Thursday, January 28, 2010

Monday, January 25, 2010

"And second-a-ball..."

I almost never correct my kids when they make grammar mistakes or other language errors. That's probably wrong of me, but I just think it's so cute when they come up with their own words and grammar -- like the word cracre-de-paix, which they invented long ago, but still use sometimes. They also say "virgule" instead of "vehicle" (virgules are a very important subject of conversation at our house). Sure, I could correct them, but they'll figure it out eventually.

One strange mistake that Leo makes is that he essentially doesn't use pronouns to distinguish people by gender. In Leo's world, everyone is he/his/him -- even people he clearly knows are female. Originally he was referring to everyone as she/her, but I imagine that he made the switch after male companions complained. I'd chalk it up to his bilingualism, but he makes the exact same error in both languages. (There are other cases where he'll translate literally from one language to the other, and it doesn't quite work...)

I just saw a new article on the benefits of bilingualism (hat tip too many tribbles). Whether it's beneficial or not, it's certainly cute. Remember the three dolls from the other day? Well, Leo decided that Mimi's name in French is "Moi-Moi." There's a certain logic to that. Then they decided that Jack-Jack and Incredible should have French names as well: "Jacques-Jacques" and "Incroyable." :D

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Announcing the William Law X-Mormon of the Year Award!!

If you follow the Mormon blog-o-sphere -- known as "the Bloggernacle" -- you know that two of the biggest blogs give yearly awards to famous people. Times and Seasons has the Mormon of the Year Award, and By Common Consent awards the Boggs-Doniphan Gentile of the Year to the non-Mormon who has had the biggest impact on Mormonism.

Well, Chino Blanco suggested that Main Street Plaza should step up to the plate and offer a corresponding award!!! Check it out and nominate your favorite exmo-who-made-the-news! :D

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Lessons (and accomplishments) in moving!!

I'd like to show you a picture of one of my most amazing parenting achievements:

Sorry, this isn't meant to be an ad for IKEA, but...

If you've been following this blog, you may know why this is so amazing. It's that this is the first time ever -- since I've had these two kids -- that their toys have been organized and sorted with a place for everything and everything in its place. (To show you what my usual M.O. is like, have a look at the pictures here and here.)

Since I'm not a fan of consumer culture, I really hesitate to post a picture of how many toys my kids have. However, part of my motivation for organizing the toys was to cut back on new toy purchases. At our old apartment, we only had room for a few large toy-boxes where all of the toys got tossed in and jumbled together. That made it impossible to play with any set that includes small parts, and larger toys even got sort of buried and lost. So the kids would constantly ask for new toys, which would be played with for a while (but would eventually get put away in the grand toy black hole and be forgotten).

As I'd predicted, merely getting out all the old toys and sorting them was like giving our kids a whole roomful of new toys. They immediately started playing with a bunch of old toys -- some of which they hadn't played with in years -- including some unexpected choices. Here are some that they rescued from my "put away in the basement" box:

These are some baby dolls that I'd bought for Nico when he was a toddler (to use to explain that he would soon have a baby brother).

One interesting point was to see what my two boys would decide about the dolls' gender. All three dolls were bald and naked (but not anatomically correct), so none of them had a built-in gender. I gave my kids all of the dolls' outfits -- one of which was pink. Here's what they decided:

The larger doll is a girl, and the two smaller dolls (who are identical except for their eye color) are boys. The girl is named "Incredible" and the two boys are "Jack-Jack" and "Mimi." (They were obviously influenced by the film The Incredibles, though I'm not sure where they got the name "Mimi" from.)

As I watched them play, the interesting -- and surprising -- thing was the total absence of gender stereotypes (aside from the idea that pink is for girls, see our history on that topic here and here). Instead, they mostly played school with the dolls. Nico explained that since Incredible is a year older than her two little brothers, she's learning more advanced science than the other two. He gave the two little boys a geography lesson (from the world map in the picture above) and taught Incredible about the Solar System from the other poster.

At bedtime, Nico decided to choose Incredible and Jack-Jack as his "bed-night buddies" (my kids' term for whichever toys they've decided to take to bed with them).

After dropping the kids off at school this morning, I came back and decided to take a picture of the dolls (for this post), but I couldn't find them. Eventually I discovered that Nico had spontaneously put them away in their bin! Without being told to do so!

Yes -- another parenting triumph!! I don't know why I kept thinking I'm a bad mom...

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Goodbye Princeton!

Like most people, I don't like to post to my blog too much detail about precisely where I live. But now that we're back in Switzerland, I can tell you where we were staying for the past few months: at the Institute for Advanced Study.

Unfortunately, I don't seem to have any pictures of us on the campus of the IAS, except for shots of us hiking in the Institute Woods.

The kids really liked climbing on the strange ivy we found there.

I just have a few shots of us on the Princeton University campus (which we would cross on our way to town):

Over by the math building, there was a weird sculpture (like a series of tall, metal corridors) where it was fun to race:

It was a great experience overall, and I'm glad the kids had the opportunity to try living in the U.S., if only briefly...

Saturday, January 02, 2010

It's just like starting over!

It's great to be home!!

Even if "home" is a new apartment -- piled high with boxes to unpack...

We've essentially been on the road for six months. And if you count the fact that we were in a furnished apartment (temporary housing through my husband's job) for the year-and-a-half that we were in Switzerland before, that makes two years since we've been settled. It's been a real nostalgia trip to see all of our old stuff again that was in storage.

I've never been big on making "resolutions" just for the sake of New Year's, but this time it's different. This whole past year has been about re-assessing my goals and trying to figure out what I want out of life. My life's strategy thus far has essentially been "follow your nose" -- just grab whatever opportunities present themselves. And my nose has led me to some interesting places: to a Ph.D. in Mathematics, to learning French and moving to Europe, to writing three Java books and a novel, to marriage and a couple of adorable kids, and to this fabulous Internet hobby! Yet I feel like a little tweaking is in order, and maybe even -- now that I'm approaching the mid-life crisis point -- it's time to have a plan.

I've isolated three main categories of goals where I need to put in some effort: (1) career, (2) German, and (3) arts (writing/blogging).

1. Naturally I can't go into too much detail on the Internet about work. I'll just say that I'd never spent much time worrying about what my career goals are, and when I landed in Switzerland, I didn't do a proper job search since I was offered something right away through some professional contacts I'd made while working in France. It wasn't much like what I was doing before, but I'm always happy to try new things. I'm glad to have expanded my tech range (so to speak), but I'm not totally happy with the direction my career was going.

This time I have a plan! I can't promise it's a good plan, but who knows? Maybe I'll find something promising...

2. When I was wandering around Zürich -- about a week before we left for the U.S. -- I was suddenly struck by how much I miss France. Those seven years in Bordeaux, I felt more at home than I've ever felt anywhere else. But looking around at these charming city streets, the shops, the public transportation system that I adore, it became clear that it's not Zürich that's the problem -- it's me.

I had invested so much time and effort -- so much of my heart -- in being a part of France. Here, even though everyone is willing and able to switch to English for me, I hate being the clueless American who has no idea what the hell is going on all the time and whom everyone has to make accommodations for. I hate it! I feel like all those years I spent integrating myself into French culture have suddenly been flushed down the toilet, and I'm back to square one as the bumpkin who just flew in from Cluelessville.

So, I'm done with just musing "ah, I really ought to learn German -- too bad it's such a bother." Now I'm going to actually do it. As I mentioned earlier, I finally finished one complete German (self-learning) course. (I'm kind of irritated to see how little I've understood of the ambient German since I've been back here, but it's a lot more than I understood when I left Zürich six months ago...) And now that I'm back here, I'm finally going to take a real German class. I'll make a point to negotiate the time off with my new employer. (When/if I find a job, that is -- see #1).

3. Long-time readers may or not have noticed how this blog has evolved over the past two years, but there's been a pretty big (gradual) change. Basically, I totally let go of obsessing over my blog stats: who's linking to me and how many people are reading. It cost me too much time and stress. Ironically, it also hurt the quality of the blog because it was hard for me to set aside time for any other artistic/creative projects if all my free time (after work and family) is eaten up by the Internet. I've gone down to a rate of posting slightly less than once per week, but it's more of a pleasure.

One of my side projects has been to learn more about how to create artwork on the computer. The cartoon illustrations I did for Exmormon were fun, but I think I can do better if I learn more techniques.

I've already taken a few baby steps, as you can see in the illustrations of past posts. In dream house I experimented with some silly effects:

And I drew my Thanksgiving Humbug entirely with Scalable Vector Graphics -- a technique I learned for my real job, as you can see here. In a nutshell, it's easier to do line drawings on the computer using SVG than it is to draw freehand and then scan them and color them on the computer (as I was doing before).

I also have some big plans for Exmormon this year, but they're a surprise. ;^)

By the end of 2010, I plan to have a new masthead (and maybe a whole new look) for this blog. There'll be no more "living in France Switzerland." My goal is to be really here, and to be able to create some new artwork to express where I'm at.