Friday, April 26, 2013

Changes

It's been a long, long week.  

It started Monday with the painful decision to have our beloved old cat B.C. put to sleep.  He'd had a very long, very loved life, and this was the kindest ending, but it was still very difficult and sad.  He passed while I held him, and I brought him home and put him to rest under a new lilac bush.  I think I'll be looking for him out of the corner of my eye for a long time.  All of us are upset about losing him, but the kids asked me to take pictures of him with them on his last day, so we have some good final memories of Bad Cat (who was really the best cat in the whole world).

Me and my Bad Cat, my old friend.

The middle of the week was busy with work-related stuff (NY state math testing) and kid related stuff (fitness class, counseling, horseback riding, and soccer).  It was good to be busy, and we've had some nice weather (SUN!).  I squeezed in some gardening chores around the other running, and I'm looking forward to some more garden stuff this weekend.  I even managed to walk on the high school track while the Princess had soccer practice.  I think I've found a good way to get some exercise for the next couple months.

The end of the week finds me tired, and a bit cranky.  I'm just emotionally tired of typical teen/tween stuff - the smart-ass remarks, the snarky comebacks, the lack of common sense, and the MESS.  I've been trying hard to bite my tongue and keep my own remarks kind, with mixed success.  Earlier this week I just wanted to clunk my kids' heads together.

Another big change this week, though, was finally finding out how long this long-term sub job will actually last.  The teacher's return was in doubt even a week ago, but I finally got confirmation that my last day in this classroom will be next Wednesday.  I'm glad the regular teacher is feeling well enough to return.  I'm equal parts relieved and sad over the end of this chapter in my professional life.  It's been a good experience working so closely with the school psychologists and other teachers, and I really grew to love the students.  And, since I applied for a permanent full-time position here last week, I'm waiting and hoping for good news on that front.  I would like to put down roots here, for however long a season the Lord allows.  My co-workers have been encouraging to me about applying, and I even had one of the custodial staff ask me if I'd seen the job posting.  It's good to feel wanted.

Safety Guy is making me absolutely nuts about purchasing a new (used) minivan soon.  Here's my FB post from a couple days ago to a group for parents of kids with Aspergers:

Okay, mild rant here. My son is making us absolutely stark raving bonkers with his perseveration on the topic of cars. Specifically, on our decision to replace one of our cars with a newer used car. Oh. My. Goodness. He has been going on and on for WEEKS (no, MONTHS) about getting a car. One of his long-time favorite topics has been cars. Matchbox cars, Hot Wheels cars, minivans, crash tests, automobile safety in general, automobile history, classic muscle cars, antique cars of all kinds, Top Gear, movie car crashes, CARS. He's 14 1/2 and totally car crazy. Now that we're going to replace one old car with another oldish car, he's in high gear, literally. CarFax reports, used car ads, Consumer Reports, online auto information of all kinds, Car and Driver magazine, and commenting on just about every car he sees as we drive (including which cars would be best for teen drivers, hint hint hint). Which wouldn't be so bad if he didn't have to TELL us every detail, at length, multiple times a day. I just had to tell him to GO TO BED before I lost my cool. He's harmless, and I'm glad his aspie obsession isn't something icky or embarrassing or socially inappropriate. However, I'm about to lose my mind if I have to talk about cars any more, with anyone, or listen to any more car facts. I'm ready to buy the first car I look at just to get him to STOP TALKING TO ME ABOUT CARS. But I know that won't stop him for very long. 

I'm working on my attitude and gratitude.  Lord, help me, it's been so difficult lately, and I feel like my "filters" have slipped quite a bit.  I'm going to take four work days off after this job ends, then go back to day by day subbing.  I must be nuts, but I've also decided to do a garage sale later in May.  Maybe cleaning out the house will help me "clean out" my attitude and priorities.  At the very least, I'll feel good about lightening our possessions.

Here's hoping next week brings all of us peace.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Recipe: Eggplant Parmesan Casserole

I've been making my own version of eggplant parmesan as a casserole for years, and since I had the time to indulge in it today (Wednesdays are my "stay home after school" day with no kid-related errands), I enjoyed making it.  We haven't had it for quite a while.

This version of eggplant parm involves no frying and no breading - I actually consider it to be more of an "eggplant lasagna."  The thinly sliced eggplant acts as the noodles.  So, this recipe can actually be made gluten free and comparatively low fat, depending on what kind of cheese you like and how much of it you decide to use.  Here's how I make it.



Eggplant Parmesan Casserole

Two small to small-medium eggplant
1 large red bell pepper
1 large onion
2 small or one medium zucchini
fresh garlic (4 cloves) or dried garlic flakes (about 1 1/2 tsp.)

1 large (32 oz.) container of part-skim ricotta cheese
1 egg
1 tbsp. dried parsley
1 tsp. dried basil
1/4 cup grated parmesan/romano cheese blend (or just parmesan)
sprinkle of fresh ground black pepper

2 jars of your favorite spaghetti sauce (I use Prego Heart Smart, since it's reduced sodium and I like the flavor)
4 cups (or more!) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese

Peel the eggplant and slice it thinly (1/4" or so).  It doesn't matter if you slice it into rounds or strips - just keep it thin.  (I don't soak or salt it - I just use it as-is.) Do the same thing with the zucchini.  Chop the pepper and onion (1/2" or less).

In a large, shallow casserole dish, pour the first jar of spaghetti sauce and spread it evenly.  Lay half of the eggplant slices over the sauce, then half of the zucchini slices, and spread with half of the pepper and onion pieces.  Sprinkle with half of the garlic.  

In a large bowl, combine the egg, ricotta cheese, parmesan/romano blend, parsley, basil, and pepper.  Stir until smooth, and spread over the first layer of vegetables.

On top of the ricotta mixture, lay the rest of the vegetables, in the same order as before (eggplant, zucchini, pepper and onion, garlic). Top with the remaining jar of sauce.

Bake uncovered at 375F for 2 hours 15 minutes.  Spread the shredded mozzarella over the casserole and bake for another 10-15 minutes (until the cheese is lightly browned).

Let it cool for at least 15 minutes before serving.





Sunday, April 21, 2013

Anticipating Sorrow



I think one of the few things sadder than losing a pet is KNOWING that you're going to lose a pet and anticipating it.  Our oldest cat, B.C. (Bad Cat) is almost 18, and has been in poor health for quite a while.  We're down to the end  of his life (the vet estimated he had a couple weeks to live over a week ago), and I think I'll have to schedule the appointment for this Tuesday.  I just want to cry writing that.  I love all of our pets, especially our cats, but B.C. has always been special.  I've been hoping that he'd peacefully pass in his sleep, but I don't think that's going to happen.  I hate anticipating this sorrow.  B.C. has been our friend for almost 17 years of his life (and I find it hard to imagine our lives without him; the kids don't know a time without him).  I still occasionally look for Sophia in the laundry basket.  I don't think it will be any easier with B.C.



B.C. sleeping in his favorite chair around Christmas time 2012.



He's the most patient cat EVER.  
He lets SG and I hold him like a baby all the time.



Bad Cat with the Princess in February.



His favorite spots, all three together:  his chair, my lap, and a sunbeam.
One of my favorite things to do too. . . .



Friday, April 19, 2013

What A Week




Were we really on vacation just a week ago?

It's been a strange week for me - busy in a good way, hectic in a normal family way, stressful seeing the tragedies around our country (Boston and West Texas), and tiring/yucky having a nasty stomach bug (the kids and I, yesterday and today; my husband earlier in the week).

State English testing took three days.  Don't get me started on NY state testing as it applies to students with special needs and serious academic delays.  Just don't.  I have to say my students did their best with a great attitude, and I can't ask for any more from them.  But we have to do it all over again next week, for Math.

Soccer practice started for the Princess this week.  Thursdays will be her (and my) long day, with school, then horseback riding lessons, then soccer.  

Safety Guy started a conditioning/fitness class this week.  He's excited and enjoying it, and I am SO pleased for him.  It's a small group of guys, just three at the first class, all around 14-15, plus Coach C.   SG has also started riding his bike to school on warm days.  Good for him!

I was a hand-washing, classroom-disinfecting, Clorox-wipe-wielding maniac all week, but somehow I knew it was just a matter of time before the germs would win.  Early in the week my husband came down with some form of that ugly norovirus stomach bug that's been making the rounds. It was short-lived, but nasty.  One of my students had it too.  Thursday the Princess and I came down with it within an hour of each other late in the afternoon, and Safety Guy had a milder version of it this morning.  No school for any of us today.  Bleargh, I hope we don't have to go through that again any time soon.

And, I applied for a full-time teaching position at my school.  One of the high school special ed teachers is retiring, and a position was posted for a special education teacher 7-12.  The retiring teacher focuses on math, but there's no guarantee that I would take her exact position, since people have been shuffled around before.  Nothing ventured, nothing gained, and I would like to be able to settle into this school in this season of my life.  We'll see what happens.


I don't have anything deep to say about the tragedies in Boston and the unfolding manhunt even as I type, and the devastating explosion in Texas.  There is nothing I can say right now, aside from adding my prayers to those of millions of others for the resolution of the manhunt, and healing for the victims in both situations, and comfort for the families of those who have lost their lives.  How unbelievably, unutterably tragic all around. . . .


Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Roller Coaster

Tulip foliage last weekend, 
before the latest round of lake effect snow.

We continue to ride the up and down swing of Safety Guy's behavior at school.  He's had a number of good days lately, just not all in a row.  I think his best "streak" was three days without any trouble requiring discipline at school.  This past Monday was rough; the past two days have been better.  Today was downright GOOD, including a breakthrough in his relationship with another student that he has had a lot of difficulty with for quite a while (because they're too much alike and get on each other's nerves).  They had a real conversation, with social give and take and kind words and forbearance when either of them could have been snarky or mean.  Hooray!  Sometimes small things can be the biggest victories.

In other news, the Princess and I got our ears pierced today.  Yes, it's my first ear piercing EVER.  I'm equal parts blase and freaked out about it.  Let's face it, after pregnancy and childbirth, and assorted other injuries over the years, ear piercing is small potatoes on the pain scale.  But, I can't get over that I LET SOMEONE ELSE PUT HOLES THROUGH BOTH OF MY EARS.  Eewww.  

I went first, to set a good example for the Princess.  I was calm, no big deal (although the feeling of the piercing was unpleasant, I didn't let that on to her).  She was nervous, but decided to go through with hers as well (although she practically crushed my hand before the first ear was done - those riding lessons have made her hands strong).  She went through with it, and is now sporting little 3mm clear CZ studs in stainless steel.  Mine are simple 4mm stainless steel balls.  Nothing fancy.  We'll have more fun with earrings once our ears heal up.  And we had the nicest lady doing the piercing, which made it that much easier.

Sedum 'Angelina,' showing its cold-weather color a few days ago.  
Its new growth will be brilliant chartreuse in just a few weeks.

I'm STILL trying to corner my principal to have a nice long talk with him about how things are going in my classroom (the good and the not so good).  I'm a bit less stressed than I was a week ago, but I'm still more than ready to hand this class back to their regular teacher.  That's going to be hard, though - I've been with the kids longer than they had their regular teacher during the first two quarters before she had to take medical leave.  The class feels like it's mine, even though I've been working within the framework established by someone else.  I've been working with behavior plans, I've done three IEP meetings and I have two more to go before the end of this month, and this week is the end of the third marking period (I started in this class just two weeks before the second marking period ended).  Spring break starts next week, then we jump right into two weeks of standardized testing (3 days of ELA one week, and 3 days of math the next).  Don't get me started about test prep for junior high special needs kids required to take a test that is 4-6 grade levels above their current academic abilities. . . .

I'm waiting for the last batch of snow to melt (we had about 5" this week - we actually got a snow delay one morning).  I'm ready for spring warmth - even the 50s will feel like nirvana, and everything is just waiting for a little warmth to go POOF into green growth.  I can hardly wait.