Monday, November 10, 2014

Are we getting soft in the schools?

I've got all the respect in the world for quality teachers and administrators who do a valiant job in the public school system around these parts.  Heck, I've got dozens of dear friends who are brilliant teachers and administrators who I know rock their jobs and do their absolute best to educate the children entrusted to their care.  Additionally, my oldest daughter is currently studying to be an elementary school teacher as we speak.  So, I am wholeheartedly on the side of educators who do a fantastic job day in and day out.

So, this year, and last year too, as my middle school kids came home with a new lingo for school discipline and behavior issues, I was a bit perplexed.  No longer do educators use terms (at least in our middle school) like missing assignment or detention, or even test.  Evidently those terms are not positive enough?  Perhaps they are deemed harsh or unpleasant?  I don't know.  I wasn't their when the new verbiage to be implemented was being discussed.

Anywho, in case you're curious, these are the new terms being used in our school district:

Missed Learning Opportunity (missed assignment)

Power Hour (After school detention)

Lunch Academy (Lunch detention- where you get sent to finished your Missed Learning Opportunity)

Practice (homework)

Formative Assessment (quiz)

Summative Assessment (test)

and, grading now looks like this:

Exceeding (A)
Proficient (B)
Progressing (C)
Emerging (D)
Insufficient Evidence (F)

I mean, I'm all for positivity.  I really am.  Heck, I grew up with the most positive woman in the world as my own dear mother.  But, my gosh.  This is ridiculous.  My concern has to do with how these kids will react to the "harsh reality" of the real world when they leave the cocoon of our small school district and face more negative wording in their college or trade school studies.  If you've never seen a bright red F on your paper as a student because you spent your years seeing "insufficient
evidence" instead, don't you think it might devastate a new college student to see something like that?  I'm so thankful I had been toughen up enough that when I took that dastardly hard MCom class at BYU and I got a -7 ( that was a -7/25 not 7/25) on my first quiz, and was able to keep my composure and not have a total break down in the classroom.

I mean, in life sometimes you fail and you get an F.  F for failure.  And, sometimes you are a little turd and need to spend time in detention, not "power hour".  And, the whole Missed Learning Opportunity, sure I guess technically that's what it is but in reality you didn't so much miss it, because it is much more likely you chose not to do it.  You need to own it.  Missed seems so accidental.  It is almost always a choice whether you do your homework practice, isn't it?

What say you?  Am I being too much of a Debbie Downer about this stuff?  Should I put on my Pollyanna hat and embrace this strategy?

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

My greatest joy as a mom

Yesterday, I updated my status on facebook and mentioned how much I love to listen to my kids while they are in the bathroom together brushing their teeth and getting ready for bed.  Having four kids share one bathroom (with two sinks though-which is a huge deal let me tell you) is something that can be a huge source of frustration in many homes.  As a young girl, only my sister and I shared a bathroom, because my brother had his own bathroom downstairs.  I don't remember her and I spending much time in there together, but I'm sure we did somewhat.  Mere and I didn't fight much as kids, and we rarely had the exact same schedules during the morning, so overall, I didn't have to squabble over sink time or mirror usage.  My husband, on the other hand, grew up with five other siblings and I'm sure they had their fights over the bathroom(s) at times, but Wes rarely mentions it because I don't think he spent much time in there primping or touching up his hair- except when his hair decided to become curly when he turned 13, Ha! hormones.  I'm fairly certain he was more of a wash-n-go type of guy back then, just like he is now.

In the evenings, after family scripture study and prayer, the kids pile into their bathroom to start getting ready for bed.  Alice is in their the longest (her dental hygiene time has skyrocketed since her braces were put on) with Emma and Spencer in their too, but for shorter amounts of time.  With two sinks, one bathtub, one toilet and three drawers, I have never had to referee a fight in that bathroom.  It's kind of amazing.  They have all just kinda worked out a system that meets every one's needs without any parental input.  And, besides just getting along, they also laugh, tease, sing, dance, listen to music and have a jolly good time in there just about every night.  I like to sit in the hallway and listen to them laugh with each other and enjoy one another after another long day of life.

My greatest joy as a mom is that my children like each other.  I know it is not always possible in every family, because sometimes some families have members of it that they love, but they don't particularly like.  And, of course, loving someone is much more important than liking them.  But the liking...  For me, as a mom, that is so the icing on the cake inside our home.  It is the sweetness I feel in my heart as I watch them form deep bonds of friendship that I hope will last them forever.

Last night, we spent some time writing Cate birthday cards that I'm sending in her birthday package this week.  It was sweet to read what my kids wrote to her.  They all miss her.  Although we have adjusted to having her gone, we still feel her absence and don't quite feel "whole" as a family without her here.

Spencer wrote this:

I don't know.  It's stuff like this that pulls at my heart so much. 

Being a mom is hard.  It has so many ups and downs.  And, it's exhausting.  But, it's also the best.  The greatest experiences of my life have come through standing side by side with Wes as we do our very best to love, teach and care for these precious children that have been given to us.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Grateful to provide

I'm sure most people would agree that having children is an expensive endeavour.  And, since everyone and their dog likes to bemoan this fact ad nauseam, I would love to offer an alternative view to the often negative notion about the cost of raising your child.

Just in the past six weeks I have spent thousands of dollars on my kids.  That's crazy right?  I, like so many other parents I know, am literally hemorrhaging money on a daily basis.  With things like drivers ed., orthodontics, airplane tickets for holiday travel,  and Christmas looming it can be so easy to get frustrated and down about this sort of thing.

But yesterday, as I handed over a huge stack of cash for Alice's braces, I felt differently.  I felt grateful.  God is on our side and he is helping us make it work.  As I sat in the waiting room, while Alice's mouth was being outfitted with a bunch of metal, I felt deep gratitude we can provide proper orthodontic care for our children.  Additionally, I am so grateful I can purchase airplane tickets for Cate to come home for the holidays to be with us and that we could pay for Emma to take drivers ed. classes and become a safer driver.  And, no, it's not easy.  And, yes, I often wonder if I can keep up with the cash outflow that always seems to come in waves that feel like they are going to sink us for sure.  But, then I remember how thankful I am that we have able bodies that are able to work and to provide and somehow with a little bit of faith, and a whole lot of work, all the numbers miraculously add up to just enough.  

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Blessed with moisture

We had the hottest, driest and most awesomest summer this year.  And, when it was still dry and 84 degrees in late September I remember telling myself that we got our share.  That we can't complain.  Summer had come and gave us a massive piece of it's scorching hot pie this year, so when the rains finally arrived it would feel right.  It would be time.  Our crust of earth was due.

And now they're here.

Soaking rain, gusting winds, power outages and fallen trees have smacked us all upside the head, and just like any good Oregonian would do, we turn indoors and bunker down knowing the rains have just begun.

With the warm shelters to protect us, we all go into a bit of hibernation.  Soups are simmered, movies get watched, and needlepoint projects show their faces again.  We hunker down and stay busy with indoor to-do lists.  It's only been a few weeks since the weather turned and I've already cooked stew (twice), made several bundt cakes, painted my entire downstairs and caught up on all of my favorite tv shows.

It's nice to have every reason to ignore the unrelenting duties of yardwork right now.  The leaves will need tending to, but all the late summer watering and lawn care has faded into the past.  Our lawn had been a dry patch of parched earth not four short weeks ago.  Now look at it.

I remember when I moved to Idaho for college and attended church services for the first time.  Over the pulpit some sweet Idahoan had prayed for moisture much to my shock.  It was the first time I had ever heard someone pray for rain/snow.  In Oregon we pray for sun.

My mom told me that when she lived in Southern California she used to go to the garden store and buy moss.  Can you imagine?  Moss is my mortal enemy half the year.

I know that if you live in the desert or a more barren climate the idea of rain is sweet and beautiful.  I understand.  We always want what we don't have and we always take for granted what we do receive.  So for you who want rain, I hope and pray you get it.  For us who get it by the bucket full, I hope and pray we can survive it.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Let moderation be your guide

About three years ago I was asked to give a talk during our sacrament meeting, and the topic was "living a balanced life".  Sounds like a simple and straightforward enough topic, but I struggled exceedingly with it.  I racked my brain, read a variety of sources and pleaded with God above to help me feel inspired by this topic and to know what to share that would be uplifting and helpful to the dear members of my ward who had to endure 12-15 minutes of my rambling.  Finally, I confessed to Wes that I had no idea what to say and I knew this was the one talk in church that would be my worst ever.  And, he was like, why?  And, I was all, well, being balance is who I am.  I seriously do not live any other way, so how in the world to I explain something that is so part of me that I can barely distinguish it from my own personal identity.

I believe in moderation like Wes believes in Excel spreadsheets.  And now, I will bear my testimony of it.

I had a high school teacher named Lou Evans and she loved to hang up inspirational quotes all over her classroom walls.  The one I remember the clearest was this: Moderation in all things.  So simple.  And, so boring.  No one likes to talk about being moderate!  Once I bring up the topic, everyone around me squints their eyes, purses their lips and closes up their ears.  It is the most droll, uninteresting topic of all.  But, in my opinion, it is one of the most important.  You will find more peace, joy and happiness in figuring out how to be moderate in all things than almost any thing else.

Think about one facet of life, and think about how moderation can make it better.  I can think of thousands of examples, but it's not necessary for me to cover all of them, just a few (example of moderation!)

1.  Sleeping.  I believe in getting plenty of sleep.  I think a lot of societies problems would be helped if we were all well-rested each day.  But, the media, friends, television, family members, etc...would have you think being extreme in your sleep habits is better.  How many ads to you see for those blasted "energy drinks" that can help you when you need to get things done, instead of sleep?  How about all the bragging you hear from folks who like to talk about how they got so much done on so little sleep?  How about the people who claim to only "need" 4 hours of sleep a night?  I see and hear this stuff all the time, but the truth of the matter is that our bodies are not superhuman and, our bodies need rest in order to function well and heal itself.  And, the other side of the sleep extreme it the group of folks who "sleep too much".  This my feel good physically, but it's not good for you psychologically, mentally, socially or spiritually.

2.  Children's extra-curricular activities.  I love and desire for all kids to have the opportunity to explore different physical, mental or social arenas during their childhoods.  It can benefit them in a myriad of ways.  I love that my kids have learned so much about life through sports, music lessons, art classes and church groups.  It is so much of what our childhoods are made of, right?  But, like anything else in life, the pendulum of extra-circulars can swing too far to one side or the other and then the "benefits" of these experiences begin to decrease as the "costs" of the activity reach new levels.  And, who pays that cost?  The child and their family.  I don't want to rehash my dislike of the way competitive team sports are handled nowadays, as I'm sure you remember my rantings about it.  But, think about it.  Being moderate in such activities benefits not only your child, but it also benefits your family.

3.  Exercise.  You don't need to complete an Iron man Triathlon every six months in order to be physically fit.  You also should not not exercise either.  My dad's cardiologist constantly tells him this:  All you need to do it 30 minutes of brisk walking and 10-15 minutes of resistance training every day and you are good to go.  That's it!  So, simple.  So moderate.  But, so, so many folks can seem to do this very basic thing and their bodies pay the price.  Our bodies were made to move (i.e. walk) a certain amount each day.  We need to take care of our bodies by doing a small amount of maintenance each day, so they, in return, will keep working for us for as long as possible.

4. Work
5. Friendships
6.  Politics
7.  Eating
8.  Cleanliness

And, sooooooo many more.  Moderation comes into play in all aspects of our daily lives.

My kids are so sick of hearing me talk about moderation.  If you ask any one of them what it the one topic their mom harps on, above all else, the will sing in unison (with grimaces on their faces)- MODERATION!

I think that so many of our personal life struggles can diminish, or sometimes even vanish, if we can figure out how to be more moderate.

I'm completely convince that many people are addicted to being extreme.  And, I'll admit, extremism may be more exciting, sexy and worthy of a post on facebook, but lets get real folks!  Extreme behavior always comes with a cost.  A cost to your mind, body or soul.  Maybe it's time to stop paying that expense and start disciplining your spirit to a more moderate way of life.  The payoff is huge!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

good hair

When Emma was born she was bald as a cupie doll.  Literally, no hair.  And honestly, I expected as much.  Most blond-headed, blue eyed kiddos have little-to-no hair at birth.  Cate had been similar, except for a decent patch of growth on the lower head/upper neck area that she rubbed off with time.

So, when Alice was born, and I saw that sweet baby head covered with curly blond hair I knew we were in for a bit of a change.  And, by golly, I was right.

As a toddler, her hair was delightful.  I could put it in adorable piggy tails that would curl so sweetly and frame her face just right.  But, as the school years approached and her hair grew longer and thicker, we began to encounter more difficulties with such a lush mop of curls.

Combing it out (with the widest tooth comb available) became a battle of wills and always involved tears.  At times I just gave up on combing it and within weeks she would have a couple of dread locks forming on the underside that would have to be cut out if left too long to fester.

Predictably, she became fully invested in her hair as elementary school years began to wane and middle school approached.  And gradually, she figured out how to tame those locks by herself.

This hair is almost magical.  She can pull it up into a bun and it will hold without hair ties or bobby pins.  It is the definition of "wash and dry" hair.  It never sees the likes of product, a blow dryer, or colorant.  It has volume that will not stop.  It can be braided, twisted, pinned or any other style and it will always hold.

And even though it's fabulous, it has it's downsides too.  It's heavy, hot and takes all night to dry.  Additionally, she (and I) have a crazy fear of lice because of its enormousness.

But in truth, it is totally worth it.  It is so part of her and her attitude.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

What I'm watching on t.v. these days...

Yesterday I almost wrote a massive post about people who complain.  Which is ironic seeing as I am a huge complainer, and I would have simply been complaining about complainers.  I need to stop having a beef with everyone.  Jeez.  So, today I thought I'd write about something less Debbie Downer like t.v.!

Lately, I've been watching more television than normal.  It's fun.  I'm mean, I barely watched anything over the summer, and now that fall is in full-swing my t.v. viewing habits have ramped up and I'm really enjoying it.  I know y'all might be pooh-poohing my positive attitude for t.v., but sometimes I just want to veg and do nothing and watching an episode of Wicked Tuna is just what the doctor ordered.

So, lets begin.

Wicked Tuna and Wicked Tuna- north vs. south.  I'm watching them both.  Love them both.  I can't explain why I like to watch east coast fisherman catch gigantic blue fin tuna, but I do.  Yes, they curse like sailors.  Yes, these are a motley group of guys.  And yes, I have absolutely no desire to ever sail the high seas in a tuna boat, but still, there is something mesmerizing about this show.  The only other person I know who has watched this show, besides me, is Spencer, so I'm fairly certain you haven't.  That being said, I love, love, love the Hard Merchandise and I completely loathe  Yep, I hate Captain Dave, although I will admit he is a great fisherman.  Also, I have a soft spot for The Pinwheel, even those most other folks despise that boat.

So, please, oh please someone tell me that I'm not the only one who likes Wicked Tuna?  It's so interesting and fun.  You should give it a go.

Parks and Recreation.  Now, this is of course an oldie but goodie.  And, I've been watching this show for years.  But, I just finished re-watching season 6 on Netflix and although I hate to admit it, I cried during the unity concert when they played 5000 Candles in the Wind.  This show.  This show.  I almost have no words for how much I adore this show.  Whenever I meet someone, I often try to figure out what character they are on Parks and Rec.  You know what I mean?  For example, my daughter Emma is totally April.  And, it's good.  We love April.  And Cate, well she is so completely Leslie it is creeps us out.  And Spencer is Andy, which BTW is one of the best characters EVER.  Anyways, you guys get the picture.

Now, if you are not a Parks and Rec regular and are thinking of giving this show a whirl let me suggest one thing to you.  Start with season 3.  Season 3 is the real hook of the show.  I tell folks to watch season three and then backtrack and watch season's 1 and 2.  Take my word on this one.  Season three is so good.  If you decide to watch it give me a call and I'll come over and watch it with you.

And, if you're interested, my favorite episodes ever go in this particular order:

1. Li'l Sebastian- season 3
2.Two Parties- season 5
3. Flu Season- season 3
4. Leslie and Ben- season 5
5. Unity Concert- season 6

Last Tango in Halifax.  Wes and I are somewhat obsessed with British television.  We find ourselves watching more BBC shows than any other thing.  Wes loves Dr. Who, Midsomer Murders and Sherlock above all else.  I fancy a boatload of Downton Abbey, Upstairs Downstairs, and The Paradise myself.  But, a while ago I stumbled on the show Last Tango in Halifax and it was superb.  Really, quite fetching and brilliant in so many ways.  Now, it does have some adult oriented themes (lesbian relationship, divorce, affairs and such), but overall I just ate the whole thing up.  I don't want to tell you too much about the story line, because I hate to give anything away, so all I can say is I love the characters, the scenery, the way they chew each other out (British smack talk always sounds so civilized), and the family bonds that hold them all together.  It's on Netflix right now, so hurry and watch it before it goes away.

Additionally, I'm well into the current season of Survivor and The Amazing Race.  Such good seasons for both of these shows.  All I can say is adios John Rocker.  You are a jerk.  And, I love the Soul Surfers on Amazing Race.  Totally pulling for them!

How about you?  What are you watching?