Sunday, March 29, 2009

Spring break and other fun

The picture where I am standing is with one of my 8th grade classes. The picture where I am kneeling is with my seniors. In other schools where I have been, wearing black clothes is associated with depression, being "goth" or gothic, or even veganism or vegetarianism. Not so here. The kids just really like the color black. I don't pretend to understand it.
Dear Family and Friends

Spring break was adventurous. We went to the dentist for the girls. No cavities! That was a blessing. Diana had some dental work done too. It was really great to see family and friends on our trip.
We were surprised when Roger called and said that he would be coming down, so we got to see those guys. That was really great. Dave and Ging had a hot dog roast in their back yard and we decided to use Dutch ovens and the hot coals and bury some meat in a pit. After several hours, the meat came out delicious as well as some Dutch oven bread that Ginger made.
I was also reminded of how much I hate working on sheetrock when I helped ed for a few hours on a couple of days putting mud on the walls. I really hope when I get to the point of building a house, I will be able to afford hiring someone else to do the sheetrock. I think Ed hopes I will hire someone else. I’m not positive, but he might just dislike the stuff as much as me.
We have had elder hostel volunteers for our last two weeks of teaching. The elder hostel assigned to my room before spring break was a master teacher named Phil Rice, from the San Francisco area. He taught for 30 years and he was very good at it. He took over one day teaching for me, and he just had those kids’ full attention for all 30 minutes he was talking. He was talking about writing format and they were staring open-mouthed like he was revealing lost city of Atlantis. He keeps bees and has worked with juvenile delinquents as a volunteer. It was really good for me to spend time talking to him and learning from him.
My elder hostel volunteer this week was Lynn Barber for Colorado Springs. She was very nice and patient with me. She taught English for 24 years and was obviously an effective teacher too. These folks pay their own way out here and just want to help. It is a neat program.
Mahrin is walking in her walker a little now…the first walking since her surgery in January. She is mostly just supporting her weight with her arms, but she is still pushing with her feet. Dr. Stevens, her surgeon, came down to Blanding Friday and it was reassuring to hear him say that everything was looking fine. He prescribe her Baclofen to loosen her leg muscles, and that has been helping with her spasticity.
Lara is apparently feeling adventurous today. She and Sadie wandered off twice in search of adventure without telling us where they were going. She loves “cooking” which so far has resulted in the smearing of some yogurt mixed with water and some sliced up bread and mutilated apples.
Sadie is a strong-willed one who knows how to diffuse a hard situation. As I was herding them back to the house, they knew they were in trouble. Sadie looked over her shoulder at me and called, “Look out Lara, there’s a monster behind us!”
Lara told her that it wasn’t a monster, it was their daddy.
Adelaide is standing up to things and gabbling on quite a bit about things. She is so patient. Twice in the last couple of days, I have gone in to see if she has woken up from naps, and she has just been playing quietly in her crib.
Diana stays busy with good things. She has been taking an online class for registered nurses from Murray Chunn’s (my nephew by marriage) mom. It has been challenging and fulfilling for her.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Pictures of the girls

Here are some pictures of the girls.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Pictures from top left:

Lara loses a tooth

Adelaide in her cool hat

Sadie wonders what will happen next

Our family, less baby, in a tube on a perilous slope

Adelaide in her most common environment

Dear Family and Friends,

            Where to begin?  Our family rotated through sickness from Thanksgiving to Christmas, but we finally got better.  We had Christmas here, and after Santa got done at our house, it looked like a pink plastic bomb had exploded.  There were dollies, castles, and hair accessories galore.  David, my big brother, was appalled when I told him what Santa had brought to our house.  “What did you get?” he asked hopefully.  I got just what I wanted, a set of hard-anodized titanium/aluminum alloy cookware that is durable and nonstick to the extreme.  My brother was not impressed with my masculine acquisitions.  I told him I also got some dark chocolate.  He is probably still worrying about me as I write this.  He will probably never understand my world in a house full of estrogen.

            Diana also got the cookware, and we are both happy with it.  We enjoyed getting lots of family pictures and newsletters.  Thank you.

            We left Christmas day and drove through a blizzard.  We were the only tire tracks in the snow on the road through most of Wayne County. We finally arrived at Dan and Lisa’s house at 1:30 in the morning.  The next day we were able to see Lorelei and Jason, Roger and Johanna, David and Ginger, and Melanni, so the adventurous trip was worthwhile.  I should add that we drove through snow and ice almost the entire way and the Blue Bullet didn’t slip once.

            There was one interesting aspect of driving.  I was asleep as we drove toward Capitol Reef National Park.  When I woke up, Diana was driving our packed minivan at over 50 mph around the tight corners that feel dangerous in dry conditions at 40.  She was doing this through five to six inches of freshly fallen snow.  I couldn’t believe it!  She usually drives too slow for my taste, especially when it is dark.  I thought she must me living on the edge.  We would hit the curves which come every two or three seconds at that speed at about 45 miles per hour, then she would floor it and accelerate through the curve like she expected to come out on the straightaway at the Indianapolis 500.  I sat with muscles clenched and eyes wide.  She later claimed that she thought the road was covered in dust or just looked a very uniform gray.  Imagine her surprise when she stopped in the middle of the road when I insisted on driving and she was standing ankle deep in powdery snow!

            We spent a fun and eventful week in Kanosh for the break.  Highlights were test driving cars in Utah Valley and our 8th anniversary, and of course, spending time with family.

            I really enjoyed hanging out with Steve and Roger, and learning all kinds of cool stuff from Steve that I would have never even thought of. 

            It was fun to see everyone else too. 

            Well, time flies.  Gotta run.

Love you guys,

Lewis, Diana, and the girls

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Whitaker December Update

Dear Family and Friends,


The last few weeks have really flown by since Thanksgiving.  Today, Lara and I were the only ones from our family who went to church.  Sadie and Mahrin were both sick and stayed home..sore throats, headaches….the gumbo.  I spoke on the birth of the Savior.  I used up ½ an hour!  I never do that!  I was that guy today.  I looked up at the clock.  It was tie to start the closing hymn, and we still had a rest hymn and the branch president left to speak.  I felt sheepish.  Baaah.  On the way over, it was super-icy, the worst I have ever seen it here.  Lara and I were arguing whether the car in front of us was white or silver.  I said it was silver, Lara insisted it was white.  She said, “Daddy, maybe your eyes aren’t so good.  Like Mahrin’s.  One time, when we lived in Ogden, Mahrin said, ‘That is yellow.’

But I said, ‘It’s really brown.”  I got a good laugh at her. 


Mahrin has been praying for a “doll at Christmas.  Just like Sadie’s.”  Hopefully Santa Claus is paying close attention.  She ate a whole piece of pumpkin pie and is doing pretty well at walking, and it seems like her vision is better. 


Sadie has been our little sick girl for the last several days.  She has been throwing up, has headaches, and has a sore throat.  She didn’t eat or drink anything for over 24 hours, and we were starting to get a little nervous, like two long tailed cats in a nuclear reactor.  Then Sadie started eating again, and it was a relief.  It was like a free pass to go past the guard tower of the nuclear reactor, the one I referred to in the last sentence.


Adelaide is sitting up quite a bit and is starting to hold her own bottle.  Her blonde fuzzy hair is becoming visible from several inches away, when the sunlight is just so.  We are grateful for that little baby.  She is so happy!


Diana is very, very busy.  She does a wonderful job teaching our girls.  She cooks with them, cleans with them, reads with them, writes with them, every day.  They write in their own little journals at night, and Diana helps them.  They will seriously pass up my high school students in writing ability in not many years.  Home environment is so important for learning.  I had no idea how lucky I was as a kid.  Reading was like breathing or drinking water in our house…it was just always there.


I had a girl in my class this week, a sophomore language arts class, who was crying.  The girl across from her would not stop whispering, and after warning her twice, I asked her to come outside.  She said, “Just a minute,” like I was asking her to hand me the mayonnaise.  I was quickly running out of patience with the girl who has major issues anyway.  When she finally got around to stepping out of my room, she said that the girl across fro her needed help, “like right now!  Like you need to go get a counselor RIGHT NOW.” She turned around and went back into my classroom.  Bewildering behavior from any student, especially from this student who has been very responsive to me when I asked her to this year.  I went and got her again.  She said to me in the hallway that “if you don’t go get a counselor, like right now, or the principal, I am going to whack out on you!  She (the girl) has pills, and you need top go get help, like right now!”

I went to get help, all right.  I thought to myself, “Well, even if nothing is really going on, those two need to get out of my room.”  I got Mrs. Seltzer to come get the girls out of my room.  She took three of them. 


Mrs. Seltzer later told me that it was a very good thing I had acted.  The girl had overdosed on her dad’s blood pressure pills in an attempt to kill herself.  An ambulance was on the way. Lovely!  Stuff like that happens far too regularly around these parts.  That whole episode was followed up by a fistfight in another classroom that was just within minutes of my classroom ordeal.  It turned into a very long afternoon for the administration.


I took a college class for a required endorsement this semester.  The class ended on Wednesday.  The class should have netted me at least 8 credit hours, but was only worth three.  The teacher consistently held class late in Blanding, 1-½ hours from here.  He would end class at 9:45, and I would not get home until 11 p.m.  I wrote about 60 pages for the class, 15 handwritten pages for the midterm, and seventeen handwritten pages for the final.  A 12-page paper was required, massive reading every week, etc.  The guy was nuts.  I got out of his final at about 10 p.m. and came home around midnight.  I am GLAD that is over!


Well, that’s about it from us.



The Whitakers

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Having fun exploring Monument Valley

Dear Family and Friends,


Yesterday Diana and I went on the most fun hike.  We both decided it was the most fun we had ever had on a date.  We drove up Horse canyon and ended up near the teardrop behind our apartments.  I had heard from students that there were some ancient Anasazi ruins on the other side of the big rock from the Teardrop.  We hiked over there and sure enough, there was an ancient ruin.  It is in really amazing condition.  It sits about 15 feet off of the canyon floor in an alcove in the sandstone.  There is a little window and everything.  We hiked a little further and found a way back in.  We had to hunker down through one natural arch on the way into the ruin.  After that arch, the path opened up into a little flat area.  Next we had to belly crawl through another arch and got right in next to the ruin.  It was really amazing and fun.


After that we were hiking back to the car, and I was checking for a way up to the top of the rocks, because it looked like there were some other likely spots to find ruins up above the one we found.  As we walked along, we came to a little chimney up the face of the rock and I saw handholds and footholds carved into the rock.  It was an ancient sandstone ladder.  If was maybe ten feet high, and not vertical, but it would have been very hard to ascend there without the ladder.  We climbed up and got on top and saw some really cool views and some deep sinkholes right tin the middle of the sandstone.  We really had a blast.


On a more serious note, we got a visit today from the stake presidency.  They drove all the way down here from Blanding.  They asked me to be the first counselor in the Mexican Hat Branch to President Jim Dandy.  I told them yes, of course.  They will be reorganizing the branch presidency next week. 


Today at lunch Mahrin prayed and said “Thank thee that I can eat lunch with my parents…my mom and my dad.”  I thought that was cute. 


The other day Diana was watching Spencer, a one-and-a-half year old boy, for the neighbors.  After dinner Diana gave Lara a choice of watching Spencer or clearing the table, her normal job.  She chose Spencer, with the stipulation that she keep a good eye on him.  Pretty soon Diana heard Lara say to Spencer, “No Spencer!  Don’t put that in your mouth!”  Then, after a couple of minutes, Diana heard Lara say, “No Spencer!  Don’t put your foot in the toilet!”  In just a little while, Lara came to Diana with an exasperated expression on her face, and said, “I choose the table.”


Sadie is improving in her speech.  She wants a sippy cup at night, and isn’t afraid to let you know about it.  She and Lara do a lot of pretending, and she and Mahrin do a lot of fighting.


Adelaide is holding her head up quite a bit.  It is really amazing how fast kids grow up.  Her life so far has gone by in a flash.


Things are going really well down here.  We wish you all the best and love you

Lewis, Diana, and the girls


Sunday, August 10, 2008

Dear Family and Friends,
So much has happened since I wrote last. Three new teachers moved into the school this year, and we are still looking for a history/PE teacher…Owen? Owen? One of the new teachers has a 14 month old boy and his wife taught young elementary grades for five years before moving here. She has a bunch of great materials and ideas for Diana’s teaching this year, which Diana has been stressed about. Any active LDS families are more than welcome here.
The new reading teacher is a guy that is a salty character. It will be fun to have him on the faculty this year. Friday we toured part of the local area where our kids live in a school bus, and this guy was opening emergency exits and jumping out the back of the bus with alarms sounding. Some of the students live 14 dirt road miles from the bus stop. We were on dirt roads for well over an hour to get out there. Several places the road was nearly washed out and the road gets very rough.Our new math teacher is from Vietnam by way of Buffalo, NY and Toronto. It is hard to understand her English. I think we are all a little concerned for her.
We were very excited to learn our good friend Margaret is getting married. She is totally in love with the fellow, and he had better be a good one to be worthy of her. She is a very wonderful person. I will never forget the day I sang her a whole verse from one of Uncle Kracker’s songs. Unfortunately, Margaret will never be able to forget it either. She kept looking down at the table, shaking her head, and saying, “Mahrin, your dad is crazy. Mahrin, your dad is crazy.”
Today on the way to church we came up to stopped traffic and flashing lights a couple of miles from home. Two cars had collided. Three occupants in the smaller car were injured, all locals (Navajos). The other car was tourists. By the time we got there, there were lots of cars, 1 police car and one ambulance. Diana is required to offer assistance as an RN, so we ran up to help. Jim Dandy from our branch was already there helping out, which was a comfort to me. He trains people in CPR and is very good under pressure. He has helped save almost 10 people since becoming a teacher down here using his training. He drives enough, and help is far enough away that he comes across plenty of wrecks where his help is needed.
One of the injured was the son of one of our teachers here. All three were conscious and responding. There was just the passenger to get out by the time I got there. We couldn’t open the door because it was lodged into a sand bank. A police officer grabbed a small shovel from his unit and got the door open. We loaded the lady as carefully as we could onto the backboard and strapped her down. As we carried her, I was at her head, and the ladies carrying on the left side both let go and went to help by her feet, leaving me with all the weight at her head on the left side. There was a big guy lifting by my right arm. It felt like the whole thing was being pushed onto my left hand, and the lady was not a small fry. As we walked through the sand and bushes I was very, very careful and prayerful about my foot placement. The life flight helicopter landed in the road. I was impressed by how soon they got there. From what Jim said, I doubt they even took ½ an hour to get there. That is impressive considering they take off from Page which is 3 hrs by car or Flagstaff which is 4 hrs. All the traffic was blocked. We were there for most of an hour waiting for the road to be cleared. The sacrament speakers were sitting in the car behind us. We got there for the closing song and prayer, and then they did a special sacrament for the families that got there late. They must have improvised something for talks, I don’t know.
Folks in Blanding are pretty shaken up by the plane crash that killed three city council members on Friday morning. Two of them left 4 kids at home each. One had 4 kids under the age of twelve; the other had four under the age of eight. That is no fun at all.
I had Language Arts training Monday and Tuesday. Tuesday evening we went to the Adams’ cabin above Blanding and Monticello. Their cabin is huge and very well set up. They even have a solar panel on their outhouse so you can read Uncle John’s Awwww Inspiring Bathroom Reader after dark. The Adams were up there getting it ready for us when we pulled up. We would have had to pay 500 dollars a night for such service somewhere else. The girls loved it. I got Sister Adams worried that we were going to eat fresh venison for breakfast from her prized grain fed deer that she has trained to walk up to the cabin.
The next day we woke up and went to celebrate Lara’s b-day on 8-8-08 by swimming at the Cortez Recreation Center. It was a blast. The girls loved it. Then we went out for pizza. Just today Lara got a gift of a dolly from Sister Dee, and Lara said, “I can’t believe this day!”
Mahrin is getting a little sense of humor and does a lot of talking out loud, imagining things. Today she was telling her food it was going to go down in her belly. She was taunting the food, really. It was more like a threat.
Sadie has an earache today and went to bed at five p.m. at her own request. I dread the night. Her ear really drained a bit ago, and I don’t know if her Eustachian tubes are still in or if her eardrum broke. Either way, the pressure was off.
I got Adelaide to laugh on Tuesday as we sat in the parking lot of a grocery store in Blanding, waiting for Mom. I wish I had the camera to catch it. She is holding her head erect and making lots of noises like she is trying to talk. Diana says she will be our talker.
Diana is working tons as usual. We were able to buy almost all of our year’s supply at summer’s end, so finding a place for it all has kept her very busy since we got back. Now she has it more organized than ever and it is a comfort to know that we have a bit of a food supply.
I am moving my classroom to one with windows. It looks out on the monuments and I would argue I have the best view of any classroom in the state. I will have to include a picture of it sometime.
Well, we love you and pray for you.
Lewis, Diana and girls.

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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Lengthy Lewis Leverages Lexicon

Dear Family and Friends,
I guess I always start journal-type entries that way because of Anne Frank. I wonder if that girl ever had any idea how famous she would be. Anyway, some of what has been going in with us…

I had to conduct sacrament meeting for the first time in my young life. I find that amusing because I am the priesthood leader, our equivalent of an elder’s quorum president/ high priest group leader. By the time sacrament meeting was supposed to start there was one person there…me (Diana was home with sick babies). I had all the hymns chosen and put the page numbers on the board thingy, I had the sacrament table set and ready, and I had the little conducting worksheet as filled out as I could get it.
Just when I was imagining singing and leading and playing solo simultaneously before giving the opening, sacrament and closing prayers (giving myself a talk would have felt strange!) a lady walked in. She was quickly asked to give the opening prayer. 2 minutes later a closing prayer walked through the door. By the time we were done we had 6 members and me. We have this organ that plays the songs when you just push a button. So I played my first one fingered church songs. We made it through the sacrament…that’s the important part. I shared a few scriptures from 2nd Nephi 32, and we wrapped it up. (I found out the night before that I was supposed to get speakers…yeah right!) The whole meeting took 20 minutes. I asked Diana last night how many sacrament meetings she had conducted. She said none. I told her we were tied…until tomorrow. Now I am ahead by one. Unless major changes are on the horizon I think I will be able to stay ahead of her.
This week:
I am trying out subheadings in bold and underlined. It’s working out pretty well for me. How about you? If you disapprove, puff your cheeks out and squish them with your palms making a “raspberry” sound. Do it! I probably won’t hear. But if I did hear, that would be freaky, huh? I know what you’re thinking…”They have a place for people like you.”
That reminds me. I was working with Dallin and Nic DeGraffenried over in Aurora. Picking up rocks in the hot dusty field. Dallin and Nic are brothers and are about 14 or so. Dallin said something that didn’t ring true to Nic. Nic said, “Hey Dallin, you know where liars go?”
Dallin answered, “Hell?” no doubt thinking about 2nd Nephi 9:34
Nic’s reply: “Nope! They go to law school, Dallin!”
They get me laughing pretty hard. Dallin reminds me of me a little when he starts riling his big sisters (Don’t take it too hard Dallin, you won’t turn out to be a pansy like me).
Anyway, so back to this last week. I have been working on my masters degree. I finished up class attendance Friday. I was able to finish four classes in since May, and finished two in April, so things are moving right along and I feel pretty good about it. I just have to write a 10-12 page improvement paper for a reading assessment class…I’ll probably do that tomorrow. I wish this rambling family update could count as part of the pages.
Diana and the girls have been up most nights and most of the days too. I sleep whether I want to or not, I’m afraid. One time I cut my head open on a dresser corner, bled all over the bed, and never woke up. Oh, the ramblingness of it all. The worst part for me is knowing that my high school English teacher reads my blog! That’s why Heavenly Father invented the spellchecker!
The girls have been enjoying a little 8 dollar kiddy pool we put out on the front lawn. I splashed around with them one day. They started filling up my hat and putting it on my head. That night I set up the tent to sleep in the backyard. I was all pumped up to sleep out there and have fun. It was reminiscent of us kids sleeping on the trampoline with Dad, and in the morning, we all had congregated tightly into the sides of the heaviest object..Dad.
So we’re out in the tent. First Sadie wants some milk. Then Lara needs to go potty. As soon as she heads out, Sadie definitely needs to go potty. She needs to go right now. None of this came up until Lara needed to go. They are both gone for a while. Mahrin and I are hanging out, when Lara comes back. “Guess what Daddy?”
“What, Lara?”
“Mama taught me how to go potty outside! Isn’t that cool!”
“Wow, Lara! That’s pretty neat,” I say apprehensively, “did you go potty outside.”
“Yeah!” (If there was a punctuation mark to denote a tone of voice that says I’m so grown up and cool and outdoorsy, I would insert it here.)
“Why did you go potty outside?”
“The door is locked.”
“Oh boy!”
I went to check. The door was indeed locked. Diana felt silly when she found out she had locked out for the grizzlies and wolves to eat.
Next, we all get back in the tent. Sadie really needs milk now. Dad is getting peeved. Mahrin and Sadie are quite forward in saying they wanted to sleep inside. In we went. I could have forced the issue, but why?
Whitaker family reunion:
We had a lot of fun at the Whitaker family reunion. In a reunion famous for brawls and rattlesnake hunts (we raffled two rattlesnake skins this year, killed at the annual Whitaker paintball war, I helped with one…he went down in a paintball laden death. I nicknamed him the “Rainbow rattler”), this reunion was remarkably friendly. When we pulled up, I said to Diana, “Well, here we are at the Whitaker reunion. Did you bring your boxing gloves?”
Her reply was priceless, “I think it’s bare knuckles around here.”
But all in all, everyone was really friendly. Several uncles called me Roger. I’m sure he got called a few names as well. We got to see Mel and Kevin, Denise, Wenda and Steve, Rog and Hanna, and Lorelei and Jason. Every time I saw Lorelei and Jason’s Christian, he smiled a cheeser at me and says, “Hi!” all happy. There were lots and lots of cute little kids around.
We celebrated Grandma Whitaker’s 90th birthday. The town had a celebration, as well. Grandma stood up and sang “I have a family here on earth…” It was really touching. Then she says, “I had twelve kids. I’ve done my part,” she looks at her posterity, “Now it’s your turn.” She said knowing what she knows now and how much work it was to raise 12 kids, she would do it all over again. “Only this time, I would do it better!” What a woman! I don’t know how Grandpa Whitaker caught her, but she is truly an amazing woman.
I have now seen Murray, Denise’s son-in-law, do amazing things with a bobcat/skid steer and a rifle. Do not anger him if he is in control of either of these tools. He uses them masterfully.
I also watched Roger driving an old truck with no brakes, He did an admirable job of downshifting and screaming the engine. All in a day’s work for a label-maker salesman.
I am totally pumped that Wenda and Steve are moving to Kanosh. They will make wonderful contributions. I’ll tell you about some of Steve’s contributions when the statute of limitations runs out.
Future plans:
I’m still working the subheadings. Did you notice? Our future plans include eternal bliss, a rifle stockpile of no less than 30, and a racquetball court. But our near future plans include coming back to Kanosh for Lewis Hatton’s wedding to Tracy (sp?). That will be on July 3rd. That’s the day before the 4th. I will be helping build Emmy and Bob’s house in hopes of picking up some building expertise from Ed for much of July. Don’t tell Emmy, she might not let me on the site, then I’ll have to start sneaking.
Random thought:
I told Jack, a veteran teacher here, that my motto for the last week of school was, “Crack the whip.” The idea being that the kids would work hard til the last day of class. I asked him what his motto was. He looked at me, smiled, and with an evil twinkle in his eye said, “Retribution!” Then he laughed maniacally, and walked away.