Friday, March 29, 2013

We Always Knew It...

but now the rest of the world (or at least Alaska) does too!

[This news release is shared on behalf of the Alaska Association of School Librarians. Congratulations to College Gate Elementary School Librarian Dona Helmer.]

The Alaska Association 
of School Librarians Announce 2013 School Librarian of the Year

The Alaska Association of School Librarians (AkASL) held their annual conference in Valdez from March 22-24 and announced Dona Helmer of College Gate Elementary School in Anchorage as the School Librarian of the Year.  The School Librarian of the Year is an award that has been given out annually since 1985.  This exemplary librarian promotes the development of independent lifetime readers and learners, is an integral part of the educational team, and exemplifies professional involvement by sharing expertise with colleagues both locally and around the state.  Each school year, administrators are encouraged to nominate a school librarian who has been a help and inspiration to them and their school.

Dona Helmer, the 2013 School Librarian of the Year thinks outside the box by teaching children that the entire world of information is their library.  The school library becomes a preparation for the real world where they learn rules on how to find information, how to pose and answer questions, and are allowed to explore.  The library is not a place but a state of mind—

This is a pretty hefty challenge for the students of College Gate Elementary library.  It is here that Helmer orchestrates her program.  She has a broad knowledge of the curriculum and facilitates cross-grade level research.  She collaborates with and supports teachers through targeted instruction, gathering resources, and managing special programs. 

Books are a big part of Helmer’s life and students know this.  She writes grants so that she can give books to students to take home, and she often includes her own money. Each year, Helmer creates a grade level summer reading list and has the local children’s librarians visit and talk to students. She is always trying to find ways to work with local public librarians.

At College Gate everybody reads!  Helmer brings in other people like the janitor and lunch workers to talk about their favorite books as a child. She wants every student to understand that reading is not just something you do in school.  Some of the reading programs Helmer facilitates to get students to read are: Turkey Trot, Jingle Jog, Skype with an Author, Read to Some Bunny Month, Pizza and Poetry Month, Research Counts Month, the Family Winter Reading Club and much more.

At the National Level, Helmer serves on the American Library Association (ALA) Reference Books Bulletin Advisory Board and writes reviews for them.  She has been a member of both the Newbery and Caldecott Award committees, the most prestiegious awards in children’s literature.  This year she is running for membership on the Siebert Award Committee for ALA.  Helmer has served on the International Reading Association’s book and poetry award committees and the National Council for the Social Studies Carter G. Woodson history book award committee.

Locally, Helmer is a board member of AkASL and has served as member of the Battle of the Books selection group committee for grades 3-4, is a board member on the Alaska Library Association’s Authors to Alaska committee and is the vice president of  the Cook Inlet Literacy Council.  In the Anchorage School District, Helmer is a member of both the Library Resource Committee and the Language Arts Curriculum Committee.

Helmer is a master of making connections and gathering support.  When a new principal started at College Gate two years ago, she brought a copy of the national school library guidelines, shared her annual library report and outlined the potential library program.  Principal Darrell Bernsten states, “No other librarian has ever taken the time to explain twenty-first century libraries and learners to me.”

Helmer has plans and dreams for the library, but she doesn’t sit and wait.  She goes out and makes change happen.  Congratulations Dona Helmer, AkASL School Librarian of 2013!

Congratulations, DJ!  As Beth says "My mom rocks!!!"

~later, tw


I suppose I had been lulled into a sense of complacency.  I mean, sure I'd heard all the stories of remodel nightmare - difficult contractors, surly deliverymen, cost overruns.  But we've had none of that - our contractor and all of his workers are just joys to work with - they are creative, experienced professionals who are truly helping us to shape the kitchen/dining room/GREAT room of my dreams!

And with only a couple of surprises that have been quickly dealt with (and have generated even MORE GREAT ideas!), it seemed that we were chugging along not only ahead of schedule but under budget as well.  UTTER PERFECTION!


It started so ordinary.  Yesterday, the "vent people" were here dragging debris from crawl space area under the house and working to relocate some of the heating vents so they won't be right in front of each of the doors.

Meanwhile the construction guys were working on finishing the flooring, the electrical and the sheet rock - all of which need to be completed before the cabinets (now taking up pretty much every available space in our house) can be installed.

Todd decided to pop open one cabinet so that he could check out the "toe kick situation" just as I happened to be popping in for a peek (and possibly photo op).  He asked if I wanted to see my new cabinets (because he knew I was anxious to see them - all I have is a sample door).  Imagine my surprise when I saw this:

Surprise rapidly turned to horror - somebody tell me I hadn't really ordered EXACTLY THE SAME DAMN CABINETS I HAD BEFORE!?!?!?!?!

Todd said he was a bit surprised when he saw them and he went out in the garage (where many of the old cupboards are still stored) to see just how similar they were to the new ones.  Other than a different finish (this new one appears to be Hickory while the old ones were Oak), it was EXACTLY the same.

I looked at Todd in total shock - and he asked me if maybe I had a picture of something?  Not only did I have a photo, I still had the sample door.  We compared it and while the box was labeled absolutely correctly, the cabinet before us was a) not the right finish; b) it wasn't even a cabinet we had ordered.


I called my designer, Sue and left voice mail.  Then I emailed her.  She said she and her husband, Tom (who's company we placed the order through) were on their way over.  Tom, was stymied - and not at all happy (because he's still trying to figure out how/why they put this 30" vanity cabinet into a 27" box).

I figured we were going to have to open all the crates (56 of them...well, now only 53 because Todd and I opened two more to see if they were all going to be wrong which would create a HUGE delay in the project) in order to determine that we actually had all the correct pieces in front of us.  Sue & Tom assured me that this one piece was an aberration and that everything else should be correct.  I sure hope they're right but we probably won't know for certain until next week when installation begins.

Good thing I set up the mini bar in the laundry room!

~later, "hoping this is our major glitch for this project" tw

Rubber Ducky, You're the One!

The Children's Museum of Tacoma has gone totally "quackers"!  There are ducks EVERYWHERE!  Most of them yellow, to be sure, but there are also ones that light up pink or purple or green.  Being a hands-on kind of place, kids freely wander around with a duck (or two or three if they're the little ones) transporting them from the water play area to the climbing area, hiding them in various places throughout the museum.

I got to spend Wednesday morning with Jenny and her boys along with Brinley (and her parents and grandma).  It's a great place - just down the road in Tacoma, seriously right off the freeway - and while they do not charge admission, they gratefully accept donations.  It's not a huge place but it is all extremely "user friendly" and the kids LOVE IT!

First, after donning our aprons we played in the water:

Always someone nearby to show us the important
things: how to wash our ducky!

Great place to pick up chicks!

Then Jax and Brinley were off to play with the scarves and the pneumatic tubes:

While undisturbed, Shay practiced his Dr. Doolittle imitation of learning to talk to the ducks:

And then found an entire duck pond just waiting for a little boy to climb in:

And Brinley found some places to hide a few ducks!

Time to visit the crafting room:

Another apron?

That's what we need - a fresh sheet of paper!

Someone decided Brinley's hair needed a little highlighting!

Time for a little drawing...

And gluing!

A fun day with the kiddos!

~later, tw

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Does Your Neighbor Wear Brown???

A genius at Wal-Mart has come up with a new delivery scheme - you order online and they have a store customer deliver the good to you.  Wal-Mart mulls getting customers to deliver packages to online buyers

Hopefully I am not the only who senses just a bit of difficulty with this notion (who is ultimately responsible for the package while "out for delivery"?)  I know they are offering "gas discounts" to the delivery person but I'd want to know exactly how they are "vetting" this person?  What's to stop someone - SOMEONE I WOULDN'T EVER WANT TO KNOW MY ADDRESS let alone where I actually LIVE - from just taking my new merchandise (or worse - I can't even go there!  The possibilities are BEYOND SCARY!!!)

~later, "rethinking my future online purchases at Wal-Mart" tw

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Brinley Turns Two!

Sunday was a rare day - one where friends who don't ever seem to get together all wound up at the same place at the same time.  Apparently all it takes is for one of their kids to have a birthday!

Brinley, basically our "adopted" granddaughter (she and her cousin Elizabeth are likely to be the ONLY grandDAUGHTERS we will have!) turned two this week and though she lives in Colorado, she (and her parents) were able to come "home" to Washington to celebrate.

Lucky for her I just happen to know the best cake decorator in the world - JENNY!  Which was also good for us since that meant a quick visit at gma and gpa's before heading over to the Churchills for the party.  Since the weather was so nice the boys got to take the Mustang out for a little drive in the sunshine.  Jax (now 3) has certainly improved since last year - he can actually steer!  And go in reverse!  (These are HUGE improvements over last year and make all of us adults watching far less nervous when he takes Shay along for a ride!!!)

Our window of opportunity for visiting here was short this weekend - only long enough to have Cathy & Dan  (Gerry's sister and brother-in-law) drop by to pick out some of our "former" kitchen cabinets.  (We've got to get the garage cleared out so that the new appliances can be delivered!)

There were TEN GU ALUMS!  I think we achieved "quorum"
 for an  official alumni meeting!
Then it was time to get over to the party.  The majority of adults in attendance were either Gonzaga grads or had financed said grads so the party started with a bit of commiseration (the Bulldogs had lost the night before) but with FIVE kids three and under (Jax was the old man of the gang!) things picked up speed in a hurry!  It was a lot like "parent orientation" day at a preschool!  

Youngest boy: Thatcher (on the right) is 6 MONTHS younger
than Shay (on the left!)

Not so much...

Having a good time...

Brinley & Jax in love...again!

Finally, after what must have seemed like an eternity to Brinley, it was time for CAKE!  Jenny really outdid herself once again - this was an adorable polka-dotted cake with the cutest elephant and a purple "zebra" design inside.  It was AMAZING!

After cake there were a few presents to open and with Jax supervising, Brinley got thru them fairly quickly and had just about 10 minutes left for some additional playtime before everyone had to hit the road.  The kids were sad but perked up a bit when they learned that we would be getting together again on Wednesday to visit the Children's Museum of Tacoma!

~later, tw

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

They're Here! And They're Beautiful!

...or rather they will be...when they are uncrated and installed that is.

Yesterday morning the cabinets arrived.  To prepare for this event, Gerry spent some time Sunday night moving everything he could to the back room, leaving only the sofa in the TV room (or as we're now calling it the "Cabinet/Cupboard Acclimation" room).

These photos should come with a warning:  "Carpet appears much cleaner and in much better shape than it really is."

And so I had the guys put down some protection for the floor before the cabinets arrived (not so much because the carpet is more fabulous than I originally thought but really because there's no way that we will be able to AFFORD new carpet after this remodel!)

And then the guy with the really big truck arrived and it didn't take long for the three of us - Todd, master electrician, Nathan (we'll call him construction intern - he's a college kid who's worked for our builder between college classes at SPU) and me - to figure out this guy was having a pretty rough day.  Nathan said he seemed to be the guy who got up on the wrong side of the bed MOST mornings and I couldn't disagree.  Obviously snapping a photo of him delivering the many boxes was absolutely out of the question.

And there were a LOT of boxes (56 to be exact - or at least I hope so because we didn't actually count them and he didn't seem inclined to wait for us to do so).

With two left to go, the formerly-known-as-TV-room was packed.  Naturally the two remaining were the largest - the 8 ft. pantry and it's near twin 8 ft. china cupboard.

Trying to make his day a little brighter I told him that maybe we should put these two large boxes in the piano room (thereby avoiding the step-down TV room).  He didn't seem nearly as grateful for this idea as I would have hoped but at that point I was just trying to expedite the process and get him on his way to making some other family happy with their delivery.

Clearly our TV watching evenings are over until such time as these can be uncrated and installed (probably not until next week).

Meanwhile, the room needs to be finished before this can happen.  First up, while Todd completes the electrical happenings (finishing relocating outlets and light switches, etc.), Nathan began work on the hardwood floor.  It's a back breaking job but somebody has to do it (thankfully the lowest man on the totem pole - aka the intern).

Gerry happened to get home before Nathan had quit for the day and watched him selecting pieces of wood, carefully lining them up, pounding them into position and using the nail guy to secure them.  He was really impressed at the kid's expertise and asked how long he had been doing flooring.  Nathan looked at me and asked "What?  Since about 10 am?"  [Today was his first day actually doing flooring.  Fortunately for all of us, he's a) a great kid; b) a quick study; c) part of David's team which means I never have to worry about any of this being down right the first time!]

It's going to be gorgeous when it all gets refinished (though I might find reasons to escape during at least some of the process - it's pretty noisy around here these days!)

~later, tw

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sunday Breakfast

Weekday breakfasts are usually just utilitarian and/or totally healthy: cheerios or oatmeal.  Basically a little something while we read the paper.

Weekend breakfasts, on the other hand, are typically a bit splashier - something to savor and linger over with another pot of tea.  So this Sunday we had banana pecan pancakes.

Not so unusual for a beautiful Sunday in March...

...unless you consider that the griddle is now located directly in front of our front entry door.

Which makes it incredibly handy as it is only a few feet away from our "dining table" (also in right in front of the door - please don't come by at meal time!)

Meanwhile on the construction front, we enjoyed a bit of a surprise on Friday.  March appears to have come in like a lamb but the lion made one more roar before (hopefully) surrendering to spring:

The hardwood flooring is here and ready for installation in the dining room (no more carpets under the table...or the HIGH CHAIRS!)

And there is LIGHT once again!  Many of the new lights in the kitchen are now functioning (which makes it a lot easier and actually safer to head out to the gazebo for a hot meal!)

~later, tw