Sunday, February 22, 2015

Working, working, working, on this bright white and blue day

Outside, it's bright with snow, sunlight and blue skies. Temperatures are beautiful too, for the time being, and I sweated buckets when doing my part of the driveway shoveling and car-digging this morning. I felt really, really bad for our old neighbors and friends in Massachusetts, though. They have it SOOO much worse!

We're all working hard today. The boys on their science fair projects and robotics (Kelvin is at school doing that now) and I'm translating as much as I can. I'm not far from finishing the longest (100 page) chapter!

K is at the university working because our internet is really bad and his remote access isn't working properly. Next week he'll be away at his national conference and I don't know how I'll manage by myself with the boys (sob!).

K was emphasizing this morning that I complain that he doesn't cook, but that it takes about 30 minutes to prepare and feed the boys breakfast and that he did "cook"  every day, yes. OK, I have to concede he is immensely helpful in everything around the house. He's even been preparing salads lately while I cook the main dish!!!

In any case, I'm looking forward to watching the Oscars while grading a big pile of exams, quizzes and compositions. It's the BEST strategy to grade and I'm thankful for the Grammys two weeks ago and the fantastic amazing SNL 40th anniversary last Sunday. I had much fun while being extremely productive. YAY!!

OK, I'll work some more before I have to drive to the elementary school to pick up my son...

LinkedIn and... Birthdays!?

What?

Has LinkedIn become WORSE than facebook and is now emailing me about people's birthdays? What in the world?

Subject of the email: "Say happy birthday to .... so & so" 

I don't even use my linkedin account for anything (marginal academic that I am) and I'm leery of the fact that purportedly it can be used to allow cybercriminals to have access to me, so maybe I should just delete it?

Do you use LinkedIn at all? Does it help you be in touch with colleagues & friends?

P.S. What label should I have for a post like this? Social Media Woes? I'll be thinking about it...

Now a Pioneer Covered Wagon?!

Yeah, first there was the mousetrap car, and now my seventh-grader needs to make from scratch a pioneer covered wagon that needs to look as authentic as possible, but which cannot be made using a kit, but which can use store-bought things such as a horse and little implements.

To make matters worse, this project overlaps with the finishing of the super-involved science fair project that needs to be done by March 4.

All this and I never even blogged the woes of the Fall semester when my husband and I spent hours driving around looking for specific trees for our son to photograph for his "Leaf Project." Seriously!

I don't know how we'll survive three more years of science & social studies. And apparently there will be other projects like these in their high school too.

Sigh...

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Grieving Friendship Loss/Change

Sometimes grief takes me by surprise. It blindsides me in the middle of an ordinary day as sudden tears roll down my cheeks, seemingly out of nowhere. Obviously, that's not the case. They always stem from something quite specific, something I've pushed very deep inside, trying to prevent it from ever coming up to the surface. Sometimes the pressure it too much, though.

This weekend we spent some time with a group of true kindred spirit friends that we found two years ago (the "house church" crowd, I want to write more about them later). S, the friend I sometimes car-pool with (this semester our schedules are 100% off, though! :-( How upsetting!) asked me how the holidays went, since we hadn't talked since December, and I explained the basics, a summarized version of our sad, expensive short trip to Florida.

That relatively brief conversation with S and the fact that I spent many hours last night looking at photos of the idyllic holidays of 2013-214 (in Brazil with our whole families, 10 days in an incredible beach) probably messed with me.

The tears came as I thought about the depressing second day of that Florida trip. Driving three hours South on the rain to meet friends at this science museum we didn't want to go to. Friends we hadn't seen in nearly a year. And when I rushed to write this post, the tears were gone and dried soon after I'd written half of these lines.

The tears have dried, but now I've been made keenly aware of the grief. It's there and I need to acknowledge it. I need to accept the fact that those friendships are changed forever and that there's not much that I can do to mend or change it. I wish there was, but life is too complicated.

At four years old my son wanted to marry their daughter. The girl that now, given our common interest in books (and maybe in my son, even), feels like she's my friend (and I feel the same way). But I'm sorry to say that as much as I'd love for our kids to actually have a relationship someday, deep down I think it would be too complicated. Thankfully, it probably won't happen. And if by any chance it does (how cool would it be for kids whose grandfathers were friends & roommates and whose uncle & aunt got married, to be together?) ;-) we'll have to work out in mending those relationships.

We'll see what life will bring us. In the meantime, the tears have brought me more awareness and, paradoxically, more peace too. Thanks to writing (and blogging as cheap free therapy!). :-)

SNOW DAY! (Now with photos!)

YAY! I'll have my first snow day tomorrow, probably the last, but at least there was one, YAY!

I really really need to work on the translation (I spent time today backing up the photos, so much fun, but... oh-oh, work wasn't done), but I think I'll take the boys skiing. Sigh... after all, we paid for the ski pass, so we need to go! ;-)

and, OF COURSE -- there'll be REAL snow to ski on! (which will make it extra slippery for me, probably, yikes. Hopefully I'll survive, sigh...)

OK, I'm going to go to bed now. But I'm giddy with joy at the snow day. YAY!

:-)

Edited to add some photos. We're working in the morning & going to ski in the afternoon.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Backed Up

Finally, after nearly two years of constant complaints and agony over three years' worth of photos being "hostage to iPhoto" I figured out a good -- if extremely time consuming -- way of backing up ALL of my photos into an external hard-drive.

WOO-HOO!!! And since I have extremely good hyper-focus whenever I'm dealing with photos, I don't mind spending hours doing this (to the detriment of other things that must be done such as laundry, cleaning the house, etc., obviously!)

So... I'm using two SD cards, one 16GB and another 8GB. I put one of the cards in the card slot in my MacBook Pro and export as many photos as I can to it (it takes A LOT of time for them to be exported into the card). When the card is full I eject it, pop it into my PC and then copy all the photos to the proper folders in the external hard-drive that's connected to the PC (I organize my photos by year and month and also thematically within each year, depending on the photo, I won't bore you with the details -- I could talk about this forever!).

Copying the photos to the external HD takes less time and, obviously is lots of fun, as I get to organize them. Some of the photos -- particularly those from my iPhone, seem to LOSE their information (such as the date where they were taken) in this transfer, which is infuriating, so sometimes I have to refer back to iPhoto to figure out when the photos were taken. Other than that, it's a relatively straightforward process. When I copy the photos I delete them all from the card so I can begin the process again.

While I'm emptying one card I try to be loading photos on the other in the Mac at the same time -- too bad both cards aren't 16GB (our other 16GB card is broken), that would save me time.

In any case, after this is done (I have so far advanced from August 2012 to April 2013, having done this for several hours on Friday and Saturday nights) I will feel WHOLE again, as far as my beloved photos are concerned! YAY!! And then I will back up everything into another hard drive that I wish I could stick into a fire-safe box, except we don't own one. Those things are so expensive!

Do you have fire safe or something like that? I sometimes feel that we should get one. But what would we put on it? SS cards, passports, a slim HD with documents and old family photos? What else do you store there?

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Productive

Just a quick note to say that I am being productive (finally!! Hopefully I'll keep it up!) and I'm working on the translation.

I also graded exams over over the weekend (while watching the Grammys) and I have more grading to do, but in spite of all that, I'm going skiing with my family and the kids' school on Thursday. I'll try to look at that as a reward for working hard.

It does feel good to be productive and I need to be! I still can't see the end of this project in sight, given that I'm just past the middle of it, but I hope it will be done before the end of the semester!

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Laura Ingalls Wilder's Birthday!

Is/was today -- I learned that from Google's doodle:
That means she shares a birthday with my cousin Denise & my friend Simone. ;-)

Can't wait to have time to leisurely read Pioneer Girl!

Friday, February 06, 2015

Reading, Field-Tripping, Not Sleeping... (and dreading to wake/get up)

I guess the title kind of summarizes this week. Those activities, or lack thereof, added to my already super-busy teaching schedule.

I'm reading more of the books that arrived last week, into the night, obviously... sigh (I know I shouldn't be doing that, but it's fun to read like that).

I want to write a photo post about the field trip, hopefully I can do that later today.

For now I'm glad that the weekend is here and I hope to be able to sleep in and take naps.

Too bad I have a stack of exams to grade... sigh. I do need to sleep more, though, and hope that next week I won't be dreading getting up and going to work as much as I did this week.

Sorry for the super boring update. Sometimes I feel the need to write one of these. ;-)

P.S. I can't wait to watch the Divergent movies. Even if they may not have had much critical success. From the trailer of the first one I can tell it'll be a way better adaptation than the Hunger Games (the first movie)

Monday, February 02, 2015

The Chilling Super Bowl Ad (& the one I liked)

I had already seen references to it in M's facebook feed, but I didn't see the until today.

I couldn't help it. I had silent tears running down my face as I watched it, being aware that it was a real call for help.

We watched very little of the Super Bowl (only the second half, after the show) because had guests for dinner last night. My husband's uncle and aunt (who had last been at our house maybe 8 years ago, shortly before they went to Africa -- they came back to the U.S. two years ago) stopped by as they drove non-stop from San Antonio, TX to Maryland.

The only ad I actually saw was the Dodge one, and I loved it:

I don't know if I'll waste my time watching any other ads (unless someone recommends them).

P.S. you know we went to school in MA & my kids were born there. We were happy with the result of the game. ;-)

Eleanor & Park (comments)

Last year at the children's lit association conference I heard a lot about Eleanor & Park (by Rainbow Rowell), so I simply had to check it out.

Friends gave us all B&N gift cards for Christmas back in the December, so E&P was one of the books I bought (as you may have seen in this post).

Some random, maybe unrelated thoughts on the book (oh, J, please don't read this until you're done reading the book, if we don't have time to talk about it, this post will be one half of a conversation, OK?):

  • It just occurred to me while typing the title that it reminds me of Jane Austen & her titles (and how an early title of Sense & Sensibility was Elinor & Marianne, wasn't it?). Other than that, the book doesn't have much to do with Austen at all (and maybe, in a tangential way, with Romeo & Juliet).
  • What I liked the most about the book was its development of E&P's relationship, coupled with the development (or the slowly revealing and unfolding) of the characters. The most important thing to me is that Rowell depicts very realistically how they are drawn to each other because they have or develop interests in common and become/realize they are "kindred spirits." The physical aspect of the relationship (related to the hormonal teenage years) is important and relevant, but it's not the key aspect of their relationship and I thought that was great. 
  • Obviously, I liked, no, loved that the characters are so geeky and misfits. And that Park is half-Korean, leading to discussions of racial identity, prejudice, etc. (and Eleanor's only friends are African-American girls).
  • The most moving moment of the book for me (I actually sobbed aloud a few times and my husband checked on me from the other room) was when P's mom finally identifies, in a visceral way, with E and accepts her. That brief scene is one of the few moments of the book in which we get some insight into P's mom Mindy's (Min-Dea? Didn't seem very authentic) expatriate experience. When faced with the reality of E's family Mindy recalls her own experiences growing up poor in Korea. 
  • Considering many young people's dramatic real-life experiences of abuse I appreciate how the book treats the situation of E's family fairly "delicately." Because it obviously could have been way worse, more dramatic and explicit (although it is pretty explicit through the characters words, at times, if not actions). 
  • I like the relative diversity of the book, although most characters are still white. and its focus on poverty, marginality and immigration. It's not really centrally discussed, but apparently Park's family only lives in that run down neighborhood because they'd be misfits elsewhere given that his dad married a Korean woman. Maybe I'd need to learn more about Omaha, NE in order to understand this part of the story.
  • Last, but not least (and I know there were tons more things I wanted to say, but it's just hard to remember them all, especially because I started writing this post last night & am finishing it today), I like Rainbow's (what a great name, I think it fits her well!) writing a lot. I don't know exactly why, but I do.
  • ... and I thought it was absolutely awesome that she had Eleanor mom humming one of my favorite and also one of the saddest songs ever (Clouds by Joni Mitchell) in one of the few scenes mother & daughter have together. This author knows her music and has great musical sensibility!! I wish I had found out her "mix tapes" or playlists for the book earlier and had read the book listening to all that music. I'll need to re-read the book to that soundtrack someday.

I'd love to read other people's thoughts on this book and I'm thrilled to discover that Rainbow Rowell has a blog. I also want to read all her other books.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

My New Kitty... :-)

...was a gift from my friend J -- we love to drink tea together (she got one for herself too). 
Isn't it cute? ;-) Thanks, J!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

What's the Point of Mousetrap Car Projects?????

Please, please, please... People born & raised in this country, can you please enlighten me? 

Is this mousetrap car thing kind of a "cultural tradition" (like pinewood derby races)? A "rite of passage-type" required project of middle school? 

Why yet another LAME project that requires help and significant time from parents? One that a physics teacher from another country agrees it's lame and had never even heard of?

Sigh...

Because when your almost-a-teen (39 days to go) ADD kid (who doesn't want to be officially diagnosed) with two overworked parents forgets to even show them the rubric & instructions and does the project the night before (with dad who needed to prepare his classes), it's a recipe for disaster.

But how do you make your kid make a project that you believe is really lame? Why do these projects exist in he first place? 

I know homeschooling and unschooling would be/are the best, but we can't do it, so we have to put up with this!! For SEVEN more years because I don't know if it will be much better in high school... Sigh. (At least the high school they'll be going to).

Sorry for the rant, we're definitely getting fed up with 7th grade!!! :-(

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

It's Finally Here! (Pre-Ordered Oct 25!)

I posted this from my phone last night at 11:11 pm (actually got out of bed to take these photos!!! see my pajamas there?) but my phone never published it until I fiddled with the blogger app this morning! BOOO!

Too bad I can't spend 3 days reading it and then, immediately writing the "definitive" comparison between Wilder and a Brazilian writer with whom she has in uncanny connection (can't say much more! It might lead to readers finding my name!)

I'm thrilled it's finally here. May all who ordered get theirs soon too!!

Speaking of books, look what else came in the mail today! 
Can't wait to read them all!! I love books!!! (particularly children's & young people's literature)

Monday, January 26, 2015

Snow Day for THEM, but not for me! Not fair! :-(

It happened again (including my husband and U#1)! But this time it wasn't that bad because I got to meet them at the ski slopes after my teaching! I skied an hour less than they did, but that was OK because my legs weren't in the best shape.

I had a wonderful time skiing this "Blue" slope today twice with no people whatsoever! I'm not very good, but I was going incredibly fast today (1) because it was more powdery than usually -- still mostly "fake" powder -- and (2) because I couldn't really avoid it, not enough strength in legs to zigzag down to slow down and!!! incredibly!!! not falling!!! I did fall exactly once, but it was a small fall from which I quickly recovered.

So I'm creating a new "Ski!"label right now, since it looks like I'll be writing about skiing again in the future (and have in the past -- it'll be fun to go label all those posts!).

OK, so this ended up not being as much about the failed snow day. I did leave about 40 minutes earlier, but it was ok, after I got farther away from home all snow turned to rain. (I still have some blizzard envy, but just a teeny tiny bit! ;-) And classes were good. I'm so thrilled I finally figured out the online quiz thing. Now I hope the students won't hate the quizzes and complain that there were technical problems! Sigh...

Now I'll go take a hot shower, yay!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Week 2: Productive/ Blizzard Envy

Week 2 down, 15 more to go (discounting Spring Break, adding finals), 'cause unfortunately this semester is not 14, but 15 weeks long! :-(

Week 2 was great because it started with our only holiday year-round (that is not Thanksgiving) in both universities, which is the ONLY holiday that my kids' private school doesn't respect!! (boooh!) Can they even do that? For all the other Holidays (Labor Day, President's day, maybe another one I can't remember) kids are off & we work.

I miss my graduate institution. We had so many holidays and a full month off in Dec.-January! I want to go back to Massachusetts! (not really, we love it it there, but I'm happy with our lives here). I do enjoy starting early (in late August, & early January) and having most of May off and ending in very early December.

OK, back to last week! Because of the holiday I really made some significant headway in my freelance translation project. Too bad I was unable to keep it up past Wednesday (I got busy & productive with work) and today I went skiing with the family, so I couldn't do it either. Last night, however, I finally made an online quiz for my class, so the weekend hasn't been completely unproductive. edited to add that tonight I made another online quiz, yay!

It was pretty good to go to my therapist on Monday afternoon and report that I'd been so productive. I have to find a way to keep it up because it's HARD! Especially with the grading I need to do. Graded a quiz last week and have about 30 compositions to grade. Good thing the online quiz will be automatically graded!

The holiday made it tough to go back to work last week (it felt like we were starting the semester all over again), but Friday arrived quickly and we were exhausted as usual.

I'm not looking forward to this week AT ALL. Tomorrow and Tuesday people will have tons of snow up North & hardly any will fall here. Having lived 8 years in MA, I love me some blizzards! ;-)

And I know for a fact that U#2 probably won't cancel anything because I don't think it'll snow there. BUT there may be snow on my drive. So I'll leave at 7:30 am with the standard gear car. :--( A very inauspicious beginning to Week 3.

I'll keep you updated!