Saturday, February 16, 2013

Birthday Girl

Last Sunday was Kaylen's 8th birthday.

I'll wait a minute while that sinks in.


Seriously????? Wow.

Since she was with Dakota on her actual birthday, I planned a Mom and Kaylen day for today to spend some time together so I could celebrate this amazing little person I created. We decided to go shopping (of course - the mall is just so "totally cool") and then go to Picture People to have her photo taken... alone.....without her brother...for the first time in years.

Our first stop was Justice, which I promise you is the tweeny-bopper form of crack. It is THE place to shop. And it is THE place that is incredibly expensive. I actually had given her a home made gift certificate to go to Kohl's to buy a spring/summer outfit but Justice sent a flyer that this weekend they were having a 60% off sale so we traded in the Kohl's trip for a trip to Justice.   I figured, in the end, the over all cost would be a wash.  Of course, that is when I was thinking pants and a shirt or shorts and a shirt.  If you know anything about my little fashion dive, you may commence laughing at me.

The girl was in heaven!! We walked in and her eyes grew HUGE as she looked around. We picked a few outfits and headed to the changing rooms. She. Loved. Everything. Even with 60% off, mommy was shaking in her Danskos. We ended up walking out with a shirt, a pair of cropped stretch pants, a dress, a shrug and a couple pairs of socks for *gulp* $76.00. And yes, that was 60% regular retail price.

The next stop we made was the food court to grab a little pasta and lemonade for the girl and honey chicken and sweet tea for me. Then, since we had a bit of time to kill before our photo appointment, we headed to Penney's.

Kaylen was happily looking around her size department and we compared the price of things she liked there to the regular prices of Justice clothes and she seemed to really understand why Justice is a special occasion, only if they are having a killer sale, store. Score one for Mommy!

Then we walked by the girls shoes and decided to take a look. There were a super cute pair of sandals that she fell in love with. And honestly, they are totally her and would go perfectly with the outfit she just bought so I let her get them. You should have seen her face! She was beside herself because she wasn't expecting to really be able to get them.

With purchases in hand, we walked (though I'm pretty sure Kaylen floated) back down to Picture People and signed in. After cutting off all the tags, she changed into her first outfit and the photo shoot began. Then she did a quick outfit change and we got some more shots. She was in heaven and the star of the show!

I had a coupon (of course) and my club membership card so for $28, she and I walked out of there with a big photo packet of one pose, two 5x7's of another and a 10x16 of another. Oh yeah - Mommy knows how to rock the Picture People deals to come out a winner with photos. It's a skill I have honed since having kids and I have to say, I am amazing at getting lots of photos for very little money which accounts for my enormous photo collection of each child from the day they were born.

Kaylen was allowed to pick which pose she wanted for the package and for the 5x7. I got my pick for the 10x13. Luckily, we were in sync with which pictures we really liked so it was very easy. While we waited for our pictures, we went next door to See's candy and she got to pick her traditional "after pictures" piece of candy and then we picked up out photos and headed out into the rainstorm to come home.

We had a fantastic day together and I can't wait until our next Mommy-Daughter date. 

This is one we got in the 5x7 size.  She wanted one for her room and one for the living room.  :)  (this is her favorite outfit and she can wear it well.  Check out the sandals!)

This is the pose we got for the package so we have lots of pictures in lots of sizes.  The white background is really cool but it sure doesn't look like it here.  :)  The photo is off center a bit and is cute, cute, cute!  I love the shirt she picked.  :) 

This is the 10x13 I choose.  I LOVE this picture.  The detail of her hair is perfect and she just looks so sweet.  I cannot believe how big she is getting.  There is no denying, she is turning into a young lady very quickly!

Aren't they great? 

Happy Birthday, my darling girl.  It is such an honor to be your mom.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Another Music Related Post

I know these music posts seem random - especially considering all that is happening in my life but just bear with me.  I have tons of random thoughts flying around my head these days and one of those thoughts is what, if any, instrument Kelton will choose to play next year. 

Apparently, in middle school, there are electives which are not optional.  Music or Choir seem to be two.  Andrew did not play an instrument in the 5th grade but in the 6th he was made to choose an elective.  He chose music.  The drums, specifically.  I came to learn that also means the bell kit.  Which is not inexpensive.

Truth is - it appears no instrument is inexpensive.  I see this as a potential issue in a few months when I will have to, once again, try to make the budget expand to cover yet another expense.

Maybe he will choose the clarinet though I'm trying to remember if I have seen boys playing that particular instrument at concerts.  But if he does, that will mean purchasing extra clarinet reeds because I remember back in my band days that clarinet players were always talking about their reeds.  Breaking them, and what not.

My guess is he will want to follow in Andrew's footsteps and play the drums.  I am kind of hoping he takes up choir.

No matter what he picks though - in just a few short years I'll be sitting here again wondering what Kaylen will choose to do.  For her though I think choir will be a slam dunk.  The girl loves to sing....and she is pretty darn good at it too.  :)

Saturday, February 09, 2013

Crestline Elementary School

Crestline is where I spent so many hours and days over the past five years.  When Kelton started kindergarten, I volunteered in his classroom.  I wanted to get involved in the PTO but being a first time school parent, I was unsure how to get involved at that level.

The next year, during the open house event the evening before school started, I jumped right in and joined the Parent Teacher Organization.  By the second meeting, I held the office of Vice President.  The president, Jeremy, had his hands full with kids and subbing so it wasn't long at all before I took the lead (along with Ingrid) and stepped into the Co-President role.  We kept the "co" titles because I didn't want to be the one speaking at events.  Jeremy was better at that than I and so we created a power team: I did most of the work, and he did the public speaking.

We continued our roles for four years.  Four amazing, crazy, hectic, chaotic, terrific years.  I was the driving force and Jeremy was my sounding board and go to guy.  It was perfect.

I gave my heart and soul to Crestline.  Day in and day out.  There was rarely a week that didn't involve hours of time at the school and hours more in front of my computer at home.  I lived, breathed, and slept PTO.  I discovered a building full of new friends - friends who supported me and helped me survive some of the toughest days of my life.  They loved me.  They loved my kids.  They became a family to us because I had no other family here.  The year I didn't think I could manage Christmas for the kids, gifts magically arrived on our porch.  Stockings full of presents for both the kids and for me.

I was loved.  And I loved them all back.  Even after the kids and I moved in with Stephanie, and the kids changed schools, they were all my home away from home.  I would drop in for hugs and catching up.  I knew they were right there and we stayed connected in person, emails, phone calls, and Facebook.  They are my family.

Last Sunday, my home away from home burned to the ground. Thankfully, no one was hurt...or worse.  It was just the building though honestly, "just a building" hurts like heck to lose.  That "building" meant so much to me.  I can't even put into words how much.

I spent from Sunday until Thursday moving a million miles an hour.  Monday morning I arrived at the makeshift crisis center (a church down the street from the still burning and smouldering school) and stayed all day.  Talking with parents and children who came.  Some to just be with others going through the same thing, some needed to talk with counselors.  Some needed food.  (Crestline has a 70% free/reduced population so feeding students is a critical part of any school day.)

Tuesday I again worked in the center and then joined another volunteer, Erin (Jeremy's wife who was there with me all day Monday, too) to deliver lunch (donated by Olive Garden) to the Crestline staff who were hard at work planning how to get everything in pace so kids could resume classes on Thursday.  Then back to the center to log more hours.

Wednesday I worked at the center in the morning and then Erin and I went from school site to school site delivering food, and offering support to teachers as they struggled to pull together classrooms in five different schools.  We all looked worse for wear by that point.  After lunches were delivered, back to the crisis center to clean it up before heading back to schools to work until late in the evening, helping our teachers.

The grade bands, while together in schools, are separated.  We have kindergarten in one school, first in another, second in another building, third in a different one, and fourth and fifth is an entirely different building.  Crestline is still Crestline.  A school within schools.  Monthly there will be an event of some kind in a central location to bring the entire Crestline Community together.  It will be challenging - but doable.

I rejoined the PTO to help through the rest of the school year.  I can't not.  These people....they are *my* people.  Maybe this is the reason I just can't seem to connect to the new school the kids attend. 

Needless to say, it has been quite the week.  Here are a few pictures to share.

Crestline before the fire:

Crestline, after the fire.

 Front of the building early Sunday afternoon.
 Back of the building, Sunday afternoon.
One day this week on my way to the crisis center.
 One of the only things that survived.  A teachers child found it.  How it survived, I cannot tell you.  Pretty much nothing else did.  It might have been in the gym/lunchroom which did not burn to the ground.
 This is the school where our first graders are being housed.
 The school where our fourth and fifth graders are being housed.
 Our kindergartners are here.
 Our third graders and ALC (spec ed) are here.
 The letter left from one kindergarten class to our kindergartners.
I don't have a photo of the school where the second graders are because it was one site I didn't go to. 

I have been touched deeply by the way our students and staff are being welcomed into buildings and how the community at large is digging deep to provide money, supplies, and support.  I can tell you that there were many, many times during my time on the PTO that I felt our school was an island unto itself.  I imagine all schools feel that way to some degree however the outpouring of love, care, and concern has made it very evident that Crestline staff and students are not alone in dealing with this tragedy.

From the ashes will rise something amazing - a new school, new books, new everything.  But even more than all the shiny new things, I believe the Crestline Community will emerge stronger than ever.  Changed forever - but strong and sure of its place.

We lost something that we can never, ever, ever get back but I believe in my heart of hearts that we will gain something amazing.

I love my Crestline family.  And in the end, that is what matters most, we are all still a family.

Friday, February 08, 2013

It's Been a Week...a Very Rough Week

Have I mentioned that it's been a week unlike the usual?  I'm guessing that if you follow me on Facebook, you have been right there with me in the trenches.  The sight of seeing my beloved Crestline in flames - destroyed absolutely and completely is heart stopping and....well...heart shattering. 

That Sunday morning, as we all stood across the street watching it burn was surreal.  So dream like.  The tears we all cried.  The hugs being given freely and without reservation.  I'm pretty sure fire trucks are equipped with ekg machines at for just that reason.

The stress and utter disbelief filled every bit of air space.  Families standing around in their pajamas and slippers, teachers in various types of clothing - clearly just tossed on when word of the fire was received.

I can't begin to explain it to give it the power that those hours held for everyone.  The tears of gratitude when the special ed teacher learned her portable was still standing (though we would later learn it was all but destroyed due to the fire retardant they sprayed on everything not burning to keep the fire from jumping).  The tears of children unsure what all this really meant.  The fear of the teachers and other staff for what it did mean. The whispers of "Now what?"  The stoic ones who tried their best to be philosophical about it all but who, days later, were in as rough shape as everyone else.

Yes indeed.  A week unlike most. 

Sunday, February 03, 2013

Crestline Elementary

Crestline Elementary, a home for the kids and I for the five years we were there (we changed schools when we moved this fall), burned to the ground in an early morning fire today.

I spent many hours there today with staff and other friends as we tried to process it all.

I am in completely shock. The people of Crestline have been my family for years. They saw me through some really awful times in my life and I helped build and shape Crestline into the school it is by my years of work on the PTO. It is a part of who I am. And the building is now gone.

I am heart broken.

I have volunteered to help with whatever I can as plans are made on where students and staff will go. With all my heart, I hope they can all be kept together. Time will tell.

It's been a tough, tough day.