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.