Saturday, December 31, 2011

What Happens at Sushi's House...

You've seen the shirts for toddlers, "What happens at Grandma's, stays at Grandma's"? Well, what happens at Sushi's, gets on her iPhone for all to see. On our CA trip, I scrolled through Mom's and Michael's iPhones and emailed myself a few of my favorite pictures of FOOD and FRIVOLITY.

Sushi is a cook with gourmet skills; June just eats Vienna Sausage from the can.

Nothing says "235 years of America!" like a giant carbohydrate covered in dyed icing.

Clowning around with Sushi and Opa at the circus. Fun fact: every year as a kid, we went to 2 events. The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo in March (for my birthday) and the Ringling Brothers Circus in July (for my brother's birthday). Maybe next year, June and Gordon can join in too!

Does this hat make me look ridiculous? Or is it the nose? Or the lanyard? Or the oversized program? Or the boomerang? Or the Spiderman umbrella hanging off my wrist? Or the fact that I look pissed at my grandma for even daring to take this picture that proves I am one spoiled kiddo?

Would you like some hot chocolate with your whipped cream?
Triple cherries, say what?!
This one was out with Michael, but who says the grandparents are the only ones who get to treat the kids? Here's the mega muffin at the Snooty Pig.

Oh wait, I think we've gone too far. Nothing like the Fat Face app to put things in perspective.

Truly, I love living back close again because now these treats are spread out to about once a month vs consecutive days of a 2 week visit. Talk about some detox whenever we'd go back to LA or Fresno. Whew. Also note, June is growing into these treats. Right now, a Tic-Tac from Sushi's purse will do the trick.

Other random iPhone catch ups:

Owen's birthday at school (with both grandmas there!)

June deep sea diving in Sushi's tub:
June at the pumpkin patch. My favorite part of this photo is the sign.

Now this reminds me to hijack Grammie's phone and see what the kids have been up to at her house!

Favorite Grandparent Quotes:

I don't intentionally spoil my grandkids. It's just that correcting them often takes more energy than I have left. ~Gene Perret

Grandmas are moms with lots of frosting. ~Author Unknown

Grandfathers are for loving and fixing things. ~Author Unknown

On the seventh day God rested. His grandchildren must have been out of town. ~Gene Perret

With much love and appreciation to our parents, thank you!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Thankful for California

Christmas came early for the McArnolds this year. Instead of exchanging gifts, almost all of us* traveled to California to spend Thanksgiving week with friends and relatives. *Steph had an exam at nursing school that could not be taken at any time but the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. That's my first (and hopefully, only) "BOO...HISS" that I've ever said towards the University of Texas at Arlington.

My little family flew to LA 3 days early to catch up with friends from our Pasadena years. We were able to see Bert perform in the final weekend of "Don't Hug Me! I'm Pregnant", worship with our friends at Agape Christian Church, and spend time with my teaching friends from my 5 years in Glendale. I did not spend enough time eating Armenian pastries, and we are growing accustomed to the feeling of walking away from our visits with tears. There is never enough time.

As we drove past our old neighborhood after church, the waterworks began for me. Owen tried to console me with, "You know, I used to see my friend Riley EVERY day in kindergarten, but now I only see him at recess. It's tough, but I know he's still my friend." Not too bad Therapist Arnold; a little bit of his dad in him after all. :) All of that to say that those 5 years were so extremely formative for me as a wife, teacher, friend, and mother. I am so thankful for the friendships and experiences shared in community there.

These days flew by quickly, so I only managed 2 photos. One of June on the plane
and the other of June and Owen with their favorite lap in all of California...Auntie Rae's. If words could express my affection for her, I still wouldn't write them here. Too much to say, dear friend!

Off to San Diego! All of Mom's family migrated from farms east of Dallas to California after WWII. They plopped themselves down a couple of blocks away from the Pacific Ocean, and her idyllic tales of growing up at the beach begin there. Owen did not hesitate to reacquaint himself with the ocean...he rolled up his pant legs and then proceeded to wade in up to his chest. He looked like a loon walking down the boardwalk with no pants and a hoodie afterward, but then again, there's no dress code on the beach either.

June's issue with dirt extends to sand. She stayed in her stroller, even complaining that her wheels were getting dirty. :p But she and Gordon did have some buddy time while they were parked on the beach with one of the best views in the world.

We checked in with Uncle Mo and Aunt Linda on day one because if Uncle Mo doesn't see those rascals within hours of a plane landing, you will hear about it! The kids loved playing with Aunt Linda's walker, and Uncle Mo engaged himself with each of his great-grand nephews and niece.

Day two found us ready to hit La Jolla beach, where Mom lived from junior high until her odd choice to move to West Texas. Nothing like Abilene, TX to make you miss home your freshman year of college, right? Owen wore proper swim attire...kind of. It is the last week in November and the water was ICE, but it IS a swim suit.

The Cove links me to some of my dearest memories of my grandparents. When I would travel there in the summers, they would walk the path along the cliffs or through town every day. The breeze, the grass, the sea lions, and the grandfather in a seer sucker suit and straw grandmother with pearls and silky pants. To see Gordon crawling through the same grass, Owen playing on the same beach, and everyone gawking at those sea lions was a sheer treasure.

Finally, Turkey Day! I'm all for tradition, but this year it was nice to do something a little different and yet, still familiar (Unlike the year we had Del Taco for Thanksgiving dinner in Pasadena...that was just odd). We were able to eat the Thanksgiving meal at Mo and Linda's retirement center, and they did an AWESOME job! Uncle Mo and Aunt Linda are now in their 90s, but this is their first year to not live in that same bungalow they built in Pacific Beach more than half a century ago. So it was all of our first time to experience the center's Thanksgiving meal. Here we all are...dressed up and enjoying the dining hall. PS: That is not "The Dude" from The Big Lebowski movie...that is my Uncle Jerry (who secretly loves it when people do mistake him for Jeff Bridges' character).

And because my parents are not in enough of these pictures:

Michael and Lee are also conspicuously absent from many pictures too. I think that's a good thing. They were busy wrangling kids, riding bikes on the beach, and surfing. I was able to go on a great walk then stop on the beach to think about the week's events. As I sat on the continent's edge, listening to the waves hit the shore as the sun glittered off the sand, I couldn't help but recall this verse from Ezekiel:

Suddenly, the glory of the God of Israel appeared from the east. The sound of his coming was like the roar of rushing waters, and the whole landscape shone with his glory.

It was a beautiful moment in a long and satisfying trip.

Summer Reading and Beyond...

I compiled this list mostly for Kelly S. I like to steal from her reading lists, but for anyone else looking to curl up with a good book over your break, here's what I've been reading since this summer:

The Centurion’s Wife

The Hidden Flame

The Damascus Way, all by Davis Bunn and Janette Oke

I enjoyed this trilogy, but I LOVE historical fiction. My fascination with early Christianity AND the Roman empire means that these were right up my alley.

First Light

Second Touch

Third Watch

Fourth Dawn

Fifth Seal

Sixth Covenant

Seventh Day

Eighth Shepherd

Ninth Witness

Tenth Stone

Eleventh Quest, all by Bodie and Brock Thoene

Okay, I'll admit that I end up reading a lot of series. If a book has a follow up, I must continue reading. Even to a fault. Unfortunately for me when I began the AD Chronicles, I didn't know there were 11 (!) books. I also didn't know that one of the last books would be dedicated to Sarah Palin. But, let's not hold that against the authors. Some books were better than others, but I really appreciated the imagination it took to develop some of these minor characters in the Gospels. I don't think I'll ever consider the leper or the shepherds, in particular, in the same light again. All Zionist politics from the Thoenes aside, a good series overall.

The above books were my summer. I felt that with going back to work, I had to get all my reading in while the days were long...and when I could take a nap the next day after staying up too late reading.

Now for my school'll notice a trend away from the first century and in to dystopian fiction. That's my other guilty pleasure. Who wants to read about some unattainable utopia when you could get lost in the dysfunctions of human attempts to create viable and long-term societies? The Suzanne Collins and Michael Grant books are both in the young adult genre, but the Grant books I would save for a high school kiddo with an ability to discern and discuss the choices made by the central characters.

The Hunger Games

Catching Fire

Mocking Jay, all by Suzanne Collins (can't wait for the movie adaptation of this trilogy)




Plague, all by Michael Grant (book 5 due out in April!)

The Handmaid’s Tale, by Margaret Atwood

The Other Boleyn Girl, by Philippa Gregory

(a brief relapse into historical forwarding to the 16th century, of course. Another Gregory book is my next read)

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

The Girl who Plays with Fire

The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, all by Stieg Larsson

I won't be watching any of the movie adaptations of the Larsson books. One thing I appreciate about reading is that my mind tends to limit the amount of visualization I can do without having nightmares. If a scene is particularly graphic or gruesome, I can only imagine it as far as my fears will let me. In a movie, the scene plays out, presumably, as the director intends and that is often farther than my nerves or thoughts would prefer to extend. To sum it up, the Swedish title to the first book is translated to read "Men Who Hate Women"...I think that original title better illustrates a lot of the scenes that I'd rather not replay or have in my mind again. Still, Lisbeth Salander filled my first 3 days of Christmas break, including a last minute trip to the library to check out book 3.

Suggestions for 2012?

Owen's Definitive Guide to Cursing: Part 2

About a week after our last chat about "bad" words, Owen asks me in the car:

"Mom, is a$$ a bad word?"
"Yes." I mean, I don't even like to type it. ;)
"I don't think it is." Of course you don't. Why believe anything I say? Why even ask me? What do I know?
"Well, some people think it is. Either way, it's not a word our family is in the habit of using." Define habit...
"I still don't think it's bad." A little Owen-sensor finally dings in my brain; it tells me we are not on the same page.
"What do you think it means, O?"
"I don't know exactly."
"Use it in a sentence." At this point, he's kind of fired up from me disagreeing with him, so in a raised voice he says from the backseat,

Remind me to make an appointment with the school's speech pathologist.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Awww, Shrimp!

Owen's Definitive Guide to Cursing

We have our friends Bert and Rae to thank for so many things in our lives...a deep and abiding friendship, a place to stay whenever we come to LA, Owen's love for all things Star Wars, and, most recently, a revelatory conversation of every curse word Owen knows.

Bert is a big movie buff, and the guest room where Owen slept over Thanksgiving led to many questions about the Indiana Jones, Star Wars, and Back to the Future memorabilia hanging on the walls and on the shelves. The tale of Marty McFly going back in time most captured his attention, and he wanted to know if he could watch it on Netflix.

"When you're older."
"Why? Is it inappropriate?"
"Does it have bad words?"
"Yes." (You see how I keep it simple. No need to elaborate on all of the other reasons he can't watch it...stereotypes of Libyans, explanations of "who is Calvin Klein?", the character Biff as a whole, etc.)
"Perhaps, Mom, I DO know a lot of bad words." Yes, Owen uses the word "perhaps" whenever he is trying to make his point. Read: he uses the word perhaps more than any one else I know.

Long pause..."Lay it on me. What words do you know?"
No pause. "The H-word, S-word, B-word, and a few SH-words."
I refrained from exhaling any of those words from under my breath. Another deep breath.
"Oh, really?" I pretend I know none of those words. "What does that mean..."the H-word"?

He whispers..."Hate."

My shoulders relax from the anxiety, I hold in a chuckle, and I ask him to go on.
"Also, Stupid, butt, and shut up."
I concur that none of these words build people up, and we enjoy a comfortable silence.

"Oh, and know I don't say these words, but there is another one that is very know, "SHRIMP". You should never call someone a shrimp."

Now, I laugh.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Character Building

Owen's school skirts the dressing up for Halloween issue by having a "Storybook Character Day". Moms across the neighborhood groan because the Halloween costume most of the kids are wearing is NOT literacy related. So, we end up with two costumes. The girls have a ton of dress up clothes (Angelina Ballerina and Pinkalicious were the most popular, Owen said), but the dudes? From where does the second costume come?

Even though Owen had a Star Wars costume planned (and plenty of Star Wars literature to carry around school), he wanted to dress up like one of the guys from his current favorite book "The Official Guide to Lego Ninjago". Yes, I realize that this is a lame attempt at a "book", but give a 6 year old guy free reign at the school "book" fair, and you get what you get. I said fine, as long as he picked a hero.

You see, if you're going to emulate someone ALL day, I'd rather it not be Lord Garmedon, whose hobbies are "planning escape and revenge against Sensui Wu; lying and deceiving." (source: The Official Guide to Lego Ninjago). We need the villains as non-examples, but I don't need my son to be mimicking every evil move in an effort to stay in character all day. I steered him towards the heroes section and asked him to find a character who had traits he admired or would want to see in himself. He finally picked Kai, the red ninja. What character traits did he admire? "Mom, look at his hobbies: Music & breakdancing." Close enough...and they do have similar angry eyebrows.

As Owen sat at the kitchen table trying to brainstorm how to match the costume with what we have at the house (read: my mom is too cheap to buy a second costume), I read on about Ninja Kai...and immediately started laughing.

"Brave, reckless, daring, stubborn, inspiring, infuriating - all of these describe Kai, the Ninja of Fire. Of all my ninja, he was the most difficult to train...not because he lacked the skill, but because he lacked patience and was reluctant to listen to anyone else. Still, I saw potential in him." (again, "The Official Guide...")

If you know O, you are shaking your head slowly in agreement. If you don't know O, you do now. Psychologists theorize that core personality traits are developed before the age of 6. From this point on, I know that I am parenting the Ninja of Fire.

"Kai" with his Grammy (as the Cat in the Hat)

For those of you wondering how you can recreate this outfit at home:
  • black skeleton Halloween pj pants on inside out
  • red school shirt, also on inside out (a plain red t-shirt would be too classy)
  • Mom's black knee-high tied around your waist
  • put on another red shirt, then take it off, but not all the way. Stop it at your big melon. Then drape it around your neck like a lady and have your mom safety pin it.
  • Finally, get your mom's big hair-tie know the one like the soccer girls wear and put it on like Rambo. I know you don't feel like Rambo...if you were any older than 6, you might realize that you actually look like a cross-dressing sleepwalker, but since you are 6, you happily march off to school as a ninja in a homemade costume.
  • Cost: $0 now, hundreds in therapy later.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Back to Work

A lot* of people have asked how my new job is going. *By “a lot” read: an elder's wife, a neighbor, and my boss. After 3 months, I wanted to document where I am at with the whole "back to work" thing.

I’m a teacher with no “classroom”…but my life is still run by bells. Nothing hearkens one back to the sounds of industrialism's golden age like a bell set to ring at 2:03 pm every day. That’s the start of 7th period.

Gone are my 75 to 160 students; here are my 40 teachers. I’m not an administrator or evaluator; I am a support teacher. I am to Tim Gunn as the principals for whom I work are to Nina, Michael, and Heidi. I’ll leave it to them to figure out which one of them is Heidi. As for the teachers (contestants)? Well, it is one wild season. Does my Project Runway analogy reveal too much into my Thursday evenings for you? :P I have to cope with the stress somehow.

My unofficial job description is to support teacher growth in classroom management, lesson planning, instruction, and assessment. No day is the same, but in the course of a week, you could find me:

Co-writing lesson plans
Cutting out and laminating manipulatives
Compiling assessment data
Modeling a lesson
Emailing documents between two campuses (I split my time between 2 high schools)
Facilitating a team meeting
Daydreaming about the next weekend or vacation day with my family
Collaborating with the support teachers from other subjects
Researching end-of-course exams from other states
Doing any random task a teacher or administrator asks...and there have been some doozies
Listening…a lot of listening.

I’m still working on that part: the listening. If you marry your opposite, consider that my husband is a therapist. He listens all day long. I talk all day long. The discipline of listening to a teacher or team of teachers flesh out a problem, discuss a grievance, share a hardship, or elaborate on a plan has been good for me. I am so blessed to hear what our AMAZING teachers need to say and want to share. I’m working on being someone who knows more of what she says than saying what she knows. Toughest part of the job, by far.

Make no mistake, this job is a gift, but I would be remiss not to tell you that it is a gift that comes in a big box with 1,000 pieces and no instructions. And on most days, I am happily working with my eyebrows furrowed and chewing the inside of my lip as I tackle today’s unexpected opportunity.

Now, back to work.

PS: a post with no pictures and little mention of my children is a rarity. Don't worry, Grandmom, I'll return to our regularly scheduled programming soon with Halloween photos. :)

Monday, September 12, 2011

Trouble Sleeping??

So, Mommy is at Back to School Night and can't tuck you in? This change in routine might be upsetting to some and impede their bedtime routine. What to do? I don't know.

But here's what NOT to do:

#1 Don't sleep on your comfy bed. Make a pallet for yourself on the floor.
#2 Don't bother with comfy clothes. Add an itchy, polyester tutu from your bottom drawer. Pull that over your monkey pajamas. Don't look at the monkeys...they'll give you nightmares.
#3 Don't invest in a sleep mask. A pair of sunglasses works just fine. Hint: wear them upside down so they pinch your nose. Might help with the sleep apnea or snoring...pending FDA approval.
#4 Don't cuddle with any of your soft lovies. Choose a naked plastic baby and cuddle her feet first. (Maybe her baby doll is a breech baby too?)
#5 Don't sleep on your regular pillow. Drag a boppy out of your closet to get your neck creaked just enough to let visions of chiropractic care dance in your head.
#6 Don't worry about a bedtime snack. Play Russian roulette with an old sippy cup. Could be water, could be homemade yogurt.
#7 Don't worry about bedhead. Did you look in the mirror before you laid down? Already there.
#8 Don't bother covering yourself up with a blanket. Leave it to catch the pee that would have otherwise been caught by the pullup you took off and left on the other side of the baby gate.
#9 Don't skip nighttime prayers. You've obviously stolen your brother's race car and Buzz Lightyear. Repentance is like a glass of warm milk.

Yet, she's asleep. Maybe she's onto something after all.

Whatever your bedtime routine may be, I say, "Sleep tight! Don't let the bedbugs bite."