Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Where Is Your Boy?

Quite some time ago (too lazy to look it up or link it here) I wrote a piece called "Do you have a little son?" It was about a small boy who rang our doorbell asking if we had a "little son" he could play with. Some things are unexpected and yet so knife-twisting all at the same time.

During a school field trip last week, we took our students to a popular park. While everyone started eating their sack lunches near the grassy area, I headed for the playground equipment to sit on a bench and begin my lunch, knowing that the typical fifth grader would arrive about thirty seconds later. I would be watching for food (can't take it into the play area, no trash, no choking) and stay nearby in case there was a problem (bee sting, getting stuck in the baby swing, etc.). So I had just benched myself when an astute mother decided to lead her little boy back to the car after realizing several vehicles of the big yellow school bus variety were arriving in rapid succession. He was probably three years old. I swear, he only glanced at me for a brief second, but he immediately noticed something wrong with the picture and asked, "Where is your boy?" I just smiled and said, "I don't have a boy."

And so it goes.

Tonight I was asked to teach the eleven year old scouts about the Constitution. Shortly before I began, one of the eight boys asked, "Whose mom are you?" So I explained, "I'm nobody's mom."

Do you have a little son? Where is your boy? Whose mom are you?

It will always sting.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Scout Campout

One of the things I do as a stake Primary president is "look after" the 11-year-old scouts. They are old enough to go on exactly 3 campouts between their eleventh and twelfth birthdays. Recently, at the monthly Roundtable meeting, I sat in on a meeting for 11-year-old scout leaders and the topic was those particular campouts. I heard how it should be done, could be done, and would be done. The handbook was quoted! Many shared personal experiences. One elderly and sage scouter solemnly declared, "I would never deny a boy the opportunity to camp." And just this week I received an email about the particulars of taking 11-year-old scouts camping. I promptly forwarded it to the three men who serve as scout leaders in my area.

This morning, I was correcting the journals of my fifth graders and wouldn't you know? One boy wrote all about his campout this past weekend. Really, you should read the entire thing!

"This weekend was crazy. I did a lot of things but I will start with Friday. The first thing I THOUGHT I was going to do was play games and sleep, but I was wrong. On the bus ride home I had actually solved the Rubik's Cube for my very first time. I was so, so happy! I went home and told everybody. Then my sister had to bring up something that I had totally forgotten about. It was the scout campout. Or more specifically, my very first campout. I only had a couple of minutes to pack and my mom and dad were gone. I didn't know what to do. So I had to call someone to get a ride. Then I had to pack. A couple of minutes later my ride came. When I got to camp it was really cold. Then I realized that I forgot my jacket. I also didn't have a tent or my dad. That's what everybody else had. But luckily someone else had a tent for me. Then I had to find a buddy because I couldn't sleep alone but I found one. We played all sorts of night games then we had to eat. We had burritos and tacos. I threw mine in the river because I had gotten full. Then we roasted marshmallows and we made smores. Then finally we had to go to bed. But we just stayed up all night talking. When we woke up, we made breakfast. I was in charge of bacon! When everybody tried my bacon they said I was the boss of bacon. When I got home on Saturday I got home at about 8:00 a.m. and as soon as I got home I went straight to bed. I slept until 5:47 p.m."

In addition to laughing heartily, I'd like to make a few comments here. First of all, this boy is going to get along just fine in life. He is going to famously figure things out all along the way, help or no help. Just so you know, he has very loving parents (I taught his older brother). It just sounds like he was enamored with the CUBE and everything else was bad timing. I love how his older sister wasn't about to keep care of him on a Friday night. "Out the door with you, Buddy. YOU have a campout!"

I love that he called for a ride FIRST...and then packed. Brilliant. I love the way he noticed everything in his surroundings..."I didn't have a jacket, a tent, or my dad."

"But chin up! Lucky me, someone brought a tent FOR ME!" Count those blessings! "I can find a buddy, no problem. I'm full now, so I'm going to throw my food in the river!" Yeah, the park ranger in me winced over that. Must teach the boys to avoid inviting critters into camp.

I love that he was given a responsibility and that he EXCELLED. Bacon Boss is such a great title! "I am eleven and I am capable of feeding my people."

My favorite? The fact that the scout leaders didn't want the boys any longer than the sister. "Let's break camp and get them home as soon as we possibly can. Afterall, I have a tee time! We camped. We're done." I asked my students to use a lot of description and detail. And now we know. He woke up at 5:47 p.m.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Dommie, Granny, and Grandma Good Witch

This is what happens when you suddenly realize you have NO red food coloring in your house. Like K's family, they are dressed in blues and greens until I show up wearing orange.

I've enjoyed all the Facebook posts of how people are spending their Easter. My niece in Michigan posted a picture of her two girls at my sister's home, the home of Grandma Good Witch. Yes, that's what my sister has always had her grandchildren call her, Grandma Good Witch. I don't have time here to detail everything about my sister's personality, but trust me, this fits her to a TEE. My oldest sister's grandchildren call her "Dommie." They are in Montana, but I don't know the history of that nickname for their grandmother. My second oldest sister goes by "Granny" which is sort of a southern, culturally appropriate thing to do in Texas. And then there's my third oldest sister, Grandma Good Witch.

We just grew up calling our grandparents Grandma or Grandpa followed by their surname.

Yesterday, while K was working his second job, I went to the movies. This hardly ever happens. In fact, this was my first movie in a theater in 2014 and my record for 2013 was two. I went to see BEARS with a friend and her two children. Her husband/their dad was also working. The kids are 9 and 7 and they each brought their favorite stuffed bear to the show. One was named Chubby and the other Barry (or Beary?). All of them, including the bears, were wearing orange shirts. And guess what? SO WAS I!!!

It is a wonderful thing to have children sprint for you and then deliver big hugs. It was a great afternoon!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

They Really ARE the Hope of America!

No pictures of my cute students in their cute t-shirts, but we did have our school level performance of Hope of America today and just like always, I cried. When they sing about being free and the sacrifices of the founding fathers and the constitution and being a light...I'm a goner.

I get so melancholy this time of year because I only have about six weeks left with this group! I also find myself wishing I could have taught them more--so much to cover! The mother of a former student told me her daughter just scored a 33 out of 36 on the ACT! I literally got goose bumps which is silly because that little slice of life she spent in my classroom really has nothing to do with her test scores. But I'm still cheering for her and thrilled with her success.

We were reviewing measurement today and so we dragged out the rulers to measure a few things. Prior to that I had drawn a number line (think "ruler") on the board to focus on wholes, halves, then quarters, etc. I wrote a 0 on the left side of my number line and worked from there.

While they were working independently, one student approached with his ruler in hand. He said, "I'm not really seeing a zero." So I showed him the left side of the inches rule and explained they didn't bother to put a 0 on there, but that at every inch mark he would find a 1, a 2, etc. He smiled at me and said, "Clever!" Glad I could help.

I just love them.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Spring Break 2014--Day 5

Friday 11 April 2014

This last day of Spring Break was spent entirely here at home. I only left the house once to workout at the fitness center. Some of the day was wasted in front of the television. I worked on laundry, dishes, and other general housework. I studied and read. I called my dad. I cooked for my husband. And I blogged.

This evening after K returned from work and we had our dinner, we went over the finances and then looked at photos. He scrolled through all of the ones I took from my camera and we scrolled through all the photos he took with his camera. I decided to post these four photos of myself from K's camera to illustrate some of the terrain over which we hiked. It's hard to post photos of myself, but it's the real me--not plastic, not edited, not photoshopped.

And this is how nerdtastic we really are--we got like all twelve of our flower identification books out to see what all those pretty flowers are named! We consulted the internet and the park's website. We are so grateful we got to run away together for three days! Our two-night "hotel" stay was $20 total! We had all this fun on two tanks of fuel! We cooked and brought all of our own food! Cheap, cheap FUN! This trip will carry us through to our next adventure. Sigh...the end.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Spring Break 2014--Day 4

Thursday 10 April 2014

We had bacon and eggs for breakfast and packed everything up. We were told to ford the river early in the morning because the warm temperatures were causing surges of snowmelt which makes the river too high to cross later in the day. We headed east out of the park to find the road which would take us into the northern part of Capitol Reef known as Cathedral Valley. Now when I use the term "road" you might want to think "sandy wash" or "lava rock" or some other thing in your mind. It took us about seven hours to go sixty miles on this "road." Most of it was pretty good, but there were only two other visitors on this "road" the entire time! We stopped right before the ford so K could get out and assess the depth of the water. Bossy Cow showed up right then yelling at us to mooooove because she needed a drink! You just never know when you're going to meet a cow in the desert, especially a bellowing cow with attitude.

We got out to hike for a couple of miles to a saddle overlooking Cathedral Valley. I was amazed at the geology of it all! I often wish I had a geologist with me to ask several questions along the way. We had a very nice time hiking across various washes and picking our way around the prickly pear.

We had lunch at another overlook because there was a picnic table in the shade! Oh, the fortune of it all! And then we stopped at the other free campground called Cathedral Valley Campground just to use the pit toilet. When I stepped in, I asked K to grab my camera. Some pleasant soul left a "treat" for some other soul that would really appreciate it. I love that they dated their note. We do not imbibe, so some other "lucky" person will need to make this amazing discovery. People are just great. We were truly out in the middle of nowhere at a primitive campground accessed only by high clearance 4-wheel-drive vehicles and boom--free beer! :)

The gypsum sinkhole was incredible--200 feet deep! We had a blast in the desert!

Spring Break 2014--Day 3

Wednesday 9 April 2014

Wednesday was a promise kept! A few years ago we camped in Capitol Reef at one of the free campgrounds in the south district called Cedar Mesa. We contemplated hiking to Red Canyon nearby the next morning, but I had a weird feeling about it so we didn't. Ever since, I've had Red Canyon on our list of things to do and we finally knocked it out. It was a 5.4 mile hike across the desert and up a really long, winding wash. We practiced our route finding skills and really appreciated a certain wash crossing which featured no less than FOUR cairns! One might think, "Why FOUR cairns?" Well, experience has shown that four were necessary because things look really different on the way back than they do on the way up and those four cairns kept us on the right path! :) We finally found ourselves boxed out near the top of the wash in Red Canyon. We could have gone on just a bit more, but we were hungry so we headed back to the car. Those last few bouldering maneuvers were taking a toll on me as I hoisted my body up and over some different ledges, figuring out hand holds and foot holds and wondering how I would do getting back down. K, ever patient with my pace, gave his usual supportive comments. At one point I made this really awkward, but successful move remarking, "That's how Jody does it!" K said, in his relaxed, chill tone, "Whatever works." We did not see another soul the entire time. We hiked a lot in silence, but every now and then we would offer some conversation. At one point I asked, "So would you like deviled eggs and lemon squares for Easter?" K simply answered, "Yes and yes." We walked on.

After lunch at Cedar Mesa Campground we drove another thirty minutes south and hiked to Surprise Canyon. Seeing beautiful desert varnish on the canyon walls never gets old for me. The shade was my reward for putting in another 2 miles! We saw a pretty big lizard that we think was a chuckwalla. It ended up being a 7+ mile day! We were starting to feel sore.

Back at camp we were putting together our foil dinners when a lady from the RV next door came over to ask if she could have our spot the following morning! Sure! People have all sorts of reasons to visit us I guess. She and her family literally sang Kum Ba Ya by guitar that night, but with the grandparents, them, and their children all singing with harmony, it was the BEST Kum Ba Ya I have ever heard in my entire life!

I just wanted to mention one of the great little things my patient husband does for me when we camp. He heats up water so we can bathe before bed. We don't always take a full bath, but on this trip, we really needed to wash our legs and feet (well, of course, our faces, etc.) before bed. It is the nicest, most soothing thing in the desert to get some of the grit off before changing into pajamas. And he's the one that remembers to bring wash cloths from home for this task (I just rely on wet wipes when camping). I will always fondly remember these lovely, soothing, camping baths. Red Dirt Girl was saved by her thoughtful husband at the end of each day!

Spring Break 2014--Day 2

Tuesday 8 April 2014

We contemplated going to so many places: Zion National Park, Canyonlands National Park (Needles District to hike the Joint Trail), San Rafael Swell...but in the end...we chose CAPITOL REEF NATIONAL PARK!!!

This park is just three hours away! We grabbed a campsite and ate lunch and then headed for the Chimney Rock Trail. Spectacular views--especially when we got up high! We could see Thousand Lake Mountain in the west and the Henry Mountains toward the east. We only saw one other couple on the trail headed the opposite direction. It was great to get back to the red dirt and everything we own got baptized in it--hence, my new nickname, Red Dirt Girl. The Chimney Rock Trail was 3.5 miles round trip loop and we loved every step of it!

Next we hiked the Fremont River Walk Trail (proper name?). It was flat at the beginning as we strolled past old cottonwoods and the historic fruit orchards managed by the National Park Service. Then the trail began to climb (and climb) until we finally reached the summit where we congratulated each other with a kiss (or two). We had the whole trail all to ourselves the whole entire time. This added another 3 miles to our hiking day for a total of 6+! So happy!

We had to get cooking back at camp so K fired up his charcoal volcano. A man from the Netherlands was watching us out the window of his "camper car" and shot right over to ask what we were doing! He had never seen such a thing. He came back over a couple more times to ask questions and talk about their four week journey from Chicago to San Francisco, "Big country! BIG COUNTRY! Driving, driving, driving!" They were headed to Las Vegas next. The fajitas were DIVINE!

I photographed the tent because this family pitched theirs about five feet away from ours. We were perplexed because there was quite a huge lawn area over by their picnic table and yet, they set up RIGHT NEXT DOOR to us! ??? My first thought was, "I hope they don't mind my snoring." They were a cute family with four lovely children named Simon, Rueben, Phineas, and Clementine. They sang songs before bed (Happy Birthday and Rudolph, the Red Nosed Reindeer) and upon waking (Frere Jacques and I Love You, You Love Me). Our camp site was only $10 with flush toilets and running water, trash dumpsters, and other amenities--SO CHEAP! You should GO! Ah, Spring Break!

Spring Break 2014--Day 1

Monday 7 April 2014

There are no photographs from today. K had to work. In fact, I had to take him to work so that I could take his vehicle in for some repairs. I also made an appointment with the doctor for the afternoon and was relieved that no antibiotics were needed! I/we shopped for food, cleaned, cooked, did laundry, and packed for our our little campout. Therefore, it was a day of errands and chores, but that's okay, because I can't possibly accomplish these types of tasks while teaching all day--so nice to just make a doctor appointment and be able to go without thinking, "Am I gonna need a sub?"

Two really spectacular things happened today, one of which was finishing reading a marvelous memoir by Ivan DOIG entitled This House of Sky. I cannot begin to describe the wordsmithing this guy uses. So rich! Being from the Big Sky and having family members who talk the way he quoted people ("atall"), I really connected to this story--plus, I adore memoir! I was touched as he described his father's battle with emphysema because my own mother suffered from that for decades! I read a paragraph aloud to my husband, which made me cry. I love books that make me cry.

The second really spectacular thing that happened today was dinner with old friends, Eric and Trish. We've been planning this for a YEAR! The stars finally aligned and it was fabulous to hug, eat, talk, and hug again. Eric and I served together in Japan and it's always been one of those friendships that's mostly dormant, but when our paths do cross, we instantly reconnect. K had met them before, briefly, but it was our first chance to have them all to ourselves. I just always feel incredibly blessed when people take time for me. And I always feel incredibly blessed when I reflect on the richness of my life because of the PEOPLE who have been part of it. I find a lot of joy in people!

Friday, April 4, 2014

The Cherry Drop

School is out for Spring Break! I stayed late in an attempt to clear my desk, but got bogged down in the sorting of papers, the perusing of books, and the reading of student journal pages.

One entire entry was about the delight--no, let's make that the TRIUMPH--experienced by one of my girls as she conquered The Cherry Drop. She typed two full pages and included details such as I had forgotten from my own childhood. Allow me to paraphrase:

In case you don't know, the cherry drop is when you hang from a bar by the backs of your knees. This is actually called the pre-cherry drop. If you do this more than three or four times, the backs of your legs really start to hurt. But it's SO FUN! My friend and I were spotting each other as we tried to figure out how to do the cherry drop. At first, I kept landing on my hands and knees. But then I figured out that you have to swing your body really hard and then you can land on your feet. It took us about 35 minutes to figure it out and I was SO, SO HAPPY!!!

Really I should just post the whole thing right here on the blog. It was all I could do to keep myself from running to the teacher next door and forcing her and her husband to listen to the tale. It was one hundred percent pure joy. So glad that not only do I know what The Cherry Drop is, I conquered it myself once upon a time. When? and why? Do we stop cherry dropping?

We spent some time practicing for our upcoming patriotic program. One song is about the Bill of Rights. There's an instrumental interlude where the children are free to do as they wish for approximately fifteen seconds. Some children choose to sit quietly. Some shake hands with neighbors and talk and make a ruckus. One boy was doing some pretty fine cheerleading jumps (herky, I think it's called) on the front row. My favorite was the boy on the back row who waved his hand-held American flag in a circular fashion while his hips kept time to the music. Truly, a natural born rock star! Everyone dutifully returned to singing position at the end of this short period of time, but I kept laughing to the very end, feebly leading the actions.

I will miss them over Spring Break. Perhaps they will think of me too. One girl drew a sweet sentiment for me with a brand new spelling of my married name. They just crack me up.