Saturday, April 5, 2014

Three Things.

You know that game two truths and a lie?

Three truths:

1.  I have officially been sick for the entirety of March and now one full week into April. This cold is relentless.

2. Someone hit my car the other day, with the kids in it, and ran. I got his plate and they caught him but now he's lying about what happened.  The kids and I are fine -- my back is tweaked, but I am not aware of anything worse (I am almost afraid to write that, for fear something will rear its head).  The idiot hit my left rear bumper and essentially drove along my driver's side. I was scared to death for CAM, but she seems fine.  And WHM was, luckily, on the other side of the car.  So my car is trashed and Lord knows how we'll deal with it ... but we are okay!

3.  I just submitted my first-ever assignment as a practicing attorney!  I'm quite sure it's awful -- but I still feel pretty great. I never thought this day would come, and I wasn't sure I'd like it if it ever did. But I did enjoy the project and am grateful for the opportunity.  Finding someone to not only take a chance on five-years-out-of-law-school-with-no-legal-experience me, who additionally is willing to work around my teaching schedule, is a gift.  With all our struggles lately, I'm pretty thankful for this opportunity and hopeful that it's a sign of things changing for the positive.

I'm going to go have a happy afternoon!  I hope you do, too!

--Jen

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Once Again, I am Behind!

Ouch. I know it's not quite April yet, but I am quite glad to see March go.

I have been sick for the entire month.  The entire month!

People ask me, "Oh! You're still sick?!"

Nope.

I'm sick again.

I think I was healthy-ish -- which is to say, barely past strep and still not quite right -- for a solid four days before I started feeling icky again.  I am glad to say it has not been a relapse of strep (also known as the worst sore throat in the history of sore throats), but just one bug after another.  I've been voiceless most of March and my body has run through the sniffles, stuffy-head, cough, dry-cough cycle now two times.  We've also been exceedingly busy with CAM's twirling competition season kicking off, WHM's hockey wrapping up, and CAM taking on figure skating!

I am thankful to feel this latest cold moving past, thankful to have had a few weekends tucked in there where we did not have too much to do (except the perpetual grading pile, but I've made some progress), and thankful, finally, that the weather seems to be turning.

I don't think I've been sick because of the weather but I sure have been sick of it!

This week promises to be very busy as it's the close of the quarter and I have taken on some other responsibilities that will stretch my time. But I'm hoping that next weekend, things will calm down a bit and I'll be able to update the blog with some photos and some cooking!  Heck, I'm hoping that next weekend we get to do some cooking!

Happy Almost-April, everyone!

--Jen

Polite Company

A morning one-sided conversation with WHM, while he sits on the potty:
(It's best if you read it out loud.)

Mommy! You know, if you fot a wittle, it's a toot. But if you fot a biiiiiig fot, it's a fot.

Pause.

Mommy!  I fotted.

I fought it was a toot... but I was wrong.

--Jen





Monday, March 24, 2014

Morning Light

When I get up in the mornings, I get in the shower.  Then I usually wake up the kids and let them go in our bedroom and snuggle with Mick, if he's still in bed, or just under the covers, if he's up.  They love it and it makes our early mornings a little easier on everyone.  (I get up at 5 a.m., so the kids get up between 5:30 and 6:00, depending.  That's early.)

This morning, WHM was in my bed and I turned around to turn on a lamp and get something from my dresser.  As I rummaged for a slip, I heard him hop out of the bed, run across the hall, and hop back in.

This is what I saw when I turned around.




I guess that solves the bright light problem!

--Jen

Friday, March 7, 2014

A Few Things, to Catch Up

First of all, an update:

Yesterday morning my voice was no better, and my throat was just as bad as it had been Tuesday when I was all but sobbing on the way to the doctor's office.  Mick called, and because I had just been seen, they were able to call in a prescription steroid to reduce the swelling. (Side note: I always seem to end up with the "if this doesn't work, another option is" step!  Even when I was pregnant I ended up on the "if it doesn't get better, the other option is ..." anti-nausea meds. Weird. Maybe that's my penance for being otherwise typically healthy!) It is strange for me to see a mini pharmacy on the kitchen counter, especially when the entirety of the pharmacy has my name on it, but everything is already on the less-than-half-is-left side, so that's encouraging.

I spent most of yesterday in bed, but I was actually able to sleep last night and I woke up this morning with the beginnings of a voice!  I still feel like an elephant is on my chest (that was a new one yesterday), it still isn't quite comfortable to swallow, and I still get winded just going upstairs and downstairs to rotate the laundry. But I definitely feel progress. And I can, if I have to, answer the phone -- even if I wouldn't quite want to have a conversation.

Hooray!  Seriously, hooray! I am not yet well but I feel it coming, and this is wonderful!

***

I really and truly never understood how strep could knock a person down.  I have a whole new respect for adults who get strep.  I suppose I understood "being super sick" in a vague sense, but now I get it. My poor friends who have had things far worse ... I can't imagine. I have no illusions that I suffered greatly this week or that I was the first person to go through this. It was crummy and I couldn't swallow and had two migraines in a week, but in the end it was, and I knew it was, "just" strep. (Could it get worse? Yes. Were we on it? Yes.) Chemo, the flu, pneumonia, and countless other awful things my friends have had lately? Maybe next time I will pause a little longer to offer more than just a well-intentioned, but still-too-hollow, "feel better, what can I do?"

***

In a burst of feeling well enough to be awake and cogent, also wrote a cover letter that I actually didn't hate.  I'm at a bit of a crossroads -- back to thinking I love teaching (minus the inevitable b.s., but that's anywhere), and for the first time in maybe EVER, I find myself genuinely enthusiastic about my school's leader.  (So why, you ask, did I write the cover letter?! That's the crossroads. Keep reading.  Point is, I hate cover letters, and this one wasn't too bad, which made me content.)

I was thinking about this last night, and can't recall a time when I was actually excited about my principal. The principal has always been someone who was there, either to be avoided for fear of unwanted attention, or as a resource when issues came up, but never someone who -- ouch, this isn't quite what I mean to say, but for lack of a better word, mattered.  Most of the time (other than, perhaps for administrative stuff or routine observations) the relationships I've had with principals were to leave each other alone to do our work.  No interactions meant nothing was wrong.  So, to say I am excited about our leader is a new feeling for me, and there's a part of me sad to be thinking I need to go elsewhere.  (I also have a pretty good teaching load right now and were I to come back in August to find it all had changed, I might feel otherwise, in addition to feeling perhaps tricked or betrayed. So I am mindful, still, that what is wine and roses today may not be the same tomorrow, good leadership not withstanding.) But, of course, the bottom line is that I simply don't get paid enough to make staying feasible for much longer.  Another year, perhaps. Beyond that? Probably not possible.  Isn't that awful?!

Ugh. It's so gauche to talk money. Mick will fuss at me.  (Then he will fuss at me for calling him out about fussing at me.  It's lose-lose so I may as well eat it, right?!) I won't talk numbers at all here, just the fact that the salary I make is inadequate to support our family in the manner we prefer, including the non-negotiable requirement of private school for our own kids.  And sending our parents on much-deserved, long-overdue vacations! You know, something other than coming up to Maine to play nursemaid to one or the other of us!

With the idea that I need to better my salary firmly established, I ask myself constantly: do I want to go somewhere else to teach, since I feel inspired again? Or do I want to go be an attorney, finally, even if the pay is essentially a lateral move, at least at first?  Yes. The answer to both questions is YES. And no sooner do I think that I am going to leave teaching, then the idea of giving up my summer days with CAM and WHM turns my stomach. And it happens every time I think about it (even here as I write this).  This is a good problem to have: theoretically, anyway, I have too many options.  (I haven't even applied for a job, so let's keep this in perspective: I have one option right now, which is to stay put, assuming they'll invite me back.  But I have potential for opportunity. Is that fair to say?)  And yet if Mick were to get a job to bring us back to "the good old days," I'd be very happy being a stay-at-home Mom and trying to start my own business of some sort, running my own ship.

These are good problems, I try to remind myself ... good problems. Not that they don't wake me up and/or keep me up at night.

***

It's Lent! For the first time ever, we decided as a family what we will give up. I am really excited about this, because we never did this in my family growing up (we each picked our own sacrifices), but now that CAM and WHM are old enough -- and of course, both go to Catholic school -- Mick and I think it's important we do this together.  After a family discussion, we settled on: cookies (no baking cookies, no Oreos ... yikes!), Capri Suns and chocolate milk (the latter being a REALLY big deal), fast food for Mick, and restaurant/subs food runs for weekday lunches for me.

***

I think that's it. I was supposed to go to a really cool "unconference" tomorrow, called EdCamp, but since I am just now entering the upswing after having missed essentially a week of work, I don't think it's wise. I've got all the grading in the universe to do, grades are due (naturally), and I don't think running my weakened body relatively hard at a conference (with all of the new germs from a new location and new people!) is quite the wisest idea.  In fact, I'm pretty solidly convinced it would be one of my stupider decisions, so I am being the grown-up and keeping myself home tomorrow.

***

Oops, one last thing: I whine all the time about our lack of instructional time with our students, and at every opportunity I voice my (strong and unwavering) opinion that we need everyday scheduling.  But being absent like this, for four days in a row, I am at least partially thankful for the every-other-day scheduling. I have only missed two classes with each of my courses.  Of course, for my "blue day" kids, I have also missed a full week, so it depends on how you look at it. But certainly two days *should* be easier to overcome than 4.  And it's been much easier to "plan" for, especially since my classes were ALL at turning points and this week's ill-timed bout with strep has meant scrambling for holding-pattern reviews that could be meaningful without being busy-work... a very (very!) tough challenge I am not sure I succeeded in meeting.

Back soon.

--Jen

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Strep. Blech.

Did you know that adults can get strep throat?

Okay, okay, I suppose that anyone can really get anything. But I really didn't know that adults got strep with any regularity. I have since learned otherwise!

CAM had strep about two months ago.  Poor kiddo. She was miserable, but we caught it pretty quickly, and within one day of taking her amoxicillin ("bubble gum," as we call medicines in our house) she felt 100% better.

I woke up Monday morning and felt downright miserable.  I'm not talking a case of the Mondays, I'm talking, I had cramps, my legs hurt, the back of my head hurt, my throat hurt, I couldn't get warm no matter what I did, I had a tinge of a headache ... and I was completely voiceless.  It hurt to swallow.

Okay, okay, so I was sick.  I went to work, though, because last Thursday I had been able to get a last-minute dentist's appointment to make up for the one we had to cancel for our snowpocalypse two weeks ago, and since we only see our kids every other day, if I missed Monday it would have meant not seeing those groups of kids for over a week by the time this Wednesday rolled around.  That was a long sentence. Hopefully you followed the point: I felt an obligation to my students, particularly my AP Statistics bunch, who have that AP Exam coming at us pretty furiously.

My students were amazing.  For those of you that are doubters about high schoolers, I will tell you that they rise to the occasion when their teacher is sick. (Or at least in my teaching experiences, my kids always have.)  Truly: I was voiceless, and you could hear a pin drop in my three classes, as I tried my darndest to get through the material in each period.  But I'll tell you what: I taught periods 1, 2, and 3, and had prep period 4. I emailed the principal and got permission to go home.  I was reduced to nothingness by the end of my teaching day.

I got home and took a long, hot, shower and crawled, sobbing, into bed.  At this point I'd eaten almost nothing and had a full-on migraine to boot. A friend texted me and asked how I was feeing and I replied that I felt like death.

(I wanted to say I felt like I was pregnant, because that's pretty much how my pregnancies felt until we got the morning sickness under control, but I didn't want her to misinterpret.  Mick gets it, and my sister Courtney gets it; not too many other folks do!)

I took an Excedrin, which helped the throat and the headache, but not in a "made it better" kind-of way -- more in a "took the edge off" kind-of way.

Still, Mick wanted me to call in sick for Tuesday and I wouldn't do it.  I know that when I am getting sick, a lot of times that whole sore-throat thing only lasts a day.

And then Tuesday rolled around, and I was worse.  WHAT?!?!

Sooooo, off to the doctor we went.  And yep -- it's strep.  All my flu-like symptoms were apparently my body's reaction to the strep. The doctor said it was a systemic response. I had a flu shot this season, so I was relieved to learn it was not a super-strong version of the flu.

Why am I blogging about all this?

Well, most of you know me in real life, and everyone has reached out to ask how I am doing, but I can't talk!  So I'm writing it here, instead.  Besides, in a few years I will be able to look back and remember this week fondly.

hahahahahahahah

I'm taking some meds and the flu-like part is starting to get better, but man oh man, my throat.  I'm supposed to gargle some prescription numbing gel (mixed with water to make it gargle-able) to help, but I've tried twice and it's made me gag both times. So I've got that going for me! I went back to the salt and hot water.

In the meantime, I was supposed to co-lead a professional development session today after school and I've had to bail on that, which really, really stinks. And of course my Algebra 2 classes were at a unit change, so they are in a holding pattern until I get back.  These are the goods and bads of an every-other-day schedule: I don't miss quite as much time with each individual class, but because I see them every other day, it hurts more. If I miss again tomorrow, I will have missed a full week with 50% of my classes. That's insane!

In any event, I have spent the past two days mostly sleeping, with intervals of lucidity and checking in on Facebook and email and here, a quick blog post.  I also have a whole new respect for those who say they have strep throat.

Yowsa.

--Jen

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sweet As Pie: Bacon-Wrapped Asparagus

I was going to make this two weeks ago with Pioneer Woman's Whiskey Rib-eyes.  But my in-laws came up and we decided to cook the steaks on the grill, and then because I wasn't in the middle of the cooking, I completely forgot about the asparagus!

Thank goodness asparagus keeps pretty well in our crisper.

Even so, I knew this weekend that I was running out of time before I'd have to throw it away, and not much makes me as upset as throwing away food we never cooked.

This week I went to the grocery store but didn't like the steaks I saw, so rib eyes were out. But in the meantime, we bought a family-size tray of ground beef, because Mick ordered these


I'd like to attribute these photos but have no idea where I got them. If they belong to you, please say so.
from television and wanted to try them.

But then here it was Sunday afternoon, and we hadn't given any serious thought to the Stufz and I knew I needed to pack away the meat -- and cook that darn asparagus.

I decided it would be a good day for a meatloaf.

I checked our cookbooks and found this recipe from Pioneer Woman, and this one from Trisha.

(Note: I used the recipes from the cookbooks, which sometimes have slight modifications. In Trisha's cookbook, there is no ketchup glaze as shown in the photo in the link.  We did not make a glaze. Also, if you click both links you'll see that they both have the SAME photo. That's a shame, because we've made each of these at some point, and neither one looks like the photo!)

Trisha's just seemed simpler, and Mick and I were in the mood for simple -- or, if not simple, at least easy.  Besides, we've already made the PW recipe, and hadn't yet tried the one from Trisha's cookbook.  But really, it was the simplicity that trumped. This is our last day of winter break and neither of us felt like doing much of anything.  I even snuck in an afternoon nap!

Trisha introduces her recipe by saying she loves meatloaf, has tried quite a few, and really sticks with this simple, delicious version.  She's dead-on.  This is one of the easiest things you'll ever make and incredibly flavorful.

For our side we had bacon-wrapped asparagus (because anything wrapped in bacon is usually better, except that Mick and I tend to disagree with that because usually the bacon is soggier than we'd prefer).  Oh my goodness.  There is a strong chance we'll have bacon-wrapped asparagus for dinner by itself one night soon.  This was absolutely fantastic.

Naturally, neither CAM nor WHM would take so much as a bite, even though I tried to tell WHM that the sauce was made with his favorite black Chinese sauce (translation: soy sauce!).

Oh well. More for us.

Bacon-Wrapped Asparagus Bundles

Verdict: Holy awesomeness, Batman. Delicious. Pretty. Perfect if you're having company, or if you're not!
Cook it again: Yes. Tomorrow, if we had more asparagus.
Cost factor:  a bit expensive for a side, depending on sales.  Both bacon and asparagus can be costly if not on sale.

First of all, this is so easy that it's silly.

Trim some asparagus and group it into bundles.  Based on how many stalks we had, our bundles were 5-6 stalks.  (Think about how much a single person might eat and make the bundles accordingly -- if you have super skinny or super thick asparagus, that would play a role.)  Did you know you're supposed to hold an asparagus stalk at each end and bend it until it snaps?  Apparently that's the natural break point at which the rest of the stalk is not going to be good.  Mick and I learned that years ago and have used it ever since. But for the sake of pretty little bundles, I actually trimmed the stalks with a knife instead.

Wrap each bundle with bacon and set the bundles in a baking dish.


Trisha says to hold them together with toothpicks, but we didn't find that to be necessary.  Also, my pan is non-stick ceramic, but I don't think the bacon would stick no matter what baker you have, so don't worry about spraying it.

Then in a saucepan, mix a stick of butter, brown sugar, pepper, garlic salt, and soy sauce.

totally used the brownulated stuff again.  It melts a little differently, so I had to stir like crazy!
 When it bubbles to a foam, pour it over your asparagus bundles, and throw it in the oven.



Now, Trisha said to bake it for about 25 minutes at 400.  Since I had the meatloaf in the oven at 350, I put these in for longer, but on the very top rack.  I don't think that had any adverse effect.

Here they are, fresh out of the oven:


And here is our dinner.  Oh my goodness.


For the record, a little of the extra sauce drizzled on the meatloaf was also outstanding, and the bacon did get crispy enough to our taste.


For not wanting to really cook tonight, we ate like kings.  This was one of the best meals in a while!

--Jen