Monday, May 25, 2009

They're A LOT more cute in Disney Cartoons!

For anyone familiar with this blog, you know that I have some, uh . . . issues with small animals.

First, there was the tale (tail?) of the chipmunk phobia. (For a quick recap, I was bit by one as a young child. Two weeks of daily shots of rabies vaccine straight into the abdomen will make a person steer clear of these seemingly innocent rodents.) Then, there was the squirrel who wouldn't let me out of the studio one evening. For the record, I was alone. Every time I tried to make a break for the exit, it darted in front of me and ran back and forth like a deranged animal gone mad. Seriously.

Imagine my delight in hearing about the latest visitor to the studio. No one was more thrilled than me to hear that a mama raccoon and her offspring had decided to take up residence in the ceiling above the studio.

Oh goody.

It all began with a Sunday evening phone call from my mom. It seemed as though a baby raccoon had fallen through a ceiling tile in a room that is currently being used for storage.

Enter Bob. Bob is a man who "removes nusiance wildlife" for a living. Since our first meeting, we have since realized that Bob IS nusiance wildlife. But, I digress.

Bob came swooping in, grabbed up that baby raccoon by the scruff of its neck and headed out to his truck. And who do you think was there to greet Bob?

Mama raccoon. Mama promptly bit Bob in the leg, which sent the baby flying out of his hands. Mama scooped up her pup (are baby raccoons pups?) and ran off with the baby. Straight underneath the deck of the studio.

Current score is: Bob 0
My parents: 0

Raccoons: 6

Days later, I got a phone call on my cell phone. The connection wasn't good, but I could make out my mom's voice. In between points of static, I heard the words " . . . raccoon . . . garbage can . . . trapped . . . hurry."

Because I love the possibility of meeting with small animals face to face, I hurried to the studio-right after I did my grocery shopping for a month, fixed a turkey for dinner, got the car washed and vacuumed, sat in a mile-long line at Starbuck's for a glass of water and made my New Year's resolutions for 2010. I couldn't wait to get to the studio.

Eventually, I arrived and cautiously opened the door.

"Mom?" I called out.

"In here!" she yelled back. As I wandered into the office that we share, I saw debris all over the desk. My desk. Just off to the side was my mom. Victorious and elated. She had one foot firmly planted alongside a garbage can on its side, open end up against the wall. She pumped her fist victoriously in the air.

"I got him!!!!" she chortled. Apparently, a baby raccoon had fallen through the ceiling tile and my mom was having none of it. Somehow, she got him trapped inside the garbage can. She stood next to that can until Bob arrived to deposit the raccoon into a cage waiting outside.

Bob: 0

Mom: 1

Raccoons: 5

Her next catch was a few days later. This time, another baby had fallen through a bathroom ceiling tile. Thankfully, the door to the bathroom had been closed when the fall occurred. Imagine her surprise when she'd opened the door to discover the little guy. Or girl. Another call to Bob was made. He arrived to grab the hissing, growling raccoon by the nape of its neck and stuff it in a cage . . . all while it made a nasty mess through the cage all the way out the door. Thing 2 was there for this capture and I wish I'd had a photo of her face. Her eyes were wide with amazement and as soon as the raccoon was out of the building, she started giggling.

"Mommy," she laughed, "it went potty all over the floor!"

Bob: 0

Mom: 2

Raccoons: 4

One week ago, Nanna and Papa Dean were in the middle of teaching a ballroom class when all of a sudden, two babies came tumbling out of the studio ceiling. Thanks to some quick moving folks, they helped to get the babies cornered and ultimately trapped. After moving them out to the deck, mama raccoon showed up to attempt a rescue. Greed eventually got the best of her and she ended up in a trap that Papa Dean had set for her. Ah, sweet victory!

Bob: 0
Mom, Dad and Ballroom Class: 3

Raccoons: 1

It seemed as though one baby raccoon remained. It also seemed that Papa Dean got him trapped yesterday. Yay!!!! Upon hearing the news, I knew I had to get a photo. This was blogworthy stuff. (Are you even still reading this?) As my big brave strong father reached for the trap (which was set up in the ceiling where it's dark and scary), I could hear growling and major displeasure coming from the animal from above. Nothing good could come of this and I imagined the potential conversation with my mom-should her sweet husband get bit or eaten alive by this wild savage beast-all in the name of helping me get my photo. I hoped she would forgive me if it came to that.

So . . . at long last, I share a photo of the face that only a mother could love.

Mind you, not MY mother! His mother. (Or her mother).

So, here the baby waits outside on the deck for Bob.

Final score: Bob: 0
Mom and Dad: 6

Raccoons: 0

Game over.

Thank You

I had a prideful moment yesterday at church.

In acknowledging Memorial Day, our executive pastor requested that any man or woman who had served our country to stand and be recognized.

I watched individuals rise to their feet . . . young people, middle-aged and older . . . people with babies that I've rocked in our church nursery to the man operating the video camera in the back of the sanctuary.

And my heart swelled with gratitude. I'm so thankful for them. I'm so thankful for all service men and women all over the world today.

And I'm thankful to live in this country . . . where we can be free because of what these people have sacrificed.

To all those who have or currently serve in our military, thank you. May God bless each and ever single one of you!

Friday, May 22, 2009

Seasons of Change

What a busy week. Whew. I'm exhausted just thinking about it.

As I was gathering photos for this post, I was struck by the thought that the week has been largely about seasons . . . new seasons in life and old seasons coming to a close. At the same time, we realize that although every season brings change, the one constant is our Father. His faithfulness is unchanging. He IS always with us . . . through every end and every beginning. He IS good all the time and all the time, God is good!

And so, we saw seasons coming to an end . . . Mackenzie finished up with her preschool year last Friday. While she's looking all laid back (no pun intended) in the photo below, what you don't see is the meltdown in the car after leaving school-just 10 minutes after this photo was taken. She cried her eyes out, all while telling me how much she would miss her teachers.

My nieces Alaina and Chloe celebrated the end of another season of dance with the arrival of the recital last weekend. Here, they share a hug with Nanna before we left for the theatre.

MOPS at our church ended for the year. It was a great season and we celebrated the end of this year, but the beginning of a new one with a balloon release for the moms and children. Inside each balloon was information about our start up date in the fall. I'm already excited to start the planning process again!

Cassidy is winding down to the end of another school year. Last night was the annual school picnic-another indicator that summer vacation is just around the corner. She will soon say goodbye to 4th grade and move onto her final year of elementary school. If someone will please tell me where the time has gone, I'd be so grateful!

In the photos below, you'll see Gregg hitting one for the team during the picnic's softball game. The bases were loaded as Gregg and I sauntered over to the ball field. At Mr. K's urging, Gregg stepped in to hit one far enough to bring four kids home. Cassidy was the fourth one to cross home plate. That was a first for our firstborn!

So . . . we celebrate. Seasons come and go. Sometimes we don't want to deal with a new season-as aptly shown by Mackenzie below. But, it's part of life.

And we go on.

And we pray.

And we trust.

Because He will always be faithful through EVERY season!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Graduation Day!

Mackenzie graduated from her preschool class yesterday. She was all decked out in her dress (thank you, Hannah!), curly hair thanks to sponge rollers and graduation cap. As she got dressed this morning, she tried out the "twirly-ness" of the dress and said to me, "Mommy, I bet all the girls will look pretty today." I readily agreed with her. She then went on to ask, "Mommy . . . how come you don't look pretty today?"

Ah, nothing like the honesty of a child to keep us humble. Amen?

I'm sure she meant to say, "how come you're not wearing a dress with crinoline underneath like me?"

Anyway, speaking of looking pretty, check out these girls below! Have you ever seen such beauty in one room?

Here's one of my favorite photos . . . obviously, the pomp and circumstance was lost on one student in particular. It just so happens to be my child. Of course. (That would be the child to the left of the young man in the red shirt. She's the one bent over in her seat looking at the ground. What the photo doesn't show is the stomping on her diploma she continued to do throughout the ceremony. I'm also hoping she learns to sit like a lady by the time we repeat this during her senior year in high school.

One can only hope.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Suspicious Note

Mackenzie has this bucket that she takes back and forth to preschool each day. Before leaving yesterday morning, she found the following note in the bucket:

After picking Cassidy up from school later in the day, Mackenzie thanked her and said, "Sissy, you make my heart so happy."

I could melt. So sweet.

So suspicious.

Still, for now I will enjoy it. I just might even frame the note. I will probably refer to this post regularly when they've been out of school after a few days and are bickering, squabbling, and driving me to hide in the nearest closet to perform what I lovingly refer to as a primal scream.

Ah summer . . .

Yep. I'm definitely framing this note.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Happy Mother's Day!

I don't know about you, but I love going to shop for cards.

This year was no exception as I shopped for the perfect cards to give the mom's in our life. Gregg's mom received one noting her ability to keep her son in one piece, in spite of the numerous trips to the emergency room. It was perfect for her really, as Gregg has a wide assortment of scars from stitches that have long surpassed the 60 mark. God Bless that woman!! I shudder at the thought of raising rambunctious boys.

Finding a card for my own mom was a little more challenging . . . comical or serious . . . Hoops & Yoyo or a singing card . . . so many choices.

Finally I settled on a sentimental card, but I debated.

One card in particular said on the outside "On this Mother's Day, I just want to tell you . . . " (open the card) . . . "I'm not quite done embarrassing you!"

I nearly laughed out loud. You see, I tease my mom a little bit.

Ok. A lot. I tease her a lot. And I continue to embarrass her.

For instance, shortly after my younger sister was born, we took a trip to the doctor for a well-baby check up. Good old Dr. Griffin. I loved him-nice man . . . very attentive . . . especially to this new baby sister of mine. (Grrrrrrr) In the middle of his examination of her, somewhere from the depths of my 5 or 6 year-old self, I exclaimed:


Good grief, I have no idea why I chose to utter those words. I clearly remember saying them, though. My poor mother-she never saw it coming. Neither did I! Thankfully, the doctor knew our family quite well and must have had some experience with bratty little children because he never flinched. My mom however . . . well, suffice to say she hadn't been beating the baby but when it came to 5 year-olds . . .

No, I'm just kidding BUT I distinctly remember her turning on me in the car out in the parking lot and asking (loudly) why on earth I would say something like that to which I replied, "I just wanted to see what you'd say." (Duh . . . I wasn't the sharpest tool in the shed-that's for sure!) Can you imagine?

You know the saying about paybacks? If you're a parent yourself, you know!! My father-in-law always said, "I'm just going to sit back and laugh!" Sadly, he is not around to laugh at us anymore (not on this side of earth at least), but trust me when I tell you that there are other grandparents enjoying their fair share of laughter at our expense.

When Cassidy was about that same age as the bratty little girl in Dr. Griffin's office, she was asked to be a flower girl in a wedding. She had a blast and offered to be a flower girl in everyone's wedding (even for couples who were already married)-loved everything about it and was fixated on weddings for quite some time. It should have come as no surprise when I picked her up from Sunday School one day and her teacher was giggling.

"Cassidy really wants you and Gregg to finally get married," said Miss Diane as other parents stood nearby, ready to pick up their own chatterboxes.

After a hasty explanation and exit from the preschool area, I remembered that fateful day in Dr. Griffin's parking lot. Paybacks.

And did I mention that Mackenzie spends quite a bit of time at our pastor's house? Ever since she was about 2 weeks old, she has been in the loving care of "Oma" (our pastor's wife) while Gregg and I are at work. Oma has been with her through learning to roll over, sit, crawl, walk and talk . . . oh yes . . . the talking.

Suffice to say, there are no secrets. The last revelation included Mackenzie's need to tell Oma and Papa (at dinner nonetheless) that "Daddy cuts his toenails over the toilet 'cause Mommy gets mad if he gets his nails all over the place."

Ewwwww . . . please . . . she felt the need to discuss this because???????

So, on a day that celebrates moms, encourages extra hugs and kisses and expressions of thanks and gratitude for those women who do their absolute best to raise up little people to be good and not so bratty, I'd like to publicly thank my own mom. And apologize. I hones
tly don't know why I told Dr. Griffin that you were beating the baby.

And to my own children, my dear Thing 1 and Thing 2, be careful what you do to me now because hopefully, Lord willing, you wil have little children of your own. And I will remember.

And I will laugh.

Friday, May 8, 2009

In Appreciation . . .

This week marks "staff appreciation week" at Cassidy's school.

I'm not sure if there's one universal "teacher appreciation" day or "staff appreciation" day, but I do know that it's happening in our little corner of the world this week.

Because I have a huge appreciation for what our elementary school staff does and because I'm blessed to have an opportunity to write for anyone who is somewhat interested in coming here to check out the blog from time to time, I'm devoting this post to school teachers and staff . . . present AND past. Just as Cassidy has been blessed to have some incredible people in her life through school, so have I!!!!

Last week, as I mentioned in the previous post, I had the chance to help out with "Friday Night Live" at Cassidy's school. For as many times as I was thanked for helping out, I'd have to honestly throw a thanks right back in the direction from where the gratitude came because I learned A LOT through the experience.

For example, ever since Cassidy ventured to first grade, I've eaten more than one school lunch with her and willingly paid the nice cashier for my lunch. I've seen other women scurry around and refill the food in the buffet line. I've watched the custodian jump to clean up spills and messes. I never knew their names, but I knew they certainly did their part in making the school a better place. Last week, however, these great people came to my rescue and suddenly we bonded. Upon seeing me struggle with my attempts to put up a tent outside the school for FNL decoration, they jumped in to help. I never had to ask. They were great and we had a lot of laughs. When it was all said and done, we agreed that installing tents (or canopies) should be a summer Olympic sport. We are competing on the first US team ever if this new event takes hold. Seriously. They also were kind enough to not bat an eye when I realized Thing 2 had to eat lunch and "do you mind if I put in an order for another lunch?" so my 4 year-old can eat in the midst of the chaos. They were happy to help and made my life so much easier.

To the school nurse, Mrs. S, I express my heartfelt thanks for every bandaid you've given Thing 1 for everything down to the smallest of hangnails. I'm sure you have been an attentive audience to more than one dramatic display from my firstborn. To the school secretary Mrs. C, thanks especially for going the extra mile for me this year and helping out with some of that FNL preparation. I remember one particular day when you didn't get a lunch break, were swamped with phone calls and people popping in the office for various things, yet you helped me out willingly and cheerfully. Thank you! And to the principal, Mrs. S, you will be missed as you go on to your next venture. We parents have appreciated having you at the helm and on a more personal note, thank you for supporting "See You at the Pole" for the past few years. I pray that the next one to sit in your office will have a heart for the Lord as you do. Thank you!

To do justice in expressing my thanks to her teachers (past and present) would be downright impossible. While each has lent a different teaching and education style to her, she has benefitted from each experience and come away learning much more than just the curriculum outlined for the year. Each of these teachers has helped to shape and mold her. Yes, there are some standouts and I am so thankful for them. Her current teacher, Mr. K, is no exception to this and there's no way to adequately express our appreciation.

Suffice to say, the one thing that makes Mr. K a standout, would be his desire to encourage his students to "go beyond themselves." It's because Mr. K does this himself that he can demand it of his students. I've been privvy to a few of the things that this man does in our community, let alone the school itself. Sadly, I've been sworn to secrecy, but rest assured that the things that he does are not about him but rather the Lord. Yes, he teaches the "three R's" in his classroom but the lessons go beyond the basics and get down to the literal heart of the matter. Gone is the writing assignment to describe a summer vacation, but rather to consider a problem or worthy cause that his students could help with . . . to explain why the issue is worth their attention and then a plan of action resulting in improvement. He plays music for the class and discusses the inspiration behind the song and he has been the model for encouraging a positive atitude in the classroom. Just recently, as the 4th grade classes departed for a 24 hour pioneer camping experience that was destined by weather forecasters to be a chilly time, he had the group convinced that "the colder the better!" Cassidy prayed for cold weather because "Mr. K says we'll have so many more opportunities if it's not warm." Several of us parents giggled with our hands over our mouths. One 4th grade dad joked that "if it comes from Mr. K, then it must be sacred."

Once upon a time, I had my own "Mr. K" for a teacher-only it was a petite young woman named Mrs. Coe. She was the one who helped me discover a passion for writing. She was energetic, bright, fun to have in the front of the classroom and made. us. think. Reading assignments always were followed by discussion, and not limited to a few questions at the end of the piece but inspired by Mrs. Coe's own thoughts and if memory serves correctly, rarely was there a wrong answer. It was always about our opinions but that in order to express them, we'd better be able to back it up with the "why" behind our thoughts. (Did I mention that she made us think and use our brains??) I adored Mrs. Coe and was so sorry to see my year end with her. As Cassidy laments the end of her year with Mr. K drawing to a close, I can appreciate it. I felt the same way about my time with Mrs. Coe.

So, in the spirit of teachers who demand one's personal best, can I ask all of you who are reading this to do me a favor? Leave me a comment and tell me about a teacher who impacted you in a great way. Better yet, find that teacher and tell them thanks. Or let someone at your own child's school how much you appreciate them! They deserve to know!

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Live . . . From Cassidy's School . . . It's FRIDAY NIGHT LIVE!!!!

Each year a huge event, called Friday Night Live, takes place at Cassidy's school.

In short, it's an event . . . almost a rite of passage for 4th and 5th graders at the school . . . that celebrates and embraces reading. There's nothing short OR small about this "shindig" however. What takes place over the span of 14 hours is absolutely amazing. Additionally, to make things even more challenging, is that the theme of the night is top secret. Therefore, any work or preparation that goes on has to take place in private meetings, work sessions, hushed conversations, and code language while in the presence of 10 and 11 year-olds, who are so hyped about finding out the theme, that the possiblilites are discussed all year long.

Below are some photos from the big night. It takes a small army to pull this event off. The creative genius behind the evening would be Cassidy's teacher, Mr. K. The "worker bees" are a slew of parents, older siblings of the 4th and 5th graders and school staff.

This first photo is a "before" shot . . . the walls of the cafeteria/gym had just finished being draped in plastic. The photo immediately following shows a "birds eye view" of the room after the guests of honor have arrived.

The kids arrive with sleeping bags and pillows in tow and set up a comfy spot for themselves in their assigned group. Once the evening begins, the plot is introduced and the kids watch the events unfold via skits, songs and dances-usually performed by nearly the entire staff, and the occasional family member of an unsuspecting 4th or 5th grader. And yes, Cassidy's family was recruited to appear during the evening. Interspersed between these events are silent reading times.

Various storybook characters "came to life" as the evening unfolded. I portrayed Hermione Granger, Gregg rode across the room on a zip line as Harry Potter and Thing 2 morphed into Raggedy Ann.

In fact, Mackenzie even got some new facial features for her character-thanks to a 5th grader's talented mom, who just happens to be a drama teacher at an area high school.

After volunteering my services to do some choreography, I got to work with Cassidy's school principal and her husband, both of whom portrayed Mary Poppins and Burt throughout the evening.

FNL usually incorporates a "field trip" to a cool destination that is worked into the evening's plot line. This year was no exception and in the photo below, you can see Mr. K greeting the kids at a local park. The kids arrived to a fire burning on the beach, a quest to find missing treasure, an assist from the Navy Seals, and ultimately witnessing the evening's arch enemies taken away by boat into the eerie darkness of the night. Ah, I'm always a sucker for a happy ending!

FNL concluded at the high school, where the kids had an opportunity to swim, dance, sign eachother's limited edition FNL shirts and eat. more. food.

And as I watched these kids have a ball and saw the joy on my own daughter's face, I started thinking . . .

I wonder what next year's theme will be!!