Friday, August 27, 2010

Court of Honor

Dylan and his friend Eric by the false campfire.

On Wednesday night we attended the Boy Scout's Court of Honor.  It's their first Court of Honor since returning from Camp Geronimo a few weeks ago.

The meeting was quite well attended, filling the pavilion outside the church building.  One person who was unable to attend was Ed, who has been extremely ill with bronchitis ever since he returned last Thursday night from his Wyoming troop's Scout Camp in Bear Lake, Utah.  Ironically, he caught the bug from one of his Scouts, who was so sick he had to leave camp to be hospitalized.  Several of the other boys in Wyoming also became sick this week.

Ed loves scouting and had planned to attend the Court of Honor, but he just didn't have his strength back yet.  I'm pleased to report that today he was able to get out and about some.  He's finally showing real improvement.

When the Scoutmaster called the Scouts up to receive their awards from Camp Geronimo, we were amazed by how many they received.  They were busy boys at Scout Camp!  Dylan (at far right in the above picture) received 9 awards himself.  Jacob is no longer active in scouting, but he went along to Geronimo as a Scout leader this year.  He really enjoyed himself.

Mom (Mary) applauds Dylan's accomplishments.  When did he get taller than me?!

Next, the boys were called up individually to receive their other awards.  Dylan earned 11 merit badges and advanced 3 ranks!  I got to join him in front so he could pin me with his newest rank insignia.

The evening ended with refreshments, which took the form of this relief map of Camp Geronimo by Eugene, the Scout Committee chairman. The trees and tents were formed of rice crispy treats, with licorice tent ropes, pretzel poles, tootsie roll logs, and a jello lake, among other sweet surprises. 

What a fun evening!

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Trek

Jacob with his trek family.  He's in the blue shirt on the far right, front row.

Back in June, Jacob enjoyed taking part in his first Pioneer Trek, pushing a handcart for many miles in the high desert near our community.  We recently received these photos of his trek family from Ma and Pa Goodman, his trek parents.

It was Jacob's first trek, since he was just a few weeks too young when the last local Pioneer Trek took place in June 2005.  (Participants must be at least 14 years old.)  He said it was a great experience, even though it was physically demanding and sometimes emotionally trying.  When a Pony Express rider delivered mail from home, Jacob tells us he broke down and cried as he read the letters Ed and I had sent him. 

June 2005: 15-year-old Sarah in her new pioneer dress, apron, and bonnet.

Sarah was able to take part in the 2005 trek.  Her pretty new pioneer clothes didn't look so pristine when she returned, coated in dust and mud!  Like Jacob, she also had a spiritually moving experience on her trek, one she's never forgotten.

Sarah and Jacob each gained a new appreciation about how difficult life was for the pioneers who made their way across this untamed land.  It also helped them appreciate the blessings they enjoy now.  That's a lesson we can all keep in mind when we're tempted to grumble about the small things, like waiting in a long line or getting stuck in traffic.  Our lives are pretty wonderful when we take the time to stop and realize it.

I'm grateful for the strength and courage of my pioneer forefathers.  And I'm grateful that my trials don't include crossing the country on foot!

Friday, August 13, 2010


New 7th grader Dylan, age 13.

Now that Jacob has graduated, it's just Dylan and me left to drag ourselves out of bed and off to school early each morning for the 2010-11 school year.  I'm happy to report that we survived our first week back!

Dylan is enjoying junior high.  He's excited about his tech lab class, where they'll get to use machinery and make cool things, but I really think his favorite class so far is Spanish.  Tonight we practiced the "Como esta usted?" "Estoy bien. Y tu?" "Muy bien," conversation.  His Spanish class is taught by Dylan's most favorite teacher, Mr. Whatcott, who was also Dylan's second grade teacher once upon a time.

The superintendent and principals "Do the Hustle."  Our principal, Eric Harmon, is in the blue shirt on the right.

The students began classes on Wednesday, but we veteran teachers started the new year on Monday with a big district meeting in the auditorium, where our administrators entertained us with their version of the Hustle. 

The mess.

After the district meeting and a high school faculty meeting, we were released to spend the rest of the day in our classrooms.  What a mess!  My desk was piled high with so much paperwork, I hardly knew where to begin.  I'm happy to report that I've since tamed the beast.  It has been organized into neat, orderly piles I can now attack systematically.

The other mess.

I also have a pile of old English materials that was placed inside my door by a teacher who no longer needs them.  I've gotten rid of perhaps a quarter of those piles so far.  The rest of that job is on next week's agenda!

Kim finishes a bulletin board that's been empty for 2 years!

One big change this year is the departure of my aide, Wyndie.  That's right, she took a job as a dental office manager, making three times as much money as the aide position pays.  What was she thinking?!  Okay, okay, I wish her well.  Really.  I do.

My new aide is Kim, who happens to be my principal's wife.  Her position in our vocational training program was eliminated due to budget cuts, so I'm happy to have her join us!  She already knows the kids well, and she'll be a great support to me and the students.

That's me reading an exerpt from a book to first period.

Speaking of students, it looks like I have a good group of kids in this semester's classes.  My first period class will be a challenge.  Good thing I like a nice challenge to keep things interesting!  Six of my eighteen students speak very little English.  Five of them are Spanish-speaking, and one young man is fresh from China, with almost no English at all.

First period involved in a getting-to-know-you activity this morning.

It's funny how the students still manage to communicate.  They find ways to help each other with a combination of gestures, facial expressions, and demonstrations.  It's fun to watch them figure out how to explain an assignment to their neighbor.

There's one in every crowd!

So we're off and running.  Here's to a great, new school year!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

A Picnic

My blog is finally back in real-time!  Just last night we decided to have a picnic at Woodland Park for our family home evening.  We picked up our good friend Gwen on the way, then we settled into a ramada and enjoyed chips, potato salad, soda, and hot dogs grilled by Jacob.

Sarah, Dylan (laying down), and Gwen wait for the "dogs" to be served.

Sarah and Diego walk by Woodland Lake.

Dylan rides his rip-stik on the ramada's cement floor.

Jacob and Dylan watch as Diego goes after the remote-control boat.

After dinner, we cleaned up the ramada and went down to the lake so Jacob could cruise his remote-control boat on the water.  Diego had us all in stitches when he barked madly at the boat, then turned tail and beat it out of there when it sailed toward him!

Diego runs for his life when the boat turns the tables on him!

We ended the evening by feeding the ducks some stale cereal and crackers Gwen had brought along.

Dylan, Gwen, and Sarah feed the ducks.

This final picture didn't come out as well as I'd have liked.  It was almost full dark, but the sunset in the distance was gorgeous and the water on the creek beneath the bridge was glowing faintly.  I tried a setting on the camera with a longer exposure time to let in more light, but without a tripod it got fuzzy.  With a little creative thought, you might imagine how beautiful it was.

We had a lovely visit and enjoyed the beauty all around us.  I could only have asked for one thing more: to have had my wonderful husband there at my side!  I miss you, my prince!

Monday, August 9, 2010

And You Missed the Party

I'm not sure why we didn't have Jacob sit on the side that says "Jacob" and Bryn on the side that says "Bryn"!

Four days after graduation night, we combined our efforts with Bryn's family and had a graduation party for our boys.  They don't look at all pleased with themselves, do they?

We ordered two 6-foot subs and enjoyed chips and dip and soda, as well as the company of our friends and family.

Jacob with friends Cassie and Kyle

Sarah and Emmi enjoy the party!

Eugene and Wyndie and their boys attended, as well.

This was Ed's last night with us before his return to Cheyenne to finish up his unfinished business.  The next day, after we'd only been married for 4 days, I drove him back to Phoenix to catch his flight to Denver.  Thankfully, school was out so I was able to join him in Cheyenne just 4 days after he left.  Still, it was so hard to say good-bye.

Ed and Bryn take a moment to chill.

So there you have it!  All the excitement you missed while we were busy falling in love and building a new family together!  Now, wasn't that fun?

Sunday, August 8, 2010

You Missed Graduation

Jacob and his friend Bryn march onto the field to the strains of "Pomp and Circumstance."

On Thursday, May 20th, my older son Jacob finally graduated from high school.  It was a long and sometimes rocky road, but he did it!

Jacob waits among the Class of 2010, listening to the Valedictorian.

One of the perks of working for the school district is being allowed to join your graduate onstage and hand him or her the diploma.  It was kind of scary when I did that for Sarah 2 years ago, but this time it was old hat!

Jacob gets his diploma and a hug from his mom onstage, while school board members look on.

I couldn't be more proud!  Jacob is, of course , planning to serve a mission for our church in just a few months.  He isn't sure what he'll do when he returns after 2 years, but he's leaning toward attending the culinary arts institute at Scottsdale Community College and becoming a pastry chef.  He has quite a talent and interest in baking.  (Makes it hard for a mom to lose weight...)

Jacob and Mary exit the stage and meet one of several photographers.

By graduation night, our family was on the verge of increasing by one person.  A week earlier, on Friday, May 14th (which was the day after Jacob's DUI crash simulation at school), Ed arrived from his home in Wyoming for what we thought would be a 4-day visit.  However, Jacob asked him to stay for his graduation, so Ed changed his plane ticket and extended his stay.

Mary, Ed, Jacob, and Dylan after the graduation ceremony.  It was my last night as a single mom.

At the end of graduation night, we returned home and told the kids we were thinking about getting married the next day instead of waiting until June 24th, as we'd originally planned.  The kids received the news with enthusiasm, so Ed and I decided to take the plunge.

Sarah showed up from the throng of people to join us in a picture.

After graduation, Jacob came back to the school to attend the graduation lock-in, a popular but optional event in which the new graduates spend the entire night locked in the school.  They are well entertained with various games, foods, and activities all night long, including the chance to win great prizes donated by the community, such as computers, televisions, and even a car.  With most of the newly graduated class in attendance, the fear of someone being killed in an accident after a night of partying is greatly lessened. 

Jacob and Mary with Bryn and his parents, Rob and A'Lece.

And, yes, Ed and I did get married the next day, by a local Justice of the Peace.  All three of my children were present.  In fact, Sarah and Jacob--as adults--were our witnesses.

Jacob onstage to receive a small scholarship.

I also want to mention that we attended an awards program on the night before graduation, and we were pleased to watch Jacob win a small scholarship to help pay for college.

I'm so happy to watch my children grow up and prepare to move on in their lives.  Sometimes it's hard to let go, but I truly want my children to enjoy full, happy lives in the years to come.  I only hope I've done my job well enough!

Congratulations, Jacob!

Saturday, August 7, 2010

You Missed Jacob's Big Moment

As president of SADD Club (Students Against Destructive Decisions), Jacob spent much of his senior year planning and preparing for one huge event that he wanted to be his gift to Blue Ridge High School before he graduated.  On May 13th, exactly one week before graduation, he saw his dream come to fruition.

Bryce, portraying a bystander at the scene, reacts to finding a mortally injured friend in the "crash."

Knowing the dismal statistics on graduation night injuries and deaths resulting from driving under the influence, Jacob spearheaded the effort to present a DUI crash simulation to the entire high school student body prior to graduation night.

The drunk driver (black shirt, portrayed by Tyrell) appears dazed with a head injury.

To accomplish this event required obtaining the cooperation and coordinating the efforts of many agencies, including the school district, the police department, the fire department, a helicopter air evacuation company, an ambulance service, emergency medical technicians, the medical examiner, and even a mortuary and hearse.  Jacob also had to enlist several youth to portray the students involved in the mock "crash." 

Emergency responders begin to arrive on the scene.

The students were incredibly believable as the victims and their traumatized friends.  It was a touching and realistic taste of how such a situation would affect all of us deeply.

Sergeant Sargent (yes, that's his real name) begins investigating the accident as the firemen do their job.

The simulation began with the police department bringing two cars on campus which had been involved in an actual DUI crash.  The students who were playing the parts of the victims were settled into their places inside the cars and a tarp was placed over it all just before the student body began to arrive and fill up the bleachers Jacob had arranged to have delivered to the school specifically for this event.

Once everyone was seated, a fire department spokesperson set the scene for the crowd, the tarp was removed, and the simulation began in earnest. 

An air-evac helicopter lands in the parking lot near the "crash."  The wind from the blades nearly knocked us over!

The main players were:

Tyrell, who portrayed the drunk driver.  His injuries weren't life threatening, so he was arrested, handcuffed, and taken away in a police car.

Cami, who portrayed Tyrell's passenger.  She was "killed" instantly and spent almost the entire simulation (which lasted over an hour) hanging lifeless over the door.  She was amazing.  For days everyone marveled over how she was able to be still for so long!

Nick, who played the sober driver of the other car.  He was also injured and after a check-up by the EMTs he was taken to the hospital by ambulance.

Chanda, who portrayed Nick's passenger.  She was badly injured, but because she was trapped inside the car she was unable to receive medical attention until the firemen cut the roof off the car to get her out.  She was air-evaced by helicopter to a trauma center in Phoenix (not really, but she did get to fly away in the helicopter, lucky girl!).

The fire crew brings in equipment to cut Chanda out of the car while Sergeant Sargent covers Cami's body with a tarp.

The event began attracting people from all over.  All the employees in the district office came out to see it.  News media groups came to film it and report on it.  A big newspaper article described the simulation; yet, oddly, it never even mentioned Jacob as the one who pulled it all together.  I'm pleased to say he didn't seem to mind not getting credit.  He was just happy that it went off so well and that he overheard so many students commenting on their reactions to the presentation.

Proof that I was there: Wyndie and I are just barely visible in the crowd behind the firefighter on the left!
(This shot was taken by one of the reporters there.  I took the rest of the photos.)

After the roof is removed, Chanda is freed and put on the backboard.
Jacob is visible at the far left in the gray and white jacket, watching his handiwork unfold.

Chanda is rushed to the helicopter.

Dylan wished he could have been there to see his good friend and Big Sister Chanda (from Big Brothers/Big Sisters) play her part in this drama.  He also wished he could have flown in the helicopter with her!

A look at some of the crowd as Chanda was wheeled by.

The simulation served two purposes.  First, it was a reminder to the students of the consequences of drinking and driving.  Second, it was a good practice run for all the emergency personnel involved.  They carried out their duties as if it were the real thing.  I must say, they were impressive!

Only after all the living victims were cared for was Cami removed from the car by the medical examiner.
Her deadly injuries were frighteningly realistic. 

One of the greatest impacts of the presentation came ofter the simulation ended.  The four students who portrayed the victims returned to school, but for 2 days they were not allowed to speak to their classmates.  It was a constant reminder of the lasting consequences of driving under the influence, whether your friend is gone because he or she is dead, injured, or in jail.

Cami was zipped into a body bag, placed inside the hearse, and driven away.  (That's Cami's dad--one of my fellow high school teachers--in the dark blue shirt on the right, filming his daughter as a "corpse."

I'd never imagined the work that went into bringing about a huge operation like this until I saw it firsthand in my own home.  Countless hours of gathering resources, making phone calls, writing letters, making personal visits, and holding planning meetings (with refreshments, of course) went into making this happen, along with many disappointments and false starts along the way.  But Jacob never wavered in his resolve.  He forged ahead until everything fell into place and he had a presentation he felt could change lives.

We've never had a graduation night fatality in our small town, and this year was no exception.  I hope that's one "zero" statistic that never changes!  I'm so proud of Jacob and his desire to make a difference for his friends and fellow students.  I know this was one school lesson they'll remember for a very long time!