Overload (aka: A Little Brain Fried)

Dear Readers,

MMM Fried-Brain HomerOh how I would love to write for you a brilliant poem filled with astonishing metaphors and dazzling word-pictures. And how I wish I could post a few brilliant new Italian or Chinese or Indian curry recipes complete with spectacular photos for your Pinterest collection. Or offer you a wealth of advice on weight loss or parenting or doing fun activities with kids.

But I won’t.

Because I am a student. And yes, I am also a single mom of 3 kids. With a job. And yeah, a fiction writer, and recreational soccer player, too. All that. But you see, sometimes I get a little over my head with schoolwork; like right now, when my poor brain is so fried from studying that I’m afraid that any moment now, I will begin typing in hexadecimal or Perl or SQL like the computer geek I am becoming.

(It’s true. I now walk the straight and narrow path of true Revenge-of-the-Nerds geekdom.)

I feel like I’m forgetting something important. What was I saying?

Working Student Mom

Oh yes, school. Studying. Academia. And this is not limited to my own classes. Because I also get to put on the Mommy hat and listen very patiently as one child explains all about how Plato’s philosophies contributed to modern democracy. Then, of course, I have to answer another child’s questions.

“Mom, who were Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates?”

“Mom, what’s for dinner?”

Oops. That’s what I was forgetting.

I’m so glad that I’ve taught my kids how to cook. And to ask questions. And to be patient with a mother who sometimes wears too many hats at once and gets a little brain-fried. If only I had taught them how to write my blog posts, too…

Adrift in the Sea (aka: Summer Vacation)

School’s out, school’s out, teacher let the monkeys out!

schools out

No, not my kids’ schools – they are still eagerly counting down the days. However, my college classes have ended until fall semester. It should be a relief, I know. College students everywhere are probably cheering in celebration, making plans to spend the summer relaxing with friends. I, on the other hand, am counting the days until classes begin again.

waiting for school to begin

Maybe I am a naturally restless, goal-oriented person. Or maybe, after years of being adrift, it just felt good to be on the boat, motor cranked up high, aiming toward something. Toward good grades. Toward IT certifications. Toward a rewarding career, where people will pay me to use my brain.

adrift paddlingAnd then – freeze. The motor cuts off in the middle of the ocean. I am adrift again until summer vacation ends. Great. Well, luckily, there are oars in this boat. It’s kind of a pain, because time moves slowly when you’re paddling a boat all by yourself, never quite knowing if it will get you where you want to go. But paddle you must. Because somewhere out there, land awaits. And sitting still is simply not an option.

Summer Goals (aka “Oars”):

  • Self-study for IT certification exams (N+ and MCSA)
  • Continue career-hunting
  • Learn at least one scripting language well (Perl, JavaScript, PHP, or Ruby)
  • Play around with virtual machines
  • Get to know Linux better
  • Read a fiction novel or two
  • Continue writing novel
  • Learn some new recipes with the kids
  • Grow a second garden just for winter squash and pumpkins
  • Organize the house
  • Build a computer with Teen #1 (if the budget permits)
  • Encourage my kids to practice coding
  • Swim a lot with the family
  • Improve soccer foot skills

Simpsons family summer vacation

La Cosa más influyente (aka: La Pregunta del dia)

(He decidido escribir esta entrada en castellano, porque es un idioma que me ha encantado desde niñez, y porque es solo por escribir o leer que tengo las oportunidades para practicar a expresarme, y un dia, todavía me gustaría tener fluencia  en la lengua – aunque de veras, no sé cómo se sabe cuando uno tiene fluencia.)

La pregunta del dia: ¿Qué es la cosa más influyente que has hecho últimamente?

balancing act

Fácil. Este año, he regresado a la universidad. Pues, no exactamente a la universidad – no a donde me licencié en Educación Preescolar hace muchos años, pero a una universidad comunitaria, para estudiar Ciencias de Computadoras. Sí, yo sé – es una carrera muy lejos de enseñar a los preescolares. Pero la verdad es que yo era muy joven cuando elijé mi primera carrera, y lo único que supe hacer fue trabajar con los niños pequeños. Ahora, soy más vieja y madura (pues, espero que sí, jaja), y pienso que ahora llega el tiempo para hacer algo nuevo (y algo que tiene más oportunidades para ganar suficiente dinero para mis hijos y yo.)

adults returning to school


¿Y por qué a mí me parece algo influyente regresar a la universidad después de tantos años de criar niños, etc.? Ahh, es que mis hijos ya pueden ver el buen ejemplo de su madre. Me pueden ver levantarme cada mañana a tiempo, llevarlos a sus escuelas, ir a trabajo, ir a mi escuela, recogerlos de sus escuelas, cocinar la cena, limpiar la casa, hacer ejercicios, y luego, despues de todo eso, tambien hacer los deberes y estudiar. Mis hijos ven todo esto, y pienso que les inspira estar disciplinadas tambien. Y que les inspira pensar más en fijarse en sus propias metas. adult learning Kid watching parent on computer

Es un pensamiento que me da mucha motivación en esos días cuando no tengo ganas de levantarme tan temprano o seguir la rutina o hacer mis deberes. Es como sí estoy en un pedestal, y mis hijos me están mirando. No puedo permitirme flojear, o mis hijos podrían llegar a pensar que está bien si ellos tambien flojean. Tengo que tener éxito en mis estudios, para que ellos puedan creer que también pueden tener éxito en sus estudios. Además, tengo que hacer todo esto con una actitud positiva, para enseñar a mis hijos que es mejor hacer las tareas de la vida con una sonrisa, y sin queja, aún si no le gusta lo que hay que hacer.

Allí está – la cosa más influyente que últimamente he hecho, y que sigo haciendo; no para mí, pero para los que recurren  a mí por guiarlos en la vida, y que dependen de mí para ser su ejemplo y su inspiración. ¡Ojalá no les falle!

gotta be supermom

Hay que ser Supermom cuando eres una madre soltera con la custodia total de los niños.

Filling in the Gaps (aka Afterschooling My Kids)

A conversation in the car on the way to school yesterday with my kids, ages 9, 12, and 14.

Me: Don’t you guys know why the Confederate states seceded from the Union?

My kids: They didn’t like it? Because the Union sucked? Who were the Confederate states?

Me (groaning): Do you guys even know what the Confederate states were? Can you name any of them?

My kids: New Hampshire! California! New York! Canada! Something that starts with a V!

Me: Look, they were all in the South. Name some states in the South.

My kids: Alabama? Arizona? New Hampshire?


Naturally, by then I felt like banging my head against the steering wheel. And screaming. Or maybe both. Because  clearly, my kids – especially my older two, should know how to answer such basic questions about American history. But clearly, there are some tremendous gaps in their education.

US History

To truly understand my frustration in moments like these, you must know that I used to be a homeschooling mom. Not for long – I homeschooled my oldest in Kindergarten, and my second oldest in 1st grade. It was so important to me that my children receive a thorough, well-rounded education, and I once felt that homeschooling was the best way to provide that. I gave it up when they were accepted into excellent public schools, but in order to fill in the gaps, I continued to afterschool them for years to come.

Yes, Afterschooling. Ever heard of it? It’s pretty much like Mom homework on top of school homework. Sometimes it means supporting the subjects they are learning in school with extra enrichment at home. Sometimes it means studying something together which is not being taught at school (like the history of the Civil War, or geography, for example). Sometimes afterschooling means quick, ten-minute discussions in the car about social issues or dystopian literature. Sometimes it means a family project, like building something together, or exploring recipes or music from other cultures. And sometimes it is more formal. During school vacations, for example, I require that my kids spend an hour being engaged in something academic in order to earn television or video game privileges. They can do work from a workbook, or study something new on Khan Academy, or practice coding on websites like Scratch or Code.org.


I realize that there are many critics out there who may see Afterschooling as excessive or silly, especially since my kids already attend great schools. Perhaps I should just relax and let my kids be kids, without having to spend so much time studying. But I see it differently. I want to raise my kids to be thinkers and lifelong learners, with a curiosity about the world. And, well, call me silly, but I also would like very much for them to know that New Hampshire is not a southern state, and that Canada is a completely different country, you know?

Where in the world

Where in the world is Canada?

And so, instead of banging my head against the steering wheel, I took a deep breath and gave my kids a hurried, ten-minute lesson in American history before dropping them off at school. And probably, after school today, we’ll take a look at a map and see exactly where the southern states are located. And maybe, just maybe, my kids will learn something new and useful – like the name of that mysterious state which begins with a V. (Now banging my head against the keyboard).