Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Many-Splendored Thing

Love is romantic.

Love is funny; always making me laugh.

Love doesn't complain but is patient with those who do.

Love is content.

Love never gets offended or embarrased.

Love doesn't mind that the Nacho Cheese Chalupa is always missing a bite.

Love boogies.

Love covers me with a blanket when I've fallen asleep on the couch.

Love wipes the tears from my cheeks and wraps me in giant, strong arms.

Love has great balance; manages many demands without getting overwhelmed.

Love makes me feel beautiful; never noticing the wrinkles, sagging skin or extra pounds picked
up along the road of life.

Love is corny in all the best ways.

Love hears my sorrows, no matter how trivial.

Love never mentions that the kitchen floor is dirty or that the toilets needs bleaching but always
notices when they shine.

Love radiates warmth and is willing to share it with cold feet and hands.

Love never overreacts.

Love would rather wear dirty underwear than complain that the laundry hasn't been done.

Love is a willing servant of God.

Love is the calm in my storm.

Love makes every day better.

Love is a many-splendored thing.

Love is all I need.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Firsts and Fours

I recently had two friends send me different "get to know your friends" type emails. I always find them entertaining to read but rarely does anyone follow through in replying, so I decided to post my answers here rather than forward them through email.

Who was your first prom date?
Sheldon Birch. I was so NOT excited about it.

Do you still talk to your first love?
No way, Jose! But I talk to my only TRUE love every day!

What was your first alcoholic drink?
I’ve never had one, unless you count cooking wine.

What was your first job?
I was a paper carrier for the Yakima Herald Republic—fourth grade

What was your first car?
Mitsubishi Mirage, turquoise two-door that I got right before I got married.

Who was the first person to text you today?
I’ve never sent nor received a text. I openly admit to being technologically challenged.

Who is the first person you thought of this morning?
Stephanie. I debated whether to call her and tell her I couldn’t go running but since I already took a sick day yesterday, I pulled myself out of bed.

Who was your first grade teacher?
Mrs. McElrath

Where did you go on your first ride on an airplane?
I’m pretty sure it was California on a plane we affectionately called the big banana because it was bright yellow. I don’t know my age but I’m guessing around 5.

When you snuck out of your house for the first time, who was it with?
Never did it.

Who was your FIRST best friend and are you still friends with them?
I think it was Sara Kindelspire. I don’t keep in touch with her but my mom sees her often as they work at the same school.

Where was your first sleep over?
I’m not sure but I think it was probably with Sara.

Who was the first person you talked to this morning?
Stephanie. She’s the first person I talk to every weekday morning.

Whose wedding were you in for the first time?
Jen Bounds. I was a bridesmaid and flew to San Diego for the wedding. The wedding was fun but bitter memories accompany the experience because my luggage was lost and never found.

What was the first thing you did this morning?
Went to the bathroom. It’s the first thing I do every morning.

First tattoo or piercing?
Earrings at age four. I’ll never do a tattoo.

Who was your first kiss?
Jim Maine.

When was your first detention?
I was a senior in high school and got Saturday Work Force. That’s actually a good story that I should document some time.

What was the first state you lived in?

Who was your first roommate?
Besides my sister, it was Alison Akin. We shared a room all four years of college.

4 jobs I have had in my life:
  1. Cherry picker and irrigation pipe mover.
  2. Receptionist at a Dr. office—probably my favorite teenage job.
  3. Custodian—It was a job we did as a family. We cleaned a very large Red Cross every weekday night. I was in charge of the garbage which included emptying bags of hazardous materials that had been sterilized in an autoclave. Those bags were always warm, smelly and seeping some sort of liquid.
  4. First grade teacher

4 movies I've watched more than once:

  1. The Princess Bride—once knew every word. I even wanted a son named Westley.
  2. The Music Man—once knew every word. I wasn’t a Shirley Jones fan but sure loved Robert Preston.
  3. Pete’s Dragon—loved it as a kid and can remember staying in the theatre to watch a second showing.
  4. Goonies
4 places I have lived in my life:
  1. Yakima,WA
  2. Rexburg, ID
  3. Provo, UT
  4. Auburn, WA
4 TV shows I watch:
  1. American Idol
  2. Biggest Loser
  3. Amazing Race
  4. American Gladiators—I have a secret dream of being a contender. I saw the show live as a kid and was thrilled to see it return to TV.

4 places I have been:

  1. Xela, Guatemala
  2. Colonia Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico
  3. Niagara Falls
  4. Bear, Delaware—not many people can say that.
4 people who email me regularly:
  1. Stephanie
  2. Camille
  3. Holly
  4. Jackie
4 of my favorite foods:
  1. Avocado—it makes everything better.
  2. Caramel in any form.
  3. Crab—especially with pasta and a creamy garlic sauce.
  4. Northwest berries and peaches
4 Places I would rather be right now:
  1. Anywhere with Jon.
  2. Asleep in bed.
  3. Getting a pedicure or massage.
  4. Having lunch with friends.
4 things I'm looking forward to in 2008
  1. BYU vs. UW in Sept.
  2. Hopefully a spring break trip to Utah
  3. Family Reunion
  4. Alyssa’s baptism

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Voice From the Past

It was Wednesday of last week, my regular day to volunteer at the school, and Alyssa’s teacher had asked me to assess her first graders’ skip-counting abilities. I showed the first student to a desk in the hall, just outside the door of another classroom. The boy had barely begun counting by twos when I heard a voice coming from the open room.

I couldn’t immediately place the voice, I just knew it was familiar and that hearing it had instantly surfaced an array of emotions. In between prompts to assist my skip-counting boy, I tried to steal a glance inside the room. I cringed when I was finally able to put a face to the voice. It was a substitute teacher with whom we’d had dealings during a difficult time for our son a few years ago. I wasn’t prepared for the feelings that bubbled up from my memory.

Caleb started first grade with Mrs. Hartley, a teacher who came recommended as one that would suit his needs. She had, however, just announced that she was five months pregnant. I immediately thought about moving Caleb to a new class. I knew that the issue of maternity leave, which I figured would be six weeks, would be a change with which Caleb would struggle. I myself was expecting a baby so the changes in our own home would be even greater. But, I never wanted to be one of those moms; one that makes all the demands of the school and rocks the otherwise stable boat. I dealt with a couple of those moms during my years as an educator and had decided long before having children that I would not be one of them. I knew of the school’s no-requesting-certain-teachers rule so we decided we would make the best of the situation and prepare Caleb as best we could for the major changes he would soon encounter.

I liked Mrs. Hartley. She was a structured teacher and was doing her best to help Caleb settle into the more demanding environment of first grade. But in late December, a few weeks before having her baby, she told me that she planned to take the rest of the year off to be with her newborn. I couldn’t blame her, but I was heartbroken that that meant Caleb would be spending the rest of his first grade year with a long-term substitute. I tried to remain hopeful that Caleb would somehow get an amazing substitute but the dread I felt was indicative of what was to come.

All problems we were currently addressing at school were exacerbated. Caleb was clearly feeling the anxiety of the change. The substitute was not organized in her instruction and she struggled with classroom management. Caleb started on a downward spiral and though she tried, this less-than competent teacher was unable to provide the stability he needed to succeed. My concern slowly turned into panic. I decided that I needed to stand up and become a defender of my son, even if it meant rocking the boat, even if it meant becoming one of those moms.

I arranged for an appointment with the principal and came to the meeting armed with a list of concerns and evidence, in the form of school work and notes from my time spent volunteering, to support my claims that this substitute was not adequately doing her job. She listened carefully and offered a few options. In the end we decided that moving Caleb to another classroom might be one traumatic change too many, so we opted to wait it out and let the principal take actions to help the teacher strengthen her abilities.

The principal enlisted the help of some other first grade teachers. They tried to help her with her teaching skills but in early March, it was the principal who called me. She acknowledged making efforts to avoid it but wondered if moving Caleb to a new classroom was our best option. I told her I would talk to Caleb about it and get back with her. I worried about my son’s intense need for sameness and what the consequences of this move might be.

As soon as Caleb got home, I presented the idea of changing classes. It was a change he was not only willing, but eager to make. His reaction came as a complete surprise to me. I didn’t need to do any kind of convincing. He wanted to attend his new class the very next school day. He woke the following morning feeling excited to go to school, an emotion that had long since left him.

Mrs. Tompkins, Caleb’s new teacher, proved to be just what Caleb needed at that very moment. The other students welcomed him warmly. Though I felt she was a little too accepting of his quirks and behaviors, allowed him more freedom than I think is best for him, she restored his confidence to succeed in a classroom setting.

I hold no hard feelings for the inadequate substitute. In fact, I should be grateful to her. It was through that experience that I learned to be proactive in my son’s education. I didn’t matter who I had to inconvenience, what standard procedures I had to oppose, I knew what was best for Caleb and I would for evermore act on it. Never again would I just “wait and see.” I had spent years trying to “fix” him. I knew now that I needed to fix his environment and that I would need to teach his teachers how to do it.

There I sat, three years later, half-heartedly listening to a boy methodically count while feeling forced down memory lane just by the sound of a voice. I felt the emotions of this difficult time return as though it was yesterday. But almost instantly I felt gratitude for where we’ve been, what we’ve learned and just how far my boy and I have come.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Wide World of Sports

Our sports report begins with the Rainier Cup, a gymnastics meet held last Saturday, where Alyssa competed with 150 other gymnasts, ages 9 and under, in level four gymnastics. Alyssa's first two events were a bit rusty coming off a two and a half month break since her last meet in November 2007. She missed completing one skill on the bars and after saving a fall on the beam, froze and was unable to remember the next sequence. Her coach finally give her a hint to help her refocus and she was able to finish but deductions for going over the time limit were evident in the score. She finished strong with great showings on the floor and vault. Her all around score earned her 11th place in the seven year old division. (There are some amazingly talented little girls out there.) Of course, we think she'd score a perfect 10 in the competition of cuteness.

We are currently unable to post the video of her floor routine due to technical difficulties but she has improved much in the months since we first showed you her performance. She'll put her skills to the test again when she looks to take on a new set of competitors in two weeks.

We go next to the football field where Caleb celebrated his best friends' birthday at a flag football party. We made painstaking efforts to prepare him--not in physical skills but in sportsmanship--for a good performance. The greatest victory of the day was his success as a friend. His star report nearly brought me to tears and deserves more cheers than any touchdown will ever merit.

Next we move to our basketball report. Caleb participated in his third basketball game playing for the Bulldogs in the Upward Basketball Organization. He's made great strides in assimilating himself in a team and his sharp shooting skills earned him a "best offense" award. He scored eight of his team's 36 points, only 2 points less than his personal best of 10 points, which he scored in last week's game. He looks forward to again leading his team to victory when they face the Wildcats next Saturday.

The top video is of the introduction from his first game 2 weeks ago. The second is footage from Saturday's game.

We end our report with a comment on the specatators. They ended the day with stiff backs, sore bottoms and starving bellies. The two-year-old among them squirmed, climbed, whined, cried, crawled around and more. But, she managed to survive without spilling any drinks or causing any bodily harm to herself or others. One of the spectators fit in a baptism in between all the sporting events and the other was just plain exhausted from all the excitement of our wide world of sports.