Monday, December 29, 2008

Name My Children

In December my sister calls me one Saturday and says what with calling your daughter "the girl" [in my blog]. I don't like it. I explained my reasons for not using my children's names mostly stemming around privacy and anonymity for them. She argued that then I should not have a public blog. Devil's advocate!

I didn't like the suggestion of an initial for their name. That just didn't appeal. We both liked the idea of an alias or nickname for each one. So for my daughter, I've decided to refer to her as Mimi (me-me). This is a love handle that I sometimes use for her. I'm not sure about the boys. I do call my youngest T-Bone or T-Man and may do that in the blog. Now the oldest has had several love handles over the years as well.

My favorite is a bit too childish for his age now and another is a derivative of his given name so I don't feel comfortable using that. We do sometimes call him Dugger (do-ger). A nickname that I borrowed from one of my second cousins. When he was in Costa Rica one of the chaperons called him Angus like Angus Young from AC/DC. I don't have the exact story as to why or how he got this name. Maybe because he could sing all their songs. Although I've never heard him sing any songs. I don't know what I'll call him. We'll all have to wait and see what evolves.

Our music teacher used the "term" love handle after teaching my students the song "You are my sunshine". She explained that the child in the song is not named Sunshine but this is how the child makes the songwriter feel. Therefore Sunshine is an affectionate nickname or "love handle". The students then shared love handles that their parents use for them and we made new verses of the song. For example, You are my honey, my only honey you make me happy when skies are gray...

I like the expression love handle especially since my children don't have nicknames. We call them by their given names (their birth certificate name). I feel very strong about the fact that my children would be called by the name they were given. If we wanted to call the Susie the we'd name them that not Susan. Of course the boys have somehow gotten their friends and even some of their teachers to call them by a nickname, a shortened version of their name.

Merry Christmas- The Sixth Day of Christmas

We are having a wonderful Christmas season. Pre-season we started with seeing Mimi perform in the Nutcracker on the 20th and in Twas The Night Before Christmas on the 21st. Twas is a ballet choreographed by Mimi's dance teacher that is based on Clement Moore's famous poem Twas the Night Before Christmas.

Monday, the 22nd, had us heading down South to visit our family. We were all quite excited. With the exception of my sister's family and my dad (they visited us in April) it had been a year and a half since my husband and children had seen their grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.

It was not the quiet, slow paced Christmas we experienced last year at our home and we welcomed that. In the afternoon of December 23rd, my mom's front door flew open banging against the wall with shouts and stampeding feet thundering from the foyer into the family room. Kids were yelling, hugging, and being lifted up into the air, amid barking dogs. After about 20 minutes of this hustle and bustle and the entry of three more cousins, Doug says, "We should have told the boys not to stir them up". Too late now.
We did have some calm moments and my youngest sister gathered the troops and snapped a few pictures. Here are my parents' grandchildren.

One highlight was my boys teaching their sister and cousins (ranging in age from 7 to 12) Texas Hold'em Poker. They started out using m&ms as poker chips and then decided that with two dogs near by this was not a good idea. Luckily grandma had a plastic cup full of pennies to replace the m&ms. These cousins are the same ones who several years ago got me to help them play Yatzee. The middle child would blow on the dice, shake them in her hands saying baby needs new shoes, and fling the dice across the dining table. Suffice to say the girls held their own against their big boy cousins. They youngest of the cousins, the male four year old twin, watched with rapt attention.
This little one later in the day helped the girls make a gingerbread house. Every time we took our eyes off of him he was squeezing the frosting bag all over himself and the table. I also caught him licking the spatula several times and had to take it away from him. In hind sight I should have just given him the spatula because he later stuck a little circular candy up his nose.

My daughter and one of the cousin's asked him if he had put a candy up his nose and he said no. Later he began to cry because it hurt. My sister, his mom, sprayed saline up his nose and used an aspirator to get it dislodged. With a few blows into a Kleenex the remainder of the candy came out. Here he is post intervention.

On December 24th we headed to my brother's house. After mass he and his wife have traditionally hosted a Christmas Eve dinner. My sister-in-law's family comes as well as my parents, my family, and my youngest sister. My other sister goes to her in-laws house for their traditional celebration. Santa always stops by my sister-in-laws house before starting his Christmas deliveries to all those good boys and girls. This is something the kids love and look forward to every year. Even my children as old as they are still expect and find joy in the fact that Santa comes to their aunt's house.

My brother put his camera on a tripod and set the timer to take a group photo at his house Christmas Eve. Every time we try something like this I always think of my Uncle Charles who always had a camera at family gatherings and began taking group pictures with the aid of a timer. Each event has to have at least one picture of my uncle running to get in the photo and one where the timer was longer and he is leaving to see why the timer hasn't triggered the camera to take the picture. Technology and experience allowed us to capture this group on our first and only shot.

Aah these are what memories are made of. I hope you have lots of memories to carry you through the new year. One of my dear students made me a Christmas card wishing me the best every holiday. From his pencil to God's heart.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Last of Christmas Shopping

We had a wonderfully easy trip down to my parent's house for Christmas. No sleet, ice, snow, rain, or sitting for 12 hours on the highway in a storm. We even arrived to warm weather. The youngest son added some more driving time to his permit log.

First on the agenda was to get one gift that I could not find at home. My 12 year old niece wanted gift cards to Ambercrombie & Fitch for the day after Christmas shopping. I hope her mom is taking her shopping and not me! So Doug and I headed to the mall to get her a gift card. We went our separate ways in the mall and I headed to Ambercrombie. Now keep in mind that I have never been inside one of these stores. It appeared to be a large shop with an Ambercrombie entrance and a Ambercrombie & Fitch entrance. I entered into the Ambercrombie & Fitch section that was very obviously the men's portion of the shop. I was a bit nervous that this was not the right store for my niece but I did spy some female clothing towards the back of the shop.

It was dark (mood lighting) and the music was incredibly loud. I stood in line behind a young Ambercrombie looking man who was spending $400.00+ in clothing. Some people budged in front of me by getting in line on the other side of this man. I decided not to say anything ad would wait to see what would happen. This man spending the $400.00+ said to them the line is behind her. I gave him my thanks.

So anyway it was my turn and I asked to get a gift card. The sales guy gets me a gift card and says that they are all out of gift card inserts. He offers me a box. I asked it it was a small box and he says no showing me several clothing like boxes. I decline the box and pay for the card. The sales guy gives me the card wrapped in the receipt and I stuff it in my purse, hurrying out to meet up with Doug.

Tonight I am now wrapping some presents I had shipped to my mom's house and get the card out of my purse so I can wrap it. This is what I find.

Needless to say I was a bit surprised. I never even looked at the gift card. I thought that this might send the wrong message to my 12 year old niece. So luckily my paper doll skills came in handy and I made Mr. Ambercormbie or is it Mr. Fitch (sounds a little bit like a James Bond movie) a sweater. Now he's ready for Christmas.

When it rains it freezes

We were warned that we would have an ice storm Thursday afternoon and it may effect school on Friday. At school we pulled down decorations, helped the children finish cards, and wrap their family gifts. We sent these items home with our gift to each student just in case their was no school Friday, our last before the holidays. Now I believe that this would ensure that we would have school Friday.

I curled my daughter's hair for a ballet performance during the school day. Not an easy feat getting long, thick, straight dark brown hair in rollers to form banana curls. Her hair is so thick that before I would take them out Friday morning, we would use the blow dryer first to make sure her hair was completely dry.

She was not going to school Friday because she was going to perform excerpts of the Nutcracker for school children on a field trip. I also finished the last Arabian dancer's top so that it could be used in the daytime performance as well as the Saturday night full Nutcracker performance.

As the rain/sleet grew heavier and the lights flickered, I worked hard to finish as much of the top that I could using the sewing machine. I began to worry that I would lose electricity and have to finish sewing by hand. I finished by midnight and went to bed ready for a fun day at school.

I woke to the phone ringing. I knew instantly that our schools had been canceled. All of our school districts use an automated phone system to send out important messages such as school closures. Sure enough the oldest son's school was canceled and my school was canceled too. The roads were slick with ice, limbs had fallen and were still falling, and it was still sleeting. It was certainly treacherous weather.

We lost three big limbs from trees in the backyard. One landed on the roof. Luckily we had no damage to the house and never lost power. We stayed in till mid-afternoon. We had more concerns Saturday night as we were to get more sleet and winds up to 30mph. Once again we never lost power as we listened to ice breaking and banging against the house.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


Sunday we went to Chicago to see Wicked before it closes. My school organized a staff and family trip to Wicked. We had about 75 participants and two charter buses. We left fairly early in the morning, like a typical school day and returned about nine in the evening. The drive up was snowy and slushy so it was nice having someone else do all the driving.

When we arrived in Downtown Chicago we had three hours to shop and eat before the matinée. We checked out the Macy's, formerly Marshall Fields, on Michigan Ave. so we could see the window fronts. The windows were cute but a bit unusual as they had an alien (outer space) Christmas theme to them. We went inside Macy's to check out their Christmas department, being warm and dry was a bonus.

There is an outdoor Chris Kindle market in Chicago. We can at least say we went there. It was packed with people, freezing cold (Windy City), and the cement was very wet since they must of salted the ground. My youngest son must have had three inches of his pant legs soaking wet. We smelled good food, saw a few hand crafted items, my youngest son made a purchase, and off we went to warm up in Borders.

The show was fantastic. This is something that my baby girl and I have wanted to see for a long time. I've had the Broadway CD for a year and we have enjoyed listening to the music. It was a wonderful Christmas treat for our family and my oldest son's two friends. I'd have to say it was priceless.

Here is my commercial:

Tickets for family to Chicago Wicked Trip - $450.00
Survival Snack for the bus trip- $20.00
Souvenirs- $78.00
Meals- $100.00

Daughter holed up in room the next day with the souvenir song book, singing Wicked tunes to the CD. Daughter diligently playing "No One Morns The Wicked" on her piano, that she hasn't played in months. Son going to Barnes and Noble to purchase Wicked Grammerie. PRICELESS

Other potential Commercial (didn't happen):
Son mixing a magic elixir and offer it to his sister. Sister turns green. PRICELESS.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Sneak Peak- Merry Christmas

On Thanksgiving Day, Friday, and Saturday Doug and I worked diligently to get the outdoor Christmas decorations up before the cold weather set in. Last year we were slipping on ice as we tried to string lights on the pines trees. It was so cold that the pine needles would scrape and cut or hands. Our hands were red, raw, and stiff from the cold. We kept having to go in and warm up. This year we only needed or sweatshirts and were able to work long into the late afternoon.I didn't take new pictures of the yard. So you'll have to look back at December 2007 to see what our decorated yard looks like.

Good thing we invested that time in the outdoor decorations because in the early hours of Sunday, December 1st we had a snow storm. The little girl was to perform down south with the dance company. She was one of several girls invited to dance with the professional company. We headed out at 4:30 in the morning in the midst of the storm. The roads were horrible. Doug drove 20 miles an our on the highway. After a couple of hours of snow, slippery slushy roads, and drivers unheeding the dangers of the weather, we finally turned around and went back home. It was just to dangerous to make the trip.

On the bright side our trees looked lovely with their white lights glowing in the new fallen snow. I wanted to get our annual Christmas Card photo taken in the late afternoon light in front of the trees but no one was available to take our photo. I was so desperate that I sent the girl across the street to see if her friend could take our picture. The neighbor girl wasn't home. On Monday my teaching assistant came to our rescue and stopped by the house after school and took our picture. Here is your sneak peak of our Christmas Card photo.

So here we are with our own yard as the backdrop. The first set of cards were mailed today and the others will going out soon.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Like one of our Thanksgiving decorations? We found this canoe in Long Beach, WA. Doug and I knew it would be a great decorative addition, so we had it shipped home. This year I filled it with faux pumpkins and gourds. I wanted to add some greenery spilling out from the canoe, but time ran out before I began my hunt for greenery. Maybe next year.

We were off and running this past week. Sunday we attended the annual Festival of Trees; an event that raises money for an organization that helps with residential education of children with special needs, foster care placements, and adoptions. Our dancer was performing there with her ballet ensemble, a sneak peak of the two Christmas ballets they will perform in December.

Monday started us off with our annual family Christmas photo. It took all of 30 minutes and that included looking at the final images. We then rushed our daughter to dance class. We were reminiscing about previous years when the children were younger and were not as cooperative. We had to fuss, threaten, and bribe them to get a decent photo. Now we dress up, pop into the studio, get close (although two individuals don't get close to each other, we just keep them on different sides of the photo), put on some smiles and leave.

Tuesday Doug helped me deliver 80 something soup can turkeys to a local food pantry drop-off site. The kindergarten and fourth grade classes made turkeys from a brown paper lunch sack with a can of soup inside the bag.

We were all home on Wednesday. It was the first year the oldest did not have school the day before Thanksgiving. The teachers in the district had an institute day. Their school district asked if I would offer a presentation on the reading program we use at our school. I made two reading presentations at one of the workshop sites. I cooked pies on Wednesday night. My little girl made sugar cookies; the Pillsbury Dough kind.

Thursday morning Doug got up early to made his special stuffing. We baked a free range smoked turkey. It's our Thanksgiving indulgence. There is never much turkey left over. We had a quiet day. It is just our immediately family here. The kids played the Wii. The girl pulled out her knitting. We all gave thanks for our very blessed year. I hope you and your family had a relaxing, joyous, and a deliciously rich meal this Thanksgiving.

Friday, October 31, 2008

El Dia de los Muertos

We love decorating for Halloween. Doug made this at the pottery place this summer. When I was in Texas, I was on the hunt for some El Dia de los Muertos decorations, masks or ornaments. I couldn't find anything that was quite what I wanted. I was hunting for something that wasn't scary or evilish (of course that is not what the day is all about) yet something that was a good cultural representation of the holiday. I wanted happy skeletons. The story of my life. I want something but can't quite find that perfect item. Nothing else will do.

I did find bride and groom skeletons. Ugg! There is something not right about dead brides and grooms. Doug says love is forever. I don't think that's what it says. I think that I will have to see if the pottery shop has non pirate skulls and skull ornaments and paint my own decorations.

Hope your Day of the Dead was a celebratory one. We enjoyed Halloween and the days that followed. We took some time to remember our loved ones that have left this world and had some time for fun.

The youngest boy gave out candy. The oldest ate candy. The girl went trick or treating. This year she was a gypsy completing the look with a tambourine. She and the neighbor girl were both gypsies. We met up with the neighbor and her mom at the second house we visited. We spent the night walking and talking with them. I have to say I enjoyed walking with another adult. As the girls would ring the doorbell my daughter would shake her tambourine. Many a neighbor said, "I was wondering what that sound was." I think they could hear her throughout the neighborhood. Her pumpkin was so full of candy that it was overflowing. Candy was falling onto the street. I had to tote the bag home.

We couldn't have asked for better weather. I think the temperature was in the 60's and the sky was filled with stars. This is the first time in years that anyone in our family has not had to cover up or wear layers under their costume. Even in Georgia we had many cold Halloween nights. It was amazing considering that Monday night the girl was playing in the backyard and spied snow flurries. Yes, snow flurries on October 27th. The earliest that I have seen snow here.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Safety Pins & Home Land Security

How many times do you wish you had a safety pin handy? At least once every couple of months, I'm looking for a safety pin. Between the kids at school with problems and my daughter's ballets where a safety pin would make all the difference in a costumes or backdrop, I seem to be in need of a few good safety pins. Not men. Although at school a stapler works wonders for clothing malfunctions. I can't carry a stapler in my purse. My purse is way to big and heavy now.

Another good fix at school is the rubber band pregnancy belly trick. You take a rubber band and loop it around your pant/skirt/_______ (not your shirt) button and loop the other end through the button hole (if needed you can do this several times to shorten the rubber band) then wrap the loop around the button. You now have an expanded pant waist. Just pull your shirt out over the waist and your all set. This is how you wear your non-maternity clothes or your outgrown maternity clothes longer. Yes, I did use this on more than one kindergarten child who was busting out of their clothing. You can't even imagine what skills a teacher needs to have.

Anyway, at my cousin's wedding she had a dress malfunction. You know how the train of the wedding dress get bustled for the reception. Well one side of her dress became unbustled. I suspect that her dress was being stepped on and the button popped off. I hated the thought of her beautiful dress being dragged on the floor the rest of the evening. I tried to fix the dress but realized that the button was gone and I would need to pin the bustle to the dress. I didn't have anything to pin the dress up. Luckily her mom, my cousin too, got a boutonniere pin and I pinned her dress with that. Not the best but it worked.
My husband snapped this as I saved the wedding dress.

So as I was downstairs doing laundry something jogged my memory, only two weeks after the wedding, (It happens at the oddest times) and I began searching for safety pins in my sewing box. I didn't find any. Although as I type this I think there are some in my bobbin container. Note to self. I know I have some so I check the baker's rack drawer. No safety pins. On to my armoire in the bedroom. At last a few safety pins. I know I have more that three but these will do for the moment. I rush to put them in my cosmetic bag in my purse.

The cosmetic bag of course holds no cosmetics. It has hand santizer, hair bands, tums, tylenol child & adult, sinus meds, cough drops, hand lotion, kleenex, band aids, lip balm, benadryl cream, and a sanitary pad. Now add safety pins. I use to have nail clippers and a small fold up pair of scissors (9/11 ended the carrying of those). After spending 20 minutes in the security line they finally found what they were looking for, the scissors. Never mind that I asked two times what they were looking for. I could have told them where they were and saved us all a lot of time. McGyver could save the world with my cosmetic bag. If only I could save the world. Alas I do my part by keeping Home Land Security in business.

One year a security guy took apart all my pens (the 20 or so in my pen pouch). I have a office supply thing and pens are my favorite with fancy paper being a close second. I'm not sure what he thought he was going to find. When I tried to show him how one pen could light up when you twisted it, I thought he was going to draw his gun on me. His loss!! He missed out on that one. I did insist that he fix my pen back when he finished. I don't get it. Do I look suspicious or what? I do keep a constant chatter going while they've dug through my items. I figure I should entertain them. It's the least I can do for those keeping us safe from terrorists.

Now that I've diverged from my original topic I've had to adjust my title.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Illinois to Texas and back

It's hard to believe that two weeks ago we were packing to go to Texas for my cousin's wedding. I had just returned home on Friday from FL and had conferences in the evenings on Tuesday and Wednesday. Since it was going to be such a short stay it was relatively easy to get ready and pack. We were gone from Thursday to Sunday. The wedding was the only event that required specific clothing (although no true in my boys' minds). The oldest has dress clothes from homecomings and they still fit. His growth has significantly slowed down. The youngest son is still growing. Pants that I bought for him last winter/spring, did not fit. He also did not have a pair of dress shoes. On Saturday, the day after my return from FL., I took the youngest son shopping for pants, shirt, & shoes. The girl wore a pretty sleeveless pale yellow party dress and I had ordered a brown button-up cardigan (in case she was chilly). I had ordered a dress that came in while I was out-of-town. It needed hemming, so I was hemming after conferences the night before our flight. Doug was set dress wise. He always has a nice suit or dress slacks. Although he was in need of new dress shoes.

We flew out at 6:00 in the morning which meant us getting up and going around 4:30 am. We arrived in Texas in the early afternoon. We had great traveling conditions and all our flights arrived to their destinations early. On Thursday we meet my uncle and visited our family ranch/farm and our family cemetery. Friday we spent some time with my great aunt and uncle (my children's great-great aunt and uncle), check out the wedding chapel, and played tourist in downtown. Saturday was the wedding day and Sunday we headed home.

It was wonderful seeing many of my family members that I haven't see in years. We figured that Doug, the oldest and youngest child had not been to Texas to visit family in nine years. My daughter was literally a baby when we were last there as a family. My youngest son and I had been there a year and a half ago doing some genealogy research.

There were moment at the wedding/reception that were bittersweet. It seemed that there were very few of us family there. I have always felt like we are such a large family and yet we seemed so finite at the wedding. It made the losses of family members so clear. It was bittersweet seeing their adult children who so closely resembled them. I also missed my cousin who has a six children and his sibling who has two children plus grandchildren. You put them in a room and not only does our family double in size but the pranks and foolishness begin.

We did have a nice and reserved time. My daughter, husband, and I danced. The boys read and listened to their I-pod. They didn't care for Tejano and Country music. Me either, but when in Rome...

My oldest had a conversation with a cousin that went like this. How are we related? I don't know? Who are you? Andrea. O.K. So how are we related!? My aunt their great-aunt was sitting at the table and explained their relationship. A photo of not quite long lost cousins meeting for the first time. The last time I saw this cousin was at her aunt's wedding (my cousin). My son,pictured here, was four years old and the ring bearer.

I had to pay my youngest to dance with his cousin, the bride. I couldn't pay the oldest to dance. It cost me $5.00 but it was worth this photo.

Growing up people couldn't tell my sister and I apart. Others thought that all four of us siblings looked alike. I never really thought about us looking like our cousins. When we went to visit my cousin in D.C. a couple of summers ago we would ride the train into D.C. with her each day. We met several of her commuter friends as well as some colleagues. They thought my cousin and I were sisters. She told me at the wedding that one guy still asks about her sister. She keeps telling him she doesn't have a sister (true, just two brothers). Then he gets all shocked and says well who was that woman with you. She has to remind him that I'm her cousin. He just can't believe that we are cousins not siblings. I had my husband take a picture of the four female first cousins attending the wedding. (There was one male first cousin, making five us in attendance.) I figure that my cousin can take this picture to her commuter friend and really confuse him.

So you can see that we had a wonderful time with lots of pictures and memories. My daughter the planner is already planning the next trip.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Fall- Pumpkin Time

We went to a local farm for pumpkins, gourds, cornstalks, and hay. I enjoy decorating our front yard for fall. A friend at school sent us to this place three years ago. I believe the owners are related to her. The place was clean, simple, and cheap. Over the years they have added animals, picnic tables, and a corn pit (sand pit but with corn kernels). They were hopping today. I've never seen so many people there. In fact we are typically the only ones around.

Every year they have had hay bales arranged as a climbing/ obstacle course. This year the had a tube slide. A couple of years ago they had a flag at the highest point of the stack of hay bales. I took pictures of each kids standing by the flag, king of the mountain. This year the two youngest went and Doug got them side by side. The oldest was prepping for Homecoming. The dance is tonight.

The pumpkin and gourds are so inexpensive that the kids usually pick several for us to take home. All but this year the have had a pile of free pumpkins and gourds. I guess they are the rejects but we like them and tend to take a bunch of freebies.

Last year and this year they have had a turkey walking around the premises. Last year I took numerous picture of the turkey so my school kids could see a good picture of a turkey. I always enjoy petting and talking to the donkey. Today he wasn't very friendly he only wanted to eat hay so I got photographed by the bunny cages. The bunnies loved being petted.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Look at what was in our yard

Doug had got onto Amber (our dog) for digging in the yard. While Doug was home working last week, he spied a visitor. It's a groundhog that we think lives in the neighbors backyard behind our yard.

For living in a suburban neighborhood we sure see a lot of wildlife. When we lived in GA, we saw lots of interesting creatures. That was to be expected, I thought, since our home backed up to a wooded area and was near a small lake.

This summer we have seen interesting birds. Every once in a while we'll see the Cooper's Hawk come to our feeder and catch a meal. Although we have not seen hummingbirds this year. Last year they were in abundance at our next door neighbor's house. We saw a large numbers of rabbits this year. Doug captured Monarch Butterflies on film.

One year we had a little ground squirrel eating at our bird feeder. We have also heard screech owls at night. They have a very distinctive sound. It sounds like the whinny of a horse. Several years ago while out walking Amber in the evening, Doug and I saw a screech owl perched atop the stop sign in our neighborhood. Early this summer I heard the screech owls but never saw them.

The most amazing animal siting this summer was witnessed by our neighbor. He saw a deer in our backyard. Yes, a deer!! We had an early morning thunderstorm. This kept Amber inside and Doug in bed a little longer than usual. We think the lack of Amber in the backyard helped in creating a friendly environment for the deer to feed. Then a clap of thunder sent it leaping over the fence, through a few yards and across the street. Later that morning our neighbor told us there had been a deer in our flower garden. Sure enough there were deer prints in the soil.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

No Blogs Lately

I mentioned those unplanned projects that creep into my nicely organized list. Well mine this summer has been making costumes for my daughter's ballet group. They will be performing the ballet La Bayadere in about two weeks. Since early July I have been altering patterns, cutting material, and making costumes. I am working on bodices, long tutus, and belly dancer tops.

My kitchen table is a mess since that is where I do my work. I took two weeks off to get ready for school and to help the dance group with a garage sale. So now I am having to step up the pace to get some closure on these costumes.

In the spring I made several long tutu for their student concert. The ones I'm working on now are the same just all white. Here is my cat. I think he wishes he could join the dancers.
Each day I had to store the material in the closet or on my son's bed and close the door tight when we left for school and work. Otherwise the cat would chew, roll around, and/or drag the material around. I couldn't keep the material and partially finished skirts in my room because my bedroom door doesn't completely latch shut and the cat knows this. After the cat locked the dog in our bedroom one day, Doug and I just leave the door wide open. We have less damage that way.

Some Photos

Here are some of those photos I promised about a month ago.
The basement with the photo boxes.
The table in the basement where I kept finding that one last photo, certificate, or negative that needed to be put away. It's also the table where the sympathy cards were. You can see Doug's work on the table and the scanned box of family slides.

Here is most of my baby boy's baseball collection on display. It is interesting that colleges often have their name and mascot on footballs, basketballs, and golf balls but very few have them on baseballs. Rows 3, 4, and 5 are college balls.

Monday, July 28, 2008

A Story From Project One

Doug reminded me of an occurrence that happening as a result of cleaning the laundry room and organizing the photos and mementos. I needed to put away pictures from the past two years and to sort the mementos according to each person. I had odds and ends everywhere. Some items were on the shelf beside the picture boxes, some were mixed in with the records that needed to be files, some (the most recent were on the baker's rack in the kitchen), and some were on a little white table in the corner of the family room space in the basement.

This table is sometimes used as a craft table or a research table. Doug and I have used it to lay out our articles and books when we are writing a paper. Some of my Creative Memories stuff was on the table, a shoebox filled with negatives that I had found in a storage box, journals, magazines, and research books littered the table. As I cleaned and organized, at points I would think ahh I'm done. I would then find another stack of stuff that needed to be sorted. I'd sort and clean that little stack and again think ahh I'm done. I then ventured to the table and found the books and journals. I placed them in their assigned spot on the book shelf and thought wasn't there something else on that table. I got the negative, bought a photo box, and organized the negatives. Ahh I'm done.

Well I went back to the table and under my Creative memories stuff were some cards and pictures. Oh no, back to the memento and photo boxes. I was tired of this tedious job. The cards turned out to be sympathy cards from when Don, Doug's dad, passed away a year ago. I decided to place those in Doug's memento box. As I was straightening them up, some still had envelopes with them other didn't, one just jumped out at me. I don't know what it was about this card but I felt compelled to open it. As I opened it something flutter out and I tried to grab it. I reached down and picked up the piece of paper from off the chair where it had landed and it was a check. One of Doug's friends had written a check to an existing Middle Level Education Major Scholarship that we had designated as donation place in memory of Don. It had been in that card all year and was now sitting in a corner of the basement. It seems so weird that the only card I opened up was one that had money in it. None of the other still had checks (believe me I went back and checked them all). Strangely enough this person had invited us to his house for a Fourth of July party something he hasn't done before. Doug shared the story with him, gave him back the check, and he wrote a new one to be added to the scholarship.

Now, ahh I'm done.

I'll add a picture of my photo shelf tomorrow. Doug wonders why I haven't added many photos lately.

Summer List- Projects Three and Four cont.

Project number three was/is to make a family movie of the Hatch family slides. Most of these slides are from the 1960s. I pulled out Doug's family slides from under my armoire. We have two boxes much like the size of a shirt box. Each box holds 15 or 16 smaller clear plastic cubes that have 38 to 40 individual slides. We then have a gallon zip lock bag with an assortment of slide containers. Forever ago we were going to organize the slides and send them off to be transferred to VHS tape for the Hatch family. Once Doug organized them and began to think about music selections we then were concerned about sending them off in case they got lost or damaged. We didn't know with whom to trust these irreplaceable items.

One of our colleagues at our former university was a videographer and had the technology to convert the slides and make the tape. Unfortunately he and we were always too busy to sit down and connect in order learn how to use his equipment. Finally with the ever evolving technology, I was able to obtain a scanner that scan slides as jpeg images and a computer program that makes movies using video and still photos. I've made to movies using still photos, so I've begun to get some experience with the I-Movie program.

In order to make the movie I need to scan the slides. When I was at my best and on a roll with this project I was able to scan two cubes per day 76-80 images per day. From past experiences I decided to burn the images to a CD at the completion of 10 cubes. This way all my work would not be lost if my computer crashed. Right now today I have completed cube 22.

Doug in looking at the photos noticed that some of them are backwards. I used a very specific method for scanning the slides so I am guessing that when the slides were made they weren't always made in a systematic way. Just like with photo development, over the years the slide frames changed. Some frames are cardboard with a logo on one side others are plastic with a embossed direction (this side toward screen), and some with nothing on them. Doug realizing that some were backward despite my care with them was disconcerting. Now I will need Doug to view all the pictures and take notes on which are backwards. I'll have to find those slides and rescan them before I can begin to work on the movie.

This obviously is not going to be completed by the end of summer as I had hoped in May. I am also toying with the idea of adding photos from more recent years in WA with the family to the movie. We'll see. The story has yet to fully evolve in my mind. I hope that it will be finished by Christmas. Working on this project continued to bring Doug's unfinished album to my mind. I often thought oh that would have been a good picture for his album. Also his unfinished album was still sitting at the end of the dining table as a constant reminder of unfinished business.

I think that I came to a stand still on Doug's album because I had now gotten to the part of the album where Amber had damaged photos and knew it would be hunt and additional process to find negatives of those pictures so that they could be replaced. Even though I have a good organized system of our photos it's not perfect. Boy is it not perfect. This week I found a photo that I spent a day hunting for and gave up looking for it. This week it was sitting right in the front of the box from the year 2000. Too later now, the album is finished.

I also rearranged some pages and added some new elements to the album, like colleagues from the two universities where Doug worked, the Sports Illustrated article that mentioned him, newspaper articles, a couple of work related honors and our Bulls NCCA tournament bid. I found it interesting how my perspective changed in relation to the album at this time in my life. There were some pages that I didn't change a bit and others where all types of things changed and there was the need to add to the story of Doug's life. Thirteen years ago I certainly looked at the album differently. I think that this must be somewhat like what writers must experience as look back on their work. I can make this better or this isn't important or I left this important aspect out of my story.

Anyway on Monday, July 7th, I completely finished the album and presented it to Doug. I felt compelled to add two pages (four sides) that contained a glimpse into the future as this album was to only represent Doug's 40 years of life. I added his doctoral graduation, the birth of his daughter, our move here, and an updated look at our family. Oh how we've grown in just the last thirteen years with marriages and babies.

So in summary project three is not finished. It came to a screeching halt as the boys finished summer school and began to monopolize the computer. It is one of those projects that I will flitter back to once school begins. Project four is finished. It has a spurred me on to make a Christmas album. As I cleaned up after the completion of the birthday album, I began pulling photos of all our Christmases from our first in WA (December 1987) to this past Christmas of 2008.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Summer List- Projects Three and Four

Summer list projects three and four are somewhat linked. In March I began remaking Doug's 40th birthday album. My oldest son's trip to Costa Rica brought me in contact with a Creative Memories Rep. and I renewed my interest in scrapbooking. Besides repairing Doug's album was lost past due. I had hopes of finishing the album by the end of April but it was put aside until June.

In May as the school year was ending, I was also getting sections of college classes ready for Internet delivery. This is contract work that I do for the Middle Level Program in the College of Education. The classes would run from Mid-May till the end of June. Once the courses are ready to go I then monitor them and troubleshoot technology issues while the professors teach the course. There is a considerable amount of front end work and then less intense work as the courses get underway. Most days I would spent the first part of the morning checking on the course and working on my project and then the last part of my waking evening checking on the courses and working on my project. The morning time is when I began to notice the daily routine of the finches outside my window.

Summer List- Project Two

Item two on the summer list hasn't been started. I was waiting for Doug's classes to end so he could give me a hand with organizing and cleaning the garage. I mostly need to reorganize the shelving unit.

I did gather and sort the items that we no longer want. We tend to toss the items that we have outgrown, replaced, or just don't want anymore in the front of the garage closest to the house. My little girl's dance company is going to have a garage sale so they began to collect and store items for the sale. I folded the clothing items and placed them in shopping bags for the garage sale and threw away some items that weren't fit for others to wear. I sorted the household items and bagged them for the sale too. I loaded the stuff in the van and then swept out the garage. It looks better but this part was not in my project plan. I'm thinking this project may be an early fall project.

Fun Happenings

When I went to pick up my little girl from swim practice there were ducks in the pool. They were so adorable. My daughter said the mother got into the complex where there is a gap between the two fence posts and the babies followed, some through the gap and other from under the fence.

The babies could not get out of the pool so the kids made a ramp with their kick boards. Alas once the babies got out they would jump back into the pool.

Doug, a friend, the boys, my oldest's girlfriend, and I went to see Boston in concert. They were really good. For two of the kids it was their first concert. I don't remember being at a concert since Whitney Houston performed at the Sun Dome when Doug and I were first married.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Summer List- Project One

I made a summer list and at the top of that list was the laundry room.

As soon as school ended, I began work on the laundry room. Our laundry room is in the basement and it is a good size. It's probably bigger than our master bedroom. Not as nice though. I have two office style book shelves, two Rubbermaid heavy duty shelves ( the kind you get at home improvement stores), two filing cabinets, an antique dresses (I store my purses in there.), several large Rubbermaid containers, sink, washer, dryer, and the kitty litter box.

I started reorganizing the office style book shelves. I have Doug's and my professional books that we keep but don't use at work very often, my doctoral course work, research paper, my Caldecott and Newbery books, some special books of the kids, keepsake notebooks of kids school stuff, craft books, craft stuff, and rocks. I'm sure you can envision what a mess these shelves were in. I pared down the professional books, got rid of all my coursework stuff except for my best work samples (down to one 3" ring binder from 10 3" ring binders), and got rid of most of the research papers. I also got rid of some craft books. All the other stuff I kept. I did organize items so that all of each type of thing is on the same book shelf instead of spread out across two shelves. I even have some extra empty space.

I then went through the Rubbermaid containers where we had all our table linens and bed linens. Actually some of the bed linens were upstairs and some were downstairs with no plan or organization in place. In the last two years the boys beds had changed from twins to full size. We went from six twin mattresses (counting the pop-ups) to two. It stands to reason that we don't need much in the way of twin bed linens.

The big tub filled with table linens made it hard to search for seasonal items. I was constantly digging through the box, reorganizing it, pulling out all kinds of stuff to get what I wanted. I needed several of the longer flatter boxes instead of one big tub. Once payday arrived I bought five of those types of boxes. Once I got them home and began to fill them I knew they wouldn't work. I made an initial return to the store to exchange the first set of boxes that weren't quite the right size.

One thing I've learned is that if you aren't happy with the solution you're never going to be so it's better to bite the bullet up front, return the stuff, suffer through the mess of taking all the linens out again and starting over. I HATE wasting time but sometimes you have to regroup and start over. (Maybe I should write a book of wisdoms according to Aggie. Hmm.)

Five boxes were key to my organization, one box per each season and one for all season generic use. It has worked out well. Now the big tubs would adequately handle the overflowing bed linens issue. I got rid of most of the twin linens, and placed the other twin linens upstairs since the only twin bed is upstairs. I also got rid of some curtains and rugs that I was saving for the next house or something dumb like that. Finally I got rid of some Tupperware that I use for parties and such which was stored down there. I pared that down to my most used pieces. Yea, more space and no overflow. We donated the linens, curtains, and Tupperware to an organization called Recycling For Families. They collect household non-clothing items for the needy.

Next was the mountain of paper work that needed to be filed. Now over the Christmas break I had reorganized the two file cabinets with color coded files etc. So I just needed to file and add the occasional new folder for whatever new business relationship we had begun, for example my youngest son's high school needed a folder. That was a huge unsightly mess that made the room look so much better once I cleaned that up.

I then went through the photo containers and added pictures that were scattered about the shelf. These photos had not been filed for a year or two, plus some had been pulled for projects and not returned to the correct box or any box. Several summers ago I organized our photos into boxes, at least one box for each year from 1991- present. This year I bought the taller boxes that could hold 8 1/2 x 11 documents. I bought one for each of us and began to sort through the mounds of newspaper articles, swim ribbons & medals, certificates, programs, large photos, sport set photos, etc. (you get the picture).

Finally I swept and reorganized the wrapping paper, bubble wrap, noodles and gift boxes. Living away from family and many friends keeps me stocked in stuff that I can use to ship things in. It is also a way to reuse stuff that has been mailed to is. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!

Yea, the room is great. There is so much more space to move around and it is way easier to find things. It took me a month, all of June. I had bursts of starts and abandonment but I did get it done. I have this habit of flitting from one thing to the next and never quite finishing anything. My resolution had been to break this terrible habit. I am better at finishing what I start.

Friday, July 18, 2008


Yesterday when I left the computer I was headed to my youngest son's room to hang a baseball diamond shadow box that would house 37 baseballs. This is phase one of the room organization and purge. This large shadow box will not hold all the baseballs he has, hence the purge.

As I was heading to his bedroom, my daughter asked me to pull her tooth. The evening before we had gone to a baseball game with a group of Doug's friends. On the way there she was chewing on a Now Or Later candy. All of a sudden she says the Now Or Later made her tooth loose and it's bleeding. The passenger passed her a napkin and all was well. We had a great time at the game. Unbeknown to us it was free hot dog and peanuts night. In addition to that one of Doug's friend's had taught the person selling tickets at the gate and the former student gave us (nine of us) free tickets behind the plate. So we had a great evening and forgot all about the tooth.

Now back to the tooth. This is the loose tooth from the Now or Later. I take my daughter into my office (the bedroom), have her lay back on my dental chair (the bed with pillows propped under her) and have her open wide. As I look in her mouth and wiggle her tooth, I see that it is not just loose but broken. It is cracked and part of the tooth has pulled away from the rest of the tooth. I don't know if this is a baby tooth or not. My vast dental training didn't cover this. I'm praying it's not an adult tooth. I'm not touching this situation. I leave my patient and go report to her dad. I get Doug and whisper to him what is going on with the tooth. He tells me to call the dentist (the real dentist).

After a call to the real dentist office we head over there. We had to wait until the lunch hour before the dentist could see her. From her last set of x-rays the doctor and hygienist can tell that the tooth is a baby tooth and her adult tooth is ready to come in. So they are just going to pull the tooth. Now they have the good stuff, numbing gel and Novocaine to assist them. I have told the receptionist, when I called, that her tooth was broken. I told one of the hygienists that the receptionist had me speak to that her tooth was broken. When we move from the waiting room to the patient treatment room I tell that hygienist that her tooth is broken. She explains that the adult tooth puts pressure on the baby tooth and the baby tooth's roots are dissolving and when a person bites down on something hard the baby tooth may crack. Doug described it as being between a rock and a hard place.

In comes the doctor and my daughter proceeds to burst into tears and claims that the tooth doesn't hurt or bother her. I tell him we are getting it pulled anyway, since the tooth is broken and will just cause her problems. I calm her down. He gives her the shots and leaves the room. (I'm guessing to have a stiff drink.) He returns after the Novocaine kicks in and quickly pulls out the tooth. Then he says there's a piece over here, referring to the other broken piece. I'm thinking I've only said that the tooth was broken four times, hello. Unfortunately the other piece is stuck to the gum, so he has to dig a bit to get it out. That part was a bit uncomfortable for the girl.

All ended up well. Two hours of closed captioned CNN in the waiting room. No damaged permanent tooth and a broken baby tooth for the tooth fairy. Unfortunately the tooth fairy didn't get the tooth only the plastic tooth necklace because the girl was closely inspecting the tooth and dropped it. After her brother and I thoroughly searched the chair she was in and the floor we gave up and convinced her to put the plastic tooth case in her tooth fairy pillow.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Summer List

You know how I like my lists and how I tend to lose those lists. I need to keep my lists in my PDA/phone. Last night I typed a message to myself in the memo section of my PDA and found all kinds of memos I had placed in there at least 7-10 years ago. No my phone isn't 10 years old. My first PDA is 10-15 years old and it was/is wonderful. Its system is compatible with both the PC and Mac and as a dual platform user that was so important. My new phone is compatible as well and it system synced with my PDA transferring all my PDA stuff over to my phone.

The memos I found had old passwords to the many different websites I used to use for work as well and my friend Gina's passwords as we often work together on projects. My favorite memo was the website for the belly mask. What is the belly mask? It is a kit to make a plaster mold of your pregnant belly. I just love this concept. I wish it had been an idea I was familiar with when I was pregnant with my babies. I wanted to make a mold of my sister's belly and paint it as a gift to her. For some reason she wanted nothing to do with this. Go figure! Anyway I still have the website for the kit stored in my phone.

O.K. I digress from my topic. In May when Mike and Lynne were here, I began my summer list of things to do. As a lesson learned from past experiences; I wanted to keep my list within the realm of what could reasonable be accomplished.

Here is my list:

1. Laundry Room
2. Garage
3. Slide Show
4. Album
5. Backyard- 3 days a week
6. Ceiling
7. Family Tree

I committed most of these to memory as they had been on my mind for a long time. So over the past two months as I have misplaced my May list I still had many of the goals in the forefront of my mind. I just found my list again this week, somehow it ended up in my briefcase and when I went to school to work this week I found it.

Note to self: remember that other projects creep up that are not on the planned list. Plan/budget time for the unplanned projects. What exactly are these projects? How many have I finished? You'll have to wait for the next installment as other are clambering for the computer and I'm off to one of those unplanned projects.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Bird Watching

While the boys were taking summer classes in the mornings, I would dedicate this part of the morning to spending time on my computer work. Our computer sits by one of our backyard windows and we have a Shepard's hook right outside the window, in the garden, with tubular bird feeders. One feeder has thistle and the other has sunflower seeds.

I began noticing gold finches coming to the feeder at various time during the day. Then one morning as I was working I saw a lovely purple finch. I thought that I would try to get photos of these birds with my Christmas camera. I had a pretty easy time getting the gold finch as I saw them quite often throughout the day and in different locations in the yard.

Once I had success with the gold finch, I then wanted to get the elusive purple finch. I began to notice that the purple finch showed up between 9:45 and 10:30 in the morning. I would see it flitter by out of the corner of my eye. First I tried quietly grabbing my camera from the sofa table, moving back to the window by the computer. By the time I would get to the window the bird would fly off. So then, I spent some time setting up my camera. I would get the lens setting the way I wanted it and would leave it sitting by the computer monitor.

The next two days once the purple finch arrived, I tried slowly drawing the blinds up with my camera in hand. Every time I got the blind up to the bird feeder level the bird would fly off. No photo!

The third and fourth days I drew up the blinds first thing in the morning, camera ready and sat down to work. No bird either day. So, on day five I left the blinds down, had my camera ready, and waited. It was an overcast day as it had rained earlier. This was perfect lighting for my bird photo. Soon a male and female bird lighted on the feeder. I slowly leaned into the window, camera one hand, and wedged the lens between the blinds with the other hand. The birds were still eating at the feeder. Yes! I put my eye to the viewer and my dog runs by the garden scaring off the birds. No photo, again.

Finally, success was mine. The birds returned the next day and I was ready. The dog was napping in the family room chair, camera on the desk, and blinds were down. I slowly and quietly got the lens between the blinds, peered into the viewer and began to snap photos. YEA!!! The lighting isn't the best and doesn't do the birds justice, but I got them. Here is the male.

Now, I have flitted off to another project as my paid computer work has predominately ended for the summer and my scanning project has taken a back seat to finishing Doug's photo album. So, I don't see the purple finches anymore. I still wonder about them and found it interesting that they came by our yard at the same time each day. Maybe I'll have another overcast morning and will wait by the window for my visitors to return for more photos.

Mother Nature

We have had two interesting bird events. The first happened in June. Doug and I were walking several evenings out of the week on the local trail and then through our neighborhood. One evening while walking we saw a Mallard duckling in a person's yard. It was making a high pitched noise like a baby crying. It was obviously separated from its family. It broke my heart. I tried twice to get it. What I was going to do with it, I don't know. But it was having nothing to do with me. We left it to fend for itself, leaving nature to take its course.

Then around the first of July my oldest was out shooting baskets when he came inside and said their was a bird on the ground in our yard. Sometimes we have birds crash into our large glass window trying to escape the neighborhood Cooper's Hawk. I thought that it may be a dazed bird.

Well the oldest came into the house a second time and got his dad. It seems that my son determined that there was a nest in our Blue Spruce Tree and surmised that the bird had fallen from the nest. Doug placed our ladder near the nest and had my youngest son and I come out so we could hold the ladder steady for him if he could capture the bird and return it to the nest. Doug put on work gloves in anticipation of handling the bird and between the him and the oldest they managed to contain the bird under a bush. The bird was squawking like crazy. It still had some of its downy feathers. Doug got the bird, climbed the ladder, and put the bird in the nest. The bird immediately hopped out of the nest onto the branch. Doug tried to return it to the nest and it would not go in the nest. It ended up perched on the branch next to the nest.

I don't know why it left the nest. Was it prematurely flying the coup? Had it been rejected by its parents? Was there something medically wrong with it? I know it looked pitiful and seemed scared. The next evening we found it dead under the tree. We've had some sad experiences with Mother Nature.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Room Cleaning

A couple of weeks ago my daughter and I spent several days cleaning her room. It is exhausting work and I can't stand to direct more than a couple of hours per day. The first day my daughter was quite helpful, the next few days lead to pouting and a definite lack of effort. She had to miss a dance class and a swim meet because of her behavior. She did regroup and helped to finish cleaning the room with a good attitude.

I convinced her to move her pet rocks back to their natural habitat. They had been "living" in individual straw baskets with little blankets. These baskets were jammed up on the floor against the bed. My daughter the lover of nature knows they will be so much happier in their habitat and it would add to the decor of our garden. my daughter said that the rocks needed to be together so they wouldn't get lonely.

Once the youngest boy finishes summer school, we'll tackle his room. He is less cooperative and helpful than his sister. His crying and pouting is about equal to hers. He can't part with anything and he collects everything. We affectionately call him Junk Boy.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

More Family Visits

As one family group left, we began eagerly awaiting the visit of more family. This time Doug's brother and sister-in-law would fly here for a week long stay. Sleeping arrangements were simpler the basement family room and futon would work. Still we wondered what type of entertainment would be best. We do have some places of historical interest, a couple of universities to visit, and some specialty shops in two local downtown areas, as well as some nice outdoor state parks.

The kids were hoping for another day off from school. Not to happen this time with the end of the year looming. We are fortunate that our kids have such good health and that we don't have them miss school for a variety of non-health related reasons. Even their routine medical appointments are scheduled well in advance so appointments can be kept after school hours. So the rare special event that comes up allows us the the luxury of allowing them to miss school (like a trip to Chicago).

The kid's Aunt and Uncle arrived during Doug's week off from school. The spring term had just ended and the summer term wouldn't being for another week. They would be here during the youngest's student dance concert. She was thrilled knowing that her Aunt and Uncle would attend not just one but both of her concerts. One day's entertainment covered!

It seemed that Mike and Lynne enjoyed hanging out and wandering around the twin cities. Doug's schedule allow him the most quality time of the family and often accompanied them on their day trips. Doug also went to Chicago with them. They got to explore the Navy Pier more thoroughly than we have ever done and they took a boat tour on Lake Michigan. The youngest son got a surprise day off due to vandalism at his school. So he was able to go to the Lincoln Museum with his Aunt and Uncle. Since he is the only one in our family to have previously visited the museum he was hopefully able to share some good insights. The rest of us spent the evenings visiting with them and hearing about their day, often adding our two cents about our likes and dislikes. The oldest son ended up working at the zoo during the weekend, so we all went to the zoo. We caught the oldest on his lunch break and snapped a picture of him with his Uncle and Aunt. Each child had a special time with Mike and Lynne.

Just recently I burned our pictures of our time together to CD. I regret that I didn't get more pictures of the kids and Doug with Mike and Lynne. I have no pictures of the youngest boy with his aunt and uncle. I need to do a better job of thinking about what pictures I'd like to get and make those controlled photo opportunities happen. The spontaneous ones will be icing on the cake. I need to do a better job of remembering to get more family moment snap shots. I always have my small digital camera in my purse for any occasion and now tend to carry my larger camera often. I find that even if I think I won't want or need to take pictures an opportunity arises when I'm glad I have my camera handy.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Rough Spring

Part of the reason that I had such a huge gap in blogging was that I had a rough end-of-the-year with a poor student teacher. I only had him in my room for 8 of the 16 weeks. The other kindergarten teacher had him for the first 8 weeks and I had him for the last. An unusual arrangement but neither one of us could have managed a full 16 weeks. I was exhausted both emotionally and physically by the end of the day. It is hard work staying professional and being kind when you don't feel that way.

My teaching assistant and I lifted each other up each day. I am really fortunate to have such as great person to work with. To highlight how difficult this time was, I have to say I had a crying jag one morning before school started and cried all evening long at home that night. Here is the straw that broke the camel back.

I went to my school mailbox early in the morning (one of my 7:00 arrival days) to retrieve any accumulated mail. Inside the mailboxes was a little slip of white paper stating that our Dean of Students had accepted a position for the next school year in another city as an assistant principal.

Our Dean of Students is a friend I made the second year I was at our school. He was at the high school and we were part of a team that was sent to Washington D.C. for some intensive diversity training. Believe me you either bond or hate each other when you finish one of these week long trainings. I likened it to an intense weekend religious retreats. Any of you Sons & Daughters or CORE members out their know what I'm talking about. You bare your souls at these things. So anyway, the Dean is a good friend with the bonus of being a hilariously funny Southerner (we're in short supply up here). Most times I would just have been a little sad and yet happy for my friend's career growth. Well on that day it was just the last straw.

The day before I had my student teacher whom I had to write a formal reprimand. Some serious decisions had to be made about this situation. Prior to that a team of teachers, including myself, and an administrator had denied the entry of two students into our school for the next year. One parent was creating quite a stir about this decision. Several teachers were leaving our school for a variety of reasons such as retirement, returning to school to complete advanced degrees, raising children, etc. So when I got the note in my mailbox; I was just crushed.

I kept it together until I got to my classroom. By this time my assistant had arrived. As I tried to tell her the news and show her the note I burst into tears. I think I scared her to death. As she reached to give me a hug you could see the fearful concern in her face. After patting my back and giving me a box of tissues I was able to make it through the day. Although I couldn't seem to stop crying at home as I would talk about the news.

I called my sister and told her all about my day. I told her I hadn't cried like this since high school when my English teacher quit because she was pregnant. My sister found this memory particularly funny since her boss knows my former English teacher and her family. The baby is now 20+ years old. And, Doug use to work with my former English teacher. Shortly after we got married a connection was made. I enjoyed meeting my teacher again. What a small world this is.

So anyway that's my sorry story.

Happy Anniversary BABY!

In early April my sister, her family, and my dad came to visit us. We had just finished restoring the kitchen back to its functioning self. I think I even had the sliding glass door curtain up.

We were so excited as this was a very long trip for her and her husband's brood of 3-year old twins and a 5 year old kindergartner. We were busy planning sleeping arrangements, yummy meals, and fun things to do. My daughter insisted that her girl cousin had to sleep in her room, my oldest would not sleep upstairs with his brother. He insisted on sleeping in his room even if it meant that the two boys cousins would sleep there, too.

A trip to the zoo, the discovery museum, visits to the schools where we work and attend, and a trip to Chicago were in the works. We were trying to decide what we should see in Chicago in a one day trip. American Girl was a must. So Navy Pier was a good idea. What about the Sears Tower or the John Hancock building? Both are costly so we needed to select one. I was also trying to arrange a day or two off of school to visit with my family and still trying to make sure I could take a day off in May to spend time with my brother-in-law and sister-in-law who were coming to visit in May. I have to say I was thrilled to have so many new visitors to our home. It was the bright spot in this turbulent spring.

Doug and I were trying to pick a day to go to Chicago so that we could buy tickets for the train. Doug wanted to go on Tuesday. I wanted to go on Wednesday. My sister and crew were leaving Thursday. I wanted to go on Wednesday because my student teacher would be attending a seminar and would be gone in the morning. This would mean that my teaching assistant would only have to deal with him for a few hours without me instead of the full day. Doug wasn't happy with this, since he wanted to go on Tuesday.

We argued. Doug finally says that he wanted to take me out to a new restaurant in town, for dinner, to celebrate our 20th anniversary. He figured that our kids could hang out with my sister while we had a nice night out. (We almost never have nights out, just the two of us.) Of course I felt terrible and after pouting a bit I went upstairs to tell him we could go Tuesday. He said something like it was too late and he now wanted to go on Wednesday. So Wednesday it was.

Now on Tuesday, I took a half-day from school and went to the Children's Museum with my sister's crew. It was a lot of fun. The kids were able to roam wherever they wanted since there were four adults their to watch them. Even with four of us we lost track of a kid or two every now and then.

Now while I was off with my family, drama was playing out at school. When I got back to school to finish my work day, I was greeting by the substitute and my teaching assistant relaying the events that had transpired with my student teacher while I was gone. So being gone the next day while the student teacher was also gone was sounding like a good decision. My guilt from the argument was quickly disappearing.

Off we go to Chicago on Wednesday, Doug and my 20th anniversary, my family, my sister's family, and my dad (11 of us). The train ride was the slowest it had ever been. We had all kinds of delays and stops. Luckily all the kids were great. We arrived in Chicago and immediately sought out a place to eat lunch. I thought that was kind of slow, too. Our day was rapidly disappearing. Would my family have fun on there first trip to Chicago? Although just being in the city is neat with its tall building.

After lunch the guys and girls separated. The boys stayed at the Sports restaurant and played a few games then ventured to the Harley Davidson Store. The girls and one nephew headed down to the American Girl Store. We had plans to meet up in an hour by the American Girl Store. We finished a bit early at the American Girl Store so we went across the street to the Walgreens for souvenirs. After a bit of confusions and a call or two later we all met and began to walk to the John Hancock building for a panoramic view of the city.

We get ready to ride the elevator up to the top. My dad passed on this adventure as he doesn't like heights. My daughter got really scared and didn't want to go either. The ladies that were selling tickets helped calm her down and convince her to go up with us. Thanks!!! She loved it once we got to the top. Our ears did pop as we were going up and it feels a bit strange at first.

We took lots of pictures of the Chicago area. Marveled over Navy Pier and Lake Michigan. They have funny cheesy photo opportunities like laying on a steel rafter/garter with a scene under it that makes it look like you are laying high above the city. They also had a window washing scene set-up. We had a good laugh getting pictures of everyone.

About 30 minutes into to this time at the John Hancock building Doug calls me over by him. I'm thinking we are going to discuss what to do next. At one point in time we felt like it was too late to go to Navy Pier since we had to catch the train back home. Of course a couple of the kids follow us and Doug shoos them off then says they might as well hang around. I'm still positive we are going to discuss plans for the last bit of the day in Chicago. I think I am babbling about my thoughts on this when Doug takes his backpack off, kneels on the ground, while fishing in his backpack. He says you know what tall building mean. I said, "Umm no." He give me a look. You know the look. The come on you watch sappy movies and read romance novels. I said,"Like in An Affair to Remember", Empire State Building, Eiffel Tower?" He says yes and pulls out a small glossy dark green gift bag from a jeweler in our town. I can't believe he got that bag in his backpack before we left and had it there all day without my knowledge. He says he has had it for weeks/months. I open the bag and there is a small box. The kids are gathered around and I open the box and it has a wedding ring set in there. The ring has a huge diamond solitaire set in white gold and a white gold band with nine tiny diamonds. It is spectacular. I cried. Tears of joy and not all night long, just a bit. How wonderfully caring. I never expected anything much less something so extravagant. After 20 years Doug thought I needed an upgrade. I think the upgrade was about 15 times the purchase of my first wedding ring set and this one he picked out all by himself. It was the gift he planned to give me at the restaurant where he had made reservations for our anniversary. Aww!

I think I was floating on clouds the rest of the evening. I still look at the ring and am just amazed by its spectacular beauty and my wonderful husband. I guess I'm the one lacking the romantic ideas.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Nice New Kitchen

That's how I think of my kitchen, nice & new. I cleaned it this week and boy does it smell good. We have this fancy kitchen shop and as an end of the year gift my students gave me dishtowels and aromatherapeutic cleaners, among other non-cleaning cool things. I don't know what oil of patchouli is but mixed with green tea, it gives off a heavenly scent. How did they know I had a new floor and old cabinets? Well that's a story for later.

Some of these shots should be familiar from days 1-7.

This is my new sliding glass door. My curtains are finally up and gliding across the rod with ease.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Day 6- Grout

On day 5 we had no trouble picking out grout for the tiles. Doug and I immediately narrowed it down to two colors/shades of tan. We then pretty quickly picked the color. Day 6 the men came back and grouted the floor. We were all home from school, since it was Good Friday. I left after their arrival to go to school and complete some work, thus staying out of the way. I took the dog and youngest child with me, guaranteeing a better work environment for the men.

Later in the day, the oldest child calls me wanting to move back downstairs now that the tile work is finished. I tell him no. We were told that we had to stay off the floor after they grouted it. The oldest proceeds to tell me that our contractor has stopped by the house and is walking on the floor and he said we could now walk on the floor. Yea!! We were free to use the whole house again.

The garbage can was the first item returned to the kitchen.

We would be without cabinets and the stove until Monday, when our contractor's crew would return those items to their spot. We still didn't have full kitchen uses, but we could access the whole house, use the microwave, get to the upper cabinets, and set-up the kitchen table and chairs.

In addition to getting our kitchen back in order Monday (Day 8), we were getting a new dishwasher. Our old one had been giving us trouble for over a year. Finally the problem was more frequent than not, so we gave up using the dishwasher in November '07. We had gone without replacing the dishwasher because we had other more pressing needs and desires.

I should have taken pictures once everything was back in place but I wanted it all to be perfect. The last think left was to rehang the curtain over the sliding the glass door. We had now come full circle. We replaced the broken door, which then lead to the whole floor replacement plan. We had not had the curtain up since early January.

The problem with putting up the curtain now was that the middle support bracket was missing. I know that when the workers replaced the door they took down the bracket and I am positive that it was sitting on the china cabinet. Where did it go when we removed everything from the kitchen??? Good question! I finally gave up looking for it and after three shopping trips I found a type of bracket that was long enough and strong enough to hold up the curtain.

I think I got the curtain up right before my sister's family came to visit, the first week of April. Now I'm ready to take pictures but my kitchen is always a mess. It is the hub of our family. From homework area, to the storage of extra school books & supplies, and craft area it certainly is a cluttered space. Hopefully, now that I am in blogging mode again, I will straighten up the kitchen by the end of the weekend and take pictures for the site.

Day 5- Tile

O.K. let's wrap this up. On day five, my birthday, the tile men came in and began the process of tiling the floor. They were amused with the dog print in the cement. They tiled right over it. Now it's our own little time capsule. One day when someone else redoes the floor they will have a little memento.

In my opinion tiling was a very smooth process. They did a great job laying out the chocolate glass tiles. I believe we had twelve of them. They guys laid out the pattern, got Doug's feedback, and cemented it in. When I came home from school they were almost to the dining room entrance.

I have to say that it looks beautiful. I agonized over tile textures, colors, shades of color, and pattern it terms of how aesthetically pleasing it would be and how it would one day impact the sale of our house.

We still had to stay off the floor.

Some of the accommodations we made included turning the sofa table into a medicine cabinet. Most of our daily medicines are kept one of the kitchen cabinets so that we can dispense them at breakfast time before we all head out for the day.

Without a kitchen our eating habits changed. We used as much disposable ware as possible since we didn't have access to the kitchen sink. A few things were washed out in the bathroom sink.

We tried to eat breakfast at home, eating cereal and pop tarts. We kept the toaster handy on an apple shaped folding table (like a TV tray only made of wood with the top cut in the shape of an apple). Luckily the refrigerator was in the dining/computer room so we had access to milk.

Lunches were eaten at school/work. Dinners were eaten out. We had our fill of eating out for dinner. It gets hard to find places we all like to eat at. All of the kids have very distinct eating preferences. The end of this project is very near.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Day-4 Heat Flooring

On day four the tile crew added more leveling compound and put down the heat coils for a floor heating system. It was critical that we stay off the floor at this point for 24 hours.

When the oldest got up for school, we had him move the stuff he would need for the next two days upstairs. This included his shampoo, body wash, and contact paraphernalia, since our second full bath is in the basement. We were also busy washing and drying clothes the night before so that no one would run out. Yes, the washer and dryer are in the basement too. The cat's litter box and food are in the laundry room so those items had to come upstairs to the hall bathroom. We figured that we'd have to be off the floor for a couple of days.

Doug had made a blockade across the doorway with the garbage can and the rubbermaid foot stool. This was to keep the dog from entering the kitchen. The cat had to be locked up in a bedroom and/or the hall bathroom for the day. After school we took Sala out as long as we could keep an eye on him.

In this picture you can almost see the wires for the heating system embedded into the leveling compound. Can you see what looks like little lines drawn across the wet cement? Those are the heating coils.

Well into the evening these were still areas that were very wet. On the right side of the picture you can see wires sticking out from the wall. This is where the thermostat for the floor will be installed.

Doug and I left to go to the store. We left three kids up stairs with the dog and cat. We told them to keep and eye on the beasts and not let them get into the kitchen. As you can see the babysitting/supervision was lacking.