April 30, 2008

I think it's dying.

My computer, that is.

Last night I wanted to back up some photos to a DVD. After much cursing and praying, I ended up having to reboot the system. What happened next does not bode well for my computer's continual well-being.

Black screen. White blinking cursor in the upper left hand corner.

This lasted for several minutes. In fact, I was beginning to think it had truly died when the Windows logo reappeared and the start-up processes started to run. Whew! Although most of my data is saved on an external harddrive, there are a few things that automatically save to the desktop, like the Itunes music I buy.

I should probably transfer those files over to the external harddrive first instead of backing up the photos...

Wish me luck!

April 29, 2008

Homeschooling

I don't homeschool my children. Both boys attend the public schools in our hometown for a number of reasons. The most obvious and insurmountable fact is that both my husband and I work full-time outside the home. Doing homework in the evenings is a challenge; fitting in several constructive hours of schooling in the evenings would be impossible. Neither of us would have the patience for it.

What if I didn't work full-time, though? Would I join the ranks of homeschooling parents everywhere? This is a question I've been asking myself a lot lately.

A few years ago the answer would have been a resounding "No", but times have changed and so have I. Homeschooling no longer seems quite the tragic prison it once represented in my mind. Suddenly the benefits appear to outweigh the risks.

As you likely know if you've been around here for any length of time, my oldest boy has a hard time in school. A very, very hard time. Although he's well-liked and seems well adjusted socially, he struggles like nobody's business in several subjects. Even though we've put him on a low dose of meds to subdue the ADHD behaviors and we initially saw an improvement in his scores, recent papers have shown a marked decrease. He's all over the place. Everything from 100% to 50% appeared on his last batch of work.

To say this is frustrating is putting it mildly. More than that, though, it makes me sad. Deep-down-in-the-pit-of-your-belly sad.

And it scares me.

I have a really hard time with the idea of my kid failing. Although I know it's insane, I feel as if it's a reflection of our parenting. Perhaps it is. Maybe we don't do everything right. Maybe we let him play too much and don't push reading and writing and math like we should. Maybe, just maybe, we want him to be a kid more than we want him to become the next Einstein.

Yet, I can guarantee there's not a single kid in his class who works harder than he does. I know that we make sure he practices his spelling words, studies for quizzes and tests, and completes the random homework sheets sent home by his teacher. I know he tries. I know he wants to succeed and feels the bite of defeat whenever he fails.

Still. Maybe there's more we can do.

This mindset often results in hours spent pondering what I can do to help him do better. Mind you, I'm not looking for perfect scores, just better ones. So what can I do even though our spare time together is limited and precious? Not to mention I don't want him to be so overwhelmed by school that he burns out at such a tender age.

Even so, I know something has to be done and my husband and I are the only ones who can do it. Fully cognizant of this fact, I decided a few weeks ago that my son and I would spend time together reading a book. I had picked up two novels at the Scholastic book fair several weeks prior to this decision, so I knew exactly what book we would read.

I'm going to be shockingly candid right now.

We are not reading either book. In fact, we aren't reading anything. I've been too lazy to wrangle him up and force the quiet reading time on him. Maybe writing that shockingly bad-mom truth on my blog will compel me to go home and grab both the kid and the book. We'll see.

Now it's time for the second bad-mom truth.

I've helped adults learn how to become better writers, yet I cannot seem to do the same for my 10-year-old son. Even worse is the fact that this child has a wonderful, vivid imagination and I've not been able to cultivate and nurture it.

So I've decided to set my child up with a blog of his own. The idea came from looking at the blog entries found on Fifth Grade Web Writers. If you have a minute, check them out. I had no idea 5th Graders were capable of such things! My almost-5th-Grader (if the planets align) certainly isn't. And he should be.

So a blog.

Mom is going to teach him to write. I figured I would have him write in it once a week until I found this quote today:


Our data show that children need to write a minimum of 4 days a week to see any appreciable change in the quality of their writing. It takes that amount of writing to contribute to their personal development as learners. Unless children write at least 4 days a week, they won't like it. Once-a-week writing (the national average is about 1 day in 8) merely reminds them they can't write; they never write often enough to listen to their writing." (http://www.ldonline.org/article/6204)
Wow. 4 times a week. That's a lot of writing and a lot of dedication for a 10-year-old. Still, it makes perfect sense. With my creative writing I know I've improved only through trial and error, something which can be achieved only through practice. If I want my son to improve his writing abilities, it's going to take practice and dedication. For both of us. e

When I consider this, I realize I may not be able to proclaim myself a homeschooling mother in the traditional sense, but the truth is that I am homeschooling my child. I'm in partnership with the public school system. They get to teach him everything he'll need to know on the MEAP, and I get to teach him everything they simply don't have enough time and resources to cover.

April 28, 2008

I did it!


DSC_0199
Originally uploaded by Krheiser

Here I am with my men, big and little, after my graduation ceremony on Sunday afternoon. I can't even begin to tell you how good it felt to walk across that stage and know my undergraduate studies are behind me!

I just hope my boys took something away from this, too. Hopefully watching mom earn her degree will plant the seed in their little brains that they can - and should - do the same thing.

Oh, and if you're wondering...the red sash represents my recent induction into the Chi Omega chapter of the Phi Alpha Theta Honors Society. I consider this quite an honor as it required the recommendation of a faculty member in order to even be considered.

April 25, 2008

Friday Snippet

Instead of giving you an excerpt from the current WIP, I'm going to do something a little different by pulling something old and nearly forgotten off my harddrive. Okay, so it's not my harddrive. It's my flashdrive. Same thing.

You know the gig...it's probably neck-deep in typos, errors of all sorts, faulty logic, and whatnot, but here it is in all its glory.

Muck stuck to the bottom and sides of her boots, inching its way up the black leather. The slurpy suction of the black mud caused her to stumble, her balance lost for a precious moment before her equilibrium righted itself. Straining to pull her entrapped feet from the grasping soil again and again was becoming tiresome. Her muscles screamed in protest, demanding a respite. Each raggedly indrawn breath burned her lungs. Her hands, trembling with exhaustion, brushed away wet, dangling strands of her dark hair from her rain-washed face.

She ignored her body’s traitorous symptoms and pressed on.

The river beside her was beginning to swell. Dark waters swirled and rushed past as she struggled along the unstable bank. Flotsam struggled to anchor itself along the edges of the water only to be swept back into the center by the swift current. Brief flashes of lightening illuminated distorted shapes to reveal branches, leaves, and dislodged flora. Thunder covered the sound of the rushing water for brief intervals before falling silent for several heartbeats. Then the wind’s cruel gusts would torment the dying autumn leaves in the nearby trees and their desperate plight would compete with the rushing water for notice.

She feared the water, much as she had feared it when she had been mortal. Not only was the current raging unchecked with debris floating helplessly along, the river was home to creatures she had no wish to disturb. Moving along the bank as she was brought her frighteningly close to their nocturnal habitats. Yet, fighting her way through the underbrush of the forest was a worse alternative. At least she was making progress and, although it wasn’t as silent as she would have liked, it was certainly quieter than crunching the fallen leaves beneath her boot heals.

He was behind her. Moving along the riverbank, sensing her just as she was sensing him. Anger and bloodthirst driving him, heightening his senses.

His thirst, tangible through the unholy link he had long ago created, roused the demon within her. The sharpening of her senses preceded the craving. The wet, rain-soaked earth assailed her nostrils with its pungent combination of decay and rebirth. The thunder exploded in her ears even though it rumbled far to the south of where she walked. The lightening became a blinding brilliance that left her highly sensitive eyes bedazzled.

The sudden onslaught of the thirst drove away all thoughts of escape. Let him come. She was no longer a fledgling. She had survived a century without him, always one step ahead. Perhaps, she thought with a toothy smile, she had no reason to run any more. Perhaps it was time for the hunted to become the hunter.

She stopped. She waited.

Rain obscured her vision, the lightening and thunder an orchestra of noise and light. The weight of the rain pushed her hair into her face even as the wind molded it against her cheek and neck. She carefully pushed the cloying strands away from her face to tuck it behind a small, perfectly shaped ear. She turned the exposed ear toward the direction she felt him, reveling in the acuteness of hearing.

Eagerness powered his movements. His thirst for more than just her blood urging him forward.

Her body hummed in anticipation, battle-ready. This would not be a match of wits. Such civilized means were faint memories of nights spent at his side, learning more than just the art of stalking and disposing of prey. No, this battle would be a bloody, deadly affair. Hatred had spawned from the embers of something more darkly intimate than mere physical gratification. A relationship born of lust had died with her growing maturity into a creature he had so carelessly created.

April 23, 2008

The Sky is Falling

I like to watch television while I eat. Always have. I remember eating dinner and watching Three's Company many an afternoon during my teens. My brother and I would claim our favorite spots on the floor (feet next to the base of the television, bodies sprawled out toward the center of the living room, with our weight balanced on the elbow of choice). We'd spoon goulash or chili into our mouths and watch Jack, Chrissy, and Janet stumble through another funny episode.

Strange how we remember the oddest, most insignificant things sometimes, isn't it?

Even though I now prefer to sit on the couch or in a recliner while I spoon my dinner into my mouth these days, I still enjoy watching television while I eat. If it weren't for my hubby, we'd probably never have a family dinner at the dining room table.

Yes, this all has a point!

Last night the hubby had to help a friend fix his truck, so the boys and I were home alone. Yep, you guessed it, dinner in front of the television. I won't bore you with details of gourmet frozen dinners. Hey, I'm no Martha Stewart! Or Rachel Ray, for that matter.

After pulling our respective dinners from the oven and microwave, the boys and I sat down in the living room. I scrolled my way to the National Geographic channel where Naked Earth: Glacier Meltdown was already in progress. I was suprised at just how engrossed my boys were by this scientific programming. Of course, it could have something to do with the whole "the sky is falling" presentation.

I mean, really. Watching virtual coastal cities being buried by rising sea water tends to snag one's interest. I know I certainly wasn't immune to the graphics or remedial science lessons. In fact, the presentation of the material was so well done that my attitude toward the whole issue of global warming underwent a minor alteratiion.

First, I should I say I do believe in global warming. However, that being said, I also believe everything has a cycle and our current weather reflects a natural cycle. Global warming has happened repeatedly in our planet's past. Carbon dioxide has a history of fluctuating and influencing ice ages and warmer periods alike.

Okay, but here's where my whole attitude on global warming shifted last night. For the first time, I feel like I can buy into the paranoia. First, there's the fact that we've managed to cut down a significant portion of the earth's natural filters by culling the rainforests and other heavily wooded areas. Then there's the pesky reality that the industrial age spawned a carbon-dioxide breathing beast.

Also, I was reminded last night that the Earth changes its orbit around the sun. When we're on an elliptical orbit, we tend to get cooler temps as the earth moves further away from the sun than when it's on a circular orbit. Guess which orbit the Earth is currently following? Yep, you guessed it, circular. Even if we weren't pumping excess carbon into the air, the earth would be heating up due to simple, prolonged proximity to the sun.

But add in the human contribution of excess carbon. You get natural warming magnified by industrial waste.

So, yes, the glaciers are melting. The seas are going to rise. The question is...can we really do anything about it or is it too late? I have no idea. Do you?

April 17, 2008

Writing...What's that?

I know I haven't said anything recently about the WIP. There's a reason for that. I haven't touched the thing in a couple weeks. I just haven't had time.

I've also decided I'm afraid of finishing it. Yep, afraid.

I'm afraid it will suck and I'll realize only after I finish the thing that it came unravelled right at the end. At this stage in the game, the threads are winding nicely around each other, but I can so easily see the knot tying them all together slipping free. The logical part of me knows this is unlikely. The insecure child that lives inside my skull is not so sure.

Of course, even as I say this, I've been considering actually trying to find an agent/publisher. I know! I'm surprised, too. It's just the thought of waiting for months, possibly even years, for anything to happen that makes me shy away from this idea.

Not to mention I have NO IDEA where to market this. One part of me feels as if it might - if we stretch things far enough - fit into Christian fiction as well as romance. If I attempt romance only, I'm afraid the heavy Christian overtones will turn the agent/editor off. Humph.

I need a serious beta reader, too. Honest to the point of brutal without being downright ugly mean. I have friends and family reading it, but they're friends and family. Need I say more? They love me (sometimes) and won't want to disappoint or hurt my feelings by pointing out flaws.

Humph again.

April 16, 2008

Impressed

I don't know how many of my readers actually watch American Idol, but I never miss an episode thanks to TIVO. Last night we watched the final 7 battle it out with songs written and/or sang by Mariah Carey. They each did a decent job, but David Cooke stole the show!

After he was done singing I looked at my husband and said, "He's a genius." I mean it! To take a song that a woman sang and sang well, and still manage to make it his own in every sense of the word takes some amazing talent. I hope this guy goes all the way to the top.

April 15, 2008

The Sunny Days of Soccer

Soccer season has officially started. The boys had their first practices tonight. It was sunny, but cold. That wind was wicked!

What's that? Did I take any pictures, did you ask?

Why, yes! I did! And because I know you're just dying to see them, I'll share just a few. I still need to work on composition, but I'm pretty happy with these.



The top two pictures are of my boys. This last one is of my sister and her little guy. I used the pre-programmed sports setting on the soccer pics and the portrait pre-settings on my sister and nephew.

If tomorrow is nice, I might get some better shots. Tonight I couldn't stop shaking, which really couldn't have helped the autofocus mechanism. Not to mention I didn't get a chance to play with any of the settings in the P, A, S, or M modes. What's the fun of having a SLR if you're just going to use the presets?!?!

April 14, 2008

Students Today

While doing some research for a workshop I'm leading on Friday, I ran across this video on TeacherTube.

April 11, 2008

Hmmm..not so good.

I need practice. Check out my Flickr account to see some of the first action shots we tried to capture with the D40. Not pretty.

P.S. I didn't post the good photos, mainly because I was seeking help. The portrait shots were fine.

April 10, 2008

Wohoo!

I got my camera! It's bea-u-ti-ful! After opening the box and getting the lens attached and the straps put in place, we had to give the battery time to charge. Lucky for me, I had an errand to run after work, so the battery charged while I took the boys out to eat and then soccer shoe shopping.

I'm happy to report the kids each got a new pair for under $20. Gotta love the Outlet mall! Although I should note that the oldest was a bit bummed when I wouldn't let him get turf shoes and forced him to buy the ones with no toe cleat that are made for outdoor soccer. For him, it's all about appearance right now. Unlike the outdoor shoes that would fit his size 5.5 foot, the turf shoes came in a wider variety of colors and styles. This might not have been the case if we had done our shopping a bit earlier, but things were pretty well picked over by last night.

After we got home the boys had to have baths. Stinky creatures! It was finally at bedtime that I was able to break out the new camera and take a couple of snapshots. I used the auto settings - no tweaking with aperature or ISO settings - and LOVED the clarity of the pictures. They're so crisp compared to my point-and-shoot camera! I'll try to figure out how to get them from the camera to the computer tonight so you can see my very first photos with the camera.

Tonight the kids have their first soccer practice. I figure I'll get a chance to take some action shots right away as long as the rain holds off. If it rains, the camera will be staying home. So let's hope the rain stays well away!

April 7, 2008

Dear Thief,

While I'd really like my camcorder back, I'm really more depressed over the fact that you took my family videos when you grabbed that camera bag off my bookshelf this weekend. You didn't just take a piece of equipment you could pawn off, you also nabbed video of my kids playing soccer and basketball. You took the footage of our last family vacation as well as random clips of friends and family.

God, you suck.

Sincerely,
ME

April 4, 2008

Spoiled

I can admit it. I am spoiled. Rotten even.
Yesterday I placed an order for a digital SLR. I'm so excited. Hell, I can't even stand myself right now. I am positively gushing. And just wait until the shipment arrives. I can't even imagine how annoying I'll be then!

I bet you want to know what camera I'm getting. My heart was set on a Canon Rebel for so long that it will probably come as a surprise that I ordered a Nikon. The price was right and the camera has some features that I think are really going to help me as a beginner in the world of D-SLRs.


I read a bunch of reviews and, after a couple hours of agonizing, I finally bought the thing. I'm really excited by the "newbie" features. There are graphic representations that will instruct me on the impact of any given change to aperture, ISO, and all that good stuff. I think this is really important because most of the time I'm not going to be leafing through the instruction manual or other instructional books.

There is a flickr group that uses the D40. You can check out their amazing photos if you want by clicking here. Maybe I'll someday add to their collection!

April 2, 2008

Favor from the masses...

If you have five minutes, please fill out this survey for a co-worker/friend of mine who needs it for his Master's class.

https://www.umflint.edu/formassembly/forms/view/84

Four Things Meme

Four jobs I’ve had in my life:
1. Babysitting - I did this throughout most of my teens.
2. Pizza Girl - I can still smell the cheese and hear the radio playing Love in an Elevator...
3. Receptionist - at a few places, some I'd rather not remember!
4. Administrative Assistant / Student / Mom/ Wife = The current job(s)

Four movies I’ve watched more than once:
1. Star Wars (4-6)
2. Tombstone
3. Dirty Dancing
4. A Knight's Tale

Four favorite places I’ve lived:
1. My childhood home in the middle of nowhere
2. The first house my husband and I bought just because it was ours and we were together! Couldn't wait to move to a better neighborhood, though.
3. My current home int he middle of nowhere
4.

Four favorite places I’ve travelled:
1. Bahamas
2. Maine
3. Las Vegas
4. Colorado

Four places I most want to see before I die:
1. Egypt
2. British Isles
3. Greece
4. Italy

Four of my favorite foods:
1. chocolate
2. ice cream
3. lasagne
4. goulash (my hubby refers to it as chili-lash)