If the tips of my toes are burning
Then my job is done

If the space between my ribs is aching
Then my job is done

If my cheeks are as red as roses
Then my job is done

If my hair is ragged and soaked
Then my job is done

If it hurts to take a deep breath
Then my job is done

If my face is streaked with salt
Then my job is done

If I cannot take another step
Then my job is done

Until it is once again
Time for me to run


Elementary, My Dear

The Little League World Series is awesome. A team from Petaluma (which is seventeen miles away from my home town) is kicking some serious tail. I was really worried when they lost on Sunday and were placed in the loser’s bracket. They won (and I mean dominated) the last two teams they faced. In fact last night’s game ended early because they gained a lead of 10 points! The players are remarkable. The 11- to 13-year-olds’ heights and weights vary like crazy. One of their best players, Bradley Smith, is 6’2”! My favorite player is probably Quinton Gago (pictured) but they’re all great. Tomorrow during the National Championship game they will have a rematch against the Tennessee team that put them in the loser’s bracket. I really hope they win!

Not only does the Little League World Series help fill the void left by the Summer Olympics, it also helps me remember what it was like to be a kid. Life seems so serious these days. The young baseball players definitely know how to be serious but they haven’t forgotten how to be kids. Watching their joyful reactions and nervous fidgeting brings my inner child to life. The commentators talk a lot about how many of the boys in the series are missing their first week of school due to the tournament. I’m mindful of all of my friends (and my sister!) who are teachers and I’m so excited for their upcoming school years. It seems like a good time to record a brief history of my elementary school years and the teachers who changed me forever.

Kindergarten: Mrs. R.

Mrs. R. was the kind of woman that could hug you and make you feel like you were being hugged by five people at once. She helped me get used to the flow of the school day (well, half day) and was especially helpful when I had a hard time learning how to write the number “2.” I definitely remember the moment I realized I had the ABC’s down pat. I also remember the day Mrs. R. encouraged me to draw clothes and shoes on my stick figures. My favorite thing about her class was when we’d all sit in a circle on the floor and she would announce birthdays, lost teeth, and Magic Time. Anytime someone lost a tooth she’d let them roll a big dice. Each side was associated with a little prize and it was always something fun to look forward to. Magic Time was equally awesome. She’d start by putting red food coloring in a pitcher of water. Then she’d tell us she was about to add blue food coloring BUT the water wasn’t going to turn blue. What color would it turn? Purple! The best kind of magic is the real kind.

First Grade: Mrs. A.

When I walked into Mrs. A.’s classroom for the first time I had the distinct impression that first grade meant business. I mean, there were desks everywhere! (In Kindergarten we sat at tables.) We had a lot fun silent reading sessions and I discovered the awesome books of Shel Silverstein.  

I spent many recesses trying to catch up on math problems. I had an obsession with catching bees that year (I can’t remember why). At one point I lost both of my front teeth. I would run around the playground with my lips tightly pursed around my remaining pointy teeth and tell people I was a vampire. That was the life!

Second Grade: Mrs. H. & Mrs. S.

In second grade I got two teachers for the price of one. Mrs. H. & Mrs. S. split the school day – one of them would teach in the morning and one of them would teach in the afternoon. They typically met during lunch to make sure they were synched on the day’s lesson plan. I remember one particularly embarrassing lunch encounter when I called Mrs. S. by her first name (“So, Sharon-") and the look on Mrs. H.’s face stopped me dead in my tracks. During a more enjoyable lunch I volunteered to erase the board (along with my best friend) and we had a little Les Misérables sing-along.

One of the worst moments of elementary school occurred in second grade. There was a boy who got bullied a lot (not by me) and my two teachers became very protective of him. Our class was playing kickball one day and I think I was playing catcher. During one particular play the boy ran from 3rd to home but someone passed me the ball and I got him out. When my teacher called him “safe” I was really mad and I argued with her. She said, “Amber, go inside and flip a black card – now!” For those of you who aren’t familiar with the card flipping system it goes like this: Everyone in the class has a small pouch holding a green card, yellow card, red card, and black card. The pouches are all mounted on a large piece of laminated poster board so everyone can see where you stand on any given day. If you’re misbehaving the teacher will tell you “flip a card.” If you’re being really bad you are told, “flip two cards.” If you’re caught in the act of murdering someone they say, “flip a black card.” At least, that should be the only real reason for black cards. Not only does school administration contact your house (red card), you also have to go home. Words cannot describe how distraught I was. In retrospect I don’t blame my teachers for trying to protect the kid (who would later try to ruin every art project I worked on) and it still turned out to be a good year.

Third Grade: Mrs. L.

The first day of third grade was pretty much a dream come true. Mrs. L. was the embodiment of every kid's dream elementary school teacher: young, pretty, stylish and nice. That first day she wore a red dress with white polka dots and white canvas tennis shoes with white lace ribbons for shoe laces. She had wavy blonde shoulder-length hair and she was the first person to ever tell me the Spanish pronunciation of my last name. Our class was a combination class of 2nd and 3rd graders. I remember learning about the planets and having a special fascination with Venus. We also had a cultural activity day and lunch when were allowed to bring in a relative who represented our culture. My paternal grandmother came to school with me and it was absolutely awesome.

Fourth Grade: Ms. G.

Ms. G. was close to retirement and she didn’t have quite the pizzazz Mrs. L. had. It didn’t really matter though because by this point the school curriculum was getting a little more interesting and challenging. I especially like the units we did on marine life and the rainforest.

Fifth Grade: Mrs. B., then Mrs. F.

Fifth Grade started off a little scary because I got the teacher the whole school was afraid of. To put us at ease Mrs. B. asked each of us to come to her desk during reading time for a little chat during the first week of school. She must have seen fear in my eyes because she told me, “Don’t worry, my bark is worse than my bite.” I felt a little better and she was really happy with the fact that I liked to read. She was interested in the books I was reading and I was having such a hard time remembering the title of the book I was currently reading that forgot to tell her I had read twenty-something Boxcar Children books. I kicked myself for forgetting that.

Halfway through the school year Mrs. B. decided to retire and a new teacher was brought in: Mrs. F. She was great! I was on the same soccer team as her daughter and we got along well. I remember taking a stab at reading Jurassic Park that year (since one of my classmates had made it all of the way through the book) but I didn’t get close to finishing. I think my favorite thing about fifth grade was our geography unit.

Sixth Grade: Mrs. F. (again!)

I was very fortunate to have Mrs. F. for sixth grade as well. I was in a combination class again (this time with fifth graders) and I knew it was finally my turn to go on the highly-anticipated Ship Trip. The Ship Trip is an overnight stay on a 17th century schooner in the San Francisco Bay. Each sixth grade class at our school was required to work on the ship for a number of hours, spend the night, split night watches, and do some duties the next morning before disembarking. Our class prepared for the Ship Trip for about two months. First we were placed on one of five teams (based on our preference) and I got my first choice and joined the Rigger crew. (There was also Bosun crew, Galley crew, and two others I can’t remember.) After training with knots, learning ship terminology and taking a test we got on a bus and headed for San Francisco. I was so excited before leaving my house I must have forgotten to eat breakfast. Several parents accompanied us (they were called Tall Sailors) and they were only allowed to talk to us (“Avast!”) if they noticed we were doing something dangerous.

After arriving in San Francisco my class gathered at the waterfront and lined up on the lawn according to our crews. We had to stand in a certain way (very upright and proper) and I ended up locking my knees. We were singing one of the many sailor songs we learned (“What Do You Do With A Drunken Sailor?”) and I started to sway. I started to see spots. My hearing went in and out. Down I went. That’s right, folks! I fainted before I even got on the ship! I’m pretty sure the captain had a good laugh from a distance. My mom had a good laugh from up close. (Boy was I glad she was a Tall Sailor! She was able to attest I wasn’t faking. She was also able to supply me with some much-needed snacks and water so I could get my head on right.)

We were finally presented to the captain and his officers who would be terrorizing us for the next 18 hours. I bet those people had the time of their lives. I’m also pretty sure Ship Trips have been outlawed. We had to work for about 8 hours and only take a break for dinner. Near the end of the night my Rigger crew was responsible for hoisting each student (one at a time) up on a make shift rope swing to give them a view of the bay. The embarrassing thing about this was every time our crew leader said “Heave!” we had to say “Ho!” super loud. This probably happened a hundred times at least. After dinner the captain told us terrible stories about what happened to sailors who fell asleep during night watches. My night watch was something like 4-6 A.M. but before 2 A.M. even rolled around the captain made everyone get out of bed because we were being too loud. We dragged some ropes around for almost an hour before we got to rest again.

The next morning we were definitely ready to leave. It was a really unique experience and I feel bad for anyone who didn’t get to go on the trip in later years. However, the trip had “inevitable lawsuit” written all over it.

Just before sixth grade ended I got to attend Sixth Grade camp. This was my first summer camp experience and I loved my counselors. They gave each person in the group an award and mine was the “Go With the Flow” award. I still try to strive for that characteristic.


I wish I had written more of this down 10 years ago before my memory capacity overflowed with college curriculum, mission memories and the Portuguese language. Although I can’t remember everything I know for certain my eight elementary school teachers changed me forever. If your summer vacation is dwindling down or already expired I sincerely hope you are ready for the challenges and triumphs this school year will bring. See the best in every student and every teacher you have. Find value in the assignments and be patient with peoples’ shortcomings. Be brave in the face of angry parents and long test center lines. We are always teaching and always learning. Put your best foot forward and let your intellect shine. And hey - don’t forget to carry a selection of fruit snacks for any “drunken sailors” stumbling your way. Sugar is always the key!


There went July!

I cannot let another day go by without writing a new post for this blog! This is going to short and disjointed but it is going to get done.

First of all if I never have to touch a cardboard box again I will be very happy. However, one cannot seem to get through life without moving every once in a while and moving would be even WORSE without cardboard boxes. I guess that means the cardboard boxes are here to stay.

Secondly, I really love my friends. I left P-town and I'm starting over in a new city. My P-town friends are friends for life and I couldn't have moved without their encouragement, teasing, and help. They are the best!

Third: I have hardly watched the Olympics! This is supposed to be the Summer of Sportsmania and while it definitely started off that way (thanks to the UEFA cup and Olympic Trials), my life was taken over by moving. I'm glad (but mostly sad) that there are a couple of days left. The closing ceremony is always so depressing! This summer is hereby renamed the Summer of Boxmania because moving almost drove me nuts. Luckily I didn't get into any impromptu boxing matches.

Last but not least I am completely optimistic about starting over in my new place. I went to my new ward on Sunday and I think I am going to make great friends there. This is it! This is August!