Thursday, December 15, 2016


It's December so that means I trot out festive sweet treats that I only make this time o' year. One is my Italian grandmother's anise-flavored waffle cone cookies also known as pizzelles. Those are a throwback to my childhood and now my mom, cousin and I continue the tradition. Check out some silly photos from a 2012 baking sesh with Mom & Angela HERE.

There is a new sweet that I recently folded into my stable of holiday rituals. It's a variation on what some people call "Buckeye Balls." But I class it up with fine artisan chocolate that takes this treat to the next level. Also the addition of graham crackers gives the balls a little crunch and texture while also binding the balls together. (It's an optional ingredient though, if you are gluten sensitive.) I'll list the base recipe and provide my Pro-Baller Tips that further improve the process and the final product.

Kali's Fancy Schweddy Christmas Balls
  • 2 cups Finely Crushed Graham Crackers
  • 1-2 cups Powdered Sugar (adjust if you want less sweetness than a Reese's PB cup)
  • 2 cups Chunky Peanut Butter (Adams Chunky recommended)
  • 1/2 cup Butter (Organic Valley Pasture Butter recommended)
  • 1 lb Chocolate for melting (2 x Scharffen Berger 62% Cacao 9.7oz pkgs recommended)

1. Mix together all ingredients, except chocolate
2. Freeze mixture for at least a 1/2 hour
3. Roll balls, 1 1/4" in diameter is ideal

[Tip: Use a balling tool to keep them uniform size and to keep your hands out of the peanut butter]
4. Place peanut butter mix balls on non-stick or parchment paper-covered metal sheet/flat pan 
5. Freeze for at least a 1/2 hour 
[Tip: The harder/colder the balls are, the easier it is to work with the chocolate later.] 
6. Melt chocolate over low heat in a sauce pan
7. Move pan off burner. Let it cool to lukewarm. 
[Tip: Is it cool enough that you rest your hand on the side of the pan? If so, go get the balls out of the freezer]
[Tip: Portion out the balls to only have to handle half of them outside the freezer at a time because the peanut butter balls thaw very quickly.] 
8. Using two large soup or tablespoons, scoop up some chocolate and juggle a ball between the two spoons while drizzling chocolate over it. Make sure the ball is fully covered all the way around and then set down in the pan again. 
[Level Up Challenge: If you have something to prove or are adept with proper skills, you can use chopsticks which minimize the wasted chocolate that can collect in the spoons or end up splashed on the cooling sheet.]
9. Get the chocolate covered balls back in the freezer as soon as possible to set.
10. Once chocolate hardens, store in sealed container or ziplock bags in fridge or freezer.

Makes 48 balls (with baller tool)

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Thoughts on a week

All of this pain and anguish and doubt
This all-consuming uncivil war. 
The fractures of differences, the recriminations of association.
I mourn the fragile webs we wove to connect unlike things

so precious, so breakable

When we choose to stand up, when we choose to sit down
When we choose to let things come to pass
Now an unknown fate awaits and
what you and I see is not the same 

and yet
and yet
and yet can we survive a moment to learn its significance?


Monday, October 31, 2016

NaNoWriMo 2016

Been gearing up for something big, scary and exciting...

My first ever NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) where you sign up and pledge to write 50,000 words of a novel during the month of November. Mother did this last year with a Young Adult fiction project and I have been stymied by a lack of urgency and focus throughout 2016 so I believe this is just the thing I need. Luckily I have also found a writing program called Scrivener and it may not write the book for you but it is a powerful tool to help organize and consolidate all of your work in one place. I just love it.

It's a lot of words and I still have all my normal responsibilities and activities to manage, not to mention the Thanksgiving Holiday. But my story has been churning in my brain for over a year and it needs to be realized. The toughest thing is not to squander time or get distracted. Let's do this thing...

Saturday, October 01, 2016

Sia in Seattle

Sia shone bright like a diamond in Key Arena last Thursday during the first stop of her new tour. A spectacular blend of performance art with music and a sophisticated application of cameras, screens, lighting and dance to really make you pay attention. Plus that amazing voice! Such a memorable performance by a talented artist. Wishing Sia and team a smooth and successful tour!

I'm pretty sure that's Tig Notaro there with the shiny gloves. 
Kristin Wiig in a wig brings the emotional resonance 

Friday, September 23, 2016

'WTF Seattle School District?' Part 2

So what happened since I last posted?

Tuesday: Protest
A considerable showing of parents and community members came out. News crews came out too as well as Seattle School District Reps. It was an impressive show of concern. It also showcased how serious we are about getting a new teacher instead of disrupting our entire school that is already weary from so many transitional issues at the temporary site. 

Media Coverage

Wednesday: School Board Testimony 
This is where I have to take a moment and gush about our parents and teachers. People are allowed during the meeting to sign up for 2 minute slots to talk to the Board about any issue. Over 2/3 of the 25 speakers were Loyal Heights people on this day. Every one of them had thoughtful and detailed speeches. Ranging from a young student to a teacher to many, many concerned parents. Watch it for yourself, it's impressive. THIS LINK starts from where Loyal Heights Speakers begin.

It's also telling that the comments after testimony from the Board Members acknowledge the great groundswell of support that Loyal Heights showed up with. 

Friday: Final Decision
And here we are. At the District, the decisions are being made about staff allotments today and it feels like the community has done everything to make the point and make big noise. So now we wait. Having put faith in the system and in ourselves. We wait.

Monday, September 19, 2016

New in 'WTF Seattle School District?'

Does it seem like I keep writing about how the Seattle School District isn't cutting the mustard? Welp, strap in for this one...

TL;DR version
Loyal Heights Elementary needs an additional Kindergarten teacher. There is no need to disrupt every grade level and classroom by creating grade splits when all you need to do is create one new contained classroom. 

With details version
1. You want us to do what?
Loyal Heights Elementary parents learned late on Friday from a PTA email that at two weeks into the school year, the district wanted to solve our foreseeable Kindergarten overcrowding problem--30, 29, 28 kids per class* respectively--not by adding an additional Kindergarten teacher for which there are the minimum number of students, a room ready to go AND it simply solves the problem. *Maximum should be 22 kids per class

No. Instead they would like us to pull a teacher from our 1st-5th grade ranks thereby forcing split-grade classrooms THROUGHOUT the entire school. It would require all the 400+ kids to be redistributed to likely different teachers than who they were first assigned. High-visibility programs for math and science, would be disrupted and overly complicated by split classes. Splits by their nature also fracture a teacher's time and attention to teach effectively.

But are split classrooms really that big of a deal, you ask? Well when you are prepared to teach them and you have the support of your school and district to do so with the right resources--sure, that might be a fine thing to do. (Incidentally both Calvin and Sidney's preschools were set up as multi-age/grade classrooms.) But this is not what's happening here. It's being hoisted on a school already let down and abandoned by its district.

You see, for the next two years, we are being housed in an interim location while our neighborhood school is remodeled. Already, this temporary location has come with some significant problems including (but not limited to) close proximity to the freeway overpass which shelters unsafe adults who have wandered onto school property and, in some cases, scaled sections of the too short 4-foot fences as well as the 10-foot chainlink fences surrounding the playground. A non-working security system for the building. A non-working buzz-in/intercom system for the front door. Rampant issues with transportation including ill-placed bus stops, overcrowded buses, erratic schedules and drivers with poor management skills. So layering this disruptive grade split staffing solution on top of all these issues feels abusive.

2. PTA Activate
Within 16 hours of the email blast, 30+ parents and 2 teachers were airing grievances in the Broadview Library Meeting room to School Board Director, Scott Pinkham, at one of his periodic community meetings. I would wager it was probably one of the more 'spirited' meetings he's had. A Q13 reporter and camera were there too. 

Here's the video:

What I learned from this meeting is the distressing yet preventable situation our Kindergarten teachers are in now (beautifully articulated by senior Kinder teacher Tricia Lepse in the video) and what impact the split classes will have on the rest of the kids (also beautifully articulated by one of the 3rd grade teachers, Katherine Gaffney). 

3. Roll tide: Facebook, Emails, Calls 
Through Saturday, Sunday and Monday, parents barraged the district, school board, local politicians, media, anyone who would listen with messages. 
And it made me start to feel feisty and emboldened yet heavy. Because I believe in public school. I love ours. I think about how intense and active and resourced our PTA is and how dedicated the Loyal Heights staff has shown themselves to be and I know we are a fortunate school.  But how can we be so forsaken by the district? And the answer was because we are 'too fortunate'.

4. District response

"Student counts are linked to funding." 
"The formula for determining staffing levels implicitly creates more split grades in order to receive state revenue."

I was deeply struck by how Associate Superintendent Michael Tolley's response reveals that he's less interested in the business of doing what's best for our children and more interested in running a school system like a commodity exchange. Commodities are very similar no matter who produces them and are priced equally and are interchangeable.

Full message below (everyone who wrote in received this):
Dear Kali,
Thank you for supporting your child’s school and sharing your concern over having the right number of teachers.
Matching the right number of teachers to the enrollment needs of schools is always a challenge.
Right now, the overall enrollment of Loyal Heights compared to projections shows close alignment at best, with possibly a few less overall number of students than projected.
Schools across our state and schools within the district use the same basic method of matching staff to school buildings. Student counts are linked to funding.  If more students than planned enroll in a school or district, more staff can be hired to meet student needs. If fewer students enroll and attend a school or district, the district receives less money and must make up the extra cost by cutting a service or program.
Student enrollment in schools across the district fluctuates during the weeks leading up to the start of school and the first few days after school begins.  As new students enroll and other students who are not returning notify the district, we review enrollment and staffing needs in every school and across the district. It takes several weeks of students being added and subtracted to determine actual class sizes.
Enrollment and staffing allocations at all schools are reviewed daily by a team of representatives from Seattle Public Schools departments of Budget, Human Resources, Enrollment Planning, School Operations, Capital Planning, Special Education, Advanced Learning and English Language Learning. 
By the seventh day of school, enrollment typically begins to stabilize.  Using the Day 7 headcount, the team runs the staffing formula and solicits input about classroom configurations and the master schedule from principals to determine if staffing changes are needed.  Here is the timeline for the 2016-2017 school year:
·         9/19 principals submit classroom configurations to School Operations
·         9/19-9/22 Budget runs staffing formula using Day 7 student headcount
·         9/23 District leaders review the data to determine possible staffing changes
·         9/26 Communication to principals about staffing changes
Teacher placement can only occur while considering teacher ratios at both the school and district level. This is true for every school in our district. In the case of Loyal Heights, kindergarten enrollment is higher than predicted, and second grade enrollment is less than planned. At the school-level this suggests that more teachers may be needed. Thus the determination cannot be made until enrollment information for the school and for the entire district is reviewed as well. This is simply the standard procedure applied to all schools in the Seattle Public Schools district.
Additionally, the state legislature created new staffing standards.  The new ratios provide “use it or lose it” resources.  With such restrictions, the formula for determining staffing levels implicitly creates more split grades in order to receive state revenue.
We understand that the start of school staffing is challenging.  Even though we are the largest school district in the state, we cannot afford to make incremental staffing changes that add overall cost without associated added revenue. 
We thank you for your patience and understanding in this process. 


Michael F. Tolley
Associate Superintendent for Teaching and Learning
Seattle Public Schools

5. So....We Rally Tomorrow
Come join us.