Sunday, January 30, 2011

Math Nerd and Other Tidbits

I took my Math 8-12 Excet exam yesterday morning at 8:00 at Ryan High School in Denton.  For those of you who don't know, in order to be certified to teach certain subjects in schools, you have to take and pass an exam before you can be hired for a position.  In an effort to make myself more marketable for the Math positions that I would really like to have, I must be high school certified...even though I don't want to teach high schoolers.  But at any normal school, 8th grade Math teachers typically also teach Algebra I for the AP kids which is considered a high school course...thus the need for me to be high school certified.  Currently I have my 4-8 Generalist certification which means I can teach any core subject (Math, Social Studies, Science, English or Reading) within the grades of 4th through 8th.  Ideally this should be a good certification because it *should* make me more marketable because I can technically teach so many things that it gives principals a lot of flexibility when needing to rearrange teachers and subjects due to the numbers and needs of the students.  Unfortunately it also means that principals have a lot of flexibility when needing to rearrange teachers and subjects due to the numbers and needs of the students which means that I could be placed in a teaching position that I don't really feel comfortable teaching, like Science or English.  In order to get my current job as a PE teacher, I had to take the K-12 Physical Education exam a few years ago which, as my husband told me...if he can pass it, anyone could.  Unfortunately that is not the case with the 8-12 Math exam - it is generally regarded as one of the toughest tests to pass and for those people who are not mathematically inclined like I am, I can definitely see how it gets that reputation. 

I signed up for the test at the end of December and promptly set about my study plan - I emailed a friend of my sister-in-law's who happens to be the second-in-command Assistant Principal at the high school and she gathered up some study materials for me ranging all the way from Algebra I to Advanced Calculus.  I bought myself a three section notebook, a big pack of mechanical pencils and got my big, pink eraser ready...I meant business.  It got to be almost a kind of joke in the coaching office because I would work my way through Math every day on my conference period.  Since I am already pretty proficient at Algebra I, I took all the chapter tests first and then delved back into the chapter if there was something I was confused about.  All my problems are neatly written, evenly spaced and I even boxed in my answers.  Over the course of the last month, I worked my way through Algebra I, Algebra II and Geometry and then crammed in a little Trigonometry at the last minute through the use of Spark Notes that I picked up at Barnes and Noble.  I'm sure that my studying might have been considered a bit excessive in the eyes of some people, but despite my athletic appearance, at the core of my being...I am a Math nerd and to be real honest - I kind of secretly LOVE doing Math problems.  There is just something about having a problem sitting in front of me and being able to decode it, solve it and get it right that is really satisfying for me. 

Anyways...back to the test.  I arrived at Ryan HS at 7:30 on Saturday morning with four mechanical pencils, a big pink eraser, a TI-83 calculator, a big bottle of water and a bag of Cheez-Its.  I was armed and dangerous...ready to destroy this test.  My little group of 8 testers in room 221 of the high school all started the test at 8:30 and I was honestly thinking I'd be back on the road home by 11:30 at the latest.  As I finished checking and filling in the bubbles for the answers to the first 20 questions, I checked the clock - 9:30.  Uh oh.  At that moment, I knew I had grossly underestimated the time it was going to take to properly complete the exam.  Sure enough...I walked out of the testing room at 1:05 in the afternoon.  And I was the first person done. 

I do have a huge weight off my shoulders and as I told Craig last night, if I fail this exam I will be disappointed because it means that I will have to take it again in April, but I won't be disappointed in myself because I truly feel that I prepared as much as I could in the month I had before the I took the test.  I'm really proud of my ambition in taking the dreaded test in the first place and even more proud about how seriously I took it and how I truly dedicated myself to being properly prepared.  But I think there was a different kind of motivation for this exam - if this test can make me more marketable to principals then maybe I can find a strictly teaching position and get out of coaching and then be able to spend more time at home with Natalie.  Maybe I was more determined and apprehensive because I have something bigger than myself to think about - a little baby girl that is going to need me to be with her at home.

In other news...
- Craig's knee is healing nicely from the surgery that he had on January 21st. It was just a basic scope and suck and by last Tuesday he was up and waddling around the house and driving himself to school. Hopefully this will be the last one for awhile.

- I have another vision for something that I want to have happen in accordance with the birth of Natalie in a few weeks. I know that we make plans and God laughs, but I know that since we have so many friends and family members close by we will be inundated with visitors during our stay in the hospital and once we get home. I would like for Craig and I to be the only two people that bring her home from the hospital. Maybe I'm being unrealistic, but I just have this peaceful scene playing through my head where Craig and I walk in the front door and show her around the house for the first time...just our little family of four: Craig, me, Natalie and Angie of course. Our family is more than welcome to come over a few hours later, but I really think I would like a few quiet hours at home with her and Craig before everyone else comes over. Craig and I built this house into a home for her and I'd like for the two of us to be the ones that welcome her into it.

- As a celebration for my hard work preparing for the Math test, Craig and I went to PF Changs last night for dinner (plus we had a $25 gift card).  I didn't even have to open the menu - bring me some crab wontons and some crispy honey shrimp with white rice.  Yum.  I even think Natalie liked it because when we got home and were lying on the couch watching the Mavs game...she had the hiccups.

- 34 weeks tomorrow.  And I feel it.  Now I know that comparatively to many other pregnant women out there, I don't really LOOK that big.  But for the way my normally long and lean body is built...I feel gigantic.  My fingers and ankles are starting to swell (thanks for the Homedics foot bath for Christmas Craig!) and my back and hips hurt really bad at the end of the day.  I can feel Natalie moving around a lot more during the day than I used to, but I think that's because she is running out of room so I feel every twist and turn that she takes - even when she is sleeping.  The other night she was really sticking her butt out as I laid on the couch and my whole belly was lopsided - Craig found it incredibly amusing.  Her nursery is more or less put the very least, she will have somewhere to store her clothes, a place to sleep and a chair to be rocked in.  I still have to put up the finishing decorating touches and when I do, I will be sure to post some pictures.

- Next up for us is finishing up basketball season in the next three weeks and scattered in there are at least two more showers (one at his school on February 1st and one on February 15th given by six of my mom's friends) and two baby classes (Baby Basics and Birthing).  I'm kind of excited about the baby classes because...kind of like the Math test...even though I know that things won't always go as I have them planned in my mind, I like to be prepared and have a general idea of what I'm up against.  Craig and I have never been through a birth before and neither of us really know what happens between "Honey, the contractions are getting stronger" and "what a beautiful little girl we have!"  It should be an interesting experience nonetheless.

That's about it for now...I'm taking my mom to Le Peep for brunch and then to the matinee showing of Les Miserables that the high school theater group is producing.  I'm very excited for french toast and seeing some of my former students perform in my favorite musical!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Our Village

Growing up, I didn't have a lot of our extended family of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins living nearby. Visiting family was always an overnight traveling adventure. I never had to ask how much longer until we got to Grandma and Grandpa's house in College Station because I was so familiar with the landmarks, that I could figure it out on my own. Waco was always halfway and we never failed to stop at the McDonald's for a restroom break...and if I was lucky, for french fries.

Although I wish that I had been able to have grown up a bit closer to our family, I never felt like that sense of community was missing from my life. My parents moved to into my childhood home before I was born and they reside there still. Through church involvement, Boy and Girl Scouts and PTA, my parents (especially my mother) was able to create and form lasting and deep friendships with many people in our area. So although I didn't have my Aunt Jody nearby, I had two of my mother's closest friends Kathy P. and Kathy G. who always loved me and watched out for me just like their own children. I definitely had a large "village" community that cared about me, listened to me, watched out for me and held me accountable for my actions when necessary.

Last night at dinner, Craig and I were discussing the small town several miles north of us that his friend Ron coaches in and I asked Craig (he having grown up in smaller towns throughout Texas) if he would ever be interested in moving to a town like that and being the head Varsity basketball coach. He didn't have to think about it for long before answering that he really enjoys the suburban area that we live in because everything that we need (both material and social) is close to us. Our house isn't huge and it's not in "posh" area of FM, but it is big enough for us with room to grow and we have the most delightful park down the street a few blocks. Our house is firmly in the middle of the neighborhood, but yet we can easily get to the major thoroughfaires that are close by. Within a ten mile radius we have copious amounts of food, shopping and entertainment choices and our city has done a fantastic job of integrating parks and public recreation areas into each of the smaller subdivisions.

But more importantly than the amenities that our community offfers, as I sat at my the baby shower thrown for me yesterday by my friends Heather, Amy, Kate and Beri, I looked around at all the women gathered in the living room and realized that these women were going to be the "village" that helps to raise Natalie. They are the ones that I will go to when I have a question about child rearing and they will be the ones that she will seek advice from when she is a teenager, just like I did with my mother's friends. And all of the women are so different and unique...I know Natalie will be exposed to a variety of temperments and personalities, but yet will feel the same adoration and love from all of them. Craig and I are very blessed to have these women in our lives and I don't think we could have chosen a better place to settle down nor a stronger group of female role models for our daughter.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Getting her out...

I have really tried to stay away from the over hyped pregnancy websites and books - you know, the ones that can tell you everything that could go wrong at any given moment in the development of your baby? Yeah...I cry at ASPCA commercials and I'm the girl that if I can't remember, I go back home in the mornings to make sure I turned my straightener off. I don't need any extra reasons to worry. I've really TRIED to put this pregnancy in God's hands - he already knows my baby intimately and has a fantastic plan for her. I often had to remind myself that he is making her in the way that is going to be best for our family and best for her...all I can do is keep myself as healthy as possible and He will take care of the rest! But as we all know, sometimes that is easier said than done!

Having said all that...I did notice in many of the resources that I perused in my early pregnancy before Craig cut me off for fear of me developing into an even CRAZIER pregnant woman, that many women create Birth Plans that dictate how they would like certain aspects of their delivery to happen. I can understand that - as a person who is the consummate planner, I have a definite idea of how I'd like this whole thing to go down, but as a person who knows herself? I just don't think it would be necessary nor emotionally beneficial for me to put one together. Do I have certain ideas of how I would like my labor and delivery to go? Absolutely. Will I be disappointed if things don't go exactly my way? Well...I'll be honest when I say that yes, I probably will be a little upset BUT I think that if I put my desires in writing then I will get super attached to THAT specific plan and when it doesn't go my way, I will be devastated. So, I'm adopting the same thought process with the labor and delivery that I have tried to maintain with the pregnancy. God already has a plan. And I'm hoping that His plan and my plan will be very similar but in the end, I truly want my baby girl to be healthy and happy and me to be healthy and happy. However that has to happen, I will be okay with because I am going to try to focus on the end result - healthy mommy and baby.

But what does my "ideal" plan look like? Pretty average, I suppose...
- Natalie will be born in the new Presbyterian hospital just a few miles down the road which is great because it is practically brand new and super close to our house.
- I am really praying for a relatively quick labor and a vaginal delivery...but I do plan on using an epidural. I'm a weenie.
- I don't want to be "hovered" over while I'm in the hospital. If I need something, I will ask for it.
- There are three people allowed in the delivery room with me: my mother, Craig and Craig's mother. I reserve the right to kick any and everyone out at any point in time.
- I'm in the process of putting together a playlist of music that relaxes me. Such as: Dog Days are Over by Florence and the Machine, Hallelujah by Jeff Buckley, Stand By You by The Pretenders.
- Craig will not stay overnight with me at the hospital if both his women are healthy and safe. We are close enough to the house that he can go home for the night and if he can get a good night sleep, he will be more helpful to me during the day when he comes back up to the hospital. Plus...if he stays at the hospital overnight, who will cuddle Angie?!

I've had lots of my friends and family have babies and each pregnancy and delivery has been different than all the others. What a luxury we do have in this country that people get to choose from such a wide range of possibilities! I've approached this delivery like a buffet - I've seen what there is out there through the people in my life and Craig and I are choosing the pieces that seem to fit us best. And what ultimately fits us best is having Natalie get here safely and soundly and we think that what I've outlined above will hopefully get that accomplished!

We're taking a tour of the hospital next Thursday evening just to get acquainted with the surroundings but I don't think we're going to be taking any of the classes that are offered. My brothers and sisters-in-law got us a gift certificate for a lady to come and give us a personalized baby class of our choosing before Natalie is born. I'm going to email her tomorrow and I think I want to focus on general baby care (Craig has never changed a diaper), breastfeeding, a general outline of labor and delivery (again...Craig has no idea of what is going to happen) and then some basic relaxation and pain relieving techniques.

When we first got pregnant and would talk about the delivery, Craig would make lots of jokes about how it was "gross" and that he would be in the next room with a walkie-talkie helping me through labor. Not funny. One night at dinner at PF Changs, I cried at the table when he went on one of his labor joke tirades and I explained through my tears that labor was scary for me - I was the one that was going to have all these weird and "gross" things happening to my body and that I was self-conscious enough about all of it...I didn't need him to be adding onto my fears and worries. He hasn't made a joke about it since. I don't think he really has any clue about what has to happen to my body in order for this baby to come out but I think it began to hit home as he held our friend Dana's 8lb. newborn baby girl. He looked down at Jacklyn and up at Dana sitting on the bed and he says "This is a big baby. And she was in you...this morning." I think that's when he "got" it. There is a human inside of his wife and the human will get big and will have to come out. And it's not a joke. It's going to hurt me and I will need his support. Thank goodness for Dana - she works with him in the PE department and has let him in on lots of helpful tidbits about pregnancy, delivery and babies.

My next course of action is to get Natalie's room finished (we're going to get a crib this weekend) and then organize all her stuff (party with my mom and Amy!!). I'm starting to get things ready at work - all my kids know the general plan of events from now until Spring Break: some final exams next week followed by three weeks of basketball and then Project Alert (the drug and alcohol awareness course) until I deliver. I think my principal is in the process of interviewing people for my position and I'm hoping that I will get a little say in the person chosen because I love and care about my little 6th graders and I want someone who is going to treat them as well as I do.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011


I usually don't make New Years resolutions because I think the whole New Years Eve hoopla is kind of overrated. For example...this year I was asleep by 11:00, and not upset about it in the least. Most of the big and exciting plans I've ever had for New Years Eve never really live up to my grand expectations. And I also think that the older and farther removed I get from the "party" lifestyle, the more annoyed I am at the idea of New Years Eve.


This year I've found myself subconciously making "resolutions" for the new year and hopefully I'll be able to make these stick because I can already tell that I feel better about life in general.

1. Make grocery lists. I absolutely detest going to the grocery store and I think it's because I hate being disorganized and not having a clear plan in life. Since school has started Craig and I do our grocery shopping for the week on Sunday evenings and they have typically consisted of us drifting around the grocery store and not really knowing what we wanted to eat...other than his meals for lunch. Therefore that led to a lot of nights eating at restaurants and grabbing fast food which isn't healthy for Craig, myself, Natalie or our budget. Now that I am completely done coaching for the year since both volleyball and cross country are over, I have more free time after school since I leave work at 4:15. I am determined to plan out our dinners according to the nights we'll be at home (obviously working around Craig's basektball schedule) so that I have a clear list of items that I need to purchase at the grocery store on our Sunday night trips. I also hate getting home from the grocery store and then remembering that we need detergent or shampoo or whatever else I forgot to get because I didn't make a list. Growing up in my house I can still remember telling my mom that I was running out of shampoo or toothpaste or something similar and all she would tell me was "put it on the list or it won't get bought." The Nelson household now has a pad of paper on the side of the fridge and when I realize that we're almost out of something, I write it down on that list so that I can purchase it the next time I am at the grocery store. Hopefully this resolution will make our dinners and bodies healthier and trips to the grocery store more organized and less dreadful.

2. Acknowledge and accept my limitations. Maybe it's from my years of playing basketball and being part of a "team," but I am a "just get it done" type of person. If no one else is willing to step up, I will take care of it. In doing so, I sometimes get in the habit of trying to be everything to every person or organization that I encounter. I over-commit myself and beat myself up when I can't attend all the functions that I would like. Not only is this harmful to my own personal well being, but with a new little baby girl on the way there are going to be things that come up in my future that I just won't be able to do or attend. I have to know when to say no and how to pick the events or activities that are important and should have a space on my calendar. This resolution isn't just confined to myself but stretches out to include Craig as well - I need to allow him to have his own personal events on the calendar but as a couple we have to know how much is too much and how to peacefully compromise on certain events.

3. Read more books and watch less television. I watch crappy tv. The Real Housewives series, as entertaining as it might not making me a better person. All the true life crime shows that I watch just give me nightmares. So last night since there was nothing that I wanted to watch, I curled up on my bed and read three chapters in a book that my mother gave me for Christmas. And I felt relaxed, cozy and comfortable. It was 8:30 and I could have closed that book and drifted off to sleep right away. So my goal is to turn off the noise on the television and pick up a book off my nightstand instead. I'm sure that after Natalie arrives, I will relish the silent and still moments that I have when she is sleeping and I think that reading a book will nourish my soul more than watching catty women duke it out on Bravo.

4. Walk Angie at least three times a week. Poor baby...she has no idea what is heading her way once this baby arrives. I know that I love my daughter and the love for Natalie once I hold her and know her will be greater than anything that I have ever experienced. But Angie is still an important member of our family. She's the one that was by my side in the bathroom every time I threw up this fall and no matter how old she gets, I know that she will always be willing to cuddle with her momma. I know that her life and status in our family will change, as it should with the birth of a baby, but I want to still value Angie as a member of our family. Taking her for walks (with or without Natalie) can only do her good both physically and mentally, as was noticed in her comprehensive exam last week - she's lost three pounds and her weight is considered ideal!

Those are the four big "resolutions" that have been floating around in my head lately...the ones that I have noticed to already have impacted my life in a positive way. I don't feel like they are "rules" that I have to live by like setting up a new diet or something similar, but instead installing a new way of life so that I can create a better and healthier environment for myself, Craig, Natalie and Angie to live in.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Euro Trip 2010

Craig and I went to Europe at the beginning of August. And then we came home, started school the next week and I got busy with having morning (or all day) sickness and coaching volleyball, and thus kind of forgot that we went to Europe and had a really great time. For example...

We found Jim Morrison's grave.
We stood in front of the Eiffel Tower.

We went and saw the palace of Versailles.
We rode in a tiny room on a train from Paris to Milan overnight. Craig said never again will he ride a train.

We saw U2 perform in Torino on August 6th (the day before my birthday).

We ate lots of gelato.

I lead us through the Forum with the help of Rick Steve's Italy guide.

We ate some more gelato.

Craig got to see all the sights around Rome that are featured in the movie Angels and Demons. This is in Piazza Navona where the final bishop gets drowned.

We toured the Vatican Museum and got one room away from the room dedicated to my great-grandmother - it was unfortunately under construction.

Since I was about two months pregnant on our trip, we also slept a lot and traded meals frequently when whatever I ordered didn't look appetizing. I had a lovely time and thoroughly enjoyed myself but was incredibly ready to get home at the end of the trip.