Saturday, September 12, 2009

Things To Do Today


Send birthday card

Get honey from farmers' market

....destroy world with world-destroying robot??

Ah, the chalkboard. It first appeared in my blog at its purchase, two and a half years ago, and it's seen a lot of fact, last year I painted over it with chalkboard paint, changing its classic school green to black, but restoring its writeability after one of the kids decided white crayon would work just as well and ruined the surface. However, since our move last summer I had yet to put it up in a good high-traffic location. Finally, I had some free time yesterday and decided to hang it up near the recycling bins, where I could keep a daily reminder list of things to do that I would see often. Only took me a year! And the comedy opportunites began again immediately.

My child hates art class, shuns crayons, and can only be coaxed to spend his time drawing somewhere around Day 3 of a total blackout, when he's run through every other non-electric entertainment available including "watch Mom's plants grow". Yet he can never seem to resist the siren call of the chalkboard.

The funny thing is, he asked me what to draw. I said a puppy. No really, the conversation went something like this:

Duncan (watching me write my to-do list): Can I draw something on the chalkboard? I'll draw something for you. Go ahead. You tell me what to draw, and I will draw that for you, whatever you want.

Me: Okay, a puppy!

Duncan: Ugh, no.

Me (resigned anticipation): Robot with a laser?

Duncan: OKAY!!

I went off to cook dinner, and later in the evening, sure enough, there he was. My robot with a laser, just under "get honey from farmer's market". And I do have to say, he's a pretty swell robot. I mean come ON. He's not only got a laser, but "power of destroying worlds", an alternate laser charger, a laser drainer (ha, ha!), and rocket shoes. Then, because destroying worlds totally needs a great soundtrack, he's all set to go with a boombox arm handily installed. And yes, he's saying "Die, butthole!" in the picture.

But I'm pretty sure a daughter would have drawn me that puppy. With a rainbow.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Mi Cabeza Está Quemada!

I have a new toy, and you can find it as well at Edufire! I've been wanting to learn foreign languages, particularly Spanish and Japanese, for a long time now. Growing up in Arizona, I knew some Spanish - not a lot, but enough to hold my own in a very basic conversation - but I've lost most of it over the years. I don't really have the money or the opportunities in this area to attend classes, and I find I just do not learn well on my own. Intrigued by this fairly new service, I signed up for their Superpass and got started with some Spanish classes.

What an experience. In one class I attended, it was only me and one other student. In the second, I was the only one there. And this tutor made us talk...constantly. It was so uncomfortable. I struggled every minute. I felt like my head was going to spontaneously burst into flames and I wrestled my brain for every word. It's like that dream you have where you have to give a speech in class and you've forgotten your notes, and everyone is staring at you. In your underpants.

And I think this is exactly what I need.

Because this is why so many of us never get very far, isn't it, with our Spanish for Dummies and our Learn in Your Car CDs. We learn it, we read it from the pages of the textbook, but we get far too few opportunities to put it to use. And when we do, we shy away. Attempting to speak a foreign language we don't know well makes us feel lost, ignorant and foolish. I could be using what little Spanish I know to order at the Mexican restaurant, or to speak to the cashier at the local mercado I occasionally visit. But I'm so afraid I'll drown in the ensuing conversation, I chicken out. And there's no chickening out with this tutor. For a solid hour, he speaks almost nothing but Spanish, and neither do I, though I don't understand 100% and every fiber of my being is screaming to escape. In English, this is the sort of thing you would have heard in my class, with occasional corrections and gentle prodding:

Teacher: And what did you do today?
Me: the store...and wash, no, washed...the clothes.
Teacher: Do you go to the laundromat? Or do you have a washer and dryer?
Me: I...have a washer and dryer.
Teacher: And did you dry the clothes in the dryer? Or did you hang them to air dry?
Me: Uhhhhh....uhhhhhh....what does "hang" mean? (he writes the verb and translation on the screen). Oh, no, I don't to hang, uh, hang the clothes. I...dry...I....dried...the clothes in the...dryer.....

And so on. A painful, hair pulling process, and one I've always shied away from, but this is how I'm going to learn. I'm sure of it.

They have a variety of other classes as well, from mathematics to health classes, but these are just starting to come about - those pickings are still slim, and the main focus of the website so far is language classes. You can attend a 'class', or you can request one-on-one tutoring. You can pay per class, or there are many classes that qualify for the "Superpass", a monthly fee for unlimited classes. All you need is a computer, internet access, and a headset or microphone (I would strongly suggest a headset). Webcam is optional - some tutors use it and like to be able to teach face-to-face, but a lot don't.

So if you always wanted to take a class or get some tutoring but didn't have the resources out in the "real world", check it out. And if, like me, you're a struggling beginner wanting to practice your Spanish (though he has other skill level classes as well, from the very beginnings to the more advanced), look for "Enrique", my delightfully relentless profesor, and join me in one of his beginner/intermediate classes. No, really, I need the company so he's not talking to me the entire time!

Nos vemos allí!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Dental Attraction

So, I've been putting off seeing a dentist for a long time, but I've been having some pain in a few teeth and think I need a bridge - I've had this gap since I had a tooth pulled a dozen years ago and my teeth are getting out of alignment around it. I picked a dentist from my plan and went in yesterday, they took x-rays and I'm going in tomorrow to see the results and discuss what we need to do.

Today I got a small envelope in the mail from them. Amused, I figured they probably have one of those reminder setups that automatically sends you a card before an appointment. Kinda unnecessary this time, but whatever. So I open it.

It's a note, clearly handwritten in ballpoint. It says:

"Dear (Calamitybird),

Just a short note to let you know how much we appreciate having you in our practice.

We value you not only as a patient, but also as a friend.

Yours truly,
Doctors and Staff at Comfort Dental"

So...I saw them for the first time ever yesterday morning, and this must have been in the mail by afternoon. I have to say, I found it a little weird. I mean, I like you, Comfort Dental, but we just met. But Comfort Dental would like me know that already they feel a deep connection. They understand me the way those other dental providers don't. Comfort Dental is sure that they are the only dental provider for me, don't you see? If I were to end it now, surely I would find the Doctors and Staff at Comfort Dental standing under my window, Peter Gabriel blaring from the boombox held defiantly over the heads of the Doctors and Staff at Comfort Dental.

Maybe I'm reading too much into it. Maybe it's just good old-fashioned customer care, and it's just my imagination that the wording is a little...stalker-esque.

Then again, when my husband passed my desk earlier I saw him pause, peruse the creased little stationery note, and declare, "That's creepy."