Tag Archives: Texas

Praying in the Front Seat

Praying in the Front Seat

This morning I was dropping off my son’s medicine at the Junior High. I was rushing from school to school because it’s STAAR testing day in the great State of Texas.

I won’t bore you with my feelings about standardized testing. Not today. But for the record, I don’t believe the STAAR test is the right way to encourage achievement in education.

However, this morning my focus was encouraging my kids to do their very best. I wanted to send them to school full of beliefs. They are able to conquer STAAR Mountain!

As I came out of the Junior High I noticed a father parked in front of the school. Maybe he was a grandfather or an uncle, but for the sake of this story, he’s just Dad.  Read the rest of this entry


We Can’t Make the Grade


I’m not surprised to see many central Texas schools receive failing grades on the new report cards the State of Texas sent out Friday. When will we learn? This is not the way to educate a smarter generation.

Here’s the result for my local school district:

Campus District School type 2016 Rating D1 D2 D3 D4
ROCKDALE ISD ROCKDALE ISD District Met standard* C C D A

The new report rates schools and districts in four domains:

  • D1: Student Achievement
  • D2: Student Progress
  • D3: Closing Performance Gaps
  • D4: Post-secondary Readiness

It’s no wonder that state teacher groups are calling for the legislature to repeal this new letter grade system, that will markedly affect most Texas schools. The question I have is why do we keep sticking a square peg in a round hole? Read the rest of this entry

The Prince and the Showgirl and Me

The Prince and the Showgirl and Me

When I was 9 years old I remember going to our beach house with my grandfather. It was a special place- built by my Great Grandfather. He called it a fishing shack- a place to spend the day out on the bay on a boat named “The Finnegan Jethro” stringing together enough fish for a feast. (I just realized I’ve always wanted to know where that name came from, and the person I would most like to ask is no longer here). It was a bit musty with paint peeling from the boards that fastened together a two room cabin- but that simple little house could somehow sleep 40 people. Fancy furnishings of the 1960s scattered here and there showed that my grandmother had once tried to put her upper-class decorating spin on the place, and hence the shack was transformed into “the beach house”. Still, it was decorated with little people made out of seashells and googly eyes and strings of coke tabs folded into chains to hold back curtains and hang plants. I can picture my great-grandmother gluing those funny little eyes on her seashell finds of the day.

There’s a story in here somewhere that I really wanted to tell, but the more I type about my great-grandparents (Daddy ‘O and Mama Jimmie) and my grandparents (Softy and Robbie Doll), the more I’m overwhelmed by memories of just how special these people were and how lucky I was to be raised in such a family of jokesters, fishermen, poker players, magicians and fancy decorators.

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Pumpkin Spice and Everything Nice


This is Texas, so the weather doesn’t exactly scream “Fall”. It’s still as hot as August but there are clues all around that it should be the season of changing colors. Most of those clues are up and down the aisles of Wal-Mart. It started with the pumpkins that replaced the watermelons at the front door. Then there were orange and red decorations on the end-caps. I noticed Halloween candy starting to fill up displays. Great, is it already time to start planning costumes and hayrides? Surely not… Read the rest of this entry

Head in the Clouds

Head in the Clouds

Yesterday I took most of my crew to my niece’s graduation. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve said they grow up too fast I could almost afford to feed this crew! All the way to the graduation I warned them that we have to be quiet and still- that’s a bit of a challenge for these kids. I expected to have to repeat myself at least 3 times. We had only been seated a few minutes when someone was pulling on my sleeve.

“Mom, mom, moooooooom?!” I glared over at my little Diva, who promptly tattled “They’re talking!” I looked past her at 3 silent brothers, and lowered my eyebrows quizzically. “Not them, THEM!” She pointed behind us at a group of people who seemed to have a case of the giggles. The kind of giggles that might be happening on “That 70s Show”… Read the rest of this entry

Daddy Didn’t Know


So apparently my husband had no idea that we give out teacher appreciation gifts! I’m not sure how he missed that. We’ve had kids in school for the past 16 years now. I used to do a Christmas gift, maybe a little something for their birthdays- but add that to the pile of “things I did when I had a few kids!” Now, I run a zoo, so it’s just once a year that I sit down and try to show my appreciation for the people who spend almost as much time with my kids as I do- and if you know my kids, you know these amazing people deserve some appreciation! Daddy should have realized that even if there wasn’t a tradition of teacher appreciation already in place, there would need to be some kind of recognition for the people who help tame our circus!

This year I thought it would be fun to make some edible arrangements. Every single time that commercial comes on, KK asks me if we can order one of those. I looked once- I was going to surprise her, and when I saw the price, let’s just say that fell off my to-do list. I thought “surely they couldn’t be that hard…”

My little ZooCrew was so excited to open the fridge this morning and see the creations they got to give their teachers! One teacher even emailed me a pic of her enjoying it!

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When The Doves Cry


Isn’t it amazing how we connect our lives through music? I’m such a lover of music, and I have such an eclectic taste in music and there are a thousand songs that help me remember the stories of my life. I think the first song I remember loving was “he’s just a Coca-Cola Cowboy, with an Eastwood smile and Robert Redford hair…” I was about 2 or 3 years old when I ran around the house singing that. It reminded me of my Daddy, who was driving a Coke truck while going to the Fire Academy. “Jeremiah was a bullfrog- was a good friend of mine,” that was my anthem! You lose most of the day-to-day memories of childhood, but those stick with me, maybe because they’re attached to a melody.

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An Early Spring


This is Texas, so we’ve already had spring sprinkled all through our winter. It was 80 degrees yesterday. The week of Christmas my butterfly plant bloomed again. We have definitely not been holed-up with cans of Campbell’s soup to warm us after a snowball fight. Down here in Texas we know Spring will be here soon, so Punxsutawney Phil didn’t give us any surprises, but I’m sure for some of our neighbors to the north, news of an early Spring is the buzz around town.

I kind of like Groundhog’s Day. It’s one of the few holidays yet to be destroyed by commercialism. No one is expecting cards or gifts or candy-filled eggs. And even though the Hallmark channel hasn’t dedicated months to groundhog cinema, there is indeed one funny movie to celebrate with. Too bad it’s not on Netflix- I’d stream it for the kiddos and make them a Groundhog’s Day feast.


Nothing to sell here folks! Just a groundhog going for a drive…

I think I just had a genius idea! Maybe we should celebrate Groundhog’s Day. Blondie can break out the karaoke, we’ll have Dyl Pickles build us a bonfire, we can play Slap Jack on the living room floor… this might be a plan brewing… Read the rest of this entry

Wrong Number


The other day I got a call. The guys says “hey I’m from the cable company, and someone will be there around 4 to repair your service.” Of course, I have the number of my cable company programmed to my phone- how else could I avoid answering when my bill is late? So I knew this guy was up to something and I said “what cable company?” “The cable company ma’am, didn’t you request that we come install a family filter on your cable box?” Let me guess, you want my credit card pin, my PayPal password, and the social security number of my first born… Nice try buddy! I thought his timing was pretty ironic considering YouTube’s announcement that they are launching “Safety Mode” to the public. Many schools and businesses have already been using this feature for quite some time. It’s not flawless, but it does help block a great deal of the inappropriate material from being played. Of course my little hacker wasn’t happy. “What’s your YouTube password?” He asked me the very next day. “Why do you need it?” I replied. “So I can play the songs on my playlist!” Read the rest of this entry

A Few Gigs and a Fire


It’s kind of funny that I have seven kids but I’ve only given birth twice! Twice was enough for me, though. Both times I had pre-eclampsyia so bad, I was in danger of crossing over to the other side. I spent my last trimester on bed rest with my pregnancies, so I’m beyond amazed to see my Blondie playing gigs in her final weeks of pregnancy.

She welcomed the new year belting out a few tunes in San Antonio in the freezing cold.

Jan1-9 Presley Layne 026I’m amazed at this girl who managed to play 6 shows a week with a tube hanging out of her back to drain her kidney, along with the normal exhaustion of being pregnant. But as they say, the show must go on!

Jan1-9 Presley Layne 164So, even the night before they went off to have a baby, they rocked the Batbar in Austin, Tx. Read the rest of this entry