Thursday, May 31, 2007

I am a Ravenclaw!

Want to Get Sorted?
I'm a Ravenclaw!

Just a bit of fun, is all.

Did you hear that Universal Studios is planning a World of Harry Potter theme park???? Dude, now THAT may get me to go to Florida! I mean, they're planning on having Hogwarts, the Forbidden Forest, and Hogsmead..... How cool would that be??? Or, to do the entry to the park as though you were really entering through the Leaky Cauldron, into Diagon Alley..... Man, can you imagine some of the stores one might truly find in Diagon Alley or Hogsmead???? *sigh* DD & DH can go to "the happiest place on earth", I wanna go to this Harry Potter Theme Park. *grin*

Here is a link to yahoo's article:

Have a Blessed Day!

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

This 'n That.....

First off, here's my favorite Challah recipe. Remember, I did NOT come up with this recipe myself, but I unfortunately don't recall the cookbook I obtained it from. I'm sorry. I'm not trying to infringe on any copy-rights. I just don't remember.

Low Cholesterol Challah Recipe

2 pkg dry yeast (or 1 Tbsp, if you buy it by the jars)
2 c warm water (divided)
1/4 c sugar (though I always up it to half a cup, I like my Challah a bit sweet)
1-1/2 tsp salt
7 to 8 c all-purpose flour
2 eggs (divided)
3 Tbsp veggie oil (though, as I'm not cooking Kosher, I usually use unsalted sweet-cream butter)

Proof yeast in 1 cup of the water with about 1 tsp of sugar. Mix remaining sugar, salt & 7 cups of the flour in a large (and I DO mean LARGE) bowl. Pour proofed yeast into well in center of flour mixture and stir into flour. Add 1 of the eggs (beaten) and oil, and knead into flour. More flour may be added as needed. Dump out onto lightly floured surface & knead till dough is (relatively) smooth & elastic. (I never seem to get to that "smooth as a baby's bottom" stage. Even after kneading for 20 minutes the other day, my dough still resembled my cellulite-ridden ass more than it did a baby's smooth bottom. But, as pictured, it rose beautifully anyway.) When dough has been kneaded to as smooth a texture as it will allow, let sit on the floured surface (a kitchen table works well!) while you wash out that bowl & pour in a small amount of oil (not called for in recipe). Pop your dough BACK into your bowl, turn over a couple of times to cover in oil, cover with a clean dish-towel, place in warm spot, and back off for about 2 hours, or till dough has doubled in size.

Now, the origional recipe gave directions for forming this into braids, but that's harder than it looks, and as I said, I'm not making this for Seder, I'm making this for yummy toast in the mornings. So, instead divided the dough into 3 or 4 loaves (as equal in size as you can manage), and place into lightly greased bread pans. Cover & allow to rest for another hour or so, till again doubled (at least) in size. (For a glossy finish, beat that 2nd egg together with about a Tbsp of water & brush over the loaves just before baking.) Bake in 350 deg (farenheit) oven for about 40 minutes, or till bread sounds hollow when you thump it with your fingernail.

There ya are. My favorite Challah recipe. I don't know if it's quite as good as the Challah I remember from those Seder dinners, but it's darn good anyway, and it only uses one egg, so if you don't have many eggs to go around..... No harm done.


We finished up our Jury Duty today. I don't have to go back tomorrow. Which is kinda bumming me out. I'd taken today and tomorrow (Wed. & Thurs.) off from work so that I could keep those last couple of checks. I'd planned on using both of them to help pay for my class reunion meal tickets in July. Now I won't get but 25 dollars for today, nothing tomorrow. *sigh* I do have to go back in Friday to finish off my work-week. Next week will begin my summer hours without any interuptions. I'll be working Monday through Friday through the summer. I really don't like that. I love my winter hours, when I work Sunday through Thursday, and have Fridays & Saturdays off.

However, we're supposed to have reasonable weather tomorrow, so I'm hoping to get outside (not spend all day online or in front of the TV) and do some gardening around the house. My plans include pulling out the fireweed that's growing in with my chive & rhubarb plants & in the space that I want to plant with sugar-snap peas. We've got a small trellis on the south side of the house that I've planted sugar-snaps against in the past. I didn't do it last year though. I need to get out there tomorrow & weed it out, then get those sugar-snaps planted so I've got a small supply here at home for a few days this summer.

And for the record, I love fireweed. Just not when it's clogging up my chives, my rhubarb, or my sugar-snaps. There are plenty of other spots in the back yard for it to grow. The south side of my house (since it's only a few feet of property on that side) is for these other 3 of my plants.

I'm also hoping to get some shasta daisies planted around the bottom of my scrawny little birch tree in the front yard, and some delphiniums & lupines planted between the windows along the front of the house. I want some flowers, and these are some of the prettier flowers, in my opinion. I may also see about putting in a sunflower or two on the south-east corner of my house. I think that'd be a pretty way to hide that corner of the house. (And it'd be right in front of my sugar-snaps.)


I sold ANOTHER bag today. I didn't even get this one finished to photograph when one of my fellow jurors mentioned how beautiful she thought the colors were. They were just the sort of colors she always wears. So before I'd even gotten the bag done, she asked if she could buy it from me. Well.... YEAH!!!!! And she also seemed suprised when I told here I was only asking $20 for it. On the other hand, she also said she'd tell her friends who she bought it from, when they ask. *grin* Word of mouth is the BEST kind of advertisement.

And the red, white & blue one sold last week to the other fellow juror who'd mentioned that she liked the colors.

So I've now sold 3 of them, and I haven't even taken any to that gift shop yet. I may just go ahead and hold onto them and sell them to folks who ask me as they see me. When I was at the grocery store last week, the clerk who was ringing my items up mentioned how fantastic she found the idea, and I told her right off that if she wants to buy any, I've got some to sell. I'm keeping them in a big trash bag in the back of my car so that I have them with me.


Ok, I think that's it for now. Just a bunch of little goings on.

Have a Blessed Day!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Oh I love a rainy.... day!

Yep, we got a good steady day of rain yesterday, and into the early morning this morning. Refilled the water tanks over at the FIL's for the plants this summer, and watered our new seeds & seedlings in well.

(The FIL does have a well, but it's nearing the point of needing to be redug, so we water from the rain barrels as much as possible, to preserve water for the FIL & MIL. When it's very dry, the FIL & DH have treked through the brush behind FIL's house down to the gravel pit/fly-pond that's back there and pumped water from the pit/pond to the barrels for watering purposes. But, we'll take the rain over the pond-water if it's given to us.)

Anyway, so DH & DD spent about half of the day in town yesterday with FIL shopping & bumming around, which gave me a chance to do some baking & watch recently taped episodes of SG:1 and SG:Atlantis. *sigh* Ahhhh, bliss!

Here are a couple of pics of the baking: These are only 2 of the 3 loaves that came out of this batch. (The third went over to my next-door neighbour before I snapped this pic.) They all 3 rose beautifully, but I don't know WHY this one loaf is so much bigger than the others. I guess it must be my inability to estimate quantities & sizes. I have a hard time making evenly sized loaves. But, it's homemade, so it's all good, I suppose. And it tastes delicious, so what more could a person want??? *grin*
For the record, this is my favorite Challah recipe. I'm not of Jewish descent or anything (not that I think it'd be a bad thing if I were, I'm just not), but as a teen I babysat for a Jewish couple with 2 darling little girls. At first they had me take care of their daughters at their home, but then invited me to go along with them to their Sabbath service to care for their daughters during the sermon (or whatever they call it). I would be downstairs during the religous part, but would bring the girls up during the Seder dinner that they would share as a congregation and was welcomed to take part. It was a very small congregation, of about 20 or so people all together. As a rule, about 14 people would show up for the sermon & Seder. The rabbi's wife did the baking of the bread (as was customary, it seemed to me), and the main dish (a brisket, I believe). The rest of the congregation would bring accompanying sides. All kosher, and all delicious, though the Challah was my favorite. And She (the rabbi's wife) made the most beautiful big, golden braids. Both brushed with egg white after baking for that sheen that mine don't have, and one of them sprinkled with poppy seeds.

I fell in love with Challah during those few Seders (the family moved not long after, or something, and I stopped sitting for them), and spent a few years trying to find a good recipe and learning how to bake yeast bread for myself. Took some trial & error on my part & some searching, but I finally found a recipe that I like (and didn't use a crap-load of eggs), and figured out the proper way to buy & store yeast so it wouldn't die on me before I could use it. Anyway, so I use a recipe called "Low Cholesterol Challah" using only 1 egg in the bread, and 1 for brushing over the top, though I don't do that part. I don't recall the title of the cookbook I found it in, only that it was this fat, silvery-gray paperback cookbook that I found at the library.

This was DH & Puck, making dinner last night. DH brought home a whole, cut-up chicken to barbeque. We boiled it first, for 20 minutes, in lightly salted water seasoned with a Mesquite barbeque seasoning (a dry seasoning). Then he grilled it nice & slow for about an hour & a half, till it was cooked through, basting it with a honey barbeque sauce (store bought, I don't recall the brand) towards the end. We had some HUGE artichokes that he got at the grocery store, and some mac & cheese (the blue box, certainly nothing fancy). But oooooohhhhh, the chicken & the artichokes made up for the humdrum mac & cheese. (DH & DD wouldn't give me any ideas for what they wanted to go along with the chicken & artichokes, so I just did up a box of the mac&cheese really quickly as SOMETHING to go along.) I just thought this picture was too good to NOT snap. Puck wanted to be out there with his daddy, and DH was sitting out there listening to the rain fall on the roof above his head while he grilled. They both looked rather bored & chilled. *wry smile*
Anyway, so that was MY Memorial Day. A nice mellow rainy one. I hope everybody else had a peaceful, mellow day with loved ones. And while I'm glad for the rain we had, I hope most of the rest of y'all had sunny days for getting outside & sharing the time with your family.
Have a Blessed Day!

Sunday, May 27, 2007

How does your garden grow????

No silver bells, or cockle's shells here.... Instead we've got swiss chard, spinach, collards, carrots, zucchini (lots & lots of zucchini, hopefully), crookneck squash, broccoli, cabbage, rows upon rows of green beans & long beans, peas, lettuce, 3 different kinds of radish, green onions.... And I'm probably leaving some things out. (Though, DH is arguing that we didn't put in collards yesterday, but I could swear that we did.)

Our garden isn't here at our house. We just don't have that kind of room in our yard. But we've had this garden for now 4 years over at the FIL's house, and the soil is finally looking beautiful. Still somewhat sandy, but so is most of the soil in our area. The FIL is actively talking about a compost heap to mulch into the garden at the end of the summer, which is the first HE's mentioned it. But, I got out in there yesterday in my bare feet, walking up & down the rows, picking out rocks & stumps & roots with my toes, instead of trying to find everything with my fingers. And that's doable this year!!!! The past years, the tilled up soil (my hubby does the really hard work of rototilling) contained far too many clumps & rocks & sticks & such to safely walk about it barefoot. This year, that was the best way to get in there & get the remaining rocks & sticks & leaves out, and to tamp down the aisles between rows.

The garden measures about 30ft by 60ft, and this'll be the first year we've actually used ALL the space. Today and tomorrow we'll be planting in the rest of the beans (we only did one row yesterday, we need more seeds). We're hoping to have a bumper crop of them so that we can can & pickle a good lot later this summer & fall. (The beans did well last year, but in the process of rototilling back up the center aisles, FIL's gas-tank on his rototiller was too full & one of the 2 rows of beans took some heavy spraying of gasoline which burnt the plants & the beans & rendered them inedible. The same mistake won't be made twice. *wink*)

So..... Here's to a reasonably rainy & warm summer, keeping our rain barrels filled & our plants growing. We realized that IF our garden produced to it's fullest, there's no reason we couldn't, both families, can & freeze enough of the produce to last us the rest of the year (or almost). Oh, we'd still have to buy things like cucumbers, tomatoes & peppers. We don't have a green house in which to grow those warmer weather, more tempermental plants. But, we could have all the greens & beans that we could want, if this garden just produces to it's fullest. It would be nice to be able to stop buying these things from the grocery store. That money could go toward other groceries that we can't produce ourselves, like meat & eggs & milk & pasta & bread-making supplies.

And even the meat, if we EVER get a moose or a caribou again, CAN be partially taken care of locally. And we may well decide to buy a whole pig from the local butcher this next winter, instead of getting our pork piecemeal from the major grocery-store. DH really enjoyed the meat that came from the half-a-pig we bought last winter. The flavor has been much better than that of meat purchased at saf*way. And the pig was bred & raised by a small-farmer from Delta Juction (a farming town about 60 miles south-east of us) instead of a mid-western factory farm. It was even brought up here to the butcher's live, where it was butchered & packed by a local person. That's neat. We may not know who raised the pig, but we know that it was raised humanely & in better conditions than the meat we would buy at saf*way. And we may not be in "friend" terms with the people who own the butcher's but we know they live within the same town as we do. And that same butcher's shop is where we have any moose or caribou meat processed (what we don't do ourselves, in FIL's garage) when we're lucky enough to get one.

Anyway... Sorry no pictures, but there really isn't much to show yet. It'd just be a tilled up patch of brown earth that I could show you, at this point. Only a bit of the vegetables that we planted yesterday were seedlings: half the swiss chard, and half the zucchini. The rest were planted in as seed. So, literally nothing to show. Sorry.

I hope y'all are having a peaceful, blessed Memorial Day weekend. To the families of the newly lost soldiers who are now memorialized in this day, my thoughts & condolences on the loss of your loved ones. May your memories of your times spent in the company of your loved ones bring you comfort & peace.

Have a Blessed Day!

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Some creativity & hard work....

Well, the first picture there is of some aloe plants I have just repotted this morning. The biggest leafed in the terracotta planter is the Mother Aloe DH gave me on my first Mother's Day, 10 years ago. I pulled and cut a good 20 leaves off of that, to trim it back to where it is now. It has been cut back 5 times now. I don't have the heart to kill it off, though DH wishes I'd get rid of it and keep one of the babies. The other 3 aloes in the plastic pots are 3 of the 4 most recent "babie aloes" that have spung up in the last year. The 4th was too small and broke before I even got it out of the big pot. Those three will probably survive. The first "baby aloe" to ever spring from my Mother Aloe is in my kitchen window, and is now actually bigger than my now-cut-back Mother Aloe. DH was wanting me to keep that one, and get rid of my Mother Aloe. Hopefully he will not flip when he finds out I've simply cut my Mother Aloe back and replanted it. Oh well, if he does. Anyway, so I now have these 3 baby-aloe to find homes for. My MIL wants one, a coworker wants a second of them.... Now to find somebody to take the third off my hands. *wink*
Anyway, I woke up this morning, saw that it was already 60+ degrees out and sunny, and decided today would be a good day to get this repotting done. By the time I'd finished these 4 pots, it was 70 deg. And it's now REALLY REALLY warm outside and I'm glad I did this when I did instead of waiting till later in the day. As it is, I've watered these plants well, and now they're sitting soaking up the sun & hopefully recuperating. As hard as it is to believe, Aloes are a hardy species of plant, and as long as one gives them good drainage & plenty of sun, they'll come back from some pretty serious damage. Some plants wouldn't survive the way I cut back my Mother Aloe. I didn't get to leave ANY of the origional root, but instead peeled off the huge leaves & cut the stem back to where it'd fit in the pot. It'll look shitty for a while, but it'll start putting roots out from the stem and will gain strength and in the next couple of year's I'll have to be cutting it back massively again. Probably have more babies to transplant in the next 2 or 3 summers, as well.
The second pic is of the 7 cotton-net grocery bags I've made to sell (not including the previously pictured red one, which is already sold). The red, white & blue one on the upper right side is actually as good as sold to a woman who's in Jury Duty with me. The other 6 are going to go to that local gift shop, unless I get somebody to buy them before I take them down. I've got yarn for 1 more bag, before I must buy more yarn, but I'm going to take a few days off from crocheting. I've done so much crocheting in the last couple of days that my left shoulder is bugging me again. Not as bad as it has in the past, but enough to remind me that I need to let it rest for a few days. Besides, if I get that next bag made NOW, I won't have anything to crochet on during Jury Duty on Wed. & Thursday.
What isn't pictured is the bread I made yesterday. 2 loaves of yummy "Golden Egg Bread". Half of one loaf is already gone. The other loaf is in the freezer for later. *grin* I also didn't take any pictures of my bacon & pancake breakfast I made this morning. That didn't last long enough for pictures. *wink*
Thanks again for all the support y'all have given me over the decision whether or not to hold DD back. Yesterday as I picked DD up after her last day of school for the 2006-2007 school year, the principal told me that DD's standerdized test scores came back in the "proficient range" on all 3 categories: reading, writing & math. The principal commented that with those scores, even if I was certain I didn't want her passed on to 4th grade, they wouldn't let me hold her back. They'd pass her on to 4th whether or not I gave my consent. Which kind of pisses me off, that the school will actually go over the parent's head in regards to the child's education. And, seeing as how the teacher evidently didn't have a single child in class who didn't pass on all 3 categories, I have to wonder at the strenuousness of this test. Has it been created to be SO easy that all the kids will pass, or is the teacher just that good of a teacher??? I don't think she's a BAD teacher, but I do know that in her normal math tests, DD hasn't scored very well (S-minus, as previously mentioned). And I know that there is one student who has been suspended 5 times during the school year, and one would wonder how this child has managed to score proficently when he's spent most of his time in detention or suspended. (For every 3 times I was at the school, he was in the principal's office one of those times.) Again, makes me wonder if the test has been created to be so easy to pass in order to prevent the school from losing governmental funding.
I hope every one of my friends is having a similarly sunny & warm day.
Have a Blessed Day!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

And so, we go ahead.....

I took today off work & went in to talk to the teacher, the special ed teacher that's been supervising DD in her speach therapy, and the principal. I explained my concerns, they agreed that she isn't exactly comfortable with some of the skills she's been working on this year, but all seemed pretty thoroughly convinced that DD will catch up. I'm not so convinced, still.

The special ed teacher made a comment that at a recent seminar, the special ed teachers were told (and I quote) that "any teacher that still holds any student back should be ashamed of themself" and supposedly that a large quantity of children held back eventually drop out. (To which I promptly told her what a crock of BS I think the no-child-left-behind plan is, and that I don't see ME holding my child back as her being left behind or abandoned as I see it as giving her a second chance to learn what must be learned.) I don't know if that's because of the child's being held back, or because of lack of parental involvement. I personally think that if a child drops out, it says more about the parent's attitude toward school, than it does about the fact that the child was held back. And I remember oh-so-many classmates 10 years ago who were either held back from continuing on along with classmembers older than myself, that then graduated WITH me, and my former classmates that wound up graduating 1 or 2 years behind me after being held back. But, MOST of us graduated. Heck, most of the kids I knew who didn't graduate on time with their class weren't held back, but dropped out anyway. Anyway, that single comment kind of told me that the special ed teacher was going to be a hardliner against me holding DD back, though the principal said it was my choice, and DD's regular teacher said she thinks I'm being very brave to bring this before them as a serious option when so much of the country is opposed to daring to tell our children anything that may wound their fragile views of the world. *wry smile* So, I had one in my corner (at least theoretically) and 2 against me.

And, of course, the special ed. teacher suggested that in the fall we test DD to see how she's doing in ALL her subjects, rather than just reading & comprehension as she has been tested to now. The last time she was so tested (in first grade) she was a little low, but not so low as to make her eligable for the special ed. program. Now, of course, the special ed. teacher wants to test her and see if she qualifies, but now I'm very reluctant (knowing what I do) to put her INTO the special ed. program. I would prefer to hold her back and allow her to catch up, then to push her so far forward till she's so far behind that she qualifies. That just doesn't make sense to me. Of course, that's what was being advocated. It helps, though, that DH spent his whole middle school & high school careers (till he dropped out in favor of homeschooling, from which he finally graduated 2 years later than the rest of his "class") in special ed., frustrated because he was treated as though he was stupid. (He still thinks he's stupid, though I don't. He's not NASA material, but he's not stupid.) So, it certainly helps that DH is on the same page as me as far as holding DD back, instead of passing her on only to have her put in special ed.

Anyway, DD's reading grade is up to average, she's even reading, occasionally, at a 4.6 level. (That is, this is the upper number she's reached, at this point, not that she reads consistently at this level.) I did, actually speak to DD's reading tutor and told her that I was seriously contemplating holding DD back a year, and she said that she thinks it would do DD a world of good.

DD's math scores are pretty consistently about S-minus. Which realistically is maybe a C, possibly down into a D. I'm not comfortable with that. And I made that incredibly clear to the 3 educators present. Her teacher DID say that while DD isn't caught up to where they would like her, in class she's gotten very confident, asking questions and not giving up just because she gets the wrong answer the first time. She seems to think that we can continue to build on that confidence and that DD will continue to work hard in class to improve her grades. I just wish she was as confident & self-motivating here at home as they say she is in school. The teacher did, of course, suggest that if we could just drill the math facts into DD's head she'd do so much better. They don't seem to realize that outside of school, DD isn't nearly so amicable to doing school work. She tends to fight & yell & whine for about 45 minutes (wasting 45 minutes) before she finally settles herself down to do a half-assed job of whatever the homework is, before she throws another tantrum when told to fix her work and finally settling down enough to do the job correctly.

Handwriting and spelling also came down to a direct comment from the teacher stating that DH & I simply must pull more time out of our already furiously busy (most of the time) scheduals and work with DD ourselves. *big ol' sigh* Part of me seriously wanted to ask the teacher if she wanted to take DD home with her for a taste of DD's after-school behavior, seeing as her oldest is just graduating with his PhD in something-or-another and her younger is going to be getting married any day now. I mean, she's raised two well adjusted adult children.... Maybe she'd like to give me a break & take a try at raising mine???? *wink*

Now comes the part I'm still not comfortable with..... Despite my serious misgivings about passing DD on to 4th grade, the principal informed me that there will be a joint 3rd/4th class next year. She suggested that for the next year we place DD in that 3rd/4th class as a 4th grader. That IF DD seems to be falling behind right off the bat, we can bump her back to a 3rd grader (so she'll be doing 3rd grade work, instead of being pushed ahead into 4th grade work, most of it repeating from this year) without it appearing so to her age-mates. I'm not nearly so concerned about the appearance to other kids, but I know that if DD feels attacked by her age-mates because she has been held back, then it may make it harder for her to concentrate on the truly important issue of improving her skills.

Of course, one of the concerns raised by several people (DD's day-care teacher, when I spoke to her about this today, DD's current teacher, the principal, and the special ed. teacher) is that seeing as DD is one of the oldest children in her grade (birthdate Sept. 30th, so she'll turn 10 at the beginning of this next school year), if we hold her back in 3rd grade, that will mean that she'll be turning 18 at the beginning of her junior year of HS. After which point if she decides to drop out, I can't stop her. She could opt to drop out, rather than being a 19 year old senior in HS, or even finishing her junior year. That is a possibility. I would hope, though, that if DD is that close, and DH and I are consistent in our insistence that she graduate & recieve a highschool diploma, she will carry our value of even a basic education at least far enough as to graduate. *sigh*

I guess it does sometimes come down to the biblical proverb to "raise up your child in the way they should go, and when they are old they will not depart from it". And while I may not hold faith in a lot of what is said in the bible, I know for a fact that this particular proverb does hold true to an extent. We all deviate a little bit from what our parents say to us as we grow up, but I do think that many of us still hold at least some of their values to heart. And I hope that being consistent in my insistance on a decent education will be one of the values that DD holds throughout her life.

So, that's where we're going to go, for now. We'll consider her in 4th grade, but she will be in this combined 3rd/4th grade class. If ANYTHING goes wrong (and I DO mean anything) I've made it clear to the principal, her current teacher, and the special ed. teacher that I WILL have her placed back in 3rd grade, regardless of what their feelings on the matter may be. And I have DH backing me up, and DD said she understands (though it's clear she doesn't necessarily like it) my reasoning.

The day-care teacher (upon learning that DD is struggling in various educational aspects) expressed that she would appreciate if we could share DD's weak spots with her, and she will be sure to help DD concentrate efforts especially on those weak spots in their 2 hours a day they will spend on education at the day-care, this summer. So she's also very adamant that hopefully we can bring DD up to speed during the summer, instead of watching her fall back again.

So, that's where things stand for now. Thanks for the support. I really appreciate it.

Have a Blessed Day!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

End of the School Year Blues.....

May I formally say that I am, ironically, a supporter of year-round schooling. I can, as a mother, appreciate how beneficial it would be to our children to have a shorter summer break, and a school term that ran longer than the normal 9 months with a 3 month summer vacation.

On Friday night, when DH came home he checked the mail. In the mail was one of those letters addressed to the parents of.... The sort that carries report cards, or official school letters. I opened it expecting to find the DD's results from the standardized tests taken in April. It wasn't. It was the result of a test called the Raven Standard Progressive Matrices, administered by the "Extended Learning Specialist" at DD's school. The letter starts out with defining the test: The SPM consists of 60 items arranged in 5 sets of 12 items each. Each item contains a figure with a missing piece, kind of like a jigsaw puzzle. Below the figure are alternative pieces to complete the figure, only one of which is correct. Each set involves a different "theme" for optaining the missing piece, and within a set the items are roughly arranged in increasing order of difficulty. The SPM measures visual perceptual skills and the ability to form perpetual relationships. It measures a student's ability to reason by analogy, which helps sudents to understand new material more readily. It also measures a student's ability to make sense out of complex data. The test was designed to be independent of language, culture, or formal school experience. It does not measure math skills, though it correlates with that ability. It also does not measure reading skills or your child's verbal ability.

IE: it's an IQ test of sorts.

The total score was possible out of 60. DD achieved 16 correct out of 60. Which put her in the 10th percentile, well below the "average" which ranged from 16% to 84%.

Quite honestly, I feel as though I've been told by the school "Your child's an idiot, and with one week left in the school year, there's not much you can do about it." I know that this is probably not how they intended it. But I hid this letter from DD, not even letting her know that it'd come, because I didn't want to discourage her about her own abilities. And then, yesterday, I called and talked to the E.L.S. for the school, and found out that the E.L. Program is what we used to call the "G.T. Program" (Gifted & Talented). He said that this test was origionally given back in Oct. (OCTOBER!!!!! I could have had some knowledge of this all winter!!!) but that when DD didn't test INTO the program, he disregarded the results (along with the results of all the other children who did not test into the program). Then last week he was informed that the parents of all the students who took this test STILL needed to recieve the results of this test, though I was never even aware she TOOK this test in the first place.

After finding out what this test was about, I called the office to ask about setting up a conference between myself, my daughter's teacher, and the principal to discuss DD's progress for the year. Even though this test was taken back in Oct. and even though it doesn't track her progress in the basics throughout the year, it's reminded me that with my child I must be ever-attentive as to her progress. I was reminded, with one week left in the school year, that it may not be in DD's best interest to pass her on to 4th grade next fall. And I hate to do that to her, for social reasons. But I would also hate to pass her on to 4th grade, knowing that she doesn't have the skills needed to keep her head above water, much less succeed.

And wouldn't you know it, the teacher mentioned this test to DD, and the fact that I was wanting to come in to discuss DD's readiness for 4th grade. And DH clarified that for her when he picked her up from Daycare with the statement that I would be discussing with the principal & teacher the possibility of holding her back. So I barely made it in the front door last night, after work, before I was subjected to yelling & crying over how mean I am to consider holding her back. (The yelling and crying from DD. DH understands though he also finds it almost heart-breaking.)

And of course, the teacher was planning on taking today (Tuesday) off, so I can't talk to her about it today. And tomorrow (Wed.) and Thursday I'll be in Jury Duty for the part of the day when the teacher would be at the school, so I won't be able to conference with her then. Friday, the last day of school, will be the next time I'm able to speak with the teacher & principal about this. At this stage in the game we should already be almost celebrating DD's passing onto 4th. Instead, because I haven't been as attentive as I realize I should have been, and because the school is content with the status quo, we're still struggling to decide if this is even the right thing for DD.

And I know that I'm going to face opposition from the teacher and probably from the principal. Mainly because this damned "No Child Left Behind" program has put them into a position of passing children that they KNOW aren't ready to be passed, or risk losing funding for the school & their teaching positions. I don't mean to sound like I'm blaming DD's lack of academic skills on the teachers individually, as I know they've done the best with what they've got. But they've also been consistently extremely reluctant to consider holding a child back, even if it's in the best interest of that child to have another year to catch up, before being forced to drop even further behind (in academic skills, though not in grade level) the rest of her class. I really do think it would benefit DD to spend another year in 3rd grade, reiterating with herself all that she's learned in one year, and solidifying the concepts that she doesn't have down yet. Hopefully by the end of that second go-round in 3rd grade, she'd be at the top of her class, having had sufficient time to grasp all the concepts before moving on to 4th.

So, I'm really kind of bummed these last few days, considering doing this to my daughter. I recognize that my primary job in life is not to make sure that she's an imbicilic social butterfly, but instead to make sure that she IS a mature, strong woman with a solid educational foundation underneath her upon which to build her future.

She seems to understand, sometimes, that this would probably be best for her. She seems to understand that she can't be a veterinarian without making decent marks in school so that she can get whatever college education is required for a veterinarian practice. And even on the days when she insists that all she wants to do is play hockey for the rest of her life (and one doesn't need to know how to read, write and do math to play hockey! *wry smile*), she WILL need to know how to read & write in order to read hockey contracts & sign autographs, and basic math skills will go into making sure she's getting paid enough to play. *big wink*

So, now all I've got to do is meet with the teacher & the principal & go over her scores from beginning of the year to now. I'm not 100% decided on if we'll hold her back, but I'm at the point where I really do think it'd benefit her more than it'd hurt her, in the long run. And I've been assured by other parents & past teachers that if she's not got a good foundation in 3rd grade, then she'll likely drown in 4th grade. That is the point where the basics of reading, writing, and math are used as a foundation upon which further academic knowledge is built & solidified. And if that foundation is so weak as to be unusable, then she'll never catch up. And we're already aware of how reluctant the teachers are to hold a child back, for fear of looking bad themselves. I don't see it as a failure on the teacher's part, and I don't necessarily see it as a failure on the student's part. In this case, as in some others, I see it as a legitimate validation that not all children are ready for advancement at the same time. There are some that pick things up more quickly (those generally wind up in the E.L. program) and there are those that pick things up more slowly. And rather than putting those slower-to-learn children in special ed. WHY not hold them back???? To get into the Special Ed. program, a child must be IN their "age grade" but be 2 years behind in their skills. And then they must be passed on to the consecutive grades with their age-mates, regardless of their skill levels, simply because they ARE in the Special Ed. program. I don't see that as a solution, I see that as a hinderance. You're still saying that the kid's got to be in the same class, but they just don't have to learn as much. Why not pull the child back a bit & let them get their foundation solidified before letting them build ever higher????

Anyway..... I know this has been another long, poorly written post. Thanks to all my friends who've read my meandering & ranting. Even if I don't write clearly sometimes, it really helps to solidify things in MY mind, and it helps to know that I've got friends out there in cyberspace who'll support me & back me up, even though most of you don't know me in person. It's great to have that support, esp. when one must go about being a "mean mommy" and flouting the conventions in the effort to do what is truly right for one's child.

Have a Blessed Day!

Saturday, May 12, 2007

A nice, quiet weekend....

That's what I needed, and that's pretty much what I've gotten. Yesterday I didn't even take off my jammies, except for a shower. I sat & crocheted & watched TV all afternoon. I now have 5 bags to sell, the red one having been sold last week, and another one that I didn't take a picture of having been given to a friend for a belated birthday gift. I've got yarn (as of today) for two more bags. Some of the women I've talked to LOVE the colors, but feel that light colors are too easily dirtied, even if the bag is cotton & easily washed with their towels or such. So I've picked up a couple of moderate-toned solids in pretty blues that I'll whip up this next week. I've been averaging 2 bags a week, and a third one started. If I don't sell any this week, I'll take the lot of them in (should be 7 by then) to the gift store just up the road, and see if she'd like to put them out for sell on consignment.

Anyway, today was somewhat busier, but in a mellow sort of way. Got up and made bacon & a flat of Hawaiian sweet rolls for breakfast. (The rolls just had to be popped in the oven to warm for 5 minutes, I didn't really make them.) I'm not a big breakfast person. I like continental style breakfasts most, when I eat breakfast at all. Anyway, after that I sat & crocheted while DH played a video game & dd played on the computer, for a while. Then we went to Sam's club for some bulk grocery shopping. Spent a little too much ($$ wise) there, but we didn't get anything that we didn't truly need. And we actually didn't buy some of the things on our list, when we saw that the prices at Sam's were actually higher than our local grocery store. Then over to Michael's for a bit more cotton yarn, and then to Walmart for some Mother's Day cards. Then we came home, and dinner is about done (we eat dinner late, here). We'll settle down & watch a movie as soon as we eat, then it's to bed & start the week over again tomorrow.

For the record, dinner tonight consists of Parmesan Herb Chicken breasts, buttered egg noodles (DH likes them very plain, for some reason), and Cucumber Salad (our favorite family recipe, Shelli!). YUM!

I hope all my femail friends have a HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY tomorrow. And may EVERYBODY have a Blessed Day!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

What a day for chocolate....

We had a couple of intense cases today. One concerning some inappropriate conduct by an esteemed member of society against another member of society that left almost every woman in the jury room in tears. Several of us insisted on "breaking the rules" and giving one of the witnesses a hug and a whispered word of encouragement in their case after we'd come to our decision.

The other case that was intense was very poorly researched and it felt like the accusing parties were trying to find the defendent guilty at any & all cost, even to the point of disregarding human dignity & rights. But, the evidence was there, if sketchy, so we had to agree to send the case to court.

Between the two, even the guys were feeling the need for some chocolate. *sigh* As interesting as this process has been, it's been frustrating & intense and I don't think I ever want to do this again.

Ok, I guess that's it.

Have a Blessed Day!

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Be prepared.....

Oh, but be prepared for WHAT???

I live not 1/4 mile (as the crow flies, slightly more if driven) from a fuel refinery. I also live between 2 military bases: an Air Force Base, and an Army Post. I'd say that approx. 40% of the inhabitants in my borough happen to be associated with the military. Maybe (probably) more.

So many people did not express suprise when we woke up on Monday and found that the military was conducting an "exercise" just down the road from our house (my neighbourhood) that involved stopping motorists as they passed & asking to see their license. MILITARY, not police. This is NOT a random police search for alcohol. This is the military stopping each & every vehical to pass their way, and request ID. They happen to be performing this exercise in front of the local refinery, and it's being passed off as an exercise to ascertain the safety of the refinery, and get some idea of how massive the danger to that property could be.

Today, the road leading past my subdivision is closed off to all but those of us who live here and military & medical & police officials. They're conducting a M*A*S*H* drill as part of a north-western (region of the country, that is) training process to ready the hospitals & police forces for any potential terrorist activity that may take place in our area.

Ok, I can somewhat understand the preparedness issue for medical & even police..... But, why are the military preparing ME for being stopped just outside MY neighbourhood??? I hate feeling like a conspiracy theorist. I really do. I don't like to think the worst of people. But this feels more like we're being prepared for a crack-down on our civil liberties. We're being conditioned to think "oh, this is just another exercise." Or "oh, if I don't have anything to hide, I shouldn't be worried about crossing that line." Or "Oh, they're just doing their job, just making sure we're safe."

I don't like feeling unsafe, but I don't like feeling like every move I make is being watched, either. I don't feel like I may have to watch what I say or do on my own property, in my own neighbourhood, in case it's deemed subversive or deviant. As a pagan in a primarily christian town, I don't like the thought of being closely monitored, being followed, or being stopped for no apparent reason. I know that some of the people I associate with every day would have no problem with claiming that paganism is deviant & should be suppressed. Hell, I think my dad would say as much. There are neighbours, of course, who are willing to look the other way on some of my idiocyncrasies, if I'll do the same for them. Those neighbours I like. It's the ones give me looks as if I'm crazy as I hang crystals to refract light from the trees outside my house (they're pretty, what can I say).

And it's knowing that some of those people who occasionally look at me as if I'm off my rocker, are the same who are likely to say "well, if you don't have anything to hide, then you shouldn't be worried." Who are likely to say "well, it's just a drill in case we DO get bombed." The ones who are likely to feel that when the military bring down force upon a person (or household, community, or town) then that person/household/community/town deserved it, without consideration of the facts. Guilty unless proven otherwise.

And I hate the fact that the military is doing this drill just outside my neighbourhood is making me nervous of conspiracies to subjugate the public.

I hope you have had a peaceful day, vacant of the constant sound of military helicopters flying back & forth overhead. I hope you have had a peaceful day, free of stops by police officers asking what my destination is. I hope you have had a peaceful day, free of the constant sound of ambulance & fire-engine sirens.

And, I hope you have a Blessed Day tomorrow!

Monday, May 07, 2007

My latest projects....

(Forewarning, the blogger won't allow me to do recognizable paragraphs today, so I'm going to bullet-point this post so it's easier to read, hopefully.)

  1. Well, here are some examples of my latest projects.... Cotton net grocery sacks. The pill bottle gives a bit of size reference, in case somebody's curious of how big they are.
  2. A couple of weeks ago it was announced on the radio that a couple of our state legislator's are looking to put a $.15-a-bag tax on plastic grocery sacks. (Both to increase revenue for the state, and to "encourage" people to Bring-Your-Own-Bags when grocery shopping.) I'd gotten 6 of these type bags made for myself, starting with a vastly different pattern with my first bag, then changing things till I've come up with a completely different pattern all my own (though it's a basic net, I didn't copy from anybody else, and how I do the strap/handle is different from any other patterns I've seen). By the time I got to my 6th bag and was getting started on DD's swim bag, I'd come up with a definite prototype, which is what I used in making these 3 bags (and the 4th that I just finished yesterday, that's not shown here).
  3. Anyway, I figured that I'm not going to be the ONLY one in my area who'll be wanting reusable bags instead of paying a bag tax, so I decided to make a bunch of these to sell. As I was making the yellow & white one, a coworker expressed an interest in the bags, but said she likes red. Which is why I've got that brilliant red one made. So I'm hoping that when she sees it today, she'll go ahead & buy it from me. Several other coworkers have also expressed an interest in these, as have a few of my fellow jurors. My origional intent was to make several to take with me to a locally owned & operated gift shop just a couple of miles from my house, and see if the 0wner would be interested in selling these in her shop. I'm going to ask at least $20 for them, though that price may be adjusted a bit depending on the consignment percentage the gift-shop owner wants per bag. I'm willing to go as high as $25, but not any higher. I think that $20 is about as high as most people are going to want to spend.
  4. It takes about 8 oz of cotton dishcloth yarn, of which brand I've been using the Lily Sugar & Cream. That means at least 3 balls of yarn (for solid colored bags), 4 balls of yarn in the verigated or ombre colors. And at $1.89 per bag, I can't make the bags for much less than 8 bucks in materials. Most people price their handicrafts at approx. 3 times the cost of materials, which would bring these bags up to almost $24 per bag. As I said, I don't think I'll sell as many if I charge more than $20 a bag, so as long as I get at least twice the cost of materials, per bag, I think I can work that way. And maybe I'll find people that'll buy them without having to go through selling on consignment. Seeing as I use several myself, if I have a supply of them on hand to sell, I may be able to just sell them to interested individuals as I'm out and about around town. We'll see.
  5. And seeing as their cotton bags, they're very washable. Except for that red one up there (which I'm going to advise the buyer to wash seperately with cool water the first time or two, to avoid bleeding onto other items), one can simply toss them into the washer & drier with one's towels or jeans & they wash up beautifully. Technically crocheted (or knitted) items are supposed to be blocked while wet & dried flat, but these are the sort of thing where you just scrunch them up in your purse or jacket pocket till they're needed anyway.
  6. I figured that by making DD a swim bag in this pattern, she'll be able to simply come home from the pool, take her shampoo & brush out, and toss the whole darn bag into the wash, suit & towel & all. She seems to have a hard time remembering to either take things out of the bag or to bother to toss her swim things in the washer at all. This bypasses a step by allowing her to just toss the entire thing into the wash.
  7. Anyway, I figured that it's been a while since I've shown off some of my crocheted goodies. So there ya are.... Some examples of what I've been working on lately.
  8. Have a Blessed Day!

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Day 2....

After my second day in JD, I'm appreciating how hard it is for grand juries to make decisions. We had a couple of major potential cases to decide on today. There really wasn't any arguement on one of them whether it would go to trial, but it was long & the details were not pleasant. The other long one came out with a lesser-than-completely-clear decision as to whether it should go to trial or not, but final decision was 11 out of 17 (one was excused for this case) jurors determining that there was sufficient evidence to take this to court. The others were small cases, but we had 4 of those as well as the 2 big ones. Interesting, and sad, and bringing up many other interesting issues that it really isn't our place to decide, but still brought up some interesting conversations.

After getting out of JD at 5:10 (we had to finish that last long one or we'd be back in tomorrow as well, and none of us wanted that!), I headed up the street to the library and pulled in the parking lot there just after 5:20. By the time I got inside & talked to my boss it was 5:30 and she agreed that if I wanted to just take that 1/2 hour as leave time, there was no reason I shouldn't. Me staying and trying to get ANYTHING done in 1/2 an hour is almost pointless. Esp. when it's the last half hour of the day. So, it's now 6:23 and I'm home, waiting for DD & DH to get home (they went over to the inlaws after work & daycare) so we can order pizza.

In fact, there they come now! YEAH!!!!!!!! So, DD's going to be happy that we're having pizza for dinner tonight. She's been whining about wanting pizza for the last couple of weeks, but DH and I have been pretty burnt out on the stuff since our trip to Anchorage.

Another mostly beautiful day out. It's getting kinda cloudy & somewhat windy as the afternoon goes on. Supposed to be gusty tonight with some chance of showers. Here's hoping. Ok, I hope y'all have had a good afternoon.

And, HAVE A BLESSED DAY tomorrow!

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

As luck would have it.....

I get to discover first hand (and in a long month, no less) what Grand Jury duty is like!!!! I was one of the 18 "winners" to win this lottery. *rolling eyes* It WAS interesting, today, and funny, and pathetic, and I can't say more than that obviously, but I'm wanting to. DANG am I wanting to.

And we have to buy or bring our own lunches, which means that for 9 days this month I'm going to have to shell out $$ for something to eat (above and beyond my lunches on my usual work-days). I had a sandwich (a good one, I might add) from The Fudge Pot today. And yes I got a small sliver of fudge to go with it. I don't know where else I might eat tomorrow. There are other resteraunts & eatteries in the area, but a lot of them are rather touristy, as the courthouse is down along the river on 1st avenue and that's our most touristy part of town. Go freaking figure.

I was up at 6:25 this morning to be sure that I got there on time, but I had a sleepless night last night. Between my nerves (it was something new, of course I was nervous over how it'd go) and Dh's sleeping I was up at 1:30, at 2:30, at 3:30, again at 5:30, then my alarm clock went off. Thank goodness I got to bed by 10:30 last night, or I'd be even less coherant than I am now. But, again tomorrow I'm going to have to be up by 7 am so I can be to the courthouse by 8:15 for more cases. *another sigh*

Whim, I know how imporant juries are. I don't mean to diminsh them at all. I'm just grumpy from having to wake up so early, and being worried about DD getting out the door on time (she made it, but all she decided to have for breakfast was a banana, so she didn't eat well before she went) and now I'm grumpy about the expense this is going to be on our checking account.

And besides Jury Duty, seeing as I get off each day around 4:30, I'm being told by my employer that I've still got to go into work after jury duty and finish up my work-day. That means I'm there till 6 before I can even come home and find something for us for dinner, go over DD's spelling words with her, make sure she's getting her teeth brushed & gets her shower, do anything else I may want to do, or even take a shower and drag my tired ass to bed. *grumble*

Anyway, yesterday was beautiful, though I didn't do anything special what-so-ever for May Day. Today was beautiful till about 2:30, then it started clouding over and we started getting some sprinkles. We're hoping it actually rains, as the ground & the trees could use it. And I think that about covers it...... Yep. That's it! Now, I'm gonna see if I can get to a couple of blogs before I have to get off and get dinner made. If I don't get to stop by your place, I'm sorry. I'll make doubly sure to do so this weekend.

Have a Blessed Day!

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Early Mornings SUCK!

I've gotta say, I'm not looking forward to tomorrow. I've gotten called for Jury Duty for May. And not just REGULAR Jury Duty, but GRAND Jury Duty. Which, could be rather interesting as it'd be my job (and the 17 others picked with me, if I get picked) to decide if there's enough evidence to take a case to court. On the other hand, I'm a night owl. I've always been a night owl. I HATE, HATE, HATE being up before 8 in the morning (and even that's pushing it!), and tomorrow I've got to be up at 6:30 (at the latest) so that I can be downtown at the courthouse by 7:45 to sit in a big, cold room waiting to find out of MY name has been one of those drawn from the hat to come back at 7:45 EVERY Wed. for the month and listen to the evidence available for these cases. *sigh*

Not only that, but I hate going into the court house because I'm never sure what I can take with me. I mean, I know knives are not allowed, but that's hard as I ALWAYS have a pocket knife with me. Sometimes my mini-gerber as well. Those'll have to be left in my car when I go in. I can take a crochet project, as long as the hook isn't so small it can be used as a weapon, but I can't take scissors (same reason I can't have a knife) even though they're my little embroidery scissors. So, I've got to remember to trade my scissors for a pair of nail clippers (which ARE allowed) for cutting my yarn. I don't know if we get a lunch or not, though I do remember at least one 15 minute break when I had regular JD a couple of years ago. So, what do I want to take with me to eat???? Probably a bagel with cream cheese and a baggy of chips or something. *sigh* And I've gotta pick out a good long book to take with me. I REFUSE to get stuck somewhere without a book. It's just pathetic on the rare occasion I've let that happen. I mean... ME, without a book! *rolling eyes* Just shouldn't happen. I should know better than that. But, what book??? What do I feel like reading right now??? And if it's an author I've never read before will I get 1 chapter in and decide I hate the book, then be stuck without something to read after all??? *sigh* Oh the decisions to make.

Oh, and I took tomorrow off of work. So even if I do get picked for JD, I won't have to go on to work after getting let out of JD. DH said he thinks that JD gets let out by 2 in the afternoon, which would still leave me with 4 hours of regular work to do. That's a long freaking day: up at 6:30, to town by 7:45, only to have to go on to work till 6 pm, then home to make dinner and get the kiddo squared away with school work & brushing teeth before I can take a shower and drag my sleepy @$$ to bed. Of course, except for the "up at 6:30 and into town by 7:45" part, that's what today's looking like. I'm just heating up a couple of can's of Dinty Moore chicken & dumplings, and a can of creamed corn for dinner tonight. Nothing major, because it needs to be fast. And hopefully in for a shower & to bed not long after. I'd like to be in bed by 10 PM tonight. Now, we'll see if that actually happens, and if it does happen, if I'm even tired enough at 10 pm to actually sleep. I'm a night owl.... right now I'm sleepy & wish I could crawl back into bed, but by the time most people are ready for bed by about 10, I'm chillin' with a good book or watching TV and not quite tired enough to sleep yet. Of course, by 11:30, I'm tired enough to sleep, but that means I don't get enough as I've got to be up most mornings @ 7:45 to get the kiddo ready for school. *sigh* Never ending cycle of sleeplessness. I think, for every one good night's sleep I DO get, I get 20 more nights without enough sleep. So, I'm rather far behind on getting enough rest. By the time the kiddo's 18, I'll likely be a living, breathing zombie.

So, whatever else goes on, I probably won't be on tomorrow. Not at all, likely. I hope everybody else gets to sleep till a sane time of morning, and has a fabulous day.

Have a Blessed Day!