Monday, April 23, 2012

But pineapples don't have sleeves!

This started out as a comment on Ed Hughes' fabulous school board blog.  (And if you live in Madison, you absolutely need to be reading that blog - He does a wonderful job of keeping the rest of us up to date on local education issues.)

Disclaimer:  my children do very well on standardized tests.  They come by this honestly.  My entire family does very well on standardized tests.  We have never met a scan-tron sheet that we didn't love at first sight.

But guess what?  It doesn't really matter!  If standardized tests were an accurate prediction of life success, my sister and I would currently be President (her) and Vice President (me)....her tests were always a percentile higher than mine, you see.  Or we would have invented Google or Facebook or a cure for cancer or something.

But we're not.  She's living in Alaska, saving the environment.  And I'm living in Madison, working, raising kids and going to too many school board meetings.  We both have very average lives. Lovely lives, for sure.  (But truly not 99th percentile lives, if one is measuring value by career or economic success.)

I very much want to defend standardized tests.  Left to my own world experiences, I would argue passionately that standardized tests were quite obviously the one and only measurement of pure intelligence.

But.  It isn't true.  The more I experience life outside of my own sheltered view, the more I am quite sure that isn't the case.

I've been following the story of the sleeveless pineapple all week and it just gets better and better. 

I've come to the conclusion that most of these tests don't really measure anything beyond how one manages to manipulate the test.

The one area in which I have been most disappointed in Obama has been education and his insistence that more testing is the answer to all our ills.  (Looks like I'm not alone - Matt Damon seems to agree.)

Why the emphasis and focus on standardized testing? Seriously. We already grade our children.  Why can't the grades speak for themselves?  Do we have such little trust in our teachers that we need some testing company to swoop in and charge us a ton of money and tell us our kids are super smart?  (or super dumb, as the case may be?)

In the past, I've defended standardized testing.  Now, I'm not so sure.

And finding out the story was really about an eggplant?!  Now, that was the last straw.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Jacket

I hosted a birthday party last night for my 'Little'.   I piled her friends into the minivan and headed to the local roller rink.

After a rough start (locating 14 year old girls who living in various apt. complexes turns out to be harder than it sounds,) we all arrived in the designated party room, ready to have a fabulous evening.

The excitement and laughter were brought quickly to a halt when a manager of the rink rushed over and proceeded to interrogate the birthday girl, claiming that someone who wore the "same color jacket" as she had on caused trouble the previous weekend.  Evidently someone with this same color jacket had started a fight.  Police were called.  She was banned from the rink for 6 months.

The rink management assumed that my little was this troublemaker.  As they accused her of being a criminal, I saw her fold a thousand times over inside herself to the place she goes when this happens.  (And yes, dear white liberal friends....this happens. a lot.)

I intervened, of course.  Explained that this must be a case of mistaken identity.  Explained that the girl they were accusing had never been in a fight in her life.  Explained that they were with me.  Explained that we were there under our BB/BS relationship.  Explained that this was a birthday party.

The rink management quickly backtracked and couldn't have been more gracious.  They explained that she looked a lot like this other girl.  (And again, they mentioned that both girls had the same color jacket.)  They were wonderful hosts for the remainder of the evening.

The jacket in question was light grey.  It was a very stylish jacket - cropped with short puffy sleeves.  My Little hopes for a career in the fashion industry and pays a lot of attention to her clothing.  She may have a very limited budget, but she always looks amazing.

We put it behind us and ended up having a fabulous time.  We rocked that roller rink.

Midway through the party, I noticed her jacket crumpled up and stuffed in the corner of the box that held our shoes.  With every fiber of my being, I wanted to rescue the jacket and go to her and tell her to put it back on and wear it proudly because she is beautiful and young and stylish and awesome.

But I didn't.  I left the jacket crumpled in the shoe box.  I think it may still be there.

Because we both know that this incident wasn't about the color of her jacket.  It was about the color of her skin.

We have a long way to go.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Something to like: A big 5 year anniversary

A lot happened in 2007.

In 2007, the iPhone was introduced (and immediately purchased chez Nelson, propagating an addiction to all things Apple.)

In 2007, we were told our 13-year-old cat was about to die, so we went out and got two adorable kittens. (Needless to say, we lived in a three cat household for the next 5 years...)

  His sister, not so much.
In 2007, Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize.  (I still don't think he should have, but that's an argument for another day.)

in 2007, Mitt Romney was running for President.  (Oh wait, that is still happening.)

In 2007, Son D was obsessed with baseball.  (Oh, again, still happening)

But hands down, the single most important thing that happened in 2007 was my match with my Little Sister through BB/BS. 

A. is my third match.  Honestly, I wasn't going to do another one.  I'd done two already - isn't that enough?  Like most people, I have an incredibly busy life with a job and kids and a home and plenty of other volunteer opportunities.

But then I met A. You would have to be a stone not to fall madly in love with her. She was an amazing 9-year-old elementary school student - vivacious and curious about everything in life.  I was hooked.

Over the last 5 years, we've had a lot of fun together. Lots of life lessons on both sides.

Something remarkable happens at the 5-year mark. I think it must happen in every relationship, whether it is a marriage or a friendship or a BB/BS match.

At 5 years, you become kindred spirits. By then, you know each so well: you know every one of each others flaws...and yet love each other hopelessly anyway. You've laughed. You've cried. Ups, downs, boredom, difficulties, thrills - you've had them all.  At 5 years, you are matched in your heart and soul.

After 5 years, I could not be prouder of the 14-year-old young woman she has become. 

I won't post a recent photo to respect her privacy, but just imagine the strongest, most beautiful, kindest girl you can imagine who sings like Whitney Houston and smiles like Mona Lisa.  Yep, that's her.

It occurs to me that 5 years in the future, it will be 2017 and I will be sending her off to college. She'll be the first in her family to attend college.  Because of BB/BS and the scholarships/opportunities available to her through this program, she WILL attend college.

Can I ask you a favor?  If you've read this far?  Please click on the link to BB/BS of Dane County's Facebook page  and "like" them.  A wonderful company (Capitol Insurance) has offered to donate $1 for every "like" they get. 1,000 likes will give them the ability to make another match! 1,000 likes will give some other lucky soul the life-changing amazing experience that I have had.

What's not to like about that?