Thursday, March 10, 2016

Politics As I See It

Having just voted in Michigan's "Super Tuesday" primary, I got to thinking about the voting process.  Candidates tour around giving speeches, shaking hands and arguing with one another.  I voted for my preferred candidate by taking a black pen and filling in an arrow pointing to the candidate's name.  I then fed my ballot into a machine where it tabulated my mark.  In November I will repeat the process with few changes other than an increased feeling of futility and even less faith that we have collectively chosen the right leader for our country. 

But what really got me thinking this morning is how interesting this process is compared to the process by which our schools are evaluated and how student achievement is determined.  Students are no longer able to fill in a "simple" multiple choice response on assessments.  Students must not only possess problem solving skills but also the ability to articulate in writing the thinking behind their choice, the process by which they solved it and an evaluation of other strategies. Paper and pencil tests are out the window and online testing is the new norm.  Students, teachers and schools are evaluated based on these results.  Maybe the politicians who implement such requirements should be elected by the same process. 

Perhaps candidates should have to rely on their constituents to not only select them as "most right answer" but to defend why in written form.  Voters should be required to explain their thinking and to evaluate why Johnny in the next voting booth might choose a different candidate. Voters should be required to complete the process online, using unfamiliar systems and technological aptitude that exceeds their training or experience.  Maybe candidates should have to suffer the results of tech glitches and system errors.

I just think it would be apropos for these candidates to endure the same process that I do based on rules they established.  If it is reasonable to expect my students to reflect effective teaching through online assessments based on Common Core standards then I think it is reasonable for candidates to be elected using the same standards of practice.  If they think it is unreasonable for Voters to use an online system or for the system to provide accurate and meaningful data; if they think it is unreasonable for voters to have to provide deep analytical responses and discerning evaluations along with each response; if they think it is unreasonable to depend on a mastery of all these elements by 85% of voters in order to get elected, I will remind them that my students are expected to do all these things. 

And my "constituents" are only seven years old. 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

The Kid

I'd be remiss if I didn't update on the Kid.  He's in his second year at State and is having the time of his life.  He's working hard on academics (3.8 this semester, including a 4.0 in Calculus - a first for his tumultuous history with Calc).  He has a job working for researchers on campus, providing computer programming support.  He has also been offered a TA position for next semester, working with his favorite professor in a class he just completed.  He has leased a townhouse for next year with two of his best friends at State (the other 2/3rds of "The Musketeers") and he and his girlfriend are very happy together.  He is thinking about the future, but not obsessing over it.  He is focused on his academics but finds time to relax and play.  He and his girl are wonderful together, but don't want to rush into anything. 

Sigh.  We raise them to be independent, successful and happy.  It's just the most amazing feeling when they ARE.

That said, this is the same kid who stood with me in the checkout line at the grocery store holding a can of olives that bears the name of dear friends of ours.  "Lindsay olives?!"  he said.  "That is so cool!  I mean, how awesome is it that you KNOW the people who grew these?"  I just stared at my brilliant child.  "I just think it's awesome," he continued, "that they grow these right on their property!"

"They grow grapes, Jacob.  You've been there.  They have a vineyard full of grapes surrounding their home.  Not olives.  Grapes."

"Oh yeah, right.  Grapes."

Sigh.  I suppose no matter how old or successful he gets, we'll still have those moments of our Little Flash, won't we?

Decorating at the Farm

Decorating for the holidays has been so much fun on the farm.  It goes something like this:  I get an idea in my head.  I ask The Mister to go fetch me a few things from around the property.  Some branches, some evergreen boughs, maybe some pinecones.  And then I put them all together into something festive!  
The garland on the front porch looks fabulous!  (The Mister even put lights on it for me!)
 
I put together a rustic centerpiece for the table. 

Even the chicken feeder on the coffee table got a holiday upgrade.

I have so many mason jars it's impossible not to include them in the decorations!

The box by the front door was perhaps the easiest of all to put together but it's The Mister's favorite. 

My favorite?  The evergreen that The Mister fought with to adorn with Christmas lights.  The tree is up by the house, far from the road, where we didn't really think many would even see it.  He did it just for me.  Because I mentioned once that "Someday" we should think about lighting it.  I came home from work to see the love of my life with two long poles duct taped together desperately trying to get lights to the top.  He calmly welcomed me home and then said, "Go inside."  I watched from the kitchen window as I made dinner and he fought with the branches, the poles and the cold to get the lights up on the tree.  It turns on every morning when I am getting ready for school, and again when I am scheduled to come home. 

While it turns out you can see it from a mile or two down the road, I know that he did it just for my eyes to see.  My heart sees it too, Chief.  I love you back!



The Gift Certificate

Last spring when we were shopping for couches our new home, I registered to win a gift certificate from a furniture store in Grand Rapids.  Had I not registered immediately upon entering the store and waited until we had browsed through it first, I might have skipped it altogether.  As it turns out, we won the $250 gift certificate, but that wasn't necessarily a good thing.

We made two trips to the store following our great win and both times walked out shaking our heads and empty handed.  With a new house just waiting to be furnished, how could we not find something worth putting our gift certificate towards?! 

Maybe it's because even the silk plants were outrageously priced. 

After taking Jacob to the airport on Tuesday, we decided to try one.last.time. to spend the gift certificate.  I promised The Mister one way or another I would never make him browse through this store again.

After nearly a half hour of wandering around the store, this table was the only thing that didn't require us adding significant money to the gift certificate.  Problem was, I kept telling The Mister, if this table had been at a garage sale, marked $25, I would have talked the seller down.  I just couldn't do it.  $229 for a plant table?! 

Instead, we spend $14 on this pair of milk bottles.

And then had to spend the remainder of the gift certificate on fake plants.  This one was $50 on clearance.

This one is tiny.  It's much smaller than the picture appears.  It was only $7, but the funny part to me is that it is labeled on our invoice as being in a "self-watering pot".  Very important for a fake plant, indeed.  (And there's no way it's a self-watering anything.)

Finally, we spent the remaining $150 on this arrangement.  I shook my head as we walked out of the store.  These were all clearance prices.  This one was originally $399.  Maybe they never actually charge full price, but who in their right mind is spending $150 on a FAKE PLANT?!? 

In any case, we spend the gift cert.  I am certain we did NOT make our saleswoman's day.  We came home with some plants I cannot kill.  I suppose it's a win-win.  Someday way down the road, Jacob will be selling all our stuff, and he'll put a $25 tag on this plant.  And someone will talk him down to $15.  And that will even be too much.

First Snow on the Farm

The first snow was unbelievable.  For a snow-hater like myself, I have to say, it was persuasive!

Every bit of red stood out, from the old chicken coop...

...to leaves left on the weeping cherry tree.


The pond was serene.  We can't wait to see it when it freezes over!

The lane was beautiful as well.  Who could have imagined this would be our path home every day?

Every tree was draped.

Home sweet snowy home.

Going Postal

The Mister's brother is unhappy at work.  He works for the US Postal Service and is ready to retire but has a few more years of frustrating work ahead of him first.  He put a kibosh on our annual exchange of gift cards for Christmas, a move that we did not necessarily support as we wanted to spread a little cheer and joy his way during the season of giving.

To that end, we decided to send some local beverages his direction; a little wine from the local winery for his wife and some beer from our small town brewery for his enjoyment.  The winery was generous enough to even provide me with a great box that would ship both bottles nicely.  :)  I got the package ready and The Mister stopped by UPS on his way home from work one day to mail it.  Going through the long list of shipping-related questions, the clerk asked what was in the box.  The Mister told him, "Wine and beer." To which the clerk responded very coldly, informing The Mister that it is "Illegal!" to ship alcohol.  The Mister, full of holiday cheer, responded by saying, "Then I'll just come back tomorrow, and there'll be a vase in the box."  Ahem.  Probably not the smartest response.  He left, package still in hand.

But when The Mister hears words like, "illegal" he simply translates it into "more challenging".  What does he do?  He goes to the Post Office!  Of course he does.  He avoids the counter and the same litany of questions and goes to the self-service package area where he happily (and quickly) skips through the screens asking him about what he is shipping, adheres the postage and drops the package in the chute. 

Because that's what The Mister does.  He sends an illegal package to a disgruntled postal employee. 

(I must add, that thanks to tracking services, The Mister was also able to revel in the delight of this development by noting when exactly the package arrived at his brother's facility in Cincinnati.  There might be more evil in this man than I originally knew!)

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Fall at Someday Farm

Everywhere I turn, there is beauty here.  It's in the small things, but isn't that just how life is?

We have to stop and breathe and look

I am amazed by God's creativity.

I am speechless at his generosity.

The marsh out back was abundant in color. We saw muskrats for the first time.
I watched a hawk track his prey.

And the view over the pasture?

Gorgeous.  Day or night.

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Thoughtfulness


Yesterday a card arrived from California.  With ten days to go until Flash arrives back home, it was a delight just to see his handwriting on the card and to know that he thought of his mom's birthday all on his own.  Today, an Amazon box arrived.  While I am certain the gifts themselves will delight me, just the cards on the boxes make me adore this child.  A long-standing tradition between us, he has written hints on each one.  "tricky but useful", "might help with the organization of certain things,, and "might be an already solved problem."  His grandma Jenny would be so proud of his tag-writing skills.  

The Mister felt badly about his gift after I opened the Amazon box, but frankly, the man didn't stand a chance.  I basically told him what to get for me (a new camera lens that Jacob owned but was taking to California and college with him) and then begged him to let me have it early when I wanted to take some pictures in the yard the other night.  Poor man.  He puts up with my craziness so well.



Gratefully Silent

As an elementary teacher, I work with all women.  On a daily basis, I hear all the complaints of mothers young and old.  I hear wives muttering about husbands, women gossiping about friends and mothers sharing frustrations about their children - young and old.  I am a listener in these conversations.  I am a focused, attentive pair of ears attached to a worried heart that wonders, "Will I be complaining soon?  Will my "newlywed years" end soon?  Will my soon to be twenty-something child cause me motherly angst in the coming months or years?  Will I have complaints to offer in future conversations?"  I wonder, and sometimes I worry, but most of the time, I remain silent and grateful.

I love my husband.  I deeply love my husband.  And while I am not nearly naive enough to think he is flawless, I also recognize that my love isn't in spite of his flaws, but perhaps because of.  Sure, I get frustrated on occasion, but I know that every day, correct that, perhaps every hour, that man forgives me for my flaws.  He doesn't bring them up.  He doesn't hold them against me.  He doesn't remind me of all the areas big and small where I need improvement.  He just loves me.  Deeply.  Every day.

And my child?  I can't really say "child" anymore.  I know, technically, he's always my "child", but he's a man.  A beautiful, man.  He is thoughtful, respectful, considerate and responsible.  He is making sound choices and shows gratitude on a regular basis for the blessings that surround him.  I absolutely adore the man he is becoming.  And he adores his mother (or he is great at pretending that he does!)

I have this beautiful home, this sweet dog, amazing friends who come for lunch, or for advice, for drinks on the deck or to talk for hours.  I have a good job where I am surrounded by kids who love to hug and giggle.  I have shelves of books and a piano in the family room.  I have money in the bank and two working cars in the garage.  We have a church to go to on Sunday mornings, good jobs to go to during the week, a local farmer's market to visit each Saturday and a house in the woods to come home to each night.

I am, above all else, so very grateful.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Speaking of Gardens...

The Mister and I have been talking about the designs for the new garden area.  We are very close to having that area of the yard cleared out and we have lined up a tiller to get the ground ready for a few plants before the season is over (I want to get the strawberry plants we brought from the other house in the ground so they can root up before winter, not to mention the importance of getting rhubarb and asparagus going as soon as humanly possible!)

We have stood out in the dirt and pointed at things and we have laid in bed trying to explain our thoughts on what should go where and how we can add the chicken coop next spring and where exactly the gate will go but in order to get some concrete numbers about lengths of fencing and number of posts, we decided we should draw out the garden design.

So we did:


As you can tell from the drawing, we have a lot of work to do.

(The scariest part of this is that it makes perfect sense to The Mister and me!  We actually clarified a lot of things through this drawing!)

P.S.  Be grateful our school has a full-time art teacher and I'm not responsible for teaching the kids how to draw!

It's the Small Things


 I decided I needed labels for my herbs in my new herb garden.  I have a knack for forgetting what things are sometimes and I thought these would not only serve the practical function of keeping me from looking like an idiot when someone asked me what a particular plant was and would add a bit of decorative flair to the corner garden.  

Of course, an idea like "herb markers" MUST be google'd and then a billion images come up and I have more options than I ever dreamed of!  

The good news was that once I settled on a design I loved, I knew exactly who could help me make them into a reality...my Second Mom!!  She does amazing things with a wood burner!  Her beautiful lettering and creative skills were perfect for my rustic labels!  The Mister cut the boards and I, well, I tied the twine!!  
I think they turned out VERY nicely!

Basil is not an herb that I would ever forget as it's one of my faves, but the label looks adorable!

The oregano, spearmint and rosemary all got labels, too.  My Second Mom was kind enough to make plenty of other herb labels for when I get my garden up and running in full force!  

Monday, July 13, 2015

Lesson Learned

The Mister was working with Big John on the garden area.  They had many stumps to pull out and a few things to burn in the Big Hole In the Ground.  I was around back of the house fighting a beast of a weed in a flower bed.  I heard The Mister yelling - I caught "Eliza!  Come quick!!"  There was more to what he said, but I was already running through the gravel worried that Big John had tipped over or the yard was on fire or The Mister was having a heart attack...

Reaching the front of the house, Big John and The Mister were parked mid-way down the drive way.  The Mister is still yelling, "Eliza!!!  Come here!!!"  but now I hear the rest of the sentence..."and bring your camera!!"

There was a snake, apparently, which The Mister loathes, but since he was up on Big John, he was able to admire from the safety of the yellow tractor seat.

I did not go fetch my camera.  I stood for a moment in the drive thinking, "Are you kidding me?!?!"  But then I returned to the back of the house to let the adrenaline and my emotions regain a normal tempo.  The Mister found me there and offered his sincerest apology.  I don't think he will scare his wife like that again.

But he would like me to get a picture of the snake.

A Riddle

When The Mister has his hatchet, Flash has the dog and his pocket knife, Flash's girl has a bowl in hand and I have my camera...what are we doing?  Going on our evening walk!!  The Mister likes to chop down vines and branches that grow over our walking paths.  The Girl likes to pick black raspberries (we all eat more than we put in the bowl); Flash handles the dog (a task that requires extreme alertness as there are rabbits to be chased!) and I try to snap a few photos.

Other Updates

I forgot to take "before" pictures, but this corner bed had annuals in it (that were not doing well.  I think she did exactly what we did and just planted something that would look good for the sale of the house, but not for the heat of the summer).  I decided this was the perfect place for my herb garden!!  So far I have oregano and rosemary but the woman at the farmer's market promised more varieties of sprouts next Saturday!  I am so excited!

This back area was filled with a very tenacious weed.  It looked like it MIGHT be an intended shrub or plant so I consulted the landscape design drawings the owners left us (and consulted Google) but decided it was all just a weed.  It took a LOT of digging and pulling to get it all out, but it's gone (for now).  I didn't put a lot of thought into this bed, just put in some of the perennials we brought from the old house.  With this area being fenced in, the perennials are safe from the deer (but might get peed on by the dog).  

Eli approved.  That's all that mattered.

The Garden Area (Thus Far)

We knew about where we wanted the garden.  Near the turn around in the driveway would be perfect.  A hose had already been strung to the site, and it would be nearby in the winter so we could keep an eye on the chickens.  Oh, did I mention I want chickens?  :)

This is what the area looked like when we moved in.  There were two small fenced areas where the previous owners had trees sprouting.  There was a compost pile and a heap of branches for burning.  Other than that, WEEDS!

Coming down the drive way, you wouldn't even know there was anything in there.

The prior owners had made a faux garden gate with vines.  I admire the effort, but the vines had taken over everything.  Including trees.  

On the first day, I located a weeping cherry tree!  It was adorable! 

The second day The Mister got out Big John (the tractor) and we employed my nephew to help haul things away (everything is more fun to a 14 year old boy when you let him drive the tractor!)  We found some beautiful mature trees once we got the ground cover cleared out.  We took out the one fenced area (and all the strange tree sprouts) and started to see sunshine!

We had no particular area in mind to clear, other than to see what was in the space worth saving and how could we help the are be more useful while preserving the beauty.  

 The third day The Mister and his tractor worked alone.  They pulled out the stumps from all the small trees we had pulled out previously.  While not much appeared to have changed, the ground became more usable!!  (Oh, and The Mister sure had fun!)
The most significant change came on our most recent day of working on the garden area.  (The whole area will NOT be a garden.  Some will be grass, some will be landscaped, but the area looks so much better cleared out!)  We cleared a large area behind and beside the weeping cherry. 

Now we are REALLY getting some sunshine in!!

We left a beautiful tall oak tree along with a couple fruit trees (cherry?  We aren't sure).  There were vines taking over many of the trees, but we got most out (I'm saving the dead vines to maybe make an arbor).  

We are really getting excited about this space.  It balances out the other side of the driveway much better (which is grass and landscaping) and gives us lots of room to put in a garden and a chicken coop!

Note: Somewhere in this great area is The Mister's cell phone.  Buried.  He may have used "ramming speed" on Big John to dislodge a stump.  He got the stump, but somewhere in the battle, lost his phone.  Sigh.  Sacrifices!

Sunday, June 28, 2015

I Wonder...



I teach my students to always wonder about things...to never stop questioning and to let one wondering lead to another.  Tonight on our walk I wondered about the tree that dropped vibrant leaves so early in the summer.  What tree did this leaf fall from and what will the leaves look like that fall in September?

I wondered how close this chipmunk would let me get before he scurried off...

...are these berries poisonous?  Is that why they are left alone on branches, uneaten by birds or deer?

This appears to be a cherry tree, but very different in color than the others.  Are some of our cherry trees sweet cherries and this one tart cherries?  (And if so, did I die and end up in Heaven?)

...I wondered if God was enjoying our walk alongside us tonight as The Mister and I had been talking about planting some grapevines when we got the garden area cleared...here were vines just waiting for us to notice!

We both wondered what sort of creature calls this little place home.  Almost too perfectly formed to think it was animal alone, and yet...

...I wonder how many "I love you's" (not "I love you nots") will be uttered during our years here together.

...I wondered how many black raspberries we had growing.  They are everywhere!  Flash's girlfriend, a farm girl through and through climbed through the thorny brambles to pick all the ripe ones she found (we were too busy eating the ones we found).

...I wonder what delicious thing I might make with this bounty!!

I wonder what will see tomorrow night....