Saturday, August 16, 2014


I walked back into my classroom this week expecting to see the posters, drawings, and pictures I had accumulated over my years of teaching still hanging on the bulletin boards that I had left up at the end of the school year.  We had been told we didn't need to take anything down off our bulletin boards, as they wouldn't be painting the walls this summer.  That was what I expected to see.  What I saw when I walked in, was nothing.  Everything was gone.  My bulletin boards were bare, pictures gone.  Posters, gone.  Not going to lie, I said a few choice inappropriate words.  A friend and I searched my room, going through every drawer and cabinet, thinking that whomever had done this had maybe left everything in a pile somewhere else.  After an hour of searching, I told her we should stop.  My stuff was gone.

Stuff can be replaced, I know that.  What hurt me was that some of those pictures had been drawn by some talented students who have long graduated from South.  The picture that made me cry and was like a stab to my heart when I realized it was gone, was the picture of my Chili Dawg, from when he had made the Tripawds calendar the January after he had crossed the rainbow bridge.

I know nothing can be done to get my stuff back.  It's gone.  I asked the head custodian if he knew anything about it, and he asked his staff, the answer was no.  I sent an email to my boss letting him know my stuff was taken, because I was too emotional to discuss it in person. The principal knows, he walked in when we were discussing it.  He feels bad for me, but again, there's nothing that can be done.

I feel violated.  Why would someone do that to me?  I won't ever know.  Stuff can always be replaced.  At least I have the memories still.  So now I move forward, gathering new posters and pictures, and re-decorating my very sterile classroom.  What a way to start the new school year.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Sometimes All It Takes Is Kindness...

We were about halfway through our third flight on our way to Hawaii, when the crying began.  I was kiddie corner from the mom and I watched as she tried to soothe her young son.  Nothing was working and she was getting frustrated.  Her husband came up from a few rows back, grabbed the boy by the arm and said something to him, I don't know what, but it made him cry even harder when he left.

I have been that mom many times, not just on land, but also in the air.  I remember holding Juli on the airplane while she screamed, because the flight attendant made me wake her up and buckle her in her seat due to turbulence.  The consequence of that action?  A screaming 2 year old for the remaining 2 hours of the flight.  I wracked my brain for a way to help this mom, who was desperate to stop her son from screaming on the plane.

This was the first time Ryan and I had vacationed childless, so none of my "go-to's" were in my backpack.  I had left my tablet at home for the kids to play on if needed.  I didn't have any children's books, coloring books/crayons, play-doh, suckers, etc in my backpack.  I just had boring old grown up stuff, and then something prodded my brain, "you have your iPod and there are movies on it" (the in flight movie was not a kids movie, and honestly it sucked).  I pulled out my iPod, and scrolled through the movies, hoping there was one on it that wasn't scary for a little boy, and I found one.  "Thanks, God" I whispered, as I tapped the mom on her shoulder.

"I know you don't know me, but I have been in your place before; trapped on an airplane with a child who is melting down.  I was wondering if your son would like to watch a movie on my iPod".  The woman looked at me and burst into tears, "That is the nicest thing anyone has done for me today!"  I crouched down in the aisle, so I could be face to face with her son, "Hey buddy, do you like movies with aliens?  I have a movie on my iPod that we could plug your ninja turtle headphones into and you could watch.  What do you think?"  The boy got quiet and looked at me.  I handed my iPod to his mom and pointed to where I was sitting, I squeezed her shoulder and went back to my seat.  I watched the little boy climb into his mom's lap and put his head on her chest.  30 minutes later, she handed me back the iPod with a thank you and said he had fallen asleep.

I know I've written this before, but I will continue to write it: don't judge the parent and immediately label the child as a brat when they are having a meltdown until you have walked in their shoes.  Sometimes all it takes is a kind word or gesture and you can make a difference in a situation that isn't going so great.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Being Thankful For What You Have...

On Monday, we returned home from a camping trip with Ryan's Mom & Dad (I will blog about that on a different day).  We had left the air conditioning on, and "held" it at 75 since Buster would be home (don't worry, someone was taking care of him-thanks Desi!).  When we finished unloading everything, Ryan and I noticed that the house was warmer than it should be.  A LOT warmer than it should be, since we held the thermostat at 75.  It was 81 degrees.  The air conditioner was running, but the air coming out of it did not feel that cold.

I sent a text message to Theresa (the same Theresa that watched our kiddos during the school year) and asked if her husband, Larry, had a moment sometime during the week to come over and check out our air conditioner (Larry works for a heating/cooling company and has done maintenance on our air conditioner and furnace in the past).  Larry texted me back and asked what the problem was.  I explained what was going on, and he said he was on his way over!  How is that for quick?!?

After Larry finished checking everything out, he told us that our Freon was extremely low & he suspected there was a leak somewhere.  He didn't have the equipment at his house to fix it, but he gave Ryan his work number and told Ryan what to tell them when he called in the morning so that Larry could be sent back out to our house to do the leak check, leak repair (hopefully), & Freon refill.

We told the kids to pretend they were tent camping, except they got to be in their own beds with fans and put them to bed.  Fortunately, we have a large whole house fan, and we counted on that to suck in the cool night air and cool down the house.  Ryan and I went to bed around 10 that night, the house had cooled down to about 80 degrees by then.

Around 11:20, I was woken up by a crying and VERY wet Noah.  The poor kid was sobbing because it was pouring rain into his room.  He was soaking wet, his trundle bed that he was sleeping in was soaking wet, the bottom part of his bunk bed was soaking wet.  I got him changed into dry pajamas and calmed him down.  Then I took care of the wet bedding (after closing the window in his room), and then woke up Ryan so he could help me close windows and mop up the wet patches.  The house temperature had made it down to 79, but now we had to shut off the big fan and close windows.

I finally climbed back into bed and then it began to thunder.  If you don't remember, Buster, is terrified of thunder and fireworks.  He immediately jumped into our bed and laid all 82 pounds of golden retriever on top of me as he panted in my face.  It was magical.

At 12:30, Juli woke up crying because she was hot and thirsty- I was still awake, because I had a dog in bed with me, so I got her something to drink & untangled her from her blankets.  I got her back into her bed, and then checked on Noah.  He was awake because I had forgotten to take the ladder out of the top bunk bed (we store it up there so Juli isn't climbing up there) and he didn't have much room in the bed.  I took care of that and went back to bed.  Buster had already found somewhere else to sleep during this, so I thought I would be able to fall back to sleep, but I didn't.

Sometime after 1, the storm ended, so I was able to get up and turn the big fan back on and open the windows again to start cooling the house back down.  Then I fell asleep.  Around 2:15, I woke up to Juli gagging, and I smelled skunk.  I swear that skunk had to have sprayed right underneath her window because when I walked into her room, I gagged too!  I shut off the big fan and closed her window and got her back to sleep.  Then I fell back to sleep.

I woke up again at 4, I don't know why, and the skunk smell was gone so I turned the big fan back on again and slept until 6 when I woke up wide awake.  We successfully cooled the house down to 72 degrees in the night, but I was exhausted.  Why didn't I wake Ryan up to help me, you might ask?  He had to work on Tuesday and had to give a presentation, so I knew he needed to sleep.

Tuesday, it was humid, and Larry was unable to give us good news about the air conditioner.  The cost to repair where the leak was and fill it with Freon was almost as expensive as putting in a whole new air conditioning unit.  So, guess what is being installed on Thursday?  Be thankful for what you have, because Monday night was a miserable night in the Mahlberg house without air conditioning (I did remind my children that I used to have to sleep without air conditioning when I was a kid, because we didn't have it at all, and they couldn't believe it).  I am also thankful that we installed the big whole house fan right after we moved in, because that fan is wonderful (when it's not raining or a skunk has sprayed).

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Final Thoughts About Hawaii...

As the month of July comes to an end, so do my blogs about Hawaii (I know, it took my about 2 months to write about a 7 day trip).  Here are my final thoughts:

1) I want to go back some day, so Ryan, start collecting miles again, because you spoiled me by flying me First Class and I don't know if I can travel in coach again (just kidding, but flying to Hawaii in coach would not be fun- right Dad?)

2) Having to do all your sleeping on the flight back is not fun, even if your seat reclines most of the way.  I think I slept, at most 2 hours, and when we landed in Dallas it was 6 AM their time, but 1 AM in Hawaii, and sleeping was all done for the day.  Ryan and I were T-I-R-E-D for the rest of the day.

3) I discovered that no matter the body type, everyone can wear a bikini.  I was in the minority with my bathing suit, but honestly, I wouldn't have the courage to flaunt my stretch marks or my belly pooch on the beach for all to see.

4) We had planned to do our touristy shopping at the International Marketplace, but it was closed due to being renovated.  Fortunately, Duke's Alley was still open.  Duke's Alley is just what it sounds like- a narrow alley, full of vendors.  The best part of all, is if you are cheap (like we are), the moment you hesitate when they name a price, the vendor immediately drops to a lower price and usually follows up with "no tax".  We were able to get both kids nice Hawaiian outfits and some other trinkets for much less than what the stores were selling them for.

5) Take the time to walk and take it all in.  We walked the beach every morning and night.  We even found some trees from Lost, but no smoke monster or polar bear!
See, no smoke monster...
6) Make sure you try new things.  Ryan used Yelp several times to find some cheap, yet good eats.  One of those places was this pizza truck that literally made pizza in a parking lot, called Agostino's.  It was delicious, but if you weren't paying attention, you would have walked right by it.  
Literally in the middle of a parking lot
7) Some other good eats we found: Tucker &  Bevvy's Picnic Food.  They have gourmet food that they pack picnic style for you to eat on the beach.  Very filling and very delicious.  One of the afternoons, Ryan had to do his class, so I wandered around for a bit and wandered into the Coconut Cafe.  I ordered a most delicious Diamond Head smoothie.  I got the small size and it was HUGE!  I couldn't even finish it and brought it back to the hotel room for Ryan to finish.  Sean the Marine, recommended we try Teddy's Bigger Burgers, and they were delicious as well.  Not as good as Portillo's, but they were well worth the money spent.  One night we ate at the Steak Shack, which was right on the beach, and not only did we have a beautiful view of the sunset, but we had an excellent dinner.

Overall, this was an excellent celebration for our 15 year anniversary.  The weather was amazing, the people were friendly and helpful, the scenery was beautiful, and the time spent with my husband was wonderful.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Day 7: Last Day in Hawaii...

Friday, June 11, was our final day in Hawaii.  Our flight departed that afternoon at 4:50 PM, Hawaii time (9:50 PM, Illinois time), which meant that all of our sleeping was going to to have to be on the plane before it landed in Texas for our 1 hour layover.  I will discuss how well that went on another day.  We spent the morning on the beach and in the ocean and then headed back to the hotel to shower and get dressed.  We had to checkout of the Ohana by noon and the airport shuttle wasn't picking us up until 2:30.  The Ohana was great and they had a storage area where we could lock up our bags after we checked out, so after 12 we just did our final walk around Oahu.
Last morning on the beach
One of the things we did while we were in Hawaii that I haven't blogged about yet, was Stand Up Paddleboarding.  Originally, Ryan and I had planned on signing up to take surfing lessons, but our first day there, I had seen some people doing SUP and pointed it out to Ryan.  We were both intrigued.  Several places along the beach offered lessons, but before we signed up for lessons, Ryan decided to research it (have I mentioned that Ryan researches EVERYTHING?).  That night, Ryan pulled up a couple youtube videos on how to SUP and after watching them, we were pretty sure we didn't need to do the lesson (so, yes, it was smart of him to research it).

The first time we decided to rent paddleboards, we were in an area of beach that was a bit crowded.  The guy cut us a deal though, so we can't complain.  Instead of 2 boards for $50 for an hour, we got 2 boards for $40 for 90 minutes.  Ryan was a beast the first time and I did okay.  Ryan was able to stand and paddle past the reef.  I was able to stand and paddle, but when I got to the reef, the water got really choppy and I would lose my balance unless I dropped to my knees (I don't have the abs like Ryan does- and if you have seen Ryan, you know he has a 6 pack-seriously, he does). I didn't make it for the entire 90 minutes the first day.  At around the 75 minute mark, I lost my balance, hit my head on the board and inhaled some serious ocean.  I took that as a sign that I should be done for the day, but I am forever hooked on paddleboarding now.

The second time we rented paddleboards, we didn't get the same deal, BUT we were in a less crowded area and the water wasn't as wavy.  We had been on the island for a few days at this point and had scoped out the beach for the best areas to paddleboard.  The guy we rented from thought Ryan was in the military because of his hair cut and tried to give him a military discount but Ryan quickly told him he wasn't in the military.  This time we only had the boards for an hour, BUT I didn't fall off the entire time, AND I even rode a few waves.  Ryan only fell in once, but he also paddles faster than I do.  The two of us are definitely addicted to paddleboarding now.  It is a good workout and great for working on balance.
You start on your knees in the shallow water
And if you are a beast, like my husband, you stand up immediately
Then you turn and yell, "stop taking pictures and come in already!"
See, I'm standing :-)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Day 6: Dinner With Marines...

I had Sean when he was a Junior in my Chemistry class.  He was a bit of a goofball and he didn't always make the best decisions.  The two of us formed a bond pretty quickly, as I had taught his older brother, and it built up from there.  His senior year, he continued making some poor decisions, which broke my heart, and he wound up having to leave out school.  I didn't even get to say good-bye to him.

A year later, he was escorted to my classroom by his dean.  He asked me if I could write him a letter of recommendation for the Marines.  You see, when you have a history of making bad decisions and have a record, the Marines are not so sure that you are the best fit for them.  Writing that letter for Sean was one of the easiest letters I have written for a former student.  I knew that if Sean could get into the Marines, he could get his life straightened out and head down the path that I knew he should be on.

Sean got into the Marines, and graduated from boot camp.  I've never been prouder of one of my students.  He kept in touch with me through facebook, and I have been able to see everything that he is doing.  Sean applied to be stationed "over seas", and was placed in Hawaii- who knew Hawaii counted as "over seas"?  When it got closer for our trip to Hawaii, I messaged Sean to see if it would be possible for me to meet up with him for even just a short time.  I hadn't seen him in a while, and I wanted him to know how proud I was of him.  It took a little while, and it almost didn't happen, but the night before our last day in Hawaii, Sean was able to get a car, and finish his job and come out.  He brought along one of his roommates, Anthony, who is from California and is hilarious.

Ryan and I bought them dinner, Sean picked Chili's, and we got to hang out with them for a little while.  Both Marines were respectful, well spoken, and very nice young men.  They shared stories with us about their training, what it's like to be a Marine, and what it's like when the President comes to the base.  It was a really nice visit. Sean has become the man that I always knew he could be and I couldn't be any prouder of him than I already am.

*We were dumb, and didn't bring our camera to dinner, so I don't have any pictures of the guys.  Thanks to facebook, I "borrowed" these pictures from Sean's facebook page (thanks, Sean!).
Sean, after graduating boot camp
Sean & Anthony- I don't think Anthony ever stopped smiling while we were at Chili's- he was hilarious

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Day 5: Snorkeling at Hanauma Bay...

The morning after the luau, we woke up and had our breakfast of champions again: Beef Jerky and an oatmeal bar (blech, but you gotta do what you gotta do to catch The Bus) and headed to the bus stop to go snorkeling at Hanauma Bay.  Little did we, or any of the other tourists, know that The Bus was running on the holiday schedule and that we had time to eat a real breakfast that morning.

When The Bus finally arrived, we rode on an extremely crowded bus, where Ryan and I stood for most of the 45 minute ride (note to self: if we ever get the opportunity to go back, Hanauma Bay is closed on Tuesdays, so everyone likes to go on Wednesdays like we were doing).  After we arrived, we immediately saw Hanauma Bay, it is BREATHTAKING.
Beautiful isn't it?

Everything in the water that looks "brown" is all reef
We stood in line to pay the entrance fee ($7.50), and then we got our tickets to enter.  Before you are allowed to walk down the quarter mile hill to snorkel, you are required to watch a short film about Hanauma Bay- it is a living coral reef and the video tells you where you can stand up and not stand up, and what you can touch and not touch.  Then, we trekked the quarter mile down the hill and rented snorkel gear for ourselves (they do have a tram that you can pay to take you to the bottom and back up for like a dollar).
It was a little windy, if you look at the palm trees
There are VERY few things that I can do better than Ryan.  Swimming is one of them (seriously).  When we had staked our location on the Bay and set out our towels, the lifeguards were announcing that the tide was coming in, that there was a strong undertow and that children and non-strong swimmers should not venture far out into the bay.  They even stressed that children should not be more than an arm's length away from their parent at all time.  With that said, we ventured down to the Bay with our snorkel gear and put it on.  At first, I took the lead, but I wasn't comfortable with that, as I couldn't keep Ryan in my sights and if he got into "trouble" in the water, I would have no way of knowing.  We spent about an hour out in the Bay and then came back to the beach to drink some water and rest.  The fish and corral were beautiful.  There were some places that were so shallow that you couldn't kick your legs for fear of touching the corral.  In fact, I scraped a part of my foot on the corral and it took almost a month for the cut to heal.  We discovered, ironically, that the prettier fish were closer to shore and that if you went out to the deeper parts of the bay, you didn't see many fish, so the next few times we went in, we stayed closer to shore- and I didn't feel the need to keep an eye on Ryan as much.  We don't have an underwater camera, so I took these fish pictures off of their website- these are the fish we saw:
A milletseed butterfly fish swims by the surface.
You could swim so close to the fish you could almost touch them!
Picasso triggerfish (Rhinecanthus aculeatus). Not photographed in Hanauma Bay. Photographed by Adrian Pingstone in December 2005 and released to the public domain.
Whitespotted Surgeonfish
After several hours, the Bay got busier and warmer, and it was time for lunch.  We weren't sure when the next Bus was going to come since we didn't have a copy of the holiday schedule, so we hiked back up to the top (and saw why some people paid to ride the tram-it's straight up!) and grabbed some cheap lunch from the snack bar.  We went and ate at one of the picnic tables near the bus stop and were harassed by a rooster who kept crowing at us and running away.  Just as we finished our lunch, The Bus we needed to take pulled up and we got on.  As Ryan tried to pay for our tickets, the VERY cranky driver yelled at him, "Do you have transfer stubs?!?"  I said, "Yes, but they are expired by 2 hours."  The cranky driver yelled back, "Are they transfer stubs or not?"  Me: "Yes, but they aren't good any longer, we need to pay."  The driver: "Go sit down now!" and refused to take Ryan's money.  So we found seats and sat down.  When the next person got on and said their transfer stub was expired he made them pay.  We didn't get understand what the difference between us and the other person was.
Our lunch time stalker
On the bus ride back I mentioned that I was sad that we hadn't seen any sea turtles.  Don't get me wrong, the fish were beautiful, but Ryan had seen a sea turtle on the first day we went paddle boarding (don't worry, I will discuss that on a different day, because that is one of my new favorite activities now!) so I wanted to see one too.  That night, when we took our walk along the beach before dinner, we noticed a crowd of people gathered by one of the sea walls.  When we finally got to it, there were 2 gigantic sea turtles just hanging out there in the water!  It was so cool, and I was thankful that God gave me the opportunity to see some more of His creation.
How cool is this?!?