27 November 2008

Who needs turkey...

...when you've got toes?

Happy Thanksgiving.

Houston Zoo

For anyone interested, tomorrow is one of six free days at the Houston Zoo.

The last free day was Columbus Day and Jonas spent it with his buddies Zane, Keedan, and Brooke. It was a lovely SE Texas Fall day.

23 November 2008

Everyday Baby

Skype is great, but there are some moments that we just can't capture. For our family that is far, far away, here is some of the plain-jane, everyday stuff you don't see (but we wish you did).

First time with solids (We attempted last month and decided against it for a little while longer. Here is his first and only experience nonetheless).

Waking Up


And more spitting

18 November 2008

Persimmon Picking

One of my H-Town items of business has been to visit an orchard. Initially we were going to go when the blackberries were ripe, but Jonas came a few days early and the blackberries came a few days late. Unlike some of the other pick-your-own places around town, the Matt Family Orchard operates as close to year-round as possible.

We visited at the beginning of the month with our friends Charis and Gordon and it was a blast. Nature is so refreshing--something we did not fully embrace when it was close by and now desperately miss. It's always a delight to get out of the city.

Persimmons, satsumas, lemons, and kumquats were available. The persimmon trees have an interesting look to them. I was expecting a more leafy look.

When you arrive, you are provided with clippers, fruit pickers (really technical, I know), bucket or basket, and a wagon.

Upon arrival, Patrick had a few questions and quickly received a glaring eye from the owner for being so inquisitive. And in the owner's defense, Patrick was asking a lot of probing questions: "How can you tell if the fruit is ripe? What is a satsuma? How much does everything cost?" We couldn't tell if he was joking or not, but by the end P won him over. He somehow was recruited to teaching the new arrivals how to use their tools. I think this man is the only person who has ever told Patrick he talks a lot.

The bounty

Please Auntie Jennifer, may I join the Persimmon Fan Club? I'm ready.

16 November 2008

Part 1: NCSS, Part 2: Laughter

NCSS. The National Council for the Social Studies holds an annual conference each November. This weekend, Houston hosted this prestigious event. A colleague and I submitted a proposal to present a session at this conference on the topic of integrating technology such as blogs, podcasts, and graphic design into everyday curriculum (In case you are remotely interested, our abstract was as follows: "Combine then with now." Learn to implement a differentiated online learning community to engage your students in history like never before. Welcome to 21st century Social Studies!).

There were over 850 proposals and only 400 spots (each proposal was reviewed by 3 judges). We were selected. Yes! In addition to session presentations, about 1000 posters presentations were in the exhibit hall, with educators manning the booths, so we felt truly honored to be selected.

Despite this honor, we did not present yesterday.

Upon acceptance to this conference, we learned that it would cost us $325 to attend. Per person. That's $650 for us to work for them for one hour. There are no presenter discounts, no scholarships from donors, and all of the resources we use must be paid by us as well. So if we need a screen for a presentation: $20. Projector: $100. You get the point.

Since this is a national conference, educators fly in from all over the country, which means airfare, car rentals, meals, and downtown hotel stays must also be paid for. And who pays? The school districts.

It's no secret that there is serious need for education reform in this country. Calls for higher teacher pay and more money for resources are constantly on the agenda, and I certainly experienced this in the classroom. I didn't have enough textbooks for all of my students last year (nor did the teacher next door) so we often alternated our teaching to accommodate one another.

How inconsistent of educators (and education associations) who clamor for more money! With over 4,000 people expected to attend the conference, the total revenue from participant registration would be at least $1.3 million. That does not count any surcharges on equipment rental or fees received from advertisers.

So Brian and I did not present. Our school would pay for it, but $650
can buy every student in the 6th and 7th grade a novel. Or a field trip. Or two. Tack on an extra $200+ for equipment rental (thank goodness there was no need to fly out to the conference) and the taxpayers are shelling out a pretty penny for two unpaid teachers to tell others about podcasting.

While it may seem small in the long run (the conference was still a success) and it perhaps only hurt me professionally (since it was an honor to be selected and would have been great for the resume; plus it was one of my 101 Things to Do in 1,001 Days), I chose not to present. It was completely against my principles and I could not support what I saw as one of the key problems in education (wasteful spending). Small things are what matter and make up our character. Here's hoping next year's conference in Atlanta will be less expensive.

But it would have been sooooooooooo good for the resume.

Oh well. On a lighter note, here's baby man laughing. Take note of the way his chest moves. Too cute.

14 November 2008


Jonas is in a funny little stage right now. He doesn't really want me to carry him. He doesn't want to be on his back. He doesn't mind sitting up, but is not really capable of doing it without the assistance of his bouncer (which he prefers to be out of since it restricts his movement). He does, however, love to stand. Since birth he's been pushing those scrawny-turned-chunky limbs of his into a full stand, and the higher the better. His back and balance aren't strong enough to hold onto anything, so I spend a large portion of the day next to the counter while he holds my fingers and soaks in his surroundings (Which I enjoy, in all honesty. I don't look forward to the day he doesn't want me with him all the time, so I'll just drink it up while I've got it. The housework will still be there).

Introduce this contraption. A big thank you to Naomi for inventing it those many years back and donating it to a happy little couple upon her bittersweet farewell. Jonas loves it, and by loves, I mean he will sit it in for 10-15 minutes on a good day which gives me a much-needed break from all that finger-grasping.

Note the placement of his hand. Too amusing. Next challenge: Figure out how to prevent that hand getting caught between his leg and his toy so we can extend his happy time to 20 minutes.

11 November 2008

Girls Only Want Boyfriends Who Have Great Skills

You know, like nunchuk skills, bow hunting skills, computer hacking skills, rolling over skills...

(And it's about time. Two more weeks of his sedentary lifestyle and we were supposed to call the doctor to make sure he didn't have any physical development issues.)

Since he can't talk yet, this was Jonas' way of giving a big thank you to Mrs. Ordinary's Dad and his fellow veterans on this very special Veterans Day.

10 November 2008

Riddle Me This, Riddle Me That

It's not too late for a Halloween post, is it?

Library Halloween party. Thanks for the costume, Elizabeth. He loved being "Shooterman."

We dined on a Halloween-themed meal of Mummy Dogs, Oozing Monster Mouths, Monster Toes Cookies, and Pumpkin-shaped Rice Balls.

On Halloween night, we attended our ward's Trunk or Treat (and for Spanish speakers--Trick or Trunk). Initially we had a Batman Villains theme--Patrick=Two-Face, Jennifer=Poison Ivy, and Jonas=The Riddler. I didn't practice our makeup until an hour before the activity and I totally underestimated the face paint's melting rate. So despite my excitement for the 3 weeks leading up to it, we scrapped our costumes at the last minute since my Poison Ivy was looking more and more like Two Face by the second. But the YW made up for it and painted a "I  Edward" on my cheek. Thanks Paige and Andrea.

07 November 2008

When Did He Grow Up?

Prop 8 Aftermath: May I direct you to karrenlouise for an eloquent, thought-provoking post on Prop 8? She is a miracle worker with boldly expressing her opinion while still maintaining a great love and empathy for those who feel differently. I echo her sentiments, though not nearly as poetically.

And as I reflect upon the result of Proposition 8 (and my reaction to it), I realize I have expressed my joy at its passage, but have not adequately expressed my deep sorrow and pain for those who suffer from its passage. While I still firmly stand by my support for maintaining traditional marriage, my heart mourns with those that mourn. Marriages have been dissolved and a great hope has been extinguished for many. Same beliefs or not, pain is something we share as a people and one thing that makes us human. I pray those affected will receive comfort and feel the Lord's love.

06 November 2008

What's Done Is Done

I have always been very passionate about politics and never have I experienced such an emotionally charged election. A day has not passed in the last 10 days that I haven't shed tears. Part of this passion comes from being old enough to understand some of the grave consequences of certain choices. Whether they are honest mistakes or intentional decisions, it is agonizing to watch the country I love walk the plank. A friend has been struggling with the choices of her teenage daughter lately, and on a very small scale, I feel what she is feeling. America is my baby. To watch America turn away from me, to make choices that effect more than just herself, to misunderstand my love for intolerance, to be familiar one day and completely unrecognizable the next.... The dull ache remains.

But like others who share my political beliefs, I have been praying for a change of heart. Not for a change in my values, but for a softening of a very downtrodden heart that does not want to forgive. This is still my country. It is still my responsibility to contribute positively. Yes, voting gives me the right to moan and groan about the outcome; I can even spiral into a vast depression if I choose to. But just because I have that right does not mean I have to exercise it. My attitude is still in my control (with a lot of help from Heavenly Father).

I have prayed to become more gentle and tender. I despise the negativity that overcame me once the results were announced. Gratefully, the needed transformation began this morning. My prayers were offered without the acrid hostility of yesterday. Do I still mourn that Obama was elected? In a way, yes. It's not what I want. But that's the bittersweet nature of choice, and that's what my Savior died for. Choice. His Atonement is the pinnacle of the great plan. And He performed this great and dreadful act for our agency.

Silver Lining
* My black students have a role model that is not Snoop Dogg. They have someone to look up to that is married and loves his family, someone who rose from obscurity to secure the most powerful position on Earth. Regardless of his politics, they can see it is possible. They have alternatives.

* There is an energy surrounding Obama's election that can unify many Americans.

* I can express my dissenting beliefs today and still be alive tomorrow. Praise be to the inspiration of the First Amendment.

* I still live in a country where I can take my little boy to the pumpkin patch and enjoy a carefree moment with my family.

I love my America. It is evolving and changing in ways I could not imagine. And like a mother, no matter the road she takes, mistakes or not, I will always love my America.