Thursday, April 30, 2009

Online Games

I have become addicted to Yahoo's Bejeweled 2. I am constantly playing the free web version while I work the computer. I prefer the classic, untimed version, where you need to link jewels to form chains that are three jewels or longer. Four jewel-long chains create a bomb, which explodes the next time you use that jewel to form a chain. Chains with five jewels form a hyper sphere, which eliminates all the jewels of the color of your choice.

When I get bored of this game, I turn to Super Text Twist. You have two minutes to form as many words as possible using the supplied letters. You need to find the longest word possible to proceed to the next level.

I also enjoy Bookworm. You link letters on books to form words. If you form too many three letter words, a burning book will appear on the screen. You will have to use the letter on this book to form a word before it reaches the bottom of the stack or the fire spreads to other books. If a burning book reaches the bottom of the stack, the library burns down.

What are your favorite online games?

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Spanish Radio

Definitely check out Batanga Radio for free Spanish music while you surf the Net. You can even set up your own personalized radio station, featuring only the songs that you like. Alternatively, you may click on the A-Z artist index, to find your favorite artist and listen to their radio station. I am currently listening to Juanes, and Kalimba on occasion. To listen to Juanes Radio, click here, and then click the play button.

Happy listening!

Hauling Wood and Tornado Drills

I just got back in from hauling more firewood. We heat our house with wood, so we get a lot of exercise. First you have to stack the wood once it's delivered, then you need to haul it into your basement. Finally, you need to stack it again. It's a constant cycle, but the fresh fire smell is unbeatable.

Today we had a tornado drill at school---even with constant reassurances, my one little first grader was terrified. She huddled up by me, and held my hand the entire time. Poor kid!

I have just one more day left in my internship. I'm going to miss the kids so much! There are a couple little ones that I absolutely adore. There is one little boy who is just so creative. This doesn't come out in the classroom. He gets overwhelmed so easily, and he just shuts down. When I work with him one on one, though, he flourishes. He has written several short stories on whatever subject we studied that day (he's a second grader). He loves working the copier, and has a good grasp of the mechanics of the machine. I'm going to miss him.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009


I am a confirmed book addict. I go to the library, and come out with my backpack bulging and my arms full of books. I need variety. I'm very ADD, and love switching from book to book. I usually have three or four books going at the same time.

I'm not terrible picky about the subject of my books---right now I've gotten into a homeschooling jag. If I ever have kids, I want to homeschool them. I've worked in both public and private schools, and nothing can beat the individual attention and flexibility that homeschooling offers.

I also have travelogues, books on Attention Deficit Disorder, and Uncle Tom's Cabin. I have a couple of real light reads, just to balance it out. What are you reading right now?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Strep Throat

I just got back from an overnight babysitting job for two kids with strep throat. It wasn't until about midnight that I learned that one of the boys not only talks in his sleep, but also sits up and yells. Let me tell you, was I ever in that room fast.

We made pasta salad, ate a lot of fruit, and played with legos. It was a very low key day, which was good since the family's dog burst into my room repeatedly in the middle of the night and hopped up on my bed, tail wagging happily. Now, this is okay if it were, say, a poodle. However, an enormous lab is a whole different matter. Every time, I woke with a start, trying to figure out what in the world was going on. Each time, I wound up face to face with a huge dog. Not my choice of a wake-up call, but whatever works.

I am going to sleep well tonight.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Book Challenges

I have spent way too much of the time I should have put into my American Lit essays looking up book challenges. There are just so many interesting challenges out there---there's the Love Bites Reading Challenge (which entails reading the entire Twilight series), the Decade Challenge (where you read books from nine consecutive decades), the Juvenile Literature Challenge (which is a good one for me right now, as I work in a school with young readers), and even more.

Right now I'm trying to read one classic a month. So far I've read Like Water for Chocolate, Rip Van Winkle, and Murder on the Orient Express. This month I'm reading Uncle Tom's Cabin. Most of these aren't traditional classics by any means, but they are closest I'm going to get until my crazy school schedule clears up.

Check out these blogs for some more reading challenges:
The Reading Challenges
Lynda's Book Blog
1 More Chapter

LSU Independent Study Classes

I discovered Louisiana State University's Independent Study classes when I was a sophomore at a crazily expensive private school. Even with half my tuition paid for through an academic scholarship, I was still struggling to pay for school. However, I was able to graduate a semester early by taking these online classes. These classes saved me nearly $10,000.

There are so many different classes available, from French to Calculus to Women and Literature. Three credit classes are $250 each. This is cheaper than even state university courses on a per credit basis, and the courses can be completed anywhere you have Internet access.

I was able to complete three credits toward my English major while teaching English in Guatemala. I could access my course materials online, and submit lessons electronically. I usually got my lesson back within a week.

The courses usually consist of fifteen lessons and two tests. The tests are proctored at a local university if you are outside the New Orleans area. If you are abroad, you can take the tests at a nearby university, or at a US military base.

These courses are convenient, inexpensive, and interesting. Take a look! You won't be disappointed!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

My Lovely, Lovely Resume

For some reason the blog was trying to post in Hindi. Strange, because I don't know Hindi.

Anyway, I have been working on my resume today, and debating whether to include the fast food restaurant job that I only held for a month. My reason for leaving was good enough, as almost all of my coworkers were either doing drugs on the job, or selling them. It wasn't a good work environment, to say the least. How in the world am I going to explain that on a job interview?

I then realized that a lot of my jobs only lasted a few months. I had to leave one of my English teaching jobs in Guatemala after my pastor student proposed to me (repeatedly.) My bosses were not backing me up on that issue, and I just could not continue working there. Also, they never wanted to pay me. They either conveniently didn't have change for a large bill when pay day came around, or they told me a sob story about how they are doing so many good works for the public, and couldn't I just accept partial payment for my work? I was an American after all. What American isn't just loaded with cash? Given that I was working three jobs at that time to pay for my room and board in a local home, I couldn't take a pay cut. I had $25,000 of loans coming due for college, and was pretty strapped for cash. I know how hard it is to make ends meet in Guatemala, and I don't begrudge their efforts to save some money. I just wish they could understand that not all Americans have a lot of money readily available.

Both of these jobs were infinitely interesting, and I wouldn't have missed the experiences for the world.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Travel Abroad

I recommend traveling abroad to anyone. The feeling of utter freedom, knowing that no one knows you there, is amazing. You can be the person that you just can't be at home.

I jumped off a bridge, I hitched in a semi, I broke several bones and experienced socialized medicine. I encountered tarantulas, and rode in the back of pickup trucks during a cattle drive. I swam in a cool pool beneath a hot waterfall. I lived with a Mayan priest and his family. I learned to dance Marimba, and participated in a Mayan ceremony.

It was exhilarating and terrifying. It was an experience. I was able to do things that I never would have had the courage to do at home. And I would recommend this experience to anyone.

Coming Out

I am slowly but surely coming out to my friends and family as gay.

This weekend I came out to my cousin. He was supportive, and as a fringe benefit, my little sister no longer uses the expression "That's so gay."

So far that brings the grand total of people who know up to fifteen, plus the members of the gay/straight alliance at college and my writing class.

I actually came out first to my three roommates. I had been dating a guy for a couple of weeks, and I was starting to realize how incredibly uncomfortable I felt. Hand holding was fine, but kissing? The best comparison I can make is it is like a straight man trying to kiss a man. It was awkward, and just didn't feel right. It wasn't planned, but I ended up asking my roommates how you could possibly break up with a guy if you're gay. It's just something that advice columnists never cover. They were surprised, but they helped me figure it out. I was honest with him.

The guy was so sweet, and told me how brave I was to tell him. I expected him to be shocked, or angry, or in denial. He was so great, though. We're still friends.

I told my parents next, on my birthday weekend. I had my van packed up and ready to go before I said anything. I didn't know how they'd react. I figured that since it was my birthday, they couldn't get too angry. They took it surprisingly well, though my mom still wonders if I'm going to hell. I come from a very conservative church.

My sisters were very supportive. One told me that if any of us turned out gay, her bets were on me. That made me laugh.

My parents still fluctuate from day to day over who they're willing I tell. First they say that I can be as open as I want (except for with my grandpa---they say he'll have a nervous breakdown and never recover if I tell him), then the next day they tell me that I shouldn't even tell my therapist, because then it's in my permanent records. I haven't told anyone in my tiny town yet---they freaked out when I turned vegan, who knows what would happen if they knew I was gay. I don't have to live here much longer, but my family does. I can keep quiet for them. It just feels like I'm denying who I am.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Education

I'm sorry I haven't written in so long! I've been bogged down in papers for my two credit Education Immersion class, lessons for my online Louisiana State University American Literature class, and my Readings in Education course. I finally got my five two page papers out, which is a huge relief, but I have four more to go.

One issue that has come up repeatedly throughout my internship is Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Over half of the kids in the school I work in suffer from prenatal exposure to alcohol. They have impulse and attention control issues, which makes class real interesting. There is one second grader who deals with anger management issues, and has repeatedly thrown his chair. It's sad to see how much trouble these little kids have in school, just because their mothers drank while they were pregnant.

According to the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome, when a mother drinks, that alcohol passes straight through the placenta to her child. If her blood alcohol level is 0.08, so is the baby's. This harms the baby's brain development, in particular the areas devoted to memory, attention span, and impulse control.

Unfortunately, there is a lot of overly pessimistic information out there. I ran into one source that claimed that half of FAS-affected adolescents have spent time in jail. It went on to claim that seventy percent of adults with FAS could not live on their own. I have not seen this in the community that I work in, and was surprised to see it in a mainstream city newspaper.

While the effects of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome are frustrating, especially considering that they are completely preventable, they do not prevent FAS-affected children from succeeding in life. They just need a little help.

I have seen one little boy make huge strides in impulse control over the course of the last three months. At the beginning of the quarter, he could hardly go two minutes without some sort of outburst. He'd get frustrated in math, and steal a classmate's worksheet. A classmate would say something to him, and he would jump over his desk and threaten to punch the kid. His teacher came up with the idea of a sticker chart to motivate him to change his behavior. When he gets five stickers, he gets two suckers. He earns stickers by staying focused during class, being nice to his classmates, and completing his work. Just three days after his teacher instituted this chart, he shocked me by politely asking for my help, instead of stealing another kid's worksheet! He even used the word please!

I'm not giving up hope. I can see how hard these kids are working. They've already overcome huge obstacles in their short lives, and they will overcome more.