Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Standardized Test?

UPDATE: It's testing week again here in Texas and I thought I'd re-post this from last year:

It's standardized test week at all my kid's schools (maybe even the entire state of Texas).

I just got back from the elementary school and it is full of "Shh! We're Testing" signs.  Facebook is equally full of rants and snarky comments about the general unpleasantness of all things testing.

I haven't got any good hate mail lately, so I thought I'd share a little secret with you:

I think standardized testing is a good idea. 

I don't think it's a perfect system but here are 2 main reasons I approve:

1.  Being a military family we move a lot (6 schools so far) and standardized tests are a good way for me to evaluate and compare schools in an unfamiliar area. 

2.  My child could bring home straight A's all year long, but these tests show me that they actually learned what they were supposed to learn. 

3. I do not have a problem with my kids learning how to take tests. I expect my kids to go to college. They will need to take test to gain admittance and take many more while they are there. (I don't want them spending an inordinate amount of time on this).

Of course, I think far too much time and money is wasted on these things.  Here's how I would improve things:

Expense: Normally, I am against big federal government, but I think it would make more sense to develop one standardized test each year instead of 50 different ones. 

Time: My kids will each endure 2 solid days of testing-which is simply too long.  I think there should be 30-60 minute tests in each of the following areas: reading, writing, math, science, and social studies. They could even do one a day for a week.

Fairness: I think most states have allowances for kid's with special needs or learning disabilities, but if not, they should. 

Relevance: Tests should be given the last week or so of school. There's still 2 months of school left. 

Pressure: These tests are not testing our kids.  They are testing the schools. I tell my kids to do their best, but their performance on tests will have no impact whatsoever on their future lives.  In my kid's school they are not used for promotion, and I do not believe that tests like these should ever be used as the sole reason to hold a kid back a grade.

Rant away blogland and tell me that I'm wrong.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

What I'm Reading: Wonder by R. J. Palacio

It is my turn to host book club and I picked Wonder by R.J. Palacio.

Auggie Pullman reminds me of my own boys, he is smart and funny and in love with all things Star Wars. However, he was born with some severe facial deformities. After years of homeschooling, his parents decide that he is ready for main stream school and enroll him in the 5th grade at Beecher Prep.  

I don't think they are making a movie, but here's the trailer for the book:

Given the heavy subject matter, it is surprisingly uplifting, thought provoking and even funny. It is also one of those rare books that both kids and adults will love and you will all be better people for reading it. 5 enthusiastic stars

Here are some of my favorite parts:
"Here's what I think: the only reason I'm not ordinary is that no one else sees me that way." (3)

"When given the choice between being right or being kind. Choose kind." (49)

"the waiter brings over the menus and i notice his expression the moment he lays eyes on august. but i pretend not to notice. i guess we're all pretending not to notice things tonight...i look at olivia and she smiles at me. she knows. she sees the waiter's face.  she sees my tics. olivia is a girl who sees everything." (191)

"Anyway, it's not that I care that people react to me.  Like I've said a gazillion times: I'm used to that by now.  I don't let it bother me.  It's like when you go outside and it's drizzling a little. You don't put on boots for a drizzle.  You don't even ope you umbrella.  You walk through it and barely notice your hair getting wet.

But when it's a huge gym full of parents, the drizzle becomes like this total hurricane.  Everyone's eyes hit you like a wall of water."(207)

In case you want to use it for your bookclub:

Discussion questions found here:

The author answers FAQ Here: http://rjpalacio.com/faqs.html

Auggie Pullman is obsessed w/ Star Wars and if my house wasn't on the market and I had any excess energy, it would have been super fun to have Star Wars themed treats. Here are some food ideas for a b-day party a few years back.

UPDATE:  Book club was amazing.  My daughter calls it my monthly mom party and she is right.   We had a great discussion and ended the evening w/ us all sharing our precepts.

Monday, March 17, 2014

I'm moving to Houston!

After 10 years of military life, we are going civilian and heading to Houston!

I have been crazy busy doing lots of unblogworthy chores getting my house ready to put on the market. I've been taking lots of pics and so I thought I'd share them with you. Here are some of my favorite rooms in my house.

 (I taped a sign to this wall offering to paint over it)

The idea of trying to keep the house clean with the kids home for Spring Break sounded worse than spending 18 hours in the car, so we headed to Universal Studios. (I heart all things Potter).  While we were gone we had 7 showings, with mostly positive feedback.  I know it is ridiculous, but I take anything remotely negative very negatively.  

My husband says it is just a building, what do you think?

Also do you find pictures and other personal items distracting when you look at homes?

Friday, February 14, 2014

Cheap Dress Alert

eshakti, spring, plus size, plus clothing, dresses, tops, blouses, skirts, jackets, ponte knit, plaid, tweed, boucle, silk, crepe, shirtdress, shiftdress, sheathdress, pencil skirt, fit and flare dress, a-line skirt, dresses with pockets, colorblock dress
 Click on the pic to go to the site

So EShakti is having an amazing sale today-35% of everything site wide.  If you click "superfast track" you get an addition $15 off.  If it's your first purchase than you can also get an additional $30 off.  I just ordered a dress for my daughter that was originally $89.95.  I had $35 gift card as a thank-you from my last purchase, 35 % off for Valentines, and a $15 off for fast track. With all my discounts my grand total was (drum roll please...) 


Finding a dress for the Varsity Sports Banquet:


Wednesday, February 12, 2014

What I am Reading: Regency Romance, A Modern Latina Classic, and a Book about Ebolla

My kids had their final basketball games and swim meet last week, so no more guilt free reading time during practices for a few months. Here's what I've been reading:

The Hot Zone:  A Terrifying True Story by Richard Preston

My daughter had to read this for English (the same teacher that picked Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother), and while I personally find her book choices odd and not very literary,  I could not put this one down.  It is non-fiction about the Ebola Virus and how in the mid 1990's, the military and scientists mobilized to contain a monkey outbreak in the suburbs of Washington, D.C.  It is a surprisingly fast read for non-fiction, but it made me seriously question my life long dream of going on an African Safari.  The idea of seeing lions and giraffes in the wild is now tempered by the idea of catching a virus that will make me bleed from every orifice of my body. 4 1/2 stars

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
This 110 page classic has been on my reading list for years, and I finally got around to reading it.  It is a series of vignettes about growing up as a young Latina girl in Chicago.  It is beautifully poetic; sometimes funny and other times heartbreakingly sad.
4 1/2 stars

The Maid of Fairbourne Hall-Julie Klassen
A few of my daughters friends loved this, so we gave it a read.  It is a squeaky clean Regency Romance about a wealthy and spoiled young women who runs away to avoid a marrying a horrible man who only wants her for her inheritance. She disguises her self as a maid and seeks employment in the mansion of a former suitor she rejected. She's certainly no Jane Austen, but it is a fun escape that you can safely recommend to your daughter or your mother.
4 stars

Up next on my reading list:
Blythewood, The Aviators Wife, and Before Ever After, and The Mind's Eye.

What have you read lately?

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

A Lump ?!?!?!

Last week I went in for my annual exam at the girl doctor.  

Good times.  

The nurse practitioner detected a lump in my breast and suggested I go in for mammogram.  I wasn't overly worried, but there was the lingering possibility of my life taking a difficult turn. We had one of our most perfect lazy weekends in a long time, and I hoped it wasn't our last.

Yesterday was the big day of my mammogram. My allergies have been bad lately and I was fairly confident they were going to tell me it was just a swollen lymph node.

 Unlike last time, there was a screen where I could see all my images, and I could clearly see two white spots in the area of my lump and my confidence started to waver a bit.  When the nurse needed to take some more images from the side, it hurt way more than normal, and she commented that it was probably the lump (not the best bedside manner), my confidence shook violently. When I asked her if the images looked normal, she hesitated and said that I would need to go back to the waiting room, while the doctor looked at the images and decided if they needed to take an ultrasound. She also said that my last mammogram was in May so they probably caught it early enough. All my confidence faded away.

Here are the thoughts that ran through my mind as I sat in the room watching CNN and reading the poster said, "One in 8 women are diagnosed with breast cancer":

Please, please, please don't be cancer.

Am I going to loose my hair? Maybe I'll get a blonde wig for fun. Charming Charlie had some cute hats.

Please, please, please don't be cancer.

Booking that non-refundable trip to Harry Potter World, wasn't so smart.  Is there a make-a-wish for moms?

Please, please, please don't be cancer.

I saw on Facebook that today is World Cancer Day-coincidence?

Please, please, please don't be cancer.

We are putting the house on the market in 2 weeks.  What does a bald sick lady in the master bedroom do to the market value of your home?

Please, please, please don't be cancer.

My husband just signed separation papers for the military, I wonder if they'd take him back, if I can't find civilian insurance.

Please, please, please don't be cancer.

If I am sick, what is my family going to eat. My kids lovingly called my last attempt at freezer meals "Crap in a Bag".

Please, please, please don't be cancer.

If I am not going to be able to clean my own house soon, I need to scrub it from top to bottom, so the cleaning lady won't judge me.

Please, please, please don't be cancer.

If I have cancer, I am totally ditching the diet I started yesterday and eating whatever I want.

Please, please, please don't be cancer.

My kids are amazing and could survive without me, but I really, really, really want to be their mom and really want to be a grandmother.

Please, please, please don't be cancer.

After a very long half and hour, the nurse told me I would need an ultrasound. I lost it just a little.

When the doctor came in and saw I was upset, he explained that my mammogram was completely normal and hadn't changed at all from my last one and that the ultra-sound is merely standard procedure any time a doctor refers you.  (This information would have been helpful at the beginning).  He said I just have really dense breast tissue and showed me on the screen how normal and non-cancery my lumpy boobs were.

 I have never been so grateful to not have cancer in my life and I completely lost it.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Mom's Mac-N-Cheese

I used to be a little chubby.  (I'm not saying it's my mom's fault, but I dropped a good 20-30 pounds when I moved out).

My mom is especially famous for her Old-Fashioned Mac-N-Cheese.  Growing up, many of my friends had only ever eaten the orange stuff that came in the blue box, so we'd have to invite them over so they could try the real stuff for themselves. 

My mom loves to cook for people, but unless you are not planning a trip to the Greater San Antonio Area, here's the recipe so you can make some for yourself.

2 Cups elbow macaroni (6-7 oz)
2 Tbl grated onion (I always use an entire onion)
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
3 cups cheese
2 cups thin sauce
1 Tbl Butter

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Cook macaroni as directed.  Place half the macaroni in an ungreased 2 quart casserole dish.  Sprinkle with half the onion, salt, pepper and cheese.  Repeat.  Pour white sauce over casserole.  Dot with butter.  Cover bake 30 minutes. Uncover bake 15 minutes. 

Thin white sauce:
Melt 2 Tbl. butter on low in a sauce pan.  Remove from heat and slowly add 1 1/2-2 Tbl. flour.  Stir and mix and slowly add 2 cups of milk (you can use a whisk).  Cook over medium heat until mixture becomes thick and starts to boil, stirring constantly.  Use immediately.

FYI: It is best served with frozen peas.