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Saturday, April 9, 2016

Jewfish Basin & Boca Grande Key

I've come to the assumption that there can't possibly be any place on earth quite as peaceful as a remote sand bar in the middle of the Caribbean Sea.  Or at least that's my conclusion.  Until I start thinking about sharks, and sunburns, and that moment when I'm 'over it' and ready to go home.  

But .... who needs all that cruise-shippy imagery anyway?  What we Key Westers have is even better!  We may not venture into the deepest of the big ol' 'blue', but we can still find a piece of heaven and a few hours of straight-up serenity just a short boat ride from the back door.  And that's what it's all about!

So, here's one of my favorites - Jewfish Basin and 100% pure heaven on earth.

This is Orange Blossom, our beloved Seafox of 4 years or so.  We just sold her for a pending upgrade, but she was perfect for these shallow waters.  We're at about 4 feet of water here .... look at the clarity!

Here is my son collecting random bits of this and that.  I swear his boogie board is floating - on water, not air!

We were a couple of miles out from shore at this spot.  You can see the little sand bar growing as the water recedes.

Don't hate, but this is pretty much how we roll.  That's my awesome father-in-law who monopolized all the noodles, and who was in absolutely no rush what-so-ever to leave the Basin!  Adore that man.

Boca Grande Key as another favorite, abeit far more popular on a hot, steamy day.  The largest of the Mule Keys and less than ten miles from Key West, Boca Grande encompasses 183 acres of protected marine wilderness.  The Key West National Wildlife Refuge claims papa bear status here, as this little treasure is rampant with nature's wonders.  

Hunting for sand crabs
Can you tell he's listening to every word I'm saying? 
We totally planted gold dubloons along our path.  Arggh!! 

Boca Grande Key
Photo courtesy of

I know, I know.  We're just so spoiled, aren't we?  (wink, wink!)

Friday, April 8, 2016

Key West Summer Camps 2016

It's that timmmme of the year again!!  We {{heart!!}} our summer camps here on the rock, and you'll find a list of our favorites below.  Don't hesitate - they fill quickly!  I'll add on as I hear of new ones ... and please, let me know if I've missed any!

NOTEClick on the camp for direct web links/info/registration.

Water, Water:

Land & Nature:

Art & Music:

Sports & Athletics:


General Fun:
  •  Southernmost Boys & Girls Club (Ages 5-18).  Call (508) 296-2258 for information.
Please let me know if you hear of any others!  :)


Monday, July 16, 2012

Beware the Wrath of the Fire Breathing Dragon!

"Ummmm, the Keys sorta runs on booze and drugs. The schools pretty much run the same. When we were living there we stuck with the home schooling routine we were already on."

I happened across this comment from someone responding to a parent inquiring about raising children in the Keys.  How utterly, rudely, despicably obnoxious to make such a presumption!  Who is this ignoramus and how dare he or she offer such fact-devoid advice to a parent seeking responsible information?!  I was so ready to viciously pounce back on my keyboard when I realized the comment had been written nearly four years ago.  Needless to say, I felt a small hiccup of air fizzle out of my balloon, and a much-delayed response would likely fall flat.

However, this girl needs to vent. 

Here's what I'd like to blast back to that idiot: 

County FCAT Results Best State Average
Saturday, May 19, 2012

Monroe County (which covers all schools from Key West to Key Largo) 9th- and 10th-graders bested the statewide average in the reading component of the Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test, which was made harder to pass this year.  While half of Florida's sophomore class failed to reach grade level for FCAT 2.0 reading, 59 percent of Monroe County 10th-graders did earn the required passing score in order to graduate, according to results released Friday.

Fifty-two percent of the state's ninth-graders passed the reading exam, while in Monroe County, 56 percent of freshmen hit passing levels of 3 on the five-level test.  Florida students are headed in the right direction when it comes to getting closer to reaching national academic standards, the state's top education official said Friday.  

"We are asking more from our students and teachers than we ever have, and I am proud of their hard work," state Education Commissioner Gerard Robinson said. "Florida's higher standards help ensure students are learning what they are expected to know so that they are prepared for college, career, and life.  As Florida transitions to higher standards and higher expectations, we can expect our assessment results to reflect those changes."

Or this...

Monroe County is an "A" Rated District

For the seventh year in a row, the Monroe County School District has been recognized as an "A" rated school district with outstanding achievement throughout the Florida Keys. Monroe County is ranked 9th out of 67 counties in the state.

Or here are a couple of fact-based data charts :
(Yes, I'm still fuming over the pure poison infused in that poster's words!) 

FCAT Results from the 2011-12 School Year 
I also take this as a deeply personal offense (from this complete moron of a stranger, mind you).  My own 5th grade classes achieved the highest Reading FCAT scores in all of Monroe County's public schools while every other public school dropped significantly with this year's raised scoring standards.  The highest!  Yes, I'm very proud of my students, even the ones that spent good portions of their energies driving me mad.  And yes, I want to pat myself on the back a little too. Of course!  My 4th grade teammate, a incredibly talented, educated, and experienced teacher scored the second highest in the county for Reading.  And yet even one more fabulous teammate (yes, I am this lucky!), an experienced marine biology teacher, scored highest for the 5th grade Science FCAT.  So well-deserved!  The catch?  We don't even teach to the test in our school.  We teach to the differentiated needs of our students.

Booze and drugs ... really??

Lest one accuses me of making my judgements based "simply" on public records or the personal experiences within one school, I'd like to shove more face in the dirt add a gracious shout out to my son's school, The Montessori Children's School of Key West.  This toddler-through-kindergarten level school is my son's home away from home, a school that his three-year-old heart adores as much as I do.  Keeping him in attendance during Chop's absence has been a challenge-and-a-half because of scheduling, but with the help of some dear friends and good island folks, Conch boy has been able to (and will!) continue without interruption.  This year he moves up to a Primary level classroom with a teacher that I'm already thrilled to see assigned as his Directress.  You know, now that I think about it ... I'd better check her credentials, though.  What if ... OMG ... 

... what if she's really a rum runner in disguise?!

Take that coconut and choke nibble on it for a while.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Welcome to Island Time!

"Island Time" definition: 

Taking one's sweet time in posting an entry to commemorate our one year anniversary in Key West!

Lol .. a year!  Can you believe it?  Sure enough, just last week Chop and I celebrated "our" first year in Key West over a romantic Skype session via this amazing thing we call technology.  He has been gone for nine months now, squirreled away in a blackout zone somewhere deep in the wilds of Afghanistan.  Our hero is doing well.  Our little family is doing well.  But I miss him terribly, and I want him back home with me here on our beautiful island. I have five more months to wait, and we are "toughing" it out one day at a time.   


So why a year?  Three simple reasons (ha!):

1.  Deployment.  Chop deployed three months earlier than anticipated, and the single parent life gets particularly hectic in the business of toddler-rearing (as I've psychotically discovered).  All my preliminary nicey-nice "no problem, I can handle this, sweetheart" bravado remarkably spiraled right out the window the minute our dearest darling turned 2-1/2 and gained some smarty pants gusto.  Would you like some Prozac with your coffee this morning, Mommy?  Seriously, he's a good kid (and funny as all hell!), but he's a boy with a definite mind of his own.  This will serve him well later in life I'm sure ... if I survive long enough to see it.

2.  Did I mention that boy child was 2-1/2 when Chop left and just turned three a couple of months ago?  Anyone out there remember those days??  'Nuf said.  Looking back, I'm now convinced that Chop carefully and thoughtfully designed a perfect deployment that would involve total absence in the one, single-most hair-ripping, mind-boggling, are-you-kidding-me-I-now-have-to-potty-train-said-boy-child-all-by-myself year in all of childhood.  Thankfully I had tools to help me.


3.  Work.  Yup.  That sums up the rest right there.  No, seriously.  First year teaching a new-to-me grade level, first year with an unfamiliar faculty, first year teaching in a school that is not only new itself but also a cutting-edge charter school working out its own growing pains.  Educational "firsts" of many this year.  The midnight oil's been a-burnin', to say the least!  It's been an incredible challenge, but the rewards have been worthwhile and the friendships made have warmed my heart and soul to no end.  I have to confess, I still have no idea how to use half of the technology in my classroom.  Ssssshh.  I'm working on it, though!

                                                          Teacher Celebration!

All in all, I can sincerely say that I don't have a moment of doubt that Chop and I made the right decision by moving here to Key West.  Not a second goes by that I don't feel grateful in so many ways.  People often ask why people move here and decide to stay.  The answer is often the infamous cliche:  "the people".  You know what?  That's exactly why people stay.  The people.  The heart of this island is so big and full of love and crazy zest, that's it really is a privilege - at least in my mind - to call this blip in the seas our home.  For every moment I felt lost or frustrated in this past year, I found multiple hands reaching out to pick me back up.  Now that's worth it's weight in pirate's treasure, and I'll take it!     

I'd like to end with this wise man's diddy:  

Our journey from Virginia to Key West began just over one year ago.  That journey was exactly 1,612 miles door-to-door, our "thousand miles" of steps.  We did it!  If you are pondering your own journey, consider that first step.  Remember:

Happy Anniversary, my sweet Chop!