What’s New?

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  • Minnie just turned two!

    Beboelig Children's Tent from Ikea

    Beboelig Children’s Tent from Ikea – thanks Auntie and Uncle R!

  • lots of teaching prep for the semester that started this week
  • two snow days
  • lots of last-minute schedule changes
  • not much cooking
  • not much cleaning
  • not much blogging
  • non-functioning dishwasher
  • icy roads, so no driving practice
  • a costly repair on my borrowed sewing machine, so unsure about the future of Minnie’s quilt
  • a new computer desk (whooo!)
  • a half-built hutch for said computer desk
  • a new giant castle-tent-thing in my living room, much loved by a toddler and two cats
  • unwillingness to venture out into my disaster of a living room to unearth the camera to photograph said tent myself 🙂

Have a wonderful weekend!

Learning in My Life: Part 2 (Learning from Learning)

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In Part 1, I talk about finally learning to drive a car with a manual transmission. I recognize that it’s a pretty common skill, especially outside the US. I don’t think I’m suddenly a rocket scientist because I can make a car go. I’ve found a lot of value in looking at the learning process though, and wanted to share what I noticed.

Learning From Learning

When I hopped back into the little ’01 manual again this week, I was in a different mentality than I had been during my previous attempt.

giant angler fish mask

Recognizing progress for what it really was: not easy! Image by Helder da Rocha on Flickr.com

I had thought about the process of learning to drive stick more, and come to the conclusion that back when I quit years ago, I had been right in the thick of the process of internalizing the motions and timing and finesse of how to make my husband’s little car go.

As I was making that inner progress toward automaticity, outward results seemed to get worse – back to bucking and stalling out like it was my first day. What I mean is that I was not actually regressing, even though it looked (and felt!) like I was.

In fact, I’d go so far as to say that my poor outward results were a symptom of the progress I was making in learning to drive a manual automatically. Progress looked different from what I expected – and from what I wanted.

I got into the car last night hoping to work my way back up to the point of increased mistakes. My mental model acknowledged that the path to success was through screwing up. I went in search of a messy learning process.

This was incredibly different from timidly “doing my best” while walking on eggshells lest (gasp!) mistakes to appear and prove that I am a failure of a human being. Equating a mistake with failure sounds absurd when it’s baldly written right here, but for me, it’s a serious hindrance as a vague, unnamed pattern of thought.

So… um… what’s the point?

I think that considering the nature of the learning process and taking a hard look at what progress really looks like helped me overcome a lot of what was overwhelming to me and join the ranks of those who can drive manuals.

And that, in turn, has given me a lot of food for thought.

kitty tiptoeing around spikes on a wall

Tiptoeing: a good idea on that wall, but unhelpful for learning. Image by Da-Eye on Flickr.com

Thoughts on driving:

  • Driving around my neighborhood at barely the speed limit at night with no traffic and only using the first three gears, all with J giving me advice, does not constitute mastery – just a good foundation.
  • I need to commit to practicing. Little ’01 car is leaving us soon!
  • I need to stay focused on the process, let myself keep on learning, and remind myself that making mistakes is not a step backward, but a sign that I’m really trying (instead of tiptoeing).

Thoughts on taking this lesson to other skills and parts of my life:

  • Wow, isn’t this sort of similar to my irrational fear of cutting and sewing Minnie’s (and my first-ever) quilt?
  • What other things do I irrationally fear? (um, cable knitting! Eek!)
  • In what other situations does progress look different than I might expect?

Education-y thoughts (I teach part-time – sometimes Teacher Emily can’t be silenced!):

  • It seems like metacognition can be a really powerful tool for building resilience.
  • This was nothing I ever learned in K-12 school, either directly or indirectly. Ever.
  • Speaking of school, how does the emphasis on testing and results connect to the learning process and to resilience?
  • How can examining the nature (and guises) of progress be useful for my adult students?

Make the world a better place thoughts:

  • How can we encourage each other to try to achieve an overwhelming goal the way J encouraged me to learn a skill that hundreds of millions of other people have mastered without blogging about it drive a stick?
  • How can kids best learn resilience?

Other people’s takes on a really similar idea:

Learning in My Life: Part 1 (The Stick Experience)

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Gear Shift

Image by RambergMediaImages on Flickr.com

You guys, I did a thing yesterday that I’ve been wishing I could do since I was about 18: I drove a car with a manual transmission on real streets for the first time, and got to my destination without stalling/bucking/breaking/crying.

Hold the sarcastic applause. I get that it’s not really a big deal kind of a skill. (In my defense, it’s not a strictly necessary skill here in the US – most cars are automatics.)

The big deal to me was the learning process, particularly as it intersected with emotion: mostly feeling overwhelmed and then feeling frustrated. Such a big deal, in fact, that the post about it became ludicrously long. So I split it into two sections:

  1. The Stick Experience
  2. Learning from Learning

The Stick Experience: Learning Process

The precursor to the learning process was my idly wishing for the result without any intention of putting in the effort. My dad had a manual but sold it before I asked to learn. Then my cousin had an old manual beater, but it fell apart before I could ask for a try. Then there were no opportunities for a while… until my boyfriend–>fiance–>husband arrived in my life with his ’01 manual.

My husband knew of my idle wish to drive a manual. With his encouragement,  patience, insight, and car, I took the first steps toward learning. My first efforts were tentative and nervous, with no real hope of driving a stick competently. I was crawling up a mountain. Cleaning a gymnasium floor with a toothbrush. Knitting a parachute on 1s. Typing out War and Peace with two fingers. It’s sort of miraculous that I even started. Thank you honey!

We went out to various parking lots at night fairly regularly. With repeated practice and effort, I made progress. I could often make the car go. I started developing a feel for when it was about to stall or buck, and what I could do about it. And I did not, as I had feared, forget how to steer in the midst of demystifying the clutch.

car rolled into pond - oops

Image by mre1965 on Flickr.com

I gained some confidence that I could do it, and some hope that maybe I could venture onto a street someday. But then I started screwing up again. It was so ridiculously frustrating to feel all confident and then stall out the car again! One afternoon, after stalling out near the end of an otherwise good practice session, I quit on the spot and had J drive us home. 

And then three years passed. Three! First it was too soon after feeling all those horrible emotions – I didn’t want to go back to it. Then I was distracted with other, more fun, more promising things. Then I was pregnant and nauseous/cranky/excited/nesting/asleep, and then there was this baby all the time and my MA and teaching and everything else, and now here we are nearly three years after I quit.

We went out again yesterday because the little ’01 car is likely near the end of its life with us, and I’m running out of time to learn on it.

I thought I’d be back at square one, but I wasn’t. My skill level hadn’t dipped very much, but my attitude was really different. And I don’t just mean that I superficially swapped out a sad face for a happy face. I was more engaged with and accepting of the process of learning, and I really think that that made a huge difference. More on that in Part 2 later this week.

Holiday Crafting Update

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I made some serious progress on some crafts this holiday season!

Sorry for the low-quality pictures. I’m mostly using my mom’s old iPod now that my phone is toast, and its camera isn’t great. But it’s so convenient! I’ll try to be better about using my real camera now that I know where it is again. 🙂

I guess it sounds silly to admit it here, but here it is: I didn’t give any handmade gifts for Christmas this year…but I did start and finish mitts for myself. (Ravelry notes.)

My Mitts!

My Mitts!

In my defense, I cast on for some mitts for my mom as soon as mine were finished. And I hadn’t known that she wanted any. And I only had wool and she hates wool. Work on her mitts is slow-going because my wrists were tingling after the solid week of knitting that produced my own mitts. Mom says she’s in no hurry – I hope she was serious!

Mom's Mitts

Mom’s Mitts – a size/pattern swatch first

I also borrowed my sister’s superior fabric-cutting equipment to finish cutting the interior squares of Minnie’s quilt! Then the whole family joined in to experiment with the layout on the dining room table very shortly before dinner (Sorry mom!). Super fun! This is not the final layout, and the colors look even warmer here than they are in real life, but it’s quite similar.

Minnie's Quilt Layout

Minnie’s Quilt Layout

We bundled up the pieces in order, ready for me to work up the courage to start chain stitching them together… in straight lines… with perfectly aligned corners… yeah. Luckily, I got a seam ripper in my Christmas stocking. 🙂

Bundles of Squares for Minnie's Quilt

Bundles of Squares for Minnie’s Quilt

Also, I’m a little obsessed with that bumble bee fabric on the bottom left. Love love love it!

Bumble Bee Fabric!

Bumble Bee Fabric!

Linking up with KCCO @FrontierDreams

What’s New?

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Happy New Year!

While 2014 is off to a pretty good start this year, I’m a bit conflicted about the idea of New Year’s: it’s such an arbitrary marker of a new beginning, yet marking new beginnings (particularly cyclical ones) helps give rhythm and meaning to our lives.

Winter Clouds

Winter clouds on New Year’s Day

For me, it does feel like a new beginning, but it has more to do with the Fall semester ending, Christmas being celebrated and put away for next year, and looking forward to Minnie’s birthday and the upcoming semester. A time between.

So… what’s new?

  • I’ve been doing more cleaning and organizing than usual – which admittedly isn’t all that much, but it feels good. 🙂
  • My in-laws are in town (a 20 min drive away instead of 20 hours!) for the next eight months. This means… regular childcare for the first time in Minnie’s life! (also trustworthy and loving and family-centered… and free!) Right now we’re looking at 2 mornings a week. Of glory.
  • I’m trying to be very intentional about how I use that glory time. How do I want to feel as a result of that time? What do I want to start, and chip away at, and finish?
  • J and I went on a date during our Christmas holiday, which consisted of fantastic paninis and quite a few errands.
  • J and I went on another date less than two full weeks later, which consisted of hot chocolate and board games.
  • Minnie and I have been doing a bit of yoga via Amazon Prime Instant Video this week. She thinks it’s silly (and tells me so) and likes to sit under me during Downward Dog pose.
  • I couldn’t find my camera after getting home from Christmas, but I found it today! I immediately uploaded everything – it was a relief that all of those visual holiday memories were not lost after all.

I’ve got some plans for a small craft update tomorrow. And then we’ll see!

What’s new with you this week/month/year?

Christmas!

I’m unplugging for Christmas!

Up next is gobs of family time, last-minute holiday preparations, cooking, a few more cards, and more refined sugar than is easily believed.

Warm wishes for peace and love and a lovely end to 2013 –

Emily

Bye Bye Phone

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So… I broke my smartphone on Tuesday morning.

It was me, not Minnie. And while it wasn’t exactly on purpose, it wasn’t exactly an accident either.

We get terrible reception here – this has nothing to do with my phone, and everything to do with the dearth of cell towers. It’s enormously frustrating, especially on top of not having a land line and having a lot of trouble getting good sound quality and reliability out of the computer via Skype, Google Voice, etc.  But I was trying to call the pediatrician to get Minnie’s cough checked out, and the phone kept cutting out. I was super frustrated, on top of being groggy and worried and hungry.

And so what happened was that when it dropped another attempted call after a mere 13 seconds, I deliberately slammed the phone down. If I had known that that was The slam (because there have been other slams) that would end its usefulness, I would not have slammed it. So in that sense it was not on purpose.

But if you’re deliberately too rough with your tech, you should not be surprised when the day comes that you break it.

***

So I don’t have a phone at all right now. And there hasn’t really been a moment to try to re-activate an old dumb-phone as a stop-gap solution.

J is full of solutions about how to get me another smartphone, improve reception, etc. But firstly, I hesitate to instantly replace the toy I just broke. It seems spoiled and wrong, you know?

Secondly, and perhaps undermining the point above, I’m not positive that I want another smartphone. Mine was a source of frustration for several reasons, mostly for its pathetic battery life (and the way it rejected my car charger – such a sad combo!) and for key apps crashing or updating when I really need them to just work (i.e. no no little shopping list app, please don’t auto-update while I’m at the grocery store and need my list). It was also a really huge source of distraction. I had a lot of trouble being intentional about my usage, and it amounted to a lot of wasted time spent on “brain candy” and missed moments when I should have been present.

So far I don’t miss the crashing apps or always making sure it’s with me or even the brain candy. I’m sort of bummed that I don’t have a wireless way to upload pictures of Minnie for the family and of random stuff for this blog, but I do have a perfectly good camera with wires and such.

We’ll see what I think after a week or two!

 

Not Cranky, Please!

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I need to…

Hm, I wrote out a preliminary to-do list, and it made me cranky. Deleted! There’s lots to do in the house (cooking, cleaning, Christmas, cards, etc.), but it helps me be less cranky to get out of the house, but I need to find time to shower in order to get out of the house, so balance will need to be found there.

I’m also trying not to be cranky that I’m in a cheek-biting cycle.

Really quick, then, a better list. Cool things that Minnie does right now:

  • sings Twinkle variations (“Twinkle twinkle little Minnie / Minnie sings a broken muffin”)
  • says a very adult “Um!” when she’s about to say something
  • shouts “ooOOOooh!” when she finds something she’s looking for
  • helps load the dishwasher
  • throws out the dryer lint for me when I do laundry
  • asks specifically to cuddle with mommy and daddy (and then cuddles!)

Here’s to a not-cranky weekend!

Quilt Update

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I have started working on my first quilt.

Last week, I set the goal that I would cut one color per day. Thus, I should have been finished cutting on Tuesday. I did great for six days, then fell off the wagon completely.

Here’s where I’m at:

Six Down, Two to Go

Six Down, Two to Go

And now a bunch of other stuff has become a higher priority due to looming deadlines, so the little quilt might have to hibernate a bit.

 

Plus I’ve had some other mundane but compelling distractions – I plan to share a bit about them tomorrow.

Here’s hoping to be able to report that my cutting is finished next week, though!

Joining KCCO @FrontierDreams and Made by Hand @ChristinaLowryDesigns

Snow and Butter

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We’re having a snow day here in Maryland!

Snow Day from Inside

A Maryland snow day – note that the grass is still easily visible. 🙂

This means that J is home from work. Woo! And this means all sorts of fun. Minnie can go play in the snow with J, and with two parents home we can take turns doing wonderful things (baking, video games, tidying, projects galore!) without having to simultaneously earn a nomination for a daytime Grammy for our Baby Vaudeville routines.

First up: Pannukakku (Finnish pancakes).

I’m not sure if I’m at liberty to share my husband’s aunt’s recipe here, but here’s a Pannukakku recipe from the Internets! It looks more difficult than mine maybe I’ll try it sometime when I have the time and the butter.

For our recipe, you just melt 3/4 stick of butter in the baking pan in the oven while mixing together a thin batter in the blender. Dump the batter in, bake a bit, and voila.

So I mixed up my batter…

Finnish pancake batter

Finnish pancake batter

And then I went to the fridge to grab the butter to melt in the pan. There was a butter box… with no butter in it.

No problem. Just go to the freezer and tap into the lifetime supply of butter I had purchased over the past couple of months to stock up for the holidays.

No butter.

We have no butter. And thanks to 1/2 inch of snow, the grocery store we can walk to is almost certainly sold out. And due to the 1/2 inch of snow and a general public accustomed to driving in Maryland (i.e. with no clue how to drive in snow), we will not be driving anywhere today.

I think I went through the stages of grief on this one – “No, we can’t be snowed in without any butter!” “If I could just find a little butter… I’d make cookies for the neighbors and not even eat any myself!” and so on.

I used the 1/2 stick on the counter for the Pannkaku and tossed it in the oven. And I (grudgingly) accepted that cookies could not be on today’s agenda.

Pannukakku, ready to be baked

Pannukakku, ready to be baked

Then, I calmly blogged about it so as to make the best of an annoying but really not-that-bad situation.

And before I knew it, it was lower-calorie Pannukakku time.

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Puffy Pannukakku at first

Pannukakku, deflated

Deflated and ready to eat!