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Common Core Versus Common Sense by Sharon O’Donnell

As the mom of three sons — one a college graduate and headed for grad school at the University of Virginia, one at sophomore at North Carolina State, and one a 7th grader — I have been around the block a few times when it comes to our educational system. Unfortunately, I have been able to tell a HUGE difference in how well our public education system prepared by older two sons for their futures and how that same system is now preparing my youngest son.  Instead of studying a topic for a week or two and attempting to master that topic followed by a unit test, current students are now given mandated Benchmark tests that cover little of this and a little of that. Teachers have tons of written objectives they have to cover and when they need to cover them; their classroom is really not their own. When my older two sons were in middle school, they learned how to take notes, read chapters and highlight them, and study for big tests that covered major topics.  My youngest son has unit tests in math, but in addition to those, he also has benchmarks (that cover several topics) and … Continue reading..

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Getting Going in the Mornings by Sharon O’Donnell

Is it a cold or allergy??  That is the question I’ve asked myself when I woke up every morning this past week feeling terrible.  My nose is stuffy, my eyes itch, my throat is scratchy, and my ears are always stopped up.  When I wake up, it takes a lot to get me out of bed and going:  eye drops, a heating pad, Excedrin, cough drops, and cold/allergy meds.  I need about 45 minutes of transition time before I can drag myself to the bathroom and put on my make-up to get out the door and on the way to my job at a Teacher’s Assistant at an elementary school.  Once I’m up and going, I feel much better — until later that night when the symptoms start again, regardless of what kind of meds I take. Then it’s to bed and another day.  Another morning. When I felt the sore throat symptoms beginning last week, I took several Zinc lozenges to ward off what might be coming — and I felt much better for several days and thought I’d nipped it in the bud — until the symptoms started again in full force. 

Colds didn’t hit me this hard … Continue reading..

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Boston with My Boy by Sharon O’Donnell

Billy at BC

This past weekend my oldest son and I flew to Boston for the weekend for him to visit the campus of Boston College; he is trying to decide on where to go to school for his one year Masters of Accounting program and has been accepted into Boston College, the University of Virginia, Wake Forest University, and NC State. He wants to go somewhere different than where he did for undergrad school, so he declined NC State’s offer. Loves State and always will but felt he needed a change of scenery.

I LOVED going to Boston because I got to spend some quality time with him — just the two of us – -and talk the way we hadn’t done in a long time. I saw again firsthand the kind person he is, how funny he can be, and how sentimental.  Even though, my son Billy was impressed with the BC campus and has always wanted the chance to live in Boston, he realized that perhaps BC might not be where he wants to go after all. He likes it, but there were a few drawbacks he hadn’t anticipated, and I hated to see him disappointed. At the same time, … Continue reading..

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Decision Time by Sharon O’Donnell

The time for my oldest son to make a decision about where he will go to grad school is here.  He was very blessed to get into almost all the schools to which he applied; he was accepted at NC State, Wake Forest, University of Virginia, and Boston College.  The only one that didn’t accept him was  Vanderbilt in Nashville, and they got back to him within two days of his application submission, which was weird. Evidently, their class for next year is already full or something.  That was not his first choice anyway, but it was rather unsettling to hear back from the a school so quickly and be rejected. It made him worry about his chances at the other schools.

He needn’t have worried. He interviewed at NC State and Wake Forest and received an acceptance and offers of some scholarship money from each of them. Although he loved going to undergrad accounting school at NC State, he really felt he needed to go somewhere different for graduate school. He loved Wake Forest University, the people there, and the beautiful new graduate school building that was recently completed.  Then a few days later, he heard from Virginia.  It … Continue reading..

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Too Many Snow Days by Sharon O’Donnell

Okay Mother Nature, enough is enough.  Our city here in the South is not prepared to keep getting hit with snow and ice. We’ve already gone over the 32 Million dollar budget that Raleigh earmarks for winter weather emergencies. The schools have already been shut down for six days in the past few weeks, meaning lots of students have lost much of their spring break vacation days or, in the case of year-round school students, they’ve had to make-up lost time on Saturdays.   The new Bass Pro Shop that is near my house was supposed to have its grand opening this past Wednesday, but they had to cancel the big plans when we got six inches of snow;  I think they did this to let the local people have a look on a Wednesday before people from all the surrounding counties came out on the following weekend.  So since there was no grand opening and bad roads have kept people inside the past few days, everyone is venturing out to Bass Pro Shops today, meaning the traffic near my house coming off the Interstate is ridiculous.  I don’t dare go there today myself or even decide to frequent one of … Continue reading..

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And the Beat Goes On . . . by Sharon O’Donnell

As my middle son looks with friends for where they will live off-campus next year and as my oldest son awaits for the word from graduate schools about his application, luckily my youngest one is tracked out of school. This means that he has a 3 week break — and so do I since I went back to work as a Teacher Assistant on the same calendar as him but at a different school, an elementary one.  He and I both needed a break (see previous column about my youngest having Thirteenilitis), so when the stress picked up with my other two sons, thank goodness the stress went down a bit with my youngest.  I don’t think I’ve ever had high stress with all my sons at the same time (knock on wood), and I’d hate to think of what that would do to me and to my husband.

The middle son has lived on campus for two years now, and I can certainly understand why he wants to get a place with more room. Those dorm rooms are tiny, and the bathroom situation is  — well — gross. But there are not a lot of options without spending a … Continue reading..

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Thirteenilitis by Sharon O’Donnell

My son is suffering from Thirteenilitis. Yes, that same syndrome that talk show host Wendy Williams’ son seems to have. They are both 13 years old and seem to be trying to push dear ole’ Mom away (I feel your pain, Wendy!). They also seem to have a bit of that infamous teen attitude that they dish out to dear ole’ mom (I feel your utter frustration and exasperation, Wendy!). I didn’t find out about Williams’ emotional display on TV until several days after the event occurred. I had been very busy and hadn’t seen much television and then suddenly there it was before me. When I first saw the image of her face, crying and dabbing at her eyes, I thought that perhaps something about a celebrity report had upset her — and I almost didn’t watch the story, but something made me continue to watch. And when I heard her say she was having trouble communicating with her 13-year-old son, I yelled at the top of my lungs, “Jason!!” to my own 13-year-old work-in-progress down the hall. “Come watch this!” I saw immediately this was a rare chance to have a validation of my feelings right on TV.… Continue reading..

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On to the New Year! by Sharon O’Donnell

Finally! We got all our Christmas decorations packed back up today. Everything was so behind this year because of my husband’s eye surgery and our dog’s liver biopsy — plus our pantry collapsed about a week before Christmas, and we’ve had repairmen in rebuilding that. Now my husband’s eye is much better (though he will have to have more surgery later), our dog is doing well with a semi-clean bill of health (has to take some meds to get liver enzymes down), the pantry is rebuilt, and now the decorations are packed away. Well, maybe not away yet, but they are all in boxes. And when my sons come home tomorrow to watch the football games (Go Panthers! and Go Chargers!), then it will be their job to put them in storage. We never go a Christmas card done this year, but I’m thinking of sending out a “Happy Mid-January” one.

Before leaving the new year totally behind in the rear-view mirror, I did want to post a photo of my oldest son’s graduation in December. This is one of my three sons. Sorry about the Bud-Lite
sign in the background, but I don’t want to figure out how to … Continue reading..

Go to On to the New Year! by Sharon O’Donnell

Graduations, Holidays, & Surgeries – Oh My by Sharon O’Donnell

Holiday break came none too soon for me this year. I feel like a train pulling into the station after a long journey. When I went back to work full-time in September, I realized that it would be time-consuming and schedule-changing. I’m still glad I did it, but it has been challenging, mostly because my nights are not my own. With a 13-year-old still in the house, there are still projects, homework, sports practices, church events, Scouts, band concerts, allergy shots, orthodontist appointments, etc. to deal with, and it seems that in that since mid-November, all of that has ramped up. When I first started work, I did really well putting aside my natural night owl hours and going to bed before 11, knowing that once I got up at 6 a.m., there would be no 8-9 nap that sometimes kept me going back in my pre-work days. However, things have been so busy lately that I’m once again a night owl, sometimes going to bed at 1 and getting up at 6, stifling yawns at work. Really wish I liked coffee.

Our family photo Christmas card never got done this year, but I’m not going to stress over it. … Continue reading..

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The Thrill of the Hunt by Sharon O’Donnell

Ever since my youngest son, Jason, found out the truth about Santa Clause when he was 8 or 9 (he’s now 13), Christmas morning has lost some of its magic, and I do miss that. However, it’s also become a lot easier for me — as the appointed shopper of our family — to buy gifts without having to worry about revealing Santa’s true identity. When we are out somewhere, and Jason sees something he’d like for Christmas, and it’s on sale — hey, no problem, I can just buy it there in front of him and save it for Christmas.

No Christmas has this been more evident than this year. On Black Friday, I was blessed to have the rare opportunity to go shopping with all 3 of my sons at the same time. We spent most of our time in Dick’s Sporting Goods (two different locations, no less), instead of at the mall, but they were all able to pick out things I knew they’d like. Jason had waited until just a week or so ago to decide that he wanted a Play Station 4 for Christmas; the pre-order date for this item had already passed, and people … Continue reading..

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