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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Oct 07

Rio Grande Botanical Garden: A Revisit

15471519571 4ac3685b2c z Rio Grande Botanical Garden: A Revisit
The Rio Grande Botanical Garden along with the other 2 attractions that make up the ABQ Biopark are still one of the best bang for your buck city attractions around.  A few years ago I was traveling through Albuquerque and I paid for the combo pass to see all three attractions and I walked away quite impressed with all that they had to see in Albuquerque.  So, when I found myself again in the area I had to take my family along to see it again.
15287760989 fdafd2b118 z Rio Grande Botanical Garden: A Revisit
My first visit to the Rio Grande Botanical Garden took place in early spring and things were not quite in bloom yet.  I still enjoyed my visit however, getting the chance to see the garden in full bloom definitely made the trip much more enjoyable.   My wife and I like to expose our daughter to as many educational and stimulating things as we can, and a visit to a botanical garden is a great way to do that. 
15287761579 0a5fb4f95e z Rio Grande Botanical Garden: A Revisit
M really enjoyed herself at the Rio Grande Botanical Garden and while she always likes looking at all the different colors that flowers come in it was all the other fun things to do at the garden that really made her day.  She loved seeing the animals at the Rio Grande Heritage Farm, checking out the butterflies at the Butterfly Garden, seeing the trains go around the model train track, and walking near the oversize objects found in the children’s garden area.  My wife also enjoyed her first visit to the Rio Grande Botanical Garden and was amazed at just the size and scope of the garden. 
15474305352 39794d7eb4 z Rio Grande Botanical Garden: A Revisit
The Rio Grande Botanical Garden as well as the zoo and aquarium that make up the ABQ Biopark is a must see for us every time we are in Albuquerque.  The price point for all three of those attractions is excellent, Karen and I have spent more money just visiting one place that was less quality and here you get three for basically the price of one.  It makes for a fun filled and very tiring day but one that will provide many vacation memories. 
15471520171 c52e2106e1 z Rio Grande Botanical Garden: A Revisit
To read our reviews of other Albuquerque attractions click here

Rio Grande Botanical Garden
Located at 2601 Central Ave. NW, Albuquerque
Hours of Operation 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Cost as of this posting $12.50 for 13 to 64 year olds Seniors $5.50 and children 3 to 12 $4
For more information visit their website at

Oct 04

Mesalands Dinosaur Museum

15440316191 16d4357e25 z Mesalands Dinosaur Museum
Our little daughter had a blast at the Mesalands Dinosaur Museum during our most recent road trip.  The Mesalands Dinosaur Museum provided our family with the perfect place to get out of our car and stretch our legs.  Located just off of I-40 in the town of Tucumcari the Mesalands Dinosaur Museum is truly a hidden gem. 
15256790960 7478a4f972 z Mesalands Dinosaur Museum
The dinosaur museum is a part of the Mesalands Community College and many of the fossils and replicas of fossils are found in the surrounding area.  Though small in size at around 10,000 square feet the museum is large enough to provide a quality visit and has the world’s largest collection of bronze skeletons and fossils.  The Mesalands Dinosaur Museum was also the first museum in the world to display a Torvorsaurus skeleton which was the relative of the Tyrannosaurus Rex. It also has a gift shop, a lab/construction area, and children activity zone with a lovely little dinosaur kids can climb on, complete with saddle, named Boots.  My daughter still talks about Boots, riding him it was the highlight of her visit.  
15256933327 d6b131e80c z Mesalands Dinosaur Museum
The Mesalands Dinosaur Museum is much bigger on the inside than it looks on the outside.  I would say it would take the average group about 45 minutes to go through which for us was the perfect little stop.  We got to give our daughter and ourselves an educational experience as well as break up a long road trip.  Overall it is really a nice dinosaur museum and as long as you go in with the right mindset and do not expect the Smithsonian out in the middle of nowhere you will have a fun stop. 
15443150322 8f682e38b2 z Mesalands Dinosaur Museum
My wife and I are glad that we took the time and did a little research about things to do along I-40 because we probably would have never found the Mesalands Dinosaur Museum.  It was just the right size for a quick stop to stretch our legs and the museum exhibits were well designed and constructed.  We really enjoyed our stop at the Mesalands Dinosaur Museum and seeing the many fossils that they had on display there.   
15443151772 515558f155 z Mesalands Dinosaur Museum
Mesalands Dinosaur Museum
Located at 222 E Laughlin St. Tucumcari
Hours of Operation: March 1st
to Labor Day 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. the rest of the year 12:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. closed Sunday and Monday as well as Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Day
Cost as of this Posting: Adults 12 to 65 $6.50, Seniors 65 plus $5.50 Children 5 to 11 $4.00
For more information visit their website at

Oct 02

Bumpdate (2): 30 weeks

30 weeks pregnant 2 644x1024 Bumpdate (2): 30 weeks

HERE is my 30 week bumpdate with M

How Far Along: 30 weeks, wowza that is three fourths of the way DONE!!  It goes so fast in the end!

Total Weight Gain/Loss: I have gained 17 pounds so far.  I think I’m doing better than I did with my first pregnancy.  Hopefully it will come off faster too once this little cutie is born.  I’m ready to get back in shape!

Maternity Clothes: I haven’t bought anything new lately but I’m enjoying all my nice maternity clothes.  It seems like I’m always going to one doctor or another (since I have a cerclage I have to see a specialist to get frequent ultrasounds just to double check everything in addition to seeing my regular ob/gyn).  I also got to wear my special ‘baby shower’ maternity dress to a wedding last weekend.  So fun!

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: Oh my heavens this little tike is moving almost constantly!  I love that little reassurance that things are going well inside there.  Sometimes it is such a big kick or jab that I jump!  I can’t believe that a tiny baby all squished and squeezed basically in a water balloon can get up enough back swing to make those huge movements.

Sleep: I’m sleeping pretty great at the moment except for frequent bathroom breaks (boo).  I have been trying to drink a ton of water (decaf sweet tea) everyday so I’m sure that contributes to the bathroom breaks.

What I miss: Moving around at my leisure and cleaning house.  As funny as it sounds that I miss cleaning house, I am desperate to do some major deep cleaning and ‘nesting’.  My specialist doctor reiterated that I need to take it easy and stay off my feet at my last appointment so Kenny is having to do all the domestic duties in addition to teaching and coaching.  Poor guy, I don’t know how he does it all.

Cravings: I have been wanting all things pumpkin lately but I think that’s more to do with fall than with me being pregnant.  Sweet tea or half sweet/half unsweet tea is super high on the craving list too.  I bought some Lipton’s cold brew that is decaffeinated and have been drinking almost TWO pitchers a day!! My Mom has even been keeping a pitcher on hand at her house just in case I drop by.  I’m spoiled!

Best Moment this week: Getting out of the house and going to see Kenny’s cross country team race at a local park.  The weather was beautiful and my Mom and McKenna came along to keep me company and keep me off my feet.

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