Wednesday, August 27, 2008

School is cool?

I don't know why I put that title, but I'll go ahead and leave it. School officially started for me this week. On Monday, just the freshman came. I think that is a great idea because the school can be very intimidating and they have no idea what they are doing. On Tuesday, all 2300 plus students came to school (well, not really, there were a lot of absences). So, that was my first day to be "on" all day. It really is like performing every period and really gearing up to be with each class even if you just taught the same material a period ago. My classroom students are so different than previous years. In the past, I have worked with students included in the regular class who have IQs of 70 and above (average IQs are 85-115). The students I teach this year have IQs between 50-70 and are not included in the general education classes. They have reading levels between K-6 (grade levels). I say this because this is the generalization of any student classified as "cognitive disability". They are a great bunch of kids. They have a great sense of humor. Really, they are very similar to everyone else, they just learn at a slower pace. So, it should be a good year. I am still excited for what the year could bring. We are learning about atoms this first nine weeks. Very exciting :) I was most tired this morning when I had to get up. Three mornings in a row to rise and shine at 5:40am is enough; unfortunately, I have at least two more this week. I came home yesterday and went on a short run/walk. Today, I came home, laid on the couch, and went into a brief sleep induced coma.

Jeremy has put his application/resume with two different companies. Please pray that these will turn in to positive leads. Here is my sexy husband getting ready for the job interview he had about a week ago. I just now got the card out of the camera so I could post the picture. I thought he looked very good and professional. Otherwise, he is enjoying taking longer bike rides during the day, repairing things around the house, researching job openings, and cooking supper (chickenetti on Tuesday in the crock pot!). So, that's that.

Hope you all are having a great week. We are headed home for the Bricker Family reunion this Sunday. My friend, Sandy, and her sister are coming to Columbus on Saturday to eat some Indian food with me - yum! And on Monday, we will enjoy relaxing; love the three day weekend.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

In-Service

Well, I am mostly going to talk about my work life, but first I wanted to pay tribute (and add a picture) to our co-ed softball team that we had so much fun with in Colorado. The team was amazing, and I think it really helped make the end of our time in Colorado special. We left with about one week of the regular season left and then the tournament. Our team lost the one remaining game in regular season. BUT, they dominated in tournament play - beating last year's champions to win it all. I was so exicted for them when I got the call at 1am Ohio time on the night of the final (way back on August 6th). So, for those that want the play by play, there was a great article in the local paper, The Valley Courier, that you can read online at http://www.alamosanews.com/V2_news_articles.php?heading=0&story_id=8699&page=79

Today, I went back to school - officially. No, there are still no kids, but it was an in-service day. This means lots and lots of presentations by everyone in the district. This year, I think was the first time I have felt very positive coming out of the day. We have a new superintendent, new asst superintendent, new high school principal, and there are four other new administrators in my building since I left (a few had been there last year). This just felt good to me. I think that there is great vision coming from the superintendent level. There appears to be great potential guidance and leadership from our new principal as well. We'll see how the year continues. It was really good to see teachers again that I had worked with in the past, and get to know the ones that are new to me. It is a good feeling when people are again excited to see you; you feel loved/appreciated. It has also been really cool to hear that some of the teachers were able to keep up with the blog this past year. I know how busy we can be as teachers, but I appreciate that some made time to check up on me (and Jeremy). I have a very positive outlook for the year, and I hope I can continue to keep that. Thank you to all those who have been praying for me and my stress level. I have almost 5 weeks of the year sketched out for my physical science class.... I have been learning a lot about atoms, the periodic table, and will soon get into bonds! I want to leave you with one of the things the superintendent used for inspiration is this clip from youtube. It almost made me cry. You do need sound, but I hope you enjoy it. :)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1k08yxu57NA

I figured I shouldn't leave mention of Jeremy out of this. He is working tremendously hard on finding his feet in Columbus again. His situation is much more difficult than mine in that he came back to no job. He had an interview this past week; we are still waiting to hear about that. Since then, he has been tweaking his resume for search for part time work until he is able to secure a job. He has also reinlisted as security for Nationwide Arena. He will be providing security for the Jonas Brothers this Saturday night; we both hope his eardrums survive the thousands of screaming adolescent girls! He is great though and helping me with supper most nights by manning the grill. We are also enjoying all the Olympic action. Hope everyone has a great Friday. Keep reading, and I'll keep blogging!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Trip Home: Part 3 (last part)

Devil's Tower, Wyoming...
On our way from Buffalo to Custer, South Dakota, we stopped at Devil's Tower. With that we had seen the first national park (Yellowstone) and the first national monument (Devil's Tower). When my friend, Sandy, and I had taken similar trek a few years ago, we decided not to drive back to the base of Devil's Tower, but just to admire it from afar. Jeremy and I had a national parks pass which admits us "free" to national parks, forests, and monuments; it is a pretty good deal for only $80. Anyway. The Tower is not that much more incredible up close. We walked around the whole base of it; that trail is 1.3 miles. You can see the ridges better. They are like flat sections that climbers really enjoy defeating. The best part was probably Prairie Dog Town. It literally was prairie dog town. There were a lot of them peeping out of their hole and darting from place to place.
*
South Dakota...
We arrived to the Mt. Rushmore area late morning. We first drove through Sturgis. This was the weekend that begins Sturgis week. This is a HUGE motorcycle rally. Some people say there are about 500,000 or more in attendance. When Sandy and I went to Sturgis, the little town was dead. I mean, nothing was happening. When Jeremy and I went to Sturgis, the town was crazy!! There were tons of cycles, vendors lined the street, and the place was like a fair on main street. (These cycles ar in Deadwood, not at all the production as Sturgis.) We drove through, turned around, and headed to Deadwood. This is where Wild Bill was shot (Jeremy at the exact location); it is also where Sandy and I stayed, so I wanted to show it to Jeremy. We ate at Diamon Lil's, which is Kevin Costner's restaurant. We both chose to eat the "Dances with Wolves Buffalo Burger." It was delicious. There was a lot of memoribilia from Costner's many movies. Then, we went to the Mt. Rushmore. Mt. Rushmore is cool, but there is not a lot to do at the actual monument. You walk in, look at the rock, watch a video, and head out. (We later learned that you should really get the ice cream while you are there. If only we had known...) But, nonetheless, it is a place that is great to visit once or so. We then went to Crazy Horse, which when completed will make Mt. Rushmore looked like a drop in the bucket. It is a publicly - not federally - funded, so the work is taking longer. There was some work done (I think) since 2005 when I was previously there. We ate in Custer at Pizza Works. A tasty little pizza place. Then, we headed to Richard and Melita's home. They are a couple who were a part of Mennonite Your Way, a hospitality outreach organized by some Mennonites. They were gracious hosts - fed us pie and ice cream during relaxing conversation and sent us off with a tasty breakfast.
*
We made the trek across South Dakota on Saturday. There were so many motorcycles. Jeremy thought he would count them to 100 and see how long it would take while we were on I-90. He made it to 100 in about 2 minutes. Crazy. On our way, we stopped at Wall Drug. It was a great stop for people back in olden day when they could stop for free water. Now, it is a pretty large tourist trap, but it makes for great pictures... and gets you out of the car. These great photos are from the what they call the Backyard at Wall Drug. We also stopped at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota; this is another must stop if you are traveling on I-90. They change the outside of the Corn Palace every year. The 2007 theme was Everyday Heroes. We caught this one before they change it late this month. It is pretty impressive. We also made a stop at Cabella's in Mitchell where Jeremy found a raincoat for a great price. Finally, we got to our hotel in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. I called 4 hotels that afternoon looking for lodging for that night. Because of the Sturgis Rally, only one had a room available! We slept soundly that night.
*
Sunday...
We had a tasty breakfast at Denny's before hitting the road on Sunday. We went as far as Pine Lake State Park in Iowa (just east of Waterloo). It was miserable. When I stepped out of the car, I thought I would not make it. It was soooo hot and soooo humid!!!!!!!! We had lived in one of the driest areas for the past year with near perfect temperatures. This was ridiculous. I thought, If this is any indication of Ohio's weather in August, I don't want to go back. (Thankfully, it has been extremely nice here with low humidity since we returned. We do need rain though, so maybe I should start wishing for a bit of moisture.) This is the campground to the left. We set up the tent and stared at each other before deciding we needed to find something to do. So, we went to the town of Eldora, population 3,000. (Apparently, I learned while looking up the population, this town was the filming location for the 1996 movie Twister. Cool.) Anyway, they have a cool downtown theatre that was air-conditioned, inexpensive, and was showing Dark Knight (the new Batman movie). It was 2-1/2 hours of luxury, and actually, a pretty good movie. We went to our campsite by 9:30pm, laid on our sleeping bags, and hoped for the slightest of breezes.
*
Monday...
We left the state park early; I didn't think the weather was much better and who wants to sit around in that longer than necessary. We found an IHOP in Waterloo to eat brunch at... yum. Then, we went to Dyersville, Iowa where Field of Dreams was filmed. The family who owns the property has done a great job maintaining the field and the grounds. Plus the corn was incredibly high and made for a great backdrop. We even got to hit the ball on the Field of Dreams. Jeremy, the star player, returns to the corn after playing in the pic to the right. For those who are worried, we did not leave Dyersville without visiting the National Farm Toy Museum. We were able to re-live all the International Harvester years and a little bit of John Deere. Amazing. We did miss the Doll Museum; you can only do so many museums in one day. From there, we headed on to our destination, Joliet, Illinois. We had a hotel reservation; thank goodness! I say that because that night we experienced some of the worst weather we've had in a year, and I would not have wanted to be camping. The area we were in (including downtown Chicago where the Cubs were playing the Astros) was under a tornado warning. It was blowing, raining, and lightning in a way that was very scary. We survived intact.
*
Tuesday...
Homeward Bound, finally! We were excited to be on our last day. The trip had been great, but after so many days, you are just ready - especially when your car is really loaded down and gas is not cheap :) In Goshen, Indiana, we stopped to see my friend, Rachel. She (and her husband, Tex) have a little boy, Josiah, who was tiny at Christmas. Babies sure do grow up and remind you how time passes. It was good to spend a few hours just catching up with her. Then, we were on our final leg with no more stops. We got to our place about 6pm. As you know from a previous blog, we decided to spend this night with our gracious friend, Andrea. I will leave you with one last picture - our moving crew (on Thursday). From left to right: Nick (youth pastor at our church), Nate (my older brother), Jeremy, Jason (Jeremy's youner brother), Luke (my younger brother), and Ben (my younger brother). Thank You!!!
Now, you are completely caught up. I am going to keep blogging; so, keep checking back periodically. Teacher in-service days start tomorrow (and Friday) for me; students come on Monday, August 25. I hope I'll be ready. Jeremy is still out job hunting and holding the fort down. Hope everyone is having a great week.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Trip Home: Part 2

Grand Teton National Park ...
From Idaho Falls, we headed to Grand Teton National Park. We left after breakfast on Monday morning. The drive was nice. We climbed a very high pass. I think the grade was 10% (I am sure Jeremy would remember), and the pass was about 10,000ft or more. We came back down and entered the Teton Range in a fairly flat plain area. The mountains were off the the left (I believe that is west). They looked high, jagged, and pretty incredible. The reality is that they were lower than most of the mountains we had been gazing at the past year. Grand Teton, which is the highest mountain there, is under 14,000ft. That being said, these mountains are very difficult to climb because of their jagged peaks. We set up camp at Colter Bay Campground. It was a short walk to a large lake bordered by the Tetons. We took it pretty easy at this park partly because Jeremy's knee was giving him trouble. So, we took a blanket and our books and headed to the lakeshore to enjoy the day and the view. We went back to watch the sunset as well. The picture to the left that has Jeremy's feet in it was at sunset with the rays of sunlight streaming between the mountains. The view was a bit hazy, but they said it is due to the wild fires all the way in California! It was still pretty impressive. In the evening, we went to the Ranger Talk. She has been a ranger here for over 13 summers. During the year, she is a fifth grade teacher in Florida (I think). It was interesting to hear her experiences and look at her pictures. She also showed us pictures of her climb up Grand Teton - lots of technical rock climbing involved! We left the park on Tuesday morning to see if we could catch some of the wildlife in Yellowstone, which is only about an hour from Grand Teton Nataional Park.

Yellowstone National Park...
We were at Yellowstone from Tuesday morning through Thursday morning. This was the longest we stayed in any location. We arrived to the park through the south entrance. Although we were hoping to see some wildlife in the early morning, we didn't get lucky enough to see any. We traveled to the west to Old Faithful, which was our first stop. Old Faithful is a great geyser. It is not the biggest geyser, but it is one of the more reliable ones, and it is impressive. So, we waited for a short time before watching it in all its glory. From their we continued north through the rest of the geyser basin. We did take on trail to an overlook area (see pic on left) and then around to a waterfall (see pic on right). It was a good hike with a great view of most of the geyser basin to the south and all the way back to Old Faithful. The waterfall was pretty cool too. It was not huge, but it was pretty. There were a lot of people there - a whole boy scout troop, I think. So, our pictures seem pretty crowded. (Side note: This was probably one of the busiest places we visited, but we were lucky enough that it was not so busy as to get stuck in traffic jams.) We continued on through the smelly section of the park to our campgroud at Madison, near the West entrance. We set up the tent, hopped back in the car, and continued north to sight see in the upper loop. On our way, we pulled over at a large gathering of cars - usually this means great wildlife - and we were not disappointed. We walked into a grove of trees and saw two elk with the biggest set of antlers I have ever seen. I tried to get a good picture. We were only 20 yards away or so (I know that is not very smart), and I was nervous. They were pretty magnificent! (Note on pictures: The pictures are taken at two separate times in the same location. The one on the left is when we went into the woods. The one on the right is the next day; they look like similar elk.)
We traveled all the way to Mammoth and all around the loop back to Madison before dark. We stopped at a number of places along the way, but saved the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone for the next day. We went back to the campground for night. We went to a ranger talk that night (surprise, surprise) on the reintroduction of wolves back into Yellowstone.

The next morning we headed first to Grand Canyon of Yellowstone where you can see upper and lower falls - very beautiful. We got there early, which was nice because there were lots of people crowding the area by the time we were leaving. We drove pretty much right to the upper falls overlook. (This is Jeremy to the right at the upper falls.) It is a cool sight. If you have been to Niagra, you have an idea of how it feels to stand right at the brink of the falls. We hiked a short path to see the lower falls. There was no one at this falls, which made it really peaceful. This view is equally impressive. Apparently, the falls are higher than Niagra is, but the width does not rival Niagra. We then drove to Artist's Point. This is where a lot of pictures are taken, paintings are painted, and postcards are made. We took pictures too (see left). From here you look back on lower falls, but upper falls cannot be seen. We left the falls area and headed south to Yellowstone Lake. On our driving route today, we saw a few buffalo posing alongside the road and couldn't resist the picture - YIKES! We stopped at Bridge Bay for a picnic. We looped back around west, saw Old Faithful again, ate at the lodge, and took a walk on the boardwalks to see more of the geysers and hot springs in this area. The walk was long, and soon all the geyers and springs looked the same, but it was nice stretch our legs. We headed back to our campground before dark. Jeremy headed down to a stream in our campground to flyfish. I took a book, a blanket, and the camera. I don't think he caught anything, but if he did, he just released it anyway. This night we didn't go to a Ranger talk. We took our tired selves to bed instead.

Thursday morning, we headed out fairly early after eating breakfast and cleaning up the tent. We first stopped at the Norris Geyser Basin for this cool shot to the right of all the steaming geysers. We were headed out the northeast entrance through the "Serengetti of Yellowstone." It is an open plain area. This is where the wolves were re-introduced. We didn't see wolves, but we did see, on our way there, a black bear!! It was on one side of the road foraging for food when we stopped to watch; it then meandered across the road - right beside our car! - and up the hill on the other side. It was crazy! We saw big herds of bison roaming the plains area. They are awkward looking creatures, but make great scenery. This was Jeremy's favorite area of the park. If we had had more time, I thnk we would have watched the bison for quite awhile. It was animal central on our way out. We took the scenic drive into Montana via Bear Tooth Pass. This was one of my favorite parts of my whole trip home. It was so beautiful. I don't know if captured it with the camera, but we tried. It was breathtaking - lots of mountain lakes, snow still on the ground in places, and green grass growing as well. Awesome! This is a pull over spot that we had some great people who had also stopped take our picture. We continued along the scenic route until we hit I-90, which we followed until heading south at some point to go see Little Big Horn Battlefield National Monument. For those who don't know, this was the location of Custer's Last Stand. We made it to the Monument just in time to hear a very desciptive Ranger talk of the battle. I didn't remember a whole lot about it, so it was a good learning opportunity for me. It was very hot here. From there, we continued south to Buffalo, Wyoming where we stayed in a very small cabin the size of our Four Runner (see bottom right pic). We went to historic downtown Buffalo for some ice cream. We visited the Occidental Hotel. It was a "full service" hotel (if you know what I mean) back in the day when all the outlaws would come to this area to seek refuge. The shot to the left is of the lobby area. It was really cool.
Well, I think this was long enough. In the next post, I will tell you about Mt. Rushmore and the rest of our trip home.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Trip Home: Part 1

Okay, it has been awhile since we traveled home, so I may not include as many details as I normally would ... some of you might appreciate that! :)

We left La Jara about 1pm on Saturday, July 26th. It was sad to leave all our friends behind. Such a funny feeling to just up and leave after a year. I know we already miss them and wonder what they are up to. The house can definitely be a more hopping place when you share it with so many! Anyway, we headed the 6 or so hours to Arches National Park in southern Utah. We took our time getting there. By the time we got to the park, it was almost dusk. We drove through almost the whole park to get to Devil's Campground where we would be staying for the night. We set up camp right away. Then, we headed to our favorite activity in the National Parks - the Ranger Talk. I am not being sarcastic either. It is like watching the Discovery Channel live. That night the Ranger talked about the book Desert Solitaire by Edward Abbey. It compelled Jeremy to want to purchase it; he is currently reading it. The guy was a former Ranger in the park years ago - somewhat controversial in what he says apparently.

The next morning we decided to get up early and go for a hike before heading out on the road. Jeremy really wanted to see the famous Delicate Arch; it is a well-photographed arch. So, we woke up about 5:30am, cleaned up camp, and headed out about 40 minutes later. The hike was labeled strenous, but it was nothing compared to most of what we have done this year. The Arch was really neat. It was huge. You can see how small Jeremy looks next to it in the picture to the right. This is us a short distance from it in the picture in the upper left. The morning was cool, but by the time we were headed back the sun had started beating down - and it was only 7:30am!! We hiked to Landscape Arch as well. Not as cool, but it is one of the longest natural arches in the world. I think Landscape Arch would have been more amazing if you could see the sky through it, but the rock wall behind it made it less impressive. (See pic to the left.) We ate a quick breakfast of bagels with cream cheese before hitting the road. We headed north through Salt Lake City. Our car's temperature gauge shot up when we got to SLC. When we checked the coolant level, we discovered the problem - there was no coolant. We went to Big K, kept a watch on the car, and kept on driving. We went to Preston, Idaho. For those who don't know, Preston is the location of the Napoleon Dynamite movie. Unfortunately the Chamber of Commerce was closed, and they had maps of the movie locations. Fortunately, Jeremy talked to a lady at a gas station who drew us a map to Napoleon's house and the llamas. We only ended up visiting Napoleon's house. It is a little dumpier than in the movie, but we saw it! (See pic to the right.) From there, we headed to Idaho Falls. We had a hotel reservation that overlooked the Snake River. (See pic to the left.) It was a great view. It was also nice to sleep on a bed. :)
Well, that's it for tonight. Next blog... Grand Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park (that means a lot of great scenery!)

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

We're Home!

So, I don't know who is really still reading this, but I thought I would continue posting as much as possible for all my friends in Colorado. We had a big trip home - more than 3000 miles and over 400 photos!!! I will post about it bit by bit over the next week or so. Keep checking back.

In the meantime, I thought I would update you on life...
We arrived back to our place on Tuesday (August 5th) evening. We had planned to just sleep on the floor, but the carpets were still damp (we had the carpets cleaned that day); in addition, the house was a bit dirty. So, we called our dear friend, Andrea, who let us stay at her place at the last minute. On Wednesday, we went on errands - changing the title of the car back to our name, getting a new license plate, and, in the process of that, getting Jeremy a new social security card (his card was laminated which apparently makes it invalid). We met Jeremy's mom (Gloria) and his brother (Jason) at our house around 11am. We began cleaning at that point. We cleaned and cleaned and cleaned - with a short lunch break - until 4:45pm!!!! It finally felt more like our house at that point. Then, we ate at Skyline Chili (Jason's request) and Graeters (Jeremy's request) before bringing one load from the storage unit and then waving good-bye to family. It was an exhausting day.

On Thursday, my three brothers (Nate, Luke, and Ben) took a day off work to come help us unpack our storage unit. Jeremy and I picked up some stuff and were unloading when they pulled up. They were ready to work. We took the Four-Runner, my parent's van (no seats), and an S-10 pick up (courtesy of Mike) to the storage unit for about 5-6 trips. On about the 3rd trip Nick (youth pastor at our church) arrived to help. And on about the 5th trip, Jason returned to help. We had the whole thing cleaned out in about 3 hours - amazing work! All the boxes were in their designated locations within our house, so there would be very little carrying boxes up and down stairs. We took everyone out to El Vaquero Mexican Restaurant (thanks, mom!) to feed their hungry bellies. Everyone then departed and left us to do the unpacking. I really enjoy unpacking. It was exciting to see what we had here. We live in such wealth here (versus the MVS unit). I couldn't believe how many wooden spoons, serving utensils, matching dishes, and various sizes of pots and pans that I have. I feel completely blessed. We were completely unpacked by Saturday noon. Friday night we took a break to go have a delicious and relaxing supper with Mike and Anja.

Over the weekend, we visited with family. It was good to see everyone. My little neices and nephews certainly don't seem that little anymore. It is crazy how much they change in six months!

On a side note...My dad is recovering from back surgery which he had on Wednesday, July 31st. He seems to be doing pretty well - normal set-backs, still good signs of recovery occurring. Please keep him in your prayers for encouragement and healing.

Work notes... Jeremy is job hunting and interviewing. Pray for patience, confidence, and opportunities. I went into school for the first time today. I will do more serious work tomorrow. Pray that I don't stress out when I start looking at the curriculum.