Running with kids…or maybe from them September 7, 2014Posted by mareserinitatis in family, older son, running, younger son.
Tags: older son, running, younger son
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Even a couple years ago, it was hard to get a workout in once the younger son was home. I was lucky in that the older son is a bit of a homebody and could watch his brother if Mike wasn’t around.
Now, however, I have a new dilemma. The younger son has decided he’s over this “kid’s race” stuff and wants to start doing 5ks. The older son likes doing 10ks. I’m currently training for my second half marathon this summer. How am I supposed to train with my kids??! They’re not terribly motivated to train on their own, but they like going with me. I suspect this is because I turn into a zombie when I run so the kids have my undivided attention and I don’t say much. They can speak unimpeded for a long, LONG time. On the other hand, they like doing races because of the freebees. However, training with them on top of my own running is a bit too much, so I started to get creative.
This morning’s training run was 12 miles, so I decided to break it into a loop of three miles. I did one loop by myself, ran the loop twice after that with the older son (who is starting to have a hard time keeping up with me), and did it one more time with the younger son (who apparently decided after a mile that we needed to walk…and my feet agreed with him).
This worked great because I also found out that this eliminated the need to find gas stations along my running route. Unfortunately, gatorade bottles don’t sit nicely in my race belt. Also, my husband wasn’t expecting me to try to give him a sweaty hug until the end (doesn’t everyone do this to their spouse?), and I was able to nab him mid-route. He still went and got me some post-run celebratory ice cream, so I guess that was okay.
I just imagine that there were some people scratching their head as I walked past for the fourth time this morning…
Cooking up a storm August 31, 2014Posted by mareserinitatis in family, food/cooking, older son, younger son.
Tags: chores, cleaning, cooking, housekeeper, older son, younger son
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I have to admit that I think we’ve finally got the hang of this whole cleaning/cooking thing. A while back, I mentioned that we’d gotten a housekeeper. That lasted for almost a year, but then we decided that it wasn’t working as the housekeeper couldn’t keep up. I suspect it’s because of the overload of fuzzy creatures.
We changed tactics: basically, we just pick a time every weekend to spend a couple hours cleaning (although it doesn’t work so well when we’re gone for multiple weekends in a row) and we all spend an hour or two working through the list. Each item on the list is worth a certain amount, depending on the effort involved, so this is what the kids get for an allowance. I think we spend 1-2 hours every week cleaning, and while the house is more cluttered than I like, it’s actually staying reasonably clean. Also, I no longer have to spend tons of time instructing the kids on how to clean the toilet AGAIN since it has only been a week or two since it was last cleaned. (Our biggest problem comes in the fact that every one likes to put the cleaning supplies in different places…)
In the past year, though, I found that I am sensitive to even tiny amounts of contamination in a lot of gluten-free foods, and this resulted in a shopping list that involved almost no processed foods. The amount of time I spent cooking increased drastically, so I recently decided to try this same approach with cooking: the kids now spend about an hour in the kitchen getting dinner ready or helping with other things (baking bread, making snacks) 3-4 nights a week.
It’s only been a short while, but this seems to be working, too. I’m not sure why I never tried this before, although I suspect some of it is that I was nervous about the younger son handling certain cooking activities, particularly those with knives. (I have to admit that I still give a lot of those chores to the older son.) He loves to bake, though, so as long as I get the ingredients out for him, he’s getting pretty good at following recipes. He makes a pretty mean beer bread…(with gluten-free beer, of course).
I’ve been very surprised how positive their attitude about this has been, particularly since they don’t get allowance for this. (It wasn’t quite pitched as, “You don’t help, you don’t eat,” but I think they understood that my frustration was almost to that level.) However, I uncovered another reason why this may be working: I suspect the real motivation is that they’re tired of waiting for me to make their favorite foods. The baking, in particular, tends to be put off in favor of making dinner. They must’ve realized that if they learn to do it themselves or help take care of some of the other cooking chores, they don’t have to wait as long. I have to admit that if there’s something they really want to cook, I’m not inclined to say no.
Oh, that’s right! I have a blog! August 29, 2014Posted by mareserinitatis in family, grad school, older son, personal, work, younger son.
Tags: dissertation, older son, school, work, younger son
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Summer, at least the social construct of summer, officially comes to a close this weekend for most people. The younger son has been in school for a week, and I’m scratching my head, wondering where the time went. It was the summer of “the best laid plans of mice and men,” if you get my drift.
I did accomplish a lot at work. However, shifting deadlines there required I push off other stuff. In response to that, I decided to take some time off and get caught up on some of those other things, which will be easier now that the younger offspring is busy plodding through the halls of a reputable educational institution rather than ones created in Minecraft. I have a couple weeks of crunching numbers at home before going back to work to do it.
The other thing that will help is that the older offspring has decided that his odd work schedule really isn’t doable, despite a serious effort on his part. I am relieved because I seem to be getting more sleep again, which has made me a saner, kinder, and more productive human being. Also, I appreciate being able to form a coherent sentence…
I hate to say it, but I’m glad school has started again. I usually love summer, but I’m very glad to have a routine and time to work on my own stuff back.
How was your summer?
I walk the line June 24, 2014Posted by mareserinitatis in education, gifted, homeschooling, older son.
Tags: education, gifted, gifted education, high school, homeschooling, homework, older son, perfectionism
I’ve been watching the older son grappling with his courses for the past year. He was taking courses through an independent study organization to finish up some credits he needs to enter college. I didn’t feel comfortable with some of these (especially literature classes), so we decided to go this route.
In doing this, I’ve discovered that the older son has a deadly combination of issues: ADHD and perfectionism. I didn’t quite understand how the two fed into each other, but I can definitely see it now.
The older son also had the disadvantage of not working in the classes with peers. The first few he did were in print rather than online. He would struggle for days to complete a single assignment, and it didn’t make sense to me at first.
Another thing I found odd was how one of his teachers was initially very abrupt with him. It didn’t take long before she had completely changed her tune and was being incredibly nice and encouraging, which I thought was odd.
The second set of classes have been online and part of the assignments involved discussing things in a forum, so the student could see what the other students had submitted. This was an eye-opening experience for me. It also helped me make sense of his teacher’s dramatic change in behavior.
After watching him and seeing what other students have submitted, I realized three things:
1 – He can easily and quickly finish things that are simple.
2 – When things appear to be more difficult and/or time-consuming, he has difficulty concentrating and finds himself unable to stay on task.
3 – Part of the reason things are difficult and/or time-consuming is because he has seriously high expectations for himself that are way beyond what is often required.
I’m not saying he doesn’t have ADHD, because he most certainly does. We tried for years to forego medication. One day, he came to me and said he couldn’t even concentrate on projects he wanted to do for fun, so we opted at that point to look at something to help. (He does take meds, but it’s the lowest dose that’s effective.)
However, in homeschooling him, neither of us had a reference for what a ‘typical’ high schooler should be doing in his classes. He would give me an assignment, and we would spend a lot of time revising it. He worked very hard, but progress was slow. In one or two cases, he would hand things in half done because of lack of time.
What surprised me is that even the items he handed in half done or that were rough drafts often came back with exceptional grades. I remember one assignment full of rough drafts of short essays which he aced. I couldn’t figure it out.
The problem is that both of us really expect a lot out of him, and I learned, after seeing work that other students were doing, that it was likely too much. Far too much. While he was going into a detailed analysis of similarities because characters from two different novels set in two completely different cultural and temporal reference frames, it appears his fellow students who likely are trying their hardest, are writing something much more simplistic. They are being told to elaborate, and he’s being told to eschew obfuscation.
The thing that has me concerned is that college is around the corner, and I worry that he’s going to continue to hold himself to those standards, even when it is so obviously working against him. He struggles with the idea that it’s better to just hand something in, even if incomplete (by his standards), than to turn it in late, though perfect.
A lot of perfectionists deal with this. I have told him that it’s not a bad trait, but that he needs to save it for the things that are really important to him. If he wants to write the Great American Novel that people will pore over and debate and analyze, that is the time to be a perfectionist. If he’s handing in an assignment that fulfills the requirements laid out by the teacher, who likely will spend ten minutes skimming the entry, being a perfectionist is really not going to help. He needs to learn to walk that line. To some extent, we all do.
Travelin’ Whovian June 21, 2014Posted by mareserinitatis in family, older son, science fiction.
Tags: airline, dr. who, older son, security, travel, tsa, whovian
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The older son travels rather frequently to see family, but he’s had rather lousy luck with TSA. Almost every time he’s gone through security, he’s had something happen. When he was younger, it was often his own fault. For instance, there was the time that he decided to bring some spending money…and had about three dollars in pennies in the bottom of a carry-on. The folks manning the x-ray machine were not happy with him, and he had to fish all the coins out of an exceptionally full backpack.
As he’s gotten older, the incidents have been more innocuous. There was one time where he had too large a container of toothpaste (they threw it away) and another time where he had a nail clipper. (I think I wasn’t flying with him that time, but I had a gate pass as he was flying as an unaccompanied minor. They gave it to the security guard who held it and gave it to me when I returned the gate pass.)
Today, he flew out again (from Fargo, which is a rather small airport) and had yet another fiasco with security. Apparently TSA noticed something in his carry-on as it passed through x-ray. I was actually waiting near the entrance to security (no gate pass this time) and he was about 100 ft. away. I could see something had happened with his bag and there was TSA agent riffling through it…and older son didn’t look happy. Finally, the agent reached in and pulled out…the older son’s sonic screwdriver.
From the look on the agent’s face, it was very apparent he had never seen an episode of Dr. Who in his life. He was holding it in front of himself, quite gingerly. I could easily see the furrowed brows and potential fear in this guy’s face, even 100 ft. away. He was obviously thinking, “What this hell is this thing?!” And I burst out laughing, definitely out loud. I’m sure the security guard next to the exit gate, along with everyone else standing near me, must’ve thought I was disturbed.
Fortunately, however, the screwdriver was returned and the older son made his flight…just barely. Maybe next time he’ll bring a banana instead. They’re a good source of potassium, you know…and, well, TSA probably won’t freak out over that.
I still haven’t figured out why the older son had a sonic screwdriver in his carry-on to begin with.
A filtered education March 3, 2014Posted by mareserinitatis in education, homeschooling, math, older son, physics, science, societal commentary, teaching, younger son.
Tags: light, older son, physics, science, science education, teaching, younger son
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The older son is a lot of fun. Despite his statements that he has no desire to go into science, he seems to get and make a lot of science jokes. I know he’s not a scientist, but I feel comfortable that he’s scientifically literate. As he was homeschooled, I’m feeling pretty proud of myself.
I’m more anxious about the younger son, though. This weekend, he brought home his science homework, which focused on optics. The kids were studying filters, and one of the questions asked about what kind of light would you see if you shined a flashlight through a blue filter and then a red one. I asked him what he saw, and he said nothing. Unfortunately, he was told that he saw nothing because the flashlights just weren’t bright enough, but that what he should have seen was purple.
I’m pretty sure that if I had ever been bombarded with gamma rays in the past, I would’ve turned into She-Hulk at that very moment and started smashing things. Fortunately (or unfortunately, if being She-Hulk happens to be a goal of yours), that didn’t happen.
I find it infuriating that, throughout my years of homeschooling older son and teaching younger son math, I have constantly been questioned about my ability to teach them. The implication has always been that I may have a degree, but they are experts on teaching. In fact, this particular teacher attempted to take me to task earlier this year about the younger son’s math curriculum…the same teacher who apparently doesn’t understand that light and pigments work completely differently.
After I managed to calm down, I explained that light filters are like sieves, except that they only let one size of particle pass through: nothing bigger can pass through the holes, but nothing smaller can, either. After this explanation, the younger son was able to correctly explain that the reason he saw no light from his flashlight is that the two filters together had blocked all the light.
I’m going to be watching very carefully to see what kinds of scores he’s getting on his answers and whether the teacher realizes she made a mistake. This was very disappointing. There was a new science curriculum introduced this year, one which I was very excited about. The focus was supposed to be on hands-on, problem-based learning, which is great for science. Despite that, it seems that younger son’s science education may be lacking. What good does it do to have a top of the line science education curriculum (or math…or anything else) when our teachers don’t understand what they’re teaching? And how is it that these same teachers can justify questioning the ability to teach material that some of us understand far better than they do?
Welcome to 2014 January 12, 2014Posted by mareserinitatis in family, older son, personal, younger son.
Tags: chores, cleaning, dissertation, goals, grad school, housekeeper, new years day, older son, resolutions, younger son
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Despite all of my good intentions, it’s taken a bit more to get back into my routine. The youngster went back to school on Monday. I was relieved not to be teaching this week (or this semester), but I had a paper deadline this week along with a lot of other anomalous stuff.
In particular, a friend of mine passed away at the beginning of the week. It’s made this week seem a bit surreal.
That’s given me an opportunity to think about my priorities, which was something I had started reflecting on over the break. I’m not one to make resolutions, but it’s good to reflect on goals. And nothing will make you think about your goals more than realizing they can be cut short.
My thesis has been weighing heavily on my mind. I definitely reaffirmed that I want to finish my PhD, but it’s been hard and frustrating this past year, particularly the past three to four months. I really anticipated being farther because I didn’t anticipate how rough the fall semester would end up being. So I’m working on getting my schedule set up to have more time to devote to that.
Realistically, that’s the one thing I’m really not happy about. It’s a big thing, so it’s not something as simple as, “I can put in 15 minutes a day on it.” But I’m making an effort to rearrange a few things, particularly with kid schedules, to facilitate getting more time on things.
I also want to be blogging regularly again. The holidays and grading threw an awful crimp in that one. One day isn’t a data point, but you need that data point to start a trend.
I’m happy to report that our housekeeping effort is going well. That is, the kids are doing a great job. I gave up on trying to have them get things done before the weekend. We just schedule a time for them to work on it and, when we tell them it’s time to, they do. (We’ve found that it seems like we can’t get to it every week, but we’re holding steady with every other week at least.) We pay them according to which jobs they do, and we match everything they earn with a deposit into their savings account. The house is staying cleaner than when we had a housekeeper, and I think we’re actually spending less.
This is actually much more about the kids than it is about the house, though. I’m really happy that they are both at a point where they are taking responsibility for their chores. I hate breathing down their neck about anything. I also really am happy about the fact that doing chores is one thing they do cooperatively. They have a system worked out – older boy does the tall stuff, younger boy does the floor stuff that older boy hates, etc. They worked it out themselves and, even better, they seem to have fun doing it.
At the same time, the older son is getting ready to go to college this fall. I anticipate that there will be a lot of changes despite his plans to live at home. I’m impressed that he’s trying to move forward cautiously and not bite off more than he can chew. I also have no idea how the big changes over the next couple years will affect the younger son, who quite adores his older brother.
I anticipate there will be a lot of bumps in the road this year, but I’m hoping that it will be uphill from here. I guess I’d rather start the year on a sad note so that I can look forward to how much better it will get.
She loves me more… November 22, 2013Posted by mareserinitatis in older son, pets.
Tags: Gigadog, older son, parenting, pets, teenagers
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Tonight, the older son jumped over Gigadog. I asked him to please step over her carefully. If he jumps over her, he could slip and miss her, and he’d fall on her. Having someone fall on her would likely freak her out, and she would bite him. This would leave me in a dilemma: I have an injured dog and an injured child. Who do I bring for medical care first?
I told the older son that I would likely bring Gigadog because she loves me more. He looked stunned.
“It’s not that I love her more, but she loves me more. She sits and pants and wags her tail when I get home. You do none of those things,” I told him.
“It’s not that I don’t love you, it’s that I just express it differently,” he responded.
“I don’t recognize the way you express it. It would be much better if you panted.”
I’m not sure *anyone* recognizes the way teenagers express affection toward their parents. Dogs are so much easier to read.
October sucks October 13, 2013Posted by mareserinitatis in engineering, family, older son, personal, teaching, work.
Tags: college, family, family/work balance, NSF, older son, sports, stress, work
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I really am starting to dread October. Being in the midst of it, I understand why.
October is when *everything* happens. There’s no way to handle it but to keep going until the sheer exhaustion kicks in. For me personally, I have NSF proposals due. I am deep in the throes of teaching and grading. I have reports due and conference papers to prepare. My kids have all their various sports and other activities in full swing, meaning that we have activities going on 3 or 4 nights per week.
This year is definitely worse than last year because I’m still recovering from my medical fiasco last month, complete with lots of fun follow-up tests, and still am not able to engage in complete stress relief on a regular basis (i.e. running). Further, the older son is going through the college application process, which is generally more time consuming than either of us really likes at this point. I am hoping that these factors won’t be present in Octobers to come.
Half-way there, though. Just a couple more weeks, and things will ease off. One of the sports that both boys are in will be done until spring, NSF proposals will be over, most of the major grading I have will be done…and there will be leftover Halloween candy. As long as someone saves me a peanut butter cup, I’ll be fine.
Things I never thought I’d say to my kids September 10, 2013Posted by mareserinitatis in gifted, homeschooling, older son, teaching.
Tags: classes, english, languages, older son, teaching
There are a million things I never thought I’d say to my kids. Truth be told, I’ve avoided a lot of them. Today, however, I found myself telling the older son something I imagine would have made my 17-year-old self would cringe. Or even hurl.
The older son is taking some classes through correspondence this year, mostly English, to finish up the classes he needs for college admissions. We’ve managed to do most other things at home, but English was one thing I never bothered with because he’s an avid reader. And by avid, I mean he devours books like candy. He’s also done exceptionally well on any sort of standardized testing in this realm. I didn’t want to waste his time by pushing stuff on him when he was doing pretty well in his own right.
He got his first homework assignment back from one of the classes and was reading it over while we had some lunch. He gave me this look…the same one you get when someone tells you a joke that you can see the humor in but don’t particularly think it’s all that funny because it’s just weird. You know what look I mean.
The comments on a couple of the problems were simply horrible. As in, the teacher had rewritten his answers so that they were entirely dumbed down. It’s not that these answers were vague or wrong or anything; he chose words that made the point and his answers were succinct. The rewritten answers were long and meandering but weren’t any more clear. I called Mike and read the rewritten answers.
“You’re kidding me.”
So I found myself saying something that I know I would have never, ever believed in my own youth: “You just need to get through the class and pass it so you can go to college. College will be better.”
It makes me really sad that my son, who loves language and literature, is going to have to endure a class where he was hoping to be able to think about and discuss literary works on a really grown-up level. Sadly, it looks like he’s going to have to keep it light for his teacher. I could only reiterate that this is why I feel that high school is a waste of his time.