Sunday, December 14, 2008

Happy Birthday Shayne!

Well, the boy is 7 years old today, I can hardly believe it! The time really flies. Here are a few baby pictures.







Saturday, December 13, 2008

Polar Express

On Thursday night we went north 190 miles to Williams, AZ to ride the Polar Express! The town is 6,000 feet up, so unlike Mesa, it actually feels like winter. The Grand Canyon Railroad has restored, antique train cars that are decorated like the Polar Express. The tickets were a gift from Rick's parents. We got to Williams at about 6:15 on Thursday, then checked into a hotel. After much anticipation, the train left a little after 8:00. On the way to the North Pole (about 45 minutes) they read The Polar Express and served hot chocolate and cookies. Once we arrived at the North Pole, a very authentic-looking Santa boarded the train and walked through each of the cars wishing everyone a Merry Christmas and giving each of the kids a silver jingle bell. Shayne and Maya were both very happy to see Santa. On the way back everyone sang Christmas songs.
The next morning we got to swim in the hotel's indoor pool which was another highlight. We got back home Friday afternoon. It was a great trip!












Dentists: Unsung Heros

Maya and I both had a tooth pulled recently, by excellent dentists. I had my top, right wisdom tooth pulled and Maya had her front baby tooth pulled.

Mine has needed to be pulled for awhile now, but I have been putting it off for a long time because about 12 years ago, I got my bottom wisdom teeth pulled and it was awful. It remains tied with 2 other things for the most painful thing that has ever happened to me (having kids are #s 4 and 5 by the way...) The teeth were impacted and still fully in the jawbone. I didn't have anything but local anaesthetic and the experience came complete with the sound and smell of sawing the teeth in parts, the cracking and prying the teeth out of my skull and my poor reaction to the pain medication afterward. That was the good part. Once the anaesthetic wore off, it literally felt like my mouth was on fire for about 6 hours. Not something I was eager to repeat. Anyway, long story short, it really needed to be done, so I made the appointment.

This time, I arrived at the dentist's office and was immediately called to the back where the dentist and hygienist were very reassuring. They numbed it up really well, then after 2 hard pulls, I was finished. From the time I walked in the door to the time I walked out the door 15minutes had passed. I took Advil the first day and never felt anything that I would describe as more than discomfort. Definitely ten times better than I thought it would be.

Maya knocked one of her front teeth on the tile in our living room about a year and a half ago. It got slightly grey. We took her to the dentist, who didn't get a very good look, but said it looked OK, but to continue to monitor it. He recommended that we go to a dentist that specialized in younger children. We know that to be code for "We don't treat patients like her."

Fast forward to a month ago... She was being really moody (even more so than normal, if you can imagine). One night when I was brushing her teeth, I noticed that above her injured tooth, on the gum line, she had an awful looking abscess. It looked very painful. The next morning at work, I asked around for a good pediatric dentist and got a name of someone a friend of mine had been very happy with. Now, those of you who know Maya can imagine that she is a rather "difficult" patient, to put it mildly. I imagine if the office were to rate all of its patients on a 1-10 scale, 1 being a delight to treat and 10 being very close to impossible to treat, she would score a 10 easily.

First we had to make an appointment for an exam. I was honest, "She may scream if we try to take her back in the room." "That's OK,we let them get comfortable first." "She probably won't sit in the chair". "A lot of them don't want to at first." It went on like that for a few minutes, and they seemed to think it would all be fine, so I made the appointment.

The exam was tough, but they let her and Rick hang out in the exam room until she calmed down a little (I was at work and knew I would have to take the day off for the actual procedure, so Rick braved this part alone). In spite of some resistance, they saw enough to know that the best course of action would be just to pull it, since it is a baby tooth and she is four and a half. We thought they would want to put her under, but the dentist said that it would only take seconds to pull, so they would just give her laughing gas to help her relax, then do it. So he gave us a prescription for antibiotics and we made the appointment for the tooth to be pulled a week later.

On the day of the appointment, she really didn't want to go in, even though we had talked about it a lot and played "dentist" at home. We didn't have to wait at all, and Maya really wasn't too upset until the hygienist showed her the thing that they were going to put on her nose to give her the laughing gas. She was crying and wouldn't get in the chair or even sit on my lap. The hygienist was looking at us as if to say, "I don't know what you expect me to do," which is perfectly understandable. I thought they were not going to be able to do it. A minute later, the dentist came in with two hygienists. He was like a coach during a huddle in a playoff game, "Here's the plan. We're going to lay her back and hold her down and give her a quick shot to numb the area, then we'll let her up again for a few minutes. Once the area is numb, we'll hold her down and take it out. That'll take less than a minute. Then, one of you can take her right to the car and one of you can check out." Before we started all that, he explained all of the post-op care to us. Then it happened just like he explained. It was tough holding her down like that when she was so scared, but it was either that or go through the risk and expense of general anesthesia or have an ongoing dental infection. We had her calmed down and in the car 5 minutes from the time he gave her the first shot.

Later that night, her dentist left a message on my cell phone to check in on us and make sure everything was alright. He gave me his cell phone number and said to call him if we had any questions or concerns. He couldn't have been nicer. I imagine most dentists wouldn't have touched that situation with a ten-foot pole, but it needed to be done desperately. She was in a lot of pain from it. After a few days, when her mouth felt much better, I think Maya understood that the dentist helped her. Now she still likes to play "dentist" and show her missing tooth.

It has been a few weeks and we both feel great. So, I am grateful to have had two potentially horrible dental situations turn out about as well as they could have because of two wonderful dentists.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Website of the Week

Another cool website for kids of all ages is http://artpad.art.com/artpad/painter/. It is a simple paint program that has 3 tools: paintbrush, paint can and text (so you can type a message on your painting). It has many different colors, an "undo" button and a "start over" button. You can also change the size and opacity of your brushstrokes. There is a "save and send" button, which would be fun if you wanted to email your kiddo's artwork to friends and family. One thing to be careful of is if you select "hang in gallery" the back button cannot be used without deleting the painting. I think this website would be fun for anyone who is old enough to control a mouse on up. Of course this is no substitute for the real thing, but it is a lot neater!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Website of the Week

Since this is a big part of my job, and a lot of us have preschool and school-aged kids, I thought I would start posting free, educational websites that I have used and liked. One of the best educational websites out there in my opinion is http://www.starfall.com/. Many of you may already know it. I would say that it is most appropriate for 3-8 year olds.

The "ABC" section is great for helping early learners with letter names and sounds. Maya loves it. She just points to where she wants me to click. All of the letters have fun little sounds and animations that the kids really like. By the time they are 4 or 5, they can "follow the sparkles" in the letter section which give them a clue as to where to click next. Kindergarteners love this section. There are various interactive letter name and letter sound activities at the end if you keep clicking the sparkles.

For kids that are a little older, starfall has a "Learn to Read"section that helps them chunk and sound out words. It has stories that help reinforce vowel sounds and common digraphs such as sh, ch and th.

For kids that are a little further along, there is an "It's Fun to Read" and "I'm Reading" sections. Here they can choose interactive stories to read. They have fiction and non-fiction.

Overall, this site is easy to navigate, even for pre-readers. You really need to have audio for this website to be effective. It is a good one to check out if your kids are this age.

Friday, November 28, 2008

My Christopher Robin

Well, you both went out with the blue balloon, and you took your gun with you, just in case, as you always did, and Winnie-the-Pooh went to a very muddy place that he knew of, and rolled and rolled till he was black all over; and then, when the balloon was blown up as big as big, and you and Pooh were both holding on to the string, you let go suddenly, and Pooh Bear floated gracefully up into the sky, and stayed there-level with the top of the tree and about twenty feet away from it.
"Hooray!" you shouted.
"Isn't that fine?" shouted Winnie-the-Pooh down to you. "What do I look like?"
"You look like a Bear holding on to a balloon," you said.
"Not-"said Pooh anxiously,"-not like a small, black cloud in a blue sky?"
"Not very much."
"Ah, well, perhaps from up here it looks different. And, as I say, you never can tell with bees."

From Winnie-the-Pooh, by A.A. Milne, Chapter One: In Which We Are Introduced to Winnie-the-Pooh, and Some Bees, and the Stories Begin.



Yes, she dressed herself :)

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving

I wish all of you a wonderful Thanksgiving Day. On Thanksgiving, I always give some thought to what I am thankful for, but this year, considering the difficult time that so many people are having, I feel even more grateful for what I have. Some of the things I am thankful for:


1. The family I grew up in- My parents and brothers and sister were a great family to be born into. We had so many interesting experiences and had and continue to have so many good times together.


2. My family I have now- I am thankful to have a husband who I still laugh with on a regular basis who loves me for who I am and kids who bring a smile to my face (and a lot of other expressions...) every day.


3. Free public education- I got a long way with not much money through free public education and very reasonably priced college and graduate school (Go Sundevils!) I am a huge believer in free public education and resonable college and university tuition.


4. My job- I always said that I wanted to have the kind of job where I wasn't watching the clock all day and I was there to accomplish something rather than watch the hours tick by. That is definitely true of teaching. Also, it is fairly secure, which is important in times like these.


5. My house and my 30 year fixed motgage- When so many people are at risk of loosing their homes, I am very grateful to know what my house payment will be for the next 23 years. My thoughts and prayers are with those who have lost or may loose their homes. Hopefully more regulation of the mortgage industry is on its way.



6. Good health-Mine and the people I care about.


Of course there are many, many other things. Those are just a few. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Box Part 2

Different box, still a good time...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Better Late Than Never

I don't know why this took so long, but here are a few Halloween pictures. Shayne was a ninja and Maya was a kitty cat (with pink feet). Our neighbors get really into it and we always have a great time.







Where There's a Will There's a Way

As many of you know, Maya is a natural in the water, more at home there than anywhere else. Anyway, since it has gotten colder, she has really missed going swimming every day. Here in Arizona, we can swim from April to mid-October. Since we stopped going for the year, she "swims" in the bathtub any chance she can get. The other day, it was about 70 degrees outside and the grass had been over-watered, so she took the opportunity to put on her bathing suit and go "swimming". Once that first spring day at the pool rolls around, she'll be one happy girl!



Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Most Disgusting Thing

Rick has a "corneal abrasion" on his left eye. Actually, two small abrasions and larger one from Maya accidentally swiping him before retracting her claws on Friday. At the time, it didn't feel like much and he didn't give it a second thought, however a few hours after the injury it was practically swollen shut and totally red. The next morning (Saturday) it was even worse, pretty much stuck shut. We went to urgent care and they said he had an infected corneal abrasion and they gave him some antibiotic eyedrops. Tonight it is slightly better, but he can still hardly see out of it and it is oozy and sensitive to light. Hopefully tomorrow will bring more improvement. I will post Halloween pics soon. I haven't even uploaded them yet. It has been a busy few weeks. Also, as I'm sure you can imagine I had a great November 4th. More soon...

Monday, November 3, 2008

Your Election Day Experience

Most of know I have been following this Presidential race closely for almost 2 years now, as a lot of people have. Anyway, it promises to be quite a day tomorrow, with record numbers of people showing up at the poles. I would love to hear about your voting experience. If you voted, I would like to know if you voted early or on election day. If you voted on election day, what time of day did you go to your polling place and how long did you wait? What was the mood there? If you didn't vote, why didn't you? Anyway, I will let you know how things went for me tomorrow. I would love to hear any feedback you have :)

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Halloweens Past

Here are a few pictures from past Halloweens.



Maya as a lady bug

Maya's first Halloween

Shayne as a bee

Shayne's first Halloween

Monday, October 27, 2008

Happy Birthday Alison!

Today is my sister's birthday. Well, yesterday was, but I wrote most of this yesterday. As many of you know, she is less than 2 years younger than me. Here is one of my favorite pictures of her, 2 summers ago, showing Maya how to fly a kite. The other is a cute baby picture of her (I was waiting to get that scanned...) Anyway, happy birthday Alison!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Baseball

Shayne has been playing baseball for about a month now. It has been a lot of fun watching him and his teammates learn the basics of baseball...and I really mean "basics". Last Saturday it was a little hot out during their game and he walked out to the plate like a sloth. We talked to him a little about "hustle" and he seemed to have a little bit better sense of urgency at his practice Wednesday night. He does pretty well hitting the ball. It's coach pitch, so that helps. Anyway, here are a few pictures.



Sunday, October 19, 2008

One of My Favorite Republicans

Many of you probably already know this, but one of my favorite Republicans, Colin Powell, endorsed Obama this morning on Meet the Press. I have always appreciated Powell's intelligent, common-sense approach to things. During the pre-war years, I thought that we would certainly see him make his own run for the White House. I think he would have made a good President. I don't have video of the endorsement itself, but here is the press conference that took place this morning. He has some interesting things to say, most of which I agree with.

The Lighter Side of the Election Season

If you have been following the race much, these clips of McCain and Obama at a charity dinner are light-hearted and funny, a breath of fresh air from what we have been seeing the past few weeks. I think they are each about 10 minutes long, but if you have a few minutes to spare, it is nice to see their lighter sides.

http://abcnews.go.com/Video/playerIndex?id=6054516

http://abcnews.go.com/Video/playerIndex?id=6054486

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Back at Work

We had a wonderful two weeks off and Shayne and I are now back to the grindstone. Maya had a few days off from preschool, although it isn't too taxing to go 3 afternoons a week. Rick didn't really have much of a break. So we're back to "normal" if there is such a thing.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Camping in Payson

Yesterday we decided to go up to Payson to camp for the night. We like to go to a small, quiet campground about 10 miles past Payson, which takes about an hour and 20 minutes or so for us to get to. The drive up is beautiful with tons of saguaros and mesquite trees decorating the landscape. The scenery soon changes to mountains thickly forested with tall pine trees. It was a little chilly at night, but we had a great time!

Shayne making a "torch"

Maya was very excited to use the marshmallow roasting stick that she found.

She roasted a lot of marshmallows...




Enjoying the fire

Keeping warm with Dad


On the way back home we found a fun park to play at.



I think this was her first time on a tire swing.



They also had a really tall slide.

Friday, October 10, 2008

October at the Zoo

It has finally cooled off a bit (at least in the mornings), so we went to the zoo yesterday. We had a great time. We saw a bunch of the animals and many of them were active. Shayne rode a camel, which was his first experience riding an animal of any kind. Maya was going to get on also, but changed her mind right when she was supposed to get on. Shayne loved it.
No fits or meltdowns and everyone walked by themselves, almost the whole time. Maya took a short break on Rick's shoulders. She was a trooper though! We had a lot of fun.



Box



Still the best toy...

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The Debate

What did you guys think of the debate last Friday?

Finally...

This is our second official day of October break. One nice thing about starting school at the end of July is that we get two weeks off in October, two weeks off at Christmas and two weeks off in the spring. So, you should be hearing more from me in the coming days than you have in the past few weeks...More soon...

Monday, September 8, 2008

Rainy Season

Yes, in Arizona we have a "rainy season" that we refer to as "monsoon season". Seriously, that's what it's called. I'm not making it up. July, August and September are usually our "monsoon months". Although we don't get a lot of rain, we get more than usual during those months. We get about 7-9 inches per year, on average. So, our kids aren't really used to having puddles around...It is a lot of fun when we do!


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

An Interesting Quote

I don't want to seem like I'm going on and on about the same thing, but I thought this was a great quote from the Obama speech the other night about coming together. It is true that so many of us agree on a lot more issues than we disagree on. I thought this was an interesting and effective way to address some of these traditionally "hot button" issues.

"We may not agree on abortion, but surely we can agree on reducing the number of unwanted pregnancies in this country. The reality of gun ownership may be different for hunters in rural Ohio than for those plagued by gang-violence in Cleveland, but don’t tell me we can’t uphold the Second Amendment while keeping AK-47s out of the hands of criminals. I know there are differences on same-sex marriage, but surely we can agree that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters deserve to visit the person they love in the hospital and to live lives free of discrimination. Passions fly on immigration, but I don’t know anyone who benefits when a mother is separated from her infant child or an employer undercuts American wages by hiring illegal workers. This too is part of America’s promise – the promise of a democracy where we can find the strength and grace to bridge divides and unite in common effort."

I look forward to hearing Palin's speech tonight.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Noah's Ark

'

These days when the kids want to play outside, I just put the baby pool out so they can get wet while they're playing, because it's just too hot to play outside dry right now! We go to the big pool most nights to, but this lets them be outside during the day without totally overheating. Maya put her car in the pool the other day and I said, "Maya, did you put your car in the pool?" She said, "A boat".

After looking inside, I think she may have been playing Noah's Ark!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Our First "Podcast"

One of the other big parts of my job is being in charge of our school's News Club along with the P.E. teacher and the music teacher. We produce a weekly "podcast" that the students watch each Friday. This year we have 48 5th and 6th graders that are in News Club. They are divided into 2 big teams and each big team is divided into 4 small teams. The small teams each have a leader that was part of News Club last year. Each of the two big teams is in charge of a podcast every other week. They do all the planning and filming and also a lot of the uploading and editing. They took all the pictures and chose the order, chose the backgrounds, fonts, transitions, music, interview questions, etc. This is our first podcast of the year. I was happy with how it turned out.


video

Friday, August 29, 2008

Do Yourself a Favor

Many of you know that I am so geeky about politics, that I had hours and hours of DNC coverage recorded and watched it until about midnight every night this week after the kids went to bed like it was the last game in the World Cup or something. This convention was truly amazing! All of the speeches that I watched were good, and many were great. If you haven't seen them, I highly recommend watching Michelle Obama's, Hillary Clinton's, Joe Biden's and of course Barack Obama's speeches. I think it is absolutely wonderful that so many people came to enthusiastically participate in the political process at this convention. I heard there were more than 80,000 on Thursday night. It gives me hope that we can turn things around in this country. Anyway, I am posting the speech because I think you owe it to yourself to watch it even if you think you disagree with his politics. I just think everyone owes it to each of the candidates to listen to what they have to say directly instead of relying on second and third hand information and rumors. If nothing else, you will enjoy it from a public speaking standpoint. I am fully in support of Obama and Biden, but I will still watch John McCain directly address the country next week so that I can hear his ideas first hand. If you haven't yet had the chance, watch it!



If you did watch it, before or now, I would love to hear what you think of it.

Happy Birthday Rick

Just wanted to write a quick "Happy Birthday" to Rick today on his 36th. I like to remind him that he will ALWAYS be older than me! He and Shayne went to a Cardinal's game tonight to celebrate. We will have a family celebration tomorrow :)

Monday, August 25, 2008

My Take on Homework

Thanks for all of the feedback on the homework question. I agree with all of you personally and professionally that most teachers give way too much homework. In my most recent 7 years in the fourth grade classroom, I went with a short packet (about 4 pages), a book log, which they were supposed to read 20 minutes at least 4 of 7 days (could be with a family member, to a family member, getting read to, by themselves, etc.) and a "family activity", which was usually some sort of learning game or learning craft that they could do together at any point during the week. They had Monday-Thursday to do those things. I thought that was edging on too much, but Shayne has more than that already in first grade. I know my nephew had more than that in Kindergarten, which of course is ridiculous. The nice part about Shayne's packet is that they send it home on Friday, so we try to knock out most of it on the weekend when he isn't so tired. It isn't that it takes too long, just that it is such a chore getting him to do it. I think there is some value in having a quick review-type thing or an interactive assignment that you do together as a family, but generally speaking, I think as far as homework goes, less is more.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Homework?

Now that we have been in school for awhile, and most of you all will start in the next few weeks, I would love to hear your thoughts on homework. What do you think of it? What have your experiences been yourself or with your kids? Too much? Not enough? Too hard? Too easy? Depends on the kid? I am interested in this personally and professionally, and have a lot of thoughts of my own on the subject, but would like to read your thoughts first. Also,don't forget to vote in the poll on the subject!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

First Day of Preschool

Maya's first day back at preschool was today. She is with the same teachers as last year, all of whom are absolutely wonderful, but now goes in the afternoons instead of the mornings. She was happy to be back and fell right back into the routine.


Sunday, August 10, 2008

At Long Last

Most of you know that we have no family members here in Arizona. Also, our daughter sometimes has trouble with changes in her routine like a lot of kids her age do. Lately, she has pretty much just gotten upset about age-appropriate things, but about twice as upset than most 4 year olds would probably get. She used to get about 10 times more upset. Add those two things to working oppostite schedules and the house being a wreck half the time... What do you get? No babysitter and no going out for years! Yes, we have had a babysitter 3 or 4 times since Shayne was born, and we go do things ocassionally when we are near family members, but we have never found anyone that could babysit for us consistantly and that we fully trusted with the job. We are happy to report that we have finally found someone! Her name is Alison (like their aunt) and she is one of the aides in Maya's preschool class. She knows Maya well and Maya likes her. In fact, Maya let Alison do her hair almost every time she went to school in cute little pig tails and barettes last school year. On the last day of preschool in May, we asked her if she would be interested in babysitting for us and she said yes. Shayne likes her too. I believe she is one year out of high school and she lives down the street from us a mile or two. She just babysat for us for the third time in about 6 weeks on Saturday. The second and third times, Maya didn't even cry when we left. They are happy when we tell them she is coming over. I should have taken a picture, but I didn't. We are so happy to have found her and so happy to be able to go out again.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

New Job

I wanted to wait at least 2 weeks to say/write this publicly (don't want to jinx it), but I love my new job (Media/Technology Specialist). In teaching, we're all usually too superstitious to say things are going well until the year is practically over, some are even too fearful of everything falling apart to even think things are going well until it's over. There are a lot of responsibilities, but the schedule is considerably more flexible than it was in the classroom, so I have a fair amount of time to get everything done. I felt perpetually out of time in the classroom. I get to see all the kids from Kindersteps (sort of like pre-K) to sixth grade. I actually enjoy all of the ages and it is a fun challenge to completely shift gears when I have Kinder and 6th back to back some days. I liken it to being a grandparent instead of a parent. I get to enjoy them for 30-45 minutes a week, then send them back to their classroom teacher (the parent in this analogy) who is with them all week. It is amazing how patient I can be knowing there is a 45 minute maximum with any group (K-3 get 30 mins. and 4-6 get 45 mins.) Plus all the kids love doing activities on the computers, so that really helps. The other big part of my job is helping all of the teachers by making sure all of their technology works (computers, projectors, document cameras, printers, email, passwords, etc.) The teachers I work with are wonderful, so that part of the job is enjoyable too. I also have cafeteria duty every other week with the K-2 kids, so I am in there when Shayne is eating with his class, which has been fun and insightful. One of the best parts of the whole thing is that there is so little stuff to keep track of and keep organized. More accurately, the stuff is mostly on the computer, and I have always been very organized on the computer so it plays to my strengths. In the classroom (and I did enjoy it most of the time) there are crayons, colored pencils, tissue paper, glitter, books, paper, pencil shavings, backpacks, jackets, lunch boxes, math manipulatives, student work and all kinds of other things to find places for. Some people do that naturally, but for me it was a constant struggle. Now, my desk is cleaned off every day and I actually know where everything is in the lab. I am realizing that when I only have to keep track of my own stuff, I am pretty good at it. I even felt a little guilty during the first few days during the times I didn't have classes and everything was clean and quiet. Now I just enjoy it and get an impressive amount of work done without the distractions. Having that quiet time every day has really helped me to be more happy, patient and clear-minded. My goal is to find small ways to spread that serenity to the classroom teachers, who are the ones that really need it. Anyway, I won't go on any longer, but so far, I am very happy with the change.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Roxy

Roxy is our friends'/neighbors' two year old rottweiler who they brought home when she was about six weeks old. Roxy and Maya were puppies together. When Maya was two and Roxy was new to the world also, they both got a kick out of chasing each other around and playing together. It was a win-win situation because they would tire each other out before bedtime. Shayne and Maya still love to play with Roxy. Here are some pictures taken earlier this month when Roxy went swimming in the baby pool with the kids.