Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Half Way There

It is hard to believe that I am half way through my pregnancy. The last 20 weeks have been a complete blur! I have been so busy, but luckily all the craziness is finished (for now). I had something going on every weekend since the beginning of October. Some of it fun, and some of it for school.

After 18 weeks of no nausea, baby decides that my stomach is a punching bag. Hello heartburn! It isn't a constant, thank goodness! It seems to be more when I have only water on my stomach (I think). Weird? If I eat a little snack or drink something that isn't water, that usually helps.

And another thing... that whole "pregnancy brain"... yeah, my brain didn't work so well to begin with much less add extra hormones, etc. Oy!

My mom posted a Facebook pic of me at 18 weeks. Here I am two weeks later. I know it isn't a complete side shot (Matthew will learn), but I think I can see that my belly has grown.

Honestly, I have no real complaints. I think the excitement (and fear) of this little one's arrival trumps it all.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

It's a...

Girl! Here she is sucking her thumb. I got to watch her stick her thumb in her mouth. :)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Big News

After Labor Day, I took a pregnancy test which was positive! I took another one the next day, and it was positive. I didn't know what to think. Yes, we are excited, but reality told me our world would be turning upside down in 9 short months (in a good way, of course).

I called the doctor and made my first appointment. Matthew went with me. It was the first time we got to see the baby and the little heartbeat. It's amazing. The baby measured to be 8 weeks and 4 days, and my due date is May 9th.

At my next appointment, I was 12 weeks and heard the heartbeat for the first time. Matthew was no able to come with me.

A couple of weeks later, I saw my niece and nephew at a King dinner. My sister-in-law called me a few days later to let me know little Tyler went to the doctor and was diagnosed with 5ths Disease. I called the doc and had to go in to have blood drawn. My sister (nurse) let me know Stephen had it when she was pregnant with Josh. So I didn't worry too much. I went in for the blood work and asked if I could hear the heartbeat while I was there. The first nurse had trouble finding it. "Don't panic yet" she said. She got another nurse who found it, and I was able to record it on my phone. When I got home, I played it for Matthew. He didn't say anything but I could tell he thought it was pretty cool. Oh, I tested negative for the disease but am not immune, so I have to get another test.

Two weeks later brings us to today. I am going today for my 16 week check-up. In the last couple of weeks my belly has popped! I have been very fortunate because I have had no sickness. I had the major fatigue during the 1st trimester, but I am over that hump. I definitely have more energy now but still get tired easily. I have to remind myself to not push it. Last night I wanted so badly to make dinner but had no energy whatsoever. Matthew didn't mind. He had some soup and pimento cheese crackers. Don't tell him I said this, but he has been so awesome. He has especially been a good sport about cleaning 3 litter boxes. Those little boys can fill a couple of litter boxes!

Matthew and I are pleased to announce that we are due to have a baby in May!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Camping & Catching Up

Matthew and I are in Hollywood, SC, again. It's the weekend after Labor Day, and since the mountains decided to feel like fall we decided to go for one more beach trip. We both had an exhausting week of work and thought it would be better to drive down Saturday. We were able to take our time. We had a lovely breakfast at the Atlanta Bread Company then hit the highway.

It was quite cool at the beach but Matthew surfed anyway. I sat on the beach reading which is what I do best. I decided to play hooky on Monday, so we made the most out of Sunday and Monday morning. Matthew bought a long sleeve wet shirt. He said it really kept him warm. He managed to catch one really good wave while we were there.

OK. So I started this post while we were actually at the beach, and I am now realizing that I had not finished it! All in all, it was a very nice get away just after school had started. Now it's a week until November begins! Tomorrow and Tuesday is our All-County Orchestra Festival, and November has 3 short weeks for me. I have a trip to Winston-Salem, Thanksgiving, and my sister's 40th birthday! It's going to be a good month. :)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Writing Spider

I am not a spider person. My mother, however, can look up picture after picture of spiders on the internet. I... I can't do it. As a child, I did read "Charlotte's Web" and have always been fascinated by writing spiders. About three weeks ago, this Charlotte showed up next to our basement door. I have been careful when I call the kittens inside, so they don't mangle her web. I make them go around.

When I decided to get some photos of our friend, I noticed that she had a friend, too. Can you see "him"? He was moving ALL around her. She was not moving, and I thought she was dead. He was pulling her legs, and it looked like he was attaching her to the web. It was weird.
I went back inside for a minute, and when I came back out she moved! The next thing I knew, her little "friend" was wrapped tighter than a burrito at Moe's.

Yes, he is that white dot at her mouth. This all happened August 20, and she is still out there. Sometimes when I'm out there calling in the kittens, I picture the last scene of "Charlotte's Web" when the babies release, and I get some major heebie jeebies. I haven't seen any egg sacks yet... I guess I'll find out how that works.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Busy Summer

Hey kids! It has been a busy summer for me. I finished my 5th Summer Strings Camp last Friday, and then went camping at the beach. Matthew had a good time surfing, and I enjoyed fighting my new beach umbrella. Half of it broke, but half shade was better than no shade! When I got over being embarrassed by my flapping umbrella, I enjoyed the pounding waves and reading a book.

Matthew went down Friday afternoon, and I drove down Saturday. I met Matthew in Edisto and made a new friend.

The campsite had these adorable geese. These boys were pursuing a pretty little female.

I made dinner Sunday night. Matthew packed a few leftovers from our fridge at home which included some rice, and I brought a red pepper and some tomatoes which we added to the rice. I went to Piggly Wiggly and bought some andouille sausage and a red onion. This is everything before I piled it all together on a plate! (I also poured a little bit of my beer into the pan with the sausage! Yum!)

It was delicious! I love camper cooking! I am looking forward to more camping weekends!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Making Dinner

I knew I wanted to make a quiche since I have a lot of eggs and tomatoes. I bought some Gruyere cheese, an onion, and a pie crust (sorry, Jen, I just haven't quite tackled making my own).

Time to make dinner! Mmmm... I have chorizo sausage in the fridge. I start cooking the chorizo and chop up an onion. As I add the onion to the chorizo, I realize... Gruyere cheese doesn't pair so well with that flavor. I had already defrosted my chopped spinach. What to do?

Make two quiches, of course! I made a crustless quiche with spinach, tomato, and Gruyere. Yum!

The second was with a crust. I put the chorizo and onion on the bottom, poured the egg, spinach, and cheddar mixture on top and then topped it with sliced tomatoes (just for looks).

We'll see how it turns out!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Tree Climbing

Today was just a typical morning drinking coffee and looking at Facebook. Dizzy and Miles have been staying out all night playing. Dizzy came to the door ready for breakfast. I go down to the basement door to call in Miles. He was mewing but there was no sign of him. I race back upstairs to get my shoes and go find him. Sure enough he had treed himself. I wonder if something scared him or if he was playing and raced up a tree only to realize he could not get back down. Silly kitty...

I try to coax him down but he didn't want to do it. It was only about 10-12 feet. I know Miles can climb down a ladder, so I found one and took it out to him. It wasn't tall enough to reach him, so I had to hold it up. He climbed down and was safe.

Moldy needs to teach her brothers how to climb back down trees. She's a pro.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011


Last week Matthew and I bought a camper! So what do we do? We went to the beach, of course. Since it was a HUGE holiday weekend, a lot of places were full, but I managed to find a place in Hardeeville, SC. It was a sleepy little RV park. It was pretty late when we pulled in (already dark), but we plugged up the power and the water and were good to go! I don't know why we haven't done this sooner.
The camper is a 5th wheel which means there is a hit
ch that goes in the bed of Matthew truck. The camper is 23 feet long (which is not huge for a 5th wheel). It can sleep 4 comfortably. It could sleep 6 if 4 people are willing to share a large bed. It has a couch, a table with bench seats which all turn into the big bed. There is a sink, stove, oven, and microwave. It has a fridge and freezer, too. And never fear! There is a complete bathroom! But I think the most important feature, since we are doing beach trips, is the air conditioning. It's super cold! We had to turn it off a few times.
OK. So we arrived Friday night and got it all hooked up. The next morning we were on the beach. Matthew caught a few waves, and I read a few pages of Harry Potter. We took a trip to Wal-Mart to stock the camper.

We had a blast! After our shopping trip we just hung out at the picnic table at our campsite. We found FRESH shrimp for $4.50 lb. I had to cut their heads off but I got to cook in our new camper! It was all I could talk about before we actually bought it. They were the best shrimp I've ever had.

The next morning I made coffee! It's a percolator.

After sleeping in, doing more reading, we spent Sunday in Savannah just walking around. There are some really neat buildings. We tried to go check out Tybee Island. I think they were having fireworks because 5,000 people were all traveling down one lane of road onto the island. It was OK though because we found a bar. LOL!

Monday morning we off to Hilton Head. We did some walking/jogging. I went ahead and wore my swimsuit so I could jump directly into the water. We had a wonderful morning, but it was time to head home. Matthew emptied the holding tanks (yes, there is a tank for grey water and a tank for you-know-what). I packed up everything.

I can't wait to go again!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Redneck Tendancies?

Last night I was dreaming that I was in Wal-Mart looking for a special hook to crochet with or something. So I found the section with the string, yarn, and lace. They had samples of different things you could make. One item was lingerie. It had silk straps and cups and the body of it was camo.

Needless to say, I woke up laughing.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Rainbow Falls

Last week I traveled a few mountains over to hang out with my family. As soon as I arrived, we were loading up and heading to Gorges State Park. We were all armed with a camera, and my sister carried the pack with waters.

The hike to the falls is a 1.5 mile strenuous trail. It is mostly down hill until you get close to the falls, and then you climb up and up.

I am very proud of my mom and Josh for making that 3 mile round trip hike! It was not easy! We had a great time. As you see, Josh was worn out.

This is the next day. Dad kept the boys entertained with golf and such while the girls (mom, Michelle, and I) went shopping! It was great fun. The last day was a bust because of rain. We had hoped to go paddle around the lake but instead we played games.

Friday we all went home. I arrived back in town just before lunch time. I met Matthew at Habitat Home Store where we found a bed frame for the spare bedroom! Yay! Then we got to have lunch together. He had some errands, and I decided to return home. Instead of unpacking, I finished my book, "True Detectives" by Jonathan Kellerman. A good read.

When Matthew came home, we hung out on the porch. The sunset was a beautiful end to the week!

Saturday, June 25, 2011


Starting Monday, Moldy had a little cough and sneezing episode. I went out of town for the week, and when I returned Friday she was about the same. She would cough so bad that she gagged (sorry, gross, I know). I took her to the vet today, and after waiting an hour (our vet is worth it), Dr. Beverly said Moldy has allergies. Moldy has been to the vet off and on for the last 3 years for the same thing. So she was given a steroid shot and an antibiotic which I get to give her twice a day. It is a liquid so that makes things a little easier.

Meanwhile, Miles and Dizzy are doing great! As far as I can tell they are done growing, but they might have another growth spurt since they are just barely a year old. Later today, everyone gets their Advantage treatment! Yay!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Weekend Adventures

Matthew is working hard during the week and cannot take a week off for vacation. Since he plays in the Cafe String Quartet (Google them, take a listen, they are amazing), several of his Saturdays are spent playing weddings. This past weekend was free, and we went to the beach!

Matthew's passion for surfing has been the driving force for us going to the beach on free weekends. Despite a crummy wave forecast we went anyway. Friday afternoon we were on the beach. After about an hour, it was time for dinner.

Here is the Charleston bridge at sunset.

We ate at this great place called Vickery's next to the waterway. All the shrimp boats were already back.

We saw this huge cargo ship passing by before our meal.

Matthew had scallops and grouper which was so good he didn't want to ruin it with any sauces. I had jerk shrimp on a salad which was delish!

Saturday's waves were not looking good, so we went with Plan B - Plantation and Kayaking Tour. Our first stop was Drayton Place. It was built in 1738! This place was the Biltmore of its time. The house was incredible. The company which owns it has gone with preservation instead of restoration. Our guide said 85% of the house is original!

There is no plumbing inside so there was an outbuilding with a 6 seater. The seats are no longer there, but here is a picture. I like that there is a child's seat on the end.

There are two entrances to the house - by road or by river. The Ashley River runs along the end of the garden area.

After lunch, we headed to our kayak tour. It was fantastic! The guide put Matthew and I in our own boats (thank goodness!). Gates (our guide) is a biology major, and he was full of information. When we paddled the water way, there were dolphins that would swim close to us. (This is a picture taken when we were at dinner because I couldn't take pictures when I was paddling.)

This is the same water way in second and third pictures! It was cool that we paddled down it. We saw male Fiddler Crabs waving their big claws trying entice a female. We saw several different birds - Great American Egret, White Heron, Pelicans (and babies), sea gulls, and birds I can't remember the names. There was one that Gates said the feathers were made into big hats that were shipped back to London. I'm going to study my sea birds so next time I can tell you.

Sunday we went to the beach early to "run". I put this in quotes because I am not a runner. I would walk and then give myself a goal to jog a block. It felt really good. Matthew finally decided that we would check out of our hotel and come back with the board. I sported my new purple bikini. Matthew put me on the surfboard, and I think I might like it! I have been hesitant because I am not the best swimmer. I caught three waves, and on the last one I managed to get on my knees. Next time we go, I will try it again!

Sunday, May 29, 2011


One week ago, my arm started itching like crazy! I don't know where or how, but I had a classic case of poison ivy. I am blaming transfer from one of the cats.

This is a picture of it after a week. It no longer itches (thank goodness!) but it is still healing!

May Days

Oh boy, where to begin... I attended a lovely Tinkerbell birthday party for my 4-year old friend, Bronwen. It was wonderful! I also got to visit with one of my bestest friends, Jenny. We had a great afternoon of girl time. Well, her husband, T.J., was there too. Haha :) I'm so happy they are back in NC.

May is always concert month. My Spring Concert was on the 19th, and it went great! We had a movie themed concert, so the orchestra played "Alice in Wonderland", "The Chronicles of Narnia", and "Pirates: At World's End". I am very proud of them. The chorus was the second 3/4 of the concert.
I had several students with solos. I learned that walking the chorus on and off the stage every other song does not work. Ooops! It made for a long concert, but they did a great job.

The following Saturday I went to a baby shower for Andrea, a great friend of ours. Brief history: Matthew grew up in Hendersonville and played in several small ensembles. He and Andrea are good friends. Andrea went to App and Matthew (and I) went to UNCG. He used to go visit her, and she used to visit him. Therefore, I met Andrea in Greensboro. OK. Andrea returns to Hendo and begins teaching orchestra at Rugby Middle and West High. Matthew and I move back to Hendo. After a couple of years, she is put full time at the middle school and calls me to apply at for the high school job. The rest is history! Small world, huh? Anyhoo, I had a great time at the shower, and I even won a prize because I had the poopy diaper. Ha! We are very excited for her and her husband (who is going to be the cutest daddy).

My National Board stuff still required an assessment test. It is a 6 part test with each part being 30 minutes. I had 9:00am on the brain and needed to show up at the testing center 30 minutes early to sign in. What do I do? I got there at 8:15am. My test was scheduled at 9:30am. No big deal. It was at Biltmore Park so I walked around. It was a beautiful morning. I found a table to sit at and study a little bit. A little before 9:00, I walked back up. I am not able to discuss the test but the first part kicked my tail! I glanced down, started typing, and before I could blink the 5-minute warning popped up. My morning and test whizzed by in no time. I will not find out the results of everything until November!!! At least it is completed.

I enjoyed the rest of the day with a pizza and beer at Brixx. B&N was across the street so I had to go. I exhibited some great self control. I only bought 3 books.

Now here we are, Memorial Day weekend. We have school Monday because of snow days, but we have an assembly which my students will play some patriotic music. Thanks to all the men and women who have served! Happy Memorial Day!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Flowers, rain, and yard work

As the spring season continues, more and more flowers in our yard are beginning to bloom. Matthew has two beautiful rose bushes, and this one is full of flowers!

Miles decided he wanted to be in a photo. Actually, I was trying to get a picture to show how big he is!

The weekend was short but good. I spent Saturday with my dearest friend, Jenny, to help celebrate her oldest daughter's 4th birthday. On the way home, I stopped in Shelby to check on a tree that fell across mom and dad's driveway. Here is the storm I was about to drive into.

It's too bad I didn't document my tree moving accomplishment. I had a chain which I wrapped around the tree and wrapped the other end around the ball on my hitch. I successfully freed the tree so I could shimmy it to the side of the driveway.

Today was exciting because Matthew and I purchased a new lawn mower. In my 33 years, I have NEVER been on a riding mower. I have pushed mowed since I was 8 years old.

Matthew did a little mowing, and I cleaned up two piles of leaves which were composting themselves under our porch. Actually, they were part of our garbage can corral. The weather has been so nice, and I was thrilled to work outside today. I managed to crank the 4-wheeler, fill the trailer with leaves (twice), haul it to a compost pile (twice), unhitch the trailer, and park the 4-wheeler in the barn. I also worked on painting the downstairs spare bedroom. I will get some pictures when it is finished. Right now it is a mess. I was able to park the new mower behind the 4-wheeler in the barn. Yay!

Now I am off to finish supper. I love a Crock Pot. I have a roast which is perfectly cooked. I have left over rice, and all I need to cook is the cabbage (with some chorizo!). Happy May!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Silly Kitties

So my kitties were being silly earlier this week. Saturday night we let all of them outside, Moldy, Miles, and Dizzy. Later that night Miles and Dizzy came back inside for bedtime, but Moldy stayed out. This is not uncommon. She will take her time sometimes scratching on our door at some wee hour or two minutes before the alarm is set.

The next morning, there was no Moldy. She stayed out for three days and two nights making me worry by late Monday. Finally at around 10:30pm she reappeared. Whew! I hugged and loved on her, and she wanted food. Don't worry, she did not go hungry while outside. She is a hunter. That is all I will say.

With Moldy back inside, it was time to let the kittens, Miles and Dizzy, out. Miles is usually a fraidy-cat, no pun intended, but he has enjoyed chasing grasshoppers. I need to catch a picture of them chasing grasshoppers. It is soooo cute. They squat in the grass, wiggle their hiney, and then pounce. The are growing up!

I called the kittens before bed and no sign of them. I called several more times and still nothing. This is not totally strange, but it was a little. At no point during the night did they come scratching on the door.

Wednesday, I still could not find them. Before I went to bed, I went out with the flashlight and called them. I was going to check the barn when I heard a galloping thump thump. I opened the door and there were their sweet little faces. I scooped them up and hugged and kissed on them. I carried them back to their basement. I checked them for dehydration, and they were fine! We can't figure out how they got stuck. The door was probably left open a crack, they finagled their way inside, and then the wind blew it shut.

We just can't let everybody out at the same time because that is when Moldy will disappear for an extra night. Matthew has accused her of taking on another family. The kittens will not be kittens for much longer. They are 11 months old, and Miles is as big as or bigger than his sister. Dizzy is getting fluffier. He is so handsome with his yellow-green eyes and white chest hair. Miles has a more sleek fur. The individual hairs are striped. It's pretty cool. I still can't believe we have three cats. Silly kitties.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Back To Cooking!

For those who know me, you know I have a fondness for cooking. There is just something cool about the process of adding spices or deciding to not add a spice. I sometimes follow recipes, and I sometimes add a twist. Either way, it sure feels good to be cooking again. I have been too tired these last couple of months, and Matthew has been a trooper eating whatever sandwich or snack concoction I came up with for the evening.

Tonight's fair with be Beef & Noodle Toss from the April issue of Better Homes & Garden.

This was very easy and quite delicious. :)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Spring has Sprung

I came home and spied this little fellow perched on his web built across the petal.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

I'm Back!

On Tuesday, March 29th I mailed off my little blue National Board box. I had a good friend go with me. I checked, double checked, and triple checked that everything was in the box. Surprisingly, I was not too reluctant in handing it over to the UPS man. I was quite relieved!

We had a lovely lunch at Blue Sky Cafe, and then did some fun shopping. I returned to school for a rehearsal of "Fame" since it opened that week. Wednesday morning I went with 7 students to our local news station, WLOS, for a segment about our show. One of the anchors interviewed me briefly, and then the kids sang one the songs. I wish I could see the video, because I didn't know what to do! I sat there smiling, she talked, asked me a question, and I just stared at her for a sec.... but I got through it, and I had several kids at school say, "Hey, Mrs. King! I saw you on T.V. this morning!"

I had not realized how much that blue box had been weighing me down! Apparently I was a totally different person for 2 or 3 months, and I did not see Matthew very much for that last month. My students had noticed, too.

Working on National Boards is a rewarding process. While I was stressed and not being my usual self, I was doing a lot of reflecting on my teaching. It is very humbling, and a lot of times I thought I was a terrible teacher. I feel like I found my mojo again. It is up to the people who read my stuff to decided whether I pass. Analytical writing is not my forte because I have trouble explaining why I do something. (Haha?)

Anyhoo... I still have the assessment test to take on May 25th. This is after my Spring concert, and I will miss school that day.

Meanwhile, I have one week of school then SPRING BREAK!!! I am looking forward to that very much. Matthew did a wonderful job helping with the everyday chores, and my deep cleaning weekends were thrown by the wayside while I was busy writing and rehearsing. I will spend my break cleaning, reading, and having fun. Mom and dad are going to come up one day to see the Biltmore flowers. Matthew's birthday is that week, and his brother's girlfriend's birthday, too. There will be a big gathering at the King Ranch.

All in all, it feels good to me, again!!!!! :)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Almost Finished!

So, it is half way through March, and I am almost finished with National Boards! I took a personal day (paid for by NBPTS) and worked at the public library from 10am until 5:30pm. I did get an hour lunch break with Matthew during that time. I managed to get two entries written and a third started.

I had my umbrella which I used to walk the two blocks to meet Matthew for lunch. When I returned to the library, I left my umbrella just outside the entrance with two other umbrellas. Yup... you see where this is going... I wrote an entry, gave myself a break, and worked on another entry. Around 5:25, I realized my writing was going downhill fast, so I started to pack it up. During my "break" I found two books which I wanted checked out.

I walk out and look for an umbrella. Yes... there were no umbrellas there. I told myself that one of the homeless people I saw needed it more that I do. And I am OK with that.

I have relieved much stress just by taking that day off. However, I have an orchestra & chorus concert this coming Thursday, "Fame!" opens on the 31st, and I have a lot of revision to do on my NB entries.

Friday I gave the head of our English department three entries to critique for me. I am really glad she is reading my entries, because she... well, she is good. I have final NBPTS reading session on Monday. I am so very thankful for the support system that has established itself for me. My assistant principal, who has been through the process, has been wonderful!

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Blessings in disguise

Monday was a long day. I didn't watch the Super Bowl, but I stayed up a little later than I should have. My morning was in slow motion while time whizzed by, and I got to school just on time. My first period is a small (8 students) Advance Choir class. Three of my students did not come (blessing in disguise). This gave me the opportunity to work with a couple of students on their Fame songs.

During my planning period, I needed to get my registration for Music Performance Adjudication (a.k.a. Contest) filled out and mailed. I saw that the deadline was the previous Friday. Crap. I emailed the person in charge of organizing to ask if there were any spots available. He gave me a quick response to let me know it was filled and then some. I was kind of disappointed, but guess what.... blessing in disguise. I started my third period orchestra class, and they were asking questions about Contest. I just blew them off until there was about 10 minutes left in class. I let them pack up early. I was so stressed out with everything going on and disappointed. I told them, "I have some bad news. I did not get our registration in, so we are not going to Contest." Tears were welling up, and I took a deep breath. They don't care about Contest as much as they just wanted to get out of class! They were sweet, though. One student noticed my watery eyes and asked, "Mrs. King, are you crying?" Crap. Whoosh goes the water works. I didn't totally lose it, but I was crying. Two of my seniors ambushed hugged me.
We will travel to one or two of the elementary schools to perform for Music in Our Schools Month. Since I am working on my National Boards, the musical, and Summer Strings Camp I am happy to have one less stress. This will also give us a couple of extra weeks to work on our music, and we can add another fun piece. Blessing.

After school, I had a National Boards meeting. This is for people who have entries to be read. I have not started writing, but I had videotaped my classes three days last week. I was able to get help and guidance for writing my fourth entry. This is about my activity and connections outside the classroom. It is very difficult to answer "Why" I do anything. Because I'm a glutton for punishment? I like to keep the feeling of being overwhelmed? Haha! Anyhoo... I was getting ready to leave, and the person in charge noticed my camera. She asked if I'd like one of the certified people to watch one of my videos. Uh... well... sure, why not (blessing in disguise). First, this woman made me feel very comfortable inviting her "into my classroom". After some fumbling and changing rooms, we got my video to work. I showed her a scale lesson, and then I moved on to instruction. Her feedback was wonderful! She said the point of all this is HOW I write about my video, not the video itself. She told me there is plenty to pull from the video. Needless to say, I left that meeting feeling much better about this process.

Monday was such a strange day filled with so many blessings. I must admit, I'm glad that day is over!

Monday, January 31, 2011

Luck be a lady...

National Board for Professional Teaching Standards is scary. Matthew and I talked last fall about my getting a master's degree or trying for National Boards. We decided I would go for National Board certification, so I applied last October online. A few weeks later I received a blue box with lots of labels, envelopes, CD-Rom, and forms. I am very bad at self-instruction, i.e. reading comprehension. I always have been.

My first apprehension began when I read that I was supposed to have 3 years in the same district. Since I was only 50% for three years, those account for 1.5 years! I have one year of full-time last year. You can do the math, so I thought, "Maybe I'm not eligible yet." It turns out there is an employment verification form that I was to duplicate for each district. Again, that whole poor reading comprehension thing bit me.

OK. Long story short, I have procrastinated until the absolute last minute, as always. All of my forms were due to be postmarked today. So I get up this morning, ready to send in everything I have: License Verification including a copy of my license; Education Verification (which I paid to have sent to me via email); and one of two Employment Verification forms. As I am driving to the post office after school, I realize I forgot my labels! They were at home. So I raced back home and grabbed my blue box, and I raced back towards town. Now, keep in mind that I live in the boonies so it takes 30 minutes for me to get back to town.

I get stuck behind one very slow character, meanwhile I am on the phone with NBPTS to make sure I was not panicking only to find out that I have made myself ineligible. I guess I wasn't the only person freaking out, because the gentleman on the phone was very calm and talked me through the fact that it will be OK.

I finally get to the post office, walk in the doors, and am denied. They closed at 5:00, and I looked at my phone which said 5:01. No joke. The lady behind the door mouthed, "I'm sorry", and I tried not to burst into tears right then and there. After some customers came and went, the same lady asked me what I needed. I simply told her that I needed this envelope postmarked today, and I also realized they no longer had a copier. :/ She asked how many copies I needed, and I said, "Just one."

She let the last customer come and go, and she came out into the lobby locking the door. She offered to make my copies (which turned out to be 5 copies, not 1), and graciously did not pick up the outgoing mail until my envelope hit the pile. I can't express how grateful I am for this kind woman's act.

I wonder if I had not been behind the slow poke, would I have made it to the post office at 4:58 and gotten in the door? All I can say is that I am very grateful, and I don't plan to procrastinate on sending in my blue box with all my papers and video. I have 2 months to get it done. I just keep telling myself, "I can do this." I have an enormous support system of friends who have been through the process (including one administrator).

I wonder if this woman was sent to make me really appreciate and understand the commitment I need to make for this process.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

New Year's Eve, Day, and Leaving

Friday, New Year's Eve, I was THRILLED to be going to Isla de la Plata to see the Blue Footed Boobies. I got to drive the car (which was a stick shift!) to Puerta Lopez. Mariscal gave me very good directions to find the tour office. I arrived to speak with a gentleman who spoke no English. Luckily, my tour guide arrived, and she spoke English. I didn't realize how dependent I was on Matthew to translate everything! I know a word or two, but obviously not enough. I arrived early so I had time to kill. I walked to the pharmacia to buy bug repellent and a bottle of water. It was finally time to go when a family arrived with a puppy. Really? So we had to wait on them while they took the puppy home. They really thought they could bring a dog to a bird sanctuary. Anyway...

Everyone removed their shoes/sandals and put them in a bag. We all walked in the water to get into our boat. By this point, everyone knew I spoke virtually no Spanish. Some of them asked where I was from, and we would converse as long as their English and my Spanish would allow. They were all so nice. The boat ride lasted an hour. This is one of my favorite pics as we left Puerta Lopez.

Our boat arrived to Isla de la Plata. Our guide told everyone something about lunch being later and gave us a muffin and bottle of water. The boat pulled ashore, and we climbed out. After finding our shoes/sandals in the bag, everyone goes to the foot washing station to get the sand out of toes. Yes... this is a communal foot washing area. I'm not sure how often/if at all the water is 'freshened'.

After getting my Chaco's back on and a potty break, off we went up a long trail. We hiked for maybe 20 minutes before we spotted the first Booby. We were all so excited that we took a hundred pictures of this family feeding the baby. Super cool!

Here we are taking pics of another Booby family (which was more common than originally thought). I love this picture because of the orange cover you see in the background. There was an older, grandmother traveling with us. Her grandsons kept her covered with this wrap. The duo up front with me (if my poor Spanish served me at all) was teasing that she must be a saint. It was pretty funny.

These two were hanging out on a cliff edge.

The Booby babies get so big! They stay in the nest for three months, and then they are read to fly. They don't get the blue feet until they are sexually mature.

This is my poster Blue Footed Booby.

All in all, my two hour hike around this Island was incredible! I did not post any pictures of the Frigate bird because they are mean. Their feathers do no allow them to get wet, so they can't dip down into the water for food. Frigates can only skim the surface of the water hoping for a fish. If they have no luck, they will beat up a Booby in the air until it throws up the fish it caught. I don't like Frigates.

After our amazing hike, we get back on the boat and travel around the island. We were served watermelon, pineapple, and a couple of little sandwiches. By the time we finished, we were anchored and ready for snorkeling! I was super excited for this, too, because I had done it in Nassau, Bahamas and Cozumel, Mexico.

I get my flippers and mask last, and I ease into the water. I swim out a little and can feel the currents. I am not a strong swimmer. I tried to put my face in the water, breathe normally, but I just couldn't do it. I was panicking because of the currents, so I swam back towards the boat. One of the gals was hanging onto a life saver and looking down into the water. Brilliant! I latched on, and the guy on the boat sent one out just for me! I floated for a good 20 minutes. I saw some pretty corals, clown fish, trumpet fish, and a "Dora" fish. Needless to say it was pretty awesome.

It was time to head back. The water was super rough! Everyone would scream and laugh when the boat rose up and slammed down into the water. Then one of the engines went haywire, and we stopped dead in the water. It was scary because we were at the mercy of the waves! Finally the engine worked and no one was laughing anymore. We were all worn out too. After arriving to shore, I was trying to tell people "Thanks" and "Bye" and they told me "Ciao". It was cool.

I drove myself back to Finca in time to find Matthew napped and refreshed after a hard day of surfing. One last dinner at El Paso. It was bittersweet because I really liked the couple that owned the place. They even brought us to the kitchen so we could see how they cooked our meals. They even sat us a the table that could see the T.V.

After supper, we commenced to celebrating the New Year. At about 10:00pm, I HAD to take a nap. At two minutes until midnight, Matthew woke me up in time to see the fire and kiss at midnight! But then someone said their phone time had not hit midnight yet, so we counted down for a second time. It was great! Everyone walked out to the beach because there seemed to be fireworks, but it wasn't as exciting as it had seemed. We returned to Finca and the more intense people went to the other town for an all night celebration! Matthew and I stayed at Finca with a cool couple from Columbia.

New Year's Day we slept in. It was our last day at the beach so we headed down for some reading. Matthew finally decided to get a board and do one last round of surfing. I'm so glad he did, because it went so much better than the day before. I was coming close to finishing my book. We had one last dinner at Finca with our new friends from New Zealand (who taught English in Cuenca), Switzerland, Germany, and Puerto Lopez. Since we had a car, we offered our friend from New Zealand a ride back to Guayaquil so she could catch a bus back to Cuenca. We got up at 4:15ish and left Fina Punta Ayampe by 5:00am. By 8ish am we made it GYE airport. We said good byes to our new friend. Matthew settled with the car rental while I tried to pay our taxes to leave the country. I was already stressing. It was so silly of me! We had more than enough time. We got our boarding passes (which you need to do first!), paid our taxes, and went through security. Matthew and I had plenty of time to eat a good breakfast, and I had time to finish my book.

Short story long... big plane back to Miami (I got to watch "Eat, Pray, Love"). We had a 4 hour layover, then it was back to Atlanta. We arrived at 9:45pm (remember we had been up since 4:15am). We find the truck and off we go! I had already called in for a sub for Monday, so I let Matthew sleep while I drove. We pulled up to the house around 1:30am. Almost 22 hours later! I slept in the next morning, did all the laundry, took a nap... it was a great decision.

I LOVED our trip to Ecuador. I feel like my pictures were not as good as our Mexico trip, but I think our extended beach trip was worth it! I hope we return. Finca Punta Ayampe was a wonderful place to stay, if anything, just to have Mariscal take care of you.

Ecuador is growing, and all of the roads were new. The country is growing, and I hope tourism continues to grow in this country. If you are a resort only kind of person, I don't recommend it. If you are willing to 'rough it' a little, then this will be your kind of place! The people are so very nice and the scenery is so beautiful!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Days 3 - 5, Ayampe, Ecuador

After a very long ride from Cuenca, we made it to the beach! It was a very long drive back across the mountains, and the drive back through Guayaquil was intense! Three lanes became five, and we weren't 100% sure which way to go. I did manage to ask someone while we were stopped in traffic. I was quite proud of myself since I had chosen the correct road, Nueve de Octobre. I'm not sure what significance that road has in history, but it was our road.
I convinced Matthew to hang a hard right to get out of traffic, then a left so we were parallel to the awful road, and it was only a couple of blocks before we turned on our La Via de la Costa (road to the beach!).

We drove, paid our tolls, drove some more, and after about 2 more hours of navigating...

Needless to say, we made it to the beach! It was so very beautiful. It was warm, the breeze was nice, and the colors of everything was amazing. The road were not marked well, but there was one sign pointing to Ayampe. There were locals who had not even heard of it! We did not see signs for Finca Punta Ayampe (our hostel), so we asked a family. They had no idea! Long story short, we went the up the only other road and found it. We rang the bell, met our host, Mariscal, who showed us to our room. It was just enough. At least we had a mosquito net! A first for me, but Matthew kindly pointed out that it just made me feel more like a princess.

These are the signature rocks you will see in most pictures of Ayampe.

The first night (Tuesday), we ate at the restaurant and didn't do much exploring because we were exhausted.

I was instantly in love with Ayampe! Our host, Mariscal, was so wonderful. He wanted to make sure he took care of us because we were on vacation. He served a simple breakfast of toast and coffee. Mariscal told Matthew about the local surf instructor, Ryan. He and his wife, Vanessa, are from Canada and opened a surf school called Otra Ola.
Puerta Lopez was the next major town over, so we went to find flip flops and check out the town. They have phone booths which we later used to phone home. We returned to Ayampe for a little lunch and beach time. Matthew and I walked over to Otra Ola to ask about lessons. Matthew had emailed Vanessa a couple of times inquiring about lessons. Vanessa also does a yoga class in the mornings, but I never took advantage of it. Ryan returned from a lesson and talked to Matthew about the next day. Ryan was going to town to pick up some new boards and did not know if he'd be back in time for a 3:00 lesson, but "the waves will still be there the next day."

The next morning, Matthew and I had our morning coffee until the kitchen opened. We decided to drive to Puerta Lopez again and had breakfast there. It was very good and only $3 for the both of us. We headed back to Ayampe for some beach time. I sat and read my book, and after a while, Matthew went to Otra Ola to see if Ryan was back. About thirty minutes later, Matthew is walking up the beach with two boogie boards!!! It was awesome and scary! These waves are so much bigger than the ones on our coast. I caught some pretty good ones that raced me to shore. We returned the boards a couple of hours later, and Ryan still had not returned.

We decided to try something different for supper, so we walked back up the "main" road. A couple owned a restaurant called "El Paso", and the food was amazing! Matthew asked Arycele to make his food 'pica' (spicy), so Arycele picked some peppers off a bush growing right next to the deck. Matthew said it was just right! We also witnessed the most beautiful sunset that continued for at least 30 minutes.
Thursday was just a chill day. We took another morning trip to Puerto Lopez and made a couple of phone calls to the states. Matthew went to his surf lesson, and I hung out in the commons area at Finca Punta to read. I had gotten too much sun Wednesday, so I was all about the shade. I met a woman from New Zealand who was teaching English at a school in Cuenca! She was a surfer and had come to Finca just for that purpose. We talked about all kinds of stuff, including the obnoxious American that visited Finca the previous day. Let's just say, he was a loud know it all.

I spoke to Mariscal about Isla de la Plata. It is called the "poor man's Galapagos", and I wanted to go! Friday was New Year's Eve, so Mariscal called to see if they were giving tours that day. Much to my luck, they were, but they couldn't pick me up! Matthew had surfing plans, so I drove myself to Puerta Lopez. Well... NO PROBLEM! I had ridden with Matthew the past two mornings, so I felt pretty comfortable driving myself. I was going to see some Blue Footed Boobies!!!!!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Days 1 - 3 in Ecuador

Mom and dad stayed at our house, and they had to drive up Christmas Eve because of the prediction of snow. Matthew and I left for Atlanta on Christmas Day in a flurry. We arrived in Atlanta with no snow! I called mom and she said there was already 5 inches at our house! We go through security with no problems. Our flight was for 1:00pm, so we had time to eat some lunch. Matthew and I were seated on the exit row, which has a lot of leg room! We make it to Miami for a four hour layover. There was nothing to do there except belly up to the bar which was conveniently located right next to our gate. :)

We were on a BIG plane to Guayaquil which arrived at 12:45pm. We got into our hotel around 1:15am and slept in a big, comfy bed. The next morning we went back to the airport to get our rental car. It was...um... special. A little Nissan with the sideview mirror that was about to fall off! Plus one or two of the tires were a little flat. We drove to a gas station with the Hertz guy and filled them up.

Off we went to Cuenca! Here is the map I had to help navigate.

It took a little more than 3 hours to drive up over the Cajas Mountains, which were beautiful despite the fog. Matthew could barely make out the road in some places because of the fog, and the roads were very curvy. We took a wrong road getting into Cuenca, so we ended up taking the long way into town. I saw a Christmas parade with people dressed as the 3 wise men, and children dressed at Santa Claus. This is the outside of our hotel.

The city had several beautiful churches.

These were the Cajas Mountains for our drive back. It wasn't as foggy, but there were some places.

Our stay in Cuenca was pretty low key. There wasn't a whole lot to do except walk around and marvel at the architecture. Since it was the day after Christmas AND a Sunday, there were no bars open. Our room was very quaint with lots of closet space. A/C and heat were not needed in this area. The temperature was upper 40's at night and in the low 70's by day. Breakfast was typical: coffee or tea, fruit, bread with butter and jam, and scrambled eggs.

Monday, we walked to an art museum called Museo del Banco. It was nice, but there weren't any descriptions or dates on anything. I spied a Bird Zoo at the bottom of the hill, so we checked it out.
We found a little restaurant for lunch. He didn't take our order but served us a typical almuerzo (lunch): Some odd hominy/corn snack, soup, then a slice of beef with rice and salad (cabbage and carrots with lemon vinaigrette).

The city of Cuenca was sleepy, but I think most people stay there to spend the day hiking in the Cajas. Monday night we met a couple visiting their daughter who was studying in Ecuador. They were pretty interesting, and we stayed up talking.

Tuesday morning, Matthew tried to crank the car, but the battery was dead! He found a taxi driver who helped him jump it. We were starting to wonder about the trustworthiness of this vehicle. I was ready for the beach!!!!!

We drove back through the Cajas and back through Guayaquil. That was interesting! There aren't really any lines on the road, and if there are, no one uses them. 3 lanes could become 5, for example. I didn't take any pictures because I was navigating us through downtown Guayaquil. Luckily it was a grid, and Matthew managed to get take a right and a left to be parallel with the crazy main road. They name roads after dates, and we were looking for Nueve de Octobre (9th of October). We found it at last, and it led us to the Coastal Highway. It was three+ hours from Cuenca to Guayaquil, and another 3.5 hours to the beach. Matthew did a great job driving. I was ready for four days of sun and relaxing!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Preparing to Travel to Ecuador

I have summers off, yet that is Matthew's busiest time. Needless to say we rarely get to vacation. This year's destination was Ecuador. Everyone asks me, "Why Ecuador?" Well, Matthew picked it for surfing, and it sounded interesting.

The fun begins by researching plane tickets. We found a direct flight with Delta from Atlanta (ATL) to Guayaquil, Ecuador (GYE), but tickets were going to be $1,300 EACH! Matthew kept searching Orbitz, etc... he found a flight that goes from Orlando to ATL then that same exact flight to GYE for about $750 each. What's up with that??? So we purchased those tickets thinking we would call to say we missed out first flight, but we would get to ATL.

The more we researched this idea and spoke to the girl who rents our old house, the more we realized this wasn't going to work. She works for Delta, and she tried to change our tickets. We were going to have to either buy tickets to Orlando for $80 each, or end up paying the difference in plane tickets at $800 each. OK. This is getting ridiculous. To top that off... I realized that our flight back was at 12:15AM New Year's Day. That clearly was not going to work.

New plan! We canceled those tickets for a fee, but we get to keep our credit with Delta to use within the next year. We found an American Airlines flight which was our 2nd choice anyway. The reason we did not pick it was:
1. A four hour layover in Miami
2. We got back in ATL at 9:45PM Sunday night, and I have school Monday

Well, those reasons didn't look so bad after the first ticket debacle. OK. Sweet. We are good to go to Ecuador, now we need places to stay.

I booked us for our first night at the Marriott because our arrival was for 12:45pm. After some searching, emailing, and one phone call, we had arrangements for lodging.
We also arranged to rent a car for the week. We even know where our passports are located. Sweet! We are good to go!