Thursday, February 28, 2013

Hart of Dixie

February 28, 2013

You know how everyone's always saying that kids grow up too fast?  Well, my lovely niece Devin is a great example.  She's in 8th grade, but she got to play a part on the television show "Hart of Dixie".  She's a sophomore at the prom in the episode.  A sophomore?? I can't handle her being a sophomore already--even for a day!

Track Meet

February 28, 2013

My girl is doing very well in track this year, especially in discus.  She consistently lands in the top three or four out of about sixteen girls at each meet.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013


February 27, 2013

It's warming up and the flowers are blooming.

Friday, February 22, 2013

A Boost to My Friday

February 22, 2013

As if Friday wasn't a good enough reason to be in a good mood, the Leadership students came to my classroom this morning to honor me as Teacher of the Week.  They brought me a BHS t-shirt and some balloons with a lovely little note that reads:

Mrs. Lutjens!  You have shared your wealth of knowledge to not only our AP students, but freshmen as well.  Thank you for your dedication to Buchanan and your humor that keeps us smiling.  You are a leader and a perfect model to follow.  Love, Buchanan Leadership

Everybody loves compliments--it definitely made my day!  I'll have to remember this the next time I'm having a rough time of things. 

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Principal's Honor Roll

February 20, 2013

Danielle got recognized for earning Principal's Honor Roll at school today, and I was so bummed that I wasn't able to get away from my class to see her.  Luckily, though, Doug didn't have to work, so he showed up to support her as a surprise.  I love that one of us was able to be there to show her how proud we are!

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Young Love

February 19, 2013

Nothing says 'time passes quickly' like hearing the announcement that your young nephew has just gotten engaged!  My nephew Anthony with his new fiancee, Tiffany:

Monday, February 18, 2013

Blast From the Past

February 18, 2013

One of my former classmates just posted my 8th grade class photo on Facebook.  I'm not sure why, but I happen to be right in the front row.  It's been kind of fun to look at the old classmates and seeing which ones I still recognize.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valentine's Day!

February 14, 2013

Doug had surgery on his hand in November, and had to take his wedding ring off because of it (and the continued swelling). I had knee surgery in January and have kept my ring off so as not to damage it while hobbling along on crutches. Today, in honor of Valentine's Day, we are officially putting back on the rings! He's (hopefully) able to wear his on his injured hand--if not he'll wear it on the right hand for a little while longer. I'm down to one crutch on the right side, so I can wear mine again! How's that for a romantic Valentine celebration? ♥

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Fanatics Take the Field

February 12, 2013

Danielle's indoor soccer team is a very strong one this season.  We love the girls and the coach, but unfortunately, she's going to age out of this team when fall season rolls around.  Luckily, she's getting great training and wonderful encouragement here, laying the groundwork for being competitive when she moves up into the next age bracket.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Karaoke, Family Style

February 10 2013

When we were in Las Vegas over Christmas break, we gave thought to trying to find a family-friendly karaoke spot, since we had Lisa and Glenn's girls with us.  Although we didn't end up finding a place there, when we went to Lisa's house for a visit, she had scoped out a local place that does karaoke for the whole family on Sunday nights.  We had dinner there at Pineapple Hill Grill, and at about 7 the karaoke DJ started up.  Apparently this was the first Sunday night family karaoke of the year, so word of mouth hadn't much started up.  For at least the first hour our family had the mics to ourselves, with our DJ Miguel and the bartender jumping in every now and then.  Although the food was pretty mediocre, the DJ was very cool and the atmosphere was nice.  I was really impressed that both Devin and Bailey jumped right in, doing a great job of performing for the family.  Of course, Doug and Lisa were great, as always, and I even jumped in with a few songs.  We decided to close out the night with a whole family rendition of "Summer Nights."  It was a lot of fun, and we'll very likely return again in the future.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Local Girls Make a Splash

February 8, 2013

One of the cool things about being a teacher in the digital age is that I often get to see and celebrate successes of my students long after they've left our high school hallways.  I've been able to see them, often through Facebook and other social media, grow into young adults with interesting careers and loving families.  Within the last two weeks, I've had two former students actually making a splash in the news for their current endeavors.  Stephanie Reilly has a fashion line, Bella Linea, which just debuted in New York, and Lauren Scott is making her mark as a 'chef-testant' on the new reality cooking show, The Taste.  Both girls are sweet, energetic, and ambitious to make their dreams come true.  I'm so excited for the success they are both experiencing right now!



Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Reasonable Measures

February 6, 2013

When my son was little, he was what we called a ‘runner’. The world was a fascinating place to him, and if something shiny or colorful or interesting caught his eye, his only thought was to chase after it. He didn’t worry about safety or being lost; young children are in-the-moment, the-world-revolves-around-me kind of beings. He always assumed if he took off somewhere, I was right behind him, chasing the butterflies, too.

And so it happened one day while we were at church that he ran. We attended church at a local high school campus while we waited for our actual church to be built. Nicholas was at the age where he was straddling the adjacent rooms of the infants and the toddlers, depending on his ability on any given Sunday to participate in the more structured pre-school environment of the toddlers. During the service I ducked out of the sermon briefly to nurse my newborn, who was also being cared for in the infant room. Just before I settled in with the baby, I looked around to check in on Nicholas, and he was not there. The nursery sitters said he must be in with the toddlers today. I poked my head in through the adjoining door—no Nicholas there, either. The pre-school teacher paused in her lesson and let me know that Nicholas was in with the babies today.

Except, he wasn’t. We looked in the bathrooms; we looked under tables. We looked down the hallways and in nearby open rooms. It became increasingly apparent that no one knew where my boy was, and I moved quickly into panic mode. I was frantic, and the mood of anxiety was only increased by the wailing cries of hunger from Danielle, who had still not gotten to nurse. I ran outside to the school campus, shouting Nicholas’ name. Neither the nursery sitter nor the pre-school teacher could help; they still had charges in their care. I saw a familiar face who had slipped out of the sermon to check on HIS little one, and he began to canvas the campus with me. The school sits on a fairly busy street, and I had horrific visions of Nicholas wandering out into ongoing traffic, oblivious to everything but a fluffy cloud he might be following. After a seemingly interminable twenty minute search, my friend found Nicholas sobbing, crying out for his mama. I collapsed to the sidewalk, wracked with sobs of relief, and hugged him tight.

It turns out, Nicholas had gone on a ‘nature walk’ with the toddlers that day. Something had caught his eye, and he wandered away from the orderly line of pre-schoolers. He was enthralled enough that he didn’t realize they had left him behind, and when the kids got back to the make-shift classroom, the teacher assumed that he had settled himself back into the nursery. He had been gone at least ten minutes by himself before I showed up looking for him.

Many of my friends were angry on my behalf, and I can understand. There were certainly measures that should have been in place to prevent such a thing from happening. Vigilance with small children is crucial, critical. And yet, I knew he was a runner. I knew how quickly he could slip away. The teachers were despondent and deeply apologetic, and by the very next week, a number of safety procedures were in place: sign-in/sign out sheets, name tags for each child, a halt to fluidity between rooms, and sturdy childproof gates at all possible entrances. These were all good measures, and long overdue.

In the past several weeks, this incident has come back to me. We are reactionary, as human beings. We discover a problem, and we want to fix it. We want to prevent it from recurring. Several weeks ago, when the tragic massacre occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary, immediately we wanted to figure out how to protect all of our children from such a nightmare. I remember the same panic after the Columbine shooting. Suddenly, school safety plans were insufficient; clearly we all had to ‘up our game.’ Who knew when someone would go off the deep end? What could we do to predict and avert such an incident? After Columbine, schools across the nation set up security cameras, enacted new emergency policies, and fenced in campuses. New security officer positions were created, and more staff members were stationed about campus before and after school, vigilant against unwanted intruders who might mean harm to our children. At my own school, each staff member is issued a neon reflective vest and a piercing whistle to alert other adults to danger, should it rear its ugly head.

These, too, are good measures. There is nothing wrong with heightened awareness, and increased presence. However, Sandy Hook has encouraged people to propose even more stringent security measures. After all, Sandy Hook was a gated school, with surveillance cameras in place. They should have been protected from the gunman who broached the gates and attacked students and teachers alike. So what more is there to do? The public debate centers around gun laws and gun control. Stricter laws. Bans on assault weapons. Armed guards. Armed teachers. Home school everybody and let the parents wield weapons at their doors. Reactionary, reactionary, reactionary….with not a lot of care or forethought given to real efficacy or potential dangerous side-effects of these measures.

I am in favor of reasonable measures to protect ourselves and our children at school sites. We lock our doors at home at night while we sleep; we buckle into our seatbelts when we’re driving. When Nicholas went ‘running’ I was in favor of measures that would help prevent a recurrence. But there are reasonable measures, and then there are ones bordering on paranoia. Locking Nicholas into a covered crib would have ensured he wouldn’t run again from the church. Pinning him into a stationery seat for the duration of the service would have done the same. If we’d kept all the kids in the pre-school on kid-leashes during the whole church service, that too would possibly have minimized the potential recurrence. But is that really the way we want to live our lives? Do we want to lock up our children to keep them safe from the off-chance that danger might befall them? Do we want our schools to become lands of martial law, a hundred deputies on every campus just waiting for someone to make a false move? I imagine arming personnel on campus could easily cause at least as many tragedies as it would be likely to avert.

I am a teacher. I went into teaching because I believe in the inherent good in people, and the value of focusing on the positive possibilities our future generations represent. It is not in my nature to look with suspicion on everyone who crosses my path. I am not so naïve as to believe that every individual has pure motives and good intentions, but the day I begin to think that the dangerous and the malicious have become the norm, it is time for me to retire. Arming the teachers? A reactionary measure, incited by paranoia--borne out of good intentions, but paranoia nonetheless. Are we to teach our students each day, crouching down behind a protective barrier, weapons drawn and at the ready? I refuse to believe this is how we should exist. This is not the world I want my students to learn to love. How can they grow and stretch intellectually when they are cowering in fear every time the door opens? Fear fosters fear.

We must be prepared, according to the voices clamoring for safety—for guarantees. But there are no guarantees, are there? We can’t possibly predict and avert every tragedy. I can’t begin to wrap my brain around the kind of mindset of one who would perpetrate such crimes. We have experts who do their best, but even they don’t know with certainty. If they could, we wouldn’t have some of the heinous crimes we’ve seen on school campuses across the nation. But expert I am not in this field. I am not a sniper. I am not a hostage negotiator. I am not trained to counteract a terrorist. Those jobs should be left to those who have the skills and aptitude and training. I do not want that training, nor do I want my profession to adopt that training alongside training in lesson design and classroom management and differentiated instruction. They are different worlds, and as best as we can, we should strive to keep them so.

Sandy Hook. Virginia Tech. Columbine. Three schools and communities that suffered unspeakable carnage and loss. But there are hundreds of thousands of schools across our land that continue to operate normally, where teachers and administrators do their best to support students and show them the way to a better future without threat of imminent danger from a hostile or unstable person. Hundreds of thousands. We must not let paranoia let us forget that THAT is the norm. Reasonable measures? Of course. But let us not fall to the mindset of victimhood, terrified not of IF, but of WHEN. That’s no way to live. That’s no future to show our children.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013


February 5, 2013

Danielle earned admission into the CJSF organization again this year, and the group took a college site-seeing trip down to UCLA on Monday.  Several of her friends went too, and she said they had a great time.  One day, the kid is playing with CareBears and My Little Ponies, and the next day she's proudly sporting a UCLA sweatshirt and thinking about heading off to college.  Where did the time go?

Sunday, February 3, 2013


February 3, 2013

This is my incentive for working hard at physical therapy to regain strength in my knee.  Doug bought these for me for Christmas, and I got to wear them twice before I had my surgery on January 3rd.  The recovery from my ACL/meniscus surgery is going more slowly than I had hoped, but these babies are helping me keep my focus.