Wednesday, April 25, 2012

School Days

Debbie asked me how teaching impacts my life at home.

Well, it's the reason my little girl and I have to get up at 5 am every morning. That definitely impacts an important part of our life - sleep!

Other than that, I am no longer in the habit of bringing work home with me. I managed to figure out how to do that several years ago because I did not really have the energy and focus after a full day in the classroom to keep working into the evening. Once I was married to Michael, there was just no way I was going to sacrifice my time with him to correct papers, either. Very rarely, I will bring something home. I don't think I've brought anything home with me this year, though.

While I'm at work, I try to use every minute I can find to get things done. If my students are working on anything independently, I use that time to correct papers or fill in my planbook. I would rather work through recess breaks (the few I have without duty) and part of my lunch break than bring anything home. And, realistically, I'm not sure what I could get done at home in the hours after work that Michaela is awake. She requires my attention, and I want to give it to her. Once she goes to bed between 7:00 and 7:30 pm, I'm fading fast. Not a good time to be correcting or planning.

This school year, for the very first time, I have enlisted the help of several reliable moms to staple the kids' English Language-Arts packets together, and to correct our spelling, grammar, and vocabulary tests. Those tests are just multiple choice or fill-in-the-blank - so they are super easy to correct. I do not have the moms put percentages or grades on the tests. I do that after they are done marking the errors. I also have the kids help as much as possible. There are a lot of clerical things in the classroom that I enlist their help with. Things like filing, passing out papers on Friday afternoon so we have them on their desks for Monday morning, etc. There's a small group of nice kids who are on campus after school at the daycare center, and they just check themselves out for a while and come over to help out.

As for editing students' writing, that just takes a really long time. Sometimes I am able to get through a stack of poems or essays during release time, but I prefer to have writing conferences with the students individually during a writing block. Sometimes we get backed up a bit, meaning that there are more students ready to see me during a writing session than I have time to get to, but I think it's more valuable to actually meet with them and model the editing process, and have a discussion about what works and what doesn't work in their writing. I am also in the habit of reading their pieces aloud while we do this together, and lately the other students have been offering up excellent ideas for better word choices. It's a fun, collaborative time. But, yeah, writing is probably the most difficult thing to teach and to grade. Very labor intensive for the students and the teacher.

As for my hours, our contract states that we are required to be on campus from 7:30 am to 3:00 pm. Mondays through Wednesdays I stay until 3:30 just to wrap things up and get ready for the next day. Then I have to get home by 4:00 to relieve Tia Lisa (our nanny and housekeeper) and Michael's mom. Thursdays and Fridays I usually work later into the afternoon because Michaela is at my parents' house not too far from school. We usually have dinner with them before heading home.

I am not your typical teacher in this way. Most teachers bring a lot of work home. All I can say is that everyone has a different work style, but we all work very hard to deliver an excellent education to our students.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Music Man

Heather responded to my recent post (which was my thinly veiled attempt at garnering topics for blogging) by saying that she would like to know more about Michael's music career. So, I'll tell you what I know. It's a good time to do this because I am missing him like crazy these days.

I remember Michael telling me that by the time he was twelve he knew what he wanted to do with his life, and that was to play the guitar. So many people want to make a living playing an instrument, or performing in some way (I know I did!), but he actually achieved that.

As early as junior high and high school, Michael was playing in bands with friends.

Junior high or high school band with Kenton Nelson

While he was still in his teens, he got a job at Disneyland playing in the Polynesian show at the Tahitian Terrace. My mother-in-law was a server there at that time also. Michael made many lifelong friends through this experience, and it led to one of his life's great adventures - living in Japan for several months. The group of performers from the Tahitian Terrace were hired to open the very same show at Tokyo Disneyland in the early eighties.

Disneyland Tahitian Terrace

Tokyo Disneyland friends including Shelly and Teddy Randazzo
Michael returned to California, and from the pictures I have it's obvious that he was a part of a few other bands in Disneyland over the years.

Michael with his father Ben Labrador
As a freelance musician, Michael played with numerous bands at corporate parties, weddings, private events, and in churches.

Rocking a mullet . . .

Promo photo - Michael played classical guitar beautifully

Ben Cleall Trio at Dietrich Coffee

1994 summer gig in Laguna Beach - that's our friend Bob on guitar
We met in the early nineties at a mega-church in Orange County where he was a regular band member, and I was part of the worship team. I do have a picture of that group, but it's in a frame and I'm not going to get it out to scan it. Ha! Those were such fun weekends of worship and fellowship. At one point, Michael told me he was living for the weekends we would be on the team together. We all had so much fun.

Michael was terrible with dates, so I really don't know when he got his big break. It was during a time in our lives when we weren't keeping in touch with each other. However, it seems to me that sometime in 1995 or 1996 he got the opportunity to audition for the Paul Anka band. A friend of his was with the band, and the guitarist had just been fired, and so Michael's friend put in a good word for Michael. That led to an audition, and he was hired. Michael really liked the guys he played with in the PA band, and he loved traveling all over the world. The travel schedule was pretty heavy the first ten years or so that he was with the band. I think he told me his travels took him to every continent except Africa. While he wasn't always thrilled about the style of music this job required him to play, jazz was his first love, there were other things about it that made it worth it to him.

With Barbara Walters and other band members

On stage with Paul Anka - Michael was frequently featured as a soloist
With Quincy Jones and Dianne Shurr

The last five years of his life, Michael's second regular job was in a Dixieland jazz trio at Disneyland called the Royal Street Bachelors. It was just a two-day-a-week gig, but he really liked that he got to play jazz.

I can't express how proud I was of Michael. He was so talented and so passionate about music, and when I watched him play I could see how the music just took over his whole being. I had always wanted to write and record, and perfom more music with Michael, but by the time we had figured out our relationship I was preoccupied with our fertility treatments and my job. He asked me several times to write with him in the months prior to his diagnosis, but I thought it was something we could do later on.

In November of 2009 I suggested that we put together a Christmas CD for our families. Michael was excited to have a project because he hadn't been able to work, and he spent quite a bit of time arranging "Breath of Heaven" (one of the songs we wanted to record), but as his health declined, he didn't have the energy to finish our little project. We never laid down a single track together.

Over the years Michael had recorded several original compositions that showcased his ability to arrange in addition to his talent with the guitar. He started countless other pieces that he did not complete because he had a hard time with that aspect of composing. He recognized that I was good a finishing things, and he hoped that working together we could compliment each other with our individual strengths. It was not meant to be. I have no desire to do anything musically anymore. I think he was my muse. I know every song I wrote was about our relationship.

I Know
lyrics and music by Joannah McKee and Brian Palmer
(copyright 2000)

Baby, you know you've got it so good
Because my heart's an open book
It's such an easy thing
There's no lines to read between
Just take one look and see
You mean everything to me

I know that you know
Yeah, I know that you know
What I need
What I want
I know know that you know
Yeah, I know that you know
How I feel and what this love is all about

Honey, there's no need for guesswork here
Cause what you know should make it clear
That I'm crazy for you
I still think you hung the moon
Just seek and you shall find
You don't have to read my mind

I know that you know
Yeah, I know that you know
What I need
What I want
I know know that you know
Yeah, I know that you know
How I feel and what this love is all about
It's such an easy thing
There's no lines to read between
Just take one look and see
You mean everything to me

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Michaela @ Eleven Months

Michaela watching Sesame Street in her toy basket this morning.

And here we are in the home stretch to Michaela's first birthday already. My goodness!

Growth: We won't see the pediatrician until next month, but Michaela is lengthening out more and more. She still fits in 12 month clothing, but she has just about outgrown her size 3 shoes. She's still wearing a size 3 diaper.

Eating: Michaela is usually a good eater. She loves to feed herself, and she's always interested in what Mommy has to eat. She is still taking 24 ounces of formula every day in a bottle, but she also drinks several ounces of water every day from a sippy cup.

Sleeping: Michaela goes down for a nap in her crib when Mommy decides it's time without much complaint. She still takes a morning and an afternoon nap. Most of her naps are an hour and a half long. While she goes to bed in her crib between 7:00 and 7:30 pm each night, when I am ready for bed I bring her into my bed with me. If we don't have to get up to get ready for school, she will sleep in until 6:30 or 7:00 am.

Other developments: Michaela's language skills are blossoming. She not only says "Mama", but she's also saying "bay-bee". She calls Buffy "Buh" or "Bee". She will look out the window for birds and say "bur". She is also trying to say "kitty" but I can't remember how she says that right now. Michaela loves animals, especially dogs. I think when she says "guh" it's her way of saying dog.

Last Sunday night, she learned how to climb the stairs at Grammy and Papa's house. She was so proud of herself!

Michaela has a great sense of fun. She is almost always happy and she loves to be silly and laugh. She tends to fuss when I change her diaper, but if I pretend to cry along with her, she starts laughing at me. She watches everything I do. When I apply hand sanitizer after changing her, she rubs her hands together like I do. When I sit with the laptop, she wants to press the keys, too. Monkey see, monkey do!

I have some ideas for her birthday party, but I need to get serious about all that in the next few weeks. I have decided that it will have a birdy theme, but I need to decide how to implement that. I don't want to do too much, but I do want it to be special for her.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Are there any questions?

Okay, I'm having a hard time coming up with things to write about here. Life is good, for sure. But we are definitely in a routine, and I don't feel inspired. After blogging for so many years, and through so many ups and downs, I am definitely in a season of little excitement. I'm not complaining, mind you! Some of the excitement of the last three years I could have done without. But, I would like to write about more than Michaela's latest and greatest. Know what I mean?

So, I thought I'd open myself up for some questions from you, dear reader. What would you like to know? All reasonable questions will be answered.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Easter 2012

Yesterday we celebrated Easter by spending time with our family - both mine and Michael's. Unfortunately, church was not part of our Easter experience this year. Next year it will be, for sure. There is no more significant day on the Christian calendar than Easter, or Resurrection Sunday as many Christians prefer to say. I am so thankful for what the Lord Jesus did for me on the cross. And because He rose on the third day, just as He said He would, death was defeated forevermore for those who will put their trust in Him. What a wonderful Savior! Because He lives, Michael lives! It's only this hope I have in Jesus that keeps me moving forward. Death has no sting. Death has no victory - not in the big picture, anyway, and I'm trying to live with a "big picture" or eternal perspective.

My sweet little girl came down with cold symptoms just a couple days before Easter, but after a two-hour nap in the late morning, she just had a great time all afternoon and into the evening. She is such a joy to be around. I did not have to shop for an outfit for her. There were many dresses in her size in her closet already. The last couple of weeks I had watched the weather forecast to see if we would need to choose an outfit for a cooler day or a warmer day. We were blessed to have a day in the mid-seventies at my sister's house for the afternoon, and when we got out to Grandma's for dinner it was still about eighty degrees. It felt like summer! Michaela's outfit had been a shower gift from my friend, Stacey, and I remember telling her at the time that Michaela would wear it for Easter this year. So it worked out perfectly. Stacey chose the cutest ensemble from Gymboree with a matching hat, sweater, and shoes. I think we will get a lot of wear out of this cute little number over the next few months. Michaela looks so pretty in these vibrant colors.

She spent a lot of her time on a quilt on my sister's lawn playing with all her plush bunnies, chicks, and lambs. She's too little for an egg hunt, but the big kids (16-23 years old!) had fun with that. Next year I'm sure she will enjoy having her cousins hide eggs for her so she can look for them. We don't do Easter baskets in my family. It's not really a gift giving occasion for us. I've seen some really great ideas for teaching the true meaning of Easter to young children on Pinterest. So, I'll revisit those ideas next year and see what I think will work best for us.

Perhaps the nicest thing about yesterday was that my dad felt well enough to join us for lunch. His most recent chemo round was on March 28th, and he had been feeling very poorly since then. However, he started to feel better the day before Easter, and on Easter morning he told my mom that he wanted to go to my sister's for lunch. It was great to have them both there.

Now for a full week off with my baby girl. Mommy like!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

First Date

Yesterday I had my "first" date. That is, my first date not only with a particular person, but my first date since becoming a widow.

It was fine. He was a nice guy, and I enjoyed the time we spent talking. At the end of the date, he asked if he could call me sometime, and I said yes.

But, I have to admit that later on I just felt ambivalent about the whole thing. I prayed about the situation, and I realized that it was more than ambivalence. I simply did not have peace of mind about spending any more time with that person. I'll have to take that as the Holy Spirit's prompting that he isn't the guy for me and Michaela. Because, the person I wind up with has to be the right man for us both. You know?


I'd love to hear from other widows who have dated and remarried. How did you meet your new beau/husband? After your first date, how did you feel?

I am not discouraged. I am committed to trusting the Lord with our future, and to letting Him lead me to the place He wants me to be. I have done it my way once before, and although I experienced a happy ending in that Michael and I married and were very happy together, there was a lot of unhappiness leading up to that. I'm ready to experience the blessings that come from trusting the Lord and walking in obedience.