Thursday, December 24, 2009

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Friday, December 18, 2009

The Polar Express

On Monday night (Shayne's Birthday) we went up to Williams, AZ to stay the night and to ride the Polar Express Train. We had a great time. We left school about a half hour early and left for the North. Shayne got to open his birthday presents in the car on the ride up there. As we climbed elevation toward Flagstaff, we started to see snow on the ground. The hotel we stayed at is less than a block away from the train station. When we got to the hotel we settled in, layered up in our warm clothes and headed to the train. By the time we got to the platform at about 7:45, it was 9 degrees. Our train boarded at 8:00and the ride to the North Pole and back took about an hour and twenty minutes. On the way out, they read the story of The Polar Express and pass out cookies and hot chocolate. Then, when we arrived at the North Pole, Santa boarded the train and came through each car to say hello to everyone. On the way back everyone sang Christmas carols. We had a great time and the kids really loved the ride and seeing Santa and all of the Christmas decorations. We walked back to the hotel and had birthday cake and went to bed.

Shayne and Rick posing for goofy pictures on the way back

Maya pretending to sleep at the hotel room

The next day we took a swim in the hotel's indoor pool, which was a lot of fun. After that we played in the snow, which the kids have only done one other time, and went to a cool sword store that was across the street.

On the way back, a little south of Flagstaff, we stopped at a rest area that overlooked a beautiful scene

It was a great trip!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Night Before Christmas: A New Twist on an Old Favorite

Do you like the story of The Night Before Christmas? When I taught fourth grade we used to read several versions of the story out loud and compare setting, plot, characters, etc. You and your kids may enjoy any of the following twists on the original by Clement C. Moore, available at most libraries:

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Trying to Update Two Blogs Again!

Over the past few months, I have had all kinds of things in the back of my mind to post about on my other blog. Until this week, my last post was in August, so I'm sure those of you that were reading it gave up, but I have renewed my commitment to keeping it updated and have written a few new posts if you are interested.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Happy Birthday Shayne!

The boy is 8 years old today. I was looking at pictures and videos from when he was a lot younger and of course cannot believe how the time has flown by. Here is a video of him at 6 months and one at 11 months.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Twelve Days of Christmas

My Grandma sent me this many years ago and I keep it with the Christmas stuff and read it each year and get a good laugh. It reads:

If your "true love" didn't remember you in the traditional "twelve days of Christmas" style, consider this:

December 14

My Darling John,

I answered the door today and to my delightful surprise the postman handed me a partridge in a pear tree. What a marvelous gift. I just couldn't have been more surprised and pleased.

With deepest love and affection, Your only true love,


December 15

Dearest John,

Again today the postman brought me a beautiful gift from you. Just imagine- two turtle doves. I'm so delighted. Your gift is so thoughtful. They're absolutely adorable.

All my love,


December 16

My Dear Dear John,

Aren't you the extravagant one. Now I really must protest. I don't deserve such generosity. Three French Hens. They're darling. But I must insist you've been far too kind.



December 17

My Dear Sweetheart,

Today again the postman knocked on my door and this time he delivered four calling birds. Now really, John. They're beautiful, but don't you think enough is enough? You're being just too romantic.



December 18

My Dear Sweet John,

What an absolutely wonderful surprise. Today the postman brought me five golden rings. One for each finger. You're just impossible, but I love it. Frankly, all those birds are beginning to get on my nerves.

With love,


December 19

Dear John,

When I opened my door this morning there were six geese-a-laying on my front steps. So you're back to the birds again. John, they're huge. Where in the world will I keep them, or what will I do with all those eggs they're-a-laying? The neighbors are complaining about the noise and the smell and I can't sleep a wink. Please, please stop.



December 20

Dear John,

What's with you and all these blasted birds? Now it's seven swans-a-swimming. What kind of lousy joke is this? Bird droppings all over the house. My fingers are raw to the bone from building all these birdcages. I can't sleep. It's not funny any longer so stop it immeadiately.



December 21

OK Buster. What in the world is going on? What in Sam Hill am I going to do with eight maids a-milking? I prefer the birds. It's not enough with all those birds and maids, they had to bring all their cows with them. The lawn is a mess. You have to be careful where you step, and the house smells awful. I'm warning you-lay off.


December 22

Hey, Jerk, what are you, some kind of weirdo Today there's nine pipers piping. All they do is chase the maids. The cows are giving too much milk. The neighbors refuse to buy the milk. The birds are all screeching because of the playing pipers and the maids refuse to eat goose eggs. What am I supposed to do? The neighbors have started eviction proceedings against me. I'll get you.


December 23

You rotten knucklehead. Now there's ten ladies dancing. All they do is dance all night long. I don't have enough food storage to last many more days. They're eating me out of house and home. All the cows are getting sick, all the milk is going sour and the board of health is threatening to condemn the place. I've had it, you stupid blockhead. I'm calling the police.

One who means it--------Agnes

December 24

Listen you goon. What's with eleven lords a-leaping? All those maids and ladies and pipers are driving me nuts. All 23 of the birds have been trampled to death. I hope you're satisfied.

Your sworn enemy,


December 25

Dear Sir: This is to acknowledge your latest gift of twelve drummers drumming which you have seen fit to inflict on my client. Miss Agnes McFurry's destruction was of course, total, and she is now at Happydale Sanitarium where attendants have instructions to shoot you on sight. Enclosed please find a bill for all damages and a warrant for your arrest.

Yours truly,

O.F. Baily
Attorney at Law

Friday, December 11, 2009

16 Years

Today is our 16th anniversary! This photo was taken at some point in those first few years in front of my Grandma's house in St. George. Don't ask me to explain the facial hair...

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Whirlybird Wednesday

Today we had Fox 10 News visit our school for Whirlybird Wednesday! It is a live segment that they do each Wednesday to highlight an Arizona school. They bring in the helicopter and land it right on the field in front of the kids! There are two separate clips.

The "News Club" he referred to at the beginning is a club I run with two other teachers. We have about 35 fifth and sixth graders who meet each Tuesday and plan, tape and produce an 8-10 minute newscast that the kids in the school watch each Friday. It is usually my most stressful hour of the week because it is a lot to plan and coordinate after an already full work day. It is also a lot of fun. Anyway, some of the News Club kids got to take pictures of and videotape the event and a few others got to interview the anchor (Cory), the cameraman and the helicopter pilot. They were in heaven with all of the interaction with actual news people. It was really a fun experience. It was fun for me to watch later because now that I teach in the lab I know all the kids! Shayne had a blast too.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

A Slippery Slope

I have to be careful to not be inflammatory here, as I am an employee of a school district who is doing this, so I will actually be asking more questions than sharing my own opinions, although I'm sure it will not be hard for most of you to guess how I feel about this.

We have all been involved in the H1N1 hubbub in the past few months whether we wanted to be or not. Recently it has become popular for schools to schedule the vaccinations of the school children on-site, at the school, with parent permission.

Looking deeper than the convenience of not having to go to the doctor's office, what do you think of this? Am I the only one around who worries about the long-term implications of the blurring of the line between education and health care? It just seems a little too Orwellian to me that we are lining up our children to be inoculated at the public schools. I think school should be school and that families still need to take their children to the doctor's office for health care issues that need more than a band aid or an ice pack. Also, by giving the vaccinations at school, are we unofficially endorsing them as a good idea? I could go on and on, but as this is on the Internet, and I am a teacher, I won't. Am I being paranoid here or does this rub anyone else the wrong way?

PS- This is also my hundredth post :)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Christmas in the Air

I love December! Christmas is great on its own, but in our family we also have our anniversary (the 11th), Shayne's birthday (the 14th) and my birthday (the 30th). It is always a lot of fun to pull out the Christmas boxes and start doing things that get us in the Christmas mood. Here are a few of my favorite Christmas things to take out each year:

This is one of our favorite Chrismas movies to watch. I really like the older animated version a lot better than the full-length movie that came out a few years ago.

It is also one of the best read-alouds of all time. I'm pretty sure I have the whole thing memorized.

Handel's Messiah is one of my favorite Christmas CDs. When I was a kid, my Grandma took us to the Naval Academy to see it performed live and it was absolutely amazing. I will never forget the feeling of seeing that beautiful music being made right in front of me.

A Christmas CD on the lighter side, John Denver and the Muppets' A Christmas Together is a good one. My favorite song is their rendition of the 12 Days of Christmas.

This one is another good one. It reminds me a lot of when I was a kid because it was one of the ones we listened to every year. The version of O Holy Night on this CD is maybe my favorite one ever.

This is a hilarious adaptation of the Christmas classic, A Christmas Carol. Can you tell we like the muppets?

This is a very well-done version of A Christmas Carol also, and it was a family tradition to watch it in our home when I was growing up. I make sure to watch it at least once every December.

The book is great too! It isn't very long and the words and story are beautiful. I reread it in December most years. There are a few good abridged versions out there for younger readers also.
These are some of the things that get us into a festive mood around our house. What are some of your favorites?

Friday, October 30, 2009

Halloween Party...Good Times

Our neighborhood had a Halloween Party last night. Rick was at work, but the kids and I went and had a great time. They bounced in the bouncy house, got a balloon giraffe and sword, made ghost bead necklaces and got a Halloween cupcake to eat at the end. Maya did a great job being patient in line and coming out of the bouncy house when her turn was over, so that helped a lot (Shayne did too, but he usually does). Here are some pictures of Buzz Lightyear and Batman.

The Lone Wolf

We have lived in our home for the past 8 years almost to the day. During this time we have seen many plants come and go. I have never claimed to have a green thumb, but in spite of that, we have a very sturdy vine (not sure what kind) and two oleander bushes that have survived the long haul, up to and including going without water for 2-3 weeks when we are in Maryland each summer and the average high temperature is over 110. So after all these years, about a week ago, the vine grew one flower. It has never flowered before and it may never flower again, so I thought it was worth celebrating.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Can You Read This?

I got this in a forwarded email. Maybe you have seen something like it before. Kind of crazy...

Cna yuo raed tihs? i cdnuolt blveiee taht I cluod aulaclty uesdnatnrd waht I was rdanieg. The phaonmneal pweor of the hmuan mnid, aoccdrnig to a rscheearch at Cmabrigde Uinervtisy, it dseno't mtaetr in waht oerdr the ltteres in a wrod are, the olny iproamtnt tihng is taht the frsit and lsat ltteer be in the rghit pclae. The rset can be a taotl mses and you can sitll raed it whotuit a pboerlm. Tihs is bcuseae the huamn mnid deos not raed ervey lteter by istlef, but the wrod as a wlohe.. Azanmig huh? yaeh and I awlyas tghuhot slpeling was ipmorantt!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Another Recommendation...

Ok, I know I keep writing about books I think everyone should read, but here is one more! I started reading it yesterday evening and couldn't put it down until I had read the last page. Rules is a kid's book that won the Newberry Honor in 2007. The book is written from the perspective of a 12 year old girl who has a brother four years younger than her who has autism. The title comes from a theme that is weaved throughout the book, that the main character, Catherine, makes up rules for her little brother to help him understand the world. It is a touching account of this very likable character's attempt to balance her loyalty to her family and fierce protection of her brother, with what she wants for herself.

It is wonderfully written, and like I wrote, I couldn't put it down. It is true that the subject matter is deeply personal to me, so you may only cry a few times while you read it while I only stopped crying a few times. It is moving more than sad, so don't let the crying scare you off! I think this would be a great read for school-aged kids, probably from 4th on up (5th or 6th on up if reading independently). Even though it is written for kids, I would highly recommend it for anyone. It gives invaluable insight into the lives of families with children who have disabilities that would be hard to find anywhere except for personal experience. Hearing the story from the perspective of the sister/daughter makes it even more interesting. Anyway, it is well worth the time, just have a box of tissues handy!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

"Muffin Man Shayne"

Maya really only started drawing things that were representations of other things (people, animals, etc.) in the past 6 months. She wasn't really very interested in cutting or gluing until this past summer either. I was pretty impressed the other day when she used paper, markers, a muffin paper, scissors and a glue stick to make this all by herself. I didn't even realize she was doing it until she was done. A few weeks ago they made "muffin men" at school, so I asked her what this was and she said "Muffin Man Shayne".

Monday, October 19, 2009

His Mother's Son


Shayne: Mom, is the government watching everything we do?
Me: Not everything...

Friday, October 16, 2009

A Few of the Mamas I Know

Speaking to the moms now...I know sometimes when we are the ones taking the pictures, we don't always have good photos of ourselves with our kids. I am lucky that Rick takes nice photos of me with the kids a lot (and so do a lot of the other husbands!) but as I was looking through some photos, I found a few of my sister and sisters-in-law with their kid(s) that I really like that I don't think they have seen before.

Alison and Matthew 7/09

Tammy and Greg 7/08

Sarah and James 7/09

Tammy and Greg 7/09

Tammy and Melissa 7/08

Wendy, I am going to get a great photo of you and your little one next summer!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Not to harp on books I have been reading, but...

...if you feel like this economy has treated you badly, that you aren't living as comfortably as you used to, like many of us do right now, give The Grapes of Wrath a read (or a re-read). Called by some the greatest American novel, I would have said that it was one of the best books that I ever read, except I am still trying to wrap my head around the ending, which I am not sure I like. Apart from that, it is a phenomenal book and well worth the time.
It is about one family that leaves the mid-west during the Great Depression when that part of the country was referred to as "The Dust Bowl". They were kicked off of their land and decided to relocate to California to look for work. They encounter pretty much every imaginable adversity along the way and upon arrival, but manage to keep moving forward from day to day in spite of it all.
I'm sure some of you have already read it-it was on a huge list of books that I have always wanted to read, but haven't yet. Since reading it I feel great to have food on the table at every meal, clothes to wear and a roof over our heads, not that I didn't appreciate it before. It really made me think about what it would be like to slowly loose necessities like food, shelter and clothing in spite of a willingness to work hard, and to realize that so many of the things we worry about loosing are not necessities, but things we could do without if we had to. If you are looking for something interesting to read, I highly recommend it.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Our Goal

Shayne and I like Dr. Seuss books. Not just the ones like Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham, but some of the lesser-known books like I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew and The Butter Battle Book. Some of them are wonderful and they are even more fun when read aloud. There are 50+ Dr. Seuss books. A misconception is that they are only for very young children, in fact there are many that are written for all ages. Our goal is to read all of them in the next few months. We have read 23 of them so far. I have read a few more than that from teaching 4th grade for so long, but we have read 23 together. Most recently we read If I Ran the Zoo, If I Ran the Circus, The Sleep Book and The Lorax. We are adding to our list as we find new titles at the library. I'm sure at some point we will hit a wall and not be able to find copies of the last few, but I guess we'll tackle that issue when we get there. For now, we are having fun discovering new Dr. Seuss books!