team. When I dared to comment on Facebook about my love for Blackhawks hockey during the playoffs this year, my brothers quickly labeled me a "bandwaggoner" despite the fact that I have put in three solid seasons of watching most of the games, sometimes with Kev, sometimes with our rabid hockey friend Colin, and sometimes by myself.

I have thus decided that "real" sports fans are the fans that meet two criteria:

1) A real sports fan can identify AT LEAST 5 current players on the team.
2) A real sports fan has watched/listened to at least 20 minutes of a game their team is playing in by themselves at least one time in their lives.

Real Fans are fans that are interested in what happens to their team every year. Not when their team is good, not when their team sucks, not only when it's trendy. A Real Fan is interested in the team for the love of the game. The Real Fan enjoys going out with a big group to watch a game, but they can also enjoy listening to the game on the radio in the car by themselves on the way home from work, or on their couch covered in cats. They don't base their fandom on who else is interested, or are only interested if they have a cute shirt to wear. They love it for lots of reasons that they have decided make sense for them.

I'm sure Kev is going to give me grief about daring to write about sports. I'm sure my soon to be law student brother would find a million ways to argue with these two simple rules, but I don't care. As far as I'm concerned, if you pass these two categories, you're a real fan of whatever team you pick.

Go Cubs, Blackhawks, Bears....or whatever you like. Just be real.

Friday, July 23, 2010


It's nice to have a partner that teaches you things in a kind, calm and supportive manner, like today's gchat conversation about our new grill.

me: stupid question...to fill the propane tank do I just pump from the pump into the tank?
Kevin: NO!!!!!!!
you exchange it
for a filled one
me: oh
Kevin: ha ha ha
me: good thing I asked
Kevin: oh my God
me: well, its not like it comes with instructions
Kevin: I know, but I'm glad you asked
me: you're welcome

Wednesday, July 21, 2010


Yesterday, I reunited with some people very dear to my heart, and as I stopped and thought about it, I realized they are related.

For starters, my lil' sister came home from studying in Chile for six months. I'm so proud of her for going somewhere off the beaten path, and also incredibly jealous. I've studied in Mexico and Costa Rica, and I'm also a travel junkie. I get antsy if I don't have a trip planned, and I have a life goal of seeing as much of the world as humanly possible. I have a collector's lust for amassing connections with people and unique experiences from as many different societies as possible. My sis traveled throughout South America during her time there, hitting Argentina, Peru, Bolivia, Uruguay (I think) and the northern desert and Patagonia regions of Chile. She spent the last three weeks of her trip backpacking the Inca trail, and met people from all over the world. While I'm happy for her, I'm also very selfishly jealous. I don't know when (or if) I'm going to get to embed myself in a culture the way that she did again.

As some of you know, I teach ELL at a school with students from many different walks of life. Most of the time I love my job, and I'm fascinated by the diverse set of students and teachers that I work with. I also get to use Spanish every day, something that makes me incredibly happy and allows me to connect with a wide array of parents and students. In fact, last night, after dinner with my sis, I stopped by a local bar and caught the tail end of a summer happy hour (gone way late) with my favorite friends from work.

While we were sitting at the bar, we all started talking about the fact that most of us are now tenured and in grad school. For teachers, this means that many of us have put on the "golden handcuffs"-we're moving up the pay scale, and may be pricing ourselves out of other jobs in other districts. In effect, we've consciously or unconsciously acknowledged the fact that we're all probably going to stay at our school for the foreseeable future. As we talked about this, we all realized we had something in common: none of us, when we took our jobs, thought that we'd stay at our school for more than a year. Not because there's anything WRONG with where we teach, but because we are all (like my sister) travel nuts. We figured we'd spend a year or two in our midwestern district, and then go back out into the world. Many of us considered taking jobs teaching English in foreign countries, and almost all of us have plans to visit another country for an extended summer trip in the near future.

Before I met Kev, conversations like these with my work pals would have sent me into a panic. Committing to a job? Cutting back on my months abroad? Buying a HOME instead of planning a trip? Now, while I might travel less, I have a partner in crime to explore with, whether it's different neighborhoods in my city or different countries on a trip we plan together that has meaning for both of us. While I might not be taking trips that reflect my own selfish goals, traveling with Kev leads us to go places and see sights that I may not have chosen, but that lead me to new and different thoughts. I've learned that part of growing up means expanding your vision of where your future will take you, instead of planning your life through the lens of your own vision.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010


This morning, Kev set his alarm, got up, and got ready for work. Believe it or not, I actually got up with him to say hello before he set out for his day. If you know me at all, you know that I love to sleep in, and you are shocked. To be fair, I think Kev was too, since I had my rabid lioness morning hair, my glasses, pajamas, and a squint on. I even got out of bed and grabbed some water. More than that, I even had a pleasant chat with him about the Wii tournament starting in his office today and how he better not bring shame on our family name by daring to lose. Why you ask? Because I won't see him for the rest of the day. Or the week.

No, neither one of us is traveling. Somehow, after our relaxing, wonderful, fantastical honeymoon-esque weekend we spent up north at the lake this weekend together, we came home and realized that our weekend is full of plans. Tonight, I'm going to book club and then to see a friend's band play late-night, while Kev stays home and rests up because it's a work night. Tomorrow night I have class and won't be home until 9. Thursday Kev has softball and won't be home until 9ish. The worst part of all of this is that while one of us is out, the other one will be home alone covered in cats. Oops.

I know that weeks like this happen all the time, but for us they usually happen during the school year while I'm working too. I also know that it's not a huge deal, that we will still see each other for a little bit on Wednesday and Thursday evening. There's just a small, irrational part of me that gets nervous when there are a lot of days in a row where we aren't spending any real time together. I used to be Ms. Independent, and now I'm Mrs. No, REALLY, how was your day? I think I get so antsy during weeks like this because it makes me scared that I'm going to miss something important in Kev's life, or that he's not going to "get" something I'm telling him because he wasn't there. I'm neurotic like that. In my heart, I know we're going to be fine, that it's not a huge deal, that it's healthy for us to be separately busy sometimes. In the back of my mind, though, is a little voice nagging at me to get find other moments to make up for it.

Why am I even bothered by this at all? What has happened to me? Has marriage really, *gasp* changed me?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Just a Little Different

I'll be honest, I've never been known to be a super-clean person. Our old place on Roscoe was a pit for a ton of reasons-me being super busy with work and school, the cats shedding profusely, parties that we threw and never really cleaned the way we should have after. The last month that we lived there was the worst-boxes, clothes to donate, and unopened mail everywhere. Kev and I were super busy that month too, trying to pack, going out more than we probably should have, studying like madmen for our finals.

The last few weeks at our new place have brought a big change both in Kev and my habits, and in our relationship as well. Kev has been sort of trying to put his laundry away, and I've been opening my mail as it comes. We've even both been putting daily time into tidying up, and after three weeks, our bedroom still has a floor that you can see. I'm kind of shocked. Since we now own this place, I think we have a greater incentive to keep it looking like a real house, rather than a place that college kids could happily call their own.

Being in the new place also seems to have brought Kev and I closer together. I'm not sure if it's because we've finally achieved a goal that took over so much of our time and sanity for so long, or if it's because we're just settling into married life. We're a little more open and honest about how we're feeling, and since we're pretty broke after the move, we're spending more time cooking or grilling out with friends instead of spending money at crowded bars and snooty restaurants. The tornado pace of the last year, and especially the last 6 months that we've both been in grad school has helped us to prioritize and make the most of the time that we do get to spend together.

This past weekend, Kev and I were talking about this past year, and all the madness that has passed. In one year we got married, started grad school, battled my RA, survived stress at work, and bought a house. Kev turned to me and said he hoped that things would slow down this year, but I somehow think that this is only the beginning.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

I'm horrid

So, it's been a month since I last blogged which means I've pretty much killed off all 12 readers I had in my extensive membership. Oopsadoodle. I'm getting back on the blog train NOW though, so today's post will have an update of the past few weeks in the life of Colie and Kev. Details are supplied to you with the help of the OTHER love of my life, my trusty dusty planner.

May 31- June 6th: Kev and I spend Memorial Day weekend outside and eating about 32804 hot dogs each, and hold our last porch drinking and grilling on the sidewalk at our old place on Roscoe. Oh, Roscoe...scene of many parties, pettings of puppies, and pranks. Also the place where Kev popped the question to me a week after we moved in. It was also grad school finals week and the beginning of the Hawks being in the Stanley Cup. Kev about keeled over when he realized he was already taking his first finals 10 weeks after he started grad schools. These are the joys of a university with a quarter system. We also find out that the closing date on our fancy new condo has been pushed back indefinitely, due to the condo association not providing updated docs. Freakin A, we are bummed.

June 7th-June 13th: We send out frantic emails to postpone our painting party, as we will have no home to paint. It is also the last week of my school year, and I am plunged into a frenzy of report card finishing, room packing, and glue-stick padlocking to prevent the shady teachers using my room for summer school from stealing all of my glitter glue, markers, and googly eyes I have hidden in my cabinets. Oh, yeah, and the books too....cause I would be almost as upset about that. My work friends and I celebrate the end of the year with a Metra bar crawl (one bar and one beer at every train stop, then run back to the train to get on the next one), and the Hawks win the Stanley Cup at the exact moment I am felled by a sinus infection that leaves my head feeling like it is full of cement.

June 14th-June 20th: Classes start for summer session I. Due to the joys of the quarter system, each summer session is 5 weeks long and moves twice as fast. Kev takes an online class that makes him miserable and forces him to be chained to group conference calls with his strangers, I mean classmates, and I tiptoe around while he completes a giant marketing simulation that sounds complicated. We close on our new place June 14th and spend the last part of the week painting the with my parents. My dad primes and paints our new kitchen entirely on his own, and climbs on top of our refrigerator to do so. I've never seen the man more flexible. Our kitchen is blue, and the living room turns out a strange shade of grayish lavender pink. Whoops. We stagger around and pack, and somehow I manage to do my homework for my two summer classes. I am repeatedly thankful I decided to work on my masters some more instead of teaching summer school, as punk kids inside on a hot day would surely put me over the edge. On Sunday, June 20th, we hire movers (best money I've ever spent) who invade the Roscoe apt and our new place like hispanic worker ants and move us in under 3 hours. The movers discover I speak Spanish, tell me I have a beautiful body, and ask me if my husband is being good to me "en la cama." My sinus infection turns into some kind of goop that invades my lungs and leaves me hacking like a 90 year old pruny smoker, which is triggered often by running up and down the stairs as I move.

June 21-Present: We spend last week doing the 2380432908 chores that come with moving, setting up our new place, emptying our old. The cats move to our new place and alternately sulk around, get lost and cry, or hide behind boxes and attack us as we walk by. I mow through The Girl who Kicked the Hornet's nest, and decide I'm going to write twitter-sized reviews of every book I read from now on. I do about a billion more pounds of homework, since we are now in summer session midterms for session I, and Kev continually laments the amount of stuff we have filled our new place up with. Last weekend, we have a weekend of glory which involves sushi at a byob where I brought and consumed waaaay too much of the B, went to the cubs/sox game and sat 9 rows behind home plate with Kev's dad, went to a birthday party, got sunburned and rowdy at pride, and saw the Stanley Cup at the parade. This week, I'm going to try to finish unpacking and detox after last weekend's mayhem. I'm also still coughing and need a new planner. Sigh....

So, as you can see folks, I might have been a teensy bit busy, but I'm back. You can all sleep soundly tonight knowing I'm back, and if you are lucky, I'll even post some pics of our new place, and my awesome pics of Lord Stanley's cup at Pride. Also, I just realized our ONE YEAR WEDDING ANNIVERSARY is Sunday....holy crap, people. Holy crap.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Simple Questions

On Monday, I went out to lunch with a good friend of mine, who in the past few weeks has started dating another very good friend of mine. We all hang out in the same group, and a lot of things in their situation reminds me of how Kev and I got together. I was asking her about how things were going, and she responded. We chatted for a bit, then she asked me something that really caught me off guard.

"How are things with Kevin?"

Things with Kevin are great. He makes me happier than anybody, and, despite a lot of madness in our lives this year, I've never for one second doubted that we should be married or that I love him more than anything else. I realized, though, that none of my girl friends had ASKED me about him in a really, really long time. It felt really, really, good to have some girl chats about how big of a crush I still have on him.

Why is that? Since we've gotten married, nobody has asked me anything about my boy. Sure, people ask how he's doing, what plans we have, how things are going with grad school or the condo. All of those things are fine, but nobody asks for the real dirt. It's almost like people are afraid to ask, or just not interested. If I've learned one thing about being married so far, it's that doing it doesn't solve everything or automatically imply happiness. Our marriage is about choosing to be happy, finding ways to continue to show each other that we're interested in dating them, even though we know we've signed up for being eachother's plus one at every event from here on out. I still get excited about finding the perfect weekend plans for us. I still put thought into what I wear and enjoy pondering new ways to surprise him. Just because you get married, the dating part doesn't stop. I miss being able to tell my girls about something he said that puzzles me, or about some way he surprised me.

When you're in a new relationship, people get excited to hear about the details, and when you're really happy, you want to share some things. However, it seems like getting married has put an invisible veil between me and some of my girl friends. Now, when I dish about something fantastic that we did, people roll their eyes. They say "well you're married, of course you went on an awesome date or wore the sundress he likes best on you for no reason at all." It's not true, though. Living together, making decisions together, can kill the excitement, and cause a real potential for things to be not fine. And when they aren't, well, that's when you sit and wish someone would give you the opening to talk about your struggles. Just as when you're happy, you wish you could share that without sounding like you're bragging.

I was so, so, relieved my friend asked me about how things are going. Not because they are going horrible, but because I'm so happy. Sometimes I need to talk about how things are to remind myself about how great I have it. Friends, if you're reading this, don't be afraid to ask. Don't assume that just because we're married we are different and somehow untouchable and don't have good dirt to share about life. We're married, we're not different. Don't forget to ask.

Friday, May 21, 2010

A Little Problem

I almost got divorced this morning. Seriously, it was bad. In the process, I think I lost a lot of wife points, and am now plotting smart hockey things to say while feeding Kevin Beam-and-7ups when I see him this evening. I am in that much trouble. Yipes.

One of the fundamental problems in Kevin's and my relationship is our opposite approaches to the mornings. Kevin leaps out of bed, happy and well rested, and tackles 7 projects at once. He chats with the cats, tries to chat with me, and whistles a happy song as he thoughtfully chooses the appropriate attire to wear for the day.

Me? Not so much. I cannot emphasize enough how much I hate mornings. I am a total beast to deal with, and after hitting the snooze button as many times as humanly possible, I stagger out of bed, rifle through piles of clothes until I find the easiest thing to wear, and stumble around blindly, muttering about how miserable I am. I'm like the hunchback of Notre Dame and Medusa combined. It's simply awful. It's also a good thing I live so far from my work and have to leave earlier than Kev on weekdays, because I need a good hour of silence and staggering before I'm able to morph back into my usual awkward and giggly self.

In the past, we've had several discussions about the use of the snooze alarm. Kevin uses it maybe one time if he stayed up a little to late the night before. It's an emergency situation only tool. I, on the other hand, consider every time I have to wake up to an alarm clock an emergency, and accordingly hit the snooze at least four times. There's just one little problem-the alarm clock is on Kevin's side of the bed, and he's a big guy. I can't hit the alarm without him waking up. He is less than pleased with the whole arrangement, to say the least.

This morning, the alarm went off, and I drowsily asked Kevin what time it was.

"5:50," he replied, "Time for you to get up."

"WHAT?!" I responded.

"Yeah," he said. "I thought I would just set the alarm later to let you sleep longer since you've been so tired lately."

Now, I realize that in theory it sounds like a kind and thoughtful thing for Kevin to do. Knowing I've been super busy and exhausted, he thought an extra 20 minutes of uninterrupted sleep would give me a little boost- a chance to let my batteries re-charge a little longer, and attack the morning a bit more happily.

What Kev failed to take into account is that I am physically incapable of exiting the bed without a little doze. So, I asked him to hit the snooze KNOWING I had to get up right that second, which meant I did not get out of bed until 6. I have to leave the house at 6:25 to make the train ride up to my school. What followed was a prime example of bad behavior on my part. I stumbled, I cursed, I ranted, I raved, I even yelled at the cats for moving my shoes in the middle of the night. I left the house feeling panicked, and barely made the train. Worst of all, Kevin woke up after my fifth stage-whisper of a terrible curse word, and got out of bed to help me find my shoes, school's t-shirt, and lunch. I am officially a horrible person.

Marital Lessons Learned:
1) I should have the alarm clock on my side of the bed.
2) I should never be allowed to speak before 8 a.m.
3) The only thing that allows me to survive the mornings is my routine. I do not handle disruptions well.
4) Surprises are not meant for mornings.

Wish me luck as I attempt to smooth this all over. Maybe I should buy Kev some nachos, as well.....

Friday, May 14, 2010

Reasons I Love My Job

Sorry for the delay in blogging, folks. The past few weeks have been jam packed with grad school fun, getting organized for the end of the year at work, and trying to maintain my marriage, sanity and health in between.
However, I feel like I'm slowly coming out of a fog, and I have something delightful to post to you about- kindergarteners.

For the past few years, I had taught second and third grades, and the move to kindergarten was unrequested. At first I was really nervous about being able to teach them well, about trying to help them learn and grow and become decent human beings that wouldn't cry all the time or wet their pants a lot. For the most part, I've been somewhat successful, and I've really been surprised by how much I've enjoyed my lil' peanuts this year. Now that we are mostly reading and writing, I'm so impressed by how much they've learned in nine short months. I've also discovered another use for them.

You see, a few months ago, I had a friend named Katie who was going through a rough time. I also had a mail project to teach, and we needed to practice writing letters. So, I had my kiddos write Katie some letters to make her feel better. They sent her advice such as "Don't forget to take your dog for a walk," "We can share your toys together," and "I hope you feel better and more smiley." The letters have since been passed around to our group of friends, and have become legendary. Last weekend, my friends and I started planning a beginning of summer outdoor dinner party for 20, and I decided that rather than writing out invitations myself, I should once again put my kids to good use and have them write the invites.

Today, I spent some time with my kids asking them to help me. I told them I needed good writers and good helpers to create some invitations for a party, because Chef Colin would be too busy cooking to make sure people could come. I put the pertinent information on the board, and told them they needed to make sure all of the words were on their paper, and to add some decorations that would really make people want to come to a party.

Some of us really understood the directions and made Hallmark worthy notes, while others got carried away with the decorating and fanciness of it all. Still others seem to have missed the boat all together. I'll let you decide which are which. Hopefully, you will have equally festive and delicious parties in your future this weekend. Happy Friday!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Backing Away from the Ledge

Kevin and I have been zombies lately, due to a potent cocktail mix of grad school, first time homebuying, and our usual crazy lives. After figuring out some financing, we are 6 weeks away from being homeowners.

The whole process has really been the first step in our 291 day old marriage, and I'm proud to say that despite some setbacks, we've come through it stronger. I'm a fiercely independent, opinionated and stubborn person, and it has taken some work to accept the fact that I'm going to have to lean on my husband for some things in order to make the best decisions possible for both of us. For example, today we were discussing the amount of the loan our parents have so generously offered us to help us with our down payment. After reiterating about 822938 times that I'm not comfortable borrowing from my parents without a strict repayment plan in place, Kev reminded me that A) this is the only way we can come up with the 7% down payment we need to buy our now non-FHA finance-able dream home, B) he has done the math one trillion times, and has remembered to budget date nights, going out with friends, and my target shopping sprees into the monthly mix each and every time and C) that I really should just stop bugging him about the numbers because he is a numbers guy and does these types of things every day for a career. A career that he has been successful at for many years, and that pays him the money to buy the condo to build our life in so that I can continue to pester him for many happy years to come.

Point taken. One of the interesting dynamics in our relationship is that we have many opposite qualities. I tend to be flighty, Kevin's neurotic. I'm creative, Kevin reins me in. I come up with about 487 life plans for us every day, Kevin reminds me that we need to eat dinner and take things one step at a time. Sometimes I worry I am going to drive him crazy with my incessant impatience for the next BIG EVENT. What I'm learning though, is that we can use these dualities to meet somewhere in the middle, to make a cozy happy life full of Glee singalongs, book chats, floor hockey feistiness, and gawking at other people's cute dogs. It's like the Black Eyed Peas say- we just have to meet halfway. (I know I'm going to get made fun of for that quote- I don't care though. Love them.) It turns out that these things that I used to think would drive us apart are now making us into what every good marriage should be- a team.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Silver Lining

I haven't posted in a while, because things these days have turned out trickier than I previously thought. While we thought we had a condo, with accepted offer all set, it turns out that the condo didn't get FHA approved, which has made it more difficult for us to get financing. The eternal debate of "Should we buy or should we rent?" has been playing out in my mind for so long, it's become an old friend. Times are stressful. In the past week, while all of this has been going on, however, I've found that several things in my life that usually stress me out have brought unexpected joy to my life. Things are sneaky like that. So, to preserve my sanity, I am going to sort out my thoughts about some big topics in my life lately.

Grad School: Yes, I am still on track to graduate in under two years, and yes, I still have to leave work with the students two nights a week to make it to campus, but I've found that while I'm in class, I can just focus on the topics and discussions at hand instead of worrying about where we will live and our future finances. Doing my homework is currently becoming an escape from the endless pro-con list I am keeping. Better yet, I feel more productive, and I'm procrastinating less. I expect this phase to end abruptly once something more exciting comes into my life (37 school days left in my year!) but I'll also enjoy this dedicated student honeymoon while it lasts. Better yet, one of my classes is a children's literature course, so I have an excuse to retreat into my happy place, reading, for a good cause.

Budget: I never thought I would say this, because most things financial stress me out. Usually, I feel like I have no idea what I'm doing financially, and I tend to go through periods where I spend a lot of money (when stressed) and periods where I'm very frugal (when I'm not stressed about life, but stressed about money). Trying to buy a condo has forced Kev and I to take a cold, hard look at our finances. We've created a budget that we share and type things we buy into the various categories. (Love you, Google Docs). Seeing a plan in place makes me feel more confident that we can really do this, should the opportunity arise, and it's had the added bonus of forcing Kevin and I to make some healthy lifestyle choices. We're spending a lot less time and money at bars with our friends, and we've been saving the times we eat out for nights when we can splurge just for the two of us. In the past, Kev and I haven't always been very good at making time just for us, and sometimes I feel like I'm still in the 14 year old phase of only-going-on-dates-when-we-can-go-in-a-big-coupley-group-so-mom-and-dad-don't-find-out. By trying to save money, we've cut down on that and have spent some great time together.

Tackling this house issue has been the first big stressor our brand new marriage has faced, and I'm proud to say that we're doing well. I'm so glad I have someone on my side who understands just how stressful and crappy a lot of this process is, and I'm glad to know that when I pass on going out because it's too expensive, that I have a partner in crime to stay in with. I still don't know where this is all going to go, or where we'll be come June 1st, but I think I will be okay knowing that I will have some kind of home to share with my some kind of wonderful husband.


Wednesday, March 31, 2010


As I've mentioned before, we've been looking to become first time homebuyers, and we're getting pretty close to moving into a new, big kid place. I don't want to write too much about said place, for fear that I will jinx it, except to say that it is conveniently located by awesome public transit, it's still close to our family and friends, and it has a kitchen and dining room that will be awesome for our dinner parties. However, there is one truly amazing thing about our new place, and that is Sven.

Our lovely realtor, Kevin and I have visited the condo complex several times, looking at various units, weighing the pros and cons, and trying to figure out what the best for us will be. Each time we visit, we pass through a gorgeous front courtyard, where we are immediately shadowed by a small black cat. He has white paws, a dapper red collar, a perpetual scowl, and quiet feet that stalk us up multiple floors, across decks, and underneath trees. The first time we visited, he followed us to the front door of a building, then quickly darted around the side of the home, only to be waiting on the deck of the THIRD STORY UNIT when I opened the back door. Every time we visit, the cat is there waiting. He's like our home buying conscience, and he may be the fastest cat I've ever seen in North America.

When we returned to the complex a few weeks later for our second showings, the cat was waiting. At this point, I grew a bit concerned and checked the kitty's collar. It read


I have a lot of questions for Sven. Does his owner just let him out each morning as he leaves for work? What does Sven do all day? Does he go back home when he is hungry? Does he have a cat door? Does he worry about getting hurt- we live in a big city! How far from home has he ventured? Will he taunt our cats when we move in? I'm utterly mystified as to how he became an outdoor cat in one of the biggest cities in the world, and I plan on stalking HIM once I move into his hood. Watch out, Sven. The tables are about to be turned.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Music Night

Today is a big day in the land of kindergarten. We have our very first music night, and the kiddos couldn't be more thrilled about it. In fact, we've already had a great day, since my parents (a doctor and a nurse) came and visited us for Community Helpers week, and even gave them band-aids and pencils. Kids at this age are all about two things: official looking outfits, and the swag that they can get from people wearing them. Needless to say, the visit was a success, due in part to my mom bringing x-rays from work of a kid who swallowed a penny. I think I've safely scared them all into only putting food in their mouths.

Something about today inspires a post about my job, I'm not sure why. Perhaps, since I teach in a state where budget cuts are a real and terrifying thing, it is another reason to be thankful for the job I do have. I think it goes beyond that, though. Seeing all the kids in their best black and white outfits, nervously hopping around antsy-pantsy as they wait for the big performance always makes me smile. I love them all the more for being tone deaf, for making up their own lyrics, for biffing a dance move here or there. Even though they try so hard to be self-important mini-adults, the music night always shows them for what they are-kids. Little kids, one of whom will probably fall off the bleachers. It also shows me for what I am- a person who likes to fix things and pick them back up.

Spring break is coming, and I would be lying immensely if I said that I wasn't pining for it to come soon. While I look forward to a week of wearing sweats, going for runs, reading for large portions of the day, and indulging in an adult beverage or two at an inappropriate time of day, I'll also think about my lil' peanuts, and hope that they are getting into just the right amount of trouble with a fantastic partner in crime while we're off.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Married Fight (or She Married a Weirdo)

(Yes I know it's been forever since I've blogged, as Colie "subtly" hinted)

So we've been married for a while now, but there is one thing that we fight about all the time. It's one of those topics that people cannot fathom why we fight about it, but it's something that I am always on the short-end of! And what could drive to fight this every time, and get me to write about it? Well....it's yogurt.

See, Colie and I grocery shop together most of the time and we agree on 99% of the things to buy for the house. We both love to cook, so we end up at grocery stores fairly often. We tend grab a few things from Whole Foods if we want to make something that night, or head up to local Mexican grocery store when we really want to make some amazing stuff (or just get produce that's 5x better than anything else but 33% of the cost). Our "big" grocery runs where we load up for a few weeks is done at Jewel, and that's where we buy our yogurt.

Here's the thing, we will usually buy 10-14 individual servings of yogurt and both will take them for lunch most days. But even buying that many, I always am the one that gets stuck running out of flavors that I like while Colie still has 3-4 cups! Here's why: I like really "boring "yogurt flavors: strawberry, blackberry, raspberry, cherry. I don't like all the "fancy" flavors that try to make things taste like cake or pie (I don't think they taste anything like them at all). But guess who does!

So here's what usually happens - I'll buy my 5 "boring" flavor (I put boring in quotes because I don't think they are actually boring but I'm also told I'm weird) and Colie will buy 1 or 2 "boring" flavors but then buy the bizarre 'Key Lime Pie' or 'Strawberry Shortcake' and those things. The type that the one really annoying commercial highlights when the woman's on the phone with her friend and she's all, "OMG, I had triple-chocolate cake and key-lime pie and blah, blah, blah." and her husbands this mope looking through their fridge that has like 250 things of yogurt in it.

Man that's a tangent...

Anyways, so the morning, Colie gets up before me and will pack her lunch and she will just randomly grab a yogurt because she likes all of them and doesn't care which flavor she gets! So she has a 100% chance of picking something she will like. This isn't a big deal the first few days, but after a few days, I can tell that she is still picking at random! So in like 4 days, I'm stuck having to pick between two flavors I hate because she took the last Strawberry!! And trust me, I've brought this up, and we've discussed it ad naseum, but I know that in the morning a truck could crash through the front window and Colie would probably walk past without acknowledging it.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Best Ever

I'm not going to lie, I'm pretty sure I have the best job ever. I work at a big elementary school, and many of the families that my students come from can use a helping hand or two, so I feel like I make a difference every day. Also, teaching kindergarten this year has really let me hear some hilariously quotable quotes such as:

S: "my favorite country is Natalie."
Me: "Where is that?"
S: "You know, next to Scotland."

J: "Do you have kids yet?"
Me: "No, I have all of you!"
J: "Well, don't worry. Jesus will send them to you when you look ready."

But today's events really took the cake. You see, at our school, a class gets chosen every week to lead the pledge on morning announcements. The kids all get to introduce themselves, say the pledge in English and Spanish, and watch our principal make the rest of the announcements into the special microphone. This week is our class's turn. Because I don't have an assistant, I had to send four of my kiddos down to the office, and called the secretary to let her know they were on their way. After a few minutes, she called back and said that they hadn't arrived, but that she would check on them.

Where did she find them? Outside. While this is mildly terrifying in and of itself, in context it is quite funny.

She found them saluting the flag with military precision, in a straight line, slowly enunciating each word, and saying the pledge. To the flag of the United States of America.

Apparently kids really are literal thinkers.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Crash and Burn

March started a few months ago, and with it came the start of my running season. You see, unlike my friend Maria, who trained for and ran races pretty much year-round when she lived in Chicago, I have strict rules about running. It should be done when there is no ice on the ground. It should be done with as few layers on as possible. It should be done with two ultimate goals in mind: 1) to improve slightly time-wise and 2) to look good in a bikini. Since I live in Chicago, this makes my running season from March-October.

So, on March 1st, I laced up my shoes, dusted off my Nike +, and headed out to run before my book club. (We read The Glass Castle, in case you are interested) I battled out a few miles, noted how jiggly I felt during the whole process, and then saw my friend Lindsay's apartment in the distance and realized how invigorated I would feel when I was done.

Boy, was I wrong.

Ten feet from Lindsay's door, I skidded on a patch of ice and ate it. I'm not talking about a little stumble here, people. This was a full-fledged, fall down, skid on the ground, and pray my husband wasn't parking the car somewhere close by extravaganza. I mention this now because I have parent teacher conferences coming up, and I will be sporting both a very professional teacherly dress (sans Keds, thank you very much) and a maroon scrape the size of a Sacajawea dollar on my knee. Yipes.

In spite of all this, I signed up for two runs yesterday: the Wrigley Start Early 10k and the Soldier Field 10 mile. After making excuses for the last few days and sulking, I'm ready to head out after work today for what will hopefully be a much less painful 3.5 miles. Wish me luck. Hopefully, the only evidence I'll be wearing from this run tomorrow will be some poppin' hammies.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Mom's in the House

My mom is in grad school for nursing. She shares my work-and-school pain, and to make matters worse (for her) she's going to take a lot longer to finish her degree than I will mine. Hurray for teachers! For one of her projects, she has to work with a family that shows many health risks and try to help them improve their habits. Because I work at a very high-risk school, she came to me asking for help. I forwarded her email to our school nurse, matched her up with a family, and went back to slogging through my own homework.

A few days ago, I got an email written only as a Catholic mother can. It was actually a forwarded email response that she had sent the mother of the family she is working with:

"Meeting at 3:00 in the office sounds great. Now we just need to hunt for a nice, quiet place to work."

No "Dear Colie" No "Do you know of any places we could work?" Just a sad plea for help. Naturally, I took this to mean that she wanted to work in my classroom.

I should say here and now that I love my mom. She's funny. She's smart. She usually doesn't give unsolicited advice. She let me shave my legs when I was in fifth grade. All excellent qualities. However, as soon as I replied that she could use my room once my students left, I panicked. Since then, I've been on a cleaning frenzy. Every pile of papers on my desk had to go. The tables had to be Cloroxed. The shelves of toys had to be reorganized.

Forget that I'm a successful, well-regarded teacher with a high academic success rate. Mom's coming, and if my room is dirty, I will SO be grounded.

Monday, March 1, 2010

It's A Small World After All

We had a little scare at our casa this weekend.

Friday night we stayed out super late causing mayhem and eating tacos with some friends, and so we slept in Saturday morning. For some reason, Kev likes to sleep with his itouch next to the bed, and before I was awake he rolled over and read his email. Then he paused. Then he nudged me out of bed and towards CNN.

Chile had been struck by an 8.8 magnitude earthquake, and my sister has been there since mid-January studying abroad. We spent a few hours checking emails, talking to my mom, and stalking facebook, until, finally, news came through an indirect source that my sis was okay and safe with her host family in their home, which had been undamaged, though the family suffered severe damage to other properties that they own.

Now, I don't think I need to bore you with how stressed, worried and sad I was on Saturday afternoon waiting for information. I am not a very patient person when it comes to these types of things. I love my sister dearly, and I am so very thankful that she is safe.

What continues to amaze me, in the aftermath, is just how quickly information came to us. Although my sister is half a world away, in a place where it is warm (unlike the frozen tundra I live in), emails from other girls in her program quickly reached us saying that my sis was with her family and unhurt, and people quickly posted pictures on their blogs of the damage. CNN was using Twitter to chart people's reports of damage, and to figure out which areas of Chile were the most severely impacted.

It seems that the internet has made it a small world after all. Though I know only a handful of people read this, it comforts me to know that we've staked our own small claim on the gigantic internet community, and that underneath all of the superficial emails and websites I spend hours on, that real information, that really makes life better, is passed on. I talked to my sister on AIM this morning, and I will never, ever again take this type of communication for granted. I'm thankful that though my sister is farther than she's ever been from me, we're communicating more regularly than usual. I have much more than her safety to be thankful for. I can also feel blessed that she lives with a family where internet is available, and that she has a working computer. I can be thankful that when we were concerned, a whole community of people reached out on my facebook page to post prayers, positive energy, and questions about my sister.

For all I curse technology when it doesn't work right, I now know exactly how amazing it can be when it does.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Nerd Couple

I am beyond excited. Today Kev has an appointment with his academic adviser to register for his classes for grad school. He's in a great program that's going to get him closer to his life's goals, this degree will eventually provide him with the means to move higher in his career, and he generally likes school, much as he would hate for his high school friends to call him out on it.

While I'm happy for him for all of these reasons, a part of me (I won't say how big) also can't wait to have some sympathy- he'll now know exactly how gross it is to go to class twice a week after working all day. Instead of teasing me about procrastinating my homework, he'll have to do homework too. Sweet revenge for the last four months is coming soon, and I am ecstatic.

I realize this is a less than flattering announcement, but I don't care. I'm just being honest. I realize in all likelihood he will be more gracious and productive during his grad school years than I am, and that's okay. I'm willing to be the smaller person, and admit it. Despite being a teacher, I really still do think that homework sucks. Hurray for being a pair of nerds.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

No Security Blanket

Kev is out of town on business this week, and while I consider myself a respectable, independent adult who is capable of living and working on my own, I'm getting a little ragged around the edges.

For starters, I haven't slept the last two nights. I am a person who requires a lot of sleep, and I'm not very nice to the kiddos at school when I don't get it. The last two nights, I just haven't been able to get comfy. I keep hearing strange noises, the radio is either too loud or too soft, the pillows are shedding down everywhere, and the dial on our alarm clock is just too dang bright. The bed feels enormous, and I keep worrying that I'm leaving the doors open or that the cats will find a mouse and bring it to me (it happened to Kevin once and I'm still terrified). I've been stumbling around in a stupor and brought the wrong notebooks to both of my grad classes. I finally decided to pack up my laundry, get my hair cut, and stay with my parents tonight. I'm starting to look like a hippie at a fest.

To top it all off, this morning I realized I left my house without my planner. Ordinarily, I am a very disorganized person. My classroom tends to have stacks of papers and books and my house is usually teetering on the edge of disaster. However, I cannot live without my planner. It has daily to-do lists, color coded by class, work, or home jobs, and it has running schedules and dates for pretty much everything. I have a lot of plan time at school on Thursdays, and I was really counting on my planner to keep me honest about how much I had actually gotten done. I also have gobs of homework for grad school this weekend. Ew. Leaving home without it has caused me to waste a lot of time trying to remember what was on my list, and I'm getting cranky about it.

Kev comes home tomorrow. Hopefully his pilot puts the pedal to the metal. Things are starting to get ugly.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Book Update!

On a separate note, I just finished reading Committed by Elizabeth Gilbert, and after I have some time to really marinade my ideas about it, I'll be sure to write a quick review. However, in pondering next books to read, I found a new post on The Book Lady's Blog announcing a mini-book club over the internet. If you're interested, click the button below, and have The Sparrow read by March 30th to get in on the action. I may even have Kev read this with me and do a dual post- he's into these types of books. Hurray for reading! What else is there to do when there's this much snow still lurking around?

These Are My People

I feel like a real grown-up now, because Kev and I are discussing buying our first home. We're looking for a condo that gives us more space, a second bedroom to do all our grad school nerdery in, and makes both of our commutes to work a little easier. We've settled on a neighborhood and are starting to figure out how it all works.

Kevin is very comfortable with this process, whereas I am terrified. I know little to nothing about finance, mortgages, credit scores, and the like. Usually, when I am wondering about something financial, I just run it by Kevin. My brain excels in the gray areas: the interpretive, the creative, in word play and language and building connections between words and concepts. Kevin's, on the other hand, is a firmly black and white mind. He likes to know the given formula that makes something the way it is, the bottom line, and the certainty that one plus one always equals two. In fact, upon arriving at our bank to meet with somebody about pre-qualifying for financing, Kevin closed his eyes, took a deep breath in, and with a smile on his face announced "These are my people." He was nearly giddy when discussing the prizes we may one day trade our rewards points in, and he beamed with pride when I asked clarifying questions about the cold, hard numbers.

I'm convinced this means that our kids will someday be either the next Einstein or the next Glow Stick Tool. Either way, yikes.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Swing Into Valentine's Day!

Kevin and I have never been very "into" Valentine's Day. While I love the excuse to have a date night, we try to do that weekly anyway, we love to cook together, and he is fantastic at showing me he loves me. Case in point: After the Chicago area got hit with a foot and a half of snow, he shoveled out my entire car AND parking spot while I was at class. I got off the El and found my car ready to go so that I could sleep in and not have to do it at 6 a.m. before work. What a guy!

Although our celebrations tend to be fairly low-key, we do have one tradition that endures. Every year, I have a class Valentine's Celebration with my kids at school. I buy them something fabulous to decorate for a mailbox, I buy them candy and valentine's from Walgreens, and we spend some time sneaking valentines into eachother's boxes. This year, I found some totally rocking Batman and Disney Princess valentines and pencils. Turbo sweet. In return, I almost always come home with a manila envelope chock-full of teats and cards that the kids are certain I will love. Kevin and I spend the night after my party opening all of the valentines and giggling.

I'm always intrigued by the choices that the kids make when they are choosing valentines for me. Why, for instance, did one of my second graders last year warn me that he picked a card for me that was "inappropriate" for school? When I opened his envelope last year, I found a card with the Grim Reaper on it. Not sure how I'm supposed to take that.... I also get a lot of cards with Bratz Dolls, and a lot of Fun Dip. Often I get temporary tattoos, and sometimes I even get a flower or two. This year, I got all of those things, and something even more interesting...a Webkinz.

In case you aren't in the know, a Webkinz is a Beenie Baby type toy that comes with a secret password. If you go to the Webkinz site, you use this special password to create a virtual world for your pet. By playing online games, feeding your pet online, and doing other basic tasks, you can earn points to upgrade your little pet house. Cool if you are an elementary school student, right?

Which begs the question: Did I receive this gift because the parent was concerned that we didn't have a class pet and wanted to give us a project to do together? Did she know it was a Webkinz and instead thought she just bought me a cute stuffed animal (note: I am 25. This is still not acceptable) Or did she find it discarded by one of her children and regift? I'm just not sure what to do. I'm praying she doesn't ask me anything about it. I mean, I'm already hopelessly addicted to FarmVille. I don't think I have room in my life for another virtual world. Yikes....

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

1 Month with RA

It's time, my friends.

For the past month, I've been avoiding a blogging subject, partially because I was adjusting and partially because I didn't have the words. Now, I do. In December, on the Tuesday before Christmas, I was diagnosed with Rheumatoid Arthritis. While I won't get into specifics, the gist of all of it is that my overly helpful immune system has decided to attack my joints, which has been affecting the strength and movement I have in my hands and wrists. For awhile, I wasn't sleeping very well and I was waking up even grouchier than usual with what Kevin has termed my "grandma hands." Luckily, I have good insurance, a great doctor, and have started a dose of very mild immunosuppresants to tell my nosy system to back off.

At first, during all of the testing, I was pretty down. I was worried that I would no longer be able to run or play floor hockey, and on a daily basis I was frustrated by how long it took me to turn on the bathroom faucets, my near inability to open water bottles, and the waking up in the middle of the night to throbbing hands. However, after talking to my doctor, I realized that it's up to me what physical activities I can do, and that while I might have good days and bad days, there are very few things I can do that will make my illness better or worse.

The reason I'm blogging today, however, is not to wallow in my chronic illness, nor to discuss it's impact on my marriage (which, so far, has been minimal, aside from some teasing) It's because I realized today, that I've seen some positive changes in the past month. For starters, I'm feeling better. I'm hoping this is because of the meds, and that I won't have to switch to a more hardcore med (the next strongest med would force me to quit drinking because of it's negative effects on the liver, and we all know that I am just not ready to go through life as a teetotaler). More importantly, though, is the fact that I've become more focused. I'm responding to emails faster, taking care of bills sooner, eating better, and working out longer. I'm not procrastinating my grad school mountains of homework, and I'm trying to be overall more responsible. I spent so much of my time ignoring how much pain I was in, and forcing myself to tough it out. Now, I kick myself. I know my body well enough to know it was telling me something was amiss, and I can't help regretting how much time I wasted feeling less than my best.

I've learned a powerful lesson with all of this. Ignoring something won't make it go away. When I was feeling at my worst with RA (and I feel blessed, because I was diagnosed early in the progression of the disease, and have no permanent damage thus far-my form is much more mild than many of the others in the RA community) I would worry that I had bone cancer, or would be disabled from the mystery condition. In making the appointment and accepting the diagnosis, there has come a sense of peace. Yes, this sucks, but I can handle it. Yes, I will have bad days but I will also have great ones. Yes, I can live my life in a way that makes me happy, I just have to be more in tune and proactive about not letting myself get stressed and overwhelmed. I also have to be a strong, confident and happy wife, because I refuse to let this impact my relationships or experiences with the people I love, especially my husband.

In short, I'm more willing to chase down my goals. In May, I'm running the Wisconsin Half-Marathon, I'm working on my book challenges and my master's, and I'm pondering a possible trip down to South America to see my amazing sister who will be studying in Chile from February-July. Kevin and I are pondering the eternal question: To buy or to rent? and I'm lounging on the couch with my cats when I don't feel like doing any of those things. I'm not sure where my RA will take me tomorrow, let alone in the next few years, so I'm living the way all those "wellness experts" (what are those, anyway?) say you should: in the moment and with no regrets.

For more information about the medical side of Rheumatoid Arthritis, click here.

For a fabulous blog about life with RA click here.

To learn more about a community of support for people with RA and their families, click here.