Our recent hurdle is one of competing interests and escalating difficulty. Claire has been taking piano for four years now and, truth be told, is pretty darn good at it. But she has a lot of things going on. We push her. We’re demanding parents. French immersion at school, extra curricular sports, and piano lessons to boot. And the piano is getting tough. I used to be able to fake it, but now I’m just standing there bewildered trying to remember what she learned last year. This, obviously, blossoms into some interesting practice sessions in our house, more and more of which end in tears. We’re practicing our parenting skills, but our feet are to the fire it seems. Some day she’ll thank us, right?
We’ve joined a local swim club.
To be clear, Claire is the one who has joined, but as I’ve been abruptly informed over the last couple weeks since we signed up, swimming can be one of those sports that consumes your life –y’know, as a family– if you let it.
So… we’ve joined.
For as long as I remember I’ve been a swimmer. Not competitive, but a bit of a casual fish, perhaps. It may just be poor memory, not recalling much prior to the age of five, but I seem to remember spending a lot of time in the pool as a kid.
I was never that good at “proper” swimming, as I’m sure my parents would attest, but I enjoyed the water and even today wish I could do more. (And NO… I’m not hinting at a triathlon, by the way.)
Karin has never been much of a swimmer. I blame her upbringing for that. I still get a kick out of ribbing her family: we went to Hawaii a few years ago with her parents, et al, and I’m not sure they packed a swimsuit between the lot of them. “Oh… you mean there is swimming in Hawaii now!?”
Claire loves the water. And we’re hoping the club with a little more of that incentive-to-compete mentality gets her skills up to snuff. If it works out, I may have a swimming buddy after all… that, and a lot of time sitting beside a pool in the near future.
Ah, June… Summer is at our doorstep, the days are (almost all of them) seeming to get a little bit longer, and for the second year in a row I am partaking in my daily blogging exercise, marginally focused along a theme I’ve simply called Those 30 posts in June. No planning. No writing stuff days ahead. Just this: each day a meanderingly vague prompt drives a meanderingly vague post… and today that post just happens to be:
June 12th // Something You Are Learning
I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that Claire is now fully registered in kindergarten starting this September — insert obligatory “my, how time flies comment here” — and not only JUST kindergarten, but french immersion kindergarten to boot.
We’re doing the high achieving parent thing and putting her into a program that will hopefully give her a little leg up in life. I don’t know if there is any evidence-based reason — for or against — to push a kid through a language immersion school program, but we rationalized it like this: we live in a bilingual country, we have that option, and we’re willing to put in the extra-curricular effort to help her succeed.
What was that? Extra effort?
Yeah, that’s right. We were dutifully informed by the teachers at orientation night even before signing up that parents are going to be tasked with a generous dose of involvement. French immersion is no drop-and-go program: be prepared to be your kid’s second set of instructors.
Want your kid to learn all those fancy things like reading and basic math in the first couple years? That’s right. They don’t learn those things in this program — they spend the first couple years getting operationally fluent in their new second langauge.
So, we are about to become home-schooling teachers… sort of.
And to make it even more interesting on ourselves, we’ve decided to brush up on our own French language skills. After all, is it particularly fair that our daughter will quickly learn a language that we — thanks to a few years of high school level French nearly twenty years ago — are just able to get by with? I didn’t think so either. And thankfully we have tonnes of awesome resources, such as websites, books, audio programs, bilinugal television, Canadian food packaging, and — not least — some wonderful next door neighbors who used to live in Paris.
It’s going to be a process… but hey, I guess that’s what I signed up for with this fatherhood thing, eh?
There are just some things you can’t learn from a book.
Leading into the holidays, Karin and I simultaneously noticed a Groupon promotion for an Alberta-based photography school called FotoScool (www.fotoscool.ca) where they were offering their introductory “basic” workshop for about one-third of their list value. I told her. She told me. And…
Well, guess what I got for Christmas.
When I attended last Saturday I found myself sitting at a table with three other guys who’s wives had also bought them the same gift for Christmas. It was like a club, or something.
To be honest, I wasn’t sure what I was getting myself into that early weekend morning, driving over with my music blasting on the car stereo, half-way round the city to the facility where the class was being held. It was listed as a beginner class. It could have been anything, I thought, and here I am posing as a noob and taking an intro class.
But there is always something to be learned. And some things — no matter how many books and websites you read — that just never click until someone is standing there walking you through it.
The basic class wasn’t so much a photography course as it was an ‘introduction to light’ course. We talked very little about composition. We talked very little about subject matter. We talked very little about photographs in general. What we did discuss was light, and the very important ways that digital cameras understand light. We learned not the basics of what most people think about when they think of photography, but instead we learned how to forget about what the camera’s little brain is telling us about the light, and instead how to crank the tools to manual mode and use those tools like a real photographer might.
I’m not horribly embarrassed to admit that (while I’ve experimented with full manual mode and a few mediocre attempts at proper light metering) I’ve usually fallen back on the auto metering modes and focused on composition. But the instructors, one of whom who has a freelance resume that more resembles the magazine rack at the grocery store than mine ever will, effectively — in the span of a six hour practical course — kicked that crutch to the curb. (Though I’ll still use my point-and-shoot, of course, when the moment strikes!)
It clicked. All my reading, all my experimenting — everything. And it took an afternoon in a ‘beginner’ course before all the pieces lined up in the bright sunlight. I was standing in a greenhouse photographing a well-lit display of rainbow-coloured flower pots, and it — right there — suddenly all made sense. Epiphany struck.
On the drive home I rolled back through my mind on every mediocre photograph I ever took, realized that my awesome composition couldn’t have ever made up for crappy lighting — and crappy light metering — and had one of those giddy moments trying explain my glee to Karin back home.
Needless to say, I’ve already registered for the intermediate course. Take two? Anyone wanna join me?
Last night it was minus fifteen Celsius. Last night was also the first night of my running clinic. We didn’t run five kilometers yet. Actually, I just stuck it into runningmap.com and came up with 2.75 clicks — but not bad for my first serious run in a couple months, and my first serious cold-weather winter run since high school oh-so-long-ago.
There are five people in the class, plus an instructor. Three of us were dressed in black. I think there might be a small spike in the sales of reflective clothing over the next few days. Not a big spike. But a spike.
After a productive morning, reflecting on work-related projects and such, I pause briefly to ponder my existence:
The snow is still here. Shock. I suppose that this is becoming a symptom of my Vancouver-ization: I am shocked at snow, and worse, shocked at the fact that people beyond Vancouver (ie. my parents who watch the Weather Network religiously) didn’t know that this city was experiencing a quasi-normal environmental upheaval. Shame on us all… but not too much.
The plans for this evening are still afloat, but I need to land them so I know how to spend the two precious hours after work: rewind back to pre-blog eras. Earlier this year Chris and I enrolled in a cooking course thru VSB. Long story short: the class ended a month ago, but the teacher is having the alumni to her house tonight to demo their new cooking skills. My ride (ie. Chris) is still pondering his attendance, so I need 411 that I know to cook furiously a gourmet meal post-employ… the pain of it all.
I also want to express my awe and wonder at Revenue Canada, who, after reviewing my feeble attempt at an income tax claim, gave me more money that I thought I deserved. In all fairness: I did earn it and they actually only took less than I originally thought. But receiving a substantial cheque in the mail is always a nice feeling. Sigh…