Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Completely Fill In The Bubble

Confession Time...

I hate standardized tests. I didn't like them as a kid having to take them and I don't like them as a parent having to watch my own children stress over them. As someone with many friends who are teachers, I don't think it is fair that they are required to put so much emphasis on these tests, taking away from the quality and creative teaching and personal attention that great teachers so desperately want to do. Honestly, when I was in school (back in the stone-age, according to my kids), if my being promoted was solely dependent upon my passing a standardized test, I'm pretty sure I would have repeated more than one grade and possibly more than once. Yes, I would have been the 30 year old 5th grader. In my opinion, these tests are a joke. And yes, some will argue that they measure intelligence and material retention, etc., etc.,  And for some students, I am sure that is true. But not for all students.

So, why do I think that? Well, here's my story...

I was never a top student, overachiever or head of the class. I was your typical don't raise your hand, do the work and pray you got the answer right type of student. If I were musically inclined, I could have played scales with the grades on my report cards. Language Arts came easily to me and was consistently my highest grades. I loved reading, writing, spelling and grammar. I was thrilled to be either a writer or an editor for various school and college publications.  So, it was no surprise that I earned my BA in English. But, I'm getting ahead of myself. Yes, I always did well in my Language Arts classes, but not every subject came that easily. Math was my demise. We had a mutual dislike aversion hate for each other. Well, I hated Math. I don't know Math's feelings towards me, but since I found it difficult to understand and it continually got harder, I'm convinced it was just doing it on purpose to punish me. As such, Math was consistently my lowest grades. We finally came to a mutual understanding, I would suffer and do only what was required of me to pass and graduate, and then when I was done it had to leave me alone.

My two constants throughout school: good grades in Language Arts and a 24-hour prayer vigil for a passing grade in Math that was usually followed by a 24-hour lecture on studying, grades, graduation and college.

There was another constant for me throughout school. That constant involved standardized testing. Beginning of the year tests, mid-year tests, end of year tests, practice college placement tests, real college placement tests...they all had the same results. Higher score in Language Arts, lower score in Math, right? WRONG! It is true, I consistently scored higher in Math than I did in Language Arts on all of the standardized tests I took. Oh, the problems this created! My teachers and parents couldn't understand why I would do so poorly in class only to score fairly well on these "special" tests that measure intelligence and retention. It was proclaimed that I was just lazy and simply not putting forth the effort in class because the tests showed that I clearly understood Math.

If someone were to put a standardized test in front of me today, I can honestly say that I don't know what the score would be. I still hate Math. I still struggle with Math. But what I can show them is how to make really cool designs with the fill-in bubbles. Which is exactly what I did when it came to the math portion on all those standardized tests.

A measure of intelligence? Not mine. A measure of creativity and pure luck? Absolutely!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

If Life Were Like An Old Movie...

I love watching old movies. I should clarify, not just any old movies. I prefer the black and white chick flicks of the day. I'm not a John Wayne fan and can do without cowboys, gunfights, and soldiers trudging through mud.

I spent part of the day today watching a classic from the 1930's. I'm sure it didn't win any Academy awards, but it is a classic in my book nonetheless. Why? The reason is simple. Oh, if life were only like an old black and white.

This particular movie centered around four sisters. I can relate, as I am one of four sisters. I will refer to them as Sister A, Sister B, Sister C and Sister D.

Exhibit 1: Sister C, who is rocking a flat-as-Texas stomach, goes into labor. Seriously, there was absolutely no bulge, bump or bloating whatsoever! Really?!? I was sporting the beached whale look months before I gave birth.

Exhibit 2: After giving birth to a "preemie" (not sure how preemie, given the figure of the expectant mother!), Sister C is presented with her newborn. Enter hospital nurse carrying a 4-month old. I could have done without the first few months of no sleep and round-the-clock feedings!

Exhibit 3: Nowhere in Sister C's hospital room is there a plastic water pitcher with matching plastic cup, bed pan, beeping machines with wires going everywhere, etc. Instead, set out neatly on the bedside table are the patient's silver hairbrushes (I am only guessing that they were silver since the movie was in black & white). Okay, the next time I am in the hospital, please dispense of all equipment, plastic ware, dry erase boards and latex glove containers mounted to the wall.  Instead, carefully place my hairbrushes on my bedside table (an equal distance apart from each other). I mean, that is really all that anyone needs anyway, right?

Exhibit 4:  When bringing hospital food to Sister C, it is not brought in on a plastic school lunchroom tray with plastic lids hiding the unpalatable morsels beneath. Nope. Her food was brought in on a silver tray complete with china tea set. Ok, so maybe she had a better HMO plan that I did!

Exhibit 5:  When learning that her husband would be returning from his tour "by winter", she responds with "She (the baby) will be 4 or 5 months old by then and talking really well."  Hmm, talking at 4 or 5 months and then maybe walking by 6 months, reading at 7 months and completely potty trained by 8 months. Yeah, I could deal with that. Just think, I could have a college graduate by the time my baby turns 3!

Enough of Sister C, let's move on to Sister A.

Exhibit 6:  Deciding that she wants to have a child, but not actually give birth, Sister A decides to adopt. She fills out the form, tells her husband afterwards and then all she has to do is wait...for about two weeks. And here we had multiple forms & evaluations, home studies, interviews, parenting classes, etc, etc, etc, and a 3 1/2 year wait, during which my husband had to be completely involved.

Exhibit 7:  Soon after adopting, Sister A gives birth to twins. Aww. Now enter Sister B and her husband who politely ask Sister A and her husband "Since you now have twins, could we have little _____ (insert adopted baby's name)." Yes, they are playing a round of hand-me-down children. Oh, you have two boys and I have two girls, so let's trade one!

I will note here that Sister D spent the entire movie chasing down a prospective husband. No baby drama for her.

Oh yes, if life were like an old movie I'd still fit into a Size 0, wouldn't know what a 2am feeding was, my hair would always be perfect, I would eat off of china & silver everyday (rather than plastic and styrofoam), I would have given birth to an infant prodigy, would have avoided endless adoption forms and parenting classes, and could have traded kids with my sisters!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

My Cheerleading Top Ten

The Top Ten things I have learned since my daughter started competitive cheerleading:

10.   People drink a heck of a lot of beer at NFL games!
        (Thank you for your patronage to our fundraising efforts!)

9.     You will never be able to remove all the glitter from your clothing, body, car or home!

8.     When it comes to bows, Minnie Mouse reigns supreme!

7.     Why join a fitness gym when you get to lug around a duffle bag, backpack, make-up 
        case, shoe case, gift bags, blanket, jacket etc, etc, etc, not to mention YOUR own stuff 
        at every competition??

6.     Real dedication means keeping that girl up in the air even when your shorts fall down to   
        your ankles!
        (Yes, this really happened! Luckily it was at practice and not in competition.)

5.     Why fly when you can ride in a bus for 13 hours (one way!) with 50 of your closest friends?

4.     For some reason, the cheerleaders can raise more money at car washes than the 
        parents can.

3.     Have your hearing checked regularly because you will eventually lose it.

2.     Your car will become your second home.

1.     To avoid carpal tunnel, it is easier to just hand over your checkbook!


Wednesday, February 15, 2012

My Two Cents Worth!

Actually, the more accurate title would be a much larger figure than .02, but that figure is no one else's business, so I will stick with the old .02 adage.

Lately, I have been reading a lot of articles on the subject of cheerleading. There is much debate on whether cheerleading should or should not be considered a sport. There is also much discussion as to whether parents should even allow their child/ren to participate. Some are of the opinion that cheerleading is just a waste of time and money. So, here is where I rant inform about cheerleading...

People have asked me, and others have just wondered, why we spend so much time and money for our daughter to cheer. Some have even gone as far as to ask how this is going to help her later in life or what are we hoping this will achieve? First of all, her idea of  "later in life" is Friday. Others have been quick to point out that cheerleading has one of the highest injury rates in the nation. It's true, cheerleading is dangerous - just as is every other sport that requires great physical exertion.

Cheerleading is NOT all about bubbly school girls with pom poms. However, that is the general public's idea of a cheerleader. Yes, school cheerleaders typically have pom poms that they shake while shouting a few cheers in support of their school's team. They probably do a few jumps and maybe a stunt or two or even a pyramid.  Some schools have competitive squads, which take cheerleading to a higher skill level. It is this type of cheerleading (school and/or rec) in which the most injuries occur. Falling off the top of a pyramid onto a wooden gymnasium floor or hard football field does not do the body good.

Cheerleading is also NOT all about the NFL or NBA dancers you see on TV in their booty shorts, bra tops and gyrating for the cameras and drunken fans. They work hard and get paid very little, but are dancers nonetheless.

Then there is competitive All Star cheerleading. These cheerleaders train year-round with certified coaches who help them develop their skills to the ultimate level. They practice and compete on spring floors padded with thick foam. Yes, it still hurts when you fall off the top of the pyramid, but you are much less likely to be injured. These cheerleaders compete at all levels, from the beginner to the elite. These cheerleaders not only perform for judges, they are performing for an audience. Their routines, which consist of stunting, pyramids, tumbling, cheer and dance, have to be perfect. These are the cheerleaders that college coaches look at first. But, as with any competitive independent (outside of school) sport, there are costs. And yes, it adds up. We have to pay for uniforms, special shoes, coaching fees, choreography fees, travel costs, bows (yes, bows are still the signature attire of a cheerleader), competition fees, and the lists goes on.

This is what my daughter does, All Star cheerleading. This is what she excels at. This is what she is passionate about. This is what she has never, in the three years she has been participating, asked to miss. Never. Not once. In fact, she begs to go early and stay late. EVERYDAY. Even when she is not practicing, she is asking to go to the gym. It has become her second home and the coaches, cheerleaders and parents have become her second family.  This is my child who refuses to speak to people she doesn't know and who hides behind me when spoken to. This is my child who, once she sets foot on the competition floor, becomes a very self confident, talented and athletic entertainer. Why wouldn't I want my child to be a cheerleader? Which is why you will most likely find me helping out at the gym, selling beer at NFL games, washing cars, holding bake sales & hot dog sales, selling candy bars, and doing whatever else I need to do to pay for my daughter to do what she loves to do!

For those who wonder where cheerleading will get her in life, I say where ever she wants to go! Beyond the college scholarships and the careers in coaching, there is an endless list of opportunities in the cheer industry (if that is what she wants to do). There are competition directors, cheer companies (big and small), gym owners, uniform designers, choreographers, cheer camps organizers and staffers, magazines devoted to nothing but cheerleading, radio & TV stations, videographers, photographers, etc., etc., etc.... So, for me, every dollar I spend on cheerleading I see as an investment in her future. Besides, who doesn't want to see their child happy!

Cheerleading requires dedication, commitment and sacrifices. It certainly is not for everyone.

One last thing...
For those who think that cheerleading is not a sport, try this:
From a standing position, throw yourself backwards while doing a full spin sideways before landing on your feet. Then, jump up in the air twice with your legs in a full spread eagle and touch your toes. As soon as your feet hit the floor, jump backwards again into a tuck and land on your feet. Then immediately throw yourself into two back handsprings before spinning into a full sideways twist. Then, go into another series of jumps, and they had better be pretty. Then run across the floor, fling yourself into a sideways tuck stepping out of it in one smooth motion before spinning sideways in the air once more. Don't fall! Then try a cartwheel, but you can't use your hands - at all. Go seamlessly into a choreographed dance, throw yourself into another backwards tuck, maybe throw in a front tuck for good measure before flying across the floor again and doing another sideways spin, only this time you spin two times around before landing, on your feet not your butt. Now do all of this (plus a few more things) while smiling, and we haven't even gotten to the stunting part! How about standing on one leg while three of your teammates hold you up in the air by the bottom of one foot. Now, take your other foot and pull it up over your head. Don't lean forward or backward or sideways - you might fall. Can't do it? My daughter can. She's ten and a cheerleader!

An Always Supportive Cheer Mom

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Can I get a loan for a hair cut?

When did getting your hair done necessitate taking out a second mortgage? For me personally, if I want my hair cut, colored and styled it will cost me $150 at the salon in my town that hasn't made me look like the end of a Q-Tip or had me sporting a pond-scum color. I enjoy getting my hair done, but honestly, I can think of at least 150 other things I could do with $150. So, I usually end up needing or doing something else instead. I haven't had my hair done since July. Yes, I said July. I tried coloring it myself. It was supposed to be Soft Brown. At least that is what the box said. And the model on the cover had beautiful soft brown hair. I'm guessing now it was either her natural color or a good use of PhotoShop (probably the later). My hair, on the other hand, was a light reddish brown. More emphasis on red than brown here. Oh well, I had to embrace my red self because I had 150 other things I needed to spend $150 on.

Today, I took my daughter to get her hair done. She has not had it professionally done in two years. Yes, I said two years. Needless to say, my daughter's hair was in desperate need of some professional help. It was beyond dry, broken off and had more split ends than a freshly plowed wheat field. I've tried to do my daughter's hair. Really, I have. But her hair is of a different texture and requires different care than anyone in my family. I was in way over my head and needed to call in the professional. "Bruce" was wonderful. He didn't berate me too badly over the condition of her hair. He guided me through exactly what he was doing and what it was going to take to get my daughter's hair back to a shiny and healthy state. Several treatments of this, several trims here, this shampoo, that conditioner, this moisturizer, that creme, this spritzer..... (I will state here, for the record, that he was not trying to sell me any products. And I did not purchase any either. He was simply informing me of what needed to be done.) Dollar signs were flashing through my mind like an out of control cash register. To be realistic, I KNOW I've spent as much, if not more, in all the wrong products for her hair in a feeble attempt to repair it myself. I finally passed out when he told me that what she really needed in a few months, once he was able to get the hair all healthy again, was a special treatment. A $300 treatment! I knew she needed this treatment. I had been told by others many times before (none hair professionals, but with similar hair). They had just avoided telling me how much this treatment would cost. I guess they know me all too well and figured I would find 300 OTHER things to do.

After her first appointment, her hair is beautiful. It is soft and silky. Not coarse and frizzy, like it would always be when I did it.  Lesson learned.

PS: I've decided to start accepting Hair Treatment Donations.


Friday, August 12, 2011

My name is Bren, and I coupon.

I've said before that I am a couponer. Yes, I am one of those people who holds up lines, questions the cashier when something doesn't ring up correctly, and there is usually a manager involved at some point. Now, I am a couponer, but I am NOT an extreme couponer. I have never been able to go into the grocery store and spend $4.39 on a $16 million order. I am happy when I can save more than I spend.

People have asked me how long I've been couponing. Well, that depends on how you look at things. I started clipping coupons when I first got married (22 years ago). I got more aggressive about it when our kids came along. But, and this is a BIG but, I always forgot to take them with me to the store! I would have boxes, envelopes, bags and organizers full of coupons.... all sitting in the cabinet. I would occasionally remember to take some with me, but then would realize on the way home that I forgot to give them to the cashier. Oh yes, I was one extreme couponer! Now flash forward 22 years. I was watching that show on TLC. You know the one. And thought, "Hey, I want groceries that will feed my family of five for a month for $.74." I mean, who wouldn't? Right?? So, I got organized. I found a binder, had some old baseball card sleeves and got up at 6:00 am on Sunday morning to buy 8 papers. I clipped and clipped and clipped and clipped and clipped. I sorted and sorted and sorted and sorted and sorted. Then I decided that 8 papers was really too much. Since then, I've scaled down to two papers (much more manageable), unless I find out that there is going to be a REALLY good coupon in the paper.

This new organized me started in May. Since then I can honestly say that I have saved over $2,000. I buy things only when they are on sale or I have a coupon. The best savings is when you can combine sales and coupons. I do not have a basement piled high with enough food and toiletries to supply Somalia for a year. But, I do have enough for my family for at least a little while.

So, I wanted to share my Harris Teeter trip with you. This week the great grocery chain was having Super Doubles. Meaning, they would double the value of any coupon with a printed value of up to $1.98 (usually stores only double coupons that are up to .99). This means that all of my $1 off coupons have instantly become $2 off, and my $1.50 coupons are now $3 off. You get the idea. So anyway, I went last night and the store had been cleared. There was nothing left of the things on my list. * I will note here that I am NOT a shelf clearer.* This morning, I heard through the couponing grapevine that Harris Teeter had restocked their shelves. The angels were singing and I heard their calls!

Here's what I was able to get today:
4 packages of Sargentos shredded cheese
2 boxes of Trix cereal
2 boxes of Honey Nut Chex cereal
1 Sara Lee pound cake
8 Totinos pizzas
2 packages of Pepperidge Farms Goldfish
2 boxes (24 ct) Eggo waffles
2 packages of Pillsbury brownie delights
2 bottles of Tropicana orange juice
1 carton of Minute Maid orange juice
1 gallon of milk
3 containers of Activia yogurt
2 packages of English muffins
4 packages of Oscar Meyer turkey hot dogs
2 large bags of Snyder's tortilla chips
1 3-packs Orbit gum
2 squeeze bottles of Parkay butter
1 package of Old El Paso Tortilla stuffers
1 box Cocoa Pebbles cereal
1 box of Honey Comb cereal

I paid $60.36, and according to my receipt, I saved (drum roll, please) $108.88.

Also, notice that everything I bought is BRAND NAME (except the milk & English muffins, which were HT brand). My family had been living off generic for so long, they forgot what the "real" stuff looked & tasted like! Before, a typical trip to the grocery store would run between $250-$300, EVERY week! I am proud to say that I have dropped that amount significantly.

So how much are you saving?


Thursday, August 4, 2011

Thankful Thursday

It is Thursday, so that means it is Thankful Thursday today.

So, what am I thankful for today?

1. Toilet paper
(Remember, it will always be at the top of my list. And, there are some days where I am a little more thankful than others that I have plenty of it.)

2.  Coupons
Yes, I am a couponer. I'll talk about this another time. But today I'm thankful that I had coupons and was able to get three free shirts!

3.  My comfy bed
Where I do most of my blogging.

4.  Red Box
DVDs for $1, and if you've got coupons they're usually FREE!

5.  Facebook
Depending on whose status I'm reading, I can feel either very old or pretend that I am still young and hip.

6.  Tomorrow is payday!
No explanation necessary on this one.

7.  I won free pizza today!

8.  There was one last Diet Dr. Pepper in the fridge.
DH and I decided to give up all soda buying, so I am savoring my last one!

9.  Fairly normal hair
Tried to get a picture of a lady I saw last night at a restaurant whose hair extended at least 12" ABOVE her visor. 

10.  That my teen-aged sons know how to do their own laundry.
Teen-age boy clothes STINK!!

What are you thankful for today?