Thoughts on Standardized Testing

Maybe I’m the one, lackadaisical parent who didn’t have testing day circled in red Sharpie on our calendar, counting down the days to the big event. Maybe I’m the slacker mom who didn’t make my kids go to bed much earlier than normal (we already go to bed fairly early, according to my kids). Maybe I’m the only parent who didn’t get up and cook a healthy, well-rounded breakfast and see my soon-to-be-testers out the door (For all of you who did, great job!).

For me…today is just another day, and I refuse to allow my my kids to be defined by a score on a test. Based on their test-taking histories, I can probably give you a ballpark of how they will do. In the end, though, I don’t expect my kids to become engineers, donut-makers, attorneys, sports trainers, telemarketers (though I will hang up on them if they pitch me their product!), programmers, nurses, Wal-Mart cashiers, or that guy who stands on the side of the road holding a sign that says “Furniture Liquidation! Everything must go!”.

My hope is that they will trust God to guide their lives and believe that He loves them just the way they are. I want them to love others, treating all people with kindness and respect (not just the ones who are nice to them). I desire for them to find spouses who will love them and that together they will serve others in the name of Jesus Christ. And in doing these things they will be happy (though sometimes they will be sad–it’s how life rolls) and know true joy.

I’m pretty sure you don’t have to make a certain score on the LEAP, IOWA, iLEAP, Explore, ACT, or SAT to do those things. And me…well, I’m just going to try to parent my kids well *every* day, not just testing day. I’m sure I’ll screw it up some, but I’m trusting God to help me.

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Mother’s Day – “strait” up love

Hallmark ain’t got a thing on my 13-year-old…”strait” up!

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the woman I am becoming

 My great-aunt Thelma lives in rural Mississippi in the house (a bit modified through the years, of course) in which she was raised on land that has passed from ancestor to ancestor since the Ashley family arrived there around 1795.  As a child I would walk the short distance from my grandparents’ house through the woods and around my grandfather’s gardens to visit Aunt Thelma.  I could always count on a cold “Coka-coler”, puzzles or some sort of board game, a jar full of marbles, and a parting gift–an apple or an orange.  Aunt Thelma never married or had children, so the children and grandchildren of her four siblings were precious to her, and she was like another grandmother to me.  As life sometimes goes, we didn’t always have time for her, but she always had time for us–she was a constant; ever-present for her family.  Aunt Thel cared for each of her siblings as they left this life: Earl, cancer; Mae, lukemia; Pete, cancer; Gurvis, cancer; Ginny, dementia.  I suppose with those odds, it’s a wonder she’s made it through her 85th year.  Then again, perhaps her work here is not done.

Last fall I read Cutting for Stone, an epic novel by Abraham Verghese that journeys from India to Ethiopia to the United States and weaves a story of family, tragedy, caregiving, regret, and forgiveness.  Absorbed in the tale, I came across the word ayah:  “The little boy’s ayah, Sebestie, had nothing to do other than join in the play…”  This word, pronounced “ah-yuh”, reminded me of the pet name for Aunt Thelma that was given to her by a niece.  I never knew how to spell it, but it sounded very similar to ayah. Of course, with a southern child saying the name it sounded more like “i-yi” with a long “i” sound, but this word intrigued me.  When I looked up the meaning, I found that it was an Indian word that means nursemaid and is a derivation of the Latin and Portuguese words for grandmother.  I doubted that this word ayah had any role in the pet name given Aunt Thelma, but I thought how fitting that she, who has become the matriarch of her family even though she has no children, would be called by a name so similar to this.  She has mothered and given care to so many.

As I approach my 36th birthday, I find myself mothering and giving care for so many myself.  My own boys are 12 and 9, and when I remarried two years ago, I gained a full-time stepdaughter, who just turned 14.  In December, my husband’s former stepdaughter, who is 20, came to live with us.  Yesterday, she gave birth to her auburn-haired baby Chloe.  Not only did I have the privilege of witnessing her birth, but I also became a grandmother…sort of.  Many have asked me what Chloe will call me:  “Grammy?” “Maw Maw?” “Mimi?”  All of those seem strange to me.  I am, after all, only 36 (!), and I have no biological link to this child.  Oh, how she holds my heart already, though!  While her mama will grow her and love her (and quite well, I suspect!), I will get to have a unique role in her life as well.

So I will be “Ayah” to baby Chloe.  It seems fitting, and I pray I can be a woman who is everything my Aunt Thelma has been to so many.

*By the way, I simply can’t share a bed with a man called “Paw Paw” or “Gramps”…it’s just not in me.  Mike will be “Papa”.  : )

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Master of the Jujitsu Mom Stare’s word of the day:  “Jujitsu – the ability to accomplish a task with no apparent effort or resistance.”  According to Noah, I’m able to speak whole sentences to him with my eyes even when I don’t realize I’m doing it.  Does that count?

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Side by Side

In a meeting today a coworker was demonstrating a new web-based tool when another coworker stepped in to help him search for something.  Within a few seconds there were two brains thinking in two different directions while one controlled the keyboard and the other controlled the mouse.  A bit like watching a three-legged race that no one has practiced for!

A very cloudy memory formed in my head at just that moment…a piano duet with my older brother when we were kids.  I have no idea what we played or even how old we were, but I remember practicing for the performance (I hated piano!).  What was our teacher thinking?!  “Yes, let’s see…I’ll just take these two kids who aren’t too fond of playing the piano in the first place (or of each other, for that matter), stick them on a bench, and teach them to play a little piece that will make their relatives just oooh and ahh over them.”

Do you ever have days when you feel like you got stuck with the worst duet partner in the world?  Your spouse, a coworker, your boss, or maybe even the guy next to you on your flight to Chicago might be working your last nerve or seem on a completely different wavelength.  Just remember that everyone has a unique perspective.  Your ideas may be different, and in the end you may not agree on all the details (or even on the whole plan!), but having an extra brain, eyes, or hands can have its advantages.

What do I remember most about my childhood duet?  We sat side by side, legs touching, fingers meeting on the keyboard from time to time, and played one song together.  No fighting, no yelling, no ugly faces, no competition.  Just two kids with a shared sense of accomplishment.

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Jonah’s Boat

Jonah wanted to complete his school project the first night he had the assignment.  We convinced him to stretch it out over a few days to get it looking just right.  He went through several names before settling on the Titanic.  Luckily, his didn’t sink.

Now I know you can almost hear the grunt of Tim “The Toolman” Taylor.  Mike couldn’t wait to get out to his scrap lumber and power tools.  He definitely took charge of this project.  Notice how Jonah’s holding his breath in this picture.  I love it!  He wasn’t so sure about breathing in the saw dust.

I really wish we had some pictures of him painting it.  He took it to his dad’s house for that part.  They also put the name on it with a woodburning kit.



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Noah’s Fall Projects


One project was to come up with a sign to promote racial equality.  Noah sought no input from me or anyone else in this one.  He went straight to work when he got home, fervently typing out his thoughts.  I loved his run-on sentence so much that I didn’t have the heart to tell him to correct it.


And just in case you’re having a little trouble figuring out what this is, Noah is proudly displaying his gumdrop atom, which had many parts I had never heard of.  What can I say…I was never really interested in science!


Finally, we have the card pyramid.  I cannot even tell you how many months Noah has been trying to successfully finish this.  Many times he’d get halfway through only to have Jonah walk by and bump the table, or I’d swoosh through the room sending a breeze to destroy the near-perfect structure.  Will he stop the obsession now?  Nah.  He got on the internet to see what other type of card houses he could build.  Below is one of the few he found.


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