Saturday, May 22, 2010

Dueling Projects

Today . . .

Son is leading his last Eagle Project workday. He's recruited at least a half dozen Scouts from Troop 764 to sort games and package them for Children's Healthcare of Atlanta. The Scouts will be labeling, sorting, cleaning, and accessorizing the sets. (I'm very sure snacking will be involved since Son made sure we had plenty of chips, sweets, and sodas.) He ended up with 26 game systems and enough games that each patient will have about 3 to enjoy while they're in the hospital. T will be the parent on deck while the guys work things out. If all goes well, he'll be ready to deliver them next week and begin his final paperwork.


Daughter and I are headed to Mill Glen Clubhouse to simmer spaghetti, set up the room, and prepare for this evening's Spaghetti Supper, the final fundraiser for her Odyssey of the Mind team's trip to World Finals. (Departure is this Wednesday!).

All that comes this afternoon and evening. But right now, it's quiet.   I could smell newly cut grass and caught the heady, earthy aroma of the tomato plants as I let the dog out this morning.  The keystrokes as I blog are the loudest sound in the kitchen.  Birds are warbling outside and my dog is grumbling deep in his throat as he glares at the neighbor's cat high-stepping through the wet grass in the back yard.  And I can hear T stirring upstairs as he reacts to the aroma of coffee.

This is the peaceful time, my favorite time of the day.

Good morning.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

What rot.

During the flooding fall rains, I watched the paint along the facia board nearest my sunroom inflate. It grew and grew, like an overblown child's balloon. I thought it would pop, but it didn't. Finally I went outside and poked at it; whoosh! went a ton of water that had collected within the facia board.

We had wood rot.

Over the next few weeks, several areas showed signs of rot. Oh, dear.

Now, you'd think we'd deal with the rot right away. Nope. I kept putting it off as if denial would make it go away. Since that didn't happen, I finally made the call.

Thurman the Rot-Doc came to our house this week and repaired FOUR rotting areas around the house - two facias under the roof line, one bit of siding next to a screen door, and the threshold to our front door.  He's a great guy, comes and finishes when he says he will, does a very professional job, and always hits his estimate.

I kept checking on his progress from time to time, both because I was fascinated by his dexterity and methodical approach to the repairs, and because I was hoping, praying, keeping my fingers crossed that there were no termites. I live in fear of termites (and those stupid commercials with the termite family laughing as they eat away inside the walls do not help).

Whew. No termites.

However . . . the front threshold was infested with ants. A jillion ants. With a kazillion eggs. Yuck.  Thurmon calmly grabbed his bug killer (which he has with him) because "I see this all the time" Evidently he also sees bees, wasps, carpenter bees, hornets, and other insects because he's prepared for those, too. Wet, rotting wood is filet mignon to those things.

Good-by ants. (Just to be safe, I'm spreading Seven dust around the front entry this afternoon.)

Now we have pristine facias and my threshold doesn't look like it'll splinter the next time someone enters the house.

Thanks, Thurman!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Pasgetty, please.

Great things are happening this week.

1. The Odyssey of the Mind team is serving up a spaghetti dinner Saturday night from 5:30 - 7:30 at Mill Glen Clubhouse. Adults $5, kids $3. Join us for dinner and help us get the kids to World Finals at Michigan State University! We're selling tickets so we get a head count for the masses of tasty sauce we're simmering for the fundraiser. Post here if you'd like to support the team and eat hearty at the same time.  Darlin' daughter will have presold tickets at Will Call, but walk-ins are certainly welcome as long as the sauce lasts! (Thanks to Mill Glen for letting us use the clubhouse for free.)

3. The City of Dunwoody is taking ownership of our Parks. Hurray! Nothing like a little local control to improve things all around.

4. Peachtree Charter Middle School's Blue Shadow Jazz Band was stood up by DeKalb County Schools transportation department. Despite months of practice, getting dressed in their tuxedo-shirt best, packing up their instruments, and showing up at school on time for the bus . . . they weren't able to compete in the annual Georgia Music Educators Association Jazz Band Competition on Saturday morning.  Because the bus never showed up. Oh, the transportation rep said sorry, but that didn't get the kids to the competition. Huge disappointment for the kids. And I bet we don't see a reimbursement for all the fees the school and parents had to pony up for the competition. And for the 8th grade students, there's no give-back for a lost opportunity to shine.

Nonetheless, they did a stellar job as part of Peachtree's Spring Band Concert, an outdoor event held this past Saturday night. Loved the solos, the crazy clothes (the theme was That's Crazy!), the great percussion bit with trash cans, and the huge turn out by friends and family.  Dunwoody High School's band was a special performing guest, giving the middle school band students a taste of the excellence ahead. Thanks to band teachers Mr. Shores, Mr. Hickman (PCMS), and Mr. Henderson (DHS) for leading the students so capably and enthusiastically.

5. Congratulations to Seth Inman, Valedictorian, and Graham Goldberg, Salutatorian for Dunwoody High School. Side note: both are members of DHS' Mock Trial Team, an amazing group of students who put lots of time and effort into this intensive competition each year.  Yeah, they did lots of other stuff, like take a kazillion AP classes, participate in sports and student government and service organizations, and get major scholarships to impressive schools. And get really, really good grades while juggling all of the above.

6.  School's out on Friday. Summer break begins.  I'm relieved that the stresses of school will go on hiatus. But rather than head back to school on August 9, in the heat of a Southern summer with the highest power bills of the year when we're in dire straits economically, I'd love for us to have year-round school with three-week breaks between sessions. Imagine getting that nothing-planned feeling four times a year! There's a reason Europeans take a break in August from school and work. It's HOT.

7. I'm nearly finished with the neverending Nora's Sweater from Interweave Knits. Can't wait to wear it next fall. But what am I going to knit on the plane and in Michigan during the Odyssey of the Mind festivities?

That wraps up Monday's thoughts. Busy, busy, busy week ahead.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Chartering a Course for Better Education

Wednesday evening, I joined a panel presentation about a possible Charter for Chamblee Middle School. There was a large audience of parents and teachers in attendance, and they asked really, really good questions of panelists Senator Dan Weber, Georgia DOE Charter Schools Division Director Lou Erste, Sandy Spruill, who helped launch the Charter for Chamblee Magnet High School and now writes grants for Georgia Public Broadcasting, and Nicole Knighten of DeKalb Schools. I think my primary role on the panel was to a) let those parents know it's hard work but oh so worth it and b) provide a cautionary tale about how NOT to do a renewal (Establish that Charter Renewal committee as soon as the ink is dry on your approval letter!).

I had a hard time keeping quiet as the parents asked questions WE asked ourselves during Peachtree's recent Charter renewal process. (This is our third renewal, and we're on tenterhooks waiting for the DOE to say yay or nay.)

One parent asked a really good question: there are lots of good reasons to become a Charter - but what is the downside? There are two (and I actually don't consider them negatives because they engage everyone in the drive for quality education): 

  • Accountability:  Georgia's Charter law puts enormous pressure on Charter schools, whether conversion or start-up, to "put up or shut up." We're required to step far beyond our local school system in terms of innovation in instruction as well as in delivering powerful results in achievement. At Peachtree, we're focusing on closing the achievement gap among disparate populations of students. We have lots of great ideas and plenty of reasons to want that for our students. We also have set ourselves some very high goals to achieve in the next five years.
  • Consensus: What do parents and teachers want for their school? It's a long path from surveying everyone to get ideas and beliefs to arriving at a clear vision for the school's improvement.

Why should any school convert to Charter status? If  your County system is struggling, if one-size-fits-all curriculum and materials don't work for your student, if you're concerned about the quality of the education within the classroom, if you'd rather use designated funding for things that your students actually need rather than some overpriced, dumbed-down scripted product from the educational publisher du jour, and if you think volunteering at your kid's school is the most important contribution you can make to his or her education . . . yep, think about getting your school converted to Charter.

Then take it a step up. Convince all the schools in your "cluster" - elementary, middle, and high schools - to convert as a unit to a Charter Cluster school system. Together, you can individualize the curriculum and methodology for your school, work together to obtain grants and other funding, build continuity and excellence from K through 12th grade, take advantage of community resources and experts who are shut out of traditional school system models, and support local schools with a deserved and quantifiable reputation for quality.

Senator Weber says it's doable, it's needed, and it's the future of public education in our community.

I agree.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Yield. Yield! Yield, already!

Driving to an appointment with the endocrinologist, Adam and I saw this genius installation:

We're confused.

Do we Yield to the Yield sign?

Are two vehicles supposed to Yield together?

Did the crew installing the sign have two work orders for the same installation and decide to complete BOTH?

This hilarious, classic FAIL (per my son) is located at the intersection of Hammond Drive and Perimeter Parkway.

Yep. Right here in Dunwoody.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


When I was young, neighbors chatted over the fence, on the porch, and by telephone. Sometimes information lost much in translation: a neighborhood teen who TPd a house and was grounded for a month by his highly exasperated parents was, by the time the news reached the neighborhood pool, also arrested, guilty of vandalism at a nearby school, likely the culprit in the disappearance of someone's bicycle (it was a toddler's trike), and should be avoided at all costs.

Now, neighbors have the eBLAST. They send waves of worry via the internet, forwarding each other's angst until the email reaches viral status, cast far afield from the immediate vicinity.

Our neighbors are worried about speeders. They have young children. They have asked neighbors, via email, to slow down. Does that mean every neighbor is speeding? Are we differentiating between the cut-through speeders (there are plenty) with the trying-to-get-out-of-the-neighborhood drivers? Is the point of the email that the kids are playing in the street? Since the email can't reach the commuters who cut through the neighborhood, is it the intent of the email to be forwarded until it finally reaches the culprits?  As a proactive gesture, we chewed out our son, who is unlikely to be one of the speeders since he lives in fear that he'll get in trouble. Nonetheless, we told him that one of the neighbors is sitting by the window, writing down license plates and documenting every time someone speeds by their house. He drove even slower today. (It was hilarious watching him crawl down the street.)

(The fact that 25 miles per hour seems much faster when you're standing in your yard tossing a ball to your kid  is beside the point. Perception is everything. And we DO have folks who blast through our neighborhood trying to get ahead of the traffic on Mt. Vernon Road.)

Then there are the eBLASTS we get about dogs. Our neighbors are unhappy about poop. There are dogs roaming the neighborhood - and pooping.  Dogs are on leashes, and pooping. Now everyone knows exactly whose dogs and owners are guilty because we watch them amble through their daily rounds. But rather than speak directly to the owner, we get an email citing "neighbors' dogs." The email ends, "and we wouldn't want one of our children to get bitten by one of these roaming dogs."

Recently, neighbors from across town sent a worldwide eBLAST asking neighbors to stop parking opposite each other on the street. "It makes it very difficult to drive through and we have children in the neighborhood who might get hit." Yes, it's a tight squeeze. But why are the kids playing right there? And in the street?

Then there are the coyotes. A recent eBLAST warned all the neighbors to watch their small children because coyotes were seen in a cul de sac. Since the average toddler is way bigger than a coyote's regular diet of rodents, opossum, and the occasional cat, I'd worry more about small children out unsupervised at night - which is when coyotes primarily hunt for food.  However, coyotes are most definitely part of the urban landscape and they are here to stay. Much better to teach the kids how to deal with coyotes (and stray dogs).

The common denominator in all the emails is parents worried about their young children. The little ones may get struck by speeding cards while playing in the street. They may get run over because someone is squeezing between two cars parked on the street. They may get bitten by a dog interrupted mid-poop. They may become prey for a coyote.

Just wait until those kids are teens and you get to worry about even bigger things. I won't list them. You'll find out soon enough.

We all worry. We magnify the disastrous possiblities of our children being out of our eyesight, our control, our influence.

Enough with the emails! Pick up the phone, write a note, or stop by when someone is thoughtless.

And if my teen is speeding, tell me.

Those keys can disappear for a very long time.

Friday, May 7, 2010

We're working all weekend for the arts, but tonight we eat pizza

The Odyssey of the Mind team and parents will be manning a booth in the Children's Area of the inaugural Dunwoody Arts and Crafts Festival. I'm looking forward to seeing many, many Phonics Friends, neighborhood children, and friends' kids during the event.

This weekend is all about raising money, but tonight is FRIDAY, and that means pizza night!

Usually, I make homemade pizza on Fridays, changing the recipes to suit everyone's tastes. But this evening we're heading to Vintage Pizzeria in Chamblee. Great menu. And a separate adult section. I'm glad there's a family-friendly side, but we're well past the wriggly, face-smeared-with-pizza-sauce, squeals and giggles stage. (Yay.) I'm all about kids, between giving them hugs and a comforting lap at the Nature Center and teaching them the basics of phonics. But tonight I just want a slice of Jersey-style pizza, a glass of pinot noir, and quiet chats with our family and friends. Mmmmm. Of course, we'll follow up with ice cream from The Frosty Caboose, one of our favorite vendors during the July 4th fireworks at Keswick Park. (Honestly - if you've never watched the fireworks there, you're missing a real treat.)

Despite the gimpy ankle, I plan to trawl the arts and crafts booths before taking our shift tomorrow afternoon. The opportunity to see so many original works right here in Dunwoody . . . delightful. And the fact that our own Dunwoody High School's blossoming arts program can benefit . . . sublime.

See you at the Festival. Come by the Odyssey team booth and get some bubbles for the kids and make a tissue flower for Mom.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Farmer's Market Day

I love Wednesdays! Now that Dunwoody has our very own Farmer's Market, it's wonderful to grab a market bag, stop by the Market before work at the Nature Center, and select my weekly indulgences.

I always pick up a loaf of olive bread and some herbes de provence-infused goat cheese. The artisan bacon and sausage are in perfect portions for sampling at home with some pasta or for Saturday brunch. Today I purchased three vegetable plants, Cherokee Black tomato, ambrosia cantalope, and zebra eggplant, to add to the garden. Hey - for just $3, someone has already taken them from seed to 6+" tall greenery! I skipped the honey because I picked up some Thistle and Wildflower a week before the Great Ankle Disaster.

I wish I could time my visit a little later, when the guy with the rolling brick oven has the first batches of pizza ready. Maybe later this summer, if he is still there. Shopping at the market is a sensory pleasure - roaring fire, the sizzle of bacon and sausage for samples, and the dense scents of homemade soaps and creams wafting through the air as I cruise the single aisle through our modest little outdoor market.

I spied John Heneghen there, who had just finished Dunwoody's Walk to School Day at Dunwoody Elementary School and was soon headed to the Dunwoody-Chamblee Parents Council meeting at Peachtree Charter Middle School. (I felt a bit guilty about not attending the latter, but had already missed too much work due to the blasted ankle.) I look forward to his insights posted on his marvelous blog.

Which reminds me - I've been feeling much relieved since I learned that the DeKalb School Board was voting on a recommendation to accept Peachtree's charter revisions as presented. Hurray! I'm not counting any chickens, though, because it still has to go back to the State Department of Education for final approval.

Now, if only Dunwoody's schools would coordinate in creating a Cluster Charter. Now THAT would be a very good thing for our students.

Whoops - time for Odyssey of the Mind practice, I have a book on hold at the library, and the Rot Doc is visiting in the next hour to tend to the rotted facia and thresholds in the rear of the house.

Busy, busy, busy.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Dunwoody Arts Festival and Odyssey of the Mind

I am somewhat shamelessly plugging my kid's fundraising efforts for her team's Odyssey of the Mind World Finals competition. She is excited beyond words to be heading to Michigan State  University at the end of this month to compete against hundreds of other Middle School teams . . . and I am proud, proud, proud.

So far, wonderful donors have supported her team by getting their cars washed, eating ice cream at Dunwoody Nature Center, watching her team perform its skit, and giving generous checks.  (One of my favorite families picnicked at the Nature Center with the grandparents, stayed to watch the show, and enjoyed the ice cream, too! Thanks, Heneghens! Then mighty Elizabeth Andersen and her mom Debbie took a few minutes out of a very busy day to sample the ice cream, visit for a few moments, then rush off . . . after leaving a very generous donation!)

This weekend, the team is staffing a booth in the Children's Area of the Arts Festival, selling bubbles and flowers, helping children make Mother's Day tissue flowers for their moms, and spreading the word about Odyssey of the Mind.

We hope to see you there!