30 March 2011

My Wish List

So my sweet friend and former roommate, Stacey, made a wish list on her blog...you should definitely read hers because she always has yum-o recipes as well as lots of creative, thrifty ideas...I miss her and her creative self!  So anywhoo, reading her blog got me to thinking of what my "wish list" is...so here goes!

1. A pet. More specifically, a D-O-G. Literally, I love any dog I ever meet. I also have my own way of speaking to them...just ask Elizabeth Butler about my "Daisy-voice". I can't help it...maybe Cesar the dog whisperer should hire me because I just love those furry creatures so much. Although, I'm not too crazy about little yippy dogs. But I have been pleasantly surprised by some little dogs, like the ones Brian's parents have--they stopped barking at me once I started coming around more often =). Unfortunately, our apartment complex has a ten pound weight limit for pets...whhhhat? I mean, I know cats fatter than that! Although I saw someone carrying around a lab puppy a few days ago...I often wonder if I could successful hide a dog, but then my "must follow rules" side kicks in and I can't carry through! I do have a friend (of a friend...) who has two lab puppies...he's single, and deploying in September with Brian--I'm going to try and snag a year-long puppy babysitting job ;) I mean, what else is he going to do with them? Might as well leave them with someone who is as obsessed with dogs as me! My parents for years wouldn't let us get dogs...honestly, a good decision-we were too young to really take responsibility. BUT, the Christmas that I was in 7th grade, Clay opened the present with the leashes, Emily got the dog bowls, and I got the collars. OH. MY. GOSH. I'm pretty sure that's the best present I've ever gotten! We were beyond estactic. We even got to go pick them out! I don't know if they were originally free, but after the owners saw how excited we were, we left with two puppies, Cheyenne and Sierra, free of charge! See, my over-excitedness can be good for something! :) We tried to talk Mom and Dad into letting us get 3, you know, one for each of us...they shot us down. Again: good idea parents.

2. Paint. Yes, I terribly want to paint my walls! You know those Sherwin Williams commercials that use the color samples to create cool things, like trees, flowers, and hot air balloons? I literally drool every time I see one of them. I'm that desperate. Army housing = white walls, as does apartment complexes. I could probably paint in our apartment, but I'd have to paint it back the strange fleshy color it is now. And the wall is not smooth; it's got little rounded bumps all over it, which I think paint would only draw more attention to...needless to say, if you paint your walls, I'm going to live vicariously through them...Like Kaitlin's gray walls...slightly obsessed. We have some friends that are probably going to buy a house here in El Paso, and I don't think they realize how much free labor I'm going to give them...I'm itching for a project! And thanks to the DIY Network, I have lots of inspiration as well as handy tricks...

3. A J-O-B. Hahahahaha! Somedays (like today) I'm feeling optimistic and silly, therefore I can joke about this! Others, not so much. Patience, patience! Although I've been subbing, and it reminds me of why I love being with teenagers and education! I was in an English class today and my mind was spinning with ideas as I browsed through the literature book reminiscing about all that we read in AP English way back in the day! Found some excerpts from some of my favorites...To Kill a Mockingbird, for one! I almost wish I had gotten my English minor. I actually think I did (I took waaaay more hours than needed), I just didn't declare it!

4. Patience. I can be a little impatient with myself. For example: when cooking, I want it to be done now, which usually means I rush through, make a distatrous mess, and something isn't quite right! (especially when baking...). Also, patience with the job search. I think I need to be a little easier on myself; we haven't been here that long, I'm still trying to get my Texas certification figured out (and funded...ha!), as well as try to decide exactly what kind of job I'm looking for. As I've job searched, I started to think that maybe being in a middle/high school isn't exactly what's best. Let's be honest: they have a multitude of Spanish teachers here, most of whom are native speakers, soooo, we'll see :) I'm looking into some ESL jobs and thinking about trying some private schools as well-should be interesting!

5. A vacation. After being on a honeymoon, I think everyone should be entitled to a weeklong (or more!)vacay every year! Unfortunately, Brian's going to be gone for the entire month of May (as well as all of June), so there goes an anniversary trip for this year! We've tried to work it in for March/April, but unfortunately, every weekend has a conflict of some sort-mostly due to dear-ole-Army...and things called "Staff Duty". We do get 2 weeks of block leave in August, so we're hoping to squeeze in some time just for us! The deployment seems to be speeding towards us-kind of frightening! With the impending deployment the guys have been super busy and in the field a lot. Honestly, I'm thankful they're getting all of this training time--it makes me confident in their abilities!

6. An (extremely) basic sewing machine. Seriously, I need the definition of basic for a sewing machine. You know, to try my hand at making curtains and such. I have dreams of making a quilt, but I need to be honest with myself: this will probably never happen! Goes back to my patience issue...and the fact that I seriously cannot cut/draw a straight line! Kindergarten failed me.

7. For Glee to stop taking random breaks during the season. Seriously, it's starting to annoy me. Also, if it could just run all year round, that'd be grrrreat.

8. One last thing: a visit home...which I'm getting April, and I'm so excited! Although, I'm a little "Starkville-sick" too-I just love that town and all the people in it! Especially this little fam...Joseph's 3rd birthday was this weekend...growing up too fast! I would seriously steal these kids if I didn't adore their parents so much ;)
Well, ta-da! A list. I'm sure I could think of more things, but this is all that's coming to mind as of now, and you're probably tired of hearing of my selfish wants! I don't need any of these things (well, except for patience...), but they'd be fun!

Also, tomato lovers...check this recipe out. When Jill posted this, I literally wanted to eat them off the screen. It prompted me to buy Roma tomatoes today at the grocery store, and I plan on having girls over to eat them since Brian is in the "tomater-hater" group :)

Love. Miss. The southwest is ballin' since it's been 80 degrees all week with a steady breeze! See? You want to visit ;) Also, this turned into the "blog shout-out" post. You guys are so inspirational =)

22 March 2011

Displaced Southerners

So, I usually don't do back-to-back blogs, but today just called for another one! Today marked the beginning of my "substitute career" in the Canutillo ISD (Independent School District). It's on the westside of El Paso, about 30 minutes from home...it's currently the only district hiring subs, so I jumped on it!

So, back to the story.  I started off my subbing with a 1/2 day assignment, meaning I went in around 11:15 and stayed til 3:50, when the bell rings to release the masses. I liked that I went in for a half day, because the teacher didn't leave me too many instructions online (they use an online system to book/inform subs here--it's really cool). Basically, it said "take the students outside and allow them to play basketball". Mind you, the periods here are 75 minutes. Oh, but this gets better!

I meet him, and he's super nice, and gives me a little more guidance and some names of some teachers I can go to if I have questions...after all this subbing, I'm going to leave superb notes for my future subs! Then, the bell rings, and in walks another teacher and students...I soon realize that some of these teachers share classrooms, and with this class now in what I thought was his classroom, I have to find somewhere to go, since the next 2 hours is his planning period...So, I walk downstairs, and find an empty room, which I believe is the conference room for the counselors. Thankfully, none of them were there, so I camped out at a table, slowly reading the one article I found in my folder that I took with me...After about 20 minutes, I started to feel quite awkward, so I headed to the teacher's lounge...here I met some other sweet teachers and substitutes, and the rest of the time seemed to pass more quickly than I expected! I headed to hall duty and then split from that early so that I could locate the gym and the other coach, who turned out to be an angel. Here's the deal: I really like to have very detailed plans, so that I don't have to question what to do...not the case today! Thankfully, I found the coach and we basically babysat about 60 kids for the next 75 minutes, including trying to keep them inside the gym...After that period ended, I got my last period of students. I was advised that they were a handful, but there was another teacher who would be outside with me and the students, so not to worry. As it turns out, that teacher had a sub too, soooo, yeah...not too successful of a class. We headed out to the outdoor basketball court, which is NOT good for retaining students, as it has a back gate that's wide open. I didn't realize this, and after I called roll and put my head down to mark the absent students, half the class had escaped (I had about 35 kids). Thankfully, they were around, and most were in my line of vision, buuuuut I know I had about 5-10 who definitely disappeared. So I rolled out the basketballs, football, soccer ball, and wall-y balls, and they set about to entertaining themselves for the last 75 minutes of the day. Here's deal #2: I don't like chaos when I'm supposed to be in control of a situation. I like things to be ordered, and I don't mind chaos, but it has to be with people I know, and if I'm in a leadership position, I want to know that they'll listen to me and follow my guidance...and as a subsitute, I usually get lucky if I have 3 students who respect me enough to listen! Not that these kids were bad--it's just that they knew they were about to get ultimate freedom, and they just couldn't wait!

Today (with my 2 hours of free time to think, and really another 3 when I had my students...), I started to reflect on what one of the teachers said during lunch. She said something about "oh you know, these kids..." in a pretty deragatory sense with a hopeless tone to her voice. This happened when I was a student observer and when I student taught at a middle school, and it really annoys me. Here's why: it seems to tell me that the teachers, who I believe should be empowering, encouraging, and challenge their students, don't feel like their students can amount to anything. And that annoys me! Now, I'm a die-hard optimist and idealist, so while I often get disappointed, I also feel like my positivity helps me to see potential, even if it's not manifested to my expectations. When I student taught at the high school during my undergraduate, I had an incredible supervising teacher and was surrounded by a slew of teachers who believed their students could accomplish things, even if those things weren't what we had in mind. We knew their potential and these teachers encouraged and pushed the students, all while showing them how much they cared, and I loved that! My time there helped me to realize that while not every student will go to college, that doesn't mean they can't be successful in other areas of life, and I think that was a really important lesson to learn. It just breaks my heart to see and hear teachers who don't think that A) they can't make a difference, and B) that their students won't improve or capitalize on their potential. From my first impression today, the students were relatively good! I mean, I didn't have to go through a metal detector, multiple students were incredibly polite and kind to me, and no one gave me much of a hassle! Now, I also remember the grind of being in the classroom daily with students, and I know it's easy to lose your drive, especially if you have a difficult group of students. But that's not enough to give up all hope...I feel like this verse helps me to remember that while I don't always see immediate results, the Lord is good and I can trust that He is working through me:

"In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." Philippians 1: 4-6

So while I know there will be days (probably this week!) that I get frustrated, my constant prayer is going to be that the Lord is able to work through me to show these students love, discipline, stability, and encouragement. Not saying that I'm perfect at these...because I'm definitely not! Especially that discipline one...it's easy to do in my head, but I always get nervous before I put it into action! I think it's because I often doubt my "authority status" with students...I just feel too young still! Maybe I'll grow into it...

Moral of the story: be encouraged! Encourage others! :)

On another note...so I read the student handbook and familiarized myself with some of the policies, especially with dress code and technology...basically, they can have cell phones, but they have to be off. No mp3 players/ipods, etc...and dress code is basically what we remember: no shorts, no spaghetti straps, all those rules we wished we could break. Imagine my surprise when I saw students on their phones in the hallways, watching girls walk by with shorts on that rival a bathing suit bottom...I was floored! I almost went Dr. Davidson on them all! (Sorry, only the high school friends will get that reference--she was the epitome of a dress code stickler.) It was really bizarre. In addition, during PE, they all had them out as well as their musical devices and what I think was a condom-turned-balloon...grrrreat.  Also, the kids were ALL OVER EACH OTHER! I mean, I remember there being PDA in high school, but my goodness! I think I saw at least 15 kids making out! Another thing that was weird to me was that there were always kids just lounging in the hallways...not in class, and not doing anything...At Bob Jones, no one got away with that! If you had a pass, you were usually the only one in the hallway...it was really strange. I don't know how they keep track of them all! Heck, I hardly could--pretty sure I had a few sneak off during last period...but hey, the lesson plan had them go outside and basically run wild...feel like I did the best I could! I just kept praying none of them got caught skipping and then got me in trouble...that's terrible, isn't it?

Also, all I heard all day was Spanish! True, this was kind of music to my ears, and it also made me realize how much I need to practice! But what was funny was that students (and some adults) just assumed that I knew Spanish! I had at least 2 students come up and start talking in Spanish--it was so funny! I think pretty much everyone in this school is bilingual (which probably means they don't need me as a Spanish teacher...), and it just surprised me when they thought the sub spoke Spanish! Little did they know... :) It's actually really fun, because when 3 sassy girls roll their eyes at you and mutter a "compliment" under their breath, you know exactly what they said about you...Ha! I'm working on my Spanish comebacks ;)
Finally, on to the title...I feel like every time I tell someone where we're from, they also question how we're liking it (well, I tell them!). They also point out my "Southern" accent. I mean, I know I say y'all, talk real fast ;), run my words together, and use "fixin'", as well as some other collquialisms, but man, do I sound that redneck?! I don't really think so, but once I say I'm from Alabama, they're always like "oh yeah, I knew it; I knew I heard an accent!". Oh well, I don't care. I love being a Southerner. Or as we say, a "suh-the-nah". Love it.
Sorry, my Southern phonetic abilities are lacking...will have to work on that!
I have two more sub positions this week...I'm sure I'll have more stories to come!

21 March 2011

Desert Livin'

I used a word yesterday to describe El Paso that I've never been able to use before...green. Yes, El Paso is turning green; I believe this truly is a miracle. Actually, it's our supposedly short-lived spring, but I'll take what I can get! All of the trees (yes, there are some that survive here...) have green buds on them and some even have purple/fuschia blooms! When you're on the highway and scan over all of the neighborhoods it really looks pretty! I need to take a picture to prove to you all that it's really happening, because I have a feeling as the temperature rises, my green/blooms are going to fade...

Speaking of green things, I have attempted my hand at planting (well, potting) some flowers! The geraniums and pansies are doing well, I just have to water them frequently as it never rains here...I also tried my hand at growing my own cilantro and parsley, and believe it or not, the cilantro is sprouting! I can't tell you how proud I am of my plant babies. It was a good boost of "green-thumb confidence" when the first shoots came up! I'm just tired of paying for fresh herbs, especially because I usually only need a few sprigs, not an entire head, which means most of it goes to waste. Next on my "to attempt" list is basil and rosemary-yum. I would love to hang some flower baskets on our patio, but the wind blows so much I'm afraid they'd take flight and never return to me! They keep saying March is the windy season, but we've only had one really bad day...perhaps it comes in spurts. Although the bad day was really bad...there was a dump truck about 25 ft. ahead of me on the road, and when the dust cloud rose, I couldn't see the truck! It was frightening...

Let's see...onto Army news. Brian was in the field all last week and this week, and last week he had to run a live fire exercise. A "live fire", as they're called, is when the guys complete a mission with live ammunition...also slightly terrifying. But, Brian's platoon did really well! He came home really pumped up about it. He's got a great group of guys and NCO's (non-commissioned officers) and he says they're really working together well--such an answer to prayer! I was really praying and hoping Brian's platoon and NCO's would be a good fit, and it's turning out that way! He's in the field again all of this week, so I'm looking forward to the weekend when he comes home! It gets lonely here without him! I have been finding things to fill my time though...still working out a lot, and I'm getting back into my running routine. With the Christmas break/move, I fell out of my routine and then slacked off for a few weeks, which means my running has suffered! With the drastic change in altitude, I've had to readjust to running, especially since the nearest thing to run is the canyon, which is pretty much all uphill! In addition to trying to get into shape, I've made some really sweet friends through our Battalion and gotten to know my Benning friends even better. We had a cookout at one of their houses this past weekend and we had such a good time! Having friends you're comfortable around really helps you to feel more at home! After we finished eating/socializing, we watched the original "True Grit". Ok, confession: I do not love Western movies...they all seem to have the same plot to me. But this one is so good! Seriously, if you're not a Western-lover, try this one out...it was actually really funny in multiple parts of the movie! There's a young girl who recruits an old, rough-around-the-edges marshall and a Texas Ranger to help her find the man who killed her dad...she's reason enough to watch it! She's spunky and a little sassy, and puts those boys in there place when needed! :) I really enjoyed it.

In other Army news, our friends the Kisers are finally reunited! Nathan came home in the wee hours of Sunday morning after being in Afghanistan for a year--we're so excited for them! Shellaine did a lot while he was gone...found a vet job, moved into a house on post (that Nathan first saw when he got home!), traveled, and many other things. I'm so glad he's back! I'm definitely looking forward more to the reunion than the sending off, which is (scarily) racing towards us. I've become the co-leader for our FRG (Family Readiness Group), and we're planning various activities/fundraisers until the guys deploy, and when I look at the calendar, I realize how fast it's going to fly by, and I don't like that! In addition, Brian's going to be gone for two months before the deployment, so that's only going to make it harder to put him on that plane! He's going to Ft. Gordon, near Augusta, GA, for the month of May to a language school to learn Pashto, one of the languages spoke in Afghanistan. He'll be home for a few days over Memorial Day weekend (we hope...), and then he's off to NTC (National Training Center) for the entire month of June, and will (hopefully) be back for the 4th of July weekend. This month at NTC is when the battalion basically does a "dress rehearsal" for combat...the center is set up like Afghani villages, and the guys pratice patrols, engage in combat, talk with village elders, and the like. It's going to be great training for them and will really help them to discover what areas they need to improve in. I'm so thankful he gets to do all of this so that they'll be as prepared as possible for when the real thing comes...

As for me, I'm just chugging along! I sub for the first time this week in the middle school, so we'll see how that goes! I have the "Theater" class for half a day...should be interesting! I'm still looking for jobs and I'm hoping to get into a  "study schedule" this week...I thought with school being over I could stop studying, but now I feel like I really need to! So I'm going to crack open my Spanish, education, and ESL books, that way if someone ever wants to give me an interview, I'll be prepared ;) (or so I hope!)

Dana and Stuart, the last of the Benning crew, are arriving this Friday, and we're all so excited! It'll be so nice to have a good portion of the old gang all together again. Thanks, Ft. Bliss, for letting so many of us come out here to the desert... =)

I hope you know I'm being playful when I talk about the desert...I do like it out here! It's just that something always surprises me and most of the landscape/weather is in stark contrast to what we're accustomed to in the South! It is neat to live in a new place that's totally foreign to us. I understand why people retire in the Southwest; the weather is nice, the winters are mild, and the air is dry...no fighting humidity here! I almost think we're going to have to get a humidifier for our room because Brian and I are still getting bloody noses from how dry it is--crazy! And seriously, I've used more lotion out here than I have in my entire life! haha!

Well, that's about all from the Page household...nothing too exciting going on out here! I do want to leave you with a recipe I promised you weeks ago...it is delicious and it's not difficult to prepare!

The inspiration for this was that I was attempting to find a new protein to cook--we always do chicken or beef...

Citrus-Rosemary Turkey Breast
Prep: 20 min
Cook: 2.5 hours
Other: 10 min

3 TBSP butter, softened, divided
3 garlic cloves, minced (or more...we love garlic, but we're not vampires...)
1 (6 lb, or maybe less...) bone-in turkey breast (you can find these in the meat section; Butterball)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
1-2 oranges, sliced into rounds
1-2 lemons, sliced into rounds
4 sprigs of rosemary (I used crushed rosemary, and it works fine if you can't find fresh)
4 fresh sage leaves (same goes here-I used crushed)
1/2 onion, quartered
2 C chicken broth (if you only have one can, put in a can of water for the second cup...)

Stir together 2 TBSP butter and garlic. Loosen skin from turkey (don't pull off, just up!), sprinkle salt and pepper under and on top of skin; Rub the garlic butter mixture over meat.

Place fruit slices, rosemary, sage under skin and on exposed meat, and replace skin. I also place fruit slices and spices underneath the bird for extra zing.

Rub/sprinkle remaining garlic butter mixture on top of meat. Add onion and chicken broth.

Bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 30  minutes, basting every 30 minutes (basically, splashing liquid on top). Cover with foil, and bake for another hour. Remove, and check temperature; should be 170 degrees (or higher, if your oven cooks fast, like mine does...whoops!)

Let stand for about 10 minutes, then enjoy! This is a delicious meal! We sometimes make fried potatoes (diced red/new potatoes, splash of olive oil and butter, rosemary--in oven or on skillet) with it and they go really well!

Bon apetit! Buen provecho! Enjoy!

Also...have you ever made your own spaghetti sauce instead of using a jar of it? Try it...you'll never turn back, and it's easy! I'll post that recipe soon!

15 March 2011

A Weekend with the Boys!

So since I can't sleep, I'm going to update you all on some recent happenings! This whole daylight savings thing is great because it's sunny here til about 7:45, but my body clock hasn't adjusted. So, for your enjoyment: a visit from the brothers. Laughter should occur as you read this post!

So a few weeks ago Clay and Eric decided that they wanted to come visit us for part of their Spring Break. Needless to say, we were estactic. Thanks to my hard-working dad, they were able to bum some SkyMiles off of him and fly out here (Thanks Dad :). They arrived Saturday morning, and we allowed them no time to rest from their travels--too much to do! Clay said that as he looked out the window onto El Paso, we thought "this place looks awful". Eric concurred. So we greet them at the gate, and then take them outside, where their worries were confirmed: sans the mountains, El Paso is not too easy on the eyes. But, there are things to love and appreciate here! Like the mountains.  So after they got over desert-shock, we took them to Kiki's, an awesome Mexican restaurant here. If you come to visit, we'll probably take you here. A) It's delicious, B) after some serious polling by me and Brian, it's the best Mexican we've found here (so far). Although, Bri and I tend to find a place, deem it delicious, and never try another...not because we don't want to, just because we're loyal like that... :) ha!

After lunch, we brought the brothers to the apartment, dumped their stuff, and gave them the grand tour of Ft. Bliss. Brian just so happens to work on the farthest away point on all of Ft. Bliss/Biggs Army Air Field, so the tour lasts awhile :) They were impressed to see that we had some really green fields of grass! Until we informed them that it's AstroTurf and probably has staff infection all over it. Something that I've gotten used to (just because it's everywhere) is that in place of grass, there are rocks. Not pretty rocks--jagged rocks that would probably shred your bare feet. This is the desert's replacement for grass. If you're not lucky enough to get rocks, you get a patch of dirt. But you don't really need to fear that it turn to mud, because it's the desert: it hardly rains here! Honestly, I think I'd be happier with dirt...

Sorry-that was a bunny trail. Back to Day 1. We also chauffuered them around the bend of I-10 to show off our neighboring city: Juarez! They also got to see the Rio Grande, which since it's been dammed further upstream, is more like a slow moving creek...not too impressive. I was expecting a raging river...no wonder Emily and I couldn't spot it on the way out here! After our drive we decided to take a hike up in the mountains behind our house. I think I've mentioned this before, but our front door literally opens to the mountain. There's a retaining wall, and then mountain. Best backyard EVER, right?! Haha expect when it's covered in sharp prickly plants!

We drove up to the trailhead and began our ascent. Ok, I'm a fast walker, but I'm not so speedy going up mountains...those boys left me in the dust! Although, I should probably define "hiking", because it's probably not what you're accustomed to. The trails here are basically all rock/gravel. It's gravel down low, where it was possible (and the grade is low enough) to lay gravel. After that, you're walking on/over rocks. So yes, I was bent over half the time, using every appendage to haul myself up some of these rocks! The trail also isn't very wide, so you have to be careful of vegetation. I'm known to grab onto tree trunks, rocks, saplings...to help me haul my body up while hiking. No can do here in the desierto...because every plant has a natural defense system, and in the Southwest, apparently that means thorns/spikes/prickly things. Literally, you can't grab any of them! Which is quite scary when on parts of the trail there's a ravine to your side and running through your mind is the thought "If I slip, I'm going to fall about 15 feet, tumbling over sharp rocks and pokey bushes"...it's a lovely mental picture...I also had to hike in my glasses, because after an eye visit with the doctor, I have an infection in my eye, so I have to wear my glasses for a bit. If you know me, you know I wear my glasses about 5 days out of every year or right before bed, so I'm not a skilled glasses wearer. Which means that when I look down/to the side, I don't turn my head...so naturally, this created some problems (and a headache) as I tried to "be aware" of my surroundings as I attempted to mountain-goat up this mountain...It was funny though :)

So finally we reach the top! And it's an incredible view. You can see both the east and west sides of El Paso. This mountain range divides El Paso right down the middle, so in order to get to the other side you have to either drive around it or take the pass through the mountains. We were up there about an hour before sunset, so the lighting was beautiful and it was so much fun to be up there with the boys. Clay and Eric traversed on a little on the ridge to "explore". You have to be careful though; the wind up there is intense! It'll whip you around! We only stayed up there for just a bit because we were losing light, so we began to descent. No sooner had we started down and Eric slipped on a slick rock. A lot of the rocks we climbed up were smooth from water running down them/people walking on them...yet another precarious situation! Well, like I mentioned before, treacherous plants line the "trail". So as Eric went slamming into the ground/rock, his hand went slamming into a plant that has about a 2 inch needle on the end of it. It went deep into his palm, near his fingers, and immediately starting gushing blood and swelling up...we thought the tip of the needle had broken off in his hand due to how swollen it was. Thankfully Clay had on a disposable t-shirt so we wrapped up his hand in that and proceeded to hurrry down...after a few minutes the bleeding subsided but it was still swollen. After further investigation, we realized that the tip of the needle was not in his hand, but he did have a few splinters from other plants in some of his other fingers...poor Eric. We thought for a minute we were going to be spending the night in the ER....Eric has bad luck when all 4 of us do something outdoorsy...for example, once when riding horses in Tennessee, his horse balked and he got thrown off, resulting in us creating a splint out of a belt and two sticks, and driving to the ER to find out it was a really bad sprain. See--you should pay attention in first aid class! Especially wilderness first aid! When he first fell down and we saw the damage, both Clay and I (we determined this after we all settled down) had the same train of thought: we're going to have to slice open his hand to get the needle of the plant out, and to do that, we'll need to sterilize the knife, get some hydrogen peroxide....and on, and on. The ER never crossed my mind: Brian came up with that one. Probably because he and Eric spent so much time there as children. :) Seriously, I think between the two of them they have about 5-7 ER trips...and what does that bode for our kids?....Mrs. Cindy is going to have to teach me how she dealt with that...ha!

We came back, cleaned up, cleaned the wound, and settled in for a night of dinner, libations, and fun games! Eric and Clay also decided to try and catch a fish from our tank with their hands...and then with the net. They were not successful. They also "redecorated" my fishtank, since during their attempts they uprooted all of our (fake) plants. It was funny though! We also played this game called "Monopoly Deal"--look it up! It's Monopoly in card form, and it's so much fun! Believe me: I despise real Monopoly, and this is awesome. It's totally luck of the draw, and you can't really scheme up a great plan--you just have to work with what you have, and the "winner" of the game can change in just one round. It's great!

Sunday I had planned (and did make) Monkey Bread for breakfast. Monkey Bread (also known as sticky buns and a variety of other names, some including the word "monkey") is delicious...so I thought it'd be a nice treat for the boys. Well that night I was looking up a recipe for it, and Eric caught a glimpse of a photo of it and he remarks, "Oh, what is that? That looks disgusting." To which I promptly replied: "That's breakfast."  Stunned, he was speechless. Again, hilarity ensued. But we won him over the next morning with how delicious it is!

Sunday we decided to take the boys to White Sands, where we went with Dad. Although this time, we took sledding devices! They allow you to slide down the (massive) sand dunes. Nothing like Florida's! Clay and Eric got to chalk up another state: New Mexico: Land of Enchantment. After having a picnic lunch, we hit the dunes with our sleds--aka, pool air beds, you know, the ones you lay-out on in the pool. We found some beginner level dunes and tested out the sand and the sleds-both were great. Brian, our scout, went out and found a monster of a dune and then it was no holds bar: the fun really began. Clay and Eric pefected the sledding technique, which was a running start with a parallel jump onto the raft, while hold on. You only got so far before the sand stopped you, but they made it look easy, and so did Brian. So I decided to put my photography to the side and give it a whirl. Now usually I pride myself on being a good learner. Err, not so much when it comes to sand sledding. Here's a log of my attempts:
Attempt 1: Forgot to hold onto the raft (got too excited when I jumped...), which resulted in me face planting in the sand and rolling awkwardly down the hill. Hilarious.
(Note: the sand is really soft and cool to the touch...at least for now!)
Attempt 2: Stupidly, I decide to attempt again. This time, I hold on, but don't jump correctly, leading me to only sled for about 2 feet.
Attempt 3: Suicide. I enthusiastically try again, get a good running start, and dive into my raft, plunging down the hill. Well, you're supposed to jump parallel to the ground; I dove head first. Also, I let go of the raft. Too many things to think about at once! Well, this led to the following sequence: my head submerges in the sand up to my ears. I do a headstand. That headstand turns into an extended-leg backflip. I land sideways, roll down the hill. The boys die laughing. It actually, surprisingly, did not hurt!
Attempt 4: total bust.
Attempt 5: there was no attempt 5. I was done. I resumed photography duties.

It was so. incredibly. funny. And to make it worse, it's really hard to climb up a sand dune while you're hysterically laughing! The boys had some more good runs down the hill and then we just laid there, taking in the sun and relaxing. After awhile we attempted to shake off all the sand that was everywhere--hair, underwear, ears...and we headed back. Brian had to go to bed early (had to get up at 3:50 this morning), so the boys and I hung out and talked. It was a great day.

Today Brian left before the sun came up, so it was just me and the boys again. We went to the outlet mall and then to this insanely huge Southwestern store that has everything imaginable...sarapes, Mexican rugs, turquoise jewelry, saddles, cowboy hats, furniture, Day of the Dead relics, pottery...you name it, it was there. We had a lot of fun milling around. We even found a Jesus action figure. Don't worry: I took a picture!

After grabbing a quick lunch I sadly had to take the boys to the airport...the weekend absolutely flew by! I really tried to remember some of the funny things they said, but I'm terrible at remembering quotes, so they'll have to tell you themselves...we had so much fun and it just made me remember how much I love and miss both of our families! Living out here is great; we have met some wonderful people and have some great "old" friends from Benning, which has made the transition much easier. People really make a place; I think I could live anywhere as long as I was surrounded by friends and family, be that they are new or old! Although sometimes having a taste of home makes you wish you were either still in Starkville or home in Huntsville/Madison with all the old crew...we just need some epic reunions!

Aside from their visit, Brian and I have just been trucking along. Our good friends Stuart and Dana are finally able to pack up their house in Benning and come out here, so we're really excited about all of the Bliss/Benning crew being reunited! Not all of our friends from Benning came here, but including us there are 4 couples that we knew at Benning who are here, so that has been just wonderful! Brian's been doing a lot of field training lately; with the upcoming deployment, they're pretty much in the field 2-5 nights a week. It's really good though because he gets to spend valuable time with his platoon, training them, getting to know them, and learning to work as a team, which will be so integral during their deployment. We have found out some information about the deployment though; he will definitely be in Afghanistan, so we're attempting to learn more about the country and their culture. After reading a few books (Three Cups of Tea, Stones into Schools, A Thousand Splendid Suns, and some more for some classes I took in grad school), I have really developed an interest into the Middle East and how they "do life", as well as their history, beliefs, and other things. It's just such a different way of life than what is normal to us and it's become a real area of interest for me...I'm thinking about trying to learn Pashto! Brian gets to go to a school in May to learn it, and I figured if I learned some of it too we could practice :) And I don't think it'd interfere too much with my Spanish...haha!

I'm still looking for jobs, but I have a good lead for a potential ESL teaching position...the position doesn't open for interviews until April though, so I'm still prayerfully searching...I have recently become the "co-leader" for our FRG (Family Readiness Group), which helps spouses to be prepared and equipped for a deployment as well as pass on information and support. The other gal I lead it with is really nice and fun and has been with the military longer than us, so she's got some great experience. I'm really looking forward to working with the wives and helping them feel confident (and myself too! :) about the deployment. It's given me some "projects", so I'm thankful for that!

Well, I believe this post has gone on long enough! I'll leave you with some pictures; there are more on Facebook!

 Where we went hiking! Franklin Mountains

The boys in front of the first cave

Adjacent mountain

View from the top

Back on the ground again...post-puncture wound

Fishtank fun!

What went through Eric's hand...the needle on top of those spines!

Learning to sand-sled!


Brian in-action

Jumping off the dunes

The beginning of my epic sled run...

The boys had me lay down and then they jumped over me as I took a picture.
Took a few tries, but here's what we got!

Relaxing :)

Jesus action figure....he even had wheels!

01 March 2011

Fish Parents and Fatalities

Brian and I have dog-fever. We want a dog so badly. But, our apartment has a ten pound weight limit on pets (whaaat? I know...I mean, I know cats fatter than that). And of course, I want a big dog with a big bark that will tell people to leave me alone, especially when Brian's gone. Brian likes small dogs--that's what he grew up with. Well, this weekend, we went to PetSmart, and of course, the Humane Society was there with all of their precious pups. I fell in love with this dog named Duke...sadly, I had to leave him there. He was definitely more than 10 pounds. But we did not live empty-handed! Brian and I both are sort of enchanted by fishtanks...I literally will sit in front of a tank and watch fish swim around for indefinite periods of time. Of course like always, I want to touch them, but that's never too successful. Ask Clay, Cam, and Mr. Jimmy about my attempts to catch a fish while swimming around in the Gulf last summer at BigStuf...
Anywhoo, we ended up getting a 15 gallon tank and setting it up beautifully. It's a classy fishtank =) Pictures at the bottom...

Yes, it's beautiful :) Or so we think. We followed the guidelines laid out for us by the fish experts at PetSmart and didn't buy fish the same day as the tank. Instead, we went back and got the fish the next day, and got the water checked...basically, we did all these things we'd never done for a fishtank before. We were very responsible fish parents. So, we bought a few tiger barb little fishes and a placostamus (spelling?) I named Petey. He eats algae and keep my tank clean. Although he's slacking, because it's looking a little cloudy. Well, everyone was quite happy on Day 1. We fed them, nutured them, and gave them lots of attention (AKA, watching them skittishly figure out the tank. So cute.). Well, Brian got up for work and had to go in early on Monday, Day 2, and found two of the tiger barbs DEAD! I also noticed this after I came down for breakfast, so I quickly began to fuss over the remaining two fish. Well, I had plans to go workout at the track at 11, and they were still kicking. But when I returned, the other two were dead too! Somehow, we have failed at being fish parents. Petey is still kicking it, but he's hugging the water heater thing that warms up the water...he thinks it's cozy. I think he needs to get to cleaning my tank! I'm hopefully headed back to PetSmart tomorrow to settle this...did you know that you can return a fish? Yes, I didn't know this, but apparently if you get a fish and either you don't like it or it's bullying your other fish, you can return it! Have you ever heard of such a thing? Well, I'm going to attempt to return my dead fish...we'll see how it goes. I still haven't decided how I'm going to transport them...Ziploc bag?

Speaking of working out on the track, it turns out the sun in El Paso is kicking in because I have a massive sunburn! Granted, the girls and I sat on the track for about 1.5 hours talking after we did our workout...but man, my legs hurt today!

We got some great news this week in that our friends, Stuart and Dana, are finally coming to El Paso! Stuart was in Ranger school but is graduating this week, so hopefully they'll be here within the next month! They're the last ones from Benning to come out here and we're all excited for their arrival! She did tell me though that she'd run 16 miles last week...whhhat? Yes, I'm in trouble...I've got about 12 miles to pick up before she gets here...probably won't get to 12! It's a little difficult to run out here; I feel like I'm still acclimating to the higher altitude. When you run outside, it feels like your throat is on fire. Kind of like running during the winter, but a little different.  While we're talking about running, big shout out to Mary and Stacey for completing the Disney Princess Half-Marathon! Go see Stacey's post; they look adorable! Mary, now let's hear your side of the story... =)

Other weekend homework we had this past weekend was for Brian to paint a rock. Yes, you heard me correctly. Brian and his company are training up at White Sands for the next few weeks, and they like for the companies that train there to paint a rock with their company's emblem on it to show who's all been there. Well let me tell you: A-Co's emblem is insanely detailed and slightly disturbing...I mean, it's a skull devouring a snake. Gross. Ok, I knew Brian was pretty good with paint; he did a lot of it when he was growing up. But oh my gosh, what he did was amazing! Literally, if I had tried this, I would've epically failed.

Other than that, I have been reformatting my resume about 13 times. Seriously. Let me tell you: I'd love to find a job. I know I'm a substitute, buuut, fulltime is always nice! So, when applying for any job nowadays, you have to post your resume online. Which sounds like awesome thing from an employer's standpoint. The problem is, everyone uses different online forms, which means you re-enter your information every time you apply...I mean people, I have a professional resume. It's just on paper. I've gotten savvy though and now I just copy and paste...but it does get old!

Ok, I'm having issues with pictures, but here are the fishtank and Brian's rock!

 Tiger barbs...the ones that died on me!

Well, that's about it from El Paso! We've entered the windy season so the other night, I literally was pushed up the stairway outside. It was blowing so hard I had to run up the stairs because I thought I was going to fall over! Most days the wind is fine....but it can flare up! Chao!