Thursday, December 30, 2010

Dear Daughter

Dear Girl,

I am still thinking of you as you were this morning--flipping through the Henry and the Clubhouse book that I bought. Now that I have read all of the Ramona books to you, I thought this might be a good next step, since Ramona is in the book.

As you looked at the book this morning, you were so earnest and focused, quietly flipping through the pages as I whirled through the house, tidying. Then, when I saw you lying on the couch, I thought you were just tired . . . until you came up to me, working so hard to hold back tears, and said, "I don't know if I want to read that book because in one part Ramona gets sad."

Watching you hold back your tears as you looked for the picture of sad Ramona to show me, I just marveled at how sweet and dear you are. And I've been thinking of that sweetness all day.

How am I ever going to leave you this Sunday and not see you for 13 days?

Now, I am the one holding back tears.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

E-mail to GEW from Student Who Takes the Cake (SWTTC)

I submit to you, dear blog peeps, Part III of the saga, not as comedy, but tragedy:


dear mrs. [GEW],

hello its me [SWTTC], i know we had some discussion about my research paper about how it couldn't pass because of plagerism, mrs.[GEW] i have never ever plagarised in my life, never in any paper i've ever done before, i know that i forgot to quote somethings and rewrite them a little, but these mistakes seemed to have cost me the points it was worth, if i may ask....is there anything we can work out? i don't know cause the class ended already but i really did not want to fail and have to retake that class again, if you can write me back i would greatly appreciate it, i would like to turn in a better copy corrected if its alright with you but like i said, i don't know because the semester ended

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Referral

Well. I have a lot to tell you, but I have to go mail Christmas presents and grade final exams, so I can't talk long. (Yes, I'm still grading exams and working on gifts.)

Hubby has been gone for the past nine days, playing in the Colorado snow with his buddies, while the kids and I stayed here, finishing school. We've had a great time, but it's been busy.

Since I don't have time to tell you about all the fun we had, I'm going to give you a link to a recent post by my friend, Courtney. She wrote a response to a recent assignment from her therapist that she ASK OUT A MAN. It's so funny and brilliant, and you will all love it. It's like a little gift for you. Go here!

Monday, December 13, 2010

Dear Student Who Take the Cake: Part II

Um, yes. Well. Remember this? Well, I see that you did actually submit a paper--which, frankly, surprises me--but, see, the problem is that it contains a lot of plagiarism (which, frankly, doesn't surprise me). You've done a lot of cutting and pasting from your sources without any quotation marks or anything, and that's plagiarism.

What's that? You don't understand? Well, you used other people's words as if they are your own, and that's not okay.

What's that? You didn't know it was wrong? Hmm. Well, you did miss a lot of classes, so I suppose you might have thought this is all okay. Still, either way, it shows you haven't achieved the outcomes for the course.

What's that? What are the outcomes for the course?

*GEW's head explodes*

end scene

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Conference Paper

So, I've been nervous about presenting my conference paper at the fancy English school because I worry that all the English scholars will think I'm an ignorant Yank.

But I finished a draft on Sunday and sent it off to my supervisor, and I felt pretty good about it.

She e-mailed me back today (she's so quick!), and she gave me two big thumbs up. (Well, that's my very American idiom, of course, for the fact that she thought it was very good, "indeed.") I am so pleased for the following reasons:

  • I don't have to stress about it for the next three weeks.
  • My own self-assessment of its quality was accurate.
  • It gives me confidence for the dissertation.
  • And since she's English and an expert in the subjejct and she doesn't think it's stupid, then I don't need to worry!
Merry Christmas to me!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Dear Student Who Takes the Cake

What's that? You're wondering if you can e-mail me a draft of your research paper on Saturday night to get my feedback before you turn it in on Monday?

Oh. Well. Remember how the first four pages were due earlier this week and I returned them, with feedback, to the class yesterday? And remember how the outline was due a week before that? And remember how I said I wouldn't take either of those late because I was going to have to turn them around really quickly? Yeah. Well, remember how you didn't turn in an outline or the first four pages? Yeah. See. I was having you submit those so you could get feedback in a timely manner and, I must admit, so I wouldn't be reading your essay on Sunday instead of putting up a Christmas tree with my family and when--let's be real here--it's too late for my feedback to make a frig of difference anyway.

What's that? You're still not sure what a thesis is? You've never really understood it? Hmmm. Let's go over it again, shall we? Not that it will make any difference, but, you know, it's what I do.

What's that? Should you include any other points in your paper that aren't currently listed in this handwritten outline that you just showed me (two weeks after a typed outline was due)? You mean points in addition to the ones I just spent at least ten minutes suggesting to you? Well, considering that people write books about these types of issues, yes, I'm sure there are probably more points that you could include, but I will not be listing them all for you.

Yes. Okay. You're welcome. Glad you could stop by. Oh, and by the way, you do realize that there is no mathematical way for you to pass this class, so this conversation was kind of worthless? Yes? You're aware of that? Okay. Just checking that we both live in the real world because, you know, sometimes it's hard to tell.

Monday, November 22, 2010

A Mind-Reader?

On Friday afternoon, it was cold, dark, and rainy. We were just hanging out in the living room, waiting until it was time to go pick up the Boy from a playdate, waiting until the Girl's best friend arrived for a sleepover.

I left the room to do something--maybe go to the bathroom, maybe get some socks--I don't remember what. While I was putzing around, I thought how great it would be if we had a fireplace.

I went back into the livingroom, and then there was this:

Me: You know what would be so great right now?
Girl (without skipping a beat and without a question mark): A fireplace.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Conversation with A Student

This is from last week, after 14 or so weeks of talking about argument and writing:

Student: I just don't really know how to do this.
Me: Okay. What's the problem?
Student: Well, no one's really showed me how to write and argument.
Me: (Thinking about how he could feel this way after 14 weeks of class).
Student: I mean, I get the arguing part, but not the writing part.
Me: Okay. Well, why don't you come by my office, and we'll walk through it. I'll show you.
Student: I'm just really busy, so I don't have time.
Me:

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Who Says You Can't Buy Love?

I overheard this conversation the other day. I was in my room grading, and my window was open so I could hear my kids playing in the front yard (hubby was out there, too):

Boy: Will you come keep me company while I go to the bathroom?
Girl: No.
Boy: Please?
Girl: I don't want to.
Boy: I've give you two dollars.
Girl: Okay!
Boy: You are the best sister. Of all the sisters, you are the best.
Girl: You are the best brother. I love you.
Boy: I love you, too.

And off they went to the bathroom.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Back in the Saddle*

So this morning, while the kiddie-poos are kayaking with hubby and some other friends, I am at Starbucks working on my conference paper that I will present at a national conference in January at fancy pants UK university.

The good news is that I don't have to write the paper from scratch. Essentially, I'm cobbling together pieces of two different chapter drafts from the dissertation. The bad news is that each of those chapter drafts are over 20 pages, and I have to figure out how to say in nine pages that I previously said in 40. I'm finding this to be very challenging.

But the best news is that, just now, while I was revising, cobbling, and writing, I put a couple of sentences together and thought to myself, "Yes, that's it! Well said, GEW. Concise and to the point." And I got a little rush, and then I thought to myself, "That rush? That is why you're doing this crazy PhD thing."

Yes, I'm missing the kayaking adventure with the family. But I will join them later today for gathering with cousins, visiting in-laws, and (I hope) one of my brother-in-law's famous mojitos. These are the days I like best--some brain time and some family time. What a perfect balance. Clearly, it's the day job that mucks things up.**

*This metaphor is particularly apt since a few minutes ago, here at Starbucks, two people showed up on horseback. I love my town.

**I should probably mention that I do have one of the best day jobs there is. It's just that I like my own brain time and my family better.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Little Bit Freaked

I'm feeling a bit freaked out about the dissertation. The other morning, in the shower, I had a thought that went like this:

"Why are you doing a PhD? You're never going to be able to finish, and it takes so much time. This was all a bad idea, and now you've got an unpleasant road ahead, and you might not make it, and you'll let down everyone who has supported you in this process."

I've never felt this way about it before, and it scared me a little bit.

I think it's just that work is so busy, and I don't get to see the kids enough, and there is no sabbatical in the near future to make time for the work.

I'm just not sure how I'm going to get it done.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

All Hallow's Eve

The Girl's Costume: Witch

The Boy's Costume: Geologist

Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

So It's Come to This.

It seems a bit pathetic that one of my birthday wishes to hubby went like this:

"For one of my birthday presents, can you watch the kids a lot this weekend so I can try to make progress in my stacks of grading so that I won't have to grade on my birthday?"

There are a lot of things wrong with this statement. So many levels of wrongness. But, nevertheless, hubby did provide me with opporutnity for lots of grading last weekend. But am I paper-free today, on my birthday? Nope. Gotta cram in a bunch this afternoon. But there are good things about today, too:

  • Birthday greetings this morning by the family.
  • A round of "Happy Birthday" from my daughter's kindergarten class when I went in to volunteer.
  • Dinner out this evening with family.
  • Reading group tonight to discuss Stoner by John Williams.

And tomorrow, after a morning of teaching and an afternoon presenting an assessment workshop, I will meet up with hubby and two friends for dinner out and an evening with David Sedaris.

Not bad. Not bad at all.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Second-Hand Haul

  1. One denim skirt
  2. a pair of brown linen pants
  3. a pair of stone-colored khaki pants
  4. a tank sweater
  5. a short-sleeved, thin-cabled cardigan
  6. a long-sleeved cardigan
  7. a long-sleeved linen button up shirt
  8. a cotton, collared button-up blouse
  9. a novelty T-shirt
  10. a pair of leather shoes that will look great with jeans

The grand total? $27.80

The icing on the cake? I found $25 in the pocket of the linen pants!

Score.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Aesthetics and the Kindle

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine posted a Facebook status update that dissed the Kindle. After several people commented, she said, "If you read a Kindle on an elegant train, I still have my doubts that you know anything about Beauty."

I puffed a bit at this because I, myself, have read my Kindle on some elegant trains.

But after my somewhat defensive fog began to clear, I realized that, to some degree, she might be right--at least when it comes to me.

I do know some things about beauty. In fact, I can tell you the difference--according to Edmund Burke--between the beautiful and the sublime. I can also discuss how the picturesque is different from both of these. I am especially moved by the sublime in both nature and literature.

But when it comes to aesthetics, especially in terms of visual artifice--I am woefully inept and indifferent.

The evidence:

  • In college, I would wear turquoise sweatpants with a red NCAA championship sweatshirt. With Reeboks. (A look which earned much astonishment and derision from my fashion-savvy cousin.)
  • I don't like to shop.
  • The only new clothing items I've purchased in the past six months (or year?) are some t-shirts from Kohls.
  • I only wear natural fibers.
  • I chose my couches because they don't show dirt, and all four sections recline.
  • I only purchase cars that I can sleep in, if necessary. My last car was a pickup truck. Now, I drive a minivan, and I love it.
  • I rarely buy shoes.
  • My favorite shoes are Chaco flip-flops. I also like Danskos, Borns, and my very old pair of second-hand Naturalizer black boots.
  • I've been carrying the same Fossil purse for about a year-and-a-half. Still going strong.
  • I don't wear make-up.
  • I don't blow dry my hair.
  • The glider that we got when our baby was born? Seven years later, it's still a central piece of furniture in our living room*.
  • The only art on my walls is by my children or my mother (all beautiful, I think).
  • I like quilts and knits more than I like paintings.
  • I like stunning, spare prose much more than complex, lyrical poetry.
  • When I worked at a used bookstore, I was not very interested in the rare books. I didn't associate much "value" with the book objects**.

So is it any surprise that I like the Kindle? I suppose not. Granted, for a long time, I didn't want one. I couldn't imagine wanting one. But then, about a year ago, I suddenly wanted one real bad. At first, I loved it. Loved. it. And I still do. But, admittedly, I find that, sometimes, I like to read a hard-copy novel. It's not that I rarely handle "real" books. As an English instructor and PhD student, I handle books every day. But, every once in a while, these are not enough, and I like the feel of a hard-copy novel in my purse or in my hands at bed time.

But I don't think it's the beauty of books that I miss. It's the tactile experience. It's the way a book affects all of my senses. When you pick up a hard-copy book, your brain has at least five seconds to prepare for the words, to orient itself to that particular book and all of its bookish nature (the size, the cover, the font, the feel of the pages, the smell). But with the Kindle, much of that is lost. No matter what book you're reading, you're picking up the same thing--the size, color, and font remain the same--and the brain does not receive diverse imagistic and tactile cues. And my brain misses those cues. And some books just smell so good.

But the Kindle is practical, and I'm a practical girl. It's easy to pack. I don't have to decide which books to pack. I can download a book in just a few seconds. Voila.

So my friend is probably right. Or perhaps I would say that though I do know a few things about Beauty, I am often insensitive to it. The sublime? Yes. I am moved by it. The beautiful? Not always so much.

But. right now, I need to finish this post so I can go curl up with my Kindle and get through the third book in the Hunger Games series. So there. Now you know the truth. Good Enough Woman is a Philistine.

*And even I am bothered by this.
**But there are some old books that do move me. Usually old books--books made with leather and amazing materials. Or original editions of Charles Dickens literary magazines. Things like that. But I am not moved by, say, a first edition copy of Interview with the Vampire.

Belated Life Updates

So, about six weeks ago, we found out that hubby was going to get laid off from his full-time lecturing gig. That wasn't a total surprise. I mean, we do live in California, home of budget woes. We had known that he might not get his teaching contract, but he's a great teacher, and his department likes him, so I figured he'd be rehired pretty quickly. And, since I have a full-time gig, I thought we could scrape by for a quarter or two. But here's the surprise: Because of some weird loophole, he was going to lose all of his seniority. In other words, after being a full-time, contracted lecturer for three years (after being a load-entitled lecturer for a year or two before that), he was going to fall to the bottom of the part-time pool, which would make classes for winter and spring unlikely*.

I wanted to post about this back then, but I didn't think I should because we were smack dab in the middle of a home refinance, and I didn't want the bank getting wind of our employment troubles. Not that the bank reads my blog, of course, but still. I was hesitant to put it "out there."

The good news, lo these six weeks later, is that it looks like hubby will, in fact, get two classes for winter quarter. The other good news is that the community college put out a part-time job pool in his area, and he applied and got a position, so he'll have two classes at the CC where I teach.

It will mean working at two schools instead of one, it will mean working more evenings and longer days, and it will mean teaching basic skills courses. But I think he's excited. He started his education 23 years ago at this very CC, so it's a bit like a homecoming for him. And we're thrilled that he has a job (two even!) when we thought he might be totally unemployed. In this economy, we just can't really complain. I hope he likes teaching at the CC. It would be great if, someday, he could work there full time. We could argue with each other at curriculum meetings! How romantic.


*Yes, the union got involved, but the contract was pretty clear. It's stupid, but clear.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Radio Play

Over the last couple of weeks, I have heard two songs on the radio that I am loving so hard. One is actually a few years old, I guess, but I never heard it until last week. (That's because I'm not at all hip, and I'm always late to the musical party.) But now I've heard it twice on a good local, independent radio station. The other song is by a local guy, and the song is so beautiful. I think it's awesome that he can get radio play since our station plays local artists.

The first song is for those who want to rock out. If you can sit still while listening to this, you are made of different stuff than I am. If you want a live version, go here.

The second is for those who want to hear a great little indie crooning song with cool lyrics.

If music be the food of love . . .

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Paper Accepted!

The upside: The paper to the national conference at swanky, elite school in the UK was accepted! I have never been to the city or seen the school, and I'm very excited. I feel wanted and affirmed.

The downside: My trip to the conference might impact winter break plans in a bummery way.

Another upside: I think I might get some funding to help with costs!

Another downside: Between attending the conference and visiting my PhD supervisor at my PhD institution, I will be away for two weeks. This will be hard on hubby, the kids, and (most of all?) me. I've never been gone that long before.

One more downside: I need to write the paper, and I'm nervous as a caterpillar in a chickencoop about presenting to these people!

A big upside: My mom is going to come with me for the first half of the trip! She'll travel with me to conference city and then we'll celebrate her b-day in London! Yay!

My husband has been quite supportive of this whole plan, which is especially amazing considering the potential impact on the family and the holidays. Impressive, no?

All around, it's good news.

Monday, October 11, 2010

King of the Castle? Not.

Last night, as I was washing dishes and hubby and the kids were in the back yard roasting marshmallows, hubby came inside and said, "The Girl just said that I make her think of the song 'Who Made You King of Anything?'"

I think he must have been trying to limit her marshmallow intake.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

And Now Back to the Dissertation

Not doing it, mind you. Just talking about do it.

But first, can I tell you that I just (unwisely) ate half of a tri-trip sandwich and a bag of BBQ chips? It's the first time I've purchased lunch on campus in a long time, but at Chez GEW we are seriously low on groceries. After this high-calorie lunch, I am seriously over-stuffed. But aren't you impressed that I did not--for the sake of completion--gobble up the second half of the tri-trip sandwich?

Anyway, on to other matters.

Since classes started way back in mid-August, I haven't done much work on the dissertation. I've been too focused on teaching. This week, we have a couple of professional development days (i.e., no classes), and I had hoped to use them for dissertation work. However, it looks like I'll spend most of the extra time grading.

Still, I've been thinking about the dissertation work. Regular readers might remember that back in August, I submitted about 35 pages to my supervisor of what might serve as a chapter. Her feedback was mixed. She thought I got more convincing and confidant as the paper went on. Also, she noted that it relied too heavily on too few secondary sources (which I already knew, but it was just an early draft, so I just let it roll). Overall, she thought it was okay, but I don't know that she thought it was great. I think she thought it was less original than my previous work.

Also, most significantly, it goes in a slightly different direction from the previous writing I've done, so now I'm trying to figure out how the different points of concern might be connected. I think this is probably a typical part of the dissertation process--trying to understand/explain how it all fits together. The good news about arriving at this stage is that I wouldn't be at this stage if I hadn't already done a fair amount of work. The bad news about arriving at this stage is that I've officially gotten to "the hard part"--and I'm sure I'll be in the midst of "the hard part" until the whole darn thing is finished.

I think I know a couple of research directions that might help me get a better "framework" for what I've done so far, but, mostly, I just think I need to become better informed. Despite my progess, I feel very underinformed in my time period and areas of interest. It's time to hit the books. But when? When am I supposed to cram in all of this reading?!

I also submitted a paper proposal for a big conference that will be in the UK at a fancy elite school that I've never visited before (oh my, it's so hard for you to guess this one, isn't it?). I should find out in the next few weeks if the proposal is accepted. The Call for Proposals said that full panel proposals were preferred to individual papers, so the planners and panel chairs might not want me since I am, indeed, a stray individual. We'll see. But the conference is soon--in January--so I wonder if I need to start drafting the paper before I find out if it's accepted. If I don't, I could be stuck cramming on the paper in November and December, which is not an easy time because of teaching, holiday shopping, family visits, etc. You know what a wash November and December are, right? It's not just me, right? And plus, as a Yank, I'm am terribly nervous about presenting on a British writer to British scholars in my nasal American accent.

As for getting work done, I think that maybe, every couple of months, I need to take off for a night and go to a hotel room and spend two days and one night just working on the dissertation. No grading. No schoolwork. Family stays home. Just focused attention on the dissertation. This past summer, having that kind of focused time made all the difference in my production.*

It's just not easy to get dissertation work done what with a full-time job and a full-time family. But I still love my topic, so that's good. But sometimes I really wonder how it happens that a dissertation can ever really be finished. Or, perhaps, like novels, "they are never finished, merely abandoned." Who said that? Was it Forster?

*Okay, looking back over that post from July, I'm struck that it doesn't seem like I was all that productive while they were gone. But it was so great to be able to work to my natural stopping point, then leave all my stuff on the table and start straightaway the next morning. And I did get a lot of pages done.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Big Love

Girl: Mommy, I have a secret to tell you!
Me (leaning in close): What is it?
Girl (whispering loudly): I have a new boyfriend!
Me: Oh! Who is it?
Girl: Jackson. He's really sweet.
Me: That's good.
Girl: And do you know who his girlfriend is?
Me: Um, you?
Girl: No. Jordan!
Me: Oh.
Girl: We're sharing him!
Me: Oh! I see. Um, I thought you were in love with Jasper?
Girl: Well, yeah. And I think I might keep him, too.
Me: Oh?
Girl (with some regret, but not much): Yeah, because I think Jordan might take Jackson.
Me: So you'll keep Jasper just in case?
Girl: Yeah.
Me: Sounds sensible.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Not that I don't love Sonnets from the Portuguese

But why do anthologies always include Elizabeth Barrett Browning's "How Do I Love Thee?" instead of "Runaway Slave at Pilgrim's Point" or "Cry of the Children"? I mean, really. The latter two are so powerful, and they are much more representative of her "aesthetic of the real."

Just sayin'.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

For Now

There are so many posts I've been crafting in my mind--about elementary school, college, Kindles, and beauty--but I just haven't had the chance.

But for now, I'll just tell you these things:

  • Yesterday I took the Pacific Surfliner train from Central California to Anaheim, and I loved it. Soooooo much better than driving.
  • Today, I attended the first day of my Student Learning Outcomes and Assessment Retreat. I learned a lot.
  • For dinner, I had a mediocre steak with some good Pinot Noir.
  • Late tonight, Hubby and the kids will arrive. In the morning, they will go to Disneyland while I continue with my workshop, and in the afternoon, they'll come back to the hotel to rest.
  • Tomorrow evening, we'll all go back to D-land together.

And, right now, I'm in my hotel room, alone, watching St. Elmo's Fire on cable, which, of course, is what I most wanted to tell you because I knew you'd appreciate that, perhaps, most of all.

Conferences rock.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Excuses and Caveats

All from today:

I left my Works Cited in my printer.
I have a Mac and I couldn't print on the school printers.
If I turn it in tomorrow, I only get 5% off, right?
I think my roommate deleted it.
Can I bring it to your office later today?
Do you have an extra rubric?
I need a stapler.
I e-mailed it to you.
Is this the correct format?*
Is it okay if there's blood on it?**


*It was not.
**I'm not kidding.

Monday, September 13, 2010

One More for the Losties

We finished Season Six. I'm mulling it over and will not spoil anything for those who haven't watch. Lots to think about . . .

Anyhoo, throughout the show, Desmond has pretty much been my man--my "constant" if you will. Sexy Scottish accent and a nice chest, Brutha.

But it's amazing what one dream will do. Last night, I dreamt about Sawyer. Yowza. I think I might be a convert.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

This One is for the Losties

Okay. So Hubs and I are about halfway through Season Six of Lost, which we're watching on Netflix. We are thrilled to be getting some answers. I think that maybe I actually know who is good and who is evil!

Anyway.

Last night, after watching an episode, I got in bed and opened my book. Well, actually, I turned on my Kindle, but still. So I turned on the Kindle, and the first words on the page were this:

"I'll take care of him, Jacob. You have my word on that."

What?! The island is infiltrating my book. Cool.

BTW, the book is called The Passage, and I'm thoroughly enjoying it. It's a giant novel by a guy, Justin Cronin, who (according to my friend who recommended the book) mostly wrote sleepy literary fiction in the past. But then he woke up one day and decided to write a vampire novel.

The book is kind of a cross between The Stand, The Road, and Dracula--all of which I think are great.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

FYI: That Only Works for Robert Plant

Dear guy I saw on campus this morning,

Based on your age, I can tell that you grew up in the 70s. But you need to know something: That look you're sporting? The one with jeans that have a short inseam that cuts to one side of your package so that said package becomes so prominently noticed on the other side of the seam? Yeah, that. Well, as far as I know, Robert Plant is the only guy who's really ever rocked that style in a way that wasn't alarming, silly, and/or desperate.

Get yourself some loose fitting jeans. Pronto.

Sincerely,
GEW

Sunday, September 5, 2010

And Now For Something Completely Different

So I take it no one wanted to talk about methods and programs for note taking and documentation. Fair enough.

So, Bubbles died. Bubbles was the Boy's second betta fish. The first one lived for about two years. Bubbles only made it for a few months. We discovered him floating sideways a couple of nights ago, and the following exchange ensued:

Husband: So, what should we do with him?

Boy: Flush him down the toilet (said with stoic resignation).

Girl: (Immediately starts to cry). NOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!

Husband: But he's already dead. He won't feel anything.

Girl: (Crying harder). But that's such a dumb thing to do to his SPIRIT!

Boy:

Husband:

Me: Are you afraid his spirit will be stuck down in the sewer?

Girl: Yeeessssssssss.

Husband: I'm getting ready to take out the trash. Would you rather I just take him out with the trash?

Girl: Yeeessssssssss (Still crying, but trying to regain control).

Husband: Then his spirit will get to live at the dump that we went to that one day (said with comforting reassurance).

Girl: Okaaayyy (sniffle).


End scene.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Getting Organized, Getting Serious

Notorious PhD recently had a post about various note organizing programs, and her post reminded me that I need to think about this issue.

I'm starting to get into the thick of the dissertation, and I'm starting to reach critical mass with my sources. As such, I'll need to start re-organizing text as a I write (in huge ways), and I'll need to remember sources that I read two years ago. Already, I have embarrassed myself with some oversights--sources I didn't reference that I should have, sources I forgot about until after I submitted a piece of writing.

A while back, I downloaded a demo from Note Bene, but I was deterred not only by the price, but also by the learning curve involved. My thinking: "I've got to get busy on my real work! I don't have time to figure out how to work this friggity-frig program!"

I asked my PhD supervisor what she uses, but she doesn't use any special programs. She writes her books and articles the old-fashioned way--by shuffling through stacks of articles on her desk. But I do most of my work at home, and I have a smallish house that contains two children (and a husband who gets very tired of my book and paper stacks), and so I can't spread things out the way I did when I was a single gal in a master's program. So I might need to GET ORGANIZED.

I don't have a Mac; I have a PC. I've heard Zotero is good (and cheap or free, right?). And I've heard Nota Bene is good, but I found it a bit baffling when I messed with the sample for an hour or two.

So, dear readers, I'm soliciting your advice. What say you?

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Maybe My Most Embarrassing Teaching Moment

Backstory: My children talk to me all day long. They just keep talking, all the time. So they're often talking to me when I'm focused on something else, so I find myself saying, "What, Sweetie?" a zillion times a day.

Story: So I was in class on Monday, passing back quizzes or distributing a handout, slightly preoccupied with my task, when off from my right side I hear someone say something or ask question, but I don't really process what was said. So, I say . . . (wait for it)

"What, Sweetie?"

Now, maybe this wouldn't be embarrassing or weird if I were about 65 and/or if my students were about seven, but since I'm 40 (ish), and since the student was a 20ish young man, I was mortified and felt as if I had just broken some kind of harrassment law.

He shrugged it off, rather unfazed, but I'm sure I turned a special shade of fuchsia. I apologized--over all of the giggling and guffawing--and explained my daily habit with the kids.

Amazingly, I was able to gather my wits and move on, with some degree of my dignity intact. But only barely, since I felt like everyone was looking at me, thinking I was some kind of frumpy Mrs. Robinson wannabe*.

*Well, at least that's what they would be thinking if they knew who Mrs. Robinson is.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

So I Take It You Didn't Read the Story

Before class discussion last week, I asked my students to write for a few minutes about the stories they read. Mostly, I'm checking to see who read what while also letting them get warmed up for discussion.

My question: Which story did you like better, "A Good Man is Hard to Find" or "The Things They Carried"?

Student:

"I enjoyed 'A Good Man is Hard to Find.' It cut threw the fabric of what women want. It had true emotion and in my opinion, was very delightful. It's a great story describing the character of a person and what it takes to fall in love."


Uh, really? Which part was so very "delightful"? Was it when the grandmother gets shot in the head?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Update: School Edition

A good first day! Exciting for all. So far, the Boy likes his class and even feels some relief since he started thinking that maybe a class with first graders in it would be "a little bit easier!" Score!

Plus, his best friend (who is in second grade on the other side of the building) came looking for him at both recesses, and they sat together at lunch and had a table all to themselves! Happy goodness for the Boy.

The Girl, I think, will be a natural. Today, she learned THE RULES, especially the one about only marking ON THE PAPER, not on the tables, floors, or walls. She feels confident about being able to follow such rules. But she was a bit sad that we didn't have a proper hug before I left and has requested that she always get a good hug before I leave.

I'm happy to oblige.

More to come, I'm sure.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Um . . . Okay, But I'm Kind of Sad and Nervous About It

All summer, we have eagerly awaited the afternoon when we could walk over the school and find out who the Boy's teacher will be for his second grade year. We made that walk yesterday afternoon with another family. Would he get second-grade teacher A, whom we're hoping for? Would he get second-grade teacher B who would also be okay? Would he get second-grade teacher C, whom we'd rather not have?

Turns out, none of the above. He is getting teacher D, who taught first grade last year and who is, this year, teaching a 1st-2nd split. The class will have 16 first graders and seven second graders. When I looked at the list, it was hard for me not to feel that the Boy has been held back. And this is difficult to digest, since he's such a smart little guy. I know that's kind of a cliche thing for me to say. We all think our kids are smart, but, really, he is. He may not be a genius, he might not be gifted, but he's got some pretty stellar academic skills--for one, he's great at thinking algebraically, which pleases his father to no end. And he performed fine last year. Not at the top of his class, but fine.

I know the other second graders on the list for the split class. They all struggle a bit academically. My Boy has a few challenges, too. For example, while he can sound out words like nobody's business, he struggles with reading fluency. I think reading just hasn't clicked yet for him. So I understand the reasons he would be assigned to the class. His reading is a little behind. Plus, he's a tiny guy, and he's kind of goofy--in a totally awesome way, of course.

But I'm bothered by this class assignment for two main reasons: First, this classroom is in the pod of first grade classrooms. Whereas all his friends will be moving to the other side of the school, he will still be next to the first graders and kindergarteners. In a sea of first graders, he will be among six other second graders. Also, all the kids think of Teacher D as a first-grade teacher because that's what she has been in the past. Will the other kids tease him or even innocently ask him why he's in first grade again? Probably. The boy, himself, doesn't really understand it. I tried to explain it to him, and he said, "That class sounds weird." He was mollified, however, by the fact that he will go out to the same playground as his friends. But knowing what I know, I worry that those friends will start to move on without him, to leave him behind. Out of sight, out of mind.

This morning, I woke up early thinking about it, and I could tell hubby was awake, too. Finally, he opened his eyes and looked at me to see if mine were open:

"What are you thinking about?" he asked.
"The Boy's school."
"Me, too," he said.

I also think that if the Boy had done summer school, he would be in a regular second grade class. He was on the cusp for a summer school recommendation, but his first grade teacher didn't really think it was necessary, and we figured we could work on reading at home (which we did, and he's improved quite a bit!). So we decided to forego it. Now, I kind of wish we hadn't. I think they would have placed him differently.

So I'm sad for the Boy. All of his friends are moving to the second grade wing. Some of his friends are even going into a 2nd-3rd grade split. I looked at the list. They are the kids that are a little bigger. They are the kids that can read better.

I'm starting to cry as I write this. I just want, so much, for my Boy to be happy. I think he's sad, and it makes me very sad to see him sad. And now I'm kicking myself for all of the hullabaloo and lead up to checking the teacher lists, which turned out to be confusing and disappointing. And I'm wishing the school had called us to let us know that they had made this decision when, surely, they must realize that the decision--as justified as it may be--will have implications for the child and the family.

But as I sit here trying to pull it together, I'm reminded of a little fable about a Chinese farmer that goes something like this.

One day, a farmer's horse ran away. His neighbors said, "That is bad."

"We'll see," he said.

Then the horse came back, and brought many wild horses with it. Everyone said, "That is good!"

"We'll see," he said.

Then, when his son was breaking the horses, he was thrown and his leg was broken. "That's bad," everyone said.

"We'll see," said the farmer.

Then, the military leaders showed up to draft all of the young men into service. The son couldn't go to war because his leg was broken. "That's good," said the farmers' friends.

"We'll see," said the farmer.


I can't remember the rest of the tale, but I have oftened relied on this story. So, right now, I feel that this is how I must think about it. It seems bad and sad and difficult, but "we'll see." I am somewhat comforted by the fact that I like the teacher. I don't know a lot about her, but I know there are some good things about her.

So. We'll see.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Oh My Eyes

My eyes are killing me. I need to grade quizzes and prep, and I can barely look through them. It's not like I've been doing a lot of reading/grading yet. It's only week two. Why are they all-of-a-sudden killing me now that I'm back at school?

Is it the computer? But I'm not on it that much more than when I'm writing the dissertation in the summer.

Is it the fluorocarbons in my building?

Is it the nitrates in my ham sandwiches?

Why, all-of-a-sudden, are they red and watering and totally thrashed?

I don't get it.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Overheard in My Living Room

"No one can get me off! It's impossible!"


Any guesses on the speaker or the context? If you dare?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Overheard and Out of Context

First, I must admit that I plagiarized this blog post title from our favorite Wayward Classicist, and I'm also stealing his M.O.

But I couldn't help myself after hearing this, yesterday, as I walked past three students on campus--two young men and one young woman.

As I passed, the woman started laughing and said to one of the young men,"No wonder you don't like vaginas!"

Monday, August 16, 2010

An Oversight?

I know it's the first day of class and I'm a bit rusty and all, but I'm starting to wonder if it's possible that in my 13-or-so years of teaching I've never learned how to manage a heated discussion among students who have strong personalities and strong opinions.

I'm supposed to teach argument. Is it possible that I don't know how to manage a discussion about a heated topic?

I mean, I can do it when people are heated about a poem or a story or something. But those discussions and debates have a locus of containment (to some degree) in the text. But is it possible that when students are disagreeing about topics related to technology or education (or some such thing) that I'm not sure how to direct/orchestrate the dialogue?

After this morning's discussion, I'm thinking that maybe I have spent years keeping a tight lid on the intensity of the class because I don't know how to deal with it.

This, sportsfans, is a problem.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words, BUT . . .

Sometimes you don't have your camera with you. Or sometimes the battery is dead or your memory card is full. Or sometimes you're just having too much fun to stop and get the camera. For the first part of this week, the latter was true for me.

Monday and Tuesday night, we went camping at Jalama Beach. Although this campground is a bit of a parking lot as far as campgrounds go (a lot of RVs, not a lot of flora, and the stereos can get loud), the kids had a blast. They boogie boarded, they biked, they made friends, they made sand castles, they ran on the beach, they flew kites, and they snake hunted. We adults had a blast too. Between the four of us, we walked on the beach, ran on the beach, kayaked, surfed*, flew kites, read, talked, ate Jalama burgers, ate home-cooked baby-back ribs, and drank about a liter of gin.

What struck me the most about the trip was how "old school" it seemed. The kids made friends with some "neighbor" kids at a campsite across the way, and, suddenly, they were acting so independently. They biked on their own. They played on their own. They would take off to go play or ride bikes and then we'd track them down at meal times. I'm not sure I have ever seen them have so much collective fun over a two-day period. And I'm not sure they've ever played so hard and been so exhausted.

And even though I didn't take enough pictures, one image sticks in my mind: It's my five-year-old daughter, riding her bike and whistling. Usually, she gets frustrated because she has training wheels and can't keep up with the bigger kids. But it's like she was having so much fun and was so happy that she didn't even mind if she was a little slower than the others. A couple of times, I was sitting at the picnic table, drinking my G & T, and there she'd go, past our campsite, just pedaling and whistling, biking at her leisure, and it was darling and fantastic.

The short trip was a perfect last "hoorah" for the summer. Today, I'm back at work, presenting workshops and finishing syllabi*. But I'm glad to have the image of my biking girl to carry with me throughout the day.

*I surfed for the first time in about four years, and it felt great.

**Between camping and cramming for work, I'm behind on my blog reading, but I'll be stopping by soon!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Here Comes the Sun

Today, at about 11:00am, the sun came out, and it stayed out the rest of the day, which is pretty darn exceptional considering the summer we've had. A couple of days ago, there were two articles in the local paper about our weather. One article focused on statistics indicating that the central coast of California has pretty much has its coldest summer on record. In my little bayside town, we've had quite a few days that didn't even make it into the 60s. The other article was written by a guy from my neighborhood who said that he and his wife had been counting the number of sunny days we've had in the last two months. The number is four. (Not too hard to count, really.)

Well, today was beautiful. And I'm starting to think that the weather is going to turn around just in time for me to return to work, which is par for the course, really, since fall is typically our sunniest season. Still, it all seems a bit wrong.

But we made the most of it today with the following activities:

  1. Kid "craft faire" at which the kids sold their handmade/self-created wares for cash (and at which the kids, esp the girl, ran around buying unnecessary crafts that other kids had made). Fun was had by all.
  2. Afternoon at the beach with friends and burritos.
  3. Dinner at home: grilled salmon with rice and grilled veggies
  4. Storytime with the kids.
  5. Taught the dog to roll over.

The only rough patch was when we were reading Beezus and Her Father, which has a lot of talk about smoking in it, which prompted my daughter to ask me if I'd ever smoked. Uh, I was hoping that I wouldn't have to address that question for a few years.

Anyhoo, wonder if the sun will come out tomorrow, tomorrow? Bet your bottom dollar . . .

It's late. I'm punchy.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Summer Break--Inception Style?

Yesterday evening I worked on a workshop presentation.

Today, I worked on a syllabus.

And so it begins. Sigh.

I wonder if, in the future, I could do summers at a deeper level of my subconscious so that they will last exponentially longer than they do at my current level of consciousness?*


*Seen that movie yet? I didn't like it as much as other people seemed to.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Critter Camp

Recently StudentMum posted about how to entertain the kids during summer, and she lamented that England doesn't make the same use of summer camps that we do here in the U.S. Although our kids haven't done any sleepaway camps, last week they attended their first day camp. Wait, I take that back, a couple of years ago, the Girl did a Mermaid Camp, and she loved it. But last week, both kids did a Critter Camp together at the same time, and they both loved it. They got to see and talk about various critters while hanging out with other kids. And Hubby and I got to have each morning to do whatever we wanted or needed to do, which, for him, usually involved surfing or working on outside parts of the house and which, for me, usually consisted of working on the dissertation or cleaning out inside parts of the house. But one morning, we just sat at the table and read and drank our warm morning beverages (he's coffee, I'm English Breakfast tea), and realized what a win-win this whole "camp" thing is.

I used to poo-poo all of those scheduled summer things. Why can't kids just be free? Typically, we take our month-long road trip to Colorado, and we just hang out as a family all loosey-goosey for a month. We didn't do the big trip year so that we could be more productive around the house, and I have missed the trip. But I am glad that the kids got to do the camp, and I think we'll look for other camps next summer that will work around our summer road trip. Who knows, maybe we can even do a camp while we're at one of our road trip destinations. I still believe in kids having a lot of open free-time to play or draw or whatever, but this whole camping thing is not half bad.

Anyhoo, camp week was great. But this week, I'm going to have to start working since classes start--ack!--in less than two weeks, and I'm also scheduled to lead some professional development workshops next Thursday and Friday. Time to work on syllabi and workshop material. Summer does fly by . . .

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Post-Dinner Exchange

Girl: "Mama, Can I sit on your vagina?"
Hubby: "Uh, that's what we usually call a lap."

Thursday, July 29, 2010

A Dream About Spike

I can't remember the details, but last night I did, indeed, dream about Spike. I think we were in love, and I was in danger from someone else, and he was so sweet and made me feel so safe.

I think this means that I might be ready to end the Buffy hiatus (instituted because of Buffy burnout in the midst of Season Six).

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

You Know What's *Really* Hard?

Well, first of all, apparently, typing a blog post title is really hard, seeing as how I failed to do so correctly on the last post which should have read, "You Know What's Hard?"

Second, and more to the point of this post, parenting is hard. Specifically, it's really hard to know--in the face of things that challenge the kids--when to push them, when to just encourage them, when to comfort them, and when to just back the hell off.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

You What's Hard?

Trying to knit with a kitten in your lap.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Pfffffttt

I have just fluffed away the morning in a way that is very unsatisfying--except for the 30 minutes during which I drank my chai latte and read the new Sunset magazine* while listening to the new Sheryl Crow album. It all felt very summery, despite the cold, heavy fog that seems permanently settled over our little nook of California.

*Reading said magazine made me want to hit the road and go to a national park or, better, yet, buy a cheap mining claim in the mountains and built a pre-fab DIY cabin.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Clever Analysis or Closing Argument?

So I'm 30 pages into the "chapter" draft that I'm working on, and I'll need to do at least five more before I do some basic editing and revising and send it to my supervisor. The good thing is that she is willing to read really rough drafts and give me very helpful feedback without making it sound like I'm an ignorant tool.

But as I was writing, I started realizing that what I was writing seemed less like a detailed, sophisticated analysis and more like a desperate closing argument. What I mean is that I was making an argument about my author that, to me, seems important and right on target (of course). And in the writing I was focusing really hard on just laying out the case with evidence. I think it might come across as if I'm just doing a lot of shouting and pointing. But, hey, it's a place to start, right?

My bigger concern is that my supervisor will say, "Um, exactly how does this relate in any way to the other 'chapter' drafts you've submitted?"

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Things I Did While the Family was Camping for the Night: A List

3:00--Did the dishes and put bed sheets in the wash.
3:30--Fluffed around on the Internet for an hour while trying to find motivation.
4:30--Got really great work done for about three or four hours*.
8:30ish--Ate spaghetti while watching an annoying indie romantic comedy.
10:36--Considered going to bed before realizing that I forgot to put the bed sheets in the dryer.
11:00--Decided to watch the first part of Possession while the sheet dried.
12:45--Went to bed, wondering why I wasted my time on the first stupid movie while I could have been watching Possession instead (is it weird that I can't remember whether or not I've seen it before?).
1:00-8:00am--slept great
8:00-8:30--lay in bed, in the quiet house, thinking (because I could).
8:45--Back at the computer with tea.

Now I'm sure there will be some e-mails typed, a bit of Internet fluffing, then back to work.


*And by "great work," I mean productive work, not sophisticated or brilliant (or even very good) work.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Nose to the Grindstone

I just kissed the kids and hubby goodbye so that I can stay home and work on my dissertation while they go camping for the night somewhere up around Big Sur. I am slightly mollified by the fact that we are calling this trip a "recon mission" and in a couple of weeks, we'll all go together on the "real" camping trip*.

I am not mollified, however, by how quickly the summer is flying by. I still have a bazillion chores to do. And remember that 20 pages of academic writing that I wanted to finish by mid-June? I'm only 16 pages in. So it's nose to the grindstone today, tonight, and tomorrow so that I can finish up something and send it off (which is difficult to do since it's not really "finished"). You're probably all snorting at my silly 16 pages, aren't you?

It shouldn't be too hard focus on work today since it's foggy and 57 degrees out, which is pretty much the norm these days. Although I must say that yesterday was beautiful--sunny and high 60s or maybe even 70--which was great because it was our anniversary. My mom had the kids--thanks, Mom!--so we had a leisurely morning over the newspaper, and then we walked to a great little Thai place for lunch, and then we hit the farmer's market on the way home, where hubby bought me a bracelet, a necklace, and some flowers.

Okay, enough recounting of leisure time. It's time to dissertate.

*I feel so much like the un-fun wet blanket of the family, and I worry that the kids will forget all of the things I did with them and only remember the things I didn't. Family reunions will go like this, "Hey, Mom, remember that one time when we were camping and . . . Oh, that's right, you weren't there."

[Edit to add:// If I get enough work finished before dinner, I might watch a movie. Any good recommendations--chick flicks or otherwise--that are available on Netflix instant play?]

[Edit again:// Five pages written, so I'm at page 21! Good progress. Also, I know where to start tomorrow for at least five additional pages, perhaps more. Also, no word from hubby in the kids. I'm sure they can't call me because they don't have phone coverage, but I hate not knowing where they are while also knowing that they can't call someone if they need to. Very unsettling. Do any phone carriers specialize in deep woods cell coverage? Bah. I hope worrying won't keep me from sleeping. Maybe I'll have an extra glass of port after dinner.]

Friday, July 16, 2010

Battle of the Brontes: It's ON!


At last night's book group meeting, we decided to take a hiatus from Don Quixote. Some of us will keep reading and report back to the rest of the group about whether or not we, as a group, might want to read the Second Part. Let's face it, episodic plots are challenging for modern readers.

In the meantime, we were casting about for our next book. In the summer we usually do classics, and one of the members said that he'd like to do something by a woman writer since his current writing project involves some female POV. Someone mentioned Wuthering Heights. And then we got in a little Bronte debate--Jane Eyre vs. Wuthering Heights, and then I recommended a Battle of the Brontes*. (I was inspired by a recent post by the Steel Magnolia about her progress with WH.)

I, myself, love love love Jane Eyre, but I have never read Wuthering Heights. I have tried once of twice, but I haven't gotten into it. But now is my chance.

It turns out that most of the book group members are very familiar with one or the other, but not both. As a result, for the next meeting, we'll each read whichever one we haven't read or haven't read in a long time. Then, we will have a comparative discussion.

I must admit that I'm going in with extreme bias.

*It seems fitting that in the above portrait, they look ready to fight. (Photo source: http://mick-armitage.staff.shef.ac.uk/anne/brontsis.html)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Voila!

Remember this?


















Well, now it looks like this:
















And this:
















I know. Amazing, huh? I can hear your applause and see your herkies. And while the closet is not quite as beautiful as it was when it was empty, it's still quite tidy and, I think, functional:





















Now I just have to work on this:
















But first, I need to eat some leftover Thai food and then hit Don Quixote before book group.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Book Group Fail

Okay, well, I haven't actually failed yet.

I am supposed to read the first 200 pages of Don Quixote for our next meeting, but I'm only on page 25 or so, and the meeting is tomorrow.

It's not that I don't like DQ. So far, I think it's quite funny, and it's interesting for me to think about it as contemporary with Spenser's FQ. Also, I'm so stoked to have a book with a plot (even an episodic one), especially after some of the recent books for book group that were extremely light on plot unity. But I'm only a little ways into the book because it's hard to find the time to read between cleaning closets, working on the dissertation, reading the first Stephanie Plum book, and re-watching Season 3 of Lost in the evenings with hubby*.

I know. I'm such a philistine.

Right now, I'm at a coffee shop, with a scone and chai latte, working on the dissertation, and Don Quixote is here on the table, just looking at me like one of those Geico money stacks with the googly eyes.

No matter. Back to Eliza Haywood and Book 18 of The Female Spectator. With my scone and latte.

*After we watch Season Three, we'll re-watch Season Four. We have already re-watched Season Five. We're preparing for the release of Season Six on DVD in August. We have not yet watched any of Season Six, so no spoilers, please! Also, in light of all of this, we've taken a break from Buffy, which is okay, because when we hit Season Six of Buffy, we got kinda burned out. Did this happen to any other Buffy fans?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

The Dissertation 15

We've all heard about the Freshman 15, but what about the Dissertation 15? Does every PhD student gain weight while sitting on her arse, doing endless reading and writing? Or is it just me?

I lost weight during spring semester when I taught everyday. Now that it's summer, despite recreational activities, the pounds are creeping back. I blame the dissertation.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Sleepin' with the Fishes!

Prepare to be jealous. I'm sorry. I don't mean to gloat, but you really need to be prepared.

This weekend, we spent Saturday night at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. And I do mean that we spent the night at the aquarium itself. As in, we slept by the Outer Bay tank, staring up at giant tuna and hammerhead sharks, and at 4:00a.m., I walked barefoot to the bathroom to pee as if I owned the place. Sunday morning, we even took a picture of the Girl naked in front of the tank when she was changing out of her jammies, just prove we slept there (of course, I'm not going to post such a picture, so, really, you still have to just take my word for it).

Apparently, the aquarium lets people do this. Usually, it's groups of scouts or something of that nature, but families can do it, too*. We are very lucky to have a friend who captains a sailboat that the aquarium contracts for it's sailing tours. And that friend got us in for free. So it was just their family and ours, sleepin' with the fishes. Well, and a large boy scout troup, but they were out of hearing range.

We also got a behind-the-scenes tour, and the next day, when all of the other aquarium "campers" had to leave, we got to stay. In fact, for about 20-30 minutes we were the only people (other than staff) in the place. I swear, I felt like we were breaking the law.

And all of this happened after we got to go on a sunset sail on the boat that our friend captains. Monterey Bay was calm and beautiful, and we even saw a basking shark, which is, apparently, quite rare these days. And there was wine, cheese, and cookies. And hubby got to help hoist the sail and steer the boat and, of course, now he wants one. But since this boat is a two-million dollar beauty (which my skipper friend does not own, of course), hubby will be getting no such thing. But I'll tell you what will be happening: The skipper and his wife will be getting a lot of date nights while we babysit their daughter. It was so nice of them to take us along for all of these perks.

It was a great weekend, except for this morning when hubs and the kids went in the motel hot tub and got gnarly chemical burns/rashes on their skin. The kids have red bumps and welts, and hub's leg and arm hair is now fine, blond, and slightly curled peach fuzz instead of straight, brown, and coarse man hair. When they arrived back at the room after swimming, the kids were crying and screaming because of the burning and stinging. Not the best way to end a great weekend. I'm hoping they'll remember the aquarium highlights more than the chemical burns.

*If you have the cash, I highly recommend a vacation to Monterey that includes the sleepover. It really is amazing. And while you're at it, take a sailing trip! And rent some kayaks. I just love Monterey, and fall is a great time of year to visit.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Cleaning and De-Cluttering

Yesterday, I spent some time working on the playroom and the playroom closet. Mostly on the closet. Unfortunately, I did not take a "before" picture of the closet. But here is the "after" picture:





















When the Girl came saw the closet, she took in her breath and said, "It's beeeaaaauuuuttiiiifuulllll!" Just more proof that having clean, clutter-free spaces is good for the soul and mind.

I also cleaned out the corner of the room where the bookshelf used to be so that I could put a table in the room. I wanted the kids to have a place in there to do art work or have dinner with their friends (a proverbial "kid" table). It's our old dining table, and it looks good. I think I'll get a lamp to hang above it:





















Okay. So the closet is clean and organized and ready for me to put stuff away. Lucky for you, I did take "before" picture of the room, now that it contains all of the contents that have been vomited out by the closet:

















There is a queen-sized futon under there that is kind of hard to see. I'm hoping that the bed makes it all look worse than it is and that, overall, it's not as bad as it looks. I'm sparing you a picture of the desk since I'm not sure what I'm going to do with that mess yet.

I plan to put some things away later today (in the closet) while the kids are playing. Right now, I need to work on the dissertation, but it's tempting to spend the morning browsing simplicity blogs so that I can get inspired to throw out more stuff.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Fairy Facts

Last night, Hubs took care of kids and a kid-friend so that kid-friend's mom and I could go to a movie. When we returned, they were making fairy houses. For the rest of the evening, the Girl was busting out with various fairy facts. I wish I could remember them all, but I do remember this:

"Cloud fairies take care of water and make the dew drops."

Pause.

"I mean they make the don't drops."

* * *

Even today, the Girl keeps talking about don't drops. Should I consider this some kind of strange fairy negativity?

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Take That, King George!

I think that, perhaps, this year was one of my favorite firework-viewing experiences ever. It's certainly at the top of the list.

Here on the Central Coast of California, we have several firework shows to choose from, and they are all in beach towns. But the traffic to these displays can get so crazy! Also, in the summer, we get a lot of fog from the heavy marine layer. The high inland temperatures (90s and higher) combine with the cold water temperatures (mid-50s) to create fog at the coast. Case in point, as I'm typing this, it's foggy outside and somewhere around 60 degrees. Not a speck of sunshine or blue sky to be seen*. Often, the fog burns off later in the afternoon, and every once in a while the wind shifts a bit and blows the fog seaward, but we get a lot of fog in the summer. We call it June gloom (even as we move into July). So, with all of this fog, sometimes the fireworks don't look like fireworks, but rather like glowing tufts of cotton candy.

I mentioned to a friend that we were thinking of paddling into the bay to watch the local firework show from the kayaks, and she said that she and other friends usually paddle over to the dunes and watch from there. So after spending the middle of the day in town at a little festival (where it was sunny and warm), we came home and got ready to paddle. Lo and behold, it was sunny at the coast, and the marine layer seemed to be parked a little ways out to sea. Still, I packed up warm clothes while hubby loaded the boats. After picking up some burritos and beer, were were ready.

We met our friend at the bay at about 7:00pm, and paddled over to the dunes. It was a great paddle. We got some exercise, we got to paddle through the sailboats in the marina, we saw the sea life, and we even passed the barge from which the fireworks would be launched. Unfortunately, the fog rolled in just as we were crossing the bay. Still, we had hopes that the fog layer would be high enough to still allow for a good show.

At the dunes, there were just a few other families. We ate and drank, and the kids played with other kids. The fireworks started at 9:00, and we definitely had the best seats in town. The fireworks exploded right in front of us, over the water and below the fog, so the the view was perfect. The kids were mesmerized. And best of all? No big crowds. And no traffic. Especially on the way out. Instead of battling a mass exodus of cars, we launched into water that was completely calm and still. It was dark and peaceful as we paddled back to the marina, just the sound of our paddles dipping into the water. We only saw one motorized boat on the way, and it managed to not run over us. Bonus.

It was a late night, and the kids were tired, but it was fantastic: Good, clean livin'.

But I don't have pictures, because even though I took my camera with me, I forgot to use it. That's usually how I roll.

Hope everyone had a great time celebrating the day on which our slave-owning forefathers told King George he could take his Empire and shove it up his tyrannical arse**.

*But if I drive about a mile--or even half a mile--inland, it will be sunny and warm.

**It's all a bit politically fraught, but HEY!, I like fireworks and BBQ!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Cherry Picking

Yesterday, I took the kids berry picking. We hadn't been to the u-pick berry patch in a couple of years, but we headed over there to give it a try. When we pulled in, I saw the owner tending his large garden/small farm, but things looked different. No berry baskets. No money box. I approached him to ask him if he was open for business, but he didn't seem to hear very well. After some confusion, he told me that he had closed down over a year ago--"I don't sell anything anymore," he said--but that he supposed we could pick what we wanted and just take it. He gave us a bucket and a brief tour of the ripe berries--being alternately cheerful and gruff--and then told us to have fun.

We filled a big bucket of cherries (Bing and Rainier), and we filled some cups with raspberries and blackberries. I wish I'd had a camera to take a picture of the kids in the cherry orchard. The branches drooped with fruit.

When we finished, I tried to give him a $20, but he waved me off. I didn't push my luck to ask if we could come back, but I sort of wish I had. I mean, what is he going to do with all of that fruit?

I'll tell you what we did with it. We came home and made this:
















And after we made that, we still had this:
















So now I'm thinking of canning some brandied cherries. But the recipe calls for six pounds of cherries, and I don't have a single scale in the house, which is probably why I'm willing to eat this:
















I suppose I can guess how much six pounds is by comparing it to the five pound bag of sugar I just bought. Or I could drink some brandy first, and then just guess.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Back Home

We are back from Hawaii, and I will have a few pictures and more details soon.

The best part about getting home from Hawaii? The kids are on Hawaii time, and so they slept until 9:00am for the first time in their lives--two days in a row.

The worst part of getting home from Hawaii? We're not in Hawaii anymore.

Oh, and also, now it's time to face all of the chores/crap that have been waiting for us at home. Today, I'm starting to get my finances in order a la Suze Orman style. Despite the fact that she drives me bonkers, she gave some good basic advice in a recent issue of Oprah (the de-cluttering issue). So I went to Staples and bought a shredder, a fire-proof safe, and a file box*, and now it's time to sort, shred, and organize.


*And I bought a couple of pretty notebooks because, I mean really, I just can't resist pretty school supplies.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Just Checking In: Hawaii Edition

I, GEW, am currently in Hawaii, and, upon return to California early next week, will provide photos and highlights. For now, I will just say that we are having a wonderful time and have done lots of great swimming and kayaking. However, I'm afraid that the current score reads as follows:

Man-O-Wars*: 2
GEW : 0

If they go after the kids, I am going to kick some Portuguese Man-O-War ass.

*Or should it be Mans-O-War?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Gratitude

Recently, a friend of mine started a blog called A Year of Thanks, in which she offers a daily post about things for which she is grateful. She wrote a post on children a week or so ago, and the day after the post, the kids and I took a walk to the bay on an incredibly beautiful Saturday. I couldn't help but think about how much gratitude I feel for my children and the circumstances of my life. I am so grateful that I have two wonderful, healthy kids and that I have a great husband and great extended family and that we get to live in such a beautiful place. I have no idea how I got such a good ticket in this world, but I am profoundly grateful.

Some pictures two Saturdays ago--a walk to the coffeshop and bay:


























































Some pictures of last Saturday--playing in the dunes after kayaking across the bay:















































Wednesday, June 16, 2010

What To Do When Struggling to Write Text for the Dissertation: Ideas #1 and #2

I'm sure that many of you have strategies for what to do when it's difficult to face the current piece of academic writing. I thought I'd start making a list.

Here are two things that I'm doing today that seem to be helping me get into the groove and make progress despite my fear of the page:
  1. re-read existing text and do some minor line editing
  2. find, pull, and type quotations that are relevant to this piece/chapter
I'm sure I'll figure out more of these (and I'm sure I'll remember more of them that I've used in the past), but feel free to share your own ideas about how to get your mojo flowing once your butt is in the chair*.

*I did not including "blogging," which is clearly what I just stopped working in order to do. But since this isn't a list about procrastination, I didn't include it. Now, back to my regularly schedule writing work.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

No, I Cannot Bump up Your Grade

I have been meaning to write one post about how much gratitude I have for my life and another post about how my kids to the scissors took their hair, but I haven't had time.

In the meantime, I will offer you the full text of a e-mail message that I received yesterday from a student:

Mrs. GEW, is there any way that i can persuade you to bump my grade up to a passing letter? I know that I was not the hardest working student in class or the smartest, but i did try very hard, and i just couldnt write very effective papers. Is there anything that i can do? I was sooo close to passing english!

It's nice when they make it so easy.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Why Jacob is so Much better than Edward

I mean really. I just don't get it.

Let me start by admitting (again) that I have read the Twilight books. I have written about my first impressions here, and I think I also wrote more about how much the gender dynamics of the books drive me crazy, but I'm not sure when I did that.

Anyway, a couple of nights ago, hubs and I watched New Moon. And I just need to say it: Jacob is hot, and Edward is not. I love vampire stories. I do. But in Twilight? I'm with the wolves. Here are some main reasons I like Jacob, and think Bella is nuts for choosing Edward:

  1. He is not only hot, but he is also warm (108 degrees, to be exact). Edward is cold as stone.
  2. He has beautiful muscles. Edward is a bit spindly.
  3. He is beautifully brown. Edward is extremely pasty (of course) and looks as if he's been rolled in flour.
  4. His heart beats. Edward's, well, doesn't.
  5. His kind protects humans. Edward's kind does not (even though Edward is an exception).
  6. He's got that American west vibe. Edward has a metrosexual European vibe (no offense to metrosexual Europeans).
  7. Most importantly? He has a sense of humor, and he and Bella actually hang out and do stuff together. Edward just seems intensely forelorn and moon-y (like Bella), and all he and Bella do is argue about who is more worthless and whether or not they can be together. Bella definitely needs to lighten up and have some fun, and Jacob is the guy for that.
The only reason I was able to make it through the fourth book is that the first half is told from Jacob's point of view.

I think Bella should have ditched Edward and gone to live with Jacob at La Push.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Let's see, where was I?

The dissertation has been ignored for several months.

So, I am now dusting off my notebook, settling in with Factual Fictions: The Origins of the Novel by Lennard J. Davis (a bit outdated, but still helpful), and I will go from there.

I hope to get a lot of reading done and write 15-20 pages in the next two weeks (despite having to arrange for the Girl's birthday activities and prepare for a family trip to Hawaii).

Wait. Who's laughing? I hear someone laughing. I think it's jc . . .

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Meet Snowball

Yes, the newest member of our menagerie is an actual, warm-blooded mammal! And one of the cutest ever, in fact. Also, she seems to have figured out her familial duties, which are to give love and snuggles to the Girl.






























































And then there is this picture taken by the Girl (who is getting a camera--in addition to this kitten--for her birthday):
















Gotta go now. I have a kitten in my lap, and it's time for Buffy, port, and chocolate.

Oh, how I love summer break. Let me count the ways . . .

Friday, May 28, 2010

MamaSox

She's a winner in my book, and I can't wait to buy her first album.

I was in tears after "Up to the Mountain." I'm getting weepy now, just watching it again.


Monday, May 24, 2010

Homework from Ink: Crush Edition

After my Casey James "hotness post," Ink tagged me for a crush/lust post. Her post was in response to The Kitchen Witch's post, and they listed crushes that went back in time. However, since I recently did a chronological crush post, I'm going make a very brief list that focuses on the "eternal" and the "now."


#1 and #2 Eternal Character Crushes: A Tie--Butch and Sundance











Okay, truth be told, when it comes to Paul Newman, I might choose Cool Hand Luke or even Hud (the really bad boy) over Butch, but I tend to think of the two (Butch and Sundance) as a package deal (oh, the puns, the puns!).


#3: Mr. Rochester from Jane Eyre

















#4: Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark





















#5: Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer



















I'm not sure whether or not Spike will stand the test of time, but for now, he's definitely on the lust list. I should probably put him higher on the list since I'm crushing on him so much right now, but he's in the #5 slot since he's the most recent guest to the party.

If you're reading this, I'd love to see your crush/lust list--chronological or eternal--in comments or on your own blog.