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.

This post is a continuation of my series about some things going on in our family right now. Those are posts are:

On Tolerance, Part 1

On Tolerance, Part 2

On Education Rankings, Part 1

On Education Ranking, Part 2

On Awarding Mediocrity

As usual for this series, the pictures in this post have nothing to do with the post. These are from a hike our family took at the extinct volcanoes near us on Mother's Day, 2007. But before we could go, we had to wake up Chic who would have been more than happy to sleep in longer with her favorite cat.

You teachers and education majors, is there a class on how to pull off an effective parent-teacher conference? I am inclined to believe there is not, but if I were in charge of an education curriculum, I would make sure there was some such class.

Prince Charming and I have attended five parent-teacher conferences in our short history as the parents of a 2nd Grader, and I can promise you that none of them were much worthwhile.

Our first experience in this new world was October of 2007 when Chic was almost six and in Kindergarten. We walked in, the teacher was beaming and asked us to sit down and have a snack. (Do parents of Kindergartners need a snack for a 15-minute conference???) She had a folder in front of her with all kinds of stickers on it. Before she opened the folder, this teacher, Ms. S, started pointing at the stickers, still beaming. She then read each sticker to us: “Well done,” “Good Job,” “Excellent,” etc. My mind was reeling. I cast a sideways glance at Prince Charming and nearly choked at the look on his face. Wisely, he did not look at me.

We got a brief look inside that be-stickered folder to see that Chic’s work was indeed worthy of such praise, but that is something we already knew, and my guess was that every other student’s parents who arrived got the same beaming presentation.

A hill of very busy, giant ants.

I wanted to know how Chic was behaving in school.  Was she being nice to the other students? Was she getting along well with the others? What was the teacher’s perception of the whole school situation since, well, since she saw her 7 hours a day at school and I only got a couple of hours of which approximately 13 seconds could be attributed to Chic’s report of the school day.

So I asked questions. (The folder was closed by now.) The answers to my questions were actually the beaming teacher pointing to the stickers on the outside of the folder. “Her work is ‘well done.'” “She’s doing ‘excellent.'” You get the picture.

Since I knew Chic was a pretty well-adjusted girl and learned things easily and this was only Kindergarten, I decided to not let this bother me. She loved school, and I have come to think that loving school is the biggest key to learning.

In the  Spring we got exactly the same  useless thing, so I asked, “But I am guessing that every parent gets a folder like this with all these stickers on it, riiiiight?” “Yes,” admitted Ms. S, a little of the sparkle fading from her beaming face. “Well, what I really want to know is how CHIC is doing, not the same thing you tell everyone.” She was taken aback, but we had somewhat of a reasonable conversation after that. It did leave me to wonder if we were the first parents to think that the folder covered with stickers might not exactly be what we needed to know. (See the posts on education rankings for my opinion on this.)

Chic had a different teacher, Ms. J (referred to in Awarding Mediocrity) for grades 1 and 2. (She is still in 2nd grade as I write this.) I must admit that Prince Charming and I went into that first parent-teacher conference beaming. Part of that was because we knew Chic was doing so well, but most of it was because we were just excited to be going to a teacher we were pretty sure was not going to throw a folder covered with stickers in front of us. We sat down. We were offered snacks (apparently not limited to Kindergarten parents. For the record, we have never taken any of the offered snacks at these PT conferences.) We waited for an awkward moment, then Ms. J said, “We usually do not like to accelerate kids in first grade.” Prince Charming and I lost our beaming faces immediately as we searched the faces of each other to see if the other had ever said anything to anyone about Chic accelerating. It was easy to see that we were equally confused.

Now let’s point out that I do most of the talking at these events. Prince Charming steps in when I am totally fed up. He is not timid about these things, but we save his words for the really important times. So I said, “I was not aware we came here to talk about Chic accelerating. As a matter of fact, we do not wish her to accelerate in school. We wish her to be challenged and not bored, but we have a few reasons that make us want to not pursue acceleration, at least for now.”

Ms. J responded, “Oh. Well. Most parents with children who do ‘this well’ want to move them up.”

My response was, “We came here to see how ‘this well’ she is doing, and we are not most parents.”

My memory of the rest of that useless interview is gone. I have mentioned in a previous post that this teacher has trouble putting together two coherent sentences. (You may wonder why we sent our daughter to be taught by such a teacher, but we are open-minded, and just because a person cannot communicate with adults does not mean they cannot teach children. And someone whose opinion we trusted much told us this teacher was an excellent one.)

To be continued… (Friday, January 29)

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.

Hi Everyone,

It is travel time again, and although I actually wanted to do some posts ahead, time did not allow.

I know I owe all of you an ending to the stories about Chic and school. The holidays took over in a big way–a good way, but busy. And as always in everyone’s lives, unexpected things happen that sap our time and energy, so that will have to wait a couple of weeks.

So no posts at all while I am gone, but I will leave with you a sky picture from that wonderful reststop in Amarillo (which I will see today).

And after all of this is over, I really do hope to catch up a bit on the visiting! As the holiday stories unfold, I think you will understand about my limited time lately.

Have a Happy and Safe New Year!

I do not know what this was, but I liked the colors and textures.

You might think I am fixated on bathrooms. Not really, but I do appreciate a nice one, and especially a clean one, so here is another My World Tuesday post that is basically about a bathroom!

I live in New Mexico, and New Mexico has lousy rest stops. Honestly, do not stop at one unless you are dying. I would rather go behind a tree (which is a problem because there are not a lot of those along the highways in New Mexico) than stop at a rest stop in this state. I have more than one horror story relating to rest stops in New Mexico.

But Texas is different. Now it is quite a large state, so I cannot speak to every rest stop on every highway. But in the panhandle, the rest stops are nice–extremely nice. There are not many of them, but the panhandle is small. My favorite one is on the east side of  Amarillo at Exit 76 on I-40.

This rest stop is spacious and clean and just a nice place to stop. On our trips to and from Missouri, we always get gas in Amarillo (and often food), but we go to the rest stop additionally because it is cleaner, and we used to have a dog with us, so it was a better place to let him out.

Take a look.

This row of flags greets us upon entering. We think (but I was too lazy to research it) they are for all of the countries that have owned Texas.

The front entrance.

When walking into the building from the front, one crosses a bridge over this ornamental, dry riverbed. (My kids beg to play in it. I don't let them.)

A giant open field with rusted western ornaments surrounds the building on three sides. I let my kids run here. And the dog. But beware. Goatsheads may be prevalent at certain times of the year. Shoes and socks required, and you might have to take a spike out of a tender dog paw.

This is the back entrance. I just love that it is almost as nice as the front entrance.

When first entering the restroom, I am always taken by the cleanliness and nice smell. I kind of like the ceiling in there, too!

This is the floor of the bathroom stall. I think one would be hard-pressed to find a stray hair or even a spec of dust on it, let alone paper scraps and other debris!

The row of sinks. Rarely a drop of water on the counter do I find. I have never seen a janitor or worker in the bathroom. Maybe they are just so nice they inspire passers-through to keep them clean and dry.

This corridor leads from the restrooms to the front door. I like all the light.

I call this "the library." I have never seen such a large and tidy display of area information and brochures. The people working there are friendly. It is just a lovely place that makes me wish I had more time to stay.

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 was some of the holiday décor at the outdoor shopping complex, Branson Landing.

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