Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

This was the year that our oldest retired from trick-or-treating.  I think it's a little sad, but he was ready and it was time.

The girls were as excited as ever to get all dressed up and head out with their friends.

We had a zebra and a pink crayon.  Pretty cute, huh?

I'm not sure Natty would know how to trick-or-treat without Emma by her side.

Their friend Eliza joined them, too.  Isn't her Junie B. Jones costume the greatest?

I like Halloween just fine and I certainly enjoy all the treats, but we don't get too into it.  Heck, we didn't even carve our pumpkin this year.  I'm amazed at the people who go all out.  One of our neighbors starts decorating his house a month in advance.  He builds the scene all month long and it's fun to watch it evolve and try to guess what the finished product will be.  

His E.T. theme drew all sorts of attention.  My picture doesn't do it justice, but a motor attached to the bike actually makes the boy's legs pedal!  His scene inspired an E.T. movie night at our house.  The kids loved it.

I manned my usual candy-passing post.  My favorite moment of the night was when two of my kindergarteners came to the door.  One of them pointed and shouted, "I know you!"  It reminded me of that scene in Elf when some mentions Santa and Buddy says, "Santa! I know him!"

I've already had more than my share of chocolate and the girls aren't even back with their haul yet.  Great memories, great fun.

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Life's a Beach

While Caleb was gearing up to run the hard course, the rest of us were taking in the beauty and grandeur of the Pacific ocean.  It's amazing!

The night before the race, Caleb had a team practice on the beach and then they ate their traditional spaghetti feed at the local high school.  (That high school also provided his lodging for the night.  We stayed in a nearby hotel that actually had me feeling jealous of Caleb's gym floor accommodations.  Seriously, not good.)  

The rest of us ate at Dooger's, a fabulous seafood restaurant.  Our dinner was so great that we returned for lunch the next day.  It's not every day that you find a restaurant that serves gluten-free clam chowder and GF fish and chips.  Alyssa was in heaven! 

Seaside is a fun place.  After dinner, we met up with Caleb and had fun playing games in the arcade.

We had a really great time and it was a nice, quick getaway from the regular stress of life.  The fact of the matter is, life really hadn't been feeling like much of a beach at the time.

Ever since I accepted my new job, I've felt the pressure of taking and passing the test upon which my teaching certificate was dependent.  Until it was complete, I was technically just a long term substitute.  In order to be contracted, I needed to pass this test that I already failed once.

I began studying for a minimum of two hours every day.  I found a website that offered quizzes on every imaginable scientific discipline.  I took well over 100 quizzes and kept notes throughout the process.  I poured over many books with science lessons. My studying pushed housework and even my family to the back burner.  Keeping up with my new calling (primary president) was also a challenge, especially since we're in the thick of primary program prep.

We'd read on a message board where others who had struggled with this test had reported that they had used a tool called BrainPOP to help with test preparation.  BrainPOP is a great educational tool with a plethora of short animated videos and quizzes to go with each one.  Jon tried unsuccessfully to get me set up with a free trial and without a password, we couldn't access the site.  After we went to Alyssa's school open house, her science teacher presented BrainPOP as a tool they use, so Jon asked if a password was available for home use. (He didn't divulge that it was actually me he was asking for, thank goodness.)  The teacher excitedly told us the password and I spent every night after that on BrainPOP.

I studied until I could hardly see straight.

I studied until I felt physically ill.

I could scarcely think of anything else.  Passing this test became a constant weight bearing down on my shoulders.  It weakened my ability to cope with other stresses of life and I couldn't wait to get it over with.

When I felt that I'd done all that I could do, I got online to register for the test.  

I used my new Visa card to pay for the registration.  We'd recently had fraudulent charges on our card and Jon had just completed the annoying process of getting those charges cleared from our account and our new cards had recently arrived by mail.  So recently, in fact, that I hadn't even put it in my wallet yet.

After submitting my registration, I put the brand-spanking new card in my wallet and went with Jon to pick Alyssa up from the gym.  I had a lot on my mind (the test being at the forefront) and when we got to the gym, I ran inside, leaving my purse sitting in the console.  I'm not normally so careless but I'm also not always so stressed.

Less than thirty minutes later, we returned to our car to find the driver's side window smashed in and my purse--which contained my wallet, phone and passport--was gone.

Our usually stoic Alyssa burst into a loud, frightened sob.  The feeling of violation was just ugly.  I felt like crying too.  Life was momentarily falling apart for me.  

We immediately went about canceling credit cards and registering everything we could remember was in my purse as stolen.  We filed a police report.  Jon started searching for a new phone for me.  All the while, I continued studying in every spare moment.

 We were able to print a temporary driver's license that could be used until a picture-bearing, permanent license arrived by mail.  That license was also necessary to be admitted to take my test.  When it still hadn't arrived in the days prior to my scheduled test date, I was forced to reschedule.

The pressure had been mounting, so postponing the test for four days brought a bit of relief.  But when the night before my rescheduled test date arrived, I fell apart and sobbed to Jon that "I don't remember the last time I wanted something so badly."

Lucky for me, I had a small army of people praying for me.  And I felt it.  I still didn't sleep at all the night before the test, I still felt sick to my stomach, I still physically shook with every click of the mouse throughout the entire test, but I did feel blessed with clarity of mind.

When I pushed submit and went to retrieve my results, I thought I might pass out from severe heart palpitations.  As soon as I spied the word "pass" I let out a small gasp and pressed my fingertips against my tear ducts to keep them from spilling over in public.  The woman who handed me my results said, "It's ok, you passed," as she grabbed a nearby box of tissues and offered them to me.

I maintained partial composure while I texted Jon with a shaky hand.

"I'm totally crying right now!" was his response.  I'm convinced only Jon fully understands what this month has been like for me.  He saw first hand the efforts I'd invested and understood the pressure I felt to pass.  "You deserve this so much!!!!" was his next comment.

I thought I deserved a pumpkin pie blizzard.

And some crab stuffed prawns from my favorite seafood restaurant. Divine!

The next day Jon suggested we finally go buy a replacement purse.  He was so happy for me and was ready to hand me the world.  He just kept telling me how much I deserved anything I wanted.

How about a pedicure and a pumpkin steamer from Starbucks?

A massage sounds nice.  Is there an expiration on the "you deserve this" thing?

And you know what else?  We just learned that Caleb passed his geometry EOC.  Trust me, that's a big deal!  More relief on top of my relief. 

Life's feeling much beachier these days.