Sunday, August 31, 2008

Life By a Bluff

If we step outside our door and across the driveway, there's an empty lot that ends at the bluff overlooking the Cook Inlet and the Kenai River. Ammon and Abraham have a make-believe secret fort out on the bluff, complete with a princess room for Ziya and me, a knight's room for them and many other complicated ins and outs. They like to take their light sabers out there and duke it out in battle. Here, Jacob and Ziya got caught in the middle of one of their duels! Aside from the battles, we also enjoy picking berries out there. There are some wild bushes hanging right on the edge of the bluff. Moose should probably be the only ones eating from this precarious location, but we took our chances and picked some berries and made freezer jam... ymmmmm!
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Legend Has It...

Our little old neighbor Buford, tells us that fireweed, this beautiful Alaskan wildflower, actually predicts the weather. Supposedly, as soon as the fireweed is gone, the snow will come. I hope it's not true. My boys have been enjoying playing on the bluff, where there's tons of fireweed growing. I don't like to notice that each time I go out there, there seems to be less and less blossoms on the flower. See how the tuft of blossoms hangs out at the top of the flower? The petals on the bottom are long gone. Hmmm... early snow?

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Fishing in Seward

On Memorial Day weekend, Jacob's co-worker and friend, Coach Trujillo, took us out to fish on Resurrection Bay in Seward. The weather forecast said the weather would be perfect... and it was! The five of us along with Coach Trujillo and his wife arrived in Seward at about noon or so. We put the boat in the water and "trolled" for silver salmon. The fish were jumping left and right, but we didn't catch any (remember, it's called "fishing", not "catching"!). We did see some otters and lots of cool birds though, and we all just enjoyed being out on the water on such a gorgeous day. Unfortunately, I learned that beautiful weather (no clouds) actually makes the water rockier. I started feeling some motion sickness, but as long as I stayed up on the deck with wind blowing in my face and doing what I called "candle blowing" breathing (like they teach in Lamaze), I was o.k.

The boys had fun hanging out on the bed and at the table eating all their snacks. They both ended up falling asleep for quite a while... I think the lull of the water was just too much for them. Ziya did great the entire time. She spent her time exploring the boat and getting passed around from arm to arm.

We did see some excitement towards the end of our outing. Coach put a large tote with the anchor in it up on the stern of the boat. His wife cautioned him against this... Anyway, as the water got rockier and rockier, we could all see that it was about to fall off. He handed me the wheel and balanced his way out to try to save the anchor. Well, long story short, the anchor fell in, Jacob had to quickly hand me Ziya so he could go out and assist Joe. In the panic of things, my arm somehow hit the accelerator and we lurched forward. Fortunately for all of us, this caused the rope to get cut somehow and we lost the anchor. It could have been bad... real bad if that rope hadn't got cut. I'm thankful for the blessing of safety.

We saw some really big fish being cleaned back up at the boat launch area. I was curious, so I asked. Most people told me that they'd caught all their fish early in the morning. We simply got there too late. That's my explanation!

Friday, August 29, 2008

Petting Zoo

Abraham was somewhat hesitant... but courageous all at the same time!

We were babysitting our little friend Raven, who already knew a lot about farm animals!

I caught Abe doing a "touch and run" move.


I like the way Raven is "comforting" Abe... he was a bit nervous.
Now Ziya is on the run... rabbits can be scary, you know!

My own little billy goats...

Sometime during mid-summer, a Saturday market sets up camp just about two blocks from where we live. They sell everything from homemade jams, jellies & honey to wood carved salmon, moose and bears to knit, crochet and handsewn clothing items to regional jewelry with a whole lot of stuff in between (oh, I love the fresh produce, too!). My kids spotted a petting zoo and begged and begged for me to take them to it. They had a fun time. It made me think that one day I would love to have enough land to have some animals. I think there is much kids can learn from working with animals. For now, we'll be happy with paying a couple of dollars to pet them!
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Thursday, August 28, 2008

If Only I Believed in Reincarnation!

I got this in an email from a childhood friend of mine. No wonder we're such good friends... we think alike. I totally laughed out loud... hope you will, too! (click on the image to enlarge if it's too small to read)

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Papi Needs To Practice



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Last week I went to Anchorage. Jacob had a cross country meet, so he took the boys with him and dropped Ziya off at Gina's house so she could be properly supervised (thanks Gina!!!). When I got home and looked on our camera to see what he snapped during the day, this is what I found. I think he needs to practice doing her hair more often. What do you think? I'm just glad that it was Gina's where she had to show her face and not somewhere more public!

60 Degrees Last Week

We get excited about 60 degree weather in Kenai... so excited that shirts come off and we run through the sprinklers (at least my boys do!). This is funny to me - the girl from Brawley who for her growing up years, tolerated 115+ temperatures all summer long (and then some!). I remember getting in the old truck and scalding my back because the seat was sooooo hot. The steering wheel literally couldn't be touched for fear of peeling off layers of skin from our fingers. And walking into the grocery store with a big wet sweat circle on one's back was absolutely no big deal... everybody else had one, too.

Now I wear sandals and short sleeves at 50 degrees and my boys act like they're going to die of heat stroke and must get permission to run through the sprinklers when it hits 60. Hey, it's all about perspective, I guess!

*I took this video last Monday, the 17th. It was our last truly sunny day for a while. I remembered the video because today it reached 60 again... so exciting!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Transition Time

This is a weird transition time for our family. All summer long, we had Jacob home with us. The kids normal bedtime was rarely before 10 or even 11 p.m. Jacob and I usually stayed up until long after midnight (more like 2 or 3 a.m. for me). Then we slept in until about 9 or 10 a.m. and planned day by day how to fill our hours. Soccer, fishing, clamming, dipnetting, bike riding, BBQ's, doing nothing at all, etc., etc. I loved it! Meals were unplanned and unscheduled. Everything was unplanned and unscheduled.

I also love schedules, routines, predictability. I now must have my children in bed no later than 8 p.m. if we're to survive the days. I myself must re-learn to get to bed at a decent hour (last night, I plopped into bed absolutely beat at about 11:00 p.m. - my earliest in many, many months). If I'm going to exercise, I must be up at 5:45 a.m. and out the door by 6:00. I must have breakfast on the table by 7:45 so we can be out the door for school at 8:35. I must get Ziya down for her nap by 1:00 p.m. so she can be awake when it's time to pick Ammon up at 3:30. I must have my refrigerator stocked so I can prep our dinners and have it mostly done before I go pick everybody up. We must eat by 5:30 so we can do baths and bedtime by 7:30 or so. Must, must, must... it's really weird.

I'm torn between wishing my adventurous, carefree, unscheduled, unplanned summer was longer and feeling really glad that school has started and we can get back to our scheduled, predictable life. The conclusion I'm coming to in my somewhat tired brain (it is about 9:30 p.m., after all... getting late on my new schedule) is that I truly am The Luckiest (I put this song back on my playlist... one of my favorites). I get the best of both worlds... and for that, I am thankful!

We Survived the First Day of School... Barely

We spent Tuesday night getting every possible detail ready. Clothes were laid out on the floor (including socks, shoes, belts), backpacks were next to the door with all necessaries already inside them, lunch bags were spread on the counter with dry goods already in them, and kids were shuffled to bed by 8:30 p.m.

Ammon was the first to wake up at 7:00 a.m. Abe followed in a close second at 7:01 a.m. Raven (we're babysitting while our friend has surgery in Anchorage) and Ziya, on the other hand, had to be woken up and rushed along at about 7:45 or so. At 8:00 we sat down for our brain-healthy breakfast of oatmeal with berries, scrambled eggs and toast. I thought we were doing pretty good on our schedule and my goal of being out the door at 8:30 a.m. (I should know better than to let thoughts like this enter my head!). Raven has beautiful long brown hair and she wanted something special done to it for the first day of school. This took longer than I'd anticipated. As soon as she got off the chair, Ziya hopped up and asked me to do her hair, too. While she sat there, she did the biggest poop ever... it required a change of clothes. By now I was really sweating!

We did finally make it out the door at about 8:45. Ammon would have been happy with me dropping them off, but I insisted on going into the classroom with them. He immediately spotted his good friend, Jimmy, and then even more, he was ready for me to leave! I held my ground and hung out for a few more minutes (I can be pretty stubborn). I wanted to take a picture of him at his desk, but my camera battery died (uggghhh, I hate it when this happens). Ammon immediately got busy working on a little person-shaped popsicle stick that he was supposed to decorate to look like himself. I kept asking him questions and then I said goodbye at least three or four times and he was giving me the "o.k., o.k. mom, that's enough!" look. Isn't he too young to do that? At least I was confident that I was leaving my little boy in great hands. His teacher's name, after all, is Ms. Lafferty... she tells people that she named herself that because she likes to laugh!

Abraham was all dressed up in his little school outfit and he had some supplies in his backpack. I was supposed to have a meeting with some other moms to talk about what we're going to do for pre-school this year, but the meeting plans fizzled at the last minute. Instead, I took him to his best friend Tate's house. While there, he got to watch Star Wars. When I picked everybody up after school and interrogated them all, the vote was unanimous: Abe had the ultimate best first day of school!

Jacob also had his first day of classes (although he's been working since last Wednesday). He is co-teaching two sophomore Language Arts classes, one sophomore World History class, one Algebra A class (mostly freshmen) and his own Study Skills class (kids that are on his Special Ed case load). Like typical high schoolers, the kids try to push teachers' limits during the fist days... so Jacob came home pretty worn out. He is also the assistant coach for the Cross Country team (this will make three sports for him this year... ask me what I feel about this in about January!). He has a great time coaching. Although he loves being a special ed teacher, I think he also really enjoys the coaching interaction with kids who are happy and motivated about being there.

We got home and in perfect unison, everybody started melting down (including Jacob and I, at moments). I'd prepped our dinner, but I just couldn't get it on the table fast enough. At one point, we had all four kids crying at one time (two boys in one bath and two girls in the other). It was great. Normally, I might have pulled at least some of my hair out, but all I could do this time was laugh (which annoyed the kids even more, I think). We had no problem getting everybody in bed by 7:45 p.m. Let the games begin!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

School Haircuts

When we lived in California, Jacob's mom and her husband Angel introduced us to a fascinating woman who specializes in cutting hair for autistic children (Ammon is not autistic, but like some autistic children, he had real issues with letting anybody touch his head... for haircuts, anyways). This woman was quite the expert at winning kids' confidence and then distracting them with so much visual and auditory stimulation, that kids hardly even realized that they were getting their hair cut. This is where we had to take Ammon. We had to drive all the way to Ventura, make a special 1-hour long appointment and visit "the specialist." Even then, Ammon HATED haircuts with a passion. Somehow, we managed to keep the mane fairly tame, but it was always a struggle. When Abraham started needing haircuts, the nightmare multiplied. He was just as resistant.

We tried everything: cuts by friends, cutting while asleep, major bribery (oops... positive reinforcement), sitting in my lap while I wrestled them still, etc., etc. To avoid the pain (and embarrassment) of salons, Jacob and I tried to cut their hair ourselves a couple of times. Not a good idea. (I'm still 100% willing to learn... just haven't found a teacher patient enough to teach me yet!)

Fast forward a couple of years... Yesterday I looked at my boys and realized that they were in dire need of haircuts - especially since Ammon will be starting school next week. Ammon and Abraham rode their bikes and I pushed Ziya in her stroller to the barber shop. Meet Dave. Yes, he has a mullet. Yes, he has bows, swords, homemande banjos and moose heads hanging in his shop. And yes, somehow, he has won my boys' confidence. Oh, and yes, he has a big lollipop jar!

The boys make no fret about hopping up on his chair and letting him do his thing. He has a cool set of clippers with a vacuum attachment so that as he's clipping away, no hair is falling onto the boys (after many a tear, we discovered that this was Ammon's biggest hangup about haircuts... he's just like his dad - can't stand the itchy hair on his skin!).

We're now one step closer to being ready for school next week!

I wouldn't say this is Ammon's idea of a fun time, but he does volunteer to go first!
My handsome soon-to-be-first-grader!

Before Dave started cutting, Abraham reminded me to tell him about the tree sap in his hair! It's been there for several weeks now, but Abraham never let me touch it. We just had to comb around it every day! He finally let Dave cut it out with scissors so it wouldn't get caught in the clippers.

These are still "cutters" after all!

This is so worth a lollipop!

No haircut for Ziya, but she still loves to smile for the camera!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Let Them Be Little

I should be asleep right now... but I'm not. I just finished reading on my friend Stephanie's blog. I've written about her before. Her little girl died about two months ago. If you haven't discovered her blog, you should. Tonight I read a post she wrote about patience. She is writing specifically about being patient with our children. And then I read some of the comments others made and one of them alluded to this song. So here I sit contemplating, evaluating, feeling guilty for my lack of patience today but also feeling hopeful for a new day tomorrow.

This feels a bit like plagiarism, but Stephanie specifically said that her readers should feel free to share her posts. So here's a poem that somebody also left as a comment on her post.


Come in. But don't expect to find all the dishes done; all floors ashine.
Observe the crumpled rug, the toys galore, the smudgy fingerprinted door.
The little ones we shelter here don't thrive on spotless atmosphere.
They're more inclined to disarray and carefree, even messy play.
Their needs are great, their patience small. All day I'm at their beck and call.
It's "Mommie come" "Mommie see!" Wiggly worms and red-scraped knee.
Painted pictures, blocks piled high, my floors unshined, the days go by.
Some future day they'll flee this nest, and I, at last, will have a rest.
And which really matters more? A happy child or a polished floor?

Author Unknown

I'm sharing this because I needed to read and hear all this tonight. I'm willing to bet some of you do, too.

Fishing With Coach Trujillo




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When Jacob's co-worker invited him and the boys to go fishing with him early Tuesday morning, I worried that they wouldn't make it (waking up early is just not our thing these days). Ammon must've been really excited... cause at 6:57 a.m. he had Abraham and himself all dressed and ready to go. There was no crying, no whining, no whimpering that the boots wouldn't go on, that the zipper was stuck or that there were too many bumps in Ammon's layers. As a matter of fact, there was not a single thing wrong with the many clothes they had to wear for the fishing trip (gosh... I guess getting dressed for the non-excitement of our daily routines just isn't motivating enough to do it with such efficiency and peace).

Ammon and Abraham couldn't contain their excitement when Coach Joe came to pick them up in his big pick up truck towing the boat. With Lunchables, fishing poles, sweatshirts, rain jackets, baseball hats and Ammon's new tackle box, they set off on their "boys only" fishing trip. I actually had to call them back from the truck to come and say bye to Ziya and me.

I never did get too many of the details of their trip, but when they walked in, I made the mistake of asking them how many fish they brought home. Ammon was very quick to remind me that that is not what's important... what's important is that they had a great time (somebody has taught him well!). I guess they caught some pinks but they threw them back in and "let them live." I can see from the pictures though that Ammon had a great time reeling in a fish... and Abe had a great time getting to be included with the big boys.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

I Ran a 10K!




My very fist Sunday in Kenai, I was sitting in my Relief Society meeting and they had what's called a "good news" minute. It's just an opportunity for the women to share some of the good things that are going on in their lives. Anyway, a bunch of the women had just run in a Women's Race put on by a local women's shelter and they excitedly shared their good news with the rest of us. I remember thinking, "What a cool thing! I'd love to do something like that!" Well, yesterday, I DID IT!

The longest race I had done previously this summer was the 5.6 miler at Mayor's Marathon. It was long and had some hills... and even though I'd somewhat "trained" for it, it just about killed me. Stupidly, and for no good reason at all, I let running get away from me since then. However, when the registration for this Kenai Peninsula Run For Women came around, I thought I'd give it a go anyway. I figured the course was flat and it was only 0.6 miles longer than the one I did earlier in the summer (10K = 6.2 miles). I probably should have "figured" that I hadn't run in a while and signed up for the 5K.

Well... let's just say, I finished the race. And I finished it without any kind of assistance (oxygen, a wheelchair, etc.)! It was soooo hard. I was about 30 seconds per mile off of my goal. It really makes me mad that it takes so long to build up endurance, yet it only takes a month or two of not running to lose it all! Lesson learned (I think I'll go on a run tomorrow morning). I was blessed (literally!) to have my friend Krista running at my side. She has an awesome sense of humor and even as we struggled through the race, her jokes kept me laughing and going. ("Pleeeaaaasse tell me there's a Snickers bar up at that table!") What a gal!

I'm just so glad this race is over! It feels great to know that I did it, but my sore legs today tell me that I need to run more often. Like I said, lesson learned!
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Memories, memories...

I've responded to some of the tags that have been floating around... and I've bypassed others. Here's a new one that I just bumped into on Robyn's blog. Sounds like fun and could be interesting!!!

Here are the rules:
1. Add a comment on my blog, leave one memory that you and I had together. It doesn't matter if you know me a little or a lot, anything you remember!
2. Next, re-post these instructions on your blog and see how many people leave a memory about you. Not too embarrassing please!!!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Happy Birthday To You!

Watch this video of Ammon's birthday song!

Ammon Turns SIX!

When we asked Ammon what he wanted for his birthday theme, he said that since his name rhymes with salmon and since he now loves to eat salmon, it would have to be a SALMON AMMON party! So it was!

The party invitation... we changed the date and location and had the party on his actual birthday. Saturday is supposed to be rainy...

Ammon made a birthday breakfast request... and then he and his siblings posed for pictures. Ymmmm!
We had a BBQ picnic at the park just down the street from where we live. We invited families from our ward. I never did do a head count, but there were lots of kids there. Ammon was in heaven. Whenever I asked him to smile for the camera, he quickly held up six fingers. He said he always wanted to remember that this was the day he had to hold up two hands to show his age!

I wanted to make him a salmon cake, since this was the theme for his party, but I couldn't find one on the internet to copy. So he ended up with a rainbow fish instead (is there such a thing?). He called it his "flounder" cake. The kids loved it. Not only were they eating cake, but it was loaded with skittles and fruit leathers, as well!

After the park, we went to Cunningham Park and fished on the Kenai River. The evening was beautiful. The Dept. of Fish & Game turned down our invitation to come out and give the kids a bit of instruction on fishing (they have no idea the fun they missed out on!). So dear Brother Chadwick took charge and set up pole after pole after pole for the kids. Their instructions were to just leave their line in the water, but many reeled in time and time again. Bro. Chadwick was sooooo patient. We ended the night with zero injuries and lots of happy kids. Hooray! Thanks Bro. Chadwick!

More birthday pictures:

Queen or Chef: Which Am I???

The other day I was having a great time watching/listening to Ammon, Abraham and Ziya all very involved in a game they were playing. The boys were taking turns dragging "Princess Ziya" around on a little kid couch that they have. They were pretending to be the princes and she was their princess to be served. I was about to pipe in and let them know that if they were the princes and princess, then that must make me the QUEEN. Abe beat me to it and let me know my real place in their game.

ABE: "Hey chef... we're hungry. Get us a snack, please!"

At least he said please!!

Monday, August 4, 2008

King Fishing on the Kenai River

OH MAN, OH MAN, OH MAN!!! This is what I yelled the whole time I was reeling in my 50 pound king salmon. I also yelled it when I was trying to pick it up for pictures and the teeth were cutting my fingers and it wiggled on me. I exclaimed it once again when I ate some for dinner! Here's my story.

Jacob has been bugging our friend Ryan about taking him out fishing with him. On Wednesday, just two nights before the end of king fishing season, Ryan and Gina invited us to go out on a double date on their boat with them. What a fabulous time we had. As soon as Ryan and Jacob started putting the boat in the water, I started snapping pictures; I was just ecstatic about being there. I loved the big green truck easing the boat into the water. I loved that so many fisherman knew and greeted each other. I loved that people congratulated each other on their catches. I loved the beauty (we couldn't have asked for a more gorgeous night to be out). I loved the camaraderie on the boat. And of course, I loved that we caught some really big fish!

We'd been in the water for just about 20 minutes and had just pulled out our dinner (bean burritos and salsa, Martha style) when Ryan saw a hit on my pole. He helped me get it out of the rod holder and then started giving me instructions. Talk about exhilarating! I fought and fought, reeled and reeled and while my arms turned to jello, the fish kept getting farther and farther away. He made us chase him into the midst of a bunch of other boats (they weren't too happy about this). We got tangled up with other fishermens' lines. My line also got tangled up with the net. This truly was a miracle fish... we should have lost him several times. After about a 10 minute fight, we (I saw we, because it was definitely a group effort) finally managed to get the monster onto the boat. WOW! I was literally in shock. This is the kind of thing you see in the paper and in magazines... but there it was, right at my feet - a 50 pound king salmon.

About 2 hours later, Jacob caught a 55 pounder. His was also a fight. At one point, Jacob was holding his pole up as high as he could and it was bent almost all the way down to the water. Thank goodness for the added strength of adrenalin while all this was going on.

As if this wasn't enough excitement for one night, Gina got a bite on her pole. She was disappointed when this fish got away... but it wasn't long before she was shouting, "FISH ON!" again. This 35-pound king wasn't so lucky. He turned out to be her second king in two nights.

We took the fish back to their friend’s house to gut and fillet them. These fillets are amazingly huge! The following day, I spent the morning with Gina cutting two of the fish into pieces and vacuum packing them for the freezer. Her girls had a fun time “labeling” the packets for us. Ammon and Abraham also had fun when we pulled a surprise out of the freezer for them – one of the heads! Ewwwww! Our neighbor smoked the third fish for us in exchange for some of the meat. We've already had some grilled king and some of the smoked king with crackers and cream cheese. It just doesn't get any better.

Oh man, oh man, oh man! What an experience we will never forget! Thanks a million, Ryan and Gina!