Thursday, August 28, 2008

Our a nutshell

We have had a busy but fun summer. It feels like we've been all over the globe! (And we kind of have.)

First, we spent a week with Ryan's family, who live in Pocatello, ID. We took a trip up to their cabin in Sun Valley and spent several days biking, boating, eating way too much ice cream, and hanging out together. I was the first Nielson woman to mountain bike down "Baldy Mountain" with the boys! (I felt quite proud.) We had a great trip. I have the funnest in-laws!

Then, we journeyed down to El Salvador for a few weeks. As most of you know, Ry and I lived down there for three months right after we got married, volunteering in an orphanage for persons with disabilities. We have been lucky enough to return to see the kids every summer since, and we plan to keep returning for the rest of our lives. My little sister and her husband were living there for the summer, so it was a great experience to collaborate with them in planning activities, games, and projects for the kids. Some highlights included:

A "pirate scavenger hunt" around the orphanage, searching for buried treasure.

Super Hero Day!

Hunting for Big Foot...can you guess who that is?? Ryan "Sasquatch" Nielson!

We captured him!
Dental Hygiene Day--Ryan used some ideas from his dental school class on community outreach to come up with games to teach the kids how to care for their teeth. The dental school also donated a bunch of toothbrushes, which we gave out to the kids.

Aerobics Class--Don't be jealous of Ryan's sexy orange shorts! (Not to mention my sister's spandex!!)

At the end of our visit, my dad and my other sister and her husband joined us at the orphanage. They got to meet the kids for the first time, after hearing stories about them for years. As a family, we put on some fun events, such as a Trash Bag Fashion Show!
Then, as a family we spent just over a week touring El Salvador and Guatemala, spending time in some breathtakingly beautiful places, including the most heavenly hotel on earth, La Casa del Mundo on Lake Atitlan in Guatemala. Isn't it gorgeous??

After returning from our Central American adventure, I spent a week at a church camp for teenage girls. In spite of an epidemic of lice, girls sneaking out of the cabins in the middle of the night, and listening to dramatic sobbing over being hit in the head with a beach ball...I had a great time.
Needless to say, I was ready for some alone time with Ryan when I returned from camp! I had missed his birthday while I was at I surprised him and took him on a romantic, birthday get-a-way to a charming town in Canada called Niagara-on-the-Lake. We rode bikes, had a picnic, shopped, found a deserted beach at sunset, and stayed overnight at a cute B&B. It was a perfect birthday gift, if I do say so myself. :)

The fun's not over yet! This past week, my dad has been in town--visiting Buffalo for the first time! It was great to have him here, getting a "taste" of our new life. In addition to visiting the typical sites like Niagara Falls and Palmyra, he made his famous Cowboy Cookies with the Cookie Club. (He even got the boys to all wear aprons!)

Phew!! I'm exhausted just writing about all the excitement we've had this summer! As you can see, I've had more than my fair share of fun this summer, and I'm afraid I've gotten out of the habit of getting up at 5:30 a.m. and working 14 hour days. Next week is going to be a shock! I go back to school on Tuesday. :(

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Life in the Buff...

A quick update on the "basics" of our life in Buffalo:

Ryan is a dental student at State University of New York at Buffalo (most commonly known as UB, University at Buffalo). He loves it! Doesn't he look cute in his scrubs?

We love the neighbor kids! It is endearing how they call us "Mr. Ryan" and "Miss Rachel." When we first moved here, we started a "Cookie Club" with them . After a few months of making cookies at least once a week, I realized that my pants size was steadily increasing (I eat about 20 cookies whenever I bake), so I recommended that we become the "Carrot Club" instead. Since they weren't too keen on that idea, we've decided that the "Cookie Club" can engage in activities other than baking--so we've started doing crafts, games, and bike rides together. (Don't worry, we still make cookies now and then.)

I am teaching 11th and 12th grade English at a high school in a suburb of Buffalo--Orchard Park High School. Although it is so much work (You'll notice it's dark outside the window of my classroom, and I'm still there!), I love it.

One of our favorite things about life in Buffalo is that there are so many young student couples to hang out with. Many of them go to our church, so we've gotten to know them very well. Being so far away from family, it's been awesome to have a support system of friends. (The above photo was taken with one of our favorite couples, the Cardons, at a lake in the Adirondack Mountains!)

One of our favorite new friends in Buffalo is Deborah Tilley. She joined our church just over a year ago, and we have the priviledge of driving her to church each week. She cracks us up! In spite of physical limitations that resulted from an unexpected stroke several years ago, Deborah has the best attitude about life. The other day she told me, "Rachel, I'm too blessed to be stressed!" I need to make that statement my life motto and stop stressing out so much! Deb is an example to me!

As you can see, in spite of the infamously cold winters, WE LOVE BUFFALO!

Why Blog?

I have been fighting the urge to join the blogging craze for quite some time now. Why? Well, first of all, Ryan and I don't have any kids, so why would anyone want to look at our blog? Isn't the entire purpose of blogs to post cute photos and stories of your kids for the grandparents and extended family?? (Let's face it, we are just not that cute.) Second, I don't feel like I have anything interesting to write about. My life generally consists of teaching, teaching, and more teaching, and Ryan's consists of studying, studying and more studying. Who would want to read about that? (Okay, I'll admit, I sometimes do have hilarious teaching the time a 16 year old boy told me that he "needed to go #2" when he asked to use the pass to go to the bathroom...he was totally sincere and was so awkward!) Third, as many of you know, I am a bit of a stress case, and I tend to overwhelm myself by "taking on too much;" so the thought of adding "update the blog" to my constant to-do-list really freaked me out. If I created a blog, I knew I would feel pressure to keep it updated--even if no one else ever read it or cared if it was up-to-date.

So why, in spite of these concerns, did I decide to start a blog? Well, this week, I've been working on a gift for my little sister: I used to create a book of her blog, and it turned out so cute. As I flipped through it, the inspiration hit me! Instead of adding to my to-do-list, a blog would actually reduce my to-do-list!! No more guilt about not journaling, scrapbooking, or writing long letters to friends and family! Through a blog, I can do everything at once. HOORAY!

So that's why the Nielsons are joining the blogging community! I hope that, even though we are not as cute as a snoogy little baby, you will all enjoy what we post. (And please don't mention it if I don't update for months at a can be sure I will already be stressed about that!) :)