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.  

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