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This kids went off happily to their second day of school today. Both had good days yesterday; Casper LOVES her teacher (who is impossibly young and cute and has a soft spot for Casper because beloved K teacher Mrs. E was current teacher Ms. T's mentor). (Mrs. E also won a award for excellence in teaching yesterday.) Casper had homework, and her spelling is back to IMPOSSIBLE. We worked a lot on reading this summer but clearly we neglected writing. I need to ask Ms. T about some ideas, and especially ask if she wants us to sit with Casper and correct her homework (which Casper hates and tells us not to do). I feel like she really needs to come to accept the need to edit her writing, because clearly no gift for ease with spelling is going to emerge.

Dillo is doing just fine, and seems to like Mrs. Y, who is older and very mellow. There are a few kids from his old class (I waved at Deyaneira this AM and she grinned and waved back) and a lot of new ones, and the class seems to just have a nice mellow vibe. I think this will suit Dillo just fine. He's interested in rough and tumble boy wildness, and if there are a bunch of boys like that in his class he'll act out, but he's actually more comfortable in a quieter, steretypical-girl environment. This class is pretty even but a little heavier on girls, and the teacher is very calm and low-key. Mrs. Y seems to have cleverly earned Dillo's devotion by using a dry-erase marker from the (huge bag of) school supplies he brought in. Dillo also told me, somewhat indignantly, at dinner last night that he hadn't learned to read yet! I explained that since there were many new kids who had never been to school before, the first few days are about teaching those kids the routine, which he already knows. Then they will get to reading.

mr. flea is in New Mexico today, flying home and back by bedtime, I hope. He has an interview that went very well, and expects to be offered the position, a post-doc. His current position ends next Tuesday. There is a permanent job that he's applied for that is a possibility, so if he is offered this new Mexico post-doc we will need to weigh our chances and make some decisions. I am actually feeling kind of good about New Mexico right now, although that may be in a large part due to the weather in Georgia in August.
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Stuff coming up:

Friday: Casper's dance recital.  We are to have her at the theater for the dress rehearsal tonight at 5, in costume and makeup (pink lipstick and blush), hair "half-back and curly."  Well, it will be half-back, anyway. She is doing a tap routine to Elvis.

Next week: Casper's school musical; Girl Scout overnight camp in co-leader's back yard; Mother's Day.

Then: May 17 is last day of school; taking 18 and 19 off; possibly family camping trip.

June 1: mr. flea has a job interview in Dublin, Ireland.  He wants me to come too (on our nickel) and make a nice trip out of it.  My mother has vaguely offered to come down and watch the kids (who are signed up for camp that week - June 1 is a Wednesday).  I am resistant because of the price of a plane ticket (currently well over $1000) and general stress and hassle factor.  Dunno.

(June 10: minor one-day conference in Atlanta that nobody has talked about yet.  Must ask colleagues.)

June 24-26: American Library Association annual meeting in New Orleans.  I have been invited to present my bibliography project to a group of classics, medieval, and renaissance studies librarians.  We have no travel funding in the library; the classics department has offered me $300.  Registration for the conference is $215 (plus $60 membership), and I need to think about transportation and lodging and food.  I haven't pulled the trigger on actually going yet, but I am probably going to.  Again feeling overwhelmed by hassle and expense.

I don't know why I'm feeling so overwhelmed by all this.  Maybe partly because it's the last week of the semester so all the students are basically insane.
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UGA has started an Engineering program. It was approved by the Board of Regents last month (barely). Now they are posting tenure-track jobs, including one in mr. flea's subdiscipline that starts next August. Interesting. Except as far as I know he has never taught. Do they care about teaching in engineering programs?
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Actual IM transcript:

Michael: I'm all happy
me: oh?
TGIF?
Michael: No I computed the power spectrum of my Markov chain.
me: NERD ALERT! NERD ALERT!
Michael: It turns out to be pretty easy once you figure it out.
me: That's what they tell me.
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I took yesterday off work and was in bed, mostly actually sleeping, until 3pm. Yes, I am honestly sick. I am at work today, though sneezing and coughing my fool head off.

I am feeling very behind at work and in life. Luckily I am working this coming Sunday, so I have 8 hours of sitting at a desk with nothing to do to get caught up, right? Must plan: Thanksgiving, Christmas, Girl Scouts, and write 10,000 blog posts for work.

In bad news news, mr. flea is really not going to get a permanent job at his current workplace. His contract ends next august, and he did not get an interview for the job that has been posted, and the other job that may get posted is also not a good fit for his skills and background. So far he has applied for a permanent job in Dublin and is working on an application for another post-doc at Georgia Tech, which would mean evil commuting, but would let us keep the kids in their current school and so forth. Our goal is no more post-docs unless they mean we don't have to move; permanent jobs okay if they mean moving. But damn, moving with kids is so disruptive to them. Never mind the whole home ownership problem. Worst-case scenario is unemployment as of next September; next-to-worst case scenario would be mr. flea in a post-doc someplace far away and me living here with the kids. That would suck. Let's not have that, please, okay?

In good news I bought both kids flame Vans via Zappos and they came yesterday and Dillo is so in love with his it's darling. He outgrew his flame chucks, and Casper's skully vans-style sneakers were literally falling apart. And I paid for them out of ebay sales, so I win at frugality.
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Last night it began to bucket down rain, and the kids begged to go outside and play in it. So on went the knee-high rubber boots and waterproof raincoats, and out went the kids and mr. flea. They returned 20 minutes later literally soaked to the skin - underpants and all, mr. flea poured water out of Casper's rain boots - but very happy. They went around the block and unclogged two storm drains that were full of leaves and backing up puddles into the intersections.

Once towels, shower and bath, and pajamas had ensued, Dillo went to the fridge, got some grapes, and called out, "Who wants to watch a Nature show and eat grapes, raise your hand!" Who could say no? Well, me, at least until Casper finished her homework, but then we watched a show about wolves which they had all watched the previous night. Dillo was very emphatic that the main wolf died of a broken heart.

In less sweet news, mr. flea has strep throat. He woke up out of a sound sleep at 5:30 to announce, "I'm going to the doctor!" He had strep ALL THE TIME as a kid, and his ability to call it when he gets it now is pretty good.

the future

Sep. 8th, 2010 11:17 am
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mr. flea's contract is up in 11 months. So he's sensibly starting to apply for jobs. Our first pick would be something permanent here, but things are not trending strongly that way. He's applied for one job at the EPA in Cincinnati, and today called me to ask if it seemed like a good idea to apply to a job with IBM. In Dublin. (Ireland, not Ohio.)

That would be interesting. Note I am already mentally selling furniture and renting out our house. Dear brain, please stay in one place.
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I think I read a blog-review of this book somewhere, and then I happened to pick it up at the library last week. (The "parenting" books are right next to the dollhouse in the childrens' room.)

The subtitle is, "A Parent's Guide to Helping Children with Executive Function," and it's really geared towards parents with children who are AHDH or have other official diagnoses. The whole first section is about getting appropriate diagnoses for kids who are struggling in school. It also has a pretty nice chart that reminds worried parents what level a child ought, developmentally, to be operating at. Your six year old losing jackets is totally par for the course. Your 15 year old doing the same is possibly more problematic.

"Executive Function" isn't really one thing, in my understanding - it's a combination of skills that work together to enable people to be responsible and manage complex tasks, and includes memory, ability to both initiate actions and follow through all the way, planning, impulse control, and organization. The second half of the book breaks these different skills out and has examples, using schoolchildren, of specific skills breaking down. So, for example, the disorganization of a kid who has short-term memory issues and doesn't remember the homework assignment is a different disorganization from that of a kid who can't get started on homework or has trouble transitioning from task to task.

I can see this book being really helpful with adults as well as children; I've only had time to skim it so far but I can see things that I think help me understand some of mr. flea's (to me) bad habits better. One big thing is to establish routines, which in some cases can bypass the need for executive function altogether. A lot of adults do this as a matter of course; the keys go in X location without you even thinking about it, so you always know where they are.

One of the big points of the book is that kids often feel really bad about things like forgetting homework, and get into a cycle of blame, poor self esteem, and poor performance, when it's a matter of simple short term memory and developing a routine. Many kids may simply be developing organizational or memory skills more slowly than their peers - a parent can provide structure to keep them from cycling downward while the skills mature.

Casper strikes me as pretty middle of the road for her age; she occasionally forgets stuff, and has trouble getting started on homework some times, and she's not hyper-conscientious like a couple of her peers I know, but nothing to worry about. mr. flea has trouble with structure - he resists using a calendar, and in general is unwilling to make plans for things or commit to doing things. In contrast, I am always full of long-term plans, reviewing activities coming up, etc. While I sometimes get overwhelmed by the complexity of our lives (the book notes that sometimes things are so complicated anyone's executive functioning breaks down), I manage to keep things running. I'd like it if mr. flea and I could work together better, maybe doing morning IM chats to go over calendar activities for the day/week, so I don't feel like the only one who does the executive work in the family.
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Last week was a pisser - I worked 7 days in a row. This week is okay - I work Wednesday night, but Friday is a furlough day. But then on Sunday mr. flea leaves on a trip (through Thursday), and he'll be gone another 5 days in mod-November. And my mother is coming for that, which helps in some ways (less worry about how to get Dillo to daycare), and is hard in others (MY MOTHER IN MY HOUSE - always touch and go.) Just gotta keep plugging through.

Our neighbor has a new puppy - an 11-week old border collie. (Her previous dog, also a border collie, died of old age in the spring.) It's little and submissive and licky and she's thinking of naming it Indie or Milkshake (although Casper suggested Rosemary, and Dillo suggested "Cheese." Heh.)

Then there was the feral kitten we dealt with on our camping trip, and a couple of different coworkers are fostering kittens ready for adoption. So little and sweet! Must remember we have one cat, who does not like other cats, and kittens grow up into cats. (This holds double if we took kitten siblings - do we really want to be a 3-cat household?)

A bunch of people in my life are back in baby mode, too, and as I am nearly finished getting baby stuff out of our house, I am thinking about babies, too. If we had decided to have a third, it would probably have been this summer or fall. I look at newborns and don't want one, but the charm of the 6 month old cannot be denied. (I mean, remember this?
best smile evah ). And Casper is at a point where she would be so helpful and charming as a big sister, and... ah well.

flu

Oct. 23rd, 2009 06:31 am
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Several (mostly online) friends are down hard with flu - nobody's had it typed that I know of, but I'ma bet it's H1N1. It's worrying. Take it easy, friends, and when recovering don't try to do too much too soon.

We got the kids FluMisted (seasonal) yesterday at the new ped, whose flexibility I am loving right now. We told them it would be a shot, and pre-bribed them with chocolate Pop-Tarts. Dillo sat, all chocolate-faced, in the office, repeating, "I don't want to get a flu shot." When we decided to do the mist, he changed to, "I don't want to get a flu shot in my nose." But he dealt with it okay. I'm a little worried about the mist (since it is a live, weakened virus) but the kids are healthy and since a weekend is coming that can get plenty of rest. I haven't called the county again about the H1N1 vaccine. I am home with them next Friday, so I was hoping we could all go in at 8am then and get it done that day. If they have shots by then I'd choose that for H1N1; if they only have mist it will have been a week since the seasonal and so safe to get. And then I'll have to figure out some way to do it again in a month, since the H1N1 is recommended in two doses a month apart for kids under 10. If they still have H1N1 vaccine at the county in a month I'll be amazed.

I am feeling like I am carrying a huge load in the family right now, doing all the planning and organizing and getting stuff done. I'm at the point where I want to go away for a week so everyone sees how it all falls apart when I am not there to do it. What would happen is that they would eat out a lot and eat spaghetti-os, and watch a lot of TV, and get to bed too late, and be late for school, and forget things, and the house would be dirty(ier)). They would be fine, not, like, harmed, but that's not the way I want us to live. Unfortunately I seem to be the only one who cares about the way I want us to live, which is depressing.
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mr. flea's working title for his current project is: On the Origin of Feces: Source Characterization of Pathogenic Contamination in Agriculturally-Impacted Watersheds.

And yes, it is about tracking back where bad germs (like e. coli) that come from animal shit came from, when they end up in public waters, like rivers and lakes.
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A series of personal anecdotes.

We have lived in GA for five months now (as of Thursday!) and have experienced 4 separate infestations.

1. Ants. We had sugar ants in the house as soon as we moved in, and they laughed at our ant baits, unlike the NC sugar ants. We never really found the solution. They waxed and waned (keeping the sink religiously free of unwashed dishes was the best success) until cold weather set in.

2. Roaches. Not the little German cockroaches that inhabit urban locations in the northeast, but "water bugs" - inch-plus long cockroaches that are native to the South and live outside. We see them, live or dead, fairly regularly in the house (like, every couple of weeks). I killed one yesterday right inside the front door. The worst incident was when one fell from the ceiling onto the face of sleeping (not for long!) mr. flea. I don't know that there's much that we can do to keep them out. I think they are mostly coming from outside, and the house is an old and leaky one. I see dead ones on the sidewalks around town regularly, even in winter. They're basically endemic. I am trying to get better at killing them. In general I am not freaked out by bugs, but I hate roaches and their scuttling, and these are so big that when you kill them they are mushy and gross.

3. Squirrels. Our house is in what was once a pecan grove, and there are 4 large trees in our back yard. Should we wish to harvest pecans, we would have to fight the very numerous and aggressive squirrels for them. Now that nut season has passed, the squirrels seem to have turned to digging up my bulbs (at least, there are suspicious-looking holes in a couple of places; we'll see come spring) and invading our attic. In our bedroom, which is the converted attic, we hear the ceiling squirrels fairly often. Sometimes they are almost certainly outside, but other times they seem to be inside. Outside, they seem to have largely eaten a piece of metal flashing below our bathroom window. Our neighbor noted that it was new flashing installed when the former owner was putting the house up for sale, so it has been half-destroyed by squirrels in less than a year. (Our neighbor also told me about the Rat Wars of '98. Shudder.)

4. Which brings us to the incident that prompted this post. Friday night mr. flea was in our downstairs bathroom, which has a one-piece tub and surround unit, the fiberglass kind. He heard scratching underneath the tub. He then went into the kitchen and hear scratching coming from one of our lower cabinets. This particular cabinet backs up against the bathroom wall and has a big hole cut into the back, presumably where someone was accessing the bathroom plumbing at some point. Inside the cabinet mr. flea discovered a large possum. He managed not to shriek, but closed the cabinet door right pronto, and locked it with a child lock. We haven't opened it since, but have also heard no noises. Perhaps Mr. Possum has exited the building through whatever hold in the crawl space he entered through. My dear friends on Facebook, however, have regaled me with tales of possums with nests of babies in the house. But it's not possum baby-having season, right? Right?

5. I also want to note that the giant prehistoric grasshoppers, known as lubbers, are evil. They probably can't be counted as vermin, since they are a native species and (so far) have not attempted to come inside the house. But they are freaky-scary and they eat garden plants, so they lose on both the aesthetic and practical fronts.
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That the last 3 nights of mr. flea's trip are to be spent in Paris. Ah, marital communication. So, I'm now uber-double-jealous. Wah. He went out to an Italian restaurant for dinner, hee!

yoicks!

Nov. 23rd, 2008 05:17 pm
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mr. flea called - he met up with his coworker in the airport in Paris, but the other guy was unable to go on, due to an attack of vertigo - mr. flea left him at the airport with some EMTs. (The other guy told mr. flea to go on.) So he did the Paris-Antwerp leg by himself, and even took a public tram to the hotel rather than take a taxi. Very brave. He has never travelled outside the US without me, and is not confident in his navigation abilities when he doesn't speak the language(s). He said it snowed the whole way on the train, and he went out to dinner with some of the other guy's former students, Netherlanders.

Silly man didn't take his fancy camera; he was afraid he would lose it. So no pictures of snowy Antwerp for us.
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Today is mr. flea's 40th birthday. He has generally not liked birthdays, and especially milestone ones, but today he told me he was as happy right now as he's ever been in his life.

He really likes and fits in to his job here; yesterday he gave a talk at work and told a senior colleague that he was nervous about it and the colleague expressed surprise, saying he'd never seen anyone new get up to speed and fit in to the workflow as fast as mr. flea had. It is definitely the right place for him, and I hope will continue to be (since his job is currently a post-doc, extensible for 3 years at most, so he needs to get converted to a permanent position at some point).

He is happy with our family life, our neighbors, our house, this town. Yay!





Now I need to work on this happiness thing.
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mr. flea's trip to Belgium is scheduled for a full week - the Saturday before through the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Not so good. We don't, as a rule, travel for Thanksgiving, and hadn't planned to this year, but still. Casper will be out of school Weds. as well as Thurs-Fri. Must think of a plan. Encourage family or friends to visit? Rely on the playdates of strangers?

Should also get mr. flea to ask them about comp time for working the weekend and federal holiday. With Casper's random days off, we can use all the vacation days we can get around here.

travel!

Oct. 2nd, 2008 10:04 am
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Well, not for me.

mr. flea's work wants to send him to Belgium Thanksgiving week; they also are sending him to New Mexico or Arizona or someplace some time in mid-December. Both shortish, 3-4 day trips, exact dates not set yet.

Our need for a reliable babysitter, preferably one who can drive, is growing urgent.

Also, I am jealous. As my coworker put it, "The library tries not to send anyone down the street if they can possibly help it." Although the Uggaversity has now moved away from having ALL travel by faculty and staff, including travel not funded by the 'Versity, reviewed for appropriateness by the Provost, after they were roundly mocked for this in the Chronicle of Higher Ed.
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This morning we dropped Casper off at school as usual. It was a pretty good morning; after a long slow wakeup period she dressed herself and ate breakfast without too much nagging and no screaming. She devoted her attention to her sleepy brother, who was up approximately 16 times in the night for no reason (ah, the shouting of MOMMY! at 2:30 am!) and was as semi-catatonic as she often is. At the drop-off I opened my car door, and Casper unbuckled her seatbelt and climbed out through my seat. I put her backpack on her and reminded her to return the pen I had borrowed from her teacher (oh, should write about that too) and watched her jauntily stride towards the front door of the school and be greeted by the gym teacher, who is the designated front-door welcomer.

I had a moment of seeing my big girl walking off all by herself, and told mr. flea how I was feeling, and he said, "we have two beautiful children. We are so lucky." And a beat, and then he said that he was feeling lately that two was enough, and now that he is working a normal office job he's noticing how little time there is to actually do anything. This is the second time he's said this; the first was after his first week of work and I replied, "This is what I've been experiencing these past five years!" He said he's got a new appreciation for all I did to keep things together while he was in school and had the flexibility to take 2 hours to potter around the house getting ready in the mornings, or take the afternoon off and keep Casper out of afterschool. Now he's doing stuff like working 4 hours on a Sunday so he has the flex time to take the car in. And that's how life is for a working family. There's always something, and never enough time.

Last night was Title 1 open school night, and we had a good visit with Casper's teacher (and her husband, who is a new PhD student in History at the Uggaversity). They are such a pair of children! Graduated from college in the spring, got married in July, though they were high school sweethearts, I guess. I was pleased by what she had to say about Casper. Academically she seems fine, knows her letters and sounds, a careful worker. Socially she had a bit of a slow start but is now starting to make friendships with the kids who sit at her table. She reiterated what Mrs. E from after school said about how funny they find Casper, and having to try to not laugh out loud at the things she says. She also related an anecdote about boys saying "no girls on the play structure" and the other girls were hanging back and worrying what they should do, but Casper said, "I can too go on the play structure" and climbed right up. That's my girl. She brought home an assignment that made me feel good about the teacher - a story that the class wrote together on the Smart Board in the classroom. It read, "I am a robot. My name is wall-e." The children cooperated in the writing, and did the spelling themselves, (they do that 'natural language' spelling or whatever it is, where communicating is more important than spelling things correctly) so it actually read something like, "Mi nam iz wole." Apparently Casper chose the name, and wrote the "wole." I think she will be reading by Christmas at this rate.
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Dear god I thought this day would never come. And now it has.

whee!

Jul. 12th, 2008 03:52 pm
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The final draft of the dissertation has been sent to the committee.

Now it's Powerpoint time - 9 days to defense.

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