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Monday, August 12, 2013

Summer adventures

Backing up to the early summer...

Summer time in Alaska is a bizarre thing.  Last year we had 9, yes NINE, sunny days the entire summer. Yuck. So this year after a cold wet, and even snowy May, June came in all it’s glory and brought with it all the sunshine we could imagine!  It was absolutely incredible.  We spent days outside with the kids playing in various water sources, nearly naked… or sometimes simply naked. We used sunscreen.  Bug spray too, naturally. We knew better than to fool ourselves thinking that the entire summer would be so amazing so we spent as much time enjoying the weather as possible.

What does a little Alaskan family do together to enjoy such a fabulous summer?  Go hiking, of course!! I dressed the kids and packed a lunch to have in the car while Myles went to town to get bear spray, bug dope and ammo.  When he came home we loaded up and hit the road. Unfortunately, it was the first weekend the fish were running and the entrance to the trail we were planning to do was terribly crowded.  We bypassed that one and pulled into another area for a different trail.  Two hikers were pulling out as we came and warned us of a couple bears on the trail.  We are no dummies.  We know it’s bear country, but we also didn’t want to intentionally set out on a hike with bears. We found “Hidden Creek Trail” and the sign said it was only a couple miles so we parked, had a refresher course on how to use the bear spray then practically bathed ourselves in bug dope and set off. 

The trail started off downhill and Molli even walked a good portion of the way.  Despite heaps of bug spray we were bombarded by swarms of mosquitoes the entire way.  We had a slight bug reprieve through a small portion that had suffered a fire a few years back and wasn’t so lush. Any other part of the trail, if you even thought about stopping, consider your blood drained.  (OK, slight exaggeration.)  The trail was a loop and halfway through we got to stop for a gorgeous view at a lake.  There was lots of washed up drift wood and plenty of rocks to through, which happens to be a favored pastime in this family. 

There were boards covering some of the mushy parts of the trail but all in all it was a pretty mild hike.  Myles had Molli up on his shoulders most of the hike and I had Gavin in the hiking pack.  I was pretty impressed with Myles; holding Molli up on his shoulders, keeping one hand on her and the other on his gun while hauling butt. The hiking pack I had Gavin in is very comfortable but I don’t care how comfortable it is, the child is 22lbs. After a while, those 22lbs, literally weigh on a person.  There came a point when I was done. 

“Done” came gradually. Gavin was pulling my hair the whole time, I was waving my hands batting off mosquitoes constantly and my too-big prescription sunglasses were driving me nuts as they slipped down my sweaty nose as quickly as I could push them up.  My walking pace was pretty well maxed out and with each step I could feel my feet blistering worse in my Teva sandals (I know, I know, but all my shoes are in storage).  I’m admittedly the fattest and most out of shape I’ve ever been in my life, which didn’t help matters. The combination of those things and the uphill end of the hike made things bit rough.  Myles’ legs are like ten feet long and I can hardly keep up with him in a grocery store, much less as he moves like an animal through the woods.  I asked him to slow down once, then after about three steps he was back to gazelle strides.  I weighed my options.

1) Eat my own pride and ask him to slow down again
2) Tell him to stop and risk attack of the blood-suckers
3) Just keep going

It was as I was considering how much blood my entire family could sacrifice vs. how long the slower pace might last when we heard a major rustling in the woods.  It was definitely not a rabbit sized rustling, and lets be honest, anything bigger than a rabbit in the woods with me is not something I’m interested in.  Our heads all snapped to the left where something plainly large was hustling through the woods making gruff barky sounds.  Moose don’t make those sounds.  Bears do.  Bears, like the three hustling in our direction.  Two cubs climbed the tree not 30 feet away and the momma stood between the cubs and us.  Myles drew his gun as soon as we heard the noise and stood there briefly as I walked ahead with the bear spray ready. 

My heart was pounding and I’m positive it was pure adrenaline that got my fat butt the rest of the way up the trail.  I felt like a contestant on the first week of the biggest loser huffing and puffing with rubber legs up and out of the woods.  Back at the car we finally breathed a sigh of relief.  Unbelievable.  It was one of those moments where all we could do was laugh in the end.  I mean, we weren’t attacked by any means, but the one big threat in the woods was right there at the end of the trail.  Right before the uphillest part of the uphill part.  What are the chances?

We came home and had halibut for dinner, which made the perfect ending to a solid Alaskan adventurous day.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Our situation in life

When I was in fourth grade, I got a taste of what was to be my academic style for a long time to come. I would be so busy enjoying the company of my classmates that I would neglect to do a solid 85% of the mandatory schoolwork that we were responsible to complete.  The classroom was set up in units and like the good student I was, I’d be sure to collect all the homework papers right away.  However, my social life was far more compelling than learning about the Pacific Ocean.  Some of the worst evenings of my life consist of each day before the unit was due. It involved me sitting at the kitchen table (where I spent a lot of time anyway because chatting during meals was more important than eating… I see a theme, but that’s a whole different story), with my parents justly hounding me about responsibility, procrastination and the like.  I would cry, they’d be upset and it was all in all an ugly scene.  The kitchen table would be covered with way too much work to do and no idea where to begin. Welcome, 9 year old, to the world of pulling all nighters.

Coming back to a blog after an unintentional hiatus is complicated.  I'm sitting at the same table and my inner fourth grader is panicking and overwhelmed with the things to write about but I have no idea where to start. A story?  Sweet moments? Milestone?  Our “Sitz im leben,” if you will? I suppose the latter would probably explain more of what’s going on all summer long than anything else so we’ll start with general information.

Backing way up for a moment; we moved to Alaska in February 2012.  We lived with my parents until September when we house sat for family friends.  We still own our house in IL so we can’t buy one here yet so in March we lined up a duplex that was being built and was on schedule to be completed June 1.  It was perfect timing!  Unfortunately, when we had to move, it wasn’t done.  We moved back in with my parents for what we thought was going to be 2 or so weeks, but we’re still here.  It’s mid August and the duplex is still not done, indefinitely. 

We are very ready to unpack our things that we haven’t seen in a year and a half.  It’s been great being able to spend this time with my parents and the opportunity to housesit was nice.  However, there is something to be said about settling down and planting a family somewhere.  To have friends over, to decorate, to host play dates, meet the neighbors and to consider entertaining the possibility of maybe, perhaps thinking of getting a small dog at some point… these are just some of the things that will feel good and family-ish.

We’re incredibly grateful to my parents for all the help they’ve given by letting us stay with them.  I know we’ve been a burden in many ways and I feel bad about it!  My kids adore them and want them constantly.  We come with a lot of toys, noise and potty, which I can imagine cramps their style a bit.  Not to mention it never fails that when my parents watch the kids, Gavin will undoubtedly do something nasty in his diaper and my parents will have to take care of it… which wouldn’t be an issue but they’re not into cloth diapering. 

My mom called me hurriedly on Friday saying that she’s found us a house! A family is withdrawing from the school where my mom works to move to California and just put their house up for rent that day. It’s similar in stats and price to the duplex that we’ve been planning on only much smaller bedrooms and with a yard.  Plus it’s a HOUSE.  She texted me the address and the phone number and we drove by then called from the driveway (can you say creepers?!) She invited us in, showed us around and we left there to go straight to her rental company to get paperwork started.  The best part is, we can move in one week from today!  No more waiting until further notice! 

We are going to see all our stuff again!  Who wants to come over?!