Monday, June 29, 2009


Now that we got an email from Kiwi’s Mom saying that she is back safe and sound in Germany, I have to really appreciate modern technology. We left the airport at about 6 PM on Friday and by the time I woke up on Saturday I had already heard that not only had she arrived home without any problems, but I also knew that her friends threw a surprise party and she was taking a nap! The world is definitely getting smaller!

A new software program I am now going to love is called Skype. It is a video conference program that travels over the internet. So not only do you hear the person you are talking to… you can see them too!! Another thing I found out about it is you can talk to more than one person at a time… so if I knew a whole bunch of people around the world that I wanted to talk to all at once…. Skype can do it! The best thing about it is that it totally FREE!! Well, you need a computer with a video camera and internet access… but that’s it!

This morning we talked to Kiwi for about 20 minutes. She looked good but very tired. Jet lag is a drag! We got to see some of her bedroom… like a huge American flag in the background hanging on her wall. (Plus lots of Harry Potter posters) She told us she hadn’t even started unpacking…. Other than to pull out the poptarts, Hershey’s candy and Lipton iced tea she brought home. The other kids are doing much better. I can tell because they have started bickering with each other again. Pete and Dori giggling in church this morning was a good sign that we are moving back to normalcy around here.

We took off for another camping trip this morning. I am writing this from our RV. It is getting late and it is very quiet. I can hear the whole family breathing steadily as they sleep. It feels like it is going to rain tonight. It will be great to hear the raindrops on the camper roof. I put everything away and tipped our awning… things here are good. All is well. ☺

Friday, June 26, 2009

Kiwi heads home

We had the absolute best foreign exchange student we ever could have hoped for. Kiwi was always willing to try new things, she had a great attitude and melded into the fold of our family perfectly. She was not used to being part of a large family and I think the jump from living as an ‘only child’ to one of 5 kids only slowed her down for a minute. But today, she headed back to Germany. We all went to the airport with her.

For the last week or two I have been worried about how I would handle her leaving. I am not good at good byes. I told her that I would probably cry and she said she would too…. And seemed relieved that she wouldn’t be the only one. This morning I was in a strong denial mode. We went to the store and I imagined that it was not the last day. As the morning and afternoon wore on it got harder and harder to pretend we weren’t leaving for the airport soon. Everyone was quiet at the airport, but still in a bit of denial. The kids all raced each other on the people mover, laughed at Pete when he went up the escalator (while everyone else waited for the elevator) because he had his headphones in and gave each other wet willies while we waited for her to board. I had decided to be strong. It would only make it harder if I cried too. Great thought. Didn’t work. I cried, but not as much as she did. The kids all sort of hugged and looked stunned as we watched her walk toward the plane.

I had not planned on the hardest part. Dill… our 7 year old was heartbroken. He sat in the car on the way home holding the headphones Kiwi had given him like a rosary and watched out the window at all the planes flying away from the airport. I could hear him softly crying and see him in the rearview mirror as I drove. For as awful as I felt, with my adult brain and heart that had gone through loss and change in so many ways…graduations, job changes, moves, both of my parents passing away, my first love dying way too young, people that came into my life and left… what could my little boy be thinking?

I knew I could try to reason with him. Tell him how great our time with Kiwi had been. I could tell him she would come visit. But I knew he would look at me with his ‘old soul eyes’ and just know that it would never be the same and it would not lessen the pain he was feeling one bit. Macy leaned over in the car and just rubbed his shoulder and when we got home Dori walked around and gave him a hug and just held him. We are in the house now. All huddled in the living room eating junk food and watching Spongebob. It feels like a funeral parlour in here. Pete sighed a minute ago and said, “There is nothing I want to do because Kiwi is gone.” I know son… loss hurts like hell. Love is a tough thing…

Our trip to Hell

Here were a few of our favorite signs...

Our last trip with Kiwi. ☹ She wanted to see Hell, Michigan. There was a bridge out so we ended up being detoured quite a ways out of our way to get there. Who knew it would be so hard to get INTO Hell!! There were lots of cool signs and sayings. We had lunch at the Dam Site Inn and the kids got to play pool while we waited for the food. We went into the General Store so Kiwi could buy a t-shirt that said, “I’ve been to Hell and back” and everyone got ice cream sundaes where the toppings are set buffet-style inside a real coffin.

BTW.... it was very hot and muggy in Hell. :)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

High School Memories

OK, yes…. there was: prom…. Driving yourself to school… checking out colleges…. Kissing…. Knowing what things were cool… gaining a lot more independence… but let’s face it, high school sucked. I’m sure boys don’t have it easy either, but being a girl in high school just plain sucked.

Dori is having issues with her friends right now. Girls that we have known since middle school… that we have had over to our house lots of times, taken camping with us, gone to dinner with their families…. these girls we have cheered for in sporting events and music concerts have suddenly decided to ‘un-friend’ the whole family on Facebook (The 21st century equivalent of a slap in the face)!!

I do not think I could do high school again. I am not even talking about finding my way around the building and getting to each class in 3 minutes or less…. Getting my locker combination to work….. using the horrid things they call bathrooms…. Recalling Algebra equations…. Or pop chemistry quizzes. Just dealing with a class of people that feel that the only way to climb up the social ladder is to step on others would be too much for me to re-endure.

The only glimmer of hope I can offer my daughter is what I saw when I went to my 20 year school reunion. The “hot” quarterback was bald and pot-bellied and only talked about ‘the good old days’, the head cheerleader was divorced and drank too much and the class jerk was still just a jerk….but now he’s a jobless jerk. The amazing thing was that a lot of the kids that got picked on by the quarterback and his friends… or just ignored now hold high paying jobs and drive BMW convertibles…. Or like me, they have great families, great jobs, great lives and barely ever even think about those long ago days.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

What we did on summer vacation...

We went to the West side of Michigan to drop off Dori for her week long summer camp. Since we had to be over here anyway, we decided to make a vacation of it for everyone. Jay and her sister and both of their families met us. Skip and her family came too. Before we dropped Dori and Skip’s son, Davy off at summer camp… we had 20 people in our little group. On the day we were going to take the two kids to camp we decided to check out Mac Woods Sand Dune ride. It was 40 minutes of tooling around in a huge jeep looking at lots of sand and playing for a few minutes in the lake beside the dunes.

I am not a sand fan at all. I hate the way it feels on my skin. It creeps me out to think that it is little bits of fish bones and seagull poop…. And all sorts of disgusting ocean stuff, ewww!! But, I threw on a pair of jeans and my tennis shoes and made sure I had a spare pair of socks in the truck and joined the group. Other than the sand hitting my face a bit when we picked up a little speed and the little swirls of moving sand in the wind as we drove past, I did fairly well tolerating the ordeal. There were a lot of pretty ocean views and the kids had a great time. I am glad I went.

The next day the group went to Michigan’s Adventure. It was not very warm, but warm enough to go into both the roller coaster side and the waterpark side. It was very nice to have kids old enough to all head out on their own as long as they were ‘buddied’ up. Even Dill was over 48 inches tall so he could go on most of the big rides. Kiwi got quite a bad sunburn and all the kids were hot and tired by the time we headed for home…. But it was a very enjoyable day.

Yesterday, most of the group wanted to tackle Sugar Loaf. It is the largest dune in the area and is huge. It requires LOTS of climbing thru sand to get to the beach on the other side. (As you walk in it your feet sink into the sand to about your knee with every step) Not a place for a person like me that dislikes sand so much! Pepper took all the kids to the beach (my hero!!) and I went for a bike ride with Skip and Pal. There was a 22 mile bike trail that we went on. We went on 8 miles and then stopped for a special treat…. Taco’s off of a truck! We are hoping to tackle the other 14 miles of the trail tomorrow…. But only if the weather is good because Skip and Pal melt in rain!! LOL!

The kids (and there are lots of them!!) are getting along pretty well. There are some minor scuffles every once in awhile, but in general they all play together very well. The food is excellent (lots of it is leftovers from Skip and Pal’s End of the year party) and the wine is flowing….. plus there are plenty of s’mores and cattails for all!!! The only negative thing really is the darn mosquitoes…. They are very numerous and extra hungry in this part of Michigan!!

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

End of the year parties.

I got to attend two “end of the school year” parties this year. One for the school I am no longer going to be at and one for the school I am going to be at next year. They were both very different from each other. For the first, I showed up about 20 minutes after it started and was the very first one to show up. The hostess was a bit nervous that either everyone was lost or people just weren’t going to make it… either way she would end up with A LOT of BBQ chicken and grilled Portobello mushrooms to eat! Once I showed up at least she knew it was the right night. I told her not to worry…. That staff is notorious for getting a late start to parties. I also told her that they were also notorious for getting quite wild and hanging around very late too! For the second party, Pepper and I got there about 15 minutes after it started and things were already in full swing!

For me, the highlight of the first party was the whiskey sours. I did not think I really liked whiskey.. so I only took a half glass… but, dang they were good!! I actually asked the 3rd grade teacher that made them for the recipe! I will post it here so that others can see what they think.


4 (12 oz.) frozen lemonade, undiluted
1 (6 oz.) orange juice, diluted
2 qt. (or liter) gingerale
1 qt. club soda
lots of ice

Mix altogether in punch bowl. Add 1 quart bourbon or white wine. Add orange slices, lemon slices or maraschino cherries for color.

The highlight for me of the second party was how much everyone liked the photo book I made for the hostesses of the prior years gathering. I had one person ask me if I would consider designing books for other people/events, and lots of others telling me how impressive it was. Is that cool or what?!! The desserts at the second party were quite exceptional. There were 6 different kinds (see the picture above for the actual delights!!) all made by Skip. Both parties were very fun and a great way to start our summer vacation! ☺

Thursday, June 11, 2009

First Grade Picnic

One of the good things about getting out of school before the kids is it gives Pepper and I a chance to attend some of the activities that go on at the kids schools. Dill had a big first grade picnic. All of the first grades in his school celebrate one day during the last week of school. Parents meet the students in their classroom then take bagged lunches as they all walk to the park together. All the kids have "buddies" so they walk hand in hand with their parents around them. With all their bright colors and sun hats it looks like a parade marching through the middle of town! On the way to the park the children all chatted together nicely and the highlight of the walk was a dead bird we passed on the sidewalk... weird, but we are talking first graders!!

Once we were there the kids had a great time playing on the playground, eating at the picnic tables and running around the whole part chasing each other. The parents milled around and chatted with each other. Two different parents and Dill's teacher came over to us to tell us what a joy he is. They said that Dill was a very smart guy, an excellent friend and very helpful in the classroom. These are all things that Pepper and I knew... but it is so sweet to hear.

The sun was hot and two hours is a long time to spend at the park. Luckily, just about the time the kids and I were all starting to get bored.... a huge red fire truck rolled into the area. The fireman asked the kids if they would like to see the giant water hose squirt the ducks and geese that were in the river... all the kids yelled "Yes!!" and gave their full attention to the man. The fireman spent the next 20 minutes showing the kids everything on the truck and what they were used for.... the kids played excellent attention knowing that the grand finale would be the shooting water. It really was worth the wait.... those ducks and geese flew off fast!!

Dill held our hand on the walk back to school while he chatted with his friends. Kids grow up so fast, I am glad sometimes we get a chance to slow things down a little and just enjoy them. :)

Saturday, June 6, 2009

School's OUT!!

My students were pretty hyper on Friday. I don't blame them. The room was torn apart and everything was out of its normal state. Students with autism do not like change and Friday was pretty crazy! Since they were only there until 11, my plan was breakfast, a long walk outside, time at the park, a quick video with popcorn and packing up to go home. Things were a bit more hectic than I expected and the kids could not all pull it together long enough for things to run smoothly. Not only that but my aide brought in cupcakes for the kids to decorate for my birthday (a tradition we started 2 years back for everyone's birthday). Besides it taking 15 minutes to find knives and the sprinkles the kids always get, things went pretty well. No one really wanted to get on the bus.... the kids did not know which end was up by the end of the morning.

I kept busy and tried to just keep the packing and organizing moving along once they left. All 3 aides helped get things done and we efficiently got everything squared away in a little over an hour. We did hugs and small gifts and promised each other we'd keep in touch. After they all left I took a minute and surveyed the room. The room looked huge. Huge and quiet. Two things I never considered the room to be when it was my classroom.

Heading over to my new building with all my desk stuff and things that I was relocating to my new space I was in a reflective but happy mood. The long wait to get to the end of the school year had finally arrived.... now time was moving much faster. Reality of the changes next year would bring were starting to hit me. I was still wheeling materials into the building when the principal stopped me and asked me to come into her office. I joked with the secretary that I couldn't be in trouble already I had just gotten there. I panicked slightly when I realized she wanted a 'closed door' meeting which made me think that maybe I should not have made the crack to the secretary! But I did restrain myself from making a joke about minding if I was chronically late next year when she asked if I had any questions. I don't ALWAYS suffer from Foot in Mouth disease!!!

Stepping into my new office I was stunned by the size of it. Compared to the size of the empty room I had just left, this felt like a bathroom stall. The desk was all wrong and squeaked, my stuff did not fit where they had been before. There were no windows to the outside. The chairs were not the right size or color.... I felt like my students must have felt when they walked into their dishelved room that morning. I just wanted to hide under the desk. I suddenly had a thought that I might not remember how to do speech therapy anymore. It had been three years.... the paperwork alone is mind boggling... and the scheduling and the groups.... all in this little room with me. What was I thinking?

I have three months to get my head around the idea of this new space being mine. Pepper reminded me that I love all the things that are scaring me. She promises that it will all come flooding back when I need it to. She also reminded me that she will be there as my biggest support and my number 1 fan. I am going to have a great summer with my friends and family and I will be ready when I need to be. Here's hopin'!!! :)

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

5K the hard way!

Most 5K races are circles. They start and end in the same place. This one in Ann Arbor was not. It was more of a funky "U" shaped event. Parking was not really fun either. The roads that weren't blocked off for the race were already lined with cars... as were any parking structures in the area. So Pepper and I found a parking place.... finally, in the middle of the race and started walking toward the starting line.... about 2 miles away! We had to actually walk the race path to get to the start. At one point the 10K racers were coming through so we tried to take a "short" cut.... big mistake. Anyone who knows me knows that my direction sense is sooooo bad I should never even be able to say the words!! So, we got lost in a little hidden sub-division with 20 minutes before the start of the race! Another couple were lost too... but together (and with the help of a man pulling out of his driveway) we made it to the starting line with about 4 minutes to spare!! We walked most of the race.... ran a bit when there was lots of congestion.... and right after a 3 1/2 year old passed us!!! We beat our time from the last race we did... and enjoyed the time together. After the race we had to walk a bit over a mile to get back to the car.... that made it almost TWICE the 5K we wanted to do..... good thing we like to walk!!!