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July 2012 Archives

Schoolgirl Valette: IEP

July 29, 2012

In 3rd grade I was evaluated for an Individual Education Plan (IEP) and placed in a gifted group called Quest. This group met like a regular class and focused on problem solving, goal setting, and other fun stuff.

Like in 5th grade we watched The Killing Fields which was rated R - one classmate made a pretty big deal about some of the swear words in the movie and we all picked on him by counting each swear word aloud as a group. Then I'm pretty sure we locked him in a cabinet when the teacher left the room. Kids can be jerks.

We played the stock market with fake money. We play-acted out a trial with lawyers and jurors and a judge. We played the Knowledge Master Open and groaned at all of the AUK jokes. I loved it.

In 4th grade we did a Project I-Search, which involved brainstorming what we wanted to be when we grew up and then interviewing someone currently doing that job. I decided I wanted to be a laywer (what?) and my teacher arranged for me and all of the other laywer-wannabes to interview a local lawyer and judge.

Then I wrote a paper about it; it was probably the first paper I had ever written and I rolled my eyes about a million times reading it because I loved to exaggerate (uh, still do I guess) and make a bigger deal out of this GREAT ADVENTURE than it was. But I guess I was really excited.

I also wonder if I had just learned about similes because what does that even mean? Are pregnant women in surgery nervous? Perhaps terrified would be a better analogy. What kind of surgery would a pregnant woman be having that isn't related to the health (or lack thereof) of the baby? I doubt almost-10-year-old Valette would mind if I just got out my red pen and marked all over it because YOU AREN'T EVEN 10 STOP COMPARING YOURSELF TO PREGNANT LADIES.

I should have stuck to writing about ballet.

According to my report, I interviewed Judge Stemp with a group of 5th graders (Older Kids) which made me feel really special. I asked the judge some really important questions about his caseload, his computers, and bribery. The man must have had quite a lot of patience, because everyone in my group had a list of 30+ questions for him.

I did some googling on Judge Ralph Stemp, Jr. and found that when I interviewed him in 1990 he was 45 and was based out of Anchorage. But I didn't find any information about a guy that ran over a blind man.

I also interviewed a lawyer named Mr. Yoshida - Google suggests his first name might be Steve and that he's still in Homer. I was obviously very impressed with where we met him, probably a conference room. But to my 9-and-a-half-year-old self it was very much Business Like and Important.

I also love reading about the technology I kept focusing on in these interviews. The judge used an NEC - perhaps a PC-9801, which was so unlike the Commodore 64 we had at home, which I used to play Winter Games and Winnie the Pooh in the Hundred Acre Wood and Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

And the laywer used a 386, making sure to keep up with the latest technology. I was super impressed by that, even though I didn't know what a 386 was.

Another project we did was to write, illustrate and bind an original book. Mine was called The Enchanting Pencil about a magic pencil: everything drawn with it comes to life. I struggled with this project for a long time, my story ideas were lacking.

And so here I am to confess to my mother and the internet at large that I totally stole this story idea from Reading Rainbow: Liang & the Magic Paintbrush. I felt really guilty at the time because my teacher and parents were so proud of me, and I had completely cheated my ass off.

I wonder if my mom still has the book, I'd love to see the illustration skills of a cheater cheater pumpkin eater.

My 7th grade IEP starts off with a grammatical error - who's vs. whose - which is ironic for a gifted IEP. It also notes my underachieving and unmotivated ways. I fully admit to being underachieving and unmotivated back then as well as today.

I can already hear my mother scoffing at that. There are times when I push to my full potential, but more often I put off what needs to be done until the last possible minute and then I rush to do it. Then I get all kinds of praise for how wonderful and awesome I am, but I really know deep down inside I'm just a giant slacker making shit up as I go along and soon everyone will find out that I'm not as smart as they think I am.

Hello impostor syndrome.

I love that my 8th grade IEP includes the objective to reasearch a topic (I chose to research religions and created a very nice write up on it that did not include any snicker-worthy snippets so I didn't scan any of it) using the CD ROM. TECHNOLOGY!!!

This narrative statement in my IEP makes no sense.

I mean, the first paragraph makes all kinds of sense. Strong willed? Check. Good communication? Check. Strong leader? Sure, okay, check. Music and math? Check, check.

But then it goes on about additional services such as Enrichment Activities and the Resource Room (perhaps the classroom where our Quest class met? where Ryan and I painted that giant mural that's still there?) and curriculum compacting and enrichment types and fancy educational jargon whoa.

I didn't scan anything from my high school IEPs because they were pretty boring, especially because it turned into Self Paced Study, AKA Skip School, Get A Mocha, And Make Out With Your Boyfriend On The Beach class. I did pretty well in that class.

Schoolgirl Valette: 13 Minute Mile

July 24, 2012

My elementary school gym teacher, Mrs. Johnson, was terrifying. She was old and wrinkly and threatened the worst punishment in the entire school: she would put on bright orange lipstick and kiss you. You'd be marked for the entire rest of the day and everyone in the entire school would know of your transgressions.

An elementary school scarlet letter fastened firmly to your cheek.

I only saw her kiss one student with that orange lipstick, and it was traumatizing for all of us.

Despite (or because of?) my fear of Mrs. Johnson's bright orange lips, 7-year-old Valette could do an upside down frog stand like a BOSS. I was a frog stand OVERACHIEVER.

Here is where I confess to actually trying a frog stand right now in my office. It wasn't pretty, people. Wasn't pretty at all.

The frog stand was apparently the height of my physical educational career, because the next year we did tuck rolls and I had "the idea of how to do each of them." But I "should feel good about [my] improvement!" I do, Mrs. Johnson. I do.

By the end of elementary school, we had upgraded from the frog stand to an inverted tucked tripod. I've studied the little pictures and descriptions of the two and can't really see how they differ. Except by this time I was adding a little flair by saluting at the end.

I didn't even attempt this one in my office right now. My head still kinda hurts from trying the frog stand.

I was happy to get out from under the tyranny of Mrs. Johnson's orange kissing lips, but 4th grade was HARD, you guys. We had to run? And do real sports and stuff? Where were the frog stands and the salutes?

That was the first time I had ever received a Needs Improvement mark. And I can tell based on my mother's notes (in black) that she had probably called the school for verification. I could run for 13 minutes (is that a mile perhaps?). I could hang for 3 seconds. My upper body is lacking.

But my upper body could lift a book to my nose just fine, thankyouverymuch.

Thus began my lifelong hatred of physical education. In 8th grade I set a goal to be able to run a mile nonstop, no walking whatsoever. I didn't actually accomplish that until I was 30. Running nonstop is overrated and also death-inducing, but I'm still a little proud that I can run further than that now. I'm still not any faster.

In high school we ran the mile once a week. Inside or outside, no matter what the weather. My classmates were all very athletic: they ran 5k competitions for fun with their parents; ran the weekly mile in 7 or 8 minutes; signed up for all of the sports teams they could.

This was the year I had decided that I was fat and unlovable, like teenage girls do. I felt judged for being slow, for being uncoordinated, for hindering instead of contributing to the team activities. I used excuses to not participate, and I earned my first and only C.

My mother was very upset. I remember her telling me that no one should ever get a C in gym class, even someone who is mentally or physically disabled should get an A because all it takes is participation. And I had given up, not participated.

I still give up on things that I feel are too hard for me. Most things come easily, and I get very frustrated when I have to work and work and work at something. It's something I'm working on - which is a fun little cycle because it's hard and that makes me want to give up. Heh.

I'm still not very physically active, but I'd much rather be not fat than sedentary. I can run 5k without (usually) walking. I can climb Flattop without actually dying. And I can still lift my Nook to my nose.

Schoolgirl Valette: Best Subject

July 16, 2012

When we were down in Homer visiting my mother a few weeks ago, she handed me an overstuffed file folder containing every important piece of school report and award I had ever brought home.

You guys, this stuff would have embarassed the hell out of my school-age self. Let's go through it together.

When my stepson saw this he scoffed at how I had read "only" 50 books over the summer until I asked him how many he had read this summer (um, stammer...stammer...) AND pointed out that this was the summer after my Kindergarten year.

Take THAT, son. Beaten by a 6-year-old girl.

1st grade Valette is creative in her stories! This is amazing, because I don't even remember liking creative writing. At some point (5th grade? 6th?) I started hating the whole process of writing fiction. I'm remembering some emotional breakdown when I didn't understand plot structure and there was a graph but I didn't understand it and the teacher wouldn't help me and I got really mad.

Oh man I can even picture the computer lab I was sitting in when that happened. I was so angry I started crying, then was more angry that I couldn't hold in my tears and my teacher just patted me on the back which made me MORE angry.

So. Right. 5th or 6th grade. Now I'm angry all over again thinking about it. Especially since I used to (apparently) love it.

Slow down and pay more attention, she says. Stop visiting with Brian so much, she says. My 2nd grade teacher was kind of mean, huh? I bet Brian was a total babe.

Not that I remember Brian. Only thing I remember about 2nd grade was the little money stamps we got on our desk for being good and being able to buy popcorn at movie parties.

Also wearing my yellow frilly dress on a day that we did Mousercise. I wonder if Brian liked my dress.

Me: "Outstanding Language Arts student! I'm adorable!"
Steve: "Oh man, look how tiny you are! Are you like 30 pounds there?"
Me: "Dude, I was in 5th grade."
Steve: "Also why are you wearing goggles?"
Me: "Those are my glasses, jerk."

I don't remember eating brussel sprouts growing up. I definitely don't remember having to eat burnt brussel sprouts. This could have been one of those times where I had heard about a thing and internalized it because surely loneliness is just like burnt brussel sprouts to an 11-year-old?

Which reminds me about the time in 3rd grade I tried to write a poem about what it's like to be a ballerina even though I had never taken dance lessons - all because my best friend Rhiannon was taking ballet. I read her my poem and she made a disgusted face: "Why don't you write about something you know how to do?"

Wise words, little girl.

I can't help but wonder how much of my cocky 8th-grader attitude had to do with my "different approach" and independence. At least I COMPLETELY agree with my A.

Everyone is a little bastard at 13.

So cute how I wanted to not procrastinate any more. Just don't let 13-year-old Valette ask 31-year-old Valette how that's going.


It wasn't until the end of high school that I received any math and science awards. My folder is full of language arts accolades, and then BAM physics and calculus student of the year. Perhaps I wasn't challenged in them and as such they didn't hold my interest?

There is one thing that did challenge me consistently all throughout my school years: Physical Education. But that's for another post.

S'mores at the Octapit

July 14, 2012

S'mores at the Octapit

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Mitzi turns 1

July 4, 2012

Today was Mitzi's birthday. We celebrated by taking her downtown to the Park Strip for the Independence Day festival, where we were almost double charged for our lunch and it started to rain but she made many new best friends.

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And then I baked cupcakes for her YES I BAKED CUPCAKES FOR A DOG don't judge me.

Mitzi birthday cupcake

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We gave the cupcakes to the dogs on these fancy star plates that I've had hanging around forever, and the dogs just loved them. Mitzi took hers off of the plate immediately and ate it on her settle mat, while Olive licked hers a bunch, pulled the sticks out of the top and set them aside (I guess they aren't her favorite?), ate the cookies, and then gingerly ate the rest of her cupcake. Like a little princess.

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Donovan got Mitzi a beef rib and wrapped it up all nice and pretty, and while Olive was distracted licking her cupcake, Mitzi opened her gift enough to expose one end of a beef rib - just enough to lick.

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Then I passed a cupcake around to the humans to try because they are totally healthy, basically peanut butter carrot cake. Steve was more wary than anyone, but he was a trooper and tried a piece. They taste kind of dry and bland with a hint of peanut butter after taste. We let the dogs enjoy them.

The dogs enjoyed it, but I don't think I'll be baking a cake again. Maybe something for Olive's birthday next year, because she's been grumping and pouting all day. Something about forgetting her birthday. Whatever.

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Hi, I'm Valette

I'm a photographer based out of Anchorage, Alaska. I've recently become a wife, a stepmother, and a homeowner. Life is pretty awesome. You can email me anytime. Learn more...

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