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 . . .