Tim and Billy outside Teacher Housing
This has been a fun week for the Phillips’s. We are on the second week of Christmas vacation. We had a great Christmas last week with the other teachers here. Kaitlyn and I had been going back and forth on whether we should go to Anchorage for part of the break or not. We want to save money for adoption, that’s the whole reason we stayed in Togiak in the first place, and we felt that going to Anchorage would just cost too much. However, we found a loop-hole. Our principal, Jason Mabry, informed us that we could fly to Anchorage using Alaska Airlines miles. So, we checked it out and he was right! A round-trip ticket between Togiak and Anchorage costs about 15,000 air miles. We decided to go for it and booked two round-trip tickets to Anchorage. We decided to follow suit with the using miles to purchase items and used our credit card “points” we had accrued over the past year and booked ourselves a hotel. This was absolutely fantastic, because it gave us the opportunity to go to Anchorage, buy food and supplies for the next four months, enjoy the city, and still feel good that we were saving money for adoption. We rented a car and decided that it was more worth it to simply pay for it out of pocket; we found a rental for $14/day. Not bad. Monday afternoon, about 4:00, we boarded a Pen Air plane and headed for Anchorage.
In Anchorage we stayed at the Homewood Suites. It is a “long-term” stay hotel that has a full size kitchen and living room in each suite. Upon arriving, we found out that this hotel didn’t just have a gourmet self-serve breakfast but a gourmet self-serve dinner as well! How many hotels feed you dinner also? We are totally going to visit this place more often. It worked out very well for us, not only because of the dinners provided, but because it had a full size refrigerator/freezer in it. On Tuesday, we went shopping and picked up a whole bunch of food. When we were done, we simply brought it all back to our room and stuck it the freezer until we needed to pack it up on Friday. It worked out great. After going shopping at Costco and Walmart we had lunch at a little sandwich shop called Terra Bella. It was in the corner sandwiched (no pun intended...well maybe it was) between a PetCo and a Bed,Bath, & Beyond. We both ordered the same thing, the combo lunch consisting of the daily soup special and half of a sandwich. We ordered the Turkey/Avocado sandwich with Spinach Curry soup. Neither of us were fans of the soup, but the sandwich was awesome. On our way out, we decided to go meander through Bed, Bath, & Beyond. As we walked through admired all the cool stuff that store has. We were looking for dish cloths, but ended up with a cool Pizza cutter, cutting board, huge digital clock, and a free massage on the demo massage chairs (we sat in the chairs for about 10 minutes each, there were two chairs). After our massages we went back to the hotel and had hotdogs with chili and cheese, not very gourmet, but free! We ended the night by going to a picture show (at a real theater) and watched Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol. We both really liked it, however the popcorn stunk.
Wednesday was our Anniversary. December 28. We have been married 5 years. We started the day out by going to the Anchorage Temple. In the temple I (Tim) bumped into a missionary that served in the same mission I did. Tyler Nickl from Bountiful, Utah. He was an English speaking missionary who served in a neighboring area to me when I was in Paso Robles. He married a girl from Wasilla and was up visiting her parents for Christmas. Elder Nickl is about 5 foot even. Very easy to recognize. It was great seeing him. Afterwards, we went to lunch at a Chinese restaurant called “Fudo”. It was recommended by our friends and colleagues from Togiak, Michael and Delorie Lee, who love the place. While there I asked owner/operator about the tea she had brought to our table. I was curious as to what it was made of, so I asked her. She responded by telling me all about it and encouraging me to try it. I respectfully declined and said I was simply curious and that I didn’t drink tea. She insisted, and said, “95% of people who try it like it”. She went away and I felt the pressure of avoiding drinking the tea subside. However, 5 minutes later she brought me a new glass with “diluted” tea she made specifically for me. She stood there and waited until I drank some. Talk about awkward. Caving a little, I reached and took a sip, and nodded, “Yes, very good.” With a smile on her face she walked away. Kaitlyn couldn’t help but to laugh, as I sat there sipping my water as fast as I could because the tea burned my mouth. Curiosity kills the cat (and burns his mouth too)!
Tim and Kaitlyn at Dimond Center Ice Rink
After some more shopping we went Ice Skating a the Dimond Center Ice Rink. Kaitlyn said that she hasn’t skated for years, and ice skating is suppose to be “romantic”. Let me tell you what, it’s nothing like the movies. It’s terrifying! Once you step onto the ice you realize that ice is hard, and if you fall, it’s not going to be filled with laugher and giggles, rather, back pain and emergency room visits. We must have looked like baby giraffe’s as we hobbled our way around the ice rink. After some time we both started to loosen up a little and we could both go faster. However, the thought of falling and being run over by some 8 year old doing some Brian Boitano triple spin always loomed in the back of your mind. We were out there for about an hour. Not once did we hold hands (for fear of falling down) or kiss under the snow flakes. Darn Hollywood. Afterwards, we met with tour Branch President, Max Swenson, and our Stake President, President Newman, and renewed our temple recommends. We’re instructed to renew them when we know we are going to be in town so that they don’t become expired. We also go to meet two sisters from our branch, Sister Gooden and her mother Sister Cole, both of which we’ve never met except for hearing their voices over the phone for church. We had a great time visiting and sharing stories. We visited for about an hour then went back to the hotel, ordered a pizza, ate some ice cream (real luxuries for bush folk) and watched the Food Network show “Chopped”. (In all seriousness, we did try to watch a “romantic movie”, however, our hotel room didn’t have a dvd player, so Chopped had to suffice).
(L:R) Gala, Robin, Kaitlyn, & Tim in Anchorage
We spent our last day, Thursday, by starting off going to the Temple again. We participated in a Sealing session. We probably won’t be in Anchorage again until May, so we want to make sure to stock up on our Temple blessings while we can. We met up with our friend from Togiak, Robin Jones, who now is the Counselor/Asst. Principal in New Stuyahok and Gala Coopchiak at a local coffee shop. We visited with them for about two hours. Since visiting with her, we found out that she was proposed to by her boyfriend, Ben Griese. We are really excited for them both. They are both really great people. We finished up some errands then went to dinner at our friends house, Chris and Julie Peterson. Chris is the Bush Branch clerk. We usually stay at there house whenever we are passing through. They are an awesome family. We left there house about 8:30, (a little earlier than we would have liked), in order to go to the Post Office. In Anchorage there is a Post Office that stays open until midnight each day. It is frequented by many bush residents. It actually is kind of fun to go there. There are always so many people from all over the bush. This time we met a lady named Ida who worked for the North Borough School District. She is native and greeted us with a traditional Inupiat handshake (same as normal handshake, except she used her free hand to grasp the underside of the hands being shaked). She yipped at me when I offered my hand to be shaken with my gloves still on. Apparently, that’s impolite. I was just cold. Oops. On our way home we stopped by McDonald’s and bought cheeseburgers for all the teachers who stayed in Togiak over the break. We put them in the pizza box that we ordered earlier that week and stuffed it in one of the freezer bins we were taking back to Togiak. The cheeseburgers were very much appreciated. You forget that sometimes the little things in life that everyone craves is a McDonald’s Cheeseburger. :)
Rental Car that was awesome
I must say that I have failed to mention the true champion of our trip. It was the Subaru Outback, our car rental. Anchorage was filled with ice and was incredibly slippery. We were originally given a front-wheel drive, non-traction tire Toyota Camry. However, after 13 miles of driving, we went back to the dealership and exchanged it for something safer. I must say that I am a fan. It was a great little car. Plenty of room for our bins, all-wheel drive and big enough to fit comfortably in. I understand now why Subaru is the unofficial car of Alaska.
McDonald's Cheeseburgers in a box, the two missing didn't make it home
While enjoying Anchorage, a nasty weather system moved into Togiak. Well, to be more accurate, the void of a weather system in Togiak made things rough. The temperature dropped to -30°F and hovered around there for the entire week. On our flight back we got a chance to feel how -30°F feels. The little planes we fly back on don’t really have adequate heat. Bush flight passengers know to bundle up in the winter. Both Kaitlyn and I were in our winter clothing, however, our winter clothing is not rated for -30°F, as we came to find out. -30°F is a whole different kind of cold. For one thing, the snow acts differently. It squeaks when you walk on it. Actually, it’s more like walking on a Styrofoam. The oil in your 4-wheeler thickens up and the electric switches cease to work. It hurts to breath, because it shocks your lungs and you have to breath through your mouth because otherwise your nostrils will stick together. In the middle of all of this, our heater went out. Something happened to the boiler and we’ve been low on heat. Not completely out, just marginally warm. We were instructed by our maintenance man to simply turn on our oven and open it’s door to warm our house if we needed. Luckily, today the temperature rose to 5°F. It feels like we are in a heat wave. :) I just want to point out that it was in the 40°F’s in Idaho this past week. That’s a difference of 70°F between Togiak and Rexburg. This weather is abnormal for us, and will most likely move on soon. However, it sure has been a fun experience!
Kaitlyn's most recently completed afghan
This has been a very relaxing week. We didn't have to go to school at all this week. Tim and I have gone to bed as early or as late as we have wanted and have not set the alarm clock once. We have avoided the school like the plague. We have spent most of our time in our apartment with the exception of our daily trip to town. The principal left us the keys to the school vehicle with the request that we check the school mail. In exchange for the use of a vehicle, we can check the mail! It's been so nice not to have to bundle up in 3 or 4 layers to go check the post office box. This week it has finally been getting cold too. Yesterday it was -18 F. That translates into really-cold-when-you're-on-a-4-wheeler.
I have been loving the time each day that I have had to do normal day to day home maker type things. I actually have been making some meals for Tim this week, keeping the kitchen clean, and the house sort of clean. I told Tim the other day that I was feeling very domestic. :) I love that feeling. I have also had the chance to work on some personal projects. I finished a quilt I had been working on. I did the mending: 4 months worth of mending. I finished a book. I've done some crocheting and a lot of digital "scrapbooking". (I am putting all of our blog posts together with all of our pictures and getting a book printed.)
The sun at noon on winter solstice
Wednesday this week was the Winter Solstice: the shortest day of the year. From here on out, our days will be getting longer. We will gain a little bit of sunlight each day. I took the liberty of taking a picture of the sun on the horizon at noon on winter solstice. We don't live far enough north to experience 24 hours of darkness, but it is kind of crazy to see how low the sun is on the horizon even at noon.
There are two other couples and another single teacher that decided to stay in Togiak over the holidays, so we haven't been hurting for company. Tuesday night we had pizza night with the Lee family. Michael teaches middle school science, Delorie teaches 2nd grade, and their sons Charlie and Tristen are both in high school. Their family is great company and the boys keep me laughing all the time. Friday night we had a movie party at our apartment with the Greg and Corey Cejka (two high school teachers) and Billy (elementary special ed teacher). We have also become self-appointed dog-sitters for our neighbor Evelyn. Technically, Billy is taking care of Buster, but Tim and I realized a couple days ago that the poor dog is just sitting alone in that apartment all day long and we're just across the hall hanging out in our apartment. So that past few days we've just been bringing Buster over to our apartment during the day. Billy still comes up and feeds and walks him. This is definitely the way to have a dog.
For Christmas Eve, the Cejkas, Billy, Tim and I were invited to the Lee's home. They have a tradition of eating breakfast food for Christmas Eve dinner. Tim and I made his famous biscuits and gravy and enjoyed way too much food at their house. After dinner, we all headed to the Moravian church for the Christmas pageant. I was shocked to how many people were there. We were 10 minutes early, which is like an hour early on village time, and the place was already packed. A lot of our students had parts in the pageant. I was really glad we went. It was really hard to hear and see, but it was fun to do something as part of the community.
Today was Tim and my first Christmas with just the two of us Opening presents goes MUCH faster when there's only two of you. Tim surprised me with a handmade set of ivory crochet hooks made by a local carver. I tried to surprise him with a handmade seal skin hat made by a local skin sewer . . . uh, not a stinky sewer but one who sews. He's hard to surprise though.
Sporting our fur hats and ivory crochet hooks
Our neighbor, Billy, joined us for church today. We only had one meeting because of the holiday. Tim and I were both able to be part of the program. The primary president had put the whole program together and members of the branch just filled in roles. It was like a grown up version of the primary program. I liked it. It was way less scary then giving a talk.
For Christmas dinner we were invited over to the Parker's home. Fanny is the 5th grade teacher and a local native. She is the school's Yup'ik teacher and also the one who has been teaching me how to sew kuspuqs. It was, as far as I understand, a pretty typical Yup'ik afternoon. She never told us when to arrive but just invited us over for Christmas. We came at about 2:30 pm with rolls and salad ready to be eaten. She was just starting to cook and we jumped in to help. After the food was made we ate and visited. Throughout the next few hours several other visitors would stop by, eat, visit, and leave. There wasn't ever an expectation to arrive or leave at a certain time and the food was just there to be eaten whenever anyone would like.
Phillips Family Christmas Tree 2011
I (Tim) am so glad to be home! Kaitlyn mentioned a bit on last weeks post that I was gone traveling with wrestling. I’ll spare you the details and simply direct you to read her post for them. A quick summary though, I took my wrestling team to the regional tournament in Dillingham, Ak the first weekend in December and we got stuck there an extra day because of poor weather. When we did get back I wasn’t home for more than 24 hours before I was back out on a plane traveling to the state tournament. This wouldn’t have normally been the case, however, bad weather keeps planes on the ground, so it’s wise to travel before bad weather can ground you. The state tournament was great. I only had one wrestler qualify to wrestle at it, however, he is the first in many years. He lost both of his matches there, but it was still good for him to go and compete. On our way back on Sunday, we encountered another storm and were unable to make it back home. Instead, our pilot rerouted our plane to Anchorage. We overnighted there and tried again the next day. Around noon on Monday we took off and headed for home. Unfortunately, we didn’t make it before another storm moved in and we go stuck for most of the day in a small village called New Halen near Iliamna Lake. Near the end of the day we were able to get the other wrestling team who we were traveling home with back to their village. Because my village is further out, we needed to wait till morning to go. Pilots don’t fly in the dark here. When there is only 6-8 hours of flyable daylight, you don’t have much time. Long story short, my wrestler and I overnighted again Monday night in Dillingham and made it home around 12:30 on Tuesday, 13 days after we had originally left for the regional tournament. Being gone from your bed for that long is one thing, being gone from your classroom is another. I just want to reiterate what I already said, “I’m glad to be home”!
This past week has been finals week for our high school. I actually missed some by being gone. Luckily, the sub I had was great and helped out a bunch. As soon as I returned I had to jump straight into finals and getting all that rolling. I didn’t really have much of a chance to sit and relax. Christmas vacation was well earned this year. :)
Kaitlyn's first hand made Quilt
Kaitlyn definitely keeps herself busy. Everyday she does some sort of activity. Recently, she has been crocheting and quilting. She just finished her first quilt yesterday. It’s pretty neat. I told her that she needs to make a “real” quilt next time, because it’s only big enough to cover our feet. :) She said okay. She is currently working on an afghan. (the blanket, not the person)
2010 Christmas photo
I apologize that it has been a few weeks since we have written an update. We left Tim’s laptop in Togiak over Christmas break so we weren’t able to write any updates. I’m sure no one really had time over the break to look at our updates anyway, so it probably worked out just fine.
The first semester ended on December 17th. It was so exciting to finally finish something and to look forward to the break. Tim and I still worked fairly late on December 17th just finishing up grades and cleaning our rooms. We left Togiak Saturday evening, flew to Dillingham where we spent the night, and then flew to Anchorage on Sunday morning. We spent Sunday in Anchorage with the Petersen’s. Brother Petersen is our branch clerk. He and his family are so kind to us. They always let us stay with them when we’re in Anchorage. We left Anchorage Monday morning and finally made it to Yakima on Monday evening: 3 days after we left Togiak.
It was so good to see Tim’s family and spend time with them. We ate lots of good food and of course got spoiled on Christmas day. We did take one day to drive up to Seattle and spend time with Carmen and Jeremy. We had a blast with them and their girls.
Sunday, December 26th, Tim and I drove a moving van to Ogden, Utah for Tim’s parents. It was a long drive, but it was cool to actually be in a vehicle and on a highway again. We got to stay with Lisa and Bob that night in Ogden. They were kind enough to drive us to Rexburg on Monday.
Time in Rexburg went all too fast. We spent time with family (my parents, Lisa and her family, Greg and Dani, Gus, Katherine, and T.J.) and with friends (Warren and Rachel, the jump rope team, Jeremy, and the Ward family). There just wasn’t enough time to see all the people we wanted to see and do all we wanted to do. I did get to take Valerie snowboarding, which was a lot of fun. Tim and I also went on a shopping spree. Everything seems so cheap after living in Togiak. We couldn’t believe how many options we had for things to buy or how many people were at the store.
Tim and I celebrated our 4th wedding anniversary while we were in Rexburg by seeing Harry Potter. We definitely haven’t been to a movie theater for 5 months. It was fun.
It took us another 3 days to travel back home. We left Rexburg on Jan 1st, flew from Idaho Falls to Salt Lake to Boise to Seattle to Anchorage, spent the night, flew to Dillingham, got weathered in and spent the night, and then to Togiak. We made it back midmorning on Monday. Luckily it was a workday so we didn’t have to worry about finding any substitutes.
Our first week back at school has been good. We still have been really busy. We worked 12 hours a day, but things are looking up. Tim and I both have a much more positive outlook on Togiak since returning from break. This completely shocked me, because I had such a good time being in the lower 48 I thought I would hate being back. I’m not complaining though.
Today after church we went for a Sunday drive. Of course, we don’t have roads and cars like the rest of you, so our Sunday drives include 4-wheelers and trails. I did catch some air a couple of times and got really nervous driving over frozen lakes, but it was really cool.
Thank you to everyone who took time to see us over Christmas and to those who housed and feed us. We loved seeing everyone!
Our little Christmas Tree!
This week of school went pretty well. Tim is finished with wrestling, so he no longer has practice until 7:00 pm every night. We both had a refreshing Thanksgiving break which allowed us to get caught up with ourselves. The kids seemed to be a little less rebellious than in the previous 3 or 4 weeks. Now we have Christmas break to look forward to in two small weeks.
On Monday we decorated our Christmas tree: that is, after we made our Christmas tree. Tim and I didn’t bring any Christmas decorations to Togiak with us, so instead I made a tree out of green butcher paper. I cut a star and ornaments out of construction paper and used some glitter from Tim’s classroom to decorate the ornaments. I also strung popcorn to put on the tree. I have never strung popcorn before. It is actually not very hard and once I figured out the best place to stick the needle through the popcorn, it went pretty fast. Of course we listened to Christmas music as well, but we have now exhausted our entire collection of Christmas music and I’m wishing for some variety.
Tim and I have become addicted to a television series called Gilmore Girls. When Tim was in Denver, I spent most evenings at Robin and Heather’s apartment and they introduced me to the show. It has become our escape from work after work, which has been really nice. We probably should slow down a bit. I won’t tell you how many times last week we watched 4 episodes in one night.
I’ve always liked dogs, but lately my opinion of them has been dropping. There are several dogs that like to bark when we’re trying to sleep and they are relentless. It seems as if they will never stop. Sometimes we’re woken up at 3 or 4 in the morning and can’t go back to sleep because the dogs never stop. Monday night we went into our room to go to bed and the dogs were barking, so I jokingly suggested we move our bed into the living room. We ended up sleeping in our living room for the entire week. It was amazing. We never heard a dog on that end of the house and we slept so well (other than the fact that we were so tempted to watch Gilmore Girls that we stayed up way too late).
Friday night we had a couple of friends over for a game night. We taught them how to play Ticket to Ride and Carcassonne. I love that there are people here that like to play games.
Tim taught the lesson in priesthood meeting today. He was called as the second counselor in the Elder’s quorum presidency a few weeks ago. I was sustained this week as the second counselor in the primary presidency. I’m a bit nervous, but it will be a lot different than being in the primary in a regular ward. Our main responsibility is to hold sharing time each Sunday. I have yet to attend my first sharing time, but we hold a 30-minute meeting over the phone on Sunday afternoons. I am interested to see how well sharing time works over the phone. Sunday school, relief society, and sacrament meeting have all seemed to work fine, but sharing time has always been a little bit more involved.
We are so excited for Christmas break and to be able to see family and friends. Pray for cooperative weather for us. We don’t want to take any of our precious days waiting on weather.
Tim & Kaitlyn
A blog is where you talk about stuff....we do that here.
Friends & Family
Brady & Taryn
Karen & Brad
Mike & Alyse
Sarah & Jimi
Scott & Sharon
Tracy and Matt
Marshall & Jani
Tyler & Crystal
Carmen & Jeremy
Edgar & Sarah
Gus & Cynthia
Matt & Yvonne
Steve & Angie