Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Planning Ahead

I really love planning because I really hate surprises. Chris will back me up there.

So today I worked a couple of hours at the law office and then headed over to campus to chase down beurocratic rabbit trails in search of a form I'm not entirely sure exists. (It wouldn't be the last time today.) Then I went to a planning meeting for the fall's Assistantship.

I'm so excited about this project, actually. I think the professor in charge of it is terrific--organized and reasonable. I really admire those qualities in anyone, and in academia, especially. I think the other graduate student I'm working with is terrific. She's smart and experienced with this project, and, thank heavens, taking the lead in teaching the class. I'll be doing more of the supervising. I'm very excited about that.

After we had penciled in many of the logistical details about all of that, I talked with the professor about my Master's Thesis project, because he's my advisor for that. We talked some more about what it would and would not be and came away with a clearer picture--and I was able to cut down my list of summer reading considerably. I still have a bunch to read, but it's not so all over the map as before. This is good.

I also got to drop two of the five classes I'd signed up for (over scheduling to avoid being shut out of something I wanted later).

I only have one night course for the fall, and it doesn't go as late as the night classes usually do. It's on scout night, of course, but in a way that's good as it means we'll only need a sitter every other week.

I'll be very busy during the day, but should be able to be home and make dinner four of the week nights and that's a huge improvement over previous semesters.

Also, we think we can combine my supervising with my thesis research and that's a huge, huge, huge time savor. Watch the teachers-in-training, take notes, give feedback, keep notes for my own research. All good.

Only thing is--I think I'm going to start taping my talks with this professor. He says soooo much, quickly, and I can't remember it all later. I take notes, but it doesn't seem to capture everything. Would be good to have the digital recording to listen to again later and make sure I got it all. (I'm totally serious.)

Friday, May 14, 2010

Off They Go

A brief rainstorm blew through here about 3:45, soaking the items in the back of the pickup truck, which I was driving at the time. I knew about the wheelbarrow and the gas thingy, but I didn't realize there were a few boy scout tents in the back, getting soaked. I rounded up Ben and Milo after talking to my friends for a bit, and then headed home, blissfully unaware that Chris was back at the house having a conniption fit.

Upon arrival, Max dashed out of the house to inspect the tents while I worried about the silver car, whose windows had been left down. Max reported the soaking of the tents to Chris and Chris had a baby cow in the living room. moo.

Then, he recovered his composure. They finished gathering their things. They headed out to pick up the rest of the troop, hoping they could squeeze all those big kids into that tiny truck and maybe the tents would air out on the way up to the mountain trail. The storm hadn't lasted more than 15 minutes. As long as the wet spots didn't end up being on the bottom of the tents, it was all probably salvageable.

Since then, the sun has come out. I'm thinking good thoughts for Troop 40's campout tonight. May they find plenty of dry wood for the smores and hotdog roasting.

I'm also thinking of my friend whose husband is graduating from college tonight with a degree in chemical engineering that they all, the whole family, earned together (but, you know, kudos to Eric who cracked the books, wrote the papers, studied and passed the tests, and did a million group projects--which can try an older student's patience). Ben and Milo and I will be babysitting their two youngest children while everyone else goes to the ceremonies. It's a good day in Central PA.

Me? My PA teaching credential and my final "child abuse" clearance arrived in the mail today. This has no immediate impact on anything. I'll still be returning to school in the fall to finish my master's. But it means I can sub here or there for a friend, just to get my proverbial feet wet again, and it means if something happens while I'm supervising undergrads (like, all the other adults in the room suddenly have to run to the bathroom or something--it could happen) then I'm legally allowed to supervise the kids left behind. This seems good, too. More good to the day.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Poodle on My Foot

Emily had a very difficult year, too. The fact is, we brought her home when the twins were toddlers and Max was still being homeschooled. She was raised to believe that her pack would be with her most hours of the day. It wasn't an unreasonable expectation, based on how things went for the first few years of her life. Then Max went off to school during weekdays three years ago. Ben and Milo were gone for the morning three days a week. It was worrisome, but I was still working from home, so she took up residence under my desk while I wrote and she trusted me to go get the puppies and bring them home again.

When I first started at the law office, I worked up to 30 hours in a week, but those weeks were fewer than you might think. If I picked up a freelance writing project, then I subtracted the hours from the law office. It wasn't unusual for me to only be gone 15 hours in a week. All three boys were in all-day school now, but at least I was still there. And then Chris's job stuff went south and he was around, too. This pleased Emily, frankly.

Then in June, Chris was gone all day again. And the combination of school and work for me suddenly meant I was pretty much gone all day during the week, too.

And Emily has not been happy about it. I'm embarrassed to admit that it took most of the last 10 months for me to finally ask the vet about Emily's gradually worsening behavior. Turns out she likely has separation anxiety. Right now she's happy because she's sleeping on my feet. She gets my feet and a corner of the warm, wool blanket my aunt knit for Chris and I. It's a good life, but it's not like it was.

I totally get it. Some days I have separation anxiety, too. I know Chris does. If it was up to him, we'd meet every weekday for lunch at one of downtown State College's many fun places to eat and plot and plan and marvel again at how much more mentally challenging it is to parent a teenager than a baby. I mean, assuming you're trying to give the kid every possible shot at good outcomes. I'm not talking about getting the kid into the right extracurriculars so he'll get into a good college. I'm talking about providing input, while he's still talking to us, in the hopes that when he makes decisions without consulting us, they'll be ones that move him in positive directions.

It's an incredibly wet week. I'm kind of grateful for it because I really need to do a LOT of yard work and garden prep, and I also need to get some work done on a project for one of the professors I work with, and the downpour scheduled for tomorrow makes the decision for me. Still, I wish I had already gotten the dirt spread out in the areas sinking in our lawn and put down the new seed. This would have been great for that.

Chris should be home from playing raquetball soon. I'm going to go start dinner and then try to make some progress on a knitted lace shawl. My goal is to either fall asleep (hopefully without dropping stitches) and let Chris put the kids to be while I grab and extra-long night of sleep, or to finish 20 rows. I'd be okay with it going either way.

Monday, May 10, 2010

I Got a Little Busy, Is All

I was just going to show up on my blog today, as if I hadn't been gone for 10 months, and type up a nice post and just see if I could keep going like that.

But I honestly had no CLUE there were responses to the last post, and so now I feel a little badly. I hate being ignored and I certainly had no intention of doing so to anyone else.

So here's a brief recap of the last ten months:

July/August: I spent every waking moment desperately trying to pass my math classes, keep up with the intense schedule of the summer online education classes, work at the law office, and keep an eye on the kids. I didn't do a very good job with the last part, but I didn't actually know that until months later. In the end, it was fixable, and for that, I'm so grateful.

However, when I say I passed my Calculus class, that's all I mean. There's no hyperbole there. I would do fine on homework, althought it took me three times as long to finish as my classmates. I did fine on quizzes, averaging a B or B+. But I would nearly fail every timed exam. I just didn't have enough committed to memory anymore to finish every problem.

There was, the way I recall it, only a week-long break between the end of the summer semester and the start of the fall semester, and it flew by. I started again the last week of August and dropped my Calculus II class in the second week of September. I wasn't going to pass it and I knew it. I am a very hardworking student and a very dedicated one, but I know when the class has moved past me to the point where I won't catch up. Dropping the class then meant I got a tiny amount of my tuition back. In the meantime, I carried on taking three other master's of education courses. After a few weeks of discussion with various advisors, I moved back into Elementary Education, which is what my B.A. was in, where I taught, and for which I spent most of the last ten years writing curriculum. I took adolescent psych (before I switched back to El. Ed.), a class on Lev Vygotsy's theories, and a class on teaching reading and writing to ELLs.

We were, all of us, sick for most of the fall semester. I couldn't keep any of the kids in school more than ten days without someone getting ill--and we never did get H1N1. There were just vicious colds and the occasional stomach flu. It was exhausting and when you combined the illness and working at the law office and taking a full-load of Ma.Ed. classses--I cried a lot. Chris was gone often on business (for which I was grateful--the work, not the being gone), once for three weeks at a time. I didn't blog.

Initially we thought that I'd take Spring semester off but at some point I did the math (ha!) and realized that I'd be done with the degree in Spring of 2011 if I didn't take spring 2010 off. So even though it meant taking out another semester's worth of loans, we soldiered forth.

Christmas break was a nice break, if only because we finally got out from under the thumb of all the illness. My sister visited and Max auditioned for his spring play. School started again and it was different all over again. Two out of three of the classes felt useful and generated fairly interesting dialogue. One was a required course that did not feel useful and which was taught in a style I didn't really appreciate. January and February are always tough for me, and this was no exception. Still, time passes in a predictable manner, and soon it was March. I developed an idea for my Master's Thesis, switched over to the M.S. in Ed. degree, found an advisor for the thesis, and found some comfort in seeing that we (master's students) were all struggling around Spring break. We were tired. Time passed. Term papers were written. Presentations given. Final grades assigned.

Ironically, none of my math grades count. Because they were less than 400 level courses, they don't count as graduate classes and that means they don't count towards my GPA. Since my non-math courses were a better match for my education and background, I've earned fairly decent grades. There were a few close calls, but in general, I've hung in there. I'll apply for the doctoral program next year.

As of today's post, I have a nice long summer stretch ahead of me. I report back to school on August 16th for a week of orientation for my assistantship--I'll be teaching a few classes and/or doing some supervision of undergraduate teacher trainees. In exchange, I get free tuition, health insurance, and a stipend. My last week at the law office will be in early August. I'm not counting the days. I like the law office.

Max is finishing up 8th grade and will be taking a whack of challenging classes next fall in high school. Spanish 2 and Geometry and the like. Ben and Milo had a great 2nd grade year with a terrific teacher. This is a possibility they'll have her again in third grade. Either way, they'll probably stay at the charter school for another year.

Tonight we're sitting down as a family and going over the calendar for the next few months and getting on the same page with that. With all the stuff the kids do, Chris's travels for work, and my just wanting to get the twins through all the Wolf Cub achievements before I go back to school in August, there's a lot to coordinate.

My plan is to blog regularly through the summer. We'll see how that goes :)