Family and Food

Extended family gatherings mean excessive amounts of food. That’s the way we roll. In the past three weeks, we’ve had a birthday party, a cousins’ dinner for the New York City gang, Palm Sunday dinner, a cousins’ outing in West Palm Beach, and Easter dinner. Some events were photographed for posterity. Other events will be remembered only by the fat on my ass that must be worked off at the next spin class.

Expelliarmus

We spent two days at Universal Studios in Orlando last week. It’s like Disney World, just on a smaller scale. They have the same, over-the-top, complete commitment to the vision. When you’re on Diagon Alley, even the ATM machine looks like it belongs at Hogswarts. Their 50’s inspired hotel, Cabana Bay, had old cartoons on large screen TVs, mid-century chairs, curved lines, and bright colors. It’s all fake, but it’s perfectly fake.

 

Students and Standardized Tests

Exact figures aside, the students themselves have been largely responsible for the opt-out surge—the rallying among adults is just part of the picture. As kids saw their peers get permission to opt out of the exam, many of them urged their parents to exempt them, too. After all, how many children actually want to take an exam—particularly one that doesn’t leave a mark on their report cards? And when the choice is between algebra questions and a few extra hours of sleep, predicting how students will respond is a no-brainer. Even my kid was in on the action.

Indeed, my 15-year-old son used every weapon in his teenage arsenal—eye rolls, deep sighs, guilt-tripping, and even logic—to pressure my husband and me to write a letter to the school opting him out of the test. None of his friends were taking it, he reasoned; it wouldn’t be fair if he had to stress out about boring math problems while his friends were eating bagels in town—and gleefully texting him about their fun morning. His classmates, he added, would be better prepared for their afternoon exams or classwork (which actually count) because they would be well-rested and have two extra hours to prepare for them. He rightfully pointed out that the PARCC was not required for graduation.

While my son did ultimately take the PARCC exam, other students were more successful in pressuring their parents. Many of the students who couldn’t get  waivers took to Twitter to express their annoyance, tweeting things like, “PARCC spelled backwards is CCRAP.” Some reportedly filled in their answer sheets with gibberish. Though the opt-out campaign began as a parent protest, in some ways it developed into a student-led movement.

More here

Finally, Some Down Time

This spring was one of the busiest on record here at Apt. 11D.

Spring. Well, maybe we can’t officially call the season “spring”, yet. It’s more like extended winter. I think we should call this frigid April, “sprinter.” I should NOT be shivering outside during the second week of April. I refuse to wear my winter coat on principle, so I’m running from the car to the store in a spring sweater and scarf .

This weather is especially annoying, because I just came back from Florida with a sunburn on my shoulders. Now, I have to re-pack up the tank tops and bathing suits in the plastic storage tubs from Home Depot. I can’t imagine using them again for weeks to come.

Planning this trip was one of the many things on my desk this spring-less spring. Along with the travel folder of plane flight and hotel information, there are piles of summer camp pamphlets, rough drafts of education articles, and information from house painters. Honestly, it was medically necessary to walk away from the blog for a while. I was starting to lose my marbles.

The Atlantic just published an article I did about standardized tests. It’s 99% descriptive, so I don’t predict much heat from it. Still, I keep clicking on twitter to see if people are cursing me out.

Because I’m at the computer obsessively monitoring reaction to my article, I think I’ll blog for the rest of the afternoon. I wonder if I still have readers, after my abrupt departure last month. Curious.

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I’m in charge of Palm Sunday dinner tomorrow. I’ll be making a potato dish, asparagus, and lamb. This roasted lamb recipe is pretty easy.

A perfect Saturday morning. Coffee and egg sandwiches from the deli. Curled up with the style mag.

Badass alert. A 2-year old Indian girl breaks national archery record.

Great essay by Philip Gourevitch in the New Yorker about the German plane crash.

Before the Boys Come Home

Hi, gang. Just finished writing an article. It’s all printed out, sitting patiently on the white tiled kitchen counter for Steve’s edits.  In the few minutes before the boys come home, I thought I would briefly check in.

I rather abruptly changed my work routines in the past month, and I’m still not quite sure what I’m supposed to do. Things will fall into place eventually, I know. We’re going away next week to Florida and I’m hoping that I will find clarity in the silicon streets of Diagon Alley.

This will be my third article in five weeks. The trouble with being a workaholic is that there isn’t too much real living that happens. I’ve been writing serious stuff all day, so I can’t muster a political post right now. In short, not much to blog about. So, once I plug in Steve’s edits, I solemnly swear that I will be properly silly for a couple of weeks.

The Last Drunk at the Party

I’ve written at least one blog post nearly every weekday since July 2003. Twelve years. That’s crazy, right?

Blogging has been very, very good to me. I learned how to write quickly for an online audience about topics that they found interesting. I met a lot of really cool people who offered a joke, an insight, and a kind word.

The conversation between bloggers ended five years ago. Traffic patterns changed. People moved to other ventures. Nearly all of the original bloggers dropped out. I kept at it,  mostly because I enjoyed the conversation with my readers, and I liked having control over my ideas and words. Even with the changing online landscape, there was always a reason to go to the computer after the kids got on the bus and write.

I must end Apt. 11D as we know it. The mashup of personal and professional and political. The daily posts. The link-fests. I can’t do it anymore.

Twelve years of daily blog posts with tons of images and graphics creates a mammoth problem. My current serving company can’t manage it. Cleaning up this mess would cost some serious money.

I don’t have enough time to blog properly. My days are getting eaten up with professional writing and local organizing. I’m so overbooked that I’m making mistakes. I’m missing meetings, not returning e-mail messages, and not even doing a great job with blogging. I have to reduce my responsibilities.

So, I’m leaving. I’m the last drunk at the party, who wanted the fun to keep going on and on. But someone turned off the tunes and put on the bright lights. It’s time to grab my purse and get on the subway.

Here’s the plan. I’m not going to dump the website. I want to preserve the historical record. I might come back every couple of weeks to add a personal post about food and kids, because that makes me happy. If you want a ping when I write something, sign up for a subscription (sidebar bottom).

I will set up a professional website at some point. I’m not sure if it will include a blog.

I’m on Twitter and Facebook. Follow me there.

I’ll miss everyone terribly, especially the regular commenters. We’ve been together for a long time, and our little community is the smartest, funniest, kindest group of people ever. I’m sure that I’ll have the DTs from blog withdrawal for a very long time. I hope that we all find each other in some other corner of the Internet or in real life.

Lots of love. Laura

Is Religion Un-Cool?

Ana Marie Cox, a blogger and writer, wrote a post for the Daily Beast that is getting lots of commentary. She says she feels uncomfortable talking about her faith with colleagues.

In my personal life, my faith is not something I struggle with or something I take particular pride in. It is just part of who I am.

The only place where my spirituality feels volatile is in my professional life; the only time I’ve ever felt uncomfortable talking about my faith is when it comes up in conversation with colleagues.

It does come up: Since leaving Washington, I have made my life over and I am happier, freer, and healthier in body and spirit and apparently it shows. When people ask me, “What changed?” or, “How did you do it?” or, sometimes, with nervous humor, “Tell me your secret!” I have a litany of concrete lifestyle changes I can give them—simply leaving Washington is near the top of the list—but the honest answer would be this: I try, every day, to give my will and my life over to God. I try to be like Christ. I get down on my knees and pray.

She also feels judged by believers, because she isn’t totally knowledgable about the bible. Would she fail the Christian litmus test?

I’m Catholic in one of most Catholic areas of the country. There are nothing but Irish and Italians around here. It’s hard to find parking space outside of church. Few people are REALLY Catholic, but lots of people are sort of Catholic. But we Catholics are much more reserved in our devotions than Protestants. Nobody expects us to know the bible; we just have to show up at church on Sunday. I never really thought of Catholicism as a slacker religion, but maybe it is.

The Problem with Education Schools

Do kids really have different learning styles? I’m predisposed to say yes, because I have a kid who has a mis-wired brain, but I always have to keep in mind that my kid is an outlier. Statistically, looking all the millions of kids out there, do some kids have different learning styles? Well, there are no large scale statistical studies that show that some kids learn better one way and others learn better another.

The real problem is teachers spend a lot of time differentiating instruction, because that’s what they learned at their education school.

“I think it’s because they’re taught this in the education schools,” said Dr. Pashler. Many masters’ programs in education “are really not very evidence-based,” he argued. “A lot of education-school faculty are really not examining outcome literature before they make recommendations.”

Education schools aren’t providing instruction to future-teachers that are based on sound research. Later, teachers are expected to constantly rework their lesson plans, based on the latest education fad. Teachers get discouraged.

SL 654

So, the technical problems still exist with the blog. We’re going to have to muddle through, until my hosting service gets its act together. In the meantime, comment quickly.

I’ve been dealing with plug-ins and other nonsense these past couple of days, which has eaten into my reading and writing time. But it turns out that I didn’t miss much yesterday. What with white and gold dresses and llamas and the Kardashian’s $100 million deal with E. The world is coming to an end.

Random things that crossed my screen this morning.

Vogue workers aren’t happy with their new digs downtown. (To be fair, Steve works across the street and is still pissed off that that food trucks are gone.)

If you’re an UMC woman, should you complain about your parenting challenges?

And the award to most clueless investment bank goes to….

Technical Problems

Sorry, guys. The blog is broken. I have “stuff” all morning, so I won’t be able to holler at people until this afternoon. We’ll get this figured out.

UPDATE: I think it’s fixed. Maybe. Sort of. I had to throw out the spam filter, so that may create other fun problems. I spent two hours on this, and it’s time to deal with the rotten children, so no blog post right now. Maybe later. la

Why Do Some Things Become Popular?

I’m fascinated by the question of why some things become popular and seemingly equal things go flat. Honestly, nobody has the answer to that question, because if they did, every book would become a best seller, and every movie would win the Oscars. Still, I like to puzzle things out.

With all the press about the movie, 50 Shades of Grey, (my favorites are this and this), I decided to reread the books last weekend. The second read was worse that the first time, because I gotten over the shock of riding crops and other painful devices, and all I was left was bad prose. And really troubling gender relations (ugh, he makes her change her name) and distasteful materialism (ugh, he buys her cars).

Ultimately, this is a fantasy-fulfillment book. And it’s more than just sex. The heroine gets a Bill Gates-rich husband, several custom designed homes, fast cars, a new wardrobe, an intact extended family, a staff, a prestigious, but undemanding career, and the ability to never be hungry. Is this what women really want?