Thursday, July 31, 2008

Weddings and Long Drives

Saturday we were excited to go to our friend's wedding outside Denver.

They were so cute. I don't remember being that cute 9 years ago but I'm sure I was.

They had a bouncy castle. I mean come on! How cute is that? And the bride's dress was specifically designed for bouncing in an inflatable castle. Cute cute cute.

They registered at REI and we bought them climbing gear.

It was outside at a church camp. MY wedding was outside at a church camp. It was nice.

The cake was delicious. I won't tell you that I ate three pieces. Oops. Too late.

I also won't tell you how pathetic I was reaching for strangers' children on the last few days of our trip. I really missed my kids.

Congratulations to Matt and Jessie. If nothing else I bet their cuteness will carry them for a few years.


Then on Sunday we had to drive 1000 miles back home. I will spare you the sordid details but let's just say that Eastern Colorado, Kansas, and Oklahoma are fairly boring to drive through and by 3 am (our arrival time in Austin) I was totally ready for my own bed.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Camping in the National Forest

Wednesday and Thursday nights we camped in a national forest. We had picked out a peaceful meadow, and it turned out to be a great choice except for the minor problem of one of the RVs beeping every two minutes; some sort of "low battery" warning. We never saw anyone there though.

We spent Thursday just sitting around. There was no plumbing or tables or anything, so we were roughing it as far as drive up car camping can be considered roughing it.

There were a lot of mosquitoes, biting flies, and big ants, but it was so quiet and peaceful! We saw the cutest little baby chipmunk. If you've never seen a baby chipmunk you're missing out. It's as small as a mouse but more furry and with a long furry tail. It almost ran up on us, thinking we were something to explore, but we scared it off cause we didn't want to hurt it. It did come back to see us a few times, and a couple times we saw an adult chipmunk too.

I also got buzzed by a hummingbird (that's never happened to me before) and got to hike down to the coldest, prettiest little stream a ways down the hill.

We sat around. I finished all my books. Joel finished his book. We ate food. We slept. It was so relaxing and fabulous. And we didn't spend any money all day. Perfect.

Tomorrow: the wedding and the drive back.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Whitewater Rafting, The Arkansas River Valley

Cañon City is built around the Arkansas River, where it comes through a narrow gorge and starts to go into less mountainous terrain. There are about 20 companies that offer whitewater rafting tours through the River Gorge. We chose Lost Paddle Rafting, which I cannot say enough good about. This company is small but capable, and you really feel important to them. The day we toured our company had two boats. In comparison, some of the other outfits had 8 boats and were shuffling people and things around. At one point we overheard a guide calling for 6 life jackets and helmets, and more food for people they had standing around.

The camping situation in Cañon City left something to be desired. For one thing it was super hot, and there was no shade in our campground. On the other hand we didn't pay much at all.

We ended up staying most of the first afternoon in town, trying to get out of the heat. We watched a movie and hung out at a local coffeehouse.

Wednesday morning we got up and broke camp in order to get to the real reason for being in Cañon City: the rafting. It was awesome. We did a full day pass, which was 9-3, with a break for lunch. Our guide, Larry, was very capable and hospitable. If you go to Joel's blog you can see the rafting photo we got.

Sorry, no one actually fell out of the boat, but both of us almost did at one rapid or another. We were in the front the whole day which was super wet and super fun. I enjoyed every minute of it, even though you can't tell in the photo. I also didn't want to fall out. The temperature was just about perfect, the scenery was to die for, and the adrenaline rush was pretty cool too. :)

After rafting we hopped in the car to take the scenic route north. We could have backtracked to the interstate, but some motorcyclists had given us some good advice about going west into the mountains. And what's a trip to Colorado without being in the mountains?

So we went west and then north, following the Arkansas River. It was so beautiful and so relaxing. There were tons of camping signs, and I drove for about 3 hours through. Our advisers had suggested going to a little town far north. What they failed to mention was that it was at the end of the valley.

The temperature was lovely. The road was right along the river, so the whole time we could glance down at the rapids (similar to what we had just experienced in the boat) and imagine camping right there. I got so used to seeing campgrounds that I assumed we would see them after our dinner stop as well.

We ate dinner at a mining town. The restaurant had a lot of character but the town did not have much hope for the future. It was kinda sad. You could tell these were not the good old days any more. So we decided not to stay there that night but to push on to the next campground.

But there wasn't a next campground. Somehow we had gone through the whole valley and now we were at the top of a pass, in the middle of lush forest, but no campgrounds were in sight. After 3 hours of searching, and maybe a little arguing, we finally stopped and asked a local who responded "I just go up into the national forest up there when I want to camp. Anyone can camp there for free!"

So at about 10:30 we drove up and up into the forest, trying to get away from the RVs and campers. We found a meadow with only two RVs and wearily pitched our tents, vowing to stay put for two nights in this (hopefully) peaceful meadow.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Garden of the Gods, Pikes Peak

We stayed in Colorado Springs long enough to climb at Garden of the Gods. The first day we didn't know where to climb there, and it was too hot. We got one climb in but it wasn't a great time. Then we went out for lunch at a cute little cafe in Manitou Springs, and then we decided to go up Pikes Peak. 14000 feet up. They let you drive (thank goodness), and it was a pretty drive. We just kept going up and up and up! It took us 1 hour to go 18 miles of road up.

After we crossed the timberline I started to freak out because we were at the top of the world with nothing to protect us from plummeting to our deaths. I decided to let Joel drive at that point.

The top was pretty cool, but I didn't get to enjoy it that much because of altita it up there.

Surprisingly the drive down was better because I could see the ground, even though it was so so far down.

The next morning we got out to Garden of the Gods super early and climbed in a very interesting spot. This location is unique in that the climbs are also a major tourist attraction, with sidewalks all around the base. All day as we were climbing we could hear people talking about us and watching us. It was very odd. We enjoyed it though, and then we were off to our whitewater rafting location. Which one of us fell out of the boat? You'll have to wait until tomorrow to find out.

Meanwhile we are getting ready to drive all the way from Denver to Austin today.

Monday, July 21, 2008


Saturday afternoon we arrived in Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. It is in Southwestern Oklahoma. The main draw of this refuge is buffalo. They have been reintroduced from zoos and are now roaming free. They are pretty cool to look at. They make a constant grunting or growling noise.

The visitor center here is amazing. It's a national park, so there's really good exhibits inside the center, and "coincidentally" buffalo often come to eat and graze just outside the window. I think they put food out there, but whatever.

We camped there for one night, among the cicadas, elk, longhorn cattle, and bison. It was very nice.

Sunday morning we went climbing at the top of Mt Scott. It's on the wildlife refuge. I was a bit tired and HOT and had a minor panic attack, but I did get to the top of the one climb we attempted. It was a 5.6, which is supposed to be easy, but given my state of mind, the heat, and the fact that it was granite rather than limestone really made it difficult for me.

After that we got back on the road and drove in one long stretch to Colorado Springs. We arrived at 10:30 pm and found a hotel to stay in. So far we have really enjoyed our trip. Lots of last minute decisions, quiet, and talking.

Don't know when I'll post again. Today we're going to Garden of the Gods to do a little climbing.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Off to Colorado

I will see you all in 9 days. I'm off to go rock climbing, whitewater rafting, wedding attending, etc. All without kids!

Friday, July 18, 2008

Another Book Reviewer

Bethany is my good friend from college. She and I took many education classes together, and we both ended up with similar certifications from our school. She taught for a couple years and is now a stay-at-home mom. She's been posting book reviews on her blog already so I asked her to review on my book review blog too.

I am so excited to be working with Hillary and her. I admire them both greatly and they will bring only good to my humble blog.

I find it interesting that all of us are teachers by trade. :)

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Reflections on Part-time Tutoring

For a few weeks at the end of this school year I had the opportunity to tutor some of the kindergarteners. Each Tuesday and Thursday, for 30 minutes at a time, I would help 5-6 children on their TPRI readiness skills.

Each of the teachers gave me two to three students to work with, and they were kind enough to give me supplies and books to give me ideas of what they wanted the students to learn and how.

The first few days we were still trying to figure each other out, set a routine, and find a good place to learn. I used some of the exercises to do informal assessments of where each student was in their learning. After two or three sessions I felt comfortable knowing how much each student still needed to learn.

Since each child was already behind the rest of their class, one of my main goals was to be sure to keep the learning light-hearted and fun. I didn't want to demoralize them. Some techniques I used were songs from and using many kinds of manipulatives to keep the students engaged.

This assignment helped me to further strengthen my skills in working with small groups. A few of the children were ESL and that helped me to work on my skills in that area too; mainly re-wording concepts when they didn't understand, and writing sounds and words down so they could see as well as hear what we were talking about. We worked a little on pronunciation since that is important in phonics, but we didn't dwell on that overly much.

I was thankful that my son was able to attend as well. He was tired sometimes but usually interested in learning the phonics along with the other children.

Some barriers and issues I faced had to do with behavior problems. It's hard to convince a five-year-old that he or she wants to sit in the hall and learn while at the same time keeping the learning fun and lighthearted. It was hard to not take things personally. When we had a bad day I tended to blame myself too much. I think I came closer to learning the fact that when I do all that I can, and things still go poorly, that's okay. We'll try harder the next day; some days just go poorly.

Another issue I had to deal with was that I got a new student a couple weeks late, and I had another student who could only come half the time because of his schedule. This made it hard to keep the other kids moving forward while still making sure these two weren't left behind. I solved this by doing some activities every day, while introducing more advanced ones occasionally. This was also an issue because some of the students had a high absence rate. It's very frustrating as a teacher when the students who need the help the most are the ones who are absent the most. I realize now that this could be a common issue I will have to deal with in the classroom.

All in all I was very proud to help out in some small way. I bonded with these children and hope to work with them in the future. I am excited to see them grow and learn more. I'm also glad that this helped my own skills to keep me sharp for when I am back teaching full time.

More Book Reviews

There are lots of new book reviews up on the book review blog, including the first post by my friend Hillary. Go over and check them out.

There are two new ones for picture books (this one has the most beautiful pictures), at least three kids' chapter books, two non-fiction, and one by HG Wells. A wide variety and lots of fun.

Oh, and Amy is hosting a contest in honor of her brother Nathan. You can submit your very own Yo mamma jokes.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Life is Crazy

This week is crazy busy. We went camping over the weekend at Krause Springs which was fun except in the last two hours I hurt my knee and my hand. We got to hang out with my sister and her fiance.

Then my mother-in-law is here; she'll be watching the kids while Joel and I go to Colorado, so she's getting to know our routine and be more familiar with the kids.

So I'm trying to do laundry, and pack, and also carry on a somewhat normal routine.

The cable company did some work along the line of fences in our backyard and our neighbors', and left a cable swooping down from the phone poles into everyone's yard. I called to see why they had done that and no one had an answer. It was frustrating.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Shhh! Don't Tell!!

For almost eleven years I have been living in Texas. That's not quite half of my life, but it's been a long time nonetheless.

The first few years were hard. I had culture shock, climate shock, and homesickness.

The climate here is brutal compared to the SF Bay Area where I grew up. In the East Bay the climate is super mild. Cool mornings year-round, with a fresh ocean breeze. Most of the time it hovers between 60 and 80. Year round. It may get a little chilly in the winter, but that's only down to like 45.

One year it snowed. We were amazed. We went outside and made snowballs and saved them in the freezer. My friend who lived in the hills of my town said that they never got snow that year; they got hail.

Anything above 80 was a heat wave. We all sat around and complained when it was so hot.

So, back to Texas. When I moved here I was shocked. It was so hot and since I was in Abilene the first four years I was depressed because of the desert climate. I would go home for a visit and revel in the wonderful temperatures. One year I went to Oregon to visit my sister at the end of a super hot summer. I couldn't believe that in August they could get chilly and leave the windows open at night for cold air.

When we moved to Austin I was even more surprised because the summers here are from May till September. The record for heat is 108. One year we had over 40 days over 100 degrees each day. Here you have to have air conditioning. I never had a/c in CA.

Joel is very smart, and usually knows the logical answer to problems. He has been in TX for about 13 years, so he would tell me to get outside, get acclimated by being in the weather. I would scoff. How could one "get used to" this horrible heat? How could people walk around in jeans and cotton shirts and *do* stuff in this heat?

I began to feel that I would never adjust. I would be one of those people who has their a/c at 65 in the summer and the heat at 85 in the winter. I would go rock climbing and drink so much liquid.

This last fall I started walking Emlyn to school. It's only a quarter mile in a residential neighborhood. I have timed it, and it actually takes longer to load two kids, drive a quarter mile, unload two kids, and walk in to the classroom. Walking is better for the ever-present environment, it's more healthy for the family, and it had one surprising benefit.

After walking my daughter to and from school all year round, winter temperatures and summer temps alike, I can officially say that I am acclimated. I can do things outside. In the summer. And not get heat stroke. It's amazing, I tell you.

Honestly, some of it is my physical body. I feel that I am more used to the temp. But some of it had to be habits. If I go outside, I take water or gatorade for myself and the kids. I go earlier in the day. I move more slowly.

So, today it is 94 degrees outside. We're about to go to a picnic, and I'm not dreading it. I know we will be okay, in the weather God has given us.

Emlyn unloaded the dishwasher this morning with help from her stuffed bunnies. Two of them ended up hiding in the cupboards, with their snack of carrots with them.

I am constantly surprised by the things she comes up with.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Denali Climbs on Tables

P1020512.JPG, originally uploaded by spiffy_guy.

My son pictured here is climbing on tables to get high enough to look through this window. I am so glad he didn't fall off.

He had a great time in Houston. I think he loved sleeping in a tent.

Even Tim Wears an Apron

P1020517.JPG, originally uploaded by spiffy_guy.

Here's Grouchy Tim wearing an apron and cooking yummy food.

I especially like the way the hat completes the look.

The Very Big Caterpillar

P1020493.JPG, originally uploaded by spiffy_guy.

In Houston, we helped out with a Charlotte's Web VBS. We decorated our reading room with all kinds of bug drawings. Here's Emlyn's really long caterpillar!

Monday, July 07, 2008

The Car is Fixed and We Got Rain

Surprisingly enough the car was ready in just a couple of hours, so we took a cab back to pick it up. Now it's ready for a trip to Colorado!!!!

Without the kids!!!

We got a little rain today- not sure how much but it kept the temperature down as well, so we were very thankful.

Tonight I went to church and watched a video about a nun from Poland named Faustina. It was a compelling story about a young woman who heard God when He said "Mercy over Justice."

Well our weekend was very nice. Joel had Thursday and Friday off, so we got lots of family time in, as well as breaks for different parents at different times.

Today I am driving our car to the mechanic and walking back with the kids. There's an oxygen sensor or something out. I hope I can get it over there before it's too hot- it's about a mile away.

The rest of the week will be pretty normal, with a little packing for a camping trip with my sister and anticipation of a 9 day road trip without the kids(!) to Colorado.

My tomato plants are still producing, although the pear tomato plants did MUCH better than the cherry ones. Maybe it's my gardening method, but if I had only these cherries I would be VERY disappointed. Next year I will try to do 5 or 6 pear tomatoes and give two more species a chance also.

I have to go clean out my car.

Friday, July 04, 2008

A New Collaboration

My old friend Hillary, from high school, has agreed to be a collaborator on my book review blog. We had great times being co-editors-in-chief of the high school newspaper.

I'm excited because she'll be bringing different ideas and genres to the blog. She and I have different tastes in lots of things, so you'll be getting more of a variety of reviews. I'm also excited because she is an excellent writer, so I don't have to worry about misspellings or improper grammar. :)

Anyway hopefully she'll write something soon. Meanwhile I've got a few books that I've read recently that need writing up.

Happy fourth of July!

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Climbing and Gardening

I got to do some gardening today all by myself; Joel took the kids to see Wall-E. Which by the way is very good.

I also took the kids climbing with Joel and had my first experience "cleaning" the rope. Basically when you are done with a sport climb the last person usually (unless there's sport clips at the top) has to "clean" the gear. So they go up, use a secondary protection to clip in to the bolts, and take off the quick draws. It's a basic skill needed for any climber who wants to do multi-pitch climbs. Basically it helps me be a more well-rounded climber.

It was hard, especially when we got to the part where I had to untie the stopper knot that was connecting me to the rope. But I did it!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Money and God

I just sent this email to someone and I wanted to share it with you too. It's a reminder that we are not supposed to be handling this world on our own. If we try to do things on our own, we WILL fail.

Of course you suck at this. You cannot do the "budgeting," or the "being a grownup," or the "getting a job," or the "keeping/finding a girlfriend," or the "__________." You cannot do them on your own, that is.

You need to be depending on God. He is calling for you and He is there to help you. I know that you have been worried about money for a while now. Here's what I submit to you:

a) tithe
before you pay any bills with your paychecks, tithe 10%. It doesn't matter if you owe 80 million people. Give back to God first.

b) serve
find a way you can serve others right now. either tutoring at school, or volunteering at church to teach sunday school to little kids, or working in the food kitchen, serve others. Today. This will help you to get out of your cloud, to see others' hurts, and to get out of the house. And it will honor God at the same time.

c) do the best you can while honoring God.
If the best you can do is working 27 hours a week, do it. If you can get another job, do it. If the best writing you can do is a blog, do it. Just get writing, get working, and put your faith in Him. It will all work out.

The mechanics of staying on a budget and saving money are relatively easy compared to this other stuff. This God is not easy. He expects much from us and He does not tolerate lukewarm people.

I'll call you later today. Love you.