Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Yay--A Tag and Two Awards

June 30, 2009

Sassy Cass over at Sassy and the Boys tagged me in her meme the other day, so I thought it might be fun to share a few little unknown trivia facts about me.

Ten cool (or not cool--take your pick) hidden secrets of msprimadonna67:

1. When I was a little girl, my mom thought it would get me in good with the 'in-crowd' to make me take both accordion lessons and baton twirling lessons. Who knew that these skill sets would have limited application in my adult life.

2. I have two brothers and two sisters. I desperately wanted our family to be The Brady Bunch when we were growing up.

3. Even though I'm an English teacher and I love to read, I'm not a particularly fast reader. I'm a good reader, just not a fast one.

4. I'm obsessive about taking pictures. I never go anywhere without my camera, and I upload my pictures onto three different computers (desktop, laptop, and even some to my work computer), just to make sure that if one crashes I don't lose them all.

5. I find my children utterly fascinating and adorable. And I love that they still love for me to join them on their school field trips--I wouldn't want to miss out on some of those experiences we've been able to share together, and it gives us some really unique one-on-one mama/kid time.

6. My husband and I got married two years ago, twenty-two years after we dated each other in high school. I thought he was hot then, and I think he's gotten even better looking over the years.

7. I love my job, and have been at my school for nineteen years. I'd love to retire from this same school. As long as they never give me sophomores, I think it might work out that way.

8. It is one of my goals to become a published author, even if it's something just local.

9. When we are retired, Doug and I want to buy an RV and travel the country. We also hope to travel the world, but sooner, and not in an RV.

10. I would love to make our family of five a family of six, especially after seeing what an amazing step-dad Doug is to my kids. It seems, though, that time is likely not working in our favor. I am incredibly blessed to have my babies without a doubt, and I feel selfish sometimes wishing for another, knowing that there are some who are still waiting for a baby to come into their lives.

I'd like to tag the following people, because I'd love to know a little more about you:


Always Home and Uncool



Housewife Savant

Also, in honor of the fact that one of my good friends recently gave me the 'constructive criticism' that my writing isn't really about anything and that 'no one is really going to want to read anything I write unless I get angry and really go on a rant,' I've decided to make myself feel better and indulge in a little positive feedback that has come my way in the form of blog awards. (By the way, I'm not really a 'rant' sort of a person, so if that's what you're looking for, you'll not likely find it here. I'm a pretty positive person, and I like to focus on the things that are more productive for me than negativity.)

The first award is the Love Your Blog award, from Hit 40 at sanewithoutdrugs. I, of course, love Hit 40's blog, too, so I think you should check it out. This one just sends love, but there are no tags or pass-it-ons. If you are listed below for the Sisterhood Award, then obviously I love your blog, too, so feel free to take this one as well.

The second award,from Kate at sauciewee, is the Sisterhood Award. She actually awarded it to me a few weeks ago, and I'm just now getting to the post. Sorry about that, Kate--I really wasn't trying to ignore you, and I'm thrilled you nominated me for this! If you get a chance, go check out Kate's blog--it's one I always look forward to reading because she's so real and honest.
The award looks like this:

Here are the rules for the Sisterhood Award.

~ Put the logo on your blog or post.

~ Nominate up to 10 blogs which show great attitude and/or gratitude!

~ Be sure to link to your nominees within your post.

~ Let them know that they have received this award by commenting on their blog.

~ Remember to link to the person from whom you received your award/

So here are just some of the awesome blogs that I'd like to nominate for the Sisterhood Award today, because they're all pretty cool:

Sassy Cass
Caroline...On Line
Fidgeting Gidget

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Let's Run Away and Join the Circus!

June 28, 2009

We took the kids to the circus a few days ago. I had my reservations, because it wasn't Ringling Brothers, or even Circus Vargas. If you've ever been to one of their circuses, you know that those are pretty amazing productions. This one, however, was one I've never heard of (kind of like when we were kids and Mom got us Redbucks to wear instead of Reeboks). Since they sent me two-for-one ticket in the mail, though, and it was happening just up the street from us, we decided to give it a chance.

It was definitely a small production, but that certainly had its perks. The 'crowd' was quite small, so our seats afforded us an up-close-and-personal view of the ring. We had great seat with plenty of elbow room. Even though it was a small circus, there was still a nice variety of acts--aerialists, trapeze artists, skateboarding dogs, a pony act, a motorcycle on the high wire, a contortionist, and an elephant act, to name a few. Danielle even got an autograph of Alex the Clown. Each of us had our favorites.

It was well-worth the money spent--we all had a great time. As an added bonus, I got to check off one of my Lifetime List items: things I want to do or experience some time during my life. I'm not really sure why, but I've always wanted to ride an elephant--it's on my list. I just think they are such awesome and gentle creatures. So when we saw that they were offering elephant rides (for a small fee....), I couldn't resist. All of the kids were pretty excited by the idea, too. Again, because we were at the lesser-known cousin of Ringling Brothers, there was no line for the animal rides, either. We just walked up, climbed the ladder, and jumped on the elephant to begin our 30-second African safari. Although the ride was incredibly short-lived (he basically walked in a small circle), I felt a sense of accomplishment. And we got photographic evidence to commemorate the event!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Young Love

June 25, 2009

I can see it coming: we are getting ready to sail into uncharted territory here as parents. Just around the corner, there are times of some of the biggest highs and lows in a young girl's life, and one of the toughest tests of a mother's heart--young love.

Love during the high school and college years is powerful, magical. As my daughter embarks on the years that will bring her her first all-consuming crush, her first tentative hand-holding with a boy she's been daydreaming about for weeks, and her first goodnight kiss, I feel excited for her, but also protective of the inevitable heartbreak and disappointment she will also encounter along the way.

These next years may hold for her some rocky roads:

The boy whose affection takes on a fiercely possessive note.
The boy who believes jealousy is proof of love.
The boy who isn't mature enough to understand goodbye.
The boy whose devotion isn't enough to create that 'spark.'
The boy whose own self-esteem is so low that he must bring others down with him.
The boy who will self-destruct to try to prove passion.
The boy who believes conquest is more important than relationship.
The boy who wants to have a girl by his side, but a few others in his sights.
The boy who tells her she will if she loves him.
The boy who will break her heart.

She may encounter those, or some variation on those themes. I can't protect her from them; I can only be there to hold her hand and offer her a shoulder to cry on and advice about how to move on when it happens. It's part of life, and much as I want to keep her from having to struggle through the heartache of relationships, it's how we grow, and part of how we learn about who we are. But with the lows come the highs, which also help us to know who we are. I hope also that as she begins on this journey she will find:

The boy who is a gentleman, who speaks highly of her to his friends.
The boy who becomes a life-long friend.
The boy who can always make her laugh and find the light in every circumstance.
The boy who gives her a forever memory of a first kiss under the stars.
The boy who shows her how important friendship is to making a relationship last.
The boy who can talk to her for hours and never run out of things to say.
The boy whose arm around her is a connection, not a weight.
The boy who will look in her eyes and see his world.
The boy who will tell her she is beautiful, whose eyes will show her that it's true.
The boy who will make her feel like a princess when they dance together at the formal dance.
The boy who will recognize the strength of independence and the bond of togetherness are not mutually exclusive.
The boy who will be her first true love--madly, truly, deeply. The one who will make her understand 'soul mate.'

Yes, it's coming--right around the corner. And though these days bring the possibility for despair, they also bring promise and hope. Though I wish I could protect her from the tough times, I know that without them there won't be those magical memories that she'll cherish, either. As a parent, I have to let her fall sometimes, so that she knows she can get back up. It's part of the growing up process for both of us.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Pictures of the Birthday Girl

June 22, 2009

On Saturday, we celebrated Brianna's sixteenth birthday. We held the party at her dad's house, because it's got a much bigger backyard and a functional pool. (Our pool, sadly, is still out of commission.) I just love all of these kids she surrounds herself with--she has such a wonderful group of friends! The kids swam, ate hamburgers grilled by Bill, and then wrapped up the evening with a viewing of Bree's annual slideshow. (Every year, she puts together a slide show of pictures of all of her friends at all of their outings and get-togethers throughout the year. She does such a great job, and everyone, including me, looks forward to this as the highlight of her party.)Bree, Me, and her lovely step-mom, Laurie.

Bree and one of her best friends, Shelby.

Bree and another of her best friends, Amber.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Sweet Sixteen

June 20, 2009

Hard to believe that sixteen years ago today, I was meeting my beautiful baby girl for the first time. Each day, I am amazed and thankful for what a lovely, kind, and compassionate young lady she is. I am so proud of her. Tomorrow: pictures of the big party. Tonight: sleep!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho

June 19, 2009

I'm taking a break from digging around in all remnants of childhood-toys-forgotten and chapter-books-we have-moved-beyond and clothes-that-fit-us-once-upon-a-time. Yes, my friends, we are gearing up for a big yard sale tomorrow. This is where I throw all of my junk out on the driveway in hopes that someone will find just exactly the thing they've been looking for for months among my discards.

I love yard sales. They remind me of my mother, actually. Not only did we host frequent yard sales, but it was great sport to go out treasure hunting on Saturday mornings. Some Saturdays it was all window shopping (more accurately, perhaps, sidewalk gazing). Other weekends we were giddy, sharing in the joy of the unbelievable find of the day. For several years, if nothing else was happening during the weekend, Mom would map out a route based on all the yard sale ads in the Friday paper. Anyone in the family who was up for it would pile in the van bright and early Saturday morning, and we made a day of it.

After most of my siblings had moved away, Mom still called me up every now and again to see if I wanted to join her on a Saturday outing. When my oldest was pretty little still, she loved to join us, and Grandma would spoil her with almost anything her heart desired. Once, when Brianna was about three, Mom, Bree, and I set out on one of our treasure hunts. These were the days when my daughter was completely in love with all things Disney. She was interested in all of the characters, but especially loved Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. She didn't always remember that they were called dwarfs, but she knew that they sang the "Heigh-Ho" song, so she just called them the Heigh-Hos. (I thought it was adorable, of course, so I never corrected her.)

On this particular yard sale kind of morning, Mom had mapped out a route that included an estate sale, because the ad said they were selling a huge collection of Disney memorabilia. We arrived along with a slew of other hopeful shoppers, and we were not disappointed. The entire driveway was covered with Mickeys and Minnies and Goofys and Plutos. Every Disney princess was represented. The owner was, indeed, a true aficionado, and Bree was in 7th heaven. She ran from pillow to figurine to lampshade emblazoned with the inhabitants of the world of Disney. Suddenly, she saw her very favorite characters. She gasped loudly and yelled at the top of her little lungs, "Mommy, I see the Heigh-Hos! I see the Heigh-Hos!!" She was doing a happy dance, tapping on her little tippy toes and clapping her hands together, pure joy on her face. Then, her eyes grew wide and she pointed again and shouted, loudly enough for everyone there to hear, "Mommy! I see the Heigh-Hos, and there's the Big Ho right next to them!!" Mom and I turned to look at the little figure of Snow White, towering above all of her seven Heigh Ho friends, and burst into laughter. We laughed so hard we had tears rolling down our faces, and everyone else who was within earshot was giggling right along with us. I had no way to explain to poor Bree what we were so hysterical about. We finally settled down until I leaned over to my mom and said, "She's right about the Big Ho thing you know. She was living with seven men!"

Cheesy Fake Goofy-Faced Smile: A Visual Aide

In case you were wondering what Danielle's cheesy fake goofy-faced smile looks like, I thought I'd post the Before and After pictures: )

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Oh, They Crack Me Up!

June 17, 2009

After dinner this evening, we took a stroll to our neighborhood Baskin Robbins. While the five of us giggled and laughed and ate our ice cream, I pulled out my camera phone, since that's what I do. I pointed the camera at Danielle, who like most ten-year-olds, has mastered the art of the cheesy fake goofy-faced smile whenever mom-p0pparazi strikes. So as not to have yet another set of this particular expression, I offered her some advice: "Danielle, everytime you make that face, you shrink your head back towards your neck, and you end up with three chins and a crazed look in your eyes. Try pushing your chin forward just a little bit instead."

Danielle, in all seriousness, gingerly put her hand up to feel the lower portion of her face. "Three chins? I feel like I only have two!" Nicholas, matching her serious tone, said, "Well, that's not such a good thing, either!" The rest of us dissolved into laughter....

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Star Trek: What a Strange Thing for Me to Be Writing About

I saw the new Star Trek movie today. Doug really wanted to catch it in the theater, and although I wasn't sure I'd enjoy it, I didn't think I was going to hate it, either. I have to admit, I was pleasantly surprised.

Action films are not generally my style, and science fiction even less so. I did not watch Star Trek on television, nor did I watch any of the previous movies. Nonetheless, the storyline was intriguing and well-paced. There could have been an overload of scientific jargon, but that which was there was relevant and accessible to the audience. While I am quite sure there were allusions to the original series (as well as the rest of the franchise) that I missed, there was nothing that would cause a brand new viewer, in not catching a reference, to be lost in the story at hand.

As with most good movies, the development of the characters was important in drawing in viewers who did not already have a connection to the crew. I especially loved the cavalier attitude of Kirk and the sassiness of Uhura. I wanted to know more about these people; I wanted to see more of them and their history. In movies, like in good books, the hallmark of good writing is that you miss them when the experience is over--when the movie ends, or when you finish the book. How fortunate for those of us who are just now meeting these characters that there ARE so many other opportunities to reconnect with these characters in other vehicles.

One of the elements that often turns me away from a film is excessive violence. A movie like this by it's nature will have violence, but I felt that the action/fighting sequences fully forwarded the plot; I didn't find those scenes to be gratuitous at all, which can be a temptation for directors pandering to audiences who really just want to see things blown up and people bleeding. The action was believable, suspenseful, and drew us even more fully into the crisis these characters survived together.

When Doug left the theater, he was excited and quite literally already trying to figure out when he could go see it again. When I left the theater, I was ready to join him for his second journey on the U.S.S. Enterprise.

Monday, June 15, 2009

My Birthday

June 15, 2009

Yesterday was Flag Day. As it turns out, it was also my 42nd birthday.

When I was a kid, I had no idea there was such a thing as Flag Day. I did, however, live on a street that seemed particularly patriotic. Every June 14th, every house on our street proudly displayed the American Flag to commemorate the day. I remember when I was five or so, I noted all the flags flying on up and down our block, and I asked my mother why they were all there. My mom said to me, "Donna, they are all flying their flags because it's your birthday. They all know you and love you, and they wanted to help you celebrate." Well, I thought that was just fabulous. I was ecstatic that everyone had remembered my birthday! For many years, I believed in all earnestness that the flags flown on the 14th were in honor of me. Funny, it never occurred to me that none of our very kind neighbors displayed their flags to celebrate any of my four siblings' birthdays. I really felt special.

Yesterday--my 42nd Flag Day--I also felt very special. No one flew flags in my honor, but I got to spend my day with my very favorite people: my husband and my three wonderful kids. There was no big fanfare, but it couldn't have been better. I got some flowers to decorate my table, and my kids all pooled their money and took us out to lunch at one of our favorite restaurants (Yukon Jack's). Our meal was delicious, and the staff was, as always, more than accommodating. Afterward, we strolled in downtown Clovis, window shopping and enjoying the unseasonably mild weather. The best part of the day? Walking hand-in-hand with my youngest, watching my oldest and my hubby strolling together, and getting the surprise bear hugs every now and again from my son. What could be better?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

My Little Scholars

June 11, 2009

While Bree and I are toiling through finals, Nicholas and Danielle are all fun and games this last week of school (and much of last week, truth be told). Both of the littles earned the right to go on Monday's P.R. (Personal Responsibility) Trip to John's Incredible Pizza. P.R. trips reward students who exhibit good character and, well, responsibility, each quarter. John's is the heavenly combination of all-you-can-eat-pizza and video arcade games as far as the eye can see. It's a kid's Nirvana. When the kids were smaller I couldn't stand taking them there, not because of the cachophany and visual overload--I'm cool with all that--but because of the sheer size of the place. With a three-kid-to-one-parent ratio and ALL of us being shorter than every machine in the building, if one of the kids rounded a corner out of my sight, it was a nightmare to try to find him/her again. (Those little suckers can move fast when the siren's song of a video game beckons them.) Those days are behind us now, though, since they are old enough to be afforded a little autonomy in places like that. As an added bonus, the kids don't ask to go as often, since that tends to be a destination of choice for the P.R. trips.

On Tuesday Nicholas got to celebrate again at an off-campus outing. As part of the 6th grade farewell, the big kids all board busses and spend the day at Island Water Park. He ran around the slides and wave pools with his buddies and came home thoroughly wiped out. Not only that, but he came home red as a lobster. Poor kid. Despite warnings to the contrary, he thought a good slather of sunscreen at 7 a.m. would do the trick for the day. By the time he arrived home at 5 p.m., the sun had crisped my little boy, though he stubbornly refused to admit it. That kid slept GREAT that night.

Meanwhile, Danielle received two very important awards Tuesday morning. She received her Principal's Honor Roll, and then received the Principal's Medallion, signifying straight A's all four quarters. I was incredibly bummed, because I couldn't sneak away to see her get the awards. Usually, people in my department are really good about covering each other's classes when our kids get awards, but this is finals week, and the assembly took place right in the middle of a final I was giving. I didn't feel right about leaving. I'm hoping it doesn't scar her for life. I missed one--ONE--of my older daughter's awards when she was in elementary school for the same reason: I was giving a final. (And believe me, that kid seemed to get an award every other week for something or another. I made it to ALMOST every one.) She still reminds me of that at least a couple of times a year, for good guilt-measure. Anyway, luckily Doug was able to make the awards ceremony, as was her dad, and they both sent me pictures.

The next day was the 5th and 6th grade awards. Nicholas received the B.E.A.R. Award (Be Excited About Reading). This was a big deal for us, because Nicholas started out his educational career a decidedly un-excited reader. He was what we like to call a 'reluctant reader'--one who is quite capable, but who just doesn't see the draw. Well, a light went on for him in the past couple of years, and suddenly he is reading up a storm. So much so that it became a double-edged sword. He became so engrossed in reading that he pretty much quit doing anything else in class. When his progress report came out a few weeks ago, he was precariously close to a sad, dismal, and lonely summer. With the threat of physical labor (and no video games!) looming over his summer horizon, he managed to put the books aside (weird irony here) and get his schoolwork in gear. I was very proud of him for bringing his grades up to a very acceptable Honor Roll mention during the awards assembly.

Today at the elementary school, they are having the annual sprinkler run. I used to think they did this because they wanted to reward the kids for all the hard work during the year by letting them cool off and play during what usually is 90+ degree weather. The real reason, though, is that the teachers have already stacked their desks and chairs and are cleaning shelves and floors. They don't have anywhere to put the kids! Tomorrow, when they have a half day before the doors close for the summer, the kids will all sit on the rugs and play board games brought from home. Teachers, meanwhile, will be scraping 6 month old gum off the underbellies of 36 desks.

**Okay, see what I did? I was resolute in the fact that this would be a short and sweet post--a mere picture or two of the kids basking in their glory, tiny caption below each. Turns out, I am incapable. I am verbose in spite of myself. Hopeless.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Teacher Appreciation

June 9, 2009

As my seniors get ready to attend the the graduation ceremony that marks the culmination of years of hard work, one of the things I ask them to do is to consider those who have helped them reach this goal. I firmly believe these two things: No man is an island, and we should strive to recognize and acknowledge those who have reached out a hand in some way in our lives.

I tell my seniors that although their own hard work, dedication, and perseverance have served them well in reaching this milestone, none of them has done it completely on their own. There are parents who have encouraged, teachers who have nurtured, employers who have mentored, and spiritual leaders who have guided. There are counselors, custodians, secretaries, aunts, uncles, older siblings, grandparents, neighbors. We are all a product of all of those who touch our lives--shaped by the way we choose to interact with those people, and the way they choose to interact with us.

Because graduation night is an acknowledgment of accomplishment, I ask my seniors to also acknowledge some of those people who have been, in some way, a guide on their journey. I ask them to choose two individuals who have made some impact on them, and I ask them to write a letter showing the way in which their support has encouraged them throughout their high school years. (I ask that the letter be handwritten, by the way. I find that the kids make it more personal, more thoughtful if they have to write it out in old-fashioned long hand. I also provide them with a variety of papers to write on. Very old-school.) I believe it's important to let those people in your life know your gratitude and appreciation. Some of them, of course, already know the vital role they play in your life, but that's not always the case. Sometimes, without even realizing, someone in our life will be there at the right moment with the right word or deed. Either way, when we acknowledge the importance of that support, it can be very powerful.

Each year when I ask my students to do this, I realize that I myself should, after so many years, recognize some of the teachers in my life who have made the greatest impact. All of my teachers throughout my life have had some impact on me, but there are four who made a profound difference in who I am as a person, and their influence is in me even today, so many years after I left the halls of my own high school. Most of them, I am fairly certain, are aware that they touched a young girl's life. Perhaps, however, they don't know the extent to which that was (and is) true. I would love to take this opportunity to publicly acknowledge those people here.

Mrs. Diane Belman
Of all the people who have come in and out of my life, besides my mother and my sister, she had the greatest impact on who I am as a person. I was fortunate enough to have her as my 9th, 10th, and 12th grade English teacher. I later came back and did my student teaching for her. From the moment I first walked into her class, I knew there was something amazing about this woman. She strove to welcome each individual student into her world, her classroom. She was passionate about her subject matter, she was passionate about teaching, and most importantly, she was passionate about the kids who walked into her room. She wasn't just a teacher to us; she was an extra mom. When she found out that I was interested in being an elementary school teacher, she asked if I had ever considered high school English. I hadn't. I didn't have the confidence to believe that could ever know enough to stand in front of a high school class to teach. She did have that confidence in me. She saw my love of language and my love of literature, and helped me recognize the aptitude I had. She never pushed or tried to lead me in a particular direction; she merely suggested something I thought was out of reach, and allowed me to see how easily it could fall within my grasp. She is a true teacher, in that she sees her job, her passion, as helping students see what they can be capable of. She is the kind of loving, giving, and empathetic human being I have tried to emulate in my own life. She is an amazing mother, an unparalleled teacher, and a true friend. She nurtured in me a confidence as a writer, a reader, a teacher, and as a person that I didn't even know was there when I first met her. She saw what I could not, and it is because of her that I am where I am now.

Mr. Greg Greenman
Greenman (as we all called him--no Mr.) was my freshman Algebra teacher and later, my Geometry teacher. Math was not typically my strong suit--something I attribute to a traumatizing math incident all the way back in 4th grade. I eventually came to believe that I simply had no head for math, and I would have to learn to live with that deficit. When I entered Greenman's class, however, that changed. Certainly not immediately, but gradually over time, I began to recognize that I had been operating under a false assumption about my ability to comprehend (and succeed in) math. How did this happen? Well, Greenman, like all good teachers, went out of his way to make a connection first. What I loved about him was his sarcasm and his wit. He made math interesting to listen to because he spoke my language. And unlike some other teachers I had, he not only encouraged but enjoyed the repartee and banter of his students. We ENGAGED in the language of math through his delivery. Somehow, he made this very shy little wallflower want to sit up and participate in class discussions because I could SPEAK sarcasm. (Just ask my current students--they'll verify this.) Once I started joining in, I realized that I really did have something to contribute, and could certainly keep up in the class. I can still distinctly remember when we had Open House that year. I had Algebra 6th period, so by the time my mom got there, she had already met with several of my other teachers. She walked up and introduced herself, and before he could say anything, she repeated what she'd been told in all my other classes. "Yes, yes, I know. Donna's a great student, but very shy. She never says anything, but gets all of her work done." Greenman's incredulous response was, "Mayes??? (That was my maiden name--he called us all by our last names.) Are you kidding??? Shy and quiet? Never! She talks non-stop in this class!" I'm sure I shot him some witty comeback while sheepishly grinning. I adored that man, and oddly, I adored my math class. Not math, mind you, but math class. Delievery is incredibly important. Greenman was the first teacher to really help bring me out of my shell, and I realized I really liked it. I could speak out in front of a group of people and not feel intimidated or self-conscious. And I realized I could be funny (at least in my own mind). I realize that much of my own interaction with students in my classroom is shaped by what I learned in Greenman's room.

Mr. Pat Gutierrez
Mr. Gutierrez was another teacher I had for multiple years. He was my Spanish teacher for two years. He was soft-spoken and was always incredibly calm, despite having a classroom full of squirrelly adolescents in his charge. I don't ever remember him raising his voice, actually. He didn't need to. We respected and loved him, and wanted to learn from him. I loved his accent, and tried hard to duplicate it. He was funny and always accessible. He had an incredible wealth of knowledge that he was excited to share. He treated us all fairly and with respect, and I really appreciated that. Even the kids who didn't share his excitement and love of the language--he treated them no differently than the students who were eager to learn. All of his students were worthy of the same time, effort, and energy. He didn't give up on his kids, and I believe he genuinely liked all of us. He was incredibly youthful-looking, even as long as he had already been teaching, and I believe that was because he truly enjoyed the time he spent teaching, and the time he spent with the kids. For some teachers, hanging out with 15 year-olds all day long makes them feel old. For Mr. Gutierrez, hanging out with 15 year-olds made him perpetually young. That's what happens when you love what you do. I seriously considered going into bilingual education for awhile after being in his class. He's an amazing teacher, I feel blessed to have been in his class.

Mrs. Debbie (Mik) Mennucci
When I came to my high school, I didn't know a soul. We moved between my 8th and 9th grade years. Being such a shy kid made making new friends a rather difficult and traumatic process for me, but a serendipitous meeting between my mom and the band director changed the direction of my life in a profound way. Before we moved, I had tried out for and made the majorette team for the high school I was supposed to attend. At my new school, there was a solo twirler, but no team. My mom negotiated a spot for me on an alternate team. The band auxilliary advisor offered me a spot on either the colorguard team or the drill team, whichever I chose. Although I had no experience in dance, I was allowed to join the drill team. Being a part of that group was pivotal in my high school experience. I was immediately part of a family--a big, huge inseparable group that spent hours and hours of time together over the course of our four years. There were practices, band reviews, competitions, parades, band camps, football games. We probably spent as much time with these people as we did our own families, if not more. That group--that opportunity--gave me a niche in a school where otherwise I might have been lost among the crowd. And in that environment, I grew. I grew from a scared new freshman to just one of the family. I became friendly and gregarious and happy. By the time I was a junior, I was completely at home with my family away from home. Mik, our fearless drill team advisor and teacher, saw leadership potential in me, and encouraged me to audition for a position as capitan. Nervous as I was, I really did want to lead there, and I felt I had something to offer our team. Her encouragement was exactly what I needed. My junior year I became Parade Captain, and my senior year, I was Co-Captain of the whole drill team (a 36 member group). I absolutely loved it. I loved everything about the drill team (or dance team, as it became known my junior year), and I still count my experiences there as the most valuable and most memorable of my high school years. And because Mik nurtured a leader in me that I didn't recognize in myself, she offered me an opportunity to help build and maintain the kind of family and community that I had been fortunate enough to find when I first set foot on that campus. That leadership experience certainly helped lead me to the path I am on now, where I can say with confidence that I have helped build and maintain an enviroment in my school and department that is welcoming and nurturing to our new teachers--new family members--who step foot on our campus.

Honorable Mention:
Mrs. Maria Olivas
Okay--Maria wasn't MY teacher. She has, however, been the 1st grade teacher to each of my three children. All three of my kids are very different, unique individuals with very different learning styles. Those of us who are teachers know that we have different teaching styles as well, and though we try to reach all of the learning styles of our kids, we do so with varying degrees of success. Maria, however, was equally adept at reaching all of the kids in the ways best suited to their needs. And though their personalities are as different as night and day, Maria loved them all. She didn't compare them; she didn't assume that what would work for one would work for them all. She took Brianna, Nicholas, and Danielle as they were--who they were--and loved them, taught them, and nurtured them. She set the bar for the kinds of educational experiences I hope my kids will encounter throughout the rest of their schooling. My kids grew by leaps and bounds in her class, and still talk about her as one of their all time favorites--all three of them! I love her dearly for it, and I am glad to count her as one of my friends to this day.

Amazing thing about gratitude....whether or not my mentors stop by and read this blog, I believe I will have gotten more out of writing this than they might in reading it. I am truly blessed.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Weekend Wrap Up

June 8, 2009

The kids' school year is definitely winding down. It seems like every day is a celebration of some kind or another, and as a matter of fact, the kids already know their 4th quarter grades a week and a half before school is out.

Here at the high school, it's another story. Brianna, my oldest, is still buckling down for her finals. I give my last final to the last class of freshmen on Thursday, and grades are due on Friday, so we are still in academic mode.

Thursday, Danielle and her class got to walk to the neighborhood park to meet up with a class from another school. They were pen pals all year, and they finally got to meet face-to-face for a picnic lunch and some fun and games. The kids all loved it. Also on Thursday, Nicholas got to go to Boomers for most of the day for the band/choir end-of-the-year celebration. He spent most of the day playing laser tag with his buddies. (And to think, my students were stuck in class, finishing up Act V of Romeo and Juliet!)

On Friday, the entire school complex had a minimum day (high school, junior high, and elementary), because our school hosted the state track meet. This was a huge deal for our school and community--they expected 10,000 spectators and participants to attend the two-day event, and frankly, they needed the parking space! So off we went. Bree, as usual, took advantage of the social opportunity staring her in the face, and she organized a lunch-movie group for several of her friends. They went to see Night at the Museum II, and as always, had a great deal of fun. Fun just seems to follow that girl. I'm pretty sure she's got a future in party planning if her Public Relations goals don't pan out.

That left me and the littles. I decided we would have a special lunch out together, even though we were going out for Family Dinner Night later on. We splurged a little. It's the end of the year, right? And why should all of the fun follow Bree? We decided to make a little fun of our own and treated ourselves to Me 'n Ed's Slices. (That's livin' the high life for Nicholas!)

Later in the evening, all members of the family converged once again and we set out for Family Dinner Night. Friday was Doug's choice, so we headed to Chick-Fil-A. Since we were in Riverpark, we roamed around all the shops (including Borders, one of our favorite places). The weather was beautiful, there was a live band playing outside, and most importantly, everyone was in a good mood. We capped off the evening with a frozen yogurt and called it a night.

Saturday, Miss Social Calendar had a masquerade ball to attend. Seriously. When I was fifteen-only-a-week-and-a-half-away-from-sixteen, no one I knew was cool enough to have masquerade ball. But that's how she rolls. She spent the afternoon with her close friend getting all beautiful, so the littles and I decided we needed to check out "Up" in the theater. Danielle has been beside herself waiting to see this one, and Nicholas was excited, too. Wow. It was not really at all what I expected. There's some pretty heavy content at the beginning--poignant and sad. But it is ultimately happy, celebratory, uplifting. It has an important message, but it doesn't bang you over the head with a hammer to drive the point home. It's beautifully done. The kids loved it; I cried. (This is not a particularly difficult feat, to make me cry in a movie, but still.) I highly recommend it.

Finally, after the kids were settled in at their dad's for the rest of the weekend on Saturday night, Doug and I decided we were going to have a relaxing, mellow weekend. We just enjoyed each other's company, slept in on Sunday, put nothing on the agenda. Except we did decide we'd surprise the girls before they came home by FINALLY replacing the fan in their room, which shorted out WAY too long ago. We got a little industrious in there (while he worked to install the fan with the ocassional assist from me, I did some ruthless guerilla cleaning in the room) and are looking forward to them coming home to a clean and breezy cool room.

I'm also including a few pictures of some of our other recent year-end celebrations that have been keeping us hopping: Bree's choir concert, Nicholas' end of the year band concert (probably his last, since he did not chose band as an elective in junior high next year), and Danielle's end of season softball party.

Friday, June 5, 2009

End in Sight

The end of the school year is kickin' my butt....finals to grade, the entire classroom to clean and pack up, seniors to send off on their merry ways, and a student teacher to close out the year with. Then of course there's all of the end of the year stuff with the kids--concerts and parties and awards ceremonies and end of the year field trips. I love love love all of these celebrations, but my goodness, it's tough to get to everything. I'm bummed because I just found out that my youngest will be awarded Principal's Medallion (straight A's all four quarters) at an awards ceremony that takes place right in the middle of a final I'm giving to my freshmen. Hopefully Doug will be able to make it and take pictures for me.

In the meantime, I'm writing all kinds of posts in my head. Come this time next week, I'll have time to pass along more stories from our family to yours--probably more than you ever want to know about us! I'll also be able to catch up on my blog reading/commenting then, too. Until then, I'll still try to drop in and post a bit here and there. Be patient--all kinds of fun coming soon!

Monday, June 1, 2009

Miscellaneous Monday

June 1, 2009

It's that time of the year. So much is going on to wrap up the end of the school year that only bits and pieces are bouncin' around in the brain, rather than a complete, cohesive train of thought. So here's what's going on:

--There are nine days left of school. I'm really going to miss some of the kids, but even though I like 'em all, some of them are just WORK, you know? I'm not even talking about the physical job or the paperwork; I'm talking about the emotional work. That's why teachers need summer break--sanity recovery.

--That being said, I am immensely thankful I have a good, solid job in a good district. I'm glad that even though I have summer off, I have a job to go back to in August.

--We just got the official word that Doug's construction job is, in fact, ending. The project is ending tomorrow. Luckily, we knew it was coming. The company is pulling out of the area. They offered him a job at another site, four hours away, but weren't able to offer anything toward housing (hotel during the week), gas, or food. By the time we pay out of pocket for all of that, actual wages would almost be a wash. As of the end of the week, he goes back on the hiring haul list and we cross our fingers. I'm actually excited that he'll have some down time just when I'm getting out of school, but I'd be lying if I said the prospect of looking for a new job in this economy doesn't scare me. It does.

--Looks like all the kids are ending the year on an up-note. We were looking a tad iffy on one front, but everyone has buckled down and is working toward a strong finish. Overall, all three of them had very positive experiences with their teachers this year.

--Today is the beginning of my birthday month, as well as the birth month of my beautiful oldest daughter. I love birthdays: )

--Summer this year will bring a few visits from my sister Lisa and a ten-day visit from my brother and his family. I'm hoping I will also get to see my sister Laura at some point this summer, too.

--I got a new cell phone yesterday that I'm still trying to figure out. I loved my old phone but it was, well, old. Suddenly this week, it started thinking that even with a complete charge, no actual conversation should last more that three minutes. Without warning, it would power down. My phone hung up on my sister, my hubby, my daughter, my ex-hubby, and a random assortment of other people. When we took it in to the Verizon store to figure out the problem, the charming young gal said the first course of action was to try to upgrade the software on my phone. She plugged it in and shortly came back, looking somewaht sheepish. "Um...bad news. The upgrade fried your phone. It's dead. Non-functioning. We're not sure why." So now, I'm figuring out new features and purchasing new ringtones. Because Verizon was responsible for the untimely demise of my phone, Mr. Verizon Manager threw in a new phone for Hubby, too, which he was sorely in need of. Gotta hand it to Mr. Verizon Manager--he did a fine customer service damage control.

Wow. Random though these thoughts may be, I had a lot more to say today than I thought. If you made it through to the end, thanks for sticking with me. Maybe tomorrow will be less scattered, but I can't make any promises about that until after school gets out.