Does Nagaina Deserve Any Mercy?

Recently in class, we read a short story called “Rikki-tikki-tavi” by Rudyard Kipling. This tale is about a mongoose who goes to live with a human family in India. In the garden of his family’s house live snakes, including a king cobra named Nagaina. Nagaina and her husband, Nag, like to kill the young of other animals in the garden, such as birds and frogs. Rikki and Nagaina eventually get into a huge altercation. Rikki wants to kill her. Should Rikki show Nagaina any mercy in this showdown between the two of them?

Just as in life — where issues such as capital punishment are nuanced and there are multiple perspectives on the issue — the decision of whether or not to kill Nagaina is a tough one. There would be those that would call for Rikki to show some lenience. They would say that Nagaina was only acting according to her nature, and that she shouldn’t be faulted for that. She is a snake, and snakes are predatory animals. Her natural prey are other small animals — and mongooses. When she is hunting and eating those creatures, she is only doing so to satisfy the will to survive. Another reason others point to as justification for treating Nagaina less harshly is that she has experienced a lot of tragedy in her life recently. She has lost both her husband, Nag, and her babies (due to hatch out of their eggs) in a violent manner. People who experience such a debilitating loss such as that are usually out of their minds with grief. Supporters of Nagaina would say that she should not be held totally responsible for her actions because she wasn’t thinking logically and rationally.

On the other hand, there are some who say that such emotion is no excuse. There is no justification for treating the other animals the way she does — namely, terrorizing and eating them — and for that, she deserves to die. Those who call for Nagaina’s death point to the fact that, at her core, she is an evil creature, and such creatures cannot be allowed to live freely in society. For example, from the very beginning of her interactions with Rikki, she had nothing but ill intentions for him; she sought to kill him as he was kept distracted by her husband, Nag. Speaking of Nag, Kipling describes him as having a “cold heart.” Only another snake with a cold heart, like Nagaina, could be happy with a cold-hearted spouse.

If you would like to read about what Rikki actually decided to do — kill her or let her live — pick up a copy of the narrative to find out.

The Time I Thought I Couldn’t Do Something . . . But I Learned Otherwise

Recently we had our first district writing assessment. The prompt that we responded to was a narrative prompt, specifically a personal narrative. The prompt asked students to think about a time they were discouraged and believed that they would not be able to accomplish a specific task; the prompt also asked them to write about how they overcame that initial doubt and accomplished something that they did not think they could. Students have now received their scores back on this prompt. I asked them to type in their response and publish it on their blog. So, in the spirit of being a good model blogger, I am re-publishing my response to that same prompt. Enjoy!

 

One of the things that becomes obvious to others as they get to know me well is that I am an incredibly pessimistic person. That is, I look at the world from the “glass is empty” viewpoint. I am apprehensive in new and novel situations, sure that something will go wrong. I am able to catastrophize. (This a real word in the dictionary to describe how one can take a seemingly normal scenario and draw it out in his or her mind to a very depressing conclusion — something that, in all probability, would never happen.) For example, let’s say I got sick. Playing the “What If Catastrophizing Game” this is how it might go: I would go to the doctor and find out I had a chronic illness that was not easily treatable. This would cause me to have to take off work. Maybe I would get fired because I couldn’t work. Then I would have no money, and no way to pay for health insurance. I would use up any money I had in my savings account, and maybe have to sell my house to get money for my care. I would be destitute and become homeless. It would be awful.

This is how I think.

So when my husband, who was in the Army, sat me down one day shortly after 9/11 and told me that he was being deployed . . . well, I went into a tailspin. My mind immediately began to race and catastrophize as I began to cry and wonder how I was going to get through the next (scary) year all by myself. I was sure I couldn’t do it. I wouldn’t be able to take care of all that I had to do. He was going to go off and he was going to die. Then my baby (because I was expecting) would grow up and never know his dad. And . . . and . . . and . . . This was going to be a long, trying year. I didn’t know how I was going to get through it. I was sure I wasn’t.

One of the first things I faced alone was a broken water heater. A broken water heater isn’t the end of the world — one simply calls a plumber and gets a new one — but to me, the fact that I had literally just dropped off my husband at the armory and had come home to a broken water heater was an omen of things to come. It confirmed my worst fears that this deployment was not going to be easy. It was going to take everything out of me. Then, about three weeks after he left, I faced having to fly to New Orleans for his brother’s wedding. We were supposed to go together. It was my first visit there. He was going to show me where he went to college, and it was meant to be a time with family, but I dreaded having to go now. I was afraid to fly, for one thing. What if they hadn’t managed to corral all the terrorist cells? Was there an air marshall on my flight, incognito, ready to subdue any hijackers? I ended up flying to New Orleans without incident. I even managed to enjoy myself. I thought of my husband the whole time, though.

My husband left shortly after 9/11. This was not a regular Army mobilization, where he has advance notice of a year or more that another deployment is in the works. He left very hastily. Because his deployment was meant to be a year duration, he would be missing all the major winter holidays. That was the next thing I had to face alone. I am already a person that intensely dislikes winter. I loathe that the days are shorter — a full four to five hours less sunlight sometimes! — and I abhor the stress of holiday shopping. There is no “getting into the holiday spirit” for me; I merely try to survive the holidays and get through them. I am a Grinch. This holiday season would be doubly difficult. Luckily, I was able to fly to visit him over Thanksgiving. He was stationed in the United States, in Utah, for homeland defense. Though it was wonderful to see him, and I got to see it snow for the first time, it was one of the most depressing Thanksgivings I have ever spent. We were away from home and both of our families. We had nowhere to eat. (He didn’t want to eat on base.) We ended up having a meal at a Denny’s in Salt Lake City because it was one of the only places open on a holiday. I was baby-sick on top of everything, and depressed, so I didn’t eat much. It tore my heart apart for me to say goodbye and go back home, even knowing I could fly back in four short weeks to spend time there over Christmas vacation. It was even harder to say goodbye then.

To help me cope, my husband bought me a dog, which I named Patton. (George Patton was a famous World War II general, so I thought that was an appropriate name.) Taking care of a puppy was good training for taking care of the baby I was expecting. Patton got me busy taking a daily walks, and I was so busy taking care of him that my mind was kept occupied on something positive instead of focusing on all I was unhappy about. I wasn’t crying as much and I started sleeping soundly. I began to feel slightly better. It was especially imperative that I eat well and take care of myself; it wasn’t just me that I had to worry about, after all. I found out that our baby was a boy, and began to prepare for his arrival. My bump got bigger daily, and I spent a little time each day cleaning out and organizing the room that would be his. I enrolled in “Expecting Mother” classes with my mom, who was going to be my coach when it was time to go to the hospital. I didn’t feel as sick anymore. Instead of losing weight, I was gaining weight like I was supposed to. This was turning out not to be as horrible as I thought it would be.

Spring came, and the days lengthened. That alone brightened my spirits. Then, at the beginning of June, I called my mom. “Mom,” I said, “I think it is time to take me to the hospital. Can you come get me?” Thing 1, our son, had decided this was the day! My mom raced to pick me up at work, take me home to get my things, and then take me to the hospital. I called my husband, “The baby is coming! I’m going to the hospital!” He said that he would try to catch a flight into Los Angeles as soon as he could, but he wasn’t promising anything. I arrived at the hospital and things proceeded rapidly from there. It was finally when I was in the hospital having a baby that I realized I could do anything — even survive a deployment I was sure was going to mean the end of my world and all my happiness. I was having a baby on my own, for goodness sake! (My mom was more interested in taking pictures than being a coach.) If I could do that, then there was no limit to what I could accomplish.

In the end, my husband made it just in time. His sister brought him straight from the airport to the hospital, and Thing 1 arrived 30 minutes after my husband did. This whole experience, though, taught me that I am much stronger than I think I am. I don’t give myself enough credit when it comes to getting through the tough times. I am far more resilient than I feel. This realization was tested not two years later when my husband sat me down again and told me the Army was deploying him AGAIN, this time to Kosovo in the Balkans and for a longer length of time. I cried, and I was upset. (I was also expecting again!) But this time, even though I knew the next two years would be difficult, I knew in my heart of hearts that I would be okay.

We Made it to Louisiana, and We’re Tired

Getting quality sleep on this trip has been an issue. It is always nice to come home, because you get to come home to YOUR bed, which is an awesome feeling. No hotel bed is going to be as good as mine. On top of that, there are five of us squished into a hotel room, so our normal sleep patterns are disrupted. The first night, Mr. T wanted to sleep with me because he was crabby and tired from our traveling. We had a king sized bed to share. About half-way through the night, I woke up to find him laying perpendicular to me. He also talks and whimpers in his sleep. This, of course, prevents me from sleeping well. I also didn’t have any access to wifi in our first hotel, and I normally listen to late-night talk shows on the TuneIn Radio app, so I was really having a hard time falling to sleep to begin with. And, when I woke up in the middle of the night (as I did a lot), I had nothing to help me drift off back to sleep.

The next night Mr. Rovira slept on the floor because sleeping with the two boys in one bed was just too crunched. Plus, he drank a Mountain Dew too late in the day, so he could not sleep and didn’t want to disturb us.

The next night, I slept with the boys, and it was squished, but I toughed it out on approximately eight inches of mattress. I had wifi that night, to listen to my shows to help me get to sleep, but with Mr. T attempting to move perpendicular again, I was woken up A LOT.

The next night, we put all the kids together in one bed. We could see quickly that wasn’t going to work: “Mr. T! Stop moving!” and “Thing 1, stop stealing the covers and burrowing!” and “No, I want to be in the middle!” plus some intentional farting made us decide to make Thing 1 and Thing 2 sleep in one bed while Mr. T had to sleep with Mr. Rovira and I. Again, not a lot of sleep, but this time it was because Mr. T woke up about five times claiming to have had a nightmare. Oh, and did I mention that I normally sleep on a king-sized bed? Yep, these hotel room beds were queen-sized. To spare ourselves all of the conflict the next night, Thing 1 graciously volunteered to sleep on the floor. I slept with Thing 2, and Mr. T and Mr. Rovira slept in the other bed. That was a pretty decent night’s sleep. But then we had to drive, like, 500 miles the next day. It gets tiring.

The NEXT night we lucked out! At this point, we had made it to Wichita. Apparently, when I made our reservations, I booked us a “two queen bed suite” so not only did we have the usual two queen-sized beds that we were trying to get used to, but also we had a COUCH! The kids took dibs to see who got to sleep on the couch; Mr. T won.

Where's Mr. T? Can you find him?

Where’s Mr. T? Can you find him?

We all got a pretty decent night’s sleep that night.

In Dallas, our beds were too hard. Mr. T volunteered to sleep on the floor that time. He serenaded us to sleep by singing “God Bless America” six times. It was awesome. I slept with Thing 1 that night. I should know this from our visit to London last summer, but he totally steals covers. I woke up cold at one point in the night and had to steal them back.

Now, at Uncle Marcus and Aunt Clare’s house, we have more comfortable digs (for free!) but it still isn’t home. I love everything we’re doing here, but it will be so satisfying to peel back the covers of my own bed and drift off to a peaceful slumber at home.

A Slight Detour Coming in to Denver

In the old Looney Toons cartoons, Bugs Bunny often jokes about “forgetting to take that left turn at Albuquerque” to explain why he may have ended up in the location he did. The Roviras weren’t driving through Albuquerque on this stretch of our road trip, and we weren’t exactly “lost,” even though it may have felt like it at the time. It seems there’s always an “off the beaten track” adventure we get ourselves into on one of our road trips, and this time I was behind the wheel. (Mr. Rovira was behind the wheel in 2011 when we last had an adventure we wouldn’t soon forget.)

Leaving Moab was uneventful. There wasn’t much to see between Moab and the Colorado-Utah state line. Once we made it into Colorado, the scenery improved dramatically. The Colorado River (they have rivers with water in them here!) paralleled the interstate for much of the journey. The rolling hills of western Colorado were a brilliant green. We stopped in Eagle, Colorado, for a gas top-off and some ice cream to stretch our legs a bit before heading through the Rockies and into Denver.

Mr. T describes just how far away we are from Uncle JM's house . . . it turns out we were further away than we expected.

Mr. T describes just how far away we are from Uncle JM’s house . . . it turns out we were further away than we expected.

Our GPS said that it would be about two hours before we arrived in Denver. We hopped back into the car after first stopping off at the post office so Thing 2 could mail a postcard to her friend back home. We started climbing in elevation; there was still snow on the Rockies next to the interstate as we drove past, which was awesome to see considering it is JUNE. We made it to Continental Divide in the Eisenhower Tunnel, and then began to descend in elevation. That’s when all the roadwork started.

We understand that the road repair season here in Colorado probably isn’t what it is in California. They have inclement weather which prevents repairs at other parts of the year, but really? Stopping traffic every three to five miles on an interstate during the middle of the day? At least California roadwork is accomplished in the middle of the night a lot of the time. Since I was driving, I and the other drivers would have to slow down to about 40 mph and merge into either the right or the left lane. Often times, traffic slowed to a complete stop as we inched by in the open lane while the road workers re-striped the lanes on the other side or repaired the guard rails. Then we’d see signs telling us the road work has ended and “thank you for your courtesy” signaling to us that we could speed up. So we did, only to have to slow down again five miles up the road for another project. It got really frustrating. Then, at exit 234, traffic stopped completely. Just stopped. After nearly twenty minutes, we had moved not even a mile. That’s when we started looking for a way around the traffic. Our GPS system will do that for us, so we decided to try it.

It directed us to exit the freeway and head north on a road that supposedly led to other towns, such as Alice. Then, we would continue heading east before finally rejoining the I-70. At first, all was well. We headed northbound up an (albeit) empty road. Alongside were mailboxes for homes so it was definitely well-traveled, just not full of traffic. Then our GPS alerted us that we would be taking a right at the next intersection. I prepared to veer right, although we came to a stop when we realized that the road we were directed to take was a dirt road.

The lonely road our GPS took us on as part of a detour to get around traffic on the I-70 west of Denver.

The lonely road our GPS took us on as part of a detour to get around traffic on the I-70 west of Denver.

Having no other alternative but to go back and rejoin the (stopped) interstate, we decided to carry on. The speed limit was 20 mph on the dirt road, but we figured that was still faster than we were moving on the interstate, so it was a win.

At this point, I should stop and say Mr. Rovira started making jokes GALORE at my expense. For four years I have never let him forget the last road trip we took to Louisiana and the freaky side trip he took us on after we stopped for gas outside of Needles. I’ll post the recap I wrote of that when we get home and link it to this one. But in a nutshell, we ended up on old Route 66, which was completely deserted, at 12:30 in the morning, passing little white crosses periodically on the side of the road, going up and down mountain switchbacks at 10 mph. We also killed some hawk that had swooped down onto the highway to pick up a critter to eat, but our headlights temporarily stunned it and we hit it. Eventually we ended up back on Interstate 40, but not after experiencing some seriously Psycho moments. We laugh about it now.

So on we went. The further we went, though, the narrower and more “rustic” the road became. I had to slow down to a stop and inch over boulders sticking half up out of the ground. Mr. Rovira was afraid that if I went too quickly over the boulders it would pitch the car over and down the hillside. (Some tall pines would have probably have stopped our roll. But then, making it out of the car perched precariously in the trees and back to “civilization” to get help would have been dicey.) It was about this point that I looked up to the GPS screen and realized that we weren’t “registering” on a road anymore. The green line that were were supposed to be following was off to the left of where we actually were. What did that mean? Did I take a wrong turn? Was this road, in fact, not in use any more? We had no choice but to bump along because we couldn’t turn around. There was no room. Woe to us should another car have come along in the opposite direction. Mr. Rovira was making jokes, so we were laughing a lot in the midst of our real concern for where we were.

Finally we made it back to a more “paved” dirt road, which (interestingly) took us past some old, abandoned mining equipment and buildings and into a town named Central City. From there we traveled on the Central City Parkway and back to the I-70. We made it down the pass and into Denver, only to hit stopped traffic AGAIN. More road work. Finally, knowing that there was no possibility of getting “lost” on a deserted road like we did before, we got off the freeway and traveled to our hotel via city streets. All in all, what should have taken us two hours (from Eagle to Denver) took us four. To say we were all frustrated and “losing it” by the time we were nearly at the hotel was an understatement. Mr. T, in particular, was extremely wound up.

After a quick shower, we headed over to Uncle JM’s and out to a delicious pizza dinner. While in the restaurant, we got to watch a heavy summer downpour drench the Denver area. (Apparently, they’ve been getting thunderstorms in the evenings around 5 p.m. each night for three weeks.) We got some laundry done at Uncle JM’s and played some video games while it dried. Then it came time to go back to our hotel and go to bed. That’s a whole other post that I’ll write about next.

¡Viva Las Vegas! (and Moab)

So were on the fourth day of our road trip. We spent the weekend in Las Vegas, and then yesterday we drove to Moab. This morning, we got up WAY early (for vacation!) and hiked out to the “Delicate Arch” at Arches National Park in Moab, Utah. Below is a little wrap up our our experiences so far:

Vegas — It started off AWESOMELY at the House of Blues Foundation Room at the Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino. We dropped off the kiddos at Uncle Walt’s house for some cousin fun while the adults had a chance to hang out at the balcony of the Foundation Room at, like, the 72nd floor (or something) of the Mandalay Bay hotel. (I never usually get to go to things like this; thanks, Uncle Larry!)

The Las Vegas strip, as seen from the balcony of the House of Blues Foundation Room at Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino

The Las Vegas strip, as seen from the balcony of the House of Blues Foundation Room at Mandalay Bay Hotel and Casino

From there, some of the adults (including Mr. Rovira) went to go see the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band. (Not me, because I’m not that old, and I have no idea who that band is or what songs they sing.) Others of us went down into the casino. My niece, Ms. A, had never been gambling before, so Fairy Godmother Aunt Jennifer (not me, I’m Aunt Jenny) and Uncle Steve showed her how it was done as my other niece, Ms. M, and I watched. Then Mr. Rovira came back to pick me up to go back to Uncle Walt’s and pick up our kids, after which we checked into our hotel room.

The next day, Mr. Rovira and I took the kids to the Paris Hotel and Casino for a real Vegas buffet breakfast. We wanted to go to that hotel because that’s the hotel at which we got married. On the way back to our hotel, we stopped at the iconic Las Vegas sign for a touristy pic, before hopping into our bathing suits to spend a couple of hours at our hotel’s lazy river pool.

Yep, doing the touristy thing in Lost Wages . . . I mean, Las Vegas!

Yep, doing the touristy thing in Lost Wages . . . I mean, Las Vegas!

That was awesomely relaxing, until some rude Australian boys showed up. :( We went back to the hotel room for naps before we had to get ready for Uncle Walt and Aunt Joy’s big party.

Mr. T was the HIT of the party. It was a combination wedding vow renewal and retirement party. He danced the night away and had lots of fun with his cousins in the photo booth.

Mr. T, with his godmother, Cousin M.

Mr. T, with his godmother, Cousin M.

An almost-all-cousin pic at Uncle Walt and Aunt Joy's party.

An almost-all-cousin pic at Uncle Walt and Aunt Joy’s party.

Mr. T, Thing 1, Thing 2, Mr. Rovira and Cousin S get down at Uncle Walt and Aunt Joy's party.

Mr. T, Thing 1, Thing 2, Mr. Rovira and Cousin S get down at Uncle Walt and Aunt Joy’s party.

Mr. T and the DJ at Uncle Walt and Aunt Joy's party!

Mr. T and the DJ at Uncle Walt and Aunt Joy’s party!

DSC_6049Waking up the next morning, we packed up and went to have some breakfast with Uncle Walt and Aunt Joy before hitting the road to Moab. The trip to Moab was about a six and a half hour trip, and we made stops along the way in St. George (for In-N-Out lunch!) and Richfield for gas. We got rained on outside of St. George, which was awesome, as it cleaned off our car of bugs!

Moab — We woke the kids up EARLY to go to Arches National Park. We wanted to see the “Delicate Arch” relatively tourist-free, and especially when it was a cool part of the day. When we set out, it was 55˚F — perfect! We got to the park so early, in fact, there was no one manning the ticket booth, so we got to enter the park without paying the $10 auto fee. There were only a few families at the arch when we got there, so Mr. T, Mr. Rovira, and Thing 1 were able to go stand under the arch and take a picture all by themselves. Mr. T was a trooper getting all the way to the top.

Mr. Rovira, Thing 1, and Mr. T under "Delicate Arch"

Mr. Rovira, Thing 1, and Mr. T under “Delicate Arch”

We made it!

We made it!

A meditative moment for Mr. T at Arches National Park.

A meditative moment for Mr. T at Arches National Park.

Coming back down the ridge at Arches National Park.

Coming back down the ridge at Arches National Park.

Looking over the ledge — it is a far drop! — on the way back down from "Delicate Arch"

Looking over the ledge — it is a far drop! — on the way back down from “Delicate Arch”

Now we’re back in the hotel room, chilling out a bit and planning the rest of our day. The kids are chomping at the bit to go to the pool. We’re researching options for how to spend the rest of the day. Unfortunately, Moab seems to be a pretty expensive place! A one-hour trip on the jet boat on the Colorado River is $55 per person — kinda steep for us. Plus, Mr. T doesn’t weigh enough to go on the boat, nor is he old enough to go on the boat to begin with . . . or zip lining . . . etc. So, we’ll walk the main drag, get some frozen yogurt, go to the pool, not necessarily in that order. :)

I’ll check in soon!

Well, Summer Has Started.

But you would barely know it by the looks of the weather.

Summer vacation officially started at 11:44 on Thursday last week (May 28), but the mornings have been so socked in with overcast and gloom that it is hard to get motivated to do anything. Instead, I want to snuggle up in my bed and keep reading the news and browse Facebook.

It didn’t help that I started off summer vacation with a cold. I was cleaning out my classroom on Wednesday. I was sneezing a lot, and my eyes were watering, but I thought it was just because the classroom was dusty. However, then my throat started to hurt, which doesn’t normally happen with allergies. I went home and slept as best as I could, and I showed up for the last day of school (Thursday) feeling miserable. I went to the pharmacy to get some better over-the-counter cold medicine, took that, stayed in bed on Friday and most of Saturday, and I feel better. But I still just want to stay in bed. I should go running.

Yesterday, Mr. T and I did go for a walk. I wanted to try out my new GPS heart rate monitor running watch. We certainly weren’t running, but I was keen to see how the GPS worked. We walked from our house to the Sunny Hills Post Office to mail two thank-you cards, a 3.26 mile round trip. The watch worked great, and I’m going to take it with us on our road trip. That was one thing that I did do while I was relaxing in bed — plan our summer road trip to seven different states.

Yep, you read correctly . . . we’re going to visit seven different states in the next three weeks. We starting off by heading to Las Vegas, Nevada. Mr. Rovira’s oldest brother lives outside of Las Vegas, he and his wife recently retired, and they are celebrating, too, their tenth wedding anniversary. So, they’re throwing a party for the whole family. Mr. Rovira’s family is HUGE (he is one of eight children, who all have children), and though not all siblings and cousins will be there, it will still be quite a fiesta. We’re starting off in the House of Blues Foundation Room on Friday (tonight) evening, and having a big shindig on Saturday. On Sunday, the Fullerton Roviras (us) will pull out from Vegas and head northeast toward Moab, Utah. Arches National Park is in Moab, Utah, home of the “Delicate Arch” which is featured prominently in vacation videos promoting Utah.

Delicate Arch in Moab, Utah.

Delicate Arch in Moab, Utah.

I hiked to it with my dad a couple of years ago when we took a road trip to Denver to deliver my brother some furniture shortly after he moved. It is only about a three-mile walk . . . but the first half of it is uphill.

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The hike we're going to take to see the "Delicate Arch" in Moab.

The hike we’re going to take to see the “Delicate Arch” in Moab.

And this is why I am excited to take my GPS watch. I want to see the net elevation gain total, see my heart rate as I ascended, track our speed. (With Mr. T, I can assure you we won’t be traveling quickly.) When I get done with a run, or walk (as the case may be), I just hook up my watch to my computer and the stats all download for me to examine and study.

We’re going to spend about a day and a half in Moab, long enough to do our hike and rest afterwards. Then we’re going to get on the road again to travel to Denver, Colorado. It is about a five to six hour drive from Moab to Denver. We’re going to be staying in Denver for two full days visiting with my brother before we move on again, this time toward the southeast. Our ultimate destination is New Orleans, Louisiana, where Mr. Rovira’s other brothers and cousins live. We’re going to travel east out of Denver and into Kansas. We’re going to stay the night in Wichita, Kansas, drive south through Oklahoma into Dallas, Texas, and drive from Dallas to Louisiana. I am looking forward to some barbecue in Texas. It is the best.

We’re spending a week in Louisiana. While there, Thing 1 and Mr. Rovira (and maybe Mr. T) will go fishing (or shrimping). One of the best things to do in Louisiana is have a shrimp and crab boil. It is hard to describe but totally delicious. It requires fresh shrimp and crab, ears of corn, potatoes, celery chunks, seasonings, and a big outdoor stockpot to cook it in. Then, to serve, you set out a bunch of newspaper on a table in the backyard, all sit down, drain the shrimp and fixings, and dump it all out on the table. It is THE BEST.

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A shrimp- and crawfish-boil in New Orleans.

 

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(Look how small Mr. T was the last time we were there!)

 

More later . . . I have to pack now.

Black Jack

Right before Winter Break started, we got a new puppy in our family. His name is Black Jack. What is the significance behind the name? Well, it goes like this: In my family we have a tradition of naming our dogs after people. This started in the family I grew up in, when we named one of our cats Elvis. As a kitten, before he had his name, Elvis was sitting as regally as a little kitten could. My dad said, “Look at him! He looks like he thinks he’s the king!” The real Elvis’s moniker was the King of Rock and Roll. So we combined the two and decided that the name for our new kitten would be Elvis.

Flash forward in time to 2001. After 9/11 happened, my husband, who was an officer in the Army National Guard, was deployed for Homeland Defense. To keep me company while I was gone, he got me a chocolate lab puppy. My brother-in-law helped me decide on the name Patton for the dog. George S. Patton was a World War II general —  controversial in his time, but a general none the less. Our dog, Patton, died, and we decided we were finally ready for a new one. We were going to surprise the kids and give him to them as part of their Christmas presents. This time, we named him after a very famous World War I general, John J. “Black Jack” Pershing. Gen. Pershing helped defeat the Germans during World War I, was promoted to General of the Armies, which is the highest rank available, and was even given the French Légion d’honneur, which is the highest decoration awarded in France.

Shortly before vacation started, we picked up our dog. He was just over three months old and very cute! He weighed 12 pounds and, after a day or two of nervousness, began to get acquainted with his new home. He did try, on occasion, to steal Mr. T’s shoes. We had to keep the kids’ doors closed because he loved to find Legos and try to eat them. I did get him a few things from the pet store that he can gnaw on, so he is quickly learning what is okay to chew on and what is still off-limits. He is definitely smart. He learned quickly, for example, how to ring a bell I put on the door handle to let us know he needed to go outside. He loves to curl up on a lap. He also snores!

Here are a few pics of our new dog:

 

Black Jack, looking majestic, in our backyard over Winter Break.

Black Jack, looking majestic, in our backyard over Winter Break.

Here is our handsome beagle, Black Jack!

Here is our handsome beagle, Black Jack!

One of Black Jack's favorite activities is to nap in the sun. Here is settled in for a long one after a three-mile jog on the trails near our house in Fullerton.

One of Black Jack’s favorite activities is to nap in the sun. Here is settled in for a long one after a three-mile jog on the trails near our house in Fullerton.

 

Look for more cute “aww!” Black Jack posts in the future!

BONUS: Today Is Going to Be an Awesome Day!

Why? Why is today going to be so awesome? And, you might be asking yourself, how can you know this when it is not even nine o’clock in the morning? Here’s why:

(Some backstory . . . ) I have been trying to get healthier since June 9 of this year. Over the summer I gave up Diet Coke (and all the caffeine that comes with it!), and I started jogging. I wake up at 5 a.m. in the morning and I go out with Mrs. Olivolo about three days a week. After a bout of shin splints earlier this year that left me stationary for three weeks (see this blog post and scroll down to Random Thought #5 where I complained), I haven’t quite been able to get back to the level I was at before my injury. But today I had a breakthrough!

Mrs. Olivolo and I run a 1.25 mile loop through my neighborhood twice, so we run a total of about 2.5 miles when we go out. For the last ¼ mile, we are running on an incline. Additionally, for the last ¼ of that, we run up a very steep hill. At no time have I ever been able to jog up this hill without having to stop and walk. Never ever. Even walking up the hill makes my heart rate speed up and my breathing to get heavier. Today was different, though. I was feeling good all throughout our run, and when we got to the steepest part of our run, well, I just kept going! My leg muscles began to burn, and my breathing became labored, but I. Just. Kept. Going. Even when my brain was thinking to itself, “You can’t do this,” I ignored it and kept moving my feet. Making it up the hill was an awesome achievement that I unlocked, but it get’s better . . . because I DID IT AGAIN! When we made it to the peak, we stopped to walk and to catch our breaths, and then we began the second circuit of our loop. Still feeling good, I decided to make a go of it a second time . . . so, yep, two times today I made it up that steep hill without stopping to walk.

I can’t tell you how awesome I feel! It makes me feel better, too, because Mrs. Olivolo, a few other teachers here at school, and I are going to run in a Ragnar relay race later on this school year (in the spring). I feel like I am the weakest link in our relay, but maybe not? If I keep pushing on, I’ll be a worthy team member, for sure.

(I also feel great because I managed to stop at Sprouts yesterday to get fresh turkey and ham for a nice sandwich today at lunch. I also bought a garden salad to eat as a side. It is always awesome when I have a lunch I can look forward to while I am at work.)

Why is today going to be a good day for you? OR, how was this a good day (if you are reading this at the end of your day)?