Sunday, February 24, 2008

bloggery updatery

It's been a very intense couple of weeks. All is well - now - but I haven't kept up with much of anyone! As of 8 February, Younger Boy was coughing but didn't have strep. By Monday (11 Feb), he did have strep. Older Boy was presenting as if he were a couple of days behind Younger Boy, and Younger Girl spiked a 101+ temperature just after lunch. Having obtained prescriptions for all four of them, just in case, I started treatment for all four of them. (I also learned that the insurance that the Other Parent is required by the divorce agreement to provide for them was not going through, so I had to pay for the prescriptions) Everybody stayed home both Monday and Tuesday. Wednesday we had a snow day. Well, a slush day, really. We got about 5" of slush, then it rained, hard, the rest of the day. It took me two hours to get the slush off of the driveway, though I did manage to make the snowblower do the hardest part of the work. Then I got up onto a ladder to scoop slush and leaves out of my gutters. See, if my gutter over the porch overflows (instead of draining down the downspout) then water leaks into my basement. It's quite predictable. And, sure enough, there was a small puddle forming. So... out into the barely-not-freezing rain I went with my trusty stepladder, and scooped slushy slime out of the gutters. It was a real bear. The slushy snow on the roof slid down enough to make a snow-overhang (a la the Wonder Twins!) which I had to knock down before scooping out the gutter. The worst part, honestly, was the moving of the stepladder, as the paint shelf got full of water while I was up on the ladder, and every time I tilted it to move it, the paint shelf peed icy water all over me. Plus it's not easy to plant the ladder steadily into slushy snow on top of unevenly spread compost and leaf mulch. But I survived. I went inside and had a nice HOT shower.

When I got out of the shower, I went down to check the basement. My usual leak was leaking copiously, and I had to use the shop-vac to suck up the water. Then, half an hour or so later, when I went to check again, there was a new and different puddle forming. Seems that the back 2nd story gutter was overflowing as well, and the water was dripping into the basement window well! Once the window well got full, the water started to leak into the basement, right down the wall. Argh! So... I had to bail out the window well, while of course the roof is still peeing icy water onto my (freshly washed but nowhere near dry) head. Got the window well bailed out and found a sheet of plywood to make a lean-to over the window well.

Well, all of this took another hour or so. Meanwhile I have mostly-better children stuck inside, though thankfully they were SO good! and didn't get into any serious mischief. But it did mean that I didn't get any school work read.

Thursday was Valentine's Day, and everybody went to school (with valentines). I went to both of my classes, too, though we did NOT exchange valentines. (this was FINE with me, btw, as my classmates are generally young enough to be my offspring) Things were looking up all over. Then on Friday morning, as I was preparing to go to the gym, and thence to the library, I decided that Younger Girl's hair needed washing before school. I got her ready for her bath, and discovered that she was covered in Chicken Pox. Woo hoo. I whisked her off to the pediatrician to get it confirmed (and recorded in her file), which happened, and the lass at the reception desk told me that she'd figured out what was wrong with the insurance (the number had changed, presumably when the Other Parent was 'laid off'/sacked from his last position). I took that information to the pharmacy and had my payments refunded successfully. *whew* (did you know that chewable amoxicillin is three times as expensive as liquid?) So - we headed into vacation week with a poxy Younger Girl. She didn't have a horrible case - just one inside of her mouth, but it made her food sting and taste off - but she was restless and wanted to sleep with Mommy.

Grandma, bless her!!!, took the three older ones for overnights at her place, one at a time. Several of the children's friends invited the older two over to play, so that they weren't totally trapped here with their quarantined sister. I also was able to go visit the friend from whose children we'd caught the pox, so I got out a bit too. Things could have been EVER so much worse. I didn't have my usual class on Tuesday morning, because the University ran a Monday schedule on Tuesday (it's something to do with the hard sciences' lab scheduling requirements). That was a real bonus. Grandma also babysat on Tuesday night, here, so I could go to rehearsal. (usually the children go to the Other Parent's on Tuesdays, but it was vacation week, so the schedule was different) Rehearsal was fantastic, but I was barely able to squeak hoarsely afterward. When Bach writes a first soprano part, he means it!

On Wednesday at noon, the Other Parent came to take the children for his half of vacation week. The house was very quiet... for an hour or so. My best friend asked me to watch her two while she went to the dentist, and I gladly did so. While they were here, another good friend (from high school and college) came through town and stopped by for a visit. We discussed Latin (I'll make a separate post about my grad school conundrum) and knitting and children and stuff. It was a real treat to get to see her! Once everyone had left, I went out for a Girl Errand (involving hot wax, but I'll spare you the details) then came back to get BUSY on my school assignments.

With Anne's virtual company via IM over the weekend, I had done most of the assignment for my Thursday AM class - a translation of 29 lines of Chaucer's Romaunt of the Rose from Middle English to comprehensible Modern English, with dictionary look-ups for 10 words and cross-references of two of those (and translations of the cross-references - other instances of the same word in other fourteenth century literature). I reviewed that assignment until I was satisfied it was as good as I could make it, then finished reading The Knight's Tale. It is LONG. It's also a fantastic allegory - very symmetrical, very stylistically shapely. That finished, I limped through ten chapters of Piers Plowman (in translation, but still, VERY dense) [I hadn't completed the previous week's reading; she's not that cruel!]. Then I slogged through an essay regarding the poem as a supplemental reading. I made notes from the assigned six chapters, as well as notes from the supplemental reading, because I was scheduled to team-lead the discussion for Thursday night's class. As it turned out, I was finished to my satisfaction after the AM class, around 3 PM, so I took a nap before the PM class. My partner went first, and addressed the material differently than I did. It worked really well. My turn also seemed to go well, though we ran out of time to discuss the supplemental reading and we'll get to that this coming Thursday.

When I got home, I was too wired to sleep. Unfortunately, I allowed myself to stay up until about 3 AM, just reading. (at least I'd had that nap, though) Got up mid-morning on Friday to snow - lots of snow - and stayed inside all day. Stayed up again reading way too late. Didn't venture out with the snowblower until late Saturday morning! It turned out fine, though - as soon as I blew the snow off (7" we got) it was bright enough that the driveway melted clean. *whew* I also went to the gym and did a full hour on the elliptical trainer. I was in bed by just after midnight on Saturday night, and got up for church today. There was a ladies' breakfast at 8 which I didn't know about/had forgotten about. I honestly don't know if I'd have gone even if I'd remembered. I was pretty tired.

The Old Dog was totally nutty this morning - having a serious anxiety attack. Wouldn't even eat her breakfast! I gave her the prescription the vet had sent home with us for that - it's Xanax, just like for people - but had to leave for church and was not able to observe her afterward. I did choose to come home right after church (instead of going to the gym again, which I'd wanted to do) and she had settled down enough to eat her kibbles. I don't know what set her off. Poor old girl. I spent the afternoon cleaning house, reading more Chaucer (the Miller's Tale this time, quite rude) and more Piers Plowman. I've finished Tuesday AM's assignment but still have Thursday AM's to finish (that'll be the Reeve's Tale) and the last three chapters of Piers Plowman for Thursday PM.

One delightful tidbit: I had bought a bookcase for my then-fiance to use when he moved his stuff here. Obviously he and his stuff are NOT here and are not COMING here, so I had this quite nice bookcase that I didn't need. I had put it up for sale on Craig's List, and it sold on Friday! I actually ended up about $15 ahead - woo hoo! The folks who came to pick it up were very brave in the snow.

So now it's Sunday night. I brought the children home at just before 7, and my Mom and brother came over for cake so we could celebrate Older Girl's 8th birthday, which had been on Thursday. Mom gave her an amethyst necklace (since it's her birthstone) and I have her a bunch of necklace-making beads, some stretchy necklace making cord, and a storage case for the beads. I think she liked her presents! The cake was good, too. Unfortunately Older Girl is also a bit warm tonight - just over 99 - but she and I both hope she'll be able to go to school tomorrow. She has a field trip, and I have a court date to try to finalize my petition to have the children's surnames hyphenated. Therein lies a story, and I don't feel like telling it. *sigh* But the Other Parent is fighting tooth and nail, and it remains to be seen whether he managed to stay on this side of the truth in his sworn testimony or not.

Speaking of the Other Parent being himself, I had a good talking-to from a friend on Wednesday (the one involved with the use of hot wax). She's not a Christian - if anything, I think she's a Buddhist? - but/and she's very wise and quite spiritual. [I'm a pretty conservative Christian, by the way, and I subscribe to the teaching of Jesus that instructs us to "love one another as I have loved you". To my mind that leaves no room for rejecting other people based on them having different beliefs than I have {not to mention that I consider it unacceptable to reject others for other reasons either - we're all God's children, and He loves us all}. I believe what I believe; I hold only myself to my standards {and nobody else}; I seek to 'love others' as I've been told to do, and to respect them as well, to the best of my ability - which is sometimes quite good and other times not so much] I was telling her that I have been angry with the Other Parent for various infractions, and she asked me why I was angry. "He is what he is, and that's his deal, not yours. Why be angry that he is who he is? Why not just say instead, 'Oh, poor him, there he goes lying again. Poor thing!' rather than judging or condemning or being angry?" And drat it all, but she's got a really good point. I know I'm called to forgive. I have actually been struggling with that for a while of late; I kept thinking my anger was/is justified... and it could well be... but is it serving me to be angry? Am I serving the Lord being angry? I'm sure I'm not serving my children well by being angry with their [multiple expletives deleted] father. *sigh* Dang it's hard to be a decent human being sometimes, and to act like an adult. Pooh.

So - aside from my 'where do I go now with my graduate studies' question, I think that's everything I've been meaning to blog on. If you read this far, again I thank you! Please share some thoughts with me in return. It gets so lonely blogging into the ether with no concept of whether anyone actually reads it!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

The Academy of Ancient Music!

Mom and I went to a performance of theirs tonight up on campus. It was exquisite... sublime... glorious! And one of the violinists had on the most scrumptious dress to boot - sleeveless, green, shimmery. *sighs*

Here's what the UMass schedule website said:

Journey through time, and across the ocean, with one of the world's foremost period-instrument orchestras as it shines in a program that includes the music of Bach, Telemann and Handel. Brimming with enthusiasm, energy and dynamic expression, the esteemed Academy of Ancient Music performs with exquisite tonal quality and extreme virtuosity. Under the direction of harpsichord soloist Richard Egarr, the ensemble has been described as "still very much at the vanguard of the period-style movement it launched in concerts and recordings over 30 ears ago." Chicago Tribune

There's a photo of them as well: but alas, she's not wearing the green dress.

Friday, February 22, 2008

and just when I despaired while reading Piers Plowman...

...I came across this gem:

Ypocrysie is lykned to a lothelich dongehul - Hypocrisy is likened to a loathsome dunghill

Yeah, that about sums that up, dunnit? Knew there was a reason I truly do love to read this Middle English stuff!

Friday, February 15, 2008

the wisdom of dogs

- When loved ones come home, always run to greet them.

- Never pass up the opportunity to go for a joyride.

- Allow the experience of fresh air and the wind in your face to be pure ecstasy.

- When it's in your best interest -- practice obedience.

- Let others know when they've invaded your territory.

- Take naps and stretch before rising.

- Run, romp, and play daily.

- Thrive on attention and let people touch you.

- Avoid biting, when a simple growl will do.

- On warm days, stop to lie on your back on the grass.

- On hot days, drink lots of water and lay under a shady tree.

- When you're happy, dance around and wag your entire body.

- No matter how often you're scolded, don't buy into the guilt thing and pout... run right back and make friends.

- Delight in the simple joy of a long walk.

- Eat with gusto and enthusiasm. Stop when you have had enough.

- Be loyal.

- Never pretend to be something you're not.

- If what you want lies buried, dig until you find it.

- When someone is having a bad day, be silent, sit close by and nuzzle them gently.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

a summary of my objections to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

This from

What's wrong with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child?

It’s usually looked upon as a positive means of holding countries accountable to protect children. But the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is so much more than that.

When the UNCRC was brought up for ratification in 1995, the core group of Senators in opposition concluded that this treaty marked a significant departure from the originally constituted relationship between state and child. They found, in fact, that it was literally incompatible with the right of parents to raise their children as well as a wholesale giveaway of U.S. sovereignty.

But why?

Widespread concerns about the UNCRC stem from the treaty’s repeated emphasis on one key principle used to guide all decisions affecting children: consideration of the “best interests of the child.” This principle underlies all of the rights found in the Convention.

Article 3 of the CRC provides that “in all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.”

In other words, policies affecting children at all levels of society and government should have the child’s best interest as the primary concern.

The trouble occurs when this principle appears as a guiding principle for parents in article 18(1), which states that “Parents or, as the case may be, legal guardians, have the primary responsibility for the upbringing and development of the child. The best interests of the child will be their basic concern.”

Who knows best?

The Convention’s emphasis on the “best interests” principle is a sharp break from American law.

In the 1993 case of Reno v. Flores, the U.S. Supreme Court held that “the ‘best interests of the child’ is not the legal standard that governs parents’ or guardians’ exercise of their custody.” In the 2000 case of Troxel v. Granville, the Court struck down a grandparent visitation statute because decisions about the child were made “solely on the judge’s determination of the child’s best interests,” without regard to the wishes of the parent.

The Court’s decisions in Reno and Troxel reflect a fundamental tenet of American family law, which recognizes that parents typically act in the best interests of their children. Indeed, “United States case law is replete with examples of parents fighting for the best interests of their children,” ranging from a child’s right to an education to the right of personal injury compensation. Except in cases where a parent has been proven to be “unfit,” American law presumes that the parent is acting in the best interests of the child, and defers to that parent’s decision.

The UNCRC’s Brave New World

But the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child changes all of that. The treaty supplants this traditional presumption in favor of parents with a new presumption in favor of the state.

According to Geraldine van Bueren, an international scholar who assisted in the drafting of the CRC, the language of “best interests provides decision and policy makers with the authority to substitute their own decisions for either the child’s or the parents’, providing it is based on considerations of the best interests of the child.”

So instead of placing the burden of proof on the government to prove that a parent is unfit, the Convention places the burden of proof on – yes, parents. Any parent who claims that other interests might just be more important than the state’s characterization of the “best interest” of the child could end up battling the state to protect their rights as a parent.

Friday, February 8, 2008

geekiness and a bit of whinging

Further to my post of 23 January, the Other Parent alleges that he's "too busy" to look through "all the hard drives" he allegedly has scattered about to find the digital photos he so blithely assured me that he has. I thanked him warmly for his honesty, since it's so much better not to have unreasonable expectations - now I simply won't expect that he'll do what he said he would, despite having what looks like loads of time on his hands, being unemployed and all. Did he 'get' the irony? Does it matter?

Classes are going very well (at least from my perspective!) and I'm having a lot of fun. I must confess that I think I'd prefer simply to read texts and discuss their contents, rather than to read them with an eye to a certain point. Huh? The class which was advertised in the course description as "Middle English Literature" is, apparently, "Virtue and Vice in Medieval Literature". Yeah, whatever. I'm still getting to read Aquinas and Langland and Mannyng. I did find it interesting that the professor is the organizer of not one but two sessions on "Virtue and Vice" topics at the conference at Kalamazoo. Coincidence? I rather doubt it. Still, I give her full points for resourcefulness. If I were in her position, I'm sure I'd seek to consolidate all of my efforts, too.

Kalamazoo... I really want to go! It's Thursday through Sunday of Mothers Day weekend. I'm supposed to have the children that weekend, of course.... Is Mothers Day intended for bonding with my pumpkins, or is it meant for me to enjoy according to my usually-suppressed preferences? Could I go but come back for Sunday? What will my mother think? Herr Doktor Professor is going... giving a paper... obviously Frau Doktor Professorin is going as well. Two of my friends from Leeds in 2006 are on the list as participants. My brother might be going, but he hasn't decided yet. *harrumph* I do have that ticket on SouthWest that I need to use. And Anne's in Michigan - so's Laura - so many decisions. And not least among these is whether to allow the Other Parent that extra time with them!

Tuesday was a bit of a drag. It was POURING. I parked at preschool and hoofed it toward campus, but gave up less than halfway there and waited for a bus. When I got to class, I put my gloves on the heater (just like they do at preschool) to dry and resisted the temptation to do the same with my soggy sneakers. I stayed out of puddles, but the rain was coming down so hard that my feet ended up drenched anyway. Thank goodness I'd arranged with Meg for her to pick me up after class to go to the gym! In class was interesting - we touched just briefly on Boethius, which wasn't assigned until Thursday. What I knew of him, I knew only because I'm an incurable geek and have been listening to Modern Scholar series lectures including "Masterpieces of Medieval Literature" - or maybe it was "Odyssey of the West part III, the Middle Ages", but anyway, Boethius and his fall from grace in late Imperial Rome and his writing of the Consolation of Philosophy while imprisoned awaiting a gruesome death (along with his entire family) had been covered in a series I'd just finished. Whew!

After our workout, Meg dropped me in the center of town (the rain having stopped) and I got a gorgeous chocolate chip brownie at the Black Sheep, and sat down to read Chaucer's translation of Boethius from Latin to Middle English. I must say that it was painful enough that I thought once or twice that I'd probably rather have just read it in Latin. This, bear in mind, despite the fact that I last studied Latin when I was 17.

Later that afternoon, things turned really sucky. Turns out that just because I had a signed contract with my cell phone provider, that didn't mean that my obligation to them actually ended when the contract said it did. So, long story short, despite my disputing the validity of the cancellation fee from my switching providers, they want $260 by February 21st, or they send me to collections. I am just furious. Well, that and I don't have $260 to spare before the 21st! Moreover, their finance department won't set up a payment schedule. They only do that for continuing accounts, not cancelled accounts. I will refrain from public invective here, but I do have on my (very long) to-do list a detailed and outraged letter to their CEO, detailing the shady manner in which I found myself obligated to them without my consent or knowledge.

Not surprisingly, this delightful discovery put a bit of a damper on my spirits - so much so that I was sorely tempted to blow off rehearsal on Tuesday night. I didn't, of course, knowing that if I just sucked it up for a while, the music would revitalize me. It did, mostly. We started in sectional rehearsals first, and the altos (bless them) seemed to have the lionesses' share of the sectional director's attention. Me? I pulled out my Riverside Chaucer and worked on Fortune. I must say again that the glossary in the back of the Riverside Chaucer is, IMHO, spotty at best. It includes translations of words that are obviously cognates, in some cases differing from Modern English by only one character, while omitting totally unrecognizable words. The University of Michigan "lookups" function on their website is often not userfriendly. I found myself rather frustrated rather quickly. I overcame that by just inserting the untranslated word into my pencil-written attempt at translation and pressing on. The singing was definitely good for me.

Wednesday morning I had to get up early-ish, despite the children not being home, because the dog had an appointment at the vet. She's 11 now, and suffers from anxiety (as well as being generally neurotic) and, apparently, arthritis. We got out only bearably over budget, but with three prescriptions to fill at Wal-Mart. That said, thank goodness for Wal-Mart's pharmacy! I filled all three for less than one had been at the vet's. Seriously, though... Prozac and Xanax for a dog? Oh well. I do love the old bitch, and rather prefer her happy and content rather than flipping out and digging out under the fence. My road is a highly traveled 'shortcut', and the 30 mph speed limit is cheerfully ignored by 95% of the drivers.

Wednesday night found me still working on Fortune in anticipation of Thursday morning's class. Thank goodness I'd already done the readings for Thursday night's class! Anne turned up on IM, and we slogged at it together. Mostly I slogged and she opined on my slogging, but it was somewhat less wretched than slogging solo. It was midnight before I got to bed, and after having tossed and turned until 3 the previous night, I was Not Happy when the alarm went off on Thursday morning. I was so tired I thought I was going to puke, and it just got worse when I remembered that it was Thursday, which meant that I was going to be on the go until about 10 that night.

Meanwhile, back in the kitchen, the new fridge came Thursday morning! Despite not having called the night before as advertised, Sears did call at about 8:15 and say that they'd be there in about 15 minutes. They arrived right at 8:30, took out the old fridge, (16 years old and had been moved six times - two of those being over 1,000 miles) and brought in the new one. It fit!!! It's taller than the old one but fit - barely. We are very pleased with it. Nevertheless, once the thing was in place, I had to jam all the refrigerated food back into it (though I did just consign the frozen goods to the outside freezer). The net result was that I was late getting out of the house, parked at preschool, and hoofed it toward campus. I don't run, as a rule - the Navy required it of me for long enough, thankyouverymuch. I certainly don't run uphill with a backpack. Furthermore, it was snowing/freezing raining, though lightly. In places the sidewalk was just too slippery to run. I ended up 10 minutes late for class and was Not Happy. Furthermore, we spent the entire class on the Boethius. I wound up extremely frustrated - I'd stayed up way too late preparing for something we didn't even cover, plus what we did cover was tricky. The assignment was way too long for me to have attempted a translation of it, anyway... but I found myself in a bit of a fix. I chose these classes because I knew they'd be challenging, but now I'm frustrated because I'm a spoiled brat who never really had to work very hard as an undergrad, and if I did have to work hard, the work came together fairly easily. Now I'm busting my brains open and still struggling. Gah. The night class was much less frustrating, though I did yawn quite a bit. Still, I find myself asking more questions than I'm answering, which worries me. Am I not smart/clever/bright/insightful enough for this work? Do I just not have
enough background, or at least not the same background as the other students? They seemed to be getting it. *insert inferiority complex here* Anyway, we had to speak up and choose which class we wanted for our turn at initiating the discussion. I chose the two Thursdays of school vacation weeks, since I know the children will be going to the Other Parent's house on Wednesday at noon of those weeks, and that'll give me enough prep time. I hope.

Returning to my frustration with the glossary, I schlepped to Northampton yesterday to see if my friend Mike's scoop on the used bookstore's Chaucer selection might yield a suitable glossary. It didn't. Neither did Barnes & Noble have it, nor did either of the bookshops in town. I could order it, but it was over 20 bucks even used at Amazon. Fortunately, I recovered use of my senses and discovered that there were circulating copies available at two of the five colleges. I went to Amherst College today and checked one out. I do love both interlibrary loan and the Five College library sharing deal!

Younger Boy has been coughing, and since he had pneumonia last summer, I took him in for a look-see this morning. It's just a cough - not strep (which is going through his kindergarten), not pneumonia, just a cough. Still, he's very fussy tonight, and has been waking partway up and crying. I have him in my bed now and will probably just let him stay there overnight. Much kinder/gentler than either one of us having to traverse the stairs in the wee hours if he stirs again.

I think that's everything I can think of. Thanks for reading this far! Please humor me by leaving a comment. Surely there's something in all this that you have an opinion on?