The Texture Of Things

Merry Chrishmish!

December 25th, 2006

Wherever you are, whatever holiday you might celebrate, I hope today is peaceful and bright.

Merry Christmas! And a Happy and Healthy New Year!

Creative Problem Solving

December 22nd, 2006

The tot has a cold, a nasty, runny nose cold that will probably turn into a sinus infection (like the last one did), conveniently in time for the pediatrician’s office to be closed for the holiday. Merry Christmas, indeed.

I try to be ever on the hunt for the elusive silver lining in life because I am, at/to the core, a pessimist. (Love me or leave me, it’s who I am.) So, today on the silver lining hunt, I can name the following good things about this cold:

*The tot is showing more consistency in the “unprompted cough covering” department. She even sometimes uses the alternate method I prefer – coughing into her elbow. Cool.
*Similarly, when having her nose wiped, she frequently “blows” without being asked. That said, when she “blows,” she still doesn’t blow into the tissue through her nose. She blows a puff of air into the tissue with her mouth. But! Silver Lining! She’s cooperating with us and the behavior is becoming habitual. Not bad for a 2.6 year old.
*She is not freaking out like she used to when snot ran down her face. She has discovered her own ability to wipe it away – with her sleeve. Um, yay? Oh, right, it’s a self-help behavior, increased independence, or something.

*And this last one is my favorite, I think. This morning, she wiped her nose on her jammie sleeve while sitting right next to me and the box of tissues, so I said, “You don’t have to wipe your nose there. I’m right here. I am happy to help you.” So the next time the snot came down, what did she do? She leaned over and dragged her face down my robe for the length of my thigh. When she was done wiping her nose on me, she said, “There. All better.” Yes, dear, all better.

Go You! and your independent approach to problem solving! and your literal interpretation of my requests! It’s like you’re your father’s daughter or something.

Can’t. Breathe!

December 19th, 2006

Drowning. In. Portfolios! And. Christmas. Preparations!
Get. Help!

Can’t. Seem. To. Escape. Or. Finish. Them.

Must. Get. To. Surface. For. Air. Quick!

Go! Read. Another. Blog! Save. Yourself!

I’m Not Missing…

December 13th, 2006

I’m just working myself to pieces. The semester is almost over, so I’ve been grading my students’ endless papers, and I volunteered to read ESL exit exams for hourly cash and free lunch. Mmmm, free lunch. Whenever I have a waking moment, I’ve been working in my mom’s retail store because, as usual, she’s swamped with holiday traffic. Plus, I’ve been Christmas shopping and such. Oi. Remind me why I love this time of year?

I’ll resurface shortly. Maybe tomorrow? One can hope.

Nine Random Weird Things About Me

December 5th, 2006

1. I absolutely hate loose or baggy socks on my feet, so HG’s favorite way to keep me from walking away from him (during the winter – I rarely wear socks in summer) is to stand close to me and pin down one of my socks with his toes. No matter how badly I want to get away (you know, smooches and whatnot) I will resist making my own sock loose or stretched out. (This game usually ends in me pulling off both socks and hurling them down the hallway in a snit over ruined socks and HG laughing until he’s got tears in his eyes.)

2. I love cookie dough more than I like cookies.

3. I must count the number of steps in a staircase when I’m going down them. Not up, though. Just down.

4. I am happy to argue, debate, explain grammar, punctuation, and mechanics rules over a meal, out to coffee, while driving to the mall, just about anywhere.

5. I almost always have earrings in, usually small hoops. If I don’t, the holes in my lobes will grow closed even though I got them pierced when I was 6. I know other people whose holes stay open for years, so I don’t know why this is the case for me. It happened when I had my nose pierced, too. The few times I changed the jewelry out myself, I ended up back at the piercing shop because the hole closed up in only a couple of minutes.

6. I can pick up just about anything with my feet and toes. I’m so good that I can often do it even while wearing socks.

7. I refuse to let my cereal bowl out of my sight once the cereal is poured. If I think anything will interrupt me, I will delay pouring the cereal into the bowl until I can commit myself to pouring the milk on and then immediately eating it. The reason for this is an unhappy experience from my early childhood, when I left my Froot Loops unattended for a moment next to the television some Saturday morning. When I returned to it and my cartoons and began eating again, I found a spider riding a Loop. Scared the bejeezus out of me. What scared me more was that I had eaten several bites before spotting her.

8. I went almost three decades before eating Froot Loops again.

9. I used to peek through my calendars to see the pictures for coming months. Two years ago I made a resolution to try not to peek, and I’m proud to say that I have not peeked ahead in a calendar for two years. One weird thing is that it’s really hard to resist. Another weird thing is that I persist at it.

Saw this meme on Rocks in My Dryer and tagged myself. Feel free to consider yourself tagged.

We Can Rebuild Her. We Have the Technology.*

December 4th, 2006

Every couple of years, my mom trots out this old story of when she got her tonsils out. She was twenty, and it was during a time when hospital stays were much longer than they are today. Women stayed in the hospital seven to ten days after having a baby with no complications, for instance. However, these days, no matter what insurance you have, you are not going to spend the night in the hospital before the morning of your tonsillectomy if you are an otherwise healthy person. You’ll come in before dawn the day of your surgery and you’ll be sent home later that day. But it was a different time then, so there my mother was, a young woman lying in the dark in her hospital bed, waiting for morning to come.

Out of the darkness came a voice, thick with accent. It was an old gypsy woman. Like a ghost, she said, “Don’t let them cut you.” (Only to hear my mom tell it, it’s more like, “Dohn’t a-let dem caht yooo.” For a “gypsy” woman, her accent is as much Italian as it is Eva Gabor’s Hungarian or a cheeky, Americanized Dracula.)

“Once they start cutting you,” the voice continued, “they never stop, until you die.”

My mother went on to have her tonsils out. A few years later she had her appendix out. A few years later she had her uterus out. She has had, as she says, all the ‘ectomies. (Never mind the fact that she still has her gall bladder, but I’ll spot her that one since she’s also had cataracts out and she’s not even of retirement age yet.) Who knows what she’ll have out next.

What triggers her to tell this story every couple of years? I seem to have a health crisis every couple of years.

In 2000, the day before HG and I were to leave on a week-long vacation for our first anniversary, I fell ill with appendicitis and had to have emergency surgery. This was the first time she told me about her gypsy woman’s portent. (Um, thanks, mom? That totally made me feel better, I think.)

In 2002, I had to have my thyroid obliterated with radioactive iodine to treat my Graves Disease.

In 2004, I had to have an emergency c-section 5 weeks before my due date in order to save the tot from dying in utero. I like to call this one my baby-ectomy.

Now, in 2006, I’ve had a mystery pain in my lower belly since February, and I’ve passed all the tests – the ultrasounds, the cat scan, the colonoscopy. At this point, all the doctors say that yes, I do have a mild separation in my abdominal wall, but that mild herniation isn’t the cause of my pain. Probably it’s endometriosis or surgical adhesions from my appendectomy and my baby-ectomy. The method of diagnosis and/or treatment for any of these conditions is laparascopy. Yet another cut.**

So maybe my mom’s gypsy woman was right. If so, I’ll be fully bionic by the time the tot graduates high school, and I suppose that might be kind of cool. I’ll be able to tear phone books in half or run really fast, and every time I jump into the air to get a cereal box down from the top of the cabinet, I’ll hear a “na na na na na na.” I doubt the gypsy could have foretold that one.

*With apologies to the creators of Six-Million-Dollar Man.

**Yay me, however, that it is not cancer or an untreatable disease. Of course, there were a few days that the gastroenterologist had me worried it might be cancer, but that is neither here nor there any longer.

I Have Made a Choice. Maybe.

December 3rd, 2006

What I have learned while trying to choose a dress for the tot’s Christmas pictures is that I cannot make a choice about probably anything. (I usually forget this about myself and have to relearn it, so really, this should not be so much like an epiphany.) I’ve always been so insecure that what I want becomes clouded and tangled up with what I think other people want and with what they actually indicate that they want. It’s not that I don’t want certain things; I’ve just been thoroughly trained to bury my own discomfort and desires because they are less important than others’. I’m not saying it’s right, I’m just saying it’s true.

Case in point:
When HG and I got married, our first project together was to redecorate the bathroom in the house he had just bought. Some time later (years?) we were picking out new vinyl flooring for the kitchen, and HG wanted the same flooring that we had had put in the bathroom. I said no. I didn’t really like that floor, so while it was okay in the bathroom because that’s a small area I don’t frequent for long periods of time, the kitchen was the center of the house and I didn’t want to look at that floor pattern that much.

HG was flabbergasted. He had no idea I didn’t care for the floor. Now, it wasn’t that I hated it, I just didn’t want it in the kitchen, a major focal point in the house. But from that day, he referred to the bathroom flooring as the floor I hated.

I didn’t hate it. I just didn’t want big white grout lines through the kitchen. Sheesh. Whatever. He insisted I have final say on the floor for the kitchen in that house, and I think we still agree it was a gorgeous floor. (I’d love to have it in this house now, as a matter of fact.)

So the point of this post is that I’ve narrowed down my choices to two dresses.

In my first dress post, I was looking at dresses from the Children’s Place, but they are no longer in the running. I took the red sweater/skirt combo back (way too big) and the black dress was the tot’s Thanksgiving outfit. (I was so wrapped up in the dress hunt that I forgot to find/launder an outfit for Turkey Day. She wore the black dress and it was cute, but it didn’t do it for me for pictures. Also, my mother won’t abide the tot wearing the same outfit on two holidays and in her pictures.)

I have since found two party dresses, a blue one from Costco and a burgundy one from Macy’s.

The blue in the skirt is darker and more grey than this, but no matter what I do, it shows up this bright in pictures.

bluedress.JPG

Everything about this dress is lovely.

macydress.JPG

The pros of the Costco dress are that it cost under $20 and the blue is really pretty. The dark of the dress would work in Christmas portraits, I think, because it’s a dress you’d wear in winter and because the pattern on the skirt is not so obtrusive as to distract attention from the tot’s face. The cons are that it’s really long on the tot, it does not come with a diaper cover, I have no idea what color tights I’d put her in (black? seems odd to me, I think, though decidedly punk rock), and that the dress makes her look like I’m dressing her up as a small adult. Add eyeshadow and hip thrusts and she’d be ready for the pageant circuit.

The cons of the Macy’s dress are the cost, over $20*, and the flowers. I love the flowers, but after HG said that it’s not that Christmasy a dress because of them, I can’t think anything else. The pros are that it fits her better, it’s burgundy (like I originally wanted), my mother doesn’t like it (oh, right, that’s not a fair criterion), it’s really high quality, it comes with ivory underpants and can be worn with ivory tights and black mary janes, and the tot looks like an absolute princess** in it.

So, I’m leaning toward the Macy’s dress. I even got my most trusted girlfriend’s opinion on it this weekend, and in spite of blue being her favorite color, she endorsed the Macy’s dress. It’s the right choice, truly.

*The dress ended up costing $40, after sales tax. We are not so hurting for cash that I can’t spend this much, but I did feel compelled to call HG to ask him to give me permission to spend that much on a dress. His response was, “You mean, you don’t normally spend $40 on an outfit for her? Really?” I love him.

Ultimately I’ve rationalized the purchase entirely. We had plans to get a gadget-type thing for our moms and my two girlfriends for Christmas, but I had stopped him from ordering them on ama-zon. While at the mall getting this beast of a dress, I discovered the gadgets at Brook-stone for $10 less each. So I bought them there, saved $40 on the items plus the shipping; ergo, the trip to the mall paid for itself. Yay me!

**I am not promoting the princess thing that many girls seem to go through, but I know it’s probably imminent in this house.

F is for Plagiarism

December 3rd, 2006

On Saturday, I had to fail another student for plagiarizing her paper. This student’s episode of cheating I caught before Thanksgiving – I knew about her before I discovered the student I wrote about in the previous post. So, I failed her yesterday, and between the two instances I had a lot of time to ponder what led up to them, as well as possible outcomes.

One thing I noticed Thursday night was that in spite of my chronic anxiety, I was calm. Well, my heart was pounding, but it was anticipation, not panic. I knew it was the right thing. I wanted it over but I never doubted that I would carry through with it. I prepared myself for the heightened confrontation that a plea for mercy would bring, and I knew I would not bend even though I hate hate hate confrontation.

I knew the decision to fail them was right because their plagiarism was the worst kind – wholesale lifting of an article on the internet on one hand, purchase of an essay (plagiarized itself from sources on the internet) on the other. Deceitful, lazy, and premeditated. I mean, come on, if you’re going to rip off other people’s writing because you either don’t know what to say or because you are devoid of creativity, please at least consider doing more than taking an essay, changing a few words, and putting your name on it. Please attempt the assignment and do poorly (these students knew they had the opportunity to revise for a higher grade) or attempt it and use other people’s words in places where yours fail. That much effort communicates volumes to an instructor, like you want to do your own work, you want to do well, but you need help.

If either of these students had cheated in this manner, I might have felt sympathetic enough to fail them on the paper but let them continue in the class if they could prove to me the work on the other papers was theirs. This is why I felt so sad Thursday night, I think. My student’s immediate reaction was not “You can’t do this” but “I didn’t know what to write”. I would not have hesitated to help him at any point, even at the proverbial midnight hour, if he had asked, something I had made clear all semester long when he struggled with topics and with writing enough to make the page minimum. I thought he knew he could contact me, any instructor, in a time of crisis, but he didn’t. I have to say, most students fresh out of high school have to learn this lesson that instructors are there to help them during their first year of college, but not usually at this price.

I was not sad on Saturday; likewise, I did not feel vindicated or righteous, as I had expected to feel on Thursday night. Instead, I simply felt right. Not a happy right, but not without some self-satisfaction. I don’t know how much of that was fed by the fact that my Saturday student slacked off a lot all semester and chatted through class most days. She was not a motivated student, it seemed from my perspective, unlike the other cheater. If anything, her reaction implied that she has cheated before, has been caught before, was not terribly fazed by being caught this time. (She merely said, “Oh. Okay,” and left.) Maybe it was that I survived the two confrontations unscathed, without having to fight with them.

Ack, whatever. What I’m finding in myself is that I must be more mature than when I started teaching 5 years ago. I knew what was right then, my first semester, when I faced a plagiarizing student (same deal – paper bought online), but I was too wrapped up in keeping my students happy that I felt insecure about applying the appropriate punishment for the crime. I was so wrapped up in being nice that I wasn’t being kind*. Being kind is harder than being nice, but it is also closer to who I want to be.

Between that plagiarizer 5 years ago and now, I have had people who plagiarized in smaller ways, unintentional ways, more covert ways (like having mom rewrite his entire portfolio the week before the end of the semester), but no one I’ve caught with such an obviously acquired paper. Five years. It’s a long time. Granted, I only teach part time, but things have been fairly good in my classes. I don’t give easy assignments, but in thinking about what would precipitate two instances of paper-stealing on the same assignment, I realize that this semester I did not do as much in-class work to help them with it. It’s the hardest essay in the course, and I didn’t help them enough. I was too preoccupied with my own health issues that I just hoped they’d get through it while I struggled to keep on top of grading.

Certainly, it’s not my fault – their choices to plagiarize were their own – but I didn’t help them out of that trap either. I see that now. That is the major teaching and life lesson I’ll take away from this.

*I’m still working on being more conscious of my tendency to be nice instead of kind since reading this entry at a garden of nna mmoy.

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