Friday, November 4, 2016

Voting Time!

I should start by warning you that I am taking a momentary break from posting about my munchkins, their adorable Halloween costumes, and everything trick-or-treating related. :)
Yup...you know...every once in awhile there is something that comes up, something serious, that I feel compelled to share about. So here goes...but first... a picture of these two cuties...

As you know...it is election time.
Locally...unless you have been under a rock...you are aware that there is a rather contentious race for 4 school board members in our district. Being that I have worked for the district for nearly 15 years, I am a former student of the district, and the fact that I am now a parent in the district...I am VERY invested in this election. So, you might be asking yourself...why are you posting about it here?
The reason is simple. I feel the need to share some FACTS about many of the issues at hand. 

A few months ago I joined a local Facebook group that is comprised of concerned parents who oppose the incumbents. Being that I am so invested in the district, I joined the group to learn more about what the parents' concerns were and about the candidates they support. I wanted to make sure that I had as much information as possible...and didn't have a narrow point of view because of my dedication to our district. I can say...that I was...and continue to be...stunned by some of the behavior and the way in which teachers in particular have been treated on the page...along with anyone who supports the incumbents. That being said, I understand that the candidates running against our board members cannot be held responsible for the actions of this group. Multiple times it was implied that I was only supporting the incumbents because I hadn't taken the time to get to know the candidates. Well...that couldn't be farther from the truth. There have also been multiple times when I have been asked a question...and yet, when I come back to answer...the post is either deleted or the commenting has been turned off. So...here I am. :)
Here are the reasons why I am supporting our incumbents...based on many of the arguments that are being used against them:
They've been on the board too long!
Yes, they have served our board for many years and have the experience and knowledge to continue to lead our district. One of the things I am very appreciative of is their continued support of our students and staff during bad economic times. About six years ago our state was in a bit of an economic disaster. Funding to school districts was cut drastically. Most districts had to lay off employees, cut programs, and so on. Clovis didn't. Did we have to rethink the way we did things? Absolutely. Did teachers and staff take a pay cut? Yup. However, due to the fact that our district, with the support of our board, has been fiscally responsible and been able to keep a reserve that can be used when times get tough...they didn't have to lay people off or cut the programs that the district feels are crucial to enriching our students' education. Is the board perfect? Absolutely not. Who is? In comparison, when I recently watched a forum that was held for the candidates, I was amazed to hear that four of the five running against the incumbents have only been attending board meetings for the last 3-6 months. Their words. I'm not against having "fresh blood" on the board...but I just don't feel comfortable having people on the board that have only been going to meetings for the past 3-6 months. I'm not sure that attending board meetings for 3-6 months gives you the experience necessary to help run a district of our size and caliber.
The new Common Core Standards need to be done away with because they are brainwashing our children with a liberal agenda.
Yes. That is an argument that I have seen over, and over, and over again. In their defense, this is not the exact argument used by the opposing candidates themselves...it has been used by the group that supports them. They do however want to do away with Common Core. I know...I might be losing many of you now because you have a student who is in junior high or high school, who has had to make the switch from our old standards to the new Common Core, and all you know is that you hate it. Or you have heard that it is something supported by President Obama, you hate President Obama...so you are against Common Core. Here is what I challenge you with...have you looked at the actual standards? Here is a link you can use to look at the actual standards:
Here are my OPINIONS as an educator. I LOVE the Common Core Standards!!! Really...I do. It is my belief that they have given me more freedom as a teacher to provide my students with more meaningful lessons and has deepened their knowledge in many areas. The idea that it is "brainwashing" our students is one that has me baffled...and almost shows how those who use that argument have very little knowledge of the standards. One of the things I LOVE about the new standards is that students are taught and expected to formulate their own opinions with factual evidence to support their reasons. They are also taught and expected to site evidence from the text to support their answers and thinking. If you don't believe this is possible...come to a classroom and listen to the conversations that students are having with each other. I can almost promise that you will be amazed at the way students...all students...are able to engage in academic conversations. Math is a subject that I often see "ripped apart" by parents. Here is the thing...yes, we are teaching math differently than most of us learned math. That doesn't necessarily mean that it is bad or wrong...it is just different. Yes, there are some crazy ways of solving problems that the textbook companies like to throw out there. Again, look at the standards and frameworks and I think you will find that what we are now doing is teaching kids a greater understanding of how numbers work and that there are many different ways to look at and solve a problem. I completely understand how students who didn't start with Common Core in kindergarten and first...which was about 6 years ago...are now struggling a bit. Again, doesn't mean that the standards are bad. I would also like to point out that those who are running against the incumbents want to do away with Common Core...but have yet to state what they would replace them with.
The current board members are getting too liberal based on their change of the dress code and the way they have handled the transgender issue.
Okay...this is where things get "touchy"...and really when those who are challenging the board decided to get involved. Before that, they weren't attending meetings. Their words...not mine. Yes, Clovis has been known for the strict dress code...and yes, it has been challenged many times. Here are the facts...before January our dress code stated that boys were not able to wear their hair past a certain length, wear earrings, or tank tops. That was changed in a very controversial vote. Yes, we are a conservative district. Yes, personally...I prefer boys to have short, clean cut hair. However, it is not right to say that one gender can do one thing...and the other can't. It is a law that the district has to follow. I also have this crazy belief that if it is that important to you...and what you think a responsible, professional individual looks like...teach your kids that. You are the parent. ;) Why do you need a district dress code to teach that to your children? Again...my opinion...but do I think that them voting to make the dress code gender neutral means that they have lost the core values that help drive our district? Not at all. It simply means that they realized we needed to follow the law and avoid getting our district involved in costly lawsuits.
Now...on to an even more sensitive issue...the transgender bathroom/locker room law. Oh boy...where do I even start? Here is what I'll say...our district is PUBLIC school district. That means that we have a legal obligation to provide a safe, quality education to ALL students. Personally, I have absolutely no problem with transgender students using the locker room/bathroom of their choice. I do respect those who are opposed and understand your concerns. Just because I have a different opinion doesn't mean that I can't respect yours...and vice versa. However, if you are using your religious beliefs...as many of the candidates have...as your argument against the law and why the district should fight it...I remind you...we are a PUBLIC school district...not a private one. If you feel so strongly against the law...go to Sacramento and fight it. Don't expect our school board to use our district resources to fight that battle for you...again, my opinion.
The current board is a "rubber stamp" board that approves things without knowing all of the information. In example, approving textbooks they have never read.
In my 12 or so years of teaching...yes, I have lost track...I have served on the textbook adoption committee for reading, math, science, and social science. Again, I LOVED serving on these committees. I appreciated being given the opportunity to be involved in such an important decision for our students. Those who oppose the current board members have stated, multiple times, that the board just approves textbooks without reading them. Here is what they don't share...probably because they don't know...the textbook adoption is a long, in-depth process and is not something that is taken lightly. I do want to point out that my experience is at the elementary level, so there is the possibility that it is entirely different at the junior high and high school level. Here is what the process looks like at the elementary level. Groups of teacher from around the district, in every grade level, get together and "pilot" textbooks in their classroom. We look at how well the books align with the standards, their level of rigor, all of the "bells and whistles" that come with it, and so much more. Our team meets several times to discuss the pros and cons of each book. After nearly a year piloting different books, we come to a consensus on what we believe is the best book for us. We then make our recommendation to the administrators overseeing the process and they pass it on to the governing board for their approval. Given that we, the teachers, are the ones who have to implement the use of the book, know what our students need, and what we would like to have in our classrooms to help with our instruction, it would be a HUGE slap in the face for the board to come back and say that they disagree with us. You can call that "rubber stamping" but I prefer to see it as a board that trusts our professional judgement and the fact that we can decide which book is best for our students. After all, we are the ones they trust to teach our students. I would also like to add, that if you as a parent disagree with a certain book that is being used, or portion of a book, you can respectfully contact your child's teacher and share your concerns. He or she can offer an alternative text. Just saying. ;)
The current board is complacent.
Hmmm...interesting. Interesting in that when I watched the forum that was held for the candidates, I was listening to hear what their ideas were and what their plans were for change in the district. I watched an hour and 15 minutes...there is still 30 minutes that I need to watch...and during that time, I heard very few ideas, or plans for what they would change. They expressed many times their dislike for the current board and mentioned "putting policies in place" but they never said what those policies would be. Many of the ideas they suggested...are actually already in place. Yes, I am aware that none of the incumbents attended the forum. Yes, I agree that it would have been nice if they had attended. However, whether you like it or not...they have their history on the board as proof of what they will do and how they will support ALL of the students in our district. Those who are running against them, in my opinion, need to be specific with what they would change. So far they haven't been. They have continued to repeat the fact that they disagree with the items mentioned above, and they have stated that they would put policies in place...but again...what are those policies? What I see is a group of people who don't agree with the new dress code, the transgender law, and that is when they became involved. I have asked multiple times if they had a problem with the board before those two issues. I have yet to get an answer. Being that 4 out of 5 didn't start attending the meetings until after those two issues arose...is it safe to say that they were perfectly fine with the board before?
Final thoughts :)
I warned you...I had a lot to share. :) Here are my final thoughts. Yes, I can understand and respect those who don't agree with my views. Yes, I can understand and respect how your religious beliefs go against recent laws. What I CANNOT support and agree with, is a candidate who is running for a public school board stating that you shouldn't support one of the incumbents because, "He is a liberal atheist." Her words. Of course, she later came back and edited it to say, "a liberal with no religious convictions." As someone who considers herself a conservative who lives her life with Christian beliefs...no, I don't go to church and no, I don't think that makes me a bad person :)...I can never imagine not supporting someone solely based on what you think their political and religious views are. In my opinion, one of the great things about public education is that my children will be exposed to children of various ethnicity, religious beliefs, and so on. That is one of our roles as public school educators, is to teach tolerance and respect for others. I have also been accused of "blindly" supporting the incumbents because I am a teacher in the district...and let's not forget the fact that I have been pressured, or feel pressured, to support them for fear of losing my job. Ha!!!!!!! That is really all I can say...HA!!!!! I can promise you, I am not "blindly" supporting them. Honestly, I have never done as much research and looked so hard at multiple candidates in ANY election before. And I can absolutely promise that I have felt ABSOLUTELY NO pressure from my district to support the incumbents. I can tell you that as a parent, I want a board that is going to provide my children with a first class education that supports ALL students. I would be happy to support a new candidate if there was one who showed he/she had a great knowledge of how a school district works...more than attending 3-6 months of board meetings...had a clear plan for the future (that I agreed with,) and who I felt confident would be able to keep their personal religious beliefs separate from what their role as a school board member is. If you disagree with a law and want to fight it...go for it...but don't use our district to do so. :)
So...there you have it! Just so you know...this blog took me 2.5 hours to write. There's your fun fact for the day. :) For those who read this and disagree with me...that's ok. I won't hate you for it. ;) If you still have doubts about things...I encourage you to look at the facts. Use the link above to look at the actual standards and frameworks...not the Pinterest memes floating around. If you would like to see what the opposing candidates have to say, here is a link to the video of the forum:
Finally, if you would like to see how our current board members have voted on issues...check out our district website...they have the agendas and meeting minutes posted.
Happy voting!


Sunday, October 30, 2016

Carving Time!


Since the beginning of October,
when we went to Avila and got our pumpkins,
Landry has been BEGGING to carve them.

I kept telling him that we needed to
wait until it was closer to Halloween.
He was so excited that today was the day.

Remember that kid who used to HATE the
goop, seeds, and slime.?

Yup...not so much anymore!



Here is our carving supervisor.
She looks like she is waiting so patiently.
She was...for a while. ;)


This was the first year that Landry did 
his pumpkin all by himself!
I cut the lid...and helped him clean
the last little bits...but he did the rest himself.




Remember our supervisor...
who WAS waiting so patiently?
Well...surprise, surprise...
those patience ran out. :)

She REALLY wanted to get in on
the carving action.
Since her pumpkin was so small...
and clearly she wouldn't be able to carve it,
I decided to give her some markers
and let her have a go at it.

You can see that Landry gave her
a big "thumbs up!"




Decorating your pumpkin is
very serious business.



Lexie's finished work of art!


She quickly went from coloring her pumpkin...
to coloring on the table!
This is how she felt when I put a stop to that.
Notice the marker on her face. ;)


And there was just a LITTLE
marker on her hands.



Landry is so proud of his pumpkin!


Here are our three jack-o-lanterns
all ready for Halloween!



Saturday, October 15, 2016

Avila Valley Barn


Two weeks ago we made our yearly fall trip
to the adorable
Avila Valley Barn!


Every year my mom, sister,
the kids and I load up the car,
and head to Avila for the day.

Lexie wasn't quite sure what to do with
all of the pumpkins at first.


She definitely wasn't in the mood
for sitting on a hay bale for a picture.


But what she was in the mood for was...
anything to do with the animals!
If you have never been, or don't know,
the Avila Valley Barn has farm animals that
you can feed.
Lexie LOVES it!


Here is a link to a video of her 
and the goats.
For some reason I couldn't
post the video here.
Annoyed. ;)


I wish I could get the shot of her face 
in this picture...because it was pure joy!


Landry decided he needed a snack to. :)


After the goats, we made our way to the sheep...


and then the cow.
Come here Mr. Cow!



Once again...no fear...
she loved the cow!


She has just as much love
for the cow as she does the goats.
Watch it here...

Every other time she fed him,
she squealed with delight after.
The minute she saw me filming her,
she's cool as a cucumber.


You can't go to the barn
without getting some yummy roasted corn!


It is easy to see that these two
are pretty crazy about each other. :)


We took some fun pictures
while waiting for the hay ride.


Landry loves this tractor!


This year Lexie wanted to get 
in on the action.


Of course she had a snack with her!



Next up...hay ride!




Each year the hay ride has been a bit different.
The two years they would drop you off and you 
could pick a pumpkin off the vine,
last year they didn't drop you off,
and this year,
they dropped you off in an area 
where the pumpkins were already set-up. 

Lexie wasn't sure what do with
all of the pumpkins.


Landry quickly found the perfect one.




After the hay ride we chose our
pumpkins from the wide variety
that they always have.


Here are our picks!
11 pumpkins for $40...
pretty good deal if you ask me. :)


Friday, August 12, 2016

Alaskan Cruise Part 6 - Ship Life!

Well, I hate to break it to you...
this is my last post about our cruise.
Ha!
I know, I only drug it out for a month. ;)

As I shared in my last post, 
our cruise departed from Seattle, Washington.
Thankfully there is a direct flight from Seattle to Fresno.
This cutie worked on her selfie game 
while we waited in the airport. :)


Landry was super excited to sit next to
Auntie K.K. on the plane!


I tried to warn everyone on the plane
with Lexie's onesie that said, "Wild One."


She did a great job on both flights.
I cannot say enough great things about Alaskan Air.
We had flown them once before,
and again for this trip,
and they are just the best!

We cruised with Royal Caribbean.
Here is our ship, Explorer of the Seas.


She was HUGE!!!!
I tried to get a picture of how tall she was, 
but couldn't fit the whole ship in the frame 
as I was looking straight up.


Nawnie and Landry selfie
as we were leaving port in Seattle.


Papa got in the shot this time.
Side note...if you haven't watched my parents
try to take a selfie...you should.
It is hilarious!
Sorry guys...love you tons...but it really is funny! ;)


Apparently watching the ship leave
the dock is very serious business in my family...



and then there's me!


All seven of us (my parents, sister, and the 4 of us)
stayed together in the Royal Family Suite.
I was rather nervous about this.
All seven of us.
In one suite.
For SEVEN days.
It turned out to be great!

We had a good size living room...
which doubled as my sister's room. ;)


My parents had their own master with a full bathroom...
bath tub included!


Chad, Landry, and I had our own bedroom...


with a bunk that came down from the ceiling
and a vanity area.


We spent a LOT of time on the balcony that had
a table with 4 chairs and two loungers.


Our room also had another bathroom with shower,
as well as a large walk-in closet,
and dinette area.



There were all kinds of activities on the ship.
You can't cruise without playing some shuffle board!


We watched movies, singers, dancers,
a magic show, and a comedian in the theater.



There was basketball, ping pong, a wave-rider,
an arcade, and Landry loved the mini-golf!


Of course there was also a casino on the ship.
We walked through it several times on the
way to the theater, and Landry always got
nervous walking over this glass walk-way that
had gold, coins, and jewels underneath.
By about day 5...no joke...he finally trusted us
when we told him he wouldn't fall through it.
Then it became his favorite place!


There was a rock-climbing wall...
and I was pretty proud that I could make
it all the way to the top!


My arms were super sore the next day
but I made it to the top! ;)


There was even an ice skating show!



We had a chance to test out our
ice skating skills, too.


This was Landry's first time skating.
Chad and I thought he'd last about 2 minutes
and end up crying.
We were so wrong!


He loved it!


He never let go of us...or the wall...
but he still had fun!


Every cruise has the Captain's Dinner
where everyone gets dressed up.


How cute is she?
As a side note...
that dress is a 3-6 months...
yup, she was 16 months.
Sassy little peanut!



Since it was formal night,
Lexie decided to eat her fruit snacks
with a fork.
So proper!



I will say that our meals in the
dining room weren't my favorite.
They were SUPER long...
and when you have a very active 16 month
old...it isn't always a good mix.
Don't get me wrong,
the food was wonderful...
but it was just l-o-n-g.

You can't pass up the buffet!
As you can see...
Lexie LOVED the buffet.


Yes, she really did eat all of that food.

There was one glorious night
when she fell asleep during dinner.
Did I say glorious?
Ooops. ;)


Celebrating my parents' 40th anniversary!


Finally...the traditional
cruise towel animals.


We really did have a great time, 
and I would HIGHLY recommend
the cruise, cruiseline, and ship to anyone.
There were so many more amenities
on the ship that I didn't mention such as a
fitness center, spa, shops, multiple bars of course,
Johnny Rockets, Ben and Jerry's ice cream,
and where you could find me...STARBUCKS!!!!

I also have to give a huge shout out to the staff.
They were so incredibly friendly and helpful
With 3,000 or so people on board
I always felt like we were well taken care of
and that they tended to any of our concerns or needs.

If you missed any of my other posts,
here they are:

If Alaska isn't already on your bucket list...
add it.
Seriously! :)