Friday, March 24, 2017

Winter has yet to quit, but we are too busy to care. Henry has his first pinewood derby coming up and the design we settled on is an Amtrak train. It's the first year so in the name of keeping it simple, I suggested we cut a simple wedge shape. It's fairly quick down the track, easy to cut, and should be competitive.

Soon after settling on this plan, Henry expressed a desire to craft an Alaskan train engine. I quickly declared this achievable, but suggested we target that for next year. We should have more square footage by then and will have this year under our belts. We'll be ready for a more complicated design (not to mention a more detailed paint job).

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Uncle Randy happily allowed us to use his power tools, guiding the pencil marked block across the table saw. That was a grown up job for certain. The hand sander was a Henry job. If you watch the video above you will notice Henry's attention is less than focused. Ergo, there is a bit of concave in the center of the car. So be it. We soon had a sanded wedge, a handful of lead weights, and a weight of 4.8 ounces -- preparing us to hit that regulated 5 ounces when the paint and glue come into play.

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Depending on the photos you look at, Amtrak trains are either silver or grey. I own a nice can of primer grey so that's the first road we started down. It looks plenty good with that color. Henry declined the silver top coat, so primer grey it will stay. We ebayed some Amtrak stickers and Henry will soon decide on their placement. Throw on a clear coat and wheels and we should be set for next weekend's race.

...

Everywhere Piper goes is St Elizabeth's. Everywhere.
"How was Arctic Gymnastics today?"
"I go to St Elizabeth's."
"St Elizabeth's is Wednesday. And the weekend."
It's now a fun game. Henry, where are you going to go to college?
"Alaska, or just work at the Lego store in the Mall of America."
How about you Piper?
"I go to"...well, you already know.

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Monday, February 20, 2017

This is a true Alaskan winter. I doubt it's an extreme one, but after several mild ones this feels tough. Perhaps this would have been a better year to have planned a Hawaiian getaway.

The days are getting longer and a handful of summer plans are coming together; we are planning for the snow to melt and feel ourselves now being pulled towards it. Henry is registered for a week of camp at the science center. As a family, we've reserved a public use cabin for a single night in July with the plan of introducing Piper to some Alaskan camping.

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The biggest summer plan is Henry's cub scout camp. While Camp Gorsuch was always on our radar for this summer, the happy surprise last week was confirmation that a Tiger Scout like Henry is able to stay overnight given that his guardian (me) camps with him. It's an exception to a rule restricting overnight camping to older scouts. Henry is very excited about it, and I'm very excited to head to a place where I get to turn off my phone and PC for a week.

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Piper is now registered for pre-school this coming fall, so potty training has a firm goal. Piper does a great job of not having accidents, assuming she's not wearing pants. When the pants are on, the message received is that you are welcome to let it rip. It makes sense in its own way, but it remains our largest impediment.

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Tuesday, January 31, 2017

The Christmas decorations have been taken down, stowed carefully in their boxes, and then carefully stacked in our crawlspace. It's one big day and at the end our little townhouse looks miraculously larger than ever before (for at least a few hours). We are going to make every effort this coming year to have our next Christmas in a larger home, one where I can walk gingerly to the garage to retrieve and stow those boxes. I'm sure we'll look back in a blink and see these as the good old days, but right now they're the cramped days. These are uptown problems to be sure -- everyone is warm, has a full belly, and has plenty of clothes.


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It was -21 for a few days. Then it snowed well over a foot. Followed by a few days of 40 degree temps. It's back in the 20s now, we still have piles of snow, and all the lakes are still solidly frozen. Let's stay above zero and enjoy winter and the growing daylight.

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Everyday is a Lego day around here. As for Piper, everyday is a bear day.

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Tuesday, January 10, 2017

It's far too easy to forget and cave into the fast pace of life, but we try to be mindful of introducing family holiday traditions to the kids. Thanks to a Christmas card by the way of Texas, we acquired some oplatek. It's a Polish holiday custom I've always enjoyed, and I would say Henry and Piper now feel the same way.

After happily exchanging greetings and pieces of the wafer the kids keyed in on the remainder of wafer on the table. Piper may have been first. "Eat rest?" They were given the green light and equal portions, and soon devoured it. Nice Polish kids.


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Monday, January 9, 2017

I don't know why, but all the kids want to do is play a hiking and camping game these days. It involves loading up a backpack with plastic tools, grabbing a few blankets, clicking on the fake candle (read: campfire), and finally spreading it all out on the floor of the bathroom. Soon after I am instructed to close the door and keep it shut. As long as I don't hear the water running or toilet lid clanging, I leave well enough alone. Chatter about "the top of the mountain" soon follows.

This has happily translated into excitement for summer camping and hiking trips, so I've already started sketching out a few campgrounds and rental cabins.

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Henry's Lion scout pack rambles forward, peppered mostly by Pack Nights as of late. At the Christmas party shown below the Scoutmaster passed out kazoos. After a wall of sound failing repeatedly to replicate classic holiday carols, the scouts were allowed to walk up and visit the cookie table. At the end of the meeting the Scoutmaster reminded us with a smile that we were more than welcome to take home those kazoos. Thanks, buddy.

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Friday, January 6, 2017

I don't know if Piper really enjoys ice skating, but I do know she loves talking about it. "Go ice skating?" She also loves reliving the event over the next day or so. All good things that send us to nearby Cheney Lake at least once a week. She's never had a problem with fussing when life becomes displeasing, so her lack of protest with getting geared up and stood up on skates is a key indicator of happiness.

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Even though Henry hasn't skated at all during the summer, he seems to have not lost a step once he gets back on the ice. He only falls when he starts sprinting here and there, eventually losing control and sliding onto the ice. Most of the time he just cruises around in control. I'd say he's a pretty solid skater for a five year old. If he looks into hockey lessons in the next few years, he'll have some confidence in his pocket.

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Piper is pretty good at standing straight in her skates; no rolling ankles at all. There isn't a great deal of forward motion, but there is a degree of steadiness. Couple that with zero fussing and I'm calling it a victory. After about ten minutes a polite sentence usually comes out. "Put boots on." Fair enough. On go the boots and about an hour of snow exploring commences. All good stuff.

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Full photo set here.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Christmas with kids makes the holiday much more exciting and meaningful; it's been that way since Henry was an infant. Now that Henry is five and Piper is a chatty and active two year old, Christmas is at a whole new level. All around, this Christmas was just a home run. We even found excellent seating in the crying room for Christmas Eve mass.

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Piper really wanted another bear for Christmas. Upon her second visit to Santa this season she had found her courage. She stood in front of him, slowly twiddled her thumbs, stared at her shoes, and then looked up in a burst. "Want another bear!" It looked like she was asking for a raise.

On an unrelated note, a package from Amazon that may have contained a bear was randomly delayed such that its earliest date of arrival was the 27th. Yes, it was ordered early enough, yet there we stood. The dates just weren't working out correctly, and this young lady had put legitimate effort into getting that request to the big guy.

Once the tracking info confirmed that Amazon was going to be a miss, Plan B kicked off. Around December 23rd a charming, local toy store in Anchorage was visited, and a high quality bear was purchased. To conclude, the Easter bunny has a high probability of giving a bear to Piper this year.

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Santa came through for Henry, bringing a Lego Volcano set. Mercifully, everyone slept through the night. Unlike last year, Henry did not rise every hour to check if any light peered up the stairs from the first floor (If it's dark downstairs, Daddy or Mommy are still sleeping so you should be as well). Henry followed his strict Santa instructions and snoozed till 7 am. Piper is an extremely light sleeper and surely would have tagged along with any inspections of downstairs lights, so we're thankful for that.

I woke up first to find that our heat was out, and had been for about two hours. This is one of the perfect moments to be in a condo association. Make the phone call to the association, let them summon and compensate a professional, and then merely light our fireplace. It was twenty degrees outside, so our home remained comfortable for the six hours until the zone valve was replaced.

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Full set of Christmas photos here.