Monday, September 30, 2013

Fall shadows

I've always been a fan of shadows, particularly at this time of year when the late afternoon sun casts such long - almost sometimes comedy style - shadows on the pavements.  The warm sun on my back is always such a nice feeling; only thinking about it now did I really realize that in order to get the shadow, there'd have to be the warmth that goes with it.

Today the boys and I enjoyed a walk out after school and nursery, and they had a great time whizzing up and around the ramp in front of the local church on their wheely vehicles. 
I love the action in Blake's shadow in this one!



Noah's just having a ball...
My way of being in the memory

When school started a few weeks ago, I had that feeling that I often have at that time of year, in those first weeks of September with the long summer days starting to get shorter, which is that I don't really like fall as a season.  Then the weather got a bit warmer and I had a thought - one that I had never had before - that autumn was actually a season to be liked, as it was a kind and gentle way of Mother Nature easing us into the cold and dark of winter.  Could you imagine how harsh life would be if we went straight from summer to winter?!

So, shadows, thank you for being there.  Today, for me, they meant late afternoon sunshine,  the chance to appreciate the contrast of color and darkness, and an opportunity to enjoy and observe a Monday afternoon with the boys. 
Here's another incredible set of shadows at work (or at play?!); I find this so beautiful!
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a4Fv98jttYA





Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Superheroes in the park

One of the amazing things that happens in our house is that whenever I go to the store, I always manage to spend about a third more money than Matt would even if he went out with the same shopping list. On this day a few weekends ago he even managed to buy Noah a new Superman costume and still came back with a receipt under £100. [When I referred to "amazing things that happen in our house", I hope you didn't get your hopes up!] The boys had a good time together and Noah made us all laugh by not being quite able to climb up this rope.  Blake is so big, I notice now looking at these. 
Where are your Superman muscles, No-no?!

Blake turns into superhero brother

They copied some sisters who were riding tandem!

What I've been doing while not blogging

I firmly believe that all things happen for a reason.  It feels like so long since I sat down here to write about the activities of our life expressed through the late-night workings of my mind.  Who would know where to start to try to recap the months that have flown by?  I just had a mental image of a dog, wearing sunglasses, sitting in the passenger seat of a car, its head out the window.  It's night, and the car's on a freeway, so I'm not sure the reason for the sunglasses.  I guess I feel a little like that dog I'm picturing - mouth open, tongue wagging, the world rushing by.  Is she having fun?  Or is she overwhelmed?  Maybe she's convinced her owner to take her out to a bar, like Spuds MacKenzie.  Advertising in the '80's that I can remember - Spuds was definitely a very effective campaign.

Anyway, on to some sort of point.  The summer was busy - well, I mean, what do I mean by "summer"? - the year has been busy.  We had a completely non-existent spring here in the UK, and by that I mean that it was just perpetually about 50 degrees into the end of May.  It was starting to get really depressing, and then suddenly, it got really really nice!  Enough to make people now refer to it as one of the "best summers ever" in terms of weather.  I guess that might not be not untrue, but we were really desperately owed something after the unpleasantness of April, May and June!

Am I really droning on about weather 4 months ago?!  This must be what happens when you lose momentum in writing, in particular on a medium that often read in the past as a regular reportage of daily events.  Back in July, I turned 37.  37.  A kind of strange age, a prime number (yuck), although now that I think about it, maybe I need to reconsider my interpretation of "prime" numbers being bad - maybe in fact they're good, like prime-time!  Yes, maybe I'm actually arriving into prime time!  This starts to get better.  What seemingly did happen when I had my birthday was that I decided to do a couple of things to really get some aspects of life - like my weight, my fitness levels, my overall command of a household - in check.  After our vacation to France, that is.  How anyone could be on a diet in France, I have no idea.  So we went to France, had a wonderful two weeks at a caravan site that was on the beach and also had access to pools, and then we came back and I started a "new year".  One of the things that I have vowed to do is to write more, and I am fresh from a creative writing workshop this weekend where I had two whole days of that.  It was wonderful!  I also, in France, finally got back into reading, a favorite hobby that had just deserted me for the first half of the year.  I had J.K. Rowling's A Casual Vacancy from the library, and really loved spending time with those crazy residents of Pagford during the 5 or so days I spent with them.  Our trip was the last-chance saloon for my reading that book since I'd already renewed it three times and most definitely had to return it when we got back.  I then picked up Donna Tartt's A Secret History from the clubhouse at the site, and felt surprised and pleased to discover that one unexpectedly.  Very dark and strange but pretty riveting.  Since we've been back I also really adored Eat, Pray, Love (I haven't seen it but people say the movie was awful; the book, however, is wonderful).  It had me craving gelato, wondering where my closest ashram is, and wishing I had done more traveling to faraway places when I'd had the spare time and spare money (ok, so I never had spare money; no need to regret then!).  Latest up is Caitlin Moran's Moranthology - she's a British writer/journalist and this is a collection of her columns; they are absolutely hilarious. There's one about an interview she had with Gordon Brown when he was Prime Minister and she basically gets there 20 minutes late because she underestimated how long it would take her.  So funny, and so real. 

So there you have it: I haven't been here on the blog because I've been reading. Selfish, I know.  But, then again, I'm back now, and one of the things that we talked about on the course this weekend was that reading helps make one's writing better.  I hope it all hasn't been wasted time.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Car wash, yeah!

A few weeks ago I took the boys through a car wash for the first time.  The footage is hilarious! 
Pretty good entertainment value for £5, and memories that will fuel laughter for a long time.
http://youtu.be/_JHCWQ4-VA4

Ewoks and MOOCs

"Create a great day, because merely having one is too passive an experience."  That's the way Henry from Canada introduced himself in the introductions forum on the MOOC I've just started.  How true!

Have you heard of MOOCs, Massive Open Online Courses?  I've just discovered them and I feel it's like being a nomad lost in a desert and arriving at an oasis.  There is basically all this free learning to be had through the MOOCs (check out www.coursera.org for a great selection), and I am jumping into that pool right at the deep end!
Matt had mentioned them to me a while ago, and I'd seen the acronym but not really known what they were.  Turns out that it's really like going to college or graduate school, but without the distractions of the keg parties, the freshman 15, the late-night trips to the computer center to type out an essay (ok, not to just type out the essay, but to create the essay while typing, amidst trips out in the below freezing weather to buy Mountain Dew from Foodstop).  This is all hypothetical, of course; I'm sure your university or college experience was nothing like that. I'm currently learning the Foundations of Business Strategy through a course offered by the Darden School of Business at the University of Virginia, and today I began a course on Organizational Analysis offered by Stanford.  There are people from ALL OVER enrolled on these things - name a place and I'll bet you that someone has introduced themselves on the online introduction board as being from there.  Cambodia, Calgary, Chennai...all represented.  In a video wrap-up by the business strategy professor in week 1, he mentioned that there were 87,000 people enrolled in the course.  87,000!  All no doubt digesting the content from not only an incredibly dispersed geographic perspective, but from cafes, sofas, offices, libraries.  This is learning in 2013.  Can you imagine 87,000 people all going from Baker Library to Foodstop for a caffeine break all at once?!  Main Street would buckle.
I'm incredibly excited about what I'm learning on these courses, and I think it's a great test to see how I've grown as a learner since I did finish college over 15 years ago; a chance to see what it would be like to be immersed again in academia - of course some of this content probably only scratches the surface of the topics but the various ways of testing - quizzes, writing papers, assessing peers' work - seem pretty thorough to me.  And the only way you have to pay for it is through the time you spend on it, because of that well-known equation, time = money.  I am sure there is a whole flipside to the positives of MOOCs, viewpoints that would come from people whose livelihoods were or are grounded in full-time higher education, the version which costs money (of which two, at least, are readers of this blog - my Dad - to whom maybe my Mom will read this, and my friend Diana).  Di and my Mom remain loyal readers of this blog and if you're here and surprised to see a post, you have them to thank!
In other news, I have decided that I would really like to watch Star Wars, all 6 episodes, from start to finish, which has nothing to do with learning.  Or maybe it does.  I'm sure all great films have an educational element to them.  I'll report later on my journey to learn more from both MOOCs and Ewoks.