Thursday, December 31, 2015

Grandpa's Farm a la Hoar Frost

Always something new to notice! It's been a good year. Thank you, Grandpa!

The Kids at Christmas

They make Christmas more fun.

Kansas City Temple

In honor of Joseph Smith's birthday on the 23rd, we attended the Kansas City LDS Temple and did some family names in the endowment session. The weather was warm with blue skies. There was so much to celebrate and yet, we added Aunt Chris' name to the prayer roll because she has been diagnosed with colon cancer. We also added the family of Curt Marzolf, a relative whose funeral was being held that same morning in Nauvoo, Illinois (K's parents attended, we almost went, but decided to stick with Plan A). Curt was 22, had finished his bachelor's degree, had a job lined up to start in January and had recently been engaged to the woman he dated for three years. His alleged killer is that woman. So much going for him and suddenly he's gone. Good Morning America did a story on him.

It's a metaphor for life: blue skies one second and then...opposition. I'm so thankful that ultimately God is in charge. We all need to do the best we can. We need to have faith in our Savior. We need to choose well. And after all we can do for ourselves, we rely on Him.

The Plaza in Kansas City, Missouri

We spent the evening on the plaza walking around shopping and looking at lights. It was 60 degrees or warmer! What a great time to check out the plaza in December.

Mine Creek Battlefield State Historic Site

Mine Creek is where a Civil War battle took place in Kansas. We walked the 1 mile Prairie Loop Trail. Then we went to check into our hotel in Merriam/Overland Park and ate an early dinner at Jack Stack Barbecue! There was a dad at the battlefield being the best dad with his boy, playing hide and seek in the tall grass and throwing things around. Just what a boy needs.

Fort Scott National Historic Site

Experts on forts we are! We are racking up the NPS passport stamps!

Tall Grass Prairie National Preserve

We didn't think we would get to Tall Grass Prairie in time, but as it turns out, the VC was open until 4:30, so we had a whole 15 minutes! The grounds are open all the time. The ranger in the VC told us we had 10 minutes, but the clock right behind him said 15. This was my first indication that he was interested in not getting caught late at work. We left him well before 4:30 and began walking. We saw that ranger riding a golf cart up toward the ranch house. We decided to take a nature trail, but this other ranger, a REALLY FRIENDLY RANGER, ran down the hill toward us calling out, "Folks, if you'd like to see the ranch house, you're welcome to! I've got to catch the horse and muck out his stall. You've come all this way and I'll be here for at least another half hour!"

Which employee would you rather have? I tried to beg off by saying, "We don't want to keep anyone late." But she insisted so we gave in. That first ranger had lowered the flag and was obviously chagrined at his coworker's hospitality, so although we went in ("We've got it all decorated for Christmas!" she said...) we are the type of people to make it quick and easy for them. He wasn't thrilled to see us, but tolerated the whole idea. As a bit of an ice breaker (yes, we'd already spoken) I humbly asked, "Is it okay to take pictures in here?" His reply dug his hole a little further, "Yeah, but there's nothing to really photograph." I don't know, a little negative attitude? After that we walked around (ball of barbed wire) and saw the actual prairie. They have prairie that's never been touched by man! No buildings, no farming, etc. Just natural the way God made it. The horse's name is Badger.

Fort Larned National Historic Site

Proceeded to Kansas to check out Fort Larned. We are becoming experts on Midwestern forts.

Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site

On Sunday the 20th, we attend the Academy Ward (Academy, a ward) in Colorado Springs. This was the most amazing ward Christmas Sacrament Meeting Program we have ever seen. And whose name was on the program? Sally DeFord, that's who. If you sing in your ward choir, you should recognize that name...she publishes all these fabulous arrangements for free. And she is the most humble person ever. The opening hymn alone combined organ with piano as well as a flute accompaniment. Now THAT was an opening congregational hymn. At one point they had the Primary children come forward to sing. But they didn't just sing. They sang AND performed as a hand bell choir AND one dreamy girl sang a descant! Out of this world. Don't even get me started on the fresh fruit and three types of fudge they served in Relief Society!

We drove a bit more and stopped off at Bent's Old Fort. While we watched the park video, a cat (Fitzpatrick) made himself a comfortable bathing area on TR's lap. TR did not grow up with pets. Fitzpatrick was PURRING! I had to physically take him off TR's lap at the end of the show.

Friday, December 18, 2015

Twisted White Elephant

Ah, an emotional day. I held it together pretty well

Oh, the LAUGHTER! We had our White Elephant Gift Exchange and boy, I was surprised by the girl who wrapped Barbie Doll parts and glue gunned some of them onto headbands. I wonder what she'll grow up to be someday. She is one creative little creature! One gentlemen purchased a goldfish this morning, but it was dead by the time the gifts were passed around...I'll have to warn against wrapping living things next year.

Yuko is sixteen and arrived in the states for the first time on Tuesday. On Thursday she was teaching my class, in English, and 400 pieces of origami paper later...everyone was happy!

We had our Christmas Sing and my teammates did so much for it. The kids looked cute and did a wonderful job. Nitro, our school mascot (Dragon) showed up to lead a song and then Santa and Mrs. Claus made an appearance and danced. The kids were screaming and cheering with excitement. Did I mention it was Pajama Day? One of my boys told me he cried!

One of my former students from this school year stopped by to pick up his class picture--more emotion! And one of my girls said goodbye--today was her last day. My class is a bit of a revolving door this year. No matter, I'll keep them as long as I can. Wonderful children. The only children I have.

Now, onto my new personal celebration: Jolabokaflod. Must figure out how to pronounce it. Finished a book this morning before school!!!

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Jolabokaflod--I'm Meant to Visit Iceland!

I just heard about this Christmas tradition in Iceland where you buy/give/receive a lot of books on Christmas Eve and go to bed to read WITH chocolate. Wow. Jolabokaflod means "Christmas Book Flood." I'm so thankful I found out about this during my earthly sojourn. And Iceland, next to Yellowstone, has amazing geysers and other sorts of geologic features. When can we go?!?

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Choose the Light!

TR works with the nicest people. One fellow decorates his tree in the yard!

If you knit winter hats and donate them...

...please know you are doing so much good in the world even if you don't get to see the outcome.

Someone donated some beautifully made hats and scarves to our elementary school a couple of weeks ago. They came in bright and vivd colors and in three different sizes! This person is an angel.

A couple of weeks ago, I asked my students to write anonymous notes to me informing me of anything they think one of their classmates needs (I do this annually). These kids are so observant! However, this year, most of the comments were about emotional needs (needs a friend, needs someone to play with at recess). I didn't get the usual: needs shoes, could use a sweater, etc. So, I couldn't really think of anyone who needed anything and since we had recently gone on an overnight field trip to a place at 8,000 feet elevation with tons of snow, I thought my kids were pretty good at the moment in terms of outdoor wear. Still, the hats were sitting there so one day when my students all had Chromebooks I asked, "If anyone needs a winter hat, send and email to me, even if it's you that needs the hat instead of someone else." Nothing.

Some families struggle. Lots of families struggle. Some kids have been through a LOT by the time they reach fifth grade. They're old enough to know better than to ask. They've learned a bit about being selfless and sacrificing for younger siblings. They know they have pretty much grown out of their pants, but they also know nothing is to be done about it at the moment. So they go on with happy hearts!

One kid has been enduring recess without a winter coat. The principal noticed it had been given to the younger sibling. Well, I knew we didn't have a coat, but at least I could hook him up with one of those hats. So I found a sneaky way to get him to the office to take a look. He tried some on for size. And then he commented, "I like that red and black one." It fit! He was all set with a new hat!

That was early this morning. Right before lunch, he came to me and quietly asked, "About the hat...when do I give it back?"

I said, "It's yours forever."

Dear Lady who knitted the red and black hat, I cannot write the light I saw in his face.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

I Love to Study

I don't think I'll be snapping any photos of all the research I've read or my textbooks or all the sticky notes I've used or my three separate three-ring binders or my ten different colors of highlighters and my eight different colors of gel pens...but let it ever be known that I LOVE to study!!!

Sounds crazy, right? Who would want more work, more deadlines, more requirements, and more stretching? Well, me, that's who. It's not always the easiest to juggle my various obligations and duties and yes, sometimes I silently beg for the chance to just do one task really well instead of being spread out over so many tasks, but every single time I've attended my Foundations of Literacy class, I have felt HAPPINESS. I've never cared how much homework was assigned. I diligently kept up with my weekly reading and writing assignments. And now...

Now I am in the midst of my final project, a long paper typed in APA format (thank you, Citation Machine!), using a minimum of ten different sources/research articles/professional papers. And I'm having a BLAST!

All this stuff just blows the mind. It makes me want to ask my administrators to teach a class during professional development. I want to text and email my teammates, "Have you heard of this? Did you know this?!?" Exciting stuff.

And mostly I hope it's helping my students. I hope this class I've taken and all the text I've digested makes it way to my students' brains and hearts.