Sunday, August 30, 2009

Over hill, over dale

Samuel had a X-C meet yesterday down in Soldotna. Early pick-up time and long day and lots and lots of schools from all over the state. There were over 300 runners in the boys' open race alone. Samuel felt really good about his run, which was a 5K. He didn't walk at all and finished ahead of many other runners. Another parent who went down for the meet took a photo of Samuel running.

Samuel thinks he looks half dead. I think it looks like he's giving his all.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Saturday relaxation

Moriah and Susannah are off baby-sitting all day. Samuel is down in Soldotna at a x-c meet all day. Jim has gone to Anchorage for some much-needed church and grocery shopping.

And I'm just sitting here, watching the little girls finger paint and listening to Laurie Berkner. After our very full week, this is just what I need. Low key art. Oh, and no need to shower by 7:30 am. Or at all?

As God and Bruce say in Bruce Almighty, it's "goooooood".

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

School's in!

Counting the three days last week and the two days so far this week, we've all got a week's worth of school under our belts. Thought it was high time I gave an update.

Samuel is figuring out just how to manage getting up at an ungodly hour (5:15 am) to catch his bus at an equally ungodly hour (6:04 am), homework, x-c running, one shift a week at The Ice Cream Shop and keeping old and making new friends. So far, so good. He likes his classes for the most part, although his soccer elective is taught by the soccer coach and has much harder workouts than expected and his English class is a little 'eh' so far. He is thoroughly enjoying Spanish and Biology.

Moriah and Susannah started sixth grade and are back with all their classmates for the first time since second grade. Girdwood School is sorta kinda doing a middle school model this year, so the girls will have some fledgling experience with the middle school teachers and with choosing electives.

Moriah is 'stuck' in keyboarding because the other elective she wanted was full. But thankfully her teacher has found a fun way to get them practicing and Moriah's attitude has changed somewhat. She's also going to be in beginning band, choosing to play percussion. Percussion is really a set of 'bells' (looks like a xylophone to me) and a drum pad (rather than a real snare drum, much to my relief). She's pretty excited about playing and we have been blessed with borrowing a percussion set from a friend.

Susannah is in the coveted Outdoor Adventure elective and is spending most afternoons outside running around or going on the trails near the school. She is also going to be in beginning band, with the flute as her instrument of choice. At least it will be once we actually get one for her. In our free time. Once we figure out a time to get to Anchorage. At some point. Susannah's instrument choice is the smallest yet of all our kids' instruments and will be easily portable, in contrast to Samuel's cello that was not even allowed on the bus (!). Anyone out there have an old flute lying around, please send it our way!

I have quite the full plate so far this year. I have my usual six classes for the regular library classes. I also have a jr. high research class every day before lunch, which takes up about a quarter of my limited part-time time. I will have every kid in 7th and 8th grade as they rotate through my class, a technology class and a student government class. And boy howdy is this first group of students a challenge (all boys). They are allll over the place, and all of them have fairly high energy.

In addition to my regular part-time job, I'm also helping to substitute teach Spanish for the part-time World Languages position that is brand new to our school. Someone did take the job, but then bailed, leaving us high and dry shortly before school started. Rather than watch the position become jeopardized, I stepped in to help keep it alive. I cannot be an 'official' teacher because I don't have a teacher certification. But I did find out that I am eligible to be considered certified if I enroll in a certification program and take a basic competency test called the Praxis I. As I figure out daily lesson plans I also have to figure out if it's worth going for this certification. It is something I have thought about doing and it feels like this might be a great opportunity. Problem is, this might come with a high price for our family if Mom is busy with classes and working more. So I'll keep you all posted on what I decide.

The little girls are going to Little Bears three mornings a week and are happy to be going back to see all their friends. It'd be great to get them a couple of all-day slots, but things are currently full. That's great for our little day care but not so great for us. Child care continues to be an issue for my new 'full-time' job(s).

In many ways this feels like the 'same old same old' routine of years past. Get up, get ready, get to school, work. But in so many ways it's all brand new. Namely not seeing Samuel during the day and also working longer days. Well, and that whole getting up at that awful hour.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Family walk

It was a beautiful day today. Sunny and warm and too wonderful to stay inside for dinner. So Jim and I made a picnic of pb&j, apple slices, blueberries, carrot sticks, honey wheat pretzels and water and the family headed out to walk down to some picnic tables near the playground.

We walked, we talked, we ate, we swatted bugs, we played, we bought cookies for the way home, we refereed between the babes in the stroller (again) and we had an enchanted evening together.

Our family and house may get chaotic and some may not ever 'get' how contented we truly can be, but I was simply and utterly grateful for the blessings of my family tonight.

(I will post about the first week of school soon...that'll take a while!)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Random toddler-isms

For the most part, the little girls have a pretty good handle on their sounds and don't mispronounce too many words. But every now and then they come up with something cute.

Ringa rosey hocka posey

My see my friends at Biddle Bears or My go potty (My instead of I)

Potty wock star (older sisters trying to get them to say 'Party like a rock star')

Ginkle ginkle little star

ouse = oreos

doggies are still often goggies

abcdefghijkl-em-em-pqrst-an-me-dub-yew-xyz no my now my abcees, neck time won you sing with me (Abigail's version)

abcdefghijkl lllll p qrstu-me-wxyandz no more now my abcs, neck time won you han mid me (Bethany's version)

And you all should know that right now, I'm sitting in my family room, surrounded by all five of my kids who are singing and/or dancing to "Living on a Prayer". Bethany is pounding on a box with a drum stick. Abigail is making a circle with her arms above her head and twirling every time the chorus with 'Ooooh-oh' said. Moriah is air guitaring, Samuel is singing and Susannah is singing into a Rock Band microphone.

Life is good.

Monday, August 17, 2009

School daze days

Backpacks? Check.
A few new clothes? Check.
Binders? Check.
Pens? Paper? Check. Check.

Yep, it's that time again. School begins on Wednesday.

For Samuel it begins much earlier than ever over two hours (!). He'll be boarding the school bus at 6:04 am, almost 1.5 hours before his first class even starts. Yuck. I just hope he'll be able to doze on the bus.

For the girls, they'll be experiencing a little bit of a middle school feel by being able to take electives. They will also be with only sixth graders, the first time their class has been all together since second grade (rather than split between two classrooms).

For me, I'll be (at this point as far as I know) subbing for the world languages position that Girdwood has added for this year in addition to my regular half-time library job. There was a person hired who then bailed. So in order to keep the position at our school I've offered to sub and keep it going. We'll see what happens with that....

For the little girls, they start going to Little Bears three mornings a week. A place they love to go, a place where they see their friends.

For Jim, this means we'll all be scattering to our own places for part of the day and he'll try to get some work done during normal business hours. Maybe.

And for our house, school brings a whole new mix of schedules, happenings and juggling.


Saturday, August 15, 2009

X-C meet

Samuel had his first High School X-C running meet this morning. He only had nine practices under his belt before today and couldn't officially represent his school, but he still ran in the 'community' run and was happy with his time. (No photos...I was stuck in Girdwood because of having a spare tire on the Suburban and Jim was at a meeting in Anchorage this morning.)

I suspect more than a small part of him was glad that he wasn't 'official' today. That meant he couldn't wear the South Anchorage High School X-C uniform. Which meant he didn't have the wear the shirt that is too small for him (they ran out of his size, or so he thought). Which meant he wasn't teased about looking a little like a sausage, squeezed into his too-small shirt (yes, Mom and Dad both had a chuckle when he tried it on for us yesterday).

He found out there's a chance there are actually more shirts in his size, so he will be asking about that on Monday. Let's all hope he's right. Trust me.

Humpy Fest

Today was Humpy Fest, a small 'celebration' of the humpy salmon. The pink salmon that, as it gets bigger, becomes 'humped' and pretty ugly. Jim and I had our first salmon fishing experience fishing for pinks. We were SO proud of our fishing prowess and success way back in '97 or '98. Had NO idea they weren't that great to eat. *shudder* They're good for smoking or dog food. Maybe canning.

Are they worthy of a 'fest'? Perhaps. The Turnagain Lions Club hosts this annual event and it's usually pretty small. You can buy chances to have rubber ducks win you cash and prizes in the 'ducky race' (they release a bunch of rubber ducks upsteam and the first three to float across the finish line win). You can also buy a chance to win money in the 'fish fling' that was Jim's brain child a few years ago. The Lions have a trebuchet that launches a heavy metal fish into the air...wherever the fish's nose lands on a tarp covered in grid lines wins.

There is also a humpy derby, with prizes given to the biggest fish, the smallest fish and the ugliest fish. These humpies do get ugly. Especially after they've spawned. *double shudder* I have seen some truly gross humpies brought to the derby. This year, Susannah's fish was deemed ugliest so she won a small cash prize from the Lions.

We usually hang around much of the day at this event, because Jim is an active Lion. This year he and the older girls were there the longest. I brought the babes after their nap and we enjoyed watching the fish judging. The little girls have a new phrase in their vocabulary now: 'uggie fish' (ugly fish). Plenty of of those.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Sunday bike ride

(small caveat with this post...I've been working on this for two days...really. It took forever to finish for some reason.)

Sundays are often very tiring days for Jim. Understandably so because, well, he's a pastor. And everyone knows that pastors only work one day a week. So of course he works really hard that one day. *snort*

Anyway. Even though he was tired (as evidenced by his two-hour nap), he suggested we take a family bike ride. Minus our oldest, who was at a friend's house. Plus another kidlet, a friend of our older girls. So we still had seven (eight with the dog). Close enough.

For those of you who are curious, Jim bears the brunt of these family bike rides. He is the one who pulls the little girls in their bike trailer and he is the one who has the dog attached to the side of his bike. Me? I get to ride along, by myself, and enjoy the scenery. There is definitely a part of me that wishes I was strong enough to pull the babes. But I'm not. Or at least not for long. The dog would probably be okay, but that's a contraption that is attached to Jim's bike and not easy to switch (I think).

And for those of you who are even more curious (about what? you think), bike rides from our house are great when starting out. It's all downhill for the first bit. We then hit a part of the ride that is mostly flat and then it's more downhill and more flat, like this:

Here's one of our views along the way.

If we ride out about five miles from our house, then we do have a little bit of an up hill ride to a nice little pull-out with picnic tables and porta-potties. We often stop there and have a little snack break, like we did on Sunday.

We stopped for a while and let the babes run around. We all ate some granola bars, the little girls picked daisies and clovers and I believe rose hip 'buds', and the big girls ran around and then biked around. The sun was out, the wind was down and it was absolutely wonderful conditions.

Clover-loving girl

En garde!

Sharing a daisy

As we were heading back toward home, Susannah requested a stop at The Ice Cream Shop for a goodie. That idea was quite inviting, but meant that we'd get home really late for dinner. So we changed our plans and ended up eating dinner out instead. (note to self: Remember Coast's meatball sandwiches are messy...really messy.)

We touched base with Samuel (read: we had a relative oops moment...what would he do for dinner?) and ended up being invited to our neighbor's house for dessert. That was where Samuel had been honing some culinary skills while hanging out with his friend.

By the time we started heading home, we knew two things would make the ride home a little more challenging. Well, really three, but we already knew that our ride home is mostly up hill, as did you (if you were paying attention). 1. The sun had gone behind the mountains and it had gotten a little chilly. 2. The little girls were tired and would likely get cranky in the trailer.

The first thing was true but didn't get too bad. When you're riding a bike up hill (even a gentle incline), you're putting out some decent effort and staying warm.

View of Glacier creek, with the sun going down

The second thing was the biggie. Abigail was taking joy in hassling her sister. A little too much joy. For those of you who are wondering, yes, we are basically stuck when this happens. We can't really separate them. And we definitely can't kick one out of the trailer to walk home (no matter how tempting).

See, very close in the trailer!

So the last part of our ride consisted of stops and starts as Jim and I tried to mediate between the babes. Poor Jim had to keep re-starting on a hill. At least we had the thoughts of an awaiting dessert to help spur us all on.

Yes, eventually, we made it back to our street. Up the hill. And the other hill. And the very last steep hill. And on to the neighbor's house where the 'purple pie' (maple blueberry) was waiting. The boys had also made a cookie/fruit pizza dessert and we all had our fill of sugar to recharge our batteries.

Some day bike rides won't take as much planning and energy. Right?

Monday, August 10, 2009

Moriah's new toy

Moriah has asked for a skateboard for a long time now. A long time. It's not a thing that makes much sense to own when 1. you live on a bumpy gravel road and 2. your parents won't let you go down and 'hang out' at the local skate park. So practical, wet-blanket Mom has said "um, no" each time the request has been made. (Well, the first time was much more gentle, as I explained the above two compelling reasons why a skateboard wouldn't be a wise purchase... then each subsequent request received a firmer denial.)

With all that said, Moriah did end up with a skateboard the other night. An old one from a friend that she got cheap. (she did ask first!) I figured it was okay for her to spend a little of her own money and better understand why we keep saying no (and it was a minor financial hit to learn this 'lesson').

Below are a couple of photos of Moriah and Susannah attempting to make the skateboard roll smoothly on our gravel road. They were pulling each other at first, taking turns being the puller and pullee.

Then they each had a go or two alone, doing pretty well and holding their own. Moriah is the one in the photo below.

But then the whole 'lesson' thing became a little more apparent as Moriah went flying after hitting a fairly small 'pothole' in the road (the dark grey spot in front of the skateboard). She landed a fair distance from the board and had a banged up knee and elbow. I'm just praying no one breaks a wrist (like someone we know...).

Since that little spill, she's been hesitant to skate in the road. Smoother surfaces are calling.

(and please don't tease her about this post...I'll never hear the end of it! ;o) )

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Zoo for two (and two)

I totally forgot to blog about the little girls' first visit to the Alaska Zoo. Their granddaddy and daddy took them in, along with their big sisters. (Mom had to stay in Girdwood and deliver lunches for Art Camp.) The zoo isn't huge, but there are many Alaskan animals to see including musk ox, moose, caribou (which smelled bad, according to Jim), snow leopards, sea otters, lynx, bears (polar, black and grizzly; the glacier bear was no longer there *sniffle*) and a few other animals.

One notable absence was the Maggie the elephant, who was moved to California a couple of years ago. Turns out elephants aren't indigenous to Alaska and don't do that well in our snowy climate. (*snort*) There is actually a story behind why the Alaska Zoo had an elephant in the first place (Annabelle, who was also an artist), so it wasn't that weird.

Here are all four girls, posing with what looks like their
bear counterparts (two big, two small).

The little girls enjoyed much of the zoo, especially the foxes. They watched the wolves and porcupines and Abigail liked the snowy owl. What Abigail didn't like was the petting zoo. Just look at her semi-worried, semi-scared face in the photo below:

The weather was a little rainy, but nothing to truly dampen anyone's spirits. Although apparently the little girls were scared of the squirrels that chattered at them as they ate their picnic lunch. Other highlights include several potty breaks (this was their first long trip to Anchorage and they did great with NO accidents!) and a long visit to the gift shop, where all four girls found treasures to purchase to remember their zoo trip.

There weren't a ton of photos taken, so I don't have a lot to share. Well, there were a ton of photos taken, but they were of animals. Lots of animals. But not my animals.

You'll have to make do with these two. In the zoo. Whew.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Entering the High School Zone

Samuel becomes a freshman at South Anchorage High School in just 13 days. A freshman. In thirteen days. Yikes. Soon the early (early) mornings begin. He'll have to be up by 5:30 at the latest to catch the bus at 6:15. Yuck. Our night owl son will be hurtin' for a little while, until his body figures out that going to bed earlier rather than later is what's necessary. His parents will be hurtin' for a bit, too, I imagine, as we navigate a whole new set of rules and processes.

Samuel and I tried to go in to register today. We had planned to hit the freshman picnic for a bit and then do all the registration-type stuff needed to make him 'official'. About 20 minutes into our drive, we hit a line of traffic. I was just thinking of calling Jim to ask if he knew what was up when he called me. The traffic was backed up because of a bad accident that resulted in two fatalities (sadly, the 5th and 6th deaths on the Seward highway this summer). The Seward Hwy. is the only way to get from Girdwood to Anchorage and emergencies like this completely shut down the road. There was no way the highway would open in time to register and make it to x-country running practice, so turning around was the only thing that made sense.

I called the school as soon as I got home and put a 'hold' on his class schedule. I also talked to a staff person who wasn't all that helpful but who did tell me that full registration wouldn't be possible tomorrow. She kind of blew off my concerns about how that might impact Samuel starting school and didn't seem to understand that we have no idea what to expect with high school stuff. I did ask some specific questions and got some answers, but I'm still pretty much in the dark.

So, I'll be off to SAHS in the morning to register Samuel. I hope. And I may just know more after I get there. Maybe.

Parental visit

My dad and stepmom were visiting this past week. We hadn't seen them since our long vacation two years ago and it was great to have them here. My poor dad had to suffer through high pitched toddler voices and screams (those don't do well with hearing aids, in case you ever wonder) and they both had to suffer through Hurley's occasional attempt at jumping on them (the dog has this thing with jumping onto the back of our warned if you ever want to sit there) But I think they had fun over all.

I had hoped that we could put in some wood flooring while they were here (to replace the yicky carpet under our table, made even more lovely by two little girls and their festive eating habits), but finances dictated that we'd have to wait to do that. Maybe we can do that over Labor Day weekend. That would be a fitting thing to do then, right?

We ended up not doing a whole lot, but had fun doing what we did do. Which was go to town to a movie one day, play at the playground a couple of times, watch Moriah play in a 'scrimmage' baseball game that didn't get too many players come out (but they got to see her pitch and hit!), run some errands that included things my dad wanted to do, find a good laptop deal for Samuel to spend his summer job money on, and we played lots and lots of games: Sequence, Scrabble Slam, Snatch, BS, and the kids sort of learned to play Euchre. I am still rather shocked that Samuel didn't challenge Dad to a game of Risk, but it's true. Guess he didn't want to be owned by his grandfather.

Don't be strangers, Dad and Nancy. We miss you already.

P.S. Happy Birthday, Nancy!