Under our tree

I’m not generally one for doing gift guides, but there are a few things that the kid is getting this year that I think are pretty cool, will be fun to play with a teach her a little something, so I thought I’d share. I’m glad to say that under our tree will be a mix of things the kid has asked for, things she needs and things I’m just hoping she likes.

She made a list

She made a list

The number one gift, the one I’m really excited to see her open, is also the most recently purchased. It’s a toy that Mommy and Gracie featured on their YouTube channel:

1) The Chatster Gabby doll.

The kid watched this video multiple times, and I had an ear on the review and it sounded pretty good. The kid was also quick to point out to me “She’s for five and up mommy!” Gabby is an interactive doll, she asks questions, she plays music and dances, she asked you to do her hair. I’m going to be very interested in how the kid interacts with this doll. Seeing as I had to go to three stores to find a place that wasn’t sold out, so I think these are going to be one of those big things.

2) Oliver Jeffers – Once Upon an Alphabet

There is a chance that I am a bigger fan of Oliver Jeffers than the kid is, but I don’t care. His books are silly and funny and beautiful and I’m really looking forward to this one – a story for each letter.

3) Goldie Blox

I was excited about the idea of Goldie Blox when it was first introduced via a Kickstarter. We got the kid the first of the toys – the Spinning Machine – a couple of months ago and she’s had fun with it, so for Christmas she’s getting the Builder’s Survival Kit from Grandpa and the Zipline Action Figure from Grandma. Yay for science!

4) Learning Resources cash register

We’ve been trying to teach the kid about money for a couple of years now. She gets a small allowance which gets separated into three jars – spend, save and give. But this cash register comes with fake money – Canadian money even – and it will let her play and learn. Math too.

5) Sporting equipment

Our kid is an active kid, which I love and want to encourage. In January she’s started an intro to hockey program – a small investment so we can see what she thinks of the sport. She’s been taking skating lessons for a couple of years, but hockey is all new and that means Grandma and Grandpas were asked to help us make sure she’s well equipped. New hockey bag, new helmet, new sticks, new to us pads.

6) Lalaloopsies

We’ve been fans of Lalaloopsy dolls for a couple of years now and they keep introducing new ideas to the line. Some I haven’t been a huge fan of, but the Lalaloopsy Girls are just a little bit more grown up and offer a little bit of a different way to play. Bea Spells a Lot is my favourite, because she loves to read about all different things and learn, so she’s under our tree. My Gramps is also getting the kid a Lalaloopsy Colour Me doll – a blank slate doll that she can decorate any way she wants, and then wash off and decorate again. Seeing as she’s taken to colouring on her dolls as it is, I’m glad for this one.

7) Blind Boxes

These are stocking stuffers and they’re not just for the kid. I happen to know I’m getting a Doctor Who blind box from my mom, I got some Marvel ones for my sister, and the kid gets Disney and My Little Pony ones. Blind boxes or blind bags are basically little collections or series of toys that you open with different chances of getting different parts of the line. A lot of the YouTube videos the kid likes to watch involve opening these blind boxes.

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My blind box Number 10 friends

There are, of course, a few more toys, more books, stocking stuffers, but these are the big ticket items that I’m looking forward to watching her play with.

 

A Scholar’s Holiday

I’m going to be spending part of my holidays relaxing, but I am also intent on getting ready for next semester. The one course that I have been afraid of comes next semester – statistics. And I have it on good authority that my professor is a little intense and writes rough exams. The easier I can make the rest of my courses on myself the better statistics will be.

Because I got my statistics text in the mail and there is a chapter called ‘basic math review’ and I haven’t taken a math class since 1999 and it didn’t seem so basic.

And so I have been gathering my course outlines as I can get them, ordering my textbooks for those classes, marking down due dates in my calendar and trying to think of what I can write about for the essays and other assignments.

I’m very glad to be very interested in the classes I’m taking this year, and to be excited about the professors I have. One of my texts is a book recently published by the prof himself and I probably would have wanted to read it anyway. It also flows nicely from the history class I just finished. Another of the classes I’m taking is about women in politics, so that’s right in my wheelhouse and the three texts (three thankfully reasonably priced books) should be very good reads as well.

And then there’s the one class that just sort of fit in my schedule and requirements and I’m really hoping it will be interesting, and I’m sure it will prove to be, but right now the syllabus is a little intimidating…

I’ve already recycled my last term papers and re-arranged my organizing system for next semester. My highlighters and Post-Its are ready to go.

Beautiful

Beautiful

Things I’m doing now that I’m done exams

I finished my last exam on Wednesday afternoon…

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We had a celebratory dinner and then I feel asleep at 8 pm. Yes, a regular-ish sleep schedule is definitely on my list of things to do now that my first semester back at university is over. These two days I had before the kid finished school were my real days to do whatever I felt like in the moment – which turned out to be watching some documentaries, getting caught up on this season of American Horror Story – why did they make me feel so sorry for the scary scary clown? – knitting, working on a puzzle.

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Reading and naps. Oh the naps.

I also made it to the gym for the first time this month, and I’ve been doing more paid work. I also blogged angrily – you can read that here.

Basically it’s been two days of me being awesome. It’s like Ferris Bueller’s Day Off but really, really toned down.

Now the kid is done school for a couple of weeks, Joe is home for a couple of weeks (except when he gets to go to the World Juniors… I’ll get over it…) There will be cooking and baking and more going to the gym. We’ll do crafts, we’ll read stories, we’ll play outside.

I am trying to put out of my head the fact that next semester bring the course that I have been dreading taking for my entire degree – the one requirement that I didn’t want to complete, which is why I got a general degree in the first place: Quantitative research methods.

Statistics.

It’s terrible to be so intimidated by it, letting it sneak in to my break time, letting it get the better of me before the class even starts. This course will not beat me. I will do everything I can and use everything at my disposal to make sure this course does not beat me.

For now I will focus on using this break in the best way possible so that I’m ready to go January 5. Bring it on, statistics, bring it.

 

An ode to the mature student

In my first semester at school – now over except for one more exam – I have had the privilege of meeting some other students with great stories.

Mature students – student who have lived more outside of university than in – have lived varied lives and they seem to understand better what’s at stake. They know the real value of a university education  – the actual, monetary value mind you, though they might also better understand what a university education means in the world of job searching. This semester has quite possibly been one of the hardest times in my life.

Trying to balance five classes – and do well enough to earn my way into the graduate program I want – while working (thankfully part time and from home), while mothering, while trying to keep up with meals and household chores and my own health and sanity had been a real struggle.

There have been tears, fights, and moments of guilt more intense that what I’ve felt before as a mother.

Meanwhile I’ve met other older-than-average students who are single parents, recent immigrants and not so recent immigrants, people with really great stories, people who have been working towards their education for a long time.

There are three ladies in my history class who seem to be have a grand time getting their degrees. Frankly I have too. Participating in discussions that you are really, truly interested in is great fun most days. Even days when I don’t do the readings I find I can listen and add to the conversation. That’s something that has been missing these past few years – daily, in-depth conversations about things that matter, that are interesting, that build.

There is a friend I have made that I will see at my exam today. He has quite a background and, I’m assuming, quite a future. He’s someone I’ve enjoyed conversations with as well as listening to him in class. Not afraid to play devil’s advocate. This is his last semester. The degree he’s been working on will be his in January, and I won’t be surprised if he has a cheering section at his graduation ceremony.

So today I’m celebrating the people who waited to go to school, may have struggled, pushed themselves and faced obstacles. This is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done, it’s straining virtually every part of my life, and I can consider myself lucky compared to some of these people.

 

Procrastinating by blog

This is me posting because I’m very tired and I don’t want to study any more, I just want this to be over. My first exam is tomorrow morning at 9am and I honestly feel like I know all I’m going to know at this point. I also know that I have managed to get between 60 and 67 on every assignment in this class so far, so I’m assuming that’s just about where I’ll end up.

You’d think that would give me leave to study for the other two exams I have to write, or to work on the take home that’s due in two weeks, but so far I’m just staring at pages. I did a great job of organizing the papers that I should be studying last night. Those are now all nicely in piles with the books I should be reviewing.

I did take time out to play in the snow yesterday, and to join the kid at school this morning as a craft day volunteer.

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I’m hoping that this mental health time will help when I’m sitting in the field house tomorrow with two thousand other students trying to focus on whatever I can remember about research design.

Now taking any and all advice

Today is the last day of classes before exams start. I am thankful this semester is coming to a close, it’s been difficult. At the same time I have been dealing with a lot of things lately and I sort of have this feeling that everything is coming to a head.

All of the things I have been struggling with over years and trying to fix and failing to really fix, all of those things that make things a little bit harder and a little bit more stressful are weighing a bit more heavily right now.

It’s all the big stuff too – weight, budget, time with my kid.

Money is ALWAYS an issue. Walking across campus for my early morning classes can be exhausting. Everything feels extra. I’m so tired all the time.

People say quality over quantity, right now it feels like neither.

So if everything is coming to a head, does that mean that 2015 is the year that actual, significant, permanent changes get made?

There is a huge amount of fear here. Fear of failure, fear of success. Fear of once again declaring it to be the last straw and publicly failing again.

I need to start pushing myself, talking to the right people, asking for help, taking the right steps and also believing that maybe I could be successful if I would take it a little easier on myself. Emotionally I mean. I need to be harder on myself physically if I actually want change. That’s one thing for sure.

I hide behind fear a lot. Fear of trying new things, fear of failing, fear of looking stupid while failing, fear of being wrong or doing wrong.

But you know, fear of dying should probably top the list. Joe and I both need to make changes so that we don’t die, so that we can both better take care of ourselves, of each other.

So now we’re figuring out how to let go of some things, ask for help on other things, and talking to each other. As Joe points out I am an eternal pessimist, he is an optimist so it’s much better when we’re working together and some sense of reality comes in. It’s part of our charm as a couple.

My people

My people

So I need fitness I can fit in, easy, healthy recipes, reminders that sleep is too important to skip, reminders that sometimes I just need to get down on the floor and play a game with my kid, and that being embarrassed is perfectly okay because being unhealthy and unfit is much, much worst.

We are, we are

It has been a tough few weeks for watching the news. There has been a lot of bad stuff – really bad stuff – happening all around the world, here in my city.

I’ve also been involved in a conversation about how white people raising children can create change for black people in the future. It’s been hard and eye-opening. There is so much I’m just not aware of. I grew up fairly sheltered, really. I can’t imagine telling my daughter to fear the police, but now I know that there are people in the world who need to be raised that way. I’m being pushed our of my comfort zone.

What’s really starting to both me is that people seem to forget that we’re all human beings. Black people, cis women, Aboriginals, gay people, trans men and women. All of us are human beings.

It is very difficult to try and understand an experience that I can never come close to having never experienced anything like it. It’s overwhelming wanting to help but knowing that you just can’t know.

I feel like a kid all over again, and the kid keeps reminding me that it’s hard to be a child. Except back then everything was good or bad and now the world is full of grey.

Exam time

I have finished writing all my assignments. I hand in the last essay tonight. I don’t have all my marks back, but classes are winding down. I have two weeks to study for my three exams.

Aye, there’s the rub.

Three exams in the field house – a giant room, almost a greenhouse, where a few hundred people will be writing exams at the same time. You can feel the stress.

So far I have been doing alright. I wrote some essays that I’m very proud of, I’ve been taking part in great class discussions and raising my hand to ask the questions I need to ask, I’ve been doing my readings as I go along, though I have some catching up to do. But now…

Now I have to remember how to study. How do I pack stuff into my head so that I remember it when it comes time to sit down in that stress-filled room and fill out those exam booklets?

Books open

Books open

I was just talking to my sister about this over the weekend. (Half sister). Her daughter is 16 and just getting to the point in high school where she has to start really studying instead of just learning. It seems that study skills are something they really should teach.

In the past I have tried cue cards – writing out key terms, bullet points, different colours. It’s okay. I have tried writing things over and over again, which helps my memory for sure. I have tried typing things up and printing them out and just reading and re-reading. I have considered putting together a bunch of notes and then having Joe record them so I can listen to them on my phone. Joe has a nice speaking voice.

Essay questions I can deal with, it’s the multiple choice and term definitions that get me. Especially with three exams in five days. I have to cram all that information into my head and then let it out so I can get the next stuff in overnight.

Right now my main problem is getting over this feeling of being ‘done’ and get back into my books, figuring out the differences between realism and neo-liberalism.

Things I’m learning

I have watched what’s happening in Ferguson. I have watched what’s happening in Canada, with the #beenrapedneverreported tag. I have been watching victims get blamed, mistreated. I have watched excuses being made over and over for perpetrators.

Something terrible happened in Ferguson and I don’t know what to do about it. I’m white, I grew up privileged. I want to just fix it, make people understand what’s so wrong here. Make it all make sense. Make black men safe in their own neighbourhoods.

Terrible things are happening to women every day, and I don’t know what to do about it. I feel like I don’t have a voice because, once again, I’ve been privileged, I haven’t faced that kind of harassment, I haven’t been raped. I understand, I can empathize, but I can’t relate.

But the thing that I’m done with is the casual stuff. The joke that’s just a bit racist? the comment that’s just a bit sexist? I’m speaking up.

That’s what I CAN do. I can do that, even if it makes me uncomfortable or unpopular. That I can do in the face of what other people have done.

Just call me a feminist killjoy. I’ll even wear the shirt. I bet I can get Joe to wear one too. Even the kid!

What's the collective noun for feminists?

What’s the collective noun for feminists?

Step One

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The first semester of my fourth year is coming to a close. One more week of classes, three more assignments to hand in and then exams. My last two essays are written and I’m really happy with them. I’m working on my very last assignment.

This has been possibly the hardest few months ever. Certainly in my time as a mother and a wife. We’ve all been tired, we’ve all been sick – did you know you can have not-quite-pneumonia? The kid and I are still both spectacularly bad at sleeping. Lots of things have been pushed to the side. There have been fights and guilt. I have started fights because of my guilt.

And there have been a few times that Joe has had to convince me that this will all be worth it.

I have another semester and I’m doing all of this so I can do it all again next year. What’s the definition of insanity again?

But on December 8 I will have something to celebrate, and on December 17 I will have something to celebrate. And then I will have a couple of weeks to regroup and get set for the next big challenge.

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