Friday, December 24, 2021

Merry Christmas 2021

We didn't get our Christmas cards out this year. That was on purpose because we didn't have our family pictures taken until a few days ago, so New Year's cards it is! This year has been just as eventful as most years seem to be, although a little less pleasant with COVID and everything surrounding it. We have managed to remain healthy though, so we can't complain.

Clark (Peanut Head to my faithful readers) and I are empty nesters now and I'm not going to lie, I hate the empty nest. Well I don't hate it, I would just rather have all of my people with me. It's selfish, I know. This last week has been Heaven though because both girls are home and I've been focusing on just enjoying them.

My mom, Julie, moved in with us in June and that has helped me with the transition to an empty nester. It's been a lot of work merging our stuff and making decisions about where to put things and what we should get rid of, but we aren't in a big hurry so we just chip away at it as we have time and interest. In the meantime we have a large container on the property serving as a storage unit for everything mom brought with her. Mom calls it her POD and I call it the dumpster. Mom brought her dog, Pamela, with her, so now we have three dogs in the house. I'm here to tell you that three dogs is a lot of poop. Especially with Bane and his horse sized logs. Pamela settled in pretty quickly and claimed her space. She growls at Gunny and Bane when they go into her end of the house. Gunny just ignores her and does what he wants anyway. Bane doesn't like conflict so his body language telegraphs "Yes Ma'am, whatever you say."

Zoë is living full-time in Pocatello where she is a junior at Idaho State University. She shares a large apartment with three other girls and they each have their own bedrooms. It's a pretty nice set up. She is adulting well and is much more responsible than Clark and I were at her age. Over the summer she started working for Fish & Game as a tech/intern in their habitat department, and she loves her job. She's a Nature Nerd. She fixes fence, puts up fence, weed whacks, chases cows, irrigates, fixes stuff, and sometimes she gets to do cool things with wildlife. Did you know that they make weed whackers that operate underwater?! Zoë already had trailer backing skills when she started this job, but her skills are on point now. She makes me proud.

Annika has had a very exciting year. This time last year we were waiting for a congressional nomination for her application to the service academies and she got three of them. It's recommended that you apply for more than one because each senator and member of congress has a limited number they can give out. That and you don't know who has their ducks in a row, so better to be safe. Shortly after receiving the nominations, she received and accepted an appointment to the United States Military Academy at West Point. The rest of the school year was spent wrapping up senior year courses and other obligations. She spend a lot of hours with the Civil Air Patrol where was was Commander of her squadron, working at Walmart, and taking flight lessons We were hoping that Annika would head to West Point with her pilot's license already completed, but there were many obstacles in her path. The final nail in the coffin was the day of her final flight test, and just days before she was to leave for CBT (Cadet Basic Training which is West Point boot camp), and the plane did not pass inspection. It was a huge let down, but there was no time to dwell on it. She left Idaho Falls for West Point on June 27th and her world changed forever. She survived CBT and her first semester at West Point, and she came home for the first time December 19th. I've been peppering her with questions about her new life ever since. It's going to be hard to let her go with the new year.

I spent another summer working outside in our yard and I shouldn't brag, but I'm getting pretty good with a shovel. Clarkie better not cross me. :) At work I changed schools. Our district opened up a fancy new middle school and I was determined to teach there. Now I'm teaching Pre-Algebra and Algebra to 8th graders. It's my favorite grade and subject. My classroom is beautiful and I have more than three outlets. I haven't tripped the breaker once! My classroom is on the second floor and the flight of stairs is loooooong. More opportunities to trip means I trip more. Tripping going up the stairs is my superpower. Compared to last year, this year is a lot easier, although it's still a lot of work. I like the people I work with and I like my administrators.

Clarkie is still working from home some, but going into the Lab more now. He was one of the first in his group allowed back this last year but it depends on what needs done. More than half his department is still full-time teleworking from home. He earned a promotion this year and is training for new positions, so that means more meetings. His favorite. He's working on his interpersonal skills right now because his boss told him he has to stop growling at people and start using his words. He is traveling more than ever and that's good because we need flight miles and hotel credits now with Annie being so far away.

We're still hard at work on the money pit. We spent most of our late summer and early fall pulling out and relaying the patio at the back of the house so that it slopes away from the house instead of towards it. In other projects, last winter Clark redesigned his closet and made it a lot more functional. All he has left to do now is to add doors to the top to hide all the stuff. Together we redid the laundry room and it is so much more functional because we added upper and lower cabinets as well as a countertop for folding clothes. We also replaced the ridiculous plastic utility sink with a stainless steel sink and cabinet surround. We would still like to add shelving, but that may not happen for a couple years. Next up we have some plumbing and electrical projects to tackle.

There's never a dull moment here, even without the girls to liven things up. We hope this year was as good to you as it was to us, and we wish you a very happy and healthy new year. Take care.

Clark, Jill, Zoë and Annika

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

Merry Christmas 2020


We’ve almost survived 2020!

This has been one wild and crazy year, hasn’t it? I’m sure we can all agree that 2020 did not live up to our expectations. Here’s hoping for a much better year in 2021.

We were never more thankful to be living out in the country than this year. We were able to lay low and keep our minds off the pandemic and all that came with it by occupying ourselves with our bottomless to do list.

Zoe came home from college in March and ended up finishing the year online. Annie and I went on spring break and completed the remainder of the school year online. Clark started working at home at the same time and we were all competing for our inadequate internet. The girls and I went back in the fall, but Clark is still working mostly at home. He has been traveling a bit too because the source recovery missions must go on. He is very careful though, and to be honest, Annie and I are the biggest threat to our health as we are around hundreds of people every day, many of them incapable of wearing their masks properly. Everyone hates the masks. We hate the masks. Teaching in a mask and making sure my students wear their masks properly is wearing on my nerves, but it is our reality right now. Complaining about it helps none of us. On that note, I’ll shut up now.

I spent my entire summer working outside in our yard and it was wonderful. Little by little, this place is becoming a home that we love. It’s truly my favorite place to be. Clarkie still regularly exclaims that he hates this *$#@ing place, but we know he really loves it. He has multiple pairs of farm pants to prove it, and so do I. They are my favorite pants and I even wear them to town sometimes. It can’t be any worse than wearing pajamas to Walmart.

I went back to the classroom this fall, and it has kicked my trash. There’s so much stress having to teach in person and make sure everything is accessible online for quarantined and Covid positive students. I just make a to do list each day and get through it, doing what I can with the hours that I have. Many days I fall short, and I don’t beat myself up over it. I’m thankful that I have remained healthy and that I still have a job. I do enjoy the kids. I’m teaching 7th grade math, and there is not a more awkward age than 7th grade, so my entertainment is free.

The dogs are loving Clark being home. With him at home I don’t have to go through the routine of putting the couch screamers on the furniture every day to keep the dogs off. I’m a little jealous, but at the same time I do not want to be teaching remotely. I didn’t expect that  we would be able to stay in person, so I am thankful for that. Clark is not traveling as much as he was before March, but we are hopeful that it will pick up after the first of the year. He likes to travel and we like the miles and hotel rewards that he earns.

Zoe bought herself a car in early Spring. It’s a 2011 Nissan Rogue which is an all wheel drive vehicle, so it’s perfect for Idaho winters. She spent her summer working at Cal Ranch and the vet clinic and she was exhausted working every day of the week. I think she has learned her lesson about that. She went back to ISU in the fall and has been home since Thanksgiving. Her finals were online and her spring semester will start mid January. She will be doing a career path internship this semester in a lab with a plant ecologist. Then this summer she has an opportunity to work on a Fish & Game work crew and continue with an internship with them in the fall. On the work crew she will be doing grunt labor like fixing fences, spraying for weeds, planting to reintroduce native plant species, etc.

Annika is in the middle of her senior year of high school. The little slacker finally got a job last summer. She works in produce at Walmart where she puts her OCD skills to good use inspecting and discarding imperfect fruits and vegetables. She has had to deal with some disgusting rottage which we quite enjoy hearing about because it causes her so much discomfort. Everything she throws away has to be weighed and logged. It’s awesome.

We are in the stage of wondering where our child will be this time next year. She has her eggs in several different baskets right now. She has active applications with the Naval Academy and West Point and they are progressing. We are waiting for Congressional nominations right now. She also has applications with the Colorado School of Mines and the University of Idaho. The latter two she picked because they have ROTC programs. She seems pretty set on the military and Clarkie strongly suggests that she go in as an officer, nevermind that that’s not what he did, despite his own father’s wishes. He forbids her to go to the Air Force Academy because he says if she wants  a business major with a minor in religion she can just go local to BYU. Yes, he is a funny guy. I think it’s a Marine Corps thing. They are very particular about the other branches of the military. The other consideration is that she wants to fly and she will have a better chance at that in the Navy/Marine Corps or the Army.

Gunny and Bane are getting on in years. Gunny had a pretty nasty case of pneumonia in the spring and he’s still not 100%. We’ve had many visits to the emergency vet and he is on a steady diet of hot dogs with his various prescriptions. He has turned into my grandparents with his assortment of pills, except that I’m pretty sure they didn’t need hot dogs to choke their medicine down. Baney had a bizarre case of geriatric something something. I can’t remember the technical term and I have no documentation because his care was free at the Emergency Vet Clinic where Zoe works because he has been a blood donor for them. He woke up one day and he couldn’t walk without falling down because his equilibrium had left the building. I’m telling you, it is not possible to carry a 130 pound dog around to do his business. If it weren’t so frightening it would have been comical. Who am I kidding, it was comical, but it was also frightening. After a back door drive up at the clinic, a shot of anti nausea medicine and a few days taking Dramamine he was mostly back to normal. His head is still a little half cocked, but he’s still Baney and we love him. Although he won’t sleep in his bed now because when he was not himself he overshot his bed and clocked himself in the corner where two walls meet. Now his bed is from the Devil and Gunny quite enjoys having choices.

The goats, horses, and chickens are still keeping us from sleeping in too late on the weekends. Oh, and we have kittens! Well, they are cats now, but Zoe found them as kittens in our pasture in June and we had to keep them because destiny brought them to us. Clarkie is super grouchy about excessive cats, so they are barn cats. It’s pretty funny because cats loooooove Clarkie. 

Work on the money pit continues. This year we replaced our well pump and our roof. In fact our roof just happened and it was a nail biter. I’m just so glad it’s done.

This thing is too long so I’ll wrap it up. We hope this letter finds you all happy and healthy. Merry Christmas!


Clark, Jill, Zoë and Annika

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Black Lives Matter Too

It has been over six weeks since my last post and the world has changed. At the end of May, George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer who knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes. Somebody had the presence of mind to document the whole thing with their phone and it sparked protests and riots across the globe. 

It's still going on, and protestors have called for police reform. 

This was not the first time by a long shot, but something about George Floyd's murder is different. It's like the American people have taken notice in a way that they never have before and people are fighting mad. As a country we are divided, although we were divided before this, it is even worse now.

The Minneapolis City Council voted to disband its police department and shift funding to social programs in communities of color. People are protesting to defund the police in other places too. Although this is a terrifying time in America, I'm hopeful that this will bring about real change for people of color.

It is encouraging to see my white friends and neighbors posting on social media about what they are learning about white privilege and the many things they take for granted that people of color don't have access to. While the awareness makes me hopeful, I still see so much hate and denial and I don't know what I can do about it. I feel helpless and ashamed.

I support the Black Lives Matter movement and I hope you do too. 

Many of the Corona Virus restrictions have eased and countries are opening back up. As a result, infections are up. We're supposed to be practicing social distancing to slow the spread of the virus, but people are gathering in huge numbers to protest. It's difficult to criticize the people protesting for not social distancing when they're the ones out there putting themselves at risk for affecting change.

Idaho now has 3,540 confirmed cases of Covid-19.

We don't know yet if we'll be returning to school in person or online in the fall. Peanut Head is still working from home.

The bright side is that we are accomplishing a lot by staying at home as much as possible.

We finished planting the garden yesterday.

We spent Memorial Day weekend digging a utility ditch, and the rest of the following week and weekend filling it back in after burying some new utilities. It was a ton of work and I'm so glad it's done.

We also finished the Lilac Dry Creek bed which I started working on the summer of 2017.

I'm so happy with the finished product. I still have some exposed weed cloth because our next big project is to tear the patio out and relay it so it slopes away from the house instead of towards the house.

Here's a video of the creek bed with water in it. It's my babbling brook.

And last but not least, we put our pool up. We haven't had this set up since we moved here and we have missed it so much. The only problem is that we haven't been able to find the pool filters in any stores in town. In fact, no one is even selling pools right now. The supply chain is seriously disrupted. We were able to buy some on Amazon, but they don't expect them to ship until the end of the month.

In other news, I've accepted a teaching position to teach 7th grade math in the fall. I'm ready to get back into the classroom (crossing fingers that it will be physically in the classroom and not online), and I'm looking forward to spending my days with students again. I've spent a little time in my classroom clearing things out which were left behind and organizing. However, I'm determined not to spend my summer obsessing about making my classroom perfect. It's my disease.

As is typical of teacher summers, I've been scheduling all our yearly appointments and trying to get my ducks in a row. Dentist appointments are not going to happen though, due to the obvious danger for the dental professionals. Hopefully our teeth don't rot out of our heads before we can get back in.

That's my update. I hope we have world peace figured out before my next post.