Thursday, May 14, 2015

AM~Erica is So Proud of the Accomplishments

So anyway...

It's that time of year when the school year winds down and another fiscal year is coming to a close.

This is also the time of year for the extra curricular awards banquets & ceremonies, too. And this year is no different.

Last night was one of those banquets. Teen Boy had his end-of-the-year squad awards banquet for his speech & debate squad.

Due to some unforeseen circumstances, the banquet was moved to our church! YAY!! So my son helped my hubby set up for the event.

It was catered, and the food was pretty good; there were speeches from the seniors for their farewells; there was an ongoing slideshow of all the craziness that happened within the squad thru the year; and there were awards....a whole lot of awards!

Now, we knew that Teen Boy would be getting his letter in debate...again (so a bar to add to the letter), his degree promotion for the points he's accumulated thru the year, plus he'd be bringing home his trophies he earned thru the year, too. Plus we had an idea of at least another award he'd probably get. So we were looking forward to this year. Taking it all in.

As the awards were getting going, he got his bar for both the speech and debate sides (so a bar for each), and he received his degrees of Outstanding Distinction AND Superior Distinction!

Woo Hoo!!!

Then they started giving out the squad awards. These are voted on by the squad!!

When it came time for International Extemper of the was Teen Boy. We figure that was the other one he was getting...but still...WOO HOO!!

He was also helping to present one of the awards, too. So that was fun....

But then things started going crazy!!

All of a sudden, he got honorable mention (read: 1st runner up) for Varsity Lincoln-Douglas Debater of the Year AND for Varsity Congressman of the Year!!
PLUS....he was voted Varsity Public Forum Debater of the Year with his debate partner!!

Also, as officers were being announced for next year, our son wasn't called up...but....
He was appointed as the Debate Chair of the squad's annual speech & debate tournament they host!! We were SO excited!! Not necessarily surprised, but still so proud! Supposedly he didn't want it, but thought he'd throw his hat in the ring to be considered "if they needed him to do it." Apparently he's what they needed.

Oh...we started reminiscing with him at the table when the members of the year awards were being given. They were handing out the Novice-of-the-Year awards...and we were talking about when Teen Boy won one of the novice awards a couple of years ago (reminder HERE).

Then as it came time to announce the Varsity-Member-of-the-Year, within a couple of seconds of his coach talking, I started getting choked up. But I was trying to hold it sounded like our son she was describing, but I would have looked like an idiot for crying for another kid. So I looked down & away as the description continued to sound like Teen Boy! And so....she called his name!!


Even one of the seniors address him in her farewell speech to keep him encouraged.

Whew!! I was an emotional wreck! My hubby was an emotional wreck! We have another year of this, people. If we were this mushy for his junior year...
Never mind...I don't even want to think about next year. It's gonna have to be a box of tissues for all.

And then the outgoing president got up to give his closing remarks & farewell speech. This guy is a great guy...and apparently was making bets with other seniors about whether or not they'd cry during their speeches. LOL!! But...mostly because he know he was going to be a puddle of mush during his speech. One of the saddest & most touching I've ever heard.
He singled out a few of the squad members, but knew he needed to get a move on (the banquet was already nearing 4 hours usual).

Then closing remarks from the coaches came. And it was a prepared statement with shocking news. News that prompted shock, silence & tears as the send off was given. A statement when prompted me to put out an open letter to our district superintendent & school board. (can be read HERE, along with the statement given that caused the chaos)

As everyone was consoling each other & the seniors were giving their last banquet hugs, the outgoing president came up to us & apologized for not singling Teen Boy out...but he said he was already a weepy mess. But he wanted our son to know how great this guy thought he was. But we were interrupted as Teen Boy walked by, so the outgoing president could run over, hug him & tell him himself.

We think he's pretty awesome. And we are so glad he's found where he belongs. And he does pretty well...

The awards, degrees, certificates, and earned trophies
(not including additional medals received for placing thru the year)

It was an emotional night. We are so proud of what Teen Boy has accomplished....and we look forward to what he'll do next year!

...but it might night be without a bunch of tears.

Stay tuned...

God Bless, AM~Erica

AM~Erica Apparently Needs Address it Again

So anyway...

Another school year is coming to a close. And we have had to deal with some flighty decisions made by a school district who is trying to hide behind a veil of "care", but many of us see the writing on the wall. A veil that can easily be seen thru if you take a moment to actually look thru it. When the light hits it just right, it's clear.

Last night was one of those times that the veil could be seen thru. And we were reminded how not pretty the face beneath it lies.

So, I'm going to take another moment to lift the veil to speak to those who hide underneath, and I will address those who need addressed in an open letter.


Dear Dr. Herl & the Independence District School Board Members,

The flood of changes that have been made throughout these last couple of years have been mostly baffling. Trying to keep up with decisions made nearly out of the blue are concerning.

Many of these changes made have not shown where the kids have been kept in mind. Instead it appears there is an irresponsible wielding of power going on. It's disheartening & disappointing as a parent watching & witnessing the amount of seemingly unnecessary changes going on way too often.

With the recent levy that passed (by nearly a roughly 60/40% passing - which isn't an overwhelming margin by any means), that was supposed to mean it's supposed to bring in more teachers to help control class size. Which sounds great on the surface. But a couple of types of people got their votes to pass it in who either:

A) don't have direct contact or involvement in the schools, but think they are helping the kids without further information expect blindly listening to those pushing in favor of it,

B) have kids in the district because this is where they went & just want anything that sounds remotely positive to happen to keep the veil pulled over their eyes in hopes the bad stuff isn't really happening so their kids could go thru the same buildings they did.

This combination is your 60%. The other 40% know what's up, or at least can see the problems with the scenario. If the citizen remain & continue to be informed, plus letting more of the 60% know, and then that is true power.

And with that said, every year, with each class of seniors that come thru, there will be a whole new round of those kids turning 18. This means all of them will have the power to vote. This means that they have lived the confusing changes, don't trust the district, and, therefore, will not vote for any moves they deem unworthy of their support.

Just like much of what's taken place over these last two years. Great administrators were chased out because there's a district who thought they were also in real estate. Teachers left after being used as chess pieces within the district for not a lot of good reason. The only reason, really, was to prove the district could move them. More money has been taken from anything that is not sports. As there are students excelling in their non-sports departments, even representing the district & their schools on upwards of a national level, funds keep getting taken away right & left. They seem to be the first with swift, chaotic changes that are happening way too often. They can't get settled in changes made.

In just this last year, alone, we have seen a superintendent abusing power, seemingly with the backing of the school board. But the question becomes whether or not the board really has tabs on the district leader. If you click HERE, I have already been giving examples leading up to this letter. (Please read the link within that link, too, for an even greater understanding of where some of this stems from.)

There are many of us afraid of watching a villain coming forward. Someone who is in it for the power & the title. Someone who is willing to hide behind charity to "prove" right decisions are being made. And there's too many who refuse to speak up about it.

Things are not good here. If you look at Independence school rankings, even in just Missouri, it's embarrassing how far down the list this district is listed. If you look thru any given top high schools or school districts in Missouri, NONE of the Independence schools are even in the top 100. On one of the sites, which I'm trying to remember where we found it, Independence was given a 5 out 10 possible points. Neighboring districts, Blue Springs & Liberty, were given 8 or 9. Embarrassing.

With all of these things going down, and teachers being used as chess pieces, or just watching them leave so they don't get caught up being game pieces, something is already seemingly coming to fruition that I was trying to warn voters of when the levy came out. I went on some rants about how I was concerned with who would be handling the money since there has been no trust built as of late. Supposedly, there was to be a tight look on how the money would be spent & it was going to be monitored closely.

Dr. Herl was supposed to be speaking to a Sunday school class at our church about the levy, before the vote. I was prepped & ready to find him to discuss major issues behind my opinion of the levy & how I felt it was a catch-22. Then I found out he had backed out about 2 day beforehand, and a couple members of the school board would be there instead. I was disappointed, but looked at the situation as an opportunity to be able to approach the board about all of my concerns about the proposed levy & about the superintendent that is more than not-trusted. I was willing to lay out the reasons, too. Then it turned out it wouldn't be school board members, but instead a FORMER board member AND a spouse of a board member! Apparently it was against the rules for those who would be handling the levy money could not make a push for the levy, but send cronies out instead. Ugh.

Well, I still took the opportunity to corner one of the speakers about my concerns. He was not at all aware about what had been going on. Everything I told him was complete news to him. And it was after speaking to a class of know, part of the 60%. The clueless ones hoping to get information, but only listening blindly to what is being fed to them. I am glad a few of them are friends of mine & already had an idea from me as to what is actually happening in the district.

I'm laying all of this out, right now, Dr. Herl & Board, so that you will know where this next piece of information is coming from.

Last night, the Truman HS speech & debate squad had their end-of-the-year awards banquet. It was a lovely evening & we were so proud of the accomplishments of, not only our own child, but those of the whole squad. Seniors were giving their farewells. And it was awesome how they did after the major double-change that was a part of the chaos being dealt with this year.

When you wanted to continue to lift up Van Horn, while continuing to lay great focus on that high school (without a great deal of care for the other two high schools that need your great attention, too),  by doubling up the great speech & debate coaching team at Truman by dividing their time between the two schools, that was enough to hurt our hearts to watch our beloved coaches working with TWO separate squads. Squads that still compete against each other at their tournaments. Sounds like a conflict of interest to me. But I digress....
After this had been decided upon, the competitive drama teacher decided it would be best to leave the district instead, going to a neighboring district and taking her talents with her. It was a bombshell dropped upon the squad and parents. This meant bringing in another coach. Another coach who would be sharing their time between two squads. Double bombshell.

So, a new coach was brought in, much to the dismay of the competitive drama side of the squad. But, thru this year, he proved to be a worthy coach & really helped these kids to make great strides! In a school-year's time the kids were so thankful for him coming on board & being the great coach that he has been. The seniors gave him high praise, even apologizing for emotional attitudes out of early defiance...because they came to love him & couldn't wait to see how he would coach the other squad members in the time to come. Heck, he'd even turned down more money from a another school to stay on with this squad because he saw such great potential in this up & coming group of talented kids!

The squad persevered this past year of sharing coaches AND a new coach, too. And my son has been talking to the new coach to help him with some speaking pointers this coming year to help him excel more...

After the closing remarks from the squad president, then it came time for closing remarks from the debate coach...
As she took her place at the podium, she said that she had typed up what she would be saying so there would be no question about what was about to be said & that it could be made available to anyone who couldn't be there....

Uh-oh...something's up. We braced because whatever was coming wasn't going to be good.

Then, she shared these words:

As a celebratory & fun night of memories, tears, and accomplishments was a wonderful highlight, the sharing of this news made the night take a shocking downward spiral. After the last line was read, there was a stunned silence followed by sobs of sadness. Not only were the seniors experiencing the close of their final squad banquet, but the squad, as a whole, lost a whole lot in one fell swoop. Not only the seniors they've been looking up to, but there would be yet another huge change to deal with as they were just getting their footing.

I'm going to take this back to the passing of the levy vote for a moment:
Just because you have that money coming in now, this doesn't mean you should spend it almost frivolously. This lay out has Mr. Stafford on the way out the door within a few short years. It also is costing the district even more money. What has been proposed by the coaches to be able to keep the initial arrangement, set up for just this year, but to eliminate the travel money, would actually save the district a huge amount of money. Now they want to keep hiring staff that may or may not last. The squad just became OK with the set up after seeing they could still succeed, even sharing their coaches with another squad WHILE getting to know a new coach. And that has been torn away from them again.

Now, I'm going to be clear right now. Mrs. Adams did NOT engage in anymore conversation after reading the letter. She did NOT tell anyone to say anything concerning this. The squad members had already taken to Twitter to voice their disappointment. Several of us parents were discussing our great disappointment. And the answers we wanted were not coming from Mrs. Adams. She read the info she needed to, made the speech available, and that was it. Do NOT put blame on her as we express our great disappointment in the district. This is on you!

This is also a parent reaching out to have you reconsider their proposal. They want the kids to succeed & will do anything, apparently, to invest in the success of the kids. What are you doing about it?

We watch you tear away at relationships with teachers & students, messing with futures, education, and careers. It's disheartening.

After one year of a trial, that was a difficult one to get thru, you have decided to shake things up again. So, are you going to keep making huge changes every single year? Change can be good, once in while. If no one has time to settle with the changes, it is nothing but chaos. And I hurt for the kids having to deal with your actions.

The teachers, staff & students whose lives you are dealing with are people. They are not inanimate objects that can just be moved around & changed at random to "try a new arrangement." They are NOT furniture.

Now, if any of you could have been at that banquet last night in support of these students, outside of sports, you would have seen the wave of pain that fell over that room. There was a great sea of tears with the wailing & gnashing of teeth. And, understandably so.

So, when will you be taking responsibility for actions taken? When are you going to see that swift decisions can ruin lives? As we try to parent our kids about what a bad decision can do to mess up a life forever, you are proving in in vast masses.

With a superintendent who tweets with students while other administrators & educators cannot is just the tip of the irresponsibility iceberg. And things are sinking quickly.

The question now becomes whether or not you will see your actions in a different light. Are your decisions actually helping the students? Are you just doing things for money to look good in the public eye? Are you actually listening to concerns & willing to take action over them? And are your decisions actually for the whole student body, all the activities...or do you just want attention on sports hoping the boosters will just keep giving to that & pretending the district is doing well?

The district is failing. It is failing & falling fast. There is no consistency at all. And this community cannot keep up with the amount of change you are putting thru because you can't make up your minds as to how you can handle the district, the staff, the students as you just keep dollar signs in the forefront.

You cannot hide behind this veil any more. You are being watched. How are you going to handle the veil removal to see what is revealed underneath the pretentiousness?

Ball is in your court, but we are watching. Closely. Are you going to be the hero, or just wait to see if you become the villain? Many of us are concerned it's the latter.

Most Sincerely for the Children,

~Erica Williams
a very concerned parent


With all of that said, I feel the need to put it in open-letter form so that many of you will be informed of things that are actually happening within this district. Those who don't want to believe anything is wrong because your kid isn't seemingly affected. But it affects every child in the district.

If these irrational decisions continue from the top, it's going to bite everyone in every school building, and within the families. You will see a greater rise of homeschooling (which I've already seen happen out of this district, by the way).

If you are ones who refuse to question what is happening, you are part of the problem. If you kissing their hands or hineys, you are part of the problem. Eventually, you will see the brunt of this. Especially if you have kiddos still going thru this district.

So, to those reading this within the Independence School District, who's willing to speak up? Many of you are willing to just speak quietly, but we need to get loud. But in a diplomatic way. Name calling & nasty language will get you no where. But we need to corner these folks on the board and the superintendent to let them know what we think. I'm willing speak to them beyond just what I print. If I wasn't willing to talk to them, then I wouldn't put it out there.

Anyone willing to speak up, too? Or share this open letter? Or write your own?

Email, call, write, get word out. We need to let them know we mean business when it comes to our kids, their education, their futures, as well as the treatment of the educators who are trying to invest in the kids if they are given the chance.

Stay tuned...

God Bless, AM~Erica


*UPDATE* (May 15, 2015)

In amazing news....the board has reconsidered & will now leave the squad alone by allowing the same arrangement as this past year. Not sure if this open letter helped or not, but I do know the squad played a big part in it. Leave it to talented speakers & debaters!

From my understanding, the superintendent wasn't willing to budge...but the board decided to override that. This speaks volumes as to how the district is being run & hope it sends a message for how things should be taken care of in the future.

Change can happen!! This is amazing news!!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

AM~Erica is Still Against Forced Commercialized Sentiment Holidays

So anyway....

I've said several times before, and I'll say it again:
I am NOT fond of Mother's Day!

(reminder HERE)

I've not been overly eager for it for quite some time, but I think I gave up on it just a few years ago. One of the worst Mother's Days I'd ever experienced did me in & I gave up. Completely.

Now, if you read the above link, you will know there's several layers to this animosity I have toward this "holiday" & others like it.

And, in my previous post (HERE), I pointed out that this is my first grandparentless Mother's Day.

When helping the kids look for cards, I realized I wasn't looking for "Grandmother" cards to give. So I stood there crying in the card aisle at the store. Wow, I guess I was having a really difficult time. And then when we got home from the store, a cardinal was sitting by our garage that was startled when the garage door began to raise. When I realized what bird had flown off....*sigh* yep, queue more tears. (see why HERE if you didn't get to it from the previous link)

On top of that, I hadn't been feeling the greatest. I was tired from an overnight trip to the lake, and just in general after trying to get over a migraine.
Today probably might have been a good day to skip church. But I didn't. And I apologize to anyone who I didn't encounter so well today.

Look....on this day, I do a disappearing act at church. I didn't do as well this morning. Some know how I feel about the day. There's others who either forget, or just want to tell any female, "HAPPY MOTHER'S DAY!!!!!" So, I try to disappear and then come back in time to take in worship. I generally know that I can get into my flow of worship & not worry about the confrontation. I know that sounds so bad, but I do the same thing when I'm having a down day on Sunday anyway.

But this morning, a few folks found me anyway...and at a lot of different points during the morning. *sigh* And not feeling the best....and how I feel about the day....not sure I was at my best toward others today.

Regardless of what congress put into place...I don't want to feel forced to appreciate someone for a day. It's not a law!! But we still fall into the practice anyway....

My hubby & kiddos know how I feel about it, as you can probably guess. But they "show appreciation" in the trap of the holiday anyway. On the positive, I did get some awesome things...and I'm going to get one of my fave dinners fixed for me. So there's that.

I want to be clear about something: I do appreciate the sentiments. I really do. I just don't want them because the calendar says you have to. I'm all about celebrations! Right? I celebrate a whole lot of things...but when it comes to moms, dads & true should do that a whole lot more often than the once a year the calendar says to.

So, as I stated on my Facebook account status this morning:

"Per the usual, I am not fond of Mother's Day for a myriad of reasons, as several of you may know/remember. 
But with that said... 
To all the moms, grandmoms, great-grandmoms, great-great-grandmoms, rookie moms, veteran moms, mom-in-laws, stepmoms, single moms, single dads also trying to be mom, moms-to-be, adoptive moms, foster moms, surrogate moms, those trying to become moms, those who want to be moms, moms who lost any of their own, those struggling as moms, fur baby moms, and pseudo moms: may you be loved and appreciated for all you do, try to do, and failures in your trials every single day. May today be as beautiful as it should be every other day with your family, as the sentiments should go beyond just one day out of the year. You are loved, you are appreciated, and we are grateful for you & each other."
And I stand by that.

Also, if someone says they don't like something, generally you should stop doing the thing they don't like. Right? So, when I make it clear I'm not fond of the day, but thank you anyway....don't keep coming at me & telling me why I'm wrong in my feeling of this. 

Now, not that I'm not proud to be a mom...that is far-Far-FAR from any truth! I just know I would rather be appreciated at random times rather than feeling forced to because cards, commercials, and a calendar notification tells you otherwise. Because if that's the you mean it today more than any other day? Something to think on.

I'm not the only one with yucky feelings about it, either. Check out this post (that I just discovered after writing this post...I had to come back & include it with mine):

click the pic to go to the blog link

If you are smothering someone with sentiments because the calendar says so, but you don't show it any other's an ugly thing. Fake sentiments don't set well.

Plus...I'm not feeling the greatest (in case you missed me saying it earlier). So I'll try to get over that part pretty quickly. I can't say so much over fake holidays with forced commercialized sentiments attached.

That was a lot to unload. If you're still with me...thanks. Just another facet of the realist side of my heart. 

Now I guess I'm going to go enjoy a favorite meal. Hopefully because my hubby wants to fix it for me...not just because the calendar said so....

(and be sure to check out the links....they are important to the message of this post)

Stay tuned...

God Bless, AM~Erica

Thursday, May 7, 2015

AM~Erica Served Up Blueberries

So anyway...

For some reason, I've had my grandmother on my mind lately. Not good, not bad...just present.

Then I got in a conversation with someone who brought up a song that made them think of their grandmother. It was a heartfelt conversation remembering our grandmothers.

It hasn't been a year, yet, since my grandmother passed. And Mother's Day is approaching quickly, which will make it my very first Mother's Day without a grandmother.

Not that I'm fond of the holiday, or those like it (reminder HERE), but it is still wholly prevalent. No real way around that fact.

Recently, I did set up a memory table for her. It's not much, but just enough.

I wanted to carry it over from the memory tree I did for her at Christmas. (reminder HERE)

So she is always there....but just strong on my mind in the last few days.


It's that time of year. Some berries are coming into harvesting time! So I'm trying to pick some up at the store.

Several years ago, while we were living in St. Louis, we took one of our far-too-few trips to the Soulard farmer's market, we came across a year of an overabundance of blueberries in season! We purchased a 5 pound box of blueberries for $3! What a deal!!

Since then, the blueberries have not been in such overabundance, and the prices on them have not been so thrifty. We are paying as much or more for a pint of blueberries than we paid that day at Soulard.

Now with some of my price matching & non-extreme couponing I do, I did find blueberries on decent sale, as opposed to what they have been going for. So I made sure to purchase some.

It's time for standardized testing around here (whole other subject I will not touch here), and so I've been trying to prepare the boys the best I can. So, I've read that eggs can help brains on test days, as well as berries. Blueberries are supposed to be great! They have earned the nickname of "brain berries" for that reason.

So, I've been fixing them scrambled eggs on test days....and I almost forgot we had the blueberries!

This morning, Lil Guy had testing to prepare for. He asks for green eggs (like I make on Dr. Seuss' birthday, HERE). They are cheesy scrambled eggs with bacon bits, salt & pepper, and some parsley - they are, then, colored a bit o'green, whisked & then cooked up.

While the eggs were frying up, I happened to remember the berries. I pulled them out wondering if he'd remember...

It's been quite a while, you know. The last time some blueberries had been pulled out of the freezer for him. Maybe about 3-ish years or so. And I really didn't know how...or even if...he'd react.

I placed the berries on the side of the scrambled cheesy green eggs onto the table for his breakfast. He came out, sat down & began to consume the edibles. But he didn't even react...


...I heard Lil Guy turn his voice to me to say, "Hey, mom! Do you remember when we would be at Gigi's? Not the nursing home, but her house before that? She would pull out blueberries when we'd go? Remember that?"

He was very matter-of-fact about his questions, and there I was trying to choke back tears while smiling that he remembered.

When he was very little, he went snooping in her kitchen (because he was way too smart for his own good) and discovered blueberries in the freezer & decided to start eating them. My grandmother was so tickled by it, she always made sure to keep blueberries in her freezer for when we would come case he was looking for blueberries.

I don't think he realized how the blueberries got started, but I'm so glad just having those berries on his plate, really to help his brain on test day, would make him think of his Gigi.

Join the club, my son. She seems to be very present.

*grabbing a tissue*

Stay tuned...

God Bless, AM~Erica