Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Ben Effect

Ben is a one-of-a-kind kid!

He has always been enjoyable to converse with as long as we stay away from electronic topics, as he is quite capable of giving you the play-by-play of any video game, tv show, etc.

We were recently discussing the impact of grades on one's income (see rant from early December). He has the ambition of working at "Games Workshop" as a career. We informed him that people who do not do well in school work in minimum-wage jobs. He explained to us that he was going to work full wage, not minimum wage.

Monday, December 22, 2008

For the year ending 12/31/2008....Hallelujah!

2008 was a year of learning for our family.

Nate learned to take his iron regularly and balance his physical outputs to keep healthy. He learned how to use voice recognition software to navigate the web. Facebook users now enjoy his witty insights on life.

Kim learned to go to the doctor the first time. Her empathy level has increased. A lot. She learned that parenting middle school boys is incredibly frustrating and an incredible joy...all at the same time. She is learning to overcome disappointment and try, try again.

Ben learned that he does have musical talent beyond Guitar Hero and plays the french horn in the band. He learned to stop asking mom and dad for money and got a job walking the neighbor's dogs. He IS learning to do his assignments and turn them in.

We all learned how to grow vegetables in Houston. Yummy!
We learned great locations for fossils in central Texas.
We learned to serve each other.
We learned that hurricanes are scary.

May the Lord bless you and your family in the coming year.
The Ottosens

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Holiday Stresspression

Yes, everything is okay, and yes, we have a church. Yes, we both are still working - no layoffs yet. Financially we are fine. Yes, Mormons believe in Christ and celebrate Christmas. Oh, we'll decorate - we've just been a little busy.

I finally put a wreath on the door. And got my nativity set out. But the neighbors are still worried. I can tell by the glances they shoot at our house when they gather in little groups at the bottom of the driveways to gossip. (Usually, I think our neighborhood full of retired people is quirky and charming - but usually, I'm not in their sights). The next one that asks is going to get an earful....

I've been under a little pressure this year. Its been building and building and I'm to the point where I need a sobfest for a couple of hourse to release all that frustration. For some reason, I haven't been able to make it happen. My family has a running joke (which I hate) that it's not Christmas until Kim cries....well this year should be a doozy - good thing I'm not going home.

1. I broke my foot in March and stubbornly kept walking on it so that by the time I agreed to see a doctor in July, I was stuck in a cast until October. 6 months of being cooped up. 6 months of not being able to function at the speed I am accustomed to. 6 months of falling behind.

2. I worked my tail off last school year and we missed being recognized by the state because we lacked 1 student passing the science exam. I am extremely discouraged. This year has been Mt. Everest in terms of the teachers being overwhelmed with staff changes and new IB programs, the students not having much English exposure, not making the connections, and just being mentally checked out. Probably due to PTSD that most of our students lost everything they owned in the flooding from Hurricane Ike (not much to begin with). However, try telling that to the upper-level school nazis that are pressuring us to get our scores up. I have had 2 district "visitors" in my lab this week. Yet I earned a performance bonus this year. I don't understand the politics involved- No Child Left Behind, you know.

3. My darling, sweet, wonderful son. Really, he is! However, parenting teens is not simple. (i know - i should expect that!) I just don't understand how an intelligent, loved child does his work in class and at home and DOES NOT TURN IT IN! He is literally driving me crazy. I knew this year might be more difficult because of the 7th grade state writing exam that causes his teachers to freak out since he has dysgraphia and shuts down when required to write. I purposefully cleared my after-school commitments for this school year to the bare minimum so that I would be available. He has given every excuse in the book for his non-achievement. He has happily informed me that he wants to be a 75 kind of guy, not a B or A type. The problem is when you shoot for a 75 you sometimes fall short so then you are a D or F kind of guy. He has a pattern of getting his grades up to acceptable levels and then not turning in anything the last week of the grading period which results in Ds and Fs. ARRRRGGGGHHHH! By then it is too late to fix it. As a result, he is grounded from all types of media until his grades are up. It is going to be a long, long, long holiday break. Plus, he won't be able to play with his 1 Christmas present.

4. Nate has done really well health-wise until October. His iron levels dipped again and he is back to the dizziness, fatigue, crabbiness, leg cramps, and sleeping 18 hours a day. It is all he can do to work and do his calling. I love him dearly and understand this, but sometimes I feel like a single parent. I wish there was a diagnosis so then we could find a cure for this darn anemia.

5. Speaking of that, my chronic psoriactic arthritis is on full-court press. I had to go back on the Enbrel so that I could walk, move my fingers, and function. Enbrel is a miracle - but it comes with a price (and not just financial). It blocks the function of my immune system, so I will catch every germ that comes my way. Not a good thing when you are an elementary school teacher. So how do I start my winter break? With a really, really bad cold. I understand that for some people, a cold is just an inconvenience, but not me...since my immune system doesn't fight as well, it tends to linger, and linger and turn to bronchitis or pneumonia. Plus while I'm sick I can't take the Enbrel so the arthritis returns.

6. I worry about my extended family. My dad just had a heart procedure that went well, but I don't do surprises, so it was quite stressful. My mom is going to work herself to death. My sister seems to be fine, but I'm not really sure about that. I think she is lonely. My brother and his family are fine, and I love being able to hear about their funny lives, but I worry about them anyway. My little sister seems to be supermom and I know from experience how hard that is. My in-laws are serving a mission in Ecuador and seem to be very tired. My husbands siblings are all busy but face challenges too.

7. My messy, messy house. With all of the above going on, my house is a shambles. I have been slowly working out from under the backlog, but its tough. I keep giving and throwing stuff away and I'm not a big shopper, so where does all this junk come from? I have a theory that my house is as organized as my mind. So it is very apparent what I'm dealing with mentally. Plus that little list of what I'd like to fix about my house is getting longer instead of shorter.

8. The stress of everyday life. This is a real stress. I won't bore you with the details, but everyday there is stress. Traffic, fear, sorrow, little obstacles. They add up. Also they announced drug dog checks of all teacher parking lots...no I'm not taking illegal drugs...but one of the factors dogs will alert on is gunpowder and my husband is a gunsmith. I just know I'm going to get called to the office and have to explain to the police why my car reeks of guns. Plus I haven't had a commitment-free evening since October.

So no, I haven't decorated yet. I haven't wrapped gifts, I haven't made or purchased Christmas cards, I haven't baked, I haven't hung the stockings by the chimney, no gifts for those people I'm not related to but appreciate. And you what? I'm not really sure it's all that important.

I have a family and friends that I love. I try to show them that love year-round. I read my scriptures, say my prayers, eat my vegetables and take my vitamins. I love the Lord and he loves me.

And now, finally I'm crying....so all will be well in a few hours. Yay!

And here is the science on crying:

PS 2:30 p.m. I'm feeling much better now. I knew that crying would relieve the stress. I'm wrapping presents and trying to decide how to arrange the den so that the tree can be by the window. I know that my life is very blessed. So I guess the family myth is true. It isn't Christmas 'til Kim cries.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Gone Green With Style

I recently watched a slide show presentation about how those plastic shopping bags from every place we spend money are polluting our world. It was disturbing to think that only 20 years of them can have such an impact. You can see the slide show here: http://www.poconorecord.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20080506/MULTIMEDIA02/80505016

I decided that I could handle making a move to natural fabric shopping bags - all I would have to do is keep them in my car so I had them when I needed them. It turns out that my sister-in-law makes and sells very stylish shopping bags. http://www.gogreenwithstyle.com/reusable_shopping_bags
I took them with me on my last shopping trip. I had 3 bags that are each purported to hold as much as 6 plastic bags worth of groceries (that's 18 bags worth altogether). Usually, after I shop, Nate and Ben make multiple trips from the car, fingers full of the plastic bags. This time, ALL my groceries (except the cases of water and soda) fit into the 3 shopping bags and 2 paper bags. Nate carried them all in on one trip. (He was very, very happy.)

I immediately went online and purchased another set. (She ships fast, so it arrived in just a couple of days). This time, I purchased one that had a liner for produce/cold goods. I'll let you know how it works out when I shop next.

I keep mine in the car, so when I drop into the drugstore, or Target, or wherever I happen to be shopping, I can grab one and go. It's easy, its stylish, and it makes me feel great to not pollute the world.

FAQs - from people in my life.

If they hold so much, aren't they prohibitively heavy? Not at all - I imagine it is a function of physics, but the wide canvas straps distribute the weight very evenly. No more squished fingers from hefting the load on a small fulcrum.

You only have a family of 3, what about larger families? I do only have a family of 3, but I only grocery shop once every 3 weeks or so. I imagine you might shop more often. I needed 6 bags to carry what I purchase when I shop. It is a small sacrifice to keep our world beautiful!

The grocery stores now sell "green bags" for a much cheaper price. I'm not saying you have to purchase from the website, there are many alternatives. I am saying that the quality between the two bags is non-comparable. Those bags in the grocery store are smaller, cheaper in quality, and will need to be replaced much more often. Find a solution that works for you.

What will I do for trash bags/lunch bags/dog-walking bags if I give up the little plastic ones? I ask you...how many of those little plastic ones do you have stored up? I myself have well over a year's supply. Once those are gone, I can get my groceries packed in them as needed.

What will my children wear if we don't have plastic bags? This one is a total joke made by my husband about a past blog from my brother's very funny wife. (Rebie - if you hate it, I'll take it off.)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Achieving Goals

I hate to set goals. I quit contracting to anything structured when I was 12 years old. That was the year that I realized that life never worked out according to plan. I hate to disappoint so I stopped setting goals with timelines.

Today, I realize that I was a little hard on myself...and others - like the YW Personal Progress people and my mom. My literal self is beginning to understand that one can adjust that timeline when obstacles get in the way.

This school year has been tough between losing a month of instruction from the hurricane and another 4 days from the apartment closing fiasco. This week has been particularly frustrating. When I had taught my heart out and the classes couldn't remember what we learned 2 days ago, I took a deep breath, pulled out my cell phone and looked at the pictorial evidence of the goal we completed yesterday. That mini-break gave me enough good energy to go again - with a smile.

Two goals Nate and I set earlier this year was to have a vegetable garden (which we have been eating out of), and a year's supply of food and finances. We achieved 8 months of food storage AND an organized method of storing it yesterday.

Those of you who remember the laundry room will see the shelves between the fridge and the dryer. Our next step is to take down those wire shelves that feel like they will fall on your head, and put up a cabinet to store the laundry and cleaning supplies.

The bulk wheat and water storage is located behind our bar - where I used to hide all the junk when company came. (The wheat is on top of the water bottles in case of flooding. Hoping that the cans will stay dry.)

I understand now why goal setting can be beneficial. It not only gives focus to activities and choices, but it can boost you in other ways as well. The mini-celebration of success can give peace in unexpected ways.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Trunk-or Treat

Each year, our ward (church congregation) celebrates Halloween by providing a fun, safe place to dress up and get candy. In order to get adults there in the festive spirit, they ply our competitive natures by offering food and prizes for decorating the car. Not ones to pass up a competition, Nate and I decided that this year was the year - we were going to win that trophy. Nate is great at getting the theme and I'm great at ideas. He is much better at implementing and I am a fabulous nagger. May I present the 2008 "Best Decorated Car" from the Memorial Park Ward Trunk or Treat...

Our jackets say "FORENSICS" across the back, and Ben's shirt says POLICE. Our friend who is an arson investigator donated some evidence bags and we came up with the rest. The CD player played "The Who" songs which are the theme music from all 3 CSIs. Nate and I fingerprinted suspects in between offering candy body parts out of the evidence bags to the little trick-or-treaters. (We had some back-up candy for the squeamish ones". It was great fun.

Saturday, October 25, 2008


Scout Camping Trip this weekend. Nate and Ben seem resigned to the fact that they have to go spend 24 hours camping, eating smuggled junk food, hanging with other guys and communicating in grunts (or whatever it is they do at scouts).

I, on the other hand can hardly wait for them to leave so that I can have the whole house to myself and enjoy complete and total silence for 24 hours.

Ben practiced his lashing at the past few scout meetings. Lashing is not his favorite pastime.
Just after Nate and Ben left, I cleaned the kitchen and the fridge and then tried to go grocery shopping. But the Jeep wouldn't start. So I stayed home. It was great! I slept for 10 hours, read a book, watched the OSU football game, and relaxed.
Evidently all the scouts and their leaders got a symphony of Nate's snoring. I'll bet they think I'm a saint. ;-) Just kidding, dear.
Ben got up to cook breakfast early this morning. Temperatures were in the low 50's - cold weather for Houstonians.
The scouts spent time showing off their skills. They had to lash together sticks to make a tower. I don't have a picture of the final product, but I do know that Ben appreciated the help he got from the other troops he spent time with in summer camp.
Everyone made it home safe and sunburned, and my house is noisy again. (but I'm much more patient since I had a break).

Monday, October 13, 2008

Harvest Moon

Well, I was going to make this an educational blog entry, but the Harvest Moon actually occurred in September. Tonight's full moon will be the Hunter's Moon - not the theme here. Below you can see our first harvest from our garden. Nate said the squirrels were eyeing our garden, so he went out to check and found that we have green beans! As you can see above, our radishes and lettuce are doing nicely too. The carrots are covered by the bush beans and may not make it. We planted 3 squares of broccoli today. It should be ready around Thanksgiving or a little later. Gardening in Houston does work! Just the timing is weird.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Life lately...

It is hard to believe that a month has passed since we were visited by Ike. The debris is slowly being hauled away from the neighborhoods. Most of the traffic lights are functional, and life is much more normal.

We drove out to High Island today hoping that the salt domes had eroded and fossils would be laying there waiting to be picked up. The good news is that the salt domes have eroded, bad news is that the beach eroded first. Now when you drive at low tide, the ocean is only about 15 feet away from the road - even with the salt dome. No beach to walk along to search the bottom edge of the domes. Debris is everywhere - pieces of houses, shoes, furniture, trash, and just stuff. Many of the people out on this first weekend of the road being open were scavenging. One family looked as if they were looking for their own belongings. We drove out about 2-3 miles through very rough, gullied salt dome and road. It wasn't pretty. As we drove south on 124, the electric poles were snapped between 6-10 feet up nearly the whole way from I-10. The damage was so extensive, that the electric companies were replacing the poles on the opposite side of the road. I hope they'll go back and clean up the old wires and poles since it's a huge mess. We'll come back in December when the crowds are gone and maybe some sand has washed back up.
Ben has been very busy with school back in session. His grades remain good (except math) and he is praised often for his natural talent on the French Horn by his band director. He achieved his first class rank in scouts and 7 merit badges. He has had a few service hours through scouts as well.
Nate is very busy at work with tons of hurricane guns to restore as well as the busy season work.
Kim is off the crutches and slowing weaning away from the boot. I can't believe how weak my leg has become. I feel like I have noodle knees when I spend a little time in a regular shoe. The conference in Nashville was very informative and I enjoyed the area. My coworkers and I spent one night in downtown. I especially enjoyed the live bands. Then we spent another evening exploring the Gaylord Opryland - very cool.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

It's in my state of mind.

Evidently, because I am currently a Texan, I am agreeable, conscientious, extroverted and open to new ideas. I'm also a middle of the road neurotic. I'm not sure that my geographical location really influences my psyche this much, but it is interesting that I lived the longest in states that mirror these scores - Oklahoma and Missouri. I didn't stay long in Oregon - maybe it was not neurotic enough, or too open? Whatever I think, the research begs to differ.

You can see your state of mind at the link below:


Authors note: Don't get used to this many blog entries. Once I get my life back you'll be lucky to hear from me once a month.

8 Things about Kim

I was tagged awhile back by Rebecca, but then Ike hit and it fell by the wayside. I find the 8 things much easier than the original tag, so I think I'll complete this one.

8 TV SHOWS I like to watch:
I'm not big on watching TV. That said, I hate to miss:
1. Bones
2. Boston Legal
3. 24
4. Oklahoma State basketball
If I am stuck at home with nothing else to do, then I'll watch:
5. old movies
6. PBS
8. The Weather Channel (I know...but I got hooked during college when I had to watch it for a meteorology course).

8 Favorite Restaurants

1. Shiva's (indian)
2. Chuy's (tex-mex)
3. Niko Niko (greek)
4. Cavatore (italian)
5. Cafe Rita (Middle Eastern)
6. Mission Burrito
7. The Red Lion Pub (british)
8. Pappa's BBQ

8 Things that happened in the past 24 hours.
1. Ben's friend Walt came over and drove me crazy.
2. We had chicken pesto pasta with homemade bread for supper.
3. Nate's friend John dropped off a load of firewood for winter (one good thing about Ike!)
4. I defended my decision to NOT have Walt spend the night.
5. I watched the final season premiere of Boston Legal.
6. I read 3 chapters of Stiff. And 2 chapters of Annals of the Former World. (When, oh, when will the library reopen?)
7. I went to school to see how much damage my classroom sustained. (Not much thanks to a fabulous custodial staff who dried up the 9 inches of water in my room. We'll see more when the electric is restored - hopefully by Friday).
8. I observed the growth of my bean plants (11 inches!) the recent sprouting of the lettuce and radishes.

8 Things I look forward to

1. Getting back to school
2. Trip to NSTA (i hope!).
3. OSU Basketball season - is the new coach any good?
4. A working foot.
5. SUMMER - I need a vacation!
6. Hosting another Catan night
7. Our next family fun day
8. Thursday - Ben goes back to school and I don't!

8 Things I love about fall

1. In other places, the leaves turn colors.
2. In Houston, the temperatures begin to break out of the 90s.
3. Basketball season begins.
4. Our garden grows.
5. Hurricane season ends November 1.
6. We begin to enjoy spending time outside.
7. Earth science rotation begins and I get to play with dirt and rocks.
8. The hummingbirds and monarchs make their way our direction during their migrations.

8 Things I worry about

1. That I am not a good: mom, wife, servant of Christ, teacher, daughter, sister, friend.
2. That the little pieces of my DNA that go down the drain are morphing into weird things down in the sewer system.
3. My foot will never heal and I will never get back to my normal range of activities.
4. City living is killing my senses and soul.
5. Our society is headed for destruction because of people's greed and lack of ethics.
6. Cockroaches are secretly living in my house.
7. Ben will grow up and still live at home with his only ambition to beat every video game ever made.
8. I'm really mentally handicapped and people are just being nice to me.

8 Things on my wish list

1. A home in West Yellowstone, Montana
2. A trip to see the northern lights.
3. No arthritis & a healed foot.
4. Remodeling projects completed.
5. A 4 day work week.
6. A dog
7. A camper trailer
8. 80% of my students pass the science TAKS.

8 Blessings I currently enjoy

1. Wonderful husband, Nate. He is patient, kind, a good cook, a hard worker, and fun to talk to.
2. A fabulous son, Ben. He is caring, helpful, generous, funny, and makes me proud.
3. No major damage or sacrifices from Hurricane Ike.
4. Good friends and family who care about me and like me despite my quirks.
5. To work in a job that I love and with people I like.
6. I know that Christ is my Savior and I have the freedom to worship.
7. I have a home and the means necessary to live a life of comfort that allows me to help others.
8. I live in America.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

72 hour kits, dependencies, and other musings.

It was great to come home from church and see green blinking lights that indicated our internet and cable were back on.

I find my dependency on the internet a little disturbing. We don't get the newpaper because I'm allergic to newspapers and get really bad breakouts from touching them. Therefore, I read all my news online. I also rely on the internet for all bill-paying and banking. As well as phone numbers, maps and other information and a great deal of shopping and researching. Don't forget communicating. So when our link was out all week, I would call my parents in Utah and ask for them to go online and inform me of whatever pressing need I had. Like the football game scores and the school website to see if I need to be at work on Monday. Do I have enough money in my account to buy gas, and oh, yeah, I can't find the phone number for my VTeachee - could you go online and find it? Dad would offer to e-mail me whatever I needed and then just madly chuckle when I would explode "but I don't have e-mail right now!" I'm sure they were tired of hearing from me. I thank them for their time and assistance!

Our civic, church and government leaders have been counseling us for years to put together 72 hour kits to be prepared to support ourselves in time of emergency like Ike. We even received a hurricane preparedness pamphlet from the city government about 10 days before Ike hit. Don't people listen? don't they read? Don't they watch the news? I was understandably quite irate at all the people I heard complaining on tv and radio about not having water or food for the first few days while FEMA was getting situated. Perhaps we had better create a cartoon on Cartoon Network about prepping for hurricane season! We went to Lowe's to pick up some stakes to try to save some of my plants, and people would run in, scan the battery display, and run out saying..."no batteries...what are we going to do?" I felt sorrow for the suffering of these people that was avoidable - IF they had followed the direction of their leaders.

With all my judgements in mind, Nate and I sat down and evaluated our 72 hour kits to see what changes need to be made. We had good water supplies, adequate food supplies, and ready cash reserves. I discovered that although we did not suffer any tragedy, just going through the hurricane experience was trying and I mentally had a hard time planning a simple meal. So MREs might be a nice thing to have. We definitely need to add cranked radios and flashlights to our kits. We had radios, flashlights, and batteries, but we hadn't updated them since we arrived in Houston 10 years ago and the batteries had leaked and ruined several things. We should also add some bungee cords and parachute cord. A generator would be nice to keep the freezer cold and be able to charge our electronic communication equipment (phones, laptops, etc.). We also should add some rain gear in case of having to leave our house for some reason. Oh, and a couple of big rakes and a supply of yard bags for cleanup.

If I were grading our preparedness I would give us an A-. We had the basic things needed to get by, and the things we didn't have no one person could provide. As we get slowly back to normal, I hope people everywhere learned a lesson in self-reliance and being prepared.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Virtually Stranded

Early Monday morning, our cable & internet went out. We still have power, we still have water, we are still safe and still very, very blessed. But we are BORED! I had to call my parents in Utah to ask if there was a life outside of Houston and they informed me of the instability in Bolivia, the serial killer in Utah that looks like Sean Penn, and the stock market "crash"and of the many financial companies declaring bankruptcy or in dire straits. (sp? is that the band or the real way to spell it?)
I commented that I was glad I wasn't a stock market accountant anymore - teaching is a much more stable position these days. Although I'm beginning to wonder about that. We have not yet returned to school and only 1/3rd of schools have power as of this morning. I heard a rumor that there will be no school on Monday either. I'll either be losing a paycheck or teaching all summer long to make up the days. I'd rather lose the money, but state law requires a certain number of days. It's going to be a long year.
The good news is that my sister Heather has her power back and so I am able to get online a little.
Ben's court of honor was postponed, as is the merit badge fair on Saturday. No church activities, no school activities, and the library isn't open. Ben and some of the other kids at church volunteered at the Food Bank on Wednesday.
Many businesses are opening back up if they have power or generators. Getting gas is still a struggle with mile-long lines for the stations that have power. McDonald's, tree services, and lawn crews are in high cotton this week. Most intersections are a four-way stop and now that traffic numbers are approaching normal, it takes about 20 minutes to get through one intersection.
We hope all is well with you and your family. If you need to reach us, call our cell phones.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Sunday aftermath

We are so fortunate to have power. My sister who lives 4 blocks away doesn't. She and some friends from church spent the night in our cold air last night. There were 2 huge water main breaks which we think is leading to our very low water pressure problem. The link that follows shows all the outage areas in red. http://www.centerpointenergy.com/staticfiles/CNP/Common/SiteAssets/doc/Ike%20outage%20map_9.14_noon.pdf

Around 5:30 this morning we had some big thunderstorms roll through. We got 5 inches of rain between 5:30 and 8 this morning. Our street was flooded sidewalk to sidewalk. When our friends left to return home, they came back because the water was splashing up through the floorboards of their SUV. All the work we did yesterday has washed back onto the driveway and street. Once it stops raining, we'll get started again.

We have been totally amazed by the news video of our area. Without cable or power, we could only appreciate what we could see around us and now we are more humbled and grateful for the protection we enjoyed.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Neighborhood News

The rain and wind lasted until around 1 p.m. We got outside and started to clean up. (Yes, I mostly sat and watched everyone - dumb foot). All the neighbors were out and most of them had big limbs down as well. Mr. Jerry's pecan tree (next to our garage) was snapped into little pieces. A tree fell on some cars down the street.
Ben and Nate started piling up all the branches and shredded leaves for the trucks to start picking up next week.

Around 3:00, there was a huge explosion and then a woman came flying out into the street yelling "We have lights!" Sure enough, the power was back on. But no internet or cable service yet. And the water pressure is still very, very low.

At 4:00, we headed over to Heather's to check on her and some other ward members. As we turned the corner, I could not believe my eyes. Earlier, Mr. Jerry had commented that "God must like you better than he likes us." I didn't have any idea what he was talking about, but now I could see what he meant. All streets around our block were totally trashed. The new townhouses had big holes in the sides. Roofs had come off, fences were down, it looked like a hurricane had been through (go figure). Nearly every block had a tree that came down on cars and houses. Trees were across the roads and we found it quite difficult to drive the 4 blocks to Heather's.
Heather was outside cleaning up. One of her pine trees lost its top. I could not believe the destruction I saw in her neighborhood and mine. Compared to that, we did look blessed by God. Thanks for all of your prayers - they worked!
Church has been cancelled for tomorrow. We will spend the day cleaning up the backyard and helping neighbors.
School has been cancelled for Monday as well.

After the power went out...

Please disregard the spookiness of all previous posts. They don't hold a candle to what happened after the storm really hit. I'm not sure I can even explain what it feels like to know that you are totally isolated from the outside world and that you have no control over your life. I guess storms like this really test whether you trust the Lord or not. I think I mostly do - or else I wouldn't have slept.

We lost power just before midnight. We all bedded down in the living room because that is the room that is safest from falling trees.
I woke up at 2:30 when something hit the roof and side of the house. As I peered outside the wind was really blowing and making the trees dance. The rain was coming down in sheets.
At 4:00 I woke again because I kept hearing dripping. The wind was unlike anything I've ever heard - different than the straight-line winds and tornados we used to have in Oklahoma. As I looked at the trees, the tops seemed to be swirling around and around. The dripping was from water being blown horizontally against the north side of the house. All the windows, doors and vents were leaking water. I placed towels against all areas of weakness and tried to sleep through all the cracks and thumps and wind.

I woke again at 6:30 and it was still going strong.

When we awoke at 7:50, this is what we saw: lots of plant debris, lots of downed limbs, and my poor bean plants were shredded. My garden plants were mostly uprooted and the trellis on the corner is lying flat - bent over at ground level. The house to the east had 5-6 HUGE branches down. We'll have to get the chainsaw out for those. It was still raining and blowing so we ate breakfast and turned on the radio to hear the news. Evidently 4 million are without power and one of 3 pumping stations is out so water pressure is minimal. Reports indicate that full functionality may take 4 weeks. But we are safe and our home and vehicles were not damaged, so we feel very blessed.

Friday, September 12, 2008


The wind is crazy. It gusts and then just stops. We can hear things blowing down the street - grills, plant pots, branches.

Reports are that the southern half of Houston is experiencing power outages so I expect we've only got a little while til we are in the dark too.

They expect that by noon tomorrow it will all be off to the north. Power may not be restored for up to 2 weeks.

Good news is that the storm surge will not affect the drainage for our area of town. So possibly no flooding.

We love you!


I've spent the last half hour outside trying to get pictures of the storm, but there just isn't enough light to make anything out.

Winds are upwards of 40 mph and gusting to 50. The 100 ft. pines are swaying and something just fell down on my neighbors roof. Still no rain. But it's coming along with double the winds. I don't think I'll be sleeping much tonight.


The sunset was absolutely gorgeous. All dark purple clouds and orange light.

It is dark now. The streetlights did not come on. I wonder if the power company turned them off. The wind is moaning around the eaves. Things are starting to go bump out in the night. Our lights are flickering.

Maybe I could write a mystery novel with that opening. I don't mean to sound sinister - but it is kind of creepy.

I think I'll go have some birthday cake (thanks, Heather!).

7:00 light fading, winds strong, Ike on the way.

The wind is very gusty. Still no rain.
I've been laughing at the squirrels that are running across the roof of Mr. Jerry's house (one on the top). Usually they run and then jump over the corner where the 2 sides of the house come together. Today when they tried it, the wind blew them off the roof. So now they run full out to the corner and then just drop spreadeagle flat on the corner and kind of scritch across on their fingernails. Glad they are having a good time.
Recent reports are that Ike is a category 2 with the storm surge of a category 4. Water is expected to cover parts of I-10 which is 50 miles from the coast.
Tune in at 9ish to see what happens next. I'll keep posting every couple of hours until the power goes out & I lose my internet connection.

Ike at Five. Wind is picking up.

All the people in our neighborhood that boarded up their windows are now sitting outside on their porches. Maybe because its dark inside.

The wind is picking up and the squirrels have started a full frontal assault on our home. They climb on the back of our bench and peer in the den window. Then they jump on the window and scrabble at it until gravity drops them to the ground. The snakes are rather anxious as well and testing their cage tops.
Community leaders are visibly and vocally concerned and that worries me some. When our mayor asked us to pray to whichever God we worshipped in whichever language we use for divine assistance, it caught my attention. They told us it was safe to stay, and I wonder if they are having second thoughts.

Observations at 3:00

Ben is ready with his rain gear, water supply and chainsaw.

We have a tree next to our driveway that the squirrels nest in. One squirrel is in his hole with his head sticking out calling and calling mournfully. Kinda creepy.

The hummingbirds and songbirds that were flooding our yard this morning have flown away.

Still overcast and a little breezy, but no rain yet.

IKE 1:00 P.M.

Clouds are getting more ominous. We have been having wind gusts about 25 mph and then complete stillness for 30 minutes.
There is no ice to be found in our area. We decided maybe we should pick up a couple of bags and drove over to the store. People are panicky - the store shelves are bare for items like bread, canned chili, bottled water and ice. The liquor stores have lines snaking out the doors. I haven't seen drivers with that glazed expression since the opening weekend of deer season. It's more risky to be on the road right now than home watching the storm blow in.
Preparations in our neighborhood range from bringing in planters and furniture by the people who have lived here since 1955 to asterisk-shaped taping of windows by people who have lived here since 1995, to boarding windows by people who have lived here since 2005, to a family on the next block who ordered a U-Haul and are in the process of loading up all their belongings. They were relocated here by Katrina.

Hurricane Ike

As one of my friends so nicely explained: Mother Nature wasn't sure what to give a science teacher for her 40th birthday... maybe a hurricane? Welcome Hurricane Ike. Ike has already made it possible for me to have the day off (that's a nice gift!).

I am fighting the urge to drive down to the coast to see the waves and high tide.

Despite what you may be hearing, our officials have asked us to shelter in place. The dire, life-or-death warnings are intended for Galveston Island which has been under a mandatory evacuation order since Thursday morning.

We expect to get winds of 70 mph during the night tonight or early on Saturday morning. Structural damage does not occur until winds reach 95 mph. We will have some tree damage and although we only have 1 tree, our neighbors have lots of big ones. Our biggest concern will be power outages (no ac) and torrential rains causing flooding. Our home sits in a relatively high area, so we should be dry, but may not be able to go anywhere.

Keep checking back and I'll post pix so you can see the changes.

9:00 a.m. September 12, 2008.

No wind yet and just some very high, thin clouds.

We are picking up things that might get caught in the wind and blow around. Patio furniture, planters, etc. in the garage. Firewood tarped down. Basketball goal laying down. I'm worried about my beans. they are 12" tall and may get stripped by the wind.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Note to world....you have to be direct - I don't take hints.

That doesn't indicate that you have to be mean - just plain speaking.

I went back to the doctor yesterday with high hopes he would let me out of the cast. I'm not sure why I had hopes for that since my foot has been swollen and very painful for the past few days. He was concerned that I was still having so much pain and wanted me to consider getting a bone scan that would pinpoint where the injury was: bone, ligament or joint. The scan cost $1200 and the treatment for all 3 is the same: 5 more weeks in the boot. I politely turned him down and asked him what he meant when he said "take it easy". He gave me a funny look and said that meant only be on your feet 10 minutes out of every hour. AHHH....there's the problem....I thought taking it easy was to elevate your foot for 10 minutes every hour. I'm sure many of you are rolling your eyes and shaking your head, but for me that IS taking it easy.

With tears of frustration, I drove to work with the boot, crutches, and a strong anti-inflammatory. I didn't want to take 4 weeks off at this point and my principal agreed. So starting on Monday, I will set up the lab and be there, but the classroom teachers will be teaching. I am going to be soooo bored!

The kids have been the sweetest about it. "Ms. Ottosen! Why are you on crutches? Why do you still have the cast?"
me: "Well, I didn't follow directions so now I'm in time-out."
kids, after some thought. "I'm sorry about your leg".

If you see me walking around without my crutches, kindly ask me where they are. I'm getting older now and tend to forget things.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

The green beans are growing!

We are breathing a sigh of relief (or disappointment that school won't be canceled) that Hurricane Gustav is not headed for Houston. We are already experiencing floods of people from Lousiana. I hope that they all find safe haven and keep their crimes to themself.

The exciting news is that our garden is sprouting! We have 3 green bean plants up (out of 8) and it's only been 5 days. We won't plant anything else until the end of September if the temperatures get back to normal.

Nate is still baking bread and brought home more supplies from our canning date on Saturday. He and Ben worked really hard and ran into Becky Clarke from Tulsa/PA years. Nate says that work is picking up and so he won't have time to build projects for himself until next spring.

I am loving my first week at school. When the principal told the teachers that they were THE science teacher and I was just support and enrichment it took alot of the pressure off. The children are all very happy to be back and have had excellent behavior. The work last year with the 4th graders has paid off a little. Their knowledge level is still low, but the spark of interest has ignited, so we'll be able to work with them much better this year. I started wearing a shoe in earnest yesterday, and my foot seems pretty good, but my ankle and knee are weak and stiff.

Ben had "my best day ever" on Friday. He got his schedule change from Spanish to German and it caused him to repeat his math and English classes, so he got to read a book for 3 straight hours. Then he was able to see some fancy thing at the Warhammer shop. He is very excited about playing the French Horn in band and mostly about the band lockin at the local game center. He has achieved his First Class rank in scouts and will recieve the award in 2 weeks. He is excited to see our garden grow and is s l o w l y getting his room clean. He rides the bus with a girl from our ward, but the bus route is different so he doesn't get to ride with his good friend, Zac.

Life continues at its normal school-year crazy pace with multiple places to be at the same time. I'll try and post another update after my dr appt on Friday.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

August Update

Nate ordered our wheat grinder and bread maker and has been baking whole wheat bread like crazy! He's an excellent baker and we are enjoying the wheat we ordered for our food storage. In fact, we may need to order another case before December. He was thrilled when his long-time customer, Glen Eller won the gold in double trap and was disappointed when another customer, Chilly (nickname) from India came in 15th.

Our garden is still not planted. The heavy rains and high temps have made poor planting conditions. We plan to try for FHE on the 25th.

I started back to work on August 11th. I gave my first full day professional development workshop and it went really well. I was exhausted by the time it was over, though. I returned for my follow-up appt with the orthopedic doc on the 15th. The new x-rays showed another break perpendicular to the single fracture that had been hidden by the swelling. The doc says that I can start to wear a stiff, lace-up shoe at home, but my boot if I'm going out. Unfortunately, everytime I wear the shoe, my foot swells up and hurts. I think I'm never going to get back to normal. Especially now that I'm on my feet all day at work - I'm trying to elevate it, but teaching science is not a sedentary job. Another follow-up is scheduled for Sept. 5th.

Ben spent a week at Camp Eagle in Sugar Land. He had a great time. We dropped him off in the midst of TS Eduard, and picked him up 5 days later mosquito-bitten, sunburned, and with a bad cold. They did 2 service projects, 5 merit badges, went water-skiing, and inner-tubing behind a fancy motorboat, visited the Channel 11 studios with the stake president (he's some BYU football alum). All the boys were in a group shot on the 6:00 news, but they did a close-up on my handsome boy. Since I've been back to work he has been extremely bored. Ben says he's not ready to go back to school, but I think he's secretly glad.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Announcing our Garden!

I have been planning our "square foot garden" for months now. I read the book,
researched the climate, found sources for soil and seed varieties, ordered the "grow bed", saved cardboard boxes, and waited and waited. I waited for August when our fall/winter growing season begins. I waited until my foot was strong enough to go to all the places to have soils loaded into my truck. I waited until Ben and Nate were available and willing to do the labor. Today we went to "the" source - Southwest Fertilizer, and picked up our components for Mel's Mix. I wasn't real sure about how important this soil would be, but this is Houston - CLAY is all we've got around here. We picked out our seeds and came home to start the garden. I laid out flattened cardboard boxes as a barrier between the bermuda grass and the garden, watered it real good, and built the bed. Meanwhile, Nate & Ben were dumping an even mix of sheep & peat compost, vermiculite, and peat moss on a tarp and mixing it. Then the boys shoveled it into the bed, and I watered it in. This soil is amazing! (Don't laugh if you come from places with real dirt - but this stuff doesn't glob onto your hand when its wet, and it stays loose and finger-workable even when it is sun-baked. It is a whole new experience for me!) Unfortunately, we weren't able to plant any seeds yet...I get to wait some more. Wait until the temperature gets out of the 100's and down to the mid-90's. Wait until the squirrel-proof cover is no longer on back-order. Wait for the seeds to sprout. I sure hope that good things come to Ottosens who wait!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Rock N Roll

Ben enjoyed his first rock concert. He thought it was "Awesome, man!" We saw Foreigner and Bryan Adams. Both groups were great but Foreigner gave a better show. It's been a long, long time since I was at a concert.....like since college. Things are a lot calmer than I remember them being. Not that I'm complaining, but I've been trying to figure out a good reason besides the fact that we've all gotten old. Here's the list: 1. It was hot - temps in the 90's, but the humidity wasn't too bad.
2. It was outside and began in the daylight. 3. Beer was available, but smoking was not allowed. 4. Most of the concertgoers were in their 40's and had brought their children. 5. Ticket prices are so high that no one wanted to waste the experience. Whatever the reason, we all had a great time singing the old songs.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Help less...

Heather is my VT companion, and as she left town for the rest of summer she informed me that she was leaving me in care of our friends. So, what happens? I get grounded by this boot, one sister decides to move at the end of the month and needs a ride to the airport, the other sister is having surgery and needs a ride to and from the hospital, and the last sister just needs to know that someone cares. AND I CANT DRIVE! I feel very helpless with a focus on the less part.

Anyway, I'm really not as depressed as I sound. Nate took me shopping for some school clothes on Saturday and out for dinner on Friday. Church was a great outing on Sunday.

Ben's friends have been keeping him busy and I'm learning to look past the mess of the house and feel good about the few things I can keep up on.

Things I can do: dishes, laundry, family history, read, send in my food storage order, shop online, and mentally organize what projects come first when I am mobile and then change my mind incessantly. I get to be beaten by Ben in board games, get the play-by-play of whatever he is doing and be available for both Ben & Nate's conversations. Take naps, lazy around, and smell the flowers. Watch cloud formations out the window, listen to the birds chirp and notice how the light changes the paint tone during the course of a day. Second-guess my decision to stay at my school another year, worry about the upcoming year, and learn how Windows Vista works. Plan actiivity days for next year, practice my presentation, help Ben prepare the lesson for YM on Sunday, make supper, sort out those pesky boxes.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Week 1 of being benched

Warning.....this is rather boring and whiny... so skip it if you want.

Friday. Got the brace. It goes up to my knee. It's heavy. I can take it off for showers and bed. Planned configuration for year supply storage. Have to move furniture, though so its still in the drawing phase. Researched kitchen stuff online that we need/want.

Saturday. Already stir-crazy. Nate kindly drove me to Pottery Barn and Bed Bath & Beyond and grocery shopping. Went to bed early so I could take off the brace. Spent some time plotting out our square foot garden. Nate made a great greek salad, hummus and pita for supper.

Sunday. Went to Humble to visit the Bolsters and for Kristina's baby blessing. I miss them so much! Had a nice chat with their families and the Davises and their friend Alan. It was good to be with friends.

Monday. Cleaned the kitchen, did laundry and made dinner. Cabin fever. Couldn't wait for Nate to get home and take me to the library. Finally got my rolling stride with the brace - but still tire out easily. Read The Julius House.

Tuesday. Ben cleaned the bathroom and I did dishes. Watched Away From Her while folding laundry. My new vacuum cleaner arrived, but I can't use it because vacuuming is on my list of banned activities. Ordered the garden stuff and located the soils. Still need to send for the seed varieties. Read Fearless Fourteen.

Wednesday. Ben's friends came and spent the day. They were a little wild and I was not very patient. Sick of reading, sick of computer, sick of TV. Got our food storage figured out to the month and planned purchases for rest of year. Read Peace Like a River. Whined to anyone who would talk to me on the phone. Ben and Nate went to scouts and I watched Baby Borrowers. Ben and I stayed up waaaaayyy too late. (I found out later that Nate had let him have a Coke before scouts. I just had insomnia from not being mentally exhausted.)

Thursday. I spent all day on the sofa because I figured that was the same as being in bed and I didn't wear the brace very much. Plus I was tired from being up so late. Read The Bookwoman's Last Fling.

Friday. My foot is actually feeling minutely better. The tedonitis in my ankle is almost gone and I don't feel so crabby. Ben went roller skating and to a sleep over with his friend. So now I'm all alone. I should enjoy it, but I'm not sure what to do. Probably I'll read another book and shop for seeds online. Maybe Nate won't be too tired this evening and we can go out for supper on all the money I've saved by not driving.

If you've made it this far, let me brag about Ben. He has been the sweetest boy ever! He helps me alot and understands that I can't drive him places. He is always there to help me up and down steps and tells me to sit down and rest my foot. He does most of the daily household chores and helps me with nearly everything. And he does this cheerfully and willingly. What a blessing he has been!

Friday, July 11, 2008


Remember March when I hurt my foot hiking and then proceeded to ignore the swelling and pain hoping it would just go away? I finally went to the doctor today and boy, I do it good. My 5th metatarsal is broken in two places (they think - evidently it is hard to see on xray), and one of the breaks is horseshoe shaped. No healing is evident at this point, so I am relegated to that boot thing that straps onto your leg and immobilizes the foot. Which is great because I am already feeling relief from the tendonitis in my ankle caused by not walking properly to avoid the pain. The bad news is there is no way I can drive in this thing and I have been properly threatened that I must wear it if I will be moving it all (I can take it off to shower). It has been 2 hours and I'm already sick of it. I'm definitely not a patient patient. I go back in 5 weeks to be rex-rayed and see if any healing is evident. If not, then I guess stronger measures will be in order. Here's to my continuing invalid experience.

Monday, July 7, 2008


Fourth of July is my favorite holiday. I love fireworks and I love that Americans come together and show gratitude for the gift of freedom we enjoy.

Ben and Nate got up on the 4th to do the flag ceremony at our church pancake breakfast. I stayed home and slept in. Around 1:30, we drove to Washington-on-the-Brazos, a Texas historical site for a fun-filled day. We started at the Barrington Living Farm and toured it. Ben discovered guineas in one of the barns and helped load firewood into a cart for the Pineywoods team of bulls to pull. After a couple of hours, we hopped on the shuttle bus to the museum, where Nate, Heather & Ben spent a couple more hours (Kim napped on a bench). Then outside to eat supper, and chill out. We returned to the farm where we had parked because it was the best show for fireworks and enjoyed a beautiful display. The evening cooled off and it was just beautiful!

My other celebration this year was that summer school ended on July 3rd, so the 4th was an extra dose of freedom! I have spent the past 3 days sleeping and sleeping. Today I made myself get up because I hired one of our neighbor's boys to help Ben and I begin the summer cleaning. We got the dining room and kitchen done this morning. The whole house should be done by Friday. Which is its own kind of freedom.

Lazy summer days.....this is why I changed careers! The corporate world paid lots of money, but never offered the kind of freedom I needed - to do a job that means something AND be home when Ben is and be a Mom.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Have you ever....

I totally stole this from the Higbee's blog - thought it was cool and made me feel accomplished.

200 things I have and have not done:
1. Touched an iceberg
2. Slept under the stars
3. Been a part of a hockey fight
4. Changed a baby’s diaper
5. Watched a meteor shower
6. Given more than you can afford to charity
7. Swam with wild dolphins
8. Climbed a mountain
9. Held a tarantula
10. Said "I love you" and meant it

11. Bungee jumped
12. Visited Paris
13. Watched a lightning storm at sea
14. Stayed up all night long and watched the sun rise
15. Seen the Northern Lights
16. Gone to a huge sports game
17. Walked the stairs to the top of the Statue of Liberty
18. Grown and eaten your own vegetables
19. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope
20. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment
21. Had a pillow fight

22. Bet on a winning horse
23. Taken a sick day when you’re not ill
24. Built a snow fort
25. Held a lamb
26. Gone skinny dipping
27. Taken an ice cold bath

28. Had a meaningful conversation with a beggar
29. Seen a total eclipse
30. Ridden a roller coaster
31. Hit a home run
32. Danced like a fool and not cared who was looking
33. Adopted an accent for fun
34. Visited the birthplace of your ancestors
35. Felt very happy about your life, even for just a moment
36. Loved your job 90% of the time
37. Had enough money to be truly satisfied
38. Watched wild whales
39. Gone rock climbing

40. Gone on a midnight walk on the beach
41. Gone sky diving

42. Visited Ireland
43. Bought a stranger a meal at a restaurant

44. Visited India
45. Bench-pressed your own weight
46. Milked a cow
47. Alphabetized your personal files
48. Worn a superhero costume
49. Sung karaoke
50. Lounged around in bed all day
51. Gone scuba diving
52. Kissed in the rain
53. Played in the mud
54. Gone to a drive-in theater
55. Done something you should regret, but don’t

56. Visited the Great Wall of China
57. Started a business

58. Taken a martial arts class
59. Been in a movie
60. Gone without food for 3 days
61. Made cookies from scratch
62. Won first prize in a costume contest
63. Got flowers for no reason
64. Been in a combat zone
65. Spoken more than one language fluently
66. Gotten into a fight while attempting to defend someone
67. Bounced a check
68. Read - and understood - your credit report
69. Recently bought and played with a favorite childhood toy
70. Found out something significant that your ancestors did
71. Called or written your Congress person
72. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over

73. Walked the Golden Gate Bridge
74. Helped an animal give birth
75. Been fired or laid off from a job
76. Won money
77. Broken a bone
78. Ridden a motorcycle
79. Driven (in) any land vehicle at a speed of greater than 100 mph
80. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon (with my fear of heights only made it a few steps)
81. Slept through an entire flight: takeoff, flight, and landing

82. Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days
83. Eaten sushi

84. Had your picture in the newspaper

85. Read The Bible cover to cover
86. Changed someone’s mind about something you care deeply about

87. Gotten someone fired for their actions
88. Gone back to school (more than once!)

89. Changed your name
90. Caught a fly in the air with your bare hands

91. Eaten fried green tomatoes
92. Read The Iliad
93. Taught yourself an art from scratch
94. Killed and prepared an animal for eating

95. Apologized to someone years after inflicting the hurt
96. Communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language
97. Been elected to public office
98. Thought to yourself that you’re living your dream
99. Had to put someone you love into hospice care
100. Sold your own artwork to someone who didn’t know you

101. Had a booth at a street fair
102. Dyed your hair
103. Been a DJ
104. Rocked a baby to sleep
105. Dropped a cat from a high place to see if it really lands on all fours
106. Raked your carpet
107. Brought out the best in people
108. Brought out the worst in people
109. Worn a mood ring
110. Ridden a horse
111. Carved an animal from a piece of wood or bar of soap
112. Cooked a dish where four people asked for the recipe

113. Buried a child

114. Gone to a Broadway play
115. Been inside the pyramids
116. Shot a basketball into a basket
117. Danced at a disco (have you seen me dance??!)
118. Played in a band
119. Shot a bird
120. Gone to an arboretum
121. Tutored someone
122. Ridden a train
123. Brought an old fad back into style
124. Eaten caviar
125. Let a salesman talk you into something you didn’t need

126. Ridden a giraffe or elephant
127. Published a book

128. Pieced a quilt
129. Lived in an historic place

130. Acted in a play or performed on a stage
131. Asked for a raise
132. Made a hole-in-one (I assume this is mini-golf?)
133. Gone deep-sea fishing (went - spent most of the time seasick.)

134. Gone roller skating
135. Run a marathon
136. Learned to surf
137. Invented something
138. Flown first class
139. Spent the night in a 5-star luxury suite

140. Flown in a helicopter
141. Visited Africa
142. Sang a solo
143. Gone spelunking
144. Learned how to take a compliment
145. Written a love story

146. Seen Michelangelo’s David
147. Had your portrait painted
148. Written a fan letter
149. Spent the night in something haunted
150. Owned a St. Bernard or Great Dane - oh I wish!
151. Ran away (my room was never clean enough)

152. Learned to juggle

153. Been a boss - just in my classroom!
154. Sat on a jury
155. Lied about your weight

156. Gone on a diet

157. Found an arrowhead or a gold nugget.

158. Written a poem
159. Carried your lunch in a lunchbox
160. Gotten food poisoning
161. Gone on a service, humanitarian or religious mission
162. Hiked the Grand Canyon
163. Sat on a park bench and fed the ducks
164. Gone to the opera
165. Gotten a letter from someone famous
166. Worn knickers
167. Ridden in a limousine
168. Attended the Olympics
169. Can hula or waltz
170. Read a half-dozen Nancy Drew or Hardy Boys books
171. Been stuck in an elevator
172. Had a revelatory dream
173. Thought you might crash in an airplane
174. Had a song dedicated to you on the radio or at a concert

175. Saved someone’s life
176. Eaten raw whale
177. Know how to tat, smock or do needlepoint

178. Laughed ’til your side hurt
179. Straddled the equator
180. Taken a photograph of something other than people that is worth framing
181. Gone to a Shakespeare Festival
182. Sent a message in a bottle
183. Spent the night in a hostel

184. Been a cashier
185. Seen a geyser erupt
186. Joined a union
187. Donated blood or plasma
188. Built a campfire
189. Kept a blog
190. Had hives
191. Worn custom-made shoes or boots
192. Made a PowerPoint presentation
193. Taken a hunter’s safety course
194. Served at a soup kitchen
195. Conquered the Rubik’s cube
196. Known CPR
197. Ridden in or owned a convertible
198. Found a long lost friend
199. Helped solve a crime
200. Responded yes to a calling you hated & ended up loving it.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

I, Benjamin...

Ben opened his first talk in sacrament meeting with: "I, Benjamin, having been born of goodly parents am forced to speak today. Actually, I am thrilled to be here. " (The opening was a compromise since he wanted to say he was born of somewhat-goodly parents.

He shared 4 scriptures that testified of Christ, bore his testimony, and went over his 3-5 minute limit.

Excellent job for your first, or tenth time!

I have discovered the joy and addiction of family history and have spent hours the past few Sundays tracking down family records. It's kind of like being a detective.

Summer school ends on July 3rd and I can hardly wait! Ben has been going with me and doing peer tutoring with 5th graders. We are both ready for some lazy summer days.

Nate's anemia issues are improving, and he actually wants to go and do things some evenings.

We are getting our food storage organized onto some new shelves and planning a garden (in Houston, gardening season begins in early fall.)

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Scout Camp

I have had a wonderful, testosterone-free few days. I took Friday off so I could have a whole day to myself. By Saturday, I was ready for my men to come home. Just as I called to see how much longer they would be, Nate said look out the window and there they were! Ben ran right in the door and gave me the biggest hug. It was great - although a little stinky. Evidently, he only took 1 shower all week.

Ben didn't pass off very many merit badges, but he's nearly completed several. Guess we'll hit the remaining reqs in July. He had a wonderful time being part of a group of boys and definitely grew in confidence and boyness. He thinks he wants to play football in the fall, and so we are working out everyday to be ready.

Nate had a good time too. He was blessed with other leaders who had their own health issues and so they all supported each other and had a good time. He came back with good color and a fair amount of energy and most importantly - a smile.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Spiritual Cockroaches

If you really know me, then you know that I have 2 severe fears in this world.
#1 - Heights. I have this uncontrollable fear of heights. I hyperventilate on overpasses.
#2 - Cockroaches. I love snakes & spiders, but show me a cockroach and watch me run screaming.

Today, while we were in sacrament meeting and enjoying a very spiritual testimony meeting, my sister took off her shoe and started smacking it on the pew in front of us. I raised my eyebrow at her until she mouthed "roach". I immediately cringed, lifted my feet off the floor and pulled up my skirt a little. Eventually, I began to relax until I saw another run across the pew in front of me and another scuttle past my bag. I clasped my mouth shut with my hand and began shaking in terror. Nate asked if I needed to sit in the foyer and Ben started singing "la cucharacha" under his breath. Since we were in the second row in the middle, I didn't want to disturb everyone by crawling over them unless I had to. So I kept telling myself that it was only an insect, they don't eat people, it was only two, etc. Then I noticed waves of disturbances in other pews and the lady behind me held up 5 fingers. UGH!!!! I am proud to say that I did not jump up and begin speaking in tongues, which is what might have happened. I did make it to the end, but I couldn't tell you about the last 7 testimonies. I thought it a fitting end to the meeting when Bro. Groesbeck said that as long as we are spiritually prepared we have no need to fear. Hmmm.....I wonder where that puts me?

Thursday, May 29, 2008


You know, some years you are literally pushing that last child out the door and other years you are holding on, hoping they won't leave.

I'm having a "can't cut the science lab apron strings" year. I really bonded with my 5th graders. Some of them I had taught since 2nd grade, all the others I have taught since 3rd. They knew me and I knew them and we learned alot this year. I was a bigger crybaby during the promotion exercises today than most of the parents. Of course, my little girls and even some of my boys were boo-hooing as well.

Remember the little girl that wrote me a note that said "RIP - you are a witch" - (but as threatening as it looked, she was just celebrating her favorite holiday - Halloween)? She's off to middle school along with the kid who would never sit still during 2nd grade - he kept playing the drums all day. He moved schools and we were so glad and then he returned this year to the chagrin of many of us. He announced to me..."Remember me, Ms. Ottosen? You're the teacher that made me love science". And then of course, the boy in bilingual classes who would never do anything in English - wouldn't even try. The last week of 4th grade I got him to write a short paragraph in English in his journal and this year he passed the state exam in English! The little girl who came in the middle of 3rd grade and didn't know a word of English and was so determined to learn. She would never give up and practiced and practiced and made all her teachers teach her as much as possible - passed all 3 state exams in English and received the Principal's Award for her undying enthusiasm and motivation for succeeding. A handful of our bilingual ed students passed the science TAKS exam in English, which is a much harder test than the reading TAKS, which they failed. What is the logic in that? If they were all going on to the same middle school, I might change jobs.

I'm going to miss my friends. I hope they all invite me to their high school and college graduations.

Of course, summer science camp begins next week and I have a whole new group to make friends with.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Private Eye Power

I am in my 40th year, and I just had an epiphany.

I have been asked by my school district to become a trainer for a program called The Private Eye. This program empowers students by giving them tools, both physical and mental, that allow them to think in analogies, which in turn, opens the creativity in all subjects.

The first two days of our training were spent being trained in these tools. Several exercises ask us to observe closely an object (I chose a sweet gum seedpod) and then create a list of 10 analogies of what it reminds us of. That part was quite easy for me. Then we were required us to use that list and create a written piece. Here is where it all comes to a screeching halt because I HATE TO WRITE! I freeze, I fidget, I hyperventilate...classic signs of a panic attack. It was made worse by the fact that I was surrounded by the best of the best science teachers in our school district, whom I respect and look to as my peers.

I finally wrote a short poem that I was fairly pleased with. We used our new tools to create a drawing of the item, and then it was time to begin sharing our work and I began to have that sinking feeling. Their poems discussed how broccoli looked like the rainforest, and undersea kelp forests. One poem sang the praises of green. My poem in comparison was rather dark and morbid. How unlike an elementary teacher!

Now it is my turn to share my poem and I tell them that I'm a little frightened of sharing because it is darker than what else has been shared and that I hate writing and please don't laugh. So I read my poem...and the stunned silence at the end is broken by a cacophony of spontaneous clapping, requests to reread it, and one complaint from another table: "Yeah, sure the genius who thinks she can't write." Thankfully, the spotlight moves onto others and I can relax.

At lunch, I reflect on what causes me to dismiss writing as something I "can't do". I am a creative person by nature, and love all different kind of creation - even music where I really don't have enough talent to share with the world. Why do I find writing so panicky? As I ponder, I realized that it was all because of my 1st grade teacher. We were given an assignment to write a poem using rhyme and on a Halloween topic. Thus was born my 5 Little Ghostesses poem...and my first bad grade. The teacher informed me that I did not use words that rhymed - I made them rhyme by adding esses to the end and so I had not fulfilled the assignment. I still have the original copy of that poem and her words are burned into my soul. Unfortunately, I am rather sensitive and took her words to mean that I couldn't write a lick. That judgement overcame all other input for the next 34 years.

I shared my thoughts and that original poem with the founder of the Private Eye, Kerry Ruef, as well as some of my peers that happened to be nearby and they were shocked. They saw the power that teachers have to shape children and told me that had I been in their classroom, I would have immediately been sent to the gifted program. Kind words, but now I sort of believe them.

In defense of that first poem, I will share part of it - to prove that the words DID rhyme and to heal that wound from so long ago.

Five Little Ghostesses

Five little ghostesses
Sitting on postesses
Eating buttered toastesses
Greasing their fistesses
Right up to their wristesses
Oh such beastesses
to have such feastesses.

Many thanks to Kerry Ruef and my cohort of Private Eyes in helping me to see that I can express myself in writing and that my unique way of looking at the world is of worth to others.

I am sharing the next piece with the world. You may love it or hate it or just not get it, but you cannot take away the power of its creation and the freedom that sharing it has given me in this, my 40th year.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Power of the Priesthood

Ben turned 12, and as tradition in our church, he was interviewed and found worthy to be ordained to the office of Deacon in the Aaronic priesthood. I do not remember ever being at an ordination. I may have been there when Bryce was ordained, but I'm going to cite middle age memory loss on that one. Not knowing how it is supposed to go, I thought it was really special. We met in the deacon/teacher quorum at the end of their lesson. The bishop spoke for a few minutes about the importance of the priesthood and then Nate was able to ordain Ben. Grandpa, the bishopric, and his leaders (including our good friend Bob Bolster) assisted. Ben received a very special blessing and was required by the bishop to give me a hug. (Good thing because I was going to embarrass him with one anyway.) He immediately went back to being a 12 year old boy, but an experienced mom's eye could see a change.

As the week progressed, Ben was happier, quick to do chores and homework before playing, and he just seems to have a quiet confidence that wasn't present before. He's still a boy, though...he loves video games and still smarts off on occasion and conveniently forgets about homework.

It was interesting to me that my principal shared that he recently became a deacon in his church (at the age of 52). His responsibilities include greeting people as they arrive. It seems to be a much different process than ours and I don't know the details, but the juxtaposition was interesting to note this week.

This Sunday morning, Ben exercised his priesthood duties for the first time and passed the sacrament. He remembered Grandpa Jones' council and passed the trays with his right hand. He did a great job and you could not tell it was his first time. He even looked like an expert at helping our blind sister with the sacrament. I cannot express the feeling of joy and humbleness that I felt as my son, entrusted to me by Heavenly Father, undertook this duty.

The power of the priesthood is real. I know. I saw it this week.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Changes...I don't like them...but I keep making them

Ugh! I thought the transition to middle school was enough of a change for this year. However, Ben turning 12 has ushered in some other changes that I wasn't prepared for. Like how on earth are Nate and I supposed to sit quietly during the sacrament when we don't have to set an example for Ben? And now we actually have to show up BEFORE the sacrament is passed since Ben will be passing it. Not to mention the late Wednesday YM nights...Kim's bedtime just got pushed back an hour. (My students don't know it yet, but I'm grumpy when I don't get to bed by 9).

Comcast bought out Time-Warner a while back and I haven't been pleased with that change. When AT&T's rep showed up on the doorstep to tout their new Uverse fiber optic phone, cable & internet service, they talked me into it by promising to lower my bill.

Add to that the fact that Texas deregulated their electricity service a few years back. I miss the old days when one just didn't have a choice. I have spent 15.5 hours comparing rates, checking service complaints and just plain fence-sitting since my contract with Reliant ended and I had to enter into a new one. I would have just extended with R, but they increased my price by 2 cents per kwh! That just wasn't in the budget since we have virtually no insulation and summer is coming. (i know...i should just roll out that insulation...but have you SEEN my attic?!)

I don't like change...but it sure likes me!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

12 Great Things about Ben

Ben turned 12 on Thursday and celebrated with dinner at Bennigan's where he attempted to release his inner leprechan. In honor of him here are 12 great things about Ben.

1. Ben has always been very determined from the moment of his birth to today. We are fortunate that he has been determined in righteous paths.

2. Ben has a kind heart. He loves animals and babies.

3. Ben is bright. Despite a few learning disabilities, he competes quite well (when he chooses to) at school. He has an encyclopedic knowledge of topics that strike his fancy. Such as greek mythology, pokemon, and warhammer.

4. Ben is honest. He takes after the Joneses in the blatancy of his honesty.

5. Ben is sober in the things of the Lord. He takes his church responsibilites seriously and never makes light of them. He is usually the first to remind us of scriptures and prayers when we get off track.

6. Ben likes to laugh and make other people happy. He must get this from his father who was recently introduced as the "ward comedian".

7. Ben is generous.

8. Ben is a good friend.

9. Ben is forgiving.

10. Ben is quick to show appreciation and gratitude.

11. Ben is quick to bear another's burdens. He often jumps in to help without being asked and endures to the end when he is helping.

12. Ben is polite. He never goes to a friend's house that the parents don't make a point to express how well he behaves and how much they enjoy having him around.

Nate and I are constantly awed by Ben's quiet greatness. He is truly a gift to our family and we hope to be worthy parents of him.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Fossil Fever!

For spring break, we tripped over to Brownswood, TX with the HGMS paleo people to collect fossils. It was beautiful weather with fun people and buckets of fossils to boot!

On Thursday, we collected further afield in Goldthwaite and along road cuts. We were in the Cretaceous layers. We found tons of sea urchins and oysters because sea urchins feed on the slime that grows on oysters (cool, huh?). Sea urchin spines and gastropods were avialable as well.

On Friday, Nate was totally exhausted, so Ben and I joined the crew for a trip to Wilson's Clay pit which is in the Pennsylvanian era. We found crinoid stems and calyx pieces and gastropods by the bagful. This area also held nodules of flint, so the native americans would come and collect crinoid stems for necklaces and chip flint for tools. I found a broken skinning flint and another flint that was for crushing bones to get marrow. We then made a few other stops for urchin spines, cephlaopods, and huge horn coral.
That night we had supper at our trip leader's home and Tully (the local banker) came and showed us all the fossils he had found in the past few years. The cephlapod in the picture was one of his finds!

On Saturday, Nate joined us again as we returned to the clay pit and then drove over to the spillway to get fern and crinoid stars. Then we drove back to Houston so we could celebrate Easter at home.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter

May the Lord bless you and your family!

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Blessed in every way!

I have been constantly reminded of how blessed I am. From getting a flat tire in the church parking lot instead of on the freeway, and then having it patched for free, to being spared any damage when a tree fell down inches from my truck, to having the strength of the spirit during some very odd and stressful experiences at school. I know that the Lord loves me and watches over me and my family everyday.

While we were home with the flu, Ben and I were in the den and witnessed the tree in our neighbor's yard come down - on top of the truck it appeared! The whole neighborhood came running, and we were awestruck when this is what we saw - not even a scratch! No damage to either home, and the neighbor only lost 3 boards out of his fence.