Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Historic home for sale in MY NEIGHBORHOOD!

Cody, Brock's good friend, restored this beautiful old home in Willard. It would be a great home for a family with two or three kids. Check it out.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

My stalker

Lately Sophie has been following me around everywhere I go. Even when I head to the potty, she sneaks in before I can close the door and she rubs against my legs and purrs until I'm done.

If she wasn't so cute and cuddly, I'd consider getting a restraining order.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

All together now

We had all six kids for Thanksgiving this year. We had a wonderful time together. I didn't get a picture of the dinner, but we hosted it at our house. This was the first big holiday meal with extended family we've hosted since we've been married. It went very well. The food was fabulous (blowing my own horn) and it was great to have my parents, our kids, two nieces, a nephew and a nephew-in-law.
Every year, Brock's family hosts a non-denominational worship service. This year was Brock's turn. It was simply beautiful. The music was heavenly, the scriptures inspiring, and the poetry spirit-filled. Brock gave a wonderful reading of Christmas on the Prairie. The grandkids sang "Christmas Time is Here", from A Charlie Brown Christmas while Tawna played some great jazz piano. We had a musicians playing the trumpet, flute, bassoon, piano, organ, percussion instruments, and violins (Emma being one). We had a family bell choir in which Emma, Kate, Sarah, Brock and I participated. Lane's conducting was superb! He had the congregation anxious to follow his lead. Susan was fabulous on the organ (as always!) and Mark and neighbor Karalee read scriptures and poetry like pros--move over Garrison Keillor! It was a wonderful, spirit-filled evening that I won't ever forget. Our children loved participating. I don't think they really understand what an unusual honor it is to participate in such an event, and how rare these types of gatherings really are. I hope they remember how it felt to be a part of it all.

Monday, December 1, 2008

You'll shoot your eye out!

This trimester I have a student who seriously looks like a skinny version of Ralphie from A Christmas Story. I wish I could take a picture and post it, but there is that little issue of ethics.

Monday, November 24, 2008

More Kiln stuff

My new favorite picture of Brock!

Cody's wife, Kari posted some pictures and her recap of the burning of the kiln here. You can watch the KSL news story about the kiln here.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Yummy hot buttered rum

One of our favorite night time treats in the winter is hot buttered rum:

1 lbs. butter, softened
1 lbs. brown sugar
4-5 tsp. spices, we like cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg, ginger, allspice
2 Tbsp. rum extract
1 quart vanilla ice cream, softened

Mix the softened butter with brown sugar, spices and rum extract. Add softened ice cream and mix thoroughly. Freeze. Add one heaping spoonful to a mug of hot water. This recipe makes about 30 cups.

Best enjoyed with a loved one in front of a fire while it's snowing outside. Now if it would just snow outside . . .

Friday, November 21, 2008

Insert clever title here (too tired to think)

After all, between the two of them they have read the four books in the series a dozen times. So of course I took them to see the midnight showing.
I mean seriously, how could I refuse these darling faces????

And Reesa, of course, had to come. Cuz, you know, she's Reesa.

And how can you have a GNO without making kissy faces?

And eating popcorn. (which Reesa won in the pre-movie PAR-TAY!)

What the heck? A test at 11:30 p.m.? That's not right!

But winning a calendar is WAY right!
Bedtime, schmedtime!** I took my girls to see Twilight last night! I am the coolest mom EVAH!
**An 8:30 p.m. bedtime is strictly observed in our household on school nights with this one extremely rare exception.**

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Writing clubs

I used to belong to a writing club when I lived in Salt Lake. We usually ended up providing free therapy for each other more than useful feedback on the writing we shared, but it was a fun, positive experience for me. I've been wanting to start my own writing group since I moved here, but I have never felt like I could find enough willing participants to make it really fly, so I've never followed through.

But then I realized that I am surrounded by willing participants every day in my profession. I asked my principal, and he said yes as long as I don't expect to get paid for my extra time (which, duh!, if I don't know that by now I must be pretty danged stupid!!!). So I started a writing club at the middle school. The day of the first meeting I was soooooo nervous. What if nobody comes? I thought. What if everyone thinks it's stupid idea? But guess what? Students came. Twenty-five of them. That's like a whole classroom filled with 8th and 9th grader who came willingly to an after-school writing club. WOW! And the next time we met, we had 27! I just couldn't believe it.

Sometimes I get so frustrated with all the apathy I see in many students from day to day. I sometimes feel like I'm not making a difference at all--that I'm sending an entire generation into the workplace without any real language and communication skills. But then there are moments when 27 kids show up after school to spend an hour learning how to be better writers and it brings some value into it all.

November is National Novel Writing Month. Writers all over the country participate by writing a 50,000 word novel between the 1st and 30th of November. I am proud to say that we have a group of students from Box Elder Middle participating! What a great experience for them. My Emma is even working up a file of character profiles in preparation for writing a novel (she probably won't make the 50,000 words in November, but she's working toward something, and I love it!). I just love being a teacher.

Yay for writing!

The kiln, continued

Last night we went to a dinner at The Athenian in Ogden (yum!) as guests of the historical society that funded the kiln project. They were so grateful for all the hard work the team put into the restoration project. Brock even got a nice little bonus check. It was a satisfying thing for Brock to be involved in this project.

Brock, posing of course.

Brock, Cody and Kenzie. Kenzie is Cody's sister. She's been working on the project from the start. I'm so impressed--those rocks are heavy! She is one hard-core gal!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Kate is GREAT!

I sure love my Kate! Isn't she just the happiest girl you've ever seen? Some of the best things about Kate:
  • She has a natural ability to understand how people are feeling, and she often interacts with people based on her understanding of their emotions. She has incredible empathy. What a gift!
  • She loves to read. She simply devours books.
  • She is an artist. I've posted her creations before. She is always drawing something.
  • She is very tender. Sometimes she tries to hide her tenderness, but I can always see it in her. I think this is what gives her empathy.
  • She makes friends in a moment. She is surrounded by good friends wherever she goes.
  • She willingly and happily practices her piano every day. I don't even have to remind her. She finds joy in the music. Once I watched her reflection in a mirror while she was practicing. With every staccato note, she raised her eyebrows high. It was just so cute. The next piece was smooth and graceful, and her hands became very elegant, her body swaying to the music. She is so very expressive.
  • She got 100% on her language arts core test last spring. 100%!!! Speaking as a teacher who administers language arts core tests, that's pretty dang rare.
  • She loves the mountains purely for the beauty of it all. Her dream is to go to a secluded spot with a notebook and draw the beauty of nature.
  • Her teachers love her.
  • She has a very sensitive gag reflex. She can't clean out the cat box without gagging. I think this makes her even more endearing.
  • She has a joyful smile.
  • She has beautiful skin.
  • She has a gorgeous singing voice.
  • She gets frustrated sometimes. I like that because it shows that she cares deeply about doing things well. I wish she'd be a little more patient with herself, but at the same time I see kids at school every day who don't care about anything. Kids can be so apathetic these days. Kate is not that way at all.
  • She asks questions. Lots of questions. She endears herself to people by asking them questions--but it's not in a fake way. She is genuinely interested in the answers.
  • She recognizes that the world is not black and white. She sees the shades of gray. She also recognizes the injustices in the world. She has her own opinions about the way things should be. She is an 11-year-old with actual opinions!
  • She is not judgemental.
  • She is open to trying new things. She wants to learn. She wants to experience life.
  • She doesn't like to play competitive games. She does like to participate in cooperative games and activities. She is always looking for win-win situations. I suppose that goes back to the whole empathy thing.
  • She loves all five of her sisters. They will be friends for life, I am sure.
  • She has a great new haircut. It is even cuter when we flip it out.
  • She gets innuendo. (Yikes! We have to be careful!)
  • She laughs. A lot. And it's a great laugh.

I sure love you, KATE!!!! I'm so blessed to be your mother.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Toddy Tavern gets a makeover

We found this great bar on last weekend ($80, what a steal!). We decided to buy it for our Toddy Tavern kitchen to use as a work space. Well, one thing led to another, and we ended up rearranging all three of our front rooms. I took a few pictures, and I was surprised to see how much wood we have in our house. I love it!
The kitchen
I love our sink. Doesn't it look like it's straight out of A Christmas Story?

This is our living room, looking in from the dining room.

I adore the built-in book shelves.

This is the dining room looking from the living room.

Our dining room table looks so much smaller now that it's out of the kitchen.

All the angles.
I just love old houses. Ours was built around 1917--and it still has all sorts of the original moldings--never painted.
Next order of business--our bedroom. Then we'll be ready to move on to the yard in the spring. It's hard to be patient with these things, but we have made some great improvements--things are moving along quite smoothly and steadily. We love our Toddy Tavern!

Brock and his girls go climbing

We took Brock's girls climbing on Saturday. Rachel wasn't up for it, but Maryanne and Sarah were little mountain goats! They did such a great job. Here's Maryanne kissing the chains at the top.

And here's Maryanne coming down.

Sarah kissing the chains.

Sarah coming down.
They each went up twice. Brock was so proud of his tough-as-nails cutie-pies. They had a lot of fun. We are so lucky to be the parents of six of the best girls in the world!!

Brock and Cody finish the kiln!

Brock and Cody on the job. Look at all those mud-covered 5-gallon buckets behind them. Guess what they used those for? To carry to the TOP of the kiln to mud the rocks. As a result--Brock has UNBELIEVABLY studly shoulder. MMM HMMM!
Brock digging out the chimney. Once he made a hole, he had to squeeze himself through to come out the bottom. In other words, the kiln birthed him. My claustrophobic self would have just freaked right the heck out!

This is the top of the kiln. They put a grate over the chimney for obvious safety reasons.

And here it is! They did a great job. Today they're cleaning up to make it all nice and neat. If you're ever driving through Ogden Canyon, stop at the Indian Trails and take a look.

Top 10 reasons I love teaching at the middle school my daughter attends

10. Her teachers tell me how great she is when I see them in the halls.

9. Starting on Thursday, she will be a student in my class, so I can make darn well sure that she is learning English.

8. Her friends say hi to me in the halls--some of them call me "Mrs. Emma's Mom".

7. Right now (my prep period) she has health in the room next to mine. I can hear her teacher using words like "gonorrhea", "syphilis", and "milky discharge". I'm almost positive I heard her say, "EWWWW!" As a side note--I also just heard a kid ask a question about oral sex! Poor Mr. Johnson.

6. She sometimes comes and hangs out in my room after school. However, it's usually just so she can take control of my computer since we still have dial-up internet at home. I'll bet ya didn't know that still existed, didja?

5. She sometimes writes me notes during health and has her locker-buddy pass the note to me during 5th period.

4. I know who her crush is--and I have him as a student starting on Thursday. hehehe

3. She completely trusts me to not embarrass her when I have her crush in class starting on Thursday. hehehe

2. I witnessed last year's crush TOTALLY flirting with her in the cafeteria the other day. I mentioned the observation later that night, but she just rolled her eyes because she was, "Sooooooo over him!"

1. Sometimes when I'm walking down the hall, I pass Emma with her cute-as-buttons group of friends, and she bounds over to me and hugs me! In the hall! Of a middle school! With hundreds of students all around! I love that!

I've adored having this connection with my Lu! I'm a teensy bit apprehensive about having her as a student. I'm sure she'll be just fabulous, but I sometimes have to get after kids who are squirreling around, and I don't want them to take it out on her. It will certainly be another adventure.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The long and short of it

I got my hair cut on Saturday. And just for the record--I'm not depressed, I'm not feeling fat, I'm not failing in my profession, I'm not unhappy, I'm not feeling trapped in a horrible marriage, I'm not a failure of a mother or any of the other things I associate with my short-haired years in my past. In fact, I'm happier than I have ever been. My marriage is phenomenal (I found the greatest man to ever walk the earth since Jesus!), my professional life is progressing quite nicely, and while I don't have the skinny-Minny runner's bod I used to have, I look pretty damn good for an almost-forty-year-old woman. I'm even feeling like I'm a better mom now than I've ever been.

There was a time when I swore I'd never have short hair again, just because the associations with former haircuts were so traumatic. The short hair became a symbol. I was a scared, miserable, inferior, stupid person then. I had no self-worth. None. There was a time when I even felt suicidal. I was too chicken to do it, but I thought about it quite a bit for a several-month period of time.

When my first marriage ended, I started growing my hair out. It grew. It grew and it grew and it grew. I began to associate my long hair with my happy, smart, confident self. Once again, my hair had become a symbol.

So what does it all mean? I suppose it might mean the symbols have lost their meaning because I'm absolutely content with my life. It might mean I have moved beyond silly things like the meaning of a hair style. It might mean that I got tired of using lots of shampoo and conditioner. Or it might mean I am trying to grow out the natural color of my hair, and the best way to do that is to cut off the dyed ends.

Yes, indeed, I'm embracing my grays! It takes guts, don't you think?

My little baby's all grown up and saving China!

Yay! No more braces! You look absolutely FAB-U-LOUS, my Lu!

Thursday, November 6, 2008

faux-pas-mah bin what?

Yesterday the students were all abuzz about how they all think Obama will be assassinated. Sheesh! Our principal caught the drift, so he decided he needed to do something to stop the madness. This is pretty close to what he said over the P.A.:

Students, we have been hearing a lot of you dialoguing (yeah, he really said that to a bunch of 8th and 9th graders!) about assassination. We want you to know that this type of communication is unacceptable. Our new president-elect, Osama buh . . .

He stopped talking and paused for several seconds. Meanwhile my students were going crazy with what they had just heard. One girl kept saying, "He did NOT just say that!" Others were saying, "See, Mr. Principal wants him to be assassinated, too!" Oh dear! Of course anything he said after that had absolutely zero effect.

I felt really bad for the guy. He's a good principal, and it was obviously an unintentional mistake, but sheesh--could you get any worse than that?

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Kate's Art Gallery

With her permission, I am posting some pictures of Kate's latest creations. I think she is such a talented artist! She wants to become an artist when she grows up, so we are doing our best to encourage her as much as we can. I'm looking around for someone who will give private art lessons, but I'm not having much luck. anybody have any ideas of where to look?

I couldn't get a picture of this without the flash making a glowing sheen on the monkey's face. Isn't he cute?

Kate wanted me to make sure to say this one is a work in progress. I LOVE the turtle!

This is her Van Gogh oil pastel assignment from her art class at school. It is currently showcased in the 6th grade hall. I just think she is so very, very creative!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Middle School Mock (the) Election

We had a mock election at the middle school today. Box Elder County, as you might guess, is excessively conservative, so I expected many students to vote straight ticket. In an effort to get them to really consider candidates instead of parties, I strongly discouraged straight-ticket voting when I handed ballots to my advisory students. I explained that most intelligent adults consider individual platforms when voting. I even went so far as to say *gasp* it may be a touch irresponsible to vote straight party.

After the ballots came in, I glanced through them. And guess what? Nobody had filled in the "straight ticket" bubble! However, all but two students had filled in individual bubbles for all the republican candidates. *palm to forehead*

Of course the vast majority of students simply voted the way their parents are voting. (Emma voted the way Brock and I are voting, though she was on the other side of the aisle from the majority here.) So all you parents out there who think your children don't listen to you--you're wrong. They soak up all your opinions, and many times they interpret them in crazy town ways and spout them back to their friends at school. For example, here are a few things I overheard students saying in my classroom today:
  • If Obama wins, he'll take away all our money.
  • If Obama wins, he'll just get shot anyway.
  • If Obama wins, the economy will just get worse.
  • If Obama wins, the whole country will have riots.
  • Obama is a socialist.
  • Obama is a fascist.
  • Obama is going to take away all our guns!
  • Obama scares the crap out of me.
  • Obama is a Muslim.
  • Obama hates Mormons.
  • Obama is the anti-Christ.

Oh dear. I just have to bite my tongue! I mean, sheesh! Why such hatred? I really don't understand this. They can be pro-McCain without bashing Obama, can't they? I try to ask students to tell me why they support McCain instead of why they hate Obama--and they generally can't come up with a single reason.

I suppose they are quite young, and maybe I shouldn't expect them to think on their own yet, but I would love to help them understand that they should at the very least understand what their "opinions" are based on.

Actually, I would love it if more adults could vocalize why they support their candidate. It seems like lunch time talk is all centered on vague rumors and feelings rather than actual platforms.

It will be nice to have the highly charged atmosphere neutralized in a few days (after everyone calms down from their initial freak-out mode after Obama wins!)

Hope y'all voted!

On the rocks

I suppose most of you who read my blog know that Brock got his teaching certificate last spring. It was a three semester program, even with his Master's under his belt. (Crazy, huh?). Unfortunately, history teaching jobs are extremely hard to come by around these parts. In the six closest districts, only three real history jobs were posted for the 2008-09 school year. One of them was a history/P.E. combo (as, if!), one was an A.P. position (no first years were considered), and one was a plain old 8th grade U.S. history job. Unfortunately, there were thirty-odd applicants for that job, and while he made the short list, he was not offered the contract, even with the absolutely raving evaluations his cooperating teachers gave him. Go figure.

This isn't really uncommon among teachers. The only areas with shortages are elementary, math and science--all other subjects are flooded. I had to deal with a crappy part-time job teaching the druggies who were about to drop out of high school for a year before I landed my current contract. When I was searching, I applied with all the districts from Nebo to Box Elder. I considered myself lucky to land a contract at all--and it was just an extremely happy coincidence that it was in Brigham. In fact, I was considering Boise at one point.

So fast forward to now, what does Brock do with his days? He has been doing some subbing (my students told me they wished he was their teacher instead of me after he subbed for me one day--the little snots!) But most days, he is doing something really cool. His long-time friend, Cody, is a stone mason. Brock has worked with Cody in that past, so he hired him to work on his current project. The great thing about this project is the history behind it all. Cody has been commissioned by a historic preservation society to restore an old kiln in Ogden Canyon.
This is what it looked like when they started.
Cody and Brock hard at work.
This is the chimney, viewing from the top of the kiln. They are still filling in around the chimney. This is what it looks like from the front now. It is far more impressive in person, of course.

The best thing about the kiln work is what it has done to Brock's manly shoulders. He has always had strong shoulders, but now--YOWZA! What a MAN! He comes home dead-tired every night from the hard work, but what an accomplishment! I'm so proud of my hubba-hubba honey!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Halloween adventures

Here's the gang on Halloween night. I guess this will probably be the only time the six of them will be together for Trick or Treating fun--so we made sure to have a great time. The weather was great. The costumes worked out fine. The kids got TONS of candy. So I proclaim the weekend a success.
I'm not quite sure what Rachel is here. A witch, maybe? But she's happy with her costume, so that's all that matters, right?


Jane wanted to be something scary for the first time this year. Usually she's a princess of one sort or another.

Don't worry, she wore her shoes for the Trick or Treating.

Maryanne was a countess. She has very pretty hair.

Kate and her friends dressed up as gypsies. Don't you love the wig?

And the fake eyelashes?

Sarah was a ninja. Girl Power!

Even ninjas need to see . . .

Undead cheerleader, Emma.

In all her blood and gory glory.
I sure love these little stinks! You looked great, girlies!