this week: reflections

John goes back to work on Wednesday. This week has been pretty uneven — jittering between super busy and super laid back. It’s been cool. To sum up:
  • Last week was half-days and parent-teacher conference week. This week is spring break.
  • John’s been fixing a friend’s car for the past week.
  • I did the usual, plus read some books.
  • Family activities!
Last week was half-days and parent-teacher conference week. This week is spring break.

In a little more depth: Kidling’s parent-teacher conference went well, I felt. The teacher feels he needs to work more on focusing during math. I agree — he needs to work more on focusing overall — but I also gave some suggestions on how to manage this specific problem (him being unable to focus right after lunch/ recess). They also had some issues with his reading comprehension. Basically, he reads super fast and at a pretty high level, but he tends to race through the directions (on tests) and make minor mistakes in his answers. Like if a question asks him to identify how character A responded to an event, Kidling might explain how characters A, B, and C each responded. He just tends to rush. I’m not too concerned about this, because I had the same issue at his age. 
That said, the teacher is impressed with how helpful and cheerful he is in class, she’s pleased at his enthusiasm, and she’s noticed a remarkable improvement in his classroom attitude. Since he was on ADHD since the end of summer 2011, before this school year started, I think the improvement in classroom attitude has to do with the night-and-day difference between Jefferson Lincoln and his new school. At Jeff-Lincoln, his teacher couldn’t spell. The classrooms were overcrowded, and bullying was not addressed at all adequately. At his new school, it’s the exact opposite in every single situation. Qualified teachers, regular-sized classrooms, and bullying is addressed immediately. Plus, they actually have extracurricular activities at this school. It’s the difference between a well-funded school and a poorly-funded school, and clearly highlights the failure of George Bush’s NCLB act.
Kidling and friends.
In other news, Kidling’s grade put on a super adorable Pirate Play. Again, this was way better than anything at Jeff Lincoln, in every aspect. Staging, production, casting, costuming, everything. I’m not saying it was Broadway quality, or even High School or College drama department quality. I am saying that the fact they had props, costumes, and a storyline elevated them above Jeff-Lincoln’s lining kids up on bleachers to sing a series of unrelated songs. Also, I liked that this play was put on in the evening instead of during the school day, which meant John was able to come. The picture above was taken after the play, while Kidling and some of his friends were goofing off in the parking lot. I blurred his friends faces because I don’t think it’s appropriate to post identifiable pictures of kids without their parent’s explicit permission, and I didn’t have one of just Kidling.
John’s been fixing a friend’s car for the past week.
John spent most of last week fixing a friends car. He did a complete engine pull, took it all apart, fixed the engine issue, and put it all back together. This was not actually a problem, nor is it what took up the majority of his vacation. John has both the tools and know-how to complete that aspect of the job. Unfortunately, on Thursday last week, he got so involved in the project that he lost track of time. He woke up at like 6:30 a.m. and worked 12 straight hours through, without stopping for food or breaks or anything. He was just enjoying the puzzle of it so much. At 6:30 pm, I dragged him away from the project to go to Kidling’s school play. We got back home around 8:30 or 9 p.m. — late enough that I figured John would rest and finish up the car the following day.
Workin’ hard.
But he wanted to do “one last thing” on the engine, and ended up working another 2 hours. At the end of the day, the engine was back in the friends car, everything was hooked up, and all that needed to happen was to turn it on and make sure it ran, set the timing, refill all the fluids, and take it for a quick test run/ drive. So John turned it on . . . and blew a bunch of fuses. In his exhaustion and rush, he’d connected the battery backwards.
So the next 4 days were spent like this: Get a new brain box, hook it up, connect battery properly, start engine . . . fuses pop. Begin identifying potential causes of fuses popping. Test each hypothesis. Rinse and repeat until he identified the issue. Finally he found the short in the system and fixed it. John was particularly stressed and irritated about this for two reasons: First, he can do electric work, but he prefers to avoid it — mainly because he lacks the correct tools. Second, he was seriously concerned he’d ruined someone else’s car, even if the car is a p.o.s. broke-down 1989 Subaru. But that issue and the original issue are all fixed. The engine starts and runs now. There are still some other things to fix, I gather, but John’s fixed the main issues — the reason why the battery was dying and needed a jump every time, and the coolant leak into the engine — and he’s heading back to work tomorrow, so I think he’s done for the time being. Just needs to set the timing, refill the fluids, and take it for a test drive.
I did the usual, plus read 5 books.
This winter I’ve noticed that even with all other annoyances happening, we’re no longer feeling the undercurrent of resentment and stress we did in the house. It’s nice to be back home, in the town I grew up in. I love this town. I learned to drive here, I went to school here, I know the roads and shortcuts and parks and restaurants and stores. It’s nice that when our dishwasher breaks, we don’t have to stress about the cost of a new one — we just call the landlord. It’s nice to know that if John gets a transfer or we need to move for any reason, we can.
All of this has reduced so much day-to-day stress that I can’t even fully express it. As a result of just dealing with ordinary stresses instead of things like flooding, natural disaster, home repairs, debt, and foreclosure, we’re just all around happier. As a result, our quality of life has gone up. The house is cleaner, I’m cooking and baking more than ever, John is able to take more vacation time, and I even have the time and energy for volunteering, writing, reading, and college.
This week, I experimented with some pork recipes. A while ago, I mentioned that although pork is apparently a really popular dish, I’ve never had any I liked. It’s always been overcooked; bland and stringy and tough. But this is a very inexpensive meat, and it seems to have such versatile potential, so I decided to give it a go. This past week, I tried three pork recipes:
  • Sliced thin and stir-fried with mushrooms, bok choy, garlic, water chestnuts, and bamboo shoots.
  • Sauteed with sliced apple, then drizzled with a sauce made from the apple/ pork drippings mixed with brown sugar.
  • Weiner schnitzel (pork pounded thin, coated in bread flour, egg, and breading, then lightly fried).
They’re such a hit that we’re now putting pork loin into our regular rotation. John says his co-worker has a killer slow cooker recipe for pork loin, so I’m looking forward to trying that, too.
I didn’t take a picture, but it looks like this, minus the lemon.
I served it with buttered egg noodles, fresh fruit salad, and capers.
Volunteering this week was a wash, unfortunately. I’d wanted to help out with some classroom stuff, but at the beginning of the week, I was getting over some sort of throat/ cough/ fever thing, so I had to back out. That irritated me, since I’ve been having fun with volunteering. On the plus side, I was able to both write and read more. I wrote about 2,000 words this week, and read the following books:
  • Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen
  • The Tiger’s Wife, by Tea Obreht
  • The Millenium Trilogy by Stieg Larsson
It took me this long to read the Millenium trilogy because I usually read non-fiction (history, biographies, research) or sci-fi and fantasy. I tend to avoid literary fiction and I definitely avoid crime fiction, which I cannot stand. I was pleasantly surprised by these books, and it’s a nice reminder to keep up to date on a variety of genres. At the moment I’m reading 11-22-63, a Stephen King book that I gather is about time travel. I’m only a few chapters in; I just started it this afternoon.
As far as college goes, everything appears on track to have me enrolled to complete my BA starting Fall 2012. I’ve been accepted and I have a student account. I’m just waiting on the financial aid to come through before I register for classes. I’ve also found out my good friend DJ has applied to and been accepted to the same college, to start at the same time — so yay! College and DJ, what could be better?
Family activities
We’ve had some fun this week. John also got our new-to-us xbox up and running, so we no longer have to deal with a stuck game tray. Kidling spent his allowance on a Halo RC vehicle at K-Mart, which he’s been teasing the cats with. He ties a string with a plastic bug to the car and drives it around, and the cats chase it. It’s super cute. We took him fishing this week, and later we went to the park. Incidentally, I learned that this week was LDS conference week — so glad I’m outta that! Instead of spending my Sunday futilely trying to get my family listen to long and boring talks, I got to go fishing with my son and husband! Kidling is enjoyed his dad’s time off; he spent a lot of time watching his dad work on the car and helping him with clean-up and tool fetching. Overall, it’s just been fun times with family.
John and Kidling, doing something with the line.
I also took Kidling shoe shopping. He’s been dealing with blisters on and off since being gifted some shoes in December, and a few weeks ago, he developed an infection on his big toe. I’ve been cleaning the infection/ pus with alcohol and hydrogen peroxide and putting triple antibiotic ointment on it, but improvement has been slow. I knew the shoes he’d been gifted at the beginning of the year were bought to provide growing room, but I hadn’t realized how large they were– 2 full sizes too big, instead of the standard half size larger! No wonder he had blisters.
Anyway, I bought him a size 3, and his blisters and infection cleared right up. So just be aware: Proper shoe size is more important than you might think.
In other news, Kidling has been so super good this week, I feel the need to publicly praise him. Get this: he learned how to make coffee and has made us coffee the past few mornings. This is a whole process of cleaning out yesterdays grounds, putting fresh water in the machine, measuring and grinding the beans, and putting the freshly ground coffee in the machine. And he learned all this, then surprised us on Saturday, his first official day of Spring Break by making fresh coffee for us. How crazy thoughtful is that?
Plus, he’s been doing all the chores on his chore list without being reminded by us, and he’s voluntarily chosen to do some of the extras for “goodwill points” instead of money. We have an allowance system set up where he can earn up to $5 extra by doing chores worth 50 cents, or he can get “goodwill points” which will result in an activity of his choice, like going to the park or the comic shop. Normally he chooses to do extra chores for money, so he can buy more Pokemon cards. That’s fine, it’s how we set up the system — but he’s been choosing goodwill points lately, and let me tell you — he’s building some serious goodwill here!

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