Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Back to School 2014-2015!!!

And in the blink of an eye they are starting sixth grade (séptimo) and third (cuarto).

We got back from our AWESOME six-week vacay in MN and took one day off to help with the jet lag and colds Nico and I picked up right before our travel date. Then, it was back to school today!

I won't lie. It wasn't easy. I always remembered going back to school as a fun, carefree day. You would see new friends, open up and use spanking new supplies, and just hang out all day and not do much. But the nerves were going strong this morning and Agustin threw up right before going to class. He claims his shirt was too tight, but I'm sure it was nerves.

He has always been my sensitive one. Only yesterday he spent the better part of the morning crying his eyes out because we had left MN and the family. And the COUSINS!!!! And Reggie.  AND SCHMIDTY!!!! That was hard, and so yesterday I stayed home from work (poor Andres had to go in and work like a dog to catch up on everything that happened while we were out) and decided we would make a fun day of it, so we wouldn't be so heartbroken about being so far away from our amazing summer memories. We played Pay Day (found that one a few months ago stored away in Andres's childhood home. Man the kids love it! And it sure brings back some great memories.) and then Ecuador-opoly (this is one my family had made specially for us and some of the cards just make us smile: collect $100 for Agustin's first word, or pay $200 because Andres spends too much time in the bathroom! LOL!!! - Anyone remember this game?). Playing games all day helped calm him down.

But today both Andres and I had to work so we couldn't be there to see them off to school, and weren't there when they got home, and therefore I didn't get a first day of school pic.  But I got a favorable report (mostly).

Agus: four new friends, two who didn't come back, couldn't remember his teacher's name (until Nico told him - TYPICAL AGUS!!!!), liked his teacher but then got all upset because she took his cool State Fair pencils that change color with the heat of your hands and then yelled at him saying they were used but didn't give them back, upset because he was missing a notebook (which, for the record, wasn't on the supply list we received), needs his textbooks IMMEDIATELY or he will be expelled (the other parents told us that they aren't in stock at the moment but we will try tomorrow), got a little teary-eyed when he recounted all the rules and regulations the teacher had them write out in their notebooks (I think the teachers also act like a bunch of B's on the first days to scare the kids into being good - which is why quite a few people never even bother with the first few days of class and probably also why so many kids don't look forward to the first day like they do in the U.S. - but I will admit that - at least as a teacher in this culture - it is pretty necessary or you will be spending the rest of the school year hearing "No one ever said, I didn't know, It's not fair, " etc from every single kid),  but in all had a good day and sat next to Martín Teran.

Nico: two new friends, a few who didn't come back (Natalie was one - Agus teased him saying she will always be in his heart no matter where she is), a couple new ones, everyone was wearing the uniform he had on (so he was happy we chose the right one as we didn't know which one he was supposed to wear this week) but he didn't bother to ask what he is supposed to wear tomorrow TYPICAL NICO!!!! lol, wore his new Neymar cleats and was bothered by an older kid who told him he can't wear cleats to school and another kid who said Messi was better than Neymar (we told him to tell those kids not to be haters), was happy he didn't get homework, but oh yeah he has to study for the diagnostic tests (which, by definition are not to be studied for, but try telling that to teachers here), when asked what he was supposed to study said "A bunch of words" and when asked which words said "Any words you want!!!!" in an incredulous voice like I was an idiot for asking (TYPICAL Nico LOL!), but in general had a totally awesome day.

So there we have it! First day of the 2014-2015 school year over and done. May it be a good year!

Review of My Life in Middlemarch by Rebecca Mead

I read Middlemarch by George Eliot for the first time about ten years ago, as a graduate student in a Liberal Arts program. That’s a bit surprising, seeing as I was an English major as an undergraduate with a specialization in British female authors of the 18th and 19th century. Perhaps because of the length, I’d never really considered reading it on my own. 

I chose this book, firstly, because of its title (I really enjoyed Middlemarch when I finally got around to reading it), and secondly, because of the cover. They say you can’t judge a book by its cover but honestly, I do and you can. I read this as an ebook, so the cover was the only thing visually attractive about the book, and I admit, I was drawn to it. I love a well-designed cover. It can tell you a lot about the book – whether it’s going to be funny, sarcastic, romantic, quirky. The cover of My Life in Middlemarch is subdued and quiet and proper and beautiful – much like the book itself. But don’t take that as a bad thing!

In this book, the author, Rebecca Mead, recounts her love of Middlemarch throughout her life, talking about the book and its author, others who have reviewed it, and even throwing in a little literary criticism for the record. She makes comparisons between herself and the characters in the book, herself and George Eliot, her life and the life of Dorothea. She doesn’t just limit herself to Middlemarch, however, and this – in my opinion – is what makes this book great, but it could possibly be off-putting to other readers. She refers to other books written by Eliot, other reviewers of Eliot’s work (such as Virginia Woolf), and even makes various “pilgrimages” to Eliot’s (neé Mary Ann Evans) house in Coventry. Here, with the references to all the English towns and places, I think it would have been nice for the author/publisher to have included a small map, and possibly even a small timeline of Eliot’s life/works. My Life in Middlemarch is a rich source of English literature in and of itself, however.

I enjoyed this book. I love to read about books and read about reading books, and there was just the right amount of literary criticism and “book talk” in it that reminded me of my happy college days as an English major reading and analyzing books from every angle. Mead does a great job of that. What perhaps was missing a bit was the memoir aspect. At times I felt like I didn’t really know the author at all, despite her pains to show me more. At other times, the connection between her life and Middlemarch felt a bit contrived, perhaps, although neither of these things affected my enjoyment of the book.

Do you need to have read Middlemarch to enjoy this book? No, I don’t think so, although I wish I had gone back and read Middlemarch before I decided to read this book. I think I would have “loved” this book had I done so, more than just “really enjoyed” it. And although I don’t think it is completely necessary to have read Middlemarch to like the writer’s style, I’m not really sure why you would read My Life in Middlemarch if you hadn’t read the original in the first place!

Disclaimer: I received this book for free from Edelweiss through Blogging for Books, but I was not compensated and all of the opinions stated are my own.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Welcome 20-14!

This year I resolve to try to start saying "Twenty-fourteen" like the cool kids, instead of "Two-thousand-fourteen". It's been a hard habit to break!

Welcome 2014!
I have many, many more resolutions, though, most of which will probably be too much for me to sustain over the course of the year, but as I've noted in the past, for me it's sometimes more the making of the challenge than the challenge itself that fulfills me :)  My resolutions from last year were sadly neglected. That said, I am putting these new ones in writing and hope to check in frequently with myself to make sure they are becoming reality.

Monthly Challenge

I could also add doing more fun stuff like this!
But this shouldn't be a resolution,
it should just be a way of like! :)
I am going to go with what I resolved last year: a monthly challenge, each of which is something I have on a non-priority bucket list somewhere in the back of my mind. Most of them are fun, and will hopefully provide me with a way to relax and de-stress and just enjoy this life I've been given.

Copied and pasted from last year:

January: Write 4 poems, read more poetry and get inspired by it
February: listen to one hour of music (radio, possibly new music or a new station), every day. Listen to more MPR (I am paying for a sustained membership - why am I not taking advantage!?)
March: learn more about classical music, composers, go to Casa de la Música and enjoy my newfound knowledge, learn to recognize instruments by sight and sound
April: learn the names of flowers and plants, and be able to recognize many by sight. I'll probably focus on a region, like the paramo
May: Make 2 ethnic dishes a week. Countries I will be researching: Malaysia, South Africa, Singapore, Afghanistan, Nepal, Liberia, Malaysia, North Africa (Morocco perhaps?), Syria, Czech Republic, Tahiti, Burma, Greece, Romania
June: create a new craft from somewhere online, like Martha Stewart's crafts web site
July: Buy and make something with a Whimseybox (or 2). I did do this (the buying part) but not the making. So this year my challenge for this month will be to use some of those supplies to do something fun. Some are messy (Rit dyes - yuck!) but I guess that's why we call it a challenge!
August: Run a 5K (July and August might switch depending on the dates of the 5K I join)
September: (new) Try a new craft (ha! Andrés will love this one!). I'm thinking like painting on canvas or knitting or something I really don't know how to do.
October: (new) Spend the month creating with my sewing machine. This should probably be a yearly challenge, but this month I will focus more on being systematic about it and learning new stitches and becoming more talented at it :)
November: make a Joseph Cornell box, immerse myself in the images of his boxes
December: complete a crochet blanket (afghan) for the family. I should be able to pull this off since I am participating in a CAL this year

Reading Challenge

Last year I resolved to read 60+ books. Well, that didn't happen. I got to 29, which is quite likely an all-time low for me :)  But 60 was really just too much in the grand scheme of things. This year I am not going to worry about how many I read (there are SO many I want/need to that it is an endless battle!), but instead I want my reading to mean something, to teach me, and to be fun.

1. I resolve to read one book in Spanish each month. I really want to improve my Spanish, pay more attention to the detail of the language. I've been ignoring it for years and that's shameful! I used to be really in tune with the language, and I want to get back that love for it that I used to have. Especially now that I have two kids who speak it :)

We'll continue with the family bonding
(this is my favorite resolution, probably!)
2. I want to read one chapter book with the boys over the course of each month. We brought home tons of chapter books this trip and I am excited to get started on them. Currently we are reading "I Funny", and while it isn't really that good in my opinion, they really love it. I don't think they get even half of the jokes in the plot, but the jokes that they do understand send them into a fit of giggles. I think they are both enthralled with the story of this boy in the wheelchair. Which is good, as they need to get more exposure to different types of people.

Work Challenge

At work I've decided that I will read a new article on my expertise each week, take notes and incorporate the ideas into the daily grind, so to speak. So far this week I've read about multiple modalities. This should be a good challenge, since we will be attending TESOL in Portland, Oregon in March and I need to keep up the inspiration. It's been years since I was involved in TESOL, and I'm excited to start connecting with teachers and teacher trainers on a different level again. Plus, this year our new director at CEC wants us to create more academic agreements with universities from around the world, so we have his "permission" to use EPN (our university) as a starting point for more networking. It could bring new and exciting things! We need that around CEC, in my opinion.

Personal Challenge

1. I still want to open an Etsy shop. I still want to create more crochet. I am going to crochet more this year, get more serious about finishing projects, and then see where that takes me. Opening an Etsy shop will not be a goal, per se, but if I crochet a lot this year I will need to do something with all of my creations :)

2. Kristin is getting married this year, and I will be in the wedding, so I need to lose 50+ pounds. Yes, I am back to square one. Last time I lost the weight I was four years younger, but I did it in 3-4 months. I still belong to Weight Watchers so I plan to track, and so far this week I've remembered to do my exercise routine twice. Which is two times more than I have been! :)  Go me!

3. And finally, I want to really immerse myself in family. This isn't so much a resolution as a reminder. I feel like I am pretty good at this, but lately I have felt myself slipping, and I don't want that to happen. More phone calls, more texts, more nice words, more appreciation, more family game nights, more playing what they want to play, more understanding, more encouragement. For my whole family - immediate and extended.

Miss these guys so much!

So, there's a lot in store for Twenty-fourteen. I am excited to start fresh.