Elementary teachers are the ultimate resource when you need a little something to wear for an ugly Christmas sweater party. I didn't have anything in my closet, but after asking around, my co-workers came through big time. I ended up with six! We had a great time partying, eating and laughing with friends the other night. Thanks Scott and Tiana for being such great hosts. Three parties down, one more to go before Christmas. I love this time of year! He's still handsome...even with an ugly sweater and an unshaven upper lip!
Because I want to remember it... Today, right in the middle of math, I had a sweet interruption. One of the cafeteria monitors came to me with a holiday gift. I was pretty surprised by that. I don't see her much; it's usually just in passing when I'm walking my kids to lunch. She's a second language learner herself, but she still communicates fine with the students and staff.
This sweet lady felt horrible disrupting my class, but as I walked into the hallway she handed me a beautifully packaged present. Tears were in her eyes as she said, "Teacher, you always smile at me. Thank you." I teared up too and gave her a hug. What a reminder for me to do one of the most simple things more often -- smile. I loved that moment. Oh, and my class visited our kindergarten buddies to help them with their gingerbread houses today. Candy overload, but oh, so festive! Being a teacher at this time of year is so fun!
For our friends in colder climates, I know this is not impressive in the least. But when you're living in 'sunny' California, snow is definitely a rarity.
Look what we woke up to this morning!
I loved seeing all of the cars on our street covered in a nice, thin blanket of snow on my way to the gym. I miss Utah winters. In college the first snow (and second and third...) always made me just a little happier -- except not so much when I was walking up that horrible hill south of campus just praying I wouldn't slip. But other than that, I'd be pretty content to live in the white stuff.
Looks like our attempt for a white Christmas came a little early!
Wow, time goes quickly. I love thinking back to our wedding day. There was so much happiness, excitement and reason to celebrate. Sure, as we naively looked into our future that day, things three years down the road looked differently. But both of us agree that life and love have been good to us in that time.
We like to keep things pretty simple when it comes to celebrations, but Nate has, yet again, outdone himself...and he didn't spend a penny. Just like every morning, today I got up very early and headed off to the gym. What I didn't know was that as soon as the garage door closed, my sweet husband jumped out of bed (well, maybe not jumped...) and started on my gift.
I smelled a familiar smell when I got home. Something in the oven? No...in this case, much better. Lemon 409. You see while I was off getting sweaty Nate cleaned our whole house. That's right. Floors, kitchen, bathrooms, bed made, dusting and even the dishwasher emptied. I was speechless and could just feel the love. Love in the form of cleaning products and a sparkling sink? Absolutely. It truly was the best gift he could have given.
Tonight we'll enjoy some time together and have a delicious dinner, but I think I already know what my favorite part of the day is. What a great memory to have for anniversary #3.
Nate had the best of intentions all summer long to reinforce our fence since it was looking a little shaky, but with lots of hot days and busy schedules it just kept being put off. Just when it was getting cool enough to spend a Saturday outside very unexpected and definitely unwelcome wind storm stopped by. And our fence didn't stand a chance. So, for the past two Saturdays Nate and his Grandpa have had a pretty big project on their hands. It's involved concrete, a mighty two-man hole digger, wood (of course!), and screws -- lots and lots of screws. In the past week Nate has become very good friends with Home Depot. But, today these hardworking guys finished it up. Oh, what a blessing it is to have such a skilled, smart, know-how grandpa! He's a project kind of guy, and the end result is always oozing with precision and serious quality work. Nate truly chose the best teacher possible to learn a few things about fence building. So thanks Grandpa. You helped us build something that the ferocious wind can't even compete with. This fence isn't going anywhere for a very, very long time. And that sounds perfectly wonderful to me.
Our highlight for the month is finishing up the 'tree project'. I started this summer taking out one tree at a time -- for a grand total of 3. No, they weren't General Sherman redwoods or anything, but still...I like to think of a Milwaukee Sawzall as a chain saw for women. Nate and I together cut down two trees, and yesterday some very nice men showed up with their saws, chipper truck and stump grinder to remove a few more and grind nine stumps. We are not tree haters, we just have too many of the wrong kinds of trees for a rather smallish yard. Well, maybe I am a tree hater, because I'm pretty happy to know these little suckers aren't going to be invading our lawn much longer since their 'mother tree' has been sawed to bits. Of course the photographer in the family has taken a few more impressive shots lately. But that's it for September. Now that school is back in we seem to be busy just handling the regular routines of life and not getting away for fun adventures nearly as often as we'd like! (Sea Ranch? Is that you I hear calling?) Ah, but don't you love conference weekend? That's a treat we're looking forward to...for many reasons!
Friday night we flew to Orange County and by Saturday evening we were back home. It was a quick trip to attend the funeral of one of my dearest BYU-days friends. Heather fought a truly courageous three year battle against cancer. She had a fixed determination to survive 'one more day' to be with her sweet husband and two young children for as long as she possibly could.
Good friends become your family during college, and Heather was, to me, another sister. Her example of optimism, happiness and honesty are just a few traits that contributed to a wonderful friendship. Together we 'suffered' through being single and graduating still single from BYU. Numerous trips to Hogi Yogi (for the Yogi, of course) were made to console our frustrations. :-)
(Obviously taken before the days of digital!)
This past week I've thought of hundreds of memories that we share: hiking at Sundance, being annoyed at roommates, hitting the gym, a roadtrip to Manti...there are so many. I have been blessed by her friendship and those memories are a treasure.
"Let us relish life as we live it,
find joy in the journey, and share our love with friends and family. One day each of us will run out of tomorrows."
Thomas S. Monson
Heather liked that quote. She is the sweetest reminder for me right now that life is short and that in even the most difficult situations, you can always choose to love and choose happiness. Her smile and happy energy were talked about over and over again at the memorial. I will miss her, as will so many others, but I feel so blessed that our paths crossed in this life.
On an unrelated note, as we were at the cemetary I looked to the north and this is what we saw. Yes, there really is a huge fire in LA right now. I can't imagine what that must be like to deal with.
It's been three years since Nate and his cousin Josh went hiking together. That little outing ended with two extremely dehydrated and exhausted adventurers. Nate ended up in the emergency room in the bay area. We were only dating then, but I still rushed to the hospital and, shortly after arriving, learned from the nurse that he showed signs of early kidney failure because the dehydration was so severe. Great. I find this really great guy that I think I want to marry and he goes off and possibly wrecks his kidneys. Thankfully, that danger never fully manifested itself and those kidneys recovered completely.
Yes, three years ago it was very, very hot when Josh and Nate were hiking in Big Sur. But, you see, these former Scouts decided it was fine to leave their water filters in their trunk. And while the natural hot springs nearby were soothing to sore muscles, they certainly didn't help in the dehydration department after hiking all day. I'm still surprised that we haven't been visited by the Boy Scouts of America to strip Nate of his Eagle award or at least give him a stern talking to. Aren't Boy Scouts always supposed to be 'prepared'? Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago when Nate and Josh started talking about backpacking again. Realistically, I knew they'd be smart about it this time. But, I was still a little concerned about the 'what ifs' that accompany any experience like this. I pretty much never answer my cell phone during the teaching day, but when I received two calls from Nate just a few minutes apart from each other I got nervous. I answered. Nope, nothing wrong. He was just reporting that they had made it to the top of Pyramid Peak and were having an incredible time. After apologizing for not realizing that the school day wasn't over, Nate reported that his water consumption had been stellar thus far.
Did he think I was concerned or something?
I wasn't there, but I'm pretty sure that other than a little heat and smoke in the air on the second day Nate did have a great time. The only real danger was nearly running into this guy as they hiked in the dark: Nate was surprised to find that the hike up to Pyramid Peak isn't as defined as the internet detailed. It was a lot of scrambling and leap-frogging from one granite boulder to another. An elevation change of four thousand feet is no walk in the park my friends. Thanks to water filters that were packed this time, electrolyte drinks and just being smart, his kidneys (and the rest of him!) made it home just fine. In a couple weeks he'll be off with the Scouts doing again what he loves most: being in the great outdoors...with a water filter.
I make no secret that I'm the self appointed president of Nate's fan club. I'll get in trouble for gushing too much, but suffice it to say, he's good -- at a lot of stuff. I mean, you saw the kite flying, right? No further explanation needed.
So, since he's off roughing it and backpacking in the Sierras with his cousin Josh, I figured this was the perfect time to share just one thing...at least until he goes out of town again. Usually when Nate takes pictures, he comes home with a few hundred and hates them all. My untrained and apparently unartistic eye totally doesn't get it. You just spent four hours taking pictures and you don't like ANY of them?
But last Saturday was different.
After heading to Emigrant Gap with his photo savvy friend, Jason, Nate came home excited and, dare I say, proud. He proclaimed that he had just taken the best pictures yet. And, I have to say, they're pretty amazing. So, I share with you a few of his favorites from Saturday and a few of mine. But, don't take too long to view them because when he gets home and sees that I've been bragging, this post might vanish. I hope not, but you never know!
HERE'S another of Nate's favorites from Saturday. HERE and HERE are two of my favorites. Oh, and this ONE was taken at night when it was totally dark outside. Look carefully, do you see the big dipper? Awesome.
I've got homemade burritos, sauces with and without meatballs, enchiladas, pasta bakes...all kinds of good stuff. I guess you could call it the food storage I'd go for first in an emergency, but right now I think of it more as our cache of food I've prepared for those days I'm just too worn out to cook. My freezer is ready. Ready for what?
Well, school starts tomorrow. It will be my tenth first day of school as a teacher. Yes, tenth. My classroom is put together and organized, name tags are on desks, and I'm ready to greet eighteen little darlings in the morning. I hear that some of them actually aren't so darling, but hopefully, in time, I can help to change that, at least when they're with me. For the second time in three years I spent the entire summer thinking I was teaching fifth grade. Yet another miracle came my way just a week ago, and I returned to my favorite age of kids. In times like this I should (and am, really) just be grateful for a job, but a third grade job makes me smile a lot more than fifth.
And yet, I can say with absolute certainty, while structurally everything is ready, I am not so much. You see, this summer I fell in love with being a stay at home wife. I loved taking care of our home and yard. Being available to help friends and church members at any time of the day was just a treat! I definitely stayed busy, but it was busy on a schedule I created, instead of teaching all day and trying to fit everything else in as well. It's hard to fully describe the feelings I had, but I realized more than ever, that our home and family are who I want to work for most. I can't thank Nate enough for encouraging me (and basically deciding for me) to not work this summer. More than anyone, he saw how challenging last year was from a personal and medical perspective and he knew what I needed even better than I did. Can I be honest? It's been a bit of a challenge resetting my reality for this year. Last Spring I thought I'd only be teaching until November. There were other things on the horizon. Things are different now. But different isn't altogether bad. It's just, well, different.
I am quite sure that there's a reason these kids and I are supposed to be together -- for the whole year. Third grade is fun; I love seeing those little eyes light up and get excited about learning. I'm a little nervous for the wild card kids and how life outside of school will affect how well I function as a teacher, but all of that will work itself out. It did last year, and that gives me confidence that I'm capable of handling it all again. So I guess it doesn't really matter if I'm ready or not. Tomorrow is right around the corner, and I get to choose how to handle it. It's probably best if I tackle it with excitement, humor and hard work...and maybe a little bravery for good measure. :-)
As we were leaving Bodega Bay a few weeks ago, Nate spoke up and asked if we could make a stop at one of the kite shops in town. He just wanted to LOOK for a fun kite. Well, looking turned into purchasing and, like a kid on Christmas, he couldn't wait to give it a try.
One problem, Folsom isn't exactly the Windy City, especially in August. So he waited a week until we got to Sea Ranch and couldn't wait to get his new stunt kite and its 40 feet of tail in the air. I caught some of the action and (since he won't say it, but I will), he's gotten even better than what you see here. I'm grateful for yet another hobby that is compact and portable. Any hobby that doesn't resemble anything that's missing an engine and keeping me from parking in the garage is welcome by me!
No, we have not taken up cattle branding and roping as new hobbies. This is an entirely different kind of ranching my friends.
Let me explain.
These are Nate’s sweet parents.
Thanks to them we had an incredible week atSea Ranch(which, if you've never heard of it, isn't a ranch at all) with all of the family together. We were just missing that hardworking Elder Boyce. There was plenty of time for playing, relaxing, reading, taking long walks and hitting the beach. Oh, and the most beautiful morning runs EVER. Coming back to the gym on Monday was such a let down!
Being all together doesn't happen very often. Each time though it reminds us how blessed we are to be a part of something so wonderful. There's no one we'd rather laugh or be silly with!
We especially tried to soak in as much time as we could with these cuties:
So lucky to have such darling nieces... even when they're having their meltdowns!
I loved exploring the tide pools, even though I fell both times we went. I guess the seaweed was a little more slippery than I thought. I'm sure it had nothing to do with my own clumsiness. No big deal. A few scrapes and Nate helping me out of this terribly awkward position was totally worth it!
This trip was a true vacation – in every way.
For seven days there was little concern about a clean house, yard work, errands to run, medical appointments, or other stresses that seem to crowd themselves into every day life.
I never really understood how incredible this place is until I experienced it for myself. A lot of friends (especially you Everetts!) have spent time at Sea Ranch. They said great things, but I had no idea. What I know now is that there’s a certain magic to Sea Ranch where everything slows down and life becomes much more simple. I'm ready to go back -- permanently.
I think they get more therapy out of a day at the beach, just hanging out and listening to the ocean waves, than most people could from a year with a psychologist. They just love it.
This is all my mom came to do: I love that they want to bring us along! As kids we'd join with one of our favorite families (a shout out to the McDowells there!) and head to Bodega Bay for a day of fun. We're all grown up (well, some of us...but I'll get to that) so there's less playing in the frigid water and more book reading, but it's still a good time.
It's totally appropriate that my dad's license plate frame says, "I may get older, but I refuse to grow up." While that pesky Parkinson's disease may slow him down, his mind is quick and he's still just a big kid at heart. While Mom was keeping with tradition by making brownies and packing blankets and other necessary items for the day, Dad made sure the kite we've had since I was a kid was packed. I don't think we were on the beach for more than fifteen minutes before he pulled out the kite and got it in the air.Nate ended up flying it so high that it was lost in the clouds and fog. Bringing it back down was a bit of a workout!Back to my dad. After kite flying, he couldn't be still for too long, so he fed the seagulls Cheetos -- lots of Cheetos. Like these 'pigeons of the sea' need any encouragement, right? And, when that was finished, Dad decided the rest of us needed a little antagonizing. I love that he's got such a great spirit still and keeps us laughing so much of the time.
On the way home we stopped here. Hands down the best ice cream -- ever. If you've seen the movie 'Up' you've at least heard of this place. There's a reason that kid Russell in the movie is such a darling chub. He probably visited Fenton's a few too many times. Next time you're driving through Vacaville you've got to stop. And if it's autumn, I'd definitely recommend the apple pie ice cream. I can't wait for it to come around in a few months. So good! Ice cream for dinner was a perfect way to end the day. I mean, look at this. DElicious, right?
Thanks Mom for nailing down a date and planning a great day at the beach! Your kids had a wonderful time.