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PUDLECRAZY's Recent Blog Entries

A Little Bird Blog

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Life has been so busy at school that I really have not wanted to take Stella with me; in some ways she is like having another student in the classroom. At the moment, my room is covered with props and costumes, and the art room, where I also spend a lot of time with my students, has wet paint out for the flats, which is messy enough with children, but I can just see the giant poodle footprints painting the hall.

Follow the Yellow Paw Prints, Follow the Yellow Paw Prints. emoticon

So, even though Mike isn't home, I decided to leave the little diva home yesterday. That meant a long walk in the meadow in the early, early morning so she could work out her poodle beans as well as empty her bladder.

Stella loves to zoom around the meadow as fast as she can, running circles around me, around trees, or just around, banking corners so fast she almost lies flat.

"What about the birds?" you say, "Get to the point!"

Ah, yes, well here's the story:

At one point, Stella stopped and started jumping up and down like a goat sproing, sproing, sproing! I thought she had found a mole, We have some giant ones, and they are very entertaining to her, a sentiment not shared by the moles. So I made my way over to her to rescue the mole, only to find that her discovery was a baby robin.

Fortunately, it was a feisty and brave little baby. When Stella tried pouncing, the little robin charged the giant poodle. And fortunately, the baby was uninjured. I was able to reach around behind it and pick it up off of the ground.

It was awesome to have this little one in my hand. Its wee heart was beating hard, but it relaxed into my hand, and settled down.

I found a branch in the honeysuckle where it would be out of poodle range, and placed it there.

The baby is fully feathered, and strong. I am very optimistic about its survival. Don't you just love its bright eyes?

On the chicken front, the weather has finally warmed up enough and the chicks have finally feathered out enough, that they could move out of my bedroom and into their chicken condo.

They are really getting to be quite a handful! I love the way they look like miniature chickens, but still peep like little chicks.

This is their upstairs loft.

And below is their patio.

They seem very happy with their new home, and I am delighted to reclaim my bedroom!

Meanwhile, the baby quail are rapidly growing up in the Younger Group classroom.

I love the way the baby bob whites said 'bob white' almost as soon as they hatched. I didn't know that they did that - incredible! The parent who brought the eggs in for hatching wants to give me some of the quail babies. I am trying to figure out how to give them protective shelter, and still let them be wild. It is a bit of a dilemma about what to do with them, as they have already adapted to humans.

If anyone has any words of wisdom about the bob whites, I would love to know what to do with them.

Have a lovely Saturday!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

MEOWMAMA3 5/2/2010 9:43PM

    Great story! That Stella.... Your chicks grew so fast! Chris, you have a great eye for photography and bless your heart for always bringing it out with you! That little bird was bought into your world for a reason...

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MARYMAC45 5/2/2010 11:31AM

    Oh so beautiful. Under our rhodies lives a family of robins. We see them out looking for worms. We have not noticed the babies yet this year, but are waiting patiently. Great blog and pictures. Thanks!

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LAURIES_PLACE 5/2/2010 9:44AM

  I really enjoyed this blog. It took me back about five years, when we lived on a lake, and rescued many babies: great blue heron babies, mallards, robins and more. Most, sadly, did not make it because they had been "found" by a cat first.

The photos are great!

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PUDLECRAZY 5/2/2010 9:39AM

    LOL! I had to rescue it because Stella found it. I am certain it was happily hunting worms before the Beast came along.

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    What adorable photos! I'm glad Stella found the baby Robin so that you could rescue it!

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PAMNANGEL 5/1/2010 10:31PM

    Ah yes, the poodle bounce. I have a client with 2 standards...well, 1 now. They just lost their 8 yr old. They're fun to watch.

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IFDEEVARUNS2 5/1/2010 10:11PM

    Reminds me of Sophie bouncing the bird in the house. She let me pick her up and take her outside.
Loved this blog. emoticon

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MARY1313 5/1/2010 9:59PM

    Awwww! Poodle curiosity is something! I love the pictures! I love you!


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JUST_TRI_IT 5/1/2010 8:07PM

    WOW!! What a treat to come so close to the little robin :)

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0309COOKIE 5/1/2010 2:55PM

    Stella looks so interested in her prize! Glad you were able to place the baby in a branch of the tree. Wonder where it's mother was.

The chicks have gotten so big. Looks like they have a wonderful new home.

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WATERMELLEN 5/1/2010 12:18PM

    So lovely that the baby robin was able to relax, recognizing your kindness and concern.

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SATYAGRAHA 5/1/2010 11:35AM

    How cool! I didn't know you raised birds! And how awesome to save that robin!

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GRNISHADE 5/1/2010 11:02AM

    How special to be able to hold the robin! Pics are so cute! My chickies are a bit behind yours, but all six are strong and healthy! It's amazing how fast they grow!

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CELLOSONG 5/1/2010 10:13AM

    Aw look at those cutie pies! Wish I could be of help with the bob whites, but I've only ever owned cats and reptiles...

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PENNYAN45 5/1/2010 10:12AM

    I loved the pictures of your rescue of the baby robin -- and of all the other birds in your menagerie. (Maybe you want to open up a roadside stand selling chicken and quail eggs this summer!)

This is a GREAT blog! I really enjoyed it. Thank you!


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IUHRYTR 5/1/2010 9:42AM

    Adorable pictures. Thank you for saving the baby robin. -- Lou

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LN7777 5/1/2010 9:16AM

    I just love your picture blogs. And know what you mean about poodle energy. Rigby is 10 months old now and so full of energy. If we don't run her and burn some of it off she acts like a crazy dog. Sorry I don't know a thing about birds to help you. emoticon

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Success in Spite of Expectations

Friday, April 30, 2010

I think there are many out there who believe that teachers must have been good students and loved school. This isn't always the case.

My brother called me a couple of weeks ago. He had been going through my parents' tax files, before throwing things out.

"I found something in there that wasn't a tax form," he said, "for some reason your 2nd grade report card was tucked in there. I don't know why they put it in there, but I was surprised - you got all Cs."

I have no idea why they saved that report card, but I almost cried because my big brother had always believed I was smart. He had never seen the pain I suffered academically, he had just seen who I really was - a smart capable little girl. This was not the case for me at school. You see, there was no comprehension of learning disabilities, attention deficits, or hyperactivity when I was a child.

When I went to kindergarten, I was tiny, very shy, still stuttered, was poor, and dressed funny. Any one of those things could have made me a target for teasing, but together in a package, I might as well have had a bulls-eye painted on my forehead. I spent much of my kindergarten year under the rabbit cage, later to be joined by a child even smaller than me who is to this day one of my dear friends.

The kindergarten teacher told my parents that I shouldn't be passed to 1st grade because I was delayed, as evidenced by the fact that during my entire kindergarten year, I had failed to learn to skip. My mother did not accept that as a valid reason for holding her daughter back, and made sure I was moved up to first grade.

The real problems began then. At that time in education, we had 'tracking', children were grouped together by slow, average, and advanced learners. I was already labeled as a 'slow' learner because my kindergarten teacher had identified me as such and because I was not a child who would volunteer in class. This evaluation was further confirmed by the fact that I couldn't sit in my chair without wiggling it until it fell over, and didn't appear to pay attention to anything the teacher said. My reading was below grade level.

What wasn't understood was that I was reading well above grade level at home, but couldn't read out loud. Between stuttering and what was eventually identified (as an adult) as dyslexia, my oral reading was indeed below average. Given time to organize the words on the page, and not being stressed by public humiliation, I was already reading books like "Charlotte's Web" at home with no problem, but condemned to "Dick and Jane" at school. By the end of 1st grade, I had given up on school; I made my way there dutifully, and bided my time each day until dismissal. At school, I was nothing more than a problem child- the label that came home on my report cards was 'under achiever.' At home, I was an artist, a musician, a poet, and a naturalist. I had interesting conversations with my family, and loved to read.

Sometime around junior high school age, we were given IQ tests. The school counselor was alarmed and had an emergency meeting with my mother. A mistake had been made in my educational placement. While I was in the class with the children with the lowest educational expectations, my IQ was far above average. They did not know how this mistake could have happened, except that I was exceptionally lazy. The problem was ameliorated by moving me from the lowest classes to the highest classes. In some ways, this was good because the classes were more interesting, but I had a lot of catching up to do because the other children in those classes had had a far better education than I had for the past 7 years.

By high school, I had learned how to work the system. I wrote my own excuses in print, then signed my mother's name in cursive. Doing this, I left school every Wednesday afternoon for a 'psychiatric appointment' which they certainly believed I needed, and I found interesting illnesses that would keep me out of school for a week or two at a time. Then I would go canoeing, took a train to Washington, DC for the day, hung out in Central Park sketching, rode the Staten Island Ferry back and forth, and generally enjoyed time on my own. When there was a test, I showed up, took my test, and passed with flying colors. I left for college at 17.

It wasn't until my 3rd attempt at sticking with college that I was diagnosed with ADD and dyslexia. There was another surprise for me. I knew I did not learn well at all by listening, and thought that I must be a visual learner since I have always loved to read. The perceptual testing showed that I was 1 standard deviation below normal in visual learning, and 2 standard deviations below normal in auditory learning. In addition, I have an auditory figure-ground problem - I am unable to filter out the background noise and focus on what I am supposed to be listening to. No wonder I had problems learning in a school environment where much of the lessons were teacher lecture. Plus, even what I thought was my greatest strength, was still a deficit.

Some people rail at the concept of labeling, but to me, it was a tremendous weight lifted. There were neurological reasons that schooling (not learning - that is a very important difference) was difficult for me. This I can understand, can get my mind around, and work with. It wasn't laziness or a personality flaw. It is how I am wired. I have grown to love the way I am wired. It is the core of my creative drive, it is what keeps me interested in everything, it is the spark in my being.

I don't know what my 'Most Likely To' label would have been in my yearbook, but it wouldn't have been teacher. And yet, my schooling experiences are the very things that create my strengths as a teacher. I want no child to go through the schooling hell I lived through, and I know many children are living through today. I am fully aware that children have many avenues of learning, and many talents that may not have had time to come to fruition yet. And I never give up on any of them.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

CATHYGETSFIT 5/3/2010 2:01PM

    I can really relate to your blog. I was always the smallest in my class. I had friends but not a lot of them. I don't know if you've read any of my past blogs but you might want to read two of my blogs from May 31 and June 1 of last year. Labeling can be good...it just depends upon the situation. I am glad that you are a teacher because you know all too well what it was like being ostracized when you were growing up. Kudos to you for getting the "right" label!


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    I can relate to your blog in so many ways! I was always the smallest and youngest in my class at school. I was reading at third grade level and writing in cursive when I started first grade and they did not know what to do with me. I spent 2 months in first grade in Wyoming, 2 months with no schooling in Mexico, then 2 weeks enrolled in first grade in Albaquerque. After 2 weeks in school in Albaquergue, the school called my mother in for a conference and suggested I be moved to the second grade. All went well until we returned to Wyoming 2 months later. The second grade teacher made a scene when they brought me into her classroom (without even introducing me to the class) and announced to my mother in front of the whole class that I did not belong in her classroom and would not be able to keep up. As a result, I never felt "comfortable" with the classmates I ended up with. I graduated at 17 and moved away. Since that time, I have excelled in my career choices and had some wonderful experiences along the way.
I wish my son had teachers like you!

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WYOGRAMMY 5/1/2010 9:54PM

    Thanks for sharing with us. I am struggling at work and you have reminded me why I am doing what I do! I am struggling to fit within the system that should be encouraging them and is in the end sometimes making it harder for them and their families. Thanks for the encouragment! Rhonda

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FOSSE_OF_LOVE 5/1/2010 9:07PM

    If only every child had a teacher as you…there would be far less crime and hate. Self esteem is so important. Great blog and great writing.

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WATERMELLEN 5/1/2010 12:21PM

    The best teachers are NOT the ones who soared easily through school: those are the teachers who tend to be mediocre because they were rewarded for compliance.

The best teachers (and that would clearly be YOU) are those who understand from personal experience all of the different ways people learn, and are prepared to do the very hard work of reaching out and teaching each individual in the way he or she learns best.

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GRACEC29 5/1/2010 9:08AM

    Wow Chris...what a touching and inspiring success story and what a wonderful teacher you must be! I, too, became a teacher because of my experiences with school growing up. I was a child from a pretty dysfunctional family where I had to adapt myself to survive. As I look back on it all, I was, in different ways at each stage of my childhood, behaving at school from a position of emotional impairment. Not one teacher spotted this for what it was....just a little girl (or bigger girl in HS) who was hurting badly inside. So, on to college I went deciding that I wanted to help as many emotionally impaired kids as I could so that they would never have to feel like I did at school. It's been 29 years teaching kids with this type of disability and I never give up on anyone, either!
Love the picture. Made your story even more poignant. emoticon

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GRNISHADE 5/1/2010 8:53AM

    No wonder you are such an insightful educator! I am starting to see where some of your wisdom comes from...

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LN7777 5/1/2010 8:33AM

    Your experiences with school has just made you an exceptional teacher. emoticon

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KATIEGLEN012 5/1/2010 6:34AM

    School is tough. Since I work with adults who have left traditional education I hear too many stories from bright, talented students who had tough school experiences. As a child I was incredibly shy, quiet...backward? My experiences make me a better teacher. My experiences allow me to understand that not everyone learns in the same way...I think more kids should have the opportunity to escape now and then...it would do them a world of good.

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It is good that you can look at how you got to where you are, a successful, loving mom, grandmom,teacher etc. and be concerned that no one goes through some of your experiences.
The experiences we have had in our life journey are not always appropriate but doesn't it seem that on the inside we know we can prevail and be more than others think we can?
Nothing bothers me more than those who bemoan lost opportunity or perceived "snubs" in life. It's what we take and make of what we have and having someone say "yes you can" instead of "no" that helped me the most.
You rock!

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MCGS62 4/30/2010 11:37PM

    I remember the classrooms arranged in groups and still to this day will copy numbers, the digits all correct but out of sequence. I memorize my music, no chance of sight reading on a semi pro level. And thank God foe spell check.

Based on the title I was hoping to read all about your spring musical!! emoticon

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DOR2BFIT 4/30/2010 10:33PM

    Wow! That is an incredible story. Sounds like you learned a lot about how NOT to teach from your experiences, which is important too, to be a good teacher. You must have felt split in two when you went to school. emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

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IUHRYTR 4/30/2010 9:58PM

    Even though I finished near the top of my high school class and did well in college and beyond, what I remember is being singled out in elementary school and moved to the front of the class. The problem? It turned out I needed glasses. Of course, then came the "four-eyes" and other taunts. But getting glasses helped bring me out of my shell and made learning more enjoyable. It's too sad we get wrongly labeled when young, and often later in life, too. Thank you for caring about your students and giving us background on the problems teachers and students face. emoticon -- Lou

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Expectations and Success

Thursday, April 29, 2010

People's expectations of children can have a very powerful effect on how they perceive themselves and how they develop. Many people think that some children are born with talents, in arts, sports, etc. - some have it, some don't. To some degree, that may be true, but most talent is nurtured and developed.

When I was in grad school, I learned about a study that was done to see how much influence teacher expectations had on how children achieved. In the study, teachers were given numbers (I recall locker numbers being used, but it's been a long time) that were supposed to be the children's IQs. Later, when the children's academic progress was evaluated, the children who had the higher numbers made greater gains, regardless of what their actual IQ was. This had a profound impact on me. Ever since then, I do not want to know information about the children's tested intellectual abilities, and also don't really believe in gifted classes which are based on IQ testing. Teacher bias can have too much of a negative effect.

My observation over 30 years of teaching is this: hold high expectations for all children (not pressure to achieve, but assumption of ability to achieve) and children will achieve talents that may otherwise have been suppressed.

I have been thinking about this because I am in the middle of the most intense part of preparation with the spring musical, and because I believe that how we treat children and other adults can promote talent and self confidence, keep it dormant, or squash it into oblivion.

First of all, the children select the musical, so that they are truly invested in its success. I give them the criteria for selection - appropriate for a young audience, enough juicy parts for a cast the size of the class, and I have to be able to find the script or score. From there, they brainstorm ideas and vote on what musical they would like to perform.

I cast the musicals in a very different way from most directors. I do not audition the children or select by who is most 'talented' or who looks the part. The children choose who they would like to be in the cast, the 6th graders getting first choice as it is more or less their senior project, then the 5th, then the 4th. If two people want the same part, they alternate nights. The point is, that every child who wants a lead role gets to have one by 6th grade, and gets his or her chance to shine as the star in a production.

Yes, sometimes, I have a lead who doesn't sing as well, or have the same acting skills are a child with a smaller part. But what I have found has been that children rise to the expectation of greatness. One of my favorite examples of this was a child who came to my class in 4th grade, from another school where he was having great difficulties. He had some learning delays, ADHD, and was in trouble all of the time. The first musical he was in was Mary Poppins. All he could manage to do that year, was try to read the lines of Mary Poppin's umbrella, off stage, and with my assistance. For the rest of the production, I made him my stage hand.

By contrast, when he was in 6th grade, he wanted to be the King of Siam in The King and I. He was really into it, even shaving his head for the performance. He memorized all of his lines and songs, and they were plenty. He learned to waltz. All during the rehearsals, in his anxiety he was a royal pain in the @$$, messing with props, and generally annoying people.

But when the lights came up on stage, he was ON! His performance was not only flawless, it was moving. For once, I was glad to have to watch the production from back stage because tears were pouring down my cheeks, to see how confident and strong he was on stage. The audience was also moved by this - few expected that he could rise to this challenge. When the King died, everyone in the audience was weeping. Afterwards, many people were telling him that he should consider a career in acting or singing or both.

He is not my only story like this, but I think his is my favorite story because he had come into my class so defeated, and by the time he finished his 6th grade spring musical performance, he was so self-confident and was recognized by many as a very talented young man.

I am not telling this story to toot my own horn, but to make a point about holding everyone to high expectations regardless of which skills they have or have not developed yet. Most often, the lead parts, the best positions in sports, the class recognition, is given to children who already developed those skills. The children who do not come to the table with those skills already honed, never stand a chance of developing them because they are shunted off to less parts, not rotated into the game, not highlighted on the recognition roster. We all have many talents, but they need to be encouraged, fostered, and given the time and opportunity to develop.

This is especially important with children, but adults thrive with the same kind of encouragement. So many times I hear things like, "I would love to play an instrument, but I have no musical ability." Or " I wish I could paint, but I have no artistic talent." We all do, folks. Someone, or many people told you along the way that you didn't have talent or ability; it was shunted off, belittled, or simply not recognized. If you want to do it, then do it! Don't let those musty old inaccurate messages hold you back from things that can bring you joy and fulfillment. For some, talent may be innate, but mostly, it is simply a matter of determination and practice.

So if there are children in your life, hold out the expectation that they have the ability to achieve greatness, even if it is not readily apparent at the moment. Encourage them to pursue their interests (and I'm not talking video games) and to try new things. But do the same for other adults was well. And most especially, do that for you. Take on those things you always wanted to do, but held back from because you 'didn't have talent' or were afraid to try. Your life will be richer, and as a result will also touch other people in a positive and encouraging way.

Learning bass guitar over 50, and having fun!

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

WATERMELLEN 5/1/2010 12:46PM

    If he's the King of Siam, you are the Queen of Education -- absolutely!!

This is such a moving blog at so many different levels -- you obviously live what you believe.


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    You've hit the nail on the ehad. Kudos.

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2BHLTHY4LIFE 4/30/2010 11:42PM

    Hi Chris! You are a saint and deserve the best blog award for SP. This blog has touched my heart so much,I am lost for words. You are a eloquent and compassionate and kind in your writings and your actions.You are such a treasure,I wish you could come to our kid's schools,including our oldest in college at the Evergreen State University and implement your style of teaching. emoticonCan we fly our children to your school,lol? We couldn't afford the airfare,OMG I heard that it is really going sky high,okay I didn't mean any pun here,it just slipped out, emoticon. emoticonfor another A+++++++ blog. emoticon emoticonDiana emoticon emoticon

Comment edited on: 4/30/2010 11:43:44 PM

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ALEXTHEHUNN 4/30/2010 6:00PM

    What a delightful post. You are so right about people's abilities and the influence that support & encouragement can have. It's quite a gift you have to understand and apply that knowledge in your teaching. Your students are very fortunate to have a teacher like you. I know you didn't post the blog to drum up compliments. Nevertheless, you do deserve acknowledgment and praise for work like that.

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OLDERDANDRT 4/30/2010 2:39PM

    You are indeed a most fabulous teacher!! I can only hope my DD becomes as good teacher as you!!! She is studying online to be an Elementary School teacher. I guess she may have about a year or so to go.
Great blog! You obviously excelled at creative writing, too, huh! Or at least you do now, for sure!! I just write like I talk.
Carry on, bassist!!!! You rock!!!

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THE_SILVER_OWL 4/30/2010 1:40PM

    Wonderful blog! I could not agree more with your views. How I wish we could clone you so that more of our precious children could have a chance to "rise" to their potential.

Comment edited on: 4/30/2010 1:40:37 PM

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HOPERISING 4/30/2010 10:44AM

    So, I cried reading your blog today. Of course, this comes right after attending my sons IEP eligibility meeting yesterday. I was absolutely disgusted by the process, the testing, all of it. I took Dale to the school because I thought it might be helpful for him to access the schools special ed services, even though we would continue to homeschool. But after enduring the evaluations, I can see that there is NOTHING to be gained by putting him into that program. Example? My son has won numerous awards for his writing, all the way to the state level, and been a finalist in national competitions. He is also autistic. In order to work independantly on a writing project he needs to have the "rules" clearly WRITTEN. In the testing they set a picture in front of him and told him he had five minutes to write a story about the picture. They read the "rules" verbally and would not allow him to read the directions himself. The result was, he wrote very quickly in all capital letters, forgot to leave spaces between the words and use correct punctuation, and did not organize his thoughts. He was extremely worried about that time limit. So in the scoring they put him very low in writing, in like the 10th percentile, and said he had the writing skills of a pre-K student. I tried to explain that they were NOT seeing a true representation of his skills because they did not give him the structure he needed to be successful. Not that he needed extraordinary help - he just needed to be allowed to READ the directions, not have them spoken to him. They kept using the words "RIDGID" in regards to my son (which is true!) but I don't think it compares to their ridgidity in insisting that all students must learn the same way, and that any student that doesn't learn based on the standard classroom is therefore disabled.

Okay! I'll get off my soap box now! You just happened to touch on a raw nerve! I love the way you teach! I like the way you put it in the students hands, and the way you allow hands on learning, as you did with the chickens! I wish there were more teachers out there like you!

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IUHRYTR 4/30/2010 8:45AM

    Everyone deserves a fair chance but, as you point out, too often it is only the obviously talented to get an opportunity. How sad. -- Lou

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TKADEEPBREATH 4/30/2010 8:14AM

    I was the little girl that just wouldn't quit. I know that is what made the difference in my life. There's a lot to be said for "hunger". I was just hungry for something and wouldn't quit till I found a way. Powerful motivator.

Read my blog from yesterday. It's very parallel to your wonderful story. After all, it's not the Intelligence Quotient, it's the "Imagination" Quotient that counts!! I think anyway . . . . can't wait for the rest of your story!!

Thanks for adding me as your friend. That means so much to me. I know I will have so much to gain in getting to know you better.

Take care and talk to you soon, Jan emoticon

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MARY1313 4/30/2010 1:19AM

    I love the way you so totally believe in people, not just kids, but everyone. thanks for that because you foster belief in ourselves here too, and that is really important to us that are trying desparately to lead a healthier life.

I have a grandchild that was like your young man. She is also ambidextrious (sp) and starts writing with one hand and finishes with the other. You can't tell the difference in which hand wrote what. so unusual. But some older teacher decided that she was an aberration and told her that she would throw a ball to her and which ever hand she caught it with, that is the hand that she must use. She caught it with her left. My granddaughter sat there and refused to do any work period. the teacher didn't care. We didn't know anything about this until her report card came in and she had straight F's. Imagine the snot slinging fit her Grammy threw at the school the next day! I hope the damage hasn't been done, but you just don't know. Thanks for loving everyone like you do.


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SKINNYROBIN100 4/29/2010 11:59PM

    You really exemplify what a GREAT teacher is!!! I wish my son had had a teacher like you when he was in grade school. He had a couple that came close and they mattered in his development for sure. But the opposite was the norm, and he wasn't the same kid that went into kindergarden as he came out of grade 12. Every child who has you, is getting the biggest gift of their young early, lives! I hope your students parents appreciate who you are to their kids. I vote for you as Teacher of the Decade!!! emoticon emoticon emoticon emoticon

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KATIEGLEN012 4/29/2010 11:56PM

    I totally agree. I teach adults coming back to school to get a high school credential. Like you have been teaching a long, long time and I am totally aware of how my perception of them affects their performance. I just choose to believe that anything is possible and never say never.

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JAZZMINE 4/29/2010 10:41PM

    Wow! What a blog! I teach middle school band and totally agree! Nice work.


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CELLOSONG 4/29/2010 10:39PM

    LOVE this! I always try to remind myself of this...I'm in my 2nd year teaching 4th-6th grade orchestra, and even in my 2 years I'm shocked at which children rise to the occasion and become quite talented on their instruments when, a year and a half ago, I would have pegged them as someone who wouldn't stick it out past the first year, if even that long. I just need to keep reminding myself that that child I'm having such problems with today might be concertmaster of the New York Philharmonic in 20 or 30 years if I don't squash them now!

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Mike's Project

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Mike took off for his annual Go-Fishing-and-Hunt-for-Morels camping trip with his buds today. I'm single-parenting it until Sunday... Stella, Emmitt, Tex, Vash, and the chickens. I enjoy the quiet and having my own time frame to do things in, especially when life gets as hectic as it does around the time of the spring musical production. I love vacations together, but I also treasure separate vacations. At the moment, I am basking in the quiet of no TV, enjoying the view of approaching dusk from the living room window, as I write today's blog. Stella is stretched out near my feet, Emmitt is muttering parrot-speak, and the chicks are chirping merrily away in the bedroom.

Mike gets antsy in the winter when business is slow. He was in the SeaBees during the Vietnam conflict, and still loves building and working with his hands. For many years, he enjoyed restoring vintage cars, but as he got older, crawling around under cars became just too hard on his body. He enjoyed fixing up a camping trailer for us quite a few years ago, so I suggested that he might enjoy restoring vintage campers.

He has fixed up a few and resold them, but this one is his baby. The style is called a 'Canned Ham' - I think this one is from 1953. When we got it, the insides were almost all rotted out, so he had to tear out the insides and reconstruct it.

Sadly, the old furnace wasn't really an option. When Mike rebuilt the camper, he did so with attention to detail. He used as much of the old cabinetry as possible and stayed as true to the time period as he could. However, he also subtly incorporated a solar collector, so the electricity is generated from solar gain. It can be plugged into an electrical outlet, but that hasn't been necessary.

Now a girl can sit pretty in front of it. emoticon

There have been a few additions to the restoration work since I took these photos. Mike has put in a reproduction vintage radio which houses a CD player/radio, and installed a curtain for the bathroom. We have vintage material for the window curtains, but haven't sewn them up yet.

Mike likes to take the camper to blues festivals, on camp outs with friends, and to the Vietnam Veterans' reunions. This weekend, off to hunt the elusive morel mushrooms with our dear friend from Brooklyn.

Last summer we went to the RV Museum in Elkhart, Indiana. This vintage camper looks a lot like ours, although it is made by a different company. In its hay day, ours would have been this shiny.

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:

WATERMELLEN 5/1/2010 12:48PM

    You two are obviously entirely suited to one another -- inventive, resourceful, talented!!

Love the pictures, love the respect . . . and Stella sitting out front!!

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MARY1313 4/29/2010 8:55PM

    Wow you husband is really talented! My step Dad invented the first pop up van for Ford, where you could sleep in it and move all the components around to be different designs. Long time ago.

But most importantly, Please tell your husband from an old Drill Sgt., thank you thank you thank you for his service. that was a tough war to be in and even tougher to come home from without any gratitude or thanks at all. I would hug his neck if I could.


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PENNYAN45 4/29/2010 4:03PM

    Your husband is so talented - and such a craftsman! I loved seeing the before and after photos of his camper.

You share so much of yourself in these blogs - I enjoy getting to know more about you - and 'meeting' the different people in your life.


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IUHRYTR 4/29/2010 1:48PM

    I admire his skills, ones I sadly lack. The restoration looks terrific. -- Lou

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OLDERDANDRT 4/29/2010 11:02AM

    Great restoration!!! I bet, before he's completely done, he'll find a way to make it shine like the museum piece you pictured, too!!! My dad was a carpenter and tinkerer....he would have really appreciated all the work put into the restoration, too!!! Enjoy your vacation playing single mom while he's out chasing mushrooms!! lol
Love the Diva putting her stamp of approval on the camper!

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HOPERISING 4/29/2010 8:38AM

    Wow! Woooooow! I am just in awe of this camper restoration! I love that he put in solar power too! I'm not real "into" the whole idea of the american dream and owning a big house... what I'd really like is just a little camper like that on a couple acres of land. ::sigh:: Enjoy your alone time!

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KATIEGLEN012 4/29/2010 6:59AM


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    Mike did a great job!

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ALEXTHEHUNN 4/29/2010 6:29AM

    What a great restoration. He does fine work.

I was born in 1953. I wish I could be restored even half as well.


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SKINNYROBIN100 4/29/2010 1:39AM

    What a great hobby your Mike has and so talented too! That camper looks like a great place to pull up to a camping spot and relax for a few days!!! Have fun in it!! emoticon

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2BHLTHY4LIFE 4/29/2010 12:41AM

    Chris,your dh is very talented that is a fantastic trailer,I love the beautiful wood in the interior and the detailed work that Mike does. I wish he and my dh could get together,Allan is the same way,he is finding out that his body can't handle laying on the ground or sitting on the ground for that matter.We have a 59 VW bus that we are trying to get ready to drive and participate in some local car shows. He might end up paying someone to do this.My dh loves to work with his hands too!His latest hobby has been old garden tractors,that he tinkers with. emoticonfor sharing this with us,I love your blogs they are so enjoyable. Take care! Diana emoticon

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PUDLECRAZY 4/28/2010 10:45PM

    LOL, Maha! Funny you should send that link. Last year, when we went to Elkhart, we took the camper Mike got for me - one with amenities like a shower. It is considerably bigger than his, and we managed to get stuck in an unmanned toll booth. There were some tense moments when we felt a bit like Pooh, stuck in Rabbit's doorway. We still get giggling fits over that one.

Bill, I wasn't married to Mike when he was in Vietnam and I honestly don't remember where he spent most of his time. He was in several different locations. Were you in the Marines?

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0309COOKIE 4/28/2010 10:33PM

    What a cool blog. I loved seeing the camper once finished and you know that I will always take and treasure a picture of Stella, lol.

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VALERIEMAHA 4/28/2010 9:57PM

    This one's for Mike:


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CLEVAGAL 4/28/2010 9:48PM

    What you call a camper trailer we call a caravan. In Australia we have caravan parks not RV parks. RV's are not common here in Australia but Aussies LOVE their caravans. My parents bought their first caravan when I was 12 years old (now 33) they have bought and sold over the years and now spend a good 5-6 months by the sea in their caravan.

Cleva xxx emoticon

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DOR2BFIT 4/28/2010 9:36PM

    VERY cool! I love it! emoticon

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BILLTMAN 4/28/2010 9:27PM

    Nice work. I think your hubby and I would get along great. I build custom cabinetry and furniture for a living. I love tinkering with and restoring old things as well. By the way, where did your husband work over in Viet Nam? I was stationed there for a year. The base I was on was being built by SeaBees during my stay there. Interesting.

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ROOBYBEGONIA 4/28/2010 9:08PM

    How fun! What a beautiful and loving restoration. :)

Stella is so adorable - I was just talking to my husband a few minutes ago about Stella and the newly-hatched chicks. :)

I know what you mean about the TV - when my man is out of town, it never gets turned on. Not that he watches a lot, mostly the PBS Nightly News ('Grown-Up News) and we watch a few DVD's together. No fun watching movies without him!


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VALERIEMAHA 4/28/2010 9:01PM

    WOW! What a great photo blog -- and vintage 1953!!!!!! It's absolutely beautiful. What great design work and finishing.

My new friend Juan is helping me with maintenance of my Toyota Dolphin, making sure it's "all systems go" for my summer adventuring. By day he works for the largest RV dealer in the area, and he can do it all. Not sure what the total will be, but I'm sure he'll be reasonable (the dealer charges $100/hr.)

Has Mike ever worked on Dolphins? Juan says mine is in incredibly good condition (1984!)

I don't want to pull anything and for me Small is Beautiful, but I'd have to say I'm definitely compact hehheh!

Enjoy your quiet moments (who are Tex and Vash?) in-between the hustle and bustle of the spring musical production. Morels hunting...now isn't that kewels-ville!!!
P.S. Thanks for the encouragement via the Goodie. I'll get there. I will!

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LN7777 4/28/2010 8:55PM

    Beautiful woodwork in the camper. It looks brand new : )

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Another Eclectic Yet Picturesque Blog

Monday, April 26, 2010

Lots of news to report today, along with my cloud and bloom journal.

First of all, my MIL, Glenna, had a good sleep last night and is doing much better today. Hopefully, she'll be moved out of ICU and into her own room on Wednesday. Mike is going camping with his buddies on Wednesday, but will only be 3 hours away in case he is needed. It looks like all is well at the moment.

The spring musical is progressing nicely. The leads have their lines memorized and are singing beautifully and sets and costumes are under construction. We get into the theater for rehearsals next Monday; our opening night is Friday, May 7.

I had to go out and buy materials for costumes after school today, making this another 12 hour work day. Tomorrow I have a Personnel Committee meeting and Wednesday, a faculty meeting, so the next few days promise to be at least 10-11 hour work days. Didn't I just blog about finding balance? emoticon Balance? Not, apparently, this week.

The chicks are getting to look like miniature chickens. They are so darn cute! I can't wait to get them out of the house, though - my house is starting to smell like a barn. They are dusty little things. I was hoping to have them in their coop this week, but it got too cold out; I have to wait for it to warm back up before moving them outside.

The blue birds do not have so happy a tale to tell. I checked their nest this afternoon to find that something had destroyed it. The nest looked smaller and there was not an egg left in it, no shells, no feathers. The babies would not have had time to hatch and fledge since the last time I checked on them, so I am afraid that disaster struck.

We have gotten some much needed rain over the last couple of days. The foliage is already becoming dense and lush. With the cold front coming through, the skies over Ohio are full of drama.

The old blooms have been floating down with the breeze and the rain, the redbuds making a flurry of pink petals in the wind. The new blooms of late April and early May are making their debuts. In the woods, the mayapples have begun to blossom...

and the ferns are unfurling along the shady borders of my yard.

Iris and tulips are coming into their own.

To Spring

O thou with dewy locks, who lookest down
Through the clear windows of the morning, turn
Thine angel eyes upon our western isle,
Which in full choir hails thy approach, O Spring!

The hills tell one another, and the listening
Valleys hear; all our longing eyes are turn’d
Up to thy bright pavilions: issue forth
And let thy holy feet visit our clime!

Come o’er the eastern hills, and let our winds
Kiss thy perfumèd garments; let us taste
Thy morn and evening breath; scatter thy pearls
Upon our lovesick land that mourns for thee.

O deck her forth with thy fair fingers; pour
Thy soft kisses on her bosom; and put
Thy golden crown upon her languish’d head,
Whose modest tresses are bound up for thee.

-William Blake

  Member Comments About This Blog Post:


    Nice pics!

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    My grandfather was a chicken farmer...he raised rhode island reds...and won many trophies for them...the picture of the birds reminded me of that. I love all the visuals!

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SKINNYROBIN100 4/28/2010 8:25PM

    What a beautiful blog. You are very talented, the photos, the writing, the poem! Just kidding on the poem! emoticon I hope your MIL keeps getting better and better.Take care and keep sparking on!!! emoticon emoticon emoticon

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    I am very glad to hear your MIL is doing better!
Your chicks are really cute. Your Barred Rock chicks look very similar to my Dominique chick.

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BIRDBRAIN222 4/27/2010 11:52PM

    Poor bluebirds! The chickens are cute, though. Glad your MIL is starting to do better.

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JOKNOWS 4/27/2010 6:55PM

    Thanks for the great photos and a lovely poem to welcome spring. Hope MIL recovers soon and sorry about the bluebirds.

And good luck with your theater production. emoticon

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JUST_TRI_IT 4/27/2010 6:12PM

    Lovely photos.. I was going down the page saying, THAT IS MY FAVORITE .. no.. HERE is my FAVORITE! ...and pretty much they were all my favorites!

Have a good time with the play!!

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OLDERDANDRT 4/27/2010 4:21PM

    So happy your MIL has had a good night and feels some better!

You must be a good teacher to have your students so enthused about the play and having their lines memorized!!!
The chicks are beautiful!!! Just like you said, like miniature chickens! How cute!
Sooo sorry about the bluebirds!! Could it have been a snake??? I thought the entrance to a bluebird house was too small for much else to enter! Can't imagine a wren doing something like that.
Love your pics. We've been cloudy,too and got quite a downpour a few hours ago!
Wow, have you studied photography? Your pics are really something to write home about!
Take care and with your long hours here for awhile, try to get enough rest so when you finally have time to play in the dirt (or whatever) you will have the strength and energy!!

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STARLASUE 4/27/2010 8:24AM

    Good to hear Glenna is doing better.

Your photos are lovely.

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CELLOSONG 4/27/2010 8:11AM

    Beautiful pictures!
What show are your kids doing? Hope it goes well! I know how much work goes into those productions :-)

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ASTABETH 4/27/2010 8:07AM

    I love seeing your pictures. Loved the fern unfurling!

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HOPERISING 4/26/2010 10:00PM

    I love your photography. You have a lot of talent!

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BUNNYSPAL 4/26/2010 9:51PM

    Hi. Glad your MIL is doing better. Loved the shot of the iris. Went to see my granddaughters play yesterday. The story of Moses. A musical version. It was about one hour long and was adorable. It was through the school choir. Grades one through eight. Good luck with your performance.

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MCGS62 4/26/2010 9:45PM

    The pride, joy and satisfaction after the spring musical will make al of the 10-12 hour days seem trivial. You are creating beauty and fond memories in more ways than can be imagined. emoticon

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MARY1313 4/26/2010 9:43PM

    Wow the rush of the last few weeks of school! You head must be whirling. Glad that the play is coming along.

I'm glad Miss Glenna got some good sleep last night. sleep gives strength.

OH NO! Poor little blue bird eggs! ah well, such is the way of nature.

like a barn! LOL I know exactly what you mean. My Grandmother raised chickens and that is where they were until it was warm enough to put them out too. Brought me back instantly to Fultondale, Alabama at a much tender age.

I love the pictures especially the intricate fern!

Even though you are crazy busy you have once again made my day! Thanks!


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CLEVAGAL 4/26/2010 8:48PM

    Chris, I know your busy this week but I would just like to remind you to drink plenty of water and get good sleep while things are busy darlin, Im still working on the blog about my mother, in my head will give you the link to my blog in case your not subscribed. Cleva xxx emoticon

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ALEXTHEHUNN 4/26/2010 8:26PM

    What lovely pictures! Just captivating. And to cap it off with Blake, well how can that be bad?


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ROOBYBEGONIA 4/26/2010 7:51PM

    I'm glad to hear that Glenna is doing better!

I can imagine the barn smell - lol! Sometimes you get more 'benefits' than you bargain for! :)

The pictures from your garden are lovely. Mine is being thoroughly watered by nature today, so I have not stepped foot outside!

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0309COOKIE 4/26/2010 7:50PM

    Glad to hear Glenna is doing well.

Too bad about the blue bird nest. That is so sad but that happens in nature. I often times find an egg here and there in my yard and wish I could find the nest and put it safely back where it came from.

Sounds like you are a busy bee. But it sounds like an enjoyable business.

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