Wednesday, December 24, 2014

The Alaska Railroad offers a Holiday Train each December. I understand they've been doing this for years, though like most things of this sort, I had no idea until I was chasing around my own preschooler. I was told it's pricey, sells out quickly, and is a blast. All of that is completely correct.

Henry had been doing very well in school and there is no denying how bananas he is about trains, so this was an excellent event for us. Becky and Piper took a pass, but will certainly be around in the coming years.

They offered a morning train and an afternoon train. We chose the morning one as it didn't collide directly with nap time. The picture below was taken just before departure. Yes, 10 am in December is almost sunrise!

The train rumbled along Turnagain Arm, stopping to watch Dall Sheep along the way. We finally ground to a halt in the speck of a town called Indian.

Henry wanted to know what happened, so I gave him an answer. "The engine ran out of gas."

"Will a tanker be coming to fill it up?"

"Yep. Exactly."

We soon lurched back towards Anchorage and Henry resumed gazing intently towards the ocean, mountains, and highway.

Kids all over the train had shades of meltdowns at different times. Not Hank. He requested a snack now and again, but largely spent his time quietly absorbing it all. He didn't even touch the coloring book they handed out.

Full set of photos here.
St Nick's day seems to be a regional event, though one that was certainly strong in Chicago. I suspect attending St Nick's elementary school may have helped as well.

Everybody I knew left out their shoes in early December in order to receive a teaser gift if you will -- it was always something small but exciting. St. Nick visited Anchorage and left a small plastic ball for Piper and a Thomas Christmas train for Henry. He was also kind enough to leave a Christmas book for both kids. As you can see, it was very exciting.

Henry was more than happy to offer Piper some help in opening her gift. I'm sure his helpfulness will be utilized on the 25th.

Henry is getting exceptionally pumped for Christmas and Santa this year. He enjoyed it last year, and thankfully the anticipation has only grown. 

We'll turn on the Norad Santa tracker tonight and enjoy dinner with Grandpa Barnes. Henry should come shooting out of a cannon around 6 am on the 25th.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Henry's Christmas concert was earlier today and it went very well. He doesn't seem to care much for singing (even around the house when Mommy or Daddy sings), but he did an excellent job of standing politely with his classmates.

In the last video you get to see Henry showing off his tummy. Charming!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Thanksgiving was a bit warmer this year, and oddly without snow on the ground. Though I do usually enjoy being on my skis at this point in the season, I will confess that driving on dry, clear roads is very nice. We headed out to the Barnes' in Chugiak as happily and hungry as usual. Henry is pretty pumped for any visit out there these days, and I know the folks really wanted to see how much Piper had grown.

As we verified that the oil in the deep fryer was hot enough for the turkey, we immediately heard the sputter of a near empty tank of propane. After a quick check we confirmed that all of the cupboards were bare when it came to propane. Off to the gas station we went with three empty tanks and a very interested Henry.

We soon returned home and had the burner again heating up the oil. We walked back into the house and Hailey immediately asked Henry, "How was the trip to the gas station?"

Henry provided a wonderful, left field response. "It was lovely." There you have it.

Our snow finally came a few days later so onto the deck we went. Piper smiled at use through the window and Henry pushed around an excavator and dump truck. After the trucks ran their course, the ice skating helper was quickly turned into a snow plow. I happily fulfilled my job of shoveling some snow back into a pile in the middle of the deck, only to watch it plowed quickly away.

Happy kids.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

It's hard to keep up with December as Christmas rambles ever closer. After a few weeks of over time work passed by, I seized an empty Saturday and took Henry to the museum. They are currently in the middle of a Lego exhibit, which is pretty exciting for Dad and Henry.

Henry enjoyed the exhibit quite a bit on the weekday he first visited. Our Saturday trip found the expected larger crowds, and because Henry is his father's son, he wanted very little to do with the Lego crowds. However, that discomfort does not extend to the wooden train set. We'll politely wait for hours to get a crack at that sucker.

It's the same magnetic, wooden train on the same scale track we have at home, except it is securely screwed into a mountain landscape. As the other kids spiraled off to the dinosaurs, boats, and foam play sets, Henry patiently waited. He stepped up into his moment, flipped his Badger hat around, and dug in. I should have brought a book and a chair.

Legos, shmegos.

While Piper may have flirted with smiling in the past, she is how undeniably a smiley girl almost all of the time. She still loves to spit up on Mom and Dad more than we'd prefer, but she keeps gaining weight, laughing, and growing -- so there is nothing to complain about.

We'll just keep an eye out for stain stick coupons.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Becky's birthday fell on a Thursday this year so we again headed to Simon and Seafort's for dinner. Henry was happy and content to plow through chocolate milks while gazing at the ships moving about in Cook Inlet. Piper's eyes popped open, only to begin drifting away as the bottle was plugged in. Everyone was well behaved and I didn't have to tip too heavily for the cleanup of our usual bread crumb cloud on the floor. It seems we're getting just a little bit more tidy -- progress.

Becky chose the bacon wrapped meatloaf and I jumped on fish (cod) and chips. Yes, we both chose old favorites in the face of plenty of great options on the menu. Old habits are just that.

When the actual day of Halloween came, Henry asserted that he no longer wanted to be a fireman, and would prefer to be an astronaut. So off he went to preschool as an astronaut (Ms. Debbie was given a heads up that the buckle and long zipper might need help in the bathroom).

The picture below is what you might call an upfront in show business. It was a warmer than average Halloween for us -- 25 degrees -- so we scooted outside to take a picture before the sun set. Henry quickly put on his snow pants and jacket before the loose fitting astronaut outfit was layered on  top. Once we had a few reflective stickers in place and a blinking bike light clipped to his back, off we went into the dark, Anchorage Halloween night.

Becky and Piper stayed home though, eagerly waiting with a well lit porch and a flickering pumpkin outside. They only ended up with one group of kids the entire night. Townhouse complexes are funny things on nights like this.

Henry and I targeted the neighborhood just across the street. About half of the homes had their lights on, which added up to about 90 minutes of trick or treating, though at the end I had to carry our NASA employee a bit (no fussing though).

We started out very strong and needed little prompting. "Trick or Treat...Thank you."

However, as the evening wore on and more folks began asking Henry questions on the fly about his spaceship or if he had been on the moon, his ability to remember the trick or treat script waned. To his credit, he fell back on his strengths.

"And are you flying to the moon? Where is your shuttle?"


"What candy do you like the best?"

"Thank you."

All polite, positive words, so you won't hear any complaining from Mom and Dad.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Halloween this year is probably a strong harbinger of the years to come -- numerous safe events capped off by actual trick or treating. I completely appreciate the goal of trunk or treats and indoor events to keep the kids warm, supervised, in well lit rooms, and filled with candy. However, it all needs to culminate in trudging up and down a city street with a bag for the holiday to be legitimate.

Henry had the choice of either being a fireman or an astronaut, thanks to some costumes that were lent to us. He immediately picked the firefighter jacket and proceeded to wear it everywhere, everyday (thankfully it's lined). Piper fit warmly in a hand me down bear suit and seemed to like it just fine.

At Henry's preschool fall festival (I guess somebody at some time was uptight with it being a Halloween party) his badge and hat were in full effect. If you look closely you will notice Piper wearing a pumpkin orange shirt.

There were quite a few games, a silent auction that quickly rose too rich for our blood, and plenty of candy that didn't make it home that night.


The daytime temps are no longer making it over 32 degrees, but our first snow dump has not yet found us. A dusting here or there, sure, but not a permanent layer. So we continue to hike and tramp around Cheney Lake and point out the eagles in the trees.

I should have known it after observing how good Henry is getting at manipulating Legos, but he was perfectly up for digging slimy pumpkin seeds from the belly of our carved friend below. We chose the face of the Jack O'Lantern from one of his favorite stories (Five Little Pumpkins) and I did all the knife work. Henry took his sweet time digging out each little seed like a surgeon. It all worked out well and soon the pumpkin was sitting on our 16 degree deck with a tealight flickering inside.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Terror in the Aisles

Thanks to Becky's teaching years, we have easily hundreds of kids books hanging around our home. Even if we had a much larger house, I am not certain that we'd be able to find a place for them on shelves or in rooms. These are good problems to find yourself in. So, we cycle in and out of books as the months tick by, often resulting in a new story coming our way. Such is this case with Sendak's Outside Over There.

Henry responded well to Where The Wild Things Are, so I quickly reached for another title from the same author. The fantastical storyline, which centers on a child's abduction by 2 goblins that is eventually resolved safely, is profoundly creepy for an adult. I had no true idea how Henry digested it, though he asked to reread it a few times. Perhaps his perception is just different enough to make the images and storyline below a concern only for moms and dads.

NPR seems to think so.

Friday found us meeting up for a Halloween event at Henry's preschool such that we had 2 cars, resulting in Henry and I being tasked with heading to Safeway to pick up Chinese food. After unsuccessfully searching for caramels in the store, we paid for our food and started heading towards the doors. I made a quick detour after remembering that Alaskan beer was currently on sale, and that the seasonal Pumpkin Porter was only going to be available for a short time. I had never tasted it, so I decided to seize the opportunity and grab a case.

In Alaska the liquor department has to be its own section with its own doorway, even though it's part of the grocery store. In Chicago they drag a big accordion metal fence across the beer when it's Sunday morning, while up here they just shut the door to that little room. So we walked through the bakery, past the tables where folks read the paper while lounging, and right into a crowded beer store.

There were about 6 folks in line and I didn't want the Chinese food to get cold, so I walked with a bit of purpose towards the stacks of Alaskan beer. As we reached the middle of the room, just past the check out line, Henry tugged hard away from me. I grabbed his hand firmly in direct fear that I was about to hear a pyramid of wine come crashing down all over my credit card.

No luck, as he tugged away again. "We just need to get Daddy's beer and we'll go home."

"We need to go home now," he said clear as a bell. No mumbling, all intention.

I sighed and rolled my eyes quickly. "OK. Let's go." I began walking him towards the external door, away from the bakery (2 entrances at the beer store). He yelped and flopped right onto the floor. His face was then buried into his hands.

I have never before seen this degree of terror, so I just went into rapid response mode. I grasped the back of his jacket, picked him up like a piece of luggage, and then headed back to the bakery. He was soon walking and tugging rapidly towards the main section of the store -- anything to get away from the beer department.

I steered us into the section of tables and was then able to talk calmly with him. After a few questions and sniffled words the answer was clear. "Goblins, Daddy."

I spun around and saw the 4 foot witch standing guard at the entrance to the liquor department. It all became clear.

As I calmed him down with a french fry and had a better chance to scan the goblin lair, I saw that another witch stood at the external door as well. Henry did not realize we were under goblin attack until he was in the center of the room, at which point the only solution was to burrow into the faux wood floor and hope it all passed.

Those witches could not have looked any closer to the Sendak's goblins. Truly a perfect storm of trouble for Henry.

I imagine people in the store assumed I beat my kid and that he was merely prematurely reacting to Dad's looming, weekend bender.

I'm pretty sure this is a story/scar that will be sticking in our family's history. We have not read that book since, but Mom and Dad are laughing at the story and Henry's even smirking about the goblins at Safeway.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Henry started preschool a few weeks ago and has been enjoying it so much that it seems like he's always been there. Our commute to the southside has pretty much been dialed in and it's a real challenge to get a good-bye hug from him once he's in Ms Debbie's classroom. Any fears about a tough adjustment have proven unfounded, which is a relief. I know one little classmate is literally dragged down the steps to the room many days. We hear song fragments at dinnertime and are told bluntly the virtues of sharing. Something is sinking during those weekday mornings.

From Henry's point of view, the crown jewel of Grammy and Grandpa's visit most certainly was the Alaska State Fair. He walked the entire day even though the jogging stroller shadowed him as a backup. It ended up carrying some gear, which was just fine. Henry rode his first carnival rides (merry go round and dump trucks) and thanks to getting there right when the gates opened, was able to walk through all of the exhibits, petting zoos, and tractors without any crowds.

The plan worked perfectly in that we were able to get to the Lumberjack show early enough to secure front row seats. Henry was satiated with a light lunch as the bleachers filled in. Soon the show started and all three competitors were introduced -- representing British Columbia, Stevens Point, and Hayward, Wisconsin. Early in the show Henry was presented with a cutoff from our lumberjack and he was rendered speechless. It was an impressive gift.

By the time we had the car loaded up and were headed back to Anchorage, nap time had long since passed. I thought for sure our all day walker would pass out as soon as the car started humming along, but he decided to stay awake until we were ten minutes from home. So, we ran an errand where I stayed in the parking lot with him and he snoozed away. We definitely got our money's worth this year.

State Fair photos here.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Where to begin? Life has been a blur lately, as we pretty much expected it to be once Piper zoomed into our lives.

Grammy and Grandpa Turek were up for a well timed visit. Piper had been home for a week and we were settled in a bit, the weather was still warm, the trees remained mostly green, the state fair chugged along up in Palmer, and Henry's preschool start date was right in front of us. I don't know how we fit it all in, but we did.

Piper was baptized at St Patrick's and seemed to enjoy the process. We spent most of our time occupying a fidgeting Henry and his desire to run around an empty church. Piper wore the same baptismal gown as Henry, which is the also the same gown Chris and Grandpa Turek wore. The gown started as a wedding dress for Grandma Josie quite a while back (That would make the fabric close to 70 years old?) . The tradition is well worth maintaining and the silk fabric is beautiful, though we had to be very mindful of how slick a baby in silk is within your arms.

Find the Alaskan in the below picture. It's the person that doesn't seem cold and has mud boots on.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Piper Ann arrived on 8/8/14 at 7 lbs 10 ounces. Everyone is happy and healthy.

Plenty of photos here.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Arctic Thunder only comes around every 2 years nowadays, so it's a big deal that draws pretty big crowds. Given our daily nap time, it seemed wise to plan on getting there right when it opened knowing that we'd have to leave in the middle of the air show. We beat the crowds, saw all of the exhibits, and only missed the Thunderbirds in the end. Henry was beat at the end of the 3 hours and it was probably just as well that we missed the ultra loud F-22s. Even with earplugs those are tough.

Henry seemed to enjoy everything he ran into, and the lack of crowds for the first few hours made it very easy to crawl into anything his heart desired. His favorite plane by far was the AWACS. We waited in line for about 10 minutes, all the while allowing Henry to fixate on the spinning disc above the plane.

"What is that?"

"It's a big satellite dish," I replied about a dozen times.

The slow burn as we inched up the staircase had him more than ready to walk through the plane and enjoy chatting with the staff at each 15 foot interval. The enlisted men are exceedingly polite.

"How are you today Sir? How are you young man?"

"I have a tow truck, a garbage truck, and 2 tractors!"

"Good for you!"

That exchange happened with each staff member in the plane -- 6 times.

He had a great time. When asked what his favorite part of the day was we usually get one of two answers -- the AWACS or the model train sets that were tucked into one of the hangars.

Saturday Becky headed to a friend's house on the Anchorage hillside for a baby shower. From the gifts and boxes that came home, it's clear that everyone was far too generous.

Full set of Arctic Thunder photos here.

Full set of Shower photos here.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Use all of the adjectives and date filled explanations you'd like, but you'll still end up concluding that Henry had 2 birthday parties. We had decided to give him the presents from Mom, Dad, and Grammy and Grandpa Turek on the Monday of his actual birthday. Given that Grandpa Barnes was in Alaska for a visit, we quickly shifted that evening into a family dinner. Uncle Randy and cousin Nick soon jumped in and before you know it, it's a party.

The following Sunday was the formal party that included Maggie, Anne, and most of the folks that had been there on Monday. Speaking as someone responsible for the food, beer, and room prep, these 2 events were both full blown parties. If there was a difference, I guess you could note that Henry received more gifts on Monday night, though that's a little like declaring that you ate more on Christmas Eve rather than Christmas Day.

Our cozy townhouse buzzed with family, toddlers, potty breaks, crock pot scents, and oodles of hot wheels and plastic trucks. Perfect all around.
Looking at the pictures now, I see that we put Henry in the same shirt for both parties. The rule of thumb is that Monday was ice cream night, and Sunday was cake day.

Full set of birthday photos here.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Melanie's wedding found us heading out to Wasilla on a Wednesday night to the Lake Lucille Best Western. It's a nice hotel with a gorgeous view of the lake, though on this night we looked out at a continuous downpour. The ceremony was moved indoors, the new couple seemed extremely happy, and Moose's Tooth pizza was on the menu.

Henry's potty training was hitting it's stride and we made many successful trips to the restroom with zero accidents. For being such a good boy he was given a Roy Rogers, which he promptly inhaled.

Alaska is a huge place that feels like a small town, as proven by the best man -- Trooper Simeon from the Alaska State Troopers show. If you count the fact that Sarah Palin's place is right across the lake from the reception, you'll notch our celebrity counter at 2 for the night.

Grandpa Barnes is finishing up his Alaskan visit this week, but when he first arrived we all high tailed it down to Seward for a Salmon and Halibut fishing trip. The weather and seas were just fine, we limited out on Silver Salmon very quickly, worked much longer to limit out on Halibut, and were mildly annoyed with the new Halibut regulations (1 of your daily fish must now be below 29 inches).

Looking at the picture below you'll conclude that we were happy with our fish pile, and that I was the only member of our group that kept bumping his head on the ceiling of the boat's cabin.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

It's been way too busy around here this summer. When the dust settles this fall and we look back on the summer months, we'll be pleased to list all of the activities we squeezed in before baby sister arrived. We still have a month to go and Grandpa Barnes is still visiting, but looking back at mid June shows just how well we are taking advantage of the long days.

While I hiked the Crow Pass Trail in mid June, Henry helped decorate my Father's Day Cake. Most of the sprinkles did not make it to the cake, and the ones that did were concentrated in a pile in the center. After a 26 mile hike with a single night of camping, being presented with a delicious yellow cake with chocolate frosting was just fine. We treated ourselves to Moose's Tooth pizza for dinner and had an enjoyable night after I brought a smile to everyone's face by taking a long shower and safely stowing my hiking clothes in the washing machine. It is a great trail and I would happily hike it again.

Henry has been out and about all over Anchorage thanks to an active St Elizabeth's toddler playgroup. Between meeting up at playgrounds and trail heads, Hank is hiking and sliding his way through summer with a large extended group of toddlers. The only challenge is having 8 month pregnant Becky keep up.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

The Amazon box finally arrived Friday after a few weeks on back order and it looks like it was worth it. Henry's push bike was assembled wisely while he played inside ignorantly. If I had him running around while I fiddled with wrenches and parts it might still be in pieces. Once the bike was whole Becky geared him up (as we are potty training these days, this means a little more than just putting shoes on him) and sent him out, waiting quietly behind with the camera.

Suffice to say, Hank was pretty happy to find his own bike right there. He still loves the bike trailer, but had been asking often about getting his own bike.

"Do you want your own big boy bike?"

"Yes, please." We received that clear, identical answer each time we asked the question. He knows what he wants.

Yes, rather than choose a blue bike we opted for unisex red. Aren't we the smart ones.

I had a pretty nasty flat on my work commute and had to temporarily patch a hole in my tire with some cards from my wallet, but I was able to get home without further incident. The tire was shredded beyond reuse so while I mounted my new tire, Henry also fixed his bike. From what I could gather, his bike needed a great deal of air pumped while the nozzle draped itself across the frame, along with Daddy's chain lubricant sprayed into his hubs.

Did we do a good job? Well, we both needed to wash our hands afterwards and touched plenty of tools in the process. Victory.

Believe what you will about the mittens in this picture, but it is still summer. A rainy weekend isn't tough enough to break this joy.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Mothers Day greeted us with bluebird skies and almost too warm 70 degree temps. We headed out to the Eagle River Nature Center for a hike to enjoy the weather. It's a very pretty location as you can see below, and the majority of the trails near the nature center are fairly flat, which is a kindness to Becky these days. Henry loved the Salmon Smolt suspended in the water just underneath the wooden observation deck and delighted in the endless amount of sticks everywhere.

As an added bonus, the road to the nature center had a short stretch of construction where we needed to follow a pilot car. Being mere yards from working excavators and dump trucks made it a wonder he didn't bust out of his car seat.

After a dinner treat of Moose's Tooth Chicken Thai pizza we pronounced Mothers Day a success.

Sometimes life is just too easy. A sunny and warm Saturday in Alaska in May is a cause for celebration, but when you couple it with an open house at the Anchorage Fire Department, you can't help but win. Henry held the water hose while knocking down a big orange cone, activated the inflation mechanism to separate 2 pieces of concrete, sat in a fire engine, and finally was able to run around in a uniform for around twenty minutes before plowing through a hot dog and chips.

Naptime that afternoon was as easy as it has ever been. He crashed right out.

Friday, May 9, 2014

I thought Henry's head might pop from all of the joy and excitement last Saturday at the Alaska Railroad open house. Aside from touring some cars, engines, maintenance machinery, and acquiring a temporary tattoo, a 20 minute train ride was on the docket.

The event was scheduled for 11-3, so we arrived at 10:45am only to find the parking lots swelling amid throngs of strollers and preschoolers. I'd be amazed if any less than 75% of the toddlers in Anchorage were there.

We met up with our friends fairly quickly and by 10:50 were in line for a train ride, a train ride that we would not board until 12:30. If that seems downright crazy to you, I would agree. God have mercy on those that arrived around noon -- they must have stepped aboard that train around 3:15.

Thankfully our friends had a stroller. Combining the stroller with 4 adults, we were able to stake down a spot in line while the kids were led around the joyous trains (Henry seemed most fond of the captain's chair in the engine and the microwave in the kitchen car). We were able to tour everything, minimize standing and fidgeting, and enjoy the 60 degree bluebird skies.

We often pointed at the Alaska trains in their bold blue and gold paint and stated, "Henry, we're riding that train in a little bit." His smile led me to believe that he must think his parents are kings. How else could we swing a ride on a machine of dreams like that?

As we walked past the ever-snaking line of parents and toddlers I encountered two story lines on a loop. One, a child sitting on the cement, crying, rubbing their hands in dust, and melting down. Secondly, a parent quietly saying, "Our turn is coming in a little bit. We need to wait our turn."

The whole event felt like a day at Disneyworld, if Disney only had a single ride.

Looking at the picture below you may conclude that we had a great day and did not have a meltdown, largely due to our arrival early enough (next time we'll shoot for 10 am).

Later that day while rocking Henry at bedtime, he was happy to point out that my shirt had a fire engine on, just like his jammies (under the image on my shirt reads "Chicago Fire Department -- Southwest Side").  I agreed and watched his fingers trace the graphics. "Daddy, we are fire engine guys." Yes, we are.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

If it decided to snow again that would be a very cruel twist. The trails and roads are dry and clear, the skies blue, the days around 50, and the only snow remaining stubbornly hides under shadows in the woods.

Henry happily bumped along in his bike trailer over the weekend, loving every minute of it. Last summer I used to turn my head back every few minutes to check on him, whereas now I listen to the play by play of our ride to know he's doing fine.

"Tanker! Mail truck! Muddy puddles! Satellite dish!"

He thinks riding in the trailer is the cat's pajamas and is now actively asking for his own bike. Mission accomplished. We're currently leaning toward a push bike over a pedal bike, but still need to stew on it for a bit.

The warm weather means the sandbox is open. I don't know the details of the work order, but from what I've observed on the job site, the focus is in loading up the dump truck with sand via the excavator over and over again. It just never gets old. As the underwriter of the job, I only ask that we try to hit the sandbox on scheduled bath days.

Moments after putting on his new fire truck jammies, Henry decided for the first time to fix the light switch in the kitchen. Like a bullet out of a gun he could not be stopped, and we happily sat back and enjoyed the show.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Saturday we happily headed to St Elizabeth's for the honor of being Ann's godparents. Ann was less than excited about the water and oil while Henry kept running onto the altar to inspect the font. By the end of the ceremony I held Henry in my arms and Ann powered through. Success was achieved and we headed back for dinner and visiting at the Hamel's.

Henry sat across from Maggie and they both ate their meals nicely (though Henry finished early and headed quickly to the toys that loomed just out of view).

I offered Henry some conversational advice. "Ask Maggie how her day was."

"How was your day," he said.

"Good," Maggie replied.

A few oranges and spoonfuls of rice went in before Henry tried again. "There is a washer and a dryer."

Maggie offered, "They are red."

More chewing and sitting politely.

"How old are you, Henry?"

"I'm 2," Henry said.

"I'm 5." I remember Maggie just turning 3 a few months ago, but what do I know.


When showing Henry the photos uploaded to flickr, he smiled after pointing and naming Maggie and Ann. A serious face then turned to me. "Where are pictures of the washer and dryer?" Sorry, kid, we missed that detail.

The important things always stick in our memories. If I ask Henry what he ate for lunch he'll say, "Macaroni and cheese." If I then crane my head towards Becky I'll see her rolling here eyes. "It was a peanut butter sandwich." If you ask him what happened at the end of playtime at St Elizabeth's last week, expect a play by play whose accuracy will not be in question.

"The smoke detectors went off."


"There was a fire drill. All of the doors shut."

"Were you scared."

"No. The smoke detectors keep us safe. The man was checking the smoke detectors."

At this point he'll spiral into a description of the long wand the workman used to check the smoke detectors in the gymnasium. This may be his most important memory made thus far.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

It's still in the teens most mornings, but our daytime highs end up around 40, so the melt is on. The local lakes are not terribly safe for skating anymore, so we've been heading to UAA to lace up the skates each Friday evening. It's ended up being mainly a Daddy and Henry event, though Mom did come out to take some pictures last week and noticed just how much better Henry is.

He can stand very well in his skates and tic-tac right ahead without falling, which is far beyond the ankle rolling he dabbled in 3 months ago. Even though he fusses greatly when I let go of his hands, the fact remains that he is able to stand just fine without help. Mentally, he needs to embrace the fact that he does skate on his own.

When people ask how much we skate, I honestly reply, "We do about 1-2 laps around the rink. It takes 35 minutes."

Even though his skills are increasing, I believe his concentration on the movement is taxing. So we stop to play in the penalty box, then spend some time in the corner staring at the zamboni through the glass, take another break on the player's benches, and then finish off at the goal with our eyes fixated on the scoreboard up above.  Oh, do we love the scoreboard.

The only problem with skating these days is how comfortable Henry is with his skates on carpeting. I used to be able to get his skates on and then take my time lacing up my own while he held himself up on my leg. That has gone the way of the dodo. He's off runnings once those skates get tied off. The new plan I have been using is taking off his boots, lacing up my skates, and then placing his skates on. It's tough to fight his need to explore, particularly when the scoreboard is a mere 20 feet away.

The most exciting news in our home is that Henry will have a new baby sister this August! Everyone is healthy and doing well and Henry seems very warm to the new addition. When asked over several occasions what a good name would be, he offered 3 options: Henry, Baby Sister, and Ice Cream.

There is not a loser in the bunch.

Monday, March 24, 2014

A week earlier our Friday night brought us a Saturday morning of 12 inches of snow, though much of Anchorage had closer to 20 inches. As the week ticked on the sun remained strong in the blue bird skies and the temps hovered a few degrees above freezing. The roads recovered and our trip a week later to Seward ended up being a perfect drive -- 10 degrees in the morning, sunny, and dry. The roads could not have been better and in 2 hours on the button we pulled into town.

Words cannot express how much of a champion traveler Henry was. He's rarely difficult, but this was exceptional. Over the two hours I only had to peel 2 oranges and in the final 30 minutes dig out a plastic helicopter. We pulled into our parking spot and shuffled across the street to the SeaLife Center.

It's really only a 2 hour museum, but Henry seemed to enjoy every inch of it. Digging around the fishing boat and its sound effect buttons was pretty glorious, but he also really enjoyed touching the starfish and anemones.

He even produced a thrill in identifying Fox Island poke out way in the distance of Resurrection Bay. We stood on the observation deck in the glaring sun, I pointed to the island on the map, then lifted my finger straight up and out into the blue ocean. "Fox Island out there," Hank confirmed with a smile.

On our slow drive out of town we passed a large and extremely busy playground. Becky called an audible, boots were slid back on, and in we went. 30 minutes later the 4Runner headed out of town, pushing south towards Moose Pass, a town Henry would not see as he had closed his eyes a handful of minutes outside of Seward.

Thanks to some nasty frost heaves he was shaken awake near Turnagain Pass, but that only gave him occasion to reiterate what he loved most about the day. "I like the Cash machine." Yes, the ATM in Seward really is that special.

Full Seward photo set here.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Henry's counting is going fairly well these days -- the main hitch being a switch to auto pilot after hitting the correct number. He'll count all 5 ducks on a page, pause, and then shift into "6, 7, 8, 9, 10." It'll work out just fine in the end. He does know how to buckle his shoe quite well.

Thanks to a PVC skating aid (we call it his "helper"), Henry has become much better at ice skating as well as much more excited about it. I've been suggesting it about once a week, but he's up for it 3 times a week, so off we go to either Cheney Lake or UAA every few days. We usually spend 10 minutes skating, followed by a 15 minute detour climbing around a snow bank, before concluding with a bit more skating. I'm trying to be careful and feed this fun without smothering it with too much enthusiasm to try just a bit longer.

Our dinnertime prayers find Mommy and Daddy having a tough time holding back the laughter. He often thanks God for food and family, but always thanks God for smoke detectors and flood lights. He's very earnest about it to say the least.

Monday, March 3, 2014

For the first time since settling in up here, we decided to skip the Sunday Iditarod restart in Willow. Our usual group of tailgaters were taking a pass as well, leaving us to flinch at the idea of going it solo. I'm certain we'll make it back up there next year with a little more spring in our step. Absence does make the heart grow fonder.

Therefore, we decided to double down on the Saturday ceremonial start here in Anchorage. Standing amidst the crowds downtown wasn't terribly alluring, but spreading out along the Campbell Airstrip on the east side of town was. Parking and elbow room were easily available, not to mention the science center being open with heat, snacks, and a few exhibits for Henry (photos here).

We watched about 20 dog teams come by, chased Henry around the woods as he happily discovered what "old man's beard" is, and ultimately found ourselves shocked that 1pm was moments away. Time to head home and wind down before nap started calling Henry's name.

Fur Rondy is drifting to a close, and we took advantage of a handful of events -- fireworks, carnival, running with the reindeer, and the train shows (photos here). Ah, the train shows -- where the true joy resides. At the Alaska Train Depot we spent well over an hour repeatedly watching the HO and Z trains buzz around their loops. Randy took a few shifts holding up our engineer as well.

The final event of our Fur Rondy was the open house at the Northern Lights Model Railroad Club, where they allowed visitors to view their large, permanent HO set. It was very impressive and gobbled up another smiling hour of Henry's time. They repeat this open house one Sunday a month, which is something we'll need to pencil in for sure. It was an absolute home run. (The set below is protected by plexi-glass, thankfully).

Ok. Spring, please.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Out of the blue, our social calendar is speeding up just as fast as the daylight is increasing. When I get home from work it's still light out -- a great sign of a spring that will someday come.

Mom and Dad were able to have a date on this past Saturday -- the ribeye and scallops were perfect, not to mention the company. Wednesday saw us heading to the dentist where Henry flat out stunned me with his behavior. He quietly ceased his current favorite game ("What is that for?" with a pointed finger) to lay back, calmly open his mouth, and sit still as Dr. Bob scraped at some plaque and applied a sealant. He was a complete champion and proudly selected a race car from the plastic treasure chest.

That night we took advantage of a Subway coupon and headed to an Aces hockey game. For $5 a ticket we could have plenty of fun watching warmups, staring at the zamboni, following the play of the first period, and staring at the zamboni again before hitting the road on track for a normal bedtime. That was the plan at least.

It all went as planned with one addendum. While standing along the glass during warmups a player from the Ontario Reign gave us a nod and held a puck in his glove. I nodded back and soon found myself leaning back to catch the cold, wet puck he had flipped over the glass. I immediately handed it to Hank and watched his smile beam. While Maggie and Casey clapped along with the music and crowd during the first period, Henry happily sat stoically with his puck clutched firmly in hand.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Winter remains in full force, but the days are getting longer and have been very sunny, so we bundle up and and head out as often as possible. Our momentum is inching towards spring, but the bitter cold has not budged. There has been a sad lack of snow, which only means the ice is clear and perfect, so off we headed for skating at Westchester Lagoon on a bright Saturday morning.

Meeting up with Maggie and Casey created a fun group of toddlers and parents that ended up with the entire lagoon to themselves. Henry once again happily tolerated ice skating for about 30 minutes and even moved his feet a bit while I propped him up and steered him around. That positive attitude in the face of a windy 9 degree day is confirmation of a winning event. As long as we keep getting reps in, one of these days he'll be able to stand on the ice skates alone. Predictably, his favorite moments were staring at the cell phone tower and digging around in the wood sheds near the fire barrels. Everyone had a great time (ie. no crying by anyone) and I even worked up a sweat skating around. Add in a hockey puck discovered in the snow bank and the day was a winner.

Maggie's birthday was the following day and the skating toddler trio reformed there. Henry's defining moment was clutching mommy and holding back tears as he watched the presents being opened because "it's not my birthday." He joined in the fun soon after it was explained that after the snow melts his birthday will come. "My turn will come after the snow goes away." We were impressed that he made an effort to restrain his emotions and didn't just let them gush. I say impressed, but I might just mean relieved because the volume behind that sadness was going to be impressive.

This morning we awoke to an inch of fresh powder and the only marks in the fresh snow were moose tracks looping around our front door and stoop -- all for the delicious salt spilled on the walkway.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Our first ice skating attempt was at the lake up the street and I believe it went well. 30 minutes, lots of slipping and sliding everywhere, but no fussing. That's a victory to be sure. In came the warm weather and the lake, while still safe, became a pockmarked mess.

So off to the indoor rink we went on Superbowl Sunday, which is a great way to beat the crowds. The key this time was to take advantage of not needing gloves and get Henry's paws locked around the safety equipment.

The plan worked well and he did a little better than last time. When we first hit the ice he immediately noticed an advertisement for a septic company on the boards and demanded, "Go see the truck." Regardless of the direction I was trying to steer our operation, he kept craning his head toward that truck. So towards the truck we went.

After about 20  minutes he stated calmly, "I'm done."
"Did you have fun playing hockey?"
"Oh yes."

Good enough for now.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Unlike the lower 48, it is way too warm here. We are approaching week 2 of higher than 32 degree temperatures along with a few days of precipitation sprinkled in. We're losing all of our snow, the roads are glazed doughnuts early in the morning, and the cross country trails are worthless. It's just odd and annoying. The winter is nowhere near over, so let's please just plow straight on through and enjoy the sledding hills and ski trails without any melting detours.

The reprieve of cold and snow means the grounds crew at the townhouse stopped by to blade the icy lot and truck away the snow mounds occupying the remote corners. Henry did not know what was going on, but he knows all too well the grumble of trucks and beeping of transmissions in reverse, so he quickly alerted Mommy that they needed to gear up and head outside. I'm told he silently devoured the spectacle of the front end loader biting off hunks of rock like snow and dropping it into the dump truck. Sometimes all your dreams of trucks and heavy machinery realize themselves right in your backyard.

Twenty minutes later in the warmth of the living room Becky wisely produced some cotton balls and Henry was soon off to the races moving the snow into his dump trucks.

Our hike to the bog yesterday was a comfortable one at 40 degrees. Henry found a small pocket of sticks under a downed tree that he quickly dubbed a "secret cave." Perhaps those Encyclopedia Brown books are sinking in.

He also loved examining the sewer cap, but I advised him to not get too close, lest the CHUDS get him.

In the end the best part of the hike was completely unexpected and unplanned, and occupied 20 minutes of our time -- walking all over crunchy ice.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

With the holidays passing and the bathroom work finished, it's been much easier to enjoy spending time around town with Henry. Whether it be sledding, hiking in Baxter Bog, walking down to the lake, or taking in an Aces hockey game, there is plenty to do in our dark winter up here.

Henry spent plenty of time covering his ears at the hockey game (excessive cowbells are the local tradition), but he never fussed, which is all you need to know. The zamboni knocked him into a wordless state, which is tough to do these days. Top it off with a four wheeler tooling around the ice during an intermission promotion, and it's easy to understand how Henry really loved the hockey game.

We recently picked up some skates and will be giving those a spin this weekend. We know enough about branding and advertising to market the impending experience as "hockey", not "ice skating." He's excited.

We toured a preschool last week and liked all of what we saw. He'll be the perfect age for it in the fall of 2014, so we only need to focus on a single hitch -- potty training. He enjoyed the visit, wants to go back to the school, and keenly remembers a wooden train being played with in one of the rooms we peered in. It all adds up to a guy that is showing great progress in trying the potty so he can go to school. We're getting better at it and trying harder everyday.

At St Elizabeth's gym, after months and months of visits, Henry finally noticed the flood lights.

Friday, January 3, 2014

After a few weekends of scraping tiles, belt sander dust, and drop cloths everywhere, the bathroom is finished.