Saturday, October 30, 2010

A Woman in her Thirties Talks Good

Yesterday, during a conference with a parent, I received a complaint. This is rare for me, considering I am a contender for the greatest teacher that ever walked the planet, but a woman in her thirties must deal with these occurrences when they arise. The complaint was that I am teaching her daughter vocabulary words that 'no one ever uses in real life'. While it would be tempting for me to just make a list of the words so you all judge for yourself, I'm not sure that would be sufficient. Instead, I will regale you with my story.

My first instinct was to think back to the list of words I'd been testing my students on, words taken directly from the text we are reading. 'Really?' I asked, bewildered. 'Really,' she said. 'I read a LOT. I even called a friend who has a college degree. And SHE didn't even know half of those words.'

As a teacher, I must provide justification for what I do in the classroom. I have always considered myself fairly adept at this, and I think it's one of the best ways of reaching an indifferent high school student. Why do we have to learn the five paragraph essay? Because when you entreat your boss for a raise when you go into the workforce, he or she will be appalled if you can't provide evidence supporting why you deserve it.

So it was a little disconcerting that this parent would assume that I was teaching these words on a whim. However, a woman in her thirties thinks about things from other people's points of view. Perhaps these really were difficult vocabulary words. Perhaps she is not enticed to use a large profusion of vocabulary to express herself. I tried to understand her anguish, and assured her that the more vocabulary her daughter could learn with me, the better.

No matter how useless the vocabulary was.

There is no doubt that we are in a dire state when it comes to education in this country. It is easy for a student to succumb to peer pressure, and for a parent to feel overwhelmed watching their savings account dwindle as they help their child through college. But at the end of the day, I believe that the high school experience is about opening doors. My quest as a teacher is to work every day to help each student make that happen. It is a ponderous burden, and ultimately one of the most important jobs in the world.

But here's the thing: even the wiliest teacher can't do it herself. She needs the support of the parent community. She needs to open the doors of communication and be able to take constructive criticism. And maybe this woman had a point. Who was I to look upon her with disdain? Perhaps I have been locked in my own bubble of academia for too long. Perhaps I am the vile teacher I never wanted to be, teaching my students words that will be of no use to them in their lives.

It's hard to know for sure, but upon considerable reflection I have come to the realization that I need to stand by my teaching. Call me crazy, but I think the words I've been teaching these kids come up in daily life. Maybe not in the 'LOLs' and 'WTFs' of Facebook, but in other ways.

I can't think of them right now, but I'm sure I will eventually.

In the meantime, I'll leave you with a picture of my formidable belly, in words I hope will be intelligible to the masses:

37 weeks tomorrow- OMFG!!

Sunday, October 24, 2010

A Woman in her Thirties Supports Herself

This week's checkup resulted in no additional developments in the labor department-- yes! So Friday I cheated on my modified bed rest (with the doctor's blessing, of course) and went to purchase the one item I'm still missing from my hospital bag: A maternity bra.

I am sensitive, literally and metaphorically, in this area. While there is a woman in her thirties in me that is so cheap I've bought only four pieces of new maternity wear (everything else has been from the second hand store), there is also a woman in her thirties that knows the two areas of her wardrobe where she cannot skimp: shoes and bras. Shoes I have covered, thanks to the geniuses at Dankso. Bras are another story.

If you are one of those girls who can go to Victoria's Secret and pick out a couple of T-shirt bras at two-for-$20, please stop reading now. I don't want to hear about how you can wear button down shirts and strapless dresses. I haven't been one of those girls since junior high, and pregnancy has only... compounded the issue.

On J's advice, I went to Nordstrom to be fitted. It was cute how the girl was concerned about me wanting my privacy. I snorted at her, referred to my nine-month preggo belly, and reminded her that a woman in her thirties who's going to give birth in a matter of weeks doesn't worry too much about modesty. She left the dressing room and came back with about six for me to try on.

The money I spent on two bras on Friday more than makes up for the money I've saved on other maternity wear. Seriously-- how does Elle Macpherson sleep at night? But I'll admit, when I'm not looking at the size of them and I'm not thinking about the money I spent on them, I'm pretty darn happy with my purchases. A woman in her thirties cannot put a price tag on comfort, and she certainly can't put a price tag on support. Feet, boobs, and otherwise.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

A Woman in her Thirties is Grounded

(35 weeks... tomorrow. Bird's eye view of cutest dog on the planet)

A woman in her thirties should trust her instincts, but I tend to have a problem in this area. My instincts are often wrong. If you need further proof that this is true, check out some of the dating choices of my early twenties.

But this Thursday, however, I woke up feeling... off. Funny. I drove into work and felt nagged by it. Not pain, not really. But not good. It's hard to describe in words, but I think 'wonky' comes close.

I taught my first period class and thought, 'I could make it through the day. I'm fine.' But I couldn't get rid of K's voice in my head, her voice when she was describing what early labor feels like. And if I was going to be honest, I felt a little like that. After much hemming and hawing, I got a sub together and started to drive to the doctor, convincing myself I'd be home for lunch.

Things happened fairly quickly there, since I'm at a point in my life where people really, really care about how I feel. After a probing and twenty minutes strapped to machinery that reminded me of the book One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, here are the words the doctor said:

'Your contractions are two to four minutes apart. We have to admit you.'

Ummm.... WHAT? I have seen lots of movies and know what contractions are supposed to look like. I'm supposed to be gripped with pain, cursing my husband, breathing through my teeth. Not teaching essay writing. Before I knew it I was in a WHEELCHAIR, being pushed through a secret passageway to the hospital (creative writing juices were flowing then by the way. A secret passageway to a hospital? I can think of a million first lines...). But really, all of this was just masking the fact that I could not be in labor, Chewy couldn't come today, this was not the way it was going to happen. Was it?

A couple hours of IV fluid, an episode of America's Funniest Home Videos, and one container of cottage cheese later, the contractions subsided to more than 30 minutes apart. The nurse used the word 'normal', and L and I both breathed a sigh of relief. Crisis averted... kinda.

I've been put on 'modified bed rest', which means I can go to work as long as I'm sitting the majority of the day, and that's about it. Guess who has to do all the grocery shopping, laundry, Dan-walking, cleaning, and cooking without any help from his wife? L... I owe you lots of beef and broccoli for this one. Believe me, women in your thirties, as romantic as it sounds to sit on the couch and watch Oprah while your husband does all the chores for you, it really just sucks.

L's Mom will be disappointed to hear that I did go to work yesterday. However, I sat the whole day and took the elevator to my classroom. When I spilled a drop of water on the floor, I literally watched one of my sophomores FLY from his desk to the bathroom so he could get a paper towel to clean it up. L is currently at the dog park with Dan, and I'm sitting here slapping my hands to keep from getting up and starting a load of laundry.

I think T said it best yesterday when she said, 'it's kind of like you're grounded'. That's exactly how it feels, minus the facebook posts about how unfair my parents are. If Thursday's episode happens again I'll be on full-fledged bed rest, which is pretty much my worst nightmare. So a woman in her thirties takes her grounding seriously. She relaxes. She sits. She allows her husband to do stuff for her. She focuses on keeping her baby baking a little while longer.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

A Woman in her Thirties Considers the End

Guess who has two thumbs and is more than eight and a half months pregnant?

This woman in her thirties:

(Yes, I realize there is only one thumb visible in this photo. I have had this camera for three years and still have not figured out the self-timing feature. Don't judge me.)

It's all happened so fast, as things tend to do, and recently it's dawned on me that all this pregnancy business will be coming to an end rather soon. No, I will not spend this post highlighting the mental breakdown I had recently over the purchase of a Boppy. Instead I will do what a woman in her thirties with mild OCD does best: make lists.

Things I will miss about being pregnant:

1. People caring about how I feel

When I was about 10 years old, my orthodontist slipped when trying to adjust one of the spacers in my mouth and split the bottom of my tongue open. She split the bottom of my tongue open. During three years in China, I threw my neck out about four times, leaving me in such agonizing pain that I could not breathe without tears bursting into my eyes. A woman in her thirties has many examples of enduring through excruciating pain. And yet I can say without hesitation that no one has ever cared as much about how I feel than they have in the last eight months. Tired? Lay down and rest, sweetheart. Heartburn? Let me go out and get you some Tums. Emotional? It's going to be okay, honey, I promise. Being pregnant rules. I'm trying not to think about how, very soon, no one is going to give one you-know-what about my aching feet.

2. Movement

I always thought that a pregnant lady felt a baby kick a few times during her pregnancy. Either that's not true or I'm giving birth to the next Mary Lou Retton, because this little one is doing visible gymnastics in my womb about 20 hours of the day. How do I know it's visible? Because yesterday, while trying to lecture on Patchett's use of characterization in Bel Canto, one of my Seniors raised his hand and said, 'Um, Mrs. C? Your stomach is moving.' Creepy... but awesome.

3. Androgyny

Let's just say it's been a few months since I've been able to see... one of the parts the make me female. It's weird, this break we are taking. It's like we both know the other is there, but Chewy is standing in the way of the picture. It makes me feel very Athena-like. If it weren't for my giant boobs, I'd be Shiva his/herself. In other news, I've made acquaintance with the inside of my belly button for the first time in thirty two years.

Things I will not miss about being pregnant:

1. Plumber Butt

If pants don't have the word 'yoga' in front of them, I have no interest. This is a problem, because yoga pants are not ideal when trying to command respect from a classroom of high-schoolers. So I'm stuck with jeans, slacks, and other so-called comfortable maternity wear that I spend the majority of the day hiking up to my ribs in hopes that they don't fall down mid-lecture.

2. Breathlessness

I think many of my internal organs, mostly my bladder and my diaphragm, will be pleased to see Chewy make her exit. In the time it takes me to hoist myself out of bed (four times a night) to get to the bathroom, I'm out of breath. Walking Daniel at a 90-year-old lady pace around the block also leaves me winded. Breathing really is such an under appreciated activity. I've missed it.

3. People's stories

As a reader and wannabe writer, I am a lover of a good story. But in the last few months, all the stories I've heard have been of the 'horrible childbirth' variety. I have bitten my tongue through them because I figured they'd be ending soon, but have found recently that they are now being replaced by 'just wait until you have a colicky baby' stories. I'm kinda done with the stories about how hard this is going to be. I think this little one is, too:

Saturday, October 2, 2010

A Woman in her Thirties Loves her Dog

A year ago tomorrow, I wrote this post about the day Daniel came into our lives. I am not one for mushy sentimentality so I will say this: the anniversary of Daniel's addition to our family has been more important to L and me than our actual wedding anniversary and both of our birthdays combined.

That's how much we love this dog:

I had aspirations of a doggie birthday party, complete with Walter and friends, but between work and the eighth month of pregnancy I have barely found time to wash my hair, let alone plan an event. The best we could do was decide to set today aside for Daniel time-- a day for us to give back to him a teeny tiny fraction of the happiness he brings to us. Here are a few of my favorite pictures:

Chillin' with homies at the park

Showing Daddy just how good he can be for a treat

Taking a leak during Mommy's 33-week photo shoot

Capturing and destroying other dogs' tennis balls

Panting adorably when it's time to go home

We don't know what Daniel's story was before he came to us, but it doesn't matter. I think that if Daniel could talk he would say the same thing. Sometimes it's better for a woman in her thirties not to know the profound significance of every twist and turn in her life. So, in the absence of knowledge and the absence of words, we keep doing what we're doing. We go on our walks, we cuddle on the couch when watching TV, and we show each other every day how happy we are to be family.