Saturday, November 17, 2012

Autumn Musings

Whoa ... is anyone else having trouble believing that Thanksgiving is next week?  Where have the past 3 months gone??  I love this time of year, and it is moving much too quickly for my taste.  In fact, I have always been a staunch proponent of holding off on all things Christmas until after Thanksgiving, but time seems to be passing so quickly I have let a few Christmas songs slip into my playlists so as to extend the season as long as possible.

Here in Arizona, the Myler household has been busy with work, school, and enjoying cooler weather (I think I'm going to like AZ winters :).  At the beginning of October, Darren and I both had time off for our fall breaks.  It was a great time to catch up on sleep and visit with family.  I also got to try out some recipes on Pinterest I've wanted to try for a while:

Chocolate chip banana bread in the fall bread pan we got for our wedding.  This recipe only called for bananas, yellow cake mix, eggs, and chocolate chips.  Even I couldn't mess this up.  Recipe here.

Green Monster Smoothie.  This was surprisingly tasty for all of the healthy ingredients.  Recipe here.
This was course #1 for a dinner in which I tried a new napkin folding technique and crock pot Italian chicken and rice recipe.

I've also had fun bringing out the few autumn decorations we have to add a little seasonal flair to our apartment.

Most recently, Darren and I have enjoyed:

  • discovering a fun new breakfast place at the little Chandler airport.  It sounds random, I know, but the Hanger Cafe has such a charming, old-time atmosphere.  

  •  early Sunday morning breakfasts in bed ...

... and walks in the nearby Discovery Park (it was fun watching this parade of ducks moving from their beds on land to the water).

In short, life has been busy, but good.  We are looking forward to the holiday season, which will bring the end of finals and more time off with family.  Can't wait!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Happy Now-August 19 (Birthday Edition)

My 29th birthday was one for the books.  Darren had mentioned a couple of weeks in advance that he had a surprise planned for me.  On Friday, August 10, I received a text from Darren saying that when I returned home from work I would need to pack my bags for a weekend trip to CA.  I could not have asked for a better surprise!  Darren and I had missed the Sonne family reunion in July, and I was desperate for some quality family time.  The time went by way too fast, but there's nowhere else I would have rather been.  Here are just 10 Happy Now moments from my birthday weekend.

1.  Gifts/Birthday Decor from ALA family--Though it was only a couple of weeks into the school year, I was touched by the number of people who remembered my birthday and wanted to celebrate it with me on Friday.  Students brought cards, the ALA Director visited my room with a balloon and a cupcake, and the other two fifth grade teachers helped decorate my classroom.  It was such a fun start to the weekend!

2.  Arriving Home in CA--Darren and I pulled up to my parent's home around midnight Friday night.  I was greeted by cooler weather, salty air, birthday signs on the stairs and door, and my parents waiting up in the living room.  As tired as we all were, we stayed up talking for another hour still.

3.  Morning Breakfast at Sugar Shack--We LOVE Sugar Shack on Main Street in Huntington.  It is where Darren met my parents to ask for permission to marry me, and it is where I chose to go for my birthday breakfast.  We walked along the beach to the restaurant.  It was a beautiful day and a delicious breakfast!

Outside Sugar Shack
My favorite: Kepler's Breakfast :)

4.  Breakfast Hot Chocolate:  It has been many-a-month since it has been cool enough for my favorite breakfast beverage.  In cool southern CA, and on my birthday, however, I indulged.  :)

5.  Nail Salon--I had the chance to go to my favorite little nail salon during some quiet time after breakfast to get my nails done.  I felt so pampered!

6.  Family Videos--What is it about watching family videos that is so delightful?  Maybe it's just my nostalgic self, but I love reflecting on old family memories with those I love.  We watched some clips of old birthdays and holidays, and I loved reminiscing with my parents and Darren.

7.  Mall Time--My parents and I spent some time that afternoon walking around the Fashion Island outdoor mall in Newport.  We stopped in cute boutiques and a darling pet shop (where my mom and I almost left with one little Bengal kitten each). :)

8.  Movie--Fashion Island happens to have one of the coolest movie theaters I've seen.  The theater is beautiful inside and has plush, wide, reclining seats.  You are actually assigned seats when you buy the tickets.  We saw the new Bourne movie, which I enjoyed, but even more than the movie I simply enjoyed my experience at that theater!

9.  Cheesecake Factory--I chose The Cheesecake Factory for my birthday dinner, and I don't regret it for a second.  Who wants birthday cake when you can have a piece of cheesecake that looks like that!

10.  Sunday--I saved opening presents for Sunday after church.  Why not stretch the birthday out as long as possible, right?  It was great to visit my parent's ward and have a relaxing Sunday with them before Darren and I had to leave.  It was so hard to say goodbye, but it was worth suffering through the goodbye to have had such a great weekend at home.  Thank you Darren, Mom, Dad, and all the friends and family who called and sent letters for a wonderful birthday weekend!!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Happy Now-August 5

Today in Relief Society the lesson was on President's Uchtdorf's "Forget Me Not" talk delivered to the Relief Society in October 2011.  President Uchtdorf's admonition to the sisters to "forget not to be patient with yourself, ... the difference between a good sacrifice and a foolish sacrifice,  ... to be happy now, ... the why of the Gospel, ... and that the Lord loves you" drove me to start making weekly (now almost monthly) posts about what makes me happy now.  It was a great reminder and motivator.  I truly have much for which to be grateful.  Here are 10 things that really stand out from the last month:

1.  July 4th--The Fourth of July has always been at the top of my list of favorite holidays.  There is something about coming together with your family and community to celebrate the blessings we enjoy as Americans.  As July 4th approached here in Gilbert, I wanted to kick off our celebrations by setting a fun Fourth of July AZ tradition.  I looked into different community celebrations, and we eventually decided on the "Festival and Fireworks" in Chandler.  Rain on the morning of July 4th made it much more enjoyable to be outside than it had been previously in the 100+ degree weather.  It was like Arizona's birthday gift to the nation.  Darren and I took a long walk, watched a volleyball game and some kids playing at the park, and window shopped at the local outdoor mall.  That evening we attended the festival in Chandler.  It reminded me of going to the University of Redlands stadium fireworks show while growing up.  People came out in droves wearing red, white, and blue and dragging their coolers of snacks and beverages behind them.  The fireworks show was spectacular!  One of the best I've seen in years.  I'm sorry that I did not catch more of the show, especially the finale, on film.  It was such a fun day!

2.  Homemade Hamburgers--Darren has become quite the gourmet with his "homemade" burgers.  With some Williams-Sonoma hamburger seasoning, ripe summer tomatoes and avocados, and thick patties grilled to perfection, this meal has quickly become a favorite in the past month.  Plus, he looks pretty good at the grill, if I do say so myself. :)

Darren's first use of the grill outside our apartment

3.  Visit from Mom and Chris--Darren and I were lucky enough to host my mom and brother a couple of weeks ago.  We had a great time showing them around Gilbert and our new little apartment.  Our time together went by WAY too fast, as usual.  Living six hours from them is closer, but still not close enough!

4.  New Couch--Darren and I found a great deal on a new couch on craigslist while my mom and brother were in town.  While Mr. Green (Darren's old couch from yesteryear) held a special place in Darren's heart and was quite comfortable, it was time to let him go.  I think were were both excited about the upgrade and thrilled with the steal of deal we found. 

Our new couches--sorry about the quality of the picture.  Perhaps it's time to invest in a camera besides my phone.
5.  Setting up for School--This past month has been an absolute whirlwind when it comes to teaching.  We had our first day of school last Monday, and I still can't believe that summer has ended and I have a new class of 5th graders.  Any sense of readiness I felt on the first day of school came in large part from Darren's willingness to spend hours in my classroom getting things set up.  Even yesterday, a week after school started, he spent a seven-hour day with me getting things organized.  Here are a few pics of the classroom as it looked right before Meet the Teacher two Saturdays ago.  A few changes were made yesterday, but it has remained pretty much the same.  I kept it very similar to the set-up I had in my classroom at Reagan--it's nice to have a setting that feels somewhat familiar in an environment where everything else seems so new.

6.  Meet the Teacher--To say that I was not quite ready to see summer go may have been the understatement of the year a couple of weeks ago.  Having the opportunity to meet most of my students and their parents at Meet the Teacher on July 28th, however, certainly helped renew my excitement to be back in the classroom.  While each class has its own distinct personality, I have been pretty lucky with the groups of students I've had in my teaching career.  This class, my fourth group of fifth graders, seem like they will be another great bunch.  

7.  First Day of School--There is nothing like finishing the first day of school as a teacher.  The somewhat unsettling anticipation of the unknown has disappeared.  You have been able to see how the class gels in person and set the mood for the year.  The proverbial ball has started rolling and begins carrying its own momentum.  Ready or not, school year 2012-2013, here we come!

8.  Visit from Katie--Katie Houston, who I met my freshman year in college and was roommates with both in college and after, came to visit us on a trip to Arizona she made last week.  It was SO fun to see her and catch up.  I love how easy it is fall right back into the old rhythm of talking and friendship we had as roommates.  We had dinner together on Sunday and Tuesday, watched some Olympics, and introduced Katie to Frost.  Frost was voted best frozen dessert in the Phoenix area for a reason.  It is SO good!

9.  Olympics--What is it about the Olympics that makes me want to carry around an American flag, swim, take up archery, and practice my somersaults?  I love watching these amazing athletes and am inspired by their dedication to and love for their sport.  Many a night I have fallen asleep on the couch watching the Olympics these past couple weeks.  I will be sad to see them end.

10.  Birthday Anticipation--Can I admit that I am still absolutely juvenile when it comes to my birthday?  I LOVE birthday celebrations.  My birthday has always fallen before the start of school, so I was relieved to discover that, though I would begin teaching earlier than usual this year, my birthday would at least fall on a Saturday and could, therefore, be obligation-free.  Imagine my excitement when Darren told me last week that he had something fun planned for my birthday weekend and any plans I wanted to make from Friday evening (August 10) to Sunday (August 12) had to be passed by him first.  The anticipation has made me absolutely giddy.  Bless him for knowing me so well and indulging me in this fun birthday surprise.  

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Happy Now-July 1

This week, Darren and I received some sobering news that reminded us how fragile and temporary things can be in this life.  We found out earlier this week that Darren's sister and her family lost their home and belongings in a fire that spread throughout southern Pocatello.  Fortunately, the family members themselves were unharmed.  I have been so impressed and inspired by their reaction to this tragedy.  Watching them has helped me recommit to expressing my gratitude for the things I have and to refocus my priorities on the things that really matter.  Thank you, Cornelison family, for setting that example.

1.  Family Time:  Since living away from home, I have relished every opportunity I have to be with my parents and brother.  The location of our get-togethers has always been secondary to the chance to just be around them.  Two weeks ago, however, Darren and I were lucky enough to meet up with my family in Kauai.  What a beautiful place to spend some quality time with the people I love the most.  I loved seeing how some of the characteristics I admire so much in each of my family members came out in their response to this beautiful area.  My mom took long walks on her own each morning to enjoy the beauty of the island in solitude.  My dad set a goal and took the opportunity to challenge himself physically just a few weeks after back surgery by enlisting the family in a picturesque, though quite long, hike (see below).  My brother incorporated ways to keep learning and growing intellectually by listening to great books on audiotape while enjoying the island.  Darren, who was in Hawaii for the first time, took advantage of every opportunity available to him and made the most of his trip by going for long runs, surfing, snorkeling, hiking, and sight-seeing all that he could.  For me, nothing could beat having conversations with my family on the grass while enjoying some pretty great views.

Enjoying one of my favorite beach activities
Darren and I hiked to see "Spouting Horn"

Darren waving to his admiring fans on the shore. :)
 2.  Fulfilling Goals ("The Sonne Death March")--There is something so satisfying about setting a goal for yourself that you know will be difficult to accomplish, working hard toward that goal, and ultimately succeeding in fulfilling it.  My dad, who recently underwent back surgery, set a goal before leaving for Kauai to do an eight hour hike to and from a waterfall along Kauai's Napali Coast.  He worked toward this goal before Hawaii and was determined to accomplish it while we were there.  I must admit (ahem...) that I was not always the supportive daughter I should have been during the hike, offering for us to turn around several times before the waterfall, but I was certainly proud of all of us when we finished.  The hike was more difficult than we expected, but it had spectacular views and will be an experience none of us will easily forget.  I need to make a shout-out to my adventure-seeking husband who was the only one daring enough (or with enough energy) to swim at the waterfall half way through our hike.

Starting out on the hike

Darren preparing to swim at the waterfall

3.  Revisiting Old Pursuits--Before even moving to Gilbert, I was interested in finding a dance studio in the area that taught adult ballet classes.  I took some ballet when I was younger, but didn't really appreciate the beauty or benefits of participating in the dance until I was in college.  Even then, I was easily intimidated by my classmates who seemed much more graceful, talented, and (frankly) flexible than I ever thought I could be (flashback to a couple of summers ago when I went to my first "adult" ballet class outside of college where the instructors decided to combine the beginners with the advanced students (mostly teenagers) into one class over the summer.  I about broke down in tears when they asked me to join them in jetes across the floor.).  My prayers have been answered, however, by finding Ballet Fusion Fitness here in AZ.  It is an adults-only dance studio that does classical ballet and other fitness classes with a ballet emphasis.  I thought I had died and gone to heaven at my first class.  Though I have much to learn, I felt comfortable and excited to be there.  I am thrilled to feel that I am finally willing and able to pursue ballet for what I hope will be a long time to come.

4.  Financial Blessings--As Darren and I prepare for Darren's adventure in law school, we know that it will require a significant financial investment.  While we feel that this investment is worthwhile and right for us at this time, it has caused us some anxiety nonetheless.  For that reason, we felt sincerely blessed to recently receive news that Darren was granted a part-tuition scholarship.   :)

5.  Great Books--The school where I will be teaching this year has asked all of their teachers to read or re-read Covey's 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  I have been reading the book for the first time this summer and am so inspired by Covey's insights.  It is a book I know that I will revisit often as I learned to incorporate the habits into my life.  I would highly recommend it to anyone who has not yet read it.

6.  Continuing Education--This past weekend was "Admitted Students Weekend" at Darren's law school.  We attended panels, tours, and met several faculty members and fellow incoming students.  Over the weekend, I found myself often jealous of the fact that Darren is returning to school.  Becoming a teacher, I have realized how much I miss being the student.  There is no doubt being a student can be extremely difficult and overwhelming at times, but there is something about absorbing information, learning to apply it, and exhibiting your understanding to someone you know that can make life so rich.  My experience with Darren this weekend has taught me how much I want to continue my education informally--through books and possible future classes.

7.  Apartment Flowers--It's no secret that I love flowers.  I had been waiting until after Hawaii to get an orchid for the pot by the door, but once we returned we set out to find one.  We also got a basil plant for our kitchen, but I managed to kill that one fairly quickly.  The orchid seems much more hardy, and I love having it in our little space.

Our "Dining Room" and Entry

8.  Musical Instruments--My harp has been in CA for the past couple of years.  My mom and brother, however, have offered to bring it out with them when they come to visit in a couple of weeks.  I can't tell you how happy I am to have it close again.

9.  Mesa Temple--Darren and I visited the Mesa Temple for the first time last night.  The temple never fails to bring me peace and clarity.  Yesterday was no exception.  I am excited for the opportunity to participate in the open house of the new Gilbert Temple in the next year.

10.  Date Nights--Last night's date night consisted of the temple, dinner, and walking around the Chandler Mall.  I loved it.  Darren and I committed to keeping regular date nights this coming fall when our schedules will be much more hectic.  I love him.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Happy Now (Arizona!)-June 15

We are officially Gilbert residents!  We have loved our time in AZ so far.  We have received a very warm welcome from our new neighbors and ward members (who helped carry up some HEAVY boxes to our third floor apartment) and from the city itself (it has been at least 100 degrees every day we've been here).  Before we arrived in AZ, we spent a week with Darren's family in Idaho.  Here are my Happy Now 10:

1.  Kayaking--Darren and Scott (our brother-in-law) share a fondness for kayaking.  While we were in Idaho, we indulged the boys in some kayaking time.  It was fun to watch Darren having such a good time.  I must say, he looked great out there!  I even tried out the kayak and really enjoyed it, but I certainly stayed on shore when the boys hit the big rapids and waterfalls.

2.  Rafting--The girls didn't let the boys have all the fun, though.  Besides shopping and going to a pilates class, the girls joined the boys in some white water rafting.  It was SO fun!  I nearly fell out of the boat twice, but I had my trusty nieces to help anchor me in the boat. :)  Thanks, girls!

3.  Jackson Hole--After rafting, we had the opportunity to walk around the beautiful city of Jackson Hole, WY.  What a charming place!

Me and Darren's Dad, Joe

4.  Moving Champs--Darren's parents were an amazing help in our move.  They drove ALL of the contents of our apartment and my classroom in their trailer to Arizona with us.  It was a long trip and they were incredible troopers.  Thank you Joe and Alexis!!

5.  Guest Apartment--It turns out that we arrived in Arizona a couple days before the apartment complex was expecting us.  Our apartment, therefore, was not ready when we arrived Tuesday night.  I wish I could say I handled this news gracefully, but I was so disappointed.  Though it was a miscommunication on our part, the apartment complex was kind enough to let us stay for two nights free in their guest apartment that they rent out to family/friends who visit their residents.  The apartment was really nice ... hint, hint. ;)

6.  Move-In Day--I was SO excited to move in to our new apartment last Thursday.  I was touched by how many people were willing to help us carry heavy boxes in extreme heat.  I have loved finding new little places for our belongings and to see the apartment coming together.  I'll post some pictures soon!

7.  "New" Ring--Unfortunately, my ring suffered some collateral damage while loading the trailer in Utah.  Before we left Utah, we took my ring to the jeweler where we bought it who graciously offered to fix it for free.  They said they would mail it to our new address when they were done.  Darren and I will be lucky enough to join my family on a trip to Hawaii next week, and I was keeping my fingers-crossed that it would arrive before we left.  Well, today the ring arrived, but waiting for my ring before leaving for Hawaii was very reminiscent of waiting for Darren to propose almost exactly two years ago.  He proposed in Salt Lake on his way to taking me to the airport.  I'm sure glad he's coming with us this year!   

8.  Poolside Living--It has been a long time since I have lived in an area with a pool.  Darren and I spent most of the day at the pool today, and it made me feel like a kid again.  This is what summer is all about!

9.  Gilbert--Darren and I have been so impressed with the Gilbert area and how much it feels like home already.  Gilbert has every shop and restaurant we love--it almost became a joke as we drove around to sight see.  We haven't wasted any time visiting the local Farmer's Market along with some restaurants and shops.  

10.  New Pet :)--First, we fell in LOVE with this golden, but ultimately decided the timing wasn't right.  I can't tell you what this little guy did to my heart.   He was the perfect little puppy and I can't wait until the timing is right to find another pup just like this one.  He would make a perfect Atticus, don't you think?

When we return from Hawaii, however, Darren and I do plan to get a golden, but of the more aquatic variety. "Gilbert" ("Gil" for short) seems appropriate, don't you think?  :)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Happy Now-May 20

As seems to be a trend for me now, I have let too much time pass since my last blog post.  Over the past few weeks, Darren and I have busy packing, visiting with family and friends, and squeezing in some last minute Utah check-list items.

1.  Dinner with friends--Over the past few weeks, Darren and I have been able to meet up with a couple sets of old friends for dinner: Kelly and Whitney White and Sara and Ian Frost.  We are sure going to miss living close to these friends and many others.  Darren and I have been so lucky to have so many wonderful people around us here in Utah.

2.  Visit from Parents--My parents were able to visit us at the beginning of the month.  I love having my parents in town!  My Dad had never seen our little apartment and both of my parents were able to come and spend part of the school day in my classroom on Friday.  They immediately won my students over by walking in with a couple boxes of donuts.  It was fun to see my students interact with my parents and vice versa.

3.  Provo Half Marathon--Before we left Utah, Darren and I made a goal of running another half marathon together.  We ran the Provo City Half Marathon on May 5.  My parents had planned their trip to coincide with our run, so they were waiting at the finish line for us.  This picture my Mom took as we approached the finish cracks me up.  I think it captures how both Darren and I were feeling at that moment.  I was able to manage a wave, but could do little else.  I was SO ready to be finished running.  Darren, on the other hand, seemed like he could go on forever.  In fact, at about mile ten, Darren whipped out his phone to call my parents and let them know where we were.  He started chatting with my Mom as if he were lounging at the park.  When he asked if I wanted to say hello, I could barely manage, "Are you crazy?" before I had to stop talking and focus on surviving the run again. :)

4.  Family Eats--After the run, my family and I were able to have dinner with Katie Houston and Mary Wintch at Outback Steakhouse.  I will miss both of those ladies so much!  Katie has been such a great friend throughout my college years and beyond, and Mary has hosted us for so many Sunday dinners reminding us how fortunate we are to have her as family.  The next morning, Darren and I hosted my parents over to our apartment for breakfast (the only meal I feel really comfortable making for other people--mostly because Darren did half of the work making eggs while I made the waffles). :)  I felt truly grown up hosting my parents and being able to cook for them.

5.  Apartment Packing--With how excited I have been about our up-coming move, I surprised myself by getting pretty sentimental when Darren and I started packing our apartment last week.  Our new apartment will have many "luxuries" that our current apartment does not (dishwasher, garbage disposal, more space, etc.), but (at the risk of sounding completely sappy) this apartment has something no other apartment/home can have: this was my first home with Darren.  This is where our little family started and, though I'm excited for this new step, part of me is sad to leave.

6.  Closing Up the Classroom--I have very similar feelings about starting to pack up my classroom as I do about packing up our apartment.  Darren and I packed up about 80% of my classroom yesterday, leaving just enough out to make it still look like a classroom for the last week of school.  Taking posters off the wall, putting library books in boxes, and cleaning out cupboards brought back some wonderful memories of setting up my classroom three summers ago with my mom.  What an exciting time that was--something I hope to repeat with her this summer in Arizona.  I have had some teaching moments in my current classroom that I will never forget, not because of anything that I did as a teacher, but because of what I was able to learn from my students and about myself as a person.  There have been moments when I've felt like I was the luckiest person in the world to be able to teach my students.

6.  Choir Concert--One of my students this year is in the Utah Valley Children's Choir and invited me to his concert last night.  His mom provided me and Darren with tickets, and we were so impressed with how well the choir sang.  Their sweet little voices were amazing!  It was fun for me to see some former students in the choir, as well, and visit with all of them after the show.

7.  Candleford--I am putting Darren's "man-card" in serious jeopardy again by mentioning a new television show I am forcing him to watch with me: "Larkrise to Candleford."  Until the next season of "Downton Abbey" airs, I have needed something to satisfy my craving for British drama.  Darren puts up with these girlish tendencies very patiently, and I love him for it. :)

8.  New Teacher--I have started to mentor my teaching replacement at work and, while it has been selfishly a little difficult to think of handing over my classroom, I have really enjoyed getting to know her and know she is going to be amazing!

9.  Concert from Mary--Darren and I had our last Sunday dinner at Mary's tonight.  She pulled out all the stops for dinner by serving us T-bone steaks, potatoes, and salad with homemade lemon pie for dessert.  The best part of the evening for me, however, was hearing her play a few cello and piano pieces after dinner at Darren's request.  She is so musically talented and played beautifully.  It really made me miss having an instrument around and look forward to playing again sometime soon.

10.  Anticipating the Last Week of School--I feel like a kid looking forward to this last week of school, which begins tomorrow.  It is always such a fun time in the classroom.  While I expect to have some pretty mixed emotions when school ends on Friday, I look forward to the fun events we have planned this week.

*Bonus #11:  Baby Noelle--I received news yesterday that my friend, Tessa Hendrickson, gave birth to her first baby--a precious little girl.  I could not be more happy for Tessa and Paul.  Noelle is one lucky girl to have them as parents.  Love you, Tessa!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Happy Now-April 29

These past few weeks have been a wonderful whirlwind.  Darren and I have been anticipating our move to Arizona with a lot of excitement, and have been blessed to have so many things fall into place recently.  Looking back on the past few weeks, I have been touched by how many little tender mercies Heavenly Father has chosen to put in our path.  Here are my most recent Happy Now 10:

1.  Night-time driver--A couple of weeks ago was Reagan's Spring Break.  Darren requested a couple of days off work that week so that we could drive down to Arizona, take a tour of the law school Darren will be attending (Phoenix School of Law), and do our best to find an apartment and teaching job for me.  Since our time was limited, Darren offered to start driving us down Monday night after he got of work.  He wanted to make it as far as Flagstaff where we planned to spend the night and continue on to Phoenix where I had a teaching interview the next morning.  I don't particularly enjoy driving through the night.  I enjoy a good night's sleep and with an interview the next morning I was worried about being groggy.  Darren, however, made a great effort to make me comfortable on the trip, leaving the backseat clear of luggage so that I could spread out and sleep while he drove into the wee hours of the morning.  As the first of many blessings on this Arizona trip, I am grateful for a husband who was so thoughtful as to make me as comfortable as possible while he did all the work.  We ended up making it to Flagstaff at about 4 a.m., at which point I had already benefited from several hours of restful sleep.

2.  Interview #1--To say I was nervous for my first teaching interview in Phoenix would be quite an understatement.  I had not done interviews for three years and was rehearsing every possible question I could think of with Darren on the last leg of the journey.  How relieved I was when we finally arrived at the school to be so warmly greeted and kindly treated.  I was humbled to receive a job offer at the end of the interview, which I told them I would have to consider.  It was certainly the boost in confidence I needed, and helped me ultimately find the right teaching job after an impromptu interview at the end of our trip.

3.  Phoenix, Arizona--Arizona had not been our first choice for law school locations.  In fact, it was probably third on our list.  I had never been to Arizona and really didn't know what to expect on our visit a few weeks ago.  I was amazed, however, at how much the Phoenix area felt like home as we drove into the city.  Loving very green, wet places, I felt sure that the Arizona desert would not be a good fit for me.  But Phoenix is beautiful.  The city has a beautiful landscape with so many social and cultural things to offer.  I now couldn't be more excited about our future there.

4.  Phoenix School of Law--One of our first appointments while in Phoenix was to take a tour of Darren's law school.  Phoenix School of Law has recently moved into a high-rise building in downtown Phoenix where it occupies the 13th-20th floors.  Our tour guide was a 3L student who had a lot of wonderful insights and advice about attending PSL.  It made both of us, but especially Darren, excited for a future life in the law.

5.  The Good Egg--As is wont for a breakfast-loving duo, Darren and I sought out a yummy breakfast spot in downtown Phoenix on our first morning there.  We succeeded in finding The Good Egg restaurant (where we ate twice) and enjoyed eating outside in the warm AZ spring weather.

6.  Apartment Hunting--Darren and I looked at many, MANY apartments during our few days in Phoenix.  It was a little tricky knowing where to look at first since we wanted to be relatively close to Darren's school but also close to my future job.  As a result, we ended up looking at apartments all over the Phoenix area and its suburbs.  After my first teaching interview on our first morning in Phoenix, we toured a Mark-Taylor apartment complex in northern Phoenix close to that school.  After looking at a few other places, we became more interested in seeing other Mark-Taylor properties.  This at least helped us narrow our search a little.  As I visited schools for interviews or to drop off my resume, we would look for Mark-Taylor rentals in that area.  We fell in love with many.  It was not until our second-to-last day in Phoenix, however, that we decided to visit the Gilbert area.  I had not applied to any schools in Gilbert, but I had been interviewed at schools in nearby Chandler and Mesa.  We visited the Azul Mark-Taylor apartments there in the evening (click here to see what they looked like) and, though they were similar in layout and design to some other Mark-Taylors we had seen, Darren and I agreed that these felt different.  After visiting the apartments, we drove to a nearby outdoor shopping area where we browsed the Barnes and Noble, fell in love with some puppies at the pet store, window shopped at some clothing stores, and saw a movie.  The area was absolutely charming!  I wish I had taken pictures.  We were both feeling great about the Gilbert area that night, but decided to sleep on it.  The next day we visited a few more apartments before returning to look at the Gilbert ones we loved.  A few experiences we had in Gilbert that next day (see the posts below) helped us seal the deal.  We chose an apartment and agreed to become Gilbert residents on June 8!

7.  Gilbert Temple--As we pulled off the freeway in Gilbert on our last day in Arizona, we noticed some construction taking place that we hadn't noticed the evening before.  It didn't take long before we realized that it was the new Gilbert, Arizona temple being built about a 1/2 mile from the apartments we loved.  Darren and I stopped to take some pictures of the temple and a little park (green space!) nearby.  We are so excited to still be so close to a temple!

Gilbert, AZ Temple

Park across the street from the Temple
8.  American Leadership Academy--Leaving the Temple grounds on our way back to the apartments, Darren noticed that a school building shared the lot next to the temple.  It was a public charter elementary school (similar to the school where I am currently teaching) called American Leadership Academy.  We joked about how no school name could be more appropriate for me since Leadership has been the theme in my classroom for the past three years.  I happened to have an extra resume in the car and we decided I had to at least stop in to introduce myself and leave my resume.  I jumped out of the car and walked inside to the school's front office where I happened to meet the school director.  He looked briefly at my resume and started laughing when he realized I was working at Reagan.  He and some other colleagues at the school had lived in Utah and donated money to Reagan when it first opened.  He asked me if I was available for an impromptu interview.  We talked for about a half hour and, having had some interview practice the previous few days, felt blessed to feel so calm and ready to answer his questions.  He finished the interview by asking me if I could come back for the second stage of interviewing to teach a lesson.  When I mentioned that I was leaving Arizona that afternoon, we agreed to have me video tape a lesson in my classroom early the following week and send it to him.  I think I literally floated out of the school.  Darren hadn't been expecting me to be gone so long so he was full of questions.  After so much uncertainty over the past year as to where we would be living and what we would be doing, everything seemed to come together in that moment.  We signed the contract at the Azul Mark-Taylor apartments an hour later.  Even though we did not yet know what would come of the job at ALA, we both felt we were making the right move.

9.  Video-tape Marathon--After returning to Springville, I spent part of Saturday in my classroom preparing for the video-taped lesson I planned to teach on Monday for the ALA job application.  On Monday I was at the school quite late trying to get the video into the right format to leave on my dropbox for ALA's administration to watch.  After a lot of hours and, quite frankly, tears, I accepted the fact that the video was too large to load onto dropbox in its entirety.  Darren, bless his heart, offered to run the flashdrive containing my video to the nearest FedEx store to over-night it to Gilbert.  I e-mailed ALA to let them know it was coming, tried not to worry about it, and hoped for the best.  Two days later, on Wednesday, I received a call from ALA's director saying that he had watched the video and wanted to offer me a teaching position at their school.  Not only that, they wanted to offer me a fifth grade teaching position. As Reagan and ALA teach a very similar curriculum in 5th grade, I was thrilled to realize that I could take many of my pre-made lessons plans with me and help smooth my transition into a new school.  I was SO excited.  I left work immediately to go surprise Darren at his job with the news--we will be living in Gilbert a 1/2 mile from the temple and my new job!

10.  Planning with Darren--In the days since our Arizona trip, Darren and I have done a lot of talking about our future.  We realize that the immediate future will hold many challenges in law school and work.  We can't help but smile every time we talk about what's ahead, however.  We know that even when things seem unclear and difficult, as they have many times over the past year, that things always work out.  We are so grateful for that knowledge.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Happy Now-Easter Weekend

Darren and I returned last night from a very fun Easter weekend.  My dad's  cousins own a winter ranch near Milford, Utah.  Darren and I were invited to spend the weekend with our extended family out at the ranch and had a great time!  I loved being able to spend time with family, enjoy the open space, and see the animals.  Darren was in cowboy heaven. :)

1.  Welcoming Wintches--Darren and I were touched by how welcoming the Wintch side of my family was to us.  I didn't know several of my extended family members on this side of the family, and they had never met Darren, but they welcomed us with open arms and immediately made us feel comfortable and a part of the family.

2.  Wide Open Spaces--I love traveling to big cities that are full of culture and history, but there is something about getting away from everything and being surrounded by nothing but land that is refreshing to the soul.

Me and Darren with some Wintch relatives at the winter ranch.
3.  Cowboy Heaven--Darren's family owns a dry farm in Idaho, and Darren has often talked about how much he would love taking over the farm and making a living from the land.  It was fun for me to watch Darren walk around the ranch this weekend.  He is now totally committed to the idea of owning cattle, in addition to the dogs and horses we have already discussed. :)

These bulls were absolutely massive.  Darren (who also dreams of bull riding one day) actually pet one of them.  Seeing how strong they were with only one metal bar separating us from them, however, I decided to keep a safer distance.
4.  Baby Colt--There were some animals on the farm, however, that completely won me over.  It is calving season, so there were several baby calves at the ranch for us to see--they are much more endearing than the big bulls.  The highlight for me, however, was being able to see a baby colt that had been born two days before our arrival.  It's mother was very protective and kept the baby out of our eyeshot for most of the day, but we were able to get a couple of good shots.

5.  Saturday Picnic--The Wintch family hosted an amazing picnic lunch and Easter egg hunt at the ranch on Saturday.  After eating, while some of the adults were hiding the Easter bags for everyone, Darren and I took a hike with some cousins to a little rock peak.  The view was amazing!  Mary Wintch got this shot of us at the top.  Darren and I are the little dots to the far right. :)

6.  Easter Egg Hunt--It is a Wintch family tradition to hide little Easter bags for everyone on the mountain side on the Saturday before Easter.  The Wintches were kind enough to make me and Darren our own bags.  We had a lot of fun searching the mountain for our bags with the kids. 

7.  Family History--The ranch and it's surrounding areas are filled with history.  I loved listening to my dad's cousin, John Wintch, tell us stories about the history that surrounded us.  The home they live in on the ranch used to be an old train station, and there are remnants of old potato sheds and lambing shelters that my great-great grandfather used on the ranch.  Richard Wintch, another of my dad's cousins, told me I was the 5th generation of Wintch/Sonne's to visit the ranch.  There is something special about walking in the same places my ancestors walked and made their living.

Laura, Dallin, Richard, Darren and me in front of the old potato shed
8.  Old West Music--Mary Wintch set the perfect mood as we drove into the ranch Saturday morning by playing a CD of Old Western Music including songs like "Cold, Clear Water" and "Home on the Range."  It was hard to keep a straight face while listening to some of the songs, but it sure fit the setting perfectly.

9.  Easter Dinner--We returned to the Wintch home in Manti, Utah on Saturday night so that we could attend church and have Easter dinner there on Sunday.  Mary prepared an amazing meal of ham, potatoes, salad, and rolls with ice cream, banana bread, and strawberries for dessert.  Needless to say, we did not leave Manti hungry!

10.  Manti Temple--I absolutely love the Manti Temple.  It is so beautiful.  There is a beautiful view of the temple from Mary's Manti home.  On our way out of town Sunday evening, we drove around the temple grounds.  We didn't get any pictures of the temple on this trip, but here is an old favorite that Mary took of us a couple of years ago when Darren and I visited Manti for the 4th of July after becoming engaged.

I hope you all had a wonderful Easter weekend, as well!
Design by Deluxe Designs