Friday, December 16, 2011

Holidays and a Birthday!

This year was one  of the first Thanksgivings in a while that we did not spend in Virgina with my sister and parents.  We only had two days off for the holiday as opposed to a whole week in Georgia.  All of the teachers spent Thanksgiving at Ginger Crockett's, the junior high teacher's home.  She lives above the Lutheran Church, her husband is the minister, and has an awesome view of the ocean.  Each teacher made yummy dishes and brought them to share.  John cooked the turkey and surprisingly he did a great job. Our friend AnnMarie made some kick butt eggnog!! John was in heaven ( In case you didn't know he is a connoisseur of  eggnog.)  We ended the night playing games, while our kids played with their friends.  It was overall a relaxing holiday.

  I called my sister and asked how dinner went for them, she said, "We missed not having you here to sleep to 11am and then get up to make silly hats for everyone to wear."   When you have great cooks like my mom and sister, I have to do something to show off my talents, which is bringing the festiveness. I missed having dressing, giblet gravy, and squash casserole, but mama said she would make it for Christmas:)

Our friend, AnnMarie, made kuspuks for me and the girls!  We wore them on Thanksgiving.
Here is a picture of my class as Pilgrims.

After Thanksgiving, our next big event was Cate's 5th birthday.  I made the cake this year, which is a big deal for me.  We had a low key birthday party with homemade pizzas, made with the help of my super neighbor and friend, Jennifer, and a few friends.  She had a great time even though we had homemade cake and decorations.  I realized this year that the parties I have thrown in the past for our children were really too extravagant, expensive, and stressful.  They really are just happy being with their friends.
Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow! Snow!!!!!!!!!!!!!
We have now been through a couple of blizzards.  We have a snowdrift in front of our house that is about five feet high.  The girls and their friends spent a whole evening digging tunnels into the snowdrift only to have it covered the next day by another blizzard.  The pictures below were taken at 4pm.  As you can see the sun is setting.

 Cate and her BFF Carol -- or Carold, as Cate calls her.

Sunrise! It was taken about 11:45am.

Mocha, Mocha, Mocha!!  Look how sweet she looks.  Don't let that smile fool you because apparently she is a very popular lady and has had many gentleman callers.  We have not yet gotten her fixed since there is no vet in Brevig.  We were hoping she would not blossom until after we were able to get her to either a vet in Nome or one down south this summer.  Her time came this week, however, and I was shocked to come home the other afternoon, open the door to the qanitchaq (porch) and find Mocha entertaining a friendly male husky.  She was not too happy when I shooed away her friend.  Will we have puppies?  That is a story that will have to be continued later...

Christmas is almost here!  We had a great last week in my classroom.  We read the Polar Express, made homemade ornaments, a vase for parents, and sang Justin Bieber's Santa Claus is Coming to Town for the Christmas program.  A couple of my students looked at me the other day and said, "Teacher you are coming back after Christmas?"  This just broke my heart!  I said, "Of course!"  Teaching in the bush of Alaska is hard, and teachers sometimes do leave at Christmas and never come back. 

Going home has been tough!  As I type, I am sitting at the Aurora Inn in Nome.  We are here spending the night before our flights to Anchorage, Seattle, Houston and then finally Atlanta.  How we got to Nome this evening is pretty interesting.  We were scheduled to leave Brevig at 10 am this morning, however, because of bad weather our flight was cancelled and we were bumped to the afternoon flight.  When that flight started to look like it too was going to be cancelled, we decided to go to the neighboring village, Teller, to catch a flight to Nome.  Teller is only seven miles away, but the visibility there was better.  To get to Teller we had to snow machine across the frozen sea.  We were nervous about this prospect, but our friend CO, a mechanical engineer, assured us that a bulldozer could cross safely at this time of year.  Our custodians, Norman and Robin, hooked the school sled to a fellow teacher and Georgian, Amy's, snow machine.  We then piled onto the sled with our luggage.  Two other teachers, Jennifer and Greg, went with us, but rode on the snow machine.  Once we got to Teller we crashed at the school (thanks Teller staff!!) until our plane arrived.  Their wonderful custodian, Jonathan, drove us to meet the plane.  And here we are sleeping in a nice hotel room waiting for the next leg of our trip home.  The rest of this story is to be continued...

Friday, November 18, 2011


October flew by!  We experienced some awesome events this month. 
Our pumpkin on November 18th.  As you can see we have had some snow!

Have I mentioned that the people here are a little crazy about basketball.  This is probably due to the extreme cold and the fact that you can play it inside.  My first graders even have game.  I would say that the majority of them can shoot a free throw.  I think this is pretty impressive.  In the middle of October our school hosted a basketball tournament for the community.  We actually had people fly in from other villages to play.  You can say it was kinda a big deal.  It lasted for three days and pretty much the whole village attended.  We were impressed with the good sportsmanship.  Our jobs during the tourney were admitting spectators and selling concessions. 

Our school sells concessions to the community every other Friday evening.  We have a cold side that sells chips, drinks, candy and slushies.  The hot side sells pizza, pretzels, and nachos.  In a village with no restaurants, you can imagine how popular Friday concessions are to everyone.  We like participating because we get to meet new people and it brings the village together.  Our girls are in love with the slushies!!

We just celebrated our first Alaskan Halloween.  It was much different from the Halloweens in Georgia.  For one it was cold and there was snow on the ground.  Our school held a costume parade.  Every child received a dollar who participated.  25 bucks was rewarded to the best costumes in each grade level.  Our family just finished reading Alice in Wonderland so we all dressed as characters from the novel.  I was the Queen of Hearts, John was the Mad Hatter, Cate was the White Rabbit and Claire was Alice.  We left school at 4 pm, thinking that we would have time to eat dinner before trick or treating.  Little did we know that trick or treating starts early in Brevig Mission.  Some of Claire's friends came and got her, and daddy took baby girl.  It was neat to see homemade popcorn balls in the girls pumpkins.

My class
Junior High Zombies!! Pretty Scary aren't they??

Who knew that Alaska had a Scarlet O'hara?  Claire with her friend 'little' Leah.

The Storm of the Century!!
On November, 8 we were predicted to have one of the worst storms in Bering Sea history.  The storm was bad, but not of epic proportions.  We experienced 90 mph winds.  The winds blew the snow around and created white out.  We normally can see the school from our living room window.  All we could see was white!  The next morning the wind died down, but the waves from the sea were fairly rough.  We were lucky that no houses were flooded.  We had school the next day, however, I had only one student make it. In honor of the storm  I, John, and our neighbor Jennifer, watched Stephen King's Storm of the Century.
Mocha was very concerned about the storm.  This is her sleeping during the 90 mile winds that were rocking our trailer to kingdom come.
Inupiaq Words
quyanna  thank you
anaq  go poop
amuk  carrying your baby on your back
mukluk boots
There are more, but these are the ones I hear the most.  My students like to say "how come" when they have a question.  They also say" I never" meaning they did not do something.  My students also call me teacher.  In the lower 48 this might be considered disrespectful, but here it is an honor.  I have so many drawings from my students hanging behind my desk that say teacher I love you or even Misty I love you.  I feel really appreciated.
Cate amuking her baby doll.

Eskimo Food
We have an aide at our school named Darla who has been super about letting us try Eskimo food.  So far we have had muktuk, which is whale blubber, walrus, moose and muskox...oh and dried fish.  I was surprised that these foods are actually pretty good.  I really liked the walrus!  We have seal and stink flipper on our list to try next.

Native Arts
This month we purchased a spotted seal and beaver hat for John.  My aide, the awesome, Pauline made it by hand!  It is the warmest hat you could possibly wear.  I also bought an Eskimo doll.  It too is all hand made from seal, beaver, and rabbit fur with a carved ivory face.  We have met some talented artist in this community.

Monday, September 26, 2011


September has been another busy month.  We both thought that we would have more free time here, but work has once again consumed us.  Having keys to the school does not help someone who is a workaholic. 

The girls are adjusting well.  Claire loves her teacher.  She loves studying math and science!!  She has made some really good friends as well as Cate.  Cate is enjoying preschool.  She is going by her first name, Ella, at school.  We thought she needs to get use to using her formal name rather than a nickname.  She likes being called Ella.  Some of the kids in the village call her Cate and some call her Ella.  We have tons of kids at her house each day.  We love this because it was one of the things we hoped for when we moved here.

We got a dog!!  Her name is Mocha.  She is two years old and is half dachshund and half husky.   She looks like the native muskox found here.  She definitely takes after a husky in the fact that she loves to run.  We are all becoming very attached to her.

We bought our first native Eskimo art this month.  We bought a walrus tusk carving of seals on a mammoth tooth.  I also bought an ornament and barrette made from seal fur.  My friend AnnMarie made me a traditional Eskimo shirt called a kuspuck.

What's a muskox??  We have herds of reindeer, caribou, moose and muskox around here.  Muskox are a cross between a cow and ox.  They have upside down horns and are very hairy.  Our neighbor killed one and these pictures are of the remains. 

There is no need for a car here, but an ATV...well that's another story.  We bought a Yamaha Grizzly 750, which is now our new family car.  You want believe how many people you can fit on an ATV!  The Grizzly is mostly for John, who has become a fan of riding out onto the Tundra.

I have traveled to many beaches around the world, and have never once found a starfish.  Who would have thought that I would find a rocky beach covered with them in Northern Alaska.  We have collected tons of these awesome creatures.  We have found tiny starfish all the way to large ones.  I never get tired of collecting them.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

On your mark, get set, go!!

The school year has officially begun, and we feel we are running a marathon.  We always feel this way at the beginning of the year, but this year is different because I am teaching a new grade level and John is teaching six different classes.  We have been working, working, working!

 Claire started second grade, and is adjusting well.  She loves her teacher, Miss Amy, and she is fitting in with her classmates.  She misses our house and her grandparents, but she did say that she liked it here.  Claire loves the nature!  She has gone berry picking,  has tried dried fish, found a couple of starfish, rode on 4 wheelers, and continues to add to a massive rock collection.

Cate started preschool on August 31.  She is loving her teacher, Mrs. Liz!  It also helps that we know Liz and have eaten at her house several times before school started.  Cate enjoys all the attention she gets from the other kids.  They love carrying her and playing with her hair.  Cate also has made good friends with a student in my class who is a sweetie named Grace.  We had to take Cate to the clinic to have a tb test for school.  She was not happy, and screamed so loud the whole village probably heard her.

I am teaching first grade this school year.  I have 12 sweeties!  Two are identical twins who usually dress the same each day.  The only way I can tell them a part is by a freckle above the eye that one twin has. I am learning a new reading program, which is taking me sometime to figure out.  I have a smart board in my classroom, which is also something I am having to learn, but I love it.  I have a para pro who helps me all day!!  This would be unheard of in Georgia!  Her name is Pauline, she is a local, and she is awesome!!  I am also learning Eskimo words and facial expressions.  When you ask a question, if the response is yes, they raise their eyebrows.  If the response is no, they scrunch their noses.  I have found myself doing this as well.

John is loving the outdoors!  He and several other teachers have set a net to catch salmon.  Our freezer has several bags of fresh Salmon we filleted ourselves.  Fresh salmon is sooooooooooooo good.  Our kids even love it!  John is struggling with prepping for all the different classes he is teaching.  We both feel there is not enough time in the day to plan. 

The people here are great!  The village has been so welcoming.  It is nice to go to the store and people know your name.  The teachers here are also super.  We have made great friends with our neighbor, Jennifer, who is from Washington state.  She is the English/ Social Studies teacher for the upper grades.  We love her, our kids love her, and she makes living here so much fun!  We also love the Rudstroms who are from Minnesota, the Anderson's from Oregon, the Alston's from Idaho/Washington, John Lycan from West Virginia, Greg Melvin from Oklahoma, Karen and Alan from Oregon, Hannibal, our principal, from Montana, and Amy Norman who makes me feel like I am at home every time I talk to her because she is a southern belle from Georgia too!

 Ginger who is also a teacher at the school, has lived in the village for more than 20 years.  Her husband is the Lutheran pastor, and they have raised four children here.  Their oldest daughter Abby has been baby sitting for us.  She watches Cate in the morning until 10:30, when it is time for her school to begin.  She has been a blessing for us!!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Alaska at last

After a long and boring flight we landed in Anchorage, July 31.  We spent two days in the city shopping, sight seeing, and completing other mundane tasks.  We thought that the mountains surrounding Anchorage were beautiful along with the flowers and evergreen trees.  We even saw a moose cross the street.  I had no idea how big they were.  We took our Alaska drivers license test in Anchorage as well.  Sadly for me I did not pass, but John did, even though, I am the better driver:)

We flew out of Anchorage on August 2 and spent the day in Nome before flying to Brevig Mission.  While in Nome we saw the spot where the Iditarod ends, visited a really neat museum, shopped for groceries...oh and I retook my drivers test and drum roll please...I PASSED!!  We both are official Alaska residents.  We flew in a small plane that sat 6 into our village.  When we landed we were picked up from the airport in one of maybe two vehicles in town.  Our principal, Hannibal Anderson and John Lycan the science teacher met us and took us to our new home. 

Our new home is a trailer across the street from the school.  This makes a great commute and we have the least amount of yards to walk in the snow than any other teacher at the school.  We spent the next several days cleaning and unpacking.  We now feel like this is home and we are pretty comfortable here.  We were both impressed by the school.  It is probably one of the nicest schools in which I have taught.  I have a smart board in my room which is far more than what I had in Georgia.  We were also both issued Mac books by the school system. 

On August 9 we flew to the school district office in Unalakleet.  If you have watched Flying Wild Alaska on the Discovery Channel, this is where it is filmed.  We spent three days at new teacher orientation.  We were welcomed into the home of the superintendent.  He and his wife have two boys close in age to our girls.  Our girls played with their boys while we attended classes.  We were both amazed at how much of a family the district office feels.  Everyone knew our names!!

Brevig Mission has been super at making us feel welcome.  The people here are nice and friendly.  Our kids have made several friends as have we.  The teachers here have also been fabulous!!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


We officially moved out of our home of 12 years.  We were fortunate to have a friend rent our home from us!  We were both sad to pack up the house that we bought together as a young couple and the home where our little girls were born.  I became teary eyed as I remembered the first meal we shared in our home -- take out on the floor of our empty living room.  Even with the flood of emotions we are excited for our future and are ready for a new start.  Things we will miss about Atlanta... our home and friends.  Things we will not miss... endless traffic, lines, road rage, and the overall urban attitude. 

We are spending the next month visiting family.  The first week of July was spent in Fredericksburg, VA at my sister's home.  We took Claire and cousin Will to see the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights.  They share my love of history.  Cate and cousin Avery, the tiny dancers, enjoyed the Degas statues and paintings at the National Art Museum.

This week we are in Williamston, SC visiting my parents, Nanny and Poppy.  Our cat, Princess Peach, will live the next year here and has adjusted well to her new surroundings.  We have spent most of our time relaxing, swimming, reading, swinging on the Oak tree, and eating my mom's cooking.  The last week and a half we will spend in Rome, GA visiting John's parents, grandma and grandpa. 

Many people have asked us how we are getting our personal belongings to Brevig Mission.  Well... our new home will be furnished so we have sold or stored most of our furniture.  We have shipped via US post office most of our personal items.  I think we have shipped about 40 boxes and I am worried we are on the bad list of the person from the school collecting our boxes -- sorry, John L.!  I think 40 boxes for a family of four is pretty good, though.  We have shipped toys, towels, books, bedding, kitchen stuff, pillows, food, clothes...etc.  The post office in McDonough has begun to despise us.  We both agree, however, that this moving thing has not been so bad.

The kids are nervous about moving and making new friends.  This is understandable for their ages and this has become John's and my biggest prayer.  Claire who is seven is very worried about fitting in.  Cate who is four is worried about bears.  They are not really aware of what awaits them in the form of air travel.  I really do not think John and I do either!!

Our next blog will be from Brevig Mission, Alaska in three weeks! :)  Please keep us in your prayers!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

April 2011

We just signed contracts to teach at Brevig Mission School in Brevig Mission, AK.  We are all super excited!!  We have gotten a lot of encouraging words and strange looks.  Yes, we know it is going to be cold.  Yes, we know there is no Target, Publix, McDonalds, or Walmart and we are okay:)  We are hoping to simplify our hustle and bustle life, reconnect as a family, and rekindle our passion for teaching.  This blog will serve as a way for us to share our adventure with others!! We know it is going to be hard, but we welcome this new change.