Tuesday, March 29, 2011


March 29, 2011

It was a beautiful sunny Tuesday afternoon. How could I possibly know what the day would hold? I was with my son at the high school, sitting in our parked van while we waited for my daughter to finish drama rehearsal after school. As we chatted amiably about the day, suddenly there was an ominous tap-tap-tapping sound just above our heads.

"What was that, Nicholas?"


"What IS that?"


Nicholas' eyes suddenly grew wide. "BIRDZILLA! It's Birdzilla on the roof of the van!" By way of confirmation, a beady Birdzilla eye and razor sharp beak appeared in the window just over Nicholas' shoulder. His window was closed, thankfully, but mine was open. What if he decided to inspect the inside of the van? I urged Nicholas to jump out of the car while we allowed Birdzilla to pace disdainfully up and down the length of the roof. Perhaps he would get bored and move on to another vehicle--perhaps an unoccupied one.

We eased the doors open and slid out. Birdzilla eyed us suspiciously, taking a few menacing steps toward us. He wanted company, and wasn't ready to release us just yet. "Go ahead and stay right there," I said. "We'll just be over here, waiting." Birdzilla looked at me bemusedly, as if to say, "You may stay over there. I wish to deal with The Boy." And he turned his piercing gaze on Nicholas.

Nicholas was not to be intimidated, however. He stood his ground, offering up kind words and a friendly smile. He spoke the words that reached to Birdzilla's soul. He found, in Birdzilla, a friend, a companion. Birdzilla needn't exercise dominion over this boy; he could instead befriend him. And for a time, Birdzilla lost his silent, ominous demeanor, playfully interacting and communicating with his new found friend. They were mesmerized with each other.

I, on the other hand, kept my distance. Majestic and powerful as he appears, that bird still pretty much freaks me out.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Happy Birthday, Estelle!

March 28, 2011

We went out to dinner on Saturday night to celebrate Estelle's birthday (Doug's mom). Most of the family was there, although my kids were unfortunately absent, since they were at their dad's house for the weekend. It was a great dinner filled with lots of chatter and laughter--a good gift for any mom.

Estelle, Doug, and Estelle's grandkids, Jonathan and Zoe. The whole gang Oh, that Jonathan loves the camera! Look how adorable Uncle Doug is with Miss Zoe.

Garfield's Open House

March 28, 2011 Thursday was a graduation of sorts--a graduation for me. Garfield's Open House night, 2011, was the last one that I would attend as the parent of an elementary school student. My baby is growing up, sights already set on middle school. She paused just long enough in her journey across the bridge to look back and reminisce, proudly showing me the projects she's been working on all year in her 6th grade classroom. Her poetry:

A mask bearing symbols representing her interests and personality: a paintbrush and pallate, a soccer ball and a softball, comedy/tragedy masks, Mickey Mouse, a happy face, the color yellow (her favorite). A short essay she wrote, speculating on what she would do if she won the lottery. She is very generous with her new-found pretend money. I am happy to say I get to go on a cruise with her if she wins the lottery. I could use a vacation, so I'm crossing my fingers.... A person of influence and one who has contributed to humanitarian/charitable efforts: George Clooney. They studied the Ming and Tang Dynasties, and Danielle created a dragon to represent the Chinese culture. Danielle's name in Chinese characters. Danielle with her teacher, Mrs. Arruda.

Danielle with Mrs. Olivas, who was the first grade teacher for all three of my children.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Who Is Steering the Ship?

March 23, 2011

It's the question at the forefront of a lot of minds these days: What's Wrong With Education, and How Do We Fix It? The simple answer to a terribly complex question is there are far too many captains attempting to steer the ship in several directions. Who is the clientele? By whose navigational maps should we chart our course?

Just some of the captains include the following:

--Big business wants productive citizens who can adapt and engage within an existing construct. (Detractors might deem this, disparagingly, 'conformity'. There is something to be said, however, for learning to operate within a social structure, no?)

--Government wants statistics they can use to compare our children to other powerful nations in order to continue to prove to ourselves that we will remain the SuperPower ruler of nations, protector of democracy and freedom for all everywhere. A tall order, and a noble one, but one that certainly doesn't take into account the vast amount of education that takes place within the school walls that doesn't find itself easily reducible to a bubble on a scantron.

--Parents want education to make geniuses of all their children-or at least recognize the genius of their children. The parents also want all of their kids' individual needs met--personal, social, emotional, and intellectual. We are, after all, entrusted with the care of the parents' most precious and important part of their lives. As a parent, I too want all of those needs met for my own kids. As parents, we are concerned about our own children, no matter how many other personal, social, emotional, or intellectual needs have to be met for other kids.

--Teachers want to instill the love of learning, hoping to excite kids about the process of engaging in collective inquiry. No small feat in the face of the testing, testing, testing culture that has now overtaken modern education. And some teachers want kids to learn to follow rules. And some teachers want kids to develop good character. And some teachers want kids to NOT question authority. And yes, some teachers want kids to just keep quiet and not bother them until they retire. (Despite the fact that most of the teachers I personally know truly have a heart to teach kids and help them find their futures, I know it's true that there are teachers who are merely marking time.)

--Universities want kids who are creative, critical thinkers, ready to set the world on fire with solutions to problems we don't even know we'll have yet in our future. They want kids who are articulate in speech and in writing, and who can engage in texts in a meaningful way. They want kids who are aware of the world and self-aware of their place within it.

--Students want to learn. They want to be treated as adults. They want grades to ensure the path to whatever university they want to attend. They also want sports opportunities and they want volunteer opportunities and they want leadership training, and they want organizations to help support their varied extra-curricular interests. They want guidance and they want job training and academic training and they want to know that their teachers see them--really see them--as individuals, as human beings, filled with love and fear and stress and desire and visions of the future, no matter what that future holds. They want to know their teachers care.

These are only some of the captains steering the ship--important captains, all. None of these captains is wrong, none is trying to steer the ship into a storm. All of them have great destinations in mind, and truly, none of the destinations negates another. Think of a destination cruise ship: you could choose to go to Hawaii, Alaska, Australia, or England. If you've chosen to go to Alaska but find yourself on the ship governed by the captain who wants to go to England, you're going to find yourself unsatisfied. Mind you, England's a great destination, full of history and beauty and its own unique culture. It's just not Alaska, you know? If you knew you were still going to get to to Alaska, you probably wouldn't mind going to England. But instead? No, no, that will not do.

We're not going to get anywhere until our captains all get together and recognize the value of each destination. Or we simply choose one (or even vote for one--this is a democracy, after all). We could continue to fight each other, with one captain leading the charge toward his destination of choice, only to have control wrested away by another captain who careens wildly toward another one. We'll never get anywhere if we continue to let this be our path. If we want to actually get somewhere, we've got to do things a little differently. We could, in the end, choose a far-reaching, extended cruise where we visit all of these ideas, these countries, if you will, as complementary stops on the journey, all important, all stops necessary for a full and rich experience in the educational journey.

A journey of this magnitude takes more planning, more thoughtfulness, more resources, more cooperation. It might even be more than we think we have right now. But aren't our children worth it? Isn't our future worth it?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

History Day 2011, Treaty of Paris

March 20, 2011

The theme of History Day is year focused on diplomacy successes and failures in history. Nicholas' project was an exhibit on the Treaty of Paris. It wasn't quite as interesting a topic to him as last year's was (an important invention in history), but still, the experience has him already looking forward to finding out what next year's topic is so that he can get a jump start on it.

Sacramento Trip

March 20, 2011

I just got back from a three day Cahsee Item Review Session in Sacramento. It was the second of three sessions I'll be attending this year. For this past session, they made a last minute hotel switch and put us up in the Citizen Hotel near the Capital building. It was a very nice hotel, with several tongue-in-cheek nods to our fine government representatives just up the road.

This bag of 'hot air' contains the hair dryer. It cracked me up!
One of the nights I was in Sacramento, a friend of mine and I decided to drop into a local bar to check out its advertised novelty. The Dive Bar has a huge fish tank over the bar that runs the full length of the bar. Every evening, they have mermaids swimming as part of the ambiance. The tank is big enough to accommodate two mermaids swimming amid the fish. It was definitely worth the stop in.

Pretty Flowers

March 20, 2011

The Force is Strong With This One

March 20, 2011

The latest creation combining Nicholas' two passions--Legos and Star Wars.

Car Wash and Bake Sale

March 20, 2011

Buchanan High Car Wash and Bake sale! The kids worked hard and earned lots of money to add to the choir trip fund. Bree did a great job organizing the event. Plus, for a small donation, I got my car washed for the first time in way too long. Love teen labor!

Number 67

March 20, 2011

Danielle has started softball season once again, and this year, she's wearing jersey 67. I told her she's bound to have a strong season, since her number is my birth year. (Last year, her jersey was 14--my birth date and my lucky number.) She's playing catcher in these pictures, but they've also had her playing at right field and at 3rd base, depending on the game and the best match for the team's needs on that particular day. I'm a little bit chagrined that her games start before I get out of school, so that I don't get to see much of them, but if I rush out the school parking lot as soon as the last bell rings, I can catch the last inning or so of the games. So far, the team is undefeated. Go, Garfield Cubs!