Monday, May 31, 2010

Rangering--Not for the Faint of Heart

I was Opening Ranger this morning with a hike time of 7:00 a.m. leading the first tour of the day at 8:40 a.m. Beautiful trail, great weather, beautiful day, and very quiet for a holiday morning. When I reached the grotto, I unlocked the door to the ranger room, flipped on the lights, and disarmed the cave. And then I found this...

Casualty number one discovered on the floor just as you enter the ranger room.

Another victim found right next to the treat box. Yummy.

And number three half-way under the microwave. The microwave that rangers use day in and day out. Try not to look at the eyes.

Ranger Nancy "did the honors" while I opened the cave. And then I heard her singing over the radio to our boss, "Three dead mice, three dead mice...they all ran into the ranger room..." Our ranger duties indeed include "light maintenance."

Just so this post isn't ALL about death and destruction, I'm including some New Babies! I just love to see all the new baby bright green pine needles joining their darker green ancestors in the spring. Ah, the glorious greens!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

I Hope...

I hope the bandana reminds you of fun
Clear Creek
capture the flag

I hope the books remind you to READ
thirty-eight minutes a day
because you're going to

I hope the patriotic candy reminds you to
soldier on
a virtuous citizen
the Hope of America

I hope the lupine seeds remind you of
Miss Rumphius
things you're going to do
to make the world
a more beautiful place

I hope you'll stop to say
next time you see me
even if I don't remember your name
and it's already been
seventeen years

I wrote the above poem as part of a little bye-bye present I gave my students yesterday, the last day of my twentieth year of teaching. I thought I would have big feelings about this big milestone of twenty years, but the feelings are just normal...out with the old, after shedding a few tears, and in with the new. I loved my class this year, especially that I started with only twenty-nine and ended with just twenty-six. I still can't get over the thirty-seven I had last year. Once I got home, K and I hiked up to the cave for exercise. Where did I go in my first minutes of "summer vacation?" To my other full-time job!

I was honored again this year as Teacher of the Year. This is such an awkward rite, but I appreciate the appreciation. I assume my principal submitted my name, but when I emailed him about it, he didn't reply. It would be nice to know why I was chosen. Unlike the first two times, I went farther than just the school level. After the district emailed me (on April Fool's Day...are you kidding me?) to let me know that I was my school's "winner", they asked me to submit some paperwork to "compete" at the district level. I thought about not doing it since my application didn't get recognized last time, but the obedient side of me won and I sent it in on the last possible day. They must have liked something about it. I had to send in three letters of support. Last time I asked an administrator, a teammate, and a parent to help me out. Nothing. This time, I got current and former students to write letters and as it turns out, I got another email from the district letting me know I was a finalist for the western portion of our school district. My principal was getting copies of all these same emails and yet he never spoke to me about it or announced anything to the faculty. I was then summoned to the district office for an interview. My principal told me to have my team cover my class for me as the interview was in the middle of the day with a fixed time. My team covered for me, though I've worn out my welcome this year with them, due to so many appointments. I didn't feel like I could tell them why I had this particular appointment. It's hard to look your fellow teaching slaves in the eye and casually mention, "By the way, guess who's Teacher of the Year?" They are all so deserving. It's pretty ridiculous to choose one out of the whole school, but that's how the game is played. I'm guessing that's why my principal can't talk about it with me or congratulate me in front of the faculty...he wishes he could nominate everyone.

I walked out of that interview thinking, "Not it." I didn't cough up any stellar answers and I felt pretty flat about the whole thing. No one could have been more surprised than I was to read the next email, "Congratulations! You're the 2010 Elementary West Teacher of the Year!" I was honored by the Board of Education and received a nice plaque along with three other elementary teachers (north, central, south), a junior high teacher, and a high school teacher. My husband wasn't able to be there, but my principal showed up for the occasion and sat by me. Out of the six of us, they chose one overall winner to compete at the state level (not me). My faculty learned about the award when the district published it in their May newspaper. The librarian put a poster and some balloons by my door which made some of the students wish me a happy birthday. She also announced it over the intercom. Yesterday, I received a congratulatory cake from the faculty which K and I have thoroughly enjoyed.

So, yeah, it's awkward. I don't really feel like Teacher of the Year. I just do my thing the best way I know. Teaching is a daily battle with a few more wins than losses. I worry, I stress, I agonize. I hope I'm earning high points for trying. It's true--you really can't count the apples in a seed.

I'll finish this somewhat sappy and self-promoting post with the closing paragraph of my application. It's from my heart. Mine was the only recognition that made the school board cry. Also, I can't believe how many teachers have given me their class lists for a rotation class with children's names misspelled. I don't think I could teach unless my students were all listed with first and last names spelled and pronounced correctly. It's my personal starting place. I can't teach them until I have that much straight.

I am an outstanding teacher because I care deeply about the children. I know their names and I spell them correctly. I know their hearts, their habits, and their hang-ups. There is a monthly check deposited to my account, but the real rewards are found in reading fifth grade journals, visiting with former students who stop by randomly, and checking out the middle school Honor Roll in the newspaper while counting on my fingers and muttering to myself, "She was mine. He was mine."

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Head Scratching

"You're a 'head scratcher'." That's what the doc said this morning after my 6:00 a.m. nerve conduction study (my third). They can't figure out what's wrong with me. If I had a copay for every time I've heard that from a medical professional, I could quit one of my jobs. I get a lot of comments like: "That's really weird. You are unique. How unusual! We've never seen this before. I've never heard of that. This is rare. Mysterious. Um... Ah... We're going to have to research this." Oh well, I'm looking forward to the Resurrection and I don't mean to make light of that. I'll be standing in line with a few questions I'd like answered. For now, it's head scratching for me and the doctors.

Another head scratcher is RJ's fatal accident at the cave last week. We were privileged to attend his funeral yesterday and feel grateful that our paths crossed his here on the earth. We may never know the reason for the accident. We do know we lost a great man. There are usually several clues that a new person is going to be arriving on earth. Sometimes we get a few clues that a person is going to be leaving our earthly life. At other times, we get ZERO clues that someone will be leaving soon and that's what promotes the head scratching. I guess it should promote the day-to-day words and acts of respect, kindness, and love. I'll leave all the unanswered questions to God.

A little more head scratching was to be had on Monday 24 May 2010 as we received two inches of snow on the valley floor. Inside recess. Boo.

Field Day was Tuesday the 25th. The cups were put out next to the water jugs so everyone could stay safely hydrated...

The Field Day dads just sort of wandered away without saying much and let the fifth graders have free reign of the hose...

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Stake Conference

This past weekend was Stake Conference. In case you're not well-versed in LDS vocabulary, Stake Conference is a series of big church meetings--comes around every six months or so (though not as big as GENERAL CONFERENCE). Additionally, thinking of those not fluent in MormonSpeak, allow me to further define a stake. First of all, we belong to a ward, our local church congregation. Each congregation is called a ward and several wards (in our stake, this would be six wards at the moment) comprise a stake, a bigger unit of church members. I'm not Catholic, but I have sometimes explained that a ward is like a parish and a stake is more like a diocese, but I'm not completely sure that's as accurate as I would like it to be. At any rate, by the end of this laborious paragraph, you are getting the idea! Oh, one more thing, the ward is led by a bishop and the stake is led by a stake president. Both bishops and stake presidents have two counselors.

So, K and I attended the Saturday evening session for adults eighteen and over. Fabulous! They had a couple of members of the stake bear their testimonies (give short talks) about implementing the Gospel of Jesus Christ in their lives. All three members of the stake presidency and their wives also spoke. First we heard from President and Sister Abels. President Abels is the second counselor in the stake presidency. They have five children. They spoke about prioritizing things in our lives with three categories: essential, necessary, and nice to do. The essential things included prayer, scripture study, and those sorts of things. The necessary things included work, laundry, cooking, etc. The nice to do things included crafts, hobbies, computer time, etc. Then they talked about how they are attempting to do the essential things even with five children. What I really enjoyed about these talks is that they admitted things aren't perfect. The point is they try and they really, really hope they're getting points for trying because they won't be getting many points for actual execution of all essential things (and that's okay).

Then President and Sister Law spoke. President Law is the first counselor in the stake presidency. I know Sister Law a bit and she is wonderful. They talked about raising their children as well. They talked about service and the joy they've experienced by doing all these essential and difficult things.

My favorite talks were by President and Sister Bratt (pronounced "brought"). President Bratt is THE stake president. They started by introducing themselves. They were in a bad car accident on their honeymoon and had to be driven home by his uncle while she sat in the backseat alone the whole way! Their first child arrived ten months later. They've been married almost thirty-two years and that ten months was all of the time they had "alone" in their marriage. They spoke of learning that they were expecting a seventh child. Their sixth was already seven years old and they thought they were done. President Bratt candidly mentioned that they were pretty depressed by the news for the first couple of months. I just LOVE the fact that these people were keeping their experiences REAL! They weren't hanging out any unnecessary dirty laundry, but they weren't glossing over difficult situations either. Everything is not peaches and cream but it's still a wonderful life!

The Sunday morning general session was also wonderful! The theme was "Daunting Tasks." They had more stake members bear testimonies: a girl who recently joined the church, a husband and father who entered drug and alcohol rehab a year ago, and a father who recently lost his daughter. All of them spoke and testified of Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ. "I want you to know that God lives." "I know the Savior understands me." Such inspiring testimonies.

The Sunday morning talks were excellent as well, but I'll finish this post by sharing President Bratt's closing comments. He explained that his mother loved to sew. He would watch her in admiration as a child because she was so driven to complete a project. They lived on a farm and raised chickens. One day, at the age of eleven and while in the livingroom, he saw the neighbors dog with one of their pretty little hens in its mouth. He took off running outside and the dog also took off, so he ran through the orchard and intercepted the dog with perfect timing. He kicked the dog to get it to let go of the chicken and it ran yipping home. The chicken was ripped open from the top left side of her breast all the way across and down under the right side of her wing. His brother had caught up to him at this time and they both lamented the fate of the chicken. Then they looked at each other with the same exact thought, "Let's stitch her up!" They carried the chicken back home and asked their mother for a needle and thread. They sewed her up and put her in a box and watched over her for several days. The hen became stronger and started healing. The day came when they had to take the stitches out. The feathers began to grow back. In time, she looked like the pretty, perfect chicken she used to be. You would never know that she had been torn apart by a dog.

I'm sure there are many lessons here, but the point for me is that the Savior Jesus Christ can heal us. As we pray ("and you better believe we prayed for that chicken every morning and every night after we stitched her up"), ask forgiveness, and repent, the Savior can step in for us and fix things. He can heal us. He can do it so well, that our sins/scars are no longer visable. Sometimes repentance is one of those Daunting Tasks, but with the Lord's help, we can accomplish and overcome. And it's not just repentance. Jesus Christ can assist in healing us from a variety of burdens, burdens we did not bring upon ourselves. He can help us get to the place where people can't even tell our feathers have just finished growing back in.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Room Mothers

We did NOT get to go on our field trip to Timpanogos Cave yesterday due to the fact that it was snowing and the snow was sticking to the trail. I could not imagine my darlings sliding down that steep grade while being cold, wet, and miserable. We were all so disappointed and we cannot reschedule. I thought the parent chaperones had left to go home, so I started teaching. A couple of minutes later, four moms/chaperones popped their smiling faces back into our classroom and announced, "We'll be back at 9:00 a.m." They brought Twinkies, bubblegum, and suckers. They brought costumes, props, and hats. I saw balls, hula hoops, and clay. Then I saw a pottery wheel and stool. These creative, generous, loving mothers saved the day by taking the sting out of our broken hearts. They split the class into three groups and started activity rotations. A good time was had by all and I am so impressed. So grateful. We haven't been blessed with children of our own, but I have learned so much by watching the fantastic parents of my students through the years. Love and Kisses, Room Mothers!!! You are the bomb!

"I have a pottery wheel and clay. I'll just bring that." And thirty minutes later, my kids were throwing pots. This is A's mom--talented, artistic, and generous. Amazing mother!

S's mom, one of our "official" room mothers all year long. She shows so much love for each child in the class. I can call her for anything. Room Mother of the Year! Amazing mother! I gotsta say I love the breast cancer cape worn by A.

S's mom, kneeling in clay. Helping. Patient. Takes the initiative. Do you see pictures of ME kneeling in clay? No, you don't. Amazing mother!

B's mom totally willing to play kickball in the rain for 1.5 hours. Every time a student would kick, she would yell, "You're goin' DOWN!" Amazing mother!

Oh, the DRAMA of it all.

C figuring out his heels.

M hiding behind my messy desk during the skit.

We tried another Math Congress today...

C's coon skin cap.

I took my class outside this afternoon for the last four minutes. Several of them shouted at me to look at the "different kind of rainbow" in the sky. Beautiful children. Beautiful world.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Commuting to Work

There are way too many pictures in this post with silly little captions. I just wanted a record of a few of the things I have noticed on my way to work. I've hiked this trail hundreds of times, so why not document it once? Best chance was a quiet Sabbath morning (yesterday)--Mother's Day.

Loved all the lichen. How would you do on a steady diet of rocks and stuff?

Looking across the canyon toward the sunny, south-facing slope.

Simply moss.

Miners' Lettuce

The view from the quarter-way arch.

Looking up trail toward "Lover's Leap" and "The Place Brad Lost His Pack."

Leafing out.


Looking up from the gate.

Looking down from the gate.

Lichen that can't help but just sing Orange.



The lichen are likin' this tree...

The hummingbirds and I can't wait for the penstemon. They are on their way!

Nancy's Earthquake Monitor (if the stick is missing, we've had an earthquake).

Ancient Cave at half-way. Why, oh WHY can't you drop those wet, luscious, cold drops when I'm hiking down in July???

Secrets of the trail...this particular area is called WATCH Point, for a couple of reasons...

Clearly, a V-shaped canyon.

First sign of entrance shelter from just above half-way.

Oregon Grape Holly

Tenacity Flowers

Stuff grows in the tiniest nooks and crannies.

The View

The entrance shelter as seen from three-quarter way.


The Bicep Tree.

Waterfall at Dead Dog

The "historic rock structure." Built in 1938...a four-seater. When was the last time you hiked a hundred yards on a steep mountain trail, dodging rockfall, to use the restroom at WORK?

This, my friends, is a cave cricket.

Looking down my trail.

"Miss Popularity"

"Most Photogenic"

Snow wall at exit shelter.

My visitors heading down the exit trail.