Sunday, June 10, 2018

Weeds, chemistry, woods.

Edda's morning plait:

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Vince and I tackled my parents' weed patch.  Got cited by the HOA this past week.

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I'm not sure it looks better.

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Vince's final grades care coming in for the spring term.  I will tell you what gave me an Asian mom heart attack this term, the thing that I had to step completely away from and enforce peace and tranquility upon myself.  The spring term is made up of two quarters, the general set up is that if you get two adjacent grades in either quarter, you get the higher grade.  Hence A going to B is an A for the semester and B going to A is also an A.    The quarter grades do not go to colleges, only the semester grades.  My personality would be to work hard the first half of the semester, ensure the A and then you don't have to worry about the 2nd half of the semester.  Vince does not have my personality.  He's a little more cowboy which just kills me.  He says he wants to be a chemical engineer (which I have kind of felt both pleased because he thinks what his parents do is kinda cool, and also kind of horrified because chemical engineers tend to live near big factories full of vats of chemicals that smell bad.  I think he has talent in creative writing (well, he needs some help with spelling and capitalization and grammar (as do I)), but am I going to push the writerly life? uhhh, no, I don't think so).  Anyways, this year he took his first chemistry course.  Cool!  Easy! is what I heard from him.  Fine, I love chemistry.  Avogadro's number, the beauty of the periodic table, acid/bases, etc.  All fun things.  So he heads into the final big exam of the first quarter in spring semester.  He tells me he has a solid A - like a 92 or something (I have long, long abandoned checking his grades electronically, I philosophically believe it's his own deal.  But really, it would just drive me crazy to check every day - I know myself.) and that he knows everything on the review packet.  He comes home from the exam - smiles and says it was easy peazy and I congratulate him and promptly forget about it.  I mean, it's chemistry.  It should be easy for him.  Two days later, he comes to me and tells me he failed the exam, thus plunging his grade into the mid 80s - a B. (Privately I'm baffled, at the height of my academic capabilities I could, to within +/- three points, predict how well I did on an exam as I was doing the exam.  Ask any earnest, diligent student and they will tell you how a 96 feels different than a 92 feels different than an 88 - (though I never knew what an 18 felt like until I took statistical mechanics at C*lt*ch with Jeremy as my TA.  awkward.  we were not yet in love then, I didn't even speak to him (although clearly evidenced from the 18, I should have gone to office hours) Regarding that era, Jeremy always fondly remembers how beautiful my handwriting was on the problem sets.  He never mentions the how well I did on the problem sets, lol.).  How can Vince possibly not differentiate the feeling between doing well on an exam and failing an exam?)  I'm like - dude, if a test is worth 20% of the grade, that's a lot!  A lot!  If you want to go to a good ChemE program, you can not possibly get a B in the intro to chemistry course.  It might not have been my finest parenting moment.  So, to get the A in the semester, he needed to get an A the 2nd half.  Fast forward to the 75% point in the semester, he gets a C on the mid-quarter exam, (also with the same attitude, super easy, I know all the stuff, I got the review packet, etc.)  I stand there like - OMG, he's going to get a B in chemistry.  The subject in which both parents have advanced degrees from very reputable colleges and have spent a lifetime studying and working on. The subject in which he says he wants to major in.   Everyday I look at things that talk chemical structures/formulas, hydrophobicity, catalysts, acid numbers.  Everyday I refer to the periodic table (well, in my head, I don't actually look at the periodic table very much anymore because it is almost like the fingerprints on my fingers). This is when I decide to let it go - I actually had to decide to physically leave the room if I was about to say anything about chemistry class.  I let him take care of it - no yelling, checking, freaking out or demands from me.  No frantic tutoring about how to do logs to find the pH of a solution. This was supremely not easy for me - I did freak out a lot to Jeremy who told me not to freak out (insert long discussions about how he got Cs in chemistry in high school and now he's like the super expert on biofuels with nice shiny degrees, to affirmative action (both gender and race), to white/asian privilege, to my own very mixed feelings about how hard I worked in high school/college and had 100% focus on grades, to discussions about what the most important things are to accomplish as a parent - what is our role exactly?, to honestly can we afford $70K a year anyways?)  What's the worst that can happen from getting a B in chemistry?  Really, not much, I guess.  (one would think that having a child like Edda would promptly relieve me of demanding any As from any of my other children, but somehow this isn't true (you know when babies are thought of in the ether as mystical, cute amorphous blobs of people and and one gets asked do you want a boy or a girl? and the right answer is it doesn't matter as long as it's healthy?  yeah, that and one that gets and A in chemistry, lol.) - maybe the exact opposite is true. So he rides into the big final exam yesterday, with, I swear, an 89 in the class.  I can not believe that this is going to have to come down to the last exam on the last day.   But to his credit, he pulled it off, got 100 on the final exam - pulled it up to an A.  He woke up this morning, a Saturday, and walked into my bedroom told me about it after seeing the grade posted online and I gave him a high five.  He walked back to his room.  I sighed a long sigh.

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This was the last woods orienteering of the season, Vince didn't go last week - he promised to go this week.  I know he doesn't want to do this, but he indulges me.  I had to arrange for Kitachi to come and care for Edda.  Initially, I was going to take Edda and have her do the beginner course with me, but the beginner course had some stairs in it and I didn't think Edda & I could manage that.  And, it was pouring, pouring rain which I can't subject Edda to.  Vince and I were going to do different courses - him an easier one, me a harder one.  But it was almost a mile of hiking to the start of both courses on a trail that had turned, in the downpour, into a minor river and he was flagging.  Complaining about not feeling well, of his back hurting, etc.  Saying that he just wanted to go back to the car and wait there for me.  I urged him to start his course, that I would help him find his first control.  We walked around for 20 minutes and couldn't find it.  It was slippery, still raining and his heart/head wasn't in it.  It was clear then to me that no one was going to complete any course and that we should just try to keep the mood light and the outing happy.  We had different maps, but we decided to stick together and use the maps in an overlapping manner to try and find a hodge-podge of controls, all out of order, but in the order that we might stumble on them.  We at many points asked each other - you're navigating, right?  I have no idea where we are and then the other person would say - no, I'm not navigating.  I thought you were navigating.  And then we'd stop and look at each other and then try to look at the map and figure out where we were.

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Jeremy, on the other coast, is enjoying absolutely perfect weather on a bike ride up Mt. Diablo.

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