Wednesday, January 25, 2012


For anyone who wants to know, SEP stands for Student Education Plan. You might be more familiar with the term Parent Teacher Conferences. I have thirty-four students, therefore, I have scheduled thirty-five conferences. Why thirty-five and not thirty-four? Because, to quote a parent, some people who have produced offspring "can't stand to be in the same room together." Not even for ten minutes.

Tonight was the first night. It went well! I learned some things. One family revealed that their children read aloud to each other while one child is showering in order to increase their Jazz Readathon total minutes! Wow. One family doesn't understand why I do Honor Roll awards at the end of each term. One parent still has enough gumption to look his child in the eye and call the bluff, "I think you're full of baloney." Love that! And, most pleasant of all, I still get hugs. From parents!

For some reason, I had a flashback this evening of a parent teacher conference while teaching on Lana'i. Most of the parents were Filipino (or should I say Pilipino) immigrants who spoke, pardon me if I mess up the spellings, Ilokano and/or Visayan. A lot of my kids had to translate for Mom and Dad during the conference. One tall, large, gruff-looking Filipino Daddy walked into the classroom and sort of grunted when he sat down. I chattered away, pausing occasionally for his son to translate. Pretty much, there was no verbal response or physical gestures from the man, but he seemed like he was watching me and listening to every word. After considerable wait-time, I decided to sort of wrap up, "Do you have any questions?" The man spoke! He asked, "My boy he one pangalo?" Having never heard the term "pangalo (sp?)", I hesitated. I looked at the boy and he answered my silent question, "Troublemaker." I smiled. "Oh NO! Never! Your son is such a GOOD boy!" The man didn't crack a smile or anything. He grunted as he stood and walked out. That's all he wanted to know!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Seven Million Notes

Friday the 13th wasn't the best day for me, but I don't really believe anything superstitious about that particular day, so you know. It was just a little hectic and rough. We were having the Boston Tea Party that day, so the students were flying a tad high, if you know what I mean.

Right before the bell rang in the morning, my crown popped off (same crown that popped off in August, if you care). I had an appointment for later this month to get the whole crown done over, but the crown just couldn't wait. So, I'm thinking, "Great. Bell's gonna ring, three day weekend is almost here, and I'm supposed to teach." I got the kids inside and told them that I had to make a quick call to my dentist. Dentist wasn't in--receptionist assured me I would be FINE until Tuesday morning. We were headed to Vegas to celebrate my husband's birthday this month. "I'm a tough girl, I can do this!"

Children have needs, a thousand each. Thirty-four children have thirty-four thousand needs and you never know what their state of mind is when they walk through that classroom door. "Can I go pay my lunch money?" "Can I call my mom, I forgot such and such." "Can I go to the bathroom?" "When are you passing out the tea bags?" And so on.

One girl waltzed in with three dozen donuts to celebrate her upcoming birthday. "When can I pass these out?" One boy waltzed in with his violin. "May I play a couple of pieces for the class?"

I took attendance, I checked planners and homework, I explained the rules for the Boston Tea Party, we sang our birthday song, I chose to eat the donut, we pledged ourselves to the flag. And so on.

You want to play your violin? Go right ahead.

It was lovely.

First he played a piece by Bach, explaining and demonstrating the proper way to pronounce Bach's name. Then he played part of an original composition which would have lasted about ten minutes had he played the whole piece, but he understood it would be better under these circumstances to play only a portion, perhaps three to five minutes. It was the most beautiful, melancholy violin music you'd ever like to hear. It made me forget about my tooth. After the applause, I commented, "That was so melancholy and sad sounding--beautiful!" His face broke into a huge grin and he said, "I LOVE to play sad violin music!" He calls this piece "Seven Million Notes."

Seven million notes. Seven million things to do in one fifth grade classroom. Seven million reasons to smile and laugh as these wonderful children help me make it through my hectic day minus one tooth. Seven million blessings!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Vegas, Our Way

We always have fun in Las Vegas, but probably not the kind of fun most people associate with Las Vegas. We did stay in a casino, but it's a bit off the strip, so not so spendy. We've stayed there before and we like it because we can get from the parking garage to our room without having to walk through the casino and bad air. This casino has a bowling alley with seventy lanes. We bowled two games each. I showed improvement! The first time I scored 66 and the second time I scored 67. We had a blast anyways! This casino also has eighteen movie theaters, but we've never had the time to actually go to a movie there. K bought tickets for a show at the MGM Grand--we saw KA. It's one of those Cirque du Soleil shows and it was fabulous. We really enjoyed it more than we thought we would. Wow. park, Vegas show, bowling, buffet, Church, Red Rock Canyon, Valley of Fire...THAT'S how WE do Vegas! I put the picture of the peacock feather at the beginning because it's the closest thing we really saw to a Vegas Showgirl!
Here's my Birthday Boy so happy to be outside in the nice weather having a picnic lunch. One of our first stops on Saturday was a park called Floyd Lamb Park at Tule Springs, a city park inside Las Vegas City Limits. We really enjoyed it!

Meet Harry. Harry does a great job of taking care of the place. In K's words, this park had "all manner of fowl." I can't tell you how many species of birds we saw, but the flocks were multitudinous. There were several ponds and people were fishing and we enjoyed walking around everywhere. We stepped on all types of fowl excrement. I couldn't help think about it later when the guy at the bowling alley asked for one shoe from each of us. "Here you go..."

You've heard of someone giving a "sideways glance?" Well, Harry did. Harry gave me one long sideways glance.

Harry hissed at me. He closed his beak before I could photograph it wide open, but after he hissed, he honked at the others to warn them of the approaching woman. He raised up, stretching his neck skyward as if to say, "One more step, Lady, and I'm comin' after ya!" Clearly, I knew Harry meant business, so I backed off. Maybe another time, Harry.

You put your right leg in, you put your right leg out...

...And shake it all about!

Someone's having a bad hair day. Actually I worry about this one, but she looks happy, well-fed...I guess she's surviving with a broken feather or whatever.

What do you suppose the heritage of this guy is? Honestly, he looks half turkey and half white goose...I don't know. He was with a hundred other geese eating handouts thrown to him. I think he gets a lot more thrown to him, because he is a different looking creature. Hm...

There were peacocks (and peacock poop) all over the place. Why do they get to be so blue? I can see that in the rainforest, but here? I don't get it.

On Sunday, we went to church at the Hacienda Heights Ward. Great folks! Everyone thought we were there for Benny, a twenty-something guy who was getting confirmed in Sacrament Meeting. "Are you here for Benny?" "You must be here for Benny!" Sunday School was good, but I just loved Relief Society, probably because they gave me chocolate first thing! They have this little basket of welcome cards with a Hershey's Nugget attached with a message welcoming visitors and saying they hope we can find some "nugget" of truth to take away from their meeting. These people know how to make friends fast. And then...the sister who was teaching the lesson just happened to be giving out chocolate chip cookies! I took a small bite and saved the rest for K--yeah, I was feeling guilty about all the chocolate when I was sure he was getting no such thing in Priesthood Meeting. It was HIS big birthday bash weekend, so I shared. After church, we tried to visit the old Historic Mormon Fort, but it was closed. So then...we headed out to one of our favorite spots...RED ROCK CANYON. They have some "Watch out for Desert Tortoises!" signs on the road, so I got all excited, but then I read something in the pamphlet that said the desert tortoise spends ninety-five percent of its life in burrows. NINETY-FIVE PERCENT! How am I EVER supposed to see one in the wild? Bonus: Red Rock Canyon was part of the fee-free weekend, so we totally lucked out there.

Happy Hiking Hubby!

This cactus is called cholla. Perhaps everyone already knows that, but I didn't. I make these comments while hiking such as, "Hmm, I wonder what kind of cactus that is." And my husband, The Park Ranger, usually has a ready answer. There were no interpretive signs for him to cheat from...he just knows stuff.

Over the weekend, we were working on what K called a "fun family project." We are about to begin our annual Jazz Readathon at school and all of the teachers have to submit photos of themselves reading in interesting places. So, we have a lot of photos of me reading with Lady Liberty at New York, New York, me reading to birds, me reading at M & M World, me reading to the MGM lion, and so on. In the end, I'm sending them the picture of me reading with fish at the aquarium, but here's one of me reading in the desert.

One last view of Red Rock Canyon--a soothing Sabbath compared to Lost Wages, Nevada.

On the way home we stopped off at Valley of Fire State Park. We've been there before, in fact, we've "done" the whole park (all the trails, pull-outs, etc.), but when you're in a sunny place in January and it's a lovely sixty-three degrees, you have to stretch those legs.

Petrified logs.

Oh the geology! Red rock scenery at Valley of Fire.

J just loves it when K takes "action shots" of her. As mentioned previously, we are easily entertained--just give us some rocks on which to play. This area was called Seven Sisters.



Looking for a way down...

Happy Boy, Happy Birthday!

We found flowers blooming in January. Mother Nature remembered K on his birthday too!

Ranger Rendezvous

Yes, we had an unofficial midwinter ranger meeting at Paradise Bakery. Pictured above are three lovely ladies, but the one on the right never worked at the cave (her sister, brother, and father have all been rangers, so we let her come to the party!). The other two are pretty tight and I admire them both greatly. The one on the left lost her husband to a car accident after only three months of marriage. I'm so impressed with all that she's accomplished since that tragedy. The one in the middle married a guy who was battling cancer. They recently celebrated his last chemo treatment. Rangers are such amazing people!

This particular ranger brought her son who is pictured left playing games under the table. When you work at the cave and show up in the morning and sort of notice who is on duty that get this vibe about what kind of a day it's going to be. With this ranger, I knew it would always be a good day, and if it wasn't, she would fix all the problems! She has raced up steep slopes to help rescue, she has performed CPR on the trail, and she has had my back during many rockfall episodes. All the rangers have taught me a lot and I don't want to diminish what this one has taught me, but sage advice friends, learned from her, and I'll share it now: "Always stop at Last Chance (the restroom near the cave entrance) when you hike by, even if you don't feel like it--you never know how long it will be before you get another chance!" She was so right! You don't know if you're going to be helping someone with a medical emergency or if you're going to be trapped in the grotto due to bad weather or if you're going to be shoveling rocks at the exit or cleaning up body fluid spills in the just never know when you'll get back to the restroom again.

Such a humble, generous fellow...

And we'll end with a blurry profile of the Queen of Resource Management! Many, many people from her family have worked at the cave...and she's taught me a lot! And in this case, her dates with another ranger did work out--another happy wedding thanks to Timpanogos Cave.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Iowa Holiday

These were not your brassy park geese running up to say, "Mister, can you spare a dime?" These were wild geese on a mission. They didn't let us get close at all. K asks, "Why do you take so many pictures of geese?" I reply, "I don't know. Because I can?"

They don't make V's just when they fly...

There were literally thousands of geese. Probably tickled to find a nice lake on their journey south with temperatures in the high forties and lots of sun.

A bunch of geese reflecting on life, love, and the universe.

I always admire the one-leg stance.


"Psst! Get up! Someone's coming!"

"What should we do? What should we do?"

"I know! Let's show them just how outnumbered they are. We are many and they are few."

"Let's line up like soldiers and puff out our chests and show them we mean business!" THE END.

K and J at Copper Creek Lake followed by FIL and K. I continue to post less than stellar pictures of ourselves, but hey, we are real people doing real things and we are not perfect.

There was an insane amount of presents. All of the ones from Santa have special wrapping paper with Christmas stickers!

MIL tried something new--chocolate sugar cookies. They were good, but I think the vote indicated that we'll just stick with the white sugar cookies. I failed to grab a picture of my amazing MIL. Well, I got one of her holding a baby, but it was blurry.

The Capitol Dome--easy to spot!

Can you tell how SUNNY it was at Gray's Lake?

Grandpa's Tree. He's a clever one!

How are you supposed to win at Phase 10 when someone gets a hand like this? Oh, how he chortled. Oh, how he chuckled.

K's cousins (who are sisters to each other--and K feels as if they are his sisters) had babies in 2011 only eighteen days apart. This was our first time meeting the little ladies. There's magic in a sleeping baby (Miss M and Miss B respectively).

Miss M and her parents. I failed to capture such a photo of Miss B and her parents (sorry).

Side by side, cousins forever!

I'll close with a couple more shots of Miss M and Miss B!