Monday, May 23, 2016

Beaver Island Field Trips

When you live on an island in the middle of nowhere there are going to be a few adjustments.  There are adjustments in your personal life (like paying $2.50 for every bag of trash you throw away) and in your professional life (like teaching classes of less than ten kids).  One of the aspects of being a teacher that can take some adjusting is how one travels to and from field trips.  You see, there are very few ways to get off of Beaver Island, and air travel is the only year-round option.  So, when your class (or club/sport if you coach) needs to go somewhere you must travel.

Last Friday, my class took off on the airplane for the first of two annual elementary swimming trips. I took these trips with my class last year too, but somehow never managed to post about it.  It's definitely a post-worthy experience though because there are few places in the United States (with Alaska being the exception) where air travel is the norm for school functions.  Not only are we flying, but we are flying in small 6-8 seat airplanes. 

In the morning, my class and I showed up at the airport approximately fifteen minutes before our flight.  No TSA, no security lines, and certainly no need to arrive early. We simply showed up and hopped on the plane.  The kids in my class are all true islanders and think the airplane is the "normal" way to travel.  Honestly, trying to get them all to wear seatbelts once we reached the mainland was MUCH more difficult than throwing them in a teeny airplane, mostly because seatbelts are unheard of on the island. 

Once we went "across" (the local slang for leaving the island) we made our way to the swimming pool. The 1st-3rd graders get to go to Charlevoix Public Pool twice a year for swimming lessons, which is super crucial on the island because they all swim in Lake Michigan non-stop and many of them wander to the beach by themselves during the summer. After swimming, we all went out to eat at Subway, which is another exciting, new experience for the kiddos.  There is no fast food on the island and a few of my students didn't even know what Subway was. I had to explain the menu to them and ended up doing all of the ordering because of the confusion, which was fine because they aren't used to being around strangers in the first place and many of them were being pretty shy. 

The way home was similar to the way there.  No lines, quick departure, and smooth flying.  Taking trips like this one is incredibly important in teaching students how to successfully live off and on the island.  There are many experiences that our students just don't get to have, even simple stuff like placing a food order, and these trips are their opportunity to try out some of these new experiences. It's definitely a skill building event, albeit a rather expensive one!

Your turn...Have you ever traveled by small airplane?
Currently listening to...Act Naturally - Buck Owens

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Virginia is for Lovers (and Washington DC is too)

We had a late spring break this year, probably because school doesn't get out until the end of June - yuck.  Last year, Cody and I were in Alaska getting married over break, and the year before that I was visiting my sister in Hawaii.  So, as you can tell, breaks tend to be kind of a big deal around these parts. I think it might be a teacher thing.

My sister (the one I visited in Hawaii) recently got relocated by the military from Hawaii to Virginia. As sad as she and her family were to leave Hawaii, this was a BIG exciting change for our family because it meant we'd all get to see each other more than once every two years.  I was super excited to have the opportunity to go visit her, my brother-in-law, and their three kiddos over break this year. I was excited to see them, but also super excited to get to visit them in an area of the country I've never been to before.  Visiting Washington DC, which is close to their house, has always been a bucketlist item of mine, so this was an awesome opportunity to visit family and cross something off of my list.

Early in the week, we had a girls day out (me, my sister, and my oldest niece) and headed to DC for the day. We went EVERYWHERE. We saw the White House, Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, two of the Smithsonian Museums, WWII Memorial, and a few other places too.  There was so much to see and do that we managed to walk eleven miles without even realizing it...well, at least not until none of us could walk the next day, but at least we did it! It was such a blast.  I was amazed too at how easily accessible DC is.  It's a really well maintained city in terms of cleanliness and was easy to navigate for non-locals.  I'd highly recommend a visit if you've never been.

The rest of the week was spent primarily in Virginia. My sister and her family live in a nice little suburban community outside of DC.  There were lots of parks and historical sites nearby to hike and explore. We also spent two days visiting Fredricksburg, which was a super cute town with great food and shopping. We did a lot of eating and antiquing there.  Everything was so quaint, historical, and interesting.

However, my favorite part of the trip was hanging out with my family! My nieces had all gotten so big and playing with them in the afternoons was a blast. I got to see their schools, watch soccer practice, jump on the trampoline, and snuggle on the couch in the evenings.  It was some pretty serious quality time.

It was a much-needed trip for me.  Hanging out with family is always something that I cherish because Cody and I are constantly living so far away from everyone. In fact, I haven't lived near my family since 2008 and Cody since 2012.  I hope to have a repeat of this fantastic visit this summer. Here's to hoping!

Your turn...What did you do for spring break this year?
Currently listening to...Buddy Holly - Weezer

Monday, May 9, 2016

Cherishing These Days

These days are awfully busy on our little slice of island.  We are officially 6 weeks from our Beaver Island moving date (June 18th) and 10 weeks from our Alaska moving date (July 18th), which means that our days are being spent making lists, purging our clothes, selling furniture, booking plane tickets, and a million other little tasks.  My to-do list seems to be a mile long and no matter how many items I try to cross off it never gets any shorter.

With all the busyness we are trying to cherish the things that we love about the island, while we still can.  There are definitely things about island living that we will miss.  One of the big things is all of the outdoorsy activities.  We hike almost every weekend, and we often find ourselves at one of the amazing beaches to watch sunsets or climb the dunes. There's no shortage of nature to enjoy.

Last weekend, we took a spin around the island in our beat-up car (also one of our favorite island activities) and got out at lots of beaches and trails to walk around and play in the woods.  The footbridge is one of my favorite stops because it leads through the woods and out onto a big, deserted beach. It also just looks incredibly cool because it leads into some pretty thick forest and passes over a gorgeous creek.

We've never seen another human out at the footbridge beach, and it's far from town or any type of recognizable civilization.  There are a few beach houses in the distance, but nobody ever seems to be home. It's about 15 miles from our front door to the footbridge, which is a 30ish minute drive on the rough, unpaved roads on the island.  We spend most of the time bumping along, emphasis on bumping, at 20mph to get there.  The dogs are always anxious to get out of the car and run around on the beaches, undisturbed by other animals or people. They can really cut loose in places like this.

There are so many little gems like this one on the island.  Places where you can relax and be totally undisturbed.  Places where nature seems mostly untouched and you're just a visitor, not an invader. It's definitely something I am going to miss.

Your turn...What are some of your favorite local gems in your town/area?
Currently listening to...Closing Time - Semisonic