Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. There’s something really magical about the mix of autumn, dressing up as someone else, and heading out into the night. I also have many fond memories of my mom’s handiwork throughout my childhood Halloweens, so I couldn’t wait to sew Griffin’s costume. I knew from the get go that I wanted him to be an owl. Even though he’s a good sleeper, the play on a baby night owl was just too delicious to pass up. It ended up turning out better than I expected, and Griffin made the cutest little owl.
We recently received an Exersaucer (yes, it’s actually called an Exersaucer) from our friends as a hand-me-down. It’s one of those baby things that’s really great to have for about two months, so we were glad to get one that had already been well loved. Dave and Nancy used to call theirs The Neglecter, and while Griffin does spend some time in it while I do other things during the day, I have really been enjoying watching him entertain himself after I plop him in.
It’s amazing to see him spin himself around, manipulate the toys (that, frustratingly for Griffin, do not detach from the base), and most recently, discover the joys of bouncing. Today I caught him in a particularly joyful moment, singing to himself, laughing when he’d catch my eye, bouncing, and making lots of noise. There’s nothing necessarily extraordinary about this video, but when I think about how much he’s changed in almost seven months, it’s really kind of breathtaking.
This quote from a student notebook epitomizes a twelve-year-old’s sense of time:
I think that slavery started way long ago, like a hundred years ago.
New for fall 2009, the most fashionable ladies are wearing this season’s hottest accessory: barf.
If you’d like to recreate this look, make sure to get a six month old and have him barf on you without any warning. Extra hotness points if it gets in your hair and on your face.
We have a house guest this weekend named Roger. He’s the dog of our friends Yoni and Laura, and with all due respect to Dusty (may he rest in peace) and any dogs in my life presently, he’s the best dog in the entire universe. He’s patient, gentle, comes when you call him, likes other dogs, loves a good scratch, plays fetch, chases squirrels, and curls up in the cutest little ball when he takes a nap. He also likes to lick Griffin’s face, gets concerned when Griffin cries, and lets Griffin tug his ears.
Yesterday was our first full day together. Griffin met him after waking up in the morning, and much giggling ensued. Griffin was fascinated by Roger! Simply watching him walk around the room made Griffin laugh, and Roger seemed to like getting Griffin’s attention. I could tell they were going to be friends. We went for a walk, took naps, rolled on the floor, played fetch. It was a good day.
The afternoon is when the stare-down happened. While there are many of Griffin’s toys strewn about the house, Roger seemed completely uninterested in them . . . until Griffin started playing with Mr. Mushroom and Mr. Mushroom let out a squeak. Now like I said, Roger is the best dog ever, and being the best dog ever means you have manners. I stumbled upon this scene after starting to cook dinner:
Roger resisted Mr. Mushroom all afternoon and into the evening. It was only after Griffin went to sleep that Roger dared to gingerly take it from Griffin’s play mat. He gently gave it up after I said no, but he still wanted to play with it thinking it was a toy for him. While Roger seems to understand much about the human world, he must find it rather confusing that babies get squeaky toys, too. With Mr. Mushroom out of commission, Griffin and Roger are back to finding each other intriguing.
Much to our surprise, Griffin loves pickles. Andrew gave him a taste one night expecting to get a very dissatisfied (and very funny) face, but to the contrary, he started heartily gnawing away on it. Thus far, he really only sucks and nibbles on them without actually eating them (any time he gets a chunk, he spits it out), but I’d say overall they’re a hit.
It seemed like just an ordinary web chat. Auntie Alli was getting caught up on all of the latest with Griffin, and he was looking cute for the camera. I kept trying to get him to do his new tricks, but he was so fascinated by the glowing red ring of the web cam, it was hard to get him to do anything other than stare. As Alli and I chatted, though, Griffin started sitting up on his own without support! Live, from the living room floor, Auntie Alli witnesses a milestone! It was quite exciting for everyone…except Griffin who acted like he’d been doing it his entire life. After we said goodbye, I played with Griffin some more on the rug, surrounding him with pillows to cushion the inevitable topple. It was then that the real fun started. Take a look:
We have crossed over into solid food, folks! Griffin is in love with bananas. He also ate some rice cereal today, but banana was the clear winner. I’ve been wanting to officially introduce him to real food, and today just happened to be the day. With six teeth already, I’m sure Great-Grandma Doris would say, “It’s about time!”
My fantasy school year was awesome… I would be teaching the same reading classes that I’ve been teaching for the past four years. After school I would grade some work and then head home, nice and early, to spend the late afternoon with Griffin and Sarah. I would smile sympathetically at teachers who catch up on work over the weekends, knowing that my weekends are reserved for family time.
Monday looked good. I had fewer students than ever before. My first day’s lesson was tighter and more successful than ever before.
Tuesday looked even better. My student-teacher was great. My students were well-behaved and excited (!) to be in the class. My newly repainted bookcases were gleaming. It was going to be a Very Good Year. (I was especially lucky because I’d heard that the eighth grade was much larger than projected and some teachers were struggling with 40+ students in their rooms!)
Skip to Friday… I sleep in because I know it will be the last time I will be able to for a very long time. (And the amount of preparation that I should have done was so impossibly huge that I decided sleep would be more useful.) Three of my reading classes have been dissolved. I spend much of the morning explaining to confused students that they won’t have me as their teacher anymore. Then I teach two sections of reading, with some students pulled in from the dissolved sections. Then a very short lunch. I’m too nervous to eat so I erase my board and write in big colorful letters, “Welcome to Mr. Roy’s English/History Class!”
A few minutes later, I am smiling and shaking hands with thirty-two diffident students, most of whom I have never met before. They take their seats and I introduce my new eighth grade English/History core class. (I’ve never taught English. I’ve never taught history. I’ve never taught a double-period core.) Two hours later, still alive, I dismiss the class, wishing everybody a good weekend. I wonder how many textbooks I should lug home for the weekend.
This is all just to explain why I have dropped off the face of the earth. With 24-hour notice during the first week of school I was handed two additional courses (English and U.S. History). On a certain level, I am very excited… I’ve always wanted to teach U.S. History, and I’ve always wanted to try teaching a double-period class (the rhythm of your day is so different when you teach fewer, longer classes). But it is a phenomenal amount of additional work.
I’ve got what’s called “four preps” now: reading 7, reading 8, English 8, and history 8. (For those of you who don’t teach, a “prep” is a single subject that a teacher needs to prepare for. So if someone teaches three geometry classes and two algebra classes, they have “two preps” because they need to prepare material for geometry and algebra.) Lesson planning, even when I have a textbook to work with, is a slow process for me. It’s especially challenging when I need to learn the material myself, since this is my first time teaching it. (Sadly, I know many first-year teachers who have been handed similar schedules… which may help explain why teacher retention is so poor.)
I try to hold myself to 10-11 hours at school on weekdays plus one half day on the weekend. Right now, that’s not really enough time to stay on top of it all, but I have to draw the line somewhere. As my student teacher revs up and I develop some routines for the new class, I expect things will get a bit easier. In the meantime, it’s just about all I can do to be a decent teacher and a good father.
You and I have been home during the day by ourselves for three weeks now. Daddy is extremely busy with school since after the first day of classes he was reassigned to teaching eighth grade history and English in addition to reading (which he’s taught for four years). He’s also trying to finish his master’s degree thesis in addition to being your dad, so he’s definitely got his hands full. I am not teaching kindergarten this year, the grade I’ve been teaching for four years, so that I can stay home and take care of you. You, my little five month old, keep me busy and challenge me in ways no class of 20 five-year-olds ever has. I wouldn’t trade it for anything, though. I am so glad we’re spending so much time together.
Today you nearly decided to wipe “nap” off of your to-do list, but after a little time in your crib alone, you’ve finally drifted off. I think life is just too darn exciting for you to want to sleep. You’ve been eating like crazy, multiple ten-ounce bottles at a time, so I think you’re going through a growth spurt. You have six teeth, with two more possibly coming in. This is extremely early for a guy your age, so I’m thinking of starting you on mushed up food soon. You’re always very interested in watching me eat and want to grab whatever it is I have and put it in your mouth. You’re not very discerning about what you put in your mouth, though, so maybe I’ve just decided it’s time for you to start on some food. You are extremely good at rolling and have been scooting yourself all over the floor lately. It’s only a matter of time before you figure out how to crawl. We’ve been working on sitting up lately and you don’t really like it too much, but I suspect you’ll like it soon enough.
You laugh a lot lately. There’s something very funny on your wall, but I don’t know what it is. Is it the giant ant? The strawberry? You LOVE the fish mobile above your changing table. It helps keep you distracted while I put on a fresh diaper. Many times, you would prefer to go without a diaper. Naked time is one of your favorite pastimes. I let you go without clothes and diaper at least a couple of times a day and you are just happy as a clam. Last night after you had your clothes-less time, I got you in your jammies and we laid on the futon and read books for a whole hour. You really love the books Baby’s Birthday Cake and Where’s Mommy? They have flaps that you can help me lift as the baby looks for his cake and his mommy. Much to my surprise, you are actually quite good at lifting the flaps, and I’m discovering you have a clear preference for books that are interactive. I tried reading you just a plain old story and you got frustrated. As soon as I read one that you could participate in, you were much happier, which looks like you flapping your arms up and down and kicking your legs.
You can manipulate things with your hands much better than you could a month ago. You pick things up, put them in your mouth, and pass them from one hand to the other. You really like touching my face while you’re breastfeeding or eating from the bottle. You grab my nose, cheeks, and lips and think it’s extremely funny when I yell “ouch!” You are also using your feet to explore the world. Much to your delight, you recently discovered that by kicking the arches on your play mat, it makes everything move.
You are a really, really great baby, often very flexible and accommodating. Sometimes you are grumpy, though, and it’s frustrating for both of us. You’ve gotten into the habit, when you’re over-tired and hungry, of sucking on the bottle a few times and then crying for 30 seconds, sucking on the bottle, crying, over and over. It usually happens at the end of the day when we’re both exhausted. I’ve had to leave you in your crib crying a couple of times as our frustrations played off of one another. It makes me feel like a less-than-adequate mom, but those few minutes apart are usually enough for me to cool off and for you to decide you really do want to eat and go to sleep.
Thank goodness we’re here together. I don’t know what my life would have been without you. You’ve got a smile that stops my heart and a face that makes me melt with love. I love watching you discover the world and can’t wait to see what’s next.