Thursday, March 26, 2015

China here we come!!

I don't have much to say today, as I'm completely exhausted from a hellacious week at work... but I wanted to post one last time before I wandered off this side of the globe.

In 12 hours, Mike and I will be sitting in the Las Vegas airport waiting for our flight to San Francisco, which will then lead us to a flight to China!  Woo!  China!

This is my excited face!  I'm going to do a combination of being an insane tourist and seeing all of the awesome stuff that China has to offer, and relaxing and getting a lot of massages.  Massages are cheap and unlike in the US aren't often confused as a method of prostitution... don't get me wrong, I'm sure there are plenty of "happy ending" massage parlors to be found, but the general idea is if you want a massage, it's because your back or feet are sore.  :)

After this week, if I wasn't going to China, I would just dig a hole and hide for the next 10 days.  My students have been absolutely insane this week -- so much so that on Wednesday, I actually begged (no, I'm not exaggerating, I begged) my administrator to keep a couple of the kids in in-house suspension on Thursday because they had such horrid behavior.  Sooooo terrible.  A couple of kids commended me for not punching one of them.  I hadn't really considered it, but once they said something,  I realized that had I been a student rather than an adult, I might have gotten into a fight.

This is seriously how I felt...

Today, the kid crossed all bounds of common sense and decency.  He called me racist nine times (I actually counted so I could write an office referral) because I asked him to do his work.  Then when that didn't work for him, he told me (I'm not kidding, this is probably one of the most creative versions of insubordination I've ever heard) "The day you become my mama is the day you can tell me what to do.  Until then, be quiet and leave me alone."

The kid is 12.


I'll just let that sink in for a moment.

In the meantime, I've had enough kids for one week.  I'm going to China!  (No way they can find me there)

Sunday, March 22, 2015

To Infinity and Beyond! (Or China, whichever comes first)

This morning, Mike and I are starting to take care of some of the little details for our next adventure -- hunting for camera chargers, talking about packing lists, and other things we can take care of a few days before we go; we'll go out this afternoon and pick up a few things - as it's probably the last opportunity we have to go out together before our flight Friday morning.  I even took the plunge, and against my frugal nature paid for the "economy plus" upgrades for our flight to Beijing.  Our flight home isn't very full yet, so I moved us to a window/aisle seat with a empty center seat between us, in hopes that either a) it won't fill up or b) if it does fill up the person in the seat will move to another empty seat.  I don't love long haul air travel, but I can deal with it.  Mike, on the other hand, at 6'2", finds it uncomfortable in the best of situations.  He's still trying to wrap his mind around a 10+ hour flight.  At the very least, we can try to make it a little more comfortable.

Since I've been to Beijing a few times, I've put Mike "in charge" of the to-do list.  I want to make sure he has the opportunity to see and do everything he wants.  Mostly my wants/likes involve things I've done before and/or shopping.  I'm sure I'll get plenty of time for both of those things.  

Also - food.  I love Chinese food and I plan on eating copious amounts of it while in Beijing.  Of course, I don't really need to add "eating" to the itinerary... so, I'll probably be covered.

I don't have much to say about Beijing yet- I'm really excited.  I haven't been to China since Mike and I first started dating in 2009 (when I went to visit my mom for Christmas), and it will be fun to see him experience the weird "firsts" that one has when going to Asia for the first time.  China can be especially weird for visitors.  It's gotten better since the 2002 Olympics - there are many more bilingual signs and tourist-friendly areas.  But, it's still kind of amazing to look up and see nothing but Chinese characters in giant neon.

This is to say nothing of things like Chinese bathrooms and other other oddities one will undoubtedly experience.  I've tried to soften the blow a little bit by booking a European-style hotel with good ratings.  So, there should be "normal" beds, pillows, television stations, etc.  I imagine he'd probably leave me for dead on one of Beijing's back alleyways if we ended up in a hotel with "Asian" mattresses (the Asian standard for mattresses seems to be something slightly firmer than plywood with a thin pillow top).

I realized, however, how incredibly fortunate Mike and I have been.  In our 6-ish years together, we have been on countless adventures.  We've been very lucky together, in that we've had the time off and the financial ability to travel and enjoy our lives together.  Granted, we haven't had unlimited resources to do as we please, but I'm a savvy internet traveler and know how to get a good deal.

From almost the very beginning, Mike and I have shared a love of travel.  He was, and perhaps in some ways still is, the weekend road-trip kind of guy, while I'm a big world-adventure type of gal.  But, despite this, we've found some happy middle ground.

I cannot count the number of states we've visited together -- but there have been a few.  We've done major trips to Washington D.C., Orlando, and Yellowstone.  There have been a dozen short trips to other cities -- not to mention the January trip to North Dakota, which Mike will never let me forget.  But, on the other hand, we've seen Broadway shows, and some of the most amazing museums on earth.

We've been to Europe twice - 5 countries altogether for almost 9 total weeks.  We even managed a short jaunt to Africa (Tunisia) on our cruise.

We've even managed to go to THREE Disney parks together!  (Disneyland, Disney world, and Euro Disney).  Since China gave us a 10-year travel visa, I'm seeing a trip to Shanghai Disney (hopefully opening in 2016) or Hong Kong Disney in our future as well!

And for all of this, I could not be more thankful.  I realize we are incredibly fortunate, and I appreciate the life we have.  I know life can change in a blink of an eye, and while I am hopeful we will continue our path, I am happy to enjoy what we have in the here and now.  

Friday, March 20, 2015

Bye Bye Baby

So, last night, the call we'd been waiting for came.  Baby C's dad had gotten all of his ducks in a row and was ready to take custody of her.  So... we spent a little time saying goodbye and stopped to visit the ducks in the park on the way to drop her off.

We knew this day was coming.  It was actually supposed to happen last weekend, but there was a little bit a a hiccup in the process.  Her had actually moved from California to comply with CPS.  We didn't completely understand the situation, but it came across as he'd never really been involved as a parent, but when given the opportunity, he really did what he needed to do to step up.  For the past few weeks, he'd been doing visitations with Baby C on Friday evenings.  At first he wasn't really sure of what he should be doing, but at the most recent visitation, when I went in at the end of the hour, they were playing together with the toys.  The simple fact that he was willing to move, get a new apartment, find a new job, said that he was willing to do what he needed to do.

It's been bittersweet for us.  I've probably used that word a dozen times to describe my feelings.  We originally brought baby C home, thinking it was just for a long weekend.  We were waiting for her grandma to get some documents together so she could take Baby home.  After the weekend, grandma decided she didn't want to have a toddler in her home, and left her in our care.  While we weren't 100% prepared for the situation, we made the best of it.  We fell into kind of a groove and did the best we could with the hand we were dealt.  

C was a wonderful baby.  She was pretty quiet (amazing, after our last experience), loved us, loved the dogs, and for the most part was a happy, healthy little girl.  We took her in for a checkup shortly after she arrived & felt horrible when the doctor told us she had a double ear infection -- she'd never cried a single time.

We figured out her likes and dislikes, spent hours cuddling with her on the couch and playing with her; Mike even taught her to flap her "wings" and roar like a dragon.  This quickly became her favorite game in the car.

More amazingly, we saw her take her first steps.  This wasn't something I'd ever experienced and it was amazing.  When we first brought her home, she didn't walk or talk, or a lot of other things babies her age should probably be doing.  But, barely a month later, she was walking like a champ and talking up a storm.  I taught her peek-a-boo, Mike introduced her to Star Wars (which she really seemed to like).  

It probably goes without saying that we totally fell in love with her... so did everyone else who met her.  It was hard NOT to love her.  She was sweet, and silly, and personable, and generally a good kid.  Given the opportunity, we would have kept her forever, but that wasn't in the cards for us.  We spent a long time really torn about the situation, because we'd originally just signed on for a couple days of fostering.  We were gearing up for a busier time of year with a lot of different things going on and juggling all of that with a toddler was hard.  A couple of times, we even thought about having her placed with another foster family while they got all of this sorted out, but it never really panned out.  We kept plugging along and doing what we needed to do.  And every single day, we made sure she had a good day.  

While we are sad that she's gone -- and quite honestly cleaned all of the toys and baby things out of the living room so we weren't reminded of her all the time -- we are happy in knowing she's with her family that loves her very much.  She will probably never remember us, but we will always remember her.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Thursday Thoughts: The agony and the ecstacy

Today, I am linking up with Jen from Ramblings of a Suburban Mom again for her Thursday Thoughts.

I actually started this blog post last week.  It was my birthday (FYI, I am old now) and I was doing a lot of very un-birthday like things... I feel like I spent the bulk of the day cleaning up baby poop and chasing after 8th graders.

But, for some reason, I didn't finish the post.  It just sat here.  I probably got distracted cleaning up more baby poop or chasing after some more 8th graders.

In the past week, things have actually settled down somewhat in the baby poop department.  We're giving Baby C less milk, so she's calmed down a lot.  8th graders, on the other hand, are a terrible population of people in general, and in the past week, they've only gotten worse.  (If, for some reason, you are an 8th grader reading my blog, I have a couple of things to say.  Firstly, you might want to consider some more age-appropriate reading material.  Secondly, if you purposely read my blog about law school, foster parenting, and European travel, you probably don't fit my general category of terrible 8th graders.)

So this week, my students have been insane.  This is a representation of what my classroom would look like if I walked out of the room for nine seconds.

I mean, the picture is probably someone's idea of what the worst possible classroom could look like, but it's probably not far from the truth.  Well, there are more girls in the picture than I have in my classroom.  Other than that.... it's pretty close.

In the past few days, we've had a epidemic of fights.  Today, one of my students walked up to another student and, without a single word, punched him in the face.  IN. THE. FACE.  Another student spit at the PE teacher as he was walking past.  I sent one to the office for sexually harassing a female classmate.  This was all TODAY.

Earlier this week, one kid hid in a bush while he was waiting for another kid to walk by, so he could jump him -- like a NINJA!

All in all, the last few days have been exhausting.  It's times like this that I don't feel much like a teacher.  I feel like I spend a lot of my time managing chaos... and badly managing at that.  I spend half of my time dealing with behavior management issues and very little time dealing with educational issues.  I do love what I do, but some days it's hard.  This week, has been some of those days.  I've considered taking up recreational drinking.

We've had more punches thrown in the past 7 days than we have in the past 7 months.  Call it spring fever, or restlessness, or simple bad behavior... but whatever you want to call it... it's horrible.

All teaching is challenging.  But, if you want to know what teaching in a behavioral program is like on it's most challenging days... it's like herding cats.  It's an impossible task - a pipe dream.

These particular cats look like they are probably easier to teach than some of my students.  At the very least, they seem focused on a specific task.  Many of my students can't even manage that.  

However, today was probably one of my most disheartening days in recent years.  I have plenty of rough days, but I'm usually able to walk out the door at the end of the day and say to myself "tomorrow will be better."  Deep down, I know tomorrow is probably going to be a better day, but it's still been a frustrating one.

One of my students has made a series of particularly bad choices.  This can be said for a lot of my students, but this student made some choices that will probably follow him around for a number of years and that will have consequences that ripple through all aspects of his life for a very long time.  He's not a bad kid, but, like many, he made terrible choices.  And no matter how much he has tried to turn his life around and make better choices moving forward, he is faced with the knowledge that the decisions he made at 16 will alter his life -- at best for years, at worst, for decades.  For a sixteen year old kid, that is a very sobering realization.

I try to be supportive of him; largely because he is doing everything humanly possible to make better choices moving forward.  He is doing everything that he's been asked to do and then some.  I try to give him a positive affirmation every single day - he's a smart kid, I'm glad to see him doing so well, he does great work... something.  He will typically smile, but oftentimes I can see the depression lurking underneath.  As someone that has worked with teens for years, as well as struggled with my own bouts of depression, I can often see that the smile is for show.  But I keep trying.  

Today, especially I could see that he was very depressed.  I asked him if he was ok, and he said he was just having a bad day.  Everything about him screamed depression.  I feel like if he had the option, he would have been laying on the floor curled in a blanket.

Later in the day, when I was going through student work, I found some really disturbing writings in his folder.  He's clearly been contemplating suicide and seems to be struggling to stay on the right side of that line.  I informed my administration, who talked to him and said he's doing ok.  But I'm sitting here tonight thinking about the weight that he is bearing and how overwhelming that must be to someone so young.  I'm also thinking about the sheer number of times I convinced people that I was ok -- just having a bad day -- when nothing could have been further from the truth.

So I sit here tonight, in agony... hoping for the best.