Thursday, May 28, 2009


Since I'm sitting here waiting for a car, I can take the time to do an update.

I've been working on the vanity stool the last couple of days. My fingers hurt from pulling out about 100 staples; clearly this was machine upholstered. But I can finally see the end of this particular project. If there's enough fabric, I'll make a reversible bottom cushion instead of the attached one that came with it. Waiting for a car to be available to go get interfacing at the fabric store so I can finish this up.

Watched the school board meeting on TV the other night. ALM thinks I'm out of mind to watch these meetings, but there really is a lot that takes place. Missed the beginning where the new principals for the new high schools were announced, so had to look up the info on board docs. Unfortunately, saw Little Dude's OT listed as one of the employees who is resigning at the end of the school year. We had two OT's last year and then a different one this year, so I'm not anxious to change once again, especially since the last two have been providing both services and information beneficial to the team and our plan. Just learned this year from our current OT why he rights down the middle of the page; wish someone had educated me about this at an earlier date as this has been driving me crazy for years. Now I can let it go and concentrate on the content.

Anyway, back to the school board meeting. There didn't seem to be any announcements on elementary level leadership positions so will have to wait to find out who our next principal will be. I also missed the public comments from Dominion HS parents about the suspensions of students after drinking wine during a recent field trip to France. In other words, all of the fun viewing was over by the time I tuned in! Heard the discussion on grandfathering fifth graders, but didn't hear a single word about special exceptions for special ed students. If Little Dude was affected by a boundary change in fifth grade and I didn't know what options I had, I'd be ticked. We've been planning for his transition to middle school for the last two annual IEP meetings. And his caseworker and I are trying to plan a joint visit to the middle school before finals start to continue this planning.

The discussion on grade weighting was tense, but I was glad to see that all of the advocacy of parents was not ignored. What is the advantage of taking Honors classes if there is no weighting available for the extra work and commitment? And who wouldn't agree that the Science Academy coursework should be weighted? Will have to tune in next time to see what happens. Not going to get involved in the Wheatland issue as it is now a dead deal, and we have our own problems with land and a high school right here in Dulles North.

Yeah, SOL's are finished for another year!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

So Sew

I really don't like to be cagey. Got a cold call this morning about window treatments, and not surprisingly, one of the first questions was about pricing. As a consumer, I certainly understand why cost is near the very top of the list of questions, but as a service supplier, I have to be careful to vet the calls and make sure they're legitimate potential customers. Giving out my pricing information to possible competitors due to my own naivety can leave me idle. But we made an appointment for a consultation next week, so I relayed some basic figures.

Am developing quite the list of possible projects:
Current project - reupholstering a swivel vanity stool for the daughter of a neighbor & Bunko friend.
Next project - roman shades for a bay window for a friend & Deacon-to-be at church.
Quotes Given:
Bunko friend who will be a repeat customer with a pillow order; waiting on fabric.
Neighbor, fellow Mom of an '08 grad & Bunko friend who wants living room treatments; waiting on fabric also.
Dear friend who wants new cushions & pillows for outdoor use; might have found what she wanted and will only require alterations to existing covers.
Church couple spoke with me at coffee hour about window valances; need to make consult appointment.
And this morning's cold call; moving into newly built home in fall - I like her time frame of 5-6 months!

Have been dragging my feet on the current project as upholstery is not on my list of favorite hits, and there are a lot of mechanical parts to this stool. But rainy days are the best for sewing, so I'm trying to get it off of my to do list.

Little Dude has a cold with no fever, but quite the runny nose. Dosed him up and sent him to school as the VA Studies SOL is tomorrow and I'm sure they will practice for it today. He made an 86% on the online practice test this weekend, so he should do fine.

Ms Giggles worked at one or both jobs all weekend. She looks like she could use an extra day of sleep, but we all know how happy she'll be when the paychecks start.

Floggy called many times over the weekend. He and Gramps got the car towed to the Mechanic School on Friday. Since he doesn't have cable or internet where he's staying, he called for updates on the Indy 500. But when he found out that we had left money in his account after loaning him the deposit for the tow bar, he walked to the grocery and then back with a whole lot of dairy products. Reassured him that it wouldn't be spoiled; boy was he happy.

Finally went to see Star Trek yesterday with ALM & Little Dude. Ended up at Tally Ho theater as Brambleton Fox was sold out. Movie was great, but we might need to see it again on a bigger screen with better sound. Nearly had an accident on the way home as a young female driver in a rear wheel drive car did two 360's across 4 lanes of traffic and right in front of us. But the ABS worked perfectly and we stopped without skidding; didn't get rear ended either.

And Little Dude knew the purpose of Memorial Day.
A great weekend.

Friday, May 22, 2009

It Helps to Know Management

Got the following letter yesterday by backpack mail:
Dear.... Families,
I will assume another position on July 1, 2009. I have been appointed to serve as principal of ... Elementary in western Loudoun. I am excited to have an opportunity to open a new school however saddened to leave the children and community I know so well.

Little Dude said the teacher read the letter to the class. I like that she waited until after this week's SOL's to give them this news. I commented to him that it would have been nice if she had written more details. What I didn't say is that it didn't take a whole piece of paper to send this out. And it wouldn't pass the 5th grade SOL writing standards. And we will have the third principal since Little Dude started kindergarten at our neighborhood school. I did remind him of how kind the principal was to him when he thought he had missed his ride after school while we had our IEP meeting.

He has strong opinions on who should be the next principal - the current Assistant Principal. But the other students in his class disagree and think it will be someone totally new. Little Dude has a close relationship with our AP. When he was younger and one of his accommodations was "frequent breaks," she would come to his classroom every day and they would go on a "security check" of the building. I love that! When we were getting reports that he wasn't finishing his lunch most days, she checked on him in the lunch room every day for about 3 years. When there was a bully problem on the bus, he went to her. As ALM likes to say, it's good to know management, and Little Dude does.

I don't presume to have any way of knowing what will happen or how a new principal will be choosen, but I have noticed one thing: our current AP is not attending Child Study or IEP meetings that are currently taking place. Is it a sign of a promotion? I hope so for Little Dude's sake.

Heard from Floggy yesterday, the car saga continues. Gramps is going to help him tow the car to the Mechanic School today. Maybe a reliable diagnosis will finally take place so we are not replacing random parts on a trial and error basis. He's still doing very well in Mechanic School and enjoying it. Hope he learns diagnosis skills!

Ms Giggles will put in a twelve hour day today, as she is working both jobs for the first time. ALM has invited a high school friend that he hasn't seen since HS over for a cookout this weekend. No games, no practices for a nice long weekend. Should be relaxing.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

More on Special Ed

This is the best of the local news reports that I have found about the Park View HS special ed teacher, Dawn Marie Hamilton, who was recently referenced during a congressional hearing on restraining schoolchildren. At the time that I'm posting this there are no comments on the article, and I hope it stays that way. The comments that I have read on other sites are not only cruel and petty, but markedly uninformed. I wish more of those who have made comments had been present for the Special Education Town Hall Meeting last night.

The meeting had an interesting format: 5 speakers (3 minutes each) from the audience followed by responses from members of the panel. The moderator was Mary Kearney, Director of Special Education for LCPS. I was third, I think - not enough time to get nervous. The purpose of the meeting was to address systemic issues using personal experiences, without violating privacy. Only a group of special ed parents would agree to or understand these limitations! The main focus of my comments was on the accountability of members of the IEP team to implement the plan that the group develops. I used examples including the lack of services provided by our previous OT and of course the fiasco on Monday.

Other highlights included numerous pleas from parents and grandparents of profoundly deaf students for the improvement of American Sign Language (ASL) that is taught in the schools. Many of these speakers were very knowledgeable and some were also deaf. Most desire to see their student attend Gallaudet University, but question if that will be possible with the level of instruction that is being offered to the students. Many speakers related information about their children with autism or autism spectrum disorder; there was a wide range of satisfaction with the services and evaluation of the services being provided for these students. There were stories where parental rights were clearly disregarded and stories of IEP teams where no staff member had a special ed background, so even minimal accommodations (preferential seating) were disregarded. Parents of middle and high school students indicated that they'd had different case managers nearly every year and spent much time re-inventing the wheel each fall. Some of it was truly heartbreaking; none of it was surprising.

Before I left, I volunteered to be a Special Ed Advisory Committee PTA Representative, a job that I think will be a good fit for me. I left, once again, relieved to have such wonderful dedicated people working with my son.

The Rest of My Life
Haven't had a chance to update on all the other goings on with our family.

Woke up Saturday morning with Ms Giggles asleep in her room, but the car missing! Her purse was stolen at a party Friday night and of course the keys were in it. ALM took her over to the party site where she found the keys lying on the grass outside, but no purse. It was the only set of keys for this car as Floggy had previously lost a set. So we at least got the car home.

Bake sale made over $350 on Saturday and another $100+ on Sunday.

Ms Giggles got TWO jobs and started the first one today. She's also been to the bank to get a new debit card and the DMV to get a new driver's license.

Little Dude's comment about both the Reading & Math SOL's, "I think I aced it!"

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Special Education Town Hall Meeting

I want to say that I'm looking forward to attending the Special Ed Town Hall Meeting tonight, but looking forward is too optimistic a phrase to describe how I feel. It seemed that we were at a pretty stable place with Little Dude's services and accommodations - until yesterday! Unfortunately his case manager/resource teacher took one day off, and the sub didn't take the time to find out what our plan is and what interventions were appropriate.

Yesterday the class spent time practicing for today's Reading SOL; his testing accommodations for reading are pretty much limited to being able to write in the test booklet instead of filling in the "bubbles" on the answer sheet. Reading is certainly one of his strengths. But the sub helped him prepare by reading him the story selections and the answer options. Not really helpful as when he got home, he thought he had completed the test after this exercise, and he didn't get the benefit of realistic practice.

I spoke with his resource teacher today around lunch time. Besides being very professional and more than well qualified, she is also a kind person and easy to work with as our team leader. She felt bad for taking a day off (which she has every right to do), but even worse for Little Dude's experience. I just asked for him to stay with his classroom teacher (who is awesome in her right) if there are personnel who don't want to use the plan that we have so carefully prepared. And therein lies the rub. We currently have a conscientious, informed, caring professional team that communicates well and generally agrees by consensus on the needs that we are trying to address. It's the lack of implementation by the weakest link of various teams we have had over the years that has caused me to have doubts about what the future holds. I've nearly given up wondering if we would be at a better place now if previous team members had performed adequately. And I credit the gains he has made with the current group for allowing me to more clearly see the bright future ahead.

So, I'm going to the town hall meeting knowing that many parents and students are struggling with surviving while I am pleased for the most part to be participating in thriving.

Meanwhile, we have added place value and fractions to our list of math concepts that we have reviewed. Need to check the list and make up some practice problems for our last night before the Math SOL.

Monday, May 18, 2009

A Day of Prayer for a Friend

For A Friend as He Mourns His Son

Revelation 21:2-7

I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. And I saw the holy city, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying,

"See, the home of God is among mortals.
He will dwell with them as their God;
they will be his peoples,
and God himself will be with them;
he will wipe every tear from their eyes.
Death will be no more;
mourning and crying and pain will be no more,
for the first things have passed away."

And the one who was seated on the throne said, "See, I am making all things new." Also he said, "Write this, for these words are trustworthy and true." Then he said to me, "It is done! I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. To the thirsty I will give water as a gift from the spring of the water of life. Those who conquer will inherit these things, and I will be their God and they will be my children.”

Friday, May 15, 2009

Friday Odds & Ends

Yesterday's visit to the Waterford School (better link) seems to have gone well. No problems with food or costume and Little Dude was co-winner of the spelling bee! Managed to get some suffix work in before the trip to George Mason University and did multi-step multiplication in the car and the Patriot Center before the ceremonies began. J-Man's graduation was very nice and I'm glad we could attend. Luckily, it ended at 9pm; unfortunately, it was pouring down rain when we left for home.

ALM and Ms Giggles have been baking cookies for two days in preparation for the Bake Sale at the Potomac Station Giant, Saturday from 8am to 2pm. St Gabriel's youth are raising money to attend the REACH Workcamp in Hurricane, WV this July. They will be helping to repair the homes of needy residents for a week. Tuition is $399 a person and we have 10 people going this year, plus there are transportation and other expenses. And they have to purchase their own tools/supplies. Come by and get a cookie, muffin or brownie!

We have a full weekend of activities, but we need to see the new Star Trek movie! Guess we'll have to see if we can fit it in on Sunday, but it might depend on the weather. Saturday night would work with our schedule, but that's probably the most crowded time. And Little Dude likes to comment on the screen action which works best at matinee time.

Ms Giggles has filled out about two dozen job applications since arriving back home last week and has two interviews today. Hoping for quick success. Floggy called ask for $ of course, lol.

I'm still following the school boundary and school location battles that won't seem to end. Besides the local paper links, John Stevens blog has a lot of comments including the April 30 entry about Ashburn Farm and Lansdowne. Expecting some official news from Little Dude's school soon also.

Am thankful that friend's surgery went well and seminarian's thesis is completed; am praying for couple who lost their son to sudden illness earlier this week.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Waterford School

Today was the big field trip to the one-room schoolhouse in Waterford, commonly referred to as the Waterford School. I learned many things that I didn't know from the website and other information came home from our teachers. Initially, our concern was getting an appropriate costume for Little Dude. We ended up with black boots (on clearance at Super Target < $9.00), old black baseball tube socks (so he wouldn't complain about the boots rubbing on his legs), dark brown pants that he already owned but with the internal elastic bands buttoned to the loosest setting, men's suspenders (Sears = $20), a white button top, the required white handkerchief and a straw hat (Party City = $20). He complained about the use of the tube socks, "I think the use of dye was rare." We thought it was the acrylic part that was worse than the color. But not coming home with a rash on his legs that would bother him for two days and send him to the school clinic was the most important.

Then we moved onto HOW to pack his lunch. Of course no plastic, foil or paper bags could be used. Having the opportunity to lose a tin or basket seemed silly, so we decided to tie it up in a bandanna. Finally, we got to the food itself, and it became clear to me why life expectancy used to be so short. Let these items sit in a hot classroom for half a day and see how your stomach feels: hard boiled egg, chunk of cheese, sandwich spread with lard, bacon fat, molasses, syrup or jam. So far I'm having a jam sandwich, but Little Dude doesn't eat jam. We decided he'd at least try to eat bacon pieces on biscuit, an apple and chewy chocolate chip cookies. Guess we better have his snack ready when he gets off the bus! Meanwhile, I'm trying to imagine the triglyceride levels of those eating a lard sandwich. I guess we survived the white bread with margarine and bologna, but only because we stopped eating it as trends changed.

Tonight J-Man graduates from college, so we are experiencing the extremes of education in one day. Hope it doesn't go too late.

Haven't made any more progress on our math or suffix list. Maybe we can get some suffix tasks done after the snack this afternoon; will have to save the math for the weekend I guess. Might try to take some info with us in the car.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Class Placement

We got the long division done last night (note to self: don't forget to remind the teacher, resource teacher and Little Dude that he needs graph paper for the Math SOL); we could have done a little more, but we had to redo the suffixes sheet from the night before and he had to complete last night's homework. I think I might put Little Dude on the computer with spell check to review the suffix info. Or maybe I can just convince him to think of it as one big spelling test - he excels at spelling.

There is a "Class Placement Information" sheet attached to this month's online newsletter, so I've been thinking about next year for about a week now. The form is due by June 1st and there is a request for no letters. Makes me wonder whether the administration wants input from parents, but it seems easier to ask for input in May than to have an office full of angry parents in August. Question: "What type of instructional style meets the learning style of your child?" Maybe, just maybe a better statement might be: "Describe the learning style of your child." And at what age do you stop trying to improve their weaknesses and just play to their strengths? With some students it might be obvious in high school, but didn't the rest of us pick a major (or two or three) in college?

We made the jump out of "inclusion" classes this year and hope to continue next year. Not that there won't be any other IEP students in the classroom, we are just trying to ensure that the academic bars are set high enough to continue to challenge Little Dude and keep him busy with academics so we see few behavior problems and keep feeding his brain. But not wanting a lot of down time or boredom is a common interest of parents, I think. The inclusion classes worked well for us for a number of years as it is my opinion that these are very safe classrooms with almost no bullying and a wide range of acceptable maturity levels. The down side was the wide range of academic expectations: the low bar was not at current grade level. And Little Dude is not always self-motivated.

Here are some words and phrases I have used or will use for class placement:
Happy (in general and as a teacher)
Strong in science
Strong in writing
Differentiates needs
Organized, but not rigid
Challenges without overwhelming
Teaches/encourages a variety of methods
Allows movement around the classroom
Doesn't use sarcasm
No long term sub
No peanut butter restrictions

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

School is Ending - Again

It's that special time of the year here in VA, Standards of Learning testing time. With a 2005 graduate and a 2008 graduate, we only have to see our member of the class of 2017 (!) through this year's set of tests. Reading poses no problem and neither does Virginia Studies; it's math that we need to spend some time on this year. With our older kids, I didn't actually spend any time "preparing" them for elementary SOL's as the students are not required to pass to continue to the next grade. It's the school that is graded at the elementary level, but Little Dude is thriving, so I'll actually spend some time with him reviewing.

Here's the list from the teacher for math:
  • multi-step multiplication
  • addition & subtraction with regrouping
  • place value to the hundred millions and thousandths
  • long division
  • fractions
  • measurement
I'm not doing measurement as they are on that topic now, but I'm adding flash cards just to be safe. Fractions could take some time as this includes adding, subtracting, etc. of like and unlike fractions. And I don't see algebra on the list, but they learned the basics of that this year too. The test is on May 20th, so I have a week! Guess I'd better get started.