Wednesday, May 29, 2013

About a boy

I've been meaning to write some things about this boy for a while now.
I guess this is a good time since it's the end of the school year, a good time to evaluate and contemplate.

About a year ago, this little boy was being naughty in Primary.
He had 2 teachers who were good, sweat ladies.
One was a little grandma who is now a missionary.  The other was a mom of 2 quiet girls.
And those poor ladies did not know what to do with the wildest group of Primary kids in state of Utah.
One week, Sister T. found us after church and said that Cole had been naughty for the last few weeks. And maybe, perhaps I could join them for class time next week.
Come to find out, I was not the only parent that was invited to come to class.  But I think that I was the only parent that showed up to class.  
I realized one thing, I would be attending Primary for the next 6 years if this is how it was going to work.  
I realized that Cole (and 8 other kids) knew just how much they could get away with.
And it was a lot more than they should be getting away with.
I threatened.  I spied.  I stood outside the Primary room door and listened.
I read about what to do.  I asked about what to do.
One thing I wanted to make sure is that when inappropriate behavior was exhibited, that it was immediately identified and that the appropriate punishment was handed down.
I don't think that it is OK to hear about a problem 2 or 3 weeks after the fact.
It was just a matter of making it through class time week after week.
I didn't think it was fair to the teachers and I think that it certainly reinforced inappropriate behavior.

 So, Rick and I worked hard on a plan to help this little guy learn how to behave at Church.
It was tough, but we came up with a plan:
We decided that attending Primary needed to be a privilege.
And in order to earn that privilege, Cole needed to learn how to behave in a way that was appropriate for Primary.  His teachers and leaders love him and Primary is fun.
What is not fun, is being 6 and attending Gospel Doctrine.
so,  that is what we did.  Cole, Rick and I attended Gospel Doctrine together.
No coloring books, no matchbox cars, no iPad.
Just plain old Gospel Doctrine and a Book of Mormon.
And if that wasn't enough...High Priest Group, too.
We made sure his teacher knew he was at Church, but that Cole would be attending a different class while he learned what correct behavior was for church.
I have to admit, it was super painful to not let him go to Primary.
I hated making him sit next to me in Sunday School.
We let him decide when he was ready to go back to Primary.
In the meantime, his cute little grandma Primary teacher had gone on a mission and the other teacher had received a different calling.  
About 3 months later, when he returned to Primary he had a new teacher.  a man teacher.
I explained the situation to his teacher and made sure that he knew not to allow incorrect behavior and that I wanted to know immediately when something was wrong--not a week or two later.  It's too hard to correct behavior problems when not addressed immediately.
We talked to Cole every week about being the good example. 
It's a busy, busy class.
He tried so hard.  He really wants to do what is right.
I would usually sit in the back of the Primary Room during sharing time, especially when Rick would be at work.  Those were usually the weeks when it was the hardest to behave.

He's still working on it.  We have a new Primary presidency.
New teachers.  New kids.  18 of them to be exact.
They finally have 2 teachers now, after 3 months of just one teacher.
So, we're still trying really hard.  His leaders and teachers keep me posted and tell me that he is doing a really good job (most of the time--he is a boy!)

After a lot of contemplation and research and thought and more thought,
We decided to have to switch to Sage Creek Elementary School for first grade.
Logistically it makes sense...he can walk to Sage Creek (school out of our boundaries).
Or he can bus to Mapleton (in our boundaries).
But, we were really excited about the opportunity for him to be in the Chinese Immersion program at Sage Creek. (all the reasons for that will be posted later)

I think he was nervous to go to a different school.
After a few weeks of school, I started to get calls from his teacher and from the principal.
Cole was acting out.  Not bad, but still not acceptable behavior.
He pinched someone.  He hit someone.  He took a pencil.
When the principal called me the second time, I had to go get Cole.
He wasn't allowed to stay at school.
And if he didn't fix his behavior, he wouldn't be able to stay at school.
He hated school.  I felt so bad because we were the ones that made the decision for him to go to a new school.  
I started to doubt my decision to switch schools.
But, after a lot of talking and thinking and praying, we realized that Cole was being bullied at school.
He was new, he wore the wrong clothes, and he didn't have any friends.
He was mostly bullied by older kids, not so much his classmates, but still.
We got rid of clothes.  Bought new clothes.  A new pair of shoes.
I made an appointment to talk to his teachers.
I explained what I had discovered.
It made sense to them.  They did not realize that he did not attend Kindergarten at Sage Creek.
Mrs. S made an effort to let him choose a friend to sit next to each week. (only if he earns it)
We discovered which kids were teasing him.
I signed permission forms for him to attend counseling.

Almost immediately he started doing better in school.
His behavior was better.  His reading was improving.  His attention span was improving.
One thing that made a huge difference was that I started helping in the classroom.
I told his teachers that it wouldn't matter what I was doing, I just needed to be in the classroom.
And it helped a ton.

It just broke my heart to know that he was struggling.
I had no idea how those little things were affecting him and his behavior.
He continued to attend counseling throughout the year and has grown by leaps and bounds!

He went over to the high school for homecoming to help Summer with some of her responsibilities.
He helped move rugs and extension cords.
He even had his pocket knife and was able to help Coach Smith cut some tape.

Things were pretty quiet for Cole's birthday.
Actually, he was convinced that we had forgotten his birthday.

It was priceless when he walked into the kitchen and saw the mini party we had set up for him.
2 days later we all went to the Killers concert at UVU.

 Cole got this bow and arrow set for Christmas.
It was fun to take them down to St. George and shoot at the target.
He's a pretty good aim!!

Having a little "Veyo Pie"

I love this picture

Valentines Day Musical Chairs
I was so surprised that Cole could wear a red headband with pink hearts and play musical chairs.
It was fun to be at his school for Valentines Day.  
His behavior at school improved so much throughout the year.

Rick and I both were able to go to the farm with Cole's class in May.

There was a giant slide at the farm.

On May 16, Cole gave a "Great Brain" presentation on a subject of his choice,
he chose to teach his classmates about Portuguese Water Dogs.

He was able to bring Hooee to school and let his friends pet Hooee.
And we were able to get Hooee to do a few tricks and follow some of Cole's commands.

So cute watching these guys walk home from school.

This is Cole and Ms. Chen on the last day of school.
Ms. Chen was hard on Cole, but in a good way.  She taught him so much.
More than just Chinese.  Ms. Chen lived in our ward boundaries and came to Church last week.
She leaves in 4 days to move back to Taiwan.
If you can't tell, I am totally red-eyed from crying.

Cole and Mrs. Shaffer.
She has to be one of the best teachers in the world.
That was definitely one huge advantage of having Cole in the Chinese Immersion Program--they certainly did choose the best teachers for this program.  
(And the class size was much smaller than the Utah average)

Thank You to everyone that nurtured, taught, or made a positive impression on this little boy over the past year.  I just love him so much.  Maybe it's because he has so much love to give. 
He really is so sweet and so generous.  He will share anything.  
He is stubborn/strong-willed.  But, I believe that those are important character traits to have in these last days.  It just becomes more and more important for us to help him learn how to develop that to be in his benefit.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Zion Trail Relay

I knew it was going to be a good trip when we found this little number in LaVerkin.
It's a self-serve ice shack.
THAT is brilliant.  And it worked like a charm.

This is me and Jacque.  Jacque and I met in Kirksville.  We were friends in K'ville, participating in SAA (a groups for medical student wives).  We also spent a fair amount of our time going to Antique stores and estate sales--mostly looking, never buying!  
Jacque and Matt moved to Michigan with us which is where we really spent a lot of time together.
When we moved to MI, we went house hunting together, caravanned with U-Hauls together.
Jacque had a 2 month old and I was 8 months pregnant.
Grace and Sierra spent a lot of time together which they clearly do not remember.
I still remember saying good-bye to Jacque the day we moved from Michigan to Mississippi.
I was leaving behind a yellow, antique chair we found at the Salvation Army and she sent us with a goody bag of treats and goodies to help us on our 12 hour drive to MS.  That was the last time I saw Jacque....
Until the Zion Trail Run Relay.
We had text each other and I knew she was there.  Their team had the earliest start time (12:00)
We were setting up our camp and I heard them call out the name of her team. 
I knew I would probably find her at the start line.
So, I ran to the start line (probably my fastest run of the week.)
I easily recognized her from the back and yelled her name.
We hugged and cried and talked and talked and talked.
It's been 11 years and it seemed like no time had passed at all.
 Here we are with the guys...
Kelli, Matt, Rick and Jacque
Rick gets ready for our start time of 1:00 pm.

This is our campsite...3 more tents would eventually join us.

We thought this was hilarious...
Scott with his 7 oz. diet pepsi and pregnant Kelli with her 1 liter diet coke.

Ponderosa Ranch...

This is the transition tent where one runner would finish and turn over the timing chip to the next runner.  (we lost approx. 1 hour in our transitions.)

Rick, getting ready for his next run...

Photos taken by Rick on the yellow trail...Sunrise with the full moon to the west...

Sadie stretching after her first run...

Our team was originally going to be a group from the hospital.  However, lots of people dropped out and we were left scrambling at the end to fill our spots.  Sadie was happy to join our team.  It took a lot of convincing to get Scott to run.  But, we still had one spot open with one week before the race.  Scott was able to convince Jared to join us.  Luckily he did--he was probably our best runner since he was training for the St. George 1/2 Ironman the following weekend.  
This is Jared and Kelli after Jared's last run--7.2 miles in the heat of the day at 1:13 ish.
They left immediately after this run because they had sick kids at home.

John (in the green) had just crossed the finish line to complete the run for our team.  He was also running the 7.2 killer trail in the heat of the day.  His words when he crossed the finish line..."NEVER AGAIN."  John was on the team that ran Red Rock Relay last fall.  He had sprained his ankle in the first mile of the first leg in that relay.

Finishers! (minus Jared)  We did it and we didn't come in last.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Choir Tour 2013

Here is the (gianormous) recap of Choir Tour 2013...
We had a call time on April 11th at MMHS of 3:55 am.
So, basically I got about 3 hours of sleep.  Who knew that it would take such effort to pack for a weekend?  wow.
It was a little rainy when we left Mapleton, but that was just the beginning of cold and rainy.
We had students on 3 different planes.  Our flight was the only one that flew into O'Hare, so we met up with the other students/chaperones when the bus dropped us off at the Magnificent Mile.
What did we do first?  found the recommended deep dish pizza place and sat for 52 minutes while our pizza cooked.  (yes, I set a timer).
Then, we were charged and ready to go shopping...

 We just window shopped at Tiffany's.
Natalie and Kelli at Forever 21.
It really did take forever.  We got bored.

Next up...Victoria's Secret.  We were really bored by this time.  We took a cat nap.
Back to the bus by 5 pm so that we could travel to the theater to see Big Fish.
There was a mix up with the tickets and they actually had us scheduled for the following week.
It was crazy trying to keep 150+ occupied while the tour guide sorted things out.
The chairs were not comfortable, but I did manage to sleep through the entire first half of the performance.  But...the second half was really good.
(this is where I ran into my blogging friend, the Farmer's Wife...)
Back on bus and checked into our hotel at 11:00 pm.
I was soooo tired.

Day 2...
This is the Chicago Art Institute.  However, we did not visit inside this building because our destination was across the street at this building:
at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

 Performing at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
I do not have more pictures/better pictures because the first thing I did when I got here was find a soft seat and take a nap.  
Summer and Sophie

 Mid morning snack...the infamous sugar cookie.

 After the performance at Symphony Hall, they went up to the Grand Ballroom and received instruction from some famous lady.  I did not fall asleep here, but other chaperones did. (I took pictures of them!)
 Summer and Sophie, on the front row, what good students.
 Landon, Ethan, Summer, Sophie, Kaylie, Lexi

Back at the Art Institute for pictures. 
And once again, we did not go inside.
(I did watch Ferris Beuller last week, so I saw some of the art work in the movie.  check!!)

We went to another musical this evening, the Million Dollar Quartet.
It was amazing.  The kids loved it.  And I only slept through about 1/3 of it.

The next day we went to the Willis Tower (Sears Tower)
 Natalie and our girls 
 dang. I wish this picture wasn't so blurry.

 Kelli and Summer out on the skybox with the see-through floor.

Summer and Landon had to show Coach Smith a Chicago newspaper to get excused from missing school!

Time to watch another performance...yippee

Next stop:  the Natural History Museum.

 Our favorite exhibit was the Pacific Islands.

The choirs performed in the Main Hall.  
The only stipulation was that they could not sing any religious songs.
And they followed that rule.  mostly.  After they were done.  
The pianist just happened to play the first few notes in the most religious song they sing.
And the students just happened to start singing as they left the performing area.
After Summer's choir finished singing, they got invited to travel to Tokyo.  seriously.

Next stop:
Winnetonka Congregational Church.

 More singing.  More instruction.

 Winnetonka is famous for this home, just a block away from the Congregational Church.
If it is not familiar to you, I will tell you it is the home from Home Alone.

On Saturday evening we were lucky enough to be invited to a Naperville, Illinois Stake Dance.
When we arrived we easily tripled the attendance of the stake dance.  Our kids arrived a little later than expected.  But, I think they were tired of singing, and sitting on a bus so they were full of energy when they arrived.
They had a blast singing, dancing, enjoying the music, and letting go of a lot of energy!
It was seriously funny to watch the leaders who were in charge.  I think we shocked them--with our numbers and our enthusiasm.
I was proud of our kids (boys) for making sure they danced with the locals.
I really wish Stake Dances were like this in Utah.  What are we doing wrong?

I have no pictures from Sunday because...1.  I didn't think it was appropriate to take photos at the churches (even though they did not seem to mind at all at the Congregational Church, I knew it was not appropriate at the LDS church)  and 2.  I was tired of carrying a camera around all day.

So, use your imagination.
The MMHS choirs were part of the Congregational Churches program on Youth day.
The youth leaders were entirely in charge of the service.
They passed out programs that listed the prayers and scriptures that were to be recited with the congregation.  The youth shared their experiences about a recent mission to the Dominican Republic.
The program ended with our choirs singing.  
On the last verse of the last song, the chaperones made their way to the stage and sang the last verse as they stood next to their child.  NOT a dry eye in the place.
When the service was over, the congregation stood and applauded our singers as we filed out.
We mingled for a while and so many of the people asked about our group.
The things they asked:
Is it a private/christian school?
How big is the school?
Where are you from?
smallish public high school in Utah!
Hello, missionary opportunity!!

Next stop was North Shore First Ward Sacrament Meeting.
I think we doubled their attendance for the day.
I think they had every available priesthood holder passing the sacrament.

We ended the Fast & Testimony Meeting by singing the closing hymn.
Same format, the chaperones all joined in on the last verse of the hymn standing next to their son or daughter.
But, with our numbers, we didn't come close to fitting on the stage, so we just formed a giant circle around the center section of pews.  It was very touching.  I was crying and just mouthing "watermelon" because Summer said that if Mr. Mendenhall knew how badly I sang, he wouldn't have let me join in.
We didn't get the same reception after the meeting as we had early in the day.
We concluded that it was because the LDS congregation was accustomed to that type of music and to feeling the Spirit so strongly in that manner.  And because it was 1:00 church and those poor parents had lots and lots of little kids to tend to.

A quick drive by to the Chicago Temple.  Gates were locked so we didn't get out.
Back to the hotel to prepare for the "Choir Side"

We arrived at the Naperville Stake Center for a Stake Fireside.
I was completely unprepared for what this would entail.
I cannot wrap my head around the fact that a choir group from a public high school can have every single member participate in a religious meeting singing religious songs, LDS specific.
The choir would sing a song and then a student would get up and share some thoughts or bear testimony, one after another.
About 8 seniors that Mr. Mendenhall had spoken to about an hour before the meeting began, shared their thoughts.
There were 6 senior male students that had mission calls that were part of our tour.
And 2 of them had mission calls at home waiting to be opened!
I was just so impressed with this group.
The concluding speaker was one of our chaperones, President Hickey, a stake president from one of the Spanish Fork Stakes.
We finished it up the same as the earlier meetings that day...the leaders/chaperones joining the choir.
More tears.  I didn't even try to sing "watermelon" this time.  I just smiled.
The leaders of the Stake commented to us that they were so impressed and had they known what a meaningful event this would be, they would have made every effort to fill the entire cultural hall with members.
Quite a compliment.  However, I would imagine that we, as students/parents/chaperones/leaders, got just as much or more from the experience as they did.
I know that there are ugly, awful, horrible things at MMHS as there are at any high school.
But, I am so proud to have been part of this tour and to be associated with such an amazing group of kids.  I am super proud of Summer for choosing to be part of this and for the hard work and determination that it takes to be able to make this happen.
Such a great group of kids.  I just think it's so awesome that their testimonies are so strong and that they would be willing to share it so well with song and words.  I am so happy about the timing for the change in missionary age.  It is really neat for Summer and all of these students to be mingling with these young men who will graduate and enter the MTC within just a few weeks or months.  And they are so open and excited about it.  Really, really amazes me.
Mr. Mendenhall is amazing and these kids are so lucky and blessed to have him as their teacher and leader.  He is very talented and would have no problem moving on to bigger and better things.  These kids are blessed.  Summer is blessed.  And I am blessed to have been part of it.

We couldn't resist a bite of pizza after eating relatively well all week.
And yes, we shared that bed.  No wonder I had to nap every chance I could find...
These are the cute girls that we were responsible for throughout the tour:
McKenzie, Jenille, Sophie, Kaylie, Lexi and Summer
opening their letter from home with their chaperone gift:  designer ice packs!!

Last Day:  Navy Pier.
The kids wanted to rent a bike and take a tour of the pier.
they asked us (me and Natalie) to join but I think that is because they needed our cash and our driver's license to rent the bike.

It wasn't as easy as it looked.  It might be because of the boy on the front bumper.
Or the lady in the back with the map.  I don't know...

Time for another nap.  When we stopped to take this shot, I sat on the metal couch, Natalie took the picture, and the kids took off on the bike.  Natalie and I walked back to the pier.
Summer and Sophie at the famous bean.

Most of the kids from our bus at the bean.
Hunter, Shalee, Summer, Sohpie
a quick pic taken from the bus on the way to the airport.
Good-bye Chicago.
I can't wait until next year...who knows where they will go!