Thursday, December 27, 2012

Dreaming of a . . .

Nope, I'm not dreaming of a white Christmas!  I'm dreaming of a "pain free" Christmas, just like the ones I used to know.  Before I got old and unbalanced, and tripped over my own feet. (Or over a bin of boxes I put in the kitchen!)

December 20 ~ I'm on vacation!  Both daughters are home!  We have four days to get last minute presents made, and wrapped and be ready for Christmas festivities!  Jess and I have been sitting in the family room, chatting and entertained by watching Kailyn's kitten.  Kailyn's out on a date; David has been in bed asleep for hours. I pick up one of the beautiful poinsettia plants in the family room and carry it to the kitchen for a dose of water.

Suddenly, I am falling, the plant goes flying and SPLAT goes my body, onto the kitchen floor. At first, I just laid there, cursing, while Jess picked up the plant, scooping the dirt back into the pot.  The obviously indestructible Fiesta ware saucer doesn't have a crack in it, although I'm fairly sure my ribs do.

I am so mad at myself.  I'm the one who put a plastic bin of boxes in that spot a few hours previously, ready to be used for gift wrapping. How on earth did I trip over what I knew was there?  It wasn't even in the doorway; I almost had to go out of my way to find it with my left foot!

After I managed to get upright, I hobbled to the couch in the family room and Nurse Jess brought me ice packs for my chest and knees. (At that point I didn't know what hurt worse, so we covered all areas of impact)  Fortunately I had leftover pain pills from an earlier shoulder injury (which I'm still doing physical therapy for) and I got to bed around midnight.  Not a happy place to be I discovered.  There was no comfortable position.

The next morning I called the doctor and made an appointment to come in for x-rays   I found it was easier to sit upright, or stand, than to lay down, so I puttered in my sewing room for much of the day while I awaited my appointment time, guiding Jess as she made her first pair of pajama pants. (She did an excellent job!)

Just as I was getting ready to leave, I received a phone call telling me my doctor was delivering a baby and I'd need to reschedule for the next morning!  I was told I could go to urgent care to get x-rays if I wished, but since I didn't really want to get in the car anyway, I decided it wouldn't make much difference either way.  I found that the pain pills weren't doing a lot for the pain, but helped my disposition, so I took another one!

It was hard to believe, but the second night was even worse for sleeping, so I was grateful for the morning appointment.  My husband drove me to the doctor, and after x-rays showed I had no broken ribs, I was given a different prescription pain reliever and told I would likely feel worse the next day, but that I would see improvement (SLOWLY) over the next several weeks.  The doctor said that treatment is basically the same, with or without broken ribs, and that it's the bruised muscles that are causing the pain. I was told to be sure and take deep breaths at least once an hour, as pneumonia was a concern with this type of injury. Merry Christmas to me!

We headed over to my Dad's to pick him up for the l-o-n-g drive to my brother's house for the family Christmas party, which was scheduled for noon that day.  Arriving at my Dad's, he told us he preferred taking his van, and driving, as it was most comfortable for him (he is healing from a broken hip!) and I figured it wasn't going to matter much for me, so we let him drive.  My brother lives in a gorgeous home, on top of a mountain, outside of Woodland, Washington, complete with hairpin curves the seven miles up from the main road.  Despite a pain pill and later two extra strength Tylenol, I was in misery, and not a little cranky.  Once at my brother's, I stood and tried to be sociable, (no easy task!) until it was mercifully time to go home. Everyone was solicitous and no one hugged me hard, so I wasn't any worse off when we left.

Christmas Eve we drove to my husband's sister's house for another family gathering.  By that morning, I was feeling like there was a light at the end of the tunnel (hmm, sounds like my last post . . .) and I was even able to sit awhile in almost comfort while we were there.  When it was time to go, we all went around for our good bye hugs, and my brother-in-law, whom I love, gave me a bear hug that literally brought tears to me eyes.  (In his defense, he knew nothing of my recent fall, as we hadn't told anyone there.)

When we got to the car I told my family about the hug, and we all kind of laughed about it, as that's just Uncle Guy, known for his bear hugs, and I didn't think much more about it.

Yesterday I went back to PT (for my shoulder) and told my therapist about my fall.  She was very cautious with me as we went through my routine, and I felt like I was doing alright until she asked me to lay on the bench.  As soon as my back hit the bench, I was in immediate pain.  She saw my eyes fill with tears and quickly helped me stand up. I asked why my back hurt so bad, when I landed on my front, and she explained the ways the muscles surround the body, and that back pain showed how deep my bruising was.

Last night I was carrying some recycling stuff to the garage and dropped it.  David heard me cussing and came to help me pick it up, saying, "I'll get it."

I told him, "I'm not mad about dropping it so much as I'm mad that it hurts so much to bend over and pick anything up.  I'm so tired of being in pain!"

I can see through the window that it isn't raining outside, so I am going to go through the misery of getting dressed and putting on my shoes, so I can enjoy some fresh air and a walk.  I'm sick of laying/sitting around, especially since I can't do much of either for longer than about an hour before I'm uncomfortable. 

It just occured to me that dreaming of a pain free existence isn't going to make it happen.  Movement will be a start . . . careful, paying close attention to my surroundings, movement . . . it's a start.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Let There Be Light

Kailyn and Cleo

I've been up for hours, read the paper, caught up on a few blogs, and it's still dark as I look out my kitchen window.  It is the time of darkness.  No wonder the Christian world decided it would be a good time to celebrate Christmas!  It makes perfect sense. We need a little light in this world.

For the past seven years, I've dreaded December doubly, with the darkness of grief commingling with the dreariness of winter. This year was no exception.  It started on December first, attending a memorial service for a friend's husband, sobbing in the pew as the painful memories pierced my heart, not only for myself, but so many of my friends who have lost their children too soon and especially those whose anniversaries are also in December.

It continued, building to a crescendo as the days marched on, dreading the coming of the anniversary of my son's death on December 16.  For some reason, this year seemed especially poignant. I cried frequently, with no warnings.  I was also battling a raging anger inside that I couldn't name, but was erupting with intensity and frankly, scaring the daylights out of me.  My counselor gave me a simple two sentence meditation that I latched onto and was repeating to myself endlessly, "May I be happy again.  May this pain pass."

And then the horror of Sandy Hook Elementary shook our world, rattled our sensibilities, and my own dance with grief was sidelined.  My broken heart wept with those newly broken hearted parents. As the news traveled across the school, as I met the red eyes of fellow teachers in the hallways, silently embracing, I was reminded of September 11, 2001.  When I could grasp the words from my spinning brain, I'd repeat my mantra from earlier in the week, no longer singular, but plural.  We got through the day, sending our unknowing students off for the weekend, perhaps giving more hugs than usual as they left our classrooms.

Time does not stop.  As I've written (and been interrupted by my dog and my husband) the day has lightened and the birds are feasting at the various feeders outside my window.  The fire is warming, the still fresh evergreen aroma of the Christmas tree fills my nostrils.  I look around at the chaos Christmas, and of both daughters home for the holidays, including my new baby grandkitty, Cleo!

Yesterday I celebrated 62 years of living. I was literally showered with love. My students gifts, cards and notes reassured me that I am right where I am supposed to be.  I was doubly blessed, as my birthday coincided with the last day of school before winter break. (Happy Birthday to me!) From the specially chosen and carefully wrapped green apple, to the hand knit (by one of my spitfire little guys!) purple scarf, to the boxes of candy, ornaments, mugs, nick knacks, stuffed bears and perfume (yes, perfume!) my aching heart healed a little more.

This day also brought the happy news that my oldest daughter, Jessica, was officially hired as a certificated substitute for the district I work for. (I will have a live-in sub; how cool is that?)  My youngest daughter, Kailyn was coming home, with baby Cleo, and my sister was hosting a family dinner in honor of my birthday. The day was long, but filled with laughter. Being encircled by so much love truly lifted my heart and soul.

Having lived through my own raw Christmas grief, I have firsthand experience with darkness during the season of light. I know that it will come back to haunt me, year after year, because it is right that I  miss my son; his presence in my life. But, I also know that though the tunnel of darkness can be long, and seemingly without end, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Let there be light for you, and for those you love.  

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Trick or Treat?

Little did I realize a couple weeks ago, when I decided I'd make my class cake pops, what a trick it would be.  Or the mess.  Or the frustration.  Or, the expense.  I must have been crazy, truly, to think that making cake pops for 27 would be, well, a piece of cake.  Not.

I made the cake on Sunday ($ 0.99).  I crumbled it up and added the frosting ($ 1.29) on Monday, and attempted to form nice little round balls of sticky cake.  Messy, very messy.  I melted white chocolate  ($2.59) and dipped the little white stick in ($1.99), and stuck it in the little round sticky balls of cake.  About half of them crumbled on the cookie sheet.  I fixed them and put them in the freezer to "set".

Meanwhile, I melted orange candy melts ($2.99) in the microwave.  I waited patiently for my 20 minutes to be up for the cake balls to "set" then dipped the first one in the melted candy.

It broke apart and I had to fish it's pieces out of the bowl with a spoon.

I crammed it back together (I think the melted candy kind of helped it hold its shape) and put them all back in the freezer and decided to leave them there until this morning.

Mostly awake at 5:15 AM, I began melting the candy (again) while I read the paper.  Once it was melted, I tried dipping again with greater success.  I liberally coated the dipped cake balls with sprinkles ($2.99) these are for fifth graders after all! and poked them into the rather expensive chunks of styrofoam I bought for just this purpose (3 @ $3.99 each) to dry.

Luckily, I had also bought a bag of yellow candy melts ($2.99) as I soon realized that the bag of orange wasn't enough to cover all of the cake pops.  For some strange reason, the yellow candy seemed thicker, and those cake balls are fatter than the orange ones. Oh well.

I finished clearing the melted candy off the counter, swept up the spilled sprinkles, and put the finished cake pops in the fridge to harden around 7:00 AM.  Then it was a frantic rush to get out of the house and get to work.

Just before I left, I tried to cover the cake pops with the little plastic treat bags I had bought ($1.99) for this purpose.  The bags were too small.

I went to work, left at noon for an ELL training at district office, hurried to my accupuncture session at 4:00, and ran by the craft store to buy bigger treat bags ($4.99 - they only came in a package of 100!)

Now I sit.  I have bagged the cake pops, baked mini pumpkin muffins, had dinner, and I'm ready to call it a night.  I've gotten no school work accomplished for two evenings now, and tomorrow night I'll be interrupted every five minutes with trick or treaters.

I did the math.  $34.78 (without the tax) which comes out to about $1.29 per student.

I think I've been tricked. I could have bought them at Starbucks for about the same price! Although, I have no desire to eat these . . . the ones at Starbucks however would have been much more tempting!

Happy Halloween!
Last night I decided to slap a bit of leftover frosting on the mini pumpkin muffins, then add the left over sprinkles, but alas, I ran out of frosting a little over half way through. I went to bed, as it was nearly 10:00.

This morning I thought I'd whip up more frosting, but it seemed like too much effort for the 1/2 cup I needed.  Then I remembered I still had four squares of white chocolate.  Viola!  I melted those down, dipped the remaining mini muffins in the melted chocolate, then in the last of the orange and black sprinkles!

Now I have to cart all this stuff to school in an hour!  But, it will be fun to see the kids faces! That will be my "treat"!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Treasure Island

I can't say that I've honestly ever fantasized about meeting up with a bunch of strangers to spend a weekend stranded on an island.  However, when I received an email asking if I might be interested in doing such a thing, I barely hesitated to respond with an affirmative answer.  I was intrigued by the thought of meeting four women I felt that I "knew" through blogging over the past year or so.  I had built a relationship with them, reading and responding to their stories, as they reciprocated to mine.  I knew quite a lot about them, and wondered if there would be any "surprises" in real life.  My old and trustworthy friend, Deb (aka Catbird Scout) was part of the package, so I knew I wouldn't be alone in this adventure.

Linda (aka Bag Lady in Waiting) scoured the internet, looking for a list of suitable accommodations, and we all were drawn to idyllic sounding Lavender Hills Farm on Vashon Island.  Within a matter of days, the dates were set, the farmhouse was booked, and we'd all sent Linda our share of the rental.

And then, in the hustle and bustle of September, I sort of put any thoughts about the "blogger weekend" out of my head.

Suddenly, it was October, and emails were flying, filled with who was bringing what, and who was driving with who, and who was arriving when.  Deb and I met up, giddy as school girls on holiday, to make the drive north on what promised to be a glorious fall Friday.

And glorious it was, despite losing our way enroute to the ferry, and while finally on the ferry, receiving a phone call from our unmet new friends, telling us they also were lost (but finally found!) and discovered Deb & I would arrive at our destination first, instead of last.

We arrived, and met with the caretaker, who gave us a tour of truly one of the most beautiful old farm houses I've ever had the privilege to visit.  Every step, every corner turned, drew oohs and aahs. (alas, I neglected to take many photos, and actually can't find my camera at the moment, so if you want to see photos, hop on over to DJan's blog!)

Deb and I were just finishing unloading the van when our weekend roommates drove up.  We all hugged like long lost friends, and immediately DJan had her camera out.  The tone was set and a passerby would have never guessed we'd met only moments before.  Our time flew and was truly a fantasy come true.

Were there "surprises"?  Oh yes, but learning more about our cyber friends only made them more endearing.  We discovered much more in common than previously known, and tenuous connections via blogger were strengthened and woven tightly together during our time spent sharing, exploring, discovering and eating!

Rounding out our group of six was Sally, who came all the way from Colorado, and Jann, both of whom have written their own versions of our fantastic weekend!

Linda, Sally, DJan, Deb and Jann 
It wouldn't have occurred to me to instigate a gathering such as this one,  but I'm so thrilled I was included.  Our time spent getting to know one another was time I will forever treasure.

Monday, September 17, 2012

State of Wonder

These days, I'm in a constant state of wonder.  Mostly wondering how on earth I'm managing to get up every morning, then wondering how I will ever get through the day. I'm feeling my age in these old bones. My exhaustion seems to know no limits. I go to bed tired, with a brain that won't shut off, wondering and worrying, with a sea of ten-year-old faces taking the place of imaginary sheep, and wishing for elusive sleep.   The first few weeks in the fall are always exhausting, but, like childbirth, somehow I forget that part until I'm immersed in the tsunami like waves of it once again.  Right now I'm wondering how many more Septembers I have in me!

I'm sure all occupations are like this, where you feel like you're already behind, almost before you get started.  With new Common Core State Standards (which are really not new, but new wording and new ways of organizing) and new students, and new schedules (radically changed from previous years) and new expectations, and new staff members, my poor old brain is spinning. I'm wondering when I am going to remember all these new things.

Fortunately, I have an amazing classroom of 27 fifth graders who, for the most part, are enthusiastic, eager, and willing to remind their wonky teacher that it's time to head out for lunch, or PE, or where ever they are supposed to be going.  I am already in love with them, and committed to making this a year of wonder that they will always remember. 

I spent my first weekend, after the first week of school, inexplicably weeping.  I knew that on some level, it was partially due to knowing one of my students had lost his dad last year, and that reminded me of losing my mom when I was in 4th grade.  I also knew I was mourning the upcoming last day of a student I have barely gotten to know, but felt wrenched with her leaving after only four days of school. I've had kids before in these situations, though I'm usually not weepy.  I'm still wondering about my sensitivity, although I think I may have traced it to my reaction to a book I read this summer, recommended by my dear friend, Deb (aka Catbird Scout).

Deb told me about a book called Wonder, by P. J. Palacio, the story of a fifth grade boy with multiple facial anomalies, who enters public school for the first time.  Auggie is "just an ordinary boy" stuck in an unordinary body, and this poignant story is told mostly in his voice.  It's a beautiful book, and I fully intended to read it to my class.  Unfortunately, a series of events caused me to think twice about beginning the book on the first day as I had planned. I read a few picture books instead, but I was missing the magic that happens when I read aloud an intentionally chosen chapter book that draws the class in.

I won't go into the details here, however, after careful consideration, and a conversation with my principal, I began reading the book aloud on the fourth day of school. It was the right decision.

Auggie's voice is often very funny, and at moments the class erupted in hysterical laughter.  (I was finding it difficult to read aloud, as his descriptions are pretty amusing, in a delightfully fifth grade sort of way!)  Humor is always a good catch, however the beauty of this story comes alive through the conversations we have had as a class.  Deep, and sometimes painful, connections were made, and the empathy was palpable in the classroom.  Stories shared brought tears, understanding, hope and invoked  a state of wonder. I am humbled by what these young people have dealt with in their young lives, and have a burning desire to brighten their world.

The first week of school, I suggested an idea to my class for covering our reading response journals with torn paper art, representing a favorite book.  I got the idea from my daughter, Kailyn, who had created one for an education class she was in last spring.  The kids loved the idea!
My example, which I found quite difficult to accomplish!
One student's choice of their favorite book! There were several Dr. Seuss!
Of course, there was BabyMouse!
Many, many versions of different "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" books.
This one surprised me! I'm enjoying getting to know this student.
We will begin week three by celebrating Constitution Day.  Lesson plans are ready; Kailyn is visiting today as she doesn't start classes until Wednesday.  I am no more rested than when I began this post (about a week ago!) but the clock is ticking and life is moving on.

Despite the weariness in my bones, my heart and soul soars in a continual state of wonder, filled with the anticipation of what awaits in the days to come.  

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Slip Sliding Away

Many, many years ago, while living in Flagstaff, Arizona one brief summer, my friends and I rode our motorcycles out to a place where there was a natural water slide.  I can't remember how long it was, but I do recall wearing the bottom out of my bathing suit as the force of the water rushed me pell mell down the rock canyon, one of the most fun experiences I still recall in my fuzzy old brain. (The amazing internet allowed me to find what I think was the area, called: Slide Rock  When I went to the website, I discovered that it now costs $20 per carload.  I was there in 1970, and I don't think we paid anything!)

Those were carefree days.  The only rush in my life was the water, and I had no problem letting go and allowing myself to be swept along with the current, grinning ear to ear as I enjoyed the ride. I was almost 20 years old, traveling from job to job, hanging out with friends, and wasn't concerned about what tomorrow would bring, as I knew whatever happened, I would be fine.
My thoughts exactly in August, 1970
We also visited the Grand Canyon, three of us hiking to the bottom, taking turns carrying our three backpacks, two with food and sleeping bags, one with my friend's two year old son. (Randy was heavier than the food and sleeping bags, and although he did walk some of the time, it was a super long trek for a two year old!) As the Grand Canyon hike was my "good-bye trip"  (I got on a Greyhound bus for the return to Oregon soon after), I've not seen either of these friends since the end of that summer, and often wondered what happened to them. Randy would be 44 years old!

Where did those lazy, hazy, crazy days go?

Well, I guess the short answer is that I eventually grew up, settled down, got married (more than once), started a family (also, more than once!), and returned to college repeatedly until I finally graduated at the unbelievable age of 50 (32 years after my feeble attempts at beginning!)

Looking back, with wise (or at least, wiser) eyes, it is difficult to stop myself from viewing my life as rushing days, followed by too short nights, slip sliding away.  I want to grab hold of these last precious days of August, clinging to them for all I'm worth, but day by day, they are slipping through my clenched hands. I want to plant my feet and shout, "No! No! NO!!" to the seductive call of the classroom.

Oh, I know you're wondering about that "seductive" business, but it's true.  Look it up.
Seductive: adjective - tempting and attractive; enticing . . .

The best part of being a teacher is the beginning of the year: a fresh start, with new students, brand new crayons and colored pencils, unmarked notebooks, a sparkling clean whiteboard, brimming with confidence, excited about trying new ideas.  I am weird, but I love arranging the classroom, moving things around, creating a welcoming learning space. Once I'm there, I can't wait for the kids to show up.

We have a traditional "meet the teacher" evening (next Thursday) a week before school begins.  I love meeting the kids and their parents.  I have five returning families this year, siblings of earlier years, and I'm excited to see them again. I love the first days of getting to know everyone, creating our classroom family.  I love teaching.

But this year, I'm just not quite ready to give up my time at home, and that somehow seems selfish. (although I don't really care!)  I am blessed with a career that I enjoy, and that allows me to have several weeks "off" during the summer.  How wonderful!  Except this summer wasn't exactly restful, and I think that is why I'm dragging my feet about returning to the classroom.  For the first time all summer, I've had a couple of days to myself at home.  I forgot what this is like.  It's heavenly to putter around as long as I want, fuss with rearranging furniture as I give the floors a thorough vacuuming (which may not happen again until my next "break").  I'm leisurely sorting through odds and ends, cleaning out cupboards and drawers, and enjoying this time with no conversation except "Move, Nikki" as my dog has an uncanny way of lying directly in my path, regardless of what direction I plan to take!

I went in to my classroom once last week, and this past Monday.  Kailyn did my bulletin board, as it is tradition that one of my daughters does this, and it's been Kailyn for the last several years.
We found the owls cheap, and decided, it's a theme!
Fantastic tree she created, don't you think?
I went in for a while yesterday to help a teacher friend move her classroom, but didn't even turn the lights on in mine!  Instead, I went and got a haircut . . .

Last night Kailyn called from Ellensburg to tell me about her volunteer practicum experience.  She met the teacher on Tuesday, and will spend the next six weeks with a 4th grade classroom.  She was bubbling over with enthusiasm, excited to be involved in the process of beginning the year with a teacher other than her mom.  (And I mean that in the nicest way!  She always loves helping out and meeting my kids in the fall, but this year, she will be in a completely new situation in Yakima.) I was excited along with her, even though I'll be missing her capable presense in my own classroom this year!

And, last week, Jess left for Australia. There was a whirlwind of activity in the days leading up to her departure, with last minute clothing purchases (her "teacher" wardrobe) and last lunches and last suppers!  

David, Jessica and Kailyn at Menchies for Jessica's
"Farewell, I'm off to Australia" dessert night.
Whew! After packing and weighing and unpacking and
repacking, her suitcase made the 50 pound cutoff, barely!
Good bye, just prior to the slightly tearful hug from mom!
This time it's just for 12 weeks.  Much easier than an entire year!

Jess sent me this photo yesterday.  I believe it was taken in her room, just before leaving for her first day of student teaching.  I think the reality of where she is, and what she is doing, along with Kailyn's pre-teaching experience, really hit me this morning as I was writing this post.  

Time is indeed . . . slip sliding away.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

The Ants Go Marching . . . and . . . August is Upon Us!

I neglected to take photographs of my ant invasion, silly me.  They've been invading for years, particularly in August, and this year, despite my home-brewed attacks with vinegar and bleach, and Terro Ant Killer, they kept coming back for more!  I gave up and my husband called an exterminator.    They were a likeable pair, father and daughter, and after the killing, we visited awhile and David gave them a jar of honey as a thank you gift. We were assured the substance used would not be harmful to us, our dog or the bees.  We hope this is true.

This morning I woke up to no ants; although I searched high and low for strays, I found nary a one!
It appears the ants have gone marching away, and good riddance I say!

August!  The beginning of the end . . . of vacation, of late night reading, of sleeping in past 5 am, of lazy days spent with family and friends.  Deb and I left for our rescheduled beach adventure early Monday morning, and enjoyed a full day of sleuthing for the best antique deals.
A few of the mini kitchen treasures I found during our antique shopping.
I especially love the little egg beater and bowl.  They didn't come together.
I found the beater first, and the bowl, which fit perfectly, at the next shop!

We had dinner at Blackfish Cafe in Lincoln City, and while it was a bit of a wait, was worth every morsel.  We wished we'd taken pictures of our food, but didn't think about it until we were partway through.  Well sated, we embarked on a search for a motel.  The first three were filled, but the Seahorse had a room, with a wonderful ocean view, just steps from the beach.  It was perfect!

We sat that night, reading aloud from the 1968 & 1969 Teen magazines we had bought earlier that day, bringing back fond (and hysterical) high school memories.
Cover of the magazine I bought, March 1969
Literally signs of the times.
Sounding off on whether riots are ok . . . or not.
Activities for the young in love, circa 1969.
Paul Revere and the Raiders!  Yea!  Portland, Oregon!
Teen magazine's attempt to convince girls to wear wigs??
We don't recall that fad much, at least I never had a wig!
 We ended up laughing hysterically at some of the articles, especially on dating.  Somehow, remembering high school was a lot funnier than actually being there! 

As usual, we both woke up early the next morning, got dressed and headed for the beach.  We thought we were very close, but there were a whole lot of steps to descend!
I wish I had counted the steps, because there are numerous switchbacks
that are hard to see in this photo.  They were also a bit steep, but we were determined!

Once on the beach, our sandals came off and we reveled in the feel of sand on bare toes.  The weather was perfect; not sunny, but not windy either! We both collected pockets full of rocks and shells.
Deb and I during enjoying our morning walk on the beach.

I saw this adorable little table in a shop we almost didn't stop at!
Then, we passed a tea shop and I found this darling 2 cup teapot.
Just right for my morning cuppa tea!
The embroidered and crocheted table topper was made by my grandma.
 We had a lovely two days of shopping and catching up on vacation and school stories.  Too soon, it was the end of the second day and time to part.  After dropping Deb at her house, I drove home, contented as a well-fed cat, grateful for this friendship which contains enough similarities to be supremely comfortable, and enough differences to make our adventures fun.  It also helps that we don't always seek the same type of treasures, and when we do, the unwritten rule is: Whoever sees the treasure, and picks it up first, is allowed to claim ownership! While we don't necessarily look for the same type of antiques, we appreciate each other's desires, and often point out what the other has missed.

Deb and I have always given each other little gifts, often for no reason, but just because we see something we know the other will love.
The sweet bird planter I found for Deb at The Farmstead Antique Shop.
I added the hens and chicks from my growing collection.

She brought me home this beautiful woven piece from Belize. I tried it in several places in my living room, and for now it will be on my great-grandmother's trunk.
I'm not convinced this is where it will stay, but it's protected under glass for now.
The white underneath is for contrast, as the photo didn't show the textile clearly at first.

Traveling with Deb is one of my very favorite things to do.  We rarely run out of topics to hash over;  the occasional silences are comfortable and short-lived. Our shared history is beautifully interwoven much like her gift from Belize ~ colorful, dramatic, surprising and harmonious.  And, our previously unknown to each other history is remarkably similar, finding we have covered much of the same territory, often living parallel lives.  Ours is an understood history, even though there were distinctly different variations in our paths, we have always believed we ended up in the same space for a reason.  

We were meant to know each other, and I will always be grateful for the series of events that lead us to connect and the impact that connection has had on my life.  I am already looking forward to our next adventure!

One of the items I was searching for while with Deb was a set of Tinker toys.  Last year one of our science guys brought in some Tinker toys for the kids and they did a science investigation using them to design and build a working windmill.  It was an excellent lesson and I've been looking for Tinker Toys ever since.  I didn't see any on our trip to the beach, but this week Kailyn and I stopped in to our favorite antique shop in Camas and there they were, vintage tin and all.  I opened the lid and counted enough pieces that I can make several groups and provide materials, so I was pretty happy.  It was missing all but one of the green flaps, but I'll give the kids cards, which will work perfectly well.  This set was $15, a real bargain as when I searched online, the cheapest I could find was $25, and those were plastic ones! The wood sets started at $49, for basically the same amount of pieces I got, on up to $225 for the mega set!

What a great find!
August is upon us, and quickly slipping away.  In three days my oldest daughter will be off to Australia for a fantastic student teaching experience. In less than three weeks my youngest daughter will be returning to college and the excitement of her first apartment.  Next week, I'll be dipping my toes into my classroom, a few hours at a time, preparing for the new school year.   Deep sigh . . . 

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Bike Hike 2012

One week ago today, I was pulling out of the church parking lot, in a five car caravan, heading for Idaho and the annual middle school "Bike Hike 2012" as the lead cook, a role I had about three days to prepare for!  Fortunately, Kailyn was my able assistant - a veteran Bike Hiker, and she was up for the job.

Kids milling around the loaded bike trailer, waiting for the signal to "load up".
The "Llama" trailer, filled with stoves, cooking utensils and food, aka - my kitchen!
Loading the kids sleeping bags and clothing in the trailer.
One side of my car, courtesy of the kids.
The passenger side of my van . . .
The back of my van, and the reason for about 50 honks on our 1,038 miles,
something I never quite got used to!
We headed straight for the car wash Saturday night after unloading!
The heart of my kitchen included the monster grill in the center,
flanked by two burner stoves on either side.
You can see our portable sink just to the left.
Our one set of electrical outlets was on the outside of the restrooms,
and became our coffe area and charging station!

What our tables looked like before we got to the store to purchase cleaner!
We spent one afternoon cleaning our four large tables and the sink.
We have no idea the last time that chore was done, but certainly not before camp!
The kids, just behind the kitchen area, getting ready to leave for one of their bike hikes.
This little guy hung out in our kitchen area!  He was fun to watch!
Volunteer kitchen crew, flipping tortillas for taco/burrito lunch.
Frequent helpers in the kitchen.  They made kitchen duty a lot of fun,
and I was grateful for their willingness to help at nearly every meal!
There were others as well that I unfortunately didn't get photos of. 

My girl, cleaning the sink after dish washing duty!
While we had "running" cold water, it drained into a large bucket
that needed to be emptied numerous times a day.
Thank goodness for middle school boys!
 The kitchen work was never ending.  When I first looked at our schedule I thought we'd have a fair amount of time to take in a hike or relax with a book.  It never happened!  We were kept busy from about 6:45 am until after the evening program and snack at 10:00 pm.  Middle schoolers are like the Energizer Bunny ~ they keep going and going and going!  They usually were forced to their tents around 11 pm.  After the first night, Kailyn volunteered to stay up and put away the food after their snacks, and sent me off to bed around 10:30, which I greatly appreciated!

A typical day for Kailyn and I began with a 6 am drive to the showers (about 10 minutes away) and starting our three big pots of water heating by 6:45.  We used the heated water in three warming pans, to keep food hot as we cooked for each meal.  We also heated water for the kids to have hot cocoa in the morning and evening.  The water was usually still hot enough to use for washing and rinsing the pots and pans during clean up.

We cooked!  We made sausage, bacon, pancakes, breakfast burritos, oatmeal, and scrambled eggs for breakfasts.  After breakfast clean up (there was always a crew of kids assigned to help, which was wonderful) we'd set out all the lunch makings: meats, cheeses, fruit, peanut butter/jelly, chips, cookies, etc.  The kids would pack their own lunches most days, although twice we cooked hot lunches for them in camp.

Once the kids left camp for the day, Kailyn and I would finish clean up, do the prep for the next meal, and then drive to the nearest grocery store (20+ miles) or Costco (25 miles), shop, then back. Our shopping trips usually took up most of our "free time".  :-)

Prior to cooking each meal, we would heat water in the three big pots, as we did for breakfast.  We got into the habit of filling them with water whenever we weren't using them to cook in.  After the first couple days, we figured out we could use the largest of the warming tray bottoms to do our dishes.  The kids dried.

We fed them lots of fresh fruits and veggies, and needed ice daily.  It seemed like we were either cooking, prepping, cleaning, driving or grocery shopping all day long! We cooked chicken teriyaki, with rice and tons of stir fried vegetables, spaghetti and meatballs, hamburgers & hotdogs.  It was a continual challenge to cook for 35, trying to anticipate servings, and plan so that everyone was satisfied, but not much was left over.  Over all, we did a pretty good job for our first time as camp cooks.  We left Vancouver with four huge coolers packed with perishable food, and at least 15 big green crates filled with cooking pots and pans, utensils and non perishable food.  We returned on Sunday with one cooler full of water bottles on ice (for the ride home) and one cooler with the perishables.  We had 4 crates of leftovers, mostly snacks and paper products, and two crates with kitchen utensils, etc.

Two of the afternoons Kailyn and I met up with the kids and went to Sandpoint, Idaho.  We visited an airplane factory, which was very interesting.  They built small planes that were able to land and take off in small areas, and they were gorgeous!  It was fascinating to see the process from start to finish, all in one large building.  The guide told us it takes about 90 days to complete an airplane.

 Two of the very classy finished planes.  

On Thursday, the kids biked to Sandpoint, and we met them at a park.  There was a miniature Statue of Liberty on a pier.  One of the leaders offered to take our picture!

 Later that evening, after the kids ate their "sack dinner" and were given some free time to explore Sandpoint, the adults went to a neat little Italian restaurant.  It was pretty nice to get the night off from cooking and be pampered a little!
Kailyn and I went ahead and held the table while the adult and student leaders
walked the students from the park into town and gave them directions
on where they were allowed to explore! (And where and when we would meet!)

Our view on the restaurant terrace.
Kailyn snapped this sunset photo on our drive back to camp that evening.
I ran out of energy and/or time and neglected to take any more photos at camp.  It was a ton of work, much more than I anticipated, but also a lot of fun. When we volunteered for this job, I only knew one of the middle school kids, two of the student leaders (interns), and the youth pastor, barely.  Kailyn knew a lot more of them, but not all.

Over the course of the week, I got to know many of the kids through their willingness to volunteer in the kitchen, and listening to them share about their lives during the evening program time.  Over and over I was reminded of how unique each individual is, kids and adults, and how important connections are for us in our daily lives.  There were some broken and troubled kids, who stood out, and my heart swelled as I watched from the sidelines as my daughter sought to connect with those kids, not to preach or teach, but just sit next to them while they made a friendship bracelet or some other craft. She was never "off duty". Although it wasn't expected of her to participate, she knew several kids from when she was an intern when they were younger.  It was obvious that they loved her and wanted to be around her.

My role was chief cook and nourisher ~ I wasn't a teacher, or a leader ~ which allowed me to be an observer (when I wasn't sweating over a hot pot!) something I rarely get the opportunity to do.  I thought a lot about past students, and future students, and building relationships.  I thought about trust, and acceptance, and tolerance.  I was moved to tears numerous times over the course of the week.

Despite the dirt, the heavy lifting, the work, the miserable sleeping conditions, (the air mattress didn't help, and it was quite cold at night!) the aches and pains and discomfort . . . I loved the camp and truly felt God's presence in that place.  It was breathtakingly beautiful.  Each night when I'd wearily climb the short slope to my van at the end of the day, I'd look up at the vastness of the open sky, and the millions of stars and be humbled, yet grateful to be there.

I wish I'd taken more pictures.  We had this huge group camping area to ourselves and it was heavenly. There was plenty of room for the kids to spread out and explore.

It was a fulfilling way to spend a week of my summer vacation.  I wouldn't have necessarily wanted to do this, and probably wouldn't have volunteered previously, except I felt called to this emergency (and  Kailyn keeps saying it would be fun to do it again!)

Everyone was so grateful! Kids and adults thanked us after every meal, and would randomly drop by and tell us "Thanks for cooking for us!" We felt needed, wanted and appreciated.

Would I do this again?  Maybe . . .