Wednesday, August 31, 2011

My Handsome Nephews

August 31, 2011

My brother posted these pictures of my handsome nephews recently. Golden Gate Photography in Washington did a fantastic job capturing the boys--I love these photos!

More On the Wonders of Facebook

August 31, 2011

I know not everyone is a fan of Facebook--too many people overshare, lots of people in a race to add as many 'friends' as possible in a bid to seem like one of the 'cool kids', political rants devolving into reactionary name-calling--I get why it's not everyone's cup of tea. For me, however, it's always been a fantastic way not only to keep in touch with my siblings, none of whom live close by, but also for me to keep in contact with my students as they travel off to college, the world of work, and all the other places adulthood takes them. I love that they don't walk out of my classroom forever--I get to actually see some fascinating places these kids go with their lives.

For my husband and me, like so many others, it's been a wonderful way to reconnect with friends from our past. We've rekindled very close friendships with former classmates we had completely lost touch with once upon a time. However, until fairly recently, Doug hadn't been terribly successful in locating some people with whom he spent some very formative young adult days with--his Navy buddies. These are guys he worked with, lived with traveled with. I've never been in the military, but it's not surprising that men who serve together develop a unique bond. Also not surprisingly, since they come from all over the country and travel all over the world, they scatter when their time in the service is done. They scatter, and in the world before Facebook, some of them lose touch forever, perhaps always wondering, "Whatever happened to that guy....?"

And then one day, just a few weeks ago, he found one of them on Facebook. You know how it goes. He was excited--thought he'd look at the guy's friend list just to be sure it was him. And there was another one, and another one. A quick perusal of their friends lists yielded more fellow Navy friends--and so on and so on. Once that initial contact was made, in short order he'd found another ten. Again and again he got the same response: It was so great to hear from him! Any idea how hard it is to search for a guy whose last name is Smith? It was like looking for a needle in a haystack. How lucky that the needle had come looking for them.

And then, as he messaged with these guys and did a little catching up, he got some very sad news. He found these guys on a Saturday, and in the course of talking with them, he discovered that another former Navy buddy--one of their own--had tragically lost his life only days before, on the previous Thursday. The men who had remained connected, or had recently connected on Facebook, were making their plans to travel later that week to his funeral in Montana. Even though we're in California, and even though Doug had lost touch with Tim over the years, he really felt he wanted to go back and attend the funeral. Not only did he want to pay his respects, but he also knew that he would be able to reunite with these men in person, perhaps the only time these men would all be together for who knows how long, to reminisce and remember--to remember Tim, and to celebrate him and his life, and the connection they all had together.

The money might be a little tight, but I thought it would be well-worth it. The timing seemed like cosmic forces at work. A week later, and he would have missed the funeral altogether. I thought it was a sign. We both thought that if he didn't go, it would be something he'd always regret. He made the reservations, and just a few days later was on a plane to meet Tim's family and to say goodbye to Tim.

It would be presumptuous of me to speak on Doug's behalf, except to say that he and all the Navy buddies were welcomed with open arms. They were even asked to play a role in the funeral itself. They were each thanked for their service and protection of our country, again and again, as Tim's family and friends said their final goodbyes. I am told it was a beautiful service, and a fitting and honorable farewell.

All of those who served with him who were able to attend the service did, in fact, have an opportunity to reconnect, bond, and share stories of their Navy days, and their time spent with each other and with Tim. They stayed up well into the night, eating, drinking, and talking. And talking, and talking. Doug returned from the trip mindful of the somber reason for the journey, but thankful he'd had the opportunity to go. The journey was meaningful and memorable, and important. I am so happy we were able to make that happen for him.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

These Made Me Smile...

August 30, 2011

Wedding Bells In the Future

August 30, 2011

We just recently found out there will be a new addition to our family! A week ago, Laura's boyfriend Sean proposed to her, and they announced it to us at Taylor's birthday party. We're so excited for them both--we couldn't ask for a better future brother-in-law. I can tell he really makes my sister happy, and his family has welcomed her with open arms. We hope Sean knows we welcome him with open arms as well. Right now no date has been set, but it's looking like a beach wedding in the late spring or early summer--perhaps June? Congratulations to the happy couple--best wishes now and for many, many years to come!

Monday, August 29, 2011

The Gaetje Girls Start A New School Year

August 30, 2001

This is a big year for my beautiful nieces--Taylor starts high school, Devin starts junior high, and even Bailey is starting at a new elementary, since Lisa had to move to Fullerton this year. Here's hoping that they all get off to a wonderful start and make lots of new friends!

Happy Birthday, Taylor

August 30, 2011

Since Taylor's birthday is right at the beginning of the school year, I don't usually get to be there to celebrate with her. Since I was already down south to help Bree move into her dorm, this year I got to be there for the birthday celebration! Happy birthday, Miss Tay!

Run, Taylor!

August 29, 2011

Before Taylor even started her new high school, she got involved in the pre-school workouts for the Cross Country team. I was lucky enough to be at Lisa's visiting on the weekend of their first pre-season meet, so I got to go out and cheer her on. I'm so proud of how hard she's working and her dedication to the team. Great job, Taylor!

Taylor's Cross Country Meet

The Big Day Arrives

August 29, 2011

I've been putting off this post actually, because I'm still a little bit in denial. My baby has gone--all moved out and living in quite another city. This past weekend was dorm room move-in date at San Diego State, so we stacked all of her I-Can't-Possibly-Live-Without-This items into the van and headed south.

On Friday, we moved her in. She met her roommate, Anna, with whom she hit it off right away. They had introduced themselves on the phone, but this was their first face-to-face encounter. They bonded over fruit snacks, a love of scarves, and all things theater. An auspicious beginning. She's from Visalia, so they might be traveling buddies as well, when it's time to venture homeward--Visalia is on the way to Clovis from San Diego. We also met up with her good friend from BHS, Jeff, who as luck would have it is only a few doors down from her in the dorm. They're both in the Honors Program at SDSU, so they already knew they'd been in the same dorm. It was nice to see a familiar face there. His whole family was there as well, and they were very helpful in getting Bree's stuff transported into her room. (There is no elevator in her dorm, unfortunately, so there was climbing of stairs with heavy boxes involved. Thank you for the assist, Erickson Family!)

These are the 'before' pictures of her dorm room.

The most important part of dorm room decor? The pictures of friendly faces from home.

After she got all settled and mostly unpacked, we ate dinner and then I got on the road to Lisa's house. It would be Bree's first night in her new 'home.' A little surreal. They had a dorm floor meeting, and ice-breakers and such, and she got to know some of the kids she'll likely be spending most of her days with as the semester and year progresses. She and Anna filled out their roommate ground rules--an assignment from the R.A.--and found they are even more similar than it first appeared. My favorite thing about the roommate ground rules was that they had to discuss how they were going to handle any conflicts that might come up. They mutually decided that talking it out was a pretty acceptable form of resolution, but should they come up against some really tough conflicts, they'd handle them in a Dance-Off. They actually wrote it into their contract like that. I assume the R.A. would be the judge in these situations. If she ever calls home complaining about trouble with Anna, that's the first thing I'm going to ask--who won the Dance-Off? I'm going to hold her to that. I'm pretty sure all the kids in the dorm stayed up well into the night Friday, reveling in new-found independence. They also got to experience their first evacuation drill in their new home, as someone pulled the alarm in the middle of the night. Ah, college!

The next morning I rejoined her for the Band Run and SDSU Convocation. It was a nice ceremony, with the presentation of the respective major-candidates to the heads of their departments, and the welcoming of the newest Aztecs and their families. We didn't do anything like that when I was in college; I thought it was a good way to set the tone and make our entrance into the SDSU family an official one. Afterward, we went to lunch with Jeff's family, and then, before we knew it, it was time to say goodbye.

It's probably a good thing that there was a long line to check-in at the dorm's front door. (All guests must be checked in and out as a safety precaution.) We knew we didn't really have time to get checked in AND checked back out before Bree had to attend a mandatory dorm floor meeting. Instead, time creeping up on us, we opted for a hug and kiss and an I'm-so-proud-of-you out in the front walkway. There was no time, nor was it the place, for the long, emotional farewell she might have been subjected to if I had gone up to her room. She turned and was gone, and I headed back to my car. Alone. Trying not to dwell on the fact that the longest I had ever been apart from my first-born was ten days, and now I wouldn't see her for at least sixty.

I couldn't be too mired in nostalgic sadness, though, when she called me two hours later, excited to tell me about her plans. First of all, she was on her way on foot (no car for this college student) to the grocery store. She'd decided she wanted to carry on her tradition of being the Friend Who Routinely Provides Baked Goods To Her Friends, and was on a mission to bake 'Welcome to Campus' brownies for her floor mates. She'd decided it would be a good way to meet everyone face-to-face, by knocking on doors and introducing herself (brownies in hand, naturally). This is SO Brianna! It's one of the things I'm so in awe of about her--her openness and friendliness, and willingness to put herself out there. If it were me, I'd have been so shy I would have holed myself up in the dorm room with a book until my first class on Monday morning. Not my Bree, though! Second, they had asked for a volunteer to be Hall Planner, which essentially is the Hospitality Committee for the dorm, as far as I can tell. Again, a great fit for her. Although she admitted it felt a little intimidating to volunteer for something like that right off the bat (without really knowing the vast majority of the students yet), she again thought it would be a great way to get involved and meet lots of people. Finally, one of the other dorms had had an electrical failure, and several newly arrived students are being displaced for several days while the school makes its repairs. They asked if any of the students in her dorm would be willing to host a displaced student, and Bree and her roommate readily volunteered. The more the merrier in their welcoming little abode!

She's quite the social butterfly, that one. Or, to mix metaphors, she's taking to college life like a fish to water. Oh wait--that's mixing metaphors and similes...but I digress.

In addition to planting herself firmly in the social scene of Maya Dorms, Bree is loving being so close to all of her step-sisters. Kim and Liz both went to school at SDSU, and Morgan just transfered as junior. All of them live quite close to campus. On Friday night, Morgan picked Bree up after she got off of work, and the two of them just drove around, eventually finding some place to eat that was still open in the middle of the night. They also went to eat brunch together on Sunday, and went to a local church. Bree's roommate asked if she could go along as well, since she wasn't from around there and didn't know the churches. In the afternoon, Bree and Anna came back to campus and scoped out where their classes were, in preparation for the first day of classes on Monday. Her whole weekend was filled, which is just the way she likes it.

Although I couldn't be more thrilled for this exciting new chapter in her life, I would be lying if I said I wasn't going to miss her at home tremendously. (If she's reading this, she's probably rolling her eyes, because, honestly, do I think she's going to live at home forever? No, kiddo, it's not that I think you're going to live at home forever. But still....transition and all. You have something you are moving toward--something very cool and exciting--and I'm just missing a piece of a family that has been whole until now. It's an adjustment.) But adjust we will--I will--and I'll look forward to hearing more about the new worlds opening up to her at San Diego State.
Go Aztecs! (I can say that--I'm an Aztec Mama now!)

Brianna's first Facebook status after her first day of college classes:

Today involved funny professors who make me giggle, finding Gushers in the Student Store, an epic Twister game, a spontaneous dance party, and plenty of Phineas and Ferb fruit snacks. I like college. (:

I think she's going to be just fine....

First Day of School 2011

August 29, 2011

My sweet boy started high school! And my baby is a middle-schooler! They both had a great first day at their schools. Nicholas is excited to be involved in Buchanan's Energy Academy, and he says he thinks Honors Biology is going to be his favorite class this year. He's still a little iffy about Spanish, but I have confidence he'll do just fine. Danielle loves her Academic Block teacher--she thinks she's funny and goofy--and is really excited about her Art Class and Choir. She adores her Choir teacher, Mrs. Barbour, which is no surprise--her energy and enthusiasm are infectious. Danielle's taking lunchtime P.E. this year, which I still have reservations about, but I'll just have to keep an eye on her to make sure she's not over-taxing herself. All in all, I'd say we're off to a great start!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

John-John's 7th Birthday

August 17, 2011

I'm pretty sure Doug was at least excited as John-John was about the birthday gift we got him for his birthday. It's a super-slidin', 360-spinnin' modern-day Big Wheel kind of a thing--unbelievably cool. If Doug was a little bit smaller or the bike was just a little bit bigger, I'd be willing to bet he'd be fighting John-John for his turn on it!I just love the expression on his face--he was so excited!

Summer's Last Hurrah-Casa de Fruta, Winchester Mystery House, and the Beach

August 17, 2011

Seemingly before it even began, summer came to a close. Suddenly, we found ourselves upon the last week before I had to go back to work in August, and once again, I hadn't done nearly all the things I wanted to do with the kids. Bree worked and was in a play, Nicholas was involved in robotics meetings and weekly Hobby Town game nights, and Danielle had soccer two days per week, and scheduling out of town trips around all of that was a little tricky. Even though Bree was making the rounds of goodbyes to all of h friends before she moved away for college, I thought I had to get at least a day trip in with the younger two--our last hurrah. I had been wanted to visit the Winchester Mystery House for several years, so we made that our destination.

Bright and early on Friday morning, we loaded up the car and hit the road, belting out tunes to pass the time and the miles. Winchester Mystery House is about three hours away, so we took a little break at Casa de Fruta on the way. We've all been there, but mostly as a bathroom break on school trips. We decided to take our time and do a little exploring while we were there. We visited the beautiful peacocks who nap together on the tall barn in the back parking lot, watched the fish and the turtle in the pond, followed the ducks roaming around the lawns, and checked out the 'haunted' railroad tunnel. It was very nice to be able to take a leisurely stop instead of hurrying in and out of the bathroom and jumping back on the road. It's really a pretty cool place to hang out.

We got back on the road and headed to the main attraction--The Winchester Mystery House. Winchester Mystery House was built by Sarah Winchester, wife of the manufacturer of the Winchester Rifle. This was a widow with lots of money to burn, an irrational fear of the supernatural (she believed she would be haunted by spirits of those who had been killed by her husband's inventions), and a general eccentricity. She invested her considerable wealth in a non-stop building/addition project to her mansion which consisted of such oddities as second-story doors which open to a sheer drop-off to the outside patio below, windows in the floor, and a staircase leading to nowhere (a brick wall), just to name a few. It is now preserved as a tourist attraction and historical monument. I've been really fascinated with the idea of seeing this place for many years, and both Nicholas and Danielle were really interested in seeing all the architectural oddities as well. Bree was perfectly happy to have passed on this trip, though, since the whole premise and lore behind the place was just a little too creepy for her.

We knew the tour was only going to take an hour and a half or so, and since the journey to get us there was a three hour drive, I really wanted to do something else to round out the trip. Danielle, especially, was offended that I had taken a trip to the beach with Bree, so I thought we'd include a little jaunt to the beach to our vacation day. It only took us an additional forty-five minutes or so from where we were, and we were at the shore. I had packed suits and towels and snacks, and at the last minute surprised them with this last-minute addition to our itinerary. It was a little cold for me, so I only got in for a bit, but my two litle polar bears spent quite awhile swimming and wave-jumping before reluctantly emerging back to shore. Before we piled back into the car, we walked out onto the pier to marvel at all the birds congregated on the broken down abandoned ship at the end of the pier. Danielle even stopped to converse with one of the birds who was a bit more people-friendly.

Finally, happy, tired, and a little bit weather-beaten, we were ready to head home. As a special treat to round out the trip, we stopped by by Casa de Fruta on the way home for dinner and dessert. It really was a great day of just hanging out with my two youngest--a wonderful way to close out summer.