travel


Dear Readers,

The picture is a hay rake I saw during my last visit to Tennessee to see my daughter.

click photo to enlarge

I realize I have been absent a long time–almost a month. I have not turned on my “blogging computer” in that time more than two or three times. I apologize. All of you know life gets in the way sometimes. It got in the way very big and very unexpectedly after my last post. I have no idea when I will be back–if I will be back. I hope to be back, but I cannot predict anything.

Here is a little of it:

-Three months ago we had three pets. We now have one, and the other one we thought was lost as well. That has been a lot of stress, never mind time.

-Chic is still in Tennessee, and that takes a lot of time. Writing extra letters, sending extra packages, Skyping on her schedule and visiting. And although it is what is best right now, it is an emotional drain for us.

-Chic’s school here will be better next year, but there is giant upheaval that is causing extreme amounts of stress and time drain. Prince Charming is on the school board, and one week there were three meetings. There are meetings, interviews, etc. at least every two weeks, usually more, and private consults in between. (And I am so glad Chic is not here to be in the environment of upheaval.)

-A very good friend of ours has some serious health problems. We only recently learned the extent of the seriousness, and we know that we are among a handful in the know. Not only do we need to lend our time and support, but we want to.

What I hope is that this is like a new job with lots more responsibility. When I first get a job like that, there is often a big learning curve. It seems overwhelming, and I work late. But then suddenly, I figure it all out, and I am often bored like I was at the previous job. But I have not been bored in a long, long time. My schedule is always at maximum capacity, so extra things never fit. I might make them adjust with time, but I might not.

My life has thrown a lot at me lately that I have chosen to let take a lot of my time. I believe it is important that I do that, but the thing that has had to suffer is blogging (and Facebook). I have not even had time to get on here and do a post like this although I knew I should a few weeks ago.

I will be back when I can… if I can. But I think of you all the time. I  miss reading your blogs, but I know I cannot allow myself to do that right now or the daily things will not get accomplished. And I have a lot to tell you and show you, but now just is not the time.

Love you and miss you,

Louise

In August I promised to do a post on Antelope Island for My World Tuesday. Finally, here it is.

Although I have been to Salt Lake City many times for conventions for my business, I had never been to the lake.  This time my family and I made a point to spend part of a day there, and we chose Antelope Island. Wise choice. We will go back every chance we get when we are in  Salt Lake City.

We really thought the lake would be pretty non-exciting and smelly. It smelled a little, but was not bad. It might be worse at different times of the year.

We drove the 17-mile length of the island and took one hike. There are thousands of birds there as well as antelope and buffalo. (We only saw buffalo.) What a beautiful place. (Most pictures can be enlarged when clicked.)

The water was such an icy blue.

We hiked through these boulders, then I just sat and absorbed the view.

The boulders had many areas where the girls could play and hide.

Part of my view from atop a boulder.

We saw quite a few buffalo, but the bird on the back of this one makes it my favorite picture.

The terrain of the island as we drove from one end to the other.

This is the view one direction from the causeway as we were leaving. The number of birds along the causeway was astounding. And the colors and reflections captivated me.

My World is a weekly meme in which participants are virtual tour guides. Go check it out and see the worlds of others. Or better yet, take a look at the guidelines, and do your own My World Post!

My memory does not tell me why I got side-tracked last summer with presenting my summer vacation, but I did. Now is the time to finish it. (And who is going to complain about some warmer-weather pictures?)

I left you at Red Canyon, outside of Bryce Canyon. From there we went to Cedar Breaks National Monument.

We go to this place every single summer. I have a convention every summer in Salt Lake City which is why we take these family vacations to western National Parks. The very first year we passed through Cedar Breaks, and we always return because it is so beautiful. The wildflower meadows are a place that we must get a picture of our kids each year. The times of year we have gone have varied which means the flowers have varied at lot when we have been there. But it is always a wonderful sight, and perfect for pictures of little girls.

(I must warn you that friends and a fellow blogger have been there as well and have not had the spectacular weather we seem to be blessed with. The elevation is over 10,000 feet, so weather can be unpredictable, but it has always been spectacular for us. There is a big ski resort in the area for winter visits, but leaving toward Salt Lake would scare me to death if the roads were bad.)

This is the big attraction--the "breaks." It reminds me a lot of Bryce Canyon, but not so many hoodoos. This is looking right into the area.

This is looking left in the same area.

Thankfully they had a quick Junior Ranger program here because we are always passing through. The Junior Ranger program is really a good one. It not only teaches children about the area and nature, but about being responsible with nature.

A week earlier or later and one would see completely different colors in a field like this.

I am sure these are not uncommon, but Cedar Breaks is one of the few places I have personally seen white thistle.

The wildflowers alone would be reason enough to detour here every year, but the "breaks" in the background make it absolutely spectacular. This is one of my favorite places I have ever been.

My World is a weekly meme in which participants are virtual tour guides. Go check it out and see the worlds of others. Or better yet, take a look at the guidelines, and do your own My World Post!

This is the end of my multiple posts about education and our family. The previous ones are:

On Tolerance, Part 1

On Tolerance, Part 2

On Education Rankings, Part 1

On Education Ranking, Part 2

On Awarding Mediocrity

On Parent-Teacher Conferences, Part 1

On Parent-Teacher Conferences, Part 2

On Parent-Teacher Conferences, Part 3

Since this is so long, I will review and cover the rest of the story differently than usual. (Thanks Reluctant Farm Chik for your help on getting my complaint to the school onto one page.)

We were in TN over the New Year. The first part of our journey was ice-covered highway in NM... in the dark. It is interesting to note that NM does not really get worse snow than other places, but they apparently don't get enough to budget snow removal equipment/supplies. Interstates close a lot here when the weather is bad; we were lucky it was not closed when we went.

Historical Facts (as seen by me and elaborated on in the above posts):

  • We live in a region of the country in which education is not a top priority.
  • At Chic’s school, she was one of few scholars.
  • Chic attended a private, parochial school.
  • Chic was ahead of her class in most, if not all subjects.
  • Many in the class ridiculed Chic because she was “smart.”
  • There was little/no teacher intervention regarding the ridicule.
  • Chic has not been raised in a pop culture environment, thus she is “different” from most of the other students in her school, despite its parochial nature.
  • Chic’s social structure for second grade has been difficult because a 4-some of friends turned into a 3-some, and Chic, being different, was the one usually left out.
  • Chic’s teacher/s did not notice that her friend structure had changed.
  • Parent-teacher conferences were not a place to get real information. Teacher/s usually took the approach of keeping parents happy without divulging any real information. Real issues were avoided.
  • When real issues were addressed with teachers, the observations of the teachers changed. (From “she’s doing fine” to “she’s immature.”)
  • Teacher/s were not demanding, teaching, or modeling life skills such as kindness and getting along.
  • Teacher/s were allowing students to dictate classroom environment.
  • Teacher/s punished tattletales inappropriately unless tattletales were pet students, in which case the behavior was encouraged.
  • Teacher/s modeled disorganization and disrespect.
  • Classroom/playground supervision was inadequate.
  • Teacher/s were biased in analysis of students and their academic abilities.
  • Teacher/s flip-flopped on significant educational plans. (“Your student should be placed in advanced classes for certain subjects” to “Your child is too immature to handle advancement.”)
  • Teacher communication was ineffective and unprofessional.
  • Prince Charming and I, as parents, are not perfect. Neither is Chic. We approached this for three semesters with an open mind realizing that not everything could go our way.

When in TN, our friends had a flying squirrel in their house. It had been there a while--behind the fireplace--but they couldn't get it. It came out while we were there. Very cute. (The foggy picture is because it was SO COLD, and this was taken when releasing it.)

Things we did about the above:

  • Discussed concerns at length with teachers. (No results.)
  • Discussed concerns with trustworthy, knowledgeable friends not involved in these issues to better ground ourselves and assure our objectivity. (A very few were unsympathetic saying that schools will always have problems–we realized that already. Most were shocked it could be so bad and made us realize we had put up with a lot more than we should have.)
  • Discussed the issues with the school Principal. (This was ongoing. Many of the incidents did not seem “big enough” to report until more and more happened. The big picture was disturbing, so the Principal knew the whole story by the end of the semester and was extremely supportive.)

Things that could not change:

  • The teacher/s could not be removed. Apparently though I have heard various complaints about Chic’s primary teacher for several years, there was no documentation. (This was the current Principal’s first year and without documentation could do nothing, though she had wished to remove a teacher before I ever talked to her.)
  • The attitudes of the teacher/s. Apparently though counseled on specific behavior problems, issues addressed to them by parents, the Principal or School Board members resulted in: flat denials, blaming others and often subtle retaliation against students of specific parents.

Our Options:

  • Send Chic to another school.
  • Homeschool Chic.

We saw neither of these as viable options since removing Chic from school would be seen by other parents as a huge blow to the school. (Small environment.) We had no quarrel with the school or the Principal, but with specific teachers. The school is small and has financial difficulties, so any blow to it, large or small, could potentially end its life.

Although it was bitter cold for our visit, there were a lot of pretty skies. I was going to save many of these for SkyWatch Friday, but I thought they would go with this post.

Our Solution:

This was not our idea. It was Reluctant Farm Chik‘s. She is my educational/parenting mentor. She is SO with it in those areas. Most people think I am with it (except that I shield my children from a lot of pop culture which many think is cruel), but those people have not met Reluctant Farm Chik.

When she first suggested it (on my voice mail), I thought she was joking. She knew our reasons for not sending Chic to another school or homeschooling her. She said her idea was different.

On December 30, 2009, the four in our family and a minivan packed pretty tightly headed on a tw0-day trip east. On New Year’s Eve we arrived in the-middle-of-nowhere-way-out-in-the-sticks Tennessee. (It was overcast and we missed the New Year’s Eve Blue Moon.)

We spent January 1 and 2 in Tennessee and three of us left on January 3. We left just-turned-8-year-old Chic there to go to school for a semester. This is what I meant when I said in an earlier post that many of you may think we are unfit parents by the time we get to the end of this story. (Who leaves their 8-year-old two days drive away for five months?)

Why we did this:

  • We did not think our options allowed for home school or a different local school. (That was not a permanent decision. We will not continue to let that stop us after this semester.) This option let us tell people that “Chic got this really great opportunity to live on a farm with a horse with great friends–something she’s always wanted to do. We couldn’t pass it up.” No damage to the school, although if we did not have thick skins, there would be a lot of damage to us from people who think we are absolute idiots.
  • We have complete faith and trust in Reluctant Farm Chik and her family. They are treating Chic like one of their own. She has a new “brother” and “sister” (both older–a dream for her). She has 8 new cousins (one who realized he could not have a crush on her because she was “his cousin.”) She has a new set of grandparents and several aunts and uncles. She is in a loving, family environment.
  • Although kids will have bad times in school and bad teachers (I had bad teachers from grades 4-8), the early years are too important in setting the stage for school satisfaction and learning. My first three years of school were perfect which is why I came out of 8th grade not completely despising education. Chic has had a horrible start which is crazy for someone who excels at school. She was starting to hate school AND hate learning. Something had to change.
  • Chic is balanced and mature enough to handle it. (Despite what her teachers said.)

I tried to take pictures of these several times on our trip to and from TN, but going down the highway at 75 mph meant that most of them were not that great. My kids (living in a desert) were amazed by these. They look just what I grew up with in MO.

How it is going:

  • Chic loves school. She is learning at her level in all subjects. She is a little intimidated that her math education here was so far behind that she’s only at the same level of her second grade class (and not doing as well as the 4th graders which is what she expects), but overall it is good.
  • Chic had instant friends.
  • Chic loves her teacher.
  • We hate Skype. (Not really, but it usually leaves us feeling unsatisfied.)
  • We miss her like crazy.  (We already have two visits under our belt.  Ahead are Spring Break and two more visits.)
  • Chic has only cried a couple of times–when we left her, and when I left from a visit. She was fine both times right away.

What the future holds:

  • We don’t know! I wish we knew! Chic will not return to her old school unless there are dramatic changes. (Probably two teachers would have to be gone for her to go back. It is a small school, so unless they are gone, she will have the same teachers next year. If they had major attitude changes, that would be OK, too, but so far they do not even acknowledge that there was a problem.)
  • We might home school.
  • We have even thought of moving. Someone asked if we were living in the right place. No, we are not. Well, I think we are in every way except social culture (which means little to me because I am too busy for much socializing, and we do have some very good friends here. I am referring to the society in general.) and education. We love it here otherwise. Also, Prince Charming’s job is here, and his job means I am a stay-at-home mom. That is why we moved here in the first place. But moving is not out-of-the-question, just not on the immediate horizon. (And giving up my skies would be a tough thing indeed!)

This was the favorite picture I took while on that trip. It includes the "Pondwatch" pond.

It boils down to we are responsible for our children. Our school is not. Our church is not. God forbid if society was! We will do what is best for them.

We are looking forward to May, but we do not regret a bit of what we did. It is changing all of us (mostly for the better) forever. All of us are growing. Experiences like this cannot be bought. And Chic is happy. (And I got the best hug she has ever given when I visited last month.)

So full of innocence and promise. We must take care of her, even if it means someone else is taking care of her right now.

My life the past month has been packed full of travel. The biggest part of three (out of four) weeks have been traveling here or there. Last week/weekend, I went to visit my friend, Reluctant Farm Chik.  It rained. Then there was fog. Then it rained. Then there was sleet. One day the clouds were thin enough that one could barely see a shadow, and everyone was so excited that “the sun was shining.” I think I have lived in the Southwest too long. The sun was NOT shining. It was gloomy.

Usually this time of year I get comments about how my sky is bright and pretty while the other skies are gloomy. I apologize that I have not been home enough to give you a beautiful, cheerful sky picture, but I think this one has some interesting elements. (If you go back a little on RFC’s blog, you’ll find her “Pond Watch” entries to SWF. This is the same pond.)

click photo to enlarge. (It WILL be prettier.)

To see LOTS more terrific sky pictures or to find out how to participate in this meme, head to the SkyWatch blog.

Going back to my New England trip in October. I saved this one for a post of its own, but then had too many other things I had to post, so now its turn is here.

The pictures speak for themselves. I love all the stones in New England, and this was the height of stonework I saw. All photos will enlarged when clicked.

My World is a weekly meme in which participants are virtual tour guides. Go check it out and see the worlds of others. Or better yet, take a look at the guidelines, and do your own My World Post!

Last week I was in Phoenix at a stamping Leadership Conference. Unlike last year’s conference in Orlando, I was not completely wiped out and actually went to it. But I did skip one class, and the view from my window when I did that was worth it to me.

This was through a thick and dirty window, but I thought it was beautiful anyway.

To see LOTS more terrific sky pictures or to find out how to participate in this meme, head to the SkyWatch blog.

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