Sunday, December 16, 2012

Tomorrow, We Go Back

December 16, 2012

Tomorrow is Monday, and we go back.  We go back to school, along with thousands of other teachers and students across the country.  We go back, while there are innocent souls in the state of Connecticut who will never return.  A tragedy such as the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary leaves behind not only those who were violently gunned down far too early in their young lives, but leaves behind also the families and friends who will try to pick up shattered lives while dealing with unspeakable and unfathomable loss.  They, too, will never go back.  There is no going back to the lives they once had.  There will always be before last Friday, and after--a line of demarcation forever drawn in the sand.

But tomorrow, we go back.  I heard about the tragedy while I was at school on Friday.  As usual, I checked my email during our brief break between classes.  Word was just reaching the news--a school shooting had occurred.  At least a dozen victims.  These news stories are always a punch to the stomach.  One of my students told me during the next class that his mom, also a teacher, had texted him an update.  Young children--as young as kindergarten and first grade--were among the victims.  The victims were now confirmed at 26, twenty of them children.  I struggled to make it through the rest of class.  My last class of the day was no easier.  If I could keep it at bay in my mind, I was okay, but the overwhelming horror would sometimes rise to the forefront and I had to choke back tears and fight a wave a nausea that threatened to overtake me.  As a teacher, as a mom--as a human being--the magnitude was and still is, too much for me to bear contemplating fully.  But tomorrow, we go back.

It terrifies be beyond words to think about my own children, think about their tiny cherubic faces when they were five and six and seven, and then think about the beauty of all of the intervening years and their whole futures being ripped away from me.  It terrifies me now, when they are 14 and 16 and 19, to think about losing them to some horrific fate.  It's an abyss I can't begin to come near to contemplate, and yet, these Sandy Hook families have been plunged into that abyss with no warning.  It was all I could do this weekend to maintain my composure and shield my kids from the gruesome details, while holding them just a little tighter all the while. 

So tomorrow we go back.  And beyond the darkness that underlies the worst nightmare of every parent is another fear for me--the fear of a teacher.  I work with wonderful and amazing teachers every day.   We all got into the profession because we want to make a difference; we want to inspire and encourage and engage and teach kids.  We look around our classrooms and we all see kids with potential and we see kids who will go out and touch other lives as they grow up and become the people they hope to be.  We see kids who are successful already, and we see kids who need more time to grow, and we see kids who don't see who they could become yet, and we try to encourage them to reach high.  We try to show them a mirror that shows them their best self--not always an easy task in the adolescent high school landscape that is wrought with self-doubt and insecurity.  Not always easy for an age group that is sometimes handicapped by a self-inflicted myopia which makes it ill-equipped to see a 'bigger picture' much beyond the present.  But we try.  I promise you, we try.  We try to connect with the kids, and show them that we care and that we believe in them.  We try to find a niche for the kids who feel like they don't belong; we try to help kids find a safe place to be themselves.  

So what is my fear?  It's this: what happens when we miss someone?  What happens if I miss someone?  I'm always frightened that there is a kid in my class, even someone I think I've connected with, who still feels lost and unanchored. The perpetrator of this mass murder in Connecticut was described by people who knew him as a loner, one who lacked connections with others.  What if there's something more I could do to reach out to give a student some word or some encouragement that they might desperately need?  What if I've missed signs, despite my best intentions?  What if my colleagues have also missed the signs?  If we've misread a facial expression, the body language, some cue that in hindsight will become clear?  What if, with a word, or a deed, or some kind of intervention, there is a kid whose life might change direction, and I miss it somehow.  THAT is my fear.

And yet....we go back tomorrow.  My colleagues and I will continue to do what we do--the work we do on behalf of the children in our temporary charge.  And we will continue to hope that we have met the needs of the kids who come into our paths, and intervene and guide when we see that it's needed.  And pray that we'll see the need that comes our way. 

Tomorrow, we go back.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Birthday Love

December 13, 2012

I spent most of my adult life living carefully, precise and constrained in my movements, my words, and my deeds.  My world was small and studied, even though I knew there was more of me to be discovered and explored.  Finally, when you came along, you made me realize my fences and gates were mine to open.  Learning to stretch and grow and inhabit all of the space that is me has only made me a stronger person not only for myself, but for my kids, and for you.  On today, your birthday, the best possible gift I can give you is to continue to be the best version of myself right alongside you on our journey together, and to hope to give to you all that you have given to me.

Happy birthday, Babe.  I love you!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

It's a Baking Time of Year

December 9, 2012

Here's another fun and simple idea I got from Pinterest.  I changed it up just a little bit by sprinkling the crescent dough with cinnamon sugar before adding the marshmallows and chocolate chips.  I put them in the oven at 350 for about 10 minutes.  Delicious!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

I Wish I Could Claim She Gets It From Me

December 2, 2012

Danielle's advanced art teacher handed out pictures of celebrities in class.  The assignment was to cut the photo in half, draw a grid, and then use that to help guide them in drawing the missing half of the face.  I think the grid assignment is a pretty standard one for novice artists; it helps the student break down the finer details as they are trying to match what they are trying to reproduce.  Danielle's celebrity was Kristen Stewart, and when she showed me her finished product, I have to say I was really impressed.  My own artistic abilities don't venture too far beyond the stick figure.  Danielle, on the other hand, definitely has a artist's eye.  I'm really hoping she continues to pursue her talent in this field.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Home Alone

November 27, 2012

This is what I feel like when I'm home with my kids and I hear a noise somewhere in or around the house that's unfamiliar:

Don't mess with my kids.  You WILL be sorry!

However, every now and then I'm home alone, no hubby and no kids, and my supersonic hearing kicks into high gear at about midnight.  When I'm by myself, suddenly I'm reduced to this:

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The Next Best Thing to Home

November 24, 2012

It was really strange to not have all three of my kids home for the Thanksgiving holiday.  Bree's schedule and finances conspired against us getting her home for the long weekend, especially since she had just been home a couple of weeks before.  However, she was able to make the relatively short journey to spend Thanksgiving with her Aunt Lisa, which was the next best thing to home.  On one of the vacation days, Lisa took all the kids, plus some additional friends of her girls, and the went to the local trampoline place to bounce off some energy.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Watch What You Say

November 21, 2012

Danielle was 'talking' to my Siri-like app on my Droid, which apparently doesn't translate voice very well. Frustrated by its inability to understand her, Danielle said, "You're not very smart!"

For the first time, it understood her completely and replied, "You're no Albert Einstein, either!" 

Danielle said, "You're mean!"  

My phone replied, "Danielle, I'm just kidding around."

 When Danielle continued to disparage the relative intelligence of my Droid, it finally said,  "I will remember that when the robots take over the world!"

I love that my phone has a sense of humor!

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Madtown Robotics Tournament

November 11, 2012

This was the kickoff to this year's robotics season.  It's not build season for this year yet, but the tournaments during November and December use last year's robots to get the kids back in practice and excited about the upcoming competitive events in early spring.

 The team went out for a late night snack at Denny's after the event, and this was Nicholas' bill.  Coincidentally, 1671 is the number of their robotics team!

Midnight Bowling Birthday Party

November 11, 2012

Danielle went to a birthday party for her girlfriend Mikinah.  We've actually just figured out recently that Mikinah's mom and I went to high school together--another example of what a small world it is!  The four girls got to go bowling in a 10 p.m. til 1 a.m. special glow-in-the-dark session.  They had a blast, of course, and Lisa, Mikinah's mom, said the girls were lots of fun and an absolute crack up the whole night.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Can't We All Just Try to Be Nice?

November 7, 2012

This election season, all the negativity being spouted on Facebook was really getting me down.  As an educator, I don't really feel it's my place to throw all of my opinions out there in the public view, so I really try to refrain from getting involved in any of the discussion threads on the candidates and the issues.  Seeing several people I know and love and respect making derogatory comments and sweeping generalizations about people whose views differed from their own finally prompted me to make my own political stance clear. 

My first post was the day before the election:

Here's my political post: Educate yourself before you go to the polls tomorrow. Don't rely on what someone else has told you about the propositions; go read the texts yourself--the ACTUAL ones, not someone's summary. Don't let someone else make up your mind as to what the 'right' choice is. Read it, think about it, and then vote your conscience and your heart. Your vote is your choice and your right, but goodness gracious, some folks play far too casually with the he-said she-said of political advertisements. (He-said she-said is even worse with the Presidential and Congressional candidates, but sifting through and trying to find objectivity there is especially tricky, at best. My advice there? Try to remember that nothing is quite as black and white as most folks would like it to be. We tend to merely find what we're looking for.) I'm not looking for a debate or affirmation, name-calling or negativity, and it's not my business who or what you vote for. Just vote with care and do the work and reading that it takes to be informed, rather than a mere follower.

My second post was on election night, as the results were being reported and I watched my newsfeed fill up with reactions to the various races and issues we went to the polls to decide.

My friends are my friends because they are caring, intelligent, giving, loving, and interesting people, NOT because they agree with me on all the issues. As it turns out, some of those folks are Republicans, some of them are Democrats, and some of them are Independents. Some of them are Christian, some of them are atheists. Some of them are gay, and some of them are straight. Some of them are business owners, some of them are teachers, some of them are stay-at-home moms, some of them are out of work. Some are tall, some are short, some like chocolate, some can't stand it....on and on and on. My friends aren't my friends because they're ME. I liked them before they voted, and I like them after they voted (and even if they didn't vote at all), because my relationships with my friends aren't predicated on whether or not they voted just like me, and I don't suddenly think my friends are 'idiots' because they have a different viewpoint than mine.

Here's to hoping we can move away from the polarization that has kept us from moving forward.  We're all in this together, folks--perhaps we should begin acting like it.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Risky Business

October 27, 2012

Brianna's good friend Aaron has a birthday very close to Halloween, so he had a costume birthday party.  Bree and her roommates were there, along with several of her other friends.  A few of them decided to go as Tom Cruise's character in "Risky Business".  Should I be concerned that my college kid is running around without pants on at parties?

(**Okay, okay--they weren't pantsless.  They were strategically dressed to appear pantsless.That's what I'm going with, anyway.)

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Homecoming at the Gaetje Household

October 20, 2012

The girls are all grown up and dressed up!  Sophomore year Homecoming Dance for Miss Natalie and Miss Taylor:

 Taylor and her boyfriend, Chris

Love My Devin!

October 20, 2012

I just love that I'm so close to my sister and my nieces.  They're just up the road, really--five hours is not such a long distance.  And with Facebook and texting, I get to be there even when I'm not there, and share in happy moments of my nieces' life.  Here's Devin celebrating after a victorious soccer game:


October 20, 2012

Laura got some new head shots done for her resume/portfolio.  I absolutely love this photo of her--just beautiful!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Clearly, Not a Universal Rule

October 9, 2012

I can't quite explain it.  There's a strange phemonon that occurs within my four walls.  Things multiply, expand.  For example, there'll be a couple of dirty dishes in the sink.  I'll walk out of the room and then come back in later for a snack, and suddenly, the pile of dishes looks something like this:

 While working to contain the mess in the kitchen, the laundry pile will suddenly start expanding from a couple of stray socks to this:
 Sigh.  Containment on the laundry issue is definitely a labor-intensive endeavor. When I'm finally finished, I find that the book pile in the study has managed to author several new novels, and they're strewn about everywhere, like this:
 While I reshelve the mountains of books, the seemingly never-ending supply of paperwork--children's artwork, essays to be graded, magazines and junk mail that make their way into the house, and of course, bills--grow into a nearly insurmountable obstacle:
 Why, oh why, does my oh so tiny pile of money not multiply like the rest of the objects in my house?

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Workin' Hard For the Save

October 6, 2012

Coming off of an injury to the knee, Danielle got put back in the goalie box for the whole game this week., which is where she loves to be.  She also got to be team captain, along with Tia, who was coming back after an even more serious knee injury.  Coach said these girls came back strong, and therefore deserved the honor of captain this week.  It's the first time Danielle has ever gotten to be team captain for a game.

Danielle got lots of opportnity to practice her craft in the goalie box, since they were playing a really tough, unscored-upon team.  Her focus and aggression on the field is really improving.

Highs and Lows

October 6, 2012

The good news?  The unseasonably hot weather that has plagued us here in Fresno appears to be subsiding finally.  After far too many days of hundred-degree days, Mother Nature has decided to let us have a little taste of fall.  It IS October, after all.

The bad news is that not all numbers are great.  While we watched a drop in temperature, we watched an unprecedented rise in numbers at the gas pumps.  In some cases, prices jumped by 30 cents per gallon in as little as an hour!  

Friday, October 5, 2012

CAL Games

October 15, 2012

Nicholas went on an overnighter field trip for the first robotics tournament of the year.  The kids took their robot all the way to the finals, where they ultimately ended up as the second place finisher--their highest finish in a tournament.  As always, Nicholas was a man of few words when I asked him how the trip was:  "It was fun, Mom."  His facebook status later on was, "Best trip ever!", so I'll take that as a good sign.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Another Reason to Check Out the Fair This Year

October 4, 2012

It's October again, and that means the fair is on!  It's something that we all look forward to all year, and this year we have something more to look forward to:  Danielle and I have photography and art on display there this year.  We always spend a lot of time in the exhibits buildings, checking out the paintings, drawings, ceramics, photographs, all manner of sewing projects and baked goods--you name it, they've got it.  It's been a great deal of fun for me in past years to see the work of some of my students up on display, and this year, we're there, too!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Color Me Rad Race

September 29, 2012

If you've never heard of the Color Me Rad Run, it's a unique race that combines fun, fitness, 'art,' and philanthropy.  A fantastic combination, if you ask me. Okay, so I'm not such a fitness buff.  I know, I know--shocker, right?  Also, I can't draw my way out of a paper bag, so the art thing isn't my strong suit.  (Who actually DOES draw their way out of a paper bag, anyway?  A very strange set of circumstances would have to occur in order for that to a course of action to take place, no?)  I am a big fan of fun, though, and philanthropy is a beautiful thing.  If you can help someone in need, you should, in my opinion.

So.  Color Me Rad is a 5K race (fitness) where they throw colored corn starch on you at strategic locations throughout the course ('art') as a fundraiser for a non-profit in the area (philanthropy).  And that, of course, adds up to the fun!

When I first heard about the Color Run, it was at a location down in Southern California.  I told Danielle about it and said I thought it would be great to do it with Aunt Lisa and her girls.  As soon as Danielle saw pictures of the finish lines of previous Color Runs, she was in, one hundred percent.  She'd been asking me to do some kind of a run with her for about a year, but running is a bit of a tough sell for me.  Since she and I became gym partners, though, I committed to finding something we could do together like this, and the prospect of doing it with Lisa and the girls as well drew me in.

And then, I went on line to sign up.  Sold out.  Shut out.  We were out of luck, and I had to break the bad news to Danielle.  It got put on the back shelf until a couple of months later, when I saw a Facebook post that Color Me Rad was bringing its brand of messy, colorful fun to Fresno.  I jumped online immediately, and Danielle and I became the founding members of Team Skittles, racing to benefit Ronald McDonald House.

At the Color Run, everyone starts off in plain white t-shirts.  There were literally thousands of people who showed up at Woodward Park to participate.  Doug, being the great husband and good sport that he is, came along with us to take pictures of the event.

There were sections of the race where the cloud of color was so dense that it was difficult to see directly in front of us.  Each station had volunteer 'color bombers' with different colors--handfuls of the powdered stuff that they flung at us to 'decorate' the runners.
I should point out here that I use the terms 'runners' and 'race' loosely.  Not only am I not much of a runner to begin with, but I had recently injured my knee.  (Freak trampoline accident, if you must know.)  Honestly, Danielle can walk as fast as I run.  Faster, probably.  We weren't running for the best time, though--we were running to have a cool experience together, and we did.  There were at least a few times during the run where she turned to me and said, "This is really fun, Mom.  I want to do this again next year!"  And really, that alone was worth the price of admission.