More On Standardized Tests

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Today Cameron took his first STAAR test (math). Tomorrow he takes his reading STAAR. He said it wasn’t too bad. He thought it was pretty easy and was finished in 1 1/2 hours. After that he had to wait 1 1/2 more hours for lunch and then they spent the rest of the day watching a movie (How to Train Your Dragon in his room… he was a bit disappointed when he heard other classrooms got Frozen and Despicable Me 2). And repeat tomorrow.

These standardized tests annoy me to start with because of the amount of time spent during class learning how to pass them (plus extra cram sessions). I wouldn’t even say they are teaching to the test exactly. It’s more hints and tips on how to figure out the right answer and, for the ones with essays, how to write an essay that will earn the highest score in the 20 seconds the scorer spends looking at it. On top of this the elementary school kids have been learning songs about how great the STAAR is and some apparently made hats (somehow related to the STAAR) yesterday. I’m glad they are trying to make the STAAR no big deal (even though it is a VERY big deal in reality), but songs? And hats? Really?

But it’s the high stakes part of the whole thing that annoys me the most. All year Cameron has done very well in all his classes including reading and math (which are the only two he has a STAAR test for as a 6th grader). He’s gotten all A’s and B’s. Obviously he’ll be promoted on to 7th grade, right? Not so fast. Apparently grades only count for part of promotion. Yes, they have to get 70% or better in their classes to pass. They also have to pass the STAAR tests. If they fail the STAAR tests, they fail the grade. It does not matter if a kid had straight A’s. They must pass the STAARs.

If they don’t pass one of their STAAR tests, they have some options. They can do a retake of the test with or without going to summer school first or they can repeat that class the following year if that’s a possibility (and hopefully pass the STAAR next year). I personally know a kid who got high 90 per cents in his English I class last year, but he still failed the English I STAAR. He passed on the retake a couple months later so he could go on to English II the next year. How does that make any sense? How can a kid get high A’s in a class all year but fail that class because of a single standardized test?

Yeah. I’m just not a fan of this whole high stakes testing thing.

Fritz is catching back up!

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Just before we pulled Fritz out of public school, we realized he had lost math skills since the beginning of the school year. He’s always been really good at math. He was way ahead of all the other kids in his class and since they do so much in pairs, he could only work at as high a level as the next highest kid. Unfortunately, this meant he was doing multi-digit addition and subtraction (all in word problems solved three different ways!) instead of long division. After we pulled him out, I discovered he hated math. Totally hated it. That was pretty sad since he used to love math.

This week he got to two- to three-digits divided by single digit division with remainders. He caught back on super fast and, more importantly, he loved it! He was just so tickled with himself figuring the problems out. He did a lot of them in his head. One of them he told me how he did it:

78 divided by 4. 78 is nearly 80 and 80 divided by 4 is 20. Since 78 is less than 80, that means the main answer is 19. 4 minus 2 is 2 so the remainder is 2. The answer is 19 remainder 2.

Of course in his head he does all that in about 8 seconds. He said this math is easier than second grade math even though it says 3 on it (Primary Math – Singapore – 3A). I told him it’s not actually easier, it just isn’t confusing him. That was the real problem with the math he did in public school. It confused him (even though our state does not do Common Core, the math is very similar to the insane Common Core examples people post on Facebook). Thank goodness he’s back on the math track (and loving it) again!

Fritz is Awesome

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On Thursday I had a bad reaction to the pain medication they gave me. In the hospital I kept forgetting to breathe when they gave me morphine. Coming out of the anesthesia they had to regularly remind me to breathe. Apparently that particular side effect is one I get from narcotics. The first couple days, the Norco worked fine. Thursday, however was a different story.

Jamie gave me a pill and then headed to work. Not long afterward I realized I was forgetting to breathe and felt like I was going to pass out. I called Fritz upstairs. He called his father and told him was was going on and asked him to come back home. Then he sat there rubbing my arm continuously for 40 minutes straight keeping me awake. My brain was in a complete fog, but that rubbing was something I could focus on. He watched me closely and whenever my breathing go too shallow, he’d remind me to breathe.

Eventually, the medicine started wearing off and I was okay. That was a relief. Looking back, I realize how utterly scary what happened really was. (Especially when a friend said, “You didn’t have him dial 9-1-1?” Honestly, I didn’t think it was that serious at the time.) Fritz has a tendency to get really anxious about weather and medical issues. He’s had panic attacks in the past over medical issues. This time, he stayed completely calm and knew just what to do to help me. He never left my side until Jamie got home. He was rewarded with a blue “good job” star to go on his uniform in taekwondo. I don’t think Fritz realizes even now how much of a good thing he did. He said he just did what he thought I needed him to do.

As for me, I’m steadily healing and feeling better. Needless to say, I haven’t taken the Norco since Thursday morning. Tylenol doesn’t kill the pain; it just takes the edge off. But it’ll have to do because no way am I taking the narcotic again just in case.

Current Adventures

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On Saturday I turned 36. It was a lovely day. Jamie and I went to kickboxing and then had some breakfast tacos at a new place near us. Not long after we got home, Jamie, Ani, and I headed to the book festival. Ani had to do a shift at a booth for her magnet school. I finished reading Blackbriar. We dropped Ani off at home and Jamie and I went to dinner at Olive Garden. My parents gave me a gift card for that dinner. It was delicious.

But eating that dinner apparently set of a stress test for my gallbladder that did not end well.

Go back nearly 6 years. After Adrian was born I kept throwing up and I’d have pain between my shoulder blades. We figured out it was gallbladder attacks. I’d take Lecithin and Tylenol and throw up and within a couple hours I’d be fine. Time went on and the attacks happened less and less often. I never told a doctor because I did not want surgery. The last attack was in May of last year.

And then Sunday happened. I woke up about 3:30 or 4 in terrible pain. This time it wasn’t just my back hurting. It was also right under my ribs on the front right. I threw up several times. Nothing helped. We went to Urgent Care. They couldn’t do an ultrasound. Looking back we should have said we’d go elsewhere since we walked in saying we thought it was gallbladder. But I was in pain and did not want surgery so when the doctor (who reeked of cigarette smoke) said it was typical gastroenteritis, I was willing to accept that (even though deep down I knew that had to be wrong). They gave me fluids and anti-nausea medicine. They told me to take Tylenol for the pain. I already had. Twice. I threw it up both times. Jamie questioned two or three times if the doctor was sure it was no gallbladder. The doctor said it definitely wasn’t, and if it was it was a 1 in 1000 chance. Jamie said I had thrown up the Tylenol and was there something else I could have. That’s when the nurse asked me how long I’d had this “muscular disorder.” Ummm… 6 hours? I think she thought I was a drug seeker (and all I was asking was if Advil instead of Tylenol would be okay!).

Meanwhile, the doctor and nurses had a very loud conversation in the hallway (with only a curtain between us) about the previous patient. I know all the details of the case. Can you say HIPAA violation?

I was sent home and took the Tylenol as instructed. Jamie headed to Walgreen’s to get the anti-nausea drugs. I really felt like I was throwing up because the pain was so bad it was causing me to become nauseated, but I still didn’t want surgery and was willing to try anything to get rid of the pain. The doctor clearly decided I pulled a muscle because I threw up. The pain was first. He wouldn’t listen (of course, he also said pain in the places I was pointing to were “definitely not” signs of gallbladder problems). 10 minutes after I took the Tylenol I was running back to the bathroom and throwing up so violently I bled some and felt like my throat was trying to turn inside out.

I Skyped my parents and burst into tears. My parents, aunt, and uncle all told me to go to the ER. I didn’t want to because I still didn’t want surgery and I knew that’s where I’d be headed. Jamie got home some time in there while I was sobbing to my parents. He called the Urgent Care since they said to call if anything changed and they said I should go to the ER. But I didn’t want to go because Ani had a spoken word poetry competition Sunday afternoon (one of my amazing visiting teachers took her – and Ani won her age division and will be moving on to the finals in May). The Elder’s Quorum President (Jamie’s in the presidency) ran over and helped Jamie give me a blessing before we left for the ER.

I was taken back in the ER very quickly. When the PA came in checked me over he said I was having textbook signs of a gallbladder attack (the Urgent Care doctor was crazy to say I wasn’t). Plus my mom, her mom, and her mom all had their gallbladders out (and my dad’s sister, too!) so family history is there, too. He ordered an ultrasound which showed that my gallbladder was full of little stones and the bile duct was super inflamed which meant one was probably stuck in there causing the pain. Once they got the results of the ultrasound, they called in the surgeon. That’s when I had to come to terms with having surgery sooner than later. The doctor over the PA came to make sure nothing had been missed and he concurred that it was definitely my gallbladder and it needed to come out.

At some point, the Urgent Care got creepy. They called Jamie’s phone (apparently several times) but reception in the ER wasn’t great. Since Jamie didn’t answer, they called the ER to check on me. Um… HIPAA, anyone? The ER nurse was a little weirded out by that. Jamie called the Urgent Care and told them it was in fact my gallbladder and we were waiting on the surgeon. Some much for his “1 in 1000 chance.”

The surgeon got there and discussed what was going on and said I could choose to try to stop the inflammation and go home and be back next time it happened or I could have surgery. By then I was okay with surgery. I knew it was when, not if. And the pain was so bad I needed to be done with my gallbladder (morphine, by the way, didn’t quite take away the pain and made me feel weirdly heavy and made me not care about the pain). So within an hour I was being prepped for surgery. At 6:30 on a Sunday night. They gave me some Versed and the next thing I know I was waking up after the surgery.

They used a da Vinci robot for the surgery, going through my belly button. It’s pretty fascinating watching videos about that thing.

Once I was awake they took me up to a room for the night. As I was trying to move from the gurney to the bed I needed to throw up and proceeded to throw up quite a lot of blood. It’s a little scary to hear a PACU nurse say she’s never seen something that bad and she’d contact the surgeon. My blood pressure was good and they repeated my blood work the next morning and since my hemoglobin and hematocrit were fine, they didn’t worry about it. I suspect it was a combination of throwing up so violently all through the morning and then being intubated so I bled a lot down my throat and it had to come out. There are a few places inside my throat that were very painful the first couple days and are much better today so I am sure those were the problem areas. It was scary anyway. More for other people than me, though, I think, because I was still pretty out of it.

I spent the night at the (very, very nice) hospital and went home about 10:30 or so Monday morning (and a few minutes later the Urgent Care called *again* to check on me). Since then I’ve been working on getting better again. It seems slow, but probably isn’t. Jamie stayed home from work Monday and Tuesday. People from church brought us meals and came to visit. Jamie went back to work today and a friend of mine came to “baby-sit” me for a couple hours so I wouldn’t have too long without help over the age of 7. She even bought pizza to feed my boys (and hers) lunch.

I can’t do taekwondo for at least 2 weeks which is a bummer. I’ll see the surgeon for a follow-up on the 21st and he’ll decide if I am sufficiently healed to go back to it. I’m needing the pain medication a little less today and even was able to take a shower with Jamie’s help, so I’m happy with my progress. It’s been a crazy few days for sure!

Taekwondo Tournament

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Yesterday we all competed in a taekwondo tournament between the Victory schools in the area.

Cameron

Adrian got best forward roll for his board break (they don’t score the little people the same as they score everyone else), Fritz got 4th (participation) for his traditional form and 3rd for his traditional weapons form (nunchucks), and Cameron got 1st place for both his traditional form and extreme weapons form.

Adrian, Cameron, Fritz

Jamie got 3rd for his traditional form, Ani got a participation award, and I got 3rd for board breaking.

Jamie, Ani, Me