Monday, June 29, 2009


Happy Birthday to Xander, Happy Birthday to you!

Not to be forgotten

Elodie enjoyed Sterling, too. Here's a quick snapshot.

Playing "titchen" with the farmer's daughter in a cute little playhouse on the farm.

Testing out the old farm machinery at the musuem.

Playing with baby Erica in the car.

And driving the tractor at the NJC "playdround."


I did rural as a kid. I remember liking it just fine. But right after becoming a teenager, we moved to suburbia, and I loved it. I liked being able to walk to stores, friends' houses, school, and work. I liked having lots of fun places--movie theaters, bowling alleys, mini golf, malls, museums--close to home. Being the nerd that I was (am), I also really did appreciate the top-notch academic program offered by my huge high school (over 3000 students). I felt like I had a little advantage over my sisters who had gone to a much smaller high school in Indiana, where they referred to their AP English class simply as "AP" because it was the only AP class offered. I mean, I started college with over 40 credits from all of the IB tests I took.

Fast forward to marrying Aaron, who graduated from a school so small it makes my sisters' school look metropolitan. Through him, I realized that a small school has its advantages. Aaron is so well-rounded. My 5'8'' husband played basketball, baseball, and football. Yet he still managed to be in the marching band, rushing off the field to change uniforms at half-time. Come on! Plus jazz band. And he was a choir guy who was selected to represent Montana in the American Youth Ensemble's tour of Europe. He could do it all. They begged him to. For me, not so much. More students means more competition for all that extracurricular stuff, so I just stuck to the curricular stuff.

Aaron had pretty much convinced me that small town America would be ideal for raising our family. He's on the rural track in PA school and we're on our way. But I've still been harboring some concerns about the quality of academic opportunities in ruralville. So we went to Sterling and the powers that be put me on the education cluster, per request, to research just how well the education system does or does not work in a small town. I was surprisingly impressed.

I guess I had the stereotypical notion that small towns are behind the times, so the schools would be using the traditional math curriculum that focused on doing math instead of understanding it. Such was not the case. A group of teachers meets together every seven years to assess whether the current curriculum is still the best and to change it if it isn't. Before the new framework is approved, the parents and other community members have a chance to look it over. It struck me that with fewer people, one voice can make more of a difference. That's simple proportions. My sister who will remain unnamed is often disgruntled by the way things are done in her very large suburban school district. She has worked in several other districts and has brilliant ideas about how they could make her discipline of speech pathology function more smoothly. But they are convinced that they're perfect and they don't want to hear any ideas from her. Who is she, anyway? Just one of their many, many speech pathologists. But it Sterling, I saw how one person could see a need, write a grant, and make things better. Just like that. I left Sterling feeling more than convinced. I felt empowered. I am eager to go to a small town, find out what makes it tick, and if something isn't ticking, I'm excited to get in there and help fix it. I am no longer worried that my kids will be academically shafted in small town America. And I can just see myself sitting on a school board, wrestling with the limited resources of tiny towns. The Colorado Trust really should give themselves a pat on the back. Their plan worked on the Dahle Family!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

What's not to love?

Essentially, the Colorado Trust sponsored the weeklong interdisciplinary rural immersion experience to convince medical care providers that rural life is for them. Xander seems convinced. He and Elodie were excited about going to Sterling for weeks, and it didn't disappoint. I wondered how staying in the junior college dorms would be for the whole family. I mean, college life isn't exactly designed to be kid friendly. But any apprehension melted away when the first thing we saw on the campus was a playground with a real broken-down pick-up truck and tractor for kids to climb on. What more could a boy want?How about getting up close and personal with a real combine harvester. These things are HUGE!The wheat farmer's daughter gave Xander a hands-on tour of all of the tractor attachments.And she let him sit in their grain-hauling 18-wheeler.The local museum had row after row of farm equipment from different eras. And the scavenger hunt took us for a brief visit of the fire station. Looking forward to that stop helped him endure sitting in the car on our wild goose chase through Sterling.
On the farm, there was plenty of room to play baseball. And football with the big guys.
And the junior college was right next to a train track, affording the excitement of hearing the train whistle and seeing the diesel engines puff by town. Sign Xander up for rural living!

Huge Emails

Did you know that rural northeastern Colorado will have the largest windmill farm in the world when they complete their curent stage of construction? We drove out a ways from Sterling to visit this literally giant source of economic success. I pointed up and asked Elodie if she knew what it was. "It's a huge, huge email."

Friday, June 12, 2009

Rural Immersion

We just had an educational, vacational week in Sterling, a small town in the northeast plains of Colorado. The daily sleuthing we were asked to do into what makes a small community tick provided the education. And the fact that I never had to cook or think about or prepare or clean up or pay for any meal at all made it quite a vacation.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Cheese Weeds

My dad's nemesis is the thistle, for obvious reason.
Aaron particularly detests dandelions. When it goes to seed, he goes nuts.My current enemy is the cheese weed. Come on, check out these roots! They may look innocent enough above ground, but they've got something ridiculous going on underground. I've been known to spend up to five minutes on one cheese weed, just to get that sucker by the roots! Which is why I'm so daunted by the thriving cheese weed crop in our yard. My neighbor across the cul-de-sac likes to say "a weed is just a plant in the wrong spot." We've got plenty of those. (Wheatgrass, for example. I'll save that story for another day.)

As I've been eagerly looking for our vegetable seeds to sprout, day after day I've seen only weeds. I'm really understanding the phrase "grows like a weed." Maybe in the Garden of Eden fruit trees grew like that. Sounds good to me!