Sunday, January 26, 2014


I recently had a conversation with my mentor about how I'm beginning to realize that regardless of the situation or location, Max and I are able to be incredibly happy. This year has had it's ups and downs, and teaching has been incredibly difficult at times, but we have always been able to leave that at the school, and come back to our house that really feels like home, and simply be happy. Sometimes we forget we live in Alaska, and other times we just stare out the window in disbelief that we've actually done this, and that we live here. With that being said, we could probably be happy anywhere else too, and is part of the reason that we're in the process of deciding where in the world to go next year. It'll probably be somewhere new.

That was the first day my mentor, Todd, was here. The next night he was here was because of bad weather. He and another guy who was working at the school, Will, from Portland, crashed at our house, and Sara and Anthony came over too. We all had a wonderful time talking about life, books, the future, weddings, and we played a good game of Apples to Apples. It was so nice to have some company, and was wonderful to talk to someone from "the outside". I was thinking about how funny it is to invite someone into your house who you met a few hours earlier, but then I realized that it might be strange if there was another option, like a hotel in the village, but since there isn't, it's just the norm. We wouldn't have had it any other way, and it was such a wonderful opportunity to hear new perspectives, to network, and to help someone else out. Todd comes once a month, and Will said he will probably be out again before the end of the school year, so we've made new friends!

In fact, Todd has offered that we stay in his cabin near Denali on our way out in the spring, so we're now in the process of planning an adventure including touring around the Anchorage area, making our way out to Todd's cabin, visiting Max's uncle's cabin in Delta Junction, and finishing off this wonderful adventure with a ferry ride from Whittier to Bellingham. More on this later...

Anyway, when someone comes out here because they want to, one can generally assume that they're a pretty cool person. I don't think it's much of a coincidence that we all get along so well.

I thought it was a little ironic and funny, that we spent the week in language arts
writing about how we can make people who are new to Pilot Station
 feel welcome, and then I got to try this out with our visitors.
I didn't take them to all these places, unfortunately.
I was pretty impressed with this list my students came up with though! 

Today Max and I were talking about how incredibly lucky we are to even have this experience. Many people come and visit Alaska, and many people move up to "Alaska" and live in Anchorage, but it is quite the opportunity to be able to live out here in the bush. This isn't a place that many people can just come visit, because if you did there would be no where to stay. You also can't just move out here, there are no houses for rent or apartments. There is almost no feasible way to come out here and just live, unless you are a teacher and they think you're up for it. We always have the best conversations while we're out on a good hike, getting some sunshine and exercise.

Here are some pictures we took from todays adventure: 


Our iced over runway

The trail up toward the tundra hill, and to St. Mary's

There was a "warm" breeze up at the top of the tundra hill.

@1:00 pm

This is what a beautiful, sunny day looks like

Life is GOOD. 

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Washi Tape

I have a new obsession, and I think every crafty teacher should get on board: WASHI TAPE.
I am able to use it for so many different things, and it looks good too! It wears well, the kids think it's the coolest thing ever, and I am able to repurpose all kinds of ugly junk. Here are the things I have used it for thus far:

"The Pencil Problem"
Problem solved... I tape a flag on each students pen and pencil, that is their pencil to use for as long as that pencil lasts. At the end of the month, I give a prize to the students who have their pencils. Then I hand out new pencils with new flags to every student. Those who kept their old ones, now have 2 pencils to use.  This encourages them to keep track of them, and students who lose theirs can borrow from a cup of not so good pencils. 

I used this cute pink washi tape to repurpose an old Expo wipe jar, and I put white paper below to add the white contrast. The kids are so excited about these jars, but even more excited about what is in that "Mystery Jar". The "Mystery Jar" is a pinterest creation, reinvented. I have filled it with folded up post-its with different rewards on them, including "one piece of candy", "choose any spot in line", "Ms. Mumpower does an assignment for you" ect...

I have used it in front of each students desk, so that they don't sneak toward me as
 the day progresses. I can just ask them to line their desks up with their lines.
I can also dismiss rows by the color of their tape. 

I have used it to decorate an ugly box, and now it's a pretty box used for journal
prompts for early finishers to work on. 

It is used to decorate clothes pins for passes. Because they are used so much, I added scotch
tape over top to help with cleanliness and wear and tear. 

Each student has a clip that moves up and down the chart throughout the
day. The clips have worn very well this year, and are still looking good. 

I buy it on amazon, and I just bought this package because I was running out:
Washi Tape on

Friday, January 17, 2014

Back At It.

We're back to the daily grind, and everyone is back in the groove. My students have been very good, I was pleasantly surprised by how much they remember, and how easily they are adjusting to new routines. 

Last weekend we finally walked out on the Yukon (Max was scared out of his mind) and it was awesome! SUPER windy, VERY cold, but beautiful none-the-less. 

My eyelashes froze, and then froze together which really inhibited the view. 

The week passed without much craziness, other than the icicle story which I think a few of you might be anticipating. While we were walking home one day this week, one of my students was in an interesting predicament: When he was trying to stab the girl with the icicle, he had a mob of kids yelling at him, and the fight was picked with three older girls. We ran over and Max grabbed him, I broke the icicle out of his hand, and while he was squirming, kicking, and screaming, Max told the girls to go away, and let him go about 30 seconds later. He ran down the hill, and through the trees we saw the girl standing there waiting for him. He ran up to her, and she drew back and punched him in the face and he just dropped to the ground screaming. When he realized that no one was watching and he didn't have an audience, he got up and walked off. Nothing became of it, just another day in the life of a 4th grader. 

Recently, the weather has turned wintry. Last night we got a good storm with a severe weather warning. The wind shook the house all night, and the snow was piling up outside. 

... and inside. 

This is how it looked outside as I walked to school this morning. We went from a couple of
inches of snow on the ground, to drifts that were above my knees. 

This that same trail, today after school. 

This is our house from the hill above, on my way home after school. 

The back door of the school was frozen shut and barricaded by a few feet of
snow this morning. 

Saturday, January 11, 2014

While we were home...

We were lucky to get out of Pilot for break, many people were stuck all over western Alaska with freezing rain for the week leading up to when we were supposed to leave. Our first flight got cancelled, but we ended up making it out on the following day, at the last moment possible. We heard a plane land, so we called Era to see if it was ours, they told us it wasn't, but if we could get to the runway in 5 minutes that plane (which was headed to Bethel) could drop us off in St. Mary's on their way... What service!

Anyway, long story short, we made it to Anchorage without much trouble, and luckily, in time for our flight back to Oregon! We did all of our Christmas shopping in one store in the airport, in about 10 minutes. It was quite the show, and we had a great time doing it. When we finally made it home, it was so wonderful to get to share our stories with my family on the way home, and when we got to Max's parents house we were greeted by Beau who was SO excited to see us, which made me really happy (I was worried he may have forgotten about us!)

We had just a couple days before Christmas to relax, but we didn't do much relaxing the whole time we were back. We made some trips to the beach, I went for a beach ride on my horse with my mom, we went to Eugene to do some shopping, and we spent Christmas Eve with Max's family opening presents and eating wonderful food, then we spent Christmas with my family opening more presents and eating more wonderful food, and then Christmas evening with Max's family, eating even more wonderful food. I can't complain.

I also can't complain about the day after Christmas. I was planning on hanging out with Jenna all day, and I was so excited, because I hadn't seen her since spring break of last year! However, before I met up with Jenna, Max and I got an early start and jetted up the coast to Devils Elbow, and the Light House. I was super suspicious, because Max was talking my ear off in a very nervous fashion, and kept accidentally alluding to marriage, and he also had a very square small box in his pocket, but I didn't want to spoil any surprises for myself, so I went with the flow and figured that if I had waited 7 and a half years for him to ask me to marry him, I could wait a few more minutes for the sun to hit the special place he wanted to take me. So, we twiddled our thumbs, and Max kept on chattering on about this, that and the other thing, and eventually we walked down to our favorite spot to watch the waves crash. Then Max popped the question. It went like this... "So ah, How about it?" (opening the ring box) and then I said something along the lines of... "Oooh, put it on my finger!" And that's how it went, in classic Max and McKenzie fashion, we're engaged, and awkward as ever!

For the rest of break, we caught up with more old friends, got lots of congratulations (by the way, thank you all for so many congratulations, we feel so incredibly loved!)

Ty took some awesome engagement photos for us:

So, now on my free time I will continue to wedding plan (I can do it outside the closet now) and eventually we will get things figured out, hopefully in time for a late summer wedding in the Florence area! 

The break came to a close more quickly than we ever hoped, and it was so hard to say bye to everyone, but luckily, we're in the homestretch now, and we'll be home again before we know it! Our flights back to Alaska went flawlessly, but go figure, things got a little crazy once we got up north. We made our flight from Anchorage to Bethel with only a small delay, although we contemplated skipping the flight because we were quite sure we'd end up stuck in Bethel.

My last beer for the next 5 months. 

 Sure enough, we got there and met up with about a hundred other people, some of which had been stuck there since new years eve! We were told our flight was cancelled after we hung out for about 30 minutes, and we rushed to find a hotel as quickly as we could. We paid almost $20 for a 2 minute cab ride to the Allanivik Hotel, and they gave us their nicest suite (with it's own bathroom!) because that's all they had left, and we only had to pay a measly $220 for our room, and luckily we didn't even get bedbugs! 

We caught a break, and after spending the day in the airport hoping to get on a flight standby, we got on the last flight out for the day, and made it into Pilot right before the FAA closed the runway, and we were home at 6:30, the day before the kids came back to school. I was working in my classroom until 11, and got just prepared enough to teach the next day. 

Waiting for our ride on the Pilot airstrip

Our caravan! 

This week went much more smoothly than I ever imagined. It seems like the kids were eager to get back to the structured classroom environment, and they have been very agreeable and motivated. 

I hope that continues for the rest of the year! Happy 2014 :)