Saturday, December 27, 2008

Bits & Pieces

So they say by this age (18 weeks), Flippy can loosely hear things outside the womb, and that songs the fetus is exposed to a lot in the womb are calming and soothing after the fetus is born.

This led me to the slightly uneasy conclusion that Flippy will probably go down for all his or her naps to the driving strains of trance music (such as this), since that's what I always like to have on when I'm working.

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NOBODY likes ANY name I pick out for the Oscar-Cat. I'm tempted to call him Stubby Cat now, no matter what anybody thinks, because his legs are about three sizes too short for his body.

Anyway, last night we learned that Oscar Cat DOES NOT like thunderstorms. There was piteous crying and wailing every time it thundered. I patted the bed up near me so he could come get petted and maybe calm down, but this just resulted in him attacking my hand with all available teeth and claws. Uncool, dude.

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I had a slightly less-merry-than-expected Christmas, as I came down with a stomach flu (RIGHT when I'd finished with morning sickness! So unfair!) and I wasn't able to travel to the family Christmas. But my family came down through the fog and ice to see me on the 26th, so that was cheery at least. And at least I have plenty of video games and books to keep me entertained.

My mother pointed out if I keep this up, I'll be a size 2 after I give birth, since apparently I'm not going to actually digest anything I attempt to eat until spring. :P

(Grey Cat's latest trick, incidentally, was an attempt to comfort me with headbutting while I was attempting to worship the porcelain goddess. This almost ended EXTREMELY BADLY.)

Monday, December 22, 2008

Christmas Cat Blogging

Okay, now I've gone and gotten all self-conscious about my "cat-blogging." But the cats have fans who want to know why I'm not blogging about them! So here's your update.

Beige Cat -- That's the new one. My mom said she'd disown me if I called him "Weird Cat" or "Photoshopped Cat" on my blog. Maybe Striped Cat? Still working on it. Anyway, Beige Cat is settling in nicely, though he only likes Mr. McGee and me when we're sleeping. Standing-up humans scare him.

But Beige Cat LOVES Grey Cat. There was an initial period of skepticism, and of course there's still plenty of wrestling, but Beige Cat ADORES Grey Cat. Beige Cat follows him around the house, insists on sleeping curled up against him, wants to eat the food Grey Cat drops instead of the perfectly good food in Beige Cat's bowl ... it's insane. Beige Cat does a lot of kneading of Grey Cat's belly, which is what kittens to do their moms. Grey Cat constantly has this look on his face like, "Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot." But he's being pretty tolerant about the whole thing.

Beige Cat's most disconcerting habit, to Grey Cat's mind, is attack snuggling. Beige Cat will be racing around the house being crazy and kittenish, spot Grey Cat, and go racing over, purr motor already running, to LEAP upon Grey Cat and snuggle on top of him (falling immediately asleep as kittens and babies do). I sort-of feel like this is payback, as Grey Cat weighs 20 lbs. and frequently leaps upon ME unexpectedly to look for snuggles, and it's very funny to watch Grey Cat get startled awake (yet again) by the bundle of Beigeness that is DETERMINED to love him to pieces.

On the plus side, Grey Cat has regained his waistline since we got Beige Cat. Grey Cat had gotten a little tubby as Orange Cat slowed down and the two spent most of their time sleeping ... and then as Orange Cat quit eating and Grey Cat started some opportunistic food theft. In just a month or so, Grey Cat has slimmed down considerably, which makes him look much less like a cuddly fluffball and much more like a linebacker/professional mafia kneecapper. I'd forgotten quite what a bruiser he is under all that fur!

Friday, December 19, 2008

And the Bun Keeps Cookin' ...

Latest checkup shows fetal heart rate at 155 bpm, everything moving along normally!

I have a twitter stream where I'm twittering minor baby updates (at first it was mostly complaints about barfing, now it's cheerier). It's a private stream; if you'd like in, e-mail me via the link in the upper left there. :)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

... and Baby Makes Three. McGees.

Because we've come to the point where people start to awkwardly wonder if I had a giant burrito for lunch or if something else is going on, it's time to confess, blogosphere, that something else is going on. Specifically, I am pregnant.

We're thrilled, of course. We've seen Flippy on ultrasound, and we've named him/her/it Flippy because it was so frantically paddling its then-flippers at the 8 weeks ultrasound that the tech had to chase Flippy down to get a heartbeat -- and warned us we were in for it, as they're never this active that early. (Where d'you think you're going there, Chief?)

I am 15 weeks along, and I've had a fairly epic battle with morning sickness, so it hasn't been a fun first trimester. Other than class, I've been basically house-bound since the end of October. It seems to be tapering off, knock on wood, so hopefully I'll get to this magical part of pregnancy everyone keeps telling me about where it's "fun" soon.

So the answer to basically every question you've had for me for the last three months is, "pregnant."

Eyebrows, why were you so tired and boring the last time I saw you out? Pregnant.
Eyebrows, why haven't I seen you out among people since Halloween? Pregnant.
Eyebrows, why haven't you blogged in like forever? Pregnant, and it was hard to think of other things to blog about when one topic was totally consuming my mind and I couldn't say anything!
Eyebrows, how did you manage to sprain your wrist? I was racing for the bathroom and Grey Cat thought I was going somewhere fun and played the underfoot game, resulting in me tripping on him and falling really hard, spraining my wrist. Or, short version: Pregnant.

Flippy is due to arrive May 29, although fetuses are notoriously bad at observing calendar dates.

And now I have to tell the story I've been dying to tell since I found out I was pregnant, because it was hilarious and I had to keep it all to myself. I went in to get the blood drawn to confirm the pregnancy, and the first thing that had happened to me as soon as I got pregnant was that my fingers swelled up so huge I couldn't get my wedding ring on (they remain huge), and the second thing was that I got really emotional, especially right at first. The day of the blood draw I'm all bloaty so I'm wearing my loose jeans and a grubby T-shirt. Meanwhile, we just switched textbooks for intro philo this semester, so I'm sitting in the waiting room highlighting away as I prep for class.

One nurse comes out and asks the other, "Is Eyebrows here?"

Nurse Two replies, "I think she's the student with the textbook there."

I'm just like, "Whatever," and the nurse comes to get me and I follow her back to get the blood drawn. The nurse leaves, and sitting there I start to feel kinda-of emotional as the enormity of "Holy crap, I'm pregnant!" hits me. The nurse comes back a minute later, and asks in a somewhat concerned tone, "Now, who is this Mr. McGee who's on your chart, is he the father?" (Because recall, my husband and I have different last names.)

At this, I just BURST into tears, mostly because I'm overwhelmed and full of hormones. But the nurse has now decided I'm a pregnant unwed college student.

"Is this a good thing? Are you unhappy about the pregnancy?" she asks, in a very concerned and sympathetic tone.

"I'm married *sob* and he's my *sob* husband but *sob* I just can't *sob* get my wedding ring *sob* on," I wailed. "I'm really *sob* excited *sob, hiccup*."

It still makes me giggle.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Why I'm Running

As you may have heard or seen, I am running for District 150 School Board, for the 3rd District seat that Mary Spangler is vacating. I don't promise this post will be elegant, but I wanted to lay out some of the reasons that I've chosen to make a run for school board.

On a personal level, there are probably two driving factors: First, I really like this community. I like living here. I like Peorians. Second, I believe in service to the community. I liked what Bob Manning said recently: "Step up to the plate when it’s your turn, do the job to the best of your abilities, remember who you represent, and don’t stay too long."

The most crucial thing that I would like to focus on, if elected to the school board, is student achievement. That's a broad topic, and an easy thing to say, but it's clearly at the heart of what we all want for the students of District 150, and it's the purpose of the system. It's why we pay the taxes into the system. The District isn't a babysitting service. It isn't a jobs program for administrative cronies. It isn't a feeding trough for consultants. Its purpose is to educate, and District 150 should be a first choice, not a last resort. We have excellent students -- I teach some of them at ICC. We have excellent teachers. These students can achieve if we can only create the environment for them to do it.

I am talking and listening to everyone who's got something to say about this and is willing to talk to me about it -- local teachers, District 150 students and grads, 150 retirees, support staff, parents, local professors, board members in 150 and in other districts, even my mother, a junior high teacher in Des Plaines (District 62). Some of the policies I would pursue include:

Free teachers to teach, as much as possible. Miring teachers down in red tape or forcing them to spend more time administering discipline than teaching is not a recipe for achievement. Obviously, there are constraints that neither the schools nor the district can change -- NCLB, for example. But within those constraints, the Board should do everything possible to create an environment where teachers can teach with a minimum of interruption and distraction and a maximum of support from principals, administration, and the Board.

Create an alternative school for disruptive students. I was frankly somewhat appalled when I discovered Peoria doesn't have one. The small number of students who create real disruptions and discipline problems should not be allowed to continue disrupting the learning of those around them. At the same time, explusion is an unattractive option, as it leaves students who are most in need of education and direction without resources to improve their lives. An alternative school -- a good alternative school, whose focus is to reintegrate the student into the mainstream and provide an excellent education until that's possible -- is necessary. Removing these seriously problematic students from the classroom will allow them to get the focused attention they need, and the other students to focus on their studies in a safe environment conducive to learning.

Focus on "the next step" after high school. I've heard a lot of enthusiasm from current and retired teachers about improving both college prep and vocational education opportunities. A lot of these programs sound very interesting, and very workable.

However, we need to commit to programs and stick with them -- District 150 has done quite a bit of "we'll try this, no wait, now that," picking up programs and discarding them before they have a chance to work. There is no perfect program, and there are probably a variety of methods that will work to improve student achievement. But none of them will work if they're implemented for a year and then dropped; this creates confusion and waste.

A second set of issues, and ones that the Board is probably able to influence more directly, revolve around governance and communication. In recent years, there hasn't been a great deal of openness and communication from the School Board or the administration about various decisions. Stories change constantly -- "A longer school day is good for students, except when it isn't." I don't think anyone in Peoria is under any illusions about the financial status of the District, and that that constrains the District's options. It's up to the School Board to be open and honest about that, to set priorities, and to say, "Yes, that would be nice, but we can't afford it." It's up to the Board to be a voice for taxpayers and to demand accountability from the administration -- and that includes justification for expenses such as four superintendants and various consulting fees.

This closed culture has created an atmosphere of distrust. (I've written about it previously, here. And there is no situation in which taxpayers should have to FOIA obviously public documents.) There are issues where the Board and District are legitimately constrained from public discussion -- issues that fall under FERPA, or various personnel matters that are legally private -- but this constant refusal to openly discuss issues that are open has created a situation where Peorians are no longer willing to believe the District when it says, "Trust us."

While one vote on the School Board can't change District policy alone, one person on the Board CAN communicate directly and honestly with constituents, and that would be one of my primary aims.

If you're interested in helping out my campaign, or if you want to talk to me about your concerns, you can contact me at the link on the top left. I look forward to hearing from you.