School Activities, a Stomach Bug, and an Adventure in Nebraska

So maybe I wasn’t realistic when I stated that I would blog once a week. I just can’t seem to find the time to blog more than once or twice a month, apparently. Maybe, hopefully, I can blog more often this summer. It’s good to have goals, anyway.

Speaking of summer, it seems to be getting a little nearer. Although I am a lousy predictor of the weather, because it has snowed several times since I last blogged over three weeks ago. A time or two we received 8-12 inches, incredibly. Which is so depressing when we thought spring was on the way. But now, it does indeed seem to be nearer. Our entire driveway is visible, although the front and back yards are still covered with thick white blankets.

Here some highlights of the last few weeks. We attended various school functions – a spirited performance of You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, an entertaining three-on-three volleyball tournament, an energetic dodgeball tournament (why that “sport” is still legal is a mystery to me), 8th Grade Moving Up Night (Sarah will be a Freshman next year), and Kate’s spring choir concert (they ended with “The Boogie Woogie Choo Choo”).

We also survived an aggressive stomach virus that swept through the community. Our family escaped unscathed, except for poor Kate, who managed to pick it up and was knocked out for a weekend. But I got a new steam-cleaning vacuum cleaner out of the experience. You can guess why.

One of the most eventful recent experiences for me was the weekend before last, when I traveled to Nebraska for my Grandma’s 103rd birthday. I hadn’t seen her in over four years, and I wanted to attend her birthday celebration. She keeps surprising everyone by having yet another birthday, but I didn’t want to take any chances and miss this milestone.

I arranged to meet my sister and her family in Denver and then took the five-hour drive with them to the small Nebraska town where my Grandma now resides. Thankfully my seven-year-old and almost five-year-old (as he gleefully pointed out) nephews were entertaining, because the drive was not. That drive should be in the Guinness Book of World Records, it would have to be a top contender for the Most Boring, Non-Scenic Drive Ever.  The highlights of that drive include passing through a tiny Colorado town called Brush and driving past, as quickly as speed limits allow, a few less-than-pleasant-smelling feedlots. This brought back memories of summertime childhood car trips from Texas to Nebraska. We always hated driving through Kansas because of all the feed lots. There is just no escaping that smell.

Once we reached our Nebraska destination, the thriving metropolis of Mc Cook, we checked into our hotel. Which I will not name here, but seemed to be popular with camouflaged hunters wanting 3 am wake up calls and girls’ softball teams.

At this unnamed hotel I made the grave error of trying to use the exercise equipment.  Clearly they purchased a treadmill and exercise bike from the Richard Simmons era, and no one has used them since. When I asked the girl at the desk how to operate the treadmill, she said she had no idea, she had never used it. And, I would hazard a guess, neither had anyone else who worked there. But aside from that the hotel was clean, inexpensive, and close to Walmart. So who can complain?

The next day we went out to my Grandma’s farm, where she lived most of her life. My uncle and aunt live there now and had agreed to host her birthday celebration. So many friends, relatives and neighbors turned up to celebrate her big day, it was amazing.

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That’s my nephew in the background, supervising great-grandma.

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Grandma and me

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The creative and very cool Wordle that my cousin made of family members’ names. This was such a thoughtful gift for Grandma.

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The old cellar where we used to play as kids

Here are a few pictures I took while driving back to McCook from the farm. The Nebraska countryside hasn’t changed at all since my childhood visits.

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And here’s a shot of my dad, trying to hit a far-off target. Which he did, by the way.

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It was so great to see Grandma, to converse with her a little bit (I do think she knew who I was) and to visit with my sister and her family, and to catch up with aunts, uncles, cousins, my parents, and other friends and family that I hadn’t seen in years. I wish my entire family could have been there too, but it was such a quick trip that I just went by myself. I’m thankful for the experience.

Here’s my last Nebraska photo, snapped by my humorous sister. Which is proof that we were close to Walmart.

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Snow People

We got more snow on Easter weekend, and combined with warmer temperatures in the upper 30s it was perfect snow for making a snowman. Or snow people, in this case.

I naively thought that the kids would be making snowmen all the time when we moved to Alaska, since there is so much snow. I didn’t realize what a tricky business it is. The snow has to be the right quality – not too dry, dense and moist enough to stick together. Anchorage is a very dry climate, so the snow tends to be light and not sticky and wet. Not until spring anyway, when the temperatures rise and the snow starts to melt. That’s the perfect snowman-making snow.

Mark had told Kate he’d make a snowman with her on Easter weekend, and Sarah and I joined in the fun. We ended up making an entire snow family.

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This one is Kate’s creation, a snow woman, complete with curled wire hair and eyelashes.

Now that the temperature is even warmer, in the low 40s, there’s not much left of our snow people. Oh well, there’s always next spring.

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This guy is still hanging on, although he lost his face.

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Quirky

This post has been formulating in my mind for two years, and I know I’ve mentioned some of this before, but I thought I’d write about it again. Two years. It’s hard for me to believe that my family and I have been living in this amazing and quirky state for over two years. Wow.

Quirky, yes indeed. I’ve compiled a list of some of the Alaska quirkiness that I’ve observed over the past few years. I know I’ve forgotten some things, so expect another post with additions. Here, in no particular order, are some Alaska quirks:

  • Alaska is intimately linked with the other non-contiguous state, Hawaii. You are hard pressed to find anyone here who has not been to Hawaii. And it’s not just a vacation for the well-to-do, even the common folk vacation here, for a couple of reasons- it’s only a five-hour flight with no connections, and the weather is almost always the exact opposite of here. Lots of sunshine in the winter, and you have a reason to paint your toenails.
  • Another state Alaskans are strangely linked to is Arizona. If you do meet someone who hasn’t been to Hawaii, chances are that’s because they go to Arizona to warm up. To visit family. To stay a few months in the winter, even. No other state comes close as a warm-weather retreat. Except, of course, Hawaii.
  • I have never seen a place with so many vehicles with personalized license plates. Alaskans have a great sense of humor, which is proudly displayed on their license plates. Humor is vital when you live with winter for six months or more. Here’s a sampling of them I found on this YouTube video. A word of caution – you might want to mute the sound if you’re not a fan of Nirvana.
  • Alaskans are addicted to coffee. There are hundreds of little coffee drive through huts in this city. Again, with the long winters, it’s good to have some espresso to see you through.

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  • Other Alaska addictions include lip balm and Dansko shoes. And Uggs or Boggs boots. True Alaskan women have two out of three of these on at all times.
  • Dogs are another obsession. I have stated before that I think I’m the only person in Anchorage who does not own a dog. I stand by that. Dog lovers abound here. Again, probably due to the long winters there is that extra need for companionship. I’m actually a cat person, but my husband doesn’t like cats so we are sans pets. Much to the dismay of our daughters.
  • Tanning beds are all the rage here. Apparently the news that tanning bed use can very definitely lead to skin cancer has not made it this far north. People with fake tans abound. There is no shame in it either. I can’t fathom that one, other than the fact that they probably don’t want to display their pasty white skin when they go to Hawaii or Arizona.
  • The weather is also quirky. Yes, we do have long winters here, but each winter is not the same. Not even close. Last winter we had record-setting levels of snow, this winter we didn’t have much snow at all for months. One lady I met told me that ever since she’s lived here she has heard people say, “We never have weather like this, this is so unusual!” When I asked her how long she has lived here, she replied, “Forty years.”
  • People are not ashamed to wear furs here. In fact, they proudly display their fur coats, and are looked upon with jealousy, not shame. Again, the long winter probably has something to do with that.
  • The PFD, as Alaskans call it, is a downright good quirk about Alaska. The Permanent Fund Distribution is the lump sum of cash every Alaska resident receives each October, due to royalties from the vast amount of oil reserves in the state.  We got ours for the first time last October. Nice.
  • The darkness in the winter (in December we have only about five hours of daylight) and the freaky long days in the summer (almost 24 hours of daylight in June) are so very quirky.
  • The northern lights, which I have sadly not yet seen. A quirk to behold.
  • And lastly, one of the very quirkiest elements of this state is the fact that you can see a moose at any given time, at any place. In urban downtown, in the suburbs, in the parks, in the parking lot at the hospital, you name it. A moose can show up at any moment. I saw one just this morning as I was driving the kids to school.
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March Marches On

Wow, I’ve got a lot to catch up on. Just when I think things might settle down a bit, they seem to pick up speed.

We started out the month with the Iditarod, the famous 1,000+ mile sled dog race. The city of Anchorage goes nuts every March with this. The only thing I can compare it to is the Super Bowl – it’s crazy madness.

We’ve made it a family event to attend the ceremonial start of this race each year, it’s always fun to see the whole city turn out in their crazed splendor. Part of the fun this year was a snow sculpting contest, I snapped a few pictures of some of the entries – they were spectacular.

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Kyle’s started soccer practice every morning, from 6-7:30 in the sports Dome. Because there is still a few feet of snow on the ground, they have to practice indoors. I’m so thankful for my husband, who is an early bird and takes Kyle on his way to the office each day.

Kyle’s also finally getting around to taking his driver’s test so that he can get a permit. And he’s finding out that you really do have to study for the test, winging it doesn’t work (he’s tried that twice already). He’s hoping the third time’s the charm.

Sarah’s decided to join the track and field team at school, something she’s never done before. Considering the fact that she despises running, this is a surprising choice, but she heard that the track meet is really fun and mostly about socializing so she signed up.

Kate turned ten on the tenth, and we had a small party at home to celebrate her golden birthday, as she refers to it. She only invited seven girls and then four couldn’t make it, so it was a very small gathering. But she had a great time anyway, they all did.

One of her party activities was playing outside in the snow. With mild temperatures approaching thirty, this was a very doable activity.

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Kate dances while everyone sings “Happy Birthday”

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I love the excitement on this girl’s face as Kate opens her gift

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Almost magically, it snowed the entire day of Kate’s birthday. We haven’t had any more snow since then, it might have been the last snowfall of the season.

There was plenty of snow for spring break skiing, so we took the kids downhill skiing twice – once to the nearby ski place and once to the ski resort forty miles away. Both times were lots of fun, but after the second time, and after many falls, my entire body felt like one giant bruise. It took me a full two days to recover from the last ski. Mark and I concluded that we just might be too old to downhill ski. Our middle aged bodies don’t bounce back like they used to.

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Now school is back in session, the daylight is steadily increasing – we have a full twelve hours of daylight now – and things are back to a more normal routine. Not less busy, unfortunately, but this is my life, and I can’t complain.

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Spring Break

One birthday celebration + spring break  = lots of activity and no time to post! I hope to post something soon.

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Basketball, Volleyball, Sledding and More

So much for blogging once a week. I haven’t posted anything for nearly three weeks. Partly because I prefer to write when I’m home alone, and for the past two weeks the kids have had early release for three days one week and then they had only three days of school the following week. So not much time to write. But this week they’ve got a full five days of school so I can get caught up on a few things, including blogging.

Here are a few updates on what’s been going on. Kyle’s basketball team finally won a game (sadly, it was their only victory of the season). It was great fun to watch him play. I know next to nothing about sports, but basketball I can follow without too much difficulty.

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Kyle playing defense, in the middle of the screen

Sarah had a great time with volleyball. Due to busy schedules I couldn’t make it to all of her games but I did go to as many as I could. I did, however, fail to take pictures. I only have this one, of the team huddle.

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I did get a nice picture of Sarah’s class float for the homecoming celebration, the theme was New Orelans Mardi Gras. They got second place in the float competition, and it was largely rumored that the first place winners only received that distinction out of pity. But who knows.

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In other news, Kate has now joined choir, which she absolutely loves. She looks forward to the two afternoons a week that she has choir after school. And her violin lessons are progressing nicely, her teacher recently said she needs a larger violin so we’ll have to trade up soon.

We’ve also started to volunteer at our church every other Sunday. Mark and I assist in Kate’s class and Kyle and Sarah assist in the first-third grade class. We had come to the conclusion that it was time to start giving back – giving of ourselves and our time. It’s not easy but is rewarding in so many ways.

I’ve continue to ski, although I missed the last two weeks’ ski opportunities because of the crazy schedule. But here’s a photo I took on a ski outing a few weeks ago. I don’t know why it’s so small. But you get the idea of the setting.

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Last Friday when there was no school I took the kids to a nearby sledding hill that we hadn’t explored yet. While they went sledding I skied a bit in the area. It was great.

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And now for something completely unrelated to anything else I’ve mentioned – a picture of the largest matryoshka set (nesting Russian dolls) that I have ever seen. It was at a neighbor’s house, and was stunning.

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Lost and Found

Since I posted last, the following items have been “misplaced” by my teens:

One jacket (a Christmas gift)

Two different cell phones

One iPod

One t-shirt (also a Christmas gift)

Concession stand snack money

One biology binder

All but the jacket and one cell phone have been recovered – the iPod has been lost and recovered twice. The t-shirt, which had mysteriously vanished three weeks ago, just as mysteriously reappeared, magically, in the closet where it had vanished.

And here’s the story on the cell phone that was recovered (this cell phone has also been lost and recovered twice, now that I think about it. But I digress).

Child A realized the cell phone had been mistakenly left at school, it had probably fallen out of a jacket and was now in the parking lot. When I took Child A back to the school to look for it, we did indeed find a cell phone in the parking lot, in the exact spot where the missing phone was likely to be. But this was an entirely different phone, lost by an entirely different child. Child A searched this unknown phone for a familar contact, found one, and called Friend A. Friend A said, “Oh, that’s my brother’s phone, I guess he lost it. And I called your house and told your dad that Mr. School Superindendent just found  your phone and turned it in to the Lost and Found.”

The next day Child A took Friend A’s brother’s phone to school to reunite it with its owner and retrieved the missing cell phone from the lost and found.  So now Child B just has to locate the other missing phone, which we suspect is still in another Mystery Child’s soccer bag (identical to Child B’s soccer bag) and has most likely not yet been discovered. Because if Mystery Child is anything like Child B, he has not unpacked his soccer bag yet and will not do so until immediately before the next soccer game, which is this Saturday. So the phone might reappear at that point.

In other news, I skied again last week and didn’t fall even once. I think it helped that the terrain was completely flat. But not without scenery. I saw an eagle, but didn’t get a good picture of it because my phone’s camera couldn’t zoom in enough. Here’s a shot I did get, though.

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