Saturday, September 12, 2009

My Week at Scicon

Scicon really is a beautiful place- this was one of the views on the trail to the quartz mine. There are some large turkey vultures off in the distance .
3 of my boys and I doing what will forever be known as the "Single File Please" pose! When we did cabin visits, the boys were almost more excited for their teachers to see their cabins than the girls were! I wanted to put more pictures but they all have kids and I have to watch thier privacy (I will make sure it's okay with these three boys. I don't think they or their parents will mind. If they do, I will delete it...) So this week has been tiring, fun and memorable. I went to Scicon with my sixth graders and had a wonderful time. On the first day, things were pretty busy. Kids arrived at school with all their pillows, sleeping bags and luggage, slightly wound up and ready for their adventure. I was slightly scrambling around because my teaching partner Ms. Estandia was ill and would not be going. I am kind of embarrassed to say that I had left pretty much all of the pre-planning/preparations to her since this was my first trip there. She had actually worked as an intern there, so she is a Scicon expert. Mr. Redfield was highly qualified to substitute for her though. He has just retired and has years of Scicon experience too. He let me know that he would be there until about 3 or 4 each day and then head back home, which was completely fine. In taking attendance, I learned that morning that we had several absentees and would only be taking 44 kids between the two classes. Next, I found out that we were not taking any girl high school counselors. GREAT, I thought. SO we headed down the road to the camp. Bus ride was fine, we got there, and then I realized how organized these people are! They had enough counselors to cover us, and the first thing teachers always do is meet and closely review all the cabin and trail groups to see that there aren't any that are too heavily weighted with potential problems. Everything is highly structured and schedules and kid arrangements run very smoothly.

Once we did that, the week pretty much went off without a hitch. Sure, we had a few kids get strikes, and we actually made a call home on one of them, but they really did a great job behaviorally overall. We also had a couple homesickies who were sobbing and just sure that they could not make it through the week and would need to go home (funny how a few little "tactics" eventually cheered them up and they had a good time). Trails and the trail guides were great, and I think the kids walked away with scientific knowledge in one week that was much more hands on and fun than reading the textbook. I was so very proud of those who earned personal excellence recognition from every one of their trail guides thereby recieving their personal excellence bead (to add to their Scicon bracelet). Evening activities were a blast to watch and participate in. We played games together, the interns and teachers did skits (that the kids will now be parroting punchlines from for the rest of the year), we sang, danced, and went to bed exhausted but happy each night. I got a chance to spend some time with some really fun teachers from Delano, Shafter and Porterville. We were having such a great time together that on the last night, we looked at the clock and it said 2 a.m. before we finally decided to get to bed!

I really tried to have a great time and participate in everything. I went on trails at all the trail times except one, acted goofy, made up a cabin cheer for our cabin to do when all the kids did theirs, and played the part of Captain Scicon in the teacher skit. The only time that was rough for me was around 9 p.m. when I knew Kris was putting the girls to bed without me. I would walk out the back door of the cabin and keep walking until my phone got a weak signal so I could call (normally just a few steps). I got caught up on the major events of their day and said goodnight, then would spend a few minutes wishing I could be home with them. Then I would find myself gabbing away with my new friends again.

All in all it was a wonderful week that I will not ever forget. Walking out to the lodge on the last day, 9/11, was kind of surreal for a moment, as I noticed the flag at half-mast and remembered what had happened 8 years ago. Here is my "where was I?" story: I normally do not watch or listen to the news in the morning- I just mentally and physically prepare for my day at work. I had arrived at school to my bus duty, and a little 3rd grade girl was talking in a flustered voice about a plane in New York . I had no clue what she was talking about, but a couple more kids seemed to know, and were upset too. One even had mentioned the Pentagon. Then I later learned what had happened. We went about the rest of the day trying to provide normalcy for the kids. Inside though, this was the first time in my life that I had truly questioned my own safety and security. It was such a strange and unnerving feeling, and with a little baby Becca at the time, my mama bear instincts kicked in and I really worried for my baby. I remember getting a horrible rush of fear any time I heard an airplane overhead for quite some time after that, and I still do at times. Now flashing forward again to to 9/11/09, I feel it was a fitting end to my Scicon week to come home and enjoy pizza with my hubby and girls, and watch some television feeling very safe and comfy in my home. No matter how things get in the world, we should always stand for right, even fight to defend it if we have to, but we always need to look forward with a "perfect brightness of hope"...

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Cammi's Transplant!

Well, for those of you who don't know- Cammi Stohl Brady, Kris' sister, my sister in-law, and wonderful aunt to my girls had a life-changing day yesterday! For those who don't know, she has a form of cystic fibrosis that attacked her lungs, diminished her health greatly, caused her to lose way too much weight and concerned us all. She has been in Pittsburgh for almost a whole year waiting for a transplant, and yesterday morning when Kris and I woke up, we got a text that said they had a donor match and she was going in for surgery!
Cammi is that type of sister, or aunt who is always thinking of you- she sends little things in the mail, little cards or gifts that brighten your day and make you think, "I need to do this type of thing for people more often." She is so very thoughtful all the time of others, and sends lots of encouragement when you are going through a rough patch, starting a new job, etc., when clearly her mental and physical trials are much greater than pretty much anyone else's. Classic Cammi gifts have been: flowers and a "break a leg" card before opera performances, gift cards to our favorite stores and eateries, and care packages for the girls that always seem to be the perfect thing for them at the time! There have been a few events over the last year where she and my mother in-law have been sorely missed, like Mallory's baptism, which only come around once in a person's lifetime. Yet there is no way I can hold that against them! Cammi (and of course she gets this from her mother Judy) is one of the most thoughtful, loving people in the world! All of the "cousins" (meaning Dennis and Judy's grandchildren) adore her. I am beginning to cry like a baby right now just thinking that Becca and Mallory have never known a truly healthy Aunt Cammi. Last night, I told the girls that their aunt has been sick for longer than they have been around, and that daddy and I know I different aunt Cammi than they know, Becca gave me a very surprised look. Then she said, "you mean she has been sick for more than 9 years, Mom?" That is when it hit me and I told her, "Yes, now you will get to see the Aunt Cammi that Daddy and I know." Now I am crying because more than my kids, this will be about Cammi's precious kids knowing a mommy that they haven't ever known before. And she has done an INSPIRING job of raising them, despite her trials! Sure she has had the INSPIRING help of a SAINT of a mom and grandma, but still, they BOTH inspire me to always try harder at my parenting, even with my sometimes insane schedules and body that tires of the schedules! I have always felt blessed to be the daughter of John and Carol Harkey. They gave me a wonderful childhood and are two of the most wonderful parents, grandparents and closest friends a grown child can ask for. I am thankful for such a great sister who is tough, determined, and a wonderful loving sister to me and auntie to her nieces. I think of her as a best friend almost more than a sister sometimes. And one of my favorite types of days are the ones I can spend shopping and eating out with Amber. But when I think of Cammi- the question remains, what did I do in the pre-mortal life to earn the blessing of marrying my husband and being a Stohl??? All I can say is I must have done something right! Cammi, we love you so much and can't wait to see you again! Until then, we will be praying for you and hopefully enjoying phone calls/skypes with you soon!

Friday, August 14, 2009

FIrst Day of School, 8-13-2009!

I was so thrilled this year to be able to take the girls to school on the first day!!! I usually have to be with my class, but this year, they started before we did, so I got to be there! I took pictures with my phone and took them to their rooms and helped them find their desks, and said hi to their teachers! yay! As you can see, yes, they are wearing matching outfits. This year though, this is only one of two that outfits that match. Everything else is different, I promise (I know Cammi totally understands, haha) :) -and I actually need to mention here that the girls decided that they both wanted this outfit, and that they really do think it is okay to match, sometimes! Here is Mallory as she found her desk in Mr. McNabb's 3rd Grade class. They had to look on the pocket chart behind her for their name, and find out their number, because they wrote their name on their name tag, and everything else. Oh, and behind her in the red shirt is Mal's best friend Megan. I really should have taken her picture too. Megan's mom teaches Kindergarten at Mountain View, and her dad teaches 5th grade. She is a sweet girl, and I am glad they are friends. Mallory was completely thrilled that they were in the same class!

Mallory and Mr. McNabb, she had heard he was going to be mean (from Becca!), but she came home and said, "it is so not true, he is nice!"

Bec and Mal in Bec's class. Becca's response about everything on her desk- there is a notebook for everything, and we will be writing a lot! She especially liked Science time already, because they are already learning all about rocks and minerals. She came home and was telling me all about it, and I just laughed and said, yep, this will be my first year NOT teaching that myself! It is so strange to me to have a 4th grader, because it means my baby is so big, and also since I am not teaching it anymore!

Rebecca and Mrs. Nixon, Bec said she was very nice

Ah school...we are off and running again! I think we are off to a good start though...

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Beautiful Big Girls!

We finally took the girls in for pictures in their baptism dresses. It was about time, since Rebecca is already 9 1/2! Thank goodness her dress still fit alright on her! These are not the best scans of the original photos- the originals are 11x14, and so they didn't even fit all the way into my scanner. Also, Mallory's dress looks like it has a spot on it, but in the original it is fine, nothing but white. Anyway, I was very pleased with the photo shoot and am excited to get some frames for them.

I love the one with them together too, so precious!
This was a great day at the mall. We went and took the pictures, and there are more that were so good, I am going to probably go back and get one or two more of the poses, as well as copies for grandparents. After the shoot, we walked around the mall, and the girls picked out book bags, not backpacks, mind you, after seeing some bags on sale at Pac-Sun. I had no objection with letting Mallory get a black Billabong bag that was only 6 dollars and Becca got a Hurley one that was only 7 or 8. Oh, and I need to add that they had brought their allowance and decided to buy them all by themselves, after paying tithing the Sunday before! This year the school shopping was fun- they really are starting to have their tastes, yet a lot of it is agreeable with what mom likes, YAY! (no Hannah Montana or High School Musical on thier clothes, even though they like them, they don't ask for the clothes- hahaha!). Well, after the school shopping and the baptism pictures, I realized how fast my babies have become these big, pretty girls in these pictures. I wanted to cry because it just makes me want to cherish the time I have with them more. And they are such sweet young ladies most of the time (occasional sisterly spats, but what sisters don't fight a little sometimes?). They like to read the scriptures with us and like to make sure everyone gets their turn at saying family prayers. I love them so much and hope they continue to be so beautiful inside and out!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Our "Wicked" Weekend in San Francisco!

Here we go! We're "Off to see the Wizard", and have "One fine day, in the Emerald City..."

Couldn't leave home without the Nintendo DS players

Golden Gate Park!

Walking out on the Golden Gate Bridge. A little windy, and the fog would come and go, but it really was a nice day for walking out there. The girls really thought it was cool that you could walk on it!

The girls...

and Daddy with his girls

a cool shot I got

a freight liner going under the bridge

checked in to the Good Hotel, remodeled from recycled products, small but very clean, and very San Fran and "green". Only around the corner and a block down from the theater (Market and 7th Sts.). Except for a little confusion over the billing, it was a wonderful place to stay. We would totally go back!

Our farm girl and our witch are ready to go!

YES!!! Mommy is excited too!!! Here we are, at the Orpheum!


Inside they tell you you can't take pictures, but I really wish I could have at least taken a few of the inside of the theater. It is beautiful. Anyway, the show was so incredible, and our seats were third row, so we really did feel like they were performing just for us. The costumes, sets, orchestra, vocals, EVERYTHING was amazing. Made me miss doing operas a little, but it was sooo fun to sit back and enjoy all the talent!!! The girls were totally mesmerized. It was great to see them experience it!

So throughout the whole thing, we were getting compliments on how great the girls looked in their costumes (a couple other kids were dressed up too, they said, but we never saw them). Because of this, one of the ushers said that we needed to go outside and wait by the stage door for the actors to come out, as they would get a kick out of seeing the girls. Sooo, we waited just a little bit and got to meet them, take pictures and get a few autographs. The first one is Glinda (Kendra Kassebaum), although Kris moved as he was taking ker picture and got a blur of her. Her resume is totally impressive, and she has played this role on Broadway and in the touring group, she also just finished a film with Lisa Kudrow and Natalie Portman. So cool! At least the rest of the pics are better...

Here they are with Boq- who later becomes the Tin Man (Eddy Rioseco). Awesome!Fiyero- later becomes the Scarecrow (Nicholas Dromard). Awesome acting and voice

And as Madame Morrible, the one and only Patty Duke!!! She was tiny and spunky, and soo sweet. She talked to the girls and gave them autographs, talked to everyone, and then got in a SUV with her husband and left. Soo cool to meet her. And despite being so nice to everyone that night and playing such sweet roles when she was younger, she did awesome job being the villain!!! (but then again, what do you expect from the person that gave us such an awesome childhood performance as Helen Keller in The Miricle Worker?).

waiting by the stage door!

Finally, we got to meet our other witch. She took a little while to get all that green MAC Makeup off of her! She was incredible and oh so nice. Such talent!!! Thank you Vicki Noon, and even though we love Idina Menzel, you are now "OUR" Elphaba forevah!!! posing with Dorothy and mini-Ephie- played by Becca :)

and our very own Dorothy, Mallory!

We were all tired and happy after the show, and it didn't take long for us all to fall asleep once we got back to the hotel. Besides, we had to rest up for Day two!

On day two, we woke up got ready and ate. Then we went down to the shopping plaza on 5th and Market, and bought our Cable Car passes. We enjoyed talking to people in line and watching them turn the cars around to go back down the route. Oh, this might be a good place to add a comment about the little pink purse that Becca had strapped to her on the rest of these pictures. On our way to the theater the night before, a man had walked by and complimented her on her costume and gave her a brand new purse for free. I told him he didn't have to, and he insisted. He was kinda one of those shall we say "earthy" city types. Later we speculated on how he had gotten this new purse with tags on it. Hmmm...Becca likes the purse though. Mallory, who had been a couple steps ahead with Kris wondered how she had missed out. So we may have to get her a purse next time we go shopping. Okay, back to day 2...

I had a little scavenger hunt mapped out for us in Chinatown, so we got off there first. We didn't find everything on the list, but we found quite a bit. Here are a few...

this is the The Fortune Cookie Factory. It is down an alleyway and somewhat hidden, but so fun to see how they are made. They start out flat and hot off the press, then they put the fortune in and fold it quickly before it cools. They were nice and let us take pictures, and gave out samples. YUM!

This next one is of an herbalist shop. Some of them do not like pictures being taken inside their shops, and this one had a sign on the window that said so. We took this picture so the jars with interesting-looking contents could be seen in the background. So cool to think they have used these remedies forever, and all of these things remind me of a children's book called The Last Dragon, which is about a boy staying with family in Chinatown. There was a street where each building was painted in different random colors and red lanterns out. Cool, although I didn't get a picture of it...The girls like the kite shop a lot!

One of the stops was the first Eastern Bakery in San Francisco. I wanted to try something Chinese, and the girls wanted to eat chocolate chip cookies. I made them get chocolate covered fortune cookie and share a chinese pancake with me. We didn't like the pancake much, it had some sticky, rice custardy thing in the middle. We did like the chocolate covered fortune cookie though...

Back on the trolley...
Being the thrill-seekers that we are, the girls and I were excited to stand and hang on to the outside railings. The next stop was Fisherman's Wharf, so this was our view as we went down the hill and towards the Wharf. We saw Alcatraz island out there perfectly...

Right before we got on the trolley, we took a picture of St. Mary's Cathedral. I love the different archetechtral styles you find in SF. Also, I wanted to get a dragon lamppost picture before we left Chinatown.

okay, back to the Cable Car ride...

Mandatory "we were there" photo...

another one, with Alioto's and the boats behind them

Awww, a cute shot of my babies!

Between Piers 41 and 39, where we chased seagulls and watched street performers. There were several "robots" there, a huge, "moon guy", and of course the bush guy, that didn't scare the girls. They saw him scare someone else ahead of us while we were walking and laughed pretty hard about that :)

Watching them make the sourdough bread at Boudin's Bakery and Cafe. We had seen this a couple time before at Disneyland, so it was cool for them to see the real place.

Back at Market and 5th, watching them turn the cars around again!

It was pretty crowded but we had a great time in the big city! The girls totally enjoyed it and said that their favorite parts were walking on the Golden Gate bridge, the cable cars, and getting to see Wicked, among other things. I am glad we could make some memories as a family. It was also nice to get out of the summer heat and have a change of pace. But at the end of the journey, as Dorothy would say "there's no place like home!"