Friday, November 9, 2012

Middle of the night thoughts

The whole election thing was depressing. Not the results so much, though I did not vote for the winner, but the reaction. I do think that anything said within 24 hours of such an emotional event should be discounted but I couldn't help but be worried by the extremes represented by some comments.

One commentator use the word "tribalism" to describe the post-election atmosphere. It stuck in my head all day, every partisan comment, one way or another just another example of "tribes" in our modern society. The personal attacks, the gleeful nature of some, the end of the world warnings from others.  We often denigrate the Middle East for its weak government, caused by the dependence on local tribes for ruling authority and stability. What would happen if the emotions displayed temporarily on election day became permanent?

There are those who do display that amount of passion for causes all the time. We generally confine them to AM radio, cable news stations and collegiate football. The tide seems to be rising however. It doesn't take much to whip up public opinion about nearly anything. All you have to do is see what the top video searches are, or just watch the Yahoo News top feed.

I am embarrassed to say it, but since my email is through Yahoo I often see things first on Yahoo News. Then I go somewhere a bit more reputable to find out details. I have seen Yahoo pick up stories weeks old and run with them as if they were new. I have seen incredibly biased coverage and articles that read as if an 18-yr old intern has written them. I know that I am not alone in seeing that news first. A large number of our young people get their information from comedy news reports. An even larger percentage get it from admittedly biased sources on cable (you know who they are). As it becomes easier and easier to only hear what you already know or agree with we break apart.

I can see it in my own life. I like things that I used to think were unusual: The Lord of the Rings, science-fiction movies, Dr Who (even before the new series, thank you very much), big books and quirky items from almost anywhere. Then along comes the Internet, Pinterest especially, and now I can see my interests aren't nearly as unique as I had thought. I find this exciting and slightly depressing. The danger comes when I only associate with these like minded individuals. It would be very easy and fun to make my whole world my particular geekdom. Well, almost, that whole "reality" thing gets in the way. I do go to church, talk to my children's teachers, live in a neighborhood, etc.  But I could still minimize those contacts in favor of "my people."  It would be easier.

For the sake of not developing agoraphobia I do go to playgroup, make an effort to chat with people at church, even converse with people at the store on occasion. But it is hard and I have to make an effort. How many like me choose not to make an effort?  How many keep to themselves and their self-made tribes and I never will have the chance to see if we might connect?

Depressing thoughts. That's what happens when I drink too much caffeine in the evening. But I can't help remembering that word, "tribalism", and thinking of the scriptures I read recently, in 3 Ne 7:


And the people were divided one against another; and they did separate one from another into tribes, every man according to his family and his kindred and friends; and thus they did destroy the government of the land.
 And every tribe did appoint a chief or a leader over them; and thus they became tribes and leaders of tribes.
 Now behold, there was no man among them save he had much family and many kindreds and friends; therefore their tribes became exceedingly great.


How much division can our society take? The design of the United States was to welcome differences and make them a part of the whole. Now those with differences seem less intent on becoming part of the whole than in making sure their specific differences are preserved and protected. Bigotry is just another form of hate. The solution to it is not rejoicing and emphasizing one another's differences. It makes us all different and less the same.  At the end of the day, we are all still human, all still children of a loving God and much more similar than any list of different traits and ideas could ever overcome.


By the way, here is a wonderful summary of the election and how I wish we as a nation could have responded.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Halloween 2012


I have great kids. We all agreed that this was the best Halloween ever. From the pumpkin carving:



To the costumes:



B-cat, M-vampire, J-hero from Percy Jackson books, N-Ang a.k.a. the Avatar, E-Sorceress, R-Mercenary

To the haul of candy:


It was a good night.  Happy Halloween!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Summer summary



I finally found the camera and figured I would post some pictures of the family and catch up a little.
B. turned 6
My beautiful baby boy
My bored big boys

Before
After haircut

My 7 yr old



J. is always helpful
E is too.
What I've been doing lately.
All Halloween decoration should have a polar bear

Monday, September 17, 2012

Parent-Teacher







Last week I went to my sons' middle school back to school orientation. It is a little like the worst relay you've ever seen. Each teacher gets seven minutes per period, with 3 minutes in between. So you go from one incredibly rushed presentation to the next, until at the end of the night you can't remember anything except the cool fish light in the science teacher's room.

I felt so odd sitting there, remembering my own middle school experience. At first I felt that all the talk about goals for the year and learning strategies and such were so much hooey. They never had that kind of stuff when I was a kid, we just did our work and that's what the teachers focused on. Or maybe not.

I suddenly realized the difference in perspective between a child and a parent regarding school. I know that it is there, but I always figured it was no more than the difference between being the boss and being the employee. The idea that teachers had a higher goal than just getting me to finish any given assignment rarely occurred to me as a child. The notion of the numerous goals teachers have at seemed odd and overblown. Why so much structure and learning goals that have nothing to do with my child's ability to remember the dates to the revolutionary war or how to find x?

Since I have always been prone to daydream in a school setting it was the perfect place to ponder this change in educational styles since my youth. I came to the amazing conclusion that perhaps teacher styles haven't changed that much after all. I never paid attention to the "goals" in any given class. I wanted to pass the test and do the assignments and get as high a grade as possible with as little effort as possible. (The fact that often this grade was an A makes my husband mutter things under his breath.) I was not an ideal candidate for many of the educational theories wandering around campuses at the time.

On Saturday I happened across this episode of This American Life. It talks about the different ways children are adversely affected by poverty and what comes of it, then it explains how the right methods can overcome those bad beginnings and improve all kinds of outcomes for these children. It was the most positive episode of the show I've ever heard.

Combined with my musings about teachers and their goals I have reached an important decision. I don't think I would make a good teacher, at least right now. I had often thought if something happened to my husband I would get my teaching certificate quickly and go right into teaching, no problem. I could start substitute teaching almost immediately. What I didn't understand is the depth of knowledge involved in the art of pedagogy. Anyone who had been in college knows that some people just weren't cut out to teach. Since you aren't required to learn about teaching to be a professor, you get whatever native ability comes with each one.

Pedagogy is an art, but one that can be taught. Like any art some are better than others and some should just give up and find something else to do. Teaching cognitive abilities (facts) is such a small part of what happens in a classroom. Those facts do nothing for a child if they can't sit still, pay attention, complete an assignment, plan ahead. The list of non-factual abilities is endless. Any child who wishes to succeed must also master these. That is what all those weird goals are about. Teaching children how to "do school" in such a way that they then can "do life."

I always pray for my children as they go off to school. Perhaps I should remember their teachers as well, for they have an incredibly difficult and important job ahead of them.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Eruptions That Shook the World

I love science. This is probably not new to any of you who know me. When I was a kid I wanted to be a physicist before I could even pronounce the word. I loved A Wrinkle in Time because I saw how the mom was a scientist and a mom. That was the kind of life I wanted.

In college I tried to be practical and ambitious at the same time. I had a physics/English double major. This went well until I came home from my mission. Two years without math makes it very hard to pick up just when the physics gets really scary. So I gave up the major, contented myself with math & physics minors and moved on. At least I came back still knowing English.

Not only did this decision leave me with lingering regrets over my mathematical ability, it left me with a thirst to understand more about everything. I love science books, especially those written with a bit of humor and lots of information I've never seen.  Many general science books are dumbed down so much it is painful and/or boring to read them. This one was neither.

Judging from the equations and detailed charts, it probably doesn't count as a general science book anyway. It was fascinating. It described why the solid mantle melts to form magma; the different types of magma and why it matters; the method used to estimate the size of eruptions and why volume works best. All things that are glossed over in most easy descriptions of volcanoes.

I couldn't get over the amount of estimation used in this science though. In one place the term "orders of magnitude" was used to describe the uncertainty of the size of an explosion. That is the difference between 10 and 100 and 1000. That by itself wouldn't be so horrible, I've seen that before in emerging sciences. What amazed me was that computer models were being made with that kind of information. The computer models have definite answers, so when you use them it sounds like you really know what will happen in any given event. But when the data going into the making of the model could by off by that amount, your model is less likely to reflect the real world.

So often the author admits to a lack of knowledge. This is a good thing. Though I thought the modelling was weird I love the honesty of a professor who confesses that the models can't figure out why a certain thing happened or that they can't find the volcano that caused certain effects. It shows that science is still progressing and there is still so much to learn. While I was reading the uncertainty annoyed me, in retrospect I love knowing that there is still so much to learn. How exciting it must be to work in a field where every day new information is coming in, new hypothesis being tested. It must almost be as exciting as the field I finally chose for myself: motherhood.

Eruptions That Shook the World. Clive Oppenheimer. Oxford Press. 2012

Friday, September 7, 2012

Goodreads

I haven't done the book review thing in a long time. Partly because I haven't truly blogged in a long time and also because I haven't been reading as much. I'm not sure why my reading has slowed down. Perhaps I've just been busier. I also spread my time around more than I used to.

This causes a vague anxiety that is only made worse by Goodreads' reading challenge.  I enjoy knowing how many books I read in a year. That was one of the original reasons for starting this thing. I might not have accomplished much last year, but I read over 100 books. That has to count for something, right? As long as we are not discussing the quality of said books.

This year I put down 150 books. Then promptly got caught in a re-read of the Wheel of Time books by Robert Jordan/Brandon Sanderson. And not only re-reading books I already have on my Goodreads list, but reading the blogged re-read on Tor.com which sucks up lots of time and has lots of good fan-type content, but does not count on Goodreads.

It is like a mental itch that I can't scratch. The low number on the goal bothers me, yet quitting the re-reads would bother me, so I cross-stitch instead. That pretty much sums up how I deal with stressful things. Explains the state of my house too.

But going back to the books. The number of books I read doesn't really matter. But as a reflection of how I see myself it does. Since I have decided this blog can now be much more self-indulgent and me-ish it is a valid topic of concern.

In a very well thought out blog post (unlike this one) Dan Wells posts a formula for figuring out how many books you can expect to read before you die.  For me that works out to be a little over 5000. AAAAAAAAAH! What am I doing wasting my time reading stupid mysteries with recipes in them? Well, the answer to that is I can't read amazing things all the time. My brain gets stoppered up and then I don't enjoy it. That's what happened when I read a thousand page history of Europe. Interesting, but too much by the end.

I will keep going to Goodreads, I even encourage you to go to Goodreads if you haven't already, a little neurosis is good for you. Really. And soon, when I get Tor.com out of my system, maybe my tally will catch up.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

What do you do in the summertime?

I already wrote about how I feel weird with this year's school schedule. All that empty time, just waiting to be filled up. I should have waited a week or so. I now think that having all that time is only fair considering the crazyness that happens once the kids get home.

Most of the time from three on I am pretty busy, with gathering children from different areas. Normally I would let them take the bus home but for various reasons my three older children can't. So I drive them around. Then I come home and make dinner, force and check homework, look over folders and such.

But ever so often I get to have a day like today. When I brought my son home at four he said he wanted to attend an event that started at 5. He didn't realize that it was today. So I drive him there, come home in time to get my husband and two daughters to go to their orientation. Bring them home in time to go back and get my oldest, then take him with me to go have a church interview. Leave the house at 4:30, get home at 9, with many different things accomplished.

The car was making funny noises when I arrived so I don't have to do any of those things tomorrow. I still have to figure out how to get everyone home, but no driving for me tomorrow.

How odd.

Those summer days of going nowhere are looking better and better.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Plateaus

I was going to write a well-thought out, insightful post. But the subject matter is still a little too personal and tender. I might seem to have to shame about posting things here, but to lay out everything in my mind and heart is too much for me.
Have a nice picture instead.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

THE TOILET SEAT MUSEUM!!!!!

I have been threatening to take my children to the toilet seat museum ever since I learned that such a place existed in San Antonio. I didn't even care what exactly it displayed, it just seemed like a great type of place for an outing.
The first thing I heard as we stepped inside was my oldest (13) say, "This place is awesome!" I knew right then I had a winner. It is a shed outside a modest house in the middle of a nice neighborhood. A kindly old gentleman (92) was waiting for us outside. He had come out a bit early to turn on the fans since it was near 100 that afternoon. I had my six kids and an extra and he was thrilled to show them all his work.
He has been carving and decorating toilet seats for decades. He was a plumber and it seemed like a good medium for his artistic interests. He started letting people look at them about ten years ago and has become a beloved institution since.
I let each of the kids pick out their favorites and here we have (slightly blurry) pictures.

You can't read it but it says a new friend from Ankeny, IA.

B. and the Barbie one.

E. and the turkey made of old spoons

Our friend and the piano parts one

M. and the "Hot Seat"

J. and the Legos one

The whole group

R., who had trouble choosing.

N. and the cars one.
We had a grand time. Though Mr. Smith who has collected all these won't be around forever I hope I have a chance to take others to it, it just makes you smile.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Emptiness

The whole house is silent. In the afternoon. This marks a profound change in my life. The last three months have been filled with noise, laughter, complaints and continual motion. 5/6 of that motion is gone for 8 hours a day now.

I know that most mothers feel the change when all of the kids start school. There is a feeling of freedom and possibility that is invigorating. With this comes the sure vision of even bigger changes on the horizon. The first child's departure, with the others coming steadily behind like they have for years. There are tears and phone calls and laundry lessons. An ever emptier home.

These are the thoughts that can get most women weeping. But I have another set of ideas that come along with the quiet house during my youngest's nap. This year I will volunteer. Not too much, I still have to find a babysitter. This year I will renew my blog and maybe write what is in my mind other than books and activities with the kids. This year I will get myself organized and have a cleaner house (don't hold your breath). This year I will serve and help in ways I never had the resources, both physical and mental, to do before. This year I will loose all the weight I gained all of those other years (this one scares me the most).
Of course this year I will spend lots of time with my toddler. He has the advantage of his siblings. He will get to be the baby for a long time. For nearly fourteen years I have cycled between pregnant and baby. Renewing my strength barely enough to start again. And now the cycles are over. No pregnant, no new baby. This is the new reality that my quiet house is demanding I accept.  No pregnant, no new baby. I find myself with no excuse to stay home. No excuse for the weight. No excuse to nap as often as I possibly can. My own conscience is hammering me with thoughts of what I can do with even the hour or two my (He Still Is) baby is sleeping. My baby days are over. What now?


Well first I have to pick the girls up from the bus stop, so it is not like I have nothing to do. But it does mean I am going to post this unedited and see what I think about it later.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Fun Friday addendum

In token of it being freaking hard to do fun fridays when I can't organize a day without major trips much less a whole outing type thing. I think I am declaring a hiatus.
This summer has proven to me the value of advanced planning. Since we moved at the beginning of the summer I put off doing the daily activities chart, the list of Fun Friday possibilities and the look at the whole summer schedule. It has been over a month and we are starting to settle in but I still am in react mode instead of planning ahead. It amazes me how difficult it is to get ahead of things with enough breathing space to really know where you are going from there.
My children have been OK because we go to the pool as much as possible, which is at least three times a week, but my mental equilibrium is completely gone.
Oh well.
As they sing in Yo Gabba Gabba, "Keep trying, keep trying, don't give up, don't give up."

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Fun Fridays?

Our schedule is a bit different this year as we splurged and bought a pass to a local swimming pool. Places to get wet for free are less plentiful here than in other places we have lived. The pool is open every day except Mondays. So, in the interest of getting our money's worth from said pool pass, Fun Fridays have become Fun Mondays. Less alliteration, hopefully just as much fun.

Moving has also messed with our schedule. In fact for the first summer in a long time we don't have a written schedule. I miss it more than I thought I would. I tend to wander around in a funk without something telling me what to do. I operate most efficiently in a state of crisis evidentally.

So here are a few pics. I am thinking about making this the summer of 5 mile radius. Since that's what we have done for the first few. And since I haven't posted pics in a while, some of the backlog.
The new trampoline is so comfy

B.'s preschool graduation

N. playing dress-up



Moving the trampoline, so funny

They almost lost it rolling it to the house

Wetlands, dry kids

N

Everybody at the point we turned around

E.

His father's son

Monday, June 18, 2012

center of attention

I have been wondering lately why this blog eats at me. I can go months without posting anything yet I compose posts nearly everyday. I always have ideas I want to share that die a lonely death in the back spaces of my mind. So why do I have this need (desire really, if it was a need I would really write more) to communicate and develop the thoughts in my head?
Sometimes I wonder if it is a form of "Look at ME!!" syndrome, just in a quiet way that more suits my personality. My oldest son has this in a dreadful way. In every situation he wants to be the center of attention. He interrupts conversations, takes over games and play, and is generally the loudest person in the room. Part of it is his Asperger's but a lot of it is a common human feeling. We all want to be the one everyone thinks about, is looking at, and loves.
It is the cause of reality TV, autobiographies, graffiti, and blogs, facebook and twitter. We all want our voices and our thoughts to be heard. But when everyone talks, who listens? It is like the line from The Incredibles, "If everyone is special, then no one is."
I would like to be able to better sort through the shouting, to hear the quiet whispers of the voices I want to hear because they have something of value to say. Something more than, "I''m important! Look at me!!Love me because I am on your TV and computer every time you turn it on."
The still small voice of the Holy Ghost only can be heard when we eschew (how's that for a good word?) the loud voices. The small and valuable voices that do exist in the world can only be found when we are thoughtful about the way we listen.
I just realized that the preceding paragraph could be taken as a reference to myself. Er, I am not sure I have anything valuable to say. I enjoy clarifying my thoughts in a public space, small though it may be. I wouldn't say read my blog because it has wisdom or value, more read it because I might say something you might like.
Who knows? It is getting late and I have a tendency to ramble and my great ideas dissolve into disjointed fragments.
Good night.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

renewal

Hi,
Just a note to let anyone who still looks a this that I really think I will start blogging again. I find my ability/desire to write is directly tied to my mental well-being. Which is another one of those annoying "it would help me feel better, but I can't do it until I feel better" things, like exercising.
And I have all sorts of ideas in my mind that I just don't have if life is difficult.
So here's hoping the improvement continues.
Oh, and we moved last weekend and the a/c is now fixed. Those help with my state of mind.
Bye.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

So Many Books, So Little Time

I read a lot. That was the whole point of this blog of course, though it has turned into both more and less than that. More because I write about more than just books, less because I haven't been able to post much in the past year or so. I just don't feel like I have much to say lately. The effort to get my few words out into the intrawebs seems to have a poor work to value ratio.

But sometimes you just have to write some things down. Like this book, So Many Books, So Little Time: a Year of Passionate Reading. The author's purpose was to read a book a week and chart her reactions, impressions, etc. What resulted was a beautiful little love story, a woman and her obsession. My reaction was slightly creeped-out amazement; someone else feels this way, leaves her books all over the house, relates the books to what is happening in her life, remembers life events by the books read during that time. It was weird.
For example:

On her bookshelves :
You might not be able to figure out what's going on organizationally, but I have a Rain Man-like capacity to visualize the books, almost title by title, and put my hand on any one within seconds.
On her side of the bed:
On my side, the right side of the bed, is a table heaped with books and magazines and stray papers and catalogues and old bank receipts and who know what else. . . .To me, it shows simply that I am a card-carrying member of the compulsive readers' society.
On multiple books:
By double-booking--keeping one book at home and another in my back pack or glove compartment--I always had something to do while stuck in traffic, stranded in a long long, or as it turned out, sitting by the phone waiting for (someone) to call.
Though of course I tend to have as many as four going at once, upstairs, downstairs, kitchen and purse. She mentions finally being able to not finish a book if it is awful (I couldn't do it until after I was married), the hesitation of lending books, and incompatible book recommendations. All things I always kept to myself as if I had a strange habit that wasn't fit for normal society.

The funniest part was how completely different we are in many other respects. If there are more than three books we have both read I would be surprised. She lives a life very foreign to mine and I'm sure my life would be completely unappealing to her. Yet if we were to meet, at least we could ask each other about our reading habits and connect.

So Many Books, So Little Time. Sara Nelson. G.P. Putnam's Sons. 2003

Monday, January 9, 2012

Merry Ch. . .Happy Holida. . . Er, Nice January?

This year was the first since I have been married that I didn't send out Christmas cards. It is amazing how guilty that makes me feel. So if you sent me a card and you are my grandmother, you will be getting some form of letter in the mail soon. The rest of you, well I'm still alive and I assume you are, we'll leave it at that.

We got President Monson's biography for Christmas (thanks Mom & Dad Ward) and I just finished it. I was amazed at how uplifting it was. I read President Hinckley's and felt amazed but not that anything he did was immediately repeatable. Among President Monson's gift is the ability to do little things that mean a lot to the recipient. His talks are full of stories and his life is lived one person at a time. His ability to pay attention to those around him is wonderful.

It made me want to be better and to see how I could immediately. I can be more friendly, I can smile more, take more time and love those I am around. I can also see how this could help me with the things I struggle with. When you are helping others your own problems aren't so bad. Or at least they aren't what you are worrying about at the time.

I've got lots of other goals. Though the one definite goal I picked up from To the Rescue has been helping. My sweet hubby and I kneel down together to pray every night now. Even when we go to bed at different times. It is amazing how this has helped me feel closer to him and happier. It is hard to maintain a decent level of irritability when you kneel and pray with someone every night. We did before but a lot of the time one of us went to bed first, or we forgot, or we just stayed in bed to pray. Doing it right, every night, that is something I can accomplish.

But mommy time is over, the baby is saying, "Out, out, stuck" which means he is done with his nap.