Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Grand Canyon of Texas

For several weekends, Theo and I have spent our Saturdays doing some Christmas shopping without the kids. It has been nice having time to shop around rather than having to get it all done on a weekend trip out of town. The downside was how much time it had eaten up as the weeks passed. This Saturday, we got going as quickly as we could to finish tying up our shopping loose ends. By early afternoon, we felt like we were just about done getting what we needed. We were ready to head home to check on the boys, and then there was a debate about how we would spend the rest of our afternoon.

Theo had been studying even more than usual with his final exams approaching. This week he took seven tests in five days. He was a little burned out. One of the tasks that he had been putting off was putting up our Christmas lights. This was a front-running contender for our activity. The weather was great. The tests were done. Our afternoon was free. What to do?

We left the lights in their box and headed to Palo Duro canyon for an afternoon hike. Time well spent.






Monday, November 28, 2011

Trim the Tree

True to tradition, we got our Christmas tree set up right after Thanksgiving.








Saturday, November 26, 2011

Thanksgiving

This year we had debated for many weeks about what we would do over the Thanksgiving weekend. The kids would have three days off and Theo would have four. I was unsure if I would have a job by then, so we were pretty open to possibly traveling. In the end, we opted to stay home and have Theo's family come to us.

The first to arrive were Tim and Anne coming all the way from Indiana. They flew in with their two boys, Symond (4) and Max (1) on Wednesday morning. We were so excited to see them especially since our visits are few and far between with the distance. My boys really love being the older cousins and had a great time entertaining. We made an outing to the park near our house and played in the backyard. Luckily the weather was even pretty good, a surprise since we had snow before Halloween.

Later in the evening our second wave of travelers arrived as Theo's parents along with Shaun, Melissa and their two little ones Maverick (3) and Isabell (10 mo.) rolled in. We got everyone situated and prepared to feast the following day.

Thanksgiving was actually a low key affair. The day was another nice one, and the kids frolicked and snacked while the food was prepared. I wish I had snapped some better pictures of the day. We ate in the early evening a delicious turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, rolls, sweet potato casserole, corn, green beans, and Lisa's famous corn casserole and even some deer meat from a recent hunt. The best part of the day was sitting around the table with full tummies eating pie and ice cream while the kids have a free for all.

We had made tentative plans to go visit Palo Duro Canyon on Friday morning to work off some of the Thursday gluttony. Instead, the weather took a chilly turn, and so Friday was dedicated to hunting down some of the after Thanksgiving deals in the stores of Amarillo. Theo and I opted to stay home to avoid the crowds. Everyone seemed to enjoy the hunt.

Saturday morning, our first arrivals were the first to depart. Tim and Anne took an early flight out of town and then the overland travelers made their getaway a few hours later. In all, it was a deligthful gathering of far-flung family. In the wake of our move to the new and unfamiliar, getting to host some family in our new home was very centering. We have so much to be thankful for!

Thanks to the Martins who were able to come. To those we missed, hope to see you soon!















Tuesday, November 22, 2011

To Those Who Wait

Even before we made our move to Texas at the end of July, I have been on the hunt for a job. I posted about this before, and I finally have news!

About a month ago, I finally had an interview for a potential full-time job. Up to this point, I had received two job offers, one at Amarillo College and one at West Texas A&M, both to teach English classes. While I was interested in the prospect of teaching at the college level, the pay was just not going to cut it considering I need to be the breadwinner for the next three years, and these jobs were very part time. Anyway, I have been applying for all kinds of jobs. This company that contacted me buys and sells interest in gas and oil wells. The woman I talked to said that she had seen my resume and wanted me to come in. Long story short, I came in twice to their downtown office and met with first the guy I would potentially be working for reviewing contracts and other written documents, and second the head honcho, a guy named Jim J.

I must say that this office seemed like the stereotypical Texas office run by a good ole Texas boy. We are talking stuffed animal trophies everywhere and did I mention, the boss was named Jim J? I felt like I interviewed very well, and the job would be mine for the taking. They were offering a decent salary considering it was an entry level position. I was seriously thinking this would be my job. However, Jim J does all of the hiring, and he was going out of the country for 10 days. I thought I might hear from him before he left, but no word came. I wasn't sweating it. Then I get a call for another interview.

This time, it was for a job I had applied for at an education service center, pretty much a place that does professional development for school districts. When I saw the posting, I had the bare minimum requirements to apply, but honestly I wasn't sure if I was qualified as I read the job description. So, while Jim J was in London, I went in for this long shot.

Backtracking a little bit, the day before the scheduled interview, I got a call from one of the people that I would meet with. She wanted me to know that I would be interviewing for a committee. I asked if there were anything that I should bring like copies of my resume or something. She replied that they would love to see some of the video I had edited, or some of the classes that I had taught over the internet. Panic. I didn't have access to any of those things anymore! Gulp!

I went in for the interview armed with a video I produced for a Wings cross-country team Theo took to New York in 2007, and the web addresses of two websites that I designed. The committee turned out to be only three people, but the interview itself turned out to be three hours long!! They asked me every question you can imagine, and some I am sure you would not come up with. The third hour consisted of me being escorted to a cubicle with a laptop, them handing me a zip drive, and being asked to create the outline of a course in one hour. I was sweating a little bit.

The next day, I got a call that they would like me to come in again. OK. What more could they want to ask me? Apparently there was more. This time, it was just two people, more questions, lots of talk about how visible this job would be in the organization, and a challenge to work on another project. They asked me to create yet another course outline, this time using their platform, and I could take a few days. Double-gulp!

I took the login information home, fumbled through the unfamiliar learning management system, and I think came up with a pretty good product over the course of two days. I even finished several hours earlier than I had been asked. At the end of that day, a Friday, I got a phone call from the boss, Greg. He asked if I could come in again, this time to meet the executive director of the service center. Double-double gulp!

The following week, I came in to meet the big kahuna. Before we went in, Greg instructed me to not 'be intimidated' by his boss. That is a real confidence builder. Essentially, I answered a bunch more questions and was told once again what a high profile job this would be. Apparently this is a new position they are creating, the Distance Learning Specialist, to help their consultants build online courses for the teachers they instruct. I was totally intimidated despite Greg's directive, but stoked at the same time. Yes, it sounded challenging, and yes, it would be a learning curve, but I felt like I could totally deliver the things they were describing.

This third meeting came just two days before I was to leave on my trip to Durango. At the conclusion of that meeting, Greg told me that it could be a week or more before a decision was made. By then, I was going a little crazy! THREE interviews, and I still had to wait for an answer. In all of the hullabaloo, I had virtually forgotten Jim J. No call had come from them at all. And so, I headed off for my girls weekend for some distraction.

Once I had arrived in Durango, I got a call from Theo on Friday morning. Tammy had called from the Service center and wanted me to call her. I did of course, and she asked when I would be back in town. I told her Sunday. We set an appointment to meet on Tuesday morning. When I came in, the secretaries were actually teasing me about coming in so often. It was not so funny considering my nerves.

Greg offered me the job, and of course I took it!!!

And so, I will start my new job as a Distance Education Specialist on December 1st. The office is super close to my house. The job is right up my alley and totally professional. The salary will be top notch, benefits, vacation, the whole deal! YAY!!!

Four long months of uncertainty, waiting, hoping, praying. I feel like this is such a blessing! And right in time for Thanksgiving. I know the coming months will be hard and an adjustment as I become a full time working mom again for the first time in more than 10 years. Bring it on! I am ready!

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Guilty Pleasure Reunion Trip

The thing that I have missed the most since our move to Texas four months ago has definitely been my group of friends. I have been so fortunate to hang out with a great bunch of fun and sassy ladies over the years, and I am reminded that those kind of connections can be rare and hard to cultivate. Add to that, in the last several years I have taken many opportunities to travel to some fun places with my girls, many times in the fall.

So, I have been looking for a good reason to get together with my Page gals. We had our big bash on Lake Powell before I left, but the months here have been kind of long for me. I should say that I have met some really cool women here in Amarillo, and they have really gone out of their way to make me feel at home. Still, I am kind of a lazy friend, and I like to have the easy give and take that only comes from years of knowing each other.

In October, I made the realization that the next Twilight movie was going to be opening in mid-November. I am sort of a closet fan. I am not one of those people who wears her Twilight t-shirt or has the Edward screensaver, or sets up the wolf pack calendar on her desk. I mean come on, I have degrees (plural) in English. I am supposed to enjoy more high brow literature, right. Whatever, it is my guilty pleasure, yes I said pleasure! I enjoy the Twilight books. Even more than that, I enjoy enjoying them with my friends. It is fluffy good-natured fun! Now the movies I admit are not all that great. Of course as with any movie based on a novel, the book is always better. The real fun is in all the hype. For the last three movies, my girlfriends and I have gone to the midnight showing in the Page movie theater. We have worn plastic vampire teeth, waited in the freezing cold, even set up a big tailgate style buffet outside the theater with vampire themed treats.
What better excuse to get together and carry on the Twilight Tradition of midnight merriment?! The plan was hatched to meet in Durango, CO where my sister lives, catch the movie and then make a weekend out of it. Fabulous!

It took some convincing of hubbies and shuffling of children, but with some effort, four of my dearest coolest friends made their plan to meet me in the four corners. I set out from Amarillo on a windy (of course) Thursday morning for the seven hour drive. My friends, Shandiin, Nicole L., Penni, and Debbie departed from Page after lunch for the four hour trek. I arrived first at Michelle's house, and I must say, walking into their house after four months in Texas felt a little bit like coming home. My sis and I had some time to catch up and do a little shopping before the Page crew arrived.

At dinner time the ladies rolled into town, and we met up at the movie theater to purchase the tickets that were the premis for the gathering. We actually opted to wait for a matinee showing on Friday since we had all had a long drive. Even my friend Debbie (not a Twilight fan) agreed to come with for the movie despite many vows and oathes to never participate in the Twilight debauchery. It was so exciting to be together. It felt like we picked up right where we left off. We chatted and laughed as we took in dinner at a cool local restaurant in downtown Durango. Once we returned to Michelle's to settle in for the night, it was almost like a pre-teen slumber party. We stayed up into the wee hours just enjoying being together.

The next day was our Twilight day, but the movie was at 1:30. We spent the morning getting a little exercise walking and jogging around Michelle's (and I think some of her neighbors) property. We shopped a bit in the tiny Durango mall which is still a treat considering Walmart is the extent of shopping in Page. Movie time arrived, and we headed to the theater. Michelle met up with us and provided some plastic teeth and candy wedding ring pops (I love that girl). Now, it is not my intent to write a movie review, but suffice it to say I thought this was the best Twilight movie to date, and I enjoyed it.

After our movie fun had another nice dinner downtown and a giggly night staying up way too late. Saturday we got up early for a Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory sale that was going on at the fairgrounds in Durango. Can you say 'chocolate overdose'. Oh, the deliciousness! To assuage some of the guilt over eating chocolate covered pretzels and carmels for breakfast, we did a nice little jog/walk along the river. That afternoon, we capped off our weekend excursion with a trip to the nail salon for pedicures. Sheer perfection with the exception of a dropped bottle of blood red polish that splattered all over the walls, floor, and Nicole's favorite jeans (sorry nail people).

My gals had to head home Saturday evening, you know the whole 'back to life, back to reality' ditty. What a wonderful time we had, but always too short! I stayed the night so as to have a nice bunch of daylight for my trek home to Texas. I may have shed a little tear or two as I headed off into the sunrise Sunday morning. Not all tears of sad though. Really they were little tears of deep gratitude, a profound sense of my good fortune to have these wonderful women in my life! Now I am back home in Texas, and I have one more fabulous memory of a fun filled girls' trip. I know there will be more to come. I look forward to it. Thanks to my sis and thanks to my besties. You girls rock!



Sunday, November 6, 2011

Weekend on the Wild Side

Compared to the small town of Page where we just moved from, Amarillo is kind of a big city. Granted it is a small city as far as cities go, but it has a lot of amenities that were not available to us before. A perfect example of a venue you can find in a big city is the local zoo.

I had heard that there was a zoo in town, and we had thought about making an outing there several times. For one reason or another, we had just never made the time. Last weekend, Theo was out of town for a PT conference in Houston, and I found myself looking for ways to entertain the boys. The zoo seemed like a good option. So, I loaded up the kids and we drove about 20 minutes across town. Upon our arrival, we we started to climb out of the car and prepared to head in. Just then another family was pulling out of the parking lot and stopped by our car. They informed us that the zoo was closed. What?! There was some Halloween thing scheduled for that night, and so they were closed to prepare.

The following weekend, Theo was again going out of town, this time to the AZ state cross-country meet. This again seemed like a good time to find something fun to do with the boys. Back into the car and back across town we went. The weather was not great. Granted, the wind blows here almost all the time, but it was especially robust. As we arrived, dark clouds started gathering in the sky. We kept our fingers crossed that we wouldn't get wet.

We got into the little zoo, and I was happy to see that there were very few other people there. Maybe the weather would be in our favor. I had prepared the kids ahead of time to keep their expectations low. I had looked on the internet to find out what to expect, and I knew it was a very small zoo. As we started to wander around, the kids and I were enjoying our visit more and more. There may not have been a huge number of animals or an enormous expanse of acreage, but it was great! All of the animals were surprisingly active considering it was the middle of the day. We saw lots of the big animals you would expect, and there were virtually no other people to compete with.

The boys were not all thrilled to have their pictures taken in front of the animals. You can make your own guesses about who that was from the snaps. Even though I thought the animals were gorgeous, I am not one who wants to look back on a bunch of animal centered photos. Squint if you must to make them out, they are in the background. All in all, it was a nice afternoon out and about with my guys. It didn't even rain on us. We will definitely visit again.

Spider Monkeys

Two ginormous anacondas coiled up together

Big ole lizard thing


Cheetah looking thing

Tiger

Lion

Black Bears

Panther

Coyotes

Lemurs

Wild Child

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Reality Check

The other day in the morning rush of preparing for school, Corbin frantically declared that he "forgot" that he had a paper I needed to sign. Since we were about to leave, I hurriedly implored him to give it to me so I could sign it. As he retrieved the paper from his backpack and thrust it at me, he made a hasty exit from the room. Ok.

I wasn't thinking it would be anything bad. Corbin is a great student and has never given us any trouble in the behavior department. I looked down at the paper he had given me entitled, Reality Check. It was a permission slip for sex ed.

All of the 7th grade was going to be having a two day sort of right of passage course including all topics sure to induce giggles, knowing grins, and lots of blushing. I know that lots of 7th graders these days are very savvy about these matters having grown up in the hyper-sexualized culture that we live in. However, I like to think that our household is pretty conservative, and that we have sheltered our children from much of the innocence-robbing influences of modern day society. We're not prudes, but we believe that kids should be allowed to remain as such.

I scanned the topics that were to be covered, and found nothing offensive or objectionable for a 12 year old boy. Corbin had already had "the talk" with his dad, so I didn't anticipate that any of the topics would be revelation to our son. In fact, I felt a little swelling of parental pride that we had been educating our child in a responsible and loving way.

Corbin returned to the kitchen to fetch the paper, his head ducked. Knowing he was a little embarrassed, I took the opportunity like any great parent to make him squirm a little more. "You already know all about this stuff, right Corbin?"

He proceeded to declare that I would be shocked to know what lots of the kids at school talk about. They say all sorts of "gross things". I told him that was the very reason that the school taught courses like this one, so that kids could get the right information rather than just picking up stuff from TV or friends. I then told him how lucky he was that he had a dad who had talked to him all about those things. He gave me a sort of grimace. I tried not to chuckle, and said, "You did talk to dad right, and he told you all about it."

"I guess." A sort of confused looking grimace.

"Well you get it, right?"

"Yeah, I know that the thing goes in like a place." Grossed our look.

OK, so it was a Reality Check, for me. Well good, glad to know we are doing such a bang up job! Way to teach our kids the correct terminology and mechanics together with the sacred nature of a loving, committed relationship. He totally has this down!

I silently signed the paper, and we left for another day of school. We are all still learning, right along with the kids I guess.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Keeping Up With the Joneses


Halloween. Always a fun filled season of gluttonous abandon. I thoroughly enjoy the parties, the costumes, the trick-or-treating, and of course the candy, oh the candy. It is all good stuff. However, I have never been a big Halloween decorator. I am not sure why, but we usually keep it simple, a few carved pumpkins, and if I am feeling really festive, a spiderweb or two. That is about it.

So this year being pretty much like all the others, I purchased two good sized pumpkins for our front porch. Now, I admit, we didn't even carve them this year (I am not big on messy), but we did "decorate" them with these cute plastic faces. Think Mr. Potato head parts for a pumpkin. Halloween day, I went to put them outside, and I noticed that our next door neighbor seemed to have the beginnings of something in their front yard. I plopped my pumpkins down and went inside. Later, I went out to walk Ruby, and lo and behold, more stuff, was accumulating. It wasn't anything the seemed Hallowenish yet. It was like fence parts and ropes and stuff. Hmmmm. Throughout the day, I would peek out the window to spy on my neighbors. What were they doing over there?

By late afternoon, it was taking shape. There was all kinds of stuff, a creepy Hannibal Lecter guy, a huge spiderweb (ginormous hairy spider included), lights, a smoke machine for goodness sake! This was just what I could see from the privacy of my master bedroom window.

In Page, trick-or-treating takes place much earlier than most places, 4-6pm. My younger two kids arrived home from school expecting to don their costumes and zoom out the door as they have done for as long as they can remember. I told them that we had to wait until dark here, and we tried to find ways to keep busy for the next few hours. When Corbin got home about an hour later, he reported that the neighbors had basically transformed their front yard into Halloween Mecca.

I decided to go out and chat with the neighbors(code for ogle their fantastical creations). What I hadn't been able to see from my window was a complete rock band of life sized animatronic skeletons complete with full-on sound system, the graveyard with pop up frightful creatures, and a second hairy spider that my neighbor graciously demonstrated its ability to lower from the trees above onto unsuspecting visitors checking out the aforementioned skeleton band (yes, I shrieked a little).

After admiring their spooky spectacle, I returned home to gather my waiting trick-or-treaters. Walking up my front walk, I was greeted by my two sad little pathetic pumpkins with their Mr. Potato head-esk faces. I wish the pictures I took did justice to the contrast. I am thinking next year, we need to step up our game.

No matter what the house lacks, the trick-or-treaters look AWESOME!





The Rolling Bones