Welcome to my little ol' blog. I'll be upfront about it: I don't blog very often any more. If you found your way here because you read my book "Trailer Life," have a gander! But it's easier to keep up with me on Instagram or on my Facebook page. I have this long, drawn out theory on why I'm a terrible blogger, but that is a story for another day. Enjoy the ramblings of my life from the last 8 years or so.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Christmas 2013

This Christmas was a good Christmas! Santa brought the kids real bows and arrows. I don't know what he was thinking, except perhaps that the kids are finally old enough not to kill each other, and we want to hunt. These pictures are from the first day of use, and the kids picked it up pretty quickly. They have a straw bale to shoot at, and Ryan recently made them move farther back. I think they get discouraged a little sometimes, and they love to have competitions to see who can shoot the farthest. They will get it, I'm sure of it!

Santa left clues (again!) because he hid their stockings and the bows. Those clues can be a little tricky, but the kids all figured them out. 

All in all, I think it was a successful day. We ate a really delicious dinner, had dessert over at my parents... and I got the coolest portable Bluetooth speaker as a gift. I wanted one that was fairly small so I could take it back and forth to school with me on Fridays when I teach music. My parents found a JBL Flip speaker, and it is amazing. The kids think I should bring it in the car since my little car is pretty much without music.

We are enjoying our Christmas vacation so much! It's nice to have the kids home. They have been busy building forts in the bushes...and the weather has been so warm for this time of year! We had that freeze a couple of weeks ago, and now it's almost tropical with highs in the 60's. We are enjoying it!

The Christmas program at church happened, and is but a fading memory now. Yay! 

I didn't do Christmas cards this year. Again. Pathetic. Maybe I will do Valentine's. That would be...weird. And, fitting! We shall see.

Friday, December 20, 2013

It's Almost Christmas!

The last day of school before Christmas Vacation. Yipee! I love my kids home. I also love them gone. The house stays cleaner and it's quiet. But Christmas vacation is my favorite. The kids are excited to be home, they have new stuff to do for the days after... because lets be honest, here. My kids get bored at home. They LIKE school. Maybe they are like me a little that way. Vacations are awesome, I appreciate them, wish I could take more, but after a day or two, I'm done. My brain needs stuff to do. Things to learn, think about, ponder, consider, etc. Which is why I'm an Analytical thinker, according to a personality test. Whoop-ee!

Today is the Christmas Concert at school. I had a major self-inflicted panic attack (not a real one, I've had a real of those and those are almost medical emergencies). I just wanted to stay home. I was shaking, and my heart was wanting to come out of my chest. All to do with the piano, by the way. Same as always. It's my kryptonite. I fear playing in front of people. I hate it. And the pressure was on. 12 songs. 14 today. Accompanying little kids who like to go their own pace. (Don't we all?) And Wednesday was SUCH a bad piano playing day for me. I was seriously considering the fact that I may not know how to play at all. Easy songs were difficult! But it all came together yesterday just fine. I only messed up a few times, and most of the weren't recognizable to the regular ear. Once was though. Why was there a kid mooing during one of the songs? I thought that was so weird. A kid on stage was totally making these weird noises instead of singing. He had shown no signs or indications he was prone to that behavior before, so it totally through me off.

Not today, baby. I'm going to go practice a bit right now, drink a diet pepsi, and call it good. Sure there will be tons of parents there. Sure I profess to teach music to kids, which would indicate I would be a musician. But really? I'm more of a teacher who knows about music. Not the other way around.

Can't wait for Christmas...the kids are so excited! They can't wait, and it makes me remember that anticipation. Fun! Now, if I could just find some tape so I can wrap a present or two. (Or four. Don't tell the kids, but we kind of went all out this year. Meaning, we actually bought them a gift. I bought them new jammies because they all look trashy right now in their too short, holey ones. I also bought them a pair of pants and a shirt. Plus, Santa got them a few stocking stuffers--so hard to smell chocolate and not open it--and they each get their own bow. And some arrows. They are going to flip out.)

But where's the tape?

Don't answer that. It was used up long ago along with 30 pieces of paper, a ball of yard, and a hole punch.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Busy Week...It's Almost Christmas!

And...we still don't have a tree. Oh, well.

We are very busy this week. And when I say "we," I mean, "ME." I am very busy this week.

I'm doing all those mom type things. I'm making cookies for class parties (because my boys insist I make the best chocolate chip cookies in the world, and they've told all their friends, and now I just hope they turn out). I have finished all the shopping. (We went easy this year. Not a lot of wrapping, and family group gifts are the bomb!). My house is clean. My kids are fed. I will be at the elementary school the next three days (along with Mindi, who is doing the exact same things), because we are doing the Christmas Musical program. We have final practice today. Tomorrow is the dress rehearsal with the Women's Club and the Middle School kids to come watch. And then Friday, it is the real deal. I am a little nervous, since I'm playing the piano for all of it. Mindi is the chorister. At least I can kind of hide behind the piano a bit. Just hope my nerves cooperate with me and I don't get too nervous!

Our kids are getting better at singing! They truly are. They are no angelic choir by any means, but they are modifying their voices by singing notes! And the older kids are doing even better. We've been doing this for almost a year, and we figure that the longer the kids are exposed to it, the better they will get. It really is fun. I do it so I can act like a kid, I guess. And, I like teaching. I hate the government rules, and I detest parents who don't parent and then ask why their kid is failing... but with this class, we don't have that! Beauty of volunteering, right there.

I am playing the piano for three songs in church on Sunday, and singing in a quartet for one. I had to rewrite (simplify) one of the songs. Took me forever, but it was just too hard for my little pea brain. Four sharps. Who does that? It still has four sharps, but fewer notes. I used the free software MuseScore. It looks all professional! Just hope it sounds good. The original was beautiful, but just too much for me. The song is "And His Name Shall Be Called Wonderful" by Sally Deford. Sally is very talented and plays much better than I do. Apparently.

Tonight is Cubs. Not ready for that yet. Tonight I have to rehearse the song I just talked about. The Mason's are coming to fingerprint kids. There is a memorial service for a school employee after school. Music. Staff luncheon I'm invited to, but don't have to prepare for. That's Mindi's job. Tomorrow is a district open house. The dress rehearsal. Get a tree? Friday is the concert. A minimum day. And then TWO WEEKS VACATION! Yipee!

Oh wait, there is still Sunday. After Sunday I can breathe again. That's when I'll pick back up everything I normally do!

PS- Jessie still has NOTHING to do with sitting on Santa's lap. The girl is almost 6. From the first Christmas until this month, there is no going for Santa. Not even close.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

A Day in the Life...

Will, age 9, showing me (and telling me in great detail) about the tri-plane he made out of Legos.
This is not a complete day in the life of me. No way. Who has time for that? Or the desire? But today I would like to record that my plans were foiled for catching up on sleep last night. Jessie woke me up to tell me she threw up in her bed. Switched her to the other side. Good thing Kacy was over at McKenzie's house for a sleepover. Then she woke me up later, asking if she could sleep in bed with me because she had a bad dream. Negative! Sorry honey, but I will be more than happy to find you a flashlight and give you a hug and walk you back to bed. While I was searching for my little flashlight, she was standing there with me, and she says, "Oh, I need to go to the bathroom!" And then she immediately puked all over the floor. It was lovely. Poor girl got in in her hair. Poor mom had to clean it all up. Yuck.

I didn't get to sleep in this morning. And I've been so tired the last two weeks! Like, pregnant tired. I remember those days. Except I'm not pregnant, so there's no light at the end of the tunnel good thoughts. Instead I think I'm fighting away being sick. So I feel fine, but not great, but not sick, but kind of just a little. What a mess!

Jessie hasn't puked since she woke up, and she had Top Ramen for lunch. She is currently napping on Ryan's side of the bed. I joined her for a little bit. A little nap was great! I just finished a little bowl of peanut butter and chocolate chips for a snack. So healthy, I know. I am a health loser. (I'm okay with that. Can't be perfect at everything, lol.)

So now, after doing three loads of laundry (one of them full of last night undigested dinner from Jessie's belly), taking a short nap, eating some power food, cleaning the kitchen, vacuuming, and doing something else I just know it... it is time to get down to business. So I sit down in my little office area and here comes Will...every single time. He is famous for coming up right beside me and saying, "Hey, Mom, look what I made with Legos." And then he goes into great detail about all the parts, how he did it, and what the plane (or ship, truck, mansion, fort, armory, etc) will do. So funny. And let's be honest here, sometimes boring. Because as cool as his Lego creations are, it's a little like some one else's family photos. Sure, they are interesting to look at for a second. You can appreciate them. But they aren't your family, so they don't mean as much to you as they do to the people they belong to. That's Will and his Legos. They will always mean more to him than to me. 

Please notice my bulletin board in the background. I have a messy small space just begging to be straightened up today. But that board? It was once going to be my center of organization. The hub of my office. Now, it is the center of my kid's artwork that they insist they made just for my space. Just for me. Most of it is Jessie's right now. So funny. My hub or organization is now just a bunch of Post-its stuck to the wall in front of me. 

It works.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Kids Who Don't Watch TV

We don't really watch TV in our house. We have Netflix movies come, and we own a ton of movies. But, we can go days without turning anything on. We aren't anti-television, per se. I would never say that TV is horrible. But, I will tell you that kids who don't have a lot of "sit down and veg out in front of the TV" (or video games) time will find a lot of opportunities to be creative. This Tee-pee built just prior to Thanksgiving? The result of no TV. That, and we have tons of scrap building materials laying around.

This creativity is great! It's awesome! It builds team work most of the time! But let me tell you what- it also builds a huge mess, all the time. That tee-pee? Before they could dismantle it, a huge wind storm with 50 mph gusts cam through and the tee-pee is no more. It is spread all over tarnation. The kids' bedrooms? DISASTROUS. A complete mine field of Legos, dirty underwear (really?!?), and socks. Clean clothes and dirty clothes mixed together. It's like the last days! It is an unnatural and unholy mess of kid debris. 

To be honest, I tolerate a small amount of mess daily. It doesn't have to be perfect. But this morning I went in to each bedroom because amazingly, no one had any clean clothes to wear, and one couldn't find her shoes. I took a good look around and made an executive decision right there: throw everything into the middle of the room. EVERYTHING. Oh, do they have some organizing to do when they get home today.

While we were in the car waiting for their "bus" (thanks Mrs. Gibson!), I told them it was time for family prayer. (We do ours in the car. Sue me.) I had just got done laying into them about helping around the house, mom doesn't get time to "play" and so forth. I told them they would be spending today, tomorrow, and Saturday cleaning up their mess on the inside and outside of the house. No Duck Dynasty episodes (we just started watching season one- so behind, I know), no movies... nothing. They were all silent. I ask Ed to say the prayer. It went like this.

"Ed, will you say the prayer?"
"I can't." He is sniffling. He had tears in his eyes. This surprised me, because while I was chewing them out, I wasn't mad or mean about it. Just very stern and serious, and they knew I meant business.
"Why can't you pray?" I ask.
"Because of what you said."
I am running my lecture through my head looking for something totally offensive or contentious that I said. I'm coming up empty. So I ask him, "What did I say?"
He sniffs again, and says, "About the cleaning! I can't clean for that long! That's just too much." 

Oh my goodness, I cracked up. Belly laughing. I am going to  convince myself that those were tears of empathy. Because I can't clean that long either! 

I love my kids. Mess and all. (They will still have to clean up though. Messiness makes me stressed out, man.)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Shhh... It's a Secret

So, here is one of my secrets.

I like to write stuff.

Ha-ha! "Stuff." That is like when you ask your kids how school was, and they are all, "Good." And that's it. Lame.

I have started writing a book. Of course I think it's pretty much garbage, and who would want to read it, any way? But started one, I have. It's about our life in the trailer and building a house. I think I can do it. I have started three other books, sort of. A churchy type book, that I quit because my voice was getting lost, and I thought, "Who am I to write a book?" I started writing a music curriculum book for grades K-4 because there aren't any decent ones out there. I have 12 lessons done, and it has taken longer than I thought. But again, "Who am I to write this book? What authority do I have?" For fun I started writing a book of silly poems to go with pictures I've taken. My kids think it's hilarious. But again, the same thing. Who am I to write that? I don't have time. It stinks. (I think it's funny. I have a hilarious poem about mustaches. And a fun one about the beach. And a catchy one about having dirt on your face. My mind is way too active, now that I think about it.)

But I have to confess that I have been told more often than not that I should write. That the words that flow from my brain to my fingertips are "good." I do have stories to tell, and this blog has been a good source of note taking. But still. Who am I?

So anyway, just thought I'd get that off my chest. I am having a hard time organizing it into a coherent structure. Maybe I'll try to publish it! If I do, anyone who reads this blog is now obligated to share it. Just kidding. I thought only my grandma read my blog, and she just passed away. Someone surprised me the other day when they said they read it. Was it cousin David? I can't remember! I think my mom might still read. (Hey, Mom!)

Anyways, other than wondering the best way to organize it all, and trying to convince myself that it is a task worth undertaking (and not quitting like the other books), some pretty funny stuff has happened in my life. Even if it wasn't funny at the time...it sure is funny now! At least, to me it is. But who am I? Just some crazy woman. No longer a girl: girls don't have gray hairs coming in. *Sigh* I am a woman now. And I'm easily amused. So my opinion on what is funny may not count.

But I thought this was funny:

Riding in the car, Will had a bendy skeleton that he was making dance and making his own music for, while we were driving to the Ward Christmas Dinner. We heard Ed bust out with, "Ease up Will! It's not Halloween, it's Christmas!" He sounded all exasperated. The next day he told Will that "Size matters not." I have no idea what they were talking about, but his wisdom and Yoda style cracked me up.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Someone, Please Locate My Brain Already!

This picture? ^^^^

I heard this on Pandora, and I liked it. Who is this Reverend Horton Heat? Is he really a reverend? Does he really smoke what he has? He has a catchy song called "Eat Steak." I'm a fan.

This week I left my purse at the church building. Didn't really realize it until the next morning.
I forgot a presidency meeting (that I scheduled and talked about THAT MORNING) yesterday.
I texted Mindi (my music teaching co-conspirator) AGAIN "What are the second graders singing for the Christmas Program?" 
I watched Kacy play in a little fifth grade basketball game, and she was actually pretty decent, all things considering. (Like it was her first real game, she had an 8th grade coach, she's timid, etc.) So now I totally want to help coach her team next year. It would be SO FUN.
Being a den leader for Cub Scouts is like herding cats.
I cannot focus today, I feel the winter fat blues coming on, and I'm a little tired. 
The snow day that was promised was a big, fat, lie. It did snow a little, but now it's just freezing cold and windy. The rain (which is awesome, don't get me wrong) washed all the snow away. 
All in all, I'm ready for some sweatpants and bedtime! 

PS- my left eye has not stopped twitching for at least a week. That is what it does when I'm stressed or whatever. 


Thursday, December 5, 2013

Brotherly Love, and I'm a HERO.

Here's a story for you: Last night we came home from Wednesday night activities. Will and Ed share a queen bed. Ed was already asleep when we got home, and when I went to go check on Will to turn out the light, Ed had a huge pile of folded blankets on his head. HUGE. FOLDED. PILE. I look at Will, squint my eyes, and say, "Did you do that?" He just starts snickering. He admits that he did. I give him a dirty look and start taking the blankets off one by one, and by the time I got to the fifth blanket, I start smiling (trying not to laugh!) because I still haven't found Ed yet. I tell Will that it's not funny, even though I think it's hilarious. I remove two more blankets and a pillow, and there was Ed: all snoring and oblivious to the fact that his brother had piled a bunch of crap on his head. 

I was like a HERO last night, saving my child from whatever disastrous consequences might happen when a huge pile of blankets and a pillow are heaped on your head all night!!! Suffocation? Sweaty head? Can a person die from their own carbon dioxide poisoning? I have no idea.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Student of the Month

This kid got Student of the Month! Who knew, right? 

Mrs. M. said that Ed is helpful to other kids in class, he can take his reading theme tests all by himself, works ahead, and then pulls out a book to read (probably a Captain Underpants book!), he is good in math, and he has especially been good with his grammar and writing. That last part is a big improvement because the boy still doesn't always use a fork. Writing is not his strong suit. But grammar is...I teared up the first time he said, "Will and I want to do this!" and he consistently uses proper English. Joy to my heart! A fellow word nerd AND helpful to other kids? That's awesome!

During the assembly I noticed Jessie continually picking her nose. Gross.

After the awards were given, a drawing was held. The names were on paper leaves, and these leaves were earned by children who displayed positive behaviors on the play ground and in the classroom. The principal, Ms O. made these adorable Pinterest Turkeys. Oreos, Reece's PB cups, candy corn, Whoopers... so cute and crafty. She made about two dozen. Well, those lucky kids who got one were thrilled! And Will and Jessie were both drawn. That left Ed...out. And he's so sensitive about these things. It was all over when Jessie was chosen as well. I was worried about the Ed meltdown sadness that I could see coming. But guess what?!? I nearly had a heart attack, but really shouldn't be that surprised...Will gave Ed some of the pieces off his turkey! Made Ed's day. I went over to Will after I saw that and asked him why he shared, and he said, "Because Ed didn't get any."  That is huge for me. I don't care how smart a person is, or what kind of grades they get. If they aren't kind to others, it just doesn't matter. I would take a C student who is kind over a straight A mean kid all day long. 

Okay, enough about the kids. Kacy is at the middle school doing who knows what, Will shared his candy with his little brother without having to be asked (by Ed or myself...which I rarely do anyways...I hate making kid share- I have a whole theory behind this), and Jessie picked her nose the entire assembly.

Today when they come home, we are busting out the TV and watching Ernest Goes to Camp. Classic kid silliness. 

And after catching a show at the Dr. office the other day (Dog with a Blog), I am not sorry for not having TV in our house. 10 year olds dying their hair, with older brothers who play stupid, living in a million dollar home with perfect looking parents who don't seem to work...meeting up on little dates in the fifth grade... I actually thought the talking dog wasn't a problem! Oh, how I wish adults could know just how much stuff kids pick up from watching TV (or listening to music, etc.). And that goes for the writers and producers of these shows as well (although I think they get it...and use their power for base ideals!). I don't want my kids to think that stuff is normal, man. That's why I banned Caillou from our home years ago: whiny kid who gets whatever he wants... aye. And when my kids read this as they are in their teens and 20's, I hope they get it. I hope we do enough cool stuff besides watching TV that they aren't like, "But we so missed out on Nickelodeon, Mom!"

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Ratted Out by my Kids

Yesterday was our biannual dentist appointment. The dentist has a new way to take our x-rays...it's all digital. The images show up on a big computer screen right away, and the kids (and I) were fascinated with it! We were guessing about cavities and stuff. Well, I went last, and have had quite a bit of dental work done over the years. They kids were all "WHOA, MOM!" Maggie, the dental assistant said something about cavities and candy, and Jessie totally says, "Our mom eats a lot of chocolate." Thanks, honey! Is it that noticeable? Because I'm pretty sure I try to hide that fact so I don't have to share...

So, I'm in the chair, getting ready for the visual check and cleaning, and I look up, and see Will standing over me, totally watching everything the dentist was doing. I find this a little odd, as usually it's Ed who does that. You just haven't lived until you look up and see Ed's smiling face hovering over yours...as you are laying back flat on the dentist's chair with the spit sucker in your mouth. Anyway, the dentist gets finished and I turn to look at Will and tell him to go sit down AND IT'S ED! It was Ed the whole time. I totally, 100%, completely thought it was Will. I can't even tell my own kids apart. I felt...weird. I always get their names mixed up, but I have never looked into their faces and totally got them wrong.

For the record: Ed and Will were arguing over who got to go first at the dentist (which Maggie says she's never seen before). And wouldn't you know it, it stemmed from them feeling like they knew they had a cavity...which they both did.

Score: Girls: 0, Boys: 2

A Wife Like Me

So, Ryan has been asked to give a talk to a group of single adults this spring, and the person in charge has asked him to talk about his shooting. He's not super thrilled with that, because he feels like if it's not about the tactical response for training purposes, there really isn't much to say besides, "I was shot at, I am here, no big deal."

Tina, (in charge) asked me to write a bio about Ryan so she could introduce him properly. Of course I said YES. I came home and told Ryan I was going to write his bio, and I wanted to be totally honest so I was going to say things like:

-His favorite meal is a veggie panini with a side of low fat tofu crisps.

-The years before he met his wife were dark and dreary, and he doesn't know what he would do without her.

- His favorite movie is Sleepless in Seattle, which brings a tear to his eye every time.

-His life's ambition is to own a zonkey named Herb.

Totally honest. :)

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


When I have wet hair, I feel like this^.

Sometimes, I feel like I look like Medusa. I would love to feel like I looked an ounce like Uma Thurman...but let's be realistic here. I feel more like my hair is like this, and I walk around with my eyes glazed over in a constant state of zombie-ness. 

For the random record, I love the Uma Medusa from Percy Jackson and the Lighting Thief. I also love the movie Pitch Perfect. Not appropriate for my kids (too many innuendos), but it is SO FUNNY and if I had to have a chick flick movie, this would be it. There are no guns or explosions in it...but it's still good. I love the music. And the commentary. Anyways...now I'm rambling.

Today we go to the dentist. And have scouts and activity days. And somewhere in there I will make dinner, the kids will do homework...

Oh, and Jessie got in trouble again at school yesterday. She can't read yet, nor does she have access to the Internet, so I can totally write down that I am worried about her. She has a little bit of anger issues (Where, oh where, does she get that from? Shhh...don't answer that.) Ryan said it's because she's number 4 and has to fight for everything. That may be a part of it...but Will and Ed and middle children and they seem fine. Actually, as Ryan noticed as well, Kacy and Ed have similar personalities and Will and Jessie are similar. Kacy and Ed... solid, stable, well balanced, fairly calm in demeanor. Will and Jessie... higher maintenance, easily provoked to emotional swings, sensitive... they will need a little more attention. Now, the thing to figure out is how to handle it. How can I help her? I feel like I got Will figured out (and it only took me his whole life thus far!). Jessie got in trouble yesterday for purposefully giving wrong answers, tying her shoelaces together...basically seeking attention from her teacher. Her teacher has about half the kindergarten class that is rowdy and obnoxious. I know, because I teach them music on Fridays! This leaves the good kids over on the side a bit, not getting any attention. Jessie also struggles with this same thing at home...lately getting into EVERYTHING and being "naughty" like a two year old. Literally. She's looking for attention, I suppose. I will be working out a plan to try to remedy this behavior... figure out how to show her love in a way that she understands. Of course, there is still the "You will not be allowed to behave this way" rule in our lives...but that needs to be supported by me and my actions. In her eyes, she is a nobody in a group of people, and all she wants is to be recognized. Ugh. Hard to keep that good balance!

Look What We Got!!!

Weird to be excited about a propane tank? I don't know... you tell me. Fort the last 8 years I have traversed out to civilization with little 5 or 7 gallon tanks of propane to meet our propane needs. EIGHT YEARS. Yesterday, we finally got a real tank...one that someone else will come and fill up! And, at a cheaper price! How awesome is that? I will tell you personally...it is really awesome. We are no longer buying propane like the tweakers do... $20 at a time. (It's more expensive that way...and it just stinks.) We went with Kern River Propane out of Lake Isabella. The owner is my brother's friend, which of course influenced us. But before I found out it was my brother's good friend, I really like Dwayne, the owner of the hardware store where the propane company shares the lot. I appreciate good people. (Especially after reading a local Facebook feed about people being jacked by a local tweaker in their neighborhood.)

Of course the kids were all excited about it. For reals. Will saw it as we were pulling up and the first words out of his mouth were, "I'm going to go ride the new horse." I just looked at him, narrowed my eyes, and said, "WHAT are you going to do?" He said he wanted to go ride on the new propane tank. I told him no way, no how, it's dangerous, etc.... even though I did the exact same thing when I was his age. Literally. We played on the propane tank all the time when I was in fourth grade. 

Maybe I'll let him, anyway.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Farewell Funeral

On Halloween morning, we gathered at Hillcrest Cemetery to say goodbye to our Grandma. The weather was perfect, and quite a few people came for someone who said "Don't have a funeral for me. No one ever comes to old people's funerals. Just do a graveside." I snapped this picture before the crowd gathered. 

In my opinion, the graveside was more of an outdoor funeral. I loved it. My other grandma's funeral was held outside (as well as my other grandpa) but that was because there were no other options out there in the country on the side of a hill. But I love being outside amongst the trees and the grass, and thought it was very fitting for my grandma. Cousin April and I spoke, and she did a great job with the eulogy. The only problem with the eulogy was that it was funny, and a very accurate accounting of my grandma's personality, which made me tear up. Which was bad, because I was speaking after her, with my memories of grandma. What was supposed to be light-hearted and humorous began with me losing control of my robotic emotions. Someone had to get me a tissue. I managed to compose myself though! And we made it through. See? I just needed a quick breakdown to let go of the pent up sadness and then it was great. I also lead the music, which was super hard, all a capella and me not singing alto. But hey, we did it! Somewhere around here I have her obituary, which I wrote. I'll have to include that in this post later.

Sure do miss this lady! She was a favorite.

Halloween 2013

This Halloween was a weird one... because during the day we went to my grandma's funeral, and then we came home and went to the church carnival. But all in all, it was a great day.

Will as a zombie. We found some facial temporary tattoo things and made him look pale. He was all about that. He hates dressing in costumes.

Our dear Jessie, the Princess Zipperface Zombie. We used eyelash glue to stick the zipper on to her face. Easy enough to remove, too. 

Kacy was Annie Oakley. It was biography day at school that day and we already had the costume (even though she missed school that day). Don't look too closely. I haven't sewn in literal years and it looks awful. 

Ed as Skull Face. He's got three skulls on his face in total, so it's a bit of an optical illusion. Pulled a cloak from the dress-up box and BAM! Easiest costume!

Ryan did all the make-up. I can barely do my own simple make-up every day.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Kids! Kacy Went to Camp Keep

Good thing at least my father-in-law reads my blog... because I totally spaced writing the "stuff" that goes with these pictures, until he reminded me last night. And, I was all, "I try to blog at least once a week now." Which obviously doesn't apply this month. It's been crazy. I think it'll be crazy until the kids move out of the house...just a hunch.

Kacy went to Camp KEEP the third week of October. She loved it, of course! The kids got bored waiting for her and used this pole ^ as a merry-go-round. She left early Monday morning, and by Monday night, Ed was missing her badly. I asked him why, and he said, "Because I don't have anyone to talk to!" Apparently he and Kacy have real conversations together, whereas Ed and Will do NOT. By Tuesday night, Will and Jessie admitted they missed her, too. It was probably a longer week for us than for her.

We made her these signs, and held them up while the bus came into the driveway. Will was mortified and hid, but the three of us held them up proudly. The bus honked, and the kids on the bus thought it was cool. (See Will? Not dorky.) Kacy gathered up her stuff, and sang camp songs (complete with hand motions) ALL THE WAY HOME, which included a trip to the store for some celebratory ice cream. 30 minutes of her singing...and she smelled a little...which prompted me to ask her, "Hey, did you shower while you were there?" And her reply was priceless:

"Well, Tuesdays and Thursdays were optional shower days, but Wednesday it was mandatory. So I showered on Wednesday, and figured I would just get dirty again on the the other days."

So sensible. I guess.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Random Happenings

Jessie and I goofing off with the camera on my laptop. Dorks!

Yes...I still exist. Besides the fact that there is very little photographic evidence to the contrary, I am still among the living! That is what my grandma would always say, "I was beginning to wonder if you were still among the living..." if I hadn't seen her or called her every now and then. (Okay, at least weekly!) 

Things that are happening: I am being super productive today. (Be impressed.) I sang a duet while playing the piano at a funeral on Saturday, and I DIDN'T DIE. I sang with friend Mindi, and she has a really good voice, so I knew if I flubbed it she would totally carry the song through. But I managed to do it, didn't sound horrible, and actually did a decent job at the piano. It was an easy song, for sure. "I Need Thee Every Hour" is really the only song I can play and sing alto for at the same time. Otherwise, I can play, or sing alto, but not really both. I'm going to practice that, though. Now that I have the house to myself a few days of the week, I can warble my melodious tunes and no one is here to hear me! Perfect.

I am up to my eyeballs in laundry, like always.

Jessie tried to poison Ed yesterday. She sprayed CLR on his toothbrush. He didn't know, until he started to brush his teeth and said it tasted really funny. He also go the involuntary body shiver thing from the taste. I did the quick glance around, saw the CLR on the counter and just KNEW it would be Jessie. She has been getting into EVERYTHING lately. She admitted it right away. I told her it was poison, and could kill Ed. I made her sit on her bed, and Ed starts to freak out a little. "Kill me? Gosh Jessie, what are trying to do, KILL ME OR SOMETHING?" Then he goes over to Will and tells him, "Jessie tried to KILL ME!" 

I boiled all the toothbrushes.

My music curriculum project is still moving forward slowly. I have to think of a name for it though. Among other things, lol. Tons to do, and this is pretty low on the list. But, still moving forward.

I'm eating healthy! Only some candy, and not a ton. Only one or two sodas, not four. Progress, baby. Progress.

Music class is going well. Kids are tone deaf, man. They sing okay with the piano, but merciful heavens, a capella is awful! That's okay. They are young. And don't get a lot of exposure to singing. They'll improve over time, right?

Did I say anything about report cards coming out? Three of the four kids have straight A's, at and above grade level. One doesn't. That one HATES school. Really? I'm learning how to deal/cope (me) and encourage/force (him). 

Primary stuff is settling down a little. That's nice. I've never been a president before, always a counselor or secretary. I'm a great helper. And I think I like that better! Because now I'm responsible for everything. Like, ultimately, I'm responsible. It's a little weighty. I hope I don't fail. I will do my best. But still!

My car is a piece of hooptie junk. Still gets me where I need to go. Uncomfortable, but so trusty and reliable, with a million miles on it already. (Okay...five years and 165,000. Maybe not technically a million.)

My favorite time of the day is dinnertime. Not the cooking part, and not the cleaning part. But the eating part. Ryan works days and we have a table and chairs and we all EAT TOGETHER. And the things the kids say...it's awesome. Our table is old, donated and painted on. Our chairs are old folding chairs. It doesn't even matter! (But we will be building a table soon!)

Ryan is putting up window trim and it looks amazing. It's nice to finish up some unfinished things on the house.

When everything else is wacky, my family is constant (consistently wacky?) and that's what matters most. 

Having attended two funerals in two days for two women who died in their 90's, I have been pondering what I hope my eulogy says about me. What have I contributed to my family? To my communities (church, school, town?) Have I done anything worthwhile? I hope so. Much to be done, right? 

The holidays are approaching. YAY! I'm looking forward to them this year. (This is the lie I tell myself, hoping it all comes true. Simplifying things and lowering expectations has helped a ton in the last few years...letting go of the "perfect Christmas gift" guilt.)

Monday, October 28, 2013

Norma Wright Mayhall- My grandma.

This is my grandma. My kids call her Granny. She passed away yesterday after a brief spell of health problems...three days! That's pretty good, considering her hope was always that she would go quickly, and not need to burden anyone with care. Two weeks ago today, I sat with her in the ER. She was retaining a lot of fluid and couldn't move herself around. We went to the dr. first, and then across the street to the ER. She was good, as long as she didn't have to move. We talked about the interesting people there. And oh boy, were they interesting. We had a really great nurse named Cayli who let us wait in the ER hallway instead of the crazy waiting room. We had Rosie the phlebotomist take her bloodwork...and she was the best I've ever seen. Except for the one guy who no longer works at PAL on Calloway...they were equal in skill. We sat there waiting for a bed so she could get faster working meds to drain out the fluid, and we watched a scary looking guy (who we thought only had one eye) walk in and out of his room, asking for more pain meds. I secretly nicknamed him "The Leprechaun," but don't tell him that. He looked like a very tall leprechaun with flaming red hair that was bald on top, and a red beard...and a squinty eye. He made me a little nervous, but I'm all paranoid that way. We observed all the different types of shoes people wear. I told her not to worry about her bed not being made, because she was worried about that. She stayed in the hospital a week, getting her electrolytes all balanced, and her excess fluid gone. She came home on Monday, was at her house on Tuesday, and then on Wednesday my mom called her and asked her if she needed anything from the store. When my mom got there with her milk and candy bar, she was having a stroke. Off to the ER she went, where the kids and I went down to visit her that night. She looked good! Tired, but good. Michael and I talked to her about taking care of the genealogy records, how we would digitize them and pass copies out to everyone. I told her another Ed story (her favorite stories...she just laughs and laughs). She ate a ton of food for dinner. We left. Kacy didn't get to see her though because she was at Camp Keep. The next day, she went home, and April texted me and told me when she went to see her that she didn't expect to see a zombie. Our granny was fading fast! She lasted three days after. My mom texted me at 10:46 that she had died. I was playing the piano for our primary program and didn't have my phone with me until about an hour later. I am happy for her, though. My grandma had quite the adventurous life, and she had a particularly rough go of things awhile back. You see, in the course of a year, her sister, brother, husband, and BFF from high school all passed away. She struggled with that a bit for a few years, and then resolved herself to referring to them as ignorant for leaving her behind. She was funny that way. She had a firm sense of the gospel and what was to come after death, and she wasn't at all scared to go. There really is nothing to be sad about...unless I am selfish. Which I am. Today I will take the time to mourn for myself, because I will miss her until I see her again.

I hate crying, but I get all teary eyed and snot faced when I think I won't see her again for a long time. I became very close to her over the last decade of my life. My kids are upset...I know that if they cry for her, I will join right in with them. (I hate that!) Anyways, I think we are going to have a celebration of her life. We are having a graveside service, which is what she wanted. But I think the kids and I are going to go grab some candy corn, circus peanuts, Eggo waffles, and some diet pepsi. 

Things I will always remember about my grandma:
*her love of sugar was unequaled by many. Until she had to monitor her blood sugar, lost weight, and then ate in in "moderation." Lol- moderation. That's funny. She switched from regular pepsi to diet. Problem solved!

*Candy corn, sugar wafers, circus peanuts, freezer jam.

*wearing colanders on her head on her way out to the raspberry patch.

*saying things like, "It's better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick," "If it was a snake it would've bit you," and "This too, shall pass."

*calling people ignorant. Except it sounded like "Ignernt."

*saying "carn" instead of "corn", and "Rut beer" instead of "root beer"

*her calm demeanor at all times, only showing some anxiety in the last month or so of her life. 

*her love of travelling and her family.

*her love of the city of San Francisco. (She hasn't been there in a really long time...and she lived there in the 1940's. Met my grandpa there. [In a bar.])

*her storied of riding her friends horse to 4-H and being bucked off every time you touched his flank...and having to walk home.

*she was bit by a rattlesnake on the knee once as a little girl, and she stayed at the doctors house for three weeks, making friends with the dog.

*her love of small, bugged eyed dogs. Like Chihuahuas and Wienie dogs. She liked all dogs, actually. She would always ask about the kids and then about my dogs.

*crossword puzzles...the more the better!

*playing cards.

*See's candy Bridge mix. (more sugar and chocolate!)

*Her love of Cadillacs. 

*She taught me the basics of sewing.

*She had a weird sense of color matching. Yes, it was weird. Like, legendary weird.

*She liked to gather the family together and play board games...but really I think the card games and board games were used as an excuse to bring out the crazies in all of us, and we would just end up laughing WAY TOO HARD at ourselves (and each other).

*her love of trinkets. Shopping with her killed me...because we were so opposite. She loved to look at EVERYTHING and loved to shop. I hate shopping. We still did it, though! 

*she was a good secret keeper.

*she knew when to say something, and when not to. Something I need to work on.

*she loved music. Even when I played her a new song from my iPhone, she loved it, and thought is was the funniest song. I'll admit I hand chose it for her: it is "Family Reunion" by Corb Lund. I knew she would get it. And she totally did.

*her love of Ed. She loved all her family, but she got a real kick out of Ed. Jessie reminded her of herself, I think, being the youngest girls with two older brothers and an older sister. While her brother would put her on top of the chicken coop and then leave her, Jessie's older brothers put her on top of the cement mixer and left her. Ed makes for really great stories, and she always loved to hear his antics. She thought Kacy was so beautiful and smart, and that Will was smarter than us all (bad grades and all) and loved his curly hair.

*I will remember some good road trips I took with my grandpa and her. 

*she loved her genealogy work, and could tell you all you needed to know about every fifth cousin you ever had. Which is awesome, by the way. Sometimes overwhelming, but awesome. 

She is the most awesome grandma ever...so funny. I'm glad my kids were old enough to know her. I hope that by writing these things down, they will also remember her. 

Norma Wright Mayhall
09-07-1923 to 10-27-3013

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Awesome Night's Sleep

Alright. So I'm not all daisies in the spring time, documenting only the insanely brilliant things my kids do. I am going to share that last night, I hit a stress high point, brought on by the fact that my two boys do not listen to what I say. I told them to pick up their Lego mess and they BOTH gave me attitude and started chucking Lego's around with a scowl. Really?!? This was the last straw on the "I have to constantly monitor you anytime I ask you to do ANYTHING because you don't do it when I ask" camel's back. This camel can't take anymore of my boys' supposed disrespect and laziness. That's how I perceive it. Sure, they have some "shiny things" attention problems. Me: Clean up your Lego mess. Them: Let's lay on the floor as soon as she leaves and play with Legos instead! Me: Hang up your bath towel. Them: Let's not remember to do that this year either. Me: Why are these dirty clothes shoved into the corner of the closet? Them: Someone else did that.

I tell the girls to do the same thing, and they at least attempt it. The boys don't even make the effort. Rude.

So I told the boys I am no longer their mother. No hugs, no kisses, no meals, no clean clothes, nothing. If they can't treat me with respect and do what I ask them to do to help make their room habitable, then they don't need me for anything. I turned off their light right after I packed up the Lego mess myself and put the tub in the attic.

This morning I did not forget. Ed didn't either. Will appeared like he didn't care. They asked what was for breakfast, and I told them they would have to ask their mom, who wasn't me. The meltdown ensued. They were sent back to their room, where they were told that I would return in an hour, and that if it was cleaned the right way, and the clothes I washed for them were put away the right way, and they apologized, I would let them pack into my pack. They cleaned while I put myself into time out for an hour. After the hour was up, we had another little chat. I fed them breakfast. I told them that I loved them, but that they cannot be disrespectful when I tell them to do something.

And all night long, maybe because I had a carb filled dinner, or maybe because of the boys, or maybe because of everything else, I slept horribly. Every worry and concern I have right now visited me in some twisted way in my dreams. Everything. Which makes me think I worry too much, have too many too many things going on, or that ice cream and waffles are not a good dinner to eat.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Crazy Days

In the past of my blogging life, "Crazy Days" usually meant I was going crazy. Like, almost literally. The mental insanity has eased up quite a bit (yay for a real house and four children who are a little older now!). But man, these past few months have been crazy busy, and I'm ready to just chill. But I am afraid that I may never get to chill, and that I should just embrace it! Actually, there a few things I'm doing that will go away soon.

You see, for a whole year (like exactly) I was the Stake Young Women's Secretary, taught relief society, and was Will's Den leader. (I was two of those things, and the program maker for the year before that.) Anyway, being "just the secretary" was a lot of work, which was fine. But in July we had Girl's Camp stuff. And in August and September we had Tri-Stake Youth Conference. I was in charge of the work shops, communications between stakes, keeping everyone organized, scheduling, etc. I totally slept for two hours the night before...I was that stressed. It was all good, though. The next day, I was released from that calling and was asked to be the Primary President. Well, hello kick in the pants with no rest for YOU! Lol. We all know what happens in our ward in October: Primary program, Halloween party (primary in charge), we had a baptism right off the bat, stake leadership training meeting, start up of scouts, a pack meeting with the arrow of light ceremony (with no cubmaster, by the way)... and it's been a whirlwind and I'm beat. We are getting some calls made though, because as much as I want to say, "I can be the scout committee chairperson, cubmaster, den leader, pianist, and Primary President!" I found out I can't. Not very well, anyway. The Bishopric is aware though, and they are being so good about it. In the mean time, I feel like it's been a little bit of a "Karrie Show" and I'm ready to bow out for a few minutes.

That, and the normal school board, music program, curriculum writing project, other secret project, laundry, dishes, grocery shopping miles away, a sick granny...my desire to exercise a bit to ward off the winter fatties...

That, and the normal husband and kid stuff... my brain is not very quiet.

Am I feeling burnt out? No.

Out of balance? No.

Like I have a full plate and can't take on any more? Yes. I have hit my max and have to now say "no" to extra stuff.

So, thank-you for reading to the end of my "dumping it all out there" post about these crazy days. Hopefully when my kids read this later (like in their teens/adult like) they will feel like I put them second. SECOND YOU SAY? Yes...Ryan actually comes first, even if it doesn't seem like it all the time. (Hello, child interruptions into the middle of my conversations!) Ryan and I have to live together for a long time, so I'm all about making that a priority. Even when it's hard. Like last night, when I got back from the hospital from visiting my grandma who had another stroke. It was 8:00pm and I was EXHAUSTED, so I went to bed. He stayed up watching TV or something. But guess what? I feel great today, doing that reverse sleeping in thing I did...you see, if you go to bed early enough, and still wake up at 6:00am, it's almost like sleeping in! Tonight we have plans to put the kids to bed and then stay up and watch Red Dawn. One of his favorites from his youth.

Okay, enough of this stuff. I have exactly 2.5 hours before I go and get the kids from school. It's an early release day and parent teacher conferences.

*Question of the day: Why do I not blog/take photos anymore?
*Answers of the day: I do not have a photo editing program anymore, I never remember to haul my camera around, I am lazy, I have too many other things to do... I have some real and made up excuses!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The Legend of the Wild Circus Pony

Once upon a time, about two and a half years ago, all four Bunting children were outside playing on and around the slide. As Ma recalls it, the older two were making a tire swing from an old bike tire and some ratchet straps, while the younger two were sliding down the slide. The parents were in their RV, enjoying the relative quiet time of having all the kids outside for a bit. The TV may have been on...that was back in the olden days when the Bunting family had TV.

After just a short time of this blissful peace, Ma Bunting notices the pitch of her children's voices change in that unnatural manner that bespeaks of panic. She starts to get up, and two things happen simultaneously: the youngest Bunting child issues a blood curdling scream, whilst the eldest Bunting child comes running up the three steps into the trailer and yell, "There's a horse outside!"

Now, remember that the Buntings live on open land, and are used to seeing many wild (and not so wild) creatures: mountain lions, bobcats, cows, raccoons, snakes, birds, bats, foxes, bears, skunks, and whatever else happens to wander between our desert mountains and our high country mountains. A wild horse? Never have seen one of those, but that's because most horses are taken care of very well by their owners.

The information of the horse and the blood curdling scream motivates Ma to jump outside the trailer and over to her small children just in time to see the ugliest looking pony jigging it's way across the property not 15 feet from the kids. It's head was held high, and off it went without a second look.

At the time the Bunting's thought it must have escaped some one's yard (from somewhere...they don't have neighbors), and that someone would find it eventually.

Now, they Bunting family is not so sure. You see, just two days ago, small hoof prints were found in the dirt. They were close together, and Pa Bunting deduced they were indeed from a horse. Small in stature. (Pa would know. Being an expert tracker and cowhand and all.)

The legend of the mysterious circus pony continues. Will it jig on by another day, sneaking up on unsuspecting children as they build a fort in the country? Does Pearl the cow dog keep it at bay with her ever vigilant watch? Will Ma ever have her camera at the ready when it does high step by for proof of this legend?

Only time will tell.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Common Core State Standards- What I Think I Know

First, my background. Just so you know I'm not talking out of my...own head. I have worked with children in an educational capacity of some sort for almost 20 years. (I can't be that old!) I have a B.A. degree in Child Development. I have a California Clear Multi-subject teaching credential. I have taught pre-K through 8th grade for pay. I currently volunteer teach music at my kids' school. I am also on the school board. Other than the music thing, I have not formally taught in 10 years. That is my weakness in this post: I have been somewhat out of the loop, even though I have been in and around schools since I quit. I am not getting the first hand training and information on CCSS. Also, I am a Libertarian at heart, with a conservative bend. This will show up and taint my opinion... because it is who I am. I acknowledge it and recognize it. Just as I recognize a conservative and liberal bend in other articles. Not that this is even close to an article. I am not a writer. Here we go anyway:

California has had educational standards very similar to the CCSS for over a decade.(Those standards were adopted in 1997.)  Doing a quick comparison, there is really no difference in the standards addressed. The other 44 states that have adopted them might be in for a bigger change than we are. This is to our advantage as Californians... we rank pretty low in state to state standardized testing comparisons (anywhere from 46-49th in the nation... depending on which report you read. Which happens to correlate with our per pupil spending rank. But before you think, "We need more money then!" please be aware that the National Assessment of Educational Progress Problem ranks Texas as being ranked 44th in spending, has a very similar demographic make-up, but ranks 10th in the nation for mathematics. Go figure. See THIS ARTICLE.).

Here's the catch though: not every state takes the same test. Now, 45 states will be using the same test. I have heard it said that since the Common Core Standards aren't that different than the old CA state standards, our ranking within states should go up. Yay us. I have seen alarm over Kentucky's drop in test scores the first year they took it compared to their old tests. This has lead to some saying, "It won't work! They can't even pass the test!" But think about it: when has a group of people ever switched what they did and done extremely well the first time? Maybe you can think of a few...but they do not involve children. Or the array of teachers and their different backgrounds of training.

The new Smarter Balanced Test is lame. Okay, so I say that because I have a love/hate relationship with tests. I see the need for state boards: you want to manicure nails, be a nurse, dental hygienist, teacher, lawyer, or doctor? Build houses as a contractor? Welcome to the world of tests, where if you don't pass, you can't do your job. I kind of like that. A standard to be met, that says, "Hey, I'm minimally competent...because at least I know this much." Kids should be the same way... there should be some minimal competency stuff going on, much like the CAHSEE (CA High School Exit Exam). But to test our kids every year, as if it means ANYTHING AT ALL, is lame. I know of zero teachers who go through last year's results and then design a course of study for the failing students in their new grade. WHY? Because teachers have to teach each standard for their grade level. Sure, you try and remediate the to the student's level, in hopes of bringing them up to their current grade. Do that, times 30 kids (minus the 2-3 who passed the test with flying colors), and your job just became impossible. So, the state test means NOTHING, because a student who gets a whole 2-3 years time in seats with no testing gets a whole 2-3 years in seats getting behind. True story: The first day I taught second grade I had three students who could not READ or WRITE their FIRST NAMES. Why were they in 2nd grade? Why were they not held back? There was no special ed stuff going on. They took the test at the end of the year (as well as all the quarterly benchmark tests), and guess what? They failed. Surprise, surprise, right? With after school tutoring (by me, for free...) one of those kids improved a ton. The other two made incremental progress...but they started third grade an additional year behind. It looks like tests aren't going away, and if I was in charge of the world, students would be tested in three grades: 4th, 8th, and 11th. And then put in differentiated classrooms based on results. But I'm not in charge of the world, so I will continue to watch teachers frustrated by losing a week of teaching time, and students bored with a week of taking tests. The tests as they stand mean NOTHING. Until tests are used for a purpose (other than threatening teachers with their jobs...) they will mean nothing.

The tests will be better because they are online! No more filling in bubbles!  Of course I had to check out the new tests, because remember I love/hate tests. Love to hate? Hate to love? Go HERE to check out some samples yourselves. Just click "sign in" without having to actually sign in. The information fields are auto-filled with "guest" for you. Make sure you choose which grade you want to see.
My opinion: sure, we aren't using number two pencils to fill in bubbles, but there is still a whole lot of bubble filling going on. It's just a click now. I don't think this is good or bad, but I don't like when people start by saying, "No more bubble tests! So much better for kids!" Really?  How about you say something like, "Our multiple choice assessments are also paired with a critical thinking assessment so that students can explain their answers." Which is weird to me, to be honest. Here you are, Mr. Testmaker, giving me four choices to choose from...and I need to explain why one of your answers is right?  On the positive side, there is a shift away from this, as the computer testing allows for entry of numerical digits manually, for math problems anyways. There are a LOT more interactive problem solving techniques on the computer, which I love for my kinesthetic learners. Moving things around on the screen to represent math problems is interesting! And on the English Language Arts (ELA) side of things, more writing is necessary for explanations. Yay, writing! A lost art. I think the testing will be a move in the right direction. Even though the old fashioned girl in me says, "What happens when the power goes off and no one knows what to do without a computer?" I see the move towards this style of testing as beneficial. (If the test meant anything for the child.) Personal Soapbox Moment: Now is where I would like to remind everyone to pay close attention to our politicians who always attempt to correlate test scores with teacher performance. Ask yourselves, "Why aren't parents ever mentioned in the performance equation?" Have you noticed that? Where the heck are the parents? It's super hard to expect a village to help raise a child if NO ONE is really raising the child. Can't discipline, can't have too high expectations, look for excuses, etc...the village has its hands tied, and a lot of parents are to blame. "Not my kid." "The teacher is horrible." "He doesn't act that way at home." "You can't suspend him for that. I have to work." Anyways, I would like to make a call to all parents to spend some time with their kids talking to them once in awhile, reading to them, and making sure they treat their teachers and peers with respect. Test scores would skyrocket.

The new CCSS means there is a federal curriculum.  Yah...not so fast there. I am super excited that the state of CA has suspended it's curriculum adoption process and has (for now) allowed more local control over the choosing of curriculum. Curriculum is two fold in my mind. First, understand that before CCSS, major curriculum publishers catered to their largest markets, tweaking their books (and sometimes straight up customizing) for their largest markets. Think about it: if you are in the business of selling curriculum, and you know if California and Texas together make up 40% of your yearly sales, you will make books specifically for those two states. Other states can use them, too, and you will tell them how great these ones already are. These two states, while different, consume the majority of curriculum per state based solely on their populations. We are large states, it goes with the territory. (Get it? Territory...large states...ha.) Now that 45 states have the same curriculum, other states won't be getting the leftovers, so to speak. Curriculum companies might be free to experiment a little, and they will have to with the shift of technology in the classroom. I am excited to see more local control in approving curriculum. (For now...I hope it stays that way.) In CA, when a school is purchasing new curriculum, it is customary for the options considered to be in the district office for a period of time, allowing parents, teachers, and the public to look over the options and weigh in before adoption takes place. I can't find any Ed Code that says that open to the public part is legally required, although I was under the impression it was. IT IS required at the state adoption level. My only advice on the topic is this: know what your kids are being taught. Ask the school. It is your right. (Ed Code 51101 (a) 8)  Remember that if you don't like something, squeaky wheels get the grease. (They also get dirty looks sometimes. And nicknames. Talk with other parents and become squeaky wheels together.)

On the down side, if you are not from CA, you very well might be getting our stuff anyways. States were allowed to adopt up to 15% more standards than what is in the CCSS, and CA did. They used all 15%. Our "liberal social agenda" will most likely show up in your curriculum. That's how companies will save money: they know that CA will buy a ton, and they will not tweak it for the other states because you aren't worth the money it takes. Sad, but true under the old way. Maybe with the shift towards technology, it will be different.

Another CURRICULUM ISSUE: California adopted the CCSS... the standards. But they have't yet completed the curriculum frameworks. So, we only kind of know what this will look like. Frameworks are the map of how standards will be used. They guide curriculum choices. Math will be done by the end of November of this year, ELA will be done in the Spring. So really, it comes down to "We aren't sure what it will look like yet." They have an idea, and a starting point, but they, like their state's students, are coming in under the wire and NOT getting anything turned in early.

LIBERAL CURRICULUM AGENDAS: I am not going to throw this one under the bus right away. There is a bit of truth to that idea. Not a lot of truth, but a bit. This isn't exactly CCSS stuff, but it may bleed over if you are not in California. It's no secret that in California, some "liberal" curriculum reforms have been passed. SB48, called the Fair, Accurate, Inclusive, and Respectful (FAIR) Education Act recognizes everybody under the sun as being a minority (let's all put people in these teeny tiny boxes of "Irish-American" and "Asian-Americans" with the emphasis being on the LGBT population, as stated from the bill's author Mark Leno). Oh yes, please. Please explain to my second grader why a person's personal bedroom behavior is so important as to warrant a focus on how that made him or her a great citizen of our society. And enough with the "dash Americans" already. So I'm an "Irish-German-Native-American-American?" Oops, I forgot my great-great grandpa who was born in Denmark and moved to California before the Civil War even started. If the state thinks defining people by their ancestor's native land (because truly, an immigrant might be considered by his native country for a generation), or by their bedroom behaviors (Oh, so that's why he was so awesome! He had sex with other men! Ummm...really?) let us discuss this with kids who have at least reached puberty. Telling a child that a lesbian is a woman who loves another woman is a lie: because women love other women all the time. Mothers, daughters, cousins, friends... same with men. And sex and love are not equivalent...we've known that for years! (Hello, one night stands and shallow, empty relationships!) And in CA, you can't talk about sex ed unless you, as a teacher, are trained (51933 CA Ed Code) with a 14 day notice with materials available for review (51938 CA Ed Code). Now, the state of CA does not equate being LGBT with sex. I disagree. Because heteroSEXuality is based on nothing but...SEX. Sure, there are some lifestyle things that go with whoever you have SEX with, but mostly we are all people, who work, love, read, cook, eat, socialize, and our bedroom choices do not define us as being great or evil. Honestly, how limiting. Talk about fighting for rights for all, or something you believe in, actions that made a person great... however you want to do that, but do not tell me or my child that a person is memorable because of what they do in the bedroom. And from a social studies stand point, children don't even get that detailed with facts until they hit junior high...the same time real sex ed kicks in. Or should kick in. Why the government wants to get involved in dictating personal moral behaviors between two (or more!) individuals is beyond me. Yes we should be tolerant and love everyone. Duh, right? Respect! But is this the way to do it? Empty curriculum instead of meeting real people? Anyways, rant about this "good idea in theory, crappy practical application" is over. 

So, depending on how curriculum companies interpret and present the CCSS to CA standards, an out of stater may have to put up with CA stuff. Still. No change for me. BUT MAYBE THERE WILL BE! The thing is, right now, there is so much speculation out there that even the state doesn't know what it will look like.

ANOTHER "LIBERAL" CONCERN: We all recognize there is a distinct difference in news reporting, depending on whether you are a "liberal" or a "conservative." In fact, you can read a report on the same subject and be totally surprised at how each side of the political aisle spins it. The CCSS puts greater emphasis on expository reading of articles. These articles will always be tinged with a political leaning. Always. But guess what? I don't know if you've noticed, but the childhood literature that has been coming out in the last decade or so is too. Gone are the days of "Green Eggs and Ham" and Beverly Cleary. So this is not really a change. Lost art of interpreting great works of literature? Absolutely. Better get some family reading going on. Join book clubs. Make your own. While the emphasis on "real world reading" (informational/expository texts) is practical from a grown-up standpoint, literature is a most excellent way to teach CRITICAL THINKING SKILLS...those same skills that are supposed to be tested by the standardized tests. In case you wonder how lit teaches critical thinking, consider this simple exercise: you read Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (it is CLASSIC, I tell you!) and you posit this question to your class: What do you think about the revelation that Snape was capable of and motivated by the characteristic of love? How does this compare to his previous actions? Now that you know of his love, how does that change your opinion of his actions or of him? Why? And you can discuss the shades of grey that exist in all of us, and judgments, and force the kids to think about WHY they think that way. Studying PEOPLE makes people better. Literature is a great way to do this. But note, literature is not banned. It is diminished in importance. Don't you think for a second that teachers are not going to read stories, or have their students read great books. It's in an English teachers blood to do so.

This might be the perfect time for some out of the box thinking by districts to make curriculum choices based on local customs and need. Still learning about commas and exponents, but in a way that makes sense to the kids in the area.

And, I will argue for days with anyone who says that standards are curriculum. I know that is not the typical conservative thing to say, but it is true. Example: Kindergartners will be able to recite the alphabet by the end of the year. That is a standard. Any home school parent will tell you, knowing this objective, there are a thousand different ways to teach the ABC's! And the more ways you can cover them, the better. Math and ELA standards shouldn't present ANYONE with a problem. Multiply! Write! Read! These are pretty apolitical. It is the social content standards that CA has adopted that might concern you. And for that, that was coming way before CCSS. It was. If you are in CA, you are still on the same road you were on before CCSS. NO DIFFERENCE.

Technology will rule the day. I am still investigating this. I think it is fairly unrelated to CCSS, and just a sign of the times. And I have mixed feelings about that.

Teachers get to teach again! This totally bugs me...because what have they been doing the last ten years? Apparently, this is in reference to having less scripted curriculum.  I HATE THOSE. You know what they are: where you open to page 42 and in italics it says, "Tell the class....." That is not teaching. From what I can tell from my teacher friends going to CCSS training, the state of CA is asking them to do more teaching in the critical thinking areas, spending more time on that. And they are excited about that. They are all perceiving this change as a positive in their day to day work. They cite more freedom, more creative hands-on projects. We will see how that pans out.

 Data Collection! Yikes! If you are in CA, your data has been collected since 2009 anyway. And just keep in mind the IRS and state tax people know a ton about you already... Okay, so in California there is this thing called CalPads. Secretaries fill it out at various times of the year, and each kid in the state of California that has ever enrolled in public school (over the last decade or so) has an individual number attached to her name. Just look at your kids STAR test results sheet: it's right there on the front. This number and corresponding information goes into a data base accessed by the state and other schools, and say a kid moves from one district to the next, the new school enters in the kid's name, and within a short time (a day or two) the system kicks back some possible matches. Each school district already has their own software for keeping track of everything, and then the state makes the schools use their system, too. The real concern here is not the tracking of child data (for me) because every kid has a "permanent record," right? Lol...permanent... back in the day when everything was done on paper, and papers get lost, and shredded. The system makes it easier for school officials to get information they need quickly concerning academic success, helps needed, etc. What concerns me most is this: Who exactly has access to this information? I am so over the whole, "Well, while we don't want to call it spying, exactly, yes actually we have been monitoring your emails, internet searches, and phone calls for the last 15 years."  Right? Now, I trust most people, and I can't see any real harm in collecting my child's grades in a database. Or her birthday. Or whatever. What I have trouble with is a disregard for humanness. The fact that almost everything we do in the educational field is "data driven" and this is considered an awesome thing. Data will not tell you that 80% of the children in your school are starving for attention and love from absent parents who are busy doing whatever it is they are doing: anything from illegal activities to just plain old working too many hours to afford that new car. Data will work when you want to buy inanimate objects, or sell them to a certain market. We shouldn't be selling our education to our children and staff. It should be natural interactions, and human based. And, I fear that a technological record will become permanent, and that while the current hiring generation might chuckle at a mark on your record that said you peed on the playground in second grade and got in school suspension for it, in 20 years the next generation will lose the humanness and be so driven by "what the record says," that the critical thinking the state wants to instill will be for naught.

So, in a nutshell out of this mess I attempted, it is my opinion that CCSS, in California, will look very similar to what we've had for the last 15 years or so. No real change. Not to say that's good, but it is what it is. I am positive my opinion will morph as I see how it all actually works out. The teachers I know have the attitude of "Here we go again," because California "revolutionizes" education about every decade. Someday we may get this right. But I'm not entirely convinced we are doing it all wrong to begin with.

It is easy to point fingers at our education system, while not pointing fingers at ourselves as stewards of our children. Barring true special education needs, those families that place importance on their child's education, are able to feed, clothe, and keep their kids clean and healthy have children who do well under multiple educational models.

 What it all boils down to is this: be involved in your child's education. Just do it. Ask questions. Make a fuss. Praise a teacher or school. Inspect books. Inspect homework. Be far more concerned with a culture of focusing on differences, and those differences being right or wrong, and take back your parental obligations of being your child's first teacher. It's okay to have a family culture. Get one. It'll probably be different than my family culture. (We have taco eating contests...among other things.) Don't believe everything you read. Question it all. That's called critical thinking. It's what our government says our kids need to do. If you don't like the government telling you what your kids will learn, you have options: get involved and try to change what you don't like, or just pull your kids out. The myth that home school families and private schools have to follow CCSS is just that: a myth. It doesn't apply to California. (51210 and 51220 CA Ed Code).

(Made it this far? I'm impressed. I'm sorry for the mess. I'm sure my liberal friends will be all, "She is SO right winged and closed minded," and my conservative friends will be all, "She's turning into a liberal!"

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Kern County Fair

The kids were so bored in this picture. Within a minute of this picture they were all hanging on the bar. We went to the Kern County Fair and Ryan ran into a ton of people he knew. Long time friend and ag teacher Clay was there, and we had to get caught up a bit. We checked out the entries, the animals, and avoided the midway. A Tuesday evening is a great time to go: no one scary was there! Probably one of my favorite run-ins was with Lindsey and David...who I ran into last year in the same spot. (Hello, pigs!) Also, we ran into a Sheriff's officer undercover that is good friend with Ryan. Not to mention Uncle Karl, Aunt Gaye, Shannon R., and others from life. The kids experienced Dippin' Dots for the first time ever. I had part of a funnel cake (YUM). I think we might enter something next year. I don't know what, but I know the kids were all like, "We should enter something!" And they were so serious. 

Beaver Bum Smells Like...Vanilla?!?

So, I came across this news article about castoreum, a chemical compound secreted by these glands on the bums of beavers. It's used as a vanilla flavor, and the FDA only requires that if it is used, it is labeled as "natural flavorings" because it is NATURAL. My favorite parts of the article: "Only 292 pounds of castoreum are harvested annually because the milking process is uncomfortable for all parties involved."

And this one, which is paraphrased: "I lift the beaver's tail and tell people to smell it. They are grossed out, but I'm like, 'No, it's a beaver! It's different!'" Lol...who lifts a beaver bum and sniffs it?

Good question from my friend Dawne: who was the first person and under what circumstance did they decided this slimy brown substance near the rear of the beaver was awesome like vanilla? I suspect it was from someone who harvested a beaver for either felt, meat, or both...and was all, "Hey, that smells tasty!" Still gross. But I will continue eating vanilla and all vanilla products, castoreum and all. We eat plenty of gross stuff if you think too much about it. So I don't.