Monday, December 31, 2012

Gingerbread Architecture

Family tradition was maintained again this year with a cousins' get-together to create gingerbread houses. Well, I think that at least one of them is a house. But they were all quite elaborate, so when I arrived to visit at Christmas, I was treated to the tour. It did require a bit of explanation to explain some of the details, but once the theme of each edifice was revealed, it was clear what was being represented with the gumdrops and M&M's. 
This is a school. Note the bell tower on top, with chocolate bell. There are some gummy students playing soccer on the playground in the front. Notice the pretzel bike rack there on the back right? It also has pretezel & M&M bikes parked at it.

Here is a close-up of a couple of gummie students going into the door wearing their backpacks.

This next edifice is a military base. The chocolate bells are the guard station.

Then, up on the roof, this is the solar panel to help with energy costs. Apparently at that point, the builder was distracted by something in the play room, and there aren't any more details to enjoy.

Now we have just a house. But, this house has a dinosaur in the yard. (I think this accessory was influenced by the dinosaur museum that had been visited the day before the Gingerbread House party.) One significant detail I enjoyed was the careful selection of the colors for the roof tiles. There are stripes of color on most parts of it that were meticulously placed. That is only significant because this builder is not quite three years old. She has great attention to detail, apparently.

It's a little hard to see the dinosaur, but I wanted to include this close-up. I think it was built by auntie, but it was an important part of the decor. See the long tail and blue eyes? Also, a gummie bear is riding it!

Here we have an airport. This construction manager is a little obsessed with flight. When he visits me, we always have to spend at least 30 minutes parked near the runway so we can tune in the radio to the channel that lets us listen in on the exchanges between the pilots and the control tower. That's the control tower there on the top right corner. The neat rows of gumdrops in the lower left is the parking lot. See the passengers waiting there to board on the the platform in the center of the front wall? The plane is there in the center of the picture--candy cane wing visible on the right.

Here is a close-up of the side of the plane. That structure in the foreground is a baggage cart--it's getting ready for loading on the plane. A lot of angst went into the plane design, apparently. Several other attempts didn't result in something satisfactory to the builder, so this was as closed at he could get. I'm really fond of the wing structure, but I'm especially a fan of the baggage cart.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Sign of the Apocalypse

This is ice on my windshield. Note the palm trees in the background. Now if that doesn't signify that something is extremely wrong with the universe, then you tell me what it means.
This is the view from the driver's seat. Just wrong, wrong, I'm telling you!
Actually, all it signifies is that everything is normal here in the desert. It always get cold like this each winter. The good thing is that it doesn't last long. We have a couple of weeks of chilly weather, with the temperatures dipping below freezing a few nights. Then, the weather returns to the mild temperatures with lows in the 50's and highs in the 70's. January through May is the reward for surviving the blast furnace of August. We're willing to put up with a little frost in December.
Again...nothing to shovel.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

What I Learned in School Today

We've been having a spirit-filled week sponsored by our student council. Each day featured a fun  holiday clothing theme and today was candy cane day. So, I wore my red sweater and my white fleece vest. And I made myself a candy cane necklace. I unwrapped the little candy canes, tied them to a long piece of yarn and wore it around my neck.

But, do you know what happens to candy canes when you unwrap them? They begin to be affected by the moisture in the air and start to get sticky. And when the lady wearing the candy cane necklace has a little Tropical Vacation moment, and her shirt gets a little "warm" then the candy canes really get I spent most of the day with my candy cane necklace glued firmly to my shirt.

Can you see how nicely they adhere to my shirt? They weren't going anywhere! Which is actually okay, because then, if I leaned down over a student, that person didn't get whacked in the head with flopping candy canes. But it was pretty funny.

One student said that I'd just have to eat them right off my shirt. Someone else wondered if I'd have to throw away my shirt. But, I'm pretty sure that I can simply peel them free and wash the sugary residue away in the laundry. Next year, I'll look for tinsel with little foil candy canes and stay away from the real thing.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012


The "high" today was 47 degrees! It finally crept up there by 1:30 P.M. Also, the wind kicked in again, so it was extra chilly when you were standing out in it. I know, I know...all you folks out there in the Rocky Mountains, or some other region where winter means that a "high" of 47 degrees would have meant that you didn't need to wear a jacket, are scoffing at me. However...we are in the desert. So my students don't remember that every winter it will be pretty chilly for a few days. And today was definitely one of those days.

I only feel sad for those folks who've saved up their money to come to Vegas Baby, and were hoping for some warmth. They aren't getting any on this trip. Sorry. Come back in May. It'll be mighty warm by then.


It's forty degrees on my patio this morning!! The wind was blowing all night in a terrifc rage, but this morning the air is still. Apparently, it was a wind from the North Pole!!

However...there is zero chance of snowfall today. The sun is shining, as usual. And I'm sure it won't be 40 degrees by noon. I still have palm trees in front of my house and I won't have to scrape anything frozen off my windshield. So, more complaining about my weather.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Doing Good

Today is the anniversary of our mother's birth. I've always intended to write about her on this date, because I do each year, but I hadn't really thought of the topic or message. However, today in church, a woman recited a motto that had hung in her mother's kitchen all of her life, and it so perfectly fitted my mother, that I'm borrowing it today.

To do constantly,
To do kindly,
To do lovingly,
Many little things
Is not a little thing.
It perfectly states her life's mission statement. Of course, I don't think she ever actually wrote a mission statement. But that could have been it, if she had done so. Her life was an example of this motto.

There is never a time that I can recall my mom failing to do good for someone in need. If she visited someone, she took food. Sometimes, it was something she'd baked or cooked. Sometimes, it was something she'd grown in her garden. Many times, it was something produced by the chickens she kept, or the cows we milked.

My father had two families: the one he was born to, and the one he grew up with after his parents' early deaths. My mother incorporated both of them actively into our lives. I didn't really understand the dual relatives thing until I was grown. Daddy and his brother and sister didn't live in the same home from the time my dad was only eight years old. But they had tried to maintain a sense of family. When they were all grown, they had the option to keep their family ties or not. It would require an effort. We visited their homes regularly and they were invited to ours, even though we didn't live near them. We traded cousins for visits, we helped them whenever possible and included them always in holidays and celebrations. We did live just a few miles from the family who raised my dad, and attended church together each week. We ate meals with them on holidays often, we dropped by for casual visits and big celebrations. We helped one another with farm work. They were family, too. I know from being married that, in many cases, it is the wife who nurtures these relationships. I know my mother reached out to keep family ties active for both of our dad's families.

She reached out to non-relatives, as well. We stopped off to pick up a very old lady many Sundays so she'd get to church. Mind you, that resulted in five of us children sitting in the back seat, so she'd have room in the front. No problem. My mother served Sunday dinner regularly to an elderly bachelor whom my dad would pick up after church (he rarely attended).  Mr. C always cracked us up by pointing out, when asked if he'd like to wash up before the meal, that he'd been wearing gloves, so no thanks. He gobbled up all the delicious mashed potatoes, roast chicken, lemon meringue pie and homemade bread that was served to him. As did everyone who sat with us for those amazing Sunday dinners.

It was her example to be always going about doing good that each of most remembers, I think. We were actually quite poor---in the sense of having actual cash. I didn't realize this until I was an adult. It seemed that I lived in a world of abundance. I always had clean clothes. My hair was washed and curled regularly. I ate well-balanced, delicious meals every day. I had a warm and clean bed. I frequently teach children who desperately need any of those things. Our mother's life work was teaming with our dad in providing these very things to their children. She'd grown up in a world secure with the knowledge that loving adults would care for her needs. He hadn't. But we children lived in a veritable cocoon of security. Of course, it was made possible through their never-ending efforts, and we children recognized that and contributed our work however possible. I don't remember ever being resentful that we had to do chores. I just remember feeling happy whenever I got skilled enough to take over one of their jobs, so that they didn't have so much to do.

Anyway, I just like to reminisce on her birthday and recall the fine example of a being a person who followed Christ's teachings to do good to others in kindness and abundance. She was definitely a person of good cheer and good works. Happy Birthday Mother!  


I'm copying something from Facebook because I am at a loss for words after Friday.

To Parents who aren't educators, this may be hard to understand.

Five days a week, we teach your kids. That means we educate your kids. Play with your kids. Discipline your kids. Joke with your kids. Console your kids. Praise your kids, question your kids. Beat our heads up against a wall about your kids. Gush over your kids. Laugh with your kids. Worry about your kids. Keep an eye on your kids. Learn about your kids. Invest in your kids. Protect your kids. Love your kids.

We would all take a bullet for your kids.

It's nowhere in our job description. It isn't covered in the employee handbook. It isn't cited in our contracts. But we would all do it. So, yes---please hug your kids tonight--really, really tightly. But on Monday, if you see your kids' teachers, please hug them, too. Thanks.

This was credited to Pam McAnally. I don't know who she is. But, as a teacher, I cannot even imagine what those teachers are going through. As a parent, I cannot even conceive of losing a child in that way. My prayers are with everyone who has been touched by this horror.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Bright Spots

#1 It waited to rain until after our recess time, so all the rowdy students got to go out and run and scream outdoors.

#2  I received the money for a field trip for which I'd written a grant application! This is good so that we can go on the field trip with the students. And it is good because it makes me look competent and pro-active to my principal. It also feels fine to know that other people are willing to help us be great teachers, and donate money to let us go on these terrific field trips.

#3  Again---no felonies were committed by licensed personnel at our school. One day closer to a badly needed time away from each other for teachers and students.

#4 I got compliments from students today about my "cool" boots. I've had these knee length boots for four years, but lately, I've been wearing them with the pants tucked in---very au courant---and all the little fashionistas in 4th and 5th grade admire them. Cool.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Numbers Are Fun

Everyone in fourth grade had a wonderful time writing the date today. Me too! 12-12-12 and it's the last time I'll get to write one of those. I pointed out to my students that they might make it to 1-1-1 which would be January 1, 2101, but they'd be really, really old.

However, then we got going on some other interesting dates and we came up with a few that will be coming up in our lifetimes:

11-12-13   will come along next year!

12-13-14   will be there in a couple more years!

The math brain kids already pointed out some fun dates in the last month:

11-1-12    They said that we could change the first dash to a plus sign and make an addition equation.

10-2-12    Again, that little change and we've got an equation. They went through the whole calendar at that point, and came up with every date in 2012 that could become an equation.

These are the real teaching moments! You can sense a change in the atmosphere--there's a little ripple of excitement going through the room. Everyone is engaged and, suddenly, it isn't just math anymore---it's Real Life Using Math!  Cool! 

I love teaching school. Still. Even the week before, the week before Christmas. Everyone is nuts! Especially me. Sigh. Just seven more school days and we can all take a break from each other. I'm really concentrating on that most important professional goal of mine: Do not commit a felony. Merry Next to the Last Week of School Before Christmas all you teachers out there!!

Sunday, December 09, 2012

All My Children Need a Guiding Light as The World Turns So Teacher Doesn't End Up in General Hospital

Friday was filled with angst for students. It was ridiculous! I had a little girl start crying as she returned from P.E. I asked about the cause...[all the names are fictitious to protect the guilty.]

"Well, Betty said that I said the "b-word" to Shania and now Charmaine said that she is starting a club to be mad at me and no one will be my friend." Tears are flowing, sobbing is shaking her shoulders. Hmmmm...

I talked to various people implicated in the incident. Each and every time I asked Betty or Shania or Charmaine or the sobbing Wanda to clarify the incident, I got a different version of what actually happened. Seriously. EACH AND EVERY sentence from EACH AND EVERY girl was a contradictory version of the previous version. I began to doubt that anyone at all was even getting accurate information, not just me, but anyone. (I pursued it because none of these girls were involved in this sort of thing in my experience, so I felt that perhaps there was something there.)

So, I tried it from the top:  I turned to Shania: "Did Wanda say it to you, so you could hear?"

"No, but Ralph said that Charmaine said that Wanda said it."

Charmaine:  "No, Henry told me that Ralph said that Wanda said it."

Wanda, [still crying], "I didn't say it!"

Me: "When did this happen?  Someone said it happened today in P.E." 

Charmaine:  "No, nobody said anything in P.E."

Shania: " Yesterday Charmaine told me she heard that Ralph said that Wanda said it."

Around and around and around we went for another series, and a couple of more people were mentioned, including a boy I'd heard about from Ralph....Leonard!  Who allegedly is "liked" by both Wanda and Shania and with whom Wanda was sitting on the bus coming back from the field trip or they possibly sat together in P.E. or whatever!!!!

And Leonard?? The object of all this angst and affection? He is the SAME boy who another girl was crying about a couple of months ago. I mean, seriously people...this is a nine year old boy whose demeanor in school is that of an eggplant. "Girls?  Girls?  Where's the wallball court??" That is what he is concerned with, mainly.

So, ultimately, I announced that this incident was now closed and I had a few new rules:

A)  There are no boyfriends in 4th grade. Period. End of Story. Wait till middle school...

B)   If you didn't hear with your very own ears, then it didn't happen to you, okay?

C)  If you hear something bad being said about another person, do not run quickly to that person and tell them the terrible thing you heard. That's not what friends do. Friends stand up for their friends and say, "Oh, that's a terrible thing to say."

Like any of this is going to make any difference, right? Well, I can always hope. I'm going to keep saying it as many times as I need, to as many nine year old girls as I can. Maybe it's like the starfish thing, huh? One at a time, and maybe it will matter to that starfish.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Best Day of School

We went on a field trip to a wetland area near our school. We've gone on this trip each year that I've been at this school, because I organize it. It is the greatest field trip in our area, in my humble opinion. Why? It is outdoors. There are no gadgets or games or playground or interactive video or anything except the natural environment. For so many of our students, it is a rare experience.

I do a number of activities before we go on this field trip because I want them to be aware of where we're going, and the subtleties of this environment. It is probably the complete opposite of the rest of the Vegas experience. We just walk around on the trails there, led by a volunteer, who points out the various types of plants that live in each of the environments there: wetlands, riparian, alkali meadows. We also keep a sharp watch for evidence of animal life--footprints or scat. We've rarely seen more than the occasional rabbit or lizard. There are several types of birds, both flying about and swimming. So, it's not flashy.

But, did we have some cool experiences! I went with a group of nine boys because we only had one parent who had accompanied this set of boys. I had a great turn-out: eight parents! But they were all walking with the other groups. It was a gorgeous day, partly cloudy, around 72 degrees, a slight breeze. The air was clear and you could smell the scent of the grass and the resinous plants. When we got closer to the water treatment plant we could also smell the icky odor of the newly released water from there that flows through this large wetland that actually helps cleans it as it travels toward the Colorado River.

The students in my group were so thrilled to be there. They are the type of boys for whom school is a relentless torture chamber. None of them is that excited about writing and reading. They are cheerful, and each has a fun sense of humor. But, the pesky things that we teachers hassle them with all day--sitting still, writing paragraphs, not talking to their friends just because they feel like---these are not their best thing. They're gregarious, outspoken, enthusiastic. Just the opposite of studious, quiet, bookish--those qualities that elementary incarceration school teachers crave for order and control.

So, being able to talk all day, stop and investigate the weird-looking plants, call out "Hey look at this!" was just the kind of day they needed. We found coyote tracks, bobcat tracks, raccoon tracks and even saw great blue heron footprints in the mud through the shallow water in a calm pond. We identified scat from coyotes and rabbits. We poked at it with sticks and looked at the seeds and rabbit fur that the coyote had consumed. WE SAW A DEAD BIRD!!  It was quite dramatic, too. It was a fresh kill, laying there trailside, with its head missing, leaving behind the red, fleshy neck bones. We spent a bit of time poking it, and wondering who had killed it. There wasn't much evidence around--it hadn't been eaten--just the missing head, with the exposed neck bones. Cool...

We just walked our legs off, talking, admiring the plants, learning about how the Indians used them, seeing butterflies and dragon flies and turtles sunning on a rock. It was an awesome day! I wish we could learn like that every day. I know that they'll never forget it. Maybe they'll be inspired to go outside and do some looking like that more often.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Nightmare Before Thanksgiving

All this week we held parent conferences. There are no students during the regular school hours. We use all the time to allow our parents to come in for a thirty minute conference. We plan it so that, if a family has students in several grades, then the conferences are all back to back. It also gives us a little free time to write our report card comments, and to correct papers. I love that about my school. Our normal school days are slightly extended to get in all our required hours of instruction each trimester, so that we can use the three days before Thanksgiving to hold these conferences. We also stay till 7:00 P.M.on Tuesday for the people who cannot come during the day. This is a shift-work city, so we manage to get a time for nearly everyone.

However, this year, I had several No-shows. This is unusual in my experience at this school, because we have such terrific parents, generally, too. For one student who didn't come in, I was feeling a little suspicious that perhaps he didn't actually give his confirmation notice to mom. He has a tendency to feign disbelief and declare his innocence a little too enthusiastically when busted for failure to turn in homework, etc. So, I just looked up his address, and at the end of my day, I gathered up all his paper work and headed over to his house.

It looked dark when I pulled up, but I could see a light on upstairs, so I rang the doorbell. I rang it again. Just as I prepared to knock on the door, it opened. I introduced myself, and asked if she was his mom. She was, and she invited me in. She, too, had an excellent reaction to the failure to know about the conference. Maybe it was real, didn't matter. We could have the conference now.

We looked at his progress report. We reviewed his pre and post tests. We discussed a few things that could help boost his pretty dismal grades, and I was showing her what we'd be teaching in the second trimester that is starting in a week, when he burst through the front door, with his friend in tow. The look on his face!

How would you feel if you were just finishing the third day in a row of NO SCHOOL (!!!) and you came bounding through your front door only to find your teacher (!!!) sitting with your mom, talking about you and how you're doing in school??? Well, just imagine that face for a minute. He was flabbergasted. SHE KNOWS WHERE I LIVE...

Plus, then he had to sit down with us and go over the progress report and get grilled by Mom about why he didn't have all his assignments turned in, and why he had such crummy scores on the ones he did manage to turn in, etc. etc. So, I encouraged him to bring in that report next Monday, and I'd go with him to the reading classroom and we'd try to find some of those missing worksheets and see if we couldn't resolve some of these problems. I assured Mom that he was usually respectful to me, and always charming and polite (which is true) and I walked out to my truck on that note.

I bet he is still shuddering a little, thinking about me being in his house. A kid isn't safe anywhere these days.

Monday, November 05, 2012


Today I am grateful that I made it home without committing a felony. It was a close call. This morning started out well, I arrived at school prepared! I had stayed late on Friday and copied all the homework. I had all my materials ready for the day and even the materials ready for after-school tutoring. I felt ready and rested and we were going to knock out some writing today!

Then, at 9:20, the loudspeaker came on. This is such a rare occasion. They NEVER make announcements during our school day....except to declare some type of emergency, or practice of an emergency response system. I figured it was just a practice. But, no...It was an actual "soft lock-down." This means that we should make sure that all of our students are in our room, and no one can enter or leave without an adult. About 15 minutes later, we had another announcement that we should log onto our school e-mail to see the details of the problem, and check there for further directions.

Bees. That was the problem. There was a huge bee nest attached to the edge of the portable classroom in which the P.E. teacher resides. This building is positioned in the very center of our playground areas. one was to go outside until the Bee People came and took care of it. (Which I assume meant remove it and all the bees.)  I don't know if it was a wasp nest or regular honey bees, either. The Bee People were on their way. Stand-by for further news concerning recess. Oh no.

That's right! No recess!! At least none outside anyway. So, 62 students crammed themselves into my classroom to draw, color, put together puzzles, talk, use the restroom, etc. etc. for 15 minutes.( My partner eats her lunch and then takes over in the cafeteria and picks them up to bring back to class while I eat.) Then, I was to take them to the cafeteria (through inside hallways) and drop them off. And you KNOW that it was insanity. They didn't know how to line up correctly, they couldn't pass their lunch cards out nicely. THEY RAN DOWN THE HALL when they were around the corner from where I was standing. YIKES! It was dreadful. I sat and gulped down my salad and then they were back!!!

It was time for the afternoon classes. Everyone was just flitting all over (figuratively and literally) because they had not been able to go to recess and run and scream. Plus! Bees!! Sigh. We got very little done. I raised my voice too many times. I continually paused and just glared stared at them till they'd settle down and get really quiet. It was a long two and a half hours.

Then, if that wasn't enough!  About 2:30, someone from the office arrived with a typed paper outlining the dismissal procedures we had to follow in about an hour. EVERY SINGLE STUDENT had to exit via the front doors of the school, in order to avoid the bee nest that was still being dealt with on the playground. On a normal day, most of our over 500 students go up the stairs, onto the playground and meet their parents out of our back gate....where there is lots of parking...and several streets they can drive away into....without causing too much of a traffic jam.

Yeah. It was insane. But, the Parent-Link robo-caller had informed parents that we were altering our dismissal. We put up signs on the back gates and fences. It really went rather smoothly. For a completely chaotic event.

I have a magnet that says, "It was a good day if you didn't hit or bite anyone." signed (some 4 year old). Well, I had a good day. Just barely. I'm thankful that it is over. Tomorrow, we have no students because of voting in our multi-purpose room, so hopefully the Bee People will complete their task, and we will be Bee-Free on Wednesday morning. I'm not sure I'll survive another day of lock-down without biting or hitting.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

I Love Technology...

Hopefully, that title has caused you to be humming the song from "Napoleon Dynamite."  Today, I'm grateful for technology. Actually, every day, I'm grateful for technology. It makes so many things better in my life. I'm specifically referring to the electronic types---computers, etc. As a teacher, the computer has added limitless dimensions to my lesson preparation. I can write my own quizzes, I can make my own worksheets. So many good ideas are out there from which to share and borrow. However, I recognize that all sorts of technological advances have existed since the first people figured out that they could use a rock to crack open a nutshell to get to the tasty kernel inside.

I remember reading an anecdote about a grandmother asking her adult granddaughter if she could keep only one of her modern kitchen conveniences the woman had, which would she choose. The granddaughter thought about it for a moment, and then decided that the refrigerator would be the one. The grandmother smiled and said, "I'd keep the running water." See? We don't even think of that as a modern convenience. To most of us, that is something we would consider as basic as a front door, or a house with a roof. Our water pipes used to freeze in the winter, when I was a child. My dad would build bonfires to defrost them. Once, they broke and couldn't be repaired till summer, so we hauled water into our house for at least eight months. I was only nine and vaguely remember the inconvenience. I can't even imagine my mother's burden during all that.

One reason I appreciated technology this week was the convenience with which I was able to plan, then un-plan my trip to the east coast. With a few strokes of computer keys, I'd made the reservations, and then, I was able to keep current on the hour-by-hour conditions of the airports, and, ultimately, cancel the whole trip. But, as I went to pick up my students from the library on Wednesday, I realized that I'd forgotten about the rental car reservation that was awaiting my arrival at 11:30 that night in Providence, RI. I was carrying my iPhone, so I stepped into the patio of the school, right across from the library, and logged onto the internet to the Budget site. I tapped the blue phone number under "contact us" and after the phone connected,  a computerized voice said, "Welcome [EarthSignMama] to Budget. Do you wish to confirm or cancel your reservation?" I replied, "Cancel" and heard the computer thank me, and express its desire that I use their services again when I needed a car, and --- voila!  Thirty seconds and it was done! I walked back into the building as my students were lining up at the library door, and we all marched down the hall to our classroom.

Sometimes, that inter-webs connection thing can be a little creepy. I'm sure you've noticed on your computer that, if you do a search for something, then the next time you're logged into Facebook or your main page, that the advertisements will mysteriously appear for whatever product or service you were looking for last time. Once, I had been writing a blog about farm jobs I'd done as a teenager, and I wanted to include a photo of a piece of machinery I'd driven around the fields, helping my dad prepare the plowed ground for planting. Then, the next day, when I logged into my main internet site, I was greeted by photos of harrows and discs and advertisements for tractor and farm implement stores. Weird.

Nevertheless--I still love technology and all the wonderful conveniences it provides me. I love that I can find just the right photo to explain something to my students. I love that I can keep connected with the many friends I've made as I moved around the country. I love that I can instantly see photos of my grandchildren without having to wait for developing and mailing. I love that I can find a recipe for anything that I'd like to make. Etc. Etc. Etc. Thank you to all the people who have made the internet possible and to all you geeks who invented computers. Bless you.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

I Love to See the Temple

I went there yesterday. It is what I am grateful for today.  I love going to the temple. I love that, while I'm there, my brain completely relaxes. I don't mean that I'm not thinking. Au contraire, I often find my mind racing along as I think of a number of different problems that are vexing me. However, when I am contemplating these concerns there in the temple, inevitably, I get new ideas that often result in solutions. Sometimes, I gain the insight that allows me to relax and give up trying to "fix" a problem over which I actually have no power. Sometimes, I think of a counter-intutitive solution. When that happens, I pay very close attention. I consider those moments pure revelation. I'm always trying to do it My Way, but in the temple I often come to realize that His Way is much more effective. Usually, it isn't what I'd have chosen at all, but always turns out to be the Best Way.

As I sat in the session, I realized that it was Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead, and I thought it was entirely appropriate to be seated there, doing that, on this particular holiday. Every year in school, we have the same discussion about Halloween with my students. About two thirds of them are Hispanic. But, culturally, they range from very traditionally Mexican, to just as American as Kentucky Fried Chicken. (Which is the favorite fast-food of Japan, I recently, what exactly is American???) (But I digress...)  The conversation about Halloween: many of them LOVE those icky slasher movies, and that is Halloween to them. Others come from a more evangelical religious tradition, and their families don't celebrate "The Devil's Day." So, it is always tricky to navigate through the month. Those who celebrate all share the love of Free Candy day, for sure.

I end up tip-toeing through the various debates of whether or not the Devil is part of Halloween, or if it is just for fun, or if I believe in Bloody Mary or La Llorona, or would I ever go to the Fright Dome at Circus Circus?  But, I usually steer the conversation into history and explain that "Halloween" is a contraction of the words "All Hallow's Eve" and I tell them about All Saint's Day and compare it to Dia de los Muertos, and suddenly light bulbs coming popping on over their heads. Oh! They get it! And then I tell them how my daughter lived in Madrid, Spain, and saw the beautiful tradition of visiting the cemetery on November 1 to have a meal and celebrate the memory of loved ones gone to heaven. Then, there is a flurry of stories about their grandmother doing this, or of a time they went to a cemetery with their family. We're no longer arguing about the devil, we're no longer divided into camps about the value or evilness of Halloween. We've moved on to something that everyone can relate to, and the room is filled with an entirely different atmosphere.

The temple is like that, too. I drive up the hill after a day of frenzy with the students. The view alone is worth the visit. The entire valley is spread out before you and the temple itself is a vivid refuge from the hedonistic playground glittering off in the distance. Serenity reigns inside. I'm entirely removed from frivolous conversations. No one is clamoring for my attention. There is an entire absence of clamoring, in fact. It's the best thing ever on a school night that followed the frenzy of Halloween. Sitting calmly, surrounded by the beautiful colors of the desert that decorate the interior of our temple here, being of service to a woman who was born in Italy almost two hundred years ago, was a perfect way for me to spend All Saint's Day---Dia de los Muertos--Thursday, November 1st.

(BTW: I intended this to be posted on Nov. 2nd, but I started too late, so that's why it says "Nov.3rd." Guess I've already messed up my plan to post everyday, huh?)

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Being Thankful

I decided to write a post each day (well, try for each day) in November to express gratitude. I need to develop the habit of searching for something specific each day in order to boost my spirits and to become more aware of all the great blessings with which I am endowed. Some of these posts might be a little weird...but so am I, so it'll be appropriate, huh?

For instance: today I am grateful for my co-workers. I have several excellent ones, and this is one in particular who is talented, reliable and hilarious. His sense of humor is very dry, so this Halloween costume was especially epic because it was right out there. He is my fifth grade counter-part---the writing teacher.

I didn't expect him to wear a costume for Halloween. I don't recall him wearing one ever before. But this year he had the Best Costume Ever--especially for a writing teacher.

He had a pencil "stuck" in his forehead. And, it looked very realistic! 

Close-up--This lighting kind of messes up the effect one experienced in-person. His make-up artist had done an exceptional job. It looked quite gory.
The nametag completes the effect.

And he isn't the only great person at my school. We have very little turn-over because it is such a great place to work, with really terrific teachers, aides, and staff. I'm blessed to work there.

Monday, October 29, 2012


Tonight, here in the desert, the full moon glows calmly from the dark sky. The temperature was 70 degrees at 7:00 P.M. The wind was still, the air was resplendent with the scent of grilling carne asada from someone's yard. What a great night!

On Wednesday, I had been scheduled to fly to Providence, RI, then drive south to Groton, CT, where I was to attend my son's graduation from sonar school at the submarine training base there. Then, we were going to dinner with his future in-laws for an introduction all around.

However...instead, I cancelled my substitute, and have been anxiously watching the airline's website to see if I could get a refund. It started out this morning announcing that all flights were stopped for Monday and Tuesday. Then, by lunchtime, it announced that all flights would be suspended for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. After the students left in the late afternoon, the latest update was that all flights to a vast list of east coast destinations were cancelled, and there wasn't any prediction as to when they'd be resumed. Everything depended on the condition of the runways and airport facilities. Please stand by.

Hmmm. The submarine base is closed, the boats were all sent out to the deep water till further notice. The roads are closed. The graduation is off. The sailors will still be "graduated" but there won't be a ceremony. Everyone is just "battening the hatches" and hanging tough until the excitement is over. And since it is a storm that stretches across 750 miles, the excitement might go on for some time. Whew.

It's a very good night to be living in the desert, enjoying the Harvest Moon, and relaxing in the calm night air. I just wish I could identify where that meat was being cooked, so I could go over and invite myself in for supper.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

School Daze

Today, we were doing a pre-writing activity where everyone had their own white board, and we were supposed to list as many active verbs (as opposed to "be" "am" "is") as we could, consulting with our seatmates. It was a three minute activity. I looked over toward a certain fellow's seat, and he'd written "pooping" and was gleefully holding it up for his team to observe. He glanced around, locked eyes with me, and I just said, "Well, I can't really think of how that is going to fit into our poem about autumn or Halloween, so choose another one." And he did.

Remember the Drama Queen who couldn't sit in the desk where her former "Like" sat? Well, my co-worker told me today that she'd come, all teary-eyed, to her this week, with her folder from that class opened to a page. "[a poor dumb boy] wrote this in my folder!"  It said, "[APDB] says "hi!" It was another horrible tragedy --- like stalking or something. Or grafitti or ... we don't know. The teacher said,"Here, erase it." And that was the end of that.
The flyer from the office was all about next week's Halloween costume parade, which we have at 2:30 P.M. (We're lucky to get one at all because our leader doesn't like to have any part of an academic day taken up by frivolous activities that children might expect or enjoy.)  (Sorry...I just think that childhood should include a few moments of frivolity, even if it isn't in our state standards.)So, anyway....we're going over this flyer that was to go home, and one line read:
Students grades 1-5 may NOT wear costumes to school.
But I was prepared for it this year. What it really means, is that those students should bring their costumes in a bag, and change just before the parade. They are not to wear their costume through the entire school day. Kindergarteners do get to come to school in their costumes. (Can you imagine the poor Kinder teachers "helping" all 28 of their little buddies into their costumes, parading around the classrooms, and then having them back out the door, all in the 2 1/2 hours they're in school?) ( not try to imagine it.) 
So, when the inevitable hue and cry arose, WHY CAN'T WE WEAR COSTUMES?! I was prepared to explain. Perhaps I should appoint myself the editor of the Halloween flyer and re-word that part?
You cannot imagine how quickly nine year olds will get totally silent and line up straight when they realize that, instead of taking them upstairs to recess, you, the teacher, have sat down, opened your lunchbox, and started to eat your sandwich. I did that today after cautioning everyone that they needed to stop talking so we could get in line to go to recess.  But, noooo, whatever the 1/3 of them were saying must have been really, really important, because they wouldn't stop talking about it. That is until I started my lunch. As I pointed out, their recess is my lunch. And even if they didn't care where they got to stand around talking to their friends, I cared that I got to spend enough time sitting down, calmly eating my lunch. So, talk amongst yourselves right here, no problem. I'm fine.
 I probably won't have to do that again anytime soon.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Garden--Part 2

Now that the blast furnance of the Mojave Desert summer has abated, we're are enjoying a great autumn in the desert. No, we don't get beautiful golden leaves, unless you drive up to Mt. Charleston. But we do get 85 degree days, with 60 degree nights. I don't swim anymore, because the masonry around the pool has cooled down completely, and the pool water is a little more brisk than I prefer. But, I don't need to wear a sweater or a jacket, but I also don't get all sweaty while directing traffic at the end of the school day. Every day is just pleasant.

 It also means that the tomatoes have revived. I plant tomatoes in March. By May, I'm harvesting delicious orbs of juicy goodness and I can usually keep picking until the Fiery Days of August. At that point, the blossoms can't cope with the heat, so the plants go into decline. I've learned, however, to just wait. I learned it because, of course, in September, I've always been so completely overwhelmed by the start of a new school year, that I don't even think about gardening. Then, when we get into a groove about mid-October, I surface from the maelstrom, and remember that plants are growing in my backyard.

The first year, I went out there and discovered (to my delight!) that some newly grown leaves had appeared on the scorched and withered tomato plants. And--look at that: a blossom or two had peeped out with them! So, we trimmed off the dried, dead portions and let the new, brave leaves have all the space. We were eating fresh tomatoes until December, when the temperatures dipped below freezing one night.

This year, I used my careful technique of horticultural neglect again. On Saturday, I spent an hour digging up weeds, trimming away browned remains of old leaves, transplanting volunteer marigolds and revived my garden again. See the little hardy volunteers on these tomato plants? I also seeded a section of my raised bed with lettuce and spinach. We ate several salads from our plantings last spring. I'm hoping to get a few more servings this fall. 

There are two small tomatoes on this plant, and several blossoms.
This one has a group of blossoms and a hardy collection of new leaves.

These marigolds were just growing as volunteers in the garden bed, so I moved a bunch of them into several pots on the patio.

See, you have to give up swimming, but you gain homegrown tomatoes. I consider that a pretty good bargain. The pleasures of autumn in the desert are just as nice as the swimming in the summer, made possible by my old friend, Mr. Sun.

Monday, October 15, 2012

The Solution

This year, due to budget cuts, we can't afford to hire another teacher for fourth grade. So, each of the three of us has thirty-three students in our homerooms. I've never before had more than twenty-seven students. Usually, I've had between twenty-four and twenty-six. Thirty-three is really just a lot of bodies in one classroom. It means that the number of "difficult" students is higher in each of our rooms, because we cannot divide them into more classes. And when you have a larger number of students who are always pushing the limits, then there will be more of those students who are easily influenced and will follow the example of the rowdy people, so you get a decline in their behavior, too.

Today, following a three-day weekend for our students, each of us had four absent students in our homerooms. It was such a pleasant, calm day. Weird. One of the absentees, a particularly out-of-the-box person, is apparently not coming back since mom came in later in the morning and un-enrolled him. Maybe they had to move. But, at the end of the day, we three teachers met in the hallway, and realized what a pleasure it was to have only 29 students instead of the 33 we had all been dealing with so far this year.

So, a new plan has formed. We will write to our parents and have them sign up on a schedule for a rolling absence. We'll arrange for at least four students to be kept at home each day so that we can have the relative serenity we experienced today on a regular basis. Now, how to get this plan approved by the administration...?  Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!  But wouldn't that be cool if we could pull it off?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Grandma Time

The number one one reason I took a teaching job in Las Vegas was to live closer to my family. I include in that my siblings, many cousins, (at the time, my mother) and of course...the grandchildren. This weekend was another one of those times that made me happy for my decision to move here.

My daughter and her three children traveled south and I drove north and we rendezvoused at Zion National Park. It is an awesome time of year to visit there, too. There were autumn leaves and mild temperatures and we spent two days in the outdoors. We hiked in scattered showers on Friday, but Saturday was a stunning blue-sky day, showing off the astonishing red canyons where the very tops of the north sides showed the thin veil of snow scattered from the clouds overnight.

We picked up our junior ranger books at the visitor's center and took the shuttle bus into the park and scouted out all the necessary items to fill requirements and receive their badges at the end of the two days.

We went on two hikes, chosen for their listing in the "easy" category. We came to realize during our time there that the categories might possibly be renamed as "easy: you'll probably not die,"  "moderate: you could die," and "hard: a number of people actually died while on this trail."  Seriously, we chose those two hikes because our party included a 2 year old and a crippled grandma. The signs declared them to be wheelchair accessible. Well, if  you had two guys from the WWF to push the wheelchairs, possibly.

No, seriously, we made it. But we adults realized that we're fairly out of shape. Oh, and when the trail description includes "occasional sudden drop-offs" it references the edge of the trail where, if one would step off right there, one would tumble faaaaaarrrr to the bottom of a ravine. So, it makes one need to seize the hand of the 2 year old who is somehow drawn like a magnet to that very edge. The little person was carried quite often and finally convince that she must walk on the mountain side of the trail, rather than the cliff side of the trail.

It really was beautiful and lots of fun and, even though I occasionally felt like I might need those WWF guys to show up (right now, please...) with the wheelchair, I managed to hike just under 6 miles in those two days. Pretty good for a broken down granny, huh?  We spent a little time in the spa at the motel; we shopped in a couple of gift stores; we examined scat and animal footprints; we played in the mud. A good time was had by all.

Mud...what could be more fun?
Mud from knees to toes--greatest day ever!!
We tried many different "family" poses.
The river was as red as the cliffs, mainly because the cliffs are continuously erroding into the river.

 It is just an astonishing place, everywhere you look, because of the geology.
Cutest person in the park admiring a tortoise statue.
We went from "Don't take my picture!" ... "Grandma, take a picture of me on this rock!"
Fun times with fun people!

The junior rangers, wearing their badges and assorted Halloween headgear.
This was the result after about ten minutes in the car after the second day of hiking.
If you've never visited Zion National Park, then I highly recommend that you go in the fall. It is a stunning geological wonderland. You might take some little folks, too. They'll enjoy the mud and rocks and bugs and deer. Outdoors is a fine place to spend a weekend, no matter your age.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Drama in the Fourth Grade

Two weeks ago, I had a mother approach me during "Goodies With Grandparents." (This is an activity where we invite grandparents to school one morning for a snack and then they join us for our elaborate and wonderful flag ceremony up on the playground.) Anyway, I was in the cafeteria being a good teacher by meeting and greeting, when my student and her mom came over. Their purpose: pressure me to move the girl from the seat she occupied in my classroom. She'd been saying to me that she wanted to move for about a week. Of course she wanted to move, who wouldn't? She was seated across from a serious pest of a boy, who usually ended up with his desk being slid over to a private area within 10 minutes of his arrival in my room. So, I decided I wasn't going to give in to her "I'm not feeling comfortable where I sit" complaints because it was 70 minutes of her entire day. In her two other classes she didn't sit next to him, so I figured she'd probably survive. (And--there are only so many places during that class where I can move people--it's a group with more than its fair share of difficult students.) But, no...she'd gone home to complain to Mom, and so now Mom was standing in front of me pressing her daughter's case. And the daughter was standing there, with tears in her eyes. Sigh. You know I moved her that afternoon.

So, today I get a special little gesture from this same girl, who has now spent two weeks seated at a new desk, away from the pest, and now the new seat has become toxic to her. I said, "Who is bothering you now?"  Well, once again, tears begin to flow. I finally got it out of her that the problem wasn't even a person in the room with her. It was a person who sits in the desk during another period, but whose notebook and folder are stored in that desk, along with her notebook and folder, and a third student from yet another class. Once, she "liked" that boy, but now, she doesn't. And she was all stressed out about having her things be in with his. Maybe he'd "do something" or....I'm not really sure because she couldn't even say his name to me. She was crying too hard. I looked through the desk, and immediately divined who she must be referencing, so I simply moved his materials to a different desk, and put someone else's things in their place. In the class he travels with, it wouldn't matter where he sat. (And now, his nametag wouldn't be contaminating her notebook by touching it in the desk, and she wouldn't have to see his name everytime she reached in to take her writing materials. Okay?)  This calmed her down, and I sent her over to the girl's bathroom to wash her face and regain her composure.

WOW. She's nine years old.

I'm really glad I'm not going to know this girl when she is a teen-ager. That's all I can say.

Monday, October 08, 2012

How To Have a Stress-Free Day

I went to see the doctor about the knot in my shoulder muscle where it meets my neck. She could see the lump when she examined me. I'm to get an X-ray and a blood test, and she subscribed some medication. I finally got the one prescription filled this weekend. I hadn't been rushing to take it because the pain has started to settle down a bit. So, I didn't use it, even though it was in my cupboard.

Last night, however, after I'd spent many, many hours hunched over school papers, checking them and entering them into my computerized gradebook, I was developing a familiar ache in the left shoulder. So, I thought, "This would be a good time to take that muscle relaxer that is sitting in the cupboard."  I thought I'd take one just as I went to bed, so that I could spend the night relaxed and by morning, I'd probably be feeling fine.

Oh, I was "FINE" all right. I didn't feel too strange as I dressed and combed my hair. I ate some oatmeal, packed my lunch and drove over to school. However, as I walked around my classroom, I began to be aware that I felt weird. I felt fiiiiinnnee. Wah.... Oh dear. Even though it was now 8 1/2 hours since I'd taken this pill, and on the bottle the dose is 1 pill every 6 hours, I was still completely stoned on that muscle relaxer. I was sooooooooooo relaxed.

I worked with a group of students for the first 50 minutes in a small group. I was mostly pleasant and calm. After I took my class to Art, so I could prepare in my classroom for the rest of the day, one of my co-workers walked into my room. She greeted me and I could "see" her words move through the air like a beautiful wave of sound, rippling across the space between us. I started to laugh, and I told her what was going on. She laughed right back at me, because she knew exactly what I felt like. Last year, she'd had a pinched nerve in her arm and had to take a muscle relaxer for two weeks. We giggled there for a couple of more minutes.

Then, I walked up to the office and copied some papers, and fetched my students from art class.  We had a really nice morning. Got lots of work done, Mrs. [EarthSignMama] was soooo nice. About 1:30 it finally wore off. I felt less groggy, more alert, more irritable. The last class I had today, from 2:15-3:25 had the teacher who was fully awake, a little grumpy and without patience.

I'm going to have to be in excruciating pain before I'll take those little pills on a school night, ever again! I really don't know how someone would function on a regular schedule. The bottle directs one to "take 1 pill every six hours as needed."  I'd be stretched out on the classroom floor snoring if I tried them only six hours apart. At the very least, I'd only take it if I knew there was going to be 12-13 hours for my body to cycle all of the chemicals through and out before I had to go to work again. I guess it was a good day to wear my sandals and tied-dyed skirt. My clothes and my brain were channeling the '60's. Groovy, man.

Monday, October 01, 2012

Tree of Life

The view from my church steps is one of the most spectacular in all of Las Vegas. My church is located on the east side of the valley, high up the slope of the desert bowl in which the city sits. So, on a beautiful, clear day like we had yesterday, there is an unobstructed vista of the whole scene. To the north, the mountains open up and you can see to the horizon. The earth's curve is clearly visible. To the west, the tall shimmering buildings of Glitter Gulch march down the Strip, dwarfed by the stunning red rock peaks that line the western side of the valley bowl. To the south, you can see where two mountains almost touch, forming the canyon that leads you down the highway to Hoover Dam and Lake Mead.

Sunday was a gorgeous day here. It was quite warm, but not hot. The sky was brilliantly blue and a small breeze stirred the fronds of the towering slender palms that frame the front doors of the church. As I walked down the sidewalk toward my truck, I passed another tree. It was covered with  purple flowers that are about the size of an adult finger. But, despite their smallish size, these flowers are apparently extremely attractive.


 I was carefully stepping down the slope of the sidewalk on my unsteady feet, when my eyes were drawn upward to all the motion. Bees were swooping in and out of the upper perimeter of the greenery. Other insects were flitting from blossom to blossom. Butterflies of varying sizes were rising and floating all over the tree. A hummingbird was hovering, then moving from bloom to bloom. The whole tree seemed to be vibrating with movement. I was just delighted by all the life forms that were clustered around this single tree in the church yard. I stood and admired the frenzy for a few minutes, the sun warming my face. God's creatures were enjoying His handiwork--especially me.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Phoning Home

Sometimes when you think you're doing just fine on your own, you realize that you're not on your own, and you weren't just fine. This week, I had a bad week. It started out great.

On the weekend, our son called a couple of times to let us know:

 1) He'd gotten his first set of orders because he was almost finished with sonar school. He is going to Guam to serve on a fast attack submarine for three years. I was very excited for him; he was very excited, too.
2) Then, on Sunday night he called to say he'd proposed to his girlfriend and they were thinking of marrying before he leaves in six weeks. (The new plan is for the wedding to be next summer.)


That was a lot to process in just two days. I was thinking "Guam!!" That's really far away. And he'll be under the ocean a lot. This is my baby boy we're talking about here. Well, okay, he's  not a baby anymore. He's nearly 30 and over six feet tall. And this submarine gig is what he's been working toward for over a year now. (That's a bad thing about motherhood: you're still the mother, but you have to just let them go.) So, I'm excited for him to jump into this career that he's chosen. Also, I really, really like the girl he's marrying. She's just right for him. So all this is great stuff. But somehow, my weird body took all the excitement and turned it into stress.

I woke up Monday morning with a vicious knot in a muscle right where my left shoulder meets my neck. It felt as though a knife were sticking in it. I stretched and twisted and rubbed and pulled. But nothing I could do would relieve this pinch. I take a daily long-release anti-inflammatory, so I couldn't take more. I tried Tylenol, and it helped a little. The next morning it was worse, and each day it felt terrible as soon as I got out of bed and went downhill from there. Sigh.

By Thursday, I was pretty miserable. I had a dreadful day, with the nadir being my first afternoon class for whom the lesson didn't click. Not only did they not get it, but they were apparently all afflicted by Squirrel Brain (which is a condition that happens to nine year olds when they don't want to work, so they act like squirrels: chattering and messing around and leaving the teacher feeling NUTS!) By the time I got home Thursday, I was exhausted from pain and aggravation. Friday loomed ominously before me. I laid on the couch with a heat pack on my shoulder/neck knot.

Friday was scheduled to be Science Lab Day. Every three weeks, I do a lab activity. I always do the labs because I love to do them, and the reading and math teachers have far too many standards in their subjects to spend even one day doing Science. Plus, I can always have them write about our experience later, and it's good to have participated in the event so I can prompt them. But, how was I going to do Science Lab Day when my shoulder hurt so much and I was, as a result, short tempered and cranky? It wouldn't work.

Friday morning, I got up, dressed and knelt to pray. I apologized for being so stubborn and arrogant that I had given up praying for several weeks. I apologized for being so unhappy and upset that I didn't want to pray and feel better. There are some things that are very upsetting to me the last few years. I begged God to let me have a good day at school. I pleaded that I could be calm, pleasant, and let the students enjoy this day. They were all anticipating it so much. I asked that my pain could be minimized so that I could keep a good attitude.

The rest of the day, I felt no pain there. I didn't even realize it until I sat down at the end of the day, in complete exhaustion. We'd had a terrific day. We accomplished a lot of science (the properties of water and observing the differences in density in hot and cold water.) It was an action packed day. I'd been on my feet all day, I'd run around the room monitoring and supervising three different classes doing these investigations and --- not once --- did I even remember I'd had a pinched muscle that had been in a perpetual cramp all week.

As I sat there reading my e-mails after the students all left, I felt a little twinge in my shoulder. It was starting to come back. I got home and was ready for the couch and the hot pack. (Yes, I'm seeing the doctor next week.)

So this evening, I sat and listened to the Relief Society broadcast, and heard Sister Reeves talk about "casting your burden upon the Lord." I sang "I marvel that He would descend from His throne divine, to rescue a soul so rebellious and proud as mine. " I realized that my Father in Heaven might get a cramp in His neck sometimes because His daughter is always trying to go it on her own. And she doesn't need to. He's there. He's reaching out. He waiting by the phone. All I have to do is reach back. All I have to do is ask.

I needed to have a good Friday. It's terrible that I almost didn't pray for help. But, I've been so rebellious and proud that I felt embarrassed. I've been out of touch and not phoning home. Yet, when I did ask for something --and it was mostly for the students--I got an answer to that prayer that was instantaneous. It wasn't subtle at all. I had no pain all day. When school ended, it came creeping back. It's back now...but I needed it gone on Friday. I asked for help and I got it. I feel like I was Daniel in the lion's den. Angels came and held the Pain Lion's mouth shut all day. Wow.

Cast your burden upon the Lord, and He shall sustain thee.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Phantom of the Ceiling Fan

Our ceiling fan is haunted. The one in the living room, I mean.

It, like every fan in every room of our house, is one of those with the lights and fan combo, so you can have the fan alone, the lights alone, or both lights and fan on at the same time. We usually have the fan rotating, because it circulates the air-conditioning. And, on those rare weeks in the winter, we use it to keep the heated air moving through the room. During the several months when we don't need cooled air or heated air, but can just enjoy the pleasantness of the fresh outdoors, we also keep the ceiling fans on then to draw in that lovely natural air.

However, the one in the living room seems to have a problem. About half of our fans use a remote control, so that you can set the status and the speed of the blades. Something, or someone, is using the remote in that room to mess with me. And it isn't CoolGuy, who sometimes finds it amusing to manipulate the T.V. remote sound, causing me wonder what is going wrong with my hearing.

Ever since we moved in here, at random times, the living room lights would just turn on. The first time it happened, I was home alone. I walked into the living room from the bedroom to find that the lights attached to the fan were blazing away. It freaked me out. I was supposed to be the only person in my house. Who had turned on those lights? Then, a day or two later, as I sat watching television, they turned themselves on again. And there was DEFINITELY no one else in the house. And no one manipulating the remote. Hmmm....I changed the batteries, thinking that might be the problem.

Apparently that is not the cause. For the seven years we've lived here, those dopey lights will occasionally just turn on. Lately the fan has become involved. Sometimes, it will speed up, or slow down, or shut off altogether. We'll be sitting there watching a show, and---like the heavens have opened---light will suddenly bath me from above. Or, the fan will kick into overdrive--whirring as fast as it can. Bizarro.

Recently, CoolGuy tells me that the lights came on as the garage door opened, which I had caused by using the clicker in the truck. I'd just arrived home from work, and I walked into the house and he pointed out that maybe there was a correlation there. We're just not sure, because it certainly doesn't happen every time someone opens the garage door with the remote in a vehicle. And we know our neighbor's remote doesn't open it, because they don't have a garage door remote control opener.

Who knows what's causing it?  CoolGuy's engineer impulses urge him to figure it out. But...we may need to engage the assistance of Someone Else. Maybe the Phantom knows!!

Monday, September 17, 2012


Okay, there is a really big pimple growing on my chin, just below my lip. It's taking its time, too. A big red dot that is finally developing a pointy part...

However, I no longer have anything like Clearasil or Oxy 10 or anything like that in my medicine cupboard. I mean, why would I??

Instead, I have herbal compounds to help calm down hot flashes. I have wrinkle cream to help smooth out my turkey neck skin. I have arthritis anti-inflammatory cream. I have digestive aides.

But---zit cream?? That is so last decade in this house. So, I'll just have to wait it out. But, come on...isn't there supposed to be time when you don't have to deal with skin blemishes? Can't teenager-hood be over with, finally? Sheesh...

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Celebrate Her

I'm sure there are several reasons to celebrate on September 15. The chief reason for me is my daughter. It's her birthday! Here are a few of the great photos taken by her dad as the years went by. I'm just including a few, because there are hundreds and hundreds...we enjoy them quite often.
San Diego 1981
Santa Barbara 1992

Provo 2004

Morocco 2005

Orem 2011
Port Hueneme/Malibu 2012
She bakes championship pies. She does triathlons. She loves cats. She is a nurse...very soon: a nurse practioner. She is the greatest auntie in the world. She is a loyal sister, daughter and friend.

Have a happy day!!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Life---Going On

This week and a half has sped by so fast, that I was startled that it had been so long since I wrote a post. Lots of things have occurred, most of them mundane and ordinary. Some were rather stimulating. Let me just post a few paragraphs that, if I were a faithful Facebooker, I'd have posted as a status.

**On Tuesday it started raining about 1:30 in the afternoon, and it lasted for nearly an hour. It was one of those gully washers that the desert is famous for, when the heavens open and it just dumps water down. It almost doesn't even qualify as "rain" so much as a deluge. We went outside when school ended (grateful that the sky was clearing) and out on the street we could see that our crosswalk was one of the few spots that wasn't submerged. There was an enormous brown flood from wall to wall just south of our school's entrance. Really---wall to wall---from one side of the street to the other side. Our principal went out there to help our students find a way around it, and to keep a little order. As we helped children and their parents to leave the school safely, we saw a helicopter hoving nearby. It was notable because it wasn't the usual sight-seeing helicopters on their way back from the Grand Canyon, nor something from the air force base. It wasn't a news copter, nor the police. It turned out to be a rescue helicopter that was about a mile from our school, scooping a few people from their flooded cars along a street that had been completely inundated by the overflowing flood control channel into which vast amounts of water was still cascading from the storm drains. It was crazy! I got back into the office, and there were 12 children waiting there whose parents couldn't get to the school because of the flooding near their homes. Even today, three days later, there are swathes of gravel and dried mud all along the streets on this east side of Las Vegas from that flash flood-inducing rainstorm from Tuesday.

** I was so tired last night, that I simply went to bed at 9:30 and fell so fast asleep that when I awoke at 12:30 for bathroom visit, I felt that I'd slept for ten hours! It's true: the hours you sleep before midnight are more restful than those after midnight. I went back to bed and got six more hours. I had a GREAT day today, after all that sleep. I should try for that every night, huh? (oops...11:00 P.M. already.)

**For some reason this week, we got into a conversation at school in one class that ended with me noting that Mr. CoolGuy has a pair of cowboy boots for church, another pair for every day, a pair of sandals and a pair of hiking boots. (I forgot about his Uggs...) Anyway, there was a boy who was astounded--maybe scandalized--that CoolGuy has cowboy boots for church. He just couldn't believe it. I pointed out that we are from Wyoming, and in Wyoming lots of men wear cowboy boots to church. In fact, there are probably lots of men in Nevada who wear cowboy boots to church. When you grow up on a horse in the "Cowboy State," what else would you wear to church? The things that fascinate fourth graders...

**Is it November 6th yet? Nevada is a "swing state" so we are awash with political ads and candidate visits. It's astonishing. Luckily, I have TiVo, so I can fast forward through the commercials. And there is an amazing selection of them. So, we'll be really glad to have this election finished. For other reasons, too, as well.

**Did  you know that cats exist just to use up all the excess bandwidth of the internet?

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

The Anniversary

Today is the anniversary of our family's founding: my parents were married 66 years ago today.(And I thank my oldest sister for her reminder e-mail this morning. I'd written the date on my white board and was thinking about them.) They were sealed in the Salt Lake City temple, and then lived in Salt Lake City for a several months where my mother worked as a secretary and my dad was a laborer. They moved back to their Wyoming childhood home to help my mother's dad who had injured his hand in a saw accident. My father had grown up on a farm, and was a hard worker, so he was an excellent choice to help with the spring planting and summer haying.

I've told this story before, and last year, I talked about their very different upbringing, even though they lived in the same rural community. However, I keep discovering what I learned from my parents as the years go by.

1) You should always speak kindly of one another to the rest of the world. I didn't ever hear my mother indulge in the "husband bashing" that is popular in today's world. Maybe it just wasn't done in her generation, but she certainly never talked down about my dad in my hearing. And he certainly was her Number One fan.

2) Help each other as much as you can. When I was a teen, I realized my mom picked out my dad's clothes every day, laying them on the bed for him, as he cleaned up from the morning chores. He'd dress in that outfit and go drive the school bus, then change back into his chore clothes when he came home. I thought it was just a manifestation of her bossiness. As a teen, I was hyper-sensitive to bossiness in a mother. But as an adult woman, I came to understand that he'd never had a "wardrobe" as a poor orphan, and he appreciated her helping him to dress appropriately. It allowed him to feel comfortable in his job and know that he looked professional. He did draw the line at pink dress shirts, however, when that fad came and went in the 70's.

3) Teach your children how to work, by working alongside them. I am eternally grateful to have learned how to work hard. I have succeeded in my life, over and over, by simply knowing that I can finish a difficult job by just persisting and not giving up. Neither of my parents gave up. They both supported each other in the endless tasks that parenting and farming presented. They had children living in their home for over 36 years. It's astonishing.

4) Keep the romance alive. As my mom she stood at the stove cooking a meal and he was passing by to wash up for that food, my dad would give her a little pat on the fanny,  or a hug and a kiss. She'd protest in a laughing voice, which clearly meant that she'd enjoyed it, but...not in front of the kids...They really liked each other. My mom fixed her hair daily and put on lipstick. She always dressed nicely and had some really cool Sunday clothes. He was very proud to be seen by her side. It was hard on both of them when his long illness turned her into his nurse. But it was a labor of love.

5) Help everyone else whenever possible. My parents fed a lot of people over the course of their lives. And I'm not just talking about the eight kids they produced. Many Sundays, an old bachelor guy was picked up by my dad and brought home after church to eat our mid-day feast. Daddy would also hire a mentally challenged man to help him with different laboring jobs during the week in the winter. His pay included a hearty meal, along with the few dollars he earned. We had an endless parade of relatives who dropped by in the summer for a meal. We had a little boy live with us one summer, the son of my dad's cousin. His family was having some type of trouble, so we just had an extra brother for a few months. Car trouble on the highway? Come to our house. New baby? My mother would bring food to you. Hay mower broken? My dad will share his. I realize that this was a community trait, but my parents never held back when the need arose to give service to others.

So, in honor of this date, I hope that you can think of your parents fondly, and think of ways that they set an example for you. And if that isn't easy, or even possible, then start today to build those good traits into your life, so that one day, your offspring can make a list about you.