Saturday, April 16, 2011

Trust Everyone (and brand your cattle)

K and I left in a snowstorm, but arrived safely in Fairfield, Montana. It really is the land where the deer and the antelope play. It's spring, and the wild animals were quite active, so we got to see a wide variety of things. We were delighted to find out that my sis, A., had driven over from Missoula to meet us at Mom's. She cooked and cleaned and spoiled us while she was there. It just so happened there was a benefit dinner and auction at the Community Hall for a dear friend and classmate who was injured at work in January. We walked over to that to contribute a little and give the poor guy a hug. This is a farming community with about 638 of the finest people you'd ever want to meet. The benefit was a success to the tune of $17,000. I just had to snap a photo of what the town does for a living!

Fine. Take your pictures if you must, but don't expect us to cooperate.

Spring thaw!

On Sunday we attended our Church meetings in my home ward, the Fairfield Ward. Yes, I am a Fairfieldite and I'm proud of that! People always ask me if I am my sister, A., or they say, "Which one are you?" I sat by my seminary teacher, N., during Relief Society. I'm so thankful for all of these people who taught me the Gospel of Jesus Christ by word and deed when I was in high school. Such good folks! In the afternoon, my mom suggested that we all take a drive, so we loaded up and L. drove us to Gibson Dam/Reservoir out of Augusta. It was a pretty day! We saw sheep who couldn't be bothered with our photography (hence, many butts were photographed) and several deer and elk as well. The water was gorgeous, though frozen. It was a nice ride and so fun to hang out with Mom and L. I couldn't convince family members to let me take their pictures, so I don't have any faces to go with the names.

Um, we forgot to bring our camera on our walk around the buffalo jump, but here's a picture of the prairie dog town on top of the jump and another picture of a nearby butte called Square Butte. The butte is not the buffalo jump.

On Monday, we ventured out to the First People's Buffalo Jump near Ulm. It is a state park. It is the largest buffalo jump in North America. Not the highest, but the largest. We received an introduction from Don Fish, the ranger who happens to be a Blackfeet Indian. We learned about Dog Days. We toured the displays in the visitor center and then decided to walk on some of the trails. We were the only visitors there, so we went to our vehicle to drop off our purchases and get our camera for the hike. Someone else drove in and parked their car, but we didn't take much notice. Next thing we knew, this guy was calling out, "Is that Ken? Hi, Ken! Hi, Jody!" They say it's a small world, but really, who were we going to meet at a buffalo jump in Montana on a Monday morning in April? It was Ranger Jake McCoy, a ranger we had both worked with at Timpanogos Cave a few years ago! He is now a permanent Montana State Park Ranger. We had heard he worked in New Mexico and California and Nevada...but this was incredible!

We started off our day at the C. M. Russell Museum in Great Falls. We Montanans just call him Charlie. Charlie Russell captured Montana cowboy and Indian life through his paintings in the 1800's. We viewed his artwork and visited his studio. The Russell Home was there also, but closed. I told K that after seeing John Muir's Scribble Room and Charlie Russell's Art Studio, I would be needing my own room one day. I think I'll shoot for a library, but I guess I may have to become famous or something first. Tuesday was less windy than Monday, and so MANY of the local farmers decided to burn their stubble. We couldn't count all the fires! And let me just mention Mom's and L.'s hospitality. We were fed great meals including T-bone steaks! We are still stuffed!

The mare's name is Leola.

We left Great Falls and met my sis, S., and her husband, L., at the State Historical Museum. We enjoyed the exhibits of Montana history, especially with L.'s commentary. He's a multi-generation native Montanan with ancestors that rode in the calvary, mined, and raised cattle. And he totally looks the part decked out in his everyday duds: crisp jeans, belt and buckle, boots, cowboy shirt, vest, bullrag, and a $550 special-order cowboy hat from Bozeman. I said, "L.!!! You cost more than a prom date!" They took us to lunch at Steve's Cafe and then we all met back at the ranch in Boulder. K and I got re-acquainted with the dogs and cats and walked around outside with the kids to view the goats, peacocks, horses, etc. They also took us to Basin for dinner at the Silver Saddle. We ate Mexican food, but K thought he had died and gone to Heaven when he tasted their butterscotch chocolate pie.

Lime kilns in the mining district.

We hung out with Dad and then took off for town since he was preparing for a trip. We went back to the State Historical Museum to view a couple of additional exhibits we had missed the day before as well as to spend money in the museum's gift shop. We drove around Helena and up Grizzly Gulch near Last Chance to view some lime kilns. We walked around the historic district and resisted purchasing any sweets at the Parrot. We met Dad and P. as well as B. and F. at Taco del Sol for dinner. F. is an exchange student from Germany who thinks peanut butter and Mountain Dew are "amazing." Later, P. beat us all in Phase 10.

We had a slow, lazy morning at Dad's with his dog, Oliver. Dad was upstairs in his office when I emerged from the basement. Oliver stared at me, let me pet him, and then ran upstairs to inform Dad that there was a strange woman in the livingroom. He came back down to interact with me, ran upstairs again to repeat the same urgent message, and then came back down again. Finally, Dad came down to let Oliver know that everything was fine with the strange woman in the house. When we reached Idaho Falls, we contacted S., a former roommate of J. She did not hesitate to drive many miles on short notice from Sugar City to meet us at Frontier Pies. So good to catch up with her for a few minutes! This was after our short walk along the Snake River.

North Crater. I was loving the stark contrast between pure white snow and black lava patches--all against blue sky and white fluffy clouds.

Pahoehoe is the rope-like lava and a'a is the chunky, jagged stuff. But of course, I already knew this. Not because I've lived in Hawai'i...but thanks to Bill Nye the Science Guy. Thanks, Science Guy, you're the best!

This is Ranger Margaret. She and K were classmates in college. Nice to meet you, Margaret!

We had a marvelous time at Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve in Idaho on our way home from Montana. We got out and walked one of the trails (J only "postholed" through the deep snow on the trail twice, comical!). Because of the snow other trails were closed and the road was only open for a half mile, however, they said we could walk the road past the gate, so we did, for quite some distance. Had the place to ourselves. It was a bluebird day!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Lighting Chemicals on Fire, Kickball, and the Opera

This last week was an action-packed one for my students. It was our school's designated "Art Week." Our grade level spotlighted American Quilting. The kids were fascinated to learn that the slaves quilted entire maps right under their owners' noses to help people head north to freedom.

On Monday, the Utah Opera Company visited our school to do an assembly entitled, "Who Wants to be an Opera Star?" It was a great game show with lots of fun teaching going on. Prior to the visit, I gave my students a journal prompt to write about anything they knew or thought about opera. I seriously had five kids talk about Oprah and her life history. Now they know what a Mezzo-Soprano is!

On Tuesday, we had Deanna from Discovery Gateway Children's Museum (or whatever the proper name of the place is). She did an amazing science assembly for our grade level which included lighting chemicals on fire, so of course, she was a huge hit all the way around. Later, she spent time with each class allowing the children to wear safety goggles and mix chemicals. Boy howdy! So much fun!

On Wednesday, Mr. M. L. Forman, author of SLATHBOG'S GOLD graced us with his presence. I haven't read his books, but several of the kids had. We don't get live authors all that often. His books are selling well, but he's not a public speaker and doesn't really know how to relate to children. Perhaps he has the same challenge with adults. That's all I'll say about that.

On Thursday, the school nurse held a Maturation Clinic for all of the fifth grade girls. At our school, the Maturation Clinic for the boys isn't held until sixth grade. For those of you who haven't spent decades amongst maturation clinic attendees, this is real excitement. Excitement of a new kind. I should tally, one of these years, the number of times I hear a girl say, "I already know EVERYTHING. My mom told me EVERYTHING." I am tricky and discreet when I pass the notes out about the upcoming clinic. But the girls themselves get a little blabby and so the boys begin asking questions about what THEY will be doing while the girls are in their special class. At first, the boys feel slightly slighted that they have to wait another year for THEIR special class. But then...I announce that they'll be playing KICKBALL and they take off outside with no worries about missing out on something else.

Ah, kickball in springtime; it's almost poetic. I LOVE watching my students play sports. We have a physical education specialist at our school, so I don't ref as many games as I have in years past. Such joy! I take pleasure in finding out who can really kick and who gets away with bunting. I like to watch those who feel they must SLIDE into first base. I really like observing all the problem-solving that takes place on the field. I chuckle when I hear boys attempting to help peers with solid kickball advice. I like to hear the demands made to the pitcher, "Slow and rolly this time!" I'm interested in seeing who handles disappointment with grace. There are so many life lessons taking place on that kickball field. The weather was perfect. It was a glorious afternoon.

I told the girls to look for us outside, having no idea how long the nurse would end up taking. I wanted them to be able to slip their free samples into their backpacks without the boys asking questions. One girl emerged from the school and threw her arms around me, "I thought I was going to DIE!" Yes, melodrama is part of it all. I'm happy to report that no one fainted this year.

And today? Today was April Fool's Day. I didn't even try to do anything to anyone. One student came to school with a new plaster cast and a story about getting in a bike wreck last night. I played along and signed his cast (his mom works at the hospital). Another girl told her friends she's moving to Chicago because her dad got a job transfer. Other than that, things were unusually mild this year...except for the fifth graders who got married on the playground during recess. Z., a cool yet quiet kid, brought his guitar to class and played a couple of songs for us: Horse With No Name and Ode to Joy and something else by Linkn (sp?) Park. How's that for variety? This kid can hear something and pick it out on his guitar. He introduced one short piece by saying, "This is just a little tune I heard on a clock once, so I figured out the notes. I just kind of like it." While others wrote in their journals about Oprah Winfrey, this kid listed the opera songs he had downloaded to his IPod.

While my students were working on their quilts earlier this week, they were chatting about some of their experiences tutoring our first grade buddies in reading. Turns out the word family this week was -uck. Therefore, the first graders had to write all of the -uck words they could think of on their whiteboards. You know, "buck, duck, etc." Turns out some of the first graders said the "f" word without knowing what it meant. The fifth graders were on high alert and STRESSED OUT about it. Some coached, "Don't say that word! Stay away from that word!" Then of course some of the first graders would say it repeatedly just to be mischievous. One kid said he had to get strict with his first grade buddy, "Dude, do NOT put an "f" in front of that!" I laughed my head off hearing all these stories, so much that the teacher across the hall came over to inquire.

Precious children. I love them. I enjoy them. They make my day and they make my blog posts. I am so impressed with all that they have become so far.