Tuesday, October 27, 2009


The tail end of the cold I picked up in Tucson is still hanging on, and I often feel as if my brain has turned to oatmeal. The cold has dwindled into nothing more than an annoying post-nasal drip, and eventually that will be gone, too. Patience is required.

I finally got my blood work back from USC and it shows my Tg, my tumor marker, has further decreased to 0.21 from 0.23 last time. One of these days it will come back "undetectable" and then I can really relax. When I last spoke with my doctor she wanted me to do a Thyrogen protocol for bloodwork only, which wouldn't be too bad as it doesn't require going on the Low Iodine Diet. I'll call the office next month to see if I need to schedule something.

I finished the two little one-credit courses I was taking, and registered for the next two in my program, starting next Monday. I'm finally getting into the "methods" courses and am looking forward to learning more about managing lesson plans and curricula.

The constant topic of conversation between DH and me is the kids' schooling. We are going to try to move them into a different, very challenging, charter school in the fall. It's a K-12 school (or will be, next year), and working there while my children attended there would be a dream job. I called and spoke to the head of the middle school to ask about doing my practicums there, and I was straightforward about my desire to get the kids in there and my longer term career goals. I was pleased when he called me back to set up the interview, because they don't usually do that kind of thing. We'll see how it goes.

Also school-related, I am working on an enrichment curriculum for DS1 so that he will keep up his writing and math skills in the interim.

The holiday-birthday season gets underway shortly with Halloween followed by DD's birthday. We'll scarcely go three weeks without some kind of celebration in this house from now till Easter -- it's fun but exhausting. We've decided to stay home this Christmas and not go to DisneyLand; being away from home for both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day just didn't sit right with us.

My first paycheck arrived from LeapForce on October 22, three weeks after I submitted it. There were no issues whatsoever, and LeapForce emailed me to acknowledge receipt of the invoice, to tell me it had been approved, and to tell me it had been paid. Tasks have been scarce the past few days I've logged in to work, but timing is an important issue: weekends and Monday mornings are the worst times to get tasks, everybody's working then. It's going pretty well overall.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

touring around Tucson

We left Wednesday after piano lessons, arriving at the Casa Grande National Monument just about a half hour before it closed at 5PM. The ride to Case Grande was easy, and the monument itself is very cool, and the little museum accompanying it is charming as well.

The Big House, a 4-story building made entirely of caliche, about 600-700 years old.

Leaving Case Grande, I realized that somehow the directions I had printed out included only the directions and not the mileage in between each step. Lacking the mileage markers and contending with road construction left me with an exercise in frustration. We wandered through Coolidge and serendipitously came upon this gorgeous courthouse in Florence:

1891 Pinal County Courthouse, the oldest public building continuously in use in Arizona.

I gave up trying to find the way to I-10 and on the spur of the moment decided to follow the sign that said "Tucson" and nothing else. It turned out to be Route 79, which was a long, gorgeous drive through a cactus forest all the way down to the foothills. Rte 79 merges into Rte 77 which is Oracle Parkway in Tucson, and our hotel was just off that street.

We stayed at the Comfort Suites, which was inexpensive, clean, and conveniently located. Breakfast was included, as was free wifi which worked very well. I took advantage of the wifi to put in some work hours each night after the kids were in bed -- and to get the mileage figures for all of our directions.

On Thursday morning we headed out to San Xavier del Bac. It was beautiful and I wish we could have spent more time there, but the kids were not in a contemplative mood at all.

Mission San Xavier del Bac

Lion figure flanking the altar

The back courtyard

From San Xavier, we headed to Colossal Cave Mountain Park where we took the cave tour. It was really splendid. DS1 was a little nervous about going down the stairs and falling into bottomless crevices, but there was never any danger. Our tour guide Bill was knowledgeable and interesting, and I was cracking up because all three of the kids made a point to stick close to him so they could hear him and ask (and answer) questions. Photographing the interior of the cave was difficult with my little point-and-shoot.

On the path to the cave entrance

The silent waterfall.

Bill, by the way, confirmed my good judgment in choosing Colossal Cave over Kartchner Caverns; "It's not a kid-friendly environment," he said. The only disappointment at the Colossal Cave park was lunch: I was very low on cash and the little eatery (it reminded me of a clam shack, but of course there were no fried clams) didn't take credit cards. We headed out and got some lunch in town, and then went back to the hotel to spend the rest of the afternoon at the pool. Sure, we could have gone somewhere else, but I really didn't want to over-extend anyone.

We even played chicken, and my neck is still paying for it.

The kids slept well both nights but I did not, and Friday morning I was so miserable I got up to take some ibuprofen at 5:30 in the hope that I could get at least an hour or two of decent sleep. It helped a little. After breakfast we packed up the room and checked out, and then headed out to The Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum. I mis-transcribed the mileage on the directions and we ended up taking a round-about route that cost us about 20 minutes or so, but it wasn't a disaster. It was very hot for this time of year: 100 degrees. We all had water bottles and stopped frequently at the excellent (cold) water fountains to drink and refill our bottles. We somehow managed to walk all the trails at the museum and eat lunch and still got out of there just before 1PM. I think if it had been cooler we would have lingered more, but it was exhausting. The museum is like a combination zoo and garden, and we saw a lot native animals, plus exhibits on minerals, archeology, living underground and many others I'm forgetting.

Gorgeous landscape

A very accomodating coyote, resting in the shade of a bush quite near the fence of his enclosure.


Evidence they weren't completely miserable.

We wandered through a bit of Saguaro National Monument but only for a few minutes; we'd seen more stunning cactus forests on the trip down Rte 79, where the chollas were as tall as trees, giving the saguaro some competition for tallest cacti in the area. We drove home up I-10 which must be one of the most boring drives ever; unlike Rte 79, there was nary a cactus to be seen, just miles of flat plain with the occasional tumbleweed or other shrub. We stopped at Borders for our usual Friday afternoon snack, and got DS1 to his doctor's appointment right on time at 4PM.

By the time we got home I knew I was sick: DS2 had a bit of something last week and ran a mild fever a couple of days. It seems to be a cold with a little bit of a kick, but I don't think it's the flu. I'm taking ibuprofen and Mucinex religiously and it's helping, but I think I just have to wait it out. Would I have gotten sick if we had stayed home? Probably not. The trip was still worth it, though.

Friday, October 09, 2009

fall break

© 1970 Mark A. Dimmitt / ASDM Sonoran Desert Digital Library

Growing up on the East Coast, I never had a fall break, because school didn't start until the Wednesday after Labor Day. Sure, we had a long weekend in October for Columbus Day, and an extra-long weekend in November for Thanksgiving, but our first vacation was over Christmas.

This year, the kids started school on August 10, and it's a very long haul from August 10 to Christmas. They have next week off, and I'm hoping we'll actually do something. The idea is to spend a few days in Tucson visiting interesting things down there, but we have appointments Monday and Friday and piano lessons on Wednesday, plus karate both Saturdays. We'll have to fit a trip in somewhere. We had such a great time at the Grand Canyon, etc last year that we are looking forward to doing something equally fun this year.

There's a lot to choose from, and here's our list of most-likely destinations: Colossal Cave Mountain Park, Casa Grande ruins, The Arizona-Sonoran Desert Museum, Tombstone, and San Xavier del Bac Mission.

We thought about Kartchner Caverns but decided against it for three reasons: 1) you need to make reservations in advance; we'd rather be flexible 2) the interior of the cave is warm (72 degrees) with 99% (not a typo) humidity all the time and 3) the rules and restrictions are not exactly kid-friendly; you can't even bring bottled water with you on the 90-minute tour. (If my salivary glands are acting up, I would have a hard time making it 90 minutes without having something to drink.) I understand they're trying to preserve the caverns, but I have no desire to take my kids to what is essentially an underground fishbowl where we'll be policed by fanatics lest we brush up against a wall and contaminate the environment. Colossal Cave is dry. That, I can deal with.

Now I get to play travel agent and find a hotel, plan an itinerary,and print out maps, if I can figure out when and where to go.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

in a bit of a bad way, here

One of the reasons I wanted that job was to provide an external motivator to get to bed at a reasonable hour.

Of course, napping for an hour after dinner isn't exactly conducive to going to bed early.

Friday, October 02, 2009

accustomed to disappointment

I didn't get the job I interviewed for on Monday.

On balance, this is probably a good thing. It would have been very stressful, working a full school day and then having to dash to pick up the kids at their schools. In truth, I think my schedule requirements counted against me, which is not unreasonable.

I will continue to plug away at my at-home job, which isn't much but it is something, and above all it offers flexibility.

If I get really itchy to get in the classroom, I'll put my application in to substitute... Chandler's taking applications now, and Gilbert may be, too. In the meantime, my next classes have practicums that will require some classroom time -- that's better than nothing.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

the invoice is in the ether

I just sent off my first invoice to my employers, LeapForce At Home.

As a contractor (they have a 1099 form on file for me, along with a signed contract), I send them a monthly invoice using the invoice creation system they have implemented. It's not the slickest user interface, but it works, allowing me to enter my daily hours -- to the minute -- as required by the agreement.

Their payment terms are net 30; I wonder how long it will take for the check to get here? They don't do direct deposit. I can live with that.

The Holy Rosary for children

I wrote a book last weekend.

The Holy Rosary: A coloring book with illustrations, explanations, and scripture passages for each mystery. I've always wanted a book for children that had illustrations for each mystery, and I've also always wanted a simple scriptural rosary that gave the basic texts aligning with them, also. The illustrations I found at St. John the Baptist's RE Page, and the scriptures are taken from the USCCB New Advent Bible.

What part did I write? A simple explanation of the events surrounding each mystery, followed by one or two lines intended to lead the reader to contemplation or meditation. Here's an example:

The First Joyful Mystery: The Annunciation

Annunciation is another way of saying announcement.

In this mystery, the angel announces to Mary that she has been chosen to be the mother of God's Son. The words he said to greet her became the beginning of the Hail Mary prayer: "Hail, Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women."

God sent the angel Gabriel to Mary to ask her if she would become Jesus' mother. Mary did not understand how this could happen, and she knew it would not be easy, but she had faith. Mary said, "Yes."

What is God asking us to do? How can we say "yes" to God?

Here is the pdf file.

This work may be freely copied and distributed for non-commercial educational purposes only.