Nov 11

Thanks to Veterans

Veterans Day Thanks to Veterans

My wife and I are truly blessed in so many ways, and one our blessings is living in a country that is grand, and with today being veterans day we just want to thank all those that  have, are, and will serve our country protecting us and the freedom that we cherish.  We were shown this video today in our veterans assembly at my school and it was too good not to share with you.  To all veterans and their families we thank you for all the sacrifices that you have made.

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Nov 05

Montville Nature Trail: Great Sand Dunes National Park

15719880711 4323031b00 z Montville Nature Trail: Great Sand Dunes National Park
The Montville Nature Trail provides a nice little stroll located on the opposite side of the sand dune parking lot on the main park road.  At just over a mile this nature trail is right for just about any hiker.  The trail goes through a forested area for most of the trail which makes it great for a summer afternoon when finding shade is a good thing to do.  Eventually the trail will open up providing sweeping views of the sand dunes. 
15721799215 b2f169cf7b z Montville Nature Trail: Great Sand Dunes National Park
The Montville Nature Trail is also the starting point for the Mosca Pass trail which is a good place for some backcountry camping.  Check out the park website by clicking here for more information.  The start of the trail follows Mosca Creek and crosses it twice, and there is possibly a chance to see wildlife though I did not on my hike.  This is black bear country so be bear aware and the sign on the trailhead said that bears frequent the area.  Eventually the trail will lead to a slight incline where it will open up and provide some nice views of the dunes and the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. 
15536367038 9e0292fb2e z Montville Nature Trail: Great Sand Dunes National Park
I enjoyed the trail because it provided something a little different from the rest of the time I spent at the Great Sand Dunes National Park.  Since I did not have a 4-wheel drive vehicle when I was there the park is rather limited to the dunes area.  The Montville Nature Trail is a nice little trail that is great for young children to have a walkabout. 

For our other reviews of things to do at Great Sand Dunes National Park and area click here  

Montville Nature Trail
1.25 mile RT
Easy Level Trail
Around 30 minutes to complete

Nov 02

Trick-or-treat: Our Halloween Costumes

15697801775 e0f7b1a122 Trick or treat: Our Halloween Costumes
We kept our new tradition going even with my wife on “semi” bed rest and 8 months pregnant she with the help of her mother got our family Halloween costumes completed.  This year we went with a family pirate theme.  My wife Karen was a lovely mermaid with a wonderful treasure played by the newest member of our family who should be arriving any day/week now.  I was a pirate and if you are going to be a pirate only the Dread Pirate Roberts will do, and my trusty parrot sidekick acted superbly by my daughter M.  Who went around saying “Polly wants some candy.”

Hope everybody had a safe and enjoyable Halloween!

15511918779 90ae5369a2 Trick or treat: Our Halloween Costumes
To see last years family costume where we were a flower, a bee, and a honeypot click here.


Oct 28

Jackin Up our Countertops

Karen and I have decided to make the big splurge and update our kitchen countertops.  We had several other cleanup projects to do, and when we learned that we could save $250 by removing our old countertops ourselves we rented a dumpster.  Now I am all for demolition, I usually have the problem of finishing the project after the destruction is done. 

IMG 7448 1024x682 Jackin Up our Countertops

So I was ready with my crowbar, sledge hammer, and other tools of mayhem when Karen had the wonderful idea to look up how to remove laminate countertops on YouTube.  I will say that I am glad that she did because somebody on there had the ingenious idea to use a carjack and a board to gently lift up the countertops.  It worked like a charm, made the whole process very easy and the best part, because I could keep the boards intact, there was very little cleanup.

IMG 7449 1024x682 Jackin Up our Countertops

It worked great for laminate countertops I am not for sure if it work for other types, but for us and the process of jackin up our countertops I give using a carjack two thumbs up.  It was quick, easy and stress free, the three words I wish I could use for all my household projects.     

IMG 7450 1024x682 Jackin Up our Countertops

To see our Kitchen remodel process click here              

Oct 19

Landscape Photography Number 13: Colorado River

11975476706 07c1efba4e z Landscape Photography Number 13: Colorado River

Number 13 is from an iconic spot in Grand Canyon National Park at Desert View. What makes this photograph stand out for me is the lone raven flying above the canyon.  The view down into the Canyon is nice but most people just stop at the tower take a little stroll to the left of the tower and you will get a better view overlooking the Colorado River.

Oct 16

Bumpdate (2): 32 weeks

32 weeks pregnant 2 669x1024 Bumpdate (2): 32 weeks
HERE is my 32 week bumpdate with M

How Far Along: 32 weeks!  Yay, it feels good to be that far along.  I read that if the baby happened to come at this point there is a great chance that they would be okay.  So, with my cerclage and always anxious of preterm labor, that makes me feel a lot more at ease.

Total Weight Gain/Loss: I am still right at 17 pounds gained.  I’m so glad it is less than when I was pregnant with M.  Not that I gained a TON that go around it’s just I’m already higher than I’d like on the scales, so if I can keep the pregnancy weight gain within reason and stay healthy then that is for the best.

Maternity Clothes: I haven’t had to buy anything new, but with the weather getting cooler I am enjoying some of my warmer clothes now.  I have several little cardigan type sweaters that aren’t necessarily “maternity” but they are still cute even with my belly bump sticking out.

Gender: At this point we have put off announcing anything for so long that I almost think we should wait until baby is born to announce “boy or girl”…..

Movement: I LOVE feeling this little lovebug kick and squirm all over.  There are certain times of day when baby is especially active, right around 4:00pm and then again around 8:30pm are SUPER active times.  I think baby is having a jazzercise class in there.  I also got to feel some hiccups yesterday.  I didn’t ever feel those when I was pregnant with M.  I’m sure they happened I just didn’t know what to feel for or expect.  This was a repetitive little twitch over and over again so I’m pretty sure it was hiccups.  So cute!

Sleep: I have been having a little insomnia on occasion but nothing too serious.  I can be so completely exhausted but once I actually get in bed it takes forever to get to sleep.  So weird!

What I miss: Well…. this week is the start of Fall Break for Kenny and we are usually packed and heading out the door on some great adventure but we have got so so so many things on our to do list and with me needing to stay off my feet we had to cancel any trips this fall break.  Bummer, I know Kenny is missing traveling but thankfully we are getting a lot done.

Cravings: I am still chugging decaf iced tea.  I think it’s a good thing because it is forcing me to drink a lot of (tea flavored) water which is always a good thing.  I am loving all things Italian too, spaghetti, lasagna, pizza…. it’s pretty strange because the last time I was pregnant I was NOT a fan of Italian food at all.

Best Moment this week: Moving M into her big girl room.  She was so excited and I am so proud of her for making that transition so smoothly.

Oct 15

Oh my oh my a Royals fan until I die

Royals Oh my oh my a Royals fan until I die
I usually do not talk about sports on my blog, but today is too good of a day not to.  My Kansas City Royals are back in the World Series.  Move over Amazin’ Mets there is a new team with an incredible story. 

I have been a Royals fan my entire life we would go and see them play a couple of times a year every year since the last time they were good.  My wife’s first baseball game was at the K and no matter how much my students and baseball players that I coached would make fun of me I would tell them that I am a Royals fan.  Of course, it was always the Charlie Brown approach to baseball and “just wait until next year.”  Well our year finally came. 

Some of my fondest memories of my Papa was talking to him about Royals baseball and how he would never forgive the team for not doing more to keep Bo Jackson away from the football field.   My family would go on our mini summer vacation at least once a year and watch a game or sometimes two and spend the night in the big city at the Doubletree hotel which when I was a kid was the greatest thing ever.   Another fond memory is the time my dad took me to a Royals game versus the Orioles got wonderful seats and a few innings into the game the skies opened up and the game ended up being rained out.  It was not the game itself that made it memorable it was the fact that I got to spend some one on one time with my dad. 

Even though there has been more downs than ups being a Royals fan as far as on the field product goes, I would not change those memories for anything.  Being a Royals fan to me is much more than just the wins and losses it was the memories built along the way.  Of course, when they are winning again it makes it all that more sweet. 

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Oct 13

Free Things to do in Alabama

Free Things to do in Alabama

new alabama tag Free Things to do in Alabama
My wife and I love to travel and see as many things and have as many experiences as we can on a given vacation.  When it was just the two of us it was not that big of a deal on paying an admission price, but now that our family has grown and our daughter is reaching the age where we have to pay for her finding free things has become a priority.

We are not travel experts by any means and this list is for us but we would like to share with you.  To be 100% sure if all of the below attractions on our “Free things to do in Alabama” list is accurate please do your own research or at least click on the blue links below.  We are always adding to any list that we have created so if you know of a great free attraction in Alabama please sound off in our comment section.  We hope you enjoy our list and like always Happy Travels!!!

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 Our List of Free Things to do in Alabama

City Attraction Why Visit Location $
Along Hwy 127 The Highway 127 Corridor Sale 1st Thurs in August- World’s Longest Yard Sale Northeast  Free
Bridgeport Russell Cave National Monument Site of Prehistoric Cultures that date back 10,000 years Northeast  Free
Cullman Clarkson Covered Bridge A 1904 Covered Bridge that spans 270 Feet Northeast  Free
Decatur Wheeler National Wildlife Refuge Home to thousands of wintering waterfowl Northeast  Free
Fort Payne Little River Canyon National Preserve Scenic area with waterfalls, canyon rims, and bluffs Northeast  Free 
Huntsville Madison County Nature Trail Green Mts 72 acre park overlooking Huntsville Northeast  Free
Jacksonville Chief Ladiga Trail 33-mile rail-trail that travels through a national forest Northeast  Free
Scottsboro Unclaimed Baggage Center Retail store that sells lost or unclaimed airline luggage  Northeast  Free
Mount Hope Sipsey Wilderness Waterfalls A series of waterfalls in the Bankhead National Forest Northwest Free
Anniston Cahaba River National Wildlife Refuge Scenic river & new wildlife refuge estbalished in 2002 West Central Free
Daviston Horse Shoe Bend National Military Park Historic site of the last battle of the Creek War East Central Free
Tuskegee  Tuskegee Institute National Histoic Site  Historic site that tells the story of the university  East Central Free
Wetumpka Santuck Flea Market Large flea market  East Central Free
Birmingham Ruffner Mountain Nature Center 1,000 acre nature preserve just outside of Birmingham Greater Birmingham Area Donation
Birmingham Birmingham Botanical Garden 67.5 acre garden with 30 themed  garden areas Greater Birmingham Area Free
Birmingham The Summit Birmingham Shopping mall and restaurant center Greater Birmingham Area Free
Hoover Aldridge Botanical Gardens 30 acre garden that specializes in hydrandreas  Greater Birmingham Area Free
Montgomery White House of the Confederacy Historic site of the 1st White House of the Confederacy Greater Montgomery Area Free
Montgomery Confederate Monument 85-Foot tall Confederate Monument on Capitol Hill Greater Montgomery Area Free
Selma Selma to Montgomery Historic Trail Commemorates the events & people of the 1965 march Greater Montgomery Area Free
Eufaula Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge 11,000+ acre refuge that protects several species  Southeast Free
Fort Rucker United States Army Aviation Museum A collection of over 160 military aircraft Southeast Free
Bon Secour Bon Secour National Wildlife Refuge 7,000 aces of wildlife habitat of coastal dunes  Gulf Coast Free
Dauphin Island Dauphin Island Bird Sanctuary One of the top birding spots in the Southeast (spring) Gulf Coast Free
Gulf Shores Alabama Coastal Birding Trail Winds through 2 counties & several loops to pick from Gulf Coast free/fee
Mobile Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception Architectural design Cathedral completed in 1884/mass Gulf Coast Free
Mobile Fort Conde 4/5 scale reconstruction of a 18th century era fort Gulf Coast Free
Orange Beach The Wharf Shopping, resturants, entertainment complex Gulf Coast free/fee
Spanish Fort 5 Rivers Delta Resource Center A place to learn about the Mobile-Tensaw Delta Gulf Coast Free



Oct 11

Great Sand Dunes: Visitor Center & Nature Trail

One of the great things about the Great Sand Dunes National Park is that it has one outstanding unique scenic viewpoint and you can see it from the deck of its visitor center.  Seeing the sand dunes at the base of Sangre de Cristo Mountains provides for a dramatic contrast of land forms. 

Of course, the highlight of any trip to the Great Sand Dunes is spending time at the dunes and especially playing in Medano Creek when the water is running, but the park is more than those two things.  Like most of the nation’s national parks the Great Sand Dunes National Park has a nice visitor center.  The visitor center features a short video on the park, a bookstore, and an exhibit area with interactive activities.  My daughter really enjoyed the hands on activities from blowing sand to make a sand dune to looking and matching up different animals to clues that are given.

Behind the visitor center there is a wonderful back porch with bench seating to enjoy the view of the dunes.  Leading from the back porch is a short little nature trail complete with signs of the plants and animals that live in this unique habitat.  I always enjoy taking these short little hikes for a couple of reasons first it is a great way to learn about new things and share them with my daughter and second any sort of hiking even if it is short one gets us away from the crowds of visitors at any national park. 

Check out our reviews of other Great Sand Dunes National Park attractions by clicking here 

Oct 09

Teaching Tip: Become a Good Storyteller

Teaching Tip: Become a Good Storyteller

storytelling1 Teaching Tip: Become a Good Storyteller
A mark of a good teacher is that they can relate whatever information they have to teach to their students.  The meat of the lesson has to make them feel or believe that this is important in order for them to care.  Honestly in an inner city school if they do not care then it just is not going to work.  I am not for sure if that is the case in a rural, suburban, or private school because I have not worked in those places before, but in my experience the amount a student cares determines just how successful they are. 

In my history class one of the best ways to get students to care is for me to become a good storyteller.  The days I have hooked them with a good story they remember and those that story did not connect is almost like a lost day.  I do not know if the bad days are lost because they are just not that in to school or is it the “world” they have created for themselves trying to keep up with other people’s lives (friends and people they have never met) through social media, internet, movies, and television that makes it hard for them to retain school information.  I mean there is some much vying for their short attention spans that just some historical facts or “you need to know this for a test” is not going to break through and make them give up some of that valuable space in their brain and retain school information.

The school information now has to be presented in fun, exciting, and innovative ways.  For history sometimes you have to be able to tell one heck of a story for them to remember it.  For example, I have just finished teaching about American Imperialism, and I was trying to get them to understand why they did some of the things they did back then when today we would think of it as barbaric today.  So to help me get them to understand that times were different back then, and looking at history from today’s prospective confuses people on the why part of history, I tell them about the time Teddy Roosevelt was shot. 

I will not go into full detail about how I tell it but the gist of the time Teddy got shot was

  • During a campaign stop a bar keeper walked up to Theodore Roosevelt and shot him at point blank range aiming for is heart.  Luckily Roosevelt had his speech and his eyeglass case in his front pocket and it helped slow down the bullet before it entered his chest. After the commotion died down and the shooter was apprehended Roosevelt insisted on giving his speech for roughly the next 90 minutes.  His opening line was “Friends, I shall ask you to be as quiet as possible” followed by “I don’t know whether you fully understand that I have just been shot.”  He unbuttoned his vest showed everybody his bloodstained shirt and said. “It takes more than that to kill a bull moose,”

I can always tell when I am telling that or any story right because the class gets quiet and they are hanging on my every word.  Once I tell them that story all the other information about Theodore Roosevelt just clicks from his Big Stick Diplomacy to getting involved in brokering the peace between Russia and Japan.  Having a good story to tell students is like the glue that holds all of the other information together. 

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