Friday, November 23, 2012

Post Thanksgiving Bliss

I have never understood those people in our country that get up at 2 o'clock in the morning the day after Thanksgiving to stand in line and wait for stores to open up for their Black Friday Sales.  All the pushing and shoving, and stress that seems to exude from that whole deal has never appealed to me.  Frankly with all the cooking and eating and family fun that we always had growing up on Thanksgiving just wore us all out and the following day was naturally a day to laze around, eat left overs, and recuperate. 

The tradition in the ol Bennett household was to sleep in til whenever you felt like getting up.  There was no rush, no panic, no plans.  Family members would get up at their own speed.  Being that I was (and still am) a morning person I'd usually get up first and make coffee, cocoa, and hot apple cider for the rest of my family when they decided to get up.  My sister Brenda usually was up around the same time and we'd chat, drink coffee, and peruse the newspaper for possible movies we might want to go to or look at the Friday funnies.  And as the rest of the family got up the house got more active.  Some of us would shower and get dressed while others preferred to laze around in pjs.  But no matter what, once everyone was up we'd gather together again for breakfast.  And not just any breakfast.  This breakfast was comprised of leftover pumpkin and mince meat pie.  I can't remember a day after thanksgiving where we didn't have pie for breakfast.  Even since living on my own I always wake up the next day and have pie and coffee for breakfast.  Again this simple meal would last a long time just because we'd end up talking, laughing, and in general enjoying being together.

And the rest of the day would be just as nice.  We'd kind of split up and do our own things.  The guys usually found another football game to watch, The gals would chit chat, play games, go to a movie or just go for a walk.   And when we felt hungry we'd go to the kitchen and dig out left overs to make sandwiches and just graze.  There was no time table we had to follow and frankly it was perfect.  We all have such busy and hectic regular lives that this was one of the few days we could just completely unwind.  And that is something my family taught me that I'll forever be thankful and grateful for.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Griz- Cat Meet Again

Like my fellow UM Griz alumni and fans I've been waiting 365 days for this afternoon to come around again.  If you truly follow this blog or know me at all you know I'm talking about the 112th meeting of the University of Montana and Montana State University  GRIZ - CAT game.  These two football teams have been battling it out for 112 years for goodness sake which in and of itself is pretty amazing.  But really its the rivalry before the game and the camaraderie after the game that is so amazing to see. 

Pre game both Griz fans and Cat fans alike can be down right nasty to one another.  Tensions build in households where normally husbands and wives from opposing schools can coexist in perfect harmony.  Little jibes here, crude jokes there, and the nanny nanny we won last year and are going to do it again inevitable arise.  But when you get right down to it, its truly about a mutual respect for each others school.  Montana is not exactly a densely populated state so this one particular football game truly is a way for all of us to come together behind one team or another and say better luck next year to the fallen team afterward.

Being a second generation Griz grad myself I'm rooting hard for my boys in maroon and silver.  Even though they have quite possibly had the worst season I've seen in 25 years (yes I was indoctrinated in Griz football when I was very young).  I am not a fair weather fan and will root hard for them in the good years and the bad.  Montana State on the other hand is ranked #2 in the Big Sky Conference this year (normally that's the slot that UM has) and though I will deny this if asked by my Cat buddies its been pretty fun watching them do so well.  My dad would probably roll over in his grave at that last comment but I think he of all people would understand my appreciation for such a formidable rival.

Courtesy of Sebrina Brown at the 112 Griz Cat Game in Missoula 11/17/2012
 As I said at the beginning of this post I've been looking forward to this game all year long for several reasons.  First no matter what the teams records are before the game this game is always the biggest, the toughest and the most exciting game of the season.  Second its something that makes me think of my dad and how we'd find a sports bar somewhere just to watch the satellite feed of the game with other Griz and Bobcat fans (again a great way of coming together and talking about a wonderful place to live). And third it takes me back to great memories of college going to the game, sitting in the stands, and feeling the rumble in my chest when the crowd around me, and me included would cheer for the Montana Boys!  Just can't beat that.  So to my fellow Griz fans.... lets go get em. And hopefully we'll be saying better luck next year to MSU in about 50 minutes!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Christmas... oops I mean "Holiday" Bazaar Today!

Today I had totally planned on taking the whole day and going hunting. But a few days ago the After School Program coordinator that I work with asked if I would help her out today at the program's booth at the local Holiday Bazaar held in the school's gym.  So I revamped my plans and am still hoping to get out this afternoon to hunt but if I don't I always have tomorrow.  All of that is kind of beside the point though.

Why is it that we can't say Christmas anymore?  Is it so horrible to say a Christmas activity rather than "Holiday".  Granted I have Jewish and Muslim friends and they celebrate other important holidays during this season and I absolutely respect that... but not a single one (that I know personally) is offended when I say Christmas.  As a matter of fact most of them refer to this as the Christmas season.  So why can't I?  I am not ashamed of being a Christian or my desire to celebrate the birth of Our Lord.  And honestly I think most people feel the same way.  I understand with school functions there is supposed to be a separation of church and state but we still say the pledge every day with the line "One Nation under God" so isn't saying Christmas along those same lines? 

Maybe I'm way off here.  And I know it probably irks some folks when I go Christmas shopping or just out to the local store and when the cashier says "Happy Holidays" (because of course they are trained to be politically correct) I make a point of saying "Merry Christmas" in return.  Keep in mind I do this AFTER Thanksgiving.  Currently since it is still before Thanksgiving I'm saying "Have a Happy Thanksgiving".  I think its important to give each specific holiday their time in the spot light. 

But anyway... that's my rant and rave for the day.  Its probably unimportant and most people will just roll their eyes at this and that is certainly your right.  For me however I will wish you great joy in your Thanksgiving preparations and hope to see a few of you at the CHRISTMAS Bazaar today!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Tis the Season... The Busy Season

I can't believe that October is already over and done with.  The days and weeks are just going by so fast this year and we're only two months off from a whole new year that I'm definitely not ready for yet.  I've had a lot of ups and downs over the past one so I'm not sure if the next one is something to look forward to or something to dread.  I guess it really doesn't matter since its coming no matter how I feel about it.

I guess I am glad that October is done since its been such and odd one.  Generally its one of my favorite months in the year because it embodies everything that is FALL.  But while the leaves were turning and I was doing my best to finish my Halloween costume in time, things were not going well with my mom health wise.  Over the past 4 weeks she's be hospitalized 3 times for various "ailments" yet not a single doctor can figure out the underlying cause.  I'm not going to get into details about what is going on with her because frankly she's a very private person and I know she wouldn't want me to post anything about it on here, but at the same time she has me and my brother and sisters very worried and in a bad position if something very serious is going on.  As of Thursday she is back out of the hospital but still with no known reason why she's been having such trouble.  I know she has a litany of specialist referrals from her docs and I'm really hoping she follows through so we can get some concrete information finally.  Maybe with the start of the new month things will turn around. 

She asked me to come home for Christmas and I'm torn about what to do.  In some ways I of course want to go home and spend time with her, but at the same time traveling that time of year in this neck of the woods is a hardship.  The roads are horrible and flights are constantly cancelled and delayed.  Plus I've started making my own Christmas traditions with Mace.  I'm seriously thinking about telling her that I'm going to put off a visit until at least spring when the weather is better.  But then I'm worried about her health and I never ever ever want to miss an opportunity to be with my family when possible or when there is threat of any kind of problems.  So I'm sure you can see my dilemma.  But I'll figure it out one way or another.

I keep looking at my schedule from now until the end of the year and I don't honestly know how I'm going to squeeze everything in.  The school has the holiday bizzare, the fall concert, the scholastic book fair, ski trips, and who knows what all else packed in over the next 3 weeks before Thanksgiving and I've somehow managed to volunteer myself to help out with a bunch of these activities on top of normal work hours, and my involvement in the after school program.  I may have bitten off a bit more than I can chew.  Oh and I'm trying to get as many pictures as possible for the yearbook (which again I committed to).  Its no wonder that by 10 pm I'm crashed out.  After Thanksgiving we have even more projects, concerts, and activities to pack in before Christmas and for the first time ever I'm not ahead on my Christmas shopping for my family and I'm really not sure when I'm going to be able to do it.  I always like to get it done before the snow starts flying so that if I need to go to Missoula or Spokane to shop I get it done before the roads get bad.  I guess whatever I plan on doing I'll have to make it online shopping and pay those ridiculous shipping prices.  Oh well.  If you have any gift giving ideas I'm certainly open to suggestions.  I keep trying to think of some cool scrapbooking idea that I could make each of my family members and send them but I'm coming up pretty blank. 

So I guess that's whats going on with me right now.  I know this was a bit of a spastic post but that's just how my brain is working right now. Hopefully next time it will be a bit better.  Hope everyone's holiday preparations are going well.  Love to you all.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Missoula Bound This Week

These days I rarely get the opportunity to go into Missoula.  Usually when I do its a quick day trip to pick up groceries, run a bunch of errands, and never spend any down or fun time there.  Well this week I plan to change that.  While I am going in there on Wednesday for a specific purpose (MANDT training for work all day Thursday and Friday), I am going to take the evenings while I'm there to really enjoy the town I called home for 5 years while attending the University of Montana. 

Here is my plan.... try and get out of work on Wednesday afternoon as soon as I can so 3:45 at the latest.  That way I can come home real quick, change cloths because really who wants to drive 3 hours in dress pants and heels, throw my pre-packed bag in the car and hit the road so I can get into Missoula before its completely dark.  I must of course also make sure to have a cup of coffee in hand and my mp3 player so I have tunes rolling as I'm driving.

I'm going to check into the hotel first thing and then drive across town to hit Bed Bath and Beyond first so that they can replace my broken Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer.  It has been complete torture not having it up and running and they said they would take it back no questions asked.  From how its sounding though I think the gears are toast (which shouldn't happen within 2 years of owning the sucker).  Anywho... then its on to the mall to do some Christmas shopping for Mace and my family.  Now you might be thinking its awfully early to be Christmas shopping (mind you I've been plotting and planning what I want to get for at least a month now) but really when you live so far from "civilization" it pays to be ahead of the game.  And I never ever ever get a chance to do this alone.  Usually Mace and I run into either Missoula or Spokane the first week of November to do our shopping for one another but it never works out well because we are trying to be secretive and keep surprises for presents but then usually we end up seeing a few things we're giving one another. Not this year!!!

Next I'm going to the Dollar Store to get various things for Halloween.  I love that I can find all sorts of stuff to decorate the house and make things spooky and fun for so cheap.  Plus I have a few crafty art projects that I want to accomplish before the holidays roll around and that store always has things I can use to make them nice without breaking the bank.  I have noooooo problem being cheap or at least thrifty.  Why spend $5 on the same thing you can get for $1???  I've never understood why people do that.  Hopefully while I'm on that side of town I'll find a spot to eat.  I have so many restaurants that my friends and I went to while we were in college but its not the same when you are going there alone.  I need to call Will and Heather and see if they want to catch up while I'm in town.  I need to finally meet their little girl Emm while I'm at it!  Maybe I can convince them to come to the Rhino on Thursday for Pint Night ... need to get a few old school traditions in while I'm there.

Thursday and Friday I have my training from 8am to 3 pm but in the afternoons and evenings I'm going to go see some of my old haunts.  I have to of course take a walk around the UM campus and check out the Forestry Building, Tanner Hall, the UC, etc where I spent so many years.  Planning on hitting up Rockn Rudy's, Big Dipper, Pattee Canyon (to get a hike in), Sean Kelly's, The Rhino, Kim Williams trail (to get a run in before Training), etc.... and anything else I can think of or have time for while I'm in town.  So to those of you that still in the Missoula area, feel free to give me a call or shoot me an email so we can get together and relive some fun times!!!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Almost October

Oh its almost October, which means I am fast approaching my favorite month of the year as well as one of my favorite holidays.  Granted Halloween is not a day that you get off or a day that you get to go and spend precious time with family and friends like Thanksgiving and Christmas, but its such a fun day! I know I love this holiday because of my mother's tireless decorating and all the work she'd always put into my costumes as a little kid. 

About 2 weeks before the trick or treaters would come a knocking she and I would go down to the basement laundry room and find the box with our traditional decorations.  We'd spend at least one entire day from right after breakfast to right before dad would get home from work putting up the spookiness.  We had everything ranging from bats to spiders and ghosts that we'd cut out of construction paper and taped to the big front window which would of course highlight the jackolatern I'd carve the afternoon of Halloween.  We would tape up the giant happy Frankenstein on the closet door at the top of the stairs to greet dad when he'd put his coat and hat away. And of course we had several positionable skeletons that I know mom had had for years and would tape the little ones to the window as well and the full grown person sized one to one side of the front door while a Happy Halloween banner decorated the other side. 

After the paper decorations were up and that would generally take about half the day, we'd move on to best part... hanging spider webbing.  I literally perfected the art form of stretching that silky cottony mass over objects, across windows, around every chandelier and light fixture in the house, and of course up and down both sides of the banister.  By the time the sun started to set every square inch of available space would have some kind of Halloween decoration.

We would tweak a few things here and there over the up coming weeks of course each store we went to we'd look in the Halloween section for costume ideas, new face painting stuff, or a new spooky sounds tape that we could play when trick or treaters came to the door.  Usually on the night of Halloween we'd have everything perfect, spooky music going, jackolatern carved and lit, candy sitting ready and waiting right by the door, most of the lights off in the house but the porch light on so kids knew they could knock.  I swear even as a little kid I liked passing out candy as much as getting dressed up and going trick or treating myself.  I loved seeing all the costumes, trying to figure out who was who behind what masks, and hearing "trick or treat" over and over again after the doorbell rang.  Each year was a great experience. 

And now here I sit, before the month of October even officially starts and I'm already excited.  I've already figured out what costume I'm going to make to wear at the school (I'm going as Cassie the wonder Dalmatian, spots and all), already bought candy to pass out, and starting to make my own construction paper decorations to hang in my own front window. I have my spider webbing ready and waiting to be stretched and pulled into perfect webs.  I wish I had a giant pumpkin to carve this year but there wasn't any kind of growing season around here this summer to make that happen, so I'll have to settle for finding a nice "little" pumpkin to carve and of course design my own pattern to carve into it that glorious Halloween afternoon.  All I need to do is find a skeleton like mom had so I feel like all is right in the world and put it up two weeks before.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Each Day is Something New

Well I've done it again.  I've gone a whole month without posting on here.  Its not intentional its just... well by the time my day is done I'd rather sit down and relax than type.  But I'll try to do better. 

I've been having a fantastic first month of working at the school.  Each and every day is just a little bit different than the last and its definitely keeping me on my toes.  I think I'm learning just as much as the little kiddo's I'm teaching are.  We've had a few new kids coming into the school so it adjusts my schedule a bit.  First thing in the morning on Tuesday, Thursday and every other Friday I conduct a corrective reading and corrective math class for 3 student ranging in ages from 10 to 13.  After that I go work as a one on one aid for a little boy with autism in the kindergarten class (I actually do that every day after lunch).  On Monday and Wednesday morning I work over at the preschool with Meredith with 12 very active and lively 3-5 year olds.  We have great fun and those kiddos are learning the basics of what going to school is all about.  Meredith always plans great projects with a purpose and this week is all about our own class rules and what it takes to be a good friend.  Then every other Friday (when I'm not doing CR and CM) I bounce between the kinder class and the 5/6 and 7/8 grade class helping out all the kids with special needs.  Like I said it really keeps me on my toes.

The regular school day ends at 3:30 but my day doesn't.  The school started up a brand new after school program this year and I'm helping out with that too.  It goes until 5:30 and part of the time is me helping all the kids who come with their homework and giving them some tutoring before tests then the other part of the time are group activities that are set up to encourage the kids self confidence, boost mutual respect and group work, and learning basic skills that can help out in other aspects in life.  All in all its a great program and hopefully the kids are getting a lot out of it.

Now while all that might sound like plenty to do (and believe me it is), I am also taking a class myself.  The class focuses on teaching children with autism and autism spectrum disorders which my supervisor thought would be an excellent class for me to take since I'm the staff member who is working the most with this little autistic kindergartner and its looking like we are going to have two other autism spectrum kids in the preschool class (who will be going to school at TC next year).  The class is great and I'm doing everything I can during my lunch break and then on the weekends.  Its set up in various modules and a series of tests on each one so its really a practice based learning experience.  I'm getting a lot out of it and am doing my best to apply the new things I'm learning to my day to day work.  I have another 3 months of it so I plan on getting as much out of it as I possibly can and hopefully becoming a better aide for it.

So thats my life in a nutshell right now.  There is always more going on than even that but thats all I feel like writing about now.  Hope everyone is having a fantastic start of fall and I'll be sure to keep you all updated as frequently as I can.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The 3 Day Countdown

This is it!  The final push before summer comes to a close for me.  While officially I'm already working since I had workshops and training stuff most of last week, the first day of school is 3 days away.  All weekend I've been trying to get the house in order, yard stuff put away for fall, and of course massive amounts of cleaning done so when I do get home from work the place isn't a total disaster area.  Unfortunately, between Mace (who always tries his best to keep the place clean but is not always successful) and Cassie our wonder dalmation (who sheds and tracks in grass, mud, and God knows what else from outside) the house will stay clean only a matter of days no matter how diligent I am.  But its the effort that counts right?

The workshop I attended with the Sander's County Special Education Co-Op staff last Wednesday was incredible.  I met an amazing group of people who are truly dedicated to making a difference and outdo themselves to provided the very needed services to our special ed students across the county.  I was super impressed with our morning speaker, the district superintendent, who was truly motivating and showed how special education in Montana has changed in his tenure as a teacher.  I also was able to talk to a para-professional (which technically is my job title as well) who for the past 5 years has been working with a set of autistic twins in her school.  She gave me some great ideas for assisted learning activities for the student with autism I'm going to be working with one on one most of my days.  It was also great to get her contact info in case I run across something I don't know how to deal with or just need to vent some frustrations with.

Over the next two days I'll be meeting with my own school's staff for PIR days.  I still haven't figured out what PIR stands for and apparently the teachers have been calling it that for so long now they can't remember what it stands for, but the main idea is that they are a series of training and teacher development days throughout the course of the school year.  Tomorrow we're all heading to Quinn's Hot Springs Resort outside of Paradise MT at 6:45 am to attend the Montana Behavioral Institute workshop together.  I think that all the staff on the district (Plains, Thompson Falls, Hot Springs, Noxon, etc) will be attending this workshop as well so it should be a great way to meet some new people.  I'm not sure what exactly this workshop is supposed to entail but maybe it will give me some ideas for dealing with behavioral problems that I might come across.  Tuesday we'll be doing CPR training and a bunch of staff meetings and scheduling so that we're all on the same page for school starting up on Wednesday. 

So now that I'm on my 3 day countdown I am even more excited and anxious to get the ball rolling.  I guess this is my next mini-adventure in life.  Guess we'll see where it takes me.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Tentative Schedule.... Yay!!!

Friday was an excellent day!  After finishing all the paperwork that is associated with starting a new job I went into the school Friday morning to drop it all off.  Lucky for me both Mary and Daisy were there and were not only able to file the paperwork right away but gave me a copy of my tentative schedule for the 2012-2013 school year.

From the looks of things I'm going to be super busy and nothing could make me happier!  Even though I've been trying to keep myself busy over the summer with odd jobs, volunteer work, and of course regular household and yard related chores I still find my time entirely too unoccupied.  I hate when I don't have something goal related to do.  So the idea of being busy at the school really excites me and makes me feel like I have a purpose.  From 7:45 am to 4:00 pm I'm going to be working 3 different jobs depending on the day of the week.  Most of my time will be devoted to working as a Special Education Aid for several students at the school but I also will be back working with the Preschool (which I absolutely adore) and finally I'll be working with a new afterschool program that the school just got a nice grant for.  I'm not exactly sure what all that last one entailes but I'm sure I'll figure it out within the first few days of school.

My school year actually starts next Monday.  I get to go in and meet with the Special Aid coordinator for the school and finalize my daily schedule as well as start making materials that students will need for the duration of the school year.  The next day I'll get to go in and familierize a few of the new students needing special guidance with the school, their specific schedule, and basically giving them an idea of how their day's will progress.  I'm really looking forward to this one on one work and hoping I can make their transition a smooth one.  I know kids go through a bit of a trial and error process when starting school and going from being home all day to being in a class room all day can be a difficult one even for the most well adjusted child.  So taking this extra time with students who need a little extra time to acclimate is well worth it.  Wednessday, Thursday, and Friday I'll be in Thompson Falls attending a Special Education training workshop that should help me develop some strategies and familierize me with some of the interactions I might come up against.  I've always been a person that loves to learn new things so that should be an excellent couple of days. 

School doesn't actually start officiall til the 22nd of Aug but we report in for PIR days on the 20th and will be running at full speed once the kids come in a couple days later.  I don't know what all PIR days consist of but I know some of it has to do with staff motivation and team building and we're supposed to be going to a local hotsprings at the end of it to have so fun too.  I just hope that everything will go smoothly and I'll do everything that I'm supposed to do to the best of my ability.  I don't want to dissappoint anyone since they administration is putting a lot of faith and trust in me by hiring me for a position I'm not very familier with.  But I know that they must see something good in me to be doing just that.  I just don't want to let anyone, including myself down.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Simple Pleasures

Sometimes I get so caught up with life and whats happening right now that I forget about the simple pleasures that surround me.  Even though I live in an area where rugged beauty prevails I often forget to take it all in and appreciate it.  But yesterday was a different story.  Mace and I have had so much stress in our lives for the past year and yesterday it just got to the point that we needed to turn it all off.  So we packed up a lunch, the dog, and the camera and just headed out in the woods for the day. 

We didn't do anything special or grand.  We just found an old forest service road and toodled on up it.  When we got tired of driving we found a good spot to park and had our lunch, much to Cassie the wonder dalmatians impatience.  She did however appreciate receiving the crusts off the sandwiches and a few potato chips tossed her way.  It was just nice to sit there on a rock overlooking the mountains and valleys, breathing in the sweet air, and forgetting about the things that have been stressing us both out.  Once our lunch was finished we decided to go for a little hike.  Again it wasn't anything rigorous or extreme and we really didn't have any purpose in mind.  Instead we just walked along a ridge line and saw what there was to see, heard the birds chirping, and panicked a few chipmunks who thought Cassie was going to steel their nut reserves.

By the time we got back to the truck the sun was starting to go down so we decided to head on home.  Not that we really wanted to but figured that just because we were going home didn't mean that we had to do anything stressful once we got back.  Instead we lit a fire in the bbq pit and grilled a steak for dinner and watched the sun go down while the coals finally burned out.  All the while we were able to just talk and relax and of course I was especially happy just watching the fire.  I don't know what it is about watching flames but its so hypnotizing and calming.  Mace has always thought that I had a little bit of a pyro in me, which maybe I do, but mostly I just like seeing the shapes of the flames change and feeling the warmth of them on my face.  Sitting around a fire takes me back to camping with my family when I was little.  Its something just so soothing.  Its probably a good thing that our wood stove in the house doesn't have a glass panel front on it or I'd spend the entire winter watching the flames from the living room couch.

What I've come to realize is that it doesn't take much to decompress.  Sometimes it just takes a day away from the hustle and bustle of life.  I've also come to realize that both Mace and I need to do things like this more often instead of waiting til we're both so frazzled that it hurts.  So that is one of my goals for the next year is making sure we both take a few days here and there to just let all our cares waste away.  I mean really how many things in life can't wait a day?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Squeeky Clean

Today was gorgeous out.  The sun was shining, there was a slight warm breeze in the air, and little puffy clouds floated in the sky.  It was one of those rare days that a person can truly appreciate.  Its also one of those days that is absolutely perfect for giving your dog a bath. 

Now I have to preface this posting with a statement that Cassie, our wonderful 11 year old dalmation, is never really "dirty" unless she decides to go in the nearby pasture and roll in fresh horse poop.  She is an inside dog for the most part unless we are outside doing stuff or go out in the woods to hike.  But no matter how clean she stays there is no denying that she gets a little funky smelling.  During the summer because she is outside a lot more that Odor De Stinky Pooch gets to be a bit stronger so I try to give her a nice warm bath once every 3 weeks or so.

For years Cassie has fought me when it comes to a bath which I've never understood because I raised labs growing up and whenever there was any form of water nearby they were more than willing to jump in.  Cassie on the other hand used to act like it was a punishment.  She'd tuck her tail between her legs and give me these sad looks as I'd have to take her by the collar and coax her into the bathroom.  I've long since given up trying to do it outside with a hose  and a tub because any time I turned around she'd just jump out and go to the furthest corner of  the yard.  This summer however she seems to like it a bit more.  I think the old tiredness in her bones goes away while I'm soaping her up with warm suds and scrubbing.  She now leans into it.  So even though she gives me these "I don't like this idea" look when I tell her its bath time, once she gets in and feels the warm water rolling over her she seems to enjoy it.

And of course its even better on days like this where she gets a nice warm bath than is able to air dry in the sun outside.  First she runs around the yard shaking off the excess water and then she finds a cozy spat to lay and soak up the rays.  I can't say as I blame her.  Today while she was out drying in the sun I was flaked out on a beach towel, reading a good book, and enjoying the sun.  So now I have a squeeky clean dog who positively glows... now if I could just make the rest of the stuff in my house clean up so easily.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Scrappy Fun

Once every three weeks or so a terrific group of local ladies gets together for a scrap booking party.  Yesterday was just such an occasion and luckily I was able to attend this time around.  Because of scheduling conflicts, work, other activities I hadn't been able to attend for a couple months and it was really getting me down.  So just the fact that I was able to go yesterday totally made my day. 

Meredith and Becky usually take turns hosting and introducing the new projects and yesterday was Becky's turn and oooooooh was it a fabulous one.  Somehow she had convinced her husband to cut, sand and put together three 4x4 cubes for each of us to work on as our proverbial "canvas".  Four of the sides of each cube were devoted to pictures, quotes, and decorations while the other two sides provided the means for feeding a rope or ribbon through to hang the blocks once completed.  Most of the women did a vertical hanger but I did a horizontal one so that the blocks could spin and be adjusted when I wanted rather than free spinning.
It was so interesting to see how each of us did something a little different.  We needed 12 photos that we could cut down and incorporate on to each block after we'd taken and ink stamp to them all to add a base color on top of the wood grain.  I am a person that seems to be stuck on earthy tones so I used a nice green, a dusty blue, and of course maroon as my block colors.  I then tore pieces of similar colored but varied patterned scrap booking paper to add texture to the background behind my pictures.  Finally I glued my pictures on each block face and added some extra bells and whistles afterward. 

Since my printer is on the fritz (and has been for way too long) I had to find a theme with prints I already had so I dug in my old college trunk and found some awesome pictures of my friends and I goofing off and making funny faces.  So my project was themed around friendship and having fun.  I tell you its a lot easier to find pictures of us goofing off then ones of us being serious.  Plus using just head shots made for easy trimming and provided a nice mix of combinations that my blocks can be spun to when I hang it up.

While I got all the "hard" work done.  My hanger isn't quite finished because I'm going to put nice natural wood beads between each of the big blocks to give a little bit of space in between them as well as allow for better form when I hang it horizontally.  That way the blocks wont knock into one another and they will be free to spin individually rather than as a whole unit.

Meredith did a great series themed on Halloween and included pictures of jackolanterns, ghosts, skeletons, and family photos around her house and made for an adorable hanger.  Robert did one that was based on all things beach and ocean.  It looked like an amazing beach vacation and the finished product was great.  I didn't get to see Becky's but hopefully she'll post pictures of it in the next few days.  Now I just need to finish mind and I'm thinking that I want to do another one with a Christmas theme to give to my Mom for the holidays.  I just need to make sure my printer is up and running by then so I have more variety to choose from in terms of pictures.  I've also thought about miniaturizing it to make it into a series of Christmas tree ornaments rather than a wall hanger.  We'll see what I come up with. 

Friday, July 20, 2012


It is truly amazing how quickly life can turn on itself.  There are days that you have amazing highs and others that consist of frustrating lows.  At the beginning of the week I was offered a job with the local school, one of those amazing highs, then by Wednesday night I was called by one of the jobs hiring committees and told that I came in second on a position as a Canadian Lynx biologist in Coleville.  I know I can't be too frustrated by all this but I am.  Yet again I was told that I'm super competitive and made the decision a hard one for the hiring committee, which really is a compliment, but I am tired of being the "almost" gal.  But I can't blame them for hiring who they did either.  It came down to me and another person with 5 years of research experience on lynx and bobcat as well as a completed masters degree.  If I was in their position I'd do the same thing.  They are getting a bigger bang for their buck.  Its just frustrating to me that a person that should be putting in for higher pay/experience positions are putting in for the same ones I am, but I suppose that's just the employment market we're in. 

I just shouldn't let it get me down because I know when the time is right things will work out for the best.  And as I've said maybe teaching is a higher calling that I've been ignoring.  People that are close to me keep saying that I'm good at it and Mace keeps telling me that he can tell that it makes me happy, which I can't deny.  I come home telling him stories about the crafty things we're doing, projects we're working on, activities and the ups and downs of my day.  And I'm not nearly as tired at the end of the day as I was when working in my own career field.  But that was a good kind of tired as well.  I really am glad I get the chance to do more work at the school and experience new things working with kids with special needs, but I'm not going to let that stop me from still trying to find my "dream job" whatever that might be.

In other news I had a great conversation with my mom last night on the phone.  We've both been so busy with our mutual activities that we hadn't had the chance to talk for a couple months.  Time flies!  But after 3 hours of catching up we knew the skinny on what each of us has been up to.  She told me that my sister Robin and her family are flying down to Denver to see my other sister Brenda and her family and Mom is inviting herself down so she can see them all.  If that doesn't work out hopefully the whole gang will go up to Cheyenne to visit Mom and participate in some Frontier Days activities.  With Robin coming from New York and her boys living there most of their lives they've never done the CFD stuff like Brenda's kids have done all their lives.  I think going to the parades, hitting up a pancake breakfast, going to the Indian Village, and having fun at the rodeo and carnival would be right up the ally. Hopefully either way it works out they will email me some pictures to see how everyone has grown up.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Awaiting Approval

As I've mentioned in previous posts I've been applying over and over again for jobs in my own field of expertise (wildlife biology) but in the mean time I've been working as a Preschool Teachers Aid as well as substituting fairly regularly at the local elementary/middle school.  You know that old saying "When one door closes, God opens up a window", well apparently that's whats going on with me right now.  I've been so frustrated not being able to find stable work within wildlife but have found such joy working with the local kids that maybe God is trying to tell me something. 

A few days ago the supervising teacher (kind of the same thing as the principal of the school) called and asked me to come in for a meeting about a possible position she had available.  Frankly I was a little surprised, though I know that whenever I went into the school to sub she was always excited to see me come in and we had some great talks over the lunch table in the teachers lounge.  Obviously my background isn't in teaching but I do have fun when I'm there and my heart lifts when I see that new look of understanding cross a child's face when they finally get something they've been having a hard time with. So yesterday I go in for our scheduled meeting and was told that she had been watching me for the past year and was very impressed with the way I handled myself when working with the various students, especially those that are within the special education program at the school.  She said that I always came in with a smile, a positive attitude, and willing to take on any challenge that came my way and those where qualities she was looking for in staff members. 

So after discussing the duties that the position would entail and discussing what kind of flexibility I might have to deal with I was offered a position as a Special Eduction aid.  This would be a 3/4 time position which is great because that means that I still get to work with the preschoolers for the other 1/4 of a 40 hour work week which is something I REALLY REALLY REALLY didn't want to have to give up. So I'll actually be working full time (meaning I get health, life, and retirement benefits) just between two programs at the school.  I have to say I feel blessed and grateful for the opportunity and am currently just waiting on my approval from the school board, which shouldn't be any problem because they already approved my preschool contract and even gave me a raise so I must be doing something right.  I should know within a week or so and I'll have to start going in and meeting with the new special education coordinator for the school so we can work out lesson plans and scheduling.  I also have to see what kind of training and certification I need to get in the next month or so but those are things that I'm really excited about completing.

That being said though I am beginning to wonder what all this means for me in the long run.  Did I make a mistake in college when I went into wildlife.  Deep in my heart I still want for that dream to come true and make a career of it, but am I being told that I'm mean to do something else?  My mom always told me even as a little kid that I had a way with people and was a natural with the extremes of life meaning caring for the elderly and understanding little kids.  And at various points of my life I've worked with both and have never denied that I enjoy it.  So I guess what I'm saying is that while I'm not closing off the possibility of working in wildlife and natural resources, I am going to let go of the reins a bit and follow the road I'm on right now.  Things happen for a reason so who am I to try to explain things that I can't seem to explain.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Bucking Bales

I personally don't have any reason to buck bales anymore and haven't done it for a couple years since no one in the family has horses any more, but my friend Meredith has 3 horses who need food for the winter.  So Mace and I volunteered our services for Meredith and her husband Bruce to help them get 6 tons of hay in their barn a couple days ago. 

Now for any of you who don't know what bucking bales consists of, well consider yourself lucky.  First you find someone willing to sell you hay and find out when its going to be cut, dried, and baled.  That's the easiest part.  Usually folks dry and bale on the hottest days of the summer so the hay wont mold over the winter and the bales are good for storage in a barn.  But this also means that you need to buck bales on the hottest days of the year as well. Now on average a small bale weighs 50 lbs so to load a single ton you need to pick up 40 bales from the field in 100+ degree heat.

This is no small feat especially for only two people.  Bruce and Meredith had spent the previous couple evenings after he'd gotten home from work doing it themselves and had gotten 2 1/2 ton into the barn already but I know it was taking a toll on them both.  Ideally you have 4 people working together to buck bales: one to drive the pickup/trailer, one to stack, and two to pick up bales and load them on the trailer as you move along.  With 3 1/2 ton (120 bales) left to pick up and the weather forecasts spelling out rain (something that will ruin good bales in a heart beat) Mace and I were more than willing to go out to their place and give them a hand.  We were able to get both our trailer and Meredith's trailer loaded in no time (well relatively speaking) and were able to get all of it in the barn before the thunder clouds started rolling in that evening.  Of course we were all a bunch of sweaty messes after everything was said and done, and Mace's allergies were going bonkers but we were glad to be able to help them out since they are such wonderful people.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Little Bit Anxious

All my life I've tried to become a more confident person.  And for the most part I've been successful, though in all reality I was a relatively shy person growing up.  Well maybe I shouldn't say shy since I could always talk to "grown ups" and never felt awkward about that.  My shyness mostly revolved around interacting with my own demographic.  But those days are behind me and I think I put up a decent confidence front whenever I interact with new people.  I think most of my friends would have a hard time believing that it was difficult for me to exude that trait but I knew it was necessary.  I tried to put myself out there and have the "take me as I am" attitude and most of the time it worked.  So on the social level I don't think I have issues anymore but when I'm in the process of interviewing for jobs (which I've been doing again with some frequency) I have all those old fears come back to me. 

The anticipation before an scheduled interview is the worst whether its in person or on the phone because I keep trying to predict the questions that are going to be asked and go through the best possible answers I can give but there are always ones I can never really prepare for.  Once the interviews start and I get rolling I'm fine but I truly hate the hours leading up to one, like today.  And I know I shouldn't be anxious, I've been through this dozens of times and know that I come off well and represent myself to the best of my abilities but I can't seem to help it.  I just have to keep telling myself that whatever happens happens and I can only do my best, but I am tired of having that not quite cut it.  I've gotten to the point on so many of these interviews where I've passed the numerous hurdles of the system and make it to the final interviews that can last for a couple hours and find that I'm competing against 2-3 other candidates with either more education or have been working in the industry for 10-15 years.  Which in some ways should be a compliment because I don't have a masters or PhD and am still relatively new in my field yet I am competitive with the people who do have those qualifications. 

I know that I can't get myself bogged down in those details because I can't control who I'm being compared to I can only control my own skills and qualifications, but it does get depressing.  I want so much to get out there and gain new experiences and make not only my family proud but myself.  I know that when I get into something I give 120% and wont disappoint but I just want that chance so badly that it hurts sometimes.  So today I'm trying my best to have a positive outlook, prepare myself, and calm myself down because at this very moment I'm still a little bit anxious.  I'm interviewing for a Fish and Wildlife Biologist II position with the State of Washington and while I know I'm qualified its still a question of who else is too.  I know that there are 4 other candidates interviewing today and we're all out of staters except for one that is in Seattle.  The position is in Colville which in all reality is only a couple hours from where I'm living right now but I know very little about the place since I've never been there.  So we'll see how it goes and let the dice fall where they may.

Monday, July 9, 2012

My Seven Kindoms for a Pool

It wasn't even a week ago that Trout Creek was having 60 degree days with clouds and rain.  Even worse, at night we were dropping below freezing making me very glad that Mace and I didn't end up planting much of a garden this year.  Yet as of right now the temperature is a whopping 104 degrees and does not show any sign of teetering off any time soon. 

I know I've bitched about the seemingly endless cold rainy spring but going from one extreme to the other is just as nuts. Even with the air conditioner going full blast it is sweltering in the house.  The weird thing is that growing up I know that Cheyenne had about a month where we'd have this kind of heat but at least we worked our way up to it, and not only that it was severely dry heat which is sooooooo much better than this hot muggy stuff.  I love living in Montana but I will never get used to the lower elevations and the higher humidity.  It always makes me think that I'm chewing the air rather than breathing it in.

Its on the days like this, where I've been working outside for an hour at a time trying to at least feel like I'm getting stuff accomplished  that I would trade just about anything for a pool to splash in at the end of the day.  I'm not even saying I need a private pool.  I'm saying ANY pool would do.  Trout Creek is the only place I've ever lived that doesn't have a public pool and I think it is a terrible shame.  I'd love one not only to cool off in at the end of the day but to have a bit of a change up in my workout routine.  I'm still doing my circuit training every day and had been running a couple miles every other day, but now that the heat has settled in I just can't seem to run.  Its just too bloody hot out and frankly I'm not to keen on passing out on a dirt road that no one really travels down.  I seriously don't know how those Olympic athletes compete in temperatures like this.  There is a reason I played Spring, Fall and Winter sports ... not Summer.  But I did swim every summer at the public pool.  Lap swimming was a wonderful deal.  Get up early, hit the pool, and feel your muscles and body just eat it all up.  I'd love that opportunity again. 

Now there is a pool 30 miles away in Thompson Falls but I really can't convince myself that the hour long drive both ways plus the gas it takes to get there is worth the effort.    I have folks here that say I should just hop in the river and swim but frankly I've seen some of the contaminant test results for the river here down by the boat docks and I'm just not game for putting any other part of my body in it other than dangling my feet in it.    My next best option is going up some of the other side creeks that are all mountain fed and try to find a hole big enough to dunk myself in.  Which is great and I've done that more than a time or two but its not really swimming its more like shifting from gravely bank to gravely bank without slipping on a major rock. So since I can't seem to find an appropriate solution to my swimming pool dilemma I'll settle for griping about it on here. Here's to hoping the hot spell breaks soon!

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Half Way Point

Here it is July 8th and its hard to believe that summer is already half over with.  I've been so busy trying to catch up on household projects and other random events that I've barely noticed that it was even summer.  But now that our busy and high stress business with the fireworks booth is done with for the year its finally time to find some fun things to do with the rest of our summer.  Mace and I were hoping that we'd have a great year with fireworks and be able to take a week or two and go back to the Oregon coast to play on the beach but with the 4th being on a Wednesday we had one of the worst years ever so that's just not going to happen.  Also there are other things around the house that need the money worse soooo we are trying to think of some cheap alternatives. 

I'm always up for going camping but Mace is not much of a camper.  He loves doing stuff in the outdoors ie hiking, hunting, looking for antlers, morel picking, and going and getting wood but since he's always lived so close to the woods he's never really had the desire to camp.  He can go out and do all this stuff and then come back home to a nice cozy bed.  While I understand his point of view its a bit frustrating for me since I LOVE to camp.  I love putting up a tent, cooking over a fire, enjoying a cup of coffee in the morning by a stream or lake, and not being connected to the "real world" for a few days at a time.  But I am hoping I can convince him to do a night or two up on Chicago or Bloom Peak so we can have mountain goats visiting us in the morning.  Coolest experience ever if you haven't ever had it.  They are so far up there that they rarely get human visitors and are so curious that they will come and feed right up against your camp and sniff at you if you are just sitting on a rock.  SOOOOOO COOL! 

I just keep thinking that we are always too serious too much of the time.  Granted there are serious things going on in our lives so its not too much of surprise but last year when we were able to just take a few days after my Vancouver interview and play we came home with so much more energy and such a positive attitude that I think its something we need to do every once in a while.  If I can't convince him to go camping maybe I can convince him to go up to Kalispel/Flathead to hang out with Kenny and Kami for a couple days.  My folks rented an amazing little cottage/room in Big Fork a few years ago when they were on vacation and it would only be about 20 minutes from Kenny and Kami's house.  While it is a bit more expensive than roughing it in the woods it would be a nice change of pace.  Mace and Kenny get along so well that I'm sure they'd find something to go do while Kami and I could either bake or go putzing around Kalispel and Whitefish.  Also Erin and Dan are living in Kalispel now so we could all really get into some trouble.

But until I can figure out the perfect little mini break vacation we'll just keep chugging along with the daily grind.  I'm putting in applications all over the place and actually have a few interviews lined up for the next couple weeks.  Seems like I always have that going on any more.  Which don't get me wrong is a good thing but I wish I would here that I'm hired rather than that I made it to the final 2 or 3 but just didn't quite get the job.  At least I have my contract with the preschool already signed and submitted so I have that to fall back on.  Meredith has been so supportive.  She really loves having me as her aid but understands that I want to get back into my own field and has given me some glowing recommendations.  Truly she is an amazing woman.  She, Bruce, and their son Cade even came and bought a few fireworks at the booth this year just to stop by and say hello.  I wish no matter what we end up doing  I could pack her up and take her along.  But that's just not the way the world works.  Sometimes I wonder if this process is somehow God telling me to change my path but I can seem to get confirmation one way or another.  Each interview I arrange gives me hope yet when the job doesn't come through it makes me question everything else.  I guess that's just the way things work some times.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Dalmation Dealing with Thunderstorms

As I may have mentioned before my 11 year old Dalmation, Cassie, is absolutely TERRIFIED of thunderstorms.  Well... thunderstorms and fireworks.  When she was younger it wasn't as big of a deal; she'd pace around the house a few times and had a few shivers when the biggest of lightning strickes would create a giant roll of thunder but she'd calm down as soon as the storm was over.  As she's gotten older, her reactions have gotten so much worse.  In recent years she's begun to shake like an epileptic, she can't think, her hear rate goes through the roof, and she slobbers and pants like she's having a stroke (and this is a dog that rarely even opens her mouth except to eat). Now I think that Mace and I would have been able to cope even with these dramatic reactions to thunderstorms if they ended as soon as the storm did, but she'll literally do these things for hours and hours after the storm has passed and wears herself out to the point of total exhaustion.  The last couple of storms had been so awful that we thought Cassie might have a heart attack. There just wasn't anything we could do that seemed to help her.  I really thought that the next thunderstorm could be the death of her.

So I talked to a few friends that have similar issues with a few of their pets and my friend Meredith told me about a website that had a great varriety of anti-anxiety meds for dogs that might help.  She also gave me an idea of how the couple of brands she used on her cats helped but recommened a few of the lesser expensive ones to try first since her cat goes ballistic at just about the drop of a hat and Cassie's issues are only on specific occasions.  She didn't need something that would be a daily anti-anxiety med.  So Mace and I hopped online to see what we could find ASAP.  We read all the reviews, weighed our options carefully, and decided on one called TranQuil Tabs for Dogs.  What we found out was that the strongest active ingredient in the stuff was L-Tryptophan (yep the same stuff that puts us into a turkey induced coma after Thanksgiving dinner). 

After a few short days we got these in the mail and really it couldn't have been any better timing since the day we got them we had a terrible thunderstorm that evening.  Now even though these tablets are chewable and apparently chicken liver flavored, getting them in Cassie can be a little difficult if we don't have her take them before a huge clap of thunder.  Her brain just goes so wacky that she doesn't even realize that she's been giving something yummy to eat.  So down the gullet we have to force them.  If however we get them to her when we first start to hear those low rummbles up the valley before she gets freaked out, she eats them right up and is looking for more.  Within about 10-15 minutes she's soooooo much more relaxed.  No more pacing, panting, and shaking (unless its a really big clap of thunder) but then she calms right down again.  She isn't exactly at "normal" Cassie levels but its such a dramatic improvement from before TranQuil Tabs that I really have no room for negative commentary.

Actually the only reason I'm writting this post this morning is because we're in the middle of another huge thunderstorm (thunder, lightening, hail, rain, the works) and yet she's laying here with her head on my lap breathing normally and only picking her head up and giving a little shiver when the thunder gets really bad.  Even though I didn't get her meds in before the storm and she was panicking like crazy it still only took about 10 minutes for the good juices to flow and she calmed down.  I love her sooooo very much and I am so happy that we got her these treats.  Now all I have to do is remember to give them to her on the 4th of July before going to the fireworks booth so she's not clawing at the walls when the fireworks start going off around town... but I'm sure that will be another post.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Fireworks Frenzy!

Its that time of year again.  The 4th of July is only 10 days away and of course for me and Mace that means selling fireworks for the next 10 days.  Now until I started dating Mace my fireworks experience was limited to the old style metal sparklers that my family would light on the back deck after we'd gone to the big Cheyenne public fireworks display.  My family left it to the professionals but around here the town/county doesn't do any kind of public display and individuals light off fireworks at home.  So about 10 years ago Mace started a fireworks business here in town and has been really successful with it.  Once I came into the picture I became the business's bookkeeper since I am the master of all paperwork and we've made a fantastic team.  Each year I become a little more involved and look forward to the day we start.  Today is that day.

Yesterday we spent 14 hours moving the booth over town, setting it up, getting our order, making sure everything is displayed properly, checking our booth safety measure, etc.  All of which is a lot of hard physical work but its also really exciting, especially when our order arrived and we were able to see for the first time the new products we get to sell.  There is so much this year that looks like it would be amazing to see fired off.  Luckily I'll get to see most of the items because its local people buying them and on the 4th I'll sit on my own porch and watch around town. I'm really looking forward to seeing some of the new 500 gram aerial displays and some of the new artillery shells go off because the performance rating on them is spectacular.... and really who doesn't like sparkly lighted stuff exploding at night???

Today is our "grand" opening.  We had a bunch of people stop by yesterday asking when we were opening up and were a little upset that they couldn't buy things yesterday but the federal government controls the selling period for fireworks and we can only go from the 24th of June to the 4th of July.  Hopefully that didn't discourage those folks from coming today.  So in the next few minutes Mace and I will go over town and finish pricing all the items (by 8 last night we'd had enough!) and open the doors.  We're both really hoping for a good year and are a little nervous since the 4th falls on a Wednesday this year which traditionally makes for a bad sales year, but we'll keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best.  So wish us luck and hopefully we'll see a few of you drop buy and say hello.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Long Live Sesame Street!!!

For some reason I never thought I'd be part of the "old generation" but I see more and more things everyday that put me in that kind of category.  For instance... I still know the lyrics to a bunch of songs by Kiss, Guns n Roses, Blondie, Wilson Philips, etc; I remember slouch socks and scrunchies, and I grew up on Sesame Street!  Sesame Street was the end all be all for children's educational entertainment in my day.  Yes I said "my day".  Today's kids watch Dora, Diego, and the WonderPets, which in all reality I can't say are too bad but they aren't as awesome as Sesame Street.  Now I'm totally admitting I'm biased but I really feel that today's kids are suffering because of their lack of interest in shows like Sesame Street and have such a crummy array of cartoons to watch.  How can Sponge Bob compare to Thunder Cats, David the Gnome, or the Care Bears?  I mentioned a classic Loony Toone character (the Tazmania Devil aka TAZ) to the 3rd/4th grade class recently and they looked at me like I was an alien.  Am I really that far removed?

I know what you are going to say, all people look back on their childhood cartoons/shows and they they were the best.  But that's not what I'm saying at all.  I was born in 1983 so I watched shows like Saved by the Bell, Family Matters, and Blossom but I also watched Mr. Ed, the Brady Bunch, and Gilligan's Island which were before my time.  The same can be said for the cartoons I watched.  I adored Grape Ape, the Flintstones, the Jetsons, and Bulwinkle (again all from before my time).  But they were still fun to watch and had a story line to them.  I thought that maybe it was my age that was making me so angsty toward present day cartoons and kids shows but I don't think that's it either.  I've shown some of the younger kids cartoons and shows from my generation and they have absolutely no interest in them.  I just don't get it!

Tully, Big Bird, Oscar the Grouch, and Cookie Monster made out of Fruits and Veggies!!!
So to all the moms, teachers, and child caregivers out there... keep the old school alive!!!  I had a massive grin ear to ear when a friend of mine shared an awesome snack idea for kids (again my preschool teacher spirit is coming out here).  Check out the picture above.  Each plate contains fruit, veggies, and cheese laid out to make Sesame Street characters.  I was so excited about trying this out on the preschoolers next year but came to the sad reality that many of them wouldn't have a clue who there classic characters were.  Cookie Monster, Tully, Oscar the Grouch, and Big Birdwere so common place to me that I can't imagine not recognizing them.  Such is life I suppose.  But if you are anything like me you'll love to make these Sesame Street snacks.  Maybe they are more for the mom's than the kids anymore but I still think its a fantastic and creative idea (and healthy to boot).

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Is Salem Oregon In My Future?

After months of searching, hundreds of applications and resumes sent out (I'm not exaggerating here), and lots of prayers I finally got some word back on a few jobs.  Since February I've been in this dry spell with very little serious feedback on the jobs I've put in for and I was getting depressed.  But apparently the dry spell is over and during the past week I've gotten emails from several agencies that are interested in me.  My applications have moved on to the next phase in the hiring process and I'm in the middle of scheduling interviews for several possibilities. 

Since going to Vancouver WA last summer and finding out that Mace's allergies aren't nearly as bad in that neck of the woods I've been focusing on trying to find a job in the Pacific Northwest.  That's not to say I haven't been putting out applications out all over the Rocky Mountain West but I've been keeping my fingers crossed for something to pop up over there that would work out.  So when I got emails from a job located in Salem, OR and another outside of Olympia WA I have to admit that I've gotten excited and overly optimistic.  But maybe that's what its going to take.... hope beyond all hope that something is going to work out. 

Both jobs are one's that I'd be very interested in.  The one in Salem in particular because it has to do with habitat improvement for wildlife and also private land owner involvement in cooperative projects.  I'd be working for the state of Oregon but the job entails contact with various state, federal, and local non-profit organizations which would create an amazing network of contacts for me for the future.  The job in outside of Olympia involves more field work which would be fantastic as well so its kind of a toss up as to which would be the better fit.  I guess I'll just have to wait and see what happens and keep up the optimistic attitude.  Hopefully good things are around the corner.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Preschool Moving Day

Over Christmas break this year, Meredith and I were informed that the preschool had to vacate its present location by the end of May.  This might not seem like a big deal for some of you out there, but for those of us that have been involved in moving, either a household full of goods or even just a college dorm room full of stuff, moving just sucks.  I have a lot of issues with this decision to make the preschool move because frankly its ridiculous.  You see that local church had an old parsonage which it hadn't used in several years and was completely vacant so when Meredith was lucky enough to involve her personal preschool with the school in Trout Creek. It was a win win situation.  The school got a preschool to get students on the right track to school and the church had a great tennent that paid rent and got members involved in the community. The location was optimal and only about 100 yards away from the school giving us access to the school activities when the opportunity arose but still able to do our own thing.  Now granted I've only been involved in the preschool for the past year but I love it so much and Meredith is such an incredible woman that I hate when things go wrong. 

Apparently the church that the building belongs to is talking about hiring a new pastor (not that they have even started taking in applications for the position) and needed the old parsonage available if the new pastor decided he/she wanted it rather than living elsewhere in town.  While I understand the need to have this option available to a new person coming in it made little sense to me to have a rent paying operation to move out before knowing one way or another if the new pastor wanted the building at all.  I have this sinking suspicion that the building will just remain empty for at least the next school year, but I guess there is very little anyone can do about it.

Now the other problem we have is that we don't have a definitive place to move the preschool to for next year.  All we know for sure is that we'll be somewhere on school property.  It might be in the old teacherage (this is what we're really hoping for since the teacher that is living there now is getting married in a couple weeks and wanting to find a bigger place to have a family) which has several rooms, a kitchen, a bathroom, a fenced in back yard, etc that is the most similar space wise to the old building and functionally the best option for the preschool. But its also possible that Ms. Mahoney will stay there another year which I can understand.  I can't say that I'd want to move right after working so hard on wedding plans. The next option is sharing the other teacherage on the property with AltaCare which is a type of special ed operation associated with the school.  It would be awfully tight squeezing us both in there but its doable.  Lastly we have the option of moving into the music room of the school itself.  This too has its positives and negatives but again is doable if we organize things right.  Guess we'll just have to wait and see.

I digress however.  So Thursday the 31st was the big day to get everything belonging to the preschool packed up and moved out.  Meredith a a few of the preschool mom's/friends had done a lot of packing the day before while I was subbing at the school but fortunately I was able to help out with the heavy lifting on Thursday. I have to say I didn't really think about how much stuff was in the place until we had cleared out all the cubbies, storage cabinets, and closets.  I should have known since we've used all this stuff over the course of the school year but you just kind of forget as time goes by.  Thankfully many hands (and muscles) made for light work.  Two horse trailer and pickup loads later we had EVERYTHING from the preschool moved over to the basement of the school gym where it will rest until we have to move it again in August or so.  Hopefully by then we'll know exactly what building/room/whatever the preschool will end up being in.
Mace volunteered his services as well which I thought was so sweet.  It was also great because during the course of the work he got to know Meredith and Bruce a bit better.  We even went out together for dinner afterward and had a great time talking and joking around.  Both Meredith and Bruce commented on how much Mace and I reminded them of themselves.  I am going to miss these people so much over the summer.  Hopefully though with my volunteering with the Fish and Wildlife Services and doing the scrapbooking stuff I'll be able to spend more time with them over the summer.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sad to see them all go.

Both AM and PM Class lined up and ready for the field trip!
Since this was my first year teaching preschool, I really did not know what to expect on our last day.  While I'm proud to say I didn't break down crying as each little kiddo came and gave me a goodbye hug, I was extremely sad and feel a bit empty knowing that there are few of them that I'll never see again.  Thankfully about half the class will be going to the local school here in Trout Creek so there is a good chance I'll see them while I'm subbing there next year.  And better yet there are still a couple of kids from this year's class that are too young to start kindergarten so they will be in our preschool again next year. 

We had an amazing last day, minus me being sad at the very end.  The woman who lives right across from me raises horses and ponies volunteered to give the kids pony rides on our last day of class... and come on... who doesn't love pony rides?  The kid were ecstatic and rode those ponies over and over again.  Shannon brought three different mounts over and plenty of helmets to go around.  Even the kids that were nervous at first when being placed on top of the taller of the ponies ended up with a huge grin on their face about two paces in and would immediately get off and go back to the end of the line which seemed endless.

Meredith also blew up the bouncy house for the kids to go ballistic in.  I'm not sure where she picked up the house from but we've used it at every preschool party and these kids never get tired of it.  I wish I had a 10th of the energy they do.  I know that when I was their age I did.  I can remember going to my friends birthday parties at Peter Piper Pizza in Cheyenne (basically a knockoff of Chucky Cheese) and running around in their bouncy house and ball pits without ever getting tired.  Where does the time go?

I do have to say though that my energy level has increased dramatically over the last year.  Of course shedding 70 lbs in that time might have something to do with that.  As a matter of fact the principal at the local school asked me to be one of the teacher/chaperones for the bike ride at the end of the year.  She said I looked plenty active and wouldn't have any issues with it.  It wasn't until the day before the trip that I found out that this "little" bike ride was actually an 18 mile mountain bike trip up to Martin Creek campground and back.  Never one to back down from a commitment I put my best foot forward and actually ended up surprising myself.  This rag tag group of 12-14 year olds should have been just demolishing me and putting my big toushy to shame but I actually ended up leading the pack over hill and dale and had more energy than they all did at the end of the trip.  I'm so happy to be back in shape and not feeling tired and worn out over the silliest things.  I figure if I can do 18 miles that easily on bike I should be able to do more and plan to over the summer.

Anyway I digress... back to the preschool end of the year party.  We also had amazing food brought in by all the parents and kids.  I was very proud of two of the little boys in my afternoon class that brought in food that they had actually helped make.  One brought in elk meatballs (so yummy) that he proudly told everyone how to make who said they were good and the other brought in brownies (right up my ally) that he insisted his mother didn't help him with.  She actually confirmed that he made them all on his own.  Pretty impressive for a 4 and 5 year old.  Maybe they will be our next generation of chefs. 
Catapiller Cupcakes.... so fun and delicious!!

I have had an amazing year with this group of children and certainly hope that I've helped teach them somethings that they will remember for the rest of their life.  Whether its me singing the "Buffalo Song" to them or teaching them the colors of the rainbow and why they are in the order they are in or why the leaves change color in the fall I hope I've made some impact in their lives because they have certainly left a lasting impression in my heart.  I will miss them so much over the summer but I'm already looking forward to the new group of kiddos I'll meet next fall.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Housesitters Heaven

Cow Elk
This weekend I've had the wonderful opportunity of housesitting for Meredith.  Now this isn't just any ol housesitting job... this is housitting in a gorgeous house on 40 acres in northwestern Montana.  It doesn't get any better than this.  While sitting on the back patio drinking coffee this morning I've seen 37 elk, 16 deer, 4 coyote pups (and their mom), a great horned owl, bald eagle, bunches of different little sparrows and thrushes, ground squirrels and gofers, and one lone skinny fox (couldn't get a picture of him though).  Those are just the wild critters on the property all of which I saw in the course of maybe 20 minutes.  I hope Meredith and her family realize how truly blessed they are here. 

Coyote Pup

I'm also taking care of a managerie of pets.  Two dogs (Piper and Selky), three cats (Egypt, Itty, and Hobbs),  three birds (Digit, Cleo, and Kernel), one tadpole (Leprechan Flower... as previously mentioned in a post from a couple days ago), five chicks (no names as of yet), three horses (Journey, Wynter, and Dakota), and a bunch of chickens and roosters (don't remember all the names).  I'm having soooooo much fun!!!!!! 

Correction:  Coyote Pups!
This place is a wildlife biologists/ wannabe vet's paradise.  I'm sad that I have to give the keys back tomorrow afternoon... lol.
This is Itty!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Preschool Projects!

As you might have guessed by now I've been having a lot of fun helping teach the afternoon preschool class associated with the local school.  We've done a bunch of projects during the year that I have enjoyed tremendously, but I have to admit the last few weeks have been even more amazing.

First we got a tadpole for the class around St. Patricks Day.  This isn't just any tadpole, this is OUR tadpole and he'll eventually turn into a water frog.  And OUR tadpole is named Leprechaun Flower (told you it was close to St. Paddy's Day when we got it). Now I've never heard of a water frog but he's pretty neat looking. He started out no longer than half an inch and probably a quarter of an inch wide, pale green brown, huge buggy eyes, and whiskers like a cat fish.  Now hes almost two inches long, super chubby, finally has back legs and he's now starting to use his back legs to help swim.  I swear he has a Buddha belly though we're definitely not feeding him more than he's supposed to get.  Hopefully he'll get front legs before too much longer and start losing his tail before preschool gets out for the year.  Each day the kids come into check his progress and make sure he's doing well.  All of them are commenting about how he's using his back legs and how much bigger he's gotten.  Apparently, he will always live in the water, contrary to most frogs, and will keep the catfish whiskers as well.  I'm really curious about what he'll end up looking like and can't wait to find out.  He's been a great mascot for our little kiddos this spring.

Secondly, because it is indeed spring, Meredith ordered a caterpillar kit for the preschool.  This kit arrived the first week of April and included 5 brown stripped caterpillars that were sooooo itty bitty.  For two weeks we watched them eat and eat and eat and eat some more, much like "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" which we read of course multiple times.  Then we watched them shed there skin once and start building a cocoon.  We then moved the cocoons to a special hatching tent and for the past two weeks have been anticipated their "coming out" as butterflies.  Well as luck would have it, Tuesday the first ones came out and of course the kids were enthralled!  We haven't named them all yet but I'm sure we'll get around to it once they are all out and about.  I think one of them died though because the cocoon started to crack and the wings started to come out but it's stayed that way for the past 3 days now and I don't think that bodes well.  Guess we'll just have to wait and see.  Next week we'll release them all and let them go on their merry way to find food on their own and hopefully lay some eggs.  Its been a great example of the life cycle for these guys and we've really had an awesome time with the whole process.

Lastly, we've been working for the past 3 days of preschool class on our Mothers Day gifts.  Now at Christmas the kids each made gifts for their parents in class and were hyped up about that... but that was nothing in comparison to how giddy they are about this project.  Each child made a fancy jar by coating them with glue and rolling the jar in multicolored glitter (made the jars look like jewels).  Next we made our own lavender scented bath salts that we filled the jars with.  Then each child made a card that was in the shape of a teapot and attached yummy flavored tea bags to so that mom and kiddo can have a tea party together.  All in all it was a great gift and they were all super excited to take them home today and give them to their Mom's on Sunday.  We made a huge batch of bath salts and I was lucky enough to get to bring home the left overs which I'm psyched about using. 

Here's the recipe if you are interested
3 cup baking soda
3 cup Epsom's Salts
4 tablespoon mineral oil
1/2 teaspoon of lavender oil or other scent of your choice
Mix this all up... let it dry a bit... put it in an air tight container and use to your hearts content

Yep... good times are being had by all (me included)!!!!