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Archive for February, 2013

Feb 28 2013

Teacher’s College

Posted by Mugs @ 2:49 pm in Family,school,Sightseeing

The “Haven’t I seen this before?” blogs continue.

Abby and I drove down to Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia for a college visit. This was not a virtual visit to FarmVille via Facebook, seeing as I don’t have a Facebook account.

For anyone reading this blog via Facebook who has wondered why my blog stories hijack my husband’s account, here is your answer: Dale likes the technology and connectedness of it all, but has no time to generate content. I, on the other hand, view Facebook as a jump off the cliff and fear that if I join I will never get anything done besides looking at photos, reading updates, and answering messages. This fear does not consume my husband since he views the delete key as “No offense, but I got no time.” I view the delete key as an insult to all my dear friends and relatives who I should take time to check up on and answer. Therefore, I purposely avoid the time drain that is Facebook by not having an account. This leaves me time to occasionally write, when I am not helping keep our family of six in daily operation.  Dale connected the blog to Facebook for our friends who operate using that medium. Hence: his account, my writing. Please view us as a team.

Back in the real world, Farmville lives up to its name. It’s an old Virginia town surrounded by farms. In 1839, an all girls teacher’s college was established there. Throughout the years, the college has changed its name, admitted men, and widened its degrees offered. It is now known as Longwood University, and is still regarded as one of the best teacher’s colleges in Virginia.

The school has just under 5,000 students who can walk to everything within the University and the town. The campus and town are quite picturesque. It is a very safe place.

Longwood has a strong emphasis on getting its graduates jobs and requires each student to do an internship prior to graduation. With small class sizes and engaged professors, students get the help they need to excel.

Along with the academic focus, the students throw paint at each other, play ooze ball, march with scarves, climb the rock cylinder, have a cool pizza oven, and build robot art.

I like Longwood. Both times I’ve visited, I’ve encountered friendly, helpful students who are getting a good education on a safe, well kept campus. They all talk of their helpful professors and the solid camaraderie of a student body committed to adhere to an honor code.

It’s now on Abby’s list of possible colleges. As we were leaving, she said, “I didn’t think I’d like it, but I did.”

That’s what college visits do: Change your perspective.

My friend Rachel (Yes, I know I was less than an hour from your house.) hopes I will change my perspective concerning Facebook and visit the virtual FarmVille as well.

Please don’t hold your breath.

Feb 26 2013

DING! DING! DING!

Posted by Mugs @ 2:34 pm in Family,school

The spelling bee returned to the Manry Clan list of “all for one, one for all” requirements. Zeke had qualified for 3rd grade and Gabe for 7th grade.

Gabe claimed this year he wanted to try to earn a spot at the regional bee in Atlanta, Georgia. His “trying to earn a spot” did not consist of studying the words on the spelling lists that he would be tested on. Then he fell sick with a week long fever and could not attend the bee. When I told him he was too sick to go, he sulked.

“Gabe, it’s not like you worked hard and spent time studying the lists. You did not even study. Why is it a big deal?” I asked

“I could have won and gone to Atlanta,” he replied.

“The likelihood of that is slim. When Josiah went to Atlanta, he studied all the lists,” I replied.

“You don’t know. I could have made it,” he insisted.

Why I continue to present logic to my teenage sons remains a mystery to me. I know very well the sky is blue. I can support this with explanations verifying the scientific understanding of a blue sky, but it doesn’t matter. They insist the sky is orange and expect me to agree.

“Even though it took me 20 seconds to respond to you pounding on my door, and my voice sounded as if I had just woken up, and I came downstairs in a complete daze all disheveled, I wasn’t asleep.”

The sky is orange.

“Even though you can see stains and sweat marks and they’ve been crumpled up on my floor for five days, this uniform isn’t dirty.”

The sky is orange.

The girl from Gabe’s class who replaced him in the bee, came in third place. She only had one day to prepare and still came in third. Gabe viewed this as conformation that he could have won.

Unlike Gabe, Zeke was willing to study, although not alone. Zeke always wants someone working or playing alongside him. Everyone in the family was required to quiz Zeke on his words. Dale did a few columns here and there. Abby followed through a bit. Josiah, who should have been the spell master, was usually unavailable because he was doing homework (He WAS. He was NOT sleeping).

This left Gabe as spell master, a scenario quite painful. Gabe has watched the Scripps spelling bee on T.V. and finds it quite amusing to employ bell sound effects. (When the speller spells the word incorrectly, the judge rings a bell.) Gabe has no bell; Gabe is the bell. At 0745 in the morning, this makes for an unpleasant ride to school.

One morning, I was forced to set the rule that the bell could not go “DING! DING! DING!” each time a word was misspelled. I used the justification that on T.V., the bell only rings once for an incorrect spelling. Grudgingly accepting this rule of no multiple rings, Gabe amped up the single “DING!!!” volume.

Thankfully, the fever wiped Gabe out as spell master. He did not make it through all the lists with Zeke.

The week of the bee, I was left to cram through the remaining words.

“Mommy, how can you drive and read the spelling list at the same time?” Zeke asked.

“Believe me, I’m a safer driver now then when Gabe is the spell master,” I replied.

Late on the night prior to the bee, I finished quizzing Zeke on all the lists: 3rd grade easy, average, difficult; 4th grade easy, average, difficult.

During the bee, the students did not make it past the 3rd grade average list.

Zeke got out on luncheon. He spelled it lunchean.

Gabe was disappointed not to be able to ring the bell on his brother, but was happy for Zeke’s third place finish. Gabe used the results as further justification that he could have made it to Atlanta.

Feb 21 2013

This is an Abby Kind of Place

Posted by Mugs @ 10:24 am in Family,school,Sightseeing

A year after taking Josiah to visit Eastern University outside Philadelphia, I returned with Abby and her friend Kaitlyn. I stayed in the same hotel, ate at the same diner, and toured the same campus.

My blog title from the earlier visit was “visiting Abby’s college without Abby.” As we walked around, Kaitlyn remarked to Abby, “If you were a college, it would look like this.”

We arrived the night before the college tour to a bitter wind, the likes of which I hadn’t felt since the disastrous hike to the top of Mount Kosciuszko. Walking the half mile from the hotel to the diner was painful as the wind howled against us turning our faces numb. On our way, we discovered all the shops closed except for the ones selling doughnuts and yogurt. WaWa, of course, was open.

Deciding what to eat at the diner proved difficult for Abby who vacillated between waffles and paninis. I love a diner menu: choices, choices, and more choices.

We were kept entertained during dinner by the Philly family seated nearby. The son was loudly explaining to his mother his reasons for defriending and blocking her on facebook, and the father was berating the son for ordering a steak in a diner. The father loudly declared that if he wanted a steak, he should have gone to a steakhouse. In between these loud angry outbursts complete with agitated hand gesturing, they pleasantly conversed.

Gotta Love Philly.

For Abby and I, the paninis with a side of fries and gravy won out, but we both only managed to eat half (I periodically forget how much food you get in a diner). Kaitlyn had bagels and lox. We took our giant desserts to go and the cold wind, thankfully behind us now, blew us back to the hotel.

The hotel we stayed in was a fancy old place complete with a fireplace and chandelier. Upon entering the room, Abby remarked, “Daddy and Josiah stayed here? It’s not exactly their kind of place.” (A bit of an understatement.)

The next morning, after Kaitlyn managed to stuff all her Chemistry homework into her backpack, we drove over to Eastern and arrived in time for student led worship. Abby loved it. She got to sing “I am Free” the Newsboys hit written by Jon Egan.

We toured the classrooms, library, gym and dorms. We ate in the cafeteria, and Kaitlyn remarked on how pleasant it was to eat with students who managed to talk without cursing. (Kaitlyn is attending the local community college.) Furthermore, Eastern is a dry campus and a substance free school. My favorite rule at Eastern requires a girl and guy, when in the same room, to leave the door open and ensure sufficient lighting. (Sufficient lighting: it’s just funny.)

The information session concerning the honors college was interesting. The students in the honors college discuss topics of character, virtue, and wisdom. They use the writings of Plato, Augustine, and Luther to answer such questions as “What makes a good life?” A student accepted into the honors college receives a significant scholarship, but first they must pass the interview. While describing the interview, the professor explained “very few people walk out of the interview believing they got in…we just want you to sit down and struggle.” During the interview the students are asked to defend things they morally oppose to see if they understand the other point of view.

Eastern is a Christian University and they offer weeknight worship times and midweek Bible studies, but they do not conduct a Sunday morning church service. They also do not require their students to be Christians or attend any faith events. They encourage their students to become part of a local church body where they can put their motto of “faith, reason, justice” into action.

The discovery of no mandatory church service and a Theistic evolutionary view of science put some parents on the defensive. One mother was indignant with our tour guide concerning the lack of of mandatory church.

“Our children are required to attend church. My husband and I are really concerned about our children falling away from the faith if they are not required to attend service,” she said.

“Statistics report the majority of college students raised in church fall away from their faith,” he replied.

Later, Kaitlyn asked me what I thought about the mandatory church discussion. I told her each person must decide whether they will continue to follow God and the path He sets for them. I believe everyone has a choice to continue in their faith, surround themselves with friends who follow God, and do the work of the Lord where He opens the door. They can also, very well, choose not to.

“I have decided to follow Jesus…No turning back, no turning back.”

Abby likes Eastern very much, but she also likes Virginia Tech very much. Both colleges project a motto of “Make a difference in the world” which appeals to her. However, the school environments are very different. Eastern is a small private college and Tech is a large public college. She’ll need her father’s decision matrix soon.

Dale spent the day we were touring Eastern working on the taxes and the FAFSA. After he has time to recover, I’m sure he’d be thrilled to create a new spreadsheet.

In my race to find the best college, I have discovered the error in my premise. There is no single best college. (UVA is ranked first in Virginia, but we Manrys feel no love for it.) However, there are numerous good colleges. Some fit Josiah better than Abby, some fit Abby better than Josiah. Sometimes, two distinctly different colleges appeal for two completely different reasons.

Therefore, Abby’s college search continues. She has two more education departments to visit. The ones she has already visited have many differences, but one striking similarity. Across the board, they all tell Abby to become a math and science teacher, not an early childhood educator.

At the moment, she’s not listening.

She’s heard there are jobs for kindergarten teachers in China as long as she has English as a Second Language certification, or in Latin America as long as she can speak Spanish.

The sixth grade girl who pleaded with us to stop moving every two years is long gone. She’s tired of ‘Old Virginia’ and longs to go on a great adventure to somewhere new.

Feb 19 2013

If Life Was a Deck of Cards

Posted by Mugs @ 10:23 am in Family

Manry Clan Game Night is a competitive event. The “all for one – one for all” outlook we may periodically display as a family unit goes out the window when we play a game together. It’s often a ruthless fight for victory. Surprisingly, the youngest member of the clan is the most competitive.

Zeke hates to lose.

The game choice decision rotates between family members to prevent me from choosing only games of chance, Gabe from choosing only long term strategy games, Josiah from choosing games with letters on the tiles, Abby from choosing games where acting is required, Dale from choosing the shortest game possible, and Zeke from choosing a game he cannot win.

Zeke can win many games, but he is terrible at the game whoonu (Who Knew?)

During the game, players are dealt four card from which they must choose one to give to the player who is voting on the card order for the hand being played. The goal is to give the opposing player a card he will like the most and rank higher than the other opponents cards.

There is a bit of luck involved. One needs to have desirable cards in her hand, but the primary skill needed is knowing what other people like and dislike.

For example, it was a shock to Zeke that Dale didn’t like bagpipes and put the card in last place.

It is painful to play this game with Zeke, because he often puts cards in which are so absurd that when they are revealed, we all can’t help laughing. His feelings get hurt throughout, but we cannot convince him not to pick this game.

The game is a disaster of bad parenting, sibling rivalry, and getting beat by a player not even in our family because he knows us better than we know ourselves.

Rarely, does the player whose turn it is get all good cards to rank.

The last time we played, however, Josiah hit a jackpot filled with all the things he loves.

Feb 13 2013

A Rocking Chair and a Toss in the Air

Posted by Mugs @ 12:35 pm in Family,school,Sightseeing

Lately, I’ve been retracing my steps. Several of the universities Dale and I visited with Josiah are on Abby’s list of school possibilities. Dale has begged off any repeat visits, declaring one college tour per campus his limit.

A few weeks ago, Abby and I drove down to Charlottesville for the University of Virginia (UVA) ‘Take Two’ visit. UVA’s school of education has a prestigious reputation, and I thought it might appeal to Abby. ‘Prestigious’ (honored, having a commanding position in people’s minds) is how most of my fellow Virginians view UVA. Inevitably when I discuss which colleges my children are considering, I get asked, “What about UVA?”

I have twice now observed UVA in all its uniqueness. The students adhere to many strange traditions which I find humorous and a tad bizarre.

Admittedly, having spent my Plebe (freshman) year pinging the halls, calling minutes, and delivering the laundry, I really have no right to judge.

The students attend football games dressed “girls in pearls, guys in ties” and when the team scores (which our tour guide commented was not too often), everyone sings the “Dear Old UVA” song.

Lucky for us, we heard the “Dear Old UVA” song during our campus tour when a group of fraternity brothers, in their sports coats and ties, surrounded a new member, tossed him in the air three times, and sang heartily.

Thankfully, the tour guide kept the discussion of fraternities, sororities, and secret societies to a minimum. She is an Engineering Student and more prone to tell tales of the library trail of tears. One library closes at midnight, another at 2am, but the final one is open 24 hours. She claims students are kicked out of each in succession and mournfully move from one to the next in the middle of the night.

After Abby heard this story, she looked at me and asked, “Why don’t they just go to the 24 hour library in the first place?”

“There are just some students not as forward thinking as you, child.” I replied.

During the UVA tour, they refuse to show the prospective students and parents a dorm room. (JMU won’t show you a dorm room either.) I suspect this is because UVA’s housing is quite lousy. All the buildings are very old and maintained primarily for historic preservation. The lousy dorms provide additional motivation to be tossed around in the hopes of eventually landing in a fraternity house.

We walked past the historic dorms that Jefferson built along the edge of the lawn. Out in front of each room was a stack of wood and a rocking chair. Each room is heated by a fireplace. There are no bathrooms attached or down the hall. You have to walk to a different building. The rooms are occupied by UVA students who have been exceptional throughout their four years of learning.

As our tour guide explained it, “You have to solve world hunger or cure cancer during your years at UVA to have the great honor of residing in the lawn rooms.”

I tried to convince Abby this would be a great goal for her. “Look, they give you a pile of wood so you don’t freeze to death and a rocking chair to sit in,” I said.

“I am not living in a room without a bathroom,” she declared.

She was not intrigued by: a room heated only by a fireplace; joining a sorority to dress the same (stretch pants, large blouse, colorful scarf, and hunting boots); not knowing until the end of her second year whether she has been accepted into the school of education. She does not want to enter the unknown and land wherever she’s tossed. She wants to start her five year Master’s in Education in full swing and keep going until she has a job.

She is not interested in the rugged adventure of it all. Which is probably why she is not applying to my alma mater either.