Jenny’s Special Day

Jenny made her First Holy Communion on Friday morning.  God is good.  Our pastor does not normally permit families to present a child for sacraments without going through the CCD program.  His consent is the result of much fervent praying.  And perhaps gentle diplomacy.

It was a hot, sunny Georgia morning.  But the Mass was beautiful, and so was Jenny.

Jenny and Father Joe

Happy parents

My parents

Aunt Barb

The cousins (missing one…wish you were here T)

Bill’s parents

Aunt Beth

Aunt Margaret

Uncle Glenn
Parents and Godparents and unhappy 3 year old.

 Jenny’s Uncle Bill, her Godfather, is in Iraq.  He was missed.  I left a blank spot in this photo to show where he should be.

Jenny’s Baptism

Uncle Bill was attending school in California when Jenny was baptized, so he missed that one too.  My dad was the proxy.  Yes, that’s my sister.  She’s come a long way, baby.  It’s ok that Uncle Bill missed the baptism since her dad missed it, too.  He was deployed to Kosovo.  Hell Year.

Aunts and Uncles (missing 4…we were sad)

not sure what’s going on here

Hot, tired, impatient family

Time to go home and NAP

From my SIL’s camera:

Mary’s garden

parents-Godparents: “hurry up, the 3 yo is whining” photo
Jenny

In a swoon

My Google calendar page is one of my home pages.  I just happened to look at it and see NOTHING.  Well, nothing much:

A reminder to take out my garbage this morning and my recycling on Friday.

(Yes, I think it is pathetic that I have to have my calendar email me reminders to do basic household functions.)

Oh, and there’s a little note at the top of the days this week with the words “Summer Camp.”

Fritz and Billy left yesterday in the early morning.

Then my parents left a few hours later with Katie and Jenny.

My brother is here, so we are a family of 5 this week. 

With NOTHING to do.

Mary’s World

Yesterday at the pool, I worked hard to convince Mary that her flotation device really would keep her afloat without holding on to me or the side of the pool.  I finally resorted to deceptive tactics and would move close enough to the side of the pool to convince her to jump in and then would quickly back up so that she landed in the water and not on me.  Then I faced her to the side of the pool and had her reach and kick to get there, first from one arm’s reach away and then gradually to 4 or 5 feet away.  Once she got it, she no longer needed me and would jump and swim all on her own. 

She was so happy with herself, that she shouted, “I am AMAZING!”

*******

In typical preschooler fashion, Mary asked for a drink and then insisted, “I DO IT!  I DO IT!”

I assisted, but let her do it.  As she screwed on the lid to her cup, she muttered, “How come I always have to do everything?”

*******

I have found the Velveteen Rabbit.  He lives in my neighborhood and yard.  So far, he has stayed in the front and eaten the grass.  Katie wanted to feed him a carrot, but I was afraid he would then sniff out the ones growing in the backyard.  This bunny is obviously not a native to the wilderness, but he has obviously been living outdoors for some time.  I’m not sure if he was lost or abandoned.

Mary wants to adopt him.  Of course.

“But Greta would bark at him,” she said as she cried her crocodile tears.

Possibly Greta would eat the bunny.  I’m not sure, though.  The dog’s hunting instincts are pretty strong when there is a cat or a squirrel around.  With Velvet, though, she just shows curiosity.

Eating a leaf in the neighbor’s flower garden.

Yes, I’ve named the rabbit.  And we can keep it as a pet as long as it stays outside, in the front, and we don’t feed it.

The trouble with enunciation or lack thereof

I have Vonage, an online service, for my home phone hookup.  It works fine.  There are some minor disadvantages with the service, but the positive aspects tend to outweigh them.  One advantage is that Vonage has a voice mail service, and they will transcribe your messages and send them to your email.  I rarely listen to my voice mail.  I can see on my computer who called, when they called, and what they wanted.

One disadvantage is that the transcription service is only so good.  My girlfriend and I were planning a trip to the beach, and she left a message asking me if I thought her “coffee” would fit in my van.  At least that’s what Vonage said she said.  The funny thing was that it was just possible enough that this girlfriend would ask such a thing.  She actually asked if her carseats would fit in my van.

Because Fritz’s ballgame was postponed due to rain last night, my sister and I decided to go see a movie.  We left before Bill was home, and while our children ran amok, somebody called and left a message.  When we returned home at 9:45, my husband was on my computer.  I leaned over him and checked my email and read this incriminating message:

“Hey Michelle, Zach Kevin with the Douglas that he gonna stop by the bar around 930 or so if that works I’ll see you then. If not just call me 7XX-4XXX bye” 

Nice.

“Guess it didn’t go so well if you’re home already,” said my husband, placidly.

My sister’s comment: “Good thing we didn’t go to the 10 o’clock showing.”

This was a message from the exterminator saying he’d be here this morning for our monthly spraying.

The storm before the calm

While I will admit that I did have my fingers crossed in the hope that my son’s baseball team wouldn’t be able to turn around the one-run deficit they had in the sudden death tournament game last Thursday night, I was just kidding.  And I was very happy that they did pull off a win.  It only meant one more game.  Tonight.

And the skies just opened and the thunder is rolling.

{sigh}

I fear the season will never end.

*******

This week is a crazy one.  My sister is here.  She watched the kids this past weekend so Bill and I could spend 2 days and one night somewhere else.  Somewhere where there were no children calling to us.  We just went into Savannah.  It was lovely.

It was hot.  If you travel to Savannah, there are some rules for beating the heat. 

* Wear skimpy clothing.  If you wear a polo shirt, they will think you are a tourist.
* Walk slooooowly.  If your speed can be registered by a radar device, you are obviously a tourist or a transplant.  Think 1 block a quarter hour.
* Savannah has lovely city squares with old trees and plenty of shade.  Sit down and rest. 
* It’s too hot to go out during daylight hours.  Sleep late and go out late.  Some places don’t even open before 7 pm, and the downtown area is hopping at midnight. 
* Get a to-go cup of your favorite drink so you can stay cool between stops.

*******

More family is heading this way on Wednesday and Thursday.  Jenny is making her First Holy Communion on Friday.

My sister and I have the same conversations every time she comes: “We have to go here,” and “Why don’t we do this,” and “We still haven’t been to that place.”  So much to do, so little time. 

I still have 2 boys with assignments hanging over their heads.  And I want them done, because next week is Scout summer camp.  Both older boys will be gone.  My parents are taking the older girls to their house for the week.  Sunday afternoon will be very quiet here with just Bill, me, my brother and Peter and Mary. 

I can’t wait.

Unstandardized Testing

For the 7th year in a row, I have mailed off my children’s California Achievement Tests for grading.  As always, I have mixed feelings.  And, as always, I have new and different feelings.

First off, none of my children are likely to 99th percentilers.  Or 98th.  Or even 95th.  In fact, if the first digit is a 9, I will jump for joy.  Years ago, this bothered me greatly.  I always scored at the top of standardized tests, and I went to (gasp) public schools.  Surely, my children, who are quite bright, and who have a teacher with a fabulous mind and a true love of learning and who only wants the best for them and gives them one-on-one tutoring, surely, these children should be top scorers. 

But my children are not me.  And I have to accept that.

I also have to accept that, quite likely, those public schools I attended prepared me for those standardized tests.  That they taught to the test, as they say.  I won’t do that.  And I see where the curriculum I use does not address topics like grammar to the extent these tests require in the younger years.  Years ago, that bothered me.  Now, I realize that a 4th grader not knowing what a predicate is, is really no big deal.

Unless you want good scores on the standardized tests.

I tested Fritz and Billy beginning in the 1st grade, because Virginia law demanded it.  That’s ridiculous.

Katie and Jenny began in the 2nd grade.  This was Jenny’s first year, and I should have skipped it with her.  Georgia law doesn’t require it, and she is not yet a good reader.  Her frustration was expressed in large sweeping scribbles on one page of the test.

Fortunately, I was able to erase them.

Like every year, I went through and made sure that all the bubbles were nice and dark.  This is the first year, however, where I did not check the answers.  Why did I check the answers in the past?  The results don’t tell you what they got wrong, so I wanted to see where the issues were.  Why didn’t I do it this year?  Apathy…time…experience that it just doesn’t matter.  Maybe I’m just getting old and lazy.

Like every year, I made sure that there were no excess or stray marks on the pages.  Unlike every other year, I didn’t give the full verbiage about how to take the test: When you see a Go On at the bottom of the page, it means go on to the next page.  When you see a Stop it means it is the end of the test.  You may go back and check your work.  Please sit quietly until the time is up.  Do not talk to the other students.  Do not throw spit balls at the teacher.  etc, etc etc. 

I also left out the part about not making any other marks on the page.  My boys played connect the dots with their answers.

You should have seen my head hit the table.  Really?  I asked them.  Didn’t you know any better? 

I guess not.  The marks erased.  Mostly.

My final thoughts are this.  I think standardized testing is a good idea for several reasons.  It does give you an idea of what other students at the same grade level are learning.  It does serve as a benchmark if you use the same one, year after year.  And it does give the kids practice in taking this sort of thing so that when it really matters (SATs and ACTs and those sorts of tests), they are comfortable with the format.  This year, my 3 older students happily took the tests as a break from their other school work.  They’ve finally relaxed and don’t see the testing as onerous.

But…I also recognize the limitations of standardized testing and sympathize with teachers who are judged only on the basis of the results they get (especially if they have students who play connect the dots on their answer sheets).  I oppose states mandating testing of homeschooled children in years that public school children are not tested (as Virginia requires it annually, but the public schools only do them every 3 years or so).  And I empathize with other moms, like me, whose kids are fair-to-middling on these tests and who feel shame or worry that they aren’t a good enough teacher.