Monday, May 26, 2014

Hiking...On Purpose

This weekend, I had the privilege to be invited to go hiking with a couple of friends to a very popular hiking spot in Wenatchee, WA.  This was something that I had been asked to join in on, on several occasions and we finally had the opportunity.

Here's the thing...I've only gone hiking twice in my life.  Once, when I was 17 and the other time was two days ago.  My first experience was horrific as I had been a teenager with other teenagers, all of us who were terribly equipped for the hike.  We had climbed (not hiked...climbed) incredibly steep hillsides, leaving clothing behind as we climbed because we were so hot, no water on any of us, and poor shoes.  At one point, we all had to scoot our backs up against the side of the mountain with only a very small area for our footing and then a treacherous cliff just beyond our toes.  When you're a teenager, you're invincible.  This was when reality sunk in.  One slip and we'd be dead.  It was incredibly frightening and thus began my fear of heights.  Thanks, friends.  When we reached the top, huffing and puffing, there was snow.  All of us punched our hands into the slightly thawed icy crystals and filled our mouths with as much as we could fit without giving ourselves brain-freezes.  And that's when I saw my ex-boyfriend and his best friend drinking from their water bottles.  Assholes.  To this day, I'm surprised they didn't "accidentally" find themselves at the bottom of that drop-off.  While the rest of us wanted to stay at the top and stay cool, the two that were refreshed from their water, were the only ones who knew the way back, so off we went.  And that meant it was time to go...down.  I believe the potent mixture of both fear and anger got me off the mountain that day.  I remember hearing a lot of, "It's okay, Kathy.  Jump!  We've got you.  We won't let you fall."  Since I'm here writing this, I'm happy to say my friends did indeed keep me alive that day to wait another 20 years to tackle the whole "hiking experience" again.

That brings me to Saturday, May 24th.  Saddlerock.  Past the horse arena and towards a dry rocky terrain, we parked the car, tied our shoes, stretched a bit, and made sure our water bottles were full.  Time to climb this beast!
Many times, I've been told how it's a great hike, great workout, beautiful views, not difficult, bring Farrah - she'll love it, and how much I'll enjoy myself.  Well, it was my opportunity to give hiking a second chance as I'd turned the idea down many times since I was a teen.  We brought a friend's dog along and my friends, Rebecca and Danny, and I began the journey.
In the beginning it wasn't terrible and Rebecca and I enjoyed each other's company talking about random things, drinking our water, walking the lab, and greeting other hikers who were on their way down.  As it progressed, the path became steeper and my breathing became heavier.  More water.  I could feel the workout I was getting and was happy that I had come along.  The sun was hot and I could feel I would get a nice tan in the process as well.  By the time we reached the halfway point, the dog was heading for a shaded tree and Rebecca's boyfriend, Danny, had caught up to us (he was running the whole way!).  And here's where the bad parts began...we weren't at the halfway point.  We weren't anywhere near it, as a matter of fact.  Alrighty!  I psyched myself up and started the trek with them again.  And again, the path got steeper...and steeper...and steeeeeeeeper.  Annnnd that's when I realized my footwear was so very, very wrong.  Pumas?  Really?  Am I retarded?  Apparently.
So, I hiked up higher and higher and every once in a while my foot would slip on some sandy gravel.  I hated it because I would think about how embarrassing it would be to fall on my ass.  That's when I looked down.  Nope.  It was no longer a fear of being embarrassed from falling on my ass, but falling off the cliff and breaking my ass, my face, my back, my arms, and legs.  That sounded like a shitty Saturday afternoon.  My fear of heights hit me hard when I was at a very steep spot and not in any position to head down and run away like the coward I was.  Shit.  So I climbed and whined and whined and climbed.  Rebecca and Danny talked me through to the best of their abilities...Danny's kind words were, "Don't be a pussy.  You can do this."  Rebecca on the other hand was a bit more delicate, "I know you're scared, but you'll be so happy when we reach the top."  When I asked where the top was and she pointed about 5 more miles away straight up, my words were, "MOTHER-FUCKER!"
I climbed and slipped and whined, but mostly I talked about how Rebecca was a big fat lying liar about Saddlerock.  Her 4 year old did this and she thought my 7 year old could?  That's just mean.  Her 4 year old was carried by he didn't actually climb it.  I would've been pretty upset if I'd taken Farrah.  We would've lasted about 1/4 of a mile and turned around (and that would've been one hell of an excuse to get out of climbing anymore and we would've run off to Dairy Queen for a blizzard.).  You know what else sucks up there?  Bees.  Lots of bees.  So, while I was scared of slipping and falling to my death, I was also scared of an attack from the wasps surrounding the path.  Sigh.
When we reached a spot where others had stopped to catch their breath and take in the views, I found relief in knowing we were done.  Only we weren't.  "No, Kath, we still have to get to the top!" Danny pointed to the rocks we needed to reach which were straight up.  Kill me.  The path got steeper and narrower and even the dog was ready to throw in the towel.  We reached the very, very top about 10 minutes later and the view truly was incredible.  Except...I couldn't move off the rock I was on.  I could either fall forward or backward.  Either way, death awaited me.  Awesome.
After we took all our photos and realized we were killing the dog, we started to make our way down from a different way.  Had we gone down the way we came, I would've simply sat on my butt and scooted my way to the finish line.  As it was, there were a couple areas where I did, in fact, have to do that.  As we got closer to the end, I found my stride pick up to a perfect speed.  We had talked about what we were going to eat the entire way down...that was my motivation.  Food and a BIG bottle of water.

Needless to say, hiking is not on my list of things I can hardly wait to do again unless the path is paved and flat and slightly downhill...both ways...and I'm being pulled in a wagon.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Public School...FAIL

This may be an unpopular post, but just deal with it.  My mom was a public school teacher, I am a public school graduate, and my daughter is currently attending public school along with 99% of the rest of the country's children.  Here's the thing.  I'm not a fan.  Sorry.  Things were different when we were kids and they were regimented in a way that seemed to make sense.  Nowadays, I don't like it.  They've eliminated cursive writing because it seems to be "unnecessary".  Really?  I'm glad my signature on loan documents will never be able to be forged.  Looks like fingerprints are in the future for everyone!  Way to go, America.  That being said, Farrah had the most beautiful handwriting in her class.  Now?  Now, it doesn't even seem to matter to her teacher.  Her teachers at her private school complimented her on her beautiful handwriting and encouraged her daily to keep up the good work, helping her find pride in not only turning in work that was accurate, but beautiful, too.  What I've seen is a downfall in that wonderful "insignificant" skill of hers to be hurried and sloppy.  That's not my kid.  That's my kid who is bored and just wants to finish whatever she's working on so she can do something else.
I had found out 3 months into the school year, that the days Farrah went to the school library, the first graders were limited to the "first grade section".  Umm...what?  Farrah reads at a 4th grade reading level and she has to read about the puppy who lost it's way?  No.  I got the librarian to make an exception for her, but it really bothered me that it just got overlooked.  How the hell do you overlook something like that?  I'm not using this post to brag about my kid, but to point out something that I was concerned about by the time I'd conceived her.
There are many teachers out there with the love and passion for teaching and I know some of them.  Unfortunately, they're not at my daughter's school.  I knew things were changing when I'd have to help my stepson with his homework and watched the way the system changed on an annual basis.  Eventually, it was going to get to a point that it would hit home with me and my daughter...and it has.  She is a bright kid and very mature.  But one thing I believe she has picked up on and has learned is to just keep quiet, get her work done, play with her friends, and be ready to come home when it's time.  Sounds like me.  She's bored.  I'd warned her teacher and her principle that this could happen and I wanted to be sure she got challenged.  Mind you, her school isn't doing an awful job, it's just sometimes, certain students get left behind to fend for themselves while the ones that need more help, get more attention and more one on one time.  That means kids like Farrah are forced to be independent (which, thank goodness, she knows how to do...but she shouldn't HAVE to completely in class).
The problem I see with public school is how it has become a cookie-cutter program that the teachers have to follow accordingly and without getting an opportunity to think outside of the box.  My daughter used to be encouraged to follow her dreams at her old school.  While math, science, social studies, literature, and geography (yes, all in kindergarten) were important...Farrah loved dinosaurs, fossils, and various information on ALL animals...her teachers would have her spend time studying those things she was so passionate about.  She'd come home and tell me all about it and how much she learned and her excitement was contagious.  Now, it's more strict about following the rules that are set forth in the curriculum and they cannot be tampered with in the slightest.

So, blah, blah, blah...after that long rant, here's why I'm finally bitching about this in the first place.  Yesterday was Mother's Day.  Farrah had worked on a little project she'd put together for me at her school.  I remember last year at Seeds Learning Center, they had a Mother's Day program.  The moms got a little concert with their little ones singing to them and each child came down and gave us our gifts they'd worked so hard on.  Cards, a flower, and a handmade bird feeder made out of cheerios and ribbons.  Are you kidding me with that cuteness?!!  They all dressed in their best and gave all the mommies hugs and kisses.  The teachers were so loving and helped the shy kids with boosting their confidence just enough so they could participate.  It was great.
Yesterday, Farrah said, "Hey, mom! I almost forgot to give this to you!"  She handed me a laminated piece of art with a poem on it.  It was so cute and sweet.  I read the poem...and after the first sentence, I stopped reading.  "Farrah?  Isn't this the same poem that is on the wall in our living room that was my Christmas present that you made at school this year?"
"Did you notice it was the same?"
"YES!!  A bunch of us did!!  We were trying to tell our teacher but it was like she didn't care."
"Did you say something to her about it?"
"No.  Because I knew someone else was going to say something and I didn't feel like it."
So, there you have it.  I have a picture on my wall of my daughter's hand print with a lovely poem about her hand and how small she is now and how quickly she's growing.  AND NOW I have another piece of artwork with her hand print with a lovely poem about her hand and how small she is now and how quickly she's growing.
Are you kidding me?
Not only is the curriculum "cookie-cutter" but so are the special projects?  While the thought is sweet to do anything at all...I can't imagine how disappointing that was for the class.  Farrah expressed how much it bothered her, but also pointed out she wasn't alone in the discussion with the other 7 year olds that thought they were putting something special and unique together for their moms for Mother's Day. It hurt my feelings for Farrah because she takes those types of things to heart and puts a lot of effort into making something special for her find out that it really wasn't that important to her teacher to make a little more effort to find a new poem especially when the kids were telling her they'd ALREADY DONE THIS PROJECT.  5 minutes.  That's how long it would've taken a teacher to find a new poem.  One to two days is all it would've taken to allow the kids to come up with something special they wanted to say themselves about how much they love their mommies.
It's more important, apparently, for math, reading, P.E. and your various science studies to get done, than it is to allow a 7 year old child to use their imagination and their own talents to put together something truly from their heart.  I was also given a book that was "M" is for..., "O" is for..., etc.  These were all done FOR the students.  Farrah did "H" herself to say that "My mom pays for my HORSEBACK RIDING CLASSES".  The rest were what the teacher told the students to write.  Again, I have to compare to Seeds Learning Center...that would never happen.  The teacher would have the students list off words that start with those letters to describe their mom's and then THEY'D get to choose what they wrote.  And the reason those would be so special?  Because they were the truth from the hearts of the children that knew their mom's the best.
I don't really bothers me when I know how much potential every child, not my own, has and it gets pushed out of the way to just keep up with what the teachers are told to do.  The government run education system is losing it's grip on what makes people awesome and helps them grow academically. Maybe it's time for me to join the PTA (something I never wanted to do) and be an advocate for education instead of the god damn fund raiser bullshit.  And I'll do whatever it takes to get Farrah back into Seeds Learning Academy.  That's a promise to my kid that deserves to be back where she WANTS to be and she feels important there.  Her words, "Yes, I have the friends I've made at Cascade, but I can make new friends.  THOSE are MY teachers and that's the school I want to go to."  You got it, honey.