Three weeks

It’s been three weeks since I looked at my LSAT stuff, and it shows. I’ve forgotten a lot and am struggling in areas I haven’t had trouble with in months. Fortunately, I have the notecards and notes I took before I took a little break, so they’ve helped me limp back into the race.

Also, the break is justified: I got a part-time job, which required two weeks of desperately searching for childcare, and then it was Thanksgiving. Which was also the same week as my first days of work. So I’m not just lazy, I’m also ambitious!

Only 68 days til it’s over.

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Procrastinating

How many times have I used that as a post title or mentioned the word in a post now? Three? Four? A dozen? I don’t know and I don’t think I want to, but I’m going to do it again.

I have about thirteen weeks until the test, and since most pre-made schedules are for twelve weeks, bad reasoning says I have a week of “LSAT vacation.” I know it’s bad reasoning and really just flat-out stupid, but I’m doing it anyway. I’m not going to take the whole week, just today.

Yesterday I took my husband for his Birthmas (Christmas+Birthday) present, which was him getting to fly a small plane. As an added bonus, the instructor let me ride along for free in the back seat of the tiny plane. The husband is a great pilot and the instructor was incredible, but it was still a lot of work for me to be personally responsible for willing the plane to stay in the air.

We had intended to go to dinner and then some Christmas shopping afterword and not be home til late, but what really happened was a little dinner, walking around a mall that it turns out closed at about six thirty, sharing a small ice cream, and being home by around seven. We said thanks to the babysitters (the husband’s parents), put the kids to bed, started a TV show, and I was out cold by 9:30. I barely woke up at six this morning.

So I’m still tired. Both kids are teething, with something like ten teeth coming in between the two of them. They’re also both potty training, though the older one used to be fully trained, but has had some trouble in the last few months. It was a long day. So tonight I achieve nothing that involves much brainpower. I have two work projects due by Wednesday, but they can get done tomorrow. I also really should study since we have a friend coming to stay with us for Thursday through Saturday.

I’m not going to do any of that grown up responsible stuff. I’m going to pretend to run and watch some Supernatural, then when the kids go to bed I’ll try to watch a show with the husband again and probably be asleep by 930. It’ll be ok.

No. It’ll be great.

A Real Time Line

Now that I have a definite deadline I can make a plan. Since there are so many of these available online and in print, it doesn’t make much sense for me to try to cook my own up. No need to reinvent the wheel.

However, the assumption (oh yes I used that word) of most or all of these is that the test-taker is new to LSAT material. This means that these schedules are created with the first several weeks introducing the user to the World of the LSAT: How to do the games, how to read the logical reasoning, the different types of questions and how to attack them, the mindset and assumptions of the logical reasoning question authors, and other things you need to know if you’re going to stand a fighting chance on this thing.

I’m not one of those. I’ve read the books and the blogs and the essays and watched the videos. I’ve heard pretty much all of it, so I don’t need to spend weeks studying up on it, taking the time again as though this is my first time seeing it. So far my best score is 171, untimed, so I am getting a lot of it. I just need reminders. These things, my months of studying already and the fact that it is at least to some degree working, mean that the pre-made schedules aren’t going to be quite right for my needs. They will work as a great starting place and way to figure out how to organize my time and practice.

Most of them seem to want you to study hard on a single thing for a few days or a week, with small pieces of the other sections spattered in there so you don’t forget those things while you’re intensely looking at the other. For example, many will have you doing only one type of logic game for several days, but to make sure you don’t lose what you’ve learned about the other things, to do a few of each type of logical reasoning and a couple reading comprehension passages. That seems like it should work for me, so I’m going to give it a try.

There are obstacles to this for me, things that make my schedule erratic and difficult to even really call a “schedule,” such as my kids, work, home, family, and husband, most of which I did not have five or more years ago (the age of most test-takers and the age group for whom many of the schedules are developed). So it’s going to take some doing.

I think it’s going to be worth it. At least it better be. It’s going to cost me around $100 in books by the time I’m done, and the test itself is $175, a lot of money for me.

On another note, I finished Grey’s a long time ago, then finished Scandal, and have moved on to Supernatural. This is yet another show people have been telling me to watch for years and I don’t know why I held out. It’s good. Even if it is scary and  I generally don’t care for scary, I can handle this one.

Context

  • Still watching Grey’s, now into the ninth season just after the plane crash. They brought in this new herd of interns probably hoping to keep the series going smoothly with a new cast, probably what ER did, but I don’t think it works. I just really do not care about these new characters. They’re for the most part not compelling or interesting.
  • I just finished Matt McCarthy’s “The Real Doctor Will See You Now” and I loved it. I felt there could have been more to tell about that year of training and living that got buried in trying to keep a narrative going. I understand that personal nonfiction requires an ongoing story in order to make it readable, but in this case it overwhelmed the general idea. At least I thought so.
  • I bought another new book, this one the most recent book of 10 LSATs available, and I plan to start doing those sometime this coming week. I have two games and the three other sections left to go in the last test of my old book of old tests first.
  • My LSAT progress is still disappointing. I’m averaging low 160s still, so I’m plateaued and it’s frustrating as hell. I just want my scores to improve already! I’m consistently scoring 95% or better on the reading comprehension and logic games parts, but the analytical reasoning just isn’t good enough. I’m still reviewing my Logic Games Bible and reading other things online as I come across them and reading answer explanations on Manhattan Prep for each question, but so far it’s not quite good enough. I’m not sure if I need to do more and if I keep doing it, it will eventually just click and sink in, or if I need to go another route. Advice?
  • I’ve spent the last two weeks trapped inside and it’s making me a little nuts. I was sick for the whole week two weeks ago with headaches, exhaustion, and light sensitivity, so even though the weather was great, the kids and I were stuck inside. For this past week it’s been over 90 by noon every day with a bazillion percent humidity, so we’ve been outside all morning until naptime, then trapped in here all afternoon and evening.
  • Only three weeks til our big trip! and I turn thirty… Excited to go be somewhere new with little responsibility and to have the kids spend some time with their grandparents, who are coming to the house to watch them.

Back to the books

I’ve now re-read the chapters on conditional reasoning and justify questions and I’m feeling better. I think I’ll need to read them again and again, but I’m getting there. I’m feeling a little better about this whole thing, or at least the panic is a little better today. I don’t know if the relaxing is a result of the preparation or the fact that I’ve started ellipticalling again in addition to biking several miles a day with both kids in the trailer. It seems most likely that it’s a combination of both.

Either way, today I’m feeling less insecure, less stupid, and more capable. I can totally do this.

More steps forward

Yesterday evening the boys and I walked over to a neighbor’s house to check out their in-home daycare. I’m considering sending them there for the week immediately before the LSAT so I can study intensively without distraction.

This is big step for me because it’s the beginning of a real commitment to taking the LSAT this December instead of chickening out and waiting until next February or even June. I’m making a financial commitment to this neighbor (about $350 for two kids under three for five full weekdays) and letting more people in my immediate life know about my plans, thus upping the accountability.

The daycare seemed like a great fit, even if the kids are going to be there for just a week. They’ll have fun and the lady who runs it seems great. But I’m still scared. Committing to this means committing not only to this administration of the LSAT, but, because the sole reason I’m doing it is to spend a week studying intensely with no distractions, I need to make this additional (and technically not required) investment worth it. There’s pressure now to get as much out of this free time as possible, not waste a single second (or penny) being distracted or practicing inefficiently.

Yet more fear. Part of me wonders if I’m this freaked out about just the LSAT, how will I fare in actual law school, where every day will entail classwork or prepping for tests, all of which will seem as significant as this one? How will I do when I’m not just giving up my evenings with my children, but weekends and some weekdays (though they will be in school full-time when/if I do go to school) and the stakes, the need for success to prove that this isn’t some horrible selfish thing, are so much higher?

“style”

Studying is going well, so I’ve started thinking ahead to school and the immediate (post-LSAT) parts of getting there. Mostly I’ve been thinking about campus visits, real ones, not the fake “show up on campus, wander around alone, be intimidated, and run away” ones I’ve done already. And not only am I intimidated by the need to speak well and behave normally to  impress the people I’d actually be engaging with, I need to appear to be the put-together non-traditional adult student I’m trying tell them I am.

This is where my “wardrobe” comes in. “Wardrobe.” I don’t really have one. I have a collection of pants, shirts, and skirts, most of which are around a decade old and are starting to show their age. Not just in worn spots, holes, fading, stretching, and outdated style, but because they’re from high school and actually have the year printed on them (and that year is 2004 or earlier, though I do have a few from the ten or so years after that that I go from siblings who were still in high school). Oh yes, I graduated high school eleven (11!) years ago and still wear many of the same shirts I wore during the Bush administration.

Honestly, most of the clothes I wear today are mass-printed high school quiz bowl and marching band t-shirts paired with jeans that are at least five years old. To be even more honest, since I’m a SAHM now most days I wear yoga pants, gym shorts, or pj bottoms with a worn out old t-shirt or sweatshirt, depending on the weather.  My kids know we or I am leaving the house because I’ve put on jeans. As in, I change into real pants and my two -year-old immediately exclaims, “Mama go work!? We go car ride!?” (I freelance edit and study at the library, so we tell them I’m going to work when I leave the house for whatever reason.)

I have a few things I bought when I had a full-time job, but even then I couldn’t afford much because I knew was going to grad school right after that job ended so I needed to save my money. So I do have a few “dressier” things, but “dressy” feels like a stretch, inasmuch as the only thing that earns them that description is the fact that they’re not jeans or t-shirts. So they’re not necessarily very nice. Though I can’t really commit to that analysis since I’m not totally clear on what constitutes “nice.”

The point of this all is that I need new clothes, but I don’t know what to get or how to get it. I also have almost no money to spend on clothes. I love style blogs, but when they say things like, “This top was on super clearance! Only $50!” I just cannot begin to relate. I don’t have $50 for a top. I can’t really afford to spend over $30 on jeans, and even if I could, spending that much money on that kind of thing makes my stomach turn.  Unless I’m absolutely in love with it, I can’t even handle full-price Target. (I fell in love with this. It just makes me happy, so I went for it. But normally, NO.) It’s just too much to spend on me looking and feeling better about myself when I have two kids, student debt, and a single-income household.

So I’m thinking of adding a feature to this site where I attempt to dress for the role I’m trying to get to intellectually. I’m not sure how to do it, but I know it needs to be done. I can’t walk onto a campus and say “let me in and give me lots of money!” when I look sloppy, lazy, and apathetic.  Torn and worn-out jeans and an old t-shirt does not have the appearance of a good investment. I already need a high LSAT to compensate for my low GPA. I don’t know if I could get an LSAT high enough to compensate for low GPA and the appearance of lazy, slopping, apathetic thirty-plus year old. I care and I want to look like I care. But I have approximately $0 to spend.

Wish me luck and help me out? I need advice.

Going Home

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Last week my husband was out of town for work, so I took the kids to visit my parents for a couple days. There’s more to this story, but this site is about the journey to law school (I hope) so I’ll leave out most of those pieces. I’ll just say that we stayed busy the whole time, with over nine hours of the two-day trip spent in the car. By the time we got back late Wednesday night, my whole body was sore, most of all my tailbone.

I brought a notebook of notes from my book with me, but was only able to look at it for about ten minutes while we were at my parents’ place. Thursday I was still alone with the kids all day and was still so exhausted from traveling that I didn’t get any studying done after they went to bed. Friday I spent with my husband since he’d been gone for four days, then fell asleep almost as soon as the kids were asleep.

Saturday I was feeling better so I went to the library to get some studying done and learned the hard way that I can’t take five days off of studying. I did a little review, read some new material, then did a practice “game” set and got every single question wrong. I’d forgotten so much that I felt like I was guessing. I kind of remembered some things, but it turns out I haven’t drilled this stuff enough yet to have it deeply enough ingrained to overcome gaps in studying.

Now we know. So this morning I got some more studying done, read ahead, then took the kids to the museum (1). Tonight after dinner, I’m planning to get a little more studying in, with the idea that I’ll finish the book tonight or tomorrow and take another full practice test after work tomorrow to get a new score. Hopefully I’ll improve from my initial 156.

(1) I cannot recommend the museum enough! Our kids are two years old and will-be-one-next-week and it was fabulous. There’s a lot of NO TOUCHING, but enough “pwitty!” things to keep them distracted.

Unexpected consequences

This chair. Ouch. Who knew a $15 booster seat could do so much? (click for Amazon link)

I have two kids, ages two and almost-one, and they think it is hilarious when little things and big things go together. For example, they cannot get over how funny it is when an adult wears a tiny baby hat. They laugh til they fall over.

We have a former booster chair that is now just a chair. It is a small chair and I am a full-grown adult. I think you can see where this is going.

I was sitting on the floor with them when suddenly my older son pointed at the chair, pointed at me, and said, “Mama sit! Mama sit!” His little brother soon joined in. The idea of the impeding humor was so great for him that even though he isn’t quite one yet and doesn’t even know the words, he was able to mimic his older brother. Soon they were chanting and giggling together.

“Mama sit! Mama sit!”

So, to humor them, because there is little greater than making babies laugh, I decided to sit in the chair. This is the type of booster seat that has a leg-divider thing in the front of it. I’m not totally sure what the point of this mound of plastic is, but it’s on most little kid seats.

I lowered myself slowly, slowly, into the chair…. exactly wrong. Suddenly, PAIN.

I could feel the pinch in the back of my throat from the pain shooting up my backside and I could barely move. I had to tip myself slowly sideways and lay down on the floor on my hip because my tailbone hurt so bad.

The kids were laughing so hard they’d both fallen over by this point. Odds are good the younger one peed his diaper. There were tears in all of our eyes.

Turns out there isn’t much you can do for an injured tailbone other than ice, Tylenol, and take it easy.

It also turns out that hurting your tailbone can have some unexpected consequences. Among these are having to watch “Happy Feet” twice a day for a week because I can’t sit on the floor and play with the kids and can’t take them outside to play because I can’t bend and run and do all the things necessary to keep them safe.  So “Happy Feet” it is, on a loop, with a little “Top Gear” thrown in to change things up once in a while. They play fine by themselves, too, I make sure of that, but the time when they should be playing with me got swapped out for the TV. I feel guilty, but I think I’d feel more guilty prolonging the injury or risking their safety.

Another unexpected side effect of taking seating advice from giggling babies is the challenge it adds to studying. This is where this ridiculous story gets back around to the theme of this site. It’s been a week since I hurt my tailbone and it still hurts to sit. For the first two or three days I couldn’t sit at all; I had to lean or stand. Even today at the library I had to constantly shift my weight. I can sit better now as long as I lean forward a bit and keep my weight off my tailbone, but not for long, and the constant shuffling makes it difficult to focus.

Fortunately, I go to the chiropractor tomorrow and I’ve heard they can fix this. I really hope so. I was getting good at the “games,” and after a week off they were a disaster. Before hurting myself I was missing only one or two per “game.” Tonight was such a disaster I had to quit several times because I was getting so frustrated. The best I did tonight was getting one or two right per “game.” I reached a point where, between frustration with failure and being distracted by the book I’m reading, I had to set a timer. Twenty minutes of reading, do a “game,” twenty minutes of reading, thirty minutes reading about “games”…..

It worked, well enough at least. I was able to get enough novel reading done to satisfy myself to refocus on studying and I was able to get through the grouping games chapter of the book. The next chapter is on “games” that are linear and grouping, and since I don’t feel I have a good enough grasp on those two independently to combine them yet, I’ve started over at chapter 2. The second time through the first several chapters should go more quickly and be more fruitful.

Anyway, the moral of the story is Do not take seating advice from giggling babies.

Choose a book

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I’ve already gone over why I study at the library: To minimize distraction. Part of being a mother, for me, is that I am alert to sounds of my kids’ distress whether I like it or not, whether I need to be or not. Even with my husband caring for them, I can’t tune out their sounds. So I go to the library.

But. I knew that the library itself would be a distraction. I like books, I love reading, and I always have. I have my master’s in library and information science for crying out loud. Books and ideas are a love apparently similar to what I have for my children, or at least nearly equally distracting. This means that being surrounded by books, especially nonfiction, which is what the study carrels are next to at my local library, is a distraction.

I tried not let the shelves get to me, but it didn’t work. As I plodded through page after challenging page of lesson and practice in my book, I couldn’t stop thinking about what might be on those shelves. Since we’ve only lived in our house a little over two years and with new items being added regularly, there’s no way I’ve read through even a tiny portion of what’s there. I can’t keep my mind off the possibilities.

I suppose with time and effort I could train myself to focus and let go of the temptation to wander, but I don’t want to. Just as I don’t want to train myself to be indifferent to the cries of my children in any context (though compartmentalizing this may be a healthy thing to do, I don’t know), I don’t want to become immune to the cries of books.  The desire to respond to these things, to care for my children and to pursue new ideas and perspectives, are good and healthy things. I should be tempted by new information and a broadened worldview, by the expansion of compassion and empathy that should naturally grow from exposure to new information.

Maybe I’m just poetically justifying a distraction, or maybe what I’m saying here is legitimate, I don’t know. But I do know that for today it holds true for me, so when I’m not currently in the midst of a book, I wander the stacks before I sit down to study. I walk up and down the aisles until I’ve found something new or something old I just need to experience again, and I check it out. Once the book is checked out to me and in my bag, I can sit down and focus on today’s work.

Mischief managed.