Thursday, November 29, 2007

Comprised of Compromises

Now that I've been teaching high school for 5 years (on my 6th), I'd have to say that I've compromised myself in the following ways:
1. I praise any paper that has an actual thesis statement (implied or direct)
2. I actually think the bloopers at the end of their video projects are funny
3. I read adolescent literature regularly (except Harry Potter or Twilight)-- I haven't sunk that low just yet.
4. 90% of the documents on my computer are handouts for class, not poems or essays
5. I let my students write their short stories in any genre, even science fiction
6. I sometimes take my students' movie reviews as valid advice
7. I no longer bake cookies to bring to class, I just buy them
8. I let my students use my computer to print out their essays during class
9. I no longer go into my 5 minute lecture as to why "gay" is terrible as a descriptive for stupid things. Now I just say, "Yes, that's very homosexual" whenever they say it.
10. I expect much less out of a D student than I did 5 years ago.

I'm sure more will come up in the next year.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Written in a quick fit

Pic sniped from Adam-- Sorry, I didn't ask permission
How to Jump Point

Jesse stepped up behind me and moved right off the edge. This was his fifth or sixth jump in a row, but I had lost count. Christian huffed a little behind and said, as he passed, “You’ll feel better if you just jump. The longer you stand up here, the harder it gets.” Then, ‘plip’, he moved the air over any possible safe zone and started free falling as he turned end over end in a quick flip. His feet split through the water and he sank beyond sight. When he surfaced he looked back up at me. We were both treading, he in water, and me in decision.
When Jesse came up again, he started to put on his shirt. “Wait,” I said. “Go down there so you can show me how to get up.”
“You really going to do it this time?”
He jumped, again (eighth? ninth?), and at once he was looking back up. For some reason I thought that time would cease right there, and maybe I could just stay up here, waiting, treading, stalling. Christian was already behind me again and offered to count.
“Ok. Fine. Yeah.” I breathed in hard, and when he reached three, my feet seemed to detach from my body but I had the slight sensation that I was moving forward, and then,
It’s here that I always feel stuck.
When you lift off from that position, where your feet forget how to return to your last step, you hover for a moment, as if to emphasize your hesitation in making this decision. You’d probably never notice it if you were the type to just charge, but if you stand up there, deciding, imagining, resisting, then that moment beyond taking it back is torturous. You wonder if you’re doing this for pride or thrill. Then you see your foolishness, because in one second, either gain will be forgotten.
From there I almost felt myself rise, impossibly, in the air, and next there was the drop where inertia keeps part of your body in place, but the weight is forced to follow gravity. When I hit the water I realized I’d forgotten all about feet placement. My natural instinct was to sit slightly. Reaching for the surface I only felt stinging skin on my left side. My breath shook in and out of my lungs to skip lightly away from the shock.

Standing here again in the moonlight I can hear the wind fighting the ocean to be heard. I followed the group here, and even if I had told myself that I could back out at any time, I had also led some people to believe that I was planning on jumping tonight. For a while we are all quiet, watching a few people leave shirts on the rocks, discard slippers, and fall into the ocean. The people leaving our platform always make more noise than we do; when they are gone the loss of voice is replaced by wind. I notice the light bouncing off our faces and start humming, pushing the notes out into the air a little. A boy who followed me here is humming too, and so is another one a little ahead of us. The wind is so loud that I can’t distinguish our notes from the mesh of ocean and air voices. I can only feel that there is music carrying past my ears, but no one seems to notice. I smile a little.
Walking up to the edge we watch a friend preparing to jump, and suddenly we become excited and nervous. I say something like “You’re crazy! Look how dark it’s getting!” The clouds pass over the moon and we can barely see our outlines. As I look down to the water I see a gaping black, but one that feels vast and close at the same time.
She yells back to me, over the chorus of music in our surrounding air, “I’d rather not see! Then I can pretend it’s not high at all!” She jumps quickly with her long legs trailing out behind so I can barely imagine what it looks like at the finish. For some reason I can’t force my mind to bring her legs back underneath her and straight into the water, so instead I picture a flip—at least then she makes it into the water in a comfortable position. I suddenly realize that I am going to jump, and I’m going to do it right away. The boy who followed me starts protesting: “I’m not going to jump. Are you going to? There’s no way I’m going to jump.”
“Yeah, I am.” I start taking off my shirt.
“Please, don’t jump. Then I’ll have to jump.”
“Naw, you don’t have to jump. I’m going to.” I get into position, and for a second I wonder how long I am going to stand up there. Wind sings again in my ears, even a little faster when I’m in that moment of upward motion, and when I start falling I picture that blackness, and wind, and music reaching up towards me. I swear it makes a move to catch me.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

1, 2, 3 Abracadabra, Baby Sleeps

Every book I've read on the subject of sleep training makes it sound like babies want to sleep, and it will be natural once you help them out. It seems like mothers of successful sleepers feel the same way, and some of them imply that Amaya is manipulating me because she doesn't sleep. So, I finally decided to bite the bullet and this week I've been sleep training, using the famous "cry it out" method, which is a complicated structure of routines, sleep inducing activities, scheduled cycles and feedings, limit setting, and eliminating dependence on sleep associations. Now, I've been studying faithfully all books on this subject for some time now, so I'm pretty familiar with every possible method. I still optimistically believe in "The No-Cry Sleep Solution", but due to my own parent-centered schedule and other factors, I don't have the time to invest in it (which sounds like months to years). Besides, Amaya will be in my mother's arms next Thursday for 5 days (4 nights), and I know full well that she will be implementing her own version of cry it out.
I settled on the method detailed in Solve Your Child's Sleep Problems, written by Ferber, a sleep specialist at the pediatric sleep center.
We've had a lot of established, tried and true routines and cycles for a while now, so really the only change in our routine is the limit setting at night, and elimination of sleep associations. I've had way too many people convince me that crying it out is a pretty quick process, and babies adjust to it naturally. Even my friend, Rachel, who I just verbally laid out the process for sleep training 3 days ago, implemented the whole thing in a 2 nights and her baby is sleeping soundly.
As you may have guessed by now, Amaya is not.
In fact, we've done some major back paddling. Amaya has been enduring (read 'rejecting') sleep training for 5 days now. She has taken 1 (40 minute) nap in that time (she cried over an hour for each of the other nap times), and cries for hours each night. I have not given in at all, meaning, I haven't helped her to sleep any of those times, but she wakes up multiple times and just yells and cries, especially at 2 am and 5:30 am, which is when she decides she is done for the night. Yelling and crying might be bearable, but she couples this with jumping wildly up and down in her crib, and 4 times now we've come into the room (when we decide to end the nap without her taking it) and her mouth has been bleeding, with stains smeared on her stuffed animal, pillow, sheet, and shirt. She also sports a bruise on the bottom of her chin.
The other terrible part of the whole situation is her extreme neediness during these days. Many parents I've talked to report that their children are so happy to have slept on their own and show no ill-effects during the day. She will hardly even go to any other person (even Jake) and with me she cries and cuddles, which would be cute, but severely interferes with her normally bubbly personality. She has decided that the only things she wants to do are read books and watch movies. When she wants to read a book she cries while she runs over to the bookcase, cries while she runs back, and begs to come back up on my lap. When the book is over, she wants to read it again. In fact, she becomes so upset that the book is over and that she might have to separate from me to get another one that she thrashes around and flips the pages until I start reading again. I think I've read "Mommy Loves Me" about 30 times in a row more than once now. The wants me to hold her so she can fall asleep, so she gets very upset when I put her down. I think she believes I'm performing some ancient Chinese torture techniques. Sleep deprivation. She has developed a feeling of terror towards the bedroom, and any time I walk by or come close to the bedroom (or say 'nap' or 'sleep' or 'night'), she goes into fits. She won't relax during our nightly baby massage, diaper change, bottle feeding, because she knows what is next. When I go into the bedroom for any reason she immediately wants down and runs crying to the front door, like she wants to get as far away from her bed as possible.
Ferber actually has a lot to say about children with real fear, physical reactions, etc. He suggests first that it is a parenting problem, so I've tried to look at our situation using his suggestions and case studies. But the more I read it, the more I realize that Amaya may be one of the ones that he refers to as "real sleep problems", meaning that the anxiety associated with sleeping and separation are more clinical cases. This makes me feel even worse, because am I really going to take Amaya to one of these sleep centers and sleep specialists? It seems kind of crazy.
I'm not sure which of us is going to break first.