Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Book lovers, unite! (But you can finish your chapter first.)
Monday, July 28, 2008
While I don't think I was ever quite as big a Peter Rabbit fan as Cora, I did become a Potter fan in college, when I started researching her other drawings and learned more about her life. One thing that she has in common with many of my other heroes - like Marie Curie and Barbara McClintock (I know, what is a poet doing with so many scientist heroes?) - is an unconventional education in her early life. In Potter's case she never went to school. The Writer's Almanac had a great quote from her today: "Thank goodness I was never sent to school; it would have rubbed off some of the originality."
Maybe it is a little ironic that, as a teacher, this is something that I think about. I think there can be something about grade school that can "rub off" some of a child's originality - though there can also be teachers and classmates and activities that shine up that originality. But I think that is harder to come by. If I were ever going to consider homeschooling, this would be my reason. I don't think it is something I would do - I think there's value in a kid spending time with kids and developing that common experience base - but I can see maybe doing a year at some point, or searching out the kind of school that I think will value and recognize Cora's originality.
And, I also have to wonder how long it took Potter to see her lack of standard education in this light. I think she was someone who was sensitive to not being allowed to do something (her brother was sent to school; she wasn't allowed to give her paper to the Royal Botanical Society because of her gender, etc.). I imagine that there were times when it rankled that she was never sent to school, when it wasn't always a stroke of luck.
Friday, July 25, 2008
One of her many stylish summer outfits - she was tickled by the swing-line shape of the top and couldn't decide if it was a shirt or a dress.
p.s. If you hear my girl dropping the F-bomb, don't worry. She's probably asking you to read her Fox in Socks. Not making a suggestion of what you should do with your footwear.
This is just the basic recipe! It's so good we've barely tried anything else!
Put it all together with a nice wine and a nice patio and a nice evening and you've got a hell of a lot of nice going on.
Thursday, July 17, 2008
So, this is not a very realistic picture of the Scary Garden - you have to imagine the waist high weeds and volunteer trees that were there before Chris cleaned it up. This space used to have a carport, so there's also lots of gravel mixed in with the weeds. Still, this is what the patio guys had to work with when they showed up Tuesday morning.
Here it is! We have to let the sand settle and then decide what to do with the edges - sod? grass seed? marigolds? Suggestions?
There was a lot of sand leftover - right now just a big pile on the driveway. We're trying to find a sandbox. Apparently if you want a sandbox, you have to buy one in May, because the stores send them all back in June. Grr.
And, finally, a gratuitous Cora picture. I thought the zebra towel would be a good thing to have in her lap during a messy pasta dinner. She wanted to look like Mommy after a shower. And then the green glasses came out. In all the other pictures she is also sticking her tongue out like some bizarre heavy metal babushka granny.
Monday, July 14, 2008
Our backyard is slowly becoming more hospitable. Saturday night we had friends over for wading pool-grilling-deck-based fun. And it was fun. And I was grateful all over again that Mom and Dad left their old fridge in our garage because it is pretty sweet to be able to wander into the garage and emerge with a vodka-limeade cooler.
Today the patio project begins. Chris has worked this week on clearing out the underbrush. Now the professionals take over, with their dumpsters and Bobcats and knowing what to do. Soon, there will be no Scary Garden there, just a really nice patio to relax on when the deck is too sunny.
Did I say there would be no Scary Garden? How foolish. The name will just move on to the second scariest garden...which has, no doubt, long been plotting it's assumption of the title.
In Coraland: Her friend Selma just became a big sister to a baby brother. We saw him for the first time at church yesterday. Cora and I came home, she napped, and when she woke up she informed me that Baby Tidoo is now her baby brother. She keeps asking me what baby brother's name is, and when I suggest a name, she says no. When I ask her what his name is she says "don't know". I feel like we are playing a very bizarre existential game.
Saturday, July 12, 2008
Now, as a professor, I can indeed work in a way that is closer to the ideas in this book. I have a lot of autonomy. Not so much money. A lot of people are talking these days about "the three currencies" - money, time, autonomy; or some similar variation. I have a lot of the last two.
One thing that struck me in reading the book was, in the list of Guidelines the authors give, guidelines that are the backbone of this culture change, one is "all meetings are optional." And they see this as a totally non-negotiable point. If the meeting feels superfluous to you, you don't have to go. If your input is needed only for the first five minutes, go for those minutes, or call it in, or whatever. It's beautiful!
My husband is also a professor, and one thing he struggles with is the question of an attendance policy. He feels strongly that college students should be treated as adults, that attendance should be up to them, that if they choose not to attend class, they should be prepared for the consequences.
I have a attendance policy that is an echo of my institution's: if you miss more than a week of class, you may not pass the class. I tend to think of my students as still being in training for adulthood (I mostly teach first-year students). Many of them believe that old story about how in college no one cares whether you go to class or not. Maybe not at a big university. But, we are a small liberal arts college with small classes and we notice if students are missing. We are asked to notice.
Still, every semester some students do make the decision, at some level, to see class as optional.
Something else the book mentions is that under the kind of culture they advocate for work, it immediately becomes apparent who the slackers are, because they can't produce results. And, they end up fired. The authors say that in the beginning stages, involuntary turnover (firings) go up, but voluntary turnover (people choosing to go to other companies) goes way down.
This is true on the academic level as well, except that instead of being fired, they don't pass, or they barely pass. College students occupy an unusual position, I think. They are being encouraged to think for themselves and to take responsibility, often in ways they never have before. In a way, I think of my attendance policy as a kind of safety net. I can't really enforce it except by pointing out the consequences - I can't go down to the dorms and pull them out of bed; I won't spend my time reminding them of everything via email.
My hope, though, is that they don't see my class as a meeting that has no purpose or relation for them. My hope is that my meetings are ones they don't want to miss - that there is something about the hour and a half we spend together talking about literature that compells them to come. Something other than an administrative policy. It's a shared responsibility, but it's a responsibility that I must model first.
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Sunday, July 6, 2008
Daddy's first loaf of beautiful bread out of his new bread cookbook. We're finding that we have to fiddle with the pre-baking rising time a little, though it could also be due to our oven's whackedness - but when Chris complained on the 4th that he thought his baguettes were a little too dense, Sophie turned to me and said, "But this is the way I like them!"
Yes, she looks like she is blowing kisses. She is actually sucking nasty wading pool water off her fingers in a way she thinks I will never notice. If you ask Cora what the pool rules are, she will tell you the rules are:
1. Don't splash Daddy!
2. Don't drink the water!
Saturday, July 5, 2008
but the other day I did an online poll at a parenting web site. The poll was this: What is the most important value for kids to learn? And the possible answers were:
In a bit, I'll reveal what the voting was when I was last there, but first I'll tell you which one I picked and why. Ready? Got your guess?
Empathy, of course. I think it really contains all the other choices, for one thing - it is hard, perhaps impossible to empathize without having respect for the person, situation, etc. you feel empathy for or with. Feeling empathy would seem to lead directly to being generous and honest, and also to responsibility. In fact, I would say that empathy is the only choice that can possibly encompass all the others, so it is my favorite kind of answer: the carpetbag answer.
Now, I know not everyone might think this way, trying to get the most out of his or her vote, but I still expected results to be pretty evenly distributed among the possible responses. Here are the results up to the point I cast my vote:
While these are all fine values, I'm a little taken aback by the low score of generosity, and that honesty scores second-highest. Do people think it is a quality too often taken advantage of? Why the low interest in generosity as something to teach kids? Does respect or honesty also contain the promise of generosity? I suppose respect might, but I don't think there is anything in honesty that also promises generosity. I think there are a good many people who are very honest, but hardly generous - who, if they were being honest, might actually see generosity as a weakness.
In fact, honesty seems to me to be the quality on this list that is the most discrete, the one with the least overlap with the others. I confess I think that scrupulous honesty is overrated, is, in fact, on some level dishonest, disrespectful, and definitely lacking in empathy. Of all the qualities on this list it is the one I feel most ambivalent about. Honesty is good and to be encouraged, but not at the cost of everything else. If you want my honest, respectful opinion.
If you don't, well, I will try to understand how you feel.
So, this is mainly a post to say that all the cute pictures I wanted to post are being held captive in the camera. Which is sad! I wanted to show what we have been making here lately, because we have been undergoing a veritable explosion of makingness. Or, at least, I've finally made Cora some new pillowcases and Chris has been making beautiful bread. And I made a fabulous summer berry pie (Lee made it first - I had a piece at his house, came home and made it at my house that night).
Add to this a couple trips to local farmers' markets and the fact that local strawberries are FINALLY HERE and that they smell so freaking good a person can hardly walk by them without being magnetically drawn to them...and I'm feeling pretty happy.
Except for that whole camera thing. And a few other disaapointing small things.
And the mosquito bites.
But, really, mainly...happy.