Standardized Testing and Butter

Mamacita says:  I want to talk to you all about standardized testing and butter, and then I want you to tell me which is more important.

I ran into a former middle school student in a store yesterday. I recognized him right away, in spite of the beard, the wife, and the three little kids, but for the first time, I couldn’t remember a student’s name. This concerns me.

My mind’s eye could see him with the years stripped away, and I could remember where he sat and who sat on either side of him. I could remember things he did and said in class, and I could remember his handwriting and where he liked to sit in the cafeteria. I couldn’t, however, remember his name.

He said to me, “I bet you don’t remember me!” And I replied, “Of COURSE I remember you.” Because I did, even if his name was gone from my brain.

He said to me, “I will always remember that one thing we did in your class.”

I replied, “And which thing is that?”

“Remember when you read that olden-days book to us and they were always eating and making stuff from scratch, and you taught us how to make stuff? What I remember most was the butter. My kids and I love to make butter, just like you showed us in 8th grade.”

The book was Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Farmer Boy. It was perfect for a low-ability class of 37 14-to-17 year old students, all boys, who hated reading and honestly couldn’t see any connection between something in a book and the outdoors/ hunting/farming/mechanic/taxidermy/4H/cattle-raising lives most of them were already considered experts in.

It was English class, but we cooked, and we whittled (GASP, how politically INCORRECT!) and we made sourdough starter and later we made bread with it, and we made pies and jerky and boiled candy (it’s just fudge or taffy) and jam. And about once a week, we made butter to go with our bread. I had a glass churn, but that was too complicated so we poured the cream into a big Tupperware thing and passed it all around the class and the boys shook it while listening to me read. I would read until the butter ‘came,’ and then the boys sprang into action. They poured off the buttermilk and squeezed the butter until it stopped weeping. They sprinkled just a little salt into the butter and kneaded it in. Then they all washed their hands and whoever’s turn it was that day sliced the bread and they all put napkins in their shirt collars and tucked in. We used KNIVES to slice the bread and to spread the butter. Heavens to BETSY.

I know that many of them were enthusiastic about this book because of the food, and they loved the food because all teenage boys love food, and also because these particular teenage boys were seriously hungry.

I loved those Laura Ingalls Wilder units. Other teachers criticized them because watching sourdough rise, and making butter, weren’t proper English lessons.

I maintained, and I still maintain, that anything we as teachers or parents do that makes learning come alive is a proper English lesson. Science lesson. History lesson. Math lesson. Life lesson.

I was sad when the principal forbade me to do this kind of thing any more. There really wasn’t time, anyway, what with all the ISTEP prep the boys needed to do. That was more important in the long run, right?

I ran into a grown man in a store yesterday who remembered those lessons and did them with his own children.

I’m sure he remembers and does the lessons required for ISTEP, too.

But I know for a fact that he remembers the butter.

Easter 2018: Rejoice.

One of two carved limestone Easter Island heads at the entrance to Thornton Park in Bedford, Indiana

Mamacita says: Happy Easter, everyone.

What? Oh, oops. . . . .

Vintage Easter card

Here. This is more like it. I do love those vintage Easter postcards. I hated growing up and finding out that those baby kittens were probably going to eat those baby chicks. I would also hate to have to tell you all how old I was before I realized that the bunnies weren’t really responsible for all those eggs.

THIS is Easter.

But ultimately, this is Easter to me.

And isn’t it wonderful that so many of us, with so many different beliefs, can hang out here in the Blogosphere and get along great and love each other without having to constantly proselytize and try to sway each other to our own beliefs?

Even after the election. . .   Well, in spite of all that, we’re still all pretty nice.  Those who aren’t, well, who wants to sit by them?  “Those” people aren’t what the rest of us are all about.

Oh, sure, those people are online too, but I don’t pay much attention to them.  You shouldn’t, either.  Let them rant.. .

It’s the people whose beliefs are quietly lived every day, the people who show me by example what their values are, who get my attention.

And who says God doesn’t have a sense of humor? If you don’t believe me, just look around for a minute or two. Think of your family.

And if you’re alone, look in the mirror.


Happy Easter, dear internet people. Eat chocolate. Smile. Have some eggs. Rejoice over something.

It’s a good day for rejoicing. . . .

Quotation Saturday: Easter

quotation saturday, mamacita's blog, jane goodwin Mamacita says: It’s Easter weekend, and Quotation Saturday begs your leave to take full advantage of said fact. Nah, I’m kidding, Quotation Saturday does what it wants; sometimes it makes itself known when it’s not even Saturday.

Easter is a wonderful, special time of year. For some, it marks the end of harsh winter and the beginning of beautiful spring; for others, it’s the holiest of holy days, and for still others, it’s a children’s holiday full of bunnies, chickies, candy, and colored eggs.

Quotation Saturday wishes to please you all.

1. We are told to let our light shine, and if it does, we won’t need to tell anybody it does. Lighthouses don’t fire cannons to call attention to their shining- they just shine. — Dwight L. Moody

2. Easter is very important to me, it’s a second chance. — Reba McEntirehe is not here, he is risen

3. The first thing that stuck in the minds of the disciples was not the empty tomb, but rather the empty grave clothes – undisturbed in form and position. — Josh McDowell

4. I have always wanted a bunny and I’ll always have a rabbit the rest of my life. — Amy Sedaris

5. I’ve got great people who handle my schedule, and everything does revolve around the children. If there’s a parents’ night or an Easter bonnet parade or a Nativity play, whatever it might be, then I plan everything around that. — Victoria Beckham

6. I read the Scriptures at the American Cathedral on Christmas and Easter; that’s it. It’s a task I love. — Olivia De Havilland

7. Easter is reflecting upon suffering for one thing, but it also reflects upon Jesus and his non compliance in the face of great authority where he holds to his truth – so there’s two stories there. — Michael Leunig

8. Do not abandon yourselves to despair. We are the Easter people and hallelujah is our song. — John Paul II

9. Christmas and Easter can be subjects for poetry, but Good Friday, like Auschwitz, cannot. chicks, cat, Easter, devour, Scheiss WeeklyThe reality is so horrible it is not surprising that people should have found it a stumbling block to faith. — W.H. Auden

10. If anyone or anything tries to curse or kill the Goodness at the Center of all things, it will just keep coming back to life. Forever Easter. — David Housholder

11. Easter is never deserved. — Jan Karon

12. Love paid a price so hope could become a reality. — Susan GaddisPeeps, pink, Easter, Scheiss Weekly

13. Two thousand years ago Jesus is crucified, three days later he walks out of a cave and they celebrate with chocolate bunnies and marshmallow Peeps and beautifully decorated eggs. I guess these were things Jesus loved as a child. — Billy Crystal

14. So with Easter. It was fun, as a child, to bound down the stairs to find seasonal sweet-treats under each plate, but again, with the passing of time, and the shadow of death over our broken family circle, I’ve seen Easter as highest necessity. If chocolate bunny, Easter, Scheiss Weeklyhope is to flourish, it had better be true. –Gerhard Frost

15. The joyful news that He is risen does not change the contemporary world. Still before us lie work, discipline, sacrifice. But the fact of Easter gives us the spiritual power to do the work, accept the discipline, and make the sacrifice. — Henry Knox Sherrill

16. Easter tells us that life is to be interpreted not simply in terms of things but in terms of ideals. — Charles M Crowe

17. The resurrection gives my life meaning and direction and the opportunity to start over no matter what my circumstances. — Robert Flatt

18. Let every man and woman count himself immortal. Let him catch the revelation of Jesus in his resurrection. Let him say not merely, “Christ is risen,” but “I shall rise.” — Phillips Brooks

19. You’ll wake up on Easter morning, And you’ll know that he was there, When you find those Easter lamb, Scheiss Weeklychoc’late bunnies, That he’s hiding ev’rywhere. — Gene Autry

20. The resurrection asserts a truth which is by no means always written legibly for all men on the face of nature. It tells us that the spiritual is higher than the material; that in this universe spirit counts for more than matter. — H.P. Liddon

21. The impossible often has a kind of integrity which the merely improbable lacks. — Douglas Adams

22. It is spring again. The earth is like a child that knows poems by heart. — Rainer Maria Rilke

23. If people did not love one another, I really don’t see what use there would be in having any spring. — Victor Hugo

24. It’s spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you’ve got it, you want—oh, you spring flowers, Easter, Scheiss Weeklydon’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so! — Mark Twain

25. Strange as it may seem, the association of eggs and bunnies at Easter time are actually connected and, to discover more, we must once again turn our attention to the Saxon fertility Goddess, Eostre. — Carole Carlton

26.  There would be no Christmas if there were no Easter.  — Gordon B. Hinckley

27. The first thing that stuck in the minds of the disciples was not the empty tomb, but rather the empty grave clothes – undisturbed in form and position. — Josh McDowell

28.  Unfortunately there is nothing more inane than an Easter carol. It is a religious perversion of the activity of Spring in our blood.  — Wallace Stevens

29.  There are two kinds of people in the world. Those who love chocolate, and communists. — Leslie Moak Murray

30. The stone was rolled away from the door, not to permit Christ to come out, but to enable the disciples to go in. — Peter Marshall

Happy Easter, bunnies, chicks, eggs, Scheiss Weekly

Use Your Gifts. Don’t Be Boring.

Do it. Do it now.  Use your gifts. Don’t be boring.

Mamacita says:   Since my activities have been so severely limited since the wreck, which was a year ago and I’m getting pretty impatient bordering on debilitating fury, I’ve been doing things I’ve never done or thought about doing or wanted to do, two of which are becoming more and more appreciative of silence, and discovering what a genuinely boring person I am.

I am that kind of sad woman in movies and books who dedicates her life to her students and children and neglects her own and then one day she wakes up as from a trance and thinks “Well damn, that went by fast, and who is that hag in the mirror?”

How boring am I?  I don’t drink, or smoke, or do any kind of illegal recreational drugs, or drive over the posted limit, or litter, or get in the 20 items line with 21 items, or park in a handicapped spot without a hangtag. I put my cart in the corral, I don’t use any kind of outside guide or cheat sheets when I play Scrabble or Trivia, and I drive old people around town whenever they call me. I bring my mother three meals a day (plus snacks) and take her to all her appointments. I might sort of bully her into telling her doctors things she wouldn’t tell them otherwise because she hates bothering them. I’m not sure where my iron is, although I’m pretty sure I do own one, and the mop I bought just after Christmas still has the cellophane around it. (I had to buy a new one; the old one still had the same sponge it had when my kids were at home, which means something or other about my supposed housekeeping skills.) I buy more peanut butter and ketchup than most families with teens. I go through a big bottle of cheap yellow mustard every couple of months. The healthy food is for other people. (I don’t want any of it, please, don’t ask me again.)

I don’t think I could actually harm another person unless said person put a violent hand on a loved one thus releasing the Mama Grizzly, but I think spattering the guilty with permanent ink so everyone would have fair warning would not be amiss.

I love to cook and bake but I have no desire to own any kitchen machines other than the major appliances and a really old hand mixer i get out every November for Thanksgiving mashed potatoes. So you see: boring. I rest my case.

P.S. I’m working on the snark and the language, really I am, but I have also come to the conclusion that I enjoy them and am not trying all that hard to do better. One of my degrees is in English; I know lots of words and combinations thereof. Don’t cross me.

(If you know me personally, you will also already know that even my clothes and shoes are boring.) (I’m boring myself with this long drawn-out whiny post.) What happened to me? Where’s the long-haired chick with the bandannas who used to ride around on the backs of motorcycles, march in protests, wear ERA Today shirts to prayer meetings, and pay my sister to antagonize boyfriends when I got tired of them? Eh, she gone. Or is she, entirely? Even at the time, it was like a dream world, too good to last. I’ve always been kind of boring. A better question would probably be, why did it take a major wreck for me to realize the extent of my boring-ness. And maybe to decide it might be time to get a little of the old life back. . . . But wait. That would take energy. Well, pass the Diet Coke. You know, if I had a time machine, I would probably waste the opportunity. Like Dumbledore with the Time-Turners. I need to get back to work. I do not like all this leisure time. Please sign up for my classes, people.  This sort of thing just can’t be allowed to continue.  I’ve started watching TV, for crying out loud.

I know I’ll never get my life back.  The woman who disregarded her stop signs put an end to that part of me.  But something has to be done.  Oh, I have to do it myself; I know that.  Maybe with enough Diet Coke, I’ll be able to do it.

I’m still waiting for the miracle.

. . . anarchy is loosed upon the World. . . .

Oh please, I beseech Thee, not again. Oh never again. . . .

How many times, oh Lord, will I be called upon to repost this piece of writing? Once was too much. Now, the world is engulfed in the kind of horrific chaos no novelist could ever hope to duplicate.

Not again. Oh surely, not again.

And yet, again.


Mamacita says:  The following article was written back in April of 2007, a few days after the shooting at Virginia Tech.  I never thought it would be relevant again.

A lot of things I think will never happen again, happen again.

Oh, and please don’t think I’m wasting any pity on the gunman.  Any gunman.  Life is full of choices, and a gunman who opens fire on innocent people has made the choice to side with evil.

However, please don’t think I believe the guns acted alone.  Just as a spoon didn’t make me fat all by itself, neither does a gun destroy unless a person chooses to use it for careless or evil purposes.

Let’s try not to put blame on anyone or anything but the one who made that conscious choice to destroy life instead of nurture it.  The only thing that is to blame for this tragedy is the person who did it.

I will also blame those who made access to the murder weapon so easy.


This was originally written after the Virginia Tech tragedy.  I never dreamed it would be timely again, over and over.  

I think that if we take the time and trouble to look around us, wherever we might be, we will see a number of people who are very much. . . alone. Some people claim that they prefer to be alone. Some people are alone not because they choose to be, but because their caustic personalities, or nasty whining, or vicious gossip, or incessant meddling, or some other personal choice they’ve made somewhere along the line, drives other people away. And some people’s minds have crossed the borderline between sane and insane.

Perhaps some of those overlooked people, those friendless people, those depressed, lonely, ignored, neglected people, can only be that way for a limited time. Maybe, after a certain amount of time has gone by, they either adapt, change, crack, or blow.  However, a person’s mental state is no excuse for murder.

I would like to think that the incident at Virginia Tech and all of the inexcusable incidents thereafter had nothing to do with gun control, no matter how hard some people are trying to make it so, but I am torn.  Firm believer in people deserving all and any of the consequences they earn and therefore deserve, I can’t help feeling that violent mindsets begat violent actions, and these actions are choices, and choices have consequences, and we all deserve the consequences we have chosen to earn.  However, I also believe that these mentally unstable people will find a weapon one way or another, and no amount of legislating or safeguarding or waiting periods will make any difference. This is not a gun control issue. This is a self control issue. And it is people who have no self control who ruin everything for all of us.

People with no self-control take up more than their fair share of an airline seat. People with no self-control eat all the Hostess cupcakes. People with no self-control talk in the movie theater, and they grab for things they want, and they scream and cry when they don’t get their own way. People with no self-control see no reason why they should obey the rules or, when they’re older, the laws. People with no self-control use their cell phones as they drive.  People will no self-control have temper tantrums when they’re grown up.  People with no self-control want what they want when they want it. People with no self-control tend to blame everything and everyone but themselves when things go wrong.  People with no self-control never quite grew up somewhere in the brain.  People with no self control find weapons and use them when things don’t go their way.  People with no self control are selfish.  Selfish to the extreme.  People with no self control are often violent.

And when they’re got it really bad, people with no self-control get hold of guns – or knives or tire irons or rocks or fists or arrows or pipes – and they plot and plan to kill people who seem to have all the things the insane person always wanted and couldn’t seem to get. Sometimes, these people with no self control erupt and whoever is unfortunate enough to be in their path becomes their victim.

People with self-control might think about doing such things, but they never would. All of us think such things at times, but the difference between us and people like this kid is simple self-control. Sane people – people with self control – don’t act on every impulse they feel.

Whether his anger drove out his self-control, or whether his immature lack of self-control caused a lot of the anger, or whatever theory or combination of such, he decided to do it and planned for it well in advance. This wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment deed. He may have had no self-control (a negative trait in any adult) but he was able to delay the self-gratification of it for a little while. He also had, as do many people lacking in self-control (look at me, see me, see me, look at me!) a bit of the ham actor in him, and made sure the world would know his name AND his face.  This description might apply to any of the mass murderers who tresspass into our schools and of their own free will, often planned well in advance, and brilliantly so, turn what is supposed to be the safest place in the neighborhood into blood bath.  There is no excuse.  There might be reasons, none of them viable, but there are no excuses.

People are also saying that if only other students had reached out to this student, maybe he would have found friendship and good company instead of a loaded gun. But students DID try to reach out to him, and he would have none of it. If you’re one of the people who is trying to put some of the blame on this guy’s roommates and classmates, shut up. It’s not their fault. It’s nobody’s fault except this guy himself. It’s not his innocent parents or sister, or anybody else’s fault. He did it himself. It’s HIS fault.

It is always the shooter’s fault.  Nobody made him do it.  He decided to do it and he did it.  Let the consequences fall.  Justice is what is required here.  Absolute justice, not perfect justice.  Look up the difference.

And what kind of hell must his family be going through at this time. . . . a hell just as bad as the hell the families of all the slain students are going through, but quite different.  Facing the fact that a child, flesh of their flesh, blood of their blood, their beloved child, is a monster, has to be the worst feeling in the world.

“He was such a sweet child.”  Well, he’s no longer a child, and the sweetness is gone.

Anything anyone says now is, of course, from the point of view of hindsight, and as we all know, hindsight is 20/20.

In reality, this student went out and bought a gun, and of his own free will, made the choice to take that gun and destroy some 33 of his fellow students, and some teachers. He then turned the gun on himself, thus ensuring forever that no one will ever know the real reasons behind his bid for notoriety. Yes, he mailed a lot of pre-made horrors before he did it, and made sure that his after-the-fact information would freak out the world. If there was anyone on the planet who sympathized with him, that evidence of callous diva-ness should have taken care of that.  Those schoolhouse murderers who left themselves alive will, I hope, face a judge who has children and who will not even think about letting a child-killing beast loose.

Am I callous? I can be, yes. When it comes to the lives of my students, or my children, or my friends, or anyone I love, I can be very callous indeed. If someone threatened any of you, you can bet I would do whatever I could to take that person down. Yes, I could kill him myself, if it would save others. I could take out someone who broke into my house or my car OR MY SCHOOL, if they threatened my kids, or any of you. You will not see me shrink back or say something such as “Oh, I could NEVER harm another human being no matter WHAT!!!” Cry me a river. You wouldn’t lift a finger to defend your kids? Each other? Shame on you.  If an intruder enters my house and becomes agitated or violent, you can bet that I will subdue that bastard with the handy piece of pipe I keep by my bedside for just such purposes.  If the intruder becomes violent, I will shoot him.  Cry me a river.

Ordinarily, I am meek as a lamb and the biggest sissy this side of Planet Saturn. But if someone threatened my kids or any of you, or raised a violent hand to any of you in any way, and I am there and able to reach that person, he or she would remember me for a long, long time.

They would probably gun me down as I charged, but you can bet that I would charge.  At least, I hope I would charge.

All of those beautiful children, blown away by one student’s vicious insanity. Graduation was in two weeks, for some of them.  Bright and hopeful futures were supposed to be in their future.  It makes me think about the Holocaust, where the children were usually incinerated first, right off the train, because, you know, children can’t work and who cared and it was what someone wanted to do. . . even liked to do.  Some of them went home after a busy day murdering other people’s children to their own children, and pretended they were loving, decent fathers.

Every continent on the planet has now been represented in the violence that the lack of self-control will bring.

And the image in my mind’s eye of that lovely man who tried to block the door with his own body to save his students will be with me forever. He survived one Holocaust, but not the second. .And yesterday, yes, again yesterday, the coach and the other teachers who tried to shield their students with their own bodies and lost their lives in the doing.  They are heroes.  Heroes. . .

After 9/11, people everywhere softened a bit towards one another, and tried to reach out, and help, and understand. Then some time passed, and people started to forget. And now, perhaps people will remember again, and this time, maybe they won’t forget, at least, not so soon.  Except, of course, they do, and they have.  All the mass school murders since Virginia Tech. . . the monsters still among us, armed with machines the likes of which our Founding Fathers never dreamed of.  Machines that old fat white guys will throw your baby under a tank to keep legal.

The only thing that separates Virginia Tech, or Columbine, or Sandy Hooke, or that Colorado theater, or yesterday’s Florida school, from any other place is the arm of coincidence. It could just as easily have been our college, or your friend’s college. Or a grocery store. Or a kindergarten classroom. Or a hospital. Or a movie theater.  Or your home. Or WalMart. Or the preschool where your twins are napping.  Monsters don’t really care where they slaughter.

Let us ever strive to be kind. Everyone we meet is struggling. And all of those spams and forwards about how we never know when a simple smile will be the difference between life and death for a stranger? They’re true.

Let’s notice one another. Let’s smile. Don’t behave like a Bob Evans greeter (holy scheisse, those people are annoying!) but just be nice to people. Include people. Ask people to join you. Reach out.  Make eye contact.  Make it plain to someone that you are glad to meet them, and would be happy to join them.

Say a little prayer. Call someone you’ve been avoiding and ask them to meet you for lunch. Phone your mother. Send a card to your sister.

My college held a vigil Thursday afternoon after the Virginia Tech massacre.  The commons was packed, and several students spoke. All of them had the same theme: Love one another.
They plagiarized that, but I’m not going to do anything about it this time.  And threading through my head during this lovely gathering was the thought that such a lovely gather would be the perfect location for a mass shooting that would give yet another psycho some media attention.

Sometimes, when a tragedy this large happens, and we are lucky enough that it is far away and involves people we do not know personally, we tend to not identify with any part of it. This time, it happened on a college campus, where all of you go every day. The location and the victims, this time, were far more personal for all of us. Something else, too. . . .

Sometimes, in the course of the class time, someone’s cell phone rings, and it can be annoying if it happens too much. I have never gotten upset over that, because you are all adult students and you have families who often need to contact you.

Now, if your cell phone rings in class, don’t be surprised if I have to wipe away a tear.
As emergency workers performed the grim task of removing the bullet ridden bodies of the slain from Norris Hall, their sad work was accompanied by the incessant chirps, beeps, voices, songs, birdcalls, and little bits of music from cell phones.

The phones were in the victims’ pockets, purses, backpacks. . . and hands.

Their parents, spouses, children, and friends were calling them to see if they were okay.

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned…
WB Yeats
The Second Coming


I don’t ever want to run this essay again.  Let us all ever strive to treat each other with as much kindness as we can.  None among us has a perfect life, and some of us are really struggling.  Kindness costs nothing; therefore, we can all afford to use as much of it as we want.  We can only hope that most people will want to be kind all the time.

And now my students know the real reason I allow them to keep their cell phones on during class.

My sincere condolences to all the Aurora, Colorado, victims and their families and friends. Blessings upon the families of the beautiful students in Florida.

Condolences to the family of the monster.  Nobody expects their beloved child to be a monster.  Realizing that he is, has to be horrible.

I hope none of you is ever on either side of this dreadful fence.

Love each other, my darlings.  Love each other, and behave, and try to make the people in your inner circles behave, too.  And if you notice someone who has no circle, invite him/her into yours.  It might be the difference between life and death.