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 Milwaukee, 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.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Too much overtime and not enough writing has been a large problem this fall. We're still up here in Alaska, trucking along.

School keeps clicking for Henry and his class, teachers, and school are just about perfect.


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Henry and Mommy jumped on the Santa Train this year and enjoyed the snow, ice, and mountains as they cruised down Turnagain to Indian.

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Henry focused in and won the coloring contest, taking home an Alaskan Train pillow. This pillow remains tightly gripped each bedtime.

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Piper screamed bloody murder for Santa last year, which makes her behavior this year a victory for sure. She silently stared at the floor, lower lip extended. After some coaxing she told Santa she wanted "another bear." You can't have enough stuffed bears these days.

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Tuesday, August 23, 2016

If you heard a loud surge of air from the north, it was Becky and Chris exhaling as Henry's Kindergarten destination finally sorted itself out. We had known for quite a few months that our lottery choices washed out, so we were only left with St Elizabeth's and testing into Rogers Park.


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After Henry's birthday in July he was able to take the test, which ended up being 4 sessions after the dust settled. He did great and off to Rogers Park he goes. We couldn't be prouder and now everyone is excited about bus schedules, hot lunches, and classrooms.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

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The trip had been circled on the calendar for quite a few months, starting back when snow was still on the ground. The public use cabins in Alaska on summer weekends fill up pretty fast, so I wisely booked early.

The cabin we chose is on Red Shirt Lake in the Willow area, and is reached by canoe after backpacking 3 miles to the canoe launch. Henry asserted repeatedly that he was up for the 3 mile forest hike and that he would happily carry his John Deere backpack. I knew I could carry the majority of our gear in my large multi-day pack, along with the oars and fishing poles in my hands. I quietly prepared for tacking on the John Deere pack in the middle of the hike if need be.

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I needn't have worried. Henry mowed down the 3 miles like a champion. He certainly began noting how sore his feet were getting in that last mile, but he never asked to stop and rest. He bought into the plan to just keep ticking forward, and was clearly exciting about the canoe part of the trip. Most of the hike out to Red Shirt Lake was soundtracked by Henry repeatedly identifying the devil's club plants. It was tedious at times, but it kept his mind distracted while his feet clicked along. As we reached the final half mile he started to drag, but I quickly sent him off with questions about Legos and what big thing he could build next.

In our travels around the lake we found a tiny island, and scavenged it for blueberries and firewood. Looking at the picture above, you'll see that we stumbled onto a geocache. Henry promptly wrote his name in it and we safely placed it back where we found it.

As expected, there was a certain degree of jumping in the air when the lake and canoe racks came into view. With canoes loaded, we began our 15 minute paddle to our cabin. Once we hit the open water the wind began pushing us around more than I had expected, and we needed to regroup before pushing hard into the wind, tucking behind a small island, and then plowing broadside into the whitecaps, ultimately spinning towards our destination. It was real work for one adult, but we found our solution. For the rest of that evening through the next morning, that strong wind blew whitecaps. Even the loons took the night off.

Thankfully the afternoon of day two brought calm waters as the Hamel girls and their Dad came to join us.

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The picture above has Henry and the Hamel girls pointing at the scene of the weekend's most dramatic moment. On the quiet side of the island, far from the cabin, is a small trail leading to a smooth piece of dirt from which you can easily cast and fish. Henry and I fished from that point together much of the previous day, and even sat there a few times while we filtered water. It's a peaceful spot and out of the wind.

While dinner was being prepared, Henry and I walked to our peaceful spot with Nalgene bottle and water purifier in hand. Henry loves pumping the device and I'm happy to hold it. Down we sat on the shore, our feet dangling in the shallow water. I pinched the bottle between my things, guided the hose into it, and then propped the pump on my knee, while Henry hammered down on the pump. I believe we filled a quarter of the bottle before the first bees appeared. I noticed a few yellow jackets buzzing around my legs, then one near Henry's moving hand. By the time I looked up fully there were four near Henry's face, another four near his chest, and more than a few around me. Henry had no doubts about what was happening.

Up he jumped and out came the screams. He spun immediately and began running up the small incline, but his feet couldn't gain any traction. I yelled for him to run and he yelled that he could not. I placed my palm squarely on his bottom and shoved him solidly up the hill. His boots caught and soon he was twenty feet down the trail, standing  and crying. In helping him I missed my opportunity to shoo away the bees, and took two stings to my arm.

Once I made it up the hill and verified that he had not been stung and that the bees had not followed us up, Henry was able to start to calm down. It's a flat out miracle he didn't take a hit. It was definitely an intense few minutes, compounded by our awkward squatting. We looked down gingerly at the shore and saw the bees cruising in and out of the nest right at ground level. We had plopped ourselves right on top of it.

Thirty minutes later Henry had decided that the bees had only wanted to check him out, were much more upset with Daddy, and that Maggie and Ann needed to be carefully taken to the spot so they knew where to avoid.

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Full set of photos here.