Sunday, July 20, 2008

Have we caught a favourable tailwind?

Have we?

The crossdraft seems less, somehow.
I think we're going faster.
Don't you think?

It's not been as much of a struggle, the last 20 or 30 kilometres.
Have you noticed that?

I feel so light.
So airy.
Like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders.

Wait ... where's my boat?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Crossing the Coursework Line

I'm taking a course. Another one. Being no fool, I opted for a lighter term this time around. I figured with a new baby, I couldn't handle an intensive high pressure course this term. So I chose to do my first business case this term. Three months to do a project that is supposed to take around 60 hours to complete. No assignments. No quizzes. No final exam. Just a project. I even arranged to start it early, so that I wouldn't have to work at it for the first month after the baby was born. It's due on September 12. I'm about 75% done already. All that's left is to write two reports. They're difficult, but I should be able to handle that. I've got almost two months. And I know what I'm doing, for the most part.

The business case is basically a test of how well a student knows the materials that he or she studied in levels one through three of the program. We have to do a bunch of year-end entries in Accpac (Batch 2), perform some adjusting and correcting entries (Batch 3), input a current and future tax entry (Batch 4), prepare some schedules in relation to our entries, prepare some internal financial statements, prepare a few spreadsheets, and complete three reports with supporting exhibits. Really, the reports are the toughest part for me. But I write fairly well, so as long as I can figure out the correct recommendations, I should be okay writing the reports.

Since this is distance education, we can't really work in groups and collaborate. But the association recognizes the importance of collaboration. So one of our resources is the Student Lounge. It's an online forum where we can post questions to and receive feedback from fellow students. It can be pretty helpful, but can also deteriorate to a case of the blind leading the blind. So you really have to know your stuff when you visit the forum, or you can be easily misled.

We also have an online course tutor. We can ask questions of the tutor and get clarification on a number of points. The tutor will not premark our project and will only give guidance. Different tutors in different classes tend to operate in different ways. In this class, the tutor is refusing to answer any questions in any kind of remotely useful manner. So the students are relying on one another more than is the norm. Makes it harder, but we cope.

The final resource available for collaboration is a student mailbox, where we can email one another privately. This works well if we need to speak to a specific student, or if we want to work in a group with friends we've made along the way but don't want to share our detailed answers with the entire class. This way, we can collaborate in greater detail. But it's understood that none of us steal each other's work. No plagiarism. No copying. It's against the rules, and can get us kicked out of the program.

Every so often, a student decides to take advantage of the available resources. It's not the first time this has happened to me. I'm sure it will not be the last.


She posts in the student lounge. She is wondering if she has prepared Batch 3 correctly. She posts her batch total and asks if others in the class could compare. Her batch total is incorrect. It is off by over $100,000. I post my batch total and let her know that I think she is off, and I tell her at least one thing that I think she probably missed.

She private messages me. She attaches a printout of all of her entries for Batch 3 and asks me to check them and let her know where she is out. By doing this, she is pushing the boundaries. I do not know her. We have never worked together. To the best of my knowledge, we have not taken other courses together. I am a classmate. I have my own work to do. She is basically asking me to premark her project. I can't do that.

I give a quick look at her entries for Batch 3. There are only five or six entries, so it doesn't take very long. I respond by telling her that I can see several errors. And I let her know where those errors appear to be. I provide a bit of guidance, to point her in the right direction. But I do not share my answers, and I don't give details on how she should correct her entries. She figures things out with the guidance I have provided. She emails me and lets me know that she corrected her entries and that our totals now match.

She then private messages me again. This time, she attaches a printout of all of her entries for Batch 4, as well as her supporting spreadsheet for current and future tax calculations. She asks me to check her entries as well as her spreadsheet and let her know if it's right.

She has now completely crossed the line. She is no longer looking for a check figure. Really, she wants me to complete her assignment for her. Perhaps I should just email her my completed project so that she can put her name on it, hmmm?

I look at her Batch 4 entries. There are only two entries, so it doesn't take very long. Her entries differ significantly from mine. I respond to her. I tell her that our entries are very different from one another, but that I really do not have time to check her work for her and let her know why our entries are out by so much. I tell her that she should probably review her prior courses or maybe ask the tutor for some help. And I leave it at that.

After I hit "send", I look at her spreadsheet for my own curiosity. I discover that her net income amount, which is the starting point for the spreadsheet, is out by around $110,000. There are other errors, too. But this is the main problem. And I realize that, since her Batch 3 total matches mine and she hasn't posted Batch 4 yet, she must have made mistakes in Batch 2 that resulted in the huge difference in net income. Batch 2 has around thirty entries, if a student has done it succinctly.

I do not email her back to let her know that this is the primary issue. I'm sure you can see why. I do not email her back because she is taking advantage of my good nature and continuing to ask me to premark her work. If I email her back, where will it end? If I review her Batch 4 spreadsheet and let her know that her net income is off and that she must have made errors in Batch 2, then she'll email me her Batch 2 and ask me to check all of the detailed entries and supporting schedules. And if I do that, then next she'll email me her financial statements and ask if they're right. And by the time all is said and done, I'll end up preparing her cash flow statement for her. And I can't do that. It would be wrong. Not to mention that it would eat up a significant amount of time that I do not have.

As you know, I do not have a lot of time at my disposal just now. That's why I got a head start on the class when I had more time on hand. And my time management strategy has worked; that is the reason my project is now 75% complete. I didn't do it so that I'd have more time to complete the work of other students for them. I did it so that I'd have more time with my family, at a period of time when I really need family time.

The business case is supposed to test each student on how well he or she knows the materials taken in levels one through three. It is not supposed to test each student on how well I know the materials taken in levels one through three. I know the materials quite well. We all know that, based on my grades to date.

I'm happy to provide input. I'm happy to guide a student who's a bit lost. I don't want anyone to fail this project if I can help by providing a bit of direction. But I will not premark a paper. I will not email a summary of all of my work so that it can be copied. I will not do her work for her. Ultimately, she must do her own work and complete her own project.

We all have our line in the sand. That is mine.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

On Birds and Piglets

J continues to hate all things food. He eats better, but he still doesn't eat enough. As my mom says, "He doesn't eat enough to keep a bird alive". I've never encountered a kid quite so fussy! Foods he enjoys are:

Meats and Substitutes:
Hot dogs (no condiments, no bun)
Hamburger patties (no condiments, no bun)
Hamburger soup
Chicken (plain roast chicken only ... any other preparation is unacceptable)
Ham (note: he hates bacon. He eats ham, but under protest)
Peanut butter and strawberry jam (he prefers to eat these off the bread and leave the bread behind)
Eggs (scrambled or hard boiled only, and with nothing mixed in)

Breads and Cereals:
Garlic bread (french bread, crust only)
Garlic bread topped with mozzarella cheese (french bread, crust only)
Maccaroni and cheese (melted cheez whiz topping - he detests Kraft Dinner)
Pancakes (but only at my mom's house)
French fries, without ketchup
French fries, with ketchup (only if the ketchup is in a squeeze bottle)
Tater tots
Hashbrowns (the "McDonald's" variety)
Potato chips (plain)
Doritos (Nacho Cheese flavoured)
Cheerios (if they're dry)
Shreddies (if they're moistened with chocolate milk and fed to him one at a time)
Granola bars (the Trail Mix kind with the nuts. He breaks them apart and separates grains, fruits, and nuts into separate piles. He prefers to eat only the nuts)

Fruits and Vegetables:
Carrots (raw or cooked)
Corn (in small portions only)
Cucumber slices
Most fruits (exceptions include pineapple and blueberries)

Milk (plain, unflavoured, and cold)
Hot chocolate
Yogurt (Danino brand; white only ... if there is coloured fruit mixed in, he won't eat it)
Cheese strings (Black Diamond brand)
Cheese slices (Cracker Barrel pre-sliced cheese - he hates processed cheese slices)
Pudding (chocolate, pre-made Jell-o brand, at room temperature)

Chocolate icing (he won't eat anything it's on - he just licks off the icing)
Gummies (the "real fruit" variety)
Chocolate chips (unflavoured)

He still doesn't eat enough of even the foods that he enjoys. And he takes forever to eat anything!!

His height is increasing slowly. His weight is not improving. But at least he's not actively losing weight any longer. He's a slow grower, but is somewhere along the 5th percentile for both height and weight. If he'd eat better, this would improve. But he won't.


By contrast, N is a piglet. He eats almost constantly. I've had to go on medication to increase milk supply, as I can't keep up with his appetite. Even with the medication, I'm hard pressed to keep up with him. At 8 weeks of age, N weighs 10.5 pounds and is 23 inches long. He is in the 25th percentile for weight and the 50th for height.

N will be bigger than his big brother if J doesn't start eating more food.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Anger Management

J has been having more and more tantrums. Openly violent tantrums. We don't know quite what we're supposed to do about it.

Last night, J threw a handful of rocks at me, just before he started punching and kicking me.

Tonight, J punched H several times.

I love my son. But I do not like this behaviour. We can't come up with a suitable punishment for him - nothing we try works. These are just the highlights of the past couple of days. J has done more than just those things ... but I can't get into all of it here. I wish he'd stop. But he won't.

Currently, J is asleep in his bed. N is half asleep in his swing. H is out with a friend. And I am trying not to cry. I'm not sure if I'm saddened by J's behaviour, or if I'm just angry. I'm definitely angry, though.

I need chocolate. Chocolate and ice cream. Deep fried. With whipped cream and sprinkles. And vodka. Lots and lots of vodka.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

J and his Babies

This morning, J brought three teddy bears into our room - Panda, Red Bear, and Gold Bear. He insisted that they were his babies. He changed each of their diapers, making sure to apply copious amounts of "bum cream". And then he lifted his shirt and breastfed each "baby" in turn.


Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The obstinate, sarcastic wing-nut doesn't fall far from the tree

J was very well behaved this morning. He was sweet and snuggly, and made me very happy. He got up before H left for work, but seemed to understand that I was really tired. He snuggled up to me in the bed and watched Treehouse contentedly for a little while while N and I slept. Once we got up, however, all bets were off.

J refused to eat his breakfast. It was just dry Cheerios and a glass of milk, which is J's favorite breakfast. I let him eat it in the living room while watching cartoons. This usually entices him to eat his breakfast. But he just sat there and picked at his food. When he finally decided to eat some of it, he gagged and threw up all over the floor and couch. And that was when I first noticed that we were out of paper towels. I managed to clean up the mess with napkins. I washed the couch with soap. I went to wash the floor. And that was when I discovered that we were out of Swiffer solution. I used different solution, and got everything suitably cleaned up.

N began to squawk at this point. I picked him up for a moment, but was interrupted by J's announcement: "I pooped in my pull-up". J continues to be less than stellar on the whole potty training front. In any event, I took J to the potty and then went to change him. J did not cooperate with either activity. It was most unpleasant; let's just leave it at that.

It was a beautiful day out today. It was quite hot, but not unbearable. J wanted to go for a stroller ride. I got out the double stroller, got the kids ready, and away we went. Took them on a nice brisk walk around the storm pond. J likes water, and was interested in seeing it. I let him pick our destination. He has several other places where he likes to go, too. Since we couldn't do them all, we had to save some for another time. Specifically, we had to forego the waterfall and fountain in the neighbouring community, the playground, and the candy store.

J enjoyed his walk. It was a fairly long walk. He made me stop periodically to pick up rocks. And from time to time, I had to push the stroller over various sewers so that he could drop the rocks in. This is his favourite activity. Drives us nuts, but it's all he really wants to do.

We returned to the house, hot and spent but happy. The double stroller is quite heavy, and I felt like I'd gotten a nice workout. I got J out of the stroller first. I figured he'd do the usual thing: climb up on the veranda and play with his rocks, trucks, and sandtable while I got N out of the stroller. He did climb up on the veranda. He grabbed some rocks. I worked on getting N out of the stroller. And then:

J: I want to drop these rocks in the sewer.
T: No, J. We're going inside.
J: How come?
T: Because I have to think about N too. He's hot and tired. It's time to go inside.
J: I'm going to drop these rocks in the sewer.
T: No. The sewer is too far away. Let's go inside.

By this time, I have N in my arms. J sees his opportunity, and starts running down the street, rocks in hand, toward the sewer. I can't chase him down and pick him up, since I'm holding N. I holler "J! STOP!!" J looks back and sees me approaching, N in my arms. He laughs defiantly. He continues to run down the street. At one point, he throws two plastic dinosaurs in my path. I step over them and continue to walk toward my openly defiant child.

J drops his dang rocks in the dang sewer. Then he runs back to me and N. He loses all play privileges for the rest of the day. And as we walk back to the house, I scold him openly.

T: You don't ever run off like that!!!
J: Can I walk off?

Lovely. Okay, so I can't run off. What if I walk? What if I crawl? How about if I prance off? He is just the most sarcastic little 3-year old I have ever met!!!

I told H about it. His comment was that J comes by his sarcasm honestly. I guess that's true. Between me, H, and our respective blood lines, sarcasm definitely runs in the family. I'd just kind of hoped it would start a little later.

Go ahead! Laugh at my pain!!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Evening Oddities

Wandered into an HMV tonight. Looked at the discount movie rack. This little exchange resulted.

T: So I see that "Footloose" is $15, but if I buy "Footloose" and "Flashdance" together, I get both movies for $10. What's that about? You can't give "Flashdance" away? You have to pay me to take it?

Record Store Guys: Yeah. We'll give you a deal on "Footloose" if you just pleeeeeeez take "Flashdance" too?

T: Yeah. See, five bucks ain't enough.


J still doesn't eat enough. But he does enjoy certain junk foods ... chips, chocolate, hotdogs, donuts ... that kind of thing. He doesn't eat much of these foods either. At least empty calories can't really hurt him at this stage. All caloric intake is kinda good at this point. Whatever.

J: Panda wants a donut. And I want a donut too!
H: Ok. We'll get you a donut soon.

(A short while later)

J: Can we go to McDonald's?
H: I thought you wanted a donut.
J: (incredulously) A donut?!
H: Yes. Don't you want a donut anymore?
J: No. Can we go to McDonald's?
H: Well, I suppose ...
J: (singing) I want a donut. I want a donut. I want a donut, at McDonald's.