Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Forfeiting or Fighting

Warning: The following is soap box. A very large, daunting, need-a-ladder-to-mount soap box. 

When I worked for my last job, I got tired of the fight. Exhausted. I sat in meeting after meeting watching yes-men nod their heads and be brainwashed into investing in ideas that really had no point. We would pick apart a process, listening to every single suggestion, attach onto whoever was the most vocal, be thrust down a road that was not necessarily the right one, and proceed full speed ahead into an abyss.  In the end of a project, after spending thousands of dollars and hours, we ended up with the same result using different tools that were supposed to make it better. Circular progress. I guess that made us a bunch of vultures. (You want proof? Every project I worked on my eleven years at the job is now replaced with something else, completely discarded for the latest greatest.)

I couldn’t take it any more. I hated the waste of time, talent, energy. I hated seeing co-workers lose their passion, lose the sparkle in their eyes, lose the fight. I hated good ideas stifled while “big” ideas with no real purpose flourished because somewhere up the line of administrators, someone got convinced that this new idea was the cure-all for all that ailed the university system. I hated that the only happy co-workers were those who were totally immersed in full-time activities outside of the workplace. Work had become a prison, a place to "put in your time" and hopefully escape unscathed.

More lemon in the cut came from the constant use of zing words like:

  • “impact” … it is “effect” people, NOT IMPACT, unless you plan on hitting them on the head with a hammer.
  • “team effort”…because Jim-bo upstairs won’t do his job, so we’ll put him on your team, have you do his work, and give him credit for being part of the successful team.
  • “value-added”…because what you were doing had no value. To anyone. Anywhere.

I hated it so much that eventually I hated my job. I quit before I quit. I didn’t care anymore, because caring hurt. And, I could not make a difference, so why waste my time and why waste taxpayers money. I didn’t want to be blamed for all that was going wrong, and I had no ability to change it.

So I left. I not only left that job, I was so disillusioned, I left that career. I went into a profession that requires you to work every time you show up. In nursing, “impact” means your patient hit something. “Team effort” means you are doing your part on a code blue, and without it, your patient could die. And "value-added" is reserved for meal deals at the local fast food restaurant.

(I make it sound so easy. It took me six years and my husband's push to finally take the leap of faith and go to nursing school.)

Now, my husband is going through similar career pains. Common Core. No Child Left Behind. Gamification. Buzz words that don't actually mean much.

But in addition to the stresses of being part of a large, federally-driven bureaucracy, he also has to deal with the latest trend in parenting. It’s called, “Blame everyone but your kid.”

I wish I could answer the phone just once when a parent is calling our house at mealtime and not hear a parent geared up to chew my husband’s arse. It is never “we appreciate you” and never, EVER “I’m sorry my child disrespected you” and always “Why didn’t you call me when she didn't turn in homework? Why didn’t you motivate her to learn? Why are you picking on my child?” 

FYI the answers to those questions are:

  1. I didn’t call because I emailed you weekly updates as well as emailed you when your child still didn’t turn the papers in. Also, you have access to Powerschool that lets you monitor your child’s grade and I ensure that I put assignments in there at least one night each week. We covered this in the back to school meeting, ensured you have access to your child's grades and showed you how to do it. Also, your child is old enough to be responsible for their own assignments.
  2. I have tried to motivate her in every way possible, but it is daunting to try to make fractions more interesting than the social media she plays on her iPhone or iPad during class, the technology devices I am not allowed to take away from her because you claim she uses it as her “calculator only”
  3. I am not picking on your child. I want your child to succeed. I need your child to succeed. I have given her every opportunity to turn this around and she laughs in my face.

Maybe it is our age. Maybe it is/was our career choices. Maybe it is our standards for our own children – the same ones with which we were raised -- that we are using as a baseline for your children.

But right now, our country seems dysfunctional. Self-destructive. Lazy. Beaten. At best, imploding with complacency. Too many are giving up the fight. How in the world will we turn this mess around, so that we aren’t leaving it for our kids to clean up? 

And what am I supposed to say or do to help support my spouse in his career, when I don't "get it"? I don't see the point in completely overhauling the education system. I can even picture the meeting where it was decided to create this Common Core stuff. I've been in many meetings with similar outcomes.

Picture twenty people in a board room. The conversation probably went something like this:

No Child Left Behind is awful. We need a new system. We need to get back to the basics, back to core curriculum. Let's call it Common Core. Okay, now what's going to be in it? Just a few things: these six bullet points. Great. Oh, but those aren't descriptive enough. We better add a bunch of words to make everyone happy, until they are written in a way that make no sense to anyone. And we don't want to pigeon-hole anyone. Let them be creative! So we won't provide the actual curriculum. Yes, that's it! That way we don't have to fund it! But we better still have a gauge of success, so let's add back that whole standardized testing system somewhere down the line. Oh, there are gaps in the curriculum? You say that this year's fourth graders need to know what last year's sixth graders covered? Oh, well, let the teachers figure out those details. We have a promotional packet to put together to convince the higher-ups that this is the way to go!

Now, I'll be the first to admit I haven't dug my researching fingers into discovering the details of Common Core. I have never written any curriculum for elementary, middle school, or high school students, and I promise I never will. But it is just too similar to the circling vultures for me to find much good out of it.

I hope I'm wrong. I hope my husband can remember the joy of his career, despite the vultures. And I hope my kids don't suffer the repercussions of this transition.

Before all this started, was the education system really that broke?

Do you believe in angels?

Today, nap time was like no other.

It started out per usual, with John almost asleep ...until Lainie or Natalie or Maggie hollered about something. I would set down the now screaming John, go deal with his sister or sisters, then pick him back up to try to settle him down for a nap.

After the third rude awakening, John said forget this and was wide eyed and alert. Me? not so much. Because I still wanted to at least lie down for a bit, I dug out the mobile from the closet and hung it on John's crib. Up until now, he has been content with a little light up musical toy. But today, once I started that mobile over his head, he stopped fussing and just stared.

I took advantage of the peace and immediately laid down in my bed, in the same room as John's crib. I no sooner rolled over and I heard in a little voice, "Thank you."

It was a little boy voice, sounded like a four or five year old. Now I may thing John is pretty amazing, but I know he didn't say it. And I know I heard it. I wasn't scared, but smiled as I rolled over to look, knowing I wouldn't actually see anything. And all I saw was little feet kicking in a crib while John cooed at the farm animals circling above his head.

I guess even his guardian angel is grateful for a few moments of joyful peace!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Gone fishin'

We had planned Memorial Weekend to be a working weekend. I was scheduled to work, so Jay and the kids were just going to stay home and do garden stuff. Instead, I got low census and a nap, and Jay got stuff done outside while the kiddos napped. The result? An impromptu fishing trip to the utility park kiddie fishing pond. And per usual, the younger the child, the more fish she caught.

Natalie ended up with six, including a big catfish.

Lainie caught three fish and a turtle, despite having a pole that no longer would cast; her "cast" was daddy throwing the line out from the shore.

Maggie caught two and learned to cast by herself.

And Katie, well, she was very frustrated but tried her hardest not to become a sourpuss. Finally, when I called for "just five more minutes", she caught this beauty:

John mostly just hung out in my arms, but was content for a bit laying in the grass. It was such a beautiful night:
Daddy did all the worm loading and fish (and turtle) removal, but I did learn how to cast with one arm while holding a baby with the other:

But before we started fishing, and before feelings were hurt about who had more fish, I got this family photo, thanks to our camera's timer setting:
Our family, May 2013


Last day of school for the Bigs

End of school picnic for the littles
Closer to the last night of this...

And more nights like this

Thursday, May 23, 2013


Lots of firsts around here lately.

First lost tooth

Much needed first haircut. John's mullet was giving him heat rash.

He might not always believe this, but this little boy sure is lucky. He will always have a sister there to try to make things less scary and a little easier for him. Maggie entertained him during the haircut.

Just a trim

Another first: Little John meeting Big John

And Natalie mopping for the first time. She begged and begged, so I gave her the mop and run of the bathroom. She said she felt like Cinderella.

And like a proper Cinderella, once she was finished with her chores, she wanted to get ready for the ball.