Tuesday, May 31, 2016

A Few More

Dylan and his mom onstage right after she handed his diploma to him.
May 27, 2016

The two main graduation photographers for Blue Ridge High on Friday night were Susan Moffitt and Chris Paxman. I was pleased when I checked my school emails yesterday to find that Susan had already sent me the pictures she had taken of Dylan at graduation. Here they are, shared with you as promised.

Now we're just waiting on Chris's pictures, which should be posted online soon. He took the shot of Dylan posing alone at the edge of the stage, proudly displaying his new purple diploma folder. That one will be ordered as a 5x7 print to go on the wall between the photos of Sarah and Jacob in their caps and gowns. Then my collection will be complete!

Dylan and Tayler march to the processional while
Mary films them (wearing gray, at right).

Dylan listens to the speakers, awaiting his big moment.

Soon I'll post Dylan's senior pictures, provided by the Carter family's favorite photographer, Eugene Prestwich. Sarah was his very first high school senior client, when he first bought his fancy new camera, eight years ago! In fact, I'm thinking I will make a new album on my Facebook page, featuring my favorite senior picture poses for all three of my children. 

Meanwhile, I got a bigger frame to go on the shelf behind my desk at work
and put into it my favorite senior pics for both Dylan (on the right) and Jacob (on the left).
Sarah's best four senior pics are in a separate frame further to the left, on another shelf.
It still cracks me up that both my sons wore the same plaid shirt for their pictures,
six years apart!

Saturday, May 28, 2016

The Graduates 2016

The Spirit Rock at Blue Ridge High says it all.

Our family had a bumper crop of high school graduates this year. My youngest, Dylan, graduated last night from Blue Ridge High. The previous night my niece Emma graduated from Show Low High, our chief rival in all things athletic here on the mountain, located about 10 miles of highway north of us. And a week ago my niece Katie graduated from Liberty High in Peoria, a four-hour drive from here. We are so proud of each one!

Dylan and friends on Friday morning, before graduation practice.
May 27, 2016

It began with graduation practices, one on Thursday afternoon as soon as the kids stepped off the bus on their return from their California senior trip, and then again on Friday morning. I never got to see graduation practice for Sarah or Jacob because their graduations were held on the evening of the last day of school, so I was in classes all day in 2008 and 2010.

The seniors are in their assigned seats, awaiting instructions.

However, in 2016, Dylan's ceremony was the day after the high school's last day of school (all other schools in the district still had classes on Friday, though), so I was able to stop by and check it out. In fact, I was invited to be there at 8:00 sharp, along with maybe half a dozen other parents, to receive instructions on how to get up on stage to hand the diploma to my son when his turn came. (As I mentioned in an earlier post, being allowed to hand a diploma to our children is one of the perks extended to all school district employees.)

Gotta look fine under the cap and gown, too!

Between the practice session in the morning and the actual ceremony in the evening (at 7:30), we were plenty busy. It was still a work day for me, but after I finished some tasks in my classroom, I returned home and we started getting Dylan moved into his new apartment. (Our gratitude to Chris's mom, Brenda, for the use of her truck to haul furniture!)

That's right. Dylan graduated last night and tomorrow he is moving out. My nest will truly be empty! But more about all that in the next post...

Dylan makes his graduation regalia look good!

After moving the furniture (just a bed, a desk, a wall unit of shelves, and a hand-me-down love-seat, along with a myriad of smaller items such as a TV, laptop, video games, clothes, and so on), we all went out to Taco Bell for a quick dinner before it was time to get ready for graduation. One of the very awesome things about Dylan's graduation is that Jacob and Danielle drove all the way from Utah to be here for Dylan, and it was so great to share all of this with them!

Waiting with friends to line up for the processional before it all begins.

Dylan and I both had to be at the school an hour and a half before graduation began. Him, because he's a graduate, and me, because I'm faculty. The rest of the family wasn't too far behind us, which was a good thing because the parking and the seating filled up a full hour before the ceremony began.

Brenda (Chris's mom), Danielle, Jacob (with balloons), Chris, and Sarah
arrive and begin their search for seating in the Blue Ridge football stadium.

Jacob and Danielle made a stop to get balloons and a cake to surprise Dylan, while Sarah got him a lovely bouquet of flowers. They really wanted to make this day special for their not-so-little little brother.

Dylan does "The Walk," joining the processional with his friend Tayler, out to the football field. (30 seconds)

You'll notice there's a gap here, with no photos of Dylan on the stand receiving his diploma. Those will come later. I wasn't able to take pictures of that part of the ceremony because I was too busy trying not to trip on the steps or knock the school board members off the stand when I went up to hand the diploma to my son.

I was shivering (with cold or fear, or a little of both) when Dylan came up the steps and opened his arms, saying, "Hi, Mommy." I grinned and handed him his diploma, and then he grabbed me in a big bear hug. The school board members nearest to us let out a big, "Awww..." It was a sweet moment for me, the last time I will get to hand one of my children their diploma. Both happy and a little sad.

Soon the photos of Dylan's big moment, captured by the school's photographers, will be posted online and I'll be able to order them. At that time, I will share.

The Blue Ridge graduating class of 2016 gives one last "We are B R!" cheer before turning their tassels and launching their caps into the air. I love when the senior class president turns to take a selfie with his 162 classmates! (45 seconds)

Dylan with his haul of balloons, flowers, cake, cards, and diploma.

Dylan and his graduation cake. A Walmart co-worker added the crayons
and said they represented his graduation from babyhood!

We got home around 10:15 and then we enjoyed some of the graduation cake provided by Jacob and Danielle. It had been quite a long and busy, yet deeply satisfying, day. Congratulations, my son. I am so proud of you!

Show Low High School graduation, May 26, 2016.

On Thursday night we got to attend the graduation of my niece Emma. Instead of a night of purple-and-gold Yellow Jackets on the football field, it was a night of green-and-gold Cougars in the school gym.

Emma receives her diploma.

After graduation ended, Jeff and Dana had a gathering at their house to celebrate both Emma's graduation from high school and her younger sister Hayden's promotion from eighth grade. Our family went straight from the graduation to Native Grill and Wings (formerly Native New Yorker) for dinner, and then we dropped by to join Emma's party for about half an hour.

Emma with her parents, Dana and Jeff (my brother).

Two of my beautiful nieces, Hayden and Emma, both moving on in life!

Emma with Aunt Mary and Uncle Mark, and cousins Jacob and Danielle.

We would have liked to stay longer, but Jacob and Danielle had had a very long day. They'd left Utah at 5:00 a.m. (which would be 4:00 a.m. here in Arizona) and arrived just 2 hours before Emma's ceremony began, so they were extremely exhausted. Thus, we said our farewells and wished Emma the very best before taking our leave.

A couple of Katie's senior pictures.

Unfortunately, we weren't able to attend the graduation of my beautiful niece Katie on May 20th, due to the distance and the fact that our school was still in session so I had to work that day. But we were certainly with her in spirit and wishing her well! 

I am so proud of each of these amazing kids and their accomplishments! Now, Dylan, Emma, and Katie...Go forth and conquer!

Katie is the daughter of my brother LeRoy and his wife Lori.

Katie with a friend on graduation night.
Photo courtesy of her mom Lori's Facebook page!

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Last Day

Dylan's Senior Grad Ad, which I had placed in this year's Cresta Azul Yearbook.
Grad Ads are a time-honored Blue Ridge tradition.

Tomorrow is the last day of school for the juniors, sophomores, and freshmen at Blue Ridge High School. It is the last day we teachers (most of us, anyway) will manage classrooms filled with students until the new school year starts in August. And it will be the last day of Dylan's senior trip to southern California.

Speaking for myself, I am so ready for this school year to end. It has been, without doubt, the most stressful year of my whole teaching career. But final exams have been administered; all student work has been graded and recorded (there's nothing like a tall stack of final essays to make your head explode); the classroom inventory is completed and submitted; progress reports are ready to be mailed with report cards; and now there's nothing left except the last-day-of-school class parties and the endless list of little tasks that you couldn't find time for all year but will now squeeze into the final two teacher work days.

And then, eight weeks of sweet freedom.

Dylan and friend on Huntington Beach Pier.
May 23, 2016

For Dylan, on the other hand, the past few days have been all fun and games. The school bus, loaded down with seniors and their baggage, left the high school about 8:00 on Sunday night. Early the next morning, the kids arrived in Huntington Beach in Orange County, California. They spent the day on the beach (one of my favorite beaches) and ate lunch at Ruby's cafe on the end of Huntington Beach Pier (one of my favorites places). I believe they went to dinner somewhere in Downtown Disney that evening after checking into their hotel.

Dylan on Huntington Beach with the Pacific Ocean behind.

I kept bugging Dylan to send me selfies of himself having fun. That way, I can kind of feel like I'm there, too, enjoying his good times vicariously. At one point he asked if I'd get him a Photo Pass so he could get all the official pictures on the rides at Disneyland. I texted back: "Uh, no." Photo Pass is a great deal for a whole family, but not so great to spend $70 for one person!

Dylan and his friend with Mickey Mouse.
May 24, 2016

So he did the next best thing and took pictures of the ride pictures, which Disneyland posts on their kiosks in the hopes that you'll buy one at about $15 per photo. Not the best quality, being secondhand and all, but at least I could see he was having a great time! And it brought back happy memories of our family vacation there in October 2014.

Dylan on Splash Mountain.
All the Blue Ridge kids wore matching shirts.

The kids had 2-day park-hopper tickets, and it looks like they mostly did Disneyland on Tuesday and California Adventure today. He said while they were up on the ferris wheel today, they could see the Anaheim police trying to manage the bumper-to-bumper traffic of the Donald Trump rally going on nearby. He commented that he felt "sorry for the cops" in all that mess.

I love that my kids often call or text me about the most mundane things happening in their lives. To me, it's not mundane; it's always something special just because they shared it. This morning, for instance, Dylan called to describe how long the lines for the Radiator Springs Racers' Fast Pass were, and how they decided not to wait. I warned him that the Fast Passes for that particular ride usually run out by 10 or 11 a.m. and we discussed other options. Nothing huge, but I love being part of the little things in my kids' lives.

Dylan on Tower of Terror (soon to be converted to a Guardians of the Galaxy ride).

There is one thing that won't be the last day when tomorrow comes. It will actually be the first day of a 4-day visit from Jacob and Danielle when they arrive from Utah to attend Dylan's graduation! We are really looking forward to that! 

Dylan will also be coming home tomorrow. The seniors will get on the bus when Disneyland closes tonight and they'll drive straight home from there. They should arrive just in time for the senior barbecue at noon tomorrow, followed by hours of graduation practice on the football field. Graduation will be on Friday night, and that will be the first day of the rest of Dylan's adult life!

Dylan on California Screamin'.
May 25, 2016

Dylan on Radiator Springs Racers.

Friday, May 20, 2016

All Done

Doing "The Walk" in the halls of the elementary school.
Dylan is the tall one behind the four girls in front.
(I don't know who emailed me this picture, but thank you!)
Wednesday, May 18, 2016

That's it. He's done. Dylan is all finished with high school and is beside himself with joy at the prospect of never having to sit through another high school class for the whole rest of his life.

Yesterday was the last day Dylan will ever eat lunch with his friend Mary
in my classroom. Sad face (me)... Thursday, May 19, 2016

Oh, he hasn't graduated yet. That will be one week from tonight, and we are all very excited for it. Jacob and Danielle are even coming all the way from their home in Utah to be there. And I'm working up my courage to be on the stand to hand my youngest child his diploma. 

That's one of the cool traditions of Blue Ridge. When the child of a district staff member graduates, they are encouraged to join him or her onstage to present them with their diploma. I got to hand both Sarah and Jacob their diplomas (in 2008 and 2010), and it will be an honor to place Dylan's diploma in his hand, too. It's a little nerve-wracking, though: Will I get up on the stage in time? Will I trip over the steps? Will I knock the superintendent off the stand? Yet I look forward to being there with my son for his all-important moment.

Dylan couldn't resist putting this jubilant scrawl on my whiteboard
on his last day of school. He made my underclassmen jealous.

On Wednesday, the seniors brought their caps and gowns to school and did a "Graduate Walk" through the elementary school while the little students clapped and cheered. The idea is to inspire those kids to hang in there until they earn their own diplomas someday.

On Thursday, the seniors attended their last day of classes. Unfortunately, the rest of us still have a week of school left, but the seniors are done. On Sunday, Dylan will board a bus and depart on the Senior trip to Southern California's beaches and Disneyland. They will return by noon on Thursday, just in time for a full afternoon of graduation practice. And then Friday is their big day, the one they spent thirteen years preparing for.

And they are just a little bit elated about it!

Senior pictures of all three of my children now adorn the shelf behind my desk.
Courtesy of Eugene Prestwich, the Carter family photographer!

Monday, May 16, 2016

My Turn

The view from the Mogollon Rim Trail about a mile from our house.
May 12, 2016

Although my humble photos aren't quite as magnificent as my son's, I still tote my camera everywhere I go and snap off shots of anything that catches my eye. It's especially hard to resist capturing images of our beautiful world when you live in an area as breathtaking as our mountain. It's too bad that my little camera can't quite convey how amazing these views are in real life, but that doesn't stop me from trying!

Our town happens to sit on the southwestern edge of the enormous Colorado Plateau, which stretches across parts of the Four-Corners states, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona. Our little stretch of it is known as the Mogollon Rim (pronounced "Muggy-own" Rim). A few days ago, Dylan, Jake, and I hiked the nearby Mogollon Rim Trail for a little photo-shoot. Between the people-pictures that were the purpose of our picture session, I was distracted by the gorgeous views and just had to sneak in some nature shots, as well. 

As you can see by some of these pictures, I am particularly entranced by twisted, gnarled trees and trees that have been broken and blasted by lightning and other phenomena. The unusual is often so much more interesting than the ordinary! I hope you enjoy these humble offerings!

Friday, May 13, 2016

Zoology, by Dylan

Giraffes at the Phoenix Zoo on February 19, 2016.

A few months ago, when Jacob and Danielle were in Arizona to attend my sister's wedding, they decided to spend a day at the Phoenix Zoo with Dylan and Jake. It came as quite a shock to me when Dylan pointed out that he'd never been to a zoo before. I started to disagree with him, but then I realized that both of our zoo visits (including the Brookfield Zoo in Chicago) had occurred when Sarah and Jacob were small, before Dylan was born.

This one is a favorite of mine.

Not that Dylan is deprived at all. In 2012, while Jacob was serving his mission and Sarah was a married lady, Dylan and I drove across the country to New York (with my second husband and his mother, but let's not talk about that), and Dylan saw more of the United States than his siblings had ever dreamed of seeing.

Naturally, Dylan took along his camera and caught some pictures of the wildlife that I think are pretty spectacular. I meant to share them back in February, but then, you know...life happened. Anyway, here they are now. I can never get the zoo animals to pose this nicely for my camera...

By the way, I'd like to point out that the Phoenix Zoo, which opened in 1962, is the largest privately-owned, non-profit zoo in the United States. And you definitely don't want to visit in the summer, since the animals will all be inside where it's cool, in order to avoid the blistering Valley heat!


Colorful plumage.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Amazing World, by Dylan

Bonfire in our front-yard fire pit, April 25, 2016.

Here's a new batch of my favorite photos from my talented son, Dylan. I love how he likes to try new ideas and experiment with new methods. Some of these are pretty darn spectacular. I especially like the drama of the flames. (Remember, you can enlarge any picture by clicking on it.)

Amazing flames against the dark of night.

My son-in-law Chris kept finding shapes in these flames!
Do you see anything that looks familiar?

Hotel Monte Vista in Flagstaff, Arizona, March 8, 2016.

The Milky Way stretches across the night sky above our mountain home.
April 25, 2016

Ka-ching! An Albert's squirrel (aka, tassel-eared squirrel) finds a golden treasure.
He struggles to make off with a whole orange larger than his head!
April 30, 2016

A mountain spring, May 8, 2016.

Icy, crisp, clear mountain spring water tumbles down on May 8, 2016.

Playing with light shapes and a long exposure, April 25, 2016.

Playing with light shapes and a long exposure, April 25, 2016.

Dylan's friend Destiny flings her hair for the camera, April 23, 2016.