The best of 2003 - click here for the illustrated version (555K)

Well, the children are growing like weeds. Adam seems to be much like Tim in many ways. Perhaps some of you might recall, Tim is a walking encyclopedia. In fact, people around him don't bother to look up any information if he is around. After all, why open a book when the information is inside a live human being? Well, it seems like Adam is not only following in Tim's footsteps, but has gone beyond. Sometimes Adam is more likely to provide the answer than is Tim. I made the observation the other day that Adam is Tim's carbon copy which got steeped in generous amounts of the toner in the copier. Such a racist comment!

JS, on the other hand, has taken our clan into areas not trod upon hitherto. Music. He plays the violin and the viola and is looking forward to getting a bass guitar followed by drums to add to his repertoire. I will let Tim describe JS' taste in music. Suffice it to say that he likes to listen to anti-establishment rock, with provocative lyrics. He has a collection of his own CDs, some bought, some downloaded. Of classical music, he says that he doesn't listen to it but plays it! Such arrogance in one so young! He has performed in several concerts, the last one, a week ago, in a fantastic church in Toronto. I hope Tim can attach a picture of this.

From late-August through mid-November we had an exchange student, Constantin, from Germany. Constantin stayed with us and became a part of our family in every way. At first, I was very leery about how we will manage having three boys in this house, a small bungalow made for a childless couple! Our house is, in every way, the antithesis of Martha Stewart's idea of living quarters. If you walk on the kitchen floor with sweaty feet, you might dislodge the tiles and drag them around! In fact, I am sure that many aspects of the house would qualify as the worst nightmares of the American Domestic Diva. So, I had my qualms about how we will accommodate a fifth person in this house. But, we managed without a hitch. That is, there were predictable hitches and we were able to duck at appropriate times and avoid disasters. Most bad things, in the way of bickering etc., took place in the mornings, in the process of getting ready for school or work. In the evenings, a relative calm descended as we shared stories at the dinner table. We had 'evicted' JS out of his room to let Constantin stay in relative privacy. Not only did we clean and paint this room, but we also fixed up a desk (mine), a lamp etc. In the end, we realized that we need not have done anything special. Most days, the three boys were sprawled out on the living room floor doing their homework. Or in Adam's room, spread out on his bed! Or lying down, comatose, on the couch in front of the TV. Males bond in the strangest of ways.

Probably the best thing about Constantin was that he took to my cooking like a duck to water. I have never had such compliments about the things I cook. Adam and JS would look at him suspiciously as he wolfed down something like Zucchini or Ratatouille while saying that they taste "fabulous". My kids love my cooking, but they regard some items like Zucchini and Eggplant as "evil". So, they didn't know what to think of Constantin, except to hold him in awe as they rate these foods as "adult foods". In any case, it was extremely rewarding for me to cook while Constantin was here because he appreciated everything I made.

I would write about Tim but there isn't much to write. No noticeable change. He still works almost round the clock, has a proclivity to get entangled into chronic never-ending projects and rarely takes a day off. Change in Tim's ways should be measured over decades using the same scale as the one assessing continental drift. So, over the last 15 years or so, he has changed a bit. He takes one day off over weekends and works at home. Sometimes he helps in shopping for food. When I worked in the nights, he would fix dinner for the kids. So, some good things have happened, no doubt.

To complete the saga, I guess I should tell you about me. I could not be happier with my ESL teaching and constantly kick myself for having taken so long to reach this state. I am no different from some of the students in my TOEFL classes. I wasted a lot of time trying to make my third world degrees lead me to a job. Even with the much-valued Canadian experience, I wasn't able to get a job in my field. So, I switched careers after getting a proper Canadian university diploma in teaching English. My new career is not without its own contradictions and not immune to jibes from family and friends. It is a joke in this household that if there is one person who should be teaching English, it is Tim, the one with fantastic vocabulary and knowledge of English literature. Undoubtedly, my vocabulary has grown tremendously by being with Tim who uses words with no regard to whether anyone understands his utterances or not. I often look up words he uses, and my vocabulary grows. Among other language skills, I teach vocabulary. So, I feel that I am some kind of a thug, a modern hood, robbing from the haves and giving to the have-nots. This is an over-simplification, of course. Teaching vocabulary is, in fact, not so simple.
[and of course, Meher is leaving out the key ingredient of her success, namely that while she is pilfering words from unsuspecting native speakers, she's also running rings around them, understanding points of grammar that they could never explain unless they went to graduate school. She is the devoted chela of a Finnish grammar professor who, lacking time in which to give her usual course, merely taught her students how to teach it, trusting them to figure out the content on their own. - TAD]

And, that leaves our cat, cat Astrophy, the most insouciant member of the family. As long as he gets his three square meals, three snacks, water, etc. he seems content. I wrote an anecdotal story about him in the summer which I can ask Tim to attach and you can read it if you really want to.

Have a great 2004!!!!

From Meher

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All text and images on this page © Meher Shaik 2003 - posted by tim dot dickinson at utoronto dot ca