Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Christmas in Estes Park

Wanting to avoid anything involving the words AIRPORT, DELAY, STORM, or FLIGHT CANCELED this year, I decided to stay in Colorado for Christmas. I'll travel back to Wisconsin during my off-track time in February.

I traveled up to Estes Park with the Herrell Family, where Ann's parents own a home along a lovely, babbling brook. Literally. Their home is about a mile from the YMCA camp in Estes Park, about 2 hours north west of Castle Rock. It's GORGEOUS there - picturesque and beautiful. What a busy, bustling week it was! Between all the families that were there (Ann's brother + family, Ann's sister + family, etc.), we took over 800 pictures throughout the week. I will be posting every single picture below.

Ok, not ALL the pictures, just the highlights! ENJOY!

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I adore the view of the mountains!
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All the kids in their matching pajamas on Christmas Day.
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Note: I was NOT the one who hit the tree this year. All is well...
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Aren't we crafty!? Kate and I at the YMCA, painting up a storm!
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Here's the plate, after it was fired in the kiln. Dang!
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The munchkins with their mustaches!
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Happy Lucy, Happy Brenda.
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Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Smores in a Jar

Oh, MY was this a scrumptious treat to make over break! YUM! I received this recipe in a jar from two of my students (and their ├╝ber-creative mama) as a Christmas gift.

Anyone who knows my affinity for marshmallow Peeps understands how much restraint it took for me to actually follow the recipe, and not immediately inhale these delicious pieces of marshmallow joy!

The dry mixture looked colorful and full of holiday cheer!

The wet mixture looked rather, um...disturbing - no cheer!
Note: If you actually FOLLOW the order of ingredients, you won't mix everything together, as I did, and your Smores in a Jar will be just fine! HA!

The finished product...unreal! The brown sugar and graham crackers formed a semi-solid crust on the bottom, while the chocolate melted to ooey-gooey goodness. The long-awaited marshmallows stretched as proper marshmallows do, and I ate the marvelous mixture (well, part of it!) before I could take an 'after' picture!

Here's the entire recipe, from table to tummy!

Layer the following in a 1 quart jar:
---1 sleeve of graham crackers, crushed to crumbs
---1/3 cup brown sugar
---1 1/2 cup mini marshmallows (or sliced, holiday Peeps)
---1 cup milk chocolate chips or Red/Green M & M's

On the attached, gift/directions card:
---Pour contents of jar into a greased 9 x 9 pan
---Melt 1/2 cup butter, add 1 teaspoon vanilla
---Pour over dry ingredients, mixing well

Bake at 350° F. for 15 minutes.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Amen


I was asked to give the Benediction at my Commencement ceremony - anyone who knows me understands that Benediction and Brenda are rarely used in the same sentence! Opening? Sure. Entertainment? You bet. Religious dismissal? Not usually! :o) Even so, I was honored to be asked, and took the assignment very seriously. I was given a 60 second time limit, and some general guidelines (basically the same steps we give our beginning writers about including a salutation, body, conclusion, etc.).

As a speaker, I was invited to gather and prepare with the other dignitaries - the faculty and staff members, the President of Regis, the deans of schools - all dressed in their magnificent robes and regalia. The sheer amount of education gathered in those 2 rooms! They were all so welcoming and down to earth - they put the four of us at ease, and were incredibly encouraging. Dr. Marie Friedemann was especially helpful, giving us those last minute details and helping us look our best before we processed on stage. I am going to miss this faculty!

In addition to the 806 graduates and their families at Saturday's ceremony, the Governor and First Lady of Colorado (Bill and Jeannie Ritter) were in attendance, too! My brother was in town, and Ann and Kim snuck in near the end. There were a lot of people in that ballroom!

The Provost said it was the first Commencement ever with live music from the podium (I sang the 2 lines of text near the end). The faculty was highly complimentary, too. They said they "knew I had a special sparkle in my eye and that they just didn't know the sparkle would come out through my voice!" Here's the text of my Benediction:

Dear Heavenly Father,


As we gather today to celebrate this academic milestone, let us recognize that we have not been alone on this journey.


Indeed, there were many people at our side, first and foremost being our family and friends, who gave us their support, their advice, and their love.


Secondly, Regis University, an institute where learners do indeed become leaders, where instructors create opportunities for our success, and where peers provide encouragement and inspiration.

Lastly, Lord, we thank and remember Your presence on our path. We pray that You continue to grant us courage to fulfill our callings, peace in times of struggle, and strength that we will invest both our education and knowledge into worthy causes.

I leave you now with the words of Meredith Willson:

"May your troubles all be small ones, and your fortunes ten times ten. May the good Lord bless and keep you till we meet again."

In Your holy name,
 
Amen

Exhale

I have made it to December 14th! The amount of things I've had to do in the last 6 weeks has been UNREAL, and I can finally take a deep breath AND exhale! Whew! I've had an exciting time with Track Concerts (see previous post), Choir Concerts, Brad's visit and then Commencement this past weekend. Crazy amazing!
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All of my second graders, dancing their little hearts out!
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Back on the slopes - a whole day without falling down!
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Brad and his F-14 Tomcat - Top Gun, anyone!?
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Monday, December 8, 2008

geoGreeting

You know how you start by clicking on ONE website, and an hour later, you find yourself on a completely different topic, not really able to trace your path!? Well, welcome to geoGreeting: you can type in a sentence, and each letter is a building somewhere in the world, viewed from above using Google Maps. Is that not awesome?! A geography lesson built right in! Here's where my letters can be found throughout the world:

B - Maspalomas, Canary Islands
R - Gary, IN
E - Chicago, IL
N - Tucson, AZ
D - Moscow, Russia (lake)
A - Bangkok, Thailand

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Bless their Hearts

Two down, two to go. My B Trackers, 182 kids in grades 1 - 6, had their Track Concert last week. After exhausting teaching sessions, and lots of reminders, the blessed children SHOWED UP! There were over 170 kids AND their families at our evening concert - bless their hearts! The concert was 2 hours after dismissal, and the temperature was less than 15 degrees that night - and they still came back! I had know idea who was going to show up, as I hadn't been able to collect information on attending families. If I would have sent anything home that made the evening concert seem even remotely optional, I know some kids would have capitalized on that! Yet, they came!

These concerts are a total combination of organization...and letting go. The sheer amount of kids could have been overwhelming. Thankfully, I'm used to dealing with large groups of kids, and my kids are so great to quickly respond to me when I need their attention. When one groups was done, they'd bow, leave the stage, and the other group would stand up, and get into place. It felt like there was constant motion!

The energy in the gym was PALPABLE! First graders were ready to explode, while second graders had the deer in the headlights look. My 3rd graders were just plain nervous, while the 4th graders were super confident. 5th graders wouldn't stop talking, and just about every 6th grader was in attendance! It was amazing to see how many people we were able to fit into our gym! I thought the CHOIR concerts were full - HA! My kids had so many family members present to support them! How exciting!

While the concert itself did go amazingly smooth, there were a couple of absolutely crazy moments. I still laugh out loud remembering them:
  • Flying Shoes: a 5th grader lost their SHOE in the middle of their dance number - it FLEW across the stage
  • I'm Here: a late 3rd grader runs ONTO the stage during the 4th grade set, loudly declaring "I'm here, Ms. G!"
  • I'm Not Here: some of my shy first graders were literally trying to hide behind each other on stage - darling!
  • Zoom: regardless of how slowly I set and re-set the tempo, my 5th graders set a land-speed record on the xylophones
  • Maggie: a 3 year old sibling I've know since her conception, joined the first graders on stage, ready to perform, THEN ended up joining me at the piano, calm and quiet as can be! Fearless!
  • Take a Bow: apparently, this phrase must have been a code for my 3rd graders, because as soon as I said it, they all fled from the stage!
Two down, two to go. I get to do it all over again this week Wednesday, with my C Track kids (172 of them). My brother, Bradley, arrives Wednesday morning, so he'll be here in town for both the afternoon and evening concerts! I can't wait!