Monday, October 15, 2018

Best of August/September 2018

(Side note: I thought I published this like a month ago, but I guess I didn't. Ooops. Oh well...)

Hey there! I'm back to tell you all about the last month or so of my life! Yes, school has started, hence my lack of posts.

My school journey started on August 1, when I reported for new faculty inservice. This was the last part of what the school had promised me when they hired me back in February. You see, since we primarily serve students who have learning differences (like dyslexia, auditory processing disorders, or ADHD) they want to give us a better idea of what those students need. The first day of inservice included a short simulation of learning differences and how they manifest themselves. It was eye-opening and left me with a deep sense of empathy for my students and for Thomas, who has multiple learning differences himself (dyslexia, ADHD, and slower processing speed). From that point on, much of the information they presented wasn't quite as applicable to me if only because I had taught here for long enough to have an understanding of how everything works. I was happy that they recognized that I didn't necessarily need that portion of the training, and they let me work on my classroom instead. The following Monday was when the rest of the teaching staff returned to campus. We spent 2 more weeks in various training seminars, before we all ended up feeling a little stir crazy and ready to just get started already. I was beyond happy to be reunited with my teacher friends, especially my fellow department member, Shedonna! She has become a huge light to me since I was hired, and I treasure her friendship deeply. In exciting news, she is expecting twins (one boy, one girl) towards the end of this semester. I'm excited for her and her husband, but also sad that I won't get to see her daily for a while.

In between meetings, our weekends were full of activity. The first weekend of inservice included a small get-together among Diana's family in which we celebrated the July-August birthdays for McKenna, Jackie, and Steve. We also had a chance to have dinner with Jay, who was in Dallas for meetings, along with Jan, Bob, and Jean. It's always great to catch up with family!

The next week brought lots of change and excitement in my household! It's been difficult to keep this under wraps (not pregnant, spoiler alert), but I can finally mention this. Thomas has been in the market for a new (or gently used) vehicle since January. To say that he has been researching his options and planning for this would be a huge understatement. This had consumed his idle energy for the better part of the year, but we had to wait until we were financially "ready" to take this on. (You're never ready, FYI.) Well, after having looked extensively on a couple of dealerships' websites, he finally found something he was interested in. He brought it up, and asked if I'd mind driving to the dealership and just looking at it. It wasn't necessarily what I wanted to do at the moment (because school was 2 weeks away and my epic to-do list returned), but I obliged. Of course, driving down there and "just looking" turned into a test drive, which turned into him getting super attached. (I liked it too, for whatever it was worth!) Had it not been 30 minutes before the dealership closed for the night, we probably would have bought it then and there.

We got home from the dealership and officially decided we wanted to buy it, which prompted Thomas being the most antsy I'd seen him since the days leading up to our wedding. The next morning he called the salesman first thing and claimed it for us, which was good because he had supposedly received another call indicating some interest in it. It was a Friday, so I got out of meetings and back home as quick as I could so I could pack (because, of course, we had a trip to OK planned for that weekend, too). Thomas picked me up and we made our way down to the dealership, which was a solid 30 minutes away in the rush hour traffic. To spare you any more details, we bought the pickup that night--a bright red used Chevy Silverado.

No sooner did we sign our lives away in the financing room, we hit the road for OK. Because of our purchase, we left around 7:30 or 8, when we usually leave around 5 or 6. Thus, we had to make a pitstop at Whataburger so we weren't totally starving! (Aside: I think that is how we unofficially celebrate big moments in our lives, so I guess we really are Texans!) My family members who were still awake upon our late arrival (a little after 12:30 AM) were excited to see the pickup! The rest of the weekend was slow and relaxed. One highlight was making a trip over to Stillwater to get some OSU gear for my classroom and Thomas' pickup. Mom and Dad joined us, which was great. While in Stilly, we were able to stop in and see Sharon at her store. As I may have once mentioned, Sharon was a secondary mother to all of us at St. John's. She coordinated all of the Sunday night dinners, and she is an altogether lovely person! The remainder of the weekend was pretty low-key, besides Thomas showing off his new wheels to everyone on the compound and taking people on rides.

Pretty sure we celebrate all major milestones with Whataburger, because Texas, I guess.
Also, that's about the only time we go there..
While I'm in the vein of OK, my nephews have all been back in school for about a month. Cody and Wyatt are repping the family in the junior high. Wyatt is ecstatic to be gone from the grade school. I think he had outgrown it. Then again, most 7th graders feel that way, right? Kyle is big man on the grade school campus as a 6th grader. Andy is a 4th grader, Cole is in 1st grade, and Jakub is in pre-K. How wild to think that all 6 boys are in school. Even more wild to think about all of them riding the bus together in the evening! The driver probably thinks they're more of a small mob than anything!

Jakub and Cole

Be still my heart, love these selfies!

With Uncle Thomas
As for Thomas' old car, we ended up selling it to Thomas' aunt and uncle, who gave it their daughter, who's starting her junior year of high school. She's ecstatic to finally have a car after months of having to borrow one of her parents' or carpool. It was a great deal for us and them!

Michaela & Thomas
The weekend following our OK trip was exciting for the Lieses, as Steve officially began his new beekeeping hobby. He spent his birthday picking up his 6 hives of bees at the beekeeping supply store and transporting them to the farm. Thomas offered his assistance at one point, but Steve didn't think he'd need it. It turns out he was wrong, as wrangling the hives was more effort than he bargained for, especially in the oppressive Texas humidity. He incurred a few stings, but informed us that those are much less painful than wasp stings, to which he is much more prone. Thomas, Elizabeth, and I made a trip out there later in the weekend to see the progress. (Also, Thomas was antsy to help and learn more.)

It turns out that the bees are relatively low-maintenance, besides the fact that they're trying to get established to the area. Since it's later in the season, there isn't much nectar or pollen readily available. This has led to them having to be fed to compensate for that. I have learned about 2 ways the bees are fed: sugar water and pollen patties, that can be placed in the individual hives. The sugar water is the more necessary aspect, and Steve has quickly learned how to streamline that process. The feeders are nothing more than 5-gallon buckets with small holes drilled near the rim that allow the water to drip into the little rim at the top. The buckets (which are covered with food-grade lids) are sat upside down atop some cinder blocks. Think of it as a small-scale water trough for bees. The feeding process is relatively simple, all things considered. They have acquired 4 large turkey fryer pots that they use to heat the water atop a burner. Once the water is warm, they add sugar. Since they're working to establish the hives, the sugar concentration is much higher than it typically would be. All of these efforts are necessary so the hives will establish their winter honey supply, which they need to sustain themselves. Steve is hoping that they'll be able to back off on the sugar-water relatively soon, but that remains to be seen. (He currently buys sugar in bulk at Sam's and uses it in 25-pound increments.)

They inadvertently matched. Of course we had to take a photo...

One of the hives!
In other news, of course, school has started for me. All in all, it is much easier to start a school year from day one than in the middle of the year. I appreciate having students who are fully "mine", even if they come with their own set of challenges. It is a welcome relief to have started my year out on a good foot. After the first week, a husband and wife who both teach here hosted a small get-together mixer for the high school staff. It was great to relax a little after our first week back. In exciting news, Thomas was able to join us, which opened the door for him getting to meet many of my coworkers. We also went to one of the football games a couple of weeks ago, and it was great for him to be able to meet some more of my co-workers. Now, he has met a good portion of them, and it makes it easier for me to explain goings-on at work, if only because he has a little more context.

First day of 2018-19!
I think I vaguely mentioned this at one point (?), but if I haven't, here's some news: Thomas' sister, Elizabeth, is spending this semester studying abroad in Spain. Thus far, she's been able to make trips to London and Portugal. She started classes last week and seems to be doing well. She has sent lots of update emails to regale her travel stories. I think she has a Switzerland trip planned relatively soon, as well as Germany. Steve and Diana will also be traveling to visit her in the next month, which they're all excited for.

Labor Day was nice, although very low-key. Thomas and I had dogsitting duties, while Steve and Diana were away on a dove hunting trip. (Well, Steve dove hunted, that is.) Since they were out of town, we also had bee feeding duties. It was the most quiet Labor Day we've had in a long time. Granted, it's bound to be quiet when it's just two people and a 14-year-old dog on a 25-acre farm in east Texas. Highlights of the weekend included dinner at an Asian fusion restaurant, unseasonably cool weather, and Thomas feeding the bees. He also did some maintenance on one of the trails out there. I accomplished lots of lesson planning--joy. I also used that time to catch up on writing letters to some of my friends. It was nice to have a quiet weekend to recharge.

Thomas was starting the feeding process

Sugar water cooling

Thomas replenishing feeders near the hives.
I was terrified since he wasn't wearing a beesuit, but he was just fine. 

I got bored waiting for him to move buckets. In case you forgot what I looked like, too. 

Enjoying Steve's utility tractor!
Since then, we haven't done much. We visited our friends Ryan and Hadley and watched the OSU game with them. Thomas' cousin William was confirmed, so we attended that service and a luncheon afterwards. My women's group has gotten big enough that we have decided to split into two groups, one meeting on Mondays and the other on Tuesdays. As it turns out, I haven't meetings consistently since maybe May or June. I've slacked a lot, but I think that moving it to Tuesdays will be helpful to me. Since we spend so many weekends out of town or otherwise occupied, I'm usually wiped out come Monday night. Also, the meetings started a little later than what worked for me, so I often sat out in the name of hopefully having an earlier night. I think the move to Tuesdays (at a slightly earlier time) will work nicely for most everyone in our portion of the group. A trip to OK is in the works for us later this week, as well as an inservice day. (Not sure what we could need to inservice on after 2.5 weeks of that, but we'll see!)

Have a great day everyone--thanks for reading!

PS: I have lots more to update since this post was a month late...all in due time!

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