Ruffled Feathers and Spilled Milk

Farming with ducks and dairy goats, chickens and children.

AIM High.

Posted on | December 16, 2014 | 5 Comments

High school has been a new experience for us.  But some things never change in the public school system.  Some things are as predictable as pizza in the school cafeteria on Fridays.  Like the poor secretary left holding the bag in the front office.  You know, the one facing a long line of irritated parents while the administrators cower behind closed doors.  Whatever that job pays, it can’t be enough.  Not even close.

This week I arrived in the office to pick up Big for an orthodontist appointment.  Several parents (by “parents”, I mean “mothers”, of course) were already in front of the beleaguered secretary, looking confused.  The secretary was explaining that all the students were in AIM and as soon as each mother told her which room her child was in, the child could be called down to the office and checked out.  This was confusing because knowing which room the children were in kind of seemed like something the front office would know.  But, then again, the children were in AIM.

AIM is a new high school program and stands for Aim, Impact & Achieve.  For 25 minutes near the end of the day the students have an opportunity to attend tutoring, listen to career education, collaborate on projects in the media center, study in quiet rooms, or exercise in the gym.  Meeting in the cafeteria for socializing had to be immediately removed from the AIM opportunity choices because it was, obviously, the most popular.  Which was only fine if the school was AIMing for violating the cafeteria’s capacity fire code.  Although I’m not sure why meeting in the cafeteria got such a bad rap.  It’s high school, people.  Every single one of these options turns into socializing.

AIM is similar to a program called GAP, which my children had in middle school.  GAP operated on the same principle but was held each morning.  I don’t remember what GAP stood for because it was very short-lived, lasting only a semester before being abandoned.  First of all, it was a terrible acronym.  The school is usually better at disguising the substance of its initiatives, but GAP was exactly what it sounded like—-an empty space each morning where the children wandered the hallways, doodled at their desks, or read the latest series of vampire or dystopia novels.  The teachers initially objected to our children reading novels as the time was officially set aside for homework or tutoring.  When we pointed out that our kids didn’t need tutoring and couldn’t wait until the morning to complete assignments that were due that day (what if it wasn’t done before GAP was over?), the school relented.  I’m not actually sure if this was because they agreed with our reasoning or because I sent in The Other Half to handle it.  6′4″ of Daddy in flannel shirt, toboggan, and combat boots tends to get a bit more respect than Mommy.

Like GAP, AIM sounds great in theory, but it has been struggling.  It has been revised several times in an attempt to reduce the socializing.  Which just makes me wonder if whoever created AIM has worked with high school students before or if AIM is some 19 year old’s thesis experiment for an education degree at one of the local universities.  Going to the gym for “exercise” or library for “collaboration” is now limited to just once or twice a week.  The effect of this is that a lot of “collaboration” has moved into the so-called “quiet” rooms.  And all of it is upset by the fact that teachers are supposed to peruse the hallways when the AIM bell rings and any students still wandering just get dragged into the closest room for the duration.  I’m guessing this was needed because a lot of students were traveling the halls, peeking into each classroom to see who was there before deciding which “quiet” room was most amenable to their “collaborating.”

While the AIM innovators are stymied by focusing high schoolers on academics as opposed to the latest relationship break-up, though, the real difficulty is for parents (i.e, moms) picking up a child for an early dismissal, such as an orthodontist appointment.  You know, the orthodontist that never answers the phone after 4pm or works on Fridays but will drop you from the list, charge $25 for a missed appointment, and reschedule you for 6 weeks later if you’re more than 5 minutes late for your appointment time?  Yeah, that guy doesn’t like to be inconvenienced by tardy parents who didn’t know which room their child was in at school.  Which leaves a bunch of moms standing in the front office, blockaded by a secretary who only knows our children are somewhere in the building in some classroom pursuing some AIM objective.  And as soon as we tell her which classroom and AIM objective that is, she will get our children for us.

I stepped up with confidence.  I am not particularly recognized in our community for knowing the intimate details of my children’s academic lives.  I have never yet signed onto PowerSchool, the parent enslaving device that allows us to keep track of the acceptance and grading of each assignment as it is received and reviewed by the teacher.  I expect my children to get good grades and I expect the school to send me a report card each semester.  End of story.

I ensure my children are enrolled in the appropriate classes but the specifics are handled by my children themselves.  A parent (i.e., mother) asked me the other day if Big was in advanced math.  I told her that, yes, he was in currently in Math III.

“Yes,” she responded,  “but what is Math III?”

I blinked at her.

“Math III comes after Math II and allows him to move into AP Math for college credit next year.”

“Yes, but what is it?” she insisted.

I blinked at her.

“You know,” she continued.  “Is it algebra or trigonometry or precalc?”

“Oh,” I shrugged.  “I don’t know.  He hasn’t asked for any help with his homework so I haven’t seen any of the assignments from class.

She blinked at me.

“Well, have you checked Powerschool to see how he’s doing?”

Sure, lady.  I don’t even know what the III in Math III stands for, but I’m on Powerschool every minute of every day.  Really, where did this obsession with our children come from????

So on this one occasion, I was excited to show the school that I knew exactly what was going on with my child.  I pushed to the front of the line and smiled.

“My son is in a quiet room,”  I asserted.  I wasn’t exactly 100% sure about this.  I knew Big usually read in a quiet room because he complained about all the loud “collaborating.”  But Big had also been talking over dinner about the time he and another student spent dismantling and reassembling computers to check monitors and keyboard function for the teacher.  That might have been during AIM, too, but I felt vaguely sure that occurred during Drafting class while he was waiting for the other kids to catch up on CAD assignments.  See?  I am an involved parent.  Just in a kind of blurry, peripheral, is-it-their-bedtime-yet kind of way.  Which seems a whole lot healthier than PowerSchool.

But the secretary was not impressed.

“There are 10 quiet rooms, ma’am,” she said.

“And they change every week,” added another mother, wearily.  “I already tried that.”

The secretary held up an AIM schedule and suggested that in the future we could ask our children which AIM class they intended to participate in so they could be contacted easily for early dismissal.

“But what if the sign up is already full for the class they intended to sit in?”

“Or what if they get dragged into a random room because they’re running late in the hallway?”

“What if they decide to get tutoring from a teacher on an assignment they just received that day?”

What if there’s a real emergency and I need my child and you have no idea where she is????

The secretary looked over her shoulder, desperately, and we all listened to the soft clicks of administrative doors closing.

I hope that front office job has good benefits.  Really good benefits.

The secretary sighed.

“Let me write down your kids’ names.  I’ll start calling each AIM class on the intercom until we find your children.”

I looked at my watch in despair, the secretary picked up her pen, parents (i.e, mothers) jostled for position in line and then we all looked up as footsteps rounded the corner and the office door swung open.

Could it be a helpful administrator that would jump in and start calling classrooms as well?

Maybe The Other Half, looking big and brave enough to move us to the front of the line?

Perhaps the inventor of AIM so he or she could get a well-deserved kick in the shin?

Nope.  It was Big.

“Hey!”  I exclaimed.  “What are you doing here?!”

He shrugged.

“I saw it was getting close to my appointment time.  I figured you were in the office trying to check me out and they had no idea what classroom I was in.  So I asked the teacher for a hall pass so I could come down and get checked out.”

He held out a hall pass—a note scribbled on a scrap piece of paper in green pen and signed by a teacher.  An old school triumph against all the technological advances in the school system.  No intercom needed, no cell phone calls, no exchange of texts.  Just a kid asking a teacher for a hall pass so he wouldn’t be late to the orthodontist.

My heart swelled with pride.  Honor roll and sports championships are all fine and well.  But, oh, to know you raised your child with the right amount of common sense and cynicism to navigate the our country’s finest public institutions successfully!  On his own!

I clapped him on the back happily as we left the office, envious faces following our passage out to the minivan.

“Nice work!”  I told him.  “I thought I’d never get out of there.  The secretary was going to call every single room on the intercom!!!”

“Huh,”  he said.  “Usually the teachers have to go room to room, down each hallway, asking if anyone knows where a kid is during AIM.”

Yeah.  That job doesn’t pay enough either.

We were only 8 minutes late to the orthodontist but they had already removed Big’s name from the sign-in list on the computer.  He told me the receptionist wasn’t sure if they could still fit him in, but relented when he explained there was a hang up at school causing the delay.

I’m not sure exactly how he handled it because I just dropped him off at the front door and then went to look at paint chips at Lowe’s while he was at the appointment.  Just like the responsible parent that I am.  When I returned to get him, he was standing there with newly tightened braces and an appointment slip for next month in his hand, waiting on the sidewalk so I didn’t even have to park and come in.  A competent, independent young man who, in the same day, conquered the front desks of the school system and the orthodontist.

Today, high school.  Tomorrow, the world.

Since he’s already achieved the life skills of common sense and cynicism, I’m trying to decide if we should be working on sarcasm or sense of humor next.  Hah!  Just kidding!  Obviously, they’re the same thing, people.  Same exact thing.

Halloween Chocolate.

Posted on | November 5, 2014 | 1 Comment

Well, Halloween came and went and all I got was a few fun-size Snickers out of the kids’ treat bag.  Which are not as fun as one would think.  Unless your idea of fun is a nice, hard tease.  The kind of tease that says, “Mmmm, isn’t this fun?  Imagine how much fun a full-size Snickers bar would be? Can you imagine that?  Well, can you?  Hey, there’s your car keys….”

Luckily there was some bonus chocolate.  That’s right, the Copper Maran pullets laid their first eggs on Halloween weekend.  So the nest box was full of chocolate eggs.  Here they are next to Mattie’s, the Buff Laced Polish, white egg.

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Posted on | October 31, 2014 | 1 Comment

There’s no way of knowing who will live and who will die.  But, for sure, some aren’t going to make it.

That’s the kind of Halloween we’re having this Friday.

Apparently Mother Nature decided to dress up as Jack Frost.  By the time the goblins go to bed and the sun comes up on Saturday morning, temperatures should be in the 30’s.

Which means it’s the end of the line for some of the veggies in the garden.  But which ones will survive is up for grabs.  Sometimes the neighbors will get a hard frost on their lawn and we’ll still have only dew in the garden.  Sometimes the trees on our property do a lot to block the worst of the weather for the first 2 rows of the garden, but sometimes it’s not enough.  A strong wind that night may prevent frost from sticking.  Or the wind may blow away whatever we use to try and cover the plants, leaving them fully exposed.  The meteorologist may be completely wrong and the kids will be sweating in their costumes.  Really, who knows?

It all reminds me of that adorable sloth, Belt, in the movie The Croods.  Faced with upcoming disaster, destruction, and even death, he lets out an excited, barely scared, mostly cheerful “Duh duh duuuuh!”

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Throwback Thursday: Kick Off.

Posted on | October 30, 2014 | No Comments

With frost in the forecast for this weekend, I headed down to the garden for some clean-up of the summer veggies and to put down floating row covers for the fall crops.  Sheets would be used to cover the most prolific tomato plants as well as some of the eggplant and peppers.  Plus, I was hoping to save the only 2 vines that survived in the pumpkin patch, especially this snake gourd.

Imagine my surprise when I found my asparagus plants flourishing among the Johnson grass and honeysuckle on the garden fence.

I carefully pulled out the riffraff to expose the plants.  Weeding asparagus is fairly easy because they have a unique fern-like foliage….

and distinctive roots.  Although the roots should actually be underneath the soil instead of exposed on the surface like mine.

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Not Ebola.

Posted on | October 17, 2014 | 3 Comments

So it was Super Double Coupons at Harris Teeter.  Which is about the only time I step foot into the Teeter.  ‘Cause the Food Lion is more my economic style.  But when Teeter is willing to double coupons up to $2.00 face value, it catches my attention.  We don’t have a Teeter in my town so sometimes the savings isn’t worth the gas money.  As fate would have it, though, we had dentist appointments across the street from the Teeter on the same day that the Super Doubles started.  Of course, I knew the freebies would be picked over by the time we arrived in the late afternoon.  Apparently, people are waiting at the doors on the morning of the sale to clean out the Super Doubles freebies.  But by arriving at 4:30pm I would get some free items as well as a free afternoon snack for all the kids.  The Teeter leaves out free samples of cheese, fruit, luncheon meat, and cookies everyday.  Suckers.

I was happy with the savings.  We spent $31.23 and saved $84.24 in coupons.  It was the usual assortment of items we would never buy unless they were free or under $.50.  Like the Hormel Corned Beef Hash which Big loves for breakfast but leaves the house smelling like wet cat food at 6:30am.  The GoGoSqueeze apple strawberry applesauce that has already been rejected in 3 out of 4 lunchboxes.  The OIKOS Chocolate on Top Raspberry Truffle Greek yogurt which does not, disappointingly, taste like a chocolate bar.  As well as some useful items like Lance Variety packs of snack crackers, Pepperidge Farm frozen garlic bread, McCormick cinnamon, McCormick parsley flakes, and Mueller’s pasta. Read more


Posted on | October 15, 2014 | 3 Comments

Hey.  Who ordered pizza?

Wait a minute.  That’s not pizza.

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Posted on | October 10, 2014 | No Comments

We had a lovely vacation.  And I was mentally prepared for whatever was waiting at home.  After all, everything likes to get sick and die as soon as I step foot off the property.  That’s how powerful I am.  My presence alone keeps everything flourishing.  Either that or my system of farming is so complicated and haphazard that no one stands a chance of keeping it all together while I’m gone.  Let’s just say it’s the former, not the latter.

In any case, I only lost 2 chickens (the crested Polish, of course) and 1 of the goats was reportedly a royal beeyatch on the milkstand.  All tolerable.  Especially as a trade off for a week of this:

I was nervous about the garden, though.  Most of the fall plants were seedlings or delicate transplants when we left.  I had no idea whether there had been insufficient rainfall or a drenching strong enough to drown them while we were gone.  The plants could have withered and died in extreme heat or been choked out by henbit or chickweed in pleasant, moderate temperatures.  So imagine my surprise when I came around the corner in the garden and found this:

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Throwback Thursday I:Biodynamics.

Posted on | September 18, 2014 | No Comments

Because I am incredibly hip, I have decided to join the Throwback Thursday trend on social media.  No, I’m not going to get twitter or instagram and I promise I will never hashtag anything.  Mostly because the # symbol means “number” to me.  It has already been hijacked to mean “pound” on occasion. I think it makes life way too complicated to also have it represent “hashtag.”  Besides, it seems unfair.  Why so much attention for # ??  What do the people on social media have against ^ or {  ?  Those guys are totally underutilized.

I am also going to spare you any pictures of me in my 80’s hairstyle.  Primarily because I still wear my hair the way I did in the 80’s so you people get to see that every day.  Enjoy.

I also won’t bother to post any pictures of the kids when they were little because it’s too hard to resist the embarrassing photos.  The ones I am hoarding to display at the kids’ weddings.  Like this one of Middle playing princess and “breastfeeding” his baby.  In all his finery.  Because real princesses breastfeed, people.

Oh, wait,  I said I wasn’t going to do that.  Whoops.  Sorry, Middle. Read more

Work Out.

Posted on | September 15, 2014 | 2 Comments

I see what you’re doing there.  Posting your daily workout so you can keep track of your progress, make everyone else feel fat and lazy, and encourage and inspire the rest of us.

That’s sweet.  I appreciate it.

Thank you.

I’d like to participate in this new fitness trend but my daily workout usually consists of walking on the treadmill at the gym in order to get a glimpse of satellite television for 30 minutes.   I don’t have a “leg day” or “chest & back day” as much as I have “Celebrity News on E! day” and “Alaska: The Last Frontier day.”  Which is more entertaining and doesn’t have all the horrible side effects.

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Head of Household.

Posted on | September 10, 2014 | 3 Comments

The yellow jackets have lost their minds.  With the insects and nectar that they usually feed upon beginning to dwindle, they are hungry and irritable.  In addition, their colonies have had the entire summer to expand into huge hives hidden underground or in leaf debris.  Although the worker bees may not realize only the inseminated queen will survive the winter, they sure act as if their days are numbered and they are going to take as many humans down with them that they can.

I hit the first nest with the lawnmower in the front yard.  Luckily, I was casually pushing the mower, ran over the nest, and kept going.  Clueless.  It was only when I finished that row of grass and turned to start the next row that I looked back and saw a huge swarm of yellow jackets, angrily buzzing in my wake.  Either I ran directly over the nest or close enough to it that I had triggered the attack.  But since I moved away slowly (mowing the lawn in full sun and high humidity is not a game of speed), the yellow jackets seemed confused about my role in the drama.  Swift movements attract yellow jackets exiting the nest in defense because even bees know that only guilty people run.  Being a slow-moving, nonchalant, blob about 20 feet away was less suspicious.  Which goes to show that ignorance is a defense on occasion.

The second nest was a bit more problematic.

I staggered out of bed after night shift to find Pretty and her friend rushing inside, slamming cabinet doors, and babbling excitedly.  I wasn’t going to ask what happened before I had a cup of tea, but they quickly told me that they had run into a bunch of yellow jackets and been stung multiple times.

“How many times?”  I asked.

“Oh, like 10, no 13, maybe more!”

Now I was awake.

“What?  Where?”  Then, “Oh, jeez, you’re not allergic to bee stings, right?”  I asked Pretty’s friend.

She assured me that she wasn’t and the girls went on to tell me that they had been up on the barn roof.  They started kicking off the piles of leaf debris from last fall.  Of course, they hit a yellow jacket nest and were swarmed by the bees.  Pretty managed to climb back down the ladder off the roof and fled into the woods.  Her friend just jumped off the roof and ran through the back yard.  Apparently they spent some time tearing off pieces of clothing and shaking out their hair to free trapped bees before stumbling into the house looking for anti-itch cream.  Sure enough, their hands and arms, legs and knees, necks and faces were covered with angry red blotches. Read more

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