Saturday, February 28, 2009

friday five: ten minutes or less

1. Interview(s)! Finally! We have two Skype/phone interviews set up for this weekend. One school is in Kuwait and the other is in Saudi Arabia; administrators at both are supportive of my desire to work part-time and it's feasible that I could not teach for a year or two and pick up extra money tutoring and subbing. Both schools have great advantages and we're excited to find out how we might fit in either school community. Tomorrow we'll be sending emails to and calling people who have lived and worked in those countries to learn more about the cultures.

2. Belly to back and back to belly. Claire is beginning to roll all over - it's officially a mode of transportation. She's not quite sitting up on her own but when she's on her back she reaches forward like she's doing little crunches...which is what mama should be doing. My abdominals are still a little split.

3. Recipes coming soon! Last weekend I spent Saturday and Sunday making freezer meals. Then I made spinach balls for our English department tertulia (we sat around talking about J.D. Salinger's short story "A Perfect Day for Bananafish" and eating Octavio's suburb veggie lasagna). And there are a few demands for The Best Chocolate Cake ever recipe. So I'll do a recipe post soon. I've been trying a few new things.

4. Tomorrow is Bolivar Day. We'll take Claire around noon and eat lunch on campus. It's a day of loud music, bingo (last year one of the top prizes was plastic surgery - ha!), salsa dancing, and running into everyone you already know. Should be fun.

5. Today was Copa de Amistad, the annual futbol game with our (friendly) rival school. I missed the game, electing to come home to my wee one who has been sick with gripa (just a cold, sore throat). But the time I was on campus, the students were nuts. Blue and white face paint, coordinated tees, silver and blue stars on cheeks, whistles, air horns, confetti at the ready. It reminds me of Catcher in the Rye when Pencey Prep is playing against Saxon Hall and Holden says "The game with Saxon Hall was supposed to be a very big deal around Pencey. It was the last game of the year, and you were supposed to commit suicide or something if old Pencey didn't win." It's a day to go crazy. And, today, for the Bolivar boys, a day to tie. No shootout.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

girls' day!

On Friday, another teacher at Colegio Bolivar, Melida, invited a few girls to her family's finca. The finca is a working farm producing sugar cane though the refinery has long been shut down; the cane is sold to one of the large sugar companies in Colombia, Manuelita. So we spent the day north of the city, enjoyed a quick tour of the family house purchased in 1910 (1920?) and all its eleven bedrooms and bathrooms - enough space to accommodate big holiday gatherings of sons and daughters, grandsons and granddaughters, and cousins. The family also rents the property for wedding celebrations. For all the little nooks and porches and balconies available, us gals just parked under a poolside pavilion and enjoyed the food, wine, and conversation.
Here's the finca. When we arrived, the sun was shining and the colors were bright. But since I'm much better at taking pictures after the fact, I handed Laura Elena my camera to snap a quick one on before we left. And below, another after the fact shot of where we spent most of the afternoon.
Claire and I did get a chance to take a swim. Here she is dressed for the occasion in pink swim bottoms and hat from Grandma Rollene. The sunglasses didn't last too long but I've since learned she likes playing peek-a-boo with them.
And here we are in the water. Note the thumb in the mouth. Claire enjoyed kicking and paddling a bit and only took one little face-first dive. Snuggling with Melida after the swim. Claire was wired that day. She snoozed in little bits instead of a long morning and long afternoon nap. She'd lay down, fall asleep and I'd turn around to see her looking up at me. I think Claire wanted to be part of all the chatting and didn't want to sleep through any of her first big girls' day.
End of the day, near dusk. We're missing a few of the girls - two left early and Sonia is snapping this picture - but we had a great day. Much needed chance to leave the city for a day and enjoy company outside of school. Looking forward to the next girls' day.

end of page

Sometimes when I am writing in my notebook and can't think of anything to say, can't find one more sentence to take me to the end of the page, I just write "end of page end of page end of page" until I'm there.

There are a few things I'd like to get to the end of: folders of papers that need to be graded, including sophomore poetry portfolios and senior Gatsby quizzes; the mess I started in the kitchen (this morning I decided to cook four freezer meals but didn't get out of the apartment to grocery shop until noon); job search; fixing the time stamp on this blog so you don't think I'm posting at four in the morning or talking about bed at four in the afternoon; a virtual rummage sale for the new import teachers (we're selling kitchenware, lamps, a fan, stuff we don't want to ship); oh, and take down the Christmas ornaments that are hanging above the kitchen counter. Even Claire isn't amused by their sparkle anymore.

Like how I sandwiched JOB SEARCH in there?

There is so little, so little to report on this front but it consumes much of our thoughts. Justin and I tell each other scenarios so that we feel calm. If/then statements. We have our plan and our backup plan and our waybackup plan. So there isn't much to do aside from bombard schools with emails and attached resumes and follow up emails and more attachments of scanned reference letters and transcripts and whatever other goodies any school recruiter might desire. Justin, who is interested in moving to the Middle East, keeps leaving lists of schools I should look into: Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates. Meanwhile, I keep dreaming of staying in South America: Peru or Chile. Which means we'll probably actually land jobs in Asia.

This past year I've tried to be, like, very chill about things. (I never say stuff like that. Okay. Not often). I can be quite high strung - this isn't a revelation to most - but I've been learning to take deep (deeeeep) breaths and steps back. Justin and I tell each other our plans but we also remind each other of times when we felt this same way: unsure, doubtful, hopeful, wanting resolution. Our second year of teaching, we wanted to land jobs near each other. We prayed for that. We ended up with classrooms across the hall from each other - but didn't get that answer until the last week of July before the new school year started. I get a sense that that might be what happens this time: we'll find out where we go in June or even July. Eek.

End of page end of page end of page. When will we get there?

Sunday, February 15, 2009

always starting over: running (part 4)

When I teach The Great Gatsby I always reach a point in the novel when I want to scream at Gatsby: Give it up! Move on! Daisy isn't going to dump Tom. She hasn't spent the last five years waiting around for you to show up again! Jay, just find yourself a nice girl from a good family and adore her. But before I reach that point, I am taken by the daring of his pursuit - a seemingly impossible dream made almost.

This year I asked my seniors to think of a dream they have. Something big, maybe too big. A gaudy, wild dream. An unlikely dream. And then I told them mine: sometimes when I run, I pretend I'm an Olympian. While it isn't anything I really want (oh, that's just a nice way of saying I lack the natural talent and necessary drive), I love the dream. What a fun dream to entertain. The last few miles of many runs it has been me and the sports commentators: Who is this Sarah Marslender? Would you look at that stride, she has a real shot at closing the gap and if Paula and Deena don't take note and pick it up...

Even in my daydreams, I wouldn't win. Silver and bronze are nice medals too. But just imagining me, an Olympian - that kicked enough energy to finish my miles.

But now I'm reassessing my running goals realistically. A year ago, I was in a spot to train aggressively for a June marathon. I wanted to push my body again, having established a comfortable daily pace of 8:00 - 8:30 and nudging my weekend long runs with a Colombian running group to 7:15 - 7:30s. So I thought: maybe a 3:15 full? Maybe, please?

I felt good.

And then I felt pregnant - which also felt good, except that mangoes made me gag. And my husband ate a lot of mangoes.

My running changed with my pregnancy. Ultimately, I think slowing down spared me temptation to charge ahead, overburden my body with monster training and aggravate my muscle fascia defect.

So here I am again, starting over.

And I need to set new running goals that I have a chance at chasing. My old time goals: a sub 1:30 half marathon (my best was the 2006 GB half and I think that was a 1:33) with the wild fantasy of landing thirty seconds either side of 1:25. And a sub 3:15 full. Timewise, I don't know what my new running goals should be. The 1:30 half is probably still reasonable for me but I need a chance to find out how fast I can be while avoiding injury. I need to learn how to train smart.

That in itself is a worthy goal.

Another running goal I've had for a few years is to run a trail marathon. It just sounds like fun. Slower than a road race, quieter too. I think I'd enjoy it. Perhaps that is what I need to look for this summer. I'd also like to run Boston on a qualifying time. I qualified in my second (and last, so far) marathon five years ago (yikes) and think I can do it again. And after reading about ultras, I'd like to try one.

So perhaps now is not the time to track time. Perhaps now is the time to just enjoy running and try a few different races, avoid the temptation to slaughter myself for a few seconds faster. Let me see what my body can do. Today I ran ten miles at 8:20. It felt good. I'd wanted to be running straight 8s by this point postpregnancy. Calculate that: I would've showered maybe five minutes sooner. Can I live with five minutes? Sure. I do think I still have some fast races in me, once I learn how to train well, but right now I'm not counting time as the strict measurement of the success of my running. My joy counts more and running does bring me joy.

Especially when I stand on the Olympic podium with a bronze medal around my neck.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

a few of my (current) favorite things

1. At this moment: Iceberg Radio. Better than the lettuce. Scott told Justin and Justin told me about this online radio. Music of all variety, no commercials.

2. Egg Salad with a bit of curry powder. Doesn't sound like it'd be that phenomenal and perhaps phenomenal is too strong a word but at least try it. Skip the paprika.

3. Jodi Picoult. (Pee-coh) She's like John Grisham with more emotion. That might not be the best description. Check out her website for more. I haven't read all of her books and she isn't one of my favorite favorite authors but sometimes it's nice to pick up a book and find a fast read. I did really like The Tenth Circle although now I can barely remember what it was about.

4. Rain. Brings a cool breeze and halts construction next door. Bring me a monsoon. The other morning we biked to school in the rain and the roads were like rivers until we crossed the stream that had overflowed.

5. Lost luggage that gets found. We lost a box on the way to Boston and a suitcase on the way home. I blame Miami International. But my suitcase was found so I can quit griping about it already.

promised pictures: Cambridge weekend

Here's Boston. We actually stayed in Cambridge but got this view when we were out walking during the weekend. Claire meets Aunt Jo. We were so happy to see Jo and enjoyed visiting with her.
And Aunt Jo brought Christmas gifts. Claire was a little ho-hum about the whole affair but has since found a friend in her Very Hungry Caterpillar. For me: watercolor paints and brushes. I've been saying that I want to start painting again. Perfect gift. And for Justin: Math Curse by Jon Scieszka & Lane Smith. Hil. Air. Ee. Us.
Joanna read about a tea shop and decided we should find it on one of our walks. Good call, too. I had green tea bubble tea which I love but rarely get a chance to drink. Of course, this picture could have been taken in front of any boring, papered wall. But I'm telling you we were at a tea shop.And here's Claire getting some love from Grandma Kate. We really enjoyed the visit with Mom and Jo and know that they were each missed back at their homes. Thanks, Ron, for giving us a weekend with Jo. And Dad, thanks for making Mom get on that plane! And to the Littles (most of whom aren't so little anymore): thanks for letting me hog Mom for a weekend. Here's one last one of Claire on her Grandma Kate quilt.

Friday, February 13, 2009

5 minute post

I'm watching the clock. (So now I can't think of anything to say). Justin is giving Claire a bath and she's actually sitting up on her own - sort of a hunched sit and if she leans too far forward, she'll be eating the soap on the ledge of the baby bathtub. But still. We're amazed by how strong she is and how much she talks and blows raspberries and looks around the room and likes to stand on our laps and and and - we are just amazed.

Our friend Jason emailed us a month ago updating his and Michelle's parenting adventures. Mason is a few months older than Claire and Jason made the observation that what would have been unimpressive before (i.e. the baby babbles or reaches for the Cetaphil lid or smiles at you, big deal) is exciting now that we actually have our own babies.

I think five minutes is up and my own amazing baby is crying. It's wind down for bedtime. I aim to be in bed by eight-thirty tonight. Ambitious, I know.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

good things

Some of the fun in Cambridge:
1. We did indeed get to Trader Joe's and brought back treats. Also spoiled ourselves with Gloria Jean's (iced cappuccino mmm) and Starbucks (peppermint mocha). We ordered Chinese in one night and ate out one afternoon at a Thai place in Cambridge called Brown Sugar. Wow. Tempted to return to the Cambridge job fair just for the mango chicken curry and pad Thai.

2. Run, run, run. I took advantage of the Hyatt's gym and ran four of the mornings. Really enjoyed running on a treadmill that didn't hiccup midrun. I logged forty miles - some of those were powered by the sheer elation of running in new shoes. I used to make fun of people who ran on treadmills. And now I'm one of them. I did feel a little guilty watching all the tiny runners brave the cold and wind along the Charles River while I was plugged into Regis and Kelly or CNN. I miss feeling that tough.

3. Claire was wonderful! Great little travel buddy. She was fussy only one leg of our journey and that happened to be on a planeful of other babies and toddlers so her cries weren't the only ones.

4. Meet the aunt and the grandma. The front desk called up to let us know my mom was on her way. I waited in the hallway. As soon as she stepped off the elevator and walked toward us, Claire was all smiles. Precious. Joanna and Mom had a great time carting Claire all over Boston one day. As soon as I get some pictures (ahem, Mom) I'll post a few. I think Mom and Jo got in some great cuddle time. With Claire, that is. And, you know, it was nice to see them. Now I'm excited for Claire to meet the rest of her family.

5. Diaper blowout. Something no one really tells you about before you have kids. The entire trip I kept waiting for Claire to poop. (Having kids means you have reason to talk poop although our friend Scott pointed out that poop is the topic of many an expat's conversation too). She finally did, the day before we returned home. Wow. Scary wow. She's a little person and you wouldn't expect so much poo. We were out to eat so Claire got a half bath in a sink. Thank God Mom was there to help me clean her up for the walk back to the hotel. Justin guesses Claire will remember her trip to MassaPOOsetts.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

no job

There: I ripped the Band Aid off.

Justin walked into this job fair with high hopes and I, pessimist parading as realist, walked into this job fair desperate to catch his optimism. It was a tough year for many international teachers at this and, we learned, other fairs. And since misery loves company, I guess it makes me feel better to know that in this "buyer's market," as one recruiter called the hiring this year, we weren't the only house with a shabby lawn and leaky roof.

We landed three interviews which was three more than some. I feel fortunate for that. On Friday we attended the interview sign up sessions and talked with other teachers - with and without international experience - who were having a difficult time just getting schools to meet with them. We knew that my desire to work part-time could make finding a match challenging so we focused on schools that stated they'll hire a teacher with a "non-teaching spouse." So I approached schools offering my flexibility as an asset - look: I can sub, tutor, work with extracurriculars, or volunteer! Order now and I'll throw in a set of steak knives for free! But we also understood the schools' perspective. I cost the same visa, airfare, health insurance, and housing as a full-time teacher.

Friday afternoon we interviewed with two schools, one in Abu Dhabi and the other in Boston. Both were great. Neither administrator looked at my desire to spend more time with Claire as a loss for their school. Indeed, the Boston school frequently has part-time openings because it is still growing and classes shift to meet student needs and population.

Still, this experience was much different than UNI two years ago. There we spent Friday afternoon interviewing and went to bed with one or two offers tucked away. By midafternoon on Saturday we had completed second interviews and had five offers. This time, by midmorning Saturday we knew that our lack of IB experience cost us a second interview and possible job offer from Abu Dhabi. We'll follow up with the Boston school in March or April when they know their openings. We decided to cancel or third interview. Justin and I knew that we weren't really interested in moving to Cairo. Instead, we wandered Cambridge with my mom and sister. And enjoyed it.

Yesterday I asked Justin if he felt stressed or if he just felt like he should feel stressed. More the second. Things like this happen and we think we should panic and worry and yell about the sky falling on our heads. Our plan: continue contacting schools we're interested in and pursuing interviews. If we're still looking by mid-May, we'll attend another Search fair in June. My parents' basement isn't at the top of the list yet.

I did cry. We spent a considerable amount of time, money, and energy preparing for and attending this fair. And we are still looking for a job. That's disappointing. But we are calm. Better to still be looking for a job than signing a contract with a rock in our stomachs.

We really are okay.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

travel light

Or not. A few pictures of our journey.One time (three years ago), we almost missed a flight because I got bored watching delays and wandered off in search of coffee and a magazine. I looked up to see Justin running toward me yelling, "We have to be on the plane NOW!" We had to run. It felt like a movie. He was scarred. I laughed about it, which may have added to the trouble. Yesterday I asked how much longer until he forgets that experience. In other words, when will the freak out end? (We regularly get to gates and find we're the only ones waiting for our flight. There's early and there's obnoxiously early). He told me it might take another five to ten flights before it'd be okay for me to find a bathroom and get a Starbucks before waiting through the security lines. Anyway, until then: this is my view. Justin's behind.And here is our littlest carry on. Cutest too. Claire was great on the flights. Snoozed, ate and giggled. Even after last week's monster headache obtaining paperwork, the DAS clerk still questioned our half sheet of paper saying Claire was okay to leave the country. I started slapping down all the paperwork we had until the clerk said, "Tranquilo, tranquilo" and waved us through. Someday I'm going to print up a hundred pages of notarized nonsense and shove that across a desk. Gak. It's okay, it's okay.
See? Here she is, okay and ready to brave the bitter cold.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

all I want for Cambridge

Tomorrow, four-thirty in the morning we leave Cali for a job fair in Cambridge. In no particular order, here's what I'm excited about:

1. Trader Joe's is within walking distance. Yee haw. Cashew-coconut-dark chocolate trail mix here I come.
2. Soft bed, big bed. Ahh.
3. Magazines in English. I used to buy two or three magazines a week (Real Simple, Reader's Digest, Runner's World, Cooking Light, Vanity Fair, and the occasional gossip mag) in the States. Complete waste of money considering how cheap a subscription is but I really couldn't bring myself to subscribe to People. Even though I wanted to, badly.
4. Mom! She's coming to visit!
5. And sister Jo! Yea! Slumber party!
6. A few good runs.
7. New shoes! The new pair I hoarded for months and months? I wore them twice before they were stolen. (Not so) long story but unnecessary to go on about it here. Gak. So my arches, my ankles, my knees - oh happy, happy legs.
8. A job. I hope.
9. Dress fitting for my best friend Kate's May wedding. Gorgeous dress, can't wait to wear it.
10. Hot showers and lots of them.
11. The morning shows. Miss Diane Sawyer and The View yappiness. I'll probably only get to watch fifteen minutes of either but whatever. It's tv and it's live. That's enough.
12. Chinese food. Good Chinese food that comes in neat little cartons instead of tied-off plastic bags that look like someone's carsick sack.
13. Did I mention my mom and sister!?
14. Seeing a bit of winter. We haven't been in winter weather for two years.
15. Claire's first international flight. Is this something to be excited about?

I'm zonked. Good night. It's quarter after six and wind down has begun here. I'll post once or twice from Boston. Must finish packing and eat dinner and feed Claire. Wish us well.

having a moment

Most of the time, I keep my mama moments to myself. Last night I told Justin to grab the camera. Sometimes I want Claire to hurry up and sit on her own, eat fruit, make her own breakfast. I want to talk with her about school and have a girls' night together that doesn't include thumb sucking. But then I have these moments when I think: just hold on to her. So I do. Enjoy. She's my little love.