Birthday-eve

Tomorrow, Peanut turns 6. She is very excited about her party and she has been busy all day with pre-birthday plans. I came home on my prep. period to go with Sue and my mom over to her school where we served pudding cones with crumbled Oreo cookies on top and gummy worms put in. I had mine sans the worms–not a fan. But it was really good.

Hard to believe that it was 6 years ago tonight that Sue and I went into Community Memorial Hospital as it drizzled rain on us and walked hand in hand through the doors and up to the maternity ward. Sue stayed all night and I waited around but it was apparent nothing was happening at that point. So-I went home with an order to be called should anything change. I went back on Saturday and the rest of that day is largely a blur. I remember eating dinner with my sister-in-law and then I was at the hospital. Sue had an emergency c-section and Peanut was born at 8:33 P.M. Yeah, I know—why am I writing this?

Not terribly sure, really. I just thought it was important. It certainly was the most important part of our lives.

It’s good to have a weekend…it’s going to be better when spring break comes. I need a break, I think. The pit of my gut has a knot in it and I’m tired, low-key, melancholy in a way. Nothing serious–but rather, a need to slow down. The pace has been very fast lately and I’ve been keeping up well–but, I need to derail for a little bit–and luckily, another week and I’ll be able to do that.

Since Peanut was born, I’ve always felt spring doesn’t arrive until her birthday—so, Happy Spring.

Changes

As I sit here and write this peanut is still awake much to my chagrin. What happened? Routine changed, that’s what. Grandma arrived and for some reason that counts as throwing everything out of whack. So, I was slated to lay down next to her while she fell asleep tonight–this is a process that normally spans 10 minutes. 20 if she’s having a rough night. However, after about 40 minutes, she still wasn’t asleep and I was getting frustrated. Rather than take that out on her as I have done in the past, I asked Sue to go in and cover for me. That was half an hour ago and I peeped in just 5 minutes ago and peanut was still awake. More frustration.

She seems to need to know at every turn that things are going to maintain an even keel and that even keel is to be dead-even. Any changes, any turbulence, any rocking of the ship of family and she goes bonkers. The result of this, of course, will be that she will be overly tired tomorrow and grouchy. Hopefully, though, by then it will sink in that it’s time for bed when it’s time for bed–and she’ll go to sleep like normal. Oy.

Other than that, I’ve got nothing. Mom is here and getting ready for bed herself, I believe. I’m pretty beat myself and will head there soon if I can. We shall see. We stopped at our usual coming-home-from-Burbank-Airport-haunt, Dakota’s in Simi Valley. If we’re arriving home around dinner time, we invariably stop there whether returning ourselves or picking someone up and bringing them home. Good food if a bit pricey and a nice way to break up the freeway drive. In truth, it’s only Interstate 5 that’s bad for traffic. Once you’re on the 118, things go pretty nicely–even on Friday’s we’ve found.

Anyway, at the Simi Valley Town Center, they have a cool little train that cruises through the corridors–and that’s it below. Peanut and I went for a ride and had a blast. I don’t know why or how my little girly-girl got to like trains, but I’m grateful even if I know it may not last. I’ll take what I can get…

Data Mining and other worthless past-times

Well, WASC (see below) has come and gone from our fair school. I grew a little bit weary as I stood at the culminating meeting today where a bunch of well-meaning educators stood up and announced that the data, the statistics, the mining, the scores, the API, AYP, and the rest of it–all meant that so far, we’re…..well, we’re a high school. Yeah. I got that.

The problem, of course, is that the system is so profoundly flawed and from a number of perspectives that it’s nearly impossible to understand anything WASC does as meaningful beyond the artificial measuring sticks.

I think if President Bush was serious about picking up a few points in the ole popularlity category, he could do one thing that would cost no money and win him praise from both sides of the aisle: Abandon NCLB, disband the Federal Dept. of Education and tell the states to submit their requests for Fed. dollars in writing–we’ll go from there. Maybe that would lead ultimately to the government actually realizing that they need to get out of education altogether.

Never happen. And what’ s sad is that there are people out there right now who think suggestions like this aren’t serious–that they’re silliness and irresponsible. I’ll tell you what’s irresponsible–setting up a one-size-fits-all test for every child across the nation and using that as a basis for data that tells us whether or not the child is learning. That’s absurd. No-it’s actually stupid and it will bite us in the ass someday in the near future.

Jeff Jacoby called for a separation of school and state. I second the motion. Now.

Allow me to enumerate

* WASC is at our school evaluating us. We’re all trying to be good.
*The newspaper, perhaps our best yet, comes out tomorrow. 16 pages, lots of diversity–and the kids did a pretty solid job.
*This is the last deadline week for the Yearbook.
*I have 68 2 page test-essays to grade by Wednesday.
*Period 3 starts the Grapes of Wrath tomorrow. This is the class for whom it took a month to read 9 chapters of The Great Gatsby. Grapes is 30. Sigh.
*I’ve applied to work second session of summer school and have lots of competition.
*I’m writing a lot of stuff on spec. No pay…..yet.
*Peanut’s 6th birthday this Saturday!
*My back is screaming because of the 5K yesterday.
*I drank margarita’s tonight rather than water, wine or beer.
*My mom is coming on Thursday.
And this is why I’m simply not posting tonight…

Time

45:46. That was mine. I was 8th in my age group and I had fun. It was my first 5K and I’m a walker, a hiker, not a runner. I kept a good pace and there were mild hills, nothing beyond that. As for exercise, it was pretty good, but nothing like the hikes I do at home.

Slept pretty well, though it was noisy outside until late last night. The beds here are comfortable and that helped. Scott fell asleep and says he didn’t wake until about 6:00 this morning. I got awake 3 or 4 times, but nothing awful. I felt rested enough to do the walk. Scott’s still on the half marathon and I expect he’ll be finished within the hour so I’ve come back here to the hotel to clean up. That way, when I go get him–he can do the same before we check out.

Time, then–to head down the coast and see the fam. I missed my girlys last night as I always do when I’m away from them for long and so having accomplished what I came here to do, I’ll pick up some wine, possibly some Chilaquile sauce from Joe’s and get down through the Santa Barbara traffic before too late this afternoon. Hit that town on a Sunday any-time after 2:00 and you’ll be stuck for a long time.

UPDATE: Scott bested his own time and did the half marathon in 2:12:59, which is pretty darned good for a guy who, a couple of months ago, was overly heavy. He’s dropped more than 50 pounds and is running half marathons. Wow! Very impressive.

I, on the other hand, am going to go back to hiking hills–though I don’t discount doing another 5K. However, the $55.00 registration rather put me off and I don’t like to spend money to do exercise. It was for a good cause, yes–but I have lots of good causes I can give to without being charged to lose weight. Still, I liked the atmosphere and absolutely love Paso Robles. Cold this morning, cloudy and in the 50’s with only a little precipitation, misty stuff. It didn’t feel overly-humid, though–and so it was a good day to do the race.

Onward, yet again.

Paso Robles

From there, gentles. Here in the Black Oaks lodge where last I stayed with my wife some 6 or 7 years ago.

Scott’s running a half marathon here in Paso and they have a 5K walk that I decided to sign up for when Scott asked me to ride along. Running 13 miles for a novice leaves little room for wanting to drive the 165 miles back home when he’s done tomorrow. So, I’ll do the walk, Scott will do the run and then when finished, we’ll clean up and head back home–but not before stopping for some of the local wine. We thought to investigate Salisbury and maybe Gelfand as well as a few others.

I did trial walk today of 3 miles and did OK. I have some abdomen soreness for sundry reasons and I have some stiffness in my back and in my left foot. But, barring anything else, I feel good to go the distance.

Always hard to leave the girls for the night–and that’s difficult. But, I was home all day and didn’t leave until close to 5. I’ll be home tomorrow for dinner as well, so it’s not too bad. I have always known that I was a home body but time has made that more pronounced and now, with our new home (7 months now!) and the patio we built together as well as the place itself, I just like being there. And when the girlys are there, it’s even better. Home is good.

Funny, Sue and I have spent a great deal of time in Paso Robles and my dad lived here for a few years. It has changed, though. There are dozens of new strip malls. more traffic, more night-life and according to the local Chamber, weekend occupancy from pretty much now through fall is about 95%.

The Black Oaks was considered one of the best rooms in town back around 2000, but I’ll tell you–while the rooms are very nice, the noise level is….unacceptable. As I write, there’s a small child squealing with either delight, or sheer terror a room or two away. There are a couple of guys in the parking lot talking like they’re waiting for a table in a crowded large restaurant–you can hear the conversation…something about what kind of oil to use in the pickup. There’s traffic noise, not from the freeway, but from the road which is Highway 46–and lots of people in both their rooms–and outside talking and chatting. It’s 9:00 at night mind you. I remember staying here with Sue when 9:00 at night in Paso meant the sidewalks rolled up and there was nothing going on. That was charming, I thought. I liked when that happened. Now–it’s basically a lot like every other motel in any other town. Sad, really.

Well, we got a room–and it’s one night and the kids are asleep at home. All’s well.

Hyperbole

Wait a sec. Strike that last—let’s start over.

It’s a fairly small community I live in–small for California, anyway. Well, no–small for Southern California. Actually, the state of California is filled with small towns…from Firebaugh to Cambria, from Los Osos to Cayucos, it’s a state filled with small towns. My town has about 60,000 people in it. That seems large to many, but we’re about 70 miles northwest of the megalopolis of Los Angeles. Heck, Disneyland is only 85 miles from my doorstep (a thing, by the way, that fills me with infinite happiness). So–living here feels like a small town. Nuff said.

I mention this only because I have to be relatively mild when writing about the school board for the district in which my daughter is a student. Let me give you a hypothetical. If I were to call them cowardly cretins, political opportunists, scorched-earth, agenda bearing, small-minded, selfish, silly, stumbling, drunken buffoons–well sir, that would qualify as horribly over the top. And I would not do such a thing….

So, I will state this: My daughter’s school will remain open, though not in-tact. Instead, they will move the entire program to a new campus at a school that happens to be about two blocks from our home. And I would rejoice if it were not for the fact that doing so would be rather like standing atop the ashen heap of civilization with a million dead bodies laying around claiming victory over the vicious Huns who had been driven off–after much blood and sacrifice. That would be….gratuitous.

I am glad the program will survive. It’s a good program. And I am glad that the district finally made a decision. Their feckless ways have haunted our fair city for too long. The underlying problem is that there is a desire in the district to unify with the high school in our community–where I teach–and that high school belongs to another district. Our elementary schools are in their own K-8 sort of deal. They don’t like it, they want a high school and they have set their teeth for it. “No King of Elementary if not King of K-12!” to coin a phrase.

There are a number of hurt and angry people in this community now and the school board has simply pitted teachers against parents and students holding their salaries hostage and saying that they cannot raise those salaries unless they close neighborhood schools. That’s all good and well, but the fact is the reason that they cannot get that money is because they are pretty badly mismanaged, I think–and that’s because they’ve spent a great deal of money on lawyers and surveys and all manner of things in an attempt to unify with the high school.

Let’s be clear, by the way, that barring an act of God (or Governor Schwarzenegger), unification is not going to happen. It’s just not.

So all that can be said is that there are still a number of unhappy people in the community and that while I am less unhappy than I was, I am aware that some people and many kids, are just not sure what they are doing for school next year.

And you know, I’d be more sanguine if I didn’t know that our fair city is not the only place where this is happening. I’ll bet scenarios like this are being played out across the U.S. This is why I’ve come to the conclusion, after much consternation, that ultimately, the Federal government needs to get out of education, not add to its problems. Schools are best when they are locally run (albeit when that means responsible people are running them) and decisions are made locally. Forcing students into one-size fits all education through a battery of national, multiple-choice tests and standards does not make smarter kids. In fact, in a way it adds to the very problem about which I write here by simply being a series of hoops that are forced upon a district without funding and that means more spent money with nothing to show for it.

But I digress….

Buffoonery and Tom-foolery are simply part of the political game and ax grinding, selfish agendas and baiting opponents into an open confrontation is a way to avoid the intellectual honesty that comes from taking stock of how best to make things better–not make things work for you and your cronies.

But, I don’t want to get personal….

Radical Change

They are closing my daughter’s school. Mind you, I fought my wife on sending her there. It’s a structured school and my original thought was that wasn’t for Peanut. I was wrong-and Peanut has thrived in the environment. She’s had her rough spots and she does get ahead of herself, races to get work done and doesn’t take time to do it right–but her teacher and we have worked with her and made serious progress. She loves her teacher, her friends, her school.

And they’re closing it.

It was a jarring thing and it took my wife especially hard. She was not happy and in fact is notably angry. She’s going to write letters, make phone calls, all of which I encourage. But I’m a teacher and I have been around these things. The letters and calls won’t make a difference. The decision has been made.

So, tonight–and tomorrow, my wife and I are deciding what to do and what steps to take. We have considered sending her to a local private Christian school for some time. As Christians ourselves, we have found that we like the curriculum offered by such places and it may well be the time to make that jump–we simply do not know right now.

We have not yet told Peanut and I don’t know that we will say anything until the time is right. One thing we’ve learned so far is that Peanut responds well to change if it is structured change–if over time, the change she will go through is discussed with her and she is made ti understand it, she does fine. If she is rushed into things–she panics and develops symptoms like inability to sleep, nervousness, crying, etc. We’ve learned to avoid that. I guess all kids do what she does to some degree-and she’s by no means severe—but she is a kid who appreciates a pattern and we intend to give that to her.

I guess I am only a little angry. The reason for all this turmoil in the school district is because as a k-8 district, its ultimate goal is to unify with the school where I teach and become a k-12 district. It has sacrificed a great deal of money and a number of schools (by closing them) to achieve a goal that it has not yet been able–nor allowed by the state–to reach. When I was union rep, one of the school board members and the then superintendent wooed me into conversations trying to get our teachers to support unification. At the time, we had a principal who was pretty awful and they played on that information to get us to try to foment a revolution of sorts. It didn’t work. Our teachers simply said, “show us what you’ve got to offer…” And they couldn’t offer anything because legally, they are bound not to make any promises until new negotiations are held, etc. It’s a mess, actually.

That’s the background, anyway. The district still wants to unify and so it is closing more schools, sacrificing pubic opinion and burning a lot of bridges. Quite honestly, we’re tired of it and this may be just the impetus we need to put Peanut into a private school….

Ah…politics.

Sleep Deprived

I was able to sit tonight for a time on the patio with a fire in the outdoor fire place and a glass of Pinot Noir in hand. The fog was in and the cool air was augmented by the warm and glowing fire, which is slowly dying as I write this. It was a delight after a weekend of running with the family back down to Disneyland to celebrate Peanut’s 6th birthday which will be at the end of this month.

We stayed in a crummy hotel not worth mentioning. The room itself was a far better amplifier than most of the ones I’ve played my bass on and the people above us apparently distinguished themselves by needing less than 5 hours of sleep a night. They also, and this is said without full proof, like to perform what can only be described as exuberant Russian or perhaps Greek dancing all night. Mind, there was no music–just stomping…and various kinds of yelling.

I’ve got a deadline looming Tuesday for a piece I am writing for wine country and this, combined with drooping eyelids, force me to move on and say goodnight…