2016 Yearbook

This section is dedicated to focusing on and documenting things that make me happy in my day-to-day life.  As a generally happy person this wasn’t a hard thing for me to commit to but it’s going to be a test of my organization and dedication to see if I can get a picture each day.  I wrote at the end of 2015 about happiness and shared some ideas about all the amazing things life has to offer.  This section is the result of my first ever New Year’s resolution, it documents my 2016 and my many moments of happiness in reverse chronological order.

I began this year with my first ever New Year’s resolution.  I didn’t know how it would go or if I’d have the endurance to make it through, but I did!  What follows from here is my year in review, in reverse order.   The reason I started this resolution was to focus on the positive each and every day.  To stop and reflect and appreciate the things going on around me.  Most of the memories, looking back, were of mundane things that would have (perhaps) otherwise been passing occurrences.  However, thanks to my resolution to take one picture every day of something that made me happy, I was able to (and will be able too) appreciate those moments.

2016 was a great year!  There were times where taking a picture on a particular day was a challenge, especially some of those lazy weekends where I didn’t do much of anything!  However, knowing that I needed a picture did, at times, drive me to get up and doing something I enjoyed  just so I had a picture…a win-win.  Even now, as I look back through the year there are a lot of pictures and memories that make me smile and bring me happiness. So, not only did my resolution make my year better each day but it will be able to lift me up when I’m feeling down in the future 🙂

On  with the show…and 2017!

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December 31:  Well, here it is, the last day of the year.  We’ve seen some weird things around here, weird to us anyway.   I asked an Ecuadorean colleague about them and got some explanations.  First off, there are people selling life-size effigies made out of old clothes and newspaper.  These were a little scary, as it turns out these get burned tonight at midnight to represent the end of the “bad” past year and hoping that the new year a will bring better things.  Based on the amount of these that we saw around town, there are going to be a lot of fires at midnight!  The other thing we saw was all sorts of men dressed up as women, wigs and all.  These are the “viudas” or widows, apparently of the men who are being burned that night. They will beg for beer money, to the point of blocking traffic.  We got lucky and avoided any of that silliness!  We had a nice dinner and a few drinks and then took a walk around 11.  We saw the “viejos” getting set up and started hearing signs of the fireworks to come at midnight.  It was a great end to 2016!

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December 30:  I was spending some time today looking though photos from our trip when all of the sudden my computer just shut down and I can’t get it to turn back on.  So my photos are on hold for a while.  I did, however, have these sketches to look back at and laugh.  A few years ago, in China, there was a few month stretch where I had people randomly sketching me left and right, of course the wanted some money but it was like they were popping up everywhere!  So when someone sketched Amy and I (the color sketch) in Havana I chuckled as I recalled those days in China.  Then someone did it again in Cienfuegos (the two separate pictures) and I laughed pretty hard.  Good  memories and lots of fun.  Anyway, today was a lazy day otherwise and some sports to watch at night.

Week 52:  

A while back I realized that the weeks weren’t adding up…I’m at week 50 and the year is over…hmmm [Update:  I figured it out, I mislabeled week 40 as 38, thus I was off for the rest of the year!]  I must’ve done the math wrong somewhere, I’ll have to see if I can rectify that.  Anyway, most of this past week was at home relaxing after we got back from the last bit of Cuba.  It was a great trip and probably ended up being the right length of time after we cut it short.  We’re getting ready to tackle the new year and start off on the right foot.

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December 29:  Now that we’re home we’re dealing with the realities of being home again.  We tried one more time to get in to see a doctor but were unsuccessful.  A few weeks ago we turned in our key cards to get reprogrammed, we’re yet to get them back.  It looks like we’re not the only ones, the guards have rigged up a nifty system so they can reach the sensor without running all the way around.  I love the ingenuity to save a little effort 🙂  We also hit Rogue One this evening, it was really good.  3D, VIP, IMAX, the whole works!IMG_8401.JPG

December 28:  We’re home with nothing to do and we slept like it today!  Once we finally got ourselves moving we needed to address the fact that we had no food in the house.  We headed over to the grocery store and passed this guy who was adding a new piece of art to the wall between our apartment and the grocery store.  It was largely a lazy afternoon, we tried to get a doctor’s appointment for Amy but found out that we’d have to wait until the new year as the doc was on holiday.  She’ll live, being home in our own bed was enough to ease a lot of the pain 🙂

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December 27:  Before heading to the airport we made one last trip around the old town of Havana.  We got up and going before too many tourists were on the street but by the end of the walk we saw lots of tour groups moving as small mobs around the area.  We purchased a few cigars to bring back to Ecuador, neither of us being smokers it was still one of those things you just HAVE to get in Cuba 🙂  We headed to the airport in our “taxi” seen above.  It was a ’53 Chevy, awesome!  Our flights were uneventful (a good thing) and we were home by 9:00PM.  All in all a good day of travel.

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December 26:  Our last full day in Cuba.  We had originally planned to stay until the 1st but Amy’s arm has been very painful and we wanted to get her home to rest and see a doctor so we’re leaving tomorrow.   We hoped on a bus for the six hour ride back to Havana, it was long!  However, we arrived safely and returned to the smiling face of Daisy our first Casa host.  She helped us confirm a taxi tomorrow and we had the afternoon to enjoy Havana.  We hit the local artisan/tourist market and bought a few trinkets for gifts and a painting for ourselves.  We had a cheap local dinner and enjoyed the relative quiet of the streets afterward, stopping for a drink at Flordita (one of Hemingway’s former watering holes.)

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December 25:  Merry Christmas!  A beautiful sunny day in Trinidad with no family around sure makes Christmas seem weird.  We had a great day though, we went for a hike to the highest point around the area and could see as far as the eye would allow.  It was a spectacular sight.  At the top of the hill there are a bunch of antennas with a guard station manned by a lone ranger.  It seems that he has taken the liberty to give small tours with his binoculars and sell cold beverages to those  who’ve made the hike.   He was super informative and his water was cold, so I was happy for him!!  This evening I headed out for a sunset stroll as recommended by the Lonely Planet book.  There were lots of photo worthy moments to be sure, this one was perfectly lit.  A nice Christmas dinner topped off the evening, great food and a great view!

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December 24:  I got up early this morning for another walk around Cienfuegos, before the tourists came out.  I really enjoyed this when I was in Havana and decided to do it again here.  I saw lots of interesting people and things:  A line outside of a small market at 6:30 AM as the truck was unloading was gone by 7:30 along with everything that the truck had dropped off.  I also noticed the coast line, it was 90% empty.  I thought about how a harbor/bay such as this in America would’ve been surrounded by homes/condos/businesses worth millions of dollars.  Anyway, we were off to Trinidad after a long wait for the bus.  What an incredibly cool city!  Our Casa was run by  a young family, right about our age.  They were super helpful with recommendations for food, travel, and sights to see.  We had a great dinner and capped off the night by exploring the city, we even found Santa 🙂

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December 23: We really enjoyed our Casa Particular last night except that the beds are really well used, which means tough to sleep in.  Since  Amy’s arm is bothering her and she hasn’t been sleeping well I decided we needed to ensure a good night’s sleep.  For that reason I popped in and found a vacancy at one of the nicer hotels here in Cienfuegos.  This was the courtyard, beautiful!   The hotel has a pool so we checked in early and enjoyed the pool this afternoon.  Dinner was at a local pizza place (just like in Havana) and it was perhaps the best pizza I’ve had since I left Italy!  I was shocked by how good this pizza was, no wonder there was a line of locals waiting to get in!

Week 51:

 An awesome week in Cuba.  We’ve learned a lot and met some really interesting people.  The experience has been tough for Amy who has been an absolute trooper considering that she was hit by a truck just one week ago!  I’ve taken a lot of pictures and can’t wait to see how they turn out.  More to come…

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December 22:  On the move today, heading to Cienfuegos.  It was about three hours of driving with a stop off at a roadside oasis.  They had a little shop along with a snack bar and pharmacy.  Browsing in the shop was entertaining, lots of imported items that you have to wonder how they even got them in.  The highlight was easily this Miller Lite, going for about a $1 per can which isn’t too bad considering the Cuban beer was about the same price.  Arriving in Cienfuegos we found our Casa Particular, a place where over 11,000 guests have stayed before us according to the guest book.  It was a beautiful place with a great rooftop terrace that gave us a wonderful view of the main park and cathedral.

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December 21:  Our last full day in Havana gave us a great chance to see a couple more things but mostly just hang out and get to know the people better. I started the day off with a sunrise walk around the old town to take some pictures and see the city before the tourists flood in.  Once we had eaten we headed to the old fort we had a couple nice interactions with some of the employees who were very helpful and gave us some brilliant ideas for pictures and things to see, although as you can see we still enjoy selfies now and again.  We ate dinner at a local pizza place, no tourists in this place 🙂

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December 20:  We got a late start today after a little lie in.  Once we got moving we headed toward the capital  building  where we joined the Hop-on Hop-off bus tour.  It was a great experience seeing parts of the city that we otherwise wouldn’t have found.  Afterward we went to lunch, we had a recommendation from a friend from the school community who’s been there many times, at a great restaurant.  Turns out, it was also the place Obama ate while he was in Havana.  We had no reservation and got really lucky (I think dropping our friend’s name helped too!) to get a table, everyone else we saw was turned away.  Anyway, the food was excellent (the best we had in Cuba) and the ambiance was terrific!  We enjoyed a great afternoon and enjoyed a nice evening in the Plaza Vieja area.

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December 19:  Today was another brilliant experience in learning more about Cuba and the people here.  We needed to go a little easier today because Amy was sore from a full day of travel followed by another full day of touring and exploring.  Today we went to the Museum of the Revolution which is housed in the former Presidential Palace.  There are still bullet holes in the marble walls along the main staircase from the day they stormed the palace during the Bautista overthrow.  Fidel and Raul Castro, along with Che Guevara are the centerpieces of the revolutionary story in Cuba as they were the main organizers and leaders during and after the overthrow.  Che’s likeness is everywhere in Cuba, we learned a lot more about his story than we had previously known, interesting stuff.  To end the night we saw a Flamenco show, an interesting comparison to the shows I’d previously seen in Spain.

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December 18:  Our first full day was full of exploring but also enjoying the fruits of Cuba…particularly the Rum Fruit 🙂 To be honest, Amy can’t drink on her medication I’ve enjoyed one or two but we’re not overindulging!  We’ve seen some amazing things and learned a lot about the realities here on the ground in Cuba.  Old Havana is amazing, like walking into a time machine.  It’s like a mix of the 1950s and the early 2000s, very strange but also very cool.  We took a tour in a 1957 Bel Air convertible, such a cool experience.  We learned a lot about the Revolution and history of Havana.  We popped into a couple small museums too: old weapons, an old-style drug store, and a playing card museum.  A great day 1!

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December 17:  We were up early this morning to catch our flight.  Amy is feeling a little better today, thanks to the meds we got from the doc.  Our trip may have been saved by these drugs, amazing!  We’ll travel  with care and I’ll be carrying all the bags but Amy is a serious trooper!  Our flights were quick and easy and as we came into Cuba we got a great view of the Carribean waters and the beauty of the islands!  We settled into a nice Casa Particular and explored some Habana Vieja.

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December 16:  Amy’s pain meds have worn off today and her pain is starting to really kick in, getting hit by a truck hurts!!  She’s a warrior though and is battling through.  We were fortunate again today to have another of our amazing community members step up.  Garth brought the school doctor down to our apartment with some great medicine and a prescription for more 🙂  We’re leaving for our trip to Cuba tomorrow, very exciting but also very nerve-wracking considering Amy’s condition.  Before we left we wanted to make sure we had enough cash since our credit cards won’t work there, so I headed to the mall for an ATM machine.  As I walked through the mall I was hit by the fact that Christmas is celebrated everywhere in very similar ways!!

Week 50:  

Quite the event to end this week, something neither Amy or I will forget!  It was scary and traumatizing but at the end of the day she was very lucky to be able to, literally, walk away from this accident.  We’re extremely grateful for the amazing community we have surrounding us here in Quito.  Next up, a “people to people” trip to Cuba!! 

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December 15:  Today was going along nicely, the last day of exams and last full day of the semester.  And then Amy got hit by a truck…yeah, not  good!  Luckily she didn’t hit her head and came away in one solid piece (no broken bones).  Looking for the positive in the day, when there wasn’t a ton to find, we were very lucky to have such amazing colleagues to help us out.  In particular our Head of School’s Assistant stepped up in a major way.  She came with me to the site of the accident, rode in the ambulance with Amy, and stayed with us all the way through the emergency room visit.  Everything she did made us feel cared for and put both Amy and I at ease.  The picture from today is a small piece of evidence of the lengths she went to make everything feel great for us…after Amy was admitted to the ER she even folded all of her clothes neatly for her 🙂  We’re very lucky to have such amazing people in our community.

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December 14:  Exams roll on around here and teachers are working hard to find ways to get through the grading.  I came upon one teacher who decided she needed some sunlight to keep her going…classically comfortable!!  We’re almost done with exams and the semester, crazy how fast it all went.

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December 13:  Another day of exams, much more calm and relaxed today, the first day is always the worst.  Also, Christmas treats are flying around now…we got a few deliveries today, yummy!!  For the most part a rather uneventful day.  A big storm to finish off the school day made getting home a mess but we made it.  We ran to the store to get few things and withdraw some cash for our upcoming trip.  Finished the night off with some sushi, a favorite of ours for sure!

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December 12:  High School exams started up today so it’s a busy time in the HS, anxiety is too high, kids are stressed, and teachers are on edge…it all makes me wonder if exams are worth it.  I proctored the first session this morning, English, which happens to be a good exam to start off with.  No “right or wrong” necessarily, more analysis.  In the afternoon I was able to get some work done with MS kids and then helped out in the 6th grade math room, a great way to end the day.  As I was making my way back to the HS side of campus I noticed a group of kids looking up into a tree…turns out they think decorating a with soccer shoes is normal 🙂 We raced home to beat the Pico y Placa 4:00 time limit and then I did some yoga and made dinner.

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December 11:  Another typical Sunday.  Although, today we (mostly Amy) got busy making some Puppy Chow.  We took advantage of the free day to get our holiday treats made and packaged up, we’ll deliver tomorrow and start the week off with a sweet treat.  The Packers had a nice win today which made for an enjoyable evening.  We’re ready for one last week before the winter holiday begins 🙂

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December 10:  It’s a beautiful morning to have some Mac ‘n Cheese for breakfast!  Amy found this extremely weird (I suppose with reason) but for me it seems totally normal 🙂  After that awesome breakfast we were off to the school Holiday party.  It was a day-time BBQ style party at one of the country clubs around the area.  We enjoyed a nice party on the polo grounds.  Kan Jam turned into a major attraction as we had three games going at once!  After an afternoon of fun and games we headed home for a relaxed evening.

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December 9:  Another “normal” day, a Friday that feels like a…well, it feels like something.  I got a last minute call to cover a PE class where I managed to go 2-5 while playing doubles badminton, if not for my partners I may have gone 0-7!  It was a blast though and I think the kids had fun beating up on me 🙂  A great day wrapped up with some

 

 Week 49:

What a wild week: Fiestas de Quito, a day off, a half day, whew!  Next week starts exams for the High School kids, that will be intense coming off such a wild week.  Hoping that our kids can buckle down and take care of business next week.  MS is wrapping up the first half of the year in their own way and we’ve got music concerts, film festivals, and all sorts of good stuff coming up in the next week…fun!!

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December 8:  It’s a beautiful day and it’s another silly day, half day today.  With all the other craziness around here this day seems a bit over the edge but we’ll prevail.  In the MS we’ve made this a “Culture Day”, our third one of the year.  We started with an assembly and some mentor time.  Then moved to a few House Games, they were a blast.  The Jaguars and Bears came away with victories but it was the Sharks who really got to celebrate.  They won the book drive contest and won the right to shave Dan’s hair into a mohawk that they then painted green!!  A great day all around.

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December 7:  We’re back to business today, a “regular” Wednesday but it sure feels strange.  Also, we’ve got the architects from Flansburgh Architects visiting to show us some of the work they’ve done on our Master Facilities Plan.  It was cool to see their mock-up of the school and hear some of what they’re thinking for the potential future of our school.  Their ideas range from fairly basic changes to some really drastic and potentially super impactful moves.  The future is exciting for this campus, no doubt about that!

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December 6:  Happy Fiestas de Quito!  It’s been awfully loud around here, lots of music and revelry until late into the night.  Traditionally people celebrate this holiday in similar fashion to Independence Day in other countries, lots of drinking and celebrating.  Here, however, they also ride around in “chivas” or big trucks meant for about 30 people to stand, drink, dance, and listen to music.  They cruise around town until the wee hours and people LOVE them this time of year.  As for Amy and I, we enjoyed the relative quiet of the morning hours and then played in a Cuarenta (local card game) tournament with some friends, we didn’t show very well but it was fun to try!

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December 5:  We’ve got one day and then another day off!  Crazy week for sure.  Today is the opportunity for HS to celebrate Fiestas de Quito.  It’s another silly schedule and we’ve got lots of energy in the air, HS always brings the biggest show for FdQ.  The performances this year were incredible as always, with a minor controversy on the side.  One grade had a stellar performance and earned the popular vote…yet they didn’t win the competition 😦  At the end of the day everyone walked away with smiles on their faces and had enjoyed a great show.  I snapped this picture in the moments leading up to the assembly, it was madness but had an electric vibe!

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December 4:  Typical Sunday around here for us, nothing too exciting.  We watched the Packers get their second win in a row, although they didn’t look great.  It was a snowy day in Green Bay and it helped us appreciate (not that we need much help) all of the beautiful weather we have around here.  I headed to the store after the game, oops.  The positive to the long crazy lines is that there is plenty of time to people-watch, and lots of people!!!

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December 3:  Weekend!!  Generally for us that means relaxing and getting things done around the house.  This weekend it means BADGERS!  The basketball team played this afternoon, and won, with entertainment along the way.  There was a little tie-up and one of the players from Oklahoma over-reacted so much that Nigel Hayes (Badgers) made a huge reaction of his own.  Coincidentally my computer froze just as it happened and I got a great shot of it with my phone 🙂  We had a great dinner with Nick and Vanessa at Banh Mi before coming home to a disappointing loss in the Big Ten Championship football game, it was a good season, and a better day, though.

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December 2:  It’s finally here…Fiestas de Quito.  All the practice and anticipation are coming together today for the Elementary and Middle School kids.  There were some great shows and lots of attention to Quito’s traditions and legends.  Our students take a lot of pride in celebrating this great city and their productions showed that today…it was a great afternoon of honoring Quito.

Week 48:

Well, November is gone, I’m not sure how that happened so quickly.  I guess staying busy has it’s perks.  This week was a bit longer than it needed to be, starting off with a crazy Monday.  All’s well that ends well though.  Fiestas de Quito celebrations are happening tomorrow and Monday, should be a loud weekend with all the revelry happening around town!  

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December 1:  The Fiestas de Quito run up is getting intense.  Kids are staying after school to work on their productions, the energy level is high and everyone is enjoying themselves.  Due to some silly schedules this week we’ve had a couple MS-HS scheduling clashes which led to me teaching Design Tech this afternoon.  I had a group of 6th graders who’ve just finished a project and have a lot of scrap wood lying around.  Their teacher, seeing that they kept trying to turn those scraps into dice, decided what better project than to recycle the scraps and make some actual dice!  It’s a cool project and the kids enjoyed working on getting all the pips lined up just right, they’ll drill once back in their room.

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November 30:  Things are starting to get back to normal around here.  Dan returns from his recruiting trip tomorrow, although Garth is gone now at the AASSA conference.  Leading two divisions at the same time is a juggling act but certainly an adrenaline rush at times.  After the hectic start to the week, today seemed like a peach.  When I got home, Amy had finally started unpacking…and this was on my bed.  Her family had a Star Wars theme night during their Thanksgiving gathering, she ended up with a Darth Vader helmet, this will certainly come in handy some day 🙂

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November 29:  With all the excitement of yesterday behind us it is time to continue on preparing for Fiestas de Quito.  December 6 is celebrated as the Founding of Quito, nearly 500 years ago.  The school celebrates with division-wide assemblies on the days leading up to this holiday.  We’ve arranged an alternate schedule that allows our students a little prep time on stage, with most of the work being done either in their Spanish class or mentor time (depending on age).  It’s an exciting time, the kids are certainly energetic about it all!

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November 28:  Amy got back in the middle of the night, which means not tons of sleep for me.  Having her back safe is more important though, I’ve survived on less sleep and will do it again.  The day took a wild turn as I encountered something I’d never been up against in education, not as a student or educator.  The result was great, we didn’t encounter any problems but were able to send a message regarding the importance of safety on our campus.  Some where in the middle of all the craziness I was in the HS Learning Commons supervising a grade 9 class…these two girls insisted that this was their most productive seating arrangement.

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November 27:  As the end of Movember comes to a close, we need to celebrate.  A few of us who maintained facial hair (different than our usual looks) got together for a little BBQ and celebration.  I think we were all eager to shave after our gathering and most rushed off to do just that.  We were at Garth’s and a couple of the boys lost a ball over the wall…it turned into quite the entertaining pursuit as we watched them try to climb the wall, then find a ladder, and eventually get the ball back.  We all had to have a look over the wall to see what obstacles they were dealing with too!!

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November 26:  Today was a glorious day of couch, football, and a little house work.  I woke up early enough to head to the big box home goods store today (MegaKywi).  I was looking to find some wood to construct a shelf for our kitchen closet but came up empty.  In lieu of building my own I decided to put one together 🙂  I bought this shelf and used some time in front of the TV to get it put together.  Amazing how fast you can fill up a shelf…looks like we really did need it after all!!

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November 25:  Since Amy is away (she’s in Dallas with her family for Thanksgiving) I’m free to lay around watching football all weekend.  Although, today, I got up for a round of Friday morning golf with Garth.  We were fortunate enough to gain access to a really nice country club due to a parent from school, very cool.  We both played okay but showed some rust from not having played since July.  This picture is of number 15, hanging off the edge of the cliff (on the left).  It looks worse from here but not by much!  A fun morning with plenty of football in the afternoon 🙂

Week 47:  

Lots of gratitude and giving thanks this week.  We’ve been busy around school but were rewarded with a 3.5 day weekend.  The celebration at school was great, lots of smiles and lots of food.  With Amy being gone I’ll be enjoying a lot of football without feeling like I’m ruining her weekend!  Happy Thanksgiving to all!

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November 24:  It’s American Thanksgiving today and it was a great one.  We celebrated at school and enjoyed a great feast with our Cougar Buddies.  The atmosphere around school is fantastic and our students really enjoy the opportunity to come together to share gratitude.  Some of the guys followed turkey with the traditional “Turkey Bowl” up at school, we won 10-9!  In the afternoon I headed up to Garth’s house to celebrate Thanksgiving with friends and colleagues.  Turkey, stuffing, mac ‘n cheese pizza, and all the rest.  It was a great evening and we had lots of fun.  Hanging out with Dan and Garth always turns into lots of laughs and silliness, going to miss these guys next school year.

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November 23:  It’s the last day of prep before the big Thanksgiving celebration and also one of the last school days before NaNoWriMo ends.  Our students have been working hard and, as I previously shared, are open to using their lunch time to work on their stories.  Due to the overwhelming response last time, our teachers split up the grade levels for today’s write-in so that our routers wouldn’t crash under the heavy burden of more than 100 people trying to access Google Docs.  It was another awesome session of furious writing and creativity.

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November 22:  Tuesdays always seem crazy and today was no different.  In fact, to add to it all, the internet has had some serious problems at school lately and today was a low point.  Fortunately, the HS internet has been pretty solid but other parts of the school have been terrible.  I walked into the Learning Commons today to find a group of 4th graders here working on stuff for their Spanish class.  It was pretty cool, this is the kind of thing we envisioned when we designed this space.

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November 21:  Back to school today after a great weekend.  I got a chance to get around and see some kids in action today.  I’ve had a hard time juggling the schedule lately to make this happen so it felt good to be around our students and help them a bit too.  As I was moving around the MS I saw the background on a 7th grader’s computer, I had to stop for a picture.  It was awesome to see her motivating herself with this quote.  Tonight we saw the new JK Rowling movie, Fantastical Beasts, it was pretty cool, slow at times but good.

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November 20:  It’s been a much more active weekend than usual for us.  Amy and Lisa went to Mitad del Mundo yesterday while I was at the game and today we headed over to Garth’s for a BBQ in the afternoon.  It was great to hang out, play some games in the backyard and eat some yummy food.  A nice way to round out the weekend.  We needed to get a picture of our Shanghai crew to show off to everyone who wasn’t there too!

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November 19:  The Ecuadorean National Championship game for American Football happened this weekend and I was literally on the sidelines!  One of the Instructional Assistants at our school is the head coach of these weekend warrior footballers.  We went out to support him and see how good/bad the level of play might be.  For a bunch of guys who didn’t grow up with American Football they weren’t bad.  That being said, my high school freshman team could’ve beat these guys!  We enjoyed the game and the Lobos de Quito took the ‘ship, 38-6.  Fun stuff!  We ended the night with a birthday dinner for a good friend of ours here in Quito…24 years old, wow!  Photo courtesy:  Gabriel Cadenas

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November 18:  It’s Friday, which means Sweet Morning Charities Coffee Shop to start the day…I love it!  It was a relatively calm day compared to the last couple around here at school.  We had a guest speaker on campus, a student’s father who is a professional writer…so cool to have people like this in our community!  After school I got out for some Ultimate Frisbee which was good since I haven’t been out since hurting my knee.  Our second Middle School Social/Dance of the year happened tonight as well.  I spent some time hanging out in the gym and then ended up running the popcorn machine for a long while.  Good stuff, long night but worth it!

Week 46:

Hard to believe there are only eight more weeks left in the year!  Running on “school year time” compared to the normal calendar year throws me off sometimes.  This past week was busy and we’re looking forward to another busy week with Thanksgiving and all of the requisite planning involved.  We’ll make it through with the promise of a 3.5 day weekend to follow 🙂

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November 17:  Thursday of Literacy Week and we’re humming along.  As I said yesterday, busy days.  Today I spent time with fourth grade students and third grade parents in addition to my usual lot of Middle and High school kids…always fun working with the little guys!!  After a long day it was time to enjoy a concert by our band, percussion, and strings students.  It was a great show with the percussion ensemble (new this year) drawing the most applause.

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November 16:  Literacy Week this morning kicked off with an awesome “musical literacy” celebration by one teacher and one parent, it was super cool!  Our kids are enjoying the morning gatherings and today was a real highlight.  Dan is away for the next few days, as are a couple other key people, so it was a busy day and looks to continue for the next few days.  Also, our friend Lisa, a former colleague in Shanghai, arrived in town today to stay for a while.  She’s been traveling around South America and finally made it here.  We hit up some sushi and called it a night, she’s had a long few days and so have I!

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November 15:  It was “dress like your favorite book character day” today.  I went as The Man in the Yellow Hat from Curious George.  Unfortunately I didn’t get a picture of myself, what was I thinking?  I’ll see if I can track one down, I feel like someone has a picture some where!  Also, the Mannequin Challenge has taken the world by storm…today at lunch break there were a bunch of our 8th graders trying to pull off a massive group challenge.  It was funny to watch them try, they were struggling to stay still, shocker!

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November 14:  It’s the first day of Literacy Week.  We’ve got a plan to read each morning as a school and then celebrate with some sort of “show”.  Today there was a Readers Theatre performance.  The third graders enjoyed performing but the audience enjoyed it more!!  It was a great show and a fantastic start to the week.

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November 13:  Since we traveled last week we’re laying low this weekend.  Cleaned, shopped, etc.  Tonight we went to see Girl on a Train with a couple friends.  I’m not going to name names but this was one of our friends’ seats after the movie…I think they enjoyed the snacks 🙂  The movie was okay, I didn’t read the book but I still had a pretty easy time guessing what was going to happen…I’m more of an action films kind of person.

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November 12:  A chill weekend for us today.  Amy made it to her regular Saturday morning workout class and I made it out of bed at a reasonable time 🙂  We walked for some lunch and stopped at the fancy popsicle shop on the way home to give it a try, it opened a few months ago but it has very weird hours.  I don’t think either of us were impressed but it was palatable at least.  We went out for a nice dinner and enjoyed a relaxed evening.

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November 11:  Our kids in the Middle School have been frantically working on NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month).  They have all set a goal and are working both in and out of class to achieve this goal throughout the month.  Today, at lunch, we had an open session in the library for students who wanted to (voluntarily) come in and write during lunch break.  95% of the Middle School showed up…it was absolutely astounding!!!  I think there was some group think/positive peer pressure happening there, it was great though!  We finished the week with a whole school Happy Hour at Garth’s house, great way to end the week!

Week 45:

It was a crazy week, one that I think I’ll remember for a long time.  The Simpsons predicted that Donald Trump would be President, way back in Season 11 (March 19, 2000).  Usually their show is so outlandish no one would see it as a “prediction” as much as the theatre becoming reality.  We made it through despite the highest emotions surrounding an election that I’ve ever experienced.  Onward and upward, here we go.

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November 10:  It’s been a heavy feeling around here the last few days and to shake that off, Dan and I decided to go for a walk and celebrate all the awesome things happening at our school.  We made it to the MakerSpace, where Middle School kids were working on constructing sound absorption panels from scratch.  Also, we found this awesome up-cycled cart that has been built by one of our maintenance crew after school hours.  There were lots of cool things happening but not room to share pictures of them all!
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November 9:  Well, this is what I woke up to this morning.  I won’t get into my political views but it was certainly a shock to many around our community today.  I think people are really surprised by the results and also a bit shocked by how they now have to rethink their views of America (in many cases their home country).  As I mentioned yesterday, I’m not totally shocked by this vote, we’ve seen similar cases recently that speak to the fact that there is a large portion of people that stays quite most of the time and “speaks” with their vote.

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November 8:  Before I get into the fact that it’s Election day in the States today, I wanted to remember this cute note on a counselor’s door.  It seems there is a bit of an issue that needs to be worked out at the counselor’s earliest convenience. Anyway, there’s an energy around school as most people are expecting a run away victory for Hillary Clinton…the candidate that seems to be the overwhelming favorite amongst the expat crowd here in Quito as well as my Facebook feed.  I haven’t been exactly sure that it will be a run away, in fact with Brexit and recent votes in Colombia where many voters came out of the wood work to surprise people I’m not sure we can trust polls like we used to.  Heading to bed tonight it seems that I may be right, it’s much closer than anyone seemed to think it would be.

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November 7:  Back to work after a holiday, it always feels like a scramble to get everything back on track but today wasn’t bad.  There were a few fires to put out but otherwise it was a relatively calm return to school.  Except in the afternoon when the storms rolled in!!  It got dark, loud, and wet very quickly today.  The trip home after school was slow, due to the rain and the road construction.

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November 6:  Back home today, shopping, relaxing and going through photos from our trip.  Today’s photo is actually from our return flight yesterday.  I don’t normally sit in the aisle seat but because they changed our flight I had no choice.  I might start though, great views 🙂  It was a relaxing trip and we’re ready to get back to work tomorrow, ready for the long run to the winter holiday.

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November 5:  We got up and had a final breakfast and coffee in Colombia before heading out to the airport.  They put us on an earlier flight from Medellin to Bogota but all that meant was a nicer airport to wait in because they didn’t move our Quito flight.  We played some cards, read our books and found some food.  It caught my attention that planes seem to be the most popular place for people to read (at least in public).  It always seems like there are so many people reading on planes but I never see them reading in other places…I don’t know, just something that caught my eye and got me thinking.

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November 4:  Our relaxing trip continues.  Today we headed up the cable car over the barrios and into the huge park at the top of the mountain.  It was a bit rainy so we didn’t do too much exploring but there were tons of trails should we have desired to do so.  After an afternoon out and about we headed back to the apartment for some lounging time and then to dinner.  We found a couple cool spots for a drink and enjoyed a nice dinner.  It was another great day of chilling in Colombia.

Week 44:

It’s been a long haul since the start of the school year and we finally made it to our first holiday.  Just before we took off for Colombia we signed our contracts with Sekolah Ciputra and made it official, we’re heading to Surabaya Indonesia next year.  We’re very excited and celebrating in Medellin.  It’s been a whirlwind process and we are relieved to have found something that seems like such a good fit for us.  Now, back to chilling in Colombia! 

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November 3:  Out and about in Medellin today.  So many cool areas to explore, enjoy a coffee (or hot chocolate for me) and just get out and walk.  We did a free walking tour with Real City Tours, they were awesome.  It was a four hour tour that took us to highlights and some not so highlights.  We saw lots of cool stuff and learned a lot from our guide, Hernan.   The picture above is of a Botero sculpture that he donated to help the city revitalize itself after the drug wars began to clear up.  After the tour we enjoyed some wine at our Air BnB and then went out for some dinner.  It’s super relaxed here, exactly what we needed.

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November 2:  Holiday, finally!  We were off to the airport bright and early today.  Our first flight took off at about 4:00AM…or at least it was supposed to.  Unfortunately, since we were flying to Bogota and it was cloudy there, they wouldn’t let us take off until the runways were open again in Colombia.  We sat for an hour and a half and ended up missing our connection to Medellin.  After arriving and a long layover we finally made it to beautiful Medellin, just in time for dinner.  We headed out to Parque Lleras, a place I’d visited almost 8 years ago.  Much has changed but also a lot has stayed the same.  Looking forward to a great few days relaxing in this cool city!

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November 1:  I learned something new today, which isn’t unusual but today’s was more fun than normal.  While on lunch duty I was having a couple conversations with people.  Then all of the sudden the conversation shifted to imports.  One of the people I was talking with was heading to the US for the holiday and someone who walked up had asked them to bring them something back, seasoning.  I was intrigued, I had never heard of Tony Chachere’s Creole Seasoning…apparently it’s great on everything!  This was just another of those moments you encounter as an expat, discussing the priorities in life 🙂

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October 31:  Today is National Emblem Day here in Ecuador, an important day to celebrate the history of the country.  The celebration is about the different parts of the emblem and why they are important to the history of Ecuador.  We celebrate to honor the history and to help our students understand the country they live in (and, in many cases, are from).  More prepping our trip and contemplating our next job tonight, it’s getting close!

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October 30:  We’ve been in the thick of things with recruiting season, trying to find a job for next year.  We’re really excited about the opportunities that have been coming our way.  Speaking with all of the different schools and people has been super interesting and full of lots of learning.  Today we were offered a job by a school in Indonesia, very exciting and seems like a great fit!  We need to weigh our options and look at all the details but I’m already looking at how to learn Bahasa!

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October 29:  After a long week of costumes and spirit it was time to relax and cheer for my Badgers.  We played Nebraska tonight in a very important game for our Big Ten championship hopes, we won!  Not only did we win but I knew the AFLAC Trivia question, something I generally don’t know at all.  We’re getting prepared for our 5 day holiday next week and just lazing about, it’s awesome!

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October 28:  Today was costume day, a great chance for the kids to dress up however they wanted.  I went with a recycled costume and rocked my best Michael Jackson, it was okay 🙂  The highlight of the day, for the kids, had to have been the dunk tank at Middle School lunch time.  Last year it was freezing cold at the International Festival so we tried to get it warmed up this year by preparing it the day before…that backfired!  Unfortunately, the night was cold and the water got even chillier.  Luckily we had some half wetsuits to help us manage the weather.  To end the day we headed over to Dan’s house to hang out while the kids went trick or treating around the neighborhood.

 

Week 43:

I absolutely LOVE spirit week, it’s always fun to get dressed up and even more fun for the kids.  Seeing all the creative outfits is inspiring, always looking for my next great idea 🙂  We’re busy, busy around here and working to find a job for next year adds an element to that as well.  It’s getting close though, holiday coming and jobs starting to align.  Excited for the next couple weeks, should be fun! 

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October 27:  It was a wonderful Thursday today, the kids were super excited for decade day and to be honest, so was I!  We has some fun activities going at lunch time sponsored by the Associated Student Body (ASB).  In the High School it was a jousting competition of sorts and Garth and I kicked it off.  I took him down in a close match, 3-2.  Our ASB has done a really nice job of organizing events this year, a nice new wrinkle at AC.

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October 26:  A wild Wednesday, except that it’s “We Fancy Wednesday”.  Time to break out the tux, it’s the natural step above my normal suit.  We have a good looking team too, check us out!  This is many of our admin, we meet in the mornings to greet kids and start the day with a smile, I love it!  Photo courtesy of Gabriel Cadenas again.

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October 25:  It’s Spirit Week here at AC and I couldn’t be more excited!  I LOVE spirit weeks, a chance to dress up 🙂  Yesterday was Pajama Day, nothing too exciting except that it’s comfy!  Today was “Animal vs Food”.  When the ASB came up with this idea we were a little hesitant but our kids really showed their creativity today…it was perhaps my favorite Spirit Day ever, I need to get more creative…a monkey onesy with banana socks just didn’t cut it around here!!  Photo courtesy of Gabriel Cadenas, he’s the man!

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October 24:  Here we go, a beautiful Monday to get the week started.  We were excited to host the second annual Extended Essay Gallery Walk to celebrate the work of our seniors.  It was a very well coordinated opportunity for them to share their experiences with their parents, peers, and teachers.  Well done by all and some very interesting topics!

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October 23:  Another fairly lazy day today.  We did a little shopping and headed out for lunch.  I am continuously amazed by the building process of this apartment building across the street.  Not so long ago (see Jan 23) they were tearing down the old structure and making room for this behemoth.  More apartments and less unique little shops and restaurants but I guess this is progress.

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October 22:  We made it.  We hosted Amy’s parents, babysat, and Amy battled through sickness for the last couple weeks but here we are…finally at a lazy Saturday.  And when I say lazy I mean it!  We were on the couch or in bed most of the day.  I watched football and Amy enjoyed catching up on some of her favorite shows.  This evening we enjoyed a nice dinner out and a couple glasses of wine, it was a perfect Saturday all in all 🙂

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October 21:  The GIN conference has been amazing and we’ve had some great presentations.  One of the highlights so far has been the musical talents of a couple of our teachers who used a bunch of “junk” to make music for our kids.  Everything, including the kitchen sink was fair game!  It was a tremendous performance and everyone left with a huge smile on their face!!  You can see some of the “instruments” here…

Week 42:

Time is just blowing by.  I remember when we first started talking about hosting the GIN conference and now we are really doing it.  There are over 100 kids from other schools in our region here participating and it couldn’t be more positive…the energy is amazing!  Looking forward to next week when things should settle down and maybe a routine will start forming 🙂

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October 20:  Today marks the beginning of our first time hosting a GIN regional conference.  Students from all over the region are coming to our campus for the Global Issues Network conference.  These fantastic young minds are coming together to think about and begin working towards solutions for some of the world’s biggest challenges.  One group from our school shared an example of the carbon problem in the world, from 1850 until today the amount of carbon pumped into the environment has become a staggering number.  This was their example to show just how big of a problem it has become!

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October 19:  We had a half day for the students today and PD opportunities in the afternoon for those who weren’t on an accreditation committee.  During the morning half day we also had the PSAT test for our 10th and 11th grade students.  I proctored for most of the morning and while doing so needed to collect phones at the front of the room.  It was a sign of the community to see what that looked like…and to think, phones weren’t even an issue when I had to take the PSAT!

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October 18:  Today was a day full of meetings but I did manage to get some time to visit some classrooms.  One of my new favorite destinations is our MakerSpace.  Today some of the kids were working on a table made of recycled materials.  They had designed and sketched the table using Google Sketchup, now it was time to build!  Awesome stuff.

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October 17:  Another crazy Monday in the books.  Busy is fun and exciting but it sure is tiring!  We only have one night left with Amy’s parents.  They headed to Mindo today and then we enjoyed a nice pizza at the new Italian place across the street.  Later in the evening we started getting SnapChats from my sister who was apparently hanging out with our nephews…the filters always make for solid entertainment.  JJ must’ve loved this one!

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October 16:  Our cabin in Papallacta was right next to the river tonight and we could hear everything it had to say as it rushed by.  It was a beautiful white-noise and helped us sleep well.  After a while in the tubs, a nice dinner at the restaurant, and an eventual overtime loss to Ohio State it was time to kick back and sleep to the rush of the river.

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October 15:  We headed out to the airport to pick up Amy’s parents this afternoon.  I can’t honestly say that I’ve been there during the day too often.  So many of the flights arrive and depart at night due to the potentially high winds that it’s usually dark as we come and go.  Today I noticed this sign and it made me realize that I’ve been in and out of here so many times but never even noticed this.  After we collected them it was off to Papallacta for some hot springs time!!
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October 14:  Dan an Jocelyn got back last night and today is Joce’s birthday, a great way to return.  At AC they do this thing where they come around with a cupcake and card, take your picture, and then send it out to everyone at school to announce it’s your b-day.  I laugh every time I see those emails (but also appreciate them as a great way to raise morale) because I wonder what that photo session looks like.  Today I was there when they found Joce for her pic, I had to get my own pic of the action…too funny.  I’ll smile big on May 24 🙂

 

Week 41:  

This week went by extremely fast despite not sleeping in my own bed for much of the week.  Taking care of Dan’s kids was super fun and a privilege really, they’re awesome kids!  I think Amy and I will be offering up our baby-sitting services more often to give those guys a break once in a while 🙂  Amy’s parents were in the Galapagos most of the week so we had the time, they return this weekend for a few more days at the end of their visit.

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October 13:  I was helping out in an English classroom today, working with a small group to learn how to annotate text.  About halfway through the class the teacher stopped everything and taught the kids a small game to play.  This “brain break” was perfectly timed for a group of 6th graders who were expending a lot of energy working hard.  During a 70 minute class, opportunities like this are crucial to maintaining student engagement!

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October 12:  Our child-rearing abilities have been tested this week as we are taking care of Dan and Jocelyn’s kids for a few nights while they’re away to interview.  We’ve been very successful and enjoyed our time with them tremendously!  Tonight we were out for a short walk and one of them pointed out this picture in the road.  It is a special lane for bicycles, walking dogs, and this…”Why is the woman pushing a stroller in high heels?”  Too funny, I had to capture that image for memory 🙂

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October 11:  I’ve been working a lot with a particular 6th grade math class recently.  It’s been the highlight of my days and I’m loving the chance to get in and work with our kids so closely.  I’m learning a lot from the teacher, who is awesome, and today I had to stop to take a picture of one of my favorite things.  These desks make perfect surfaces for dry-erase markers.  The kids LOVE to write on their desks and do so with abandon.

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October 10:  Today was the last chance I was going to have to help coach our girls’ volleyball team.  They are a fantastic group of girls who’ve worked really hard to continue improving all season long.  Our seasons seem short here and the opportunities are few but our girls took full advantage.  Today’s game led to a victory over a team we’d previously lost too, that is a great measure of the growth we’ve shown this year.  They’re off to a tournament next week and will do well!!

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October 9:  Back to Quito today and in need of a pantry refill.  Entertaining has drained us down to some rice and dust balls in the corner.  We headed over to the grocery store and took our camera this time.  About a week ago the Christmas decorations appeared and are only growing in stature.  The elevator has been turned into a gingerbread house…pass through these doors to get in or out of the lift.  The Christmas tree is a solid 40 feet tall and the decorations are everywhere in the store…wow…I thought the USA got going early!

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October 8:  We were up to Otavallo for the weekend with Amy’s parents.  It’s always a beautiful view and we really enjoy the area.  Shopping at the market was fun and we bought a couple things this time, first time for us actually buying something 🙂  Heading over to Cotacachi was a highlight as well, checking out the leather goods and enjoying a nice lunch.  The restaurant we stopped at had a cool little art area set up for kids.  This guy was doing some serious work!

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October 7: We’ve started the year off with a lot of drive toward building an even better culture than we already had.  Part of this has been the implementation of the House system.  We set aside a few times each semester to pull the entire House program (6-12 grade) together for some “Full House” events.  Today was another of those days, there was a scavenger hunt element that included someone dressing up as the Cougar and leading their House in a cheer.  The energy was high and our kids were really excited, a great afternoon for sure.

Week 40:

Lots going on around here and busy time of year.  It’s starting to feel like time for a holiday but we’ve got a few weeks to go before that happens.  Time to dig deep for that extra bit of energy to fend off sickness, be my best for our kids, and maintain some semblance of balance in my life.

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October 6:  It’s game day today, the Ecuadorean national team plays against Chile.  On days like this the security presence is impressive, both in size and how early they are in place.  When I left for school at 6:30am they were already lined up and ready to protect.  As far as I know there haven’t been any major incidents so they must be doing a good job!  Living only two blocks from the stadium, it’s nice to know that there is so much police presence for big events like this!

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October 5:  We had our first ever Student Goals Conferences today.  We invited parents into school to meet with their students and share the goals they have set for the year.  It was a awesome day with fantastic reviews from our community.  The students were excited (and nervous) to share their plans with their parents and parents were eager to see their students’ efforts on display.  Before the day started we saw the fruit and vegetable delivery arrive, I poked my head behind the cafeteria to see some absolutely mind blowing veggies…that cabbage is HUGE!

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October 4:  Another game this afternoon and we were on the road this time.  The result wasn’t what we had hoped but we learned a lot from this match.  One of the coolest parts of coaching is getting to see the other campuses in action.  Today as we walked onto the campus of Colegio Menor we passed their covered court, it was “roller club” day.  A bunch of kids were roller skating and blading to their heart’s content, some were experienced and others were newbies.

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October 3:  Happy Monday!  Another week off to a racing fast start.  Volleyball game at home tonight and we won!  The best part is that this was a team who beat us earlier in the season, a character building match for sure.  Our girls have come a long way this year and it has been really fun helping out with the team.  It’s a great group and they play hard every play!  A fun way to start the week.

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October 2:  We got back into town this afternoon and had time to get things ready for the week, one which will include the arrival of Amy’s parents.  We’re getting the apartment ready to handle four person occupancy and that includes stocking the pantry.  I headed to the grocery store today and it was very busy!  In fact, there weren’t any shopping carts in the front section…of course, here that only means they’re scattered all over the register section.  I tracked one down and braved the craziness, all worth it though…the pantry is full now!

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October 1:  We had a relaxing morning and then headed off to Papallacta for the night.  The natural hot springs are awesome and it’s just overall beautiful.  We enjoyed some trout for dinner and lounged in the pools.  This river runs right through the resort and it’s roar is a constant presence.  Only 1.5 hours away this is a great little weekend escape from the city!

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September 30:  After all the recent craziness we needed a slow night at home.  I made some dinner and we enjoyed a proper meal at the table (vs in front of the TV!)  It was nice to relax and chill out without having to race off to the next thing.  Although, tomorrow morning we’re waking up for a Skype interview…yeah, that is happening right now too!  Exciting but anxiety-inducing as well.

Week 39:

It’s weird how we are this far into the school year and it feels like I’ve been unable to get into a routine at school.  I suppose a couple weeks away with kids, visiting experts, and an upcoming visit from Amy’s family make it difficult to slow down.  It’s been fun to get off to such a great start with the school year despite the craziness of such a busy start!  A few more weeks and it looks like there is some blue sky ahead 🙂

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September 29:  We were lucky today to have a pair of visiting musicians come to our school to work with our orchestra students.  They actually brought another colleague and we had a great trio.  At the end of their lessons we invited those who could make it to the auditorium for a special concert.  The students were a great audience and enjoyed a wonderful show.  A great opportunity provided by some outstanding musicians who were visiting performers with the Quito Symphony.

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September 28:  Today during out High School faculty meeting we asked the teachers to take the time to write some positive notes home.  We are working hard at this practice this year and believe that giving time over to teachers to continue this pursuit will lead to even more awesomeness!  The parent responses have been fantastic and the kids are excited about the positive feedback 🙂

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September 27:  Each time we have a celebration or ceremony on stage we end up with lots of beautiful bouquets of flowers around school the next day.  Flowers grow easily here on the equator and are very affordable.  It’s a definite perk of living in a country that has no weather!  These were left over from yesterday’s Jura de la Bandera ceremony, notice the yellow, blue, and red of the flag.

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September 26:  It is a day to celebrate and reconfirm dedication to Ecuador.  We celebrated Jura de la Bandera today which is a ceremony in which our seniors pledge their dedication to Ecuador and our foreign students express their respect for their host country.  It is an interesting ceremony for an outsider like myself.  Ecuadorian students walk up, kiss the flag and express their dedication to Ecuador.  Expats bow to the flag and state their respect for Ecuador.  Very interesting, it draws a big crowd at school from the senior families too!

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September 25:  Another early morning for me today.  I got up and went for a long walk around the city.  I hit a couple malls and a local market, I prefer the markets but I was looking for something very specific at the malls.  I found everything I needed, enjoyed the beautiful weather, and was over 10,000 steps before lunch 🙂  We spent the afternoon working around the house, getting more wedding stuff done, and planning some travel for the year.  After dinner I watched the Packers on replay and enjoyed a great performance from Aaron Rodgers (at least the first half).

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September 24:  I woke up early this morning excited for the Badger game (at Michigan State).  First though, I headed up to school for the Senior Brunch.  It’s a nice way to bring the families together and set the tone for the year.  As for the Badgers, they rolled Sparty and it couldn’t have been a better performance by the freshman QB starting his first college game.  We had some work to do for our wedding planning and Amy found a good job for me, licking envelopes is something I can handle!  We enjoyed the evening hanging out with some friends and relaxing.

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September 23:  Sweet Morning Charities is back, well they’ve been back but now they’re back as part of my life after three weeks!  It’s such a fantastic way to start the morning, I wish we could have it every day.  A busy week finished with the busiest day of them all.  Straight after school we were off for another volleyball game and as soon as that was over I was back to school for the first Middle School Social/Dance of the year.  It’s always fun watching the 6th graders make the transition into the dances, they’re always so excited to get there but then nervous to dance (for a little while anyway).  It was a great night for everyone.

Week 38:

After two weeks away from the school I felt very disconnected coming back this week.  However, it was a crazy busy week which helped me get right into the thick of things.  We had some great PD opportunities for teachers and a wonderful Culture Day for the MS kids, they loved it and it was very positive.  Volleyball after school has kept me busy too, lots of fun and great to be back in the gym after a few years away.

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September 22:  Today was a half day for kids and another PD opportunity for teachers.  In MS we had our first “Culture Day”, a chance for kids to get together in mentor groups, grade levels, and House teams.  They participated in lots of activities (including trying on the Cougar outfit) to build the positive culture that we’ve already started this year, it was awesome!  After lunch we had a number of chances for teachers to learn.  I facilitated  again today, this time about peer and self assessment practices.  Today is also the day that Amy and I celebrate our anniversary.  We headed out to a nice dinner at one of the top rated restaurants in town according to Trip Advisor, Shibumi Sushi Bar.  It was yummy and a great way to celebrate four years together!

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September 21:  The week keeps rolling and it remains busy, busy.  After school today we are hosting our first SIPs (teachers teaching teachers) event.  It’s exciting because we had to cancel our final event last year due to an earthquake.  The people who were set to present at the end of the year have been waiting for a long time to share.  Dan and I were one of those groups, we presented our iLEARN protocol to a packed house and received great feedback.  We’re excited to start working with HS classes this year!!

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September 20:  Another busy day back but at least it is starting to feel regular again, much quicker than returning from summer!  After the final bell I jumped on a bus with the varsity volleyball teams to help coach the girls team.  They’re a young group overall but making lots of progress.  It was exciting to see them in game action for the first time today.  The final result wasn’t what the girls wanted but as coaches we were pleased with our first outing of the year.  Onward and upward!!

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September 19:  It feels like back to school day all over again after being away from the campus for the last two weeks.  I’m working hard to recall everyone’s names today!  Luckily today is also our first Cougar Buddies event of the year.  It’s exciting to introduce the new classes and watch the relationships get off to a great start.  I, as usual, joined the 9th grade group who travels to our IMAGINE Valley campus to work with the little ones…it’s the best!  This year’s 9th graders worked with this age group last year as 8th graders at our IMAGINE Quito campus so they’re experienced veterans.  It was a great day all around and a perfect way to come back to campus.

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September 18:  We woke up today ready to head home but not before appreciating the view from the window of our hotel room.  All weekend we were lucky to see and hear this beautiful water fall just outside our window.  We headed home and worked to get prepared for the week ahead.  Before the Packers’ game tonight we called home and talked with family and had an easy Quizno’s dinner.  Unfortunately the night ended with a Packers’ loss but as much as that stinks it’s always fun to watch.

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September 17:  We had a fantastic day relaxing in Baños today.  We walked around town and relaxed all morning.  In the afternoon we headed out to the Devil’s Cauldron where we visited the Pailón del Diablo to enjoy the other side of the view (we’ve previously been to the lower part).  It was an impressive view and enjoyable with less crowd presence than the last time we visited.  A massage and a nice dinner finished off the afternoon and evening, a great day!

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September 16:  Our last day in the Cayambe area started off with an amazing view of, not only Cayambe but also Antisana and Cotopaxi.  We were up early and went for a hike with the kids.  We were privileged to be part of a local ceremony to thank Mother Earth, during that ceremony we were welcomed by two condors flying over head.  After an amazing hike we had lunch and headed back to school.  From there Amy and I were off to Baños for the weekend.  On the way we were treated to clear skies and amazing views of Cotopaxi and Tungurahua.  A long day but well worth every second!

Week 37:

Amy asked me if I could believe the fact that we are already at week 37, it is hard to believe as it certainly has gone fast.  I’m really enjoying the day by day documenting of the year.  Looking back on the year has been fun and with three and half more months left I’m encouraged by my ability to stick with the plan.  It’s back to school this week after being out for two weeks, might be a tough transition!

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September 15:  Our last day of service was a great one.  The kids got to see the projects they were working on come to completion or at least see a lot of progress.  I worked with the water tank group all week and despite the monotonous nature of that work our kids did a fantastic job and made tremendous progress.  The pride felt by our kids in the work they completed was inspiring.  The week isn’t over with a hike tomorrow before we leave but the service has come to a completion and the kids are exhausted!

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September 14:  We got up nice and early for some service and community building today but we got stuck with some rain this afternoon.  In the jungle we could work through the rain but putting 7th graders out in the rain when it’s this cold isn’t safe for their health.  So, we found some indoor activities to keep everyone active and together.  Dinner was “local delicacy night” which meant “cuy” or guinea pig was on the menu (there was chicken for those who didn’t want to push their comfort zone).  It was my first time tasting it, just like chicken but with too many bones.

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September 13:  Our first full day at camp was busy and full of service.  We learned about all of the different activities and split into groups to get started.  We worked to build a wall for the school’s organic garden, started work on a water tank created from plastic bottles, continued work on a shade feature for a plant nursery, and worked on a pond that will provide water to the garden (above).  We ended the afternoon with a few activities with the kids, I joined the group that learned how to milk a cow and how this was important to the community.  Before the night was over I learned what it meant to take a bucket shower in the freezing cold!!!

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September 12:  This week I’ll be out with the 7th grade to Camp Kuri Kucho near Cayambe.  It’s going to be a great week with an incredible group of kids.  The day today started off with a trip to Casa de Instrumentales Musicas where we learned about different indigenous instruments from all over South America.  We also got to make our own palla, an indigenous sort of pan-flute.  A stop in Otavalo for lunch and a trip to Plaza de Ponchos gave our students a chance to explore the town a bit.  Then it was off to San Pablo Urku and to our camp for the week.  After dinner we met the staff and had a short Kichwa lesson.  It was a long day but super fun!

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September 11:  It’s hard to believe that the infamous attacks on NYC and the Pentagon were 15 years ago already.  We talked about where we were today as we got ready to watch the Packers’ game with some friends.  It’s good to remember but it was also nice to have the game to take our minds some where else.  The Pack won a closer game than we’d like to have seen, the rust is still obvious for many of our starters.  I’m packed up and ready to go for another week.

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September 10:  A relaxing Saturday today, we definitely slept in and enjoyed the comfort of our own bed this morning!  We got a lot of laundry done and I started packing for next week since I’m off again with the 7th grade this time.  The Badgers had an easy victory which was enjoyable for me but the lack of drama made for a boring game for Amy.  We’re headed off to a colleagues 40th birthday party tonight, it was black and gold themed and was a blast!  Amy tore it up on the dance floor and I largely stayed on the edges, where I belong.

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September 9:  Our last day in the jungle and we’ve enjoyed our stay for sure but I think a lot of people are ready to get home and take a hot shower!  Amy and I were excited to get home and enjoy some of the luxuries we take for granted all too often.  Tonight we decided sushi and a movie were a great way to do just that.  We were thankful that we are fortunate enough to sit in the VIP of an IMAX, 3D version of the new Star Trek movie.  The movie was good, even for a me (a non-Trekkie).  I enjoyed the reclining leather chair and yummy popcorn more than the movie…but that’s typical!

Week 36:

It’s been a great week spent mostly in the jungle with a bunch of amazing 10th grade students.  We got some great community service work done and really left a positive mark on those communities.  The kids learned a lot and enjoyed the experience, most of it 🙂  We got soaked, baked, and bitten but we all survived.

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September 8:  It was another full day of service, complete with a torrential down pour that almost stranded us on the wrong side of a river.  Luckily we were able to make it across safely before the water rose too high.  Once we all managed to find some semblance of dryness we joined around the camp fire for a fun night of singing and hanging out.

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September 7:  I was part of the group who headed out on a jungle trek today.  Before we could go the local guides explained that we needed to be identified before heading into the jungle.  My face paint represented the leader of all the local tribes who would lead everyone into battle, joining the local communities together to be strong.  Pretty cool.  Then on the trek I saw some monkeys, at some lemon ants, and enjoyed an informal Spanish lesson from one of the guides.  We ended the day with a cultural show complete with blow dart practice, it was an awesome day!

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September 6:  We made it to the jungle and everyone was excited.  We’ve got fairly rudimentary accommodations but the kids are ready to go.  We jumped into a full day of community service today, helping the local Kichwa communities.  It was some serious work and the kids stayed busy.  Everyone was tired tonight but not too tired for some laughs at the dinner table!

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September 5:  Today begins my 10th Week Without Walls trip in as many years.  I’m off to the Amazon jungle with our 10th graders and couldn’t be more excited.  We’ve got a 5 hour bus ride but looking out the window at such a beautiful picture as a clear day and Cotopaxi really makes the trip easier.  We’ll be without connection all week but I’m looking forward to that as well!
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September 4:  Well football season has started for the college teams but not yet for the NFL, which means I’m still free on Sundays 🙂  So, in honor of that I decided to be productive and finally got new tires put on our car.  When we bought the car, almost a year ago, we knew we had about 10k left on the tires…I think we surpassed that amount a few months ago.  So it was time, but doing things like that in a foreign country always brings a level of anxiety that causes procrastination.  Fortunately the process ended up being pretty painless and efficient.  New tires, ready to rock and roll!!STAR Trek.jpg

September 3:  It’s the first football Saturday of the year and I couldn’t be more excited!!  My Wisconsin Badgers opened up against 5th ranked LSU at Lambeau Field this afternoon and WON!  It was a great game and had a perfect ending, a Badgers victory.  To settle down tonight we headed to the 3D IMAX to see the new Star Trek movie.  Of course, we had to sit in the VIP as well.  I love me some movie popcorn, so yummy!

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September 2:  It’s Friday and that means a lot of things but best of all it means the return of Sweet Morning Charities.  I’ve come to crave, not only my hot chocolate and backed goods, but more importantly the huge smiles on our students’ faces as they work in their very own coffee shop.  We had our AC fantasy football draft tonight as well, I ended up with what ESPN seems to think is the worst team…not a shocker!  Fingers crossed that ESPN doesn’t know what they’re talking about!!

Week 35:

We’ve moved into September already and the year seems to be flying by.  My first international soccer experience and humpback whales, what a week!!  Next week is going to be exciting as well…American football is starting up 🙂  I love the fall, and even though the weather doesn’t really change here there is a definite feeling about this season!

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September 1:  A brilliant upcoming weekend got started off early today with the Ecuador vs Brazil World Cup qualifier game.  Brazil won 3-0 which wasn’t as fun as en Ecuador win but it was impressive to see Neymar and the rest of the outstanding Brazilian squad.  It was my first experience at the national stadium that is only two blocks from my home and it certainly didn’t disappoint.  I heard a few more foul words than I’m used to but otherwise it was a wonderful evening.  We had great seats on top of it all, right at the mid field line.

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August 31:  It’s hard to believe August is already finished.  It seemed like a long month with the start of school and all but it’s been flying by none the less.  Today we used our mentor time to pull the 9th and 10th graders together to ramp up our community service expectations.  We’ve really had a chance to raise the expectations and get our kids involved.  It’s exciting thinking about the possibilities for getting our community tuned into helping and growing.

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August 30:  A great day at school led directly into my return to Spanish lessons tonight.  I am certainly rusty and need to get my act together to have a productive year and grow.  What this also meant was that Amy graciously left me the car to get home.  As I was stuck in traffic two blocks from home I looked out the window and noticed this scene.  This is not a car dealership, this is just the most popular car model in Ecuador.  It is a Suzuki Grand Vitara and as you can see they’re abundant!

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August 29:  After the craziness of the first week of school I had the chance to get into more classrooms today to see all the awesomeness in action.  Our kids are engaged and excited to be started with the learning and the teachers have matched their energy.  As I was passing through a Science class today I saw all the kids with pencils connected to their lab notebooks for safe keeping…love it!  It may feel elementary to some but not having something to write with is often frustration number one for middle school students and their teachers.  Problem solved when it comes to Science labs 🙂

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August 28:  After a great day on the water yesterday we spent the day relaxing around our hotel.  We had a nice breakfast and took advantage of the beach, pool, and other amenities.  After a walk around the neighborhood we headed to the airport which is under construction.  There is a sign touting a $329 million renovation but it looks like that work has been permanently side tracked by the earthquake that happened back in April.  They are doing the best they can though, they’ve set up a temporary terminal.  It’s built from tents and fences but is complete with restrooms, a snack bar, and even wifi!  Impressive resilience for sure.

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August 27:  We flew to Manta early this morning and get picked up by our driver, Fernando.  He was fantastic, had studied in Canada and was fluent in English.  He drove us about an hour and 45 minutes to Puerto Lopez where we geared up to go out in search of Humpback Whales!  It didn’t take long before we saw them jumping in the distance.  Once we finally reached them we had no problem spotting whales for hours on end.  Unfortunately, we didn’t see any more jumping but we were impressed by our experience none the less.  After watching whales we headed back toward Manta, passing through the rain forest, where we stopped for lunch at Mi Rancho for a Tonga.  It was yummy and we were satisfied.  We checked into our hotel and enjoyed a beach sunset, a great day!

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August 26:  The first Friday of the year, the kids are just getting settled and we have to let them go for a couple days!  It’s been a fun start and the kids have responded incredibly well to the new approach we took to the beginning of the year.  Amy and I head out tomorrow so tonight we’re cooking at home.  We decided to give our Spiralizer a whirl, it’s meant to help create “noodles” out of veggies.  We’re doing “zoodles” or zucchini noodles with bacon tonight, exciting!  Here’s Amy in action with the Spiralizer.

Week 34:

The Olympics are over but the kids are back…it’s been a busy week once again and lots of energy has been spent getting new kids sorted with schedules, launching the House System, and putting out fires all over the place.  The good part is that it flew by and it’s already the end of the week.  Amy and I are off for a quick trip this weekend and we’re very excited for an adventure.

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August 25:  It’s been fun getting around and seeing our kids in action, even more fun seeing the new teachers interacting with our students.  I knew we had a great bunch of new teachers but it’s been very impressive seeing how fast they have made connections with our students and hit the ground running.  It’s been a great start with kids, which I know I’ve said but every time I get into a class there is a great reminder!!

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August 24:  Even though we finally started our “real” days with kids we still have plenty of opportunities to continue the positive relationship building.  We’ve built in “Cougar Time” each of the first eight days of school.  This mentor group time has provided kids with a home base as well as the chance to build connections with their mentor and classmates.  Amy’s group is in the Bears House and she made some bears origami with them, despite being 10th graders they loved it!

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August 23:  With positive relationships being such a huge focus for us this year we decided to make the first day with a kids a “community day”.  We implemented the first parts of the House System, we spent time in mentor groups, enjoyed a sorting ceremony to start the day and House rally to end the day…it was a rousing success and couldn’t have received a better response from teachers, students, and parents.  It was fantastic!

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August 22:  Today was a great family day for new students and parents.  Teachers were welcoming and ready to greet students as they came around exploring the school.  We have a tremendous group of educators working here and I couldn’t be more ready for the kids to arrive.  It’s going to be a busy week but it’s always the most exciting time of the year 🙂

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August 21:  The last Sunday before school launches and the last Sunday of the Olympics, such mixed emotions!  We had a relaxing day getting everything ready for the week.  The requisite grocery shopping and cleaning and then lounging around.  We watched the Chinese Women’s Volleyball Team win the gold medal and cheered for our friend, Rett, who is the strength and conditioning coach for their team.  Two days in a row and two friends winning gold medals, pretty cool.  During the closing ceremonies tonight we were pleasantly surprised to see Rett and his huge grin come across the screen a couple times, the shot above was the best I could do but he was on a bunch more times.  I texted him right away and he responded saying that it was absolutely mind blowing how much fun he was having…not a shocker!

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August 20:  Saturday, ahh, means sleeping in…normally.  Except today we got up early to watch the Women’s Triathlon.  Gwen, my family friend, suffered a flat tire in London 2012 and I didn’t want to miss a moment of the action this time around.  Not that my watching was going to prevent a flat tire but I felt like I needed to cheer to make sure nothing went wrong!  As you can see from the picture above (obviously not taken by me) she pulled it out, and did it in impressive fashion.  Here is her blog reflection of the day, very cool!

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August 19:  We worked hard all week and it was time for a little team-building fun this afternoon.  We hosted the “Amazing Race” before heading off for a little TGIF action.  Our “Amazing Race” happens around campus and, unfortunately, today it poured right at the beginning of the race.  One of the activities called for people to go down a slide, one group was scared of the water and got creative (the vast majority braved the rain and got creative to stay as dry as possible).  Fun was had by all and great connections were built and reinforced.  TGIF 🙂

Week 33:  

It’s been a busy week as we get closer to the start.  We’re all excited and the energy levels are high!  When we’re not working, Amy and I have been enjoying the last week of the Olympics and getting ready for the Women’s Triathlon this coming Saturday.  A family friend is the gold medal favorite and you can bet we’ll be watching every second of action on Saturday morning.

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August 18:  As I previewed yesterday, we hosted a PD session on the use of formative assessment for the whole school this morning.  Overall it went well, it was fun to plan with the other 4 principals and we really learned a lot.  We’ve got a bunch more opportunities to plan and host some in-school PD this year and I’m really looking forward to coordinating with this team to implement those sessions.  The yellow post-its were placed on at the beginning and the green at the end to show growth, cool!

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August 17:  Busy day at work today and we’re really feeling the positive vibes as the teachers gear up for students.  At the end of the day I met with all the principals to discuss the PD session we’re hosting tomorrow.  As I walked into the Lower School offices I saw a ton of roses.  Turns out it’s Dan and Jocelyn’s anniversary today.  For $40 Dan got all those roses, Ecuador is rose country for sure!  He also found out what a pain it is to trim and prepare all those roses in vases!!

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August 16:  Day two back to work was a busy day with lots happening.  I didn’t get out of the building much except for a nice walk around the park at the end of the day.  We made a nice healthy dinner and then relaxed on the couch as we caught up on some Suits, we’re pretty far behind.  My attention to tv is short though so I was also cruising Facebook where I saw this photo.  You won’t hear any political commentary from me as we proceed through the craziness that is the USA elections.  I, however, enough of a Pearl Jam to appreciate this pic…would make a great t-shirt!

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August 15:  It’s game time, day 1 of the new year is officially here and it couldn’t have gotten off to a better start!  A great staff breakfast with lots of hugs, smiles, and laughs transitioned into some fun and games in the gym.  Everyone was on the same page by the time lunch hit and we had some great time with divisions in the afternoon.  The high school faculty was excited to get to work in our new Learning Commons space, formerly the high school offices.  What a beautiful transition we’ve made from closed off areas into a big wide open collaborative space for everyone to gather in.

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August 14:  The last Sunday before school starts, it seems like the kind of day for mourning but I couldn’t be more excited.  We enjoyed the beautiful day outside with a walk around the park and then a trip to the grocery store.  After that we tuned in for a great day of Olympics and I vegged on the couch.  For me, the highlight of the day was the outstanding new re-addition of golf.  The final round was almost a tournament within a tournament as there were two run away contenders for gold and silver and then a group of about twenty people who had a shot at bronze.  In the end Matt Kuchar, an American, pulled away with a -8 round and took the bronze.

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August 13:  Even though the new faculty has some time off this weekend there are still a few fun activities planned for them.  Yesterday they went to Otavalo and tomorrow they have a tour of the historic old town, today was a dinner at one of our principals’ house.  It was a great evening and they have a beautiful house.  Everyone had a great time, especially when a few instruments came out and a small jam session started in the living room…a great time!

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August 12:  So, I enjoyed the summer a little too much when it comes to food and beverage.  It’s tough to be in the States, with giant portion sizes, and always eating out!  I need to get my act together now that I’m back to the routine and it starts with diet.  I don’t mind the effort but I do miss my pizza already!!  Hopefully it won’t take too long and I can splurge again.

Week 32:  

Our first week of school is in the book and we’ve got an amazing group of new teachers who’ve joined us this year.  The energy is high and everyone is excited to get into their classrooms and run with it.  Our returning teachers are just around the corner and have started stopping in to say hi, always fun to catch up.  A nice three day weekend before we gather everyone together and then it’s show time.

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August 11:  We finished up our new teacher orientation today, it’s a holiday tomorrow so they get three days off before we start in with full faculty.  It’s been a great week and we’ve really enjoyed this new group who came in this year.  I can’t wait to start with everyone together, all of these teachers are outstanding educators and just as awesome outside of the classroom.  Very exciting way to start the new year!

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August 10:  I went to get our car registered today after thinking for a year that I could manage it on my own…boy was I wrong!  Fortunately there is an amazing colleague who helps people get their cars registered.  We headed down to the old airport to get the car inspected, that was cool.  An old hangar functions as the inspection garage and everyone lines their cars up with the hoods open, ready to be seen.  When all was said and done we couldn’t register the car because of a few other bureaucratic things that needed to be sorted out.  I’ll be back and this will get done, I’m confident 🙂

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August 9:  We had a great (and long) first day back.  An admin retreat to start the day followed by time with the new teachers was excellent.  Amy gets in tonight and I couldn’t be more excited!!  I’m technically cheating a little with this picture because her flight was delayed and she didn’t clear customs until after midnight but it was great to see her regardless!

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August 8:  Ever since last Friday I’ve spent every single spare minute watching the Olympics.  Thanks to NBC’s app and our Amazon Fire TV I’ve enjoyed watching just about every sport possible.  Best of all is the replay feature which allows me to watch anything I might have missed, I’m totally hooked.  Amy and I were texting about how many Texas Longhorns and alumni were in the Olympics which made me curious about Wisconsin, we’re solidly represented with 11.

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August 7:  I’ve been waiting for a long time for football to start and the season is finally here.  It’s preseason and I’ve got my new Packers cup ready to go.  Unfortunately I’ll have to wait a while longer since they ended up canceling the Hall of Fame Game tonight.  The obvious highlight of the weekend was Brett Favre getting inducted into the HoF but I was excited to see football…oh well, only 5 more days until our next scheduled preseason game!

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August 6:  A relaxing Saturday allowed me to get a lot done around the house today.  There was a lot that needed to be done after losing power for the summer…mostly in terms of cleaning the fridge, yuck!  At least I got to enjoy a nice pizza dinner with the new teachers at the end of the night.  I also decided that I totally need one of these oil jar things that they had at the restaurant.

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August 5:  I’ve been up at school the last few days starting to get back in the flow and also working on our new high school collaborative space (formerly the H.S. offices).  It’s very exciting and will surely require a photo in the future once the dust settles.  This afternoon Garth and I hit the grocery store to pick up all the necessary ingredients for our new teacher dinner that we’re hosting at his house.  It turned out to be a great night and we had lots of food to go with the great view.

Week 31:

A busy week with my return to Quito, no power, and a friend passing through town.  However, it was all the good kind of busy (except the power bit).  Picking up new teachers at the airport is always fun and the excitement they bring is refreshing.  I’m looking forward to getting down to business and really starting to welcome these new teachers into our a school, a great group.

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August 4:  Our new teachers are off with their buddies and finding housing today which luckily freed me up this afternoon.  A good friend of ours from Shanghai was passing through town and I was able to pick her up from the bus station and show her around town today.  Grace had been volunteering at a zoo near Puyo and really enjoyed her experience.  Due to some flight issues she was only able to stay in Quito for about 6 hours before I dropped her at the airport for my third trip to the airport in as many days.

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August 3:  When I arrived home last night at about 1:30 in the morning I found out what happens when you forget to pay your electricity bill over the summer.  No power.  It didn’t matter much since I was headed straight for bed but it was an inconvenience this morning when I wanted hot water.  I headed up to work today and then we were off to the airport to welcome new teachers this evening.  When I got home I found out that my efforts to pay my bill and regain electricity were rewarded…never have I been so excited to see lights!

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August 2:  Time to head back to Ecuador to start another school year.  A long day of traveling started with dad and I heading to O’Hare.  I’m very lucky that my parents so willingly drive the two hours each way to take me to and from the airport each summer (not to mention the other trips in and out of MKE!)  I got lucky on my first flight, as you can see, and had no one sitting next to me.  I’ve never been upgraded so I guess this is about as lucky as I get.  I finally made it to Quito and home around 1:30AM.

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August 1:  I thought that yesterday was going to be my final round of golf for the summer but dad and I squeezed in one more round at the course I grew up on.  We hadn’t played there this summer so it was a nice opportunity to see how the course has matured and changed.  It was a foggy morning and the course was beautiful under the haze.  My last full day before heading back to Quito meant more packing, last minute shopping, and one last family dinner at my parents house.

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July 31:  An early morning tee time got us off and running today, playing with my sister, brother-in-law, and dad.  I played my best round ever and it was a fantastic day!!  The afternoon was my time to get packed up and ready to travel in a couple days.  Then it was a big celebration, we celebrated Mary and Jayden’s birthdays with the family.  It was a fun evening at my sister’s house playing with the boys and getting together again as a family.  Jayden was pretty excited about his gifts, as you can see 🙂

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July 30:  We had a family gathering down at my sister’s apartment this evening.  We ordered pizza and hung out on the roof of her building, a great view of Lake Michigan and the whole city of Milwaukee.  Amy couldn’t join us since she is still visiting her family but she was there with us in spirit 🙂  My brother-in-law and sister-in-law wanted to make sure she was included in their outlaws picture!

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July 29:  An early morning tee time had me up and moving today, never a problem getting up early for golf!  Luckily the clubs in the picture aren’t the ones I had to use today (although they might as well have been for as terrible as I played!)  These belonged to my great grandmother!  They are super cool and I love that I was able to sneak them out of grandma and grandpa’s basement (they really knew).  We had a bunch of family over tonight for a cookout, always fun to see aunts, uncles, and cousins!

Week 30: 

Back to Wisconsin from Texas and I couldn’t be happier to be in cool weather.  It was smoldering down there!!  Getting home for a few more days is going to be fun but busy.  Mom has a very jammed packed schedule for me and while I’m excited to see everyone one last time, it’s also daunting knowing that I won’t be getting much rest and relaxation.

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July 28:  I got to sleep in today and relax a bit before heading over to my sister’s house to help dad babysit my nephews.  We had a fun time playing baseball outside and shooting nerf guns inside.  I bowed out early so I could get a few things done before the big Bocce Ball playoffs tonight.  Unfortunately they ran up against a tough player who carried his team to a fairly dominant victory over mom and dad’s team.  Well, there’s always next year!

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July 27:  A short trip in San Antonio has come to an end but we’ll see Amy’s parents soon enough when they visit us in Quito.  I had an early flight that got me into Milwaukee around lunch time.  Dad picked me up and we headed to the Nite Owl for lunch, a place made famous when Elvis ordered their fantastic hamburgers to his plane after a show in 1977.  The burger was great, I couldn’t believe I had never been there…might have to become a regular airport stop!!

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July 26:  The Pokeman craze continues, I found this table at Wal-Mart…they’ll pretty much sell you anything with Pokeman on it!  After a quick shopping adventure I was out into the heat to play golf with Amy’s dad and some of his friends.  It was a great day of exploring a new course and trying to figure out which borrowed club to use every time we teed off, it’s never easy when you don’t have your own clubs!  After a short swim in the pool we headed home to clean up before Pasta Night at the club, yumm!

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July 25:  It was a nice relaxing day here and, once again, HOT!  We stayed pretty cool all morning and then things heated up at the bowling alley.  It was a lot of fun to get back on the lanes and remember how much I loved our Shanghai bowling league, lots of great memories.  We had a super fun time and laughed a lot at how bad we all were.  The bowling alley also had an arcade and had lots of prizes.  Evidence of how fast the Pokeman culture has grown, there were tons of Pokeman prizes!!

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July 24:  We made the drive (5.5 hours) from Dallas to San Antonio today to see Amy’s parents.  It was a hot day and a long drive but we made it.  They’ve done some remodeling since my last visit so I got a great tour upon arrival.  We had some excellent Mexican food for dinner and Amy and I got in a great walk before some storms hit.  It was a wonderful sunset to enjoy while walking tonight.

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July 23:  To beat the heat today we went to a really cool local pool run by the Fraternal Order of the Eagles.  It was a great pool that was packed by mid-day.  There was good food to go along with the sun and drinks.  We got out of there before anyone burned and relaxed at home before heading out with some of Ruthie and Tyler’s friends for drinks and dinner.  Perhaps it’s because of the recent Miller Brewery Tour we did but I keep seeing Miller signs everywhere now, even in the shape of Texas!

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July 22:  Another fun day in Dallas, again despite the heat.  Thank goodness for AC though!  We visited Ruthie at the City Year offices and then enjoyed lunch in the “tunnels” of Dallas.  These mostly underground corridors connect a lot of the major buildings in downtown Dallas allowing people who work there to stay cool (or dry if it’s raining) and still go out for lunch.  We then headed to a climbing gym and tested our skills at rock climbing, lots of fun but hard too!!  We finished off the day with a great meal at the restaurant Beyonce and Jay-Z went to after their most recent show in Dallas 🙂

Week 29:

Two huge states this week, first Cali and then Texas.  It was a lot of fun visiting with Amy’s family and there is still more to come next week.  It’s not as convenient as my family but the opportunity to move around and see different places is a plus for sure.  Summers are always a whirlwind but we do the best we can to see everyone and enjoy some quality time wherever we stop.

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July 21:  Despite the crazy heat here in Dallas we decided to head out to a nearby state park and go for a short hike.  There are tons of hikes as well as small museum-like trails to follow.  One of those trails leads through an old farm plot.  The old buildings for the steer, grain, etc are still around.  This old windmill is a super cool flashback piece.  Once we escaped the heat we stayed in the AC the rest of the day but had one of Amy’s best friends from high school and college over for dinner, a great time!

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July 20:  Our time in NorCal has come to an end for the summer.  It’s with heavy hearts that we said “see ya later” to Amy’s family and headed to the airport.  Sacramento’s airport is a cool little place with lots of fun decorations.  The baggage claim has big pillars like the one in the pic, very fun.  After arriving in Dallas to see Amy’s other sister and brother in law we had a nice evening catching up and seeing their new home and neighborhood.

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July 19:  Trying to get some work done today amidst the family breakfast, lunch with Erin’s friends, swimming lessons, and wonderful ribs for dinner.  Unfortunately for my ability to type, Meretha (the family cat) has decided that sitting on my computer (she’s really good at typing ggggggggggggg) is a totally acceptable way to spend her day.  At 18 years old she’s probably entitled to sit pretty much anywhere she’d like in this house but I needed to get something done today!  Luckily for both Meretha and I, Amy was a willing cuddle buddy.

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July 18:  Unfortunately today was our last day of camping but all good things do have to come to an end.  Two of my breakfast buddies this morning are Amy’s nieces and the other two seemed to think I was good enough company to join us.  Like I said yesterday, it was a great group and I’ll look forward to future camping adventures with this crew.  Now it’s back to the city for a couple days of family activities and hot weather!

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July 17:  Another great day for relaxing on the island, yard games, and just hanging out.  It’s not hard at all to be totally disconnected and feel like the only responsibilities you have are to eat, drink, and be merry.  Erin and Gardner’s friends are great and we’re having a total blast enjoying the beautiful setting.  Of course, my favorite part is taking care of the fire 🙂

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July 16:  We’re camping in style and enjoying it 100%.  Erin (Amy’s sister) made a huge purchase at Costco, a floating island that managed to fit all 12 of us!  It was a blast, once we dragged it out deep enough, and got us away from the crowds on the beach.  It as a great day with Kan Jam, grilling out, bonfires, and S’mores.  One thing I noticed for sure, camping with four kids ages six and below is much different than camping without kids!

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July 15:  Today I flew out to NorCal, as it’s referred to, to visit Amy’s sister and family.  We headed straight to the mountains to do a bit of camping.  As we waited at the front gate of the park Amy spotted this little lizard with a blue tail.  Being as hooked on Pokeman as I am, I thought, “cool, a real life Pokeman!”  I didn’t capture him but at least got a pic to remember this little blue-tailed critter.

Week 28:

Another busy week of fun, catching up with old friends, and continuing on with a great summer.  Not sure what the highest highlight would be but it was certainly a fun and travel filled week.  Next week doesn’t slow down as I head to California and then Texas, should be a blast!

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July 14:  The 14th of July isn’t a particularly important date in American history but it is the celebration for the French, remembering the storming of the Bastille at the outset of the French Revolution.  Wisconsinites will take any chance they can get to party in the streets, and thus Milwaukee celebrates this French holiday.  Coincidentally some of the old Shanghai crew was passing through town on their way to a wedding in Iowa.  The perfect excuse for us all to get together for some food, drinks, and lots of laughs.  A great group on a perfect night.

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July 13:  The other day, while I was at the EdCampLdrWI unconference, I learned about Pokemon Go.  I’ll be honest, while I knew nothing about Pokemon I was certainly interested by all of the media coverage this game was getting.  Really, more users than Tinder and Snapchat combined?   So when this session was offered I had to take the chance to learn…and I got hooked, hard!  At first it was interesting, then I started running into other people who were playing and it became funny, and now I’m interested to see where this craze will go next…is it the new frontier?  Just a fad?  Only time can tell, but for today I found this guy in the bathroom!

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July 12:  One of my good friends from Shanghai, Marshall, got into town today.  After some last minute planning we headed off to the north side of Chicago to meet up with two more buddies from the SH days.  We had a great evening and made sure to make every second of time together count.  After going separate ways a couple years ago, we’ve all realized that the “Shanghai Days” were very special and some of the best.  We’ve built lasting friendships and none of us plan to let that go…very lucky.

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July 11:  Today was an exciting day, free PD!  Last summer I went to an unconference in Chicago called EdCampLdr.  This year the one day, free unconference has grown from 16 locations in one day to more than 50!  My drive was shorter and I was off to Sun Prairie High School for a great day of learning from some of the top educators in the state of Wisconsin.  To top it all off I was one of the big winners at the end of the day, taking home an HD Doc Cam…Amy is pumped!

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July 10:  Well, well, well, look who’s back this morning.  Turns out that mom didn’t let dad relocate this little guy after all.  Well, today she has finally agreed that this little guy is too stupid to live at our house any longer.  So before we could get to our yard work today dad had some relocation to do.  Then it was down to business.  My parents moved into their current house a couple years ago but have been largely focused on working on the inside of the house until now.  My biggest projects around the house have been focused on working outside, just the way I like it!

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July 9:  The conference ended today and I made my way to the airport using the extremely conveniently located red line.  The metro system doesn’t seem great in Atlanta unless you’re right on one of the lines but luckily I was!  I was back on the deck at my parents house in time for dinner and relaxing.  Tonight, part of the relaxation included planning some trips for this upcoming school year.  Amy and I have a bunch of trips planned, one of them to Colombia.  When I booked they offered me a rental car for the low price of $98000.25.  I’m hoping that was supposed to be in Colombian Pesos or we’re in big trouble over there!!

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July 8:  Ever since I began road tripping with my father to play golf and I discovered the magic of Waffle House, I’ve been a huge fan!  Being from Wisconsin we don’t get to enjoy it often enough.  So, while I was in Atlanta I HAD to get my fix…problem was that I had a great complimentary breakfast at the hotel, solution was to eat breakfast for dinner!  After another day of Diploma Programme conversation I took a short walk for some amazing food and great memories!

Week 27:

This week was busy and hectic.  There was lots of running around Milwaukee and celebrating the 4th of July and then off to Atlanta for DP training.  For the last two weeks, I’ve stepped away from school more than I ever have before in the summer.  It’s been refreshing to have been away from thinking about work but getting back into it slowly with my course this week has been great too.  I’m certainly ready to enjoy the last few weeks of summer without getting too deep into thinking about work, here’s to summer!

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July 7:  Most of my day was spent in a classroom discussing the IB Diploma Program.  We spent the time at North Atlanta High School, which is a really interesting building.  It was a former IBM building and was built with that in mind originally.  There is a river that runs under the building and it is out in the middle of the woods…very cool.  This evening I needed some exercise so I walked to the mall and got out of the hotel for a while.  I found a whole store dedicated to socks…it was awesome!!  Tons of cool and crazy socks.  As I’ve mentioned before, I love me some crazy socks 🙂

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July 6:  It was “get away day” today with Amy heading to California and me heading to Atlanta for an IB conference.  However, before we left this morning I had to have a look outside.  See, my dad had a raccoon living under the deck a while back and decided he needed to trap and relocate him.  After he successfully did that he has left the traps out and continues to catch critters…up until yesterday it was only squirrels.  However, yesterday a little opossum wandered into the trap but mom wouldn’t let him relocate it.  The deal they made was that if the possum came back again dad would be allowed to take him some where else and, well, that didn’t take long as he was back this morning.

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July 5:  I took Jake to the airport with the hopes that he’ll make it back one more time before the summer is over.  From there Amy and I ran a few errands and tied up a few loose ends before we both head off in separate directions tomorrow.  As we do in the Olson family, we had another family dinner.  This time we were at my sister’s house for a family picture (mom wants one for her Christmas card) and my nephews (unbeknownst to them) skipped swimming lessons.  Naturally, that spurred a conversation about swimming lessons as a kid…which led to the photo above coming out, it is of one of my old swimming lesson report cards, too funny.

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July 4:  It was a slow 4th of July today and we enjoyed the holiday as you should, by relaxing!  I did some yard work with dad and we got the grill fired up in time for dinner and a few beers on the deck.  Mary and Alli came over to join in and Mary, despite her recent surgery, managed to win the day with her tremendous outfit!

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July 3:  OlsonFest Day is finally here…it’s not quite the party that it used to be, in fact it’s rather watered down now!  Jake, dad and I started off with a round of golf and then we got home so dad could prepare the brats for the party.  It was a fun afternoon, I once again fell short of the Flying Ring Golf Championship (I won it once before) as my brother-in-law won his 7th title!  Afterward we headed for Milwaukee for our annual Very ‘Murica Pub Crawl.  We like to celebrate America’s birthday as a family (plus friends) while wearing overly silly USA themed outfits.

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July 2:  For Amy’s parents’ last day we decided to take them out on the lake for a cruise and a swim.  After a nice afternoon we relaxed before having one last dinner on the deck before they left.  One of my best friends, Jake, came into town today and we celebrated Day 7…my sister and her family even stopped by for the group picture!

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July 1:  Today we started the day with some Pickle Ball with Amy and her parents.  It was a new experience for me and we had a lot of fun.  After cleaning ourselves up we headed for Milwaukee and an afternoon at Summerfest.  We saw the UW pep band, I held Paul Bunyan’s Ax, and saw Ron Dayne’s Heisman Trophy.  We rode the Skyglider and enjoyed a wonderful afternoon with a fun MKE picture on the way out.  Afterward we headed home for some Cribbage on the deck before enjoying a great Friday Fish Fry, yum!!

Week 26:

Wow, half way through the year already!  I’m starting to realize that counting each day and taking time to stop and think about each day has really slowed down time in a sense but also sped things up too.  Each week when I get to this point I can’t believe a whole week has already passed yet appreciating each day really makes it feel like time is moving slowly.  Anyway, here we go into the second half of the year…may it be as good or better than the first half!

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June 30:  I got to play one of my favorite golf courses this morning and played pretty darn well.  We make a trip each year to play this course because a little more than 35 years ago my grandfather’s friend approached him about helping to build a golf course.  It has grown up into a beautiful course and it’s always fun to play and see how it has improved.  After golf we met Amy and her mother for lunch and then had some work to do around the house.  In the evening we hosted Amy’s parents and my grandparents for a wedding anniversary dinner at our house, they share today as a wedding anniversary…37 and 60 years, 97 combined years celebrated tonight!  Carter found one of the recliner chairs on the deck and was happier than could be to lay back and relax…the photo is proof of his happiness since he doesn’t normally like taking pics!

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June 29:  Amy’s parents got in late last night and we whisked them off for a busy day today.  We started with a visit to our wedding venue, which we hadn’t even seen yet!  Fortunately we were very impressed and found renewed excitement about the planning process.  After that we met dad for lunch and enjoyed a nice meal before heading into Milwaukee to take the Miller Brewery Tour!  From there we headed into MKE for a small tour and then picked up mom for a Brewer’s Game.  We saw a great victory and stayed until the Sausage Race was finished.  I also learned where the sausages leave the field…selfie!!

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June 28:  More wedding planning all day and then this afternoon we had a special family gathering because my cousin and her daughters were visiting from Austin.  Ever since I lived in Houston I’ve had a chance to see them about once a year, it’s great getting to see them each summer (even if they don’t always remember me!)  As they get older they’re starting to remember be vaguely enough but in either event it’s always fun to reconnect.

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June 27:  Yesterday Amy and I went with my sister and sister-in-law to play tennis.  Unfortunately we ended up in the hospital after my sister-in-law blew out her Achilles Tendon.  She’s laid up and awaiting a date for surgery so Amy and I decided we’d go down and cook them dinner and hang out.  My other sister and brother-in-law joined in as well and we had a great sibling evening.  We also took a Day 2 picture with Brad showing us his good side 🙂

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June 26:  A few years ago my buddy Jake came up with an idea related to OlsonFest (our yearly family celebration that includes lots of friends and fun).  He suggested that we wear each shirt in order as we lead up to the big day.  Back a few years ago this was easy, now we’re into the 11th year of OlsonFest and the 9th t-shirt.  It always takes some coordination to get everyone in the correct shirt but today we started successfully with Day 1, Amy borrowed a shirt since she wasn’t part of the family that long ago 🙂

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June 25:  My mom wanted to celebrate Amy’s birthday as well so we had the family out to my parents house for dinner.  It’s always fun bringing everyone together and it’s something we do rather frequently during the summer.  This is always a big reminder of how much we miss out when we’re traveling but while it is often bitter sweet we know we are lucky to have such a great family who gets along with each other so well.

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June 24:  It’s Amy’s birthday today and after an entertaining food tasting with Alli, Mary, and my mom we headed down to the beach in Milwaukee for the afternoon.  From there we checked into the Metro Hotel and enjoyed some champagne and snacks.  For dinner we walked to a nice place on the water.  During our walk home we passed the current (they’re building a new one) Northwestern Mutual Life building and it was still lit up with the colors of the rainbow.  It was another great show of support, such as we’ve seen frequently around the world lately.

Week 25:

The year is flying by and now that summer is here it only seems to be going faster.  There never seems to be enough time to enjoy the family and the relaxation of summer.  We’ve been working hard on wedding planning and I’ve not spent as much time on the golf course as usual but I’m enjoying the different experiences.  The next week will be busy as Amy’s parents come to visit and we tour them around, should be a blast!

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June 23:  Amy came with baggage when we met, Keith.  He is her stuffed koala who goes everywhere with her (us).  He serves as a great pillow on flights and tends to have a rather interesting personality 🙂  Tonight, he got a stain on him and Amy went to work taking care to clean him up.  The miracle of the Tide Pen came in very handy!  It’s always entertaining when Keith gets so much attention, he’s become a rather famous character in our lives and worth the fuss.

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June 22:  This was the start of what could be a crazy couple weeks of food tastings, meetings with photographers and DJs, and looking at flowers.  We had a great meeting with our first caterer and felt very good about our starting point.  We had a good laugh at the homemade welcome sign for us when we arrived in the parking lot.  It might have been a little silly but we felt very comfortable and got a lot of great information.

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June 21:  Amy left from Quito to visit some friends in South Carolina and just got up to Wisconsin today.  It’s great to have her here to laugh and enjoy summer vacation together.  Tomorrow we start our full on efforts to plan our wedding for next year, it’s going to take a lot of work but we’re excited to start ironing out some details.  For today we’re going to relax and enjoy the beautiful weather in Wisconsin.

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June 20:  Mondays are dad’s golf league days and even if I’m not subbing I get to join the group and play along.  Today I was the 5th wheel and had my own cart, which meant I got to wander while it wasn’t my turn.  The course we play most often is home to a number of families of Sandhill Cranes, since summer is here the “babies” are getting pretty big.  This group was patient enough with me to allow a photo 🙂

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June 19:  One of the highlights of coming home is getting to drive my old ’91 Jeep Wrangler (top down and doors off!)  I don’t know why but my father wanted a compass and thermometer very badly in the Jeep.  My mom found him one for Father’s Day and he couldn’t have been happier…although I’m not sure he can read the temperature, ha!  It was great to be home and watch the final round of the US Open with dad, even if there was controversy in Dustin Johnson’s win!

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June 18:  Got back to Wisconsin in time to celebrate my cousin’s graduation.  Her mom had created this cute little photo booth opportunity, seen above.  There were miniature chalk boards for people to celebrate their alumni status.  We got the UW Madison grads together for a picture.  Seen here are me (’03), my sister (’06), my grandma (’56) and grandpa (’58)…pretty cool to be able to celebrate that together.

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June 17:  Next year we are going full steam ahead with our first House System here at AC.  Today, however, was the first official House event (which included a dance off!)  Students participated in a student-led morning of activities and competitions.  The winning house (captains) were given the privilege of choosing the House Name and color combinations they wanted.  This was a huge honor for the founding house captains and a fun way to start making the transition to new student leadership.

Week 24:

Wrapping up neatly around here, things are quickly coming to a close but it doesn’t feel like it everywhere.  We’ve been furiously working to complete the Middle School schedule and finally had a breakthrough yesterday.  It looks, right now, like only a couple conflicts left.  Let’s hope that stays the way it is once we return from holidays.

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June 16:  A few days ago there was a tragic shooting in Orlando, FL.  Today, we had our High School academic awards assembly.  Our High School Rainbow Club opened the assembly with a short piece about the importance of understanding and appreciating diversity as we all remembered the victims of this shooting and other violence around the world.  It was a nice gesture for our community to participate in a moment of silence and remembrance.

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June 15:  Today we had our 8th grade Moving On Ceremony.  As we were waiting I had a laugh because I looked over and noticed Garth’s socks, and mine, as we sat with our legs crossed in the front row.  A few months ago I saw a great article about people who wear “crazy socks”.  It was funny to me because, to me, “crazy” socks are the only socks!!

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June 14:  Today was a bitter sweet morning for me.  A former colleague from Shanghai sent me a picture, it was a snapshot from their yearbook this year.  I’m not sure about all the details but apparently the students (at least the 8th graders) were asked to say something about someone who they admire.  One of my favorite students of all time apparently chose me as someone he admired.  It was bitter sweet just as it always seems to be when we look back on fond memories and people in our lives who aren’t around on a daily basis any longer.

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June 13:  We continued with high school exams today and I was proctoring in one of the English classrooms.  Whenever I walk into this classroom I always get a chuckle because it reminds me of one of my favorite books and movies, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.  This poster is one of many drawings by Ralph Steadman for Hunter S. Thompson’s work.  Great stuff!

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June 12:  One of the greatest parts of living and traveling internationally is the opportunity to see, hear, taste, smell and experience differences around the world.  Sundays are the usual grocery shopping day for us and we like the comfort of hitting the familiar surroundings of a big-box grocery store, which doesn’t usually lead to many eye-opening experiences.  However, today I was stopped by the scene in the produce section as I rounded the corner.  What a beautiful view of how accessible tropical fruits are in this part of the world, awesome!

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June 11:  As the end of the year nears there are certainly a lot of going away and end of the year celebrations underway.  We had a fun one today that involved games, costumes, and some old school Nintendo at one point.  Also, we enjoyed watching the USA Men’s Soccer team pull off a big win over Paraguay.

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June 10:  The last full day for Amy’s family in town and they wanted to try the food trucks in our neighborhood.  I’ve been keeping a close eye on this recent boom (I counted 23 food trucks tonight) and continue to be excited by the bohemian feel to it all.  We tried “Wanna Wings” and “Inka Burger” and deemed them both winners.  Can’t wait to try all the others eventually!!

Week 23:

Another great week, some what of a slow week after the craziness of last week’s festivities and next week’s Middle School versions.  Also, finishing the week with exams seems to make the school a quieter place (which at this time of year isn’t necessarily a bad thing).  Summer is just around the corner, you can feel it in the air!

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June 9:  High School exams started yesterday and everything is going quite smoothly.  As if to prove how well coordinated we are in the HS, Fred, Garth, and I all ended up with very coordinated outfits.  Matching, with our flower pattern shirts and dark sweaters on top, we showed that great minds do actually think alike.  It’s been a tremendous opportunity to work with these two guys this year and learn so much from them, a great team!

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June 8:  We had an end of the year fire drill at school today.  I’ve been involved in schools since I was 5 and this is the first time I’ve ever seen a fire drill that actually included fire and smoke.  The effect was noticed by all and added a small sense of reality to the whole thing.  As usual our kids were great with this and the day went on as planned.  Our awesome book room/tech guys got the chance to use some of our expired fire extinguishers (recently replaced) to put out the practice fire.

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June 7:  The big day, our huge birthday party at home!  The girls didn’t seem to care that it was anyone else’s birthday once they got their gifts.  Amazing what a couple of dollars in the Otavalo market can do to make these girls feel special.  They couldn’t be any cuter and we certainly had a great night.

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June 6:  Amy’s family is away for the next couple days, down to the jungle.  Amy spent a lot of time getting our birthday party ready for tomorrow.  The girls have insisted that we celebrate together and throw in anyone whose birthday is even remotely close.  The only one left out was Erin 😦  It is awesome to have a partner who is so dedicated to making people happy by ensuring that they know they’re loved!!

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June 5:  We woke up this morning and could see Antisana from the hot springs.  To get a better view of the surrounding area we decided to head up to the antennas (the highest point around).  It was a fantastic view and well worth the drive (even though Mari got car sick on the way).  This picture of Antisana is a rare sight (and doesn’t do it justice at all) because of all the clouds, awesome!

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June 4:  With Amy’s family in town we wanted to show them as many opportunities as possible.  This morning I got up with Amy’s brother-in-law to go climbing in Papallacta.  We went with a couple guys from school and had an absolutely beautiful day for a hike, this picture is from our lunch stop.  We made it out dry and smiling, it doesn’t get much better.  From there is was down into the town for hot springs and some relaxation with Amy and the girls.  A perfect Saturday.

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June 3:  Big day around campus and we’re going to need everyone’s head in the game for the final celebrations tonight.  Our seniors are excited and when they were asked to each make a wish, they had no idea why.  The PTO put together a nice chance for them to share their wishes with the world.  The kids thought it was cool and it turned into a very special moment for everyone involved.

 

Week 22:

Every day brings us closer to the end of the year and this week really started to make it seem like we were just on the edge.  Celebrating our seniors in a very special way on Thursday was a great way to lead up to the imminent final send off for that class.  The clock is ticking on the year but we’re not finished yet, lots of fun ahead!

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June 2:  Today isn’t over yet but I can add my picture for sure.  We started the day off with a Senior Breakfast and then moved upstairs for the Senior Farewells, a beautiful chance for our seniors to say thank you and any other final words.  It was a moving event and much appreciated by the parents especially.  Finally, we moved to the gym where the entire school, students and staff, were waiting for our seniors.  They got to walk through the crowd one last time to a song of their choosing, it was a blast!!

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June 1:  Only a few more days until graduation and the craziness is ramping up.  Today we were lucky enough to enjoy a luncheon at our Director’s house with the senior class.  More importantly, we were joined by the US Ambassador to Ecuador, Ambassador Todd Chapman.   He was engaging and insightful as he spoke with each of our graduates personally and as a group.  It was a great experience for everyone involved and a perfect way to kick off the celebrations we’ll be enjoying over the next few days.

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May 31:  The outstanding work of our students never ceases to amaze me.  Today I was inspired by the work being done by a group of high schoolers who created and implemented an after school activity focused on reading for younger students.  Our high schoolers have put in a lot of time planning and organizing this year long experience and it was a treat to see it in action, such great kids!

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May 30:  The family is off to Galapagos today (lucky!) and we’re back to work for a busy week that culminates with graduation.  First though, it was our last Cougar Buddies day.  Easily some of my favorite days of the year, I’ve enjoyed the privilege of joining the 9th graders as we head down to IMAGINE Valley for a great experience working and playing with the younger students.  It’s always great but today I got to see a young student present about the solar system, using a hand made model, super cool!

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May 29:  This morning we were up early to get in a hike before breakfast.  We made the short hike to a waterfall just near our hostel in Otavalo and had the area all to ourselves.  Amy and I had done this hike before but in the six months since we’d done it the local municipality has done some major upgrade work on the trail, a pleasant surprise!  It was fun to have the waterfall all to ourselves and pose for a few pictures before making the hike back in time for breakfast.  Afterwards we stopped at the zoo in Guayllabamba on the way back to Quito, another great experience!

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May 28:  Off to Otavalo this morning for some shopping in the market, bargaining fun, and beautiful views.  After we spent all of our money we headed for Parque del Condor where we were lucky enough to see some amazing bird demonstrations.  The park is a refuge for injured and rescued birds of prey.  Since these birds are unable to fend for themselves once they’ve had so much human contact, they remain in the care of the park for the rest of their lives.  Luckily for us the park has done a great job of training these birds, which allows for a spectacular show and lots of learning.  The highlight for me was seeing the bald eagle up close and then getting to watch him soar over the valley below!

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May 27:  Amy’s family arrived yesterday and it couldn’t be better timing.  The energy and excitement that they brought with them is infectious.  We had a government holiday to celebrate the May 24th Battle of Pichincha which was well spent.  Up early enough to be some of the first in line for the teleferico got us on top of Pichincha itself for an amazing view of the city and surrounding mountains.  Afterwards we enjoyed a few rides with the girls at the amusement park on the mountainside and Amy won a stuffed elephant, what a highlight!

Week 21:

A much more calm week in the books!  No earthquakes and things feel like they’ve normalized a bit.  I’m forecasting this as the calm before the proverbial storm at school though, with the last three weeks upon us I know things will be intense!  Luckily we have a holiday tomorrow and Amy’s family arrives, so much fun!

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May 26:  We were extremely lucky today to have a guest at school.  Jon Rose, former professional surfer and founder of Waves For Water, was here to speak with our students about the amazing work he and his organization are doing around the world.  In 2009, Jon was on a boat in Sumatra when a earthquake hit.  As he reached shore he found devastation and immediately jumped to action.  He was able to help thousands of people with a few water filters.  Ever since that day he’s been working with and supporting disasters and communities around the world.  It’s inspiring stuff, have a look at their website.

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May 25:  It’s Towel Day!  In honor of Douglas Adams, author of the famous Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy “trilogy” of five books.  The first book is one of my favorites (I keep a very well used copy on my nightstand for occasional cheering up).  Towel Day is celebrated two weeks after Adams’ passing on May 11 (2001).  The concept is that you carry a towel, since in the Guide towels are described as “the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have.”  If you’ve read the book you’ll understand…if you haven’t, then you should read the book!

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May 24:  Well, it’s the best day of the year and it started off right!  Amy woke up super early to make me a birthday breakfast and everything seemed to roll perfectly from there.  I had a few surprises throughout the day and finished it off with a very special dinner at a fancy restaurant here in Quito.  To cap it all off, it’s a holiday here too.  The Battle of Pichincha is celebrated on May 24th, as you can see from this sign in our elevator 🙂

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May 23:  As a result of last week’s earthquakes there has been a few side effects, one of those was the cancelation and resultant rescheduling of our orchestra concert.  We’re lucky to have found a time for this showcase because our students (and orchestra teacher) have really done some amazing work.  The growth from the first concert of the year until now is tremendous and the kids are super proud of their work, as they should be!

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May 22:  A pretty standard Sunday for me, nothing too out of the ordinary.  We’ve got Amy’s sister and family coming into town later this week so we’re getting everything prepped.  Her sister is bringing us a few treats from the States, including almonds.  She’s been giving me a hard time about it but she doesn’t realized how they are so ridiculously expensive here.  So, I snapped this pic while I was a the grocery store today to let her know that her efforts to lug those along aren’t in vain.  I think we ended up with about four times this many almonds for less than this price.

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May 21:  It was another beautiful Saturday here in Quito, not really a surprise but it still makes me appreciate the weather at 9,000+ feet, on the equator.  Amy is out of town again this weekend to celebrate the end of the year with some of the ladies from our school.  I went for a pretty long walk and enjoyed the chance to go at my own pace and just relax.  In the evening I headed up to Garth’s house for some BBQ with a couple of the guys, it was a great way to cap off a relaxing day…also, you can’t beat the view from his balcony.

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May 20:  There are signs everywhere that the end of the school year is quickly upon us.  Today I literally received an invitation to the end of the year, in the form of graduation invitations.  The amazing handwriting belongs to Amy who was asked to help because of her beautiful penmanship.  Just two weeks from now we’ll be watching the class of 2016 walk across the stage, exciting!

Week 20:

Well, this was an intense week…one of the wildest I’ve ever experienced just for Wednesday alone!  2 earthquakes in one day almost felt surreal, being at school was, in a way, more calming than being at home on the 9th floor!  Anyway, we made it through safe and sound, on with the show!

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May 19:  Everything seemed to calm down a bit after last night’s craziness.  Both Amy and I felt like we slept a little uneasily last night but we’ll make it through the day, as long as there is no shaking!  We were invited over to a friend’s house for dinner tonight and I saw this sign hanging in their kitchen.  After the experiences of yesterday I felt like this sign was very appropriate, especially considering those who live on the coast.  Truly blessed.

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May 18:  So last night we were rudely awakened at 3:00 AM by an earthquake.  It was 6.8 magnitude on the coast of Ecuador but it shook us for a solid 40-45 seconds or so.  This was my first big earthquake, having been gone on April 16 when the 7.8 magnitude quake hit.  It certainly got my heart racing!!  We learned a lot about what we’re supposed to do in the event of an earthquake after we arrived to school since we felt woefully unprepared to handle this at home (at school we know exactly what to do!)  One of the things we learned was that you’re supposed to have “sturdy shoes” next to your bed.  Amy thought it was funny when I put these next to my side of the bed.  Luckily I was wearing shoes this morning at 11:45 AM when we experienced another 6.8 trembler!

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May 17:  Today I was invited to the Mock Trial of Malinche.  She was charged with Treason against the Aztecs for helping Hernan Cortez.  The jury found her guilty but I’m not so sure the defense team didn’t have a better case.  Anyway, such is the court of law…guilty!  The 7th graders who put on this Mock Trial were very impressive, clearly prepared and extremely excited to put on a show!!  Moctezuma really came prepared and held to character beautifully!

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May 16:  Every day I walk past the IMAGINE playground and can’t help myself from stopping to watch the little kids playing and having such a blast.  Today as I passed I saw this little guy folding himself into a tire, he was set to roll down the hill and disappointed when his teachers only allowed him to roll on the flat ground.  In any event he had a great time and was laughing the whole way 🙂

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May 15:  It was almost 6 years ago already that I left Italy.  I had been there 3 years and had become a fan of the Palermo soccer team.  During those years they were a decent team who managed to stay in the top 10 at least, while winning some big games against the top teams.  However, in the last couple years they’ve struggled a lot, to the point that this year they were on the brink of relegation to the B league.  If they could manage a win against lowly Hellas Verona they would avoid relegation…I turned the game on at half time to find a 1-1 tie.  Not long after Palermo scored a go-ahead goal and then another to lead 3-1.  I was feeling good when all of the sudden Verona put one in the back of the net.  All of the sudden it was a close game and a nail biter, no overtime and a tie would mean relegation, they had to win!  The seconds ticked off the clock and Palermo fought off attack after attack.  An intense final minute led to a huge sigh of relief from me and all Palermo fans…selfie to celebrate!

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May 14:  Amy went away for the night and most of today to enjoy some time with friends.  That left me with the chance to relax and get a few things done around the apartment, unfortunately that also meant some work I had brought home from a busy week at school.  While I was going through my notes I found a doodle that proves my head was thinking about summer a while back!  Each summer we have a party with our family and friends in Wisconsin and each year we design a t-shirt.  I think this sketch will be the basis for our shirt this year, the state of Wisconsin throwing a frisbee.  I imagine the artwork done by our screen-printing friend will be much better than this, at least I hope it will be!

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May 13:  Friday the 13th, yikes!!  The moon wasn’t full, thankfully, and I think that helped keep things a bit calm around here.  I did, however, see something I’d never seen before.  I was walking around campus when I spotted a long-tailed hummingbird hanging around.  It took a few tries to get a decent picture with my phone but I managed okay, maybe tough to see in this small picture…sorry.

Week 19:  

There we have it, week 19 in the books and we’re off and running in the middle of May.  The end of the school year is getting very busy and I’ve been a little slow posting pictures.  As the craziness of the end continues I’ll try to find a little time to update, if not it might linger into the beginning of summer when time is abundant 🙂

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May 12:  The rainy season is supposed to be over but that doesn’t exactly seem to be the case.  We continue to get awesome storms rolling in over the mountains.  While I’m not much of a fan of the rain I certainly appreciate the views and scenery as the clouds slowly envelop the mountains.  Today, with the sun ducking behind the clouds we got some really cool light!

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May 11:  The last couple days at school we’ve been lucky enough to have an honored guest from Freedom from Chemical Dependency (FCD) visiting our school.  This awareness piece is huge for our community and the time Fernando was able to spend with our students, teachers, and parents was just the tip of the iceberg.  We’re very excited to be welcoming him back at the beginning of next school year.  Very powerful stuff and extremely engaging!

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May 10:  Today was our Years of Service celebration to celebrate faculty and staff who’ve been at the school for a certain number of years.  We celebrated at Casa Guayasamin, the former house and now museum of Oswaldo Guayasamin.  He was the most famous artist in Ecuador and when he died in 1999 his house was turned into his museum, it’s really cool!  We had a nice celebration and enjoyed a tour of the house as well.  It was a bit chilly so at one point we snuck into one of the galleries to warm up and sneak some pics 🙂

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May 9:  Back to school today and the end of the year is coming up very quickly.  I’ve started “end of the year” conversations with teachers already but that doesn’t mean that the year is finished.  While I was in one classroom today I noticed something I had somehow missed all year, a Wisconsin magnet!  If this was a teacher from Wisconsin I wouldn’t have been surprised but this was on a Venezuelan teacher’s cabinet…always proud of our cheese 🙂

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May 8:  Another early morning and another fantastic view.  This morning we were off to go horse back riding, my first time ever!  I got an awesome horse who just didn’t want anything to do with being at the back of the pack, she was keen for sure.  At one point the guide told us we could hit a gallop, I was all over that.  I think, honestly, that my horse could’ve won the Kentucky Derby, we were flying and it was incredible!!!

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May 7:  This morning we woke up bright and early to an amazing view of Cotopaxi Volcano.  This is why we came up here and we weren’t disappointed!  After a great breakfast we headed out for a trek up Pasochoa to 4200 meters (about 13,800 ft).  It was a grueling hike and the weather changed quick as we neared the top but we still got the rewards of an amazing view, a small snack, and some tea 🙂  Then it was back down before a storm hit.  The hot tub upon our return helped with the sore legs and we enjoyed a very relaxing evening playing cards in the common room.

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May 6:  Friday we headed out of town to Cotopaxi National Park and stayed at a cool hostel called The Secret Garden.  The crowd was a little younger than we’re used to but the energy of the place was great!  We enjoyed the atmosphere and the cool design of the buildings.  I was impressed with the kitchen the most!

 

Week 18:

This week moved much faster than last week.  It’s been quiet around school with the seniors working hard on exams but perhaps even busier than normal as we gear up for next year.  The High School schedule is almost complete and work on Middle School has begun, I get the pleasure (and I mean that, I love it) of working on both.  The school year is winding down fast, we’re already coming to the end of the first week of May, wow!

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May 5:  Cinco de Mayo.  I’ve realized over my years of international living that this is almost strictly an American holiday (I’m not even sure Mexicans celebrate the Battle of Puebla).  I laugh every year because so many people think it’s Mexican Independence Day and really all we want is an excuse to drink margaritas and eat nachos!  We celebrated a little tonight but not before this classic move by Garth.  It’s tough to see with the sun but Garth is standing on his desk and yelling out of his window, “food truck!”  It’s a long story but it comes down to an idea we’ve had about combining a maker space with auto-shop class…might be a pipe dream but it would be fun!

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May 4:  “May the fourth be with you”.  It’s Star Wars day, too bad we didn’t plan ahead and celebrate this one at school!!  Today I got home to Amy making all sorts of weird faces toward her phone.  I didn’t hear her talking to anyone (I thought maybe her nieces).  Eventually I realized that she’s discovered the face overlays on Snapchat and is hooked!  It didn’t take long for her to suck me in and we were laughing, face-swapping (it never looks good!) and making ourselves look like dogs and koalas.  As much as I want to give her a hard time about it all, I enjoyed it too much myself!

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May 3:  Tuesdays are my lunch recess duty days.  I’ve got a sweet location at the swings area.  Usually it is quiet and only a few kids come and play on the swings.  However, over the last few weeks there has been a huge influx of kids hanging out in this area.  It’s great to see them being active, many of these kids used to just sit at lunch tables and chat.  Yesterday I asked a question about when parents are ready to start loosening the reigns, today I’m wondering…is there ever an age when we stop enjoying playing on swings?  If so, I haven’t reached it!  (The only problem here is that I’m too big for these swings…where are the adult sizes??)

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May 2:  Another beautiful Monday to start the week off.  One of our elementary grades was off for a field trip today.  I caught the “parent lineup” as they helped put their kids on the bus.  I don’t know if they HAD to be there or not but it was worth a smile for me.  At what age do the parents stop coming to see their kids get on the school bus?  I’m not sure my mom ever stopped…the last time I took the bus was middle school and she was certainly watching out the window every morning to make sure everything was okay for me 🙂

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May 1:  Amy and I kept to our tradition of lazy, yet productive, Sundays.  We got the usual grocery shopping, cooking, and cleaning done and then decided to pull out the Big Buck Hunter on Wii.  Ever since we got the second “gun” we’ve become even more competitive.  We try to keep it good natured, but we’re not kidding ourselves…we’re competitive when it comes to games!  In any event, it was fun to play and enjoy the evening at home.

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April 30:  It’s my mom’s birthday today, happy birthday mom!!  It’s always hard being away from home on special days like this but I got a chance to Face Time with the whole family and it seemed like they were doing just fine without me 🙂  I wish I would’ve been recording, it was classic hearing my grandma being totally shocked that we could video chat all the way from Ecuador on our iPhones!  My picture today actually comes from the very early hours of this Saturday.  Finished a great night of hot tubs and good food with great company, a fire, and some awesome tunes!

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April 29:  Friday, and the first day that our juniors felt like they were now the kings of the campus.  We were working on building the schedule for next year and looked out the window to see them all scrambling up to the “senior lunch area”.  It was a pretty funny sight to see them staking their claim as the big fish, very symbolic.  Heading to Papallacta tonight for a relaxing evening in the hot tubs and some trout for dinner!!

Week 17:  

So far this year, every week seems to fly by.  This week seemed a little slower than usual, probably because I was sick for the first part.  Days always seem longer when you’re slogging through with a head cold.  Anyway, it turned out to be a great week in the end.  I wish I would’ve gotten some pictures of the paint fight but I didn’t want to risk my phone getting painted up!

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April 28:  Today was our the last official day of classes for our senior class, now it’s on to exam time.  The next three weeks are filled with stress for them as they tackle IB exams.  The Student Council organized a great “Throwback Thursday” event (complete with a paint fight and bouncy castle) for their send off, it was really fun.  When I got home and finally cleaned all the paint off I found a nice surprise waiting for me.  We spent a lot of time last night preparing sangria and pulled pork for Amy’s wine club tonight.  She’s co-hosting with a colleague of ours, thankfully not at our house (it gives me the couch and TV for the night!)  I wasn’t planning on even getting the chance to try the sangria and food that I made but came home to a nice surprise in the fridge.  It turned out yummy, I’m not a huge sangria fan but this one was pretty darn good!

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April 27:  I’m healthy again and back to work.  It was a long day being home alone so I’m glad to be back to school.  We had accreditation committee meetings today.  With as much as I’ve done with accreditation over the years I can’t say it’s always my favorite activity.  However, the committee I was on today had to do with the facilities.  We needed evidence, which meant photos.  I got to take a nice long walk around campus taking lots of photos.  I captured this one with a very ominous sky without even realizing the weather was turning (I was focused on getting a shot of the courtyard).  Every once in a while you take a picture that turns out a lot cooler than ever intended.

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April 26:  Well, it finally all caught up to me.  I’m home sick today and not excited about it.  All this go, go, go and cold dunk tanks finally took me down.  Lots of rest, orange juice, and chicken soup.  The only good part is that I got to finish Ender’s Game, which was a surprisingly great book.  I’m impressed by how ahead of his time Orson Scott Card turned out to be.  This book, originally published in 1985, is a pre-curser to the modern day young adult science fiction genre.  It was engaging and too short, it left me wishing there was more.

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April 25:  It was a brilliantly sunny Monday today.  It was also the first day of Literacy Week.  We planned a whole school “read-in” in the courtyard this afternoon.  It was so much fun to have everyone out there reading together, a great message.  This great photo came, once again from the great Gabriel Cadenas.  He does amazing work taking photos for our school, his shots are always fantastic!!

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April 24:  It was a rough morning today.  I think the cold water and continued chills from yesterday’s dunk tank have gotten to me.  It was nice to relax and have a day off after what felt like more than two weeks of being on the go.  I lazed around the house most of the day and got out of the house a bit to go shopping.  The highlight of this slow Sunday was easily getting some of the photos from the dunk tank.  Just looking at them makes me feel cold again but also makes me laugh, it was a fun time other than the freezing cold water!!  Thanks to the amazing Gabriel Cadenas for the excellent photo!!

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April 23:  As I mentioned earlier, it’s been a busy week.  Today our campus hosted the “We Are Ecuador” solidarity event.  This was originally an international festival but with the recent events in Ecuador the school community has pulled together for a show if solidarity.  You can follow our progress and donate to our long term efforts at support here.  As part of the fundraising efforts the Student Council ran a dunk tank.  Many admin and teachers were asked to volunteer some time and both Amy and I joined in.  It was crazy COLD though and no one lasted more than 15 minutes before bowing out shivering.  Here’s a great shot of Amy about to hit the water (there’s also a great slo-mo video here.)  I think there are some of me, I’ll share them on my gallery page once I receive them.

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April 22:  Today we hosted another college fair (we’ve had a lot!)  UW-LaCrosse was here, my brother-in-law’s alma mater, I found that interesting for a few reasons.  Anyway, they took all of the tables out of our study hall area and some of the students decided to take up residence in my office instead, one even decided my desk was a good place to work (or read Hola Ecuador!)  Glad students feel comfortable squatting in my office.

Week 16:

This was easily the longest week of the year so far.  After the earthquake on Saturday night it seems like everyone has been moving a couple speeds faster and with more purpose.  While there is nothing wrong with that, it sure can be exhausting.  School had a different feel as well, our students were very focused on what they could do to support the victims along the coast.  All in all it was a tough week but it was great to see how focused on support our community became so quickly.

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April 21:  Our students were out of school today as it was time for Student Led Conferences all around campus.  It was a wonderful day of celebration for many of our students.  Getting a chance to share their work, growth, and approach to learning with their parents is a fantastic opportunity.  It’s very powerful to see the student guiding the conversation and the parents actively engaged.

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April 20:  Our 10th grade students wanted to show their solidarity in support of Ecuador. They came to us with a great idea to wear Ecuador colors for the next couple days at school.  There was a lot of yellow, blue, and red around campus and it was a great reminder to everyone (whether Ecuadorean or not) that we were all in this together.  Thanks to our 10th grade leaders for bringing this idea to life.

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April 19:  Sunday, as news came in about the coastal towns and the devastation from the earthquake our students were already jumping into action.  Led my some of our most inspiring senior students the AC community has already begun to have a positive impact.  Donations have been streaming in for the past two days and I’m guessing that will continue for the foreseeable future.  Our community has stepped up big time!

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April 18:  We had our third Cougar Buddies day today, these are always great.  As usual I accompanied the 9th graders to our IMAGINE Valley campus for a fun day.  We focused on celebrating Earth Day this time and the kids had all sorts of activities focused on the Earth.  I walked into a conversation between one of our 9th grade boys and a pre-K girl.  He was comparing his shoe size to hers and saying, “I don’t remember being this small!”

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April 17:  After a long night of traveling (I got home at 4:59am) it was all about trying to recover some energy today.  It was a solemn day as news and reports of the devastation on the coast rolled in.  I went to the grocery store, as usual on Sunday, and it was inspiring to see the donation center overflowing with food and water.  On my walk to the store I passed this graffiti, one I’ve passed probably 50 times by now.  But today it made me stop and think…I’ll keep my interpretations to myself but it seemed relevant in the wake of yesterday’s events.

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April 16:  It was the last day of AASSA today and we had an 11:30 pm flight back to Quito.  However, that was delayed because of a 7.8 magnitude earthquake on the coast of Ecuador this evening around 6:30-7.  Amy was outside and felt the whole thing but is thankful that she wasn’t indoors.  All is well for us personally but the country has been hit hard.  Just as all of that was happening I was enjoying a parting drink and pizza with some new (and old) friends in Lima.  A beautiful view from Joe’s balcony.

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April 15:  Halfway through April already, wow.  It is a colleague’s birthday and we went out to celebrate tonight after another great day at AASSA.  I had an amazing steak and a few chilcanos, yummy!  The picture above is a great reminder of a very funny dinner this evening, we’ll be giggling about this for years to come 🙂

Week 15:

This week ended while I was in Lima, Peru (my 47th country!)  It was a very busy week (always seems that way when you travel) but very enjoyable.

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April 14:  The full conference officially started today, and it was a great start!  The FDR staff created a drama production as their keynote, very creative and entertaining.  There was lots of great learning happening and many notes taken.  I’ll be reflecting on this stuff for a long time.  It was also nice that Dan and I went to almost every session together, it gave us a lot of time to collaborate and brainstorm.  Day two tomorrow 🙂

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April 13:  Today was the first day of the AASSA conference.  Well, it was really the pre-conference and it was awesome.  We attended the session about the FDR Innovation Academy and it was awesome stuff!!  After we finally made it back to the hotel I headed to the gym for a workout at sea level, what a difference!!  To top it all off I enjoyed a great dinner at a yummy restaurant (this cool ceiling decoration is from there, Cosme) with Emily and Michelle, friends from PTC…it was a blast!!

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April 12:  We got into Lima today and had the afternoon free.  We headed to Malécon to take in the coast and beautiful views.  We shared a few drinks and dinner as a team as well, it was a great night!

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April 11:  Only one day at school this week before heading off to Lima for the AASSA conference.  Unfortunately that means we’re going to miss the school performance of The Witches.  Luckily, for us, we were invited to a special showing of the performance.  The kids were great and it was fun to take in the private show!

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April 10:  The first full week of April means it’s Masters weekend in the golf world.  For many years my father and I would road trip and play golf in the mornings followed by chicken wings and watching the Masters in the afternoon.  Since that was unable to happen this year I figured there was no better way to watch Sunday of the Masters than with chicken wings and big screen TV.

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April 9:  Yesterday and today our school hosted the JV end-of-the-year tournament for boys soccer and girls basketball.  Both of our teams came in second place, with heartbreaking loses in the championships.  Our girls gave up a significant lead and couldn’t manage to hit their free throws down the stretch.  Meanwhile, on the soccer field, our boys played into overtime and then went to penalty shots.  The crazy thing is that they beat this team earlier in the day on penalty shots…very well matched teams.  Great fun to watch all of our athletes compete!

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April 8:  Every Friday at school for the last few months has begun with a wonderful hot chocolate from Sweet Morning Charities.  This is a coffee shop that was started by our students and teachers from the student support program.  Their classmates volunteer to help out and for many months there has been a performance piece for patrons.  This morning one of the middle schoolers rocked out some awesome electric guitar while people enjoyed their coffee shop experience.

Week 14:

This week took us from March to April, amazing.  3 months and a few days into this journey and I’m really enjoying the process.  I’m glad I’ve stopped to appreciate just a few of the moments that bring me happiness.  I actually am to the point where I’m ending up with multiple pictures a day, choosing which ones are stories I want to document.  Onward with April.

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April 7:  For as long as I can remember my grandfather, and therefore my father, have been telling lame jokes.  My grandma used to call them “groaners” along with an assortment of other politically incorrect names.  Anyway, one of those jokes was about how he lost half of his finger.  He would then proceed to pretend to take off half of his finger by using his thumb as a prop (I’m sure you’ve seen this one.)  I’ve unfortunately reached the level of “lame-joke teller”.  I walked into an 8th grade social studies class just as the teacher said something about the machinery during the industrial revolution being dangerous, so dangerous that workers would often get injured.  It seemed a perfect opportunity for me to take my finger off for them.  They were impressed (or maybe taking pity on me) and laughed, then tried to take their own fingers off!!!

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April 6:  Being that it’s rainy season we’re starting to get accustomed to the cloudy afternoons and the occasional foggy morning.  However, today we had a slight drizzle to start us off.  Luckily that also meant a rainbow over the mountains as well.  It’s tough to see in this photo, if you can’t see it just trust me 🙂

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April 5:  Today I got the chance to sneak into the back of the theater to see the rehearsal of our school’s upcoming performance of Roald Dahl’s The Witches.  Amy is making a cameo as one of the witches and I’ll be away next week so I thought I’d try to catch some of her scene.  Little did I know I’d also get to see the wig fitting happen.  A couple of our male teachers are going to look great as witches next week!!

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April 4:  Today, as I was following up with a teacher.  Three middle school boys came in to ask about an assignment they were missing.  In and of itself this is no big deal, except that not all of these boys would’ve done that earlier in the year.  In fact, for one of them, this was such a tremendous leap forward in responsibility that I had to capture the moment in a photo, it was awesome!  Hopefully the positive momentum keeps moving forward!!

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April 3:  Amy’s been sick all weekend with a head cold and I’ve given her plenty of space and time to relax.  I did drag her out of the house for a while today to run over to the mall and the ATM machine.  It’s a safe location and we can jump right into our car.  As we were heading down the escalators we were laughing at all the people who take mirror-selfies while looking up at the mirrors.  Just as we reached the bottom we decided to sneak our own as we laughed.  I think Amy enjoyed her short trip out of the house 🙂

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April 2:  Another rainy day here in Quito which meant I could happily play around in the kitchen and try a few new meals.  Made some more stuff in the slow cooker and tested out a couple other things I’ve been wanting to try.  I ended up running to the grocery store (1 block away) two times today.  Well, actually three since the second time I forgot my wallet at home!  I realized it before I got to the front of the line but not before I’d put everything on the conveyor belt.  I quickly threw stuff back in my cart and made my way to the middle of the store.  I tested my theory that an unguarded cart could sit for a long time in a busy grocery store.  Sure enough, after running home and coming back my cart was still there 🙂

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April 1:  It’s April Fool’s Day and, although I’m not a huge prankster, it was a fun day of jokes and laughing with the kids.  To finish off this great week we had a big celebration for Garth’s (HS principal) birthday.  There was a “surprise” (in quotes because he totally knew) party and his wife hired a band to play.  It was a great night with lots of dancing and rocking out!!

Week 13:

I can’t believe how fast this year is moving, keeping track of each day like this seems to make it feel even faster!  I got back into working out this week and feel great, if not a little sore.  Moving into April it’s supposed to be a rainy month around here but 1 rainy month beats 5-6 cold/snowy months any day 🙂

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Mar 31:  It’s been a busy week with a lot of visitors around campus from the Common Ground Collaborative.  Last night I was lucky enough to have dinner with some of the leaders, great conversation!  At one point in all the running around today Dan showed up in our offices with an ice pack on his hand.  A quick inquiry revealed that he had broken his finger while playing goalie against the 5th graders at recess (I promptly tweeted this picture out, #PrincipalsInAction).  Most impressive of all was the huge grin he had while laughing at himself and telling the story.  He’ll bounce back soon – it’s all for the kids!!

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Mar 30:  As I mentioned about the last few days, it’s been wet.  Up until now, we haven’t had more than a couple days of showers in a row.  However, the last three days right at 2:00 (you could almost set your watch by it) HUGE thunder storms have rolled over the mountains.  The thunder cracks have made me jump a few times, I can’t recall a louder storm in my life…maybe it’s because we’re higher up here and closer to the storm 🙂  Anyway, I had to capture a picture of the impending storm today, it was a good one again!

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Mar 29:  It’s been rainy around here the last few afternoons but before the storms roll in I’ve managed to get around campus and see some students in action.  Today as I was heading back from the upper field area I passed our gardens, awesome!  We seemingly have everything in there, and it’s very well maintained.  Being an apartment/dorm dweller for pretty much all of the last 15+ years of my life I’ve never been able to start my own garden – some day.

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Mar 28:  Back to school after a week off, always a long day.  I’m not sure what motivation hit me when I got home (okay, I’ll admit that Amy’s workout routines may have inspired me) but I decided to turn back to something I did a lot last year, P90x3.  I figured I could make it through 30 minutes and even though I was dead when I finished I felt good.  I’ll see if I can’t keep this kick going, along with some healthier eating practices too.

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Mar 27:  Sundays are usually days for us to hit the grocery store, clean up around the house, and just relax in preparation for the week to come.  Having been laying around for the last few days there was plenty to do!  Amy got adventurous and decided to wash the duvet cover but got a little lost inside while trying to put it back on the comforter…whoops!  I had to snap a pic before helping out 😉

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Mar 26:  I’ve always enjoyed trying new recipes and foods but ever since Amy brought a slow cooker back from the USA I’ve been even more excited.  Since this journey of the 2016 yearbook began I’ve realized how many times I think about taking a picture of food to share.  I’ve realized that food makes me happy in so many ways, but none more than in the preparation and especially in trying new recipes.  This chicken tortilla soup wasn’t earth shattering but I had this realization while putting it together…and it was yummy!

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Mar 25:  Basketball season is nearing an end and unfortunately for me it came to a close for the Badgers tonight.  In all honesty we surprised everyone by turning our season around and qualifying for the NCAA tournament.  Then, by winning the first two games, we really shocked people.  The crazy thing is that we had a very good chance to have won a third game but just couldn’t hang on down the stretch.  A tough way to end but a good run.  Next year provides hope with all of our players returning as well as a few new faces joining the group.  Sad to have lost but enjoyed the run and look forward to next season!

Week 12:  

It was a very relaxing week, always love a school holiday!  We’re back at it this coming week and have a fairly long haul until the end of the school year.  Summer plans are already in place and flights are being purchased.  It’s always exciting to start thinking about summer…now it just needs to get here 🙂

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Mar 24:  We headed back to Quito today after deciding to cut out our previously scheduled two days in Baños.  It was a great decision and will provide for a few good days of real rest and relaxation!  Today was also an Ecuador World Cup qualifier game against Paraguay.  I met up with some people from school in an attempt to buy tickets on the street but to no avail.  Apparently now that Ecuador is playing well everyone wants to hold onto their tickets.  I went to the grocery store instead.  Another great decision, it was devoid of people and I was out of there in no time.  On the way home I stopped to watch the last five minutes with the crowd around this TV at en electronics store.  We saw Ecuador tie the game at 2-2 in extra time.  It was funny to see every TV available with a crowd like this surrounding it.

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Mar 23:  On our way out of Cuenca and back to Riobamba (on the shorter route this time!) we stopped at the Ingapirca Ruins.  This is the best preserved Incan ruins in Ecuador.  As we learned, once the Spanish conquered the Inca there were very few establishments that managed to survive.  The picture above shows the remains of the sun temple, the sun god being the most important religious figure in the Incan civilization.

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Mar 22:  We went back to the museum this morning because I was keen to see the exhibit about shrunken heads and the Shuar culture (the Amazon tribes are the only people in the world to be credited with this practice.)  The exhibit was educational for sure and we learned that the Shuar continue this practice today but no longer use human heads, using only sloths instead.  With our heads fully intact we headed toward our hotel but got distracted by a nice cafe where we spent some time reading and enjoying the weather.  Then we were off to the zoo, a totally outdoor trek through the mountains.  It took us about 2.5 hours to walk the whole route, a very cool concept for a zoo.  The bird in the picture above was trying to snatch my phone as I took a picture.  We had to walk through a fenced in tunnel as he sat on top of the (too short for me) tunnel.

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Mar 21:  We arrived in Cuenca last night and saw a little of the town.  Today we did a lot of walking around the city and just taking in all of that it has to offer.  We tried the museum but found out it was closed on Mondays, turns out a lot is closed on Mondays here.  We made it to the top of the cathedral and saw a few other churches.  Since so much was closed we decided to drive out to a couple towns outside Cuenca that were recommended.  Sigsig and Chordelg were meant to be neat little towns to walk around.  Honestly we weren’t impressed but spent a little time checking out their markets and appreciated the scenery on the drive.  At night we enjoyed a bit of the cafe lifestyle and had some good food.  Walking home from dinner we caught a few of the churches all lit up alongside a full moon.

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Mar 20:  We left Riobamba today expecting a 4 hour drive to Cuenca.  Unfortunately, the route I followed on Google Maps ended up leading us on a route that took about 8 hours…oops!  There was no shortage of beauty though.  We were in the mountains almost exclusively and encountered waterfalls, fog, rain, sun, and a couple landslides.  Luckily none that impacted our trip, just signs that they’d happened recently as seen in the picture.  Photo credit goes to Amy using my phone, as I was driving 🙂

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Mar 19:  Spring Break, woohoo!!  We started off for our road trip heading to Cuenca with a stop in Riobamba to break up the drive.  After about 3.5 hours we hit Riobamba and settled into our hotel and then went for a walk around town.  It’s a small town right at the base of Chimborazo but unfortunately we couldn’t even see it because of all the clouds (the usual state of things apparently.)  We saw a few cool markets and a couple churches.  It was quiet around town despite being a Saturday, or maybe that’s just the pace of this city.

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Mar 18:  Friday, the start to my week 🙂  This week it’s also the start of Spring Break.  We head out for a road trip tomorrow but not until school is over.  Standing near the cafeteria at lunch time I noticed one of the tables being just overloaded with 9th graders.  I started to joke that they needed to squeeze in to make room for me when two more kids came up and magically found space.  I love how well bonded our 9th grade class is in particular, I think they’re so tight that sitting at more than two tables would stress them out!!

Week 11:

The start of the year is flying by, hard to believe that we’re 11 weeks into the year already.  I’m finding it pretty easy to take my pictures on a daily basis but am having a harder time sitting down to post them regularly.  I’ve gotten it down to about once a week and feel like that is fair enough.  I’ll see if I can’t improve that as the year goes on but for now I’m happy about my progress toward my goal.

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Mar 17:  My day looked busy on the calendar to start but then a few things got moved/canceled and all of the sudden I had a very free feeling.  This allowed me to get into a lot of classrooms and get around campus much more than usual.  I was passing the art rooms when I came across this sign, I love it!  Preach the Mindset!!

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Mar 16:  Our Wednesday ended with a little teacher-led PD today.  Amy and a few other teachers shared some of the wonderful ways that they’ve been integrating new technology into their classrooms.  It’s always a nice feeling when teachers can learn from each other and get excited about the tools shared.

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Mar 15:  Busy week around school this week.  The seniors have their Mock DP exams, two a day.  Also, today we’ve got a college fair happening in the courtyard which always brings another level of energy to campus.  It’s fun to see our kids investigating the possibilities for their future.  Thinking back…did my high school not have these events or did I just not care enough to attend?

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Mar 14:  As I’ve said before, I’m a HUGE basketball fan and March is the greatest time of year for hoops.  Yesterday was “Selection Sunday” which means brackets are out and it’s time to see how long mine will last until it is totally busted.  ESPN allows you to pick 10 different brackets, to be honest, after a while they all feel the same.  I picked this one based on how I hoped the tournament would go.  Note:  I hate Duke, especially after last year, but the villain’s presence serves to make everything more exciting.  Obviously I’m a Wisconsin fan and two of my best buddies went to KU and UVA.

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Mar 13:  Sunday after a long week and two big weekend events was bound to be a lazy one.  We took care of the usual Sunday chores like grocery shopping, preparing lunch for the week (mostly Amy today), and watching TV.  I also worked on completing my second book review for Middle Web.  I reviewed Rigor in Your School: A Toolkit for Leaders which I submitted today.  I don’t expect it to be posted for a while but I’m already looking for my next book, it’s great professional practice and they send me the books for free!!

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Mar 12:  After the grand opening of a “speakeasy” last night at the murder mystery party Saturday morning was a little harder than usual.  However, we had a great Spanish lesson and the day was off and running.  Literally, I participated in an Olympics style event today with 15 other guys from school.  We drew random partners for 2-on-2 events.  The day included basketball, tennis, volleyball, Corn Hole, and Kan Jam.  The last two events included barbecuing (as seen above, I got to fire up a bunch of chicken wings which I LOVE) and a nice social evening.  In the end I think I came out some where in the middle of the pack, no complaints…it was a blast!

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Mar 11:  Today was a busy but great day.  We were up to school to catch the bus at 7am and off to our TTT PD opportunity.  Amy presented twice today and knocked it out of the park.  I enjoyed four great sessions of learning.  Once we got home it was time to start getting ready for our Murder Mystery party, so fun!  My first character (Don “Big Jim” Ravioli the mafia boss) was set to be killed early on so I was assigned a second character (Rhett Bumbler, assassin and supposed professional gambler) beforehand.  Getting my costumes ready was the biggest challenge 🙂  It was a great night, if a little long, and the night ended with more than one murder!!

Week 10:

Another great week in the books.  It was nice to have Amy back after her trip to the States for some PD.  The “winter” here has finally hit and we’re experiencing some foggy and rainy days.  They’re also chilly but being from Wisconsin I wouldn’t dare say it is cold here!  One more week of school and we’re set for another school holiday…the second semester is flying by!

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Mar 10:  Our last day with students this week, tomorrow we’re off for the Teachers Teaching Teachers (TTT) PD event with over 1000 teachers at Colegio Menor.  It’s day two of the Fine Arts Festival and the band is on stage today.  Also around campus there are students working on art projects and sharing drama performances.  I had been hearing a lot about the 9th and 10th grade performance of some scenes from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime, I had to see it.  I can’t express how amazing it was, they used no props except their bodies and a few wood boxes, great creativity!!

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Mar 9:  Today was the beginning of the Fine Arts Festival at school.  Dan and I spent a lot of time walking around campus and checking out all of the fun activities happening.  From Drama to Art to Music it was happening everywhere.  Walking into this music classroom we found a few boys teaching each other chords on the guitar.  It was so cool to see them working together to share their skills.  Later in the day the Orchestra and Piano students performed and rocked it.  Tomorrow will be the band performances, surely just as amazing!

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Mar 8:  Most days I get to school and have a perfect view of the mountains.  Today it was an eerie feeling as I looked out at white.  We were literally in the clouds for a couple hours this morning and it was fun.  Lots of the little kids came in pretending to eat the fog it was so thick, fun!  A beautiful start to the day in a different way than usual.

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Mar 7:  A couple of weeks ago we celebrated friendship with our Cougar Buddies.  Unfortunately the 8th graders were double booked that day with a cancer foundation so they missed their Cougar Buddies time.  We made up for it this week by taking them to see their Buddies in IMAGINE.  I’m always impressed seeing the cool things happening in the IMAGINE classrooms and, of course, it’s inspirational to see our 8th graders working so well with the young ones!

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Mar 6:  There were some things at work that got me thinking about the way people communicate with each other.  I had a flashback to reading The 5 Love Languages, a great book, many years ago.  One of the issues I thought we were experiencing at school was miscommunication due to speaking different “languages”.  I wasn’t sure though, so I decided to go back and reread this book this weekend (thankfully Amy had a copy!)  I think I found some insights that will be very helpful professionally as well as a few good reminders about how I can be a better partner.

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Mar 5:  Amy is still away and that means guilt free basketball games all day long 🙂  The only problem with our new projector is seeing the screen when it is too bright.  So I had to do a little work getting the blinds as tightly closed as possible.  Also, we have one window that has no blinds in our kitchen.  I needed to get creative.  Luckily this painting, which comes off the wall in order to create our projection area, fits almost perfectly in front of that window…success!!

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Mar 4:  It was a beautiful Friday, warm and sunny most of the day.  It was busy around school and we finished the week with the IB Visual Arts Exhibition after school.  Some serious hard work and effort on display as our 4 senior IB art students shared their last two years of learning.  We followed from the art exhibit to a high school happy hour and team event, a great way to end the week – lots of fun!

Week 9:

March is here and spring is rocking…oh wait, it’s always “spring” here!  March is upon us which means basketball!!  I’m loving being in the same time zone as America, watching live at a normal time of day is awesome.  We’re edging closer to our spring break and our last holiday of the school year, which means the end of the year is nearly upon us…crazy!

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Mar 3:  We welcomed all of the families who were new this semester into school today.  It was a great chance for them to meet each other, find out more about the PTO and other opportunities, and feel more welcome in our community.  We had a fun little ice-breaker organized by the admissions team to welcome everyone to the #LearnInCommunity family.  A great way to start the day!

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Mar 2:  It’s been a bit cloudy and cool around here lately, I guess this is what winter feels like in Quito.  We’ve had a busy week already and it’s only Wednesday!  Getting the chance to relax and hang out with friends mid-week is always a treat.  With Amy gone, the Wyncoll’s took pity on me and invited me over for dinner…a great night!  Adding to the evening was this view from their porch, so beautiful.

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Mar 1:  Hard to believe we’re already into March.  It seems like time is flying out of control.  It was a great day to kick off the month here at school, Talent Show day.  The energy was high and kids were nervous.  An opportunity to share talents doesn’t come without the risk of standing in front of a crowed theater!  A beautiful night to share with the community, so cool to see our kids’ skills beyond the classroom.  We saw a lot of amazing performances tonight and some real crowd pleasers for sure.  One of those was the world premiere of Alpha Omega a band of 6th grade boys performing an original song!

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Feb 29th:   Leap Day, so cool…I wish this was more of a celebration.  I saw a commercial while watching basketball (yes, it’s that time of year) talking about using the “extra” 24 hours this year to stop and give back to the community.  I thought it was a really cool idea, “Day it Forward”.  This should happen more often than once every four years but still, a great thought.  We started the morning with birthday celebration for all staff at school who’ve had birthdays in the recent months.  A banda de puebla and piñatas to get things kicked off, so much fun!

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Feb 28th:  I spent a lot of my weekend relaxing and watching basketball.  During the Badger game I was texting with a bunch of buddies and wondered if there was a Badger emoji available.  A quick search led to a Washington Post article in which they created an emoji for each of the NCAA 2015 teams…boom!  Now I can talk trash in emoji via text.  Go Bucky!!

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Feb 27th:  Amy finally got off to Houston.  Her flight was canceled because United was worried about ash from the erupting Tungurahua Volcano way down by Baños.  Apparently the people on the ground in Houston don’t know their geography very well, it’s almost 80 miles from Quito and the wind rarely blows north.  Either way, she made it into Houston eventually.  Since it was a long night of airport runs I thought it’d at least be worth sharing a pic of what caused the delay, beautiful anyway!  (Obviously this isn’t my picture but I really want to get some of my own.)

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Feb 26:  We’re back at school today, although a lot of the 6th graders would rather be in bed recovering from their trip.  The 7th and 8th graders return today after a full week of wilderness.  It’s great to be back at school but it seems like I’ve been gone forever!  Going through my pictures this evening I realized that I had a decent shot of the beautiful moon rising over the mountains from our trip, wanted to share since it was so enjoyable to take in, pictures just can’t do it justice.

Week 8:  

A fantastic week to bring February (nearly) to a close.  This was my 9th year of taking kids for a week outside of the school’s walls.  It’s always a positive experience and the chance to get to know our kids beyond the classroom is a great opportunity.  I always get to a point of reflection during the week when I think that we need to create more of these sort of adventures, there is just so much learning that happens in such a short amount of time…awesome!!

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Feb 25:  Our last day of this trip and the kids are ready for a shower and their own bed (me too!)  It’s been a great week and everyone has grown a lot from the experience.  We saved the best weather for the last day, perfect for a group picture in front of Imbabura Volcano (dormant for the last 14,000 years!)  A great group and a great week 🙂

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Feb 24:  Day three and excitement is still running high.  The hope for a dry evening lingers as the kids are eager to put this fire pit (above) to use!  It’s a cool design, never seen something like this before.  It’s dug into a hill and everything is level.  We had a local school (about 35 kids) come and join us for the morning activities.  It was a great way to open our students eyes to the differences in lifestyles.  We all had a chance for more climbing and some even took the “leap of faith” which was very inspiring!  More good news, we got a fire going tonight and the kids got to roast marshmallows, classic!  A beautiful night with a full (or almost, hard to tell) moon rising slowly over the mountains, super cool!!

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Feb 23:  We had some rain last night but our tents all held up nicely and we’re dry today 🙂  Camping for three nights is going to be a real stretch for some of these 6th graders, especially considering they’re sharing tents and were up late last night chatting.  But, it’s another beautiful day and we headed up onto the high ropes course this morning.  Lots of nerves and excitement but in the end almost everyone was successful, a great way to push personal comfort zones!

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Feb 22:  Day one out in the wild with 30 6th graders…couldn’t be more beautiful.  We’re sitting right in a valley between a range of mountains and volcanos, rough life I know!  The clouds hang around most of the day as they cling to the mountain peaks.  No complaints about clouds though, the sun is blistering and the UV impact is tremendous at this altitude.  We’ve got a lot of fun activities lined up this week, it’s gonna be fun!

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Feb 21:  I spent a lot of today getting ready for the upcoming week.  I’m off with our 6th grade class to Lago San Pablo for our Outward Bound Ecuador week aka “Week Without Walls”.  I needed to get a few items at the mall yesterday but mostly I had everything I need.  I can’t believe how much stuff I’m taking for only a week, I guess it pays to be over prepared rather than under.  Winter hat and gloves packed for the cold nights at altitude…brr!!

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Feb 20:  It was a slow Saturday, seems like the norm these days, with a great Spanish lesson to start us off.  We enjoyed the beautiful weather with a walk in the park and decided to test out the VIP seats at the movie theater to catch Zoolander 2.  It was pretty funny but I wouldn’t say it was any where near the original (they never are!)  We did enjoy the VIP though, big leather recliners in the back of the theater…I could get used to that!

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Feb 19:  A busy day ended a great week.  Before it was all said and done we got to see a lot of kids trying out for the Talent Show.  This sibling trio was fantastic, a student from HS, MS, and LS!  Finished the night with BINGO Night at school.  Unfortunately I didn’t win (not even close) but it was a fun community event!

Week 7:

Here it is, the seventh week of my New Year’s resolution.  So far it’s been an incredibly reflective journey and a challenge at times to stop and remember to take a picture and reflect on the moment.  However, I’ve found the urge to capture moments with pictures more often and very much have enjoyed stopping and recognizing the awesomeness of life 🙂

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Feb 18:  Today was a great day.  My schedule originally called for an 8 hour accreditation team meeting to write vertical summary reports.  However, having gotten a great start with our team yesterday we found a great rhythm this morning and managed to finish by lunch time!  Our report is solid and we’ve already received feedback to make us believe that we completed our task, not only quickly, but well!  It was a great way to start the day.  When I got home after an afternoon of scrimmaging the varsity basketball team I found a great video in my inbox announcing that I was the customer of the week for the Sweet Morning Charities Coffee Shop here at AC…a great way to end the day 🙂

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Feb 17:  Mid-week meetings…ugh, the worst 🙂  For some reason every school I’ve been at has held their staff meetings on Wednesday afternoon, I guess it just makes sense to have it mid-week.  Anyway, if there’s one thing I’ve learned about meetings it’s that bringing food always makes them better!  Dan does a great job of always having cookies available at the Intermediate School meetings…as you can tell from the picture, the cookies go fast!

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Feb 16:  Last night we had a parent meeting at school until fairly late which meant dinner was a sandwich at the corner store.  Tonight I got to come home and make food, which is something that I enjoy and helps me relax at night.  I really enjoy finding “easy” recipes that are healthy and taste great.  Occasionally I’ll click between recipe websites for too long and save a bunch of bookmarks to try in the future.  Tonight I went back looking for one of those and found Black Bean Pesto Wraps…yum!!

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Feb 15:  A beautiful Monday morning led to another great start to the school week.  Today was our second iteration of Cougar Buddies, an initiative for our older and younger students across the campus to engage and build community.  Our first experience happened on Thanksgiving and was great…today’s was even better!  Seeing the smiles and hearing the laughter shared amongst our students is an amazing way to start the week!

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Feb 14:  Valentine’s Day!!  I couldn’t have found a better person than Amy to make my life amazing.  I’m very fortunate to have a best friend, travel partner, confidant, and inspiration all built into one.  There’s not a day that goes by when I’m not reminded of Amy’s awesomeness…today we celebrated in a low-key fashion with some great home-cooked meals, Quito exploration, a little bowling, and this homemade card from Amy.

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Feb 13:  A beautiful Saturday started with a great Spanish lesson and was generally a “lazy Saturday” full of relaxing, reading, and enjoying the weather.  I finished my third book of the year, All the Light We Cannot See, a great story if not a little sad as most war-time stories can be.  The night capped off with a Wisconsin Badgers victory on the road against #2 Maryland…what a win!!  We watched at home on our projector with some wine, always a great night 🙂

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Feb 12:  Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and crushes every where are hoping for a rose 🙂  At least that’s the plan for these two awesome ladies.  Their science class research project on cancer inspired them to create a fundraiser to benefit local cancer survivors.  $.50 per rose is a great deal, especially when you know it’s going to such a great cause!!

Week 6:

Another great week in the books, time is flying by!!  Getting back in the swing of things after an amazing holiday has always been tough but coming back to school this time wasn’t nearly as hard as in the past.  I can only think that this is because I’ve got such an amazing school community and I love my job 🙂  Here we go with week 7…

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Feb 11:  Normally my day starts slowly as I jump into a cab and relax for 10 minutes on the way to work.  Not today though.  I was picked up by a cab driver who spends too much time thinking about his car and how fast he can drive it.  At first I wondered why he had 9 rear view mirrors but figured out that there must be a law, 1 mirror for every 5 mph over the speed limit you plan to go.  Yikes!  Luckily, I made it safe with adrenaline pumping to get me ready for a wonderful day.

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Feb 10:  Back to school today but it’s been hard to transition back to the “real world” when everyone keeps asking about our trip to Galapagos.  My mind keeps coming back to the first part of this quote from Charles Darwin that was printed in one of the books on our boat.  As we work hard to develop character traits like “grit” and “mindfulness” in our students I can’t help but laugh a little bit because it feels like we’re really working to ensure that our students succeed at Natural Selection.  Interesting too, that a lot of the research happening today can link back to Darwin’s work done so long ago.

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Feb 9:  It was a relaxing Fat Tuesday, our last day of vacation before going back to school for the start of the second semester.  I spent a lot of the day going through pictures from our trip (I took over 2500, thankful for digital!!)  We are also very thankful for the chance to have seen such an amazing place, a true once in a lifetime experience!  My picture for today isn’t really from today but it is one of my favorites from the trip.  I took a lot of this little guy and this one turned out pretty awesome.

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Feb 8:  Monday was our last day of the trip and was more a travel day than anything.  We did, however, get an early start with a sunrise cruise around Kicker Rock.  It was a nice tranquil morning ride and gave us one last glimpse of some of the amazing ways the Galapagos continues to maintain such diverse life.  We arrived back to Quito safe and sound in time for dinner and a good night’s sleep – although we both felt like our beds were rocking with the waves all night!

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Feb 7:  Our penultimate day was spent largely on land where Amy experienced a bit of “land sickness”.  Our bodies had gotten so used to being at sea that being on land so long was a bit of a shock.  We went to a couple of ranches that have become private nature preserves for land tortoises.  Apparently the ranchers have learned they can make more money off of tourists coming to see the tortoises than beef – much easier work too!  We saw some really big tortoises, walked in a lava cave/tube, and had a nice lunch.  From there we were off to Puerto Ayora to visit the Darwin Research Center and do some shopping/relaxing at a restaurant.  Then it was back to the boat for our last night.  We’ll never forget these massive (the largest in the 400-500lb. region) land tortoises, what a sight!

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Feb 6:  Another long cruise through the night brought us back to the central islands for our first stop of the day at Espumilla Beach, Santiago Island where there were no other humans but an abundance of residents.  Ghost crabs scurried as we arrived, Brown Pelicans and Blue Footed Boobies dive bombed for fish, sea turtles left tracks toward their nests laid in the night (one even remained, apparently a late arrival), and we enjoyed a serene morning.  From there we were in the water for the first of two awesome snorkels that day, this one at Buccaneer Cove, Santiago Island.  We saw a huge Marbled Sting Ray, a few more sharks, and swam with sea lions.  We explored the lava near Sullivan Bay later in the afternoon and then took our most awesome snorkel of the week, saved the best for last!  It was sea turtle heaven, pictures can’t do it justice.

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Feb 5:  We landed at Espinoza Point on Fernandina Island, home to one of the largest colonies of Galapagos Marine Iguanas.  It was literally covered with these amazing creatures.  If you didn’t walk with your eyes down you would surely step right on one of these well camouflaged relicts of eons past.  Their black skin helps them warm up with the sun each morning but is also a perfect color to blend in with the volcanic rock that comprises all of the Galapagos Islands.  They’re also very close, literally, and from the photo above it looks like they’re friendly too!  Baby sea lions, flightless Cormorants, Sally Light Foot Crabs, a number of other endemic birds, and a Banded Galapagos Snake made our morning walk exciting.  A hot morning walking on black lava rock was rewarded with an amazing snorkel.  We swam with marine iguanas, Pacific Sea Turtles, more sharks, and countless fish…it was another exciting day capped off by a beautiful sunset as we crossed over the equator moving from south to north.

Week 5:

What a glorious week it was – A great weekend to kick it off and the first half of an exhilarating trip to one of the most unique places in the world.  I had no problem taking lots of pictures on this trip and only struggled to choose which to share here.  More to come in Week 6 🙂

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Feb 4:  The last day of my “Yearbook Week” was an amazing one in the Galapagos.  We started the day, after a 12 hour cruise, in Tagus Cove near Isabela Island.  We saw it all on this beautiful day.  From the famous Blue Footed Booby, to Galapagos Land Iguanas, to another famous bird, the Galapagos Penguin (who we even managed to swim with while snorkeling).  In the afternoon we made our way to Urbina Bay and saw some humongous land tortoises, land iguanas, and Galapagos Hawks.  On top of all that I took one of my favorite pictures of the trip…but silly me, I got so excited when the captain came on the loud speaker and said that there was a whale up ahead that I forgot my memory card in my cabin and thus when I snapped an amazing photo of the sperm whale’s tail as he fluked, it didn’t save!  We had some great laughs at my expense seeing as I was so elated and celebrated so loudly only to see the “no card” screen when I went to review it on my camera 😦  In the end it was an amazing day and one that will never be forgotten.

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Feb 3:  We started Wednesday (although we’d already forgotten what day it was at this point) with a hike on Bartholomew (James) Island early in the morning.  We weren’t allowed to land until 8:00AM and thus took a cruise around the bay to “kill time”.  However, upon landing we found three groups already had landed in front of us, tsk tsk.  We made our way up to a view point which led to this famous view of Pinnacle Rock and Santiago Island in the background.  A sweaty walk was rewarded with a nice snorkel in a cove (the right hand side of the picture) which gave us our first glimpse of a White Tipped Reef Shark, amongst many other wonderful sights.  Later we made our way  to Santiago Island and landed at Egas Port for a hike filled with amazing views, awesome animals, and a refreshing swim.

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Feb 2:  There are really no words adequate enough to describe the amazing animals and scenery that we’ve found in Galapagos.  As we stepped foot onto our first island of our cruise we came face to face with this Galapagos Sea Lion, just relaxing and taking in some rays.  Almost all of the animals, we’d come to find out, are very relaxed and are mostly unfazed by the presence of humans traipsing around their homes all day.  Our afternoon hike was on South Plazas Island, a beautiful island with a wide variety of wildlife.
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Feb 1:  We’re off to the Galapagos today and couldn’t be more excited!  On our flight there we got a view of the Quilatoa crater which we hiked around in back in October.  We also had a beautiful view of a number of snow capped volcanos as we flew south to Guayaquil for our stopover.  An exciting week off to a great start!

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Jan 31:  It’s been a wonderfully slow weekend knowing that we’re off to an exciting vacation tomorrow.  We got our bags packed and cleaned the house so we could return to a welcoming sight after traveling.  We played some Big Buck Hunter last night and brought it out again today to celebrate our accomplishments of the day 🙂

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Jan 30:  We had a great night out with some friends from school.  A yummy dinner and then over to test out the closest bowling alley to our house. Those of you who know me will be shocked to hear that we haven’t been there yet, especially considering it’s only two blocks from our place!  We had a great time but I was severely disappointed with the condition of the lanes (not to mention the overall experience:  no food or drink, unfriendly service, and four broken lanes).  We’ll continue the search for a potential replacement for Orden (or local bowling alley in Shanghai) but it was a fun night either way.

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Jan 29:  After a long week at school we decided to lay low on the eve of an 11 day school holiday.  We both got to work on our Spanish homework in preparation for our regular tutoring sessions on Saturday mornings.  Then Amy started calling people on Face Time and got ahold of this character, #FurWine.  My crazy (in a good way) sister has turned a furry wine cooler/holder into a hand puppet.  It’s pretty hilarious because of how ridiculous it looks, needless to say, we laughed a lot!

Week 4:

Four weeks in and I’m still going strong.  The future is looking bright for this project.  It was a long week at school as my two principals were away recruiting and I was covering both divisions.  Proud to say it was an over all smooth week.  Lots of running from one side of the campus to the other but that’s great exercise!  Onward with February.

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Jan 28:  Amy and took a walk on what was the third straight absolutely gorgeous day after the nasty start to the week.  Instead of the park we cruised some of the neighborhood streets to see what we could find.  En route to a new (for us) restaurant we stopped into Chino Video, the DVD shop where these discs aren’t exactly licensed.  There were stores all over the place like this in Shanghai, which led to us getting a pretty good kick out of the name of this store in Ecuador.

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Jan 27:  Another beautiful morning helped us send our 5th graders off to a two-night outdoor education opportunity.  These guys nervously huddled around with their HUGE backpacks before jumping onto the buses.  I always think the parents are more nervous and have a harder time with these trips than the kids!

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Jan 26:  Well, Monday was rainy and cold, abnormally we didn’t even see the sun.  However, Tuesday morning brought clear skies and a view of the moon as it was chased over the mountains by the rising sun…beautiful views, like this one, from my office are a frequent treat 🙂

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Jan 25:  I was all geared up to get back into my Twitter chats tonight after having been gone too long but come to find out that #admin2b isn’t back until next Monday.  Fortunately #chatsalad clued me in on #edtechchat.  The discussion was about #MakerEd and #MakerSpace, great discussion and lots of learning!!  Great stuff, Twitter chats rarely disappoint!

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Jan 24:  We celebrated Dan’s birthday last night and woke up this morning to some leftover dessert…awesome!!  Amy did a wonderful job with these fantastic chocolate covered strawberries, yummy!!

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Jan 23:  I walked outside heading to grab something to eat for breakfast and found a time machine.  I was immediately transported back to when I was 8 years old and more than fascinated with big trucks and heavy machinery.  My Tonka trucks are still laying around my parents house somewhere.  Luckily I had some time to just enjoy my bagel and watch them demolish the building across the street.

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Jan 22:  Ah Friday, a long week came to a close with a long day/night.  Our second Middle School dance of the year was once again a hit.  The Leadership Council has done a fantastic job of coordinating this year.  This time they brought in outside vendors to run a popcorn machine, cotton candy machine, and professional dancers/entertainers.  What a night!!

Week 3:

Week three in the books and on to week four.  The weather has been nasty around here but there is no shortage of happy moments to keep me smiling.  Week four brings HS exams and a crazy week at school…can’t wait to see what else!

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Jan 21:  Last night we hosted a Maker Faire on the AC campus.  The whole community was invited and it was a great event.  Kids from all over town were here with their parents exploring, tinkering, and making.  This sweet little girl was patient with me and my Spanish while I questioned her about what she was making.  “I made a flower by melting crayons” is what she explained.  Beautiful!

 

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Jan 20:  In case anyone might have forgotten Dan was sure to let anyone and everyone know that his birthday was coming up.  He was celebrated in style and deserves every ounce of recognition that he gets.  Happy birthday to a great educator, mentor, and friend!!!

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Jan 19:  A while back we came up with the idea to get some hummingbird feeders to place around campus.  We finally got a couple up and they’ve started paying immediate dividends.  This little guy cruised up right above us as Dan and I were chatting, so cool!

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Jan 18:  I could barely make it into the HS offices because of all the trash strewn about.  What was the big idea??  Well, the Recycling Club was making a point as well as recruiting new members.  Message received and well done!

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Jan 17:  Sunday means football, sadly for me this ended up being the last Sunday that meant football for a while.  The Packers made a furious comeback to force overtime but came up short in the end.  Time to retire the Packers Suisey for the season and move onto Badgers basketball…that could be a long season too, young team and new coach, but it will be fun to watch them grow!

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Jan 16:  Saturday was again spent mostly in bed but it provided me with the chance to finish my first book for the year and get started on my second.  When to Rob a Bank was a quick read and entertaining.  Levitt and Dubner are always worth the time, I’ve got Think Like a Freak waiting for book #3!  All the Light We Cannot See comes highly reviewed and is off to a great start!!

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Jan 15:  Well, since my “documented weeks” start on Friday this year, I have to say I got off to a pretty rough start this week.  I woke up in the middle of the night very sick and ended up in bed almost all day long on Friday.  I was still there when Amy got home from work with supplies to nurse me back to health.  She did an excellent job and by the end of the weekend I was back to (nearly) full strength!

 

Week 2:

Week 2 is complete and documented.  I was pretty darn confident I’d make it this far but I’m not sure I would’ve given myself a chance to make a whole month.  Week three is going well, more to come!

My New Year’s Resolution is up and running, I’m still going strong 🙂

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Jan 14:  It was a day like any other until we pulled out the orange vests and walkie-talkies.  I think we freaked a few people out who thought there was an emergency (or at least a drill.)  Alas, it was only Dan and I getting in the “emergency mindset” in order to act in the 8th grade drama class’ video project.  It’s hard to get your lines right when your scene mate is intentionally creating a blooper reel!!

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Jan 13:  Wednesday was a rainy and dreary day here in Quito but that only means that the fun critters are enticed to crawl out and show their faces.  As a kid I always loved when the rain would bring out worms and other critters.  This guy had the courage to venture into the high school hallway after school…good luck little fella.

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Jan 12:  There’s nothing like arriving to the courtyard in the morning to find out that your colleagues are accidentally color-coordinated with you.  If only I had something yellow in my hand to fit in with the group 😉   It’s a pleasure to work with such amazing people and be able to call them my friends as well!

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Jan 11:  Mondays are always a long day.  On the 11th I came home to Amy hard at work…on planning our wedding!  It’s still a long way off (looking at dates in summer 2017) but she’s excited none the less.  It makes me happy to know I’ve got a fiancé who is this excited about marrying me!!

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Jan 10:  Sunday in Wisconsin means Green Bay Packers.  When I was growing up I can remember seeing people with all manner of Packers gear on at church on Sunday mornings…I’m sure a few of those people were there praying on the Packers’ behalf!  Having lived in Italy and China it is awesome (for me, Amy doesn’t agree) to be able to watch LIVE Packers football.  This week I got to watch as they made a great come back to win in the wild card round of the playoffs…hoping for another win next week at Arizona!

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Jan 9:  This Saturday brought a new experience for me and Amy, “waffle hacking.”  It was a lazy Saturday but we decided to kick it up a little bit.  Ever since we got our waffle machine over the holiday break we’ve been learning new ways to use it in a less than conventional way…today, waffle brownies!  There were yummy 🙂  We learned from the experience and will be back with more waffle hacks for sure!

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Jan 8:  I like that my weeks “start” on a Friday.  Amy and I love to try cooking new recipes and every once in a while we find one that we decide to repeat.  This was a new one for us but one that we definitely want to have again.  We made zucchini pasta with shrimp in a homemade pesto sauce.  We enjoyed some red wine and finished watching Making a Murderer…if you haven’t seen it, you should!

Week 1:

Week 1 of 2016 is in the books and it’s been a great start to the year, hoping the rest of the year flows just as smoothly 🙂

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Jan 7:  One amazing part of living the “international lifestyle” is all the cool people you meet along the way.  I think it was about three years ago that Amy and I met this crazy cat in Shanghai.  Jay was there visiting his cousin and stayed for a few weeks.  We had a lot of fun and too many laughs during that time.  Luckily for him (and us) he is able to take time to travel quite often.  This trip brought him to South America for a few months and we were lucky enough to catch drinks and dinner with him before he jumped over to the Galapagos.

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Jan 6:  This was an ordinary day except that it was also my father’s birthday!  As one of the most influential and positive people in my life I wanted a picture of him today.  While laughing and talking with him on Facetime I forgot to capture a picture because I was too caught up in the moment.  So, I’ve decided to share this photo of my father from a couple years ago.  We were about halfway through a road trip from Mississippi to our hometown of Waukesha, WI.  This picture is from Beale Street in Memphis where we toured Graceland and ate lots of yummy BBQ and fried chicken…if I recall, the sign was part of the joke, although with us everything is a joke 🙂  Happy Birthday dad!!

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Jan 5:  Coming to work has never really been a struggle for me as I love my job and, like every school I’ve been at, the AC community is amazing.  However, if ever I was in need of a bit of positivity, all I need to do is look out to the west.  On Jan 5 the morning clouds and rain lifted and left this beautiful rainbow shooting up from the city below.  I can’t say there’s always a rainbow but the scenery is always awesome!

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Jan 4:  There is no better way to unwind from the first day back to work than to take a walk in the park with Amy after school.  It’s about 2.5 miles or so to walk all the way around Parque Carolina but we weren’t two steps into the park before we were greeted by the beautiful scene below.  It is light out in Quito until almost 7PM but the sun disappears behind the mountains much earlier.  This shot happened as the sun slowly fell through the clouds down to the tops of the mountains.IMG_2211.JPG

Jan 3:  Christmas time is, for most, spent opening presents and enjoying time with family.  That was true for us this past year, as my sisters and their spouses met us in DR for some fun in the sun.  They also brought us two suitcases full of goodies (mostly purchased by us and delivered to my mother, thanks mom!)  There were some awesome surprise gifts slipped in there from all of our family members but one of the gifts to ourself has been the hit around the house so far.  This amazingly huge picture (almost 100 inches!) is courtesy of a miniature projector that we bought on Cyber Monday, no better way to watch my beloved Packers lose.

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Jan 2:  We arrived home on January 2 at about 2:00 AM.  Thankfully we had the foresight enough, thanks to past experience, to know that coming home to a messy apartment is not enjoyable.  Being welcomed by a clean apartment and a put-together bed was the perfect way to arrive at 2 AM.  Better yet, the sight of your own (king size) bed after a couple weeks of bouncing from one hotel bed to another (usually not so big) is enough to put a smile on anyones face 🙂IMG_2196.JPG

Jan 1:  I started 2016 in Dominican Republic.  We watched fireworks from the roof our hotel in Santo Domingo as the clock ticked over from 2015 into the new year.  We enjoyed the day around town and headed to the airport for the entirely too long of a trip back to Quito.  A couple of years ago on a trip to Australia, Amy realized that Koala Keith makes a great travel partner (he’s a great pillow too!) and he’s been along for the ride ever since.  I thought I had found the best travel buddy a person could ask for, now I’m lucky enough to have two travel mates!

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