Saturday, December 26, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to all!

Click on the photo to see a large portrait of our year. We have had a great year and feel very blessed in our lives.

2009 began with Brooke student teaching kindergarten at Sheppard Elementary, which was a great experience. In the spring, Matt traveled to San Antonio, TX for a few months to transition to flying the T-6, the Air Force's "new" primary trainer. He returned to Wichita Falls in May to join the new 459th Flying Training Squadron at Sheppard and then later go back to the 80th Operational Support Squadron as a Military Training Officer. Brooke enjoyed the summer off as she pursued teaching positions. She finally accepted one at John Tower Elementary in the Burkburnett ISD and began teaching kindergarten there in August. Since then we have both enjoyed sharing the hilarious similarities and differences between teaching five-year-olds and student pilots.

The photos are in approximate order of the year. Starting at the top left is Matt taking a T-37 Tweet to the boneyard in Tucson, AZ for its retirement. Next is a family photo at Saltlick BBQ in Dripping Springs, TX. Mike and Cindy came to Texas to visit us in February (and continue on a cross country trip). Together, we went to Austin to visit Gary, Emily, Abby, and Sarah (Matt's uncle and cousins) as well. In March, I came to visit Matt in San Antonio (he was there TDY) and we enjoyed a trip to Canyon Lake near New Braunfels. The water was freezing, but the lake was gorgeous! We enjoyed spending time at the lake in Wichita Falls, also, but especially at Lake Murray in Oklahoma (this is where the big picture in the center was taken). In June, Brooke made a trip to Colorado Springs to visit Beth. We had a great time hiking and catching up. Also in June, we had a baby. His name is Shelby and he is a 2007 Ford Mustang Shelby GT. This "baby" is Matt's dream car and we have really enjoyed the new ride. Later that month, Brooke went to Michigan to spend time with the Davy girls (Mom, Marcy, and Lisa). It was wonderful to get some quality time together at a friend's lake house. Shortly thereafter, Matt joined the family in Michigan and we enjoyed Brian and Kristen's wedding in Portage, MI. The final three pictures are Matt and I with the T-6 on Spouse Taxi Day at Sheppard. Last year I got a taxi in the T-37, and this year we got to go in the T-6, Matt's new plane.

This has been a very blessed year. We are so grateful for the new experiences and lessons God has provided as we have journeyed with him. We look forward to all that 2010 will bring.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

My classroom

I have been promising pictures of my classroom for a long time. I have taken pictures sooner than this, but then I always change something. My room has undergone five or six major rearrangements. It is very time-consuming to do this, but always so worth it because the whole classrooms functions better. Plus, it's much more fun to rearrange furniture and decorations than do any real work! This picture is the entrance to my classroom, room 205 (same as our apartment, strangely).

The first glimpse. The children's lunch choice is in front of you: fish nuggets or chicken sandwich, mmmm. Basically every kindergarten teacher starts in this room. It is the one no one wants. It has become quite home-y to me though, and I don't see myself moving even if another room becomes available. I've worked too hard on this one already!

Elementary classrooms always seem so cluttered to me. Now that I'm in one everyday (again) though, I see why. Every square inch must be used as efficiently as possible to make things work:). This is my desk area, the art center (foreground) and our carpet for large group times.

The chairs are up because it's time for Christmas break (yayyyyy!!). Sorry they block your view a bit. This is our math board, which we use every day for calendar and all kinds of counting. The blue table is my teacher table for guided reading, students who need a "special concentration spot," and temporary storage of junk.

On the back wall is our word wall. I just redid it this way so the whole alphabet could stretch out in one line. The posters above it, Grandma, are from a Mary Anglebreit calendar you gave me a long time ago. They are so cute, with great sayings, and I put them up first thing when I started in this room.

The monstrous box in the back corner is "the cage". It's actually called a study carol, but Matt calls it the cage. It's basically a desk with three walls. I have a student who's had to live there (thankfully not anymore), and sometimes students go there when life is just too overwhelming.

I have lots of great windows. We get so much light in fact that it blinds us during phonics and we have to close all the blinds. We keep the lights low to keep our cave cool.

Storage and cubbies for students occupy the back wall, along with two bathrooms (one of which works without flooding- at the moment). When I first arrived the cubbies in the back were all the nasty yellow color of the ones in the corner. They were also falling apart from past bouts with termites. I have been warned (by everyone) about the termites. Apparently they didn't come out last year, but they've heard they can remain dormant and come out any time. It happens in the spring, at which time we may have a several-week-long in-depth investigation of termite behavior. I managed to get the maintenance staff to replace and paint (a decent color - the yellow is gross up close) the middle set of cubbies. Maybe one day they will return, as promised, to do the others and add some in the left corner.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

We're alive!

Hello out there! We really are still here. These last few months have absolutely flown by. Matt has always been busy with his long days at work. I have not been this busy in a long time though. Our toilets go weeks without being cleaned, our groceries dwindle to the very back of the pantry before being replenished. This new teaching job has worn me out! My work days are about as long as Matt's now, 10-12 hours.

Slowly we are learning this new way of life. And while we enjoy being Dinks (Dual Income, No Kids) for the time being, I would not want to go on like this long-term. It takes its toll on us and our relationships. For the next year and a half that we are here, though, this will be just fine. By the time we leave our student loans will be long-gone, and we should have some good savings for whatever the next phase of our life brings. That's a fair reward for wrangling 20 five-year-olds for seven hours a day, right (and in Matt's case trying to survive flights with who-knows-how-many newby, cocky 20-something almost-pilots)?

Truly though, I'm glad we are where we are. God continues to reveal to us his plan, and it is very good. I am so grateful I don't have to go at this alone. Without God I would have been squashed like a bug on day one of kindergarten, and many times after that. This has been the most spiritually difficult time of my life, which tells me it's a crucial time. More demons have walked across my path and invaded my mind than I have ever known, and they aren't done yet. Each time though, my Rock holds me up, purifies me, and kicks those demons' butts. There is still much to learn. Nonetheless, I am comforted knowing:

"Suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who he has given us." Romans 5: 3-5

Now if I could just keep from running up ahead of God, and finally let Him lead me.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Recent history

Our days have been in a whirlwind lately! We can hardly tell up from down from sideways. It all started about a month ago when I got a call with a job offer. I had interviewed for a 4th grade teacher position at Tower Elementary. After waiting all weekend to hear back from the principal, I got a call late on a Monday night. She let me know that they gave the 4th grade job to someone with 4th grade experience, but she was pretty sure they would have a kindergarten job for me. She would find out the next day and call me right away. Late the next morning I got a call from the district office asking me to come in to fill out some paperwork. The principal said this might happen. When I got there and found out it was new hire paperwork, I had to ask the office gal to make sure I really had the job! They checked and it was for sure, but I still didn't get to confirm with the principal until later that evening. New Teacher Orientation began the very next morning!! I spent three full days in training, finally got keys to my classroom, spent another week in training, and have spent more "quality time" in my classroom than I care to admit.

This is the way my classroom looked at first. I had to take everything out of everywhere, clean a ton, and figure out the best way to organize a bagillion things. If you paste these all together, you should have a good 360 degree view.

I promise to take pictures soon to show you how it looks now.

It has been quite the upset around here to have me working full time again. We got pretty use to the convenience of having me here to run errands, do housework, etc, etc. We are readjusting, and still having fun though.

Matt is officially an MTO (Military Training Officer) for the 80th OSS (Operational Support Squadron) now, in addition to PTL and Fantasy Football Coordinator (his latest and most loved new job -not!). He has started his Master's classes again, but has more left than he cares to discuss.

We got to go to the lake this weekend, and have hopes to start camping again now that it's beginning to cool off a touch.

Thank you for all of your prayers and thoughts for us. We love you all and are already dreaming about coming home for Christmas!

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Grilled pizza! (yes, I said grilled)

We made this delicious grilled pizza a few weeks ago. The recipe is another one from Men's Health magazine. Truly, it's just as good prepared in the oven, but just a little more interesting made on the grill! However, if you used woodchips of some kind in the grill, I'm sure that would really enhance the flavor.

Step 1: Develop your dough

6 1/2 c. all-purpose flour
3 c. warm water
4 1/2 tsp. active dry yeast (about two small packets)
1/4 c. salt (The dough was quite salty. I think half this amount of salt would be adequate.)

1. Let the yeast dissolve in warm water for about 5 minutes.

2. Combine the flour and salt and dump the mixture onto a falt surface. Make a depression in the middle, pour the yeast and water into it, and combine the dry and wet ingredients by hand until the dough starts to come together (I did this part in the bowl.). Keep working the dough with the palms of your hands for 7 to 8 minutes, and then let it rest at room temperature for about 2 hours, or until it doubles in size. Now punch it down, squeezing out all the air bubbles. Cut the dough into four equal pieces and shape them into balls. Place them in the fridge for another 2 hours.

3. For each pizza, dust your table and the top of a dough ball with flour. Let the dough rest for 5 minutes. Use the tips of your fingers to stretch it outward to a 10-inch circle, with the edges thicker than the center. Leftover dough (kept in ball form) will keep in the fridge for 3 days.

Step 2: Whip up the sauce

1 can (28 oz.) peeled San Marzano tomatoes, like Cento

Wash your hands and dump the entire contents of the can into a bowl. Squeeze each tomato until the sauce is smooth but not soupy. Chunks are okay.

This was so much fun!!! You may try not to squirt tomato juice all over your kitchen, but it will happen anyway. And when it does, as it did when I made it, just laugh because what's more fun than squeezing tomatoes apart with your bare hands? :)

Step 3: Assemble your toppings

Anything you want! Use your imagination. Here are some ideas: parmesan, romano, mozzarella (try fresh! mmm), ricotta, fresh herbs like basil and rosemary, or dried oregano, garlic, prosciutto, sausage, pepperoni, broccoli, onions, spinach, mushrooms, olives, peppers.

We chose fresh mozzarella, shredded parmesan, fresh basil, garlic, pepperoni, bacon, and jalapeno peppers. It was delicious and with a good amount of spice!

Note: Cut vegetables thin to speed cooking.

Experiment with toppings and combinations of toppings. Don't go overboard though. Choose about four or five toppings, maximum, to really taste their unique flavors.

Step 4: Crank the grill

Charcoal or gas/electric grill, lighter/lighter fluid, woodchips if you choose.

1. Heat the grill very hot (to about 500 degrees). Then lower to medium or medium low. The grates will be hot enough to cook your crust.

2. Transfer the crust onto the grill using a well-floured cutting board or cookie tray. Grill the crust uncovered for 20 seconds, or until the dough is slightly charred and rigid (this took us several minutes). Rotate it 90 degrees and cook for another 20 seconds. Now flip the crust; cook it for another 30 seconds. Remove it from the grill

3. With the cross-hatched side up, top your pizza. Return it to the heat and cover the grill. Cook the pie for 2 to 5 minutes, or until the cheese melts, the ingredients cook through, and the bottom is well done.

4. Remove the pizza and finish it with a drizzle of olive oil and a generous shake of parmesan or pecorino romano. Cut into quarters and serve. Enjoy!

Monday, July 27, 2009

my Jesus

I just heard an interview with Todd Agnew on K-Love radio. It really got me thinking about some things that were on my mind this weekend. Todd Agnew wrote a song called My Jesus and it has been somewhat controversial. Some people think it's rather judgemental and others love it. I loved it at first, and then a friend opened my eyes to why it could be perceived as hurtful.

Listen and see for yourself, but also know this. I don't know much about Todd Agnew, but in the interview this morning he opened up about where this song came from and I was intrigued. He said he wrote it about seven years ago based on some things going on in his heart, but never intended for anyone else to hear it. He'd play it for others very rarely, and only when he felt God was really leading him to do so. Eventually, it got put on an album of his, but only because of God's prompting. It's also helped him to realize he (and all of us) must work to encourage the Church, as it is the bride of Christ. His song has no place if it is a complaint or a quarrel, only if it is useful in turning himself and others toward Christ and protecting his bride, us. He mentioned 1 Corinthians 3: 16-17, in which the temple is meant to be not just us, but the Church as group or whole.

Matt and I have struggled with finding a place in our church in Wichita Falls. We've wanted to get involved and we've tried a little bit. We tried to join a young adult group a couple years ago, for instance, but it turned out we were too old for it. They said "young marrieds" were welcome, but it was really for college-age people. We didn't really fit in. (When did it happen that we got that far from college-age? It's amazing what a few years can do!) We haven't found a niche there, but we do really appreciate the pastor and mass there.

On the other hand, we've made friends and enjoy spending time with couples from other churches and people we know from Matt's work. I've also joined a Bible study with girls from several churches. Relationships with these people have built us up and challenged us spiritually in much the same way as we would hope to have happen from relationships with fellow church members. Yesterday I shared with Matt, if we really believe what we say we do, that the Church is One Body, then we really are connected with people from (the) Church even if they don't go to our church building. In fact, we are connected with the Body of Christ all over the world! We have Christian friends in Japan, Spain, Germany, Idaho, Arizona, Utah, Colorado, Michigan and more. That's awesome!! It feels really good to know we can be active in this unity of Christ followers and diminish division in the Church. As for the song, I hope we can take it not as an insult or offense (no one wins here), but just as a fellow believer opening his heart about a struggle. Let it be a way for us to nurture each other, not tear one another down. Anyway, this is just what's on my mind...

Monday, July 20, 2009

Aahhh, the cottage

I have been meaning to write this post for a while now. We've been back from Michigan for over two weeks, but we really miss it and this little cottage has a lot to do with why.

I wish I had a picture of how the cottage used to look to compare this to. Mike and Cindy, if you have one, you should send it our way. It would be fun to put up here:)

Anyway, this is our oasis, our getaway, a very special part of home. It's been in Matt's family for years and we are hoping with all our hearts and savings that one day we can own a place on beautiful Birch Lake.

We came to the cottage after Brian's wedding and after a few days of camping with my family (which, sorry, I didn't get any pictures of...if anybody has some good ones, please send those our way, too:). It was rainy and cool, but we were still really glad to be there. One day we took a drive, in the new car of course (lots of turny country roads=lots of fun in a low-riding, fast car!), over to Torch Lake. Torch Lake is nearby Birch Lake, and it is the most beautiful turquoise blue! The cloudy day in the picture above didn't even give its color justice.

Matt says I take this picture every time we are at the cottage, but can't you see why? The birch trees are so beautiful there!

Since the water was cold, we went down by the bay to look for petoskey stones. The bay's shore was actually really high, so the rocky edge was covered with cold water. We looked a little further up the beach, and Cindy and I found lots of pretty stones, but no petoskey ones. I never have found a petoskey stone, but I know lots of people who have. When we went to downtown Elk Rapids, some of the stores had polished petoskey stones that were just gorgeous.

Matt and his Dad.

Matt and me.

Cindy and Mike.

This is the shore of the East Arm of Grand Traverse Bay.

After our beach adventure, we went to Evening On River Street. They close the street from traffic and open it up to people for a little festival every Wednesday night during the summer. We sampled nearly every street vendor (some yummy, but very hot, blackened white fish with coleslaw, pulled pork sandwiches, eggrolls, ice cream...) and listened to some nice live music. It was a lot of fun!

Even though it was still chilly the next day (the wind made it rather bitter), we had to go skiing! We didn't know if the sun would come out while we were there, so we suited up in wetsuits and dove in!

I've been trying to get a video of Matt skiing to upload, but it's not working. I think the file is just huge and it's kinda freezing it up. I let it try to upload for over 30 minutes. I guess you'll just have to use your imagination to put this picture into motion:)

The front lakeside view of the cottage. Isn't it tranquil? Even while there are great neighbors, it's so peaceful there that it feels like we're the only ones on the lake.

Lined with pines.

Ever since Matt was little he's been getting his picture taken with the crooked tree in the summertime. This year is no different. Several years ago, though, I started getting allowed in the picture, too.

Good Keilen family friends Bob and Sandy joined us for the fourth of July weekend. Here are Sandy and Cindy talkin' it up and bundled up on the porch.

This amazing sunset almost looks tropical, doesn't it? When you look closely, you notice the branches are evergreens though:)

My heart melts. The sun did come out Friday and Saturday of the 4th weekend. The weather turned gorgeous. And after a long day of skiing, tubing, sunning, and way too many holiday cookies, this is the sunset over the dock. We started a fire and watched the fireworks all around the lake.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Brian got married!

Brian is Matt's little brother (okay, not that little - he's 24 years old and taller than Matt) and he got married!! We were a little shocked last summer when Brian called (while we were in Colorado for Beth and John's wedding no less) to say he was engaged. Our first excited question: to who? We didn't know Brian had been dating someone and certainly not that seriously. He told us the whole story though (they had known each other throughout college, dated for a time, and had started dating again about six or seven months before their engagement). We met Kristen for the first time last Christmas and New Year's, and got to see Brian and her more during the days surrounding their June 27th wedding. The more we meet Kristen the more we like her!

Above, Matt and Mike take the plunge as we all go shoe-less for the beachside wedding.

The wedding was on the shore of Lake Michigan at Van Buren State Park in South Haven, Michigan.

Here Brian, Matt, and the minister wait for Kristen's entrance.

Kristen with her Dad, Brett.

The beautiful bride.

And the very happy couple, now Mr. and Mr. Brian Keilen!

The wedding party with Ashley, the maid of honor, and Matt, the best man.

If you've never been to Michigan, this fresh water ocean is paradise. Brian and Kristen chose a beautiful place to get married, one of my favorite in the world. And -for the Texas record- let it be known that, no, it does not snow in Michigan in the summertime. It was 90 degrees this day! (Although I'd take Michigan's summer high of 90-ish over Texas' summer high of 113-ish any day!)

Bri-guy feelin' like a stud on his wedding day - that's exactly how it should be!

Um, I swear I really am wearing a dress. You can see a tiny tid-bit of it's strapless neckline low-center. I didn't realize the picture would turn out like this:)

The mother and father of the groom, Mike and Cindy, now with a second daughter-in-law.

Our little section of the Keilen clan.

I didn't take many pictures at the reception, but this one is of the famous Maier family toast. Some of you may remember something similar from our wedding and anybody on the Maier side remembers it from theirs. I don't actually remember what Tom or Terry usually says in the toast. It seems like we're usually laughing and trying to figure out what they're talking about. It's basically a funny, mildly embarrassing welcome to the family:)
Welcome to the family Kristen and congratulations to both of you! Happy marriage!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Girls' weekend

In mid-June, I hopped on a one-way flight to Michigan (since I would later be meeting Matt with the car) for a Girls' weekend with Mom, Marcy, and Lisa at Lake Missaukee in Lake City, MI.

We had such a great time on our trip! We stayed at Mom's boss' cottage, which had plenty of room, a nice patio, and a great beach. Friday night, however, started with wine, not the beach. Above Marcy and Lisa attempt to open a bottle of wine with a very vintage corkscrew. Getting the corkscrew into the cork was not too bad. Getting it out without any help from the device itself was a challenge we decided was best conquered outdoors.

Conquer it, they did, quite proudly:)

The first night we talked outside on the patio for hours. The "pineapple bombs" Mom and Marcy made helped keep our energy up:) It was early in the morning before we called it a night.

It was still a little cool the next day, so we spent the morning inside playing Speed Scrabble (Beth, I'm hooked now and hooking others:) and group crossword puzzling. After a quick trip to the store for dinner-making-supplies, we spent the rest of the day at the beach!!! We soaked up the sun, played a little ladderball, and sat knee-deep in the surf with our lounge chairs. Aaahhhh.

Me and my twin.

A view of the lake.

Here we are as dinner is grilling. We were grilling BBQ chicken on skewers. We also had Marcy's Spectacular Baked Cauliflower and some other sides I can't remember at the moment. The night before I made Thai chicken (basically your recipe, Beth), and on Sunday we had BBQ ribs! Mmmm. We ate pretty well!

We had lots of good laughs!

And some good sunsets, too.

Thanks Marcy, Lisa, and Mom for such a great time! I miss you already and I hope we do this again every year. I love you!
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