Monday, September 23, 2013

Opinions

I have a few opinions. I keep most of them to myself for I think good reasons. One of the reasons being is my opinion likely wont change anyone else's mind, so I am not willing to get in a back and forth on something where opinions are unlikely to change. I do occasionally change my opinion. I dont think opinions are facts so I am willing to consider additional facts; also I do not assume I have all the relevant information so changing my opinion on a subject is reasonable when new information is considered.

Since we are all innundated with information constantly, I filter out a lot of crap. I am amazed how hardened people's positions are on things when not all information has been considered. I also see a lot of information that is misleading, inaccurate, and/or designed to confuse issues/people. Information is being used against us no matter which side of an issue we are on.

I have been elected to have an opinion on certain issues. I am grateful to have such a position. I take my position seriously (as all of us do on the school board). Frequently, the Board is asked to vote on a staff recommendation on a subject matter. We typically receive the agenda a week in advance and background materials around three days before a meeting. I was reminded last time I asked for more time with the agenda/background material that the school system is complying with the law. I understand, but I find it difficult to truly examine the issue fully when given so little time to review it.

I may be the only one who needs all of this time. I think I may need more time to review because I trust so little information presented to me, and not because the information is untrustworthy, necessarily, but I am a trust, but verify, kind of person. Unfortunately, people providing the information can be offended by my "verification" which I can understand, but I do feel it is a critical aspect of my job. Also, I hope my questioning and review of information makes for better policy overall.






Monday, September 16, 2013

student loans

Soon after I graduated law school a friend asked me to talk to her sister. My friend and I both graduated from our respective graduate programs with more than $150,000 in student loan debt (not credit card debt). We both were paying the least amount possible (hers were income based, mine were based on a 20 year repayment). We continue to pay approximately the amount of a mortgage towards student loan debt. Coming out of undergraduate, both of us had loans. Since I had spent my first two years at PVCC and I worked all through college, I had less than $30,000 in debt from undergraduate loans.

My friend's sister had applied to grad school in social work and was enamored with NYU's social work program. This program at the time was wildly expensive, no doubt even more so today, and at the time the two year program was competitive with what my three year law school program cost. My friend had tried to talk to her sister about student loans and the burden the loans would be for decades to come, but like most a. young people and b. people super excited about his/her future, she didnt want to listen to her sister.

I sat with her one evening at a restaurant in a mall in northern Virginia. I told her the burden of student loans. She really didnt want to hear it from me either. Her perspective may have been it is easy for me to say. I had the job I wanted after law school (working for legal services) and had just gotten married. She certainly could look at me and say I had everything I wanted, so it was easy for me to look back with some regret on the student loan aspect of my experience. I may have made the same choice to pursue law if I had been fully aware of the burdens of student loans, but I may have made other decisions with respect to working during school or part time graduate school. I hope to encourage our young people to be fully aware of the costs over the long term of student loans so that students and their families can make the best possible decision.

My friend's sister ultimately did not go to a social work program or to NYC. She choose a modest graduate program in a field that was in demand and went to a state school. She is doing well.

Monday, September 09, 2013

September

So...how is it that the calendar fills up so quickly? I ran into some folks the other night and I told them that DnA were both playing baseball (on two different teams) and D was playing soccer as well. Friend 1 asked sincerely, "how are you doing that?" I honestly didnt have an answer except we are clearly crazy people.

Then we had our first weekend of baseball (soccer practice has begun, but the games dont start til this weekend) only. Um, I do not recommend this schedule. It definitely takes both Chris and I to be able to pull this off AND Ryan's schedule gets all screwed up AND so far I have not prepared enough food to ward off the hunger. Hunger is very important to ward off. I assume I will get better at all of this juggling. I cant imagine how we will do this when Ryan has things we have to attend, and oh we have another baby to bring with us to these events.

The swim meets with just me and D seem like a distant memory at this point, I hope I appreciated them enough.

On a positive note there is now football. I do love watching football, especially on Sunday nights.

September, as a School Board member, brings about many, many things to attend. I want to attend everything. I love a PTO meeting. I appreciate touring schools with principals. Everytime I attend a meeting, talk to a parent or meet with a principal, I learn something new that truly informs my decision-making. Most schools have Tuesday evening PTO meetings. Few schools have Monday or Wednesday meetings, I am grateful for those that do though.

September marks the beginning of the fall Bible study at my church. I am really excited. Oh, it's on Tuesday. Also D has soccer practice on Tuesday. So, I wont make it to too many things on Tuesday, since there is no way to be able to do it all. I would definitely wait until Wednesday to reach me if it is not an emergency.

I am trying to get away from the cult of busy-ness. The summer was relaxing and mellow. I want to keep my stress levels low and be intentional about what we are doing as a family. I see this may be a challenge. I like a challenge.

Have a great Tuesday!

Such matters

Funny thing about being pregnant for the fourth time, one likely does not want to gain much weight. I have a doctor who is notorious for his 20-25 pound suggested weight gain. After having two babies thirteen months apart nine years ago, gaining weight is not something I am interested in.

A few weeks ago I went in for the five month check up (or is it 4- I really dont know anymore- it was week 21). It was Monday, I have gained about 6 pounds during the pregnancy thus far. I am relatively pleased with this number and not at all concerned.

So a few Wednesdays ago we have an ultrasound- the five month one (I think). The baby is a girl. Wow- I didnt know my body could produce girls, so we are excited (as we would have been if we had found out it was a boy). Later the big man, Dr. T, as most of the ladies in town know him, tells me that the umbilical cord has two blood vessels in it whereas a normal umbilical cord usually has three. Of course I immediately google these things since the big man was absolutely unconcerned with the lack of a third vessel.  Turns out one of the potential issues with a lack of a third vessel is IUGR (interuterine growth restriction) (see I am an expert now) (just kidding). IUGR is characterized by the failure of the baby to grow in utero (see it's rocket science how these things are named).

The doctor is unconcerned- he looked closely at all of the areas that may be affected by this lack of a vessel (including the kidney and heart) and all were growing well, and the baby weighed what she should weigh (if they can tell such things) at 15ounces. About 1% of pregnancies have this issue and 80% of the pregnancies have no complications as a result (see the internets are good for something).

Since that appointment the baby feels like she has doubled in size- the next appointment will not be a one or two pound weight gain, I suspect. I was told last night that the baby seems to be growing in the past week or so (I feel it too).  So while I am not interested in gaining weight for the sake of it, I am delighted to have physical evidence that the baby seems to be growing normally.

Friday, September 06, 2013

The park is in sad shape

We spend many days here. Obviously this is a gorgeous day and the park looks beautiful

 Ryan loves the park no matter the condition


The mulch is gone under all of the swings (including baby swings).


Monday, July 22, 2013

the rundown

One minute to write; I am not sure that devoting such a little bit of time to writing will help me become a better writer. What is going on?
1. Tour de France- I seriously enjoyed this year's Tour. I have been watching the Tour since 2001. Chris taught me the fun things about it (green, polka dot and white jersey competitions as well as the strategy that is behind some of the tactics used by teams). I love July. I cant wait until next year's Tour route is announced (usually in October). It was announced that 2014 will start in Yorkshire. I am super excited about the talented American cyclists in the Tour. Andrew Talansky finished 10th overall and 2nd in the white jersey competition; TeeJay Van Garderan(?) had a hard Tour (especially considering last year he came in first in the white jersey competition), but he put in some excellent rides and made me proud. I hope Ted King gets on a Tour team next year. I was so sad for him when he crashed on the first day of his first Tour. The first week is brutal and the Tour is unfair, so much drama and excitement.

2. Fairy Stone State Park. I do recommend Virginia state parks for a vacation destination. We had a nice week with the boys' cousins in Fairy Stone. Fairy Stone is close to Martinsville. We enjoyed a trip to see the Martinsville Mustangs, a Coastal Plains League baseball team, play ball on BB&T $1 night. I do love baseball. Although the Mustangs did not do well, I did enjoy watching the game on a gorgeous summer night. Fairy Stone has a great beach and amazing programming for kids and adults alike (I truly appreciate the Rangers in our state parks).

3. Pop up campers. In the past we have rented a cabin in state parks. This year, with the in laws coming, we opted to rent a cabin and a site at the campground. Our friend lent us his pop up camper so we "camped" in the pop up camper. The camper was capable of water (we didnt hook it up), had no restroom, no real fridge, no real light, no AC but it slept the five of us comfortably. I did bring four fans with us, which we needed rarely. At night the temperature cooled down sufficiently in the woods that the fans left us cold. The bed was comfortable (I shared with Ryan). It was nice to have the cabin close by to store our food and have showers. I was delighted to return home early so that I could attend a school board meeting, I dont think it was the camper as much as being the woods for too long. I felt the need for home, shower, laundry etc.

4. I came home on Thursday for the meeting and the rest of my family came home on Saturday. So what did I do with all of my free time? I thought I would go to a movie and get a pedicure or shop. BUT NO, I went to the library, checked out three books and read them. I also watched Thursday's stage of Alpe d'Huez (where TeeJay had a great ride until the final 3k). I ate out practically every meal (mostly by going to the store and buying ready to eat stuff like the spring rolls at Fresh Market) and I watched stupid streaming movies on Netflix. I hibernated during the time the boys were gone and it was delightful.

My time is up, perhaps I will have more to say soon....thanks for reading.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Phew

Ryan is ready for baseball practice. Seriously, the hat, the glove, the batting glove, he is ready. He is quite good at hitting and catching for a two year old. Having had two other two year olds back in the day, I feel like I am in a position to judge. He is "ready to go". The tantrum that will ensue as a result of his inability to go to practice will be similar to the other tantrums he has thrown lately.  The after nap/evening two year Ryan is challenging right now. We have moved to my mother's house while we sell the house, so no doubt he is discombobulated.

Also, a couple of weeks ago, Chris went to Banner Elk, North Carolina for several days to ride his bicycle with some friends. He had a great time. We had a very nice time as well since didnt do any real work on the house while he was gone. When he came back we had a fabulous family weekend as a result of my cousin getting married. It was incredibly relaxing and soul nourishing. We quickly followed up that relaxation with a crazy four days of cleaning, moving and transitioning out of the house we have lived in for eight years. And now it is the last week of baseball and school, so things are not too settled.

Someone asked me what is on my plate now. I really thought after we moved that things would settle down. But that is not the case. School Board is kicking up with some policy discussions in the next two weeks, David's TENTH birthday, family visiting, reunions, bike rides, swim team and SUMMER. Dear me, I will continue to only sporadically blog because of the inability to spend more than ten minutes in  front of the computer.  If I start to blog more, perhaps it will because I am feeling more settled. So wait for it...

Monday, May 13, 2013

only one thing going on...

But it is a big one. Chris and I are buying my mother's house. To do such a thing we have to sell our current house. My mother does not live far, she lives in the City, in a slightly larger house with a more finished basement.

We have made nice improvements to the house we live in since we moved in. The back living room used to be panel walls with a weird, drafty sliding glass door. Chris took out the paneling and put up drywall and replaced the door with windows. He also added windows looking into the back yard, this helps a lot when watching the kids and/or yelling at them through those windows. He also replaced the water pipes. He has learned a lot and leaned on his friends a lot for knowledge and tools.

But getting the house ready to sell has challenged him at every turn. First, he replaced the bathroom floor which is slightly more complicated because one wants to make sure the fixtures are replaced perfectly to avoid leaks (plumber friends help).

He built a wall where a makeshift wall had been between the second bathroom and pantry were. Then he ripped up the sidewalk because some of the panels had been damaged by the snow of 2009. He replaced the entire sidewalk (with the help of our local cement vendor and a very good friend). It looks great.

He fixed a light that had not worked in years, he put up the gutters (dont ask), he replaced carpet with a hard floor in a well-travelled transition area.

He somehow got our kids to help him move all of our yard debris from 8 years of living here into a trailer and transported it away from our house. Finally, he has moved much of our stuff out of the house to my mother's basement. He has been superman. He still has to replace the kitchen floor and some stuff I cant remember.

ME? Oh, I have been continuing to make meals (unless I pick up dinner), watching the children, packing and trying to convince Chris to hire people to do the work he is doing (without much success). We have hired people to replace the roof (he would still be working on it if we had not hired someone) and to help with landscaping/clean up.

My mother had been well into the process of getting her house ready for sale with the help of a realtor. Since the realtor was not needed to complete the sale, we agreed to have her realtor sell our house. He is coming this week to inspect Chris' work and see if our house is ready for sale. We have lots to do before he comes, but we are a lot further along than the first time he came to visit.

Our house is a great house, in a wonderful neighborhood, we love it here.  We love the way the boys walk by themselves to their friends house right up the road. We love that when we go for a walk, we run into someone we know. We had no plans of leaving ever, but since we now have three children who continue to inexplicably grow, the idea of a bigger house is appealing, and since my mom was ready to sell hers, well it just seemed like a great deal.

My mom has lived in her house for 16 years. We had our rehearsal dinner party at her house, we have had countless holidays and meals at her house, my children have been at her house many days a week since they were born.  I studied for the bar exam when I couldnt stand the mess at Chris and his roommate's apartment anymore before we were married (since I passed it seems relevant). Now Chris and I will make more memories at the house, as our own home. How cool is that?

Friday, May 03, 2013

School Board recap 5/2

It has been a school board filled week. Friday and Saturday we had our retreat. Monday, I attended a VSBA (Virginia School Board Association) conference on the Evaluation of Superintendents. (Evaluation process has changed for principals, teachers and now will for superintendents. The change provides superintendent's evaluation to include student achievement data).

Wednesday night we met with City Council and PVCC to provide input to Piedmont on programming and collaborations. PVCC is a jewel in our community (as an alum, I am not at all biased). I did suggest Piedmont expand its nursing/radiography programs. The discussion was so helpful. I particularly appreciated Dr. Friedman's point that many in the nursing program are not coming out of high school, the average graduate is in her late twenties, early thirties. Since I had suggested perhaps putting a nursing program for high school students (a path to a nursing Associates degrees for high school students) at CHS, his point was a useful reminder. As a community I think we need to emphasize career paths that will allow our graduates/young people to get into the middle class. The three boards (City Council, PVCC's Board and the School Board) are focused on that goal.

Last night we had our School Board meeting. We adopted the Spanish textbook. Spanish in the elementary schools is one of the most exciting things happening in Charlottesville City Schools. I say that even though I question the expenditure in the budget every year. The program costs a lot. When the Board is looking at raising class sizes for core classes and Spanish and a million dollar deficit, Spanish is something I think logically should be on the table. Having said all of that, I am a believer in the program (can those two thoughts co-exist? yes). From kindergarten, our students take Spanish twice a week. In sixth grade, all students have to take Spanish 1 (starting next year) after six years of learning Spanish. To graduate with an advanced studies diploma, a student needs three credits of foreign language and after sixth grade the student will have one credit completed. The division understands that meeting the foreign language requirement is a barrier to many receiving advanced studies diploma, so training children from early on allows more students to be eligible for the advanced studies diploma. I have taken years of Spanish, I know how foreign language helps in the job market, I think this is a really valuable program. I am working to ensure that next year we do not have to discuss reducing our important programs in the budget process.

We also voted on a new visitor policy. This was the third month we discussed this policy. It is clear where we all stand, yet we still managed to have an interesting discussion on the subject. In this day and age, visitor policies draw a lot of scrutiny. I firmly believe that those wishing to do harm to our community will not be following the visitor policy, no matter what it says. I also believe that the visitor policy change is unnecessary. However, five of my fellow board members did want the change despite my brilliant arguments (ha!).  I hope this policy will provide the certainty to administrators and Resource Officers that the division seeks.

I continue to seek your input on issues related to the schools. I truly appreciate your comments/emails/phone calls. Thank you!

Also next week is Teacher Appreciation week, I hope you have a chance to show your appreciation to a teacher next week!

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Teacher Appreciation Week 5/6/13 through 5/10/13

I can not express how grateful I am for teachers. Our society holds teachers to an impossible standard, yet many go above and beyond every single day. We have teachers who literally risk their lives for their class, those whose kind words inspire a child, and those many who challenge students with new material every day, all in addition to the bureacratic burdens placed on them every day.

I am not at all biased (ok I am). Every year (well before I even considered school board) we have had to sit with Andrew's teachers to discuss his anxiety and organizational issues. Every year, teachers accommodate him and he exceeds our wildest expectations for his performance. David's teachers have been flexible and accommodating of him and his peers as they ask a billion questions and allow them to explore topics further.

I know, I know not all teachers are amazing, extraordinary or even mediocre. I get it. I wont romanticize the profession but the profession has a lot of unfair press and not enough positive coverage for people who work so hard.
Thank you to teachers. I appreciate your efforts on behalf of our children. I appreciate the weekends you give over to grading and drafting lesson plans. I appreciate the evening phone calls to parents whose children did not attend school that day, I appreciate the "hall duty" you take seriously. I appreciate the smiles and hugs. I appreciate that you can keep order in a class of 23 seven year olds, then teach them math at the varying levels (how?). I appreciate that you keep granola bars in your desk for those children who come to you hungry. I appreciate how you seek ways to improve your skills. I appreciate that you show up for work every day and take seriously the profession of teaching. We could not do our job as policy makers or parents without your sincere efforts.  I could go on and on. And maybe I will sometime, but for now...

Thank you.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

what's been going on?

Spring is finally here in Central Virginia, complete with the azaleas, lilacs, rain and pollen and some sort of stomach bug. Usually I dont associate spring with illness, alas having kids means that illness knows no season.

Having a child with anxiety means that testing season introduces a whole new level of illness-the fake or psychosomatic illness. What a delight that has been. He insists it is not testing, but the thought of being separated from his class in the event of a fire drill. I agree that could be nerve wracking but this is the first time this year he has worried about it.

David mowed the lawn mostly by himself last week. I mowed the lawn frequently when I was growing up (after we moved to a house when I was 13). I have fond memories of mowing the lawn. I still enjoy mowing the lawn.

I keep thinking David will be 10 soon. TEN, 10! TEN!!! I am not ready. His birthday is more than a month away- but still 10. It seems like a big deal. He will be on a bike ride on his birthday with his uncle and father, which I think it is a great way to celebrate such a milestone. At what point do we stop doing birthday parties? A lot of his friends have had parties, and I am happy to have one, but I do wonder when the birthday party madness stops.

The School Board had a retreat on Friday and Saturday of last week. The  Board did some hard work, including an evaluation of ourselves. This week we have our monthly meeting, along with a meeting with Piedmont Virginia Community College. I am looking forward to the meeting with PVCC. The school system is working with PVCC on some fantastic Associates Degree programs, I want to discuss nursing as one of those programs.

Our house has been more chaotic than usual. We had the roof replaced, Chris put the gutters back up (they have been off of the house for at least four years), Chris is replacing the front sidewalk so our front yard is a mud pit. He built a wall where a makeshift wall stood. He is doing a lot of work. I find it amusing that even as things are improving incrementally the whole house looks awful.

On Monday, I am going to my third hearing of the Vendor Appeal's Board. This is a City board, I am appointed, as are the other three members. A vendor who disputes the City regarding a contract or change order, can appeal the City's decision to us, then if they dont like that, to the Circuit Court (but they have to go through us first). I have been on this board for years and this is only the third hearing. But this is a doozy of a hearing (apparently 11 separate change orders are in dispute) and may need two days to be heard. I am fortunate that I am not working, every time something like this comes up, I have to find child care. One other member is retired, the other is an attorney, and the other owns a restaurant. We are all performing our civic duty happily, we just hope it doesnt take too long. 

Have a great day.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Busy, busy or not busy doing important things

I have very good friends. On Facebook one of them posted this article on How to Escape the Cult of "Busy". You may have heard of it,  I definitely suffer from it. I even joke that I do not know how I had time to work since I remain so busy after several months of not working. My to do list is not getting any shorter but the mean girl voice in my head does get sharper.

I think in some ways, I answer this way because people expect me to answer this way. Sometimes as I think about how I am doing, someone will say "busy" with a knowing glance. I nod because my mind remains blank as to how I am doing. I am smart, but sometimes my mind works slowly. I do not have a quick response for everything (unless it is sarcastic, I always have a quip ready).

The author gives a number of reasons why people constantly say they are busy. I think I suffer from all of them.

I matter
I am super important
I am giving you an easy excuse
I am afraid
I feel guilty

I am not sure how relevant the first two are- but to be honest I am sure there is some of that going into my "I am so busy" mantra. But the last three are the ones that hit home.

The reality is chasing a two year old around all day and caring for a houshold of a husband and two older boys does keep me very busy. BUT there is time, I spend most of it on Twitter and Facebook and generally wasting the time. So while my time is full, it is not fulfilling.  Dont get me wrong, I love Twitter, I appreciate all of the people I follow and let me keep up with their lives, but it is not actually living to do so.

I could try to stop being afraid and guilty and worried about doing something half assed. I could be more silent. Perhaps I should try small increments.

Today I will start with twenty minutes of quiet during Ryan's nap time. I will put the phone away, turn the tv off and read one of the three books on the side of my bed (Bible, Breaking Free, or Lean In). Baby steps for a big change, I can do it. Then of course I will nap, because a mother should always sleep when her baby (toddler) is sleeping. :)  I am joining my friend who said "wont you join me?" in her effort to escape the cult of busy.

You can be sure I am busy, just as I am sure you are busy, but when I ask you how you are, let me know if I can help or let me know how you are for real.

We are gifts to this world, we dont need to listen to the ugly voice in our head.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

quiet

Sometimes I find it better to be quiet. Last week was one of those times. The only post I felt compelled to write was about my 8 year old in honor of Martin Richard, the adorable 8 year old killed at the Boston Marathon.

Sometimes I do not write because I have no topics. However, the week before I had actually written a list of about five topics to write about for last week. The adage about making plans and God laughing remains true for me.

One of my favorite tweets of the week came on Saturday morning. Someone (I apologize for not having attribution, I didnt retweet it so I dont know who said it) tweeted the relief he felt when there were no news alert messages on his phone when he woke up on Saturday morning. The news last week was devastating and relentless. Even when away from my tv, computer, phone, the tension was palpable all around.

I barely watched the news last week, preferring to sift through twitter for the news. Sift because one has to be judicious about what to believe when looking at Twitter. I did watch the news on Friday for a little while. I was watching NBC because of Pete Williams. He became sort of a hero last week when he refused to report that the suspects had been caught. What really became clear as I watched the news was how marginalized the Texas disaster had become. I will grant you that the news of "shelter in place" for the whole city of Boston is dramatic news and was very important on Friday.

However,  I am hoping that as we move on from last week that we remember the victims of the Texas disaster and try to prevent such a tragedy just as fervently as we try to prevent a repeat of the Boston Marathon bombings.

As you all know since you are mostly my family, Chris is a volunteer firefighter.  The first responders, of course, were fighting the fire, trying to prevent the fire from spreading to a nearby nursing home and the surrounding neighborhood, when the explosion occurred. The explosion registered as a 2.1 earthquake. At least 14 people were killed, 11 of them first responders. This article about the emergency crews responding to the incident explains the bonds of a volunteer firefighting/EMS community. This is not a news story that should be forgotten, this is a community devastated, needing to feel the support of all of us as they literally sift through the wreckage, bury their dead and try to move forward.

I hope to soon get back to light, fluffy posts about baseball, two year olds and other items of interest to mostly me. I also hope that those impacted by the news of last week are able to find solace and healing soon.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Ode to 8

I call all of my children "my babies", so excuse me when I say, one of my babies is 8. I wont sugarcoat it, he is a handful, as anyone who has been around when we are trying to leave someplace where he is having fun, will attest.

He is super sweet to his little brother. He is super competitive with his older brother.  He hates the idea of going to school, but always has a good day and does well in school. He hates homework and loves dessert. 

Although he is a good pitcher, he is not "great at pitching" as he tells some folks. He refuses to bat in most baseball games because he is afraid he will get hit by the ball (a reasonable fear).  He will play all day with his friends. He is ravenous. His pants are too short because he is growing like a weed. He has worn out the tire on his scooter. He is courageous, but not foolish (unless it comes to his defiance).

If he does get a hit, my 8 year old is so fun to watch run around the bases. He loves to slide into the base. If he knows he has a hit or a steal or a run, he raises his hands and cheers for himself. Everyone in the stands claps and cheers his enthusiasm.

He still tells his mother some secrets, fears, and hopes. He doesnt enjoy a particular game at recess because he is not as good of a runner as his friends, so he spends the time hiding behind a wall so he doesnt get caught. He hates losing more than anything. He wants to go to the fireworks, but is so scared when he is watching them.

He is dirty, he leaves clothes, dishes and papers everywhere. He lets his older brother do all of the chores.
He reads everything. He loves DS, Wii and computer. He is anxious and defiant. He thrives in routine. He wants to learn everything and be better at anything his older brother is doing. I have virtually no photos of my 8 year old alone. He is always with his friends, family, or his father.


He would like this photo because he is about to beat both of his brothers with a snowball. Ah, to be 8.

I am so grateful for my children. Today, I celebrate my 8 year old.
Protect all children from senseless violence and other harms. Give us strength to overcome evil with good in the name of those who could not protect themselves.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Green of Spring

Lots of sad things happen in the world. I can be overwhelmed by the stories and sorrow. I only know one thing to do: pray. I have been doing a lot of that for my family and friends and strangers who I encounter on the twitter.

Back in the day I had a great friend. Unfortunately, we are not close any longer. But I still hold a sacred place for her and her family in my heart. Her father passed away shortly before the summer that we both were to be married.


Her father was an amazing man. He had this great accent and often had wise things to say based on his vast experience. He built things and planted things, traveled the world, and raised four children. Also, he had this sense of beauty that one would not ascertain by looking at him.

Before he passed on May 8th almost 11 years ago, he told his daughter he was glad to have seen another spring. He told her that the green of early spring is something to behold after a long winter. His regret was he would miss that green next year. Coming so close to his death, the comments made a significant impression on me.

Whenever I see the early green of spring, it is a different green than the green of late spring, I think of him, and remind myself to be grateful to be able to see the color again. The early spring green fades quickly and these photos do not do justice to the brightness of the color, but the photos remind me of him and gratitude for another season.


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

David's intro to 5th grade

 What is going on in our world? David and I went to Walker Upper Elementary School's Open House last night. Two 6th grade students led our little group of four around the school. The students were great tour guides. I had the benefit of a tour with the principal at the beginning of October, so I felt comfortable. Alas, this tour was not about me, it was about David, my almost ten year old.

I did check in with David several times throughout the tour. He asked great questions all the while looking forward to the cookies (1 per student) and lemonade at the end of the tour. My favorite question that David asked "do the students ever take a field trip to Crowe pool next door?" The P.E. teachers explained  they have tried to start up an aquatics program, but they have encountered some difficulties in implementing it (schedules etc.). I loved that he asked that question since I receive that question all the time as a school board member.

This morning David woke up and was ready to go a half hour before the bus. Usually when he is ready to go super early he wants to play DS or Wii before school, so Chris asked him "why are you ready so early?" David, in his chipper 9 year old way, described in some detail that he assumes he will be riding his bike to school when he goes to Walker, and it will take about 15 minutes to ride to the school, lock his bike and walk up the stairs to class, so he wanted to see what it was like to be ready by that time. Instead of playing Wii or DS, David read for the 1/2 hour before the bus.

I told him to have a good day as he walked out the door and he said "not likely." This is not a usual David response. He further explained that the 4th graders have math SOL simulations or term assessments (he is not sure which) today and he is not looking forward to it.   I will be thinking of him today, hoping that he is lifted in surprising ways and the test is mere item checked off in is day.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Recap of the 3/14 School Board Meeting

While the meeting was lengthy, the issue that parents may want to know most about is that the last day of school, June 7th, will remain a half day. IF we have more snow days, I am praying we do not, then we will have to revisit.

Another item on the agenda was the school visitor policy. The division has proposed a modest change by adding the bolded words to the policy:

"Visitors are welcome in the schools as long as their presence is not disruptive. Upon arriving at a on school grounds during normal school operating hours, all visitors must report to the administrative office."



We had an interesting discussion, I welcome feedback from the public about this change. The discussion centered on the high school. The change would require anyone using the playground/track or walking through any of the grounds of our schools to stop and get a visitors pass at the office.

I tend to agree with the policy at the elementary schools, especially in the case of folks using the playgrounds while students are at recess. However, I have some concerns as it relates to CHS. CHS is sprawling and surrounded by lovely trails, a park and a neighborhood. The easiest way to get to the park from the neighborhood is to go through the grounds of CHS. Under this policy change, during school hours only, a passerby should let the office know that he/she is walking through (perhaps with his/her dog). I am not sure this is the best use of our staff's time. I would love to hear what you think about the potential change.

We also discussed summer school enrichment funding at length. The 2013-14 budget reduced the summer school budget by $20,000. To make up some of that difference, the division recommended charging an additional $30 for an orchestra camp to prepare rising 5th graders for orchestra. The class costs $25 for instrument rental if the student does not have one of his/her own. The discussion was interesting and led to a 3-3 tie since one of board members was away with an ailing family member tonight. In the event of a tie, the policy is to pass it by until the next meeting. Unfortunately, time was of the essence. Happily, I hope, a resolution came to pass when another funding source was suggested for the relatively modest cost of the camp ($3200). I had a lot to say about the fee at the meeting, so I wont go into it more here.

We had other discussions. Feel free to contact me if you have comments or questions. 

PS- minor editing changes made to this post in the light of day.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Miscellaneous items

I attended Wes Bellamy's campaign announcement yesterday at Tonsler Park. I really appreciate Wes' energy and enthusiasm; the assembled were just as enthusiastic, I loved it. Of course, Ryan and I spent most of the announcement wandering the new playground at Tonsler. If you havent had a chance to visit Tonsler, you should, it is a great new playground. Ryan loved it.

Baseball practice started this week. Chris is coaching and practice time is from 5:15-6:45- prime dinner and homework time. This is an adjustment. We purposely decided to limit our winter activities, so this transition has been a little rough for mommy. I like to have dinner together as many nights as possible and now we are down two nights a week. If I have school board (like this week), then we are down three nights a week, then if Chris has a meeting, or there is a church thing, we are just out of luck. We will adjust, but this week being the first week has thrown me for a loop.

Baseball starts back soon, but if you have a chance, go see a UVA or high school baseball or softball game. The games are far cheaper and very exciting.

I am super excited about the new Pope. I suppose I have been carried away by the media coverage of the event. I appreciate as an example for me a Jesuit whose commitment to humility and the poor has been so obvious. I also appreciate that he speaks Spanish and is from Argentina.  I went to Argentina in the nineties. I was able to help out at a Catholic Charities in Buenos Aires and had the opportunity to speak to a priest who gave me a Spanish language Bible, a Bible I still have. I treasure the experience.  I know people have a lot of views, this is just mine.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Just Write

I find I have far less time to write, clean etc. than I thought I would when I stopped working. I used to respond to emails immediately, but now it can take me days to reply, especially if I need to consult my calendar before responding.

I am reminded of the time I was pregnant with David and thought I would have time/inclination to garden during the time I had off from work after he was born. Um, no. Gardening didnt quite happen, and looking back, David was the easiest newborn.

I know some mothers do have the inclination and time. I have learned that too. My experience is my own. I learned that when I had a two year old and a one year old and we just moved back to Charlottesville. My poor friend who was pregnant with her first baby did not want to hear about the challenges of motherhood. I really felt like no one had ever told me the real deal about motherhood, and I didnt want to gloss over the hard parts for my friend.  It is hard to decide whether a person wants to hear the real deal (knowing that motherhood is hard doesnt mean it's not awesome at the same time) or just listen and nod at the naivety. 

Ryan and I are having a lot of fun. I am so grateful to have this time with him. I love that I am able to understand and translate for him, I could not do that if I was working.  And by not having time to write and clean as I thought I would does not mean I am complaining about it. I am merely adjusting my idea of productivity (which has been defined by the working world) to kid ideas of productivity (playing, laundry, eating, etc.).  It is a much more relaxing pace and I am learning to be relaxed about it.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Snow days

I am so grateful the children are back in school today in the City. I understand many of our surrounding counties have delays or are closed- I am so sorry to those caregivers. David and Andrew are great kids and they were awesome the past two days. No real fighting, not too much whining, in general they were good and not a problem, even occassionally playing with their little brother.

The thing is they want to go outside and play. Do you know how much work that is? David doesnt have snow boots (the oldest one no longer fits into any boots we have and who buys snow boots for the kids every year when we get one snowstorm a year-maybe? OK fine I will get him a pair next year). David also doesnt have snow pants that fit (same rationale- it barely snows here). David is a creative one though, he wore two pairs of pants and multiple pairs of socks with his little Keen shoes that are no longer water proof. He was the only one who didnt cry upon returning home.

Ryan wont wear water proof mittens and only wore his heavy jacket once, so his toes and fingers froze. Andrew wore everything we gave him but his toes froze. There were tears from those two as they defrosted from the cold.  These two both had boots and snow pants (hand me downs).


the one photo w/ all three of them
 I am ready for Spring, did I mention that yet? Even as I hear the wind outside, we are expecting gusts up to 30MPH today, I want to hunker down, make brownies, watch Netflix and get under a lot of blankets. I am ready to have energy, to get some sun on my face, clean the house, and go to the many parks in our town.  With Daylight Savings Time happening this weekend, hope exists that Spring is coming.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Campaign Announcement Season- Democratic Candidates

For the third Tuesday in a row, I will be attending a campaign announcement. Today, I am happy to attend James Brown's announcement. He is seeking reelection to the office of Sheriff. So far he is running unopposed for the seat, it is early in the season. Sheriff Brown has done a great job in his first term as Sheriff.

Last Tuesday, I attended Todd Diver's announcement. Todd is running for Commissioner of the Revenue. Lee Richards is retiring after twenty years as Commissioner. Todd is running in the primary for the Democratic nomination. The primary is June 11, 2013.

The week before I attended Jonathan Stevens announcement. Jonathan is also running for the Democratic nomination for Commissioner of the Revenue. I encourage everyone to learn more about the two candidates and VOTE in the primary on June 11, 2013.

Unfortunately, I was unable to attend Jason Vandever's announcement.  He has been the acting Treasurer since Jennifer Brown retired early due to health concerns.  The ELECTION for Treasurer is on APRIL 2, 2013. (Absentee balloting is already under way if you will be out of town- it is Spring Break for Charlottesville Schools). I am proud to support Jason in his run for Treasurer. Please vote for Jason on April 2!

I also missed Kristen Szakos announcement for City Council.  She is running for reelection for City Council. She is seeking the Democratic nomination. The primary is June 11th.

Finally, on Monday, March 11, Dave Chapman will announce he is seeking reelection to the office of the Commonwealth's Attorney.  Dave has been a strong and steady Commonwealth's Attorney. I am proud to support Dave for the Democratic nomination. While I personally like his opponent in the primary, I think the office needs Dave's continued leadership. The primary is June 11th.

I suspect March will see more announcements- including more candidates for the Democratic nomination for City Council.

IMPORTANT DATES for 2013:
APRIL 2- Special Election for Treasurer (vote Jason Vandever)
June 11- statewide and local primary
November 5- ELECTION DAY

Monday, March 04, 2013

On the brink of a snowstorm


We have enough provisions to last the rest of the winter. I was at the checkout counter of the store yesterday and nabbed some batteries. My thinking is that I could not imagine running out of batteries for the Wii remotes if we were snowed in by Wednesday's storm.

I am excited at the prospect of snow. However, I am ready for spring and summer, to remind me of such things, I post these fun photos.


Sandbridge Beach, Virginia 2012




Carter's Mountain 2012


Friday, March 01, 2013

First in a long line of apologies

Dear Neighbor Mom,
Remember that time? Ryan was so little, David and Andrew were much younger than they are now (6 and 7, rather than 8 and 9). You have three children. Your youngest is about three years older than Ryan and your older kids are about the same age as David and Andrew.

All of the children are playing near a street, so I was keeping a careful eye out. I am not one to just let my kids run the streets, well back then anyway, now it is fine, David is almost ten.

Anyway, your youngest started pretend shooting at my baby. I was horrified, honestly. I advised gently that we dont pretend to shoot at other people, or something like that. He didnt really listen, but he moved on. I told you about my gentle admonishment to be open about it. You said something like "oh I gave up on that a long time ago." I shrugged and moved on. I did silently think that it was not ok to have the child pretend to be shooting at other children but recognized that the child was only three and he had older siblings.

Now I have a two year old, the youngest of three. His brothers have been playing Harry Potter since they were old enough to. One of the fun aspects of HP is to throw spells using "wands" and of course Ryan is fascinated by it. One of his first exclamations was "Expelliarmus" Ryan now walks around pointing his finger or his wand saying "pew pew pew." It is now my child pretend "shooting" his mommy or brothers or the ball or the TV.

And it is a battle that I gave up trying to fight. And I feel like it is ok, because your third child has grown into a lovely kindergartner. Thanks for the perspective fellow momma, I am sorry for being so judgy. Having three children is one big lesson on judgment, I am learning it well.

Respect,

Jennifer

Thursday, February 28, 2013

The February Doldrums

I should post at least once a week, right? I find it fascinating how little I get done now that I am home with Ryan every day. It doesnt help that it is February, a month of relative low productivity anyway.  It used to be that I wouldnt get stuff done, but it was because I was working all day, cooking dinner, making lunches and breakfasts, doing the laundry, making sure the kids had done their homework and representing Charlottesville on the School Board. Now that I am not working, do I have an excuse?

I often tell people that I do not know how I had time to work because I am still pretty busy. Budget season will do that. Between late January and now, we have had many meetings to work through a budget for the 2013-2014 school year. Tonight, we have a special meeting to approve the budget. It is not a perfect budget, how can it be when funding from the state and federal governments has been cut so dramatically? The City and its supportive citizens have made up a significant percentage of the deficit. For the second year in a row, the School Board has made about a million dollars in reductions.   I disagree with some of the reductions, but I will vote to approve the budget this evening based on the information I have at this moment.

In the meantime, I have been keeping up with the laundry, meal making and mommy-ing. Things I havent been able to get to- cleaning the house and exercising.

I am going to give myself a break. Ryan and I will be busy again soon with Spring fun, like going to the park, library and the pool.  On this, the last day of February, I will enjoy the hibernation of the past month and relax without so much pressure to get things done.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Monday- Moms doing nice things

The boys are not in school today. This presents a few problems, but overall I am super excited that we are able to relax into the week.  They are going on a hike later with friends, which is just one of those things I appreciate other mothers for. She texted me and said "hey do your kids want to join us for a hike, maybe scavenger hunt, tomorrow?"
Heck to the yes, yes.

Why dont I think of such things?

As those who follow me on Twitter may know, I received a Valentines Day card from the Coconut Girl in. the. mail. How nice is that?

I posted this on facebook not too long ago:
"2013 -- Let's Pay It Forward -- The first five people to comment on this status will receive from me (sometime in 2013), a handwritten note, perhaps with a gift attached, or a homemade surprise. There will be no warning, no plan, just a gift that I'm hoping you will receive with a smile. The catch, those five people must make the same offer on their FB status. Go. Create. Do. God Bless."
I am looking forward to surprising those five people soon!

Can I be honest though? I would like to be more generous. I am not writing this to be heaped with praise or compliments (see previous posts, if I do want compliments, I will tell you). I am not naturally generous in the small ways. I have ideas about being generous, but follow through is not always there.What I like about the facebook exercise is the idea of forcing myself to do it a few times so I will get in the habit of following through.

I would love to hear small ways people have been generous to you that have made your day. I am hoping to find a balance between generosity and budgetting. Now that I am on a budget, I know it would have been easy to make someone's day when I was working with a small gift certificate or something like that (not that I had time to run and get a gift certicate). I have to consider what generosity looks like without buying things. The Coconut Girl's card and neighborly mother are perfect examples, so I know it is possible.

Tell me, what has made your day recently?

Friday, February 15, 2013

family life

Ryan has moved to a toddler bed. One night down, many to go. Am I sad that my last baby is out of the crib? no.

I am grateful that I will not have to hear "mommy, moommmy, moooommmmy" every morning like an alarm clock. He can now walk from his bed to mommy's bed all by himself.

I am anxious, of course. He can now walk to the bathroom and get in the toliet water all  by himself too or climb the ladder to the bunk beds in D&A's room, also I worry about him climbing his dresser or the book shelf (we have some work to do in his room still- third child syndrome is in full effect with Ryan). This morning I heard him stir and not 20 seconds later he was in our room. I was glad to know that his instinct was to come into our room and demand "apple juice" and "tv."

D&A's school had an unscheduled fire alarm the other day. Andrew came home talking about it. The alarm came at dismissal, so for Andrew there was confusion. He followed his teacher's lead. Fortunately, according to the note sent home the day after, the alarm was a "system issue" and not an actual emergency.  Since the boys first encountered fire drills, they have been anxious during fire alarms/drills.

My boys are particularly sensitive to fire alarms since their daddy is a firefighter. D&A know there are serious consequences to actual fires. However,  Andrew noted only that he was "kinda scared" while David didnt admit to any fear during the alarm at school. It is a testament to the calm demeanor of the staff, regular trianings and drills, and prioritizing student safety that D&A did not have the anxiety that previously accompanied fire drills in the past. It feels like progress.

Chris and I have been watching the Tour of Oman recaps during the evening. The recaps are ridiculously short (less than 3 minutes for a five hour bike ride does not give a good idea about the race). Two things though about watching the recaps- I am so excited for the Spring Classics and Oman is a really beautiful country (honestly there are impressive mountains and historic sites in these 3 minute recaps)..

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

False Modesty or self deprecating or I have issues

I was asked whether I planned to "coach soccer again in the Spring?" I laughed since my boys arent playing soccer in the Spring and I never considered coaching again because "I am a terrible coach." The parent looked at me and remarked "I wouldnt say that." Awkward.

Considering the parent's reaction, this article on five things you're accidently doing to make everyone hate you, and my own reaction when I am confronted with people who are limiting their own accomplishments, I am thinking about how I respond to my accomplishments. I worry about two perceptions, one am I being falsely modest or am I fishing for compliments when I minimize my accomplishments. I do not believe I am doing either.
Am I being falsely modest or pretending to have a low opinion of my achievements or abilities. I do not think I am falsely modest. I can see how a listener may conclude such a thing, if he/she were not feeling generous towards me. I do not think I am a good coach, but I dont know how to measure whether I am a good coach. I told the parent my basic premise was "do not harm," which may be a brilliant way to coach soccer to 4th graders, I just dont know.

Another way it may be annoying is that it may appear I am fishing for a compliment.  I am never fishing for a compliment, I assure you. I will proudly tell you to compliment me if I believe I deserve it. The parent responded to my comment by saying "I have seen terrible coaching, you were nowhere near terrible" or something like that. Unfortunately, I had made him awkward and he felt he had to respond. A casual adult conversation should not have that push and pull.

I do however speak in hyperbole (key point "not to be taken literally").  I use hyperbole to be amusing and self-deprecating, which is super cool now, right? (I am the expert on super cool as someone who graduated from high school more than two decades ago- see self deprecating).  The reality, however, is slightly more complex. By minimizing my power or accomplishments, I am not serving in the way I want to be.

I think it will take a little bit more than a blog post to make a change. In the meantime, you dont have to correct my statements or think badly of me if I minimize my accomplishments because I do not expect to be taken literally. When asked about coaching in the future,  I will say "I had a great time coaching, the boys had a great time and we won a few games, so overall it was a positive experience, but I will not be coaching in the Spring."

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Mardi Gras-->Lent

One of my favorite people on the internets is Bite Size and she is just as amazing in real life. She recently completed the Daniel Fast, twice! I didnt (dont) know what that was until she started writing about her experience. I say I dont really know because I havent looked into it more than what she has written (and now that link on the Daniel Fast).

I have her writings on the Daniel Fast in mind as I consider Lent. I am not ready for Lent, I feel like I need more time to prepare, but as with everything it is coming whether I am prepared or not.

My experience with Lent in the past is giving up candy or chocolate or something like that. The 40 days gets me because my birthday falls during Lent (as my dad will tell you, I was born on Palm Sunday). I want cake on my birthday and, as with any good addiction, once I have cake it is a spiral to eating the chocolate or candy regularly.

Can this year be different? Of course, I am an optimist, usually.

As I read some of the links in this post, I learned that Lent is not observed by all Christian denominations, which I find fascinating. Even if Lent isnt observed by the particular church I am attending, the deprivation and reflection before Easter is a good spiritual practice for me.

Are you observing Mardi Gras? If so, how? I will eat the delicious chocolate chip blondies I made after lunch.

Are you observing Lent? If so, how? I will likely do some combination of a. wake up earlier; b. give up refined sugar and flour.  And best wishes for you in Lent.


Monday, February 11, 2013

Church things

Running a campaign is quite a challenge, the money, the paper, the signs, the competition, it can be brutal. These difficult things are often countered with amazing things, like talking to new people, learning more about the City I live, and visiting churches I had never been to before.

I sat down with a minister to discuss my candidacy for school board early on. He invited me to his church, I told him that I did not like the idea of going to church just because of my campaign, I didnt like the way that felt. He advised me that as long as I come back after the election then the congregation would not mind. I thought this was good advice.

His was the first African American church I visited. I had not been going to church regularly before this visit, but post election it was one thing Chris and I decided to commit to (newspaper and coffee notwithstanding). I walked in by myself not having any idea what to expect, except a lengthy (I had heard) service. I immediately saw three people I knew. My friend waved me over and let me sit with him and his family. Visitors in African American churches are welcomed by the whole congregation later in the service. I had the opportunity to introduce myself to the 300 people in the congregation. The service was moving, with modern music and a message emphasizing education and youth. I left rejuvenated and grateful. I recently returned post election and it was just as moving and inspiring as my previous visit.

I attended many other churches, including two additional African American churches. I showed up early to one, and helped put the program together (volunteering to help always makes me feel useful).  At the other church, I was moved to tears by the brave and desperate people who were called to the alter to join the church. All of the ministers were powerful men of God whose messages were inspiring and the churches had large congregations as a result.

Post-election, we attended two churches before we found the church we currently attend. At one of the churches, I went to the minister with an issue, he uninspiringly told me that the option was to attend another church. Unfortunately, the second church was the same demonination as the first and I was thusly turned off the denomination despite the truly lovely people who attended the churches.

A long time ago (at least 5 years), my friend Mike told me somewhat reluctantly given our apparently different views, that he thought it would help me if I attended his church, he gave me some of his testimony so that I could relate to why he thought it would be useful. I took it as a sincere invitation but was not in the right place to accept it until last October. It was a series of events (as these things usually are) that led us to this church. I still struggle with the Sunday morning thing, but no one else in my house has to be convinced to go to this church. David and Ryan have a great time with other children while Andrew sits with me and Chris and is usually engaged and happy in the church.  I always learn something at church and am called to think more deeply about Scripture and daily life and I usually meet a really nice new person when we greet each other.

I am delighted, honored and humbled to serve on the School Board. However, the exposure to the amazing congregations in this town have given me more than I ever could have imagined.

Thursday, February 07, 2013

CARS and cost recovery

I do not live in the County. If I did, I would be a lot more upset about the changes to the delivery of emergency services. As it is, we have a long time relationship with the Seminole Trail Volunteer Fire Department as Chris remains a volunteer there. Interestingly, we spend a lot less time there since Chris has been promoted, but our commitment to volunteerism and the department remains strong.

When the City wanted to implement cost recovery for ambulance service in order to support the expansion of the fire department into ambulance service, I balked. I support Charlottesville Albemarle Rescue Squad (CARS) as an institution in our community. I think having CARS in our community saves taxpayers money in two ways: we dont pay for people and equipment to expand emergency services and we dont pay for the increase in health insurance premiums and copays as a result of localities billing for the service.

The County has not been transparent with the change from supporting CARS to implementing a very expensive ambulance service.  The public did not have an opportunity to weigh in on this change. Where do the supervisors stand on this expansion of paid ambulance service? What was the hurry in implementing this change? Why does the County believe that billing health insurance companies for service is a win win situation for taxpayers? Do they honestly think that health insurance companies wont pass that cost onto users? What about increasing copays (our copay for an ambulance ride is $150.00, and we are told it is relatively good insurance)? I also worry about whether folks who are unable to pay are being harassed by collection agencies or the billing departments of health insurance companies who dont receive their copay.

CARS and the other volunteer emergency service departments in the County are very professional, they have served our community nobly for many decades. I remain convinced that the County should work with the organization in a way that serves county taxpayer and supports the volunteer organizations. I am not saying that just because things have always been this way nothing should change. I am saying these decisions should be made more transparently and the process should be inclusive of all stakeholders.
Please ask your County Supervisor where he/she stands on this issue and demand answers to these questions.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

"Mommy, Moommy, Moooommmyy"

Ryan wakes me up everyday with a chorus of "Mommy"s from his crib. Yes, he is two and in a crib. For some reason he walked earlier than the other boys, but doesnt climb out of his crib yet (thankfully). The benefits of having him in the crib outweigh the lovely morning alarm every single day (at this point). As a public service, I want to remind all of you to be following the Honest Toddler on twitter. It is a little but of a glimpse into life with a toddler, if you have forgotten.

David, on the other hand, continues to be obsessed with DS. He will wake up an hour earlier than the whole house, make himself breakfast, get dressed, brush his teeth, GET HIS JACKET ON, then ask me (usually two minutes prior to the Ryan alarm clock) "can I play DS?" At that moment all I am thinking is "please dont wake up Ryan" so I sleepily agree.

Right on cue, Ryan will go off "mommy...mooommmmy....mommy.mommy.mommy.mommy.mommy..." I think you get the idea. It is cute, really, until I actually have to get up.

Then there is Andrew...so sweet looking, so tired. He will sleep in on school days and wake up early on the weekends. I have to bring him gummy vitamins to start the wake up process, apparently a little sugar helps start the day even if the 8 year old is STILL IN BED. Dont get me wrong, I may appear to be ashamed of the idea, I am actually SUPER proud since most days he actually gets out of bed a minute or two after I give him the SOMA.

Of course, there are days (or stages) where Andrew will not get up, those are hard days for everyone.  I try positive reinforcement (treats in his lunch, playing DS before school, or other tricks in the mommy book), usually on those days though I have to end up with the following statement "ok well you can go to school in your pajamas and hungry." That usually does the trick, especially if it is almost time for the bus to come. Sometimes before that point, I get all "no electronics for you after school..."which quickly turns into a week of no electronics, which makes him "cray cray" (remind you to tell you a story about the time David said that-so silly) and also doesnt usually resolve the situation. Anyway, it degenerates from there. If he makes it to the bus, I am grateful, but usually I have to drive him to school, me and him fuming, David, relatively oblivious in his post-DS stupor and Ryan sometimes making fun of Andrew by saying "boo hoo" and pretending to cry (which is hilarious for David and I, infuriating for Andrew).

This past Saturday was a lovely combination of all of these morning rituals. David and Andrew are attending a Saturday program from 9-11. They actually both agreed and wanted to do it and we were fortunate enough to get in (and budget for it before I quit work).  Ryan woke up super early, however David was already dressed and playing DS, and I was just about to make the coffee at 6:30AM, when Ryan, after already having his morning  "juice" which is kind of like his SOMA, but with a lot more water, asked for a "peepop" which his incredibly cute way of saying lollipop. I actually had to put my foot down on the pre-sunrise lollipop, leading to a delightful toddler tantrum at 6:30AM. I live a charmed life (OK I do, but at that moment, I wasnt feeling it).

David, jostled from his DS fog by his brother's tantrum (if it isnt one, it is the other), said "oh I forgot it was Saturday." 

Andrew got up shortly after that without prompting (because it was Saturday). He was on day 6 of his electronics vacation, only one more day to go (this "vacation" has to be harder on me than him). I get him some breakfast and tell him about his day (which is already written on the whiteboard in his room) and he flips out, so we add another day to the electronics vacation.

By this time, I have to shower and skadattle to a scheduled school board work session that starts at 8:30 (there is breakfast at this meeting, so I dont have to eat before I leave the house, but I should get there early). Chris wakes up when I tell him I am about to leave (to be fair, he is the first one up most days). I ran out the door around 8:10 never to be heard from again...

Not really, but that is how long that work session felt.

Friday, February 01, 2013

Inaugural Poem and classroom visit


Apparently it is difficult to write an inaugural poem. Frankly, I pay very little attention to poetry. However, recently I walked into a classroom with this portion of poem on the board for "Free Write" time of the class. Unfortunately, I walked in late so there was only 1 minute left of free writing time.

"One Today' Richard Blanco (first two paragraphs, find the rest here)

One sun rose on us today, kindled over our shores,

peeking over the Smokies, greeting the faces

of the Great Lakes, spreading a simple truth

across the Great Plains, then charging across the Rockies.

One light, waking up rooftops, under each one, a story

told by our silent gestures moving behind windows.


My face, your face, millions of faces in morning's mirrors,

each one yawning to life, crescendoing into our day:

pencil-yellow school buses, the rhythm of traffic lights,

fruit stands: apples, limes, and oranges arrayed like rainbows

begging our praise. Silver trucks heavy with oil or paper—

bricks or milk, teeming over highways alongside us,

on our way to clean tables, read ledgers, or save lives—

to teach geometry, or ring-up groceries as my mother did

for twenty years, so I could write this poem.

I looked around the classroom and saw a bunch of sullen teenagers. I compared them mentally to the excited, energetic third and fourth graders I know. I wondered which level of sullenness my boys and their friends would be in tenth grade. Who will be the apathetic, shoulder shrugging child who refuses to answer the teacher's question, but otherwise abides by the rules of the class? Who will be the child that refuses to listen to the clear directive to "put away your phone" until the last possible moment before losing the privilege of having it in his/her possession for the class? Who will hide and be silent? Who is the one that will respond in a harsh, defiant manner to the teacher (but is correct)? And who will be the polite, hard working child that still exudes the teenage front of disdain and apathy?

Which child will honor so generously his or her parents' sacrifice, as Mr. Blanco's poem does?  

As I noted on Twitter, I appreciate the teachers and principals who let me come into their classrooms to see the way policy impacts the classroom. I always marvel at how much I learn (SSR? oh, that means, silent, sustained reading- I read Fahrenheight 451- what a good book).

If you want to read an article on how it is difficult to pull of an inaugural poem, here is a link to a Slate article on those whose poems didnt make the cut.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Fundraising season

There are two times of year, the fundraising emails/events and phone calls are heaviest.

 I love the Charlottesville events. A few of my favorite fundraising events are:
1. The Grace Tinsley Fundraiser (in January, provides scholarships for Charlottesville graduates);
2. African American Teaching Fellows Dinner (usually in October to increase the number of minority teachers in the Charlottesville-Albemarle area),\;
3. Charlottesville Community Scholarship Program (in the Fall, the program offers scholarships for area students to attend college);
4. The NAACP dinner (in the Fall, the event has a heavy emphasis on education, honoring teachers and local students);
5. The Emily Couric Leadership Luncheon (late Spring, provides scholarships for area women); and
6. Local Democratic committee fundraisers (Albemarle county has its BBQ in September and Charlottesville has its pasta supper in the Spring, April in 2013).

I am privileged to attend some of these events every year. This year I may not be able to attend many of these, but I hope you will consider supporting these great organiations.  Please check your calendar (and wallet) and try to make some of them.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

More budget talk

This budget season has stretched from last year's budget season. It seems neverending. I cant imagine being a school board where we are developing new initiatives that actually cost money and have to request money for those initiatives. Instead we are asking City Council for money to cover a deficit of $1.44 million dollars to keep operating our current programming (with two minor exceptions).*

Last night, I attended the Greenbrier PTO Budget Session (as I did with Clark a few weeks ago). A few brave parents made it out to discuss their priorities. I truly appreciate their comments and the comments of all those who have opinions about the budget and our priorities. One thing is very clear when talking to parents, they really value the programs and staff at our schools. These parents specifically mentioned the reading intervention program (Book Buddies), the Band program at Buford and the elementary guidance counselors as real sources of strength in our schools.

As I understand the process, these public comment opportunities allow the superintendent to create her recommendations. She has revised her recommendations several times with the public and her staff's input. On Friday (February 1st), we are meeting with Council to determine if they are able to provide additional funding so that the School's reductions do not have to be so dramatic. One Saturday the 2nd, the School Board will meet to discuss priorities and potential areas of reductions. Finally, the following Thursday (the 7th), the superintendent will present her budget recommendations to the Board at our meeting.

I look forward to hearing the superintendent's recommendations after having so much public input.  While I have my own ideas for reduction areas, I recognize I work on a Board with 6 other people (with their own ideas) and staff who have worked in education a long time who have their own ideas. I look forward to a productive and civilized process with a result that serves our schools and community.

* two minor exceptions: Spanish program (totalling $18,149 increase this year) and Associates Degree Program with PVCC (a state mandate costing approximately $45,000 this year).

Monday, January 28, 2013

More delays for schools

I know there are people out there who when they look out their window this morning see a very slick road surface and ice falling from the sky. This is not the case at our house. Our car has some melting ice on it, otherwise the road surface is wet and the precipitation is rain.
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Schools are on delay (again) and Ryan's first little gymnastics class is cancelled because of the delay. Since the kids have returned to school from winter break, there has been no rhythm. We are out of sorts in the mornings and the evenings. I cant imagine the efforts that teachers have to make in order to keep the rhythm in the classrooms when weather has been so disruptive.

Even more important than our little routine are the parents who really cant adjust their schedules at the last minute. This Albemarle County program where children come for the day (if the schools are closed for more than one day in a row) is a good start to what we can do to support working parents. ACAC has a similar fee based program on snow days for years. ACAC also offers the program (Kids Day Off) when area children are scheduled off. Check ACAC's website for additional information.

I do not know about similar programs in the City of Charlottesville. I think it is important for the community to support parents who work on those unplanned days off. I have had generous friends or family who are willing to take the children for a few hours so I can "get some work done" (which I rationalize is better than not getting any work done). Some folks in our community do not have the social network to allow them to get to work. Some parents do not have choices on snow days/delays- get fired or leave their child home-these are not reasonable options. I will continue to work to see if the City can provide other, more reasonable, choices for parents. I welcome suggestions and comments on the topic. jennifer @ jennifermckeever (dot) com

I have been grateful for a little bit of winter in our winter. I hope we can get accurate forecasts, pretreatment of the road, and get children to school and parents to work.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Book Buddies

As a result of the forecast for inclement weather, the School Board did not hold its Community Meeting at Jackson-Via. Our lovely clerk, Leslie, is in the process of rescheduling as we speak, probably sometime in late February. I think the timing of the meeting could be helpful to maximize input from the public about the budget. However, the meetings do not have an agenda so that the School Board can hear the public's concerns/comments/suggestions on any topic not just the budget.

Please keep an eye on this space, I will let you know when the meeting is scheduled and I hope you will consider attending. In addition, if you want to email me, please feel free jennifer @ jennifermckeever . com (thanks).

I have received emails from folks concerned about potential impacts of a $1.4 million dollar deficit on the Book Buddies program.* When I was on the campaign trail, I supported an expansion of Book Buddies. I continue to believe the number of Book Buddies volunteers should be expanded, perhaps into second grade. The costs associated with the Book Buddies program and what actually falls under the category of Book Buddies has expanded to include remediation by teachers and other interventions for children not reading on grade level. I look forward to unpacking the budget for Book Buddies - not necessarily for reducing the budget, but for understanding it more completely. I believe in the Book Buddies program and believe that the program's support staff is vital to its continued success. I feel strongly that we should not be impacting programs that are working hard to help our struggling children succeed.

Having said that, I have not heard the superintendent suggest a change to this important program. Dr. Atkins recognizes the high value this community places on Book Buddies and volunteers in the classroom. The School Board also understands and appreciates the importance of Book Buddies in our community. I do not believe I will have a difficult negotiation to maintain the status of the program. I will keep the public apprised if the situation changes.

* Note the deficit increased from $1.3 million due to a recalculation of health insurance cost increase- the school's finance director was assuming 7% increase in premiums, but realistically the costs will likely increase the maximum of 11%. 

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Carver Recreation Center

I welcomed the opportunity recently to sneak a peak at the newly renovated Carver Recreation Center on 4th Street prior to the grand opening Saturday. Carver is located in the newly renovated Jefferson School. The Carver fitness center has lots of cardiovascular machines and significantly more free weights than Smith Aquatic Center. The drop in fitness rooms are big. All of the rooms have a lot of natural light coming in. Ryan and I will be taking a gymnastics class at Carver at the end of the month and the room is lovely and inviting. Please read about all of the amenities of Carver on the website, I cannot do it justice.

Of course, being a sneak peak I found some snags. The locker rooms are small and called restrooms so there may be some confusion (if you are looking for the locker room, go to the restroom). My theory is that conventional wisdom in recreation center building says locker rooms do not need to be big if the center doesnt have a pool. I think Charlottesville is pretty spoiled by its locker rooms. For myself I will come to the center ready to work out and go home to change/shower. The shower is lovely, but there are only two. I think the women's restroom has only twelve lockers.  There are cubbies in the hallway to store items-similar to those outside of the group fitness rooms at ACAC. I can imagine that if a group fitness class gets out, it will be tricky to change and shower in the locker room. Having said that, I know now not to plan to shower/change at the facility. I did mention the lack of a bench in the locker room, the Director assured me that the benches were on order and would be in the locker rooms as soon as possible.

I highly recommend checking out the facility. The cost for a monthly membership is low ($39/month or $390/year for City residents) for all of the amenties, including two facilities (Smith and Carver).

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Jefferson School African American Heritage Center at the School Board meeting

The School Board heard a fascinating presentation by the Jefferson School African American Heritage Center at January's meeting. The Center wants to partner with the City Schools so that city students learn about the role of the Jefferson School and African Americans in Charlottesville.  The school system has been working closely with the Center so that our students can get the benefits of having such a great resource in our community.

The same night of the School Board meeting, I watched a documentary on PBS produced by the Center for Politics at UVA entitled "Locked Out: The Fall of Massive Resistence". The Moton School is part of the documentary. The School is now a museum. Check it out if you are in Prince Edward County, VA. As I researched this post, I realize the documentary is several years old. I recognized Alicia Lugo in the documentary, she has since passed away. The documentary is beautifully done, if you have a chance to see it, please do.

Seeing the documentary reminds me how vital it is to memorialize our history in ways that future generations will be able to learn and understand it. I am so happy that the Jefferson School Afican American Heritage Center will be able to document the history for us here in Charlottesville, it already is a great community resource. As Ned Michie noted at the School Board meeting, the executive director of the Center, Andrea Douglas, is "inspiring", full of energy, and getting results.

Goings On

Last night I attended the Clark Elementary School PTO Budget Meeting. This was a PTO meeting that was open to the public for discussion on the budget. Mr. Gillespie, the Finance Director for the schools, did a presentation on the current budget situation. The numbers remain bleak for the schools- we have a $1.33 million dollar deficit, largely as a result of a significant decrease in state funding over the past four years.

Dr. Atkins noted that she had created a list of about $5 million dollars in cuts that the School Board would consider at its February 2 work session. The list likely includes many draconian cuts that will quickly be taken off the list for consideration.  I remain open to comments and suggestions from the public about cost cutting measures we should consider.  Also here is a list of events in the school system- the budget meetings at PTO meetings are listed on this calendar, as well as work sessions, community meetings, etc.

One opportunity to tell the School Board your suggestions/thoughts on any topic is on January 17th at 7:00PM in Jackson Via's Media Center. I do hope you will attend to let us know your thoughts on the schools even though the Daily Progress' headline "No Agenda Set for Charlottesville School Meeting".
I appreciate the Progress writing an article about the Community Meeting, I hope some people will come out for it. At the last School Board meeting, I suggested including the School Board in the City Council's neighborhood meetings. I hope that works out for our next community meeting. I know how difficult it is to get out to meetings,  but I would appreciate hearing from Charlottesville people, so if you can make it, please do.

One issue not on the agenda for the last night's meeting but clearly on peoples' minds is school violence and the issue of arming teachers or having armed School Resource Officers (SRO) in the elementary schools. I encourage people to contact their state legislator with their thoughts on arming teachers or SROs in the elementary schools. The Governor's Task Force is meeting to discuss the issue. Dr. Atkins has met with the Chief of Police and other leaders to discuss Charlottesville's emergency preparedness plan. Schools are reviewing their emergency preparedness plans and doing drills. As I explained to my children, the emergency preparedness drills are designed to make sure everyone knows what to do in case of an emergency. I want to thank all of the teachers, principals, and other school staff who work hard everyday to provide a safe environment for our children to learn.  These are enormous responsibilities and our school staff "bring it" every day. Thank you. 

I know we will be hearing more from the Governor, the Task Force, our local police and constituents. Please feel free to email any thoughts you may have on the subject (or any subject for that matter) jennifer @ jennifermckeever . com


Friday, January 11, 2013

School Board Recap, sort of

It was a record breaking night at the School Board meeting last night. We adjourned before 7:30. Actually it may be more surprising we stayed as late as we did given the relatively light agenda.

The agenda included two awesome educational highlights.  The first was a performance by the XXL Minds in Motion team from Walker. The children performed beautifully in the limited space available in the media center. The second was a presentation on 4th grade electives at Venable. I love the elective program at Venable since it uses local volunteers (including, among others, US Attorney, Tim Heaphy) and teachers to enhance the curriculum through project based learning.  Thank you to all of those parents, teachers, principals and students who presented at the meeting.

Every Thursday at Burnley Moran Elementary School a "communication folder" is sent home with the students. The folder usually consists of the latest tests, PTO news, organization flyers, and news from the administration. I was happy to see a letter from the Acting Math Coordinator, Jenine Daly, in the folder this week. On the back of the page is a framework for students to consider math problems. At the last school board meeting, the administration demonstrated the fairly labor intensive way of grading math problems. One of the presenters mentioned that she used the framework to ask her child deeper questions. I thought it would be helpful for all parents to have the opportunity to ask similarly deeper questions. With the framework now in my hands, my boys better be prepared to think more deeply about what and why they are doing.

Congratulations to our new chair, Juandiego Wade and vice-chair, Amy Laufer. Also, I want to thank Ned Michie for his leadership over the past year.