The Lydster, Part 133: In someone else’s blog

When the project was just getting started, Lydia would scour the neighborhood to find bottles and cans to bring to school.

TanzaniaWaterCatchment_girlbucket_lgOn Saturday, March 14, I briefly went to this pancake breakfast, but I had an all-day meeting involving the Albany Public Library to attend, so I needed to leave.

Later, I discovered that my wife and daughter had been interviewed that morning by a College of Saint Rose student named Molly-Kate Webster for a blog in the Times Union.

I found this all mildly amusing because I too have a blog for the TU and I almost NEVER mention them there, mostly out of a sense of their privacy.

Anyway, the story ran a couple of days later in the Pine Hills blog.

A pancake breakfast and garage sale to raise money to build a well in Tanzania, Africa took place Saturday morning at the Pine Hills Elementary School…

Students who began the project came out to support the pancake breakfast. Fifth grader Lydia Green said that she was the first group to work on the well project. Back then the community didn’t know as much as they know now and they are excited about where it is going.

“It is pretty amazing that little kids could raise this much money,” said Carol Green, Lydia’s mom. They enjoyed hot pancakes and Lydia even picked up a play horse from the garage sale.

When the project was just getting started Lydia scoured the neighborhood to find bottles and cans to bring to school, her mom said. If students brought in 10 bottles and cans they received a homework pass. The project teaches kids to learn more about others, she said.

Now, I DID write about the Daughter vigorously collecting bottles last year. But I was not aware of the Tanzania well angle. This puts the homework tradeoff in a whole new light.

Oh, and she really loved that horse, washing, then brushing her mane in the week after she bought it. (It IS a she horse, I am told.)

Stress, and time management: related

No, I don’t like doing things at the last minute. Don’t like rushing to the airport, to the train or the bus, or to get to the movies on time.

stressNew York Erratic, who needs to blog more – just noting – wrote on March 20, 2014, at 7:29 am:

What was the greatest job stress in the last year?

And the answer had I written it at that moment would have been: “IT’S RIGHT NOW!”

I’ve alluded to The Daughter’s mysterious ailments, which have been largely mitigated and only partially explained, and would take a lot more detail to discuss, involving talks not only with doctors but with school officials about making accommodations for the fact that she missed so much classwork.

The math and spelling homework she kept up with, in large part, because I was writing it for her; she was doing the intellectual work, but the pain in her upper arm made her handwriting/printing totally illegible.

As if my concern about her were not enough, I had my own stuff to do. Let’s throw in another NYE question here:

What do you do about time management issues?

In general, I like to do things early. If I have a deadline of a month, I like to do it as soon as possible. There are two basic reasons: 1) I’m enthusiastic about it in the beginning; later, as I muddle through it, I get bored and unfocused. 2) I get stressed about approaching deadlines. It weighs me down.

I had three specific things I needed to do in the month of March. In the usual course of going to work, doing some of it at lunchtime, or after work, it all would have been completed weeks earlier. But the last week in February, I missed at least two days of work. There were 21 workdays in March; I went to work all day only five of them, taking a total of 7.5 sick days (only 0.5 related to me, the rest to The Daughter), and two vacation days, neither of which were purely used to vacay.

Item #1: I had agreed to take the minutes of the February 24 meeting of the Friends of the Albany Public Library. If you’ve ever taken minutes for a meeting, you recognize that that the sooner they are done, the better. I could not pawn them off on someone else because of my cryptic shorthand. On March 17, I’m being asked for them, and I just throw up both my hands in despair. Not having a usable computer at home at the time, and not having time to go to the library to use a public machine, I had no real options.

I FINALLY finish them on March 29, just before the March 31 meeting, too late for anyone to actually review and read, or to act on the items that minutes remind people they’ve agreed to do. Not incidentally, the minutes I took for the March 31 meeting were done on April 2.

Item #2: I had agreed to give a talk at the Community Loan Fund on March 27 about business reference resources that are free or cheap. I so infrequently get out of the office that I was really looking forward to this. The talking part was not the issue; it was putting together the handout sheet. We had one from about three years ago, but some sources had changed, and new ones needed to be added. On March 24, I’m STILL working on the sheet. If it wasn’t for my colleague Alexis, I never would have finished it.

Sometime around March 18, one of my sisters called me, and I was telling her about all of this stuff. She said, unhelpfully, “Why don’t you postpone some things?” I obviously had not made clear that ALL I HAD BEEN DOING was postponing things for – at that point – the past three weeks. She thought I should reschedule my dental appointment the next day; I thought that was a terrible idea; by not taking care of myself, I’d be unable to take care of my daughter.

One of the things I HAD postponed, from February 24, ostensibly a vacation day that began The Daughter’s ailments, was getting a haircut. I FINALLY got one on March 22, so that when I went to my March 27 gig, I didn’t look like Grizzly Adams anymore.

Item #3: I had this reimbursement program for medical expenses in 2013. I had put in $2500 because we kept thinking The Daughter was going to get braces, but she didn’t. So we had to get reimbursed whatever receipts we could find. We also had $1800 for the afterschool money to get back. I mailed it on March 27, and it was received on March 31, the very last day of eligibility, or we would have been out all of that money.

No, I don’t like doing things at the last minute. Don’t like rushing to the airport; the debacle of June 2009 STILL rankles me. Geez, I just reread what I wrote there, and I left out what inane thing we were talking about; I wrote about THAT months earlier. Don’t like rushing to the train or the bus, or getting to the movies on time.

I should make the distinction here between avoidable and unavoidable problems. I’m OK with the stuff you wouldn’t reasonably anticipate; things happen. Tree falls in a storm, blocks the road: unavoidable. Someone gets sick: unavoidable. Power outage: unavoidable. Trying to squeeze in one more task that makes everyone late: totally avoidable.

Are there some non-work activities that take precedence, and, if so, which ones and why?

I check my e-mail. I get blog comment notices that needs approval, bills that need to be paid, my sisters’ and nieces’ posts to Facebook, news and weather and traffic bulletins, info from the Daughter’s school district, ideas for my work blog.

Obviously, taking care of The Daughter trumped work in March.

I TRY to take off one day a month for mental health, but that’s not always been the case. February 24, as noted, I tended to The Daughter. March 31, I went to work to fax the last of those reimbursement forms.

I blame Joe Biden

It’s interesting to me that a lot of people I know did not know that Joe Biden was even coming to town.

joebidenThe Wife was driving me to work last Tuesday afternoon when we were rear-ended by a car. We all were a little sore, and I, more than a little irritable about it.

My spouse blamed the other driver, very rational since that person, in fact, did drive into us, fortunately, not going very fast.

My daughter blames the superintendent of the Albany school district, for she had canceled school on a day no other district in the area had done so, though there had been delays elsewhere. If the Albany district were open, The Wife wouldn’t have been driving me at that hour.

However, I blame Vice-President Joe Biden, in Albany that day to meet with Governor Andrew Cuomo about disaster preparedness in the wake of climate change.

Just before we turned northbound on Everett Road, we see a low-flying helicopter, a tipoff that the VP was on the move. One could not actually travel across the Everett Road I-90 overpass, so the eastbound cars exiting I-90 at Everett could only turn right towards Albany, or go straight, right back onto I-90. We were stuck waiting for cars to reenter I-90 when we felt that familiar sound, and moreover, feeling of the vehicle you’re in being hit from behind.

This was The Daughter’s first car accident, and while a relatively minor event, I know *I* felt achy in my head and lower back for hours. The Wife was likewise affected, and the Daughter was mostly complaining about pain in her shoulders.

Ironically, by the time phone numbers had been exchanged, the Biden contingent had passed and Everett Road was clear again.

It’s interesting to me that a lot of people I know did not know that Biden was even coming to town. I was reminded by Megan Cruz of Channel 9 YNN Time Warner Cable News that morning, who was out doing a stand-up in the bitter cold, for no newsworthy reason, and one could tell she was freezing; it was about zero Fahrenheit, or below. She needed a hat.

The buses were rerouted several times that morning, apparently. The police had blocked I-787 for a time, by plows and when my colleague tried to come back to work after lunch, ended up taking city streets instead.

There’s lots of speculation that Biden and Cuomo are vying for the 2016 Democratic nomination for President, but its WAY too early for me to care.

The Lydster, Part 116: Calendaring

Lydia is in the church musical of The Lion King. Not only is she participating, she’s going to play the pivotal role of the young Nala.

Most of the time, I try to come up with a narrative about the Daughter. This time, just the calendar.

This fall, she was playing soccer. Unfortunately, in the very first game, fairly early on, she got kicked in the foot, left the game in pain, and never returned. But she was back in action by the following week. She likes playing defense, and is more interested in protecting her team’s goal rather than making a goal. However, for her homework, she has to write sentences, and she has allowed that someday, she WOULD indeed like to score a goal. That phase ended on November 2.

Both last year and this, there were two weekends where she had soccer, PLUS two rehearsals of the Albany Berkshire Ballet’s production of The Nutcracker, in which she will again be an angel. The performance is Saturday, December 21 at 1 pm in Albany.

Much to my surprise, she wanted to try out for the church musical of The Lion King. Not only is she participating, she’s going to play the pivotal role of the young Nala, young Simba’s best friend. She gets to sing some lines by herself, and make a few dance moves. She has played the soundtrack – this is NO exaggeration – over a hundred times since rehearsals began in September. One day she played it FIVE TIMES, and she always goes to sleep listening to it. The production is on March 2, 2014 at our church.

Then there is the aforementioned homework. I have railed about it in my Times Union blog HERE and HERE and HERE In brief, the new Core Curriculum is making my daughter sad and anxious, and she’s not the only one. It’s not that I oppose standards. I do object though to inane questions (see third link just above) put together by non-educators, which what the EngageNY syllabus adopted by the NYS Department of Education has deemed appropriate. Homework takes too long, and chews up both her and my time. Makes me cranky.

The Daughter’s homework keeps me awake at night

This is NOT her father’s fourth grade math, and not only do I love the subject, I am good at it; she, conversely, is learning to HATE it.

When I indicated I was having trouble sleeping, someone suggested telling myself a story. This doesn’t work for me, because my head is already filled with stories that I want to let out, i.e., blog about. But I have not the time to do this. And while there are a few reasons for my busyness, none of them has more of an impact than my daughter’s homework. It takes us, and I do mean US, an AVERAGE of 90 minutes per night.

So if I’m spending an hour and a half doing THAT, by the time I’ve washed the dishes and done other chores, it’s 10 p.m. Should I write or should I go to bed? If I write, I may get overtired; if I go to bed, the mind continues to write narratives that I can’t offload.

I’m writing this because I can churn it relatively quickly, but when do I write my feelings about FantaCon or the musical Ghost, both of which took place LAST month? Or the ABC Wednesday pieces that I USED to write three or four weeks ahead, but I only have the immediate next one written? Important anniversaries coming up, and remain unaddressed.

And much of the homework involves math problems from the so-called Core Curriculum, or Common Core that I think are quite challenging for a fourth-grader, especially since New York has deigned to start on the process BEFORE it really trained its teachers in the methodology.

You have questions asking about the number of footballs, when it’s told you about the total number of balls, and the number of baseballs, and that the number of basketballs is a certain number less than the number of baseballs. The process means one needs to subtract to get the number of basketballs, then add them to the number of baseballs, then subtract that sum from the total number of balls. And these are four- and five-digit numbers.

This is NOT her father’s fourth-grade math, and not only do I love the subject, but I am also good at it; she, conversely, is learning to HATE it.

Then one gets a question such as this one:
“In the 2010 New York City Marathon, 42,429 people finished the race and received a medal. Before the race, the medals had to be ordered. If you were the person in charge of ordering the medals and estimated how many to order by rounding, would you have ordered enough medals? Explain your thinking.”

I discovered, after talking with two colleagues, and after a couple of hours, that the second sentence is the source of the utter confusion, and by excising it, then what is being sought in the question becomes clear.
If one rounds 42,429 to the nearest 10, it’s 42,430 and you have enough medals.
If one rounds 42,429 to the nearest 100 or 1,000 or 10,000, it’d be 42,400 or 42,000 or 40,000, respectively, and it would be an insufficient number of medals.

This is not the only bad question, only the most egregious one. It’s become a challenge to motivate her to do the stuff that has actual value when it’s so heavily laden with rubbish.

Attacking these questions is perceived as not wanting to “challenge” or “enrich” the students. I think the IDEA is fine; it’s the EXECUTION that I think is faulty.