Slice of Life: Monday Weirdness

Slice of Life: Monday Weirdness

Yesterday started out fine. My son who is in graduate school had come home for the weekend but instead of the usual Friday through Sunday, he arrived Saturday and left in the morning yesterday. I took him to a local breakfast spot before he headed out. His brothers had left for school, anxious to get the next two weeks over and be finished for the year. My husband had left for work.

After breakfast, I went to continue my spring clean up in the gardens at the school where I am the co-curricular advisor for a student garden club. The gardens are large and it has been a daunting task, unfortunately filled with a little drama in the last month. Still, I am planting annuals later this week with the student body and eventually, over 450 plants need to be put in the ground. I worked for an hour and a half, until the sky had darkened so much it looked like it would rain.

It was mid-afternoon that things got interesting. Another tennis match got cancelled due to the rain. My senior, the one who plays tennis, headed to Taco Bell to get an after school snack with his friend. I got a call from him saying he had a flat tire; they were in the parking lot of a local grocery store trying to fix it.  Knowing nothing about patching tires, which is what they were trying to do, I told him I would call Dad who was at work. What followed was a flurry of texts. My husband’s place of employment changed in January and I had never had to call him at work since then. As it turned out, yesterday was not a good day to try that out.

During the midst of all this, I threw in a load of wash. I turned the washer on and it immediately started churning. This was not what I expected. Off and on, on and off, I pressed the buttons on the machine to no avail. It just made the churning noise, never filled with water, and never “weighed” the contents, as it usually does before starting to run. It seemed to be broken!

Needless to say, my blog didn’t get written, loads of wash never got cleaned, and the van ended up with a temporary fix. Dinner was quick, homemade pizzas, after which time I ran to our school board meeting.  I quickly noticed the convenience of texting because my youngest son, while at his AP test review session at the high school, was able to contact me for a ride home before I even left the board meeting which was in a building only a few hundred feet away from his classroom.

During the remainder of the evening, the television set never got turned on.  We had people studying, working on papers, and the fixing (unsuccessfully) of a washing machine.  It was a lot for a Monday.  I hope today does not contain any unexpected surprises.

This blog piece was my contribution to the TwoWritingTeachers sponsored, Slice of Life Tuesday blog forum, on WordPress. It is a chance, once a week, to share a slice of our lives with other authors/educators/ and interested readers. Thank you for the opportunity to be part of this supportive community!






No longer the turning point

No longer the turning point

It’s here. The end of sophomore year in high school for my youngest son. I know, it is usually not a milestone that is marked. For our family, it has become one.

Yesterday, we attended parent – teacher conferences at our high school. Never again will we have a sophomore aged high school student. A couple of his teachers were not there. One was his art teacher. We saved talking to her for last because she likes to show off the student work and chat about their progress, so you might end up wandering the halls of the building to view their creations. But, she was off setting up at a student art show at local vineyard, where his paintings will be displayed with his peers. His social studies teacher was also absent. But, he’s doing fine in both of those courses, so all is well. We spent the most time with his AP calculus teacher – hearing how he is preparing them for the AP exam later this month and visiting, as this teacher has had all three of our boys.

The conferences were good, as they always are, and we go mainly to keep the lines of communication open with the teachers, since we do not really have concerns.  But, the end of this sophomore for our youngest child is significant. The goal I had for him this year was to finish it still being happy with going to school and enjoying what it has to offer.

This might seem like an odd goal but there is some history behind it that will explain more. In the late winter of our eldest son’s sophomore year, he was so disenchanted with being under-challenged, he ended up going through the open-enrollment process that  allows students to attend school in a district in which they do not live. He enrolled, with our permission, in a virtual high school within another public school district three hours away. Sophomore year, seven years ago, was his last year as an official student at our resident high school, the same school his brothers now attend. It was a good choice for him. He ended up not only being more challenged but also being the Valedictorian of his class at the school he attended virtually for his junior and senior year.

Two years ago, our middle son experienced his sophomore year. This is when somewhat of a pattern emerged. By the end of his sophomore year, he was experiencing difficulty with a teacher who had been unprofessional and callous by telling him he was “stupid” in front of his peers. I am really not sure how anyone who is taking pre-calculus sophomore year in high school can be categorized as stupid, but that is what was said. Two years later, I can honestly say that event was a turning point for him in his educational process. Staying in that class, knowing what the teacher thought of him, prevented from getting any kind of help with the material (why would you go to someone for help who spoke in such a way to embarrass you), led him to questioning his self-confidence and his abilities. His motivation has suffered. It was an awful experience, one I do not think he has fully recovered from yet. It happened during second semester, sophomore year.

Thus, I began to see late winter and early spring (February – March) of the sophomore year in high school for our boys as a turning point. So, when this year began for our youngest,  I had a sense of trepidation. I hoped that he could get through the year without any major event that would alter his course or change his feelings about school. Like our other two, he has a fairly heavy load with an AP class, playing two varsity level sports, and furthering his artistic abilities.

And, here we are. The last PT conferences of the year and he still likes (I could even say loves) going to school. He loves being challenged both academically and with his sports participation and art projects. He’s had a great year. No, he doesn’t have straight A’s. I learned that doesn’t really matter. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great if you have them, but does not really mean all that much if you don’t. Our grading processes need an overhaul – but that is a subject for another post. Happiness is what matters. A sense of belonging and being understood matters. Being challenged matters. Knowing you are respected by your peers AND by your teachers matters.  I think we are over the hump. Our third, and last sophomore will make it through the year still with a love for school. And, I think that is priceless!

Found At Last, A Monarch’s Tag!

Found At Last, A Monarch’s Tag!

For the last three years, I have tagged Monarch Butterflies. Having raised these fascinating, and now troubled, iconic creatures for the last 15 years, I took on the task of tagging their hind wings in the late summer/fall of 2015.  I was hooked! It was easy and fun! I was acting as a contributing citizen scientist, providing data to Monarch Watch on the migration of these miraculous insects.

So, I did it again in the fall of 2016 and again, this past fall, 2017. I tagged 16, 17, and 25 monarchs each respective year for a total of 58 monarchs. It is not a lot, but it is significant for me. I receive a great deal of joy from helping sustain the monarch population. It has also been the subject on which I have focused many of my environmentally based garden club lessons with students over the last 14 years. For me, the act of tagging brings their life cycle full circle. It is a sign of hope I am placing on them as I attach the tag to their hind wing. I carefully raise each monarch caterpillar or egg I find in the habitat meant for them in my yard. I feed them daily and clean their “cages.” When one ecloses or emerges from the chrysalis, as the term implies, it is a beautiful transformative moment. A moment signaling hope for their future.

Immediately upon emergence from the chrysalis, the monarch’s wings are crumpled and wet. They cannot fly at this time and, as I understand it, if they fall before their wings dry out and straighten, they will most likely not survive! Luckily, I have never had this happen. After a short time – an hour or two – the wings have stiffened and the butterfly is starting to move them to open and close.  The monarch can be tagged at this time. Holding the butterfly securely with the wings closed, the tiny tag is attached to one of the hind wings. The tag has letters and numbers – a code, if you will – in sequence for the number of tags you purchased. The tags are very sticky and need to be placed on the wing in the correct position, the first time, for they cannot be repositioned without stripping the scales from the wing.


Tags can only be ordered in late summer for it is only this generation of monarchs that make the great migration to Central Mexico for the winter.  The tags must only be used the year they are purchased, and remaining tags (unused) should be returned to monarch watch with the data record sheet of those monarchs you tagged that season.  Sex is noted, as is whether the monarch was caught and tagged was wild or reared. Tagging location is also indicated on the sheet. It is a relatively simple, yet effective means for tracking the butterflies.

Yesterday, I got some very exciting news! After three years of tagging, and looking for recovered tags on the reported data sheets, I was finally was able to identify two codes from tags that were placed on Monarchs by me last fall! TWO!  Both tags were found in Mexico! Monarchs I had raised in my home gardens in West Central Wisconsin had made the complete migration all the way to Mexico! How cool is that?!


Monarch Watch receives the report of found tags. The person finding the tagged monarch reports their location and the code on the hindwing tag.  This is then shared via their website through social media outlets, so people – interested citizen scientists, like myself – can look to see if any of the monarchs they tagged made it to Mexico!  Thus, scientists can tell if they are seeing a large number of monarchs successfully make the migration from one area of the country versus another.

second tag of the 2017 season

Last year I tagged 25 monarchs. Sixteen were females and 9 were males. All were hand-reared.  Two were recovered in Mexico. One, a female was released here on 9/8/17 and found in Sierra Chincua Mexico on 2/10/18. Another, a male – actually, tagged by my husband on 9/20/17, was found on 3/3/18 in Cerro Pelon, Mexico.  This was such exciting news! You can be sure I will be tagging more monarchs this coming fall. Thank you Monarch Watch for encouraging citizen scientists to contribute to your understanding of these iconic creatures. Hopefully, it will help us all save them.




Speed Talking & Passion Do Not Mix Well

Speed Talking & Passion Do Not Mix Well

Last night I spoke to a small group of our local Lionesses who had invited me to their meeting to talk about Monarch Butterflies. Already with a lot on my plate, I reluctantly agreed to accept their invitation, even though I received it but two short weeks ago.

Conserving Monarch Butterflies and their habitat is a passion of mine. I have been involved in the work of saving this iconic species for about 16 years now, well before it was popular. I was comfortable knowing I could engage the Lioness group in the topic.

The problem, however, was that they only wanted me to speak for 20 minutes!  Twenty minutes! Yikes! It is not a lot of time to cover a subject that has many facets. I recently spoke at a conference for other Master Gardeners on Monarchs, Milkweed, and the Monarch Highway and even that presentation was 45 minutes long!

Therefore, yesterday, I went about trimming my presentation down to twenty minutes. The night before, while I had insomnia, I decided that I’d break the entire presentation down into five-minute sections. Five minutes for an introduction, five minutes for background information on what is currently going on with the monarch species, five minutes for what they can do to help the monarchs, and five minutes on other resources, closing, and questions.



I didn’t have as much difficulty paring down the presentation as I thought, at least on paper. I cut out most of the life cycle information with the exception of the migration, and reliance on milkweed plants as the sole sustenance for their survival. I went as confidently into the presentation as I could with essential information.

Graciously, the Lionesses invited me to dine with them prior to my presentation which would be followed by their meeting. I accepted that invitation as well. I waited for them to indicate it was time for me to present to them.  I am not sure we were “on schedule” or not when I started but I did ask for assistance in letting me know when I was about half way through my talk. I then expected some looking at watches for this reason. Eventually, that happened but even with speed talking and paring my presentation down, one member indicated that I was at the 15 minute mark! Already! Not to worry, I stated, I was almost done.  I wrapped up with where they could get further information and by answering questions.  Unfortunately, I know I went over their 20 minute time frame. They still had a meeting to conduct. I left knowing that I had made an effort but also knowing that in the future, I need at least 30 minutes (and ideally 45 minutes) to make an adequate presentation on the topic of Monarch Conservation.  I think what it comes down to is that you cannot put constraints on passion!

Today is Slice of Life Tuesday, where writer’s can post their blog piece as a link in a forum for other writer’s. Thank you to Two Writing Teachers Blog for hosting this weekly forum.

The Fate of PTO: Are all Parent Teacher Organizations the Same?

The Fate of PTO: Are all Parent Teacher Organizations the Same?

Last night I went to a TEAM meeting at the school where I serve as Garden Club Advisor. TEAM is their version of the PTO association. I do not know and could not find what that  acronym stands for. I went to the meeting to introduce myself to the parents and briefly explain what we do in garden club. The principal and I felt it would be a good way to “advertise” the club and increase awareness of our lessons.

Upon arriving there were eight to ten people already gathered around a table. The principal and TEAM president were involved in an animated discussion.  Immediately, I was transported back to my days of being a PTO board member or meeting attendee myself. There was a small group of parents (4-5) and teachers (4) and the principal, who all seemed to know each other well. I was considered a guest; thankfully, introductions were made. But, then there continued to be a sense of deja vu. The talk turned to recruiting and electing officers for the next school year. Reluctance filled the air. It became evident that the people currently holding those positions were stepping down, looking for new parents or staff to step up.  Ballots were passed around.  Several minutes were spent discussing the difficulty of finding willing replacements to even run for an office.

Is this scenario common to your school?  It seemed so common to my own experience with PTO, over 18 years ago, that I could have been sitting in a different school with different people and have the same meeting be conducted.  It seems the same small group of parents and teachers attend these meetings, no matter what the school or where it is located.  The principal reassured the group that what they were experiencing (reluctance to run for a TEAM office or even come to meetings) was what her colleagues reported experiencing at other schools in their district. Do PTO, PTA, PTG, TEAM or any other such parent-teacher groups similarly exist in other countries? Or is this self-imposed bureaucracy an American thing?

People burn out, that’s a fact. When a small group of dedicated parents and staff do all the work and do it for years, it makes one tired and, I am sorry to say – resentful.  This group did not appear to be so. They were concerned. Concerned that they would not be able to offer their student body all the good things that come from PTO (or TEAM) funding or organizational skills.  No solutions were reached other than one teacher suggesting the kids from each grade level thank attendees at spring concerts and assemblies for their time, money, and talents, asking for their continued (or new) involvement.  I hope that idea goes forward, there seemed to be a lot of support for it.

Fortunately, my time on PTO was finished a long time ago done. Although it was something I truly did not want to do or a role I got any enjoyment from, I served as a board member for 2 years and chaired several committees after that. Honestly, there are probably very few people who remember me in that volunteer role, as it was nearly 18 years ago now. PTO turned out not to be a great place for me to spend my time. I found other ways to contribute to the school – ways that were also needed, satisfying, and more meaningful to me. But, sitting in that meeting last night, I couldn’t help but wonder – Are all PTO’s the same?


Although I blog daily, my Tuesday blog posts are shared with those who post in the Slice of Life: Tuesday writing community hosted by the TwoWritingTeachers blog. Thank you for helping us connect to other writers each week through this forum.


Negative Feedback Loop

Negative Feedback Loop

Between a phone meeting with my graduate advisor about my research study, thinking about getting out to the polling place for April elections that include voting for school board candidates, the snow that’s coming down, and a hair appointment later today, I forgot that it is time for a Slice of Life: Tuesday post. Part of this forgetfulness is due to the fact that I was somewhat relieved to have the Slice of Life Story Challenge over for this year. I relished in being able to post my photo-only, ever-popular, Silent Sunday thematic post this week. And, as usual and expected, I had a nice response to that.

Along withe a few other slicers this year, I felt a lack of support from the Slice of Life Community this year. I have only participated once before, and it was last year. So, I do not have much to which I can compare the experience. All I can tell you is that it just was not the same (for me).  Over all it is still a great experience, and I reflected on that in my blog on the 31st, as most of the slicers did this year.  However, it was the lack of or few comments I received on my blog from other slicers that bothered me. Some have said that it is because more people are participating and the requisite three comments do not spread very far. I am not sure that is the reason. I know there were many participants last year and I felt more connected. One wise blogger pointed out that my feeling that last year was better is probably  because I was new and received regular visits from welcome wagon participants. She could be entirely right. Still there were days I received no comments at all.

When I don’t get three comments from other slicers involved in the Slice of Life Challenge, it in turn served as a de-motivator for me to leave comments for others. Here is what my numbers show. My return comments (that I try to make to each blogger) are not included in these numbers. It isn’t pretty! But, thank you to those who did take the time to comment!

Commenting Numbers For March

March 1  – 5 comments from others

2nd – 2 comments from others 

3rd –  5 comments from others

4th –  3 comments from others

5th – 3 comments from others (one not a slicer but another friend that blogs)

6th – 4 comments from others

7th – 1 comment from another person

8th – 1 comment from another person

9th – 4 comments from others

10 – 3 comments from others (one not a slicer but another friend that blogs)

11 – 5 comments from others (2 comments from the same person who is not a slicer but a personal friend)

12th – 5 comments from others (2 comments of the five from the same person – a slicer)

13th – 2 comments from others

14th – 4 comments from others

15th – No comments from anyone!

16th – 6 comments – (2 from the same person)

17th – 10 comments

18th – 10 comments

19th – 1 comment

20th –  3 comments

21st – 6 comments

22nd – 5 comments pertaining to this post

23rd – No comments from anyone!

24th –  3 comments (2 from the same person)

25th –  6 comments

26th – 4 comments

27th – 3 comments (one not a slicer)

28th – 4 comments

29th – 2 comments

30th – 2 comments

31st – 2 comments

There are 14 days of the 31 days is March, that I did not receive the minimum number of comments from other slicers (3 comments). And, more notably 2 days during which I did not receive any comments at all. If part of the blogging challenge is to connect with others, these numbers tell me that I am not doing it! Certainly, I felt by participating in the Slice of Life Story Challenge this year, I would receive more feedback.

Growing Pains

Let me be clear. I will continue to write. And, I will probably continue the SOL Tuesday postings, but I see some need for the guidelines of the annual March Slice of Life Story Challenge to change.  It is a huge undertaking that those at have made to host this blogging challenge and I am grateful for the opportunity to participate in the challenge.  I can only imagine the amount of work that is put into it. I just wish it had been more satisfying for me, personally.  But, maybe there are some growing pains that need to be addressed. Thoughtfully responding to the posts of others is part of blogging. I expected more.

Writing About Nothing

Writing About Nothing

Usually, I write about something important to me.  But, I really spilled my guts in yesterday’s post, so I feel drained. Given that the Slice of Life Challenge is starting this Thursday and I have signed up to participate again, I thought I would just take today and write about nothing all that important. Another reason I do not have a lot to say is that I have a paper due for my Place Based Learning Instructional Strategy Course on Wednesday.  I have not gotten very far on it.  I love the subject matter, but seem buried in other obligations – two other grad courses, a conference presentation on March 10th (not started yet), and a trip tomorrow to visit my son at Iowa State University.  We are going to see Motown the Musical on stage at Stephens Auditorium, which is a wonderful venue.

I am looking forward to being on a college campus for a few days and spending time with my oldest son who is in his first year of graduate school. I figure that I will work on my presentations and course work in the union.  It will be relaxing and hopefully, productive.  We will meet for meals and do some fun things together, like the musical. I’ll go and have coffee, take some winter photographs, and buy some Dutch Licorice Drops at STAM Chocolatiers in Downtown Ames.  I’ve needed this getaway for a while now and excited the time is near.

Today will be about getting as much work done as possible, so I can freely relax and not worry about what needs to be done. My school obligations will all fall into place whether I worry about them or not. So, here’s my Slice of Life blog about nothing at all.