Thursday, March 31, 2011

The Way It Is: Dogs in the bedroom are hazardous to your health

Daily Forum column for 3-31-11

Allowing your dogs to share a bed or even a spot on the floor near your bed seems simple enough — that is until you start losing sleep or potentially even limbs.
As Princess Stella slept soundly in the exact center of the bed, between my male counterpart and myself, it became clear that she had a hidden agenda.
Half of my body was freezing while the other half remained toasty, snug under the blankets. The 9-pound lead brick had gathered a small heap of the blankets to use as her plush pillow, effectively taking a good portion of the small amount already left for me.
I gave a tug only to have the princess roll with the blankets, taking up even more of my side of the bed.
Score 1 for the pooch.
While she slept soundly on my half of the bed and my counterpart snoozed away on his side, I decided it was time to take a midnight trip to the bathroom. This sounded easy enough, too, but I was wrong!
Tiptoeing my way to the foot of the bed I was faced with an obstacle of Mt. Everest-sized proportions. Ace, the 90-pound king of my household, was sprawled spread-eagle blocking the entire route out of the bedroom.
In the pitch black I braced for the challenge that laid ahead.
With one arm placed firmly on the edge of the dresser, I extended the other in the direction of the bed should I need something to catch my fall. I scooted my feet along as not to step down and crush one of Ace's dopey black ears or worse, his tail.
As my big toe grazed something warm and fuzzy I realized it was time to take that big, giant leap in hopes of clearing my hurdle.
The first foot made it, but as I rounded the other corner, hand firmly on the foot of the bed, my left foot stumbled over Ace's rear end.
Drat, he got me!
Rolling to his side and letting out a deep sigh, the event didn't appear to affect his sleep at all.
As for me, stumbling to keep my balance as not to crush one of poor, unsuspecting Ace's limbs sent me face first into the dirty laundry hamper, stubbing my toe on a large chew toy along the way.
Score 1 for the other pooch — who has a queen-sized bed of his own in the spare bedroom.
The trip back to bed was a bit more successful and as dawn broke through the window, our little, lead brick sprung into action.
Face to face with the boyfriend, she stood her ground, tail wagging, on his chest.
When that failed to garner the requested attention, she took the leap across the bed landing squarely on my stomach. There was the attention she was looking for.
Convincing her that it was entirely too early to be awake, I offered half of my pillow and a doggie massage. She soon returned to dream land.
Score 1 for the owner.
A few short hours later, she had found her perch on the boyfriend’s chest and this time she wasn't giving up.
When licking his face and bounding around didn't work, she went straight for the throat.
Pawing at his neck and face, she had his full attention, but he still wasn't out of bed.
The fur-baby princess gave it one more attempt with a right hook to his left eye.
Within seconds she was happily playing outside while her target took a closer examination of his wound in the entryway mirror.
And as the evidence of his attack remained a few days later, the dogs took the win.
–Megan Tilk is a reporter and weekly columnist for the Maryville Daily Forum. She can be reached at

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Way It Is: Yes, It Is Possible to Goof Up French Toast

Daily Forum Column for 3-24-11

Maryville, Mo. — Trying to be the good girlfriend I can sometimes be, I set the alarm for 30 minutes earlier than I knew my unsuspecting male counterpart would wake.

Tiptoeing around the bed, over the large black lump known as King Ace in the middle of the floor and between two chew toys that were sure to leave a mark had I not seen them, I made my way to the kitchen.

In my small circle of friends, I've come to be known as the one who can cook. Heck, I'm not sure some of my girlfriends know the difference between a sauce pan and a soup pot. So I had high expectations of myself when it came to fixing a surprise breakfast for my champion.

We just had scrambled eggs and pancakes, and a few days before that it was my grandma's recipe for delicious waffles, so it was time to change things up.

Living with the world's pickiest eater — we're talking no condiments on a hamburger, unless you consider putting your french fries between the meat and bun a condiment, type of picky eater — my options were limited.

French toast! Yeah, I'd seen him eat french toast a time or two at my parents’ house for the weekend. It may not be his favorite, but at least I knew he'd eat it.

But did I remember how to make french toast? I remember my mother always saying it was just as easy as scrambled eggs, but for some reason I was drawing a few blanks in the recipe. So I flipped open my trusty Mac.

A few minutes and few dozen different french toast recipes later I was cracking eggs.

Four eggs and a guesstimated 1 cup of milk, I was combining a few online recipes, a few dashes of cinnamon and sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla then it was time to dunk.

Now the various Internet recipes all said to allow the bread to soak, anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute. With a few memories of my mother making her yummy french toast, I never remembered her soaking the toast, so I compromised and counted to 10.

Tossing two pieces onto my hot griddle, I waited and flipped. Well that doesn't look right I thought, but continued on.

Being early in the morning, I wasn't about to call mom and wake her, so I did four more pieces just as the smell woke the other half.

"Surprise!" I shouted. Then came my verbal disclaimer and rundown of the morning’s online events.

"None of the recipes online matched, and I can't remember how mom does it," I said. "So remember it's the thought that counts, and I don't have to be at work for another two hours, so I could still be sleeping and if they taste bad just remember that I tried."

Glancing over my shoulder, I could see he was a bit less than impressed but still looked hungry enough to try 'em.

I tossed him the container of my grandma's recipe, homemade syrup and said "have at it."
He took a piece and headed to the living room.

When the dogs weren't even begging, I knew it couldn't be good. But I took two pieces for myself and joined him for our breakfast together.

He was almost finished with his piece before I took my first bite.

"Oh, it's not so bad," I said. "Yay, maybe I am a good girlfriend."

And then I took the second bite.

"Oh no, that's awful. How are you eating that?" I asked

Dumping what was left of mine, I watched as he finished his piece and opted out of seconds.
It was time to call mom.

"How do you goof up french toast?" was the response on the other end.

My mother, being the witty woman that she is, only poured salt in the wound by posting a how-to video of her making french toast in under 3 minutes later that day on Facebook. Damn.

–Megan Tilk is a reporter and weekly columnist for the Maryville Daily Forum. She can be reached at

Friday, March 18, 2011

The Way It Is: Beauty takes time, and maybe a professional

My latest column:

Beauty takes time, and maybe a professional

There she stood, perched atop our tall kitchen table sporting that cliche puppy dog look.

With her hind-end cleanly trimmed and front half still looking as though she had been mauled by a bear, it was obvious that the triannual grooming session had commenced.

Sure we could take her to a spiffy groomer someplace, but we're true do-it-yourselfers.
"How's it going?" I asked.

The puppy dog look response from the two-legged one lead me to believe it was time to intervene.

He'd been at it for a solid hour, with our top notch Pet Grooming Kit complete with electric clippers, adjustable guides, scissors, combs, bows and mini clippers.

Fine blonde hair littered the beach towel he had used to "protect" the table but it was apparent that Princess Stella was unclear as to the rules of engagement. Hair also littered the floor and chairs and coated the semi-professional groomer from head to toe.

"Maybe you should take a break," I suggested as the princess paced back and forth across the table.

The two headed outside to shake off the fur and allow the clippers to cool down.

With a new burst of energy, and more than a 3x3 space to roam, it was off to the races.

Fur flying, the little lioness zig zagged through the trees around the bushes and between the legs of her clipper carrying assailant.

After a few minutes of this, she was finally captured and safely back on the table.

Scissors in hand, it was my turn to have a go at it.

As the granddaughter of a professional cosmetologist I had to do grandpa proud.

I stood back and assessed the situation.

First, I probably should fill you in. Stella has what most would consider a "unique" doggy-do. If you've ever driven through Maryville, anywhere near West Edwards Street, you may have spotted a small fur ball, complete with what the experts would call a top knot, or pony tail, and undoubtable a hot pink bow on top of her head — yes, she is a dog with a pony tail.

Strict ground rules have been discussed regarding buzz cutting said pony tail but the consensus is that it must stay.

With that said, do-it-yourself haircuts become a bit more difficult.

I scissored around the neckline, trimmed the ears and a bit under the chin, viola. She still looked like a 9-pound lion.

"I think we should come back to it tomorrow," he said.

The next day it was time for clippers again. As he tackled the front legs and chest she began looking more like a Shih-Tzu.

"She kind of has a bowl cut," I said as we stood together gazing down upon those big brown eyes.

"We can't let our dog have bowl cut. I thought those went out with mullets and heavy metal," I said.

Guess true beauty really does take time, as in days, and maybe a professional.

It was back to the table for Stella.

–Megan Tilk is a reporter and weekly columnist for the Maryville Daily Forum. She can be reached at

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Way It Is: joys of pup parenthood

Here is my first "official" column for the Daily Forum. Technically it is my second column, but there weren't plans for a second and so on until the first got so much great feedback - so this is the first official - The Way It Is column by Megan Tilk.


The joys of pup parenthood

It's always a pleasure to be welcomed home from a long day of work by the two most adorable fur balls on my block — yes, I'm biased.

This day was even better than most because as I rounded into the driveway I was greeted, tails wagging, by non-other than King Ace and my other fur baby, Princess Stella at the other end of the drive.

Usually indoor dogs, it was a special treat to see them the second I arrived.

I began to wonder though as I received my full-faced kisses from said pooches, where the other male and only other two-legged figure of my household was.

And there I spotted him, jeans rolled to his knees prepped for what looked like a difficult surgery complete with bright blue medical gloves, as he straddled one of his highnesses royal droppings.

Spring had officially sprung at our home and as the snow melted, our yard began to look like a Jurassic bathroom, full of the frozen, petrified remains that even the mail carrier dared not cross.

Luckily for me, staying those few extra minutes at work meant I missed out filling the first two Walmart sacks.

But there I stood, at the base of our front porch steps with his highness rested comfortably at my feet on the warm concrete as his royal slave worked away.

The princess, who weighs in at a dainty 9 pounds, decided to make a game out the situation, dodging between the legs of the unsuspecting human pooper-scooper.

Is this really what our life had become as the proud owners of two loyal pups? Human pooper-scoopers?

"You missed one," I shouted.

His eyes shot missiles that could have blown me to deep space nine. Apparently you shouldn't poke fun at he who carries dog doo.

I tip-toed through the mine field for a closer look at the situation, only to be handed sack number three.

As I tip-toed toward the garage, with what had to be a 15-pound sack-load, it hit me.

"I sure hope no one we know drives by."

Continuing with his duties, he replied "Why? We've got more gloves."

- Megan Tilk is a reporter and weekly columnist for the Maryville Daily Forum. She can be reached at

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Behind the glitter and glitz: local dancers find friendly competition, lasting bonds

The growing list of options for childhood activities can include everything from organized sports, to technology camp to music lessons. But one pursuit especially has steadily gained in popularity among youngsters in recent years — dance.

Maryville is home to three dance studios that offer various styles of instruction for all ages, whether participants want to dance competitively or just have fun. All three studios attract students from as far away as Iowa and St. Joseph.

So why do parents choose to spend hard-earned dollars so their kids can spend a few hours each week learning how to dance?

"I think it's a way for young girls, and boys for that matter, to feel like they belong somewhere and bond," said Whitney Wallace, owner of Miss Whitney's Elite School of Dance. "I saw the need for a loving environment in dance and had taught for years, so I thought opening my own studio was the best opportunity."

Wallace, as a junior in high school, started her studio on West South Avenue with just five students in November of 2007. Now she has nearly 50.

"It was never my dream to start a studio," Wallace said. "I just wanted to dance."

Across town at Bearcat Boogie, students have been dancing their socks off since 2001.

"We just hope to create memories that they'll never forget," said owner Dana Schmidt. "I danced growing up and have lots of great memories of being on stage and with my friends."

The Schmidt family opened their studio on North Main Street when another studio left the area. Wanting to keep the option of dance instruction available to local children, they took a chance and started Bearcat Boogie.

"We never thought it would turn into this," Schmidt said. "It's great. We're celebrating our tenth year this year. I just can't believe it."

As the studio grew so did its performance base. The dancers take trips to national competitions and more recently danced aboard a cruise ship.

Maryville's third dance studio, Maryville Dance Academy, adds another option for dance instruction in town.

"We have dancers from all over," said co-owner Mel Schluter. "We have some that come from as far away as Villisca, Iowa; Savannah; St. Joseph and the surrounding towns."

Schluter opened MDA, located on East First Street, with business partner Cammi Zimmerman in the spring of 2007.

Both dance moms were tired of driving their daughters long distances several nights a week for lessons and thought maybe other parents were in the same boat.

"It's been much more fun and exciting than I thought it would be four years ago," Schluter said. "We just started it so we wouldn't have to travel four days a week, and thought the kids in Maryville should have a choice. I never thought we would have the amount of students that we have now and it's so great."

A growing clientele at all three studios — well into the hundreds at MDA and Bearcat Boogie — means more costumes, rhinestones, shoes and events.

Each studio offers recreational and competitive classes. Those competing often travel across the Midwest to perform for awards, trophies and titles.

"It can be expensive," Zimmerman said. "But it can be as expensive as you want it to be. This year, we decided to offer some fundraising options for students and families. We also decided to offer discounts for multiple-child families or those with several dance numbers."

Zimmerman said families find a way to make things work.

Bearcat Boogie also offers discounts, and Schmidt said some families take on part-time jobs to help fund their child's dance dreams.

Across the board, studio owners attribute the growing popularity of dance at their studios to recent trends in television.

"There are so many TV shows about dance on right now that I think it helps spark their interest," Wallace said.

Shows such at "Dancing with the Stars," "So You Think You Can Dance," "America's Best Dance Crew" and "Step It Up and Dance" can currently be found on TV.

"I think some kids dance because they get a sense of friendship and a bonding," Schluter said. "For most girls that aren't interested in sports, dance gives them an activity to do and they usually end up loving it."

All three studios are currently gearing up for regional competitions across the Midwest as well as recitals in Maryville.

Teacher tenure on the chopping block

Teachers could be put under the microscope and lose their tenure under legislation considered on Wednesday by a House committee.

The bill would require half of a teacher's evaluation to be based on students' scores or state tests.

Maryville R-II currently does not use scores to evaluate their educators according to district Superintendent Vickie Miller but she also states that each district in the state has the authority to do so.

The bill would organize teachers into four tiers within their district based on their evaluation and students' academic performance. Teachers would then be given different salaries based on the tier they qualify for and would no longer be guaranteed extra pay if they have a master's degree or several years of experience.

Joe Knodell, the state coordinator for the Missouri Education Reform Council, said he has seen teachers' performance change after they earn their tenure.

"They go into what I call 'cruise control,' where they won't be the teacher they were for the first five years," said Knodell, who is a former superintendent.

Miller stated that teachers with less than five years of experience are in what is considered a probationary period and are hired year to year. Once a teacher reaches the five year mark they earn their tenure and are hired on contract.

"Across the nation there are teachers who are underperforming and think because they have tenure that their jobs are safe," Miller said. "It's important that we do our part as administrators and as a district to help those teachers improve. There are laws however, that allow a teacher to be released from their contract if they have made continuous big mistakes."

Miller also stated that the bill, if passed, would create unnecessary competition amongst teachers that could create harmful learning environments.

"Our big focus as a district has been collaboration," Miller said. "We strive to work together and share information so that kids and teachers are continuously learning. I feel that this would create competition between teachers and maybe shut down the open door policy of sharing what works and what doesn't work in the classroom."

The legislation would take effect in July 2012 and would also change how teachers' salaries are calculated.

Teachers who are ranked in the top 16 percent based on their district evaluation and student test scores would be in the first tier. The second tier would cover those ranked from 17 percent to 34 percent. The third tier would be those ranked from 35 percent to 67 percent. The rest would be in the final tier.

Higer ranked teachers would get larger salaries. Teachers ranked in the highest tier would be paid more than twice the salary of teachers in the bottom third. However, teachers would still need to be paid a minimum of $25,000 annually.

"The bottom line is that there is already a process for eliminating teachers who are underperforming or should otherwise be let go for whatever reason," Miller said. "The districts can and should be doing their job of implementing those steps to either better the teacher or replace them."