Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Hauntings

Halloween actually began on Friday for many of us teachers. Several students and staff members dressed up. I'm not one to go whole-hog, but I did wear a sweatshirt featuring a cat in a witch's pointed hat.
The preschool, which is located in my building and operated by high school students, always takes the tots around to trick-or-treat at participating classrooms. Here is the first group to arrive at my door, under the care of one of my students, Jenny.
Aren't they adorable? They loved the little whistles we gave them, povided by Wyndie's husband Eugene.
Today was hectic, with everyone going different directions, but we all came together around 4:00 to prepare for the trunk-or-treat at church.
Trunk-or-treats are the big solution to the dangers of trick-or-treating these days. The cities of Show Low and Pinetop-Lakeside both hold a huge community trunk-or-treat each year. Unable to be 3 places at once, we opted for the smaller version at church.
Dylan and his friends Eric and Justin got together to attend the trunk-or treat. Afterward they did the traditional trick-or-treating in the neighborhoods around our home for a couple of hours.
I tried to capture the moon behind them in this shot. It looked a lot cooler in real life.
Dylan went as a pirate and Justin as a soldier. Eric went as a stick figure. He got the idea for it online. It's a little hard to imagine until you see him in the dark, so I took the picture of him below while he was standing in our darkened bathroom. (Without the flash it's a bit blurred.)
Where do people dream up these things? It looked pretty nifty, though.
Sarah and Jacob handed out candy at the trunk-or-treat. Afterward, Sarah babysat for a neighbor who went to a Halloween party and Jacob went trick-or-treating with some friends, Crystal and Ryan. He dressed up Goth-style.
I got a kick out of watching him try to remove the black eye makeup when he came home. Welcome to my world, Jacob!
At the trunk-or-treat they had a contest for the best decorated "trunks" and Jacob did a nice job of scarifying our car for the event. We didn't win, but it looked good!
Now Halloween is over, the pillowcases are stuffed with candy, the kids are sleeping off the sugar rush, and tomorrow it will be November. Am I the only one who feels like time is flashing by in a blur?
Speaking of November 1st, a BIG happy birthday to my brother Jeff, who barely missed being born on Halloween. Hope you have a great day, bro!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Birthday Snow

Our first snow of the season arrived on the night of Sarah's birthday. Not a heavy snowfall, but a generous sugar-dusting. The above photo is the sight that met our eyes when we woke up yesterday morning. It snowed again last night, dropping a couple more inches. It's been many years since we had snow this early in the season.
Along with the snow came a cold snap, and I had to turn on the heater for the first time. I hated to do it, but inside the house the temperature was 58*!
The kids and I went to El Rancho last night to celebrate Sarah's birthday (since she had school on the actual night of her birthday). We had a good time, especially when Sarah gestured with her fork and sent a large piece of burrito flying into Jacob's glass of root beer!
When we left the restaurant at 7:30, the temperature outside was only 20*. Today our high temperature was only 33*. I love the snow, but I'm not ready for this much icy air yet! Thank goodness there's a warm front moving in this weekend, bringing at least another week of warm weather (in the 70s) back to us. Bless you, weatherman!
This just in: Today (Friday) our district superintendent emailed everyone this clip from Channel 12 news out of Phoenix, where a video from our rural high school was featured. It's very short, but has some fun scenes of snow around the school and a nicely-done report by a student. Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Twenty Birthdays

My firstborn is no longer a teenager! Tonight was Sarah's 20th birthday. We didn't really get to celebrate because the boys and I were in school all day, and we came home just in time for Sarah to rush off to NPC.
Poor girl: here it was her birthday, and not only did she have to take a test in biology, but she also had to give her first oral presentation in English Comp II. She was very nervous, but it went well. She was the first in her class to present, and the professor told Sarah she set the bar high for everyone else to live up to!
When she got home from school, we did sing Happy Birthday while she blew out the candles on her cake (above). And now, a fun retrospective of the birthdays in Sarah's life:
27 Oct 1990: One-year-old Sarah loved that birthday cake!
26 Oct 1991: At age two, Sarah seems suspicious of the birthday cake!
24 oct 1992: The gifts are taller than three-year-old Sarah!
27 Oct 1993: Four-year-old Sarah has gotten the hang of this whole birthday thing!
29 Oct 1994: Says five-year-old Sarah, "All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth..."
28 Oct 1995: Six-year-old Sarah hopes to blow out her candles before brother Jacob does! (Jacob was four.)
28 Oct 1996: Is seven-year-old Sarah plotting an extra-special wish?
27 Oct 1997: Sarah thinks it's great to be eight!
27 Oct 1998: Sarah now feels that it's fine to be nine!
23 Oct 1999: Sarah had 2 cakes for her tenth birthday. This first one was 4 days before her birthday, when she had a big party with lots of girlfriends over to celebrate...
...and this one on her actual birthday, Oct. 27, with just our family. Doesn't she look perky and cute in the new short 'do?
26 Oct 2000: Sarah was in heaven when she turned eleven!
27 Oct 2001: Sarah says her twelfth birthday was her favorite. We celebrated with her cousins and other relatives at a park in Mesa while we were there for the weekend.
27 Oct 2002: Sarah officially becomes a teenager when she turns thirteen!
27 Oct 2003: Sarah with her brothers on her fourteenth birthday. Dylan was 6 and Jacob was 12.
27 Oct 2004: Fifteen-year-old Sarah with her birthday presents. Mom surprised her at school with the balloons and the cup filled with gifts.
Oddly, I have no photos from Sarah's 16th and 17th birthdays. We remember that Sarah and I went to see the movie Elizabethtown for her sweet sixteenth. I don't care for chick flicks, but Sarah and I both love to gaze adoringly at Orlando Bloom on the big screen! It's a mom and daughter thing...
3 Nov 2007: Sarah celebrates her 18th birthday with two of her best friends, Emmi and Tahna.
Happy birthday, my sweet Sarah! It's been an amazing twenty years!

Friday, October 23, 2009

A Grand Nephew

Tonight was the BIG football game between Show Low and Blue Ridge High Schools. Pretty much everyone I know in town was there. Not me. Given the intensity of the rivalry between the two schools on the football field, and given my loyalty to Blue Ridge, and given my pride in my nephew Marcus who plays for Show Low, and given the fact that I'm supposed to keep my blood pressure down, I opted to stay home.
My nephew Justin and his wife Alisha didn't want to miss the game, of course, but their 15-month-old Aiden has a little head-cold and couldn't be out in the chilly weather. I was so happy to help them out and have my little grand-nephew as a guest for the evening!
At first he was a little shy. He doesn't know Great-Aunt Mary too well, and he'd never met Diego before. I settled him with a bowl of honey-nut Cheerios and Sarah surrounded him with toys. She chose to stay home and enjoy Aiden with me rather than going to the game.
It didn't take Aiden too long to get comfortable with the Cheerios and toys! Meanwhile, Diego was on his best behavior, eyeing the Cheerios longingly from a safe distance, but waiting patiently.
Poor Aiden! He hadn't had a nap and he clearly didn't feel well, but he was still happy and active and determined to stay awake. Every now and again he'd start to nod off, but he'd force those eyes back open. He was up and on the go for more than 3 hours.
After he rolled around in the spilled cheerios for awhile, Aiden explored every inch of the living room. Diego followed him around, hoping those clingy Cheerios would fall off the clothes and onto the floor.
They got to be good buddies, and Aiden enjoyed alternately feeding Diego from his little fist and teasing Diego by holding it out, but then quickly putting it in his own mouth.
Aiden emptied a laundry basket full of jackets and beach towels. I noticed he was rubbing his face in the plush towels and I thought he was getting close to losing the battle against sleep. Not even close.
Then he discovered the silky-soft stadium blankets I keep folded in a pile on the hearth behind a chair. He kept crawling back in that corner to roll in the blankets. So I picked up Aiden and a blanket, put him on the ground with his head on a towel, and covered him with the blanket.
That did it. He kept his eyes open for nearly 15 minutes before succumbing to sleep, but he never moved. He loved the feel of that blanket wrapped warmly around him. He was still there, all snug, when his parents returned at 10:00.
As for the big game, I'm happy to say that Blue Ridge remains undefeated. I'm also glad to report that my nephew Marcus was unstoppable and played a great game; Justin tells me they announced him as the "Master Blocker"! All those young players play hard and play to win. Good job to both the purple-and-gold and the green-and-gold athletes!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Good Riddance

For 14 days I had to wear this little "cardiac event monitor." It wasn't bad at first: less bulky than a Holter Monitor (which is only worn 24-48 hours) and fewer wires to contend with. I even figured out the smoothest way to arrange it under my clothing so the box and wires weren't too obvious, and trips to the restroom weren't too much of a hassle.
In the beginning it was even kind of comforting, knowing that it would record any strange heartbeats that, hopefully, my cardiologist would be able to decipher later. The device had a record button for me to push when I felt an arrhythmia begin, and it would record automatically if it detected irregularities that I didn't feel.

I had several events during the first few days, which I duly recorded. And then it began recording events when I felt perfectly fine.
It freaked me out! I thought I always felt my irregular beats, but now that false sense of security was gone. I had to fight back the stress and practice deep breathing for a few days.
After several days passed, I developed a rash near where the two leads connected, under my right collar bone and on my left rib cage. I thought I could take it, and I endured the itching and burning for a couple of days.
Then the upper rash thickened and developed blisters. When the blisters began to weep, I finally removed the monitor for a day to give my skin a chance to recover.
It didn't help. So, for the final week of the ordeal, I played an on again, off again game of wearing the monitor as long as I could, and taking 1-2 days off in between.

Obviously, I had an allergic reaction to the adhesive on the patches. Luckily my heart behaved itself during that time. Nothing was recorded--or felt--by me or the machine (when I was wearing it).
Tuesday was my last day on the monitor, and it was with great relief that I called Fed Ex to schedule a pick-up.

Yesterday the truck stopped by and they whisked away the small box.
I was never so thrilled to see an irritating visitor drive away!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Autumn Leaves Are Falling, Falling

A strong autumn wind has been scouring our giant oak trees free of dead leaves. Our driveway is blanketed with a crispy, curly brown carpet.
The weather changed abruptly on the first day of fall, September 21st. Our warm mountain summer disappeared, literally overnight, when temperatures dipped below freezing that same night.
The sudden change in temperature quickly brought about the annual coloring of the non-evergreen trees. We get many visitors from the Phoenix and Tucson areas this time of year, just to enjoy the changing of the leaves.
The above photo of a tree in my front yard was taken on October 7th. Golden brown fronds were just beginning to curl among the green.
This is the same tree (from the opposite side) yesterday, October 17th. In just 10 days the wind has made a good start of stripping the branches.
Jacob and Dylan spent a good part of yesterday raking and bagging leaves and pine needles. Our resourceful neighbor Barbara took half the bags off our hands for her compost pile. (She also likes our rabbits' poop.)
Dylan clambered onto the roof to clean out the rain gutters. We could have snow any time in the next few weeks, so it's a dirty job that couldn't wait.
Following my doctor's orders, I'm trying to make time to walk more often. The following photos were all taken during yesterday's walk around my neighborhood.
Living in an evergreen forest as we do, we don't get the vivid oranges and brilliant reds you see in the autumn forests back East. But I still love to see the pale greens and yellows, the browns and oranges and brownish oranges, peeping out among the tall pines.
I adore every season. That's why I choose to live in an area where we can enjoy all 4 distinct seasons. Yet there is something special about fall, when the leaves change and the air becomes crisp and the smell of woodsmoke fills the air.
I love passing this tree every morning on my way to work. It's called a quaking aspen because its thousands of tiny, round leaves dance in the slightest breeze. It makes the entire tree seem to shimmer. And now it's shimmering gold.
No autumn colors here, but I think this open field is beautiful. It looks so rustic.
Welcome, Autumn, to our mountain home!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Baby Doll Dreams

A couple of months ago as I walked past Sarah's bedroom, I was startled to see a tiny baby laying on her bed. After a second, I realized it was her old baby doll, all dressed up in real infant clothes.
Of course I had to tease her a little, about my 19-year-old daughter still playing with dolls.

On the other hand, it's far better to have her playing with dolls rather than boys at this time in her life, while she's focusing on college. The real babies will come soon enough!
Maybe I'm just being fanciful, but I feel that the many years I spent playing with baby dolls (not Barbies) helped me develop the nurturing instincts that prepared me for motherhood in some small but important way.

Was I still playing with dolls in my adult years?
Well... Maybe "playing" isn't the right word, but perhaps "visualizing" is a better fit. I dreamed of being a mother for many years before Sarah finally came along and fulfilled those dreams.
This was my bedroom in 1986, when I was 32. The doll was handmade by my former sister-in-law, Lynda. I dressed him in a real baby outfit and imagined cuddling my own infant someday.
Sarah was born three years later, and then 20 months after that Jacob joined us. Dylan completed our family six years after Jacob's birth.
Those maternal yearnings did not go to waste, and neither did the baby doll wardrobe.
And maybe I'm biased, but I think Jacob looked far more cuddlesome in this outfit than the doll ever did!