Since it has been awhile, I thought I would share some pictures from our adventures this fall. It has been another whirlwind of a school year, and while I usually do a good job prioritizing self-care and family, while still getting the important things done at work, at this point my writing has not made the priority list. But things have been going well.
One of the newest additions to our life this fall, is Rob’s wind surfing board!
For Halloween, Iliana made multiple costumes for herself, and she enjoyed some independence at a lock-in at the library!
And of course, none of us are too old to carve pumpkins.
Last year, Ili decided that she was too old for trick-or-treating, so we drove to Clear Lake Shores Island and handed our candy from our tailgate. This year we did the same, but Iliana noticed that many teenagers stopped by for candy. So she left Rob to hold down the fort and did some trick-or-treating of her own!
And in case you are wondering, I went as the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse!
I did some thrift shopping, and Iliana was happy to borrow some of my finds…
I found myself a lovely non-alcoholic wine that is only 1 smartpoint per glass…
Iliana spent a month designing a mouse trap car that ended up winning first place for distance!
And finally, right before break, Iliana’s class put on “Colonial Day” for the school. Ili was the schoolteacher, and she used hornbooks to teach phonics. She had fun but decided that she will leave the reading instruction to me!
So there is a quick update on our fun! I will do a Thanksgiving/gratitude post at the end of the week.
Since we started back at the beginning of August, we have been dealing with an increasing surge of Covid cases, due to the Delta variant. At first, I was worried that there would be another shutdown, when all the mask drama started, politically. Then, it just became unreal to watch as more and more students and staff members tested positive or had to quarantine.
Allergy symptoms have increased for everyone since this year’s hurricane near-miss (which was not nearly as scary for us as it was last year, since we knew all along that it would miss us and we would be on the clean side). But allergy symptoms are the same as Delta symptoms, so sitting in half-empty classrooms filled with runny noses can be disconcerting.
Add to it the fact that there was a situation that, while it was perfectly safe, triggered a lot of trauma-related emotions for me. And the situation was compounded by the fact that Covid has left schools chronically under-staffed–and circumstances in our state have made that worse this year.
On top of all that, there are constant cautionary tales of vaccines being useless against Delta. So when I started feeling insatiably tired, I felt the need to hide it. It was exhaustion, right? I could not remember the last time I got a good night’s sleep, and lack of sleep does affect me a lot.
Then the stuffy nose and sinus drip cough started. Nasal irrigation and steroid spray kept it at bay for the most part–these are typical allergy symptoms for me, and they do get worse when I am under stress. In fact, I usually carry a bottle of water or coffee with me, so that I can keep from coughing. But when a cough slipped out last week, I got lots of suspicious looks.
But coughing wasn’t a symptom I had when I had Covid, and neither was a sore throat, which I started experiencing on Friday. However, the muscle aches and headache, which had been getting worse over the past week, were a definite cause for concern. At least I wasn’t having neurological symptoms….until I realized that my eye had been twitching for a few days now.
Luckily, we had a long weekend, so I could lock myself indoors at home and figure all this out. I googled the Delta variant, hoping to learn that my symptoms were completely different from what I was experiencing.
I do get crazy physical symptoms related to stress. Right before I left my previous job, when the situation was very traumatic, I would get muscle aches, GI symptoms, and a low grade fever, which were all psychosomatic. And my resistance lowers when I am under extreme stress. I had to student teach twice in order to get my degree, and had a crazy holiday season between the two unpaid internships. Due to the stress, I ended up getting shingles in my throat at age 23. I also had psychosomatic symptoms, including a stuffy nose and muscle aches, from the beginning of the pandemic up until I actually caught Covid and recovered. So stress was a definite possibility.
However, I decided that I was likely in denial, so I let my yoga teacher know that I would not be in class for the next 10 days. Then I overate and wondered what to do. Finally, on Saturday, I broke down and got a home testing kit. I made sure to stick the q-tip as far up my nose as it would possibly go. And, ten minutes later…
That’s right–no pink line on my strip (on the top)! I will retest tonight, and then I will be good to go back to yoga and work once the long weekend is over.
So surprise, surprise, after having Covid and then being vaccinated, I don’t have Covid. It’s crazy how the current media coverage makes it seem like the most probable result is not going to happen.
Now that the excitement is over, it is time to deal with the actual issue at hand–the fact that stress has caused me to have all of these physical symptoms. It is time to streamline my routine, to understand the limits of what I can get done in a day, to set boundaries accordingly, and to focus on the things that actually are within my control.
The reality is that I am not going to get Covid again. So instead of worrying about that, it is time to focus on all of the good that I can do during this crazy time.
In the most normal of years, the beginning of the school year is akin to crashing a boat into a dock. But it has been a long time since I have seen “normal.”
The 2017-18 school year began with Hurricane Harvey and ended with me going on medical leave.
In the fall of 2018 I began my break from full time teaching and started subbing in two districts. In the spring, I accepted a long term subbing position, which was interrupted when a factory caught on fire. During the fire, I worked at Odyssey, where I was later hired as a behavioral interventionist for the next year.
I began my new position normally enough in the fall of 2019, and Iliana started attending school at Odyssey as well. Then came March 2020, which was anything but normal.
We began last year virtually, then had a week off for a hurricane that turned and missed us at the last minute. By September I was teaching full time again. The year was a weird combination of virtual and in-person teaching, with a two-week intermission when I finally caught the plague. At the end of the school year, I was offered my new position, which means that I began the year as an aide and ended the year as department lead.
And so, welcome to back-to-school 2021!
Last Hurrah: A Bike Riding Trip in Montrose
The last weekend before school started, we decided to get an Air BNB in Montrose. It was an adorable little historic apartment!
We packed our folding bikes and headed downtown, where we easily found the Buffalo Bayou trail.
Downtown had more businesses open, than they did on our spring break visit. However, there were more restrictions due to the Delta variant.
2. The “D” Word
It hadn’t surprised me that downtown was stricter, but then Ili and I decided to visit Armand Bayou nature center, once of our favorite woods-walking venues. It was beautiful…
But it surprised me that they had tight restrictions! Some made sense, like wearing a mask when you walk up to the payment window. But others seemed overly cautious for an outdoor place. It was starting to make me nervous.
Then our state entered into a weird battle over masks in schools. Our governor has banned schools from enacting mask mandates, but a local judge ordered one anyway and it was upheld in a higher court. Which means that the schools, who really have no interest in taking sides on political things like this, are strongly encouraging mask wearing.
Personally, I have mixed feelings on the whole thing. I am fully vaccinated and have had the virus, and I have researched the chances of me catching it again. It is a small enough risk, that I am willing to take it. I am definitely not going to stay home or change how I am living my life in a major way.
And yet, I kind of get the reasoning behind requiring the masks at school. Most of the students can’t get vaccinated yet, and kids are getting sick with the Delta variant. From what I have read, the chances of me being contagious are small, but we don’t know for sure which adults have been vaccinated, who has had the virus, etc. So I got myself a shield with pink glasses and created a rhinestone tiara above it! And Iliana got a new set of sequin masks.
While I understand the reasoning behind the masks, I am glad that school is being held in-person this year. There has been a very significant slide, both academically and emotionally, from the year and a half with no in-person instruction for a number of students. Right now, with what we know, I think the benefits of being in school definitely outweigh the risks. I will be glad when the children have an opportunity to be vaccinated.
3. Two Cute Iliana Stories
This has been a year of growing up for Iliana. We recently went to our storage unit and found a leopard print parka that Iliana enjoyed wearing for years. It doesn’t even come close to fitting her now! I asked Ili if she wanted to donate it, and she hesitantly agreed, although she wanted to take a picture of it first.
The next day, when my grocery delivery arrived, the young lady who brought them, surprised me with a bouquet of flowers that had been on clearance. On a hunch, I asked her if she had a little girl. She said yes, she had a 5-year-old. And it turns out that her daughter needed a new winter coat and loves leopard! So Iliana was delighted that her coat went to a good home, and she enjoyed the flowers in her room.
Iliana is loving school this year, and she is taking an extra science class, as well as attending science camp through NASA. She has dutifully studied her chemistry lessons every night, and on Friday her teacher excitedly told me that Ili had gotten 100% on her test! We celebrated with ice cream, of course!
Have a wonderful week, and I hope your fall is starting out well!
Ili is going to summer camp in July, and we received an email recently that said every camper needed to have either a positive antibody test, proof of vaccination, or a negative Rona test a week before attending camp. We thought it would be great to avoid the hassle of subjecting Ili to a nose test the week before camp, so we decided to take the easy route and do the antibody test. It was April, and all three of us had had the Rona back in March. Easy peasy, right?
Some research online indicated that CVS had antibody testing available, and the nearest place listed was in Friendswood, 20 minutes away. I scheduled an appointment with plenty of time to spare before yoga class that night, and we made the drive. After arriving early and killing time in the dollar store, we checked in, only to be told that the computer system was down so testing was not available that day.
After some online research and calling around, I learned that the CVS next to the school where I work (which is MUCH closer to home than Friendswood) offered testing, had a functioning computer system, and had an appointment available in 20 minutes. With just enough time to make the drive we arrived at the store.
After an uncomfortable finger prick, we filled the nurse in on Ili’s history while we waited for the test results. If you remember, Rob and I tested positive at the end of February. Ili tested negative on February 28, but a few days later she started showing mild symptoms (very low grade fever, muscle aches, fatigue). We called the school nurse, who said that it was our choice whether to get a test, but that a positive test would not change her required quarantine days or return date. We decided not to get a test but just assumed she had the virus. So she snuggled with us and we all chilled together.
Well, it turns out that Ili’s symptoms could have been caused by many things…but definitely not Covid.
The nurse said that there was absolutely no way she had Covid back in March, if her antibody test was negative so soon after. So back to the drawing board.
Luckily, I received an email two weeks ago, that vaccine appointments were available for kids ages 12 and up, and that slots were set aside for students at our school that very afternoon. Ili is usually fine with shots, but during that surprise appointment, it took three nurses to accomplish the mission. Now we’re good until dose #2 on Thursday.
End of the School Year
Well, we made it through the year of craziness! This was an especially emotional end of the year for a lot of the kids.
Iliana kept busy. She shared a poem during her class’s poetry slam, and she danced to “Bang” in the school talent show. Here she is, doing some sun salutations to warm up!
The end of the school year, of course, meant state testing. This year, it has been emphasized that the testing is mostly for our information, so that we can see how much students have fallen behind, due to the pandemic.
One morning, my boss couldn’t wait to talk to me, because Ili’s scores had come in. She had aced the math test, which was no surprise, because she has never not aced the math test. However, she also aced the reading test! So next year Iliana will be taking algebra and pre-AP English. We are very proud of her!
Iliana Turns 14!
The year Iliana was born, I worked right up to the last day of school, then went to the hospital the next evening (she was born 22 hours later!). So that means that every year, her birthday is always right before or right after the last day of school. This year, it was the day after.
We decorated our apartment for the occasion…
Iliana’s big present was Mario Kart Home edition!
And of course, we had to set the Roomba loose on the track!
Instead of a party, Ili wanted to do a weekend get-away at a hotel with a pool. So I found us a suite in the Energy Corridor. We swam, I went thrift shopping, and our high point was playing the Oregon trail card game!
But then of course this happened….
So happy summer everyone! I hope you are having a fun, dysentery-free Memorial weekend!
I know that I have taken a break from blogging, but I have most certainly not been idle. It has been a time of change and re-invention.
As of yesterday, I am now 8 months sober. It’s not even a big deal anymore, in my daily life. I have learned that diet Coke is often free at bars, but Pellegrino is not. And that the best bars put lots of cherries in their diet Cokes.
This fall, I started a new job doing behavior intervention at a small charter school. Working full time again has taken some adjustment, and I have had some triggers from the past that I have had to confront. But I love what I do, and I love my co-workers and students.
A surprising change in this arena, has been that Iliana is also attending the school where I work! The program she had been in, in the traditional public school she had been attending, was only available at a junior high that was 30 minutes away by car. The bus ride got to be too much, and I did not like the difficulty I had being involved and communicating with her teachers, due to the distance. So after two weeks, we transferred her to the school where I work!
Charter schools are simply independently run public schools, that are not part of an ISD or school district. They are 100% school of choice, so they tend to be smaller. Iliana has thrived with the individual attention she is getting! She is in pre-AP math and has tested out of speech (which is HUGE, because the language delay/disorder was the most significant part of her disability). She works with a special ed teacher and counselor on her social-emotonal issues and is doing very well. (And what could be better for a minimalist wardrobe, than adorable school uniforms!)
The biggest change for me is not I am not as big as I used to be! On Tuesday, I will most likely reach my weight goal at Weight Watchers. But that is just a formality. The hard work is finished!
I have read from multiple sources that only .8% of obese women ever reach a healthy weight. Most people would consider a probability like that to be impossible. And yet here I am. I have lost 60 pounds and plan to never need to lose 60 pounds again!
So I have done the impossible. Now what? While I will be focusing on maintenance and still attending Weight Watcher meetings and using their tools, I know it is time to move forward and work on new goals. (Here are before and after pictures!)
And thinking of those goals, brings me to my one-word theme for 2020. Do people still do one word themes? I am not sure, but I definitely will be! And my one-word theme for 2020 is, “Create.”
I have already survived. I have already faced my inner demons and completely changed my life. All that remains now is to work on the, “so what?” It is time to create the reality that I want to experience.
I know a one-word theme is open-ended, but I do have some specific goals I would like to start with. Maybe these will be my goals for the year, or maybe they will grow and change. My immediate goals are:
Reconnect with the blogging community and write a blog post at least once a week. I will set aside a specific time to write, when no one is allowed to interrupt me. Not being firm on this has led to my lapses in blogging in the past.
Work on my stretching and flexibility on a regular basis. Do stretching exercises at least 5 days a week.
Run a half marathon. Run at least 3 days a week for now, because the stretching will help more than anything.
Declutter and fix up the boat to the point where it is everything I want it to be. Do the budgeting to make this happen and make it a priority.
Connect with positive people, rather than letting negativity suck me in. Be kind, but stop personalizing people’s bad moods.
So this is what I will be working on in the next year! I look forward to sharing it with all of you!
One of my favorite aspects of teaching was that every fall was a fresh start. No matter what had happened the previous year, September was a time to hit the reset button and begin anew. I made resolutions–both personally and professionally–every fall.
So you can imagine the roller coaster of emotions that I have experienced this fall, since I am not returning to a classroom. There has been grief over losing a huge part of my identity, guilt over the way things ended, fear about my next steps, and exhileration and optimism about my new direction!
The past few days, however, have been all about Iliana. Last year was rough for her, with the hurricane interrupting things, me being gone until after she was in bed in the beginning, then me not going to work in the spring. She was not looking forward to going back, so we have been working on putting a positive spin on things.
We began with a favorite tradition from my school days–a trip to the mall!
Of course, multiple trips on the escalator were involved.
Ili has a sizable wardrobe on hand-me-downs and thrift store clothing, but for her “opening day” outfit, we actually went to the Gap. This was a new experience for me as well, since I have never been to the Gap!
Then it was time for Dippin’ Dots!
Next, we were off to Claire’s to find that perfect accessory for Meet the Teachers night!
Unimpressed with the overpriced school supplies at the mall, we headed to Five Below to pick up a binder and some stickers to decorate it with.
Then, it was time for Meet the Teachers night!
That is Ms. Gomez, Ili’s favorite parapro, in the middle picture.
After meeting her new teachers and reconnecting with all of her friends, we met up with Jocelyn and Ava for some end-of-summer fun at the Kemah boardwalk. Because when you live within walking distance of an amusement park, you have to go there!
And finally, this morning, it was time for Iliana’s first day as a fifth grader!
With her new outfit and Undertale backpack, she was ready to go.
The bus was running a little late, which was typical for the first day…
Iliana found ways to pass the time.
After 20 minutes, Iliana had given up, and I called the bus garage…
…Which, of course, meant that the bus pulled in during my call!
Iliana had a great first day of school, and she loved being in the highest grade on campus!
Do you have a little one heading back to school this fall? How was your first day?