Just Another Blog

my random ramblings about crafts, writing, books and kids

Scrapbooking Halloween

I got a bit of a bug up my butt earlier this week. For some reason, I just had to scrapbook something. I haven’t made a scrapbook page since 2010, but my brain insisted that this week I just must. I had forgotten how much fun it could be. Of course, it took away from my school work and the nine page paper I have to write.

I decided to do something small instead of a full 12 x 12 page. So I started with a 6 x 4 space and decorated it based on a scrapbook page I found at designerdigitals.com. At first I just did Nora’s, but I loved it so much I decided to do all the kids dressed in their Halloween costumes last year. The four mini-pages match with the same layout (the boys flipped horizontally), but in different colors that matched their costumes. I also made a lead page with all of them together. The plan is to take pictures from past Halloweens and make pages with them then print them and put them into one of those small photo albums.

Unfortunately school comes first so I only allowed myself these five pages.halloween2013_072314web

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A friend could really use your help

A friend of mine is in a tough situation. She is trying to move out of the house she shares with her abusive, manipulating, ex. They are already separated, but the abuse continues, and will continue until she can get out along with her four year old son. She’s trying to get the money together to file for divorce and put some money down on a small house, but her ex is making everything difficult. She’s refusing to help with their son or to pay child support without a court order. Their son is autistic and needs to be in school which she can’t afford if she’s not working and without reliable child care she can’t work. It’s a big mess.

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Any little bit will help a good, loving mom find a way out so she can take care of her beautiful son. If you have a few bucks to spare consider donating it to a good cause. Click the picture above or go to: http://www.gofundme.com/help-alicia

Summertime Fun

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Here’s the ultimate question: what do you remember most about your summers as a child?

Is it being chauffeured around town from one organized activity to the next? Did you spend an hour every day doing school packets for extra credit on the first day back? Did you get a couple hours at the park while Mom watched near-by lest anything happen?

If you’re my age, or born anytime before the mid to late 1980s, then probably not. Maybe you did do Little League or went on a scouting camp out, but you probably didn’t have a new activity to do every single day, the rest of the time spent supervised by an adult.

Melissa Fenton wrote an article, Top 10 Ways to Give Your Kid a 1970s Summer, at mommypage.com, and it’s pure genius.

She says, ” I am done with all the forced smile-inducing, uber planned and supervised, over-the-top summer life experiences I am supposed to provide for my kids.” [her emphasis]

I hear ya, Melissa. Although I was just a baby at the end of the 1970s, I strive to give my kids the kind of summers I had in the 80s/90s. Her top 10 list matches mine pretty darn close. I’ll let her explain: Read more…

The Popularity of my Fanfic

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I’ve had this blog since 2008 and have used it off an on since then. Lately I’ve been trying to post more, usually random things that come to mind (like this post). I have like sixteen followers, and most of those are friends from livejournal. Nobody really reads my blog, but I still post because it’s something to do.

The thing is, I still get a lot of hits, as you can see in the cap of my stats up above. It’s not my blog people are reading, though, it’s my fanfic. Which is fantastic. I love that someone is reading it. Look at May 27! I had six visitors and 96 views. That’s six people reading a whole lot of my fanfic.

When I look at the pages/posts with the most views it’s always my Jack/Sam fanfic page that lists all my shipper stories. After that I have hits on a many of my stories. It’s amazing to see. Except I get almost zero comments on any of my stories. Which is sad.

96 views and not a single comment. In fact, I’ve only had a handful of comments on any of my fanfic in the three years I’ve been posting it here. I try not to sweat it. I get very few on any of the sites I post at (livejournal and AO3). The fact that I get a ton of views here kind of makes up for the lack of comments. Sort of. A little.

I think I will use this as a reminder to comment on the fic I read more often. Maybe some good karma will help.

Should Adults be Embarrassed to Read YA Novels?

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Should adults be embarrassed to read young adult novels? That the question Ruth Graham asks over at Slate. The tagline to her article, “Against YA,” reads:

Read whatever you want. But you should feel embarrassed when what you’re reading was written for children.

In her opening paragraph she states her thesis of why adults shouldn’t read YA. It’s not because the writing is bad, it’s simply because the books were written for teenagers. She then goes on to bash several popular YA novels, criticizes adults that enjoy them, and implies that adults that do read them aren’t sophisticated enough to get adult (read “real”) literature.

She bases her entire argument on her experience of reading YA books as a teen and how she just wanted to graduate to the adult aisle. She then assumes that all readers had this experience (as many, if not most, voracious readers do as teens) and simply can’t understand why adults would want to regress to the tripe of the modern teen novel.

It’s no secret that I read YA novels. In fact I love them, and I’m not embarrassed to say that. They’re fun to read. I can’t say they are great literature (whatever that means), but then again, I find supposed great literature to be pretentious most of the time. Maybe I’m not sophisticated enough to “get it.” Or maybe it’s just that when I want to read I don’t want to have to do mental gymnastics to understand what the story is about, then spend hours contemplating the meaning of it all. I just want to relax. I want to rest my brain, not exercise it.

Some of her other arguments against adults reading YA fiction just baffle me.

It’s not simply that YA readers are asked to immerse themselves in a character’s emotional life—that’s the trick of so much great fiction—but that they are asked to abandon the mature insights into that perspective that they (supposedly) have acquired as adults.

Wait, what? Since when do adults always have to keep an adult state of mind?

Most importantly, these books consistently indulge in the kind of endings that teenagers want to see, but which adult readers ought to reject as far too simple.

Who says only teenagers want to see these kind of endings? I happen to enjoy them. I don’t want to read depressing literature with complex endings. But Ruth Graham knows better than all.

She follows up with this gem:

Fellow grown-ups, at the risk of sounding snobbish and joyless and old, we are better than this.

At the risk? No, I’m sorry, Ruth, but you’re not at risk of sounding snobbish, you are a snob. A literature snob. And last time I checked, being a snob was not a positive character trait. If being a lit snob is what it means to be an adult then I want no part of it. Call me unsophisticated, dumb, or uneducated if you want, but perhaps you just don’t have the imagination that’s required to read YA fiction. In my opinion that’s your loss.

Assignment Feedback

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Last week in school I had two papers to turn in, one for each class I’m taking. I got grades back for both of them today.

The first was for my Literary Theory class. We had to use one of the theories we’re learning about to analyze the book Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko. I chose to use structuralism, specifically Tzvetan Todorov’s version. I won’t get into what that entails because it’s complicated and confusing. The point is I got my grades today with some comments on the paper. I’ve been waiting for this so I can start writing the full paper which is due June 15.

According the comments, I did a pretty good job. She mentioned some places where I needed to explain my examples better (which doesn’t surprise me because I wrote the main part of the paper then went quote hunting in the book for examples and just threw it all together at like 3am the day it was due). Her comments were somewhat helpful. I got 65/70 on it.

My other paper was for Intro to Sociology. We had to explain how our education affected us sociologically. I just kind of blathered on about what I did in elementary and high school, then went back and added in information explaining concepts from the book. I really didn’t put much effort into it. I got a perfect score on the first paper and had no idea what the heck I was doing.

So I get my grade a few minutes ago and it’s 148/155 (95%). Hmmm, I think, I must have screwed something up. I go to view the comments and this is what I find:

Good work, and thank you for sharing some of your interactions with formal education. The format of your paper was good, and your synthesis strong. I appreciate the resources that you pulled into your narrative, and the impact on your own life that you outline.

Oooookay, but why did I miss seven points? Apparently I did a good job on the paper, but I did something wrong. There’s no freaking explanation. How am I supposed to know what to improve on? ARGH! Now I have to email her for details. Emailing makes my anxiety go crazy and I get sick to my stomach.

But seriously, why not explain where the points were taken from.

These professors this term are driving me nuts. At least the Sociology one participates in the discussion board. My Lit teacher is never around so we’re all just mumbling around, acting like we know what the hell we’re talking about after reading a text that provides very few examples to explain concepts. I’m so glad this term is almost over.

EDITED TO ADD: My sociology teacher just updated our virtual classroom with an announcement about the paper. This part really got me:

 I have attached here the assignment parameters that were available to you in our course information area so that you might be able to decipher where your points were lost (those that were not specifically mentionned in the feedback that I left for each of you.)

Umm… Isn’t that her job? Isn’t she supposed to tell us where we didn’t meet the requirements instead of us “deciphering” it on our own. Also note the spelling and grammar mistakes. WTF?

Tough Parenting Decisions

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Everyone knows parenting is tough. It doesn’t matter if you’re a mom or dad, if you stay home or work, if you’re a grandparent or other relative stepping in, or anyone else in the role of raising a child. It’s hard.

Having a child with behavior problems, whatever they may be, adds another layer of difficulties.

My husband and I have a difficult decision to make at the moment. Our oldest child, who will be fourteen in June, has behavior problems that have affected her schooling. We’ve been working with her for years, and especially this year as she finishes up middle school, to teach her personal responsibility and work ethic. Nothing has taken.

So, with four weeks of school left, we have to decide whether or not to hold her back. It’s been keeping me up at nights going over the pros and cons, worrying about how we’re going to screw things up. Honestly, I don’t see any good options. We’re damned if we do, damned if we don’t.

On one hand, she’s barely done any homework or classwork this year. She told me today that homework is stupid and she doesn’t need to do it as long as she has an okay grade. She also believes that if the homework is too hard she doesn’t have to do it. Or if it interferes with her socializing she doesn’t have to do it. Basically there’s no reason for her to do homework ever.

She completely failed the 2nd trimester this year. She had five Fs and a C. We met with her teachers to discuss options. Legally, they can’t hold her back. They have to pass her whether she shows she knows the stuff or not. Which is the most idiotic thing I’ve every hears. They are also obligated to allow the kids to turn homework in until the very last day so that they can pass. There’s absolutely no accountability for the students. They can do homework whenever they want, if they choose to do it. It’s completely optional in the long run as long as they do good on the tests. I want to point out that the ONLY reason she is failing classes is because she doesn’t turn her assignments in. She is extremely smart and in the highly capable program.

We could debate the pros and cons of homework (I’m against it unless the student is showing signs of struggling in that subject), but the point is that it’s been assigned, therefore it has to be done. But my philosophy and the school’s differ vastly. My child will always side with the school on this.

Her grades are passing this term. Only because her art teacher allowed her to take a “teacher’s aide” class, but instead of helping in the class she is sent to the library to do school work. It’s the only time she does “homework.” It’s been enough to keep her grades at a C average, but she’s still not learning that homework has to also be done at home. In high school there will be no study hall and the classes will be harder. And they can, and will, fail her.

Here’s the problem, though. If we pass her, I don’t believe she will make it through 9th grade. She will fail that year. I don’t believe she is mature enough (her birthday is after the school year ends which means she’s one of the youngest kids in her class). Maturity has never been an issue until the last two years of middle school, especially this year. Based on her attitude about homework and school, I don’t think she can handle the class load and responsibility.

If we hold her back, though, it will cause a war within the house. Her behavior is already difficult to deal with. If she can’t pass on to high school with her friends… Well, she’ll lose it. I know she will purposefully fail a 2nd year in 8th grade because she’s angry. She’ll run away, she’ll start cutting again, she’ll do all the things that got her into trouble this year, but tenfold.

I’m not sure what’s better–holding her back in the hopes she might actually do the work the second time through (I doubt it) or let her pass to 9th grade and flunk the year.

Honestly, neither option solves anything, but it’s a decision we have to make before the year ends.

When ideologies collide on facebook

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Facebook is great for a lot of things. For me, the best part is being able to keep in touch with family that lives on the other side of the country. Without facebook I’d have no idea what was going on with everyone. I love being able to log in and find out what my cousin’s son is doing in Michigan or how my aunt’s vacation is going in Florida or how my old neighbor is still warring with the crazy lady next door.

But facebook has a much darker side, too. First of all, there’s all those highly addictive games. They’re sneaky and will get you every time. The games lead to the second most evil thing about facebook: game requests. No, I don’t want to help you on Candy Crush, please stop asking!

My biggest issue, though, is dealing with people on my friends’ list that have vastly different social, religious, and political ideas than me. As an atheist, facebook has been great for finding other atheists to commiserate with, but on the flip side I have to deal with people spamming my feed with stuff about god. It goes on and on, sometimes ten or fifteen posts in a row about how much god loves us or how Jesus will save us. Anti-abortion, anti-gay rights, pro-guns, pro-military, pro-crazy rancher in Nevada. Ultra conservative Evangelical Christian Republicans who believe their view is the only right one. Bob forbid you disagree with them.

An easy solution to the last one is to just not respond to their posts. Which I don’t. But they’re still there. Dozens of them, several times a day, making me wade through them to find updates I actually want to read.

The dilemma, though, is do I block them, unfriend them, ask them to stop, suck it up, or just quit using facebook?

Option three would just be rude–it’s a free country and they can post whatever they want. I shouldn’t have to quit a site or sit quietly and endure and bunch of crap I don’t want to see, though. So that leaves blocking or unfriending? But can you really do that if they are family.

I wouldn’t mind if it was one or two things here and there. I don’t mind when other family members post things about their beliefs, but they don’t go overboard. And I don’t go crazy posting twenty atheist posts in a row. In fact I post nothing about atheism because it gets those family members in a tizzy. Then I get IMs wanting to know why I can’t just believe, and don’t I know how much god loves me, and “I just don’t understand, but I’ll pray for you.” Gee thanks.

I love my family, even the crazy religious members, but I’m not sure I can take much more of the spamming. I don’t want to start some family tiff either.

I guess for now I’ll just have to suck it up. Which, well, sucks.

Libraries

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When I was a child I remember going to the library. Our branch was small and musty, but I remember getting my first library card and being allowed to choose the books I wanted from the shelves. What a thrill. In high school, the library became a place to study. I enjoyed riding the L downtown to the Harold Washington Library. In college, our library offered lots of little study nooks to find your own quiet space. I always loved the library.

Apparently, though, libraries have changed since I was younger. Today they are apparently places to gather and socialize instead of places to study. The library in my small town is just as small. In fact, it’s not any bigger than my three bedroom house. It might even be smaller than my house. There are three tables to work at, only one of them has an outlet nearby to plug in laptops. There aren’t many books there so usually you have to put things on hold to get from one of the other branches. The biggest drawback is it is very noisy there. With one big open room, half of it being the kids’ section, it’s just loud. And nobody is told to be quiet.

Gone are the days of the librarian shooshing people that got above a soft whisper. Kids are allowed to jump around and yell, the librarians themselves don’t even speak softly. In fact, the main branch of the Vancouver Regional Library System has an entire section for kids that has things to climb on and jump around on. They are on one floor. Unfortunately upstairs is the non-fiction area with some study tables, but the edges are open to the floor below so you can hear all that noise. Kids are being taught the library is a place to play.

Today I went to a different branch. It’s closer to my house than the city center one. It’s a nice size, modern and bright with lots of tables to study at and they all have outlets for laptops. Usually I can get a lot of work done, but today was different. As soon as I sat down in my favorite area I realized there was a problem. A woman sitting in the reading area near the fireplace (where people read the newspapers usually) was on her phone. Just chatting away. She was completely unconcerned with all of us studying or doing our own reading. People were glaring at her, but she was oblivious. After about thirty minutes she finally says, “hey, I have to go, I’m at the library,” and hangs up. Two seconds later the phone rings and she’s chatting again like she’s at the mall or something. She was then quiet for about forty-five minutes then made a call to complain about some charge on a bill or something. She was arguing with the person on the phone and getting upset and loud.

Meanwhile four older people pulled chairs up together about ten feet from where I was trying to study (trying being the operative word here). They began chatting loudly. Apparently they were a book club. By that time I was fed up. I got up and left. Other people had already gone. If I didn’t have my anxiety I would have complained to the librarian. I doubt they would have done anything, but it was ridiculous.

Before I went to the library I went to Shari’s for lunch. I was there for an hour, eating, drinking my iced tea, and doing homework. It was quiet. Even after it started getting busy it was still quieter than that library. There’s something very wrong in the world when a library is noisier than a restaurant at lunch time.

So when did libraries go from being places to study to being places to socialize?

Literary Theory is kicking my butt

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I knew I was going to have a tough time with this class. I just can’t get my brain to delve that deeply into a text. I don’t want to analyze a story to death–that kind of takes the magic out of it. But it’s required for my major so I push on.

This week we’re doing structuralist vs deconstructive criticism. I couldn’t even begin to explain what either of them mean other than they focus on the structure of the novel and not the words. I chose structuralism and spent the last few days in near tears trying to figure it out.

I have always had an interest in linguistics so I understood the basic concepts the book was talking about–how different parts of the novel became the structure that the story was built on. But I could not figure out how to transfer that to analyzing the text. It made no sense to me and everything I looked up online never said more than the text. I need examples people! And not just from my classmates who may or may not know what the hell they are doing (since the teacher has very little contact with us and never tells us if we’re on the right track or not after we make our posts).

I’ve been working on this for the last SIX hours. I was in near tears at one point, rocking and pulling at my hair, before I calmed down. I’m so stressed out. I have to find resources for my final paper this week and make an annotated bibliography, but nothing I can get my hands on can help me understand this crap. My public library has like five books on the topic of literary theory. I put them on hold but who knows when I’ll get them. Everything else is from online journals from the 70s (because no one uses this method any more). And now that I’ve figured something about this out, I’m not sure any of the sources I tagged last week (after 12 hours of searching) will work any more.

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