Monday, September 29, 2008

Three More Families Going to Vietnam

Last week three more families received travel authorization to pick up their children from Dong Nai Province. I am adding two of them to my list of blogs. Cheri and David, I do not see that you have a blog yet. As soon as you are done freaking out and making your travel arrangements, maybe you can start a blog so we can follow your journey! For the other Dong Nai families still waiting, we are keeping you in our prayers and hope your turn comes soon!

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Back to Reality

I'm home from Anchorage, feeling refreshed and ready to resume my responsibilities of mom and nurse practitioner extraordinaire. I am eternally grateful to both "Gamma" and "Nanna" for taking excellent care of my children as usual while Matt worked and I got continuing education. It was a much needed break for me. I also feel more up to par in the professional department. Two weeks ago I missed out on the Alaska Asthma, Allergy and Immunology Conference because I did not sign up in time. I had been flogging myself about it for two weeks. Having gotten updated on a variety of topics over the weekend, I at least feel more confident about caring for the nonallergic families in my practice.

Yesterday I learned a lot about men's health, popular herbs and nutrients, and diabetes. Now when my alternative health care using patients tell me what supplements they are taking from their naturopath and I might actually know what they are talking about.

Other news: Maya stayed in the church nursery for the first time this morning! This is good news because I am signed up to teach Sunday school next week. The bad news is that everyone else will have to find another way to amuse themselves during the sermon.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Maya's First Haircut

In response to my most recent poll...If you voted for: what makes you think Maya is going to sit still for the photographer? you were absolutely right! Today my mom took her to school during the sibling part of the day and she would have nothing to do with it. Thanks for trying Mom!

Think back to two days ago. I'm trying to get on the road to Anchorage. I always stress out and try to do too much. In addition to the usuals, making sure the lizard, frog and toad have enough crickets to eat, the boys have clean clothes to wear and food to eat, their school field trip permission slips are signed, their library books ready to return, etc., etc., I decided that I wasn't going to pay $45 dollars to have Maya's picture taken with her hair sticking out one side. The boys' stylist, Kathy, was booked so I appealed to my stylist, Jerami. I know what you are thinking, Irene has a stylist? It's not Jerami's fault that I would rather stay in bed an extra 15 minutes than "style" my hair. I was happy to see that even the Uber-stylish Jerami is now sporting a pony tail. Anyway, back to Maya. So I beg Jerami to snip a little here and there between his other cut and highlighting appointments. He talks his partner Misty into helping me out.

Misty is wonderful. She let me hold Maya and cut her hair standing up. I know what you are thinking again. But she doesn't look any different. Matt and my mom did not want Maya to get a haircut so I just told her to shape it up a little. The end result of two separate trips to town and all that stress? Maya looks almost exactly the same and she wouldn't let them photograph her anyway!

By the way, she does smile. In fact, she laughs! Right after I push the button on my camara. But my friend Alana has managed to capture Maya laughing for pictures on HER blog. Check it out on the Greear Family Blog.

What did I learn at my conference today? Well, today was not nearly as much fun because instead of going to more lectures about fascinating things like the brain and treating addiction, I forced myselft to learn more about heart disease, high blood pressure and cholesterol. I walked out feeling very frustrated and angry. What's the point of learning about the latest and greatest drugs when Medicare and many private insurance companies won't pay for them anyway? Do you know that for every new drug your health care provider prescribes for you, there is sure to be a mountain of paperwork to be completed only to be told it's not covered by your plan? I am so fed up with the health care system in this country being run by insurance companies. And by the way, McCain's plan will not solve this problem. Enough said.

In the afternoon I cheered myself up by attending a lecture on Urinary Incontinence in Women by Dr. Andrea Wang and Endometrial Cancer by Dr. Ruth Higdon. I know you are all thinking, Woop Woop, Irene. But you should have seen these ladies! Dr. Wang was like a female version of my favorite orthopedic surgeon, Dr. Chang, who is a total hottie. Dr. Higdon, besides being the nicest GYN oncologist in the world, is very hip as well. I found out today that she has her own herd of yaks!

There you have it folks, only in Alaska. I challenge you to find another doctor on the North American Continent who has her own herd of yaks.

Misty cutting Maya's hair.

The after photo.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Nurse Practitioner, Heal Thyself

Today I went to the first day of the Alaska Nurse Practioner Association Conference. I try to go annualy to get the latest information and network with my peers. Today I attended lectures on The Teen Brain, Autism in Alaska, Vitamin D and Allergy (Is there a link?), and a refresher course on Kawasaki disease. So in the morning I learned a lot about brain chemistry and neuropsych. Fastinating stuff. Everyone knows about how much the brain grows from infancy through early childhood, but did you know that between 14 and 22 years of age there's all this "pruning" going on? Eventually more than 40% of all synapses are eliminated. Without this pruning, there is unregulated growth that can lead to disorders like schizophrenia, bipolar disease and autism. I've always suspected that children lose their baby brain before adolescence and the adult brain doesn't grow in until at least 22, now it's been confirmed.

Vitamin D is the latest end all, be all, cure all. I have a healthy skeptism about taking massive quantities of any supplement. It seems like every few years we are told to take large doses of some kind of micronutrient, and then a few years later, the latest research shows that it's not good to take high doses. I still subscribe to the school of moderation. Besides, why get all your nutrients from a capsule when you can eat food? You already know how much I love to eat...

Barb Bancroft, our keynote speaker this morning was hysterical. She is one of those really funny, really smart nurse practitioners who, in addition to having a thriving practice, travels all over the country giving speeches at seminars. Some of you might know that I have been known to do a little stand up comedy on the side, at girl parties with my female friends when we let our hair down and whoop it up. Maybe when I grow up I can take my show on the road and become a professional nurse practitioner comedienne. Anyway, this lady had me in stitches. Her first lecture reminded me of all the stuff I know is good for me but am not doing enough:
1. Exercise at least 30 minutes 5-6 times per week
2. Eat more fish, vegetables, beans, nuts, olive oil and less red meat, simple carbs and fat.
3. Drink small amounts of alcohol, 1-7 drinks per week (but not all in one night, and not if you are a recovering addict or just plain alcohol intolerant like me.)
4. Get enough sleep, 7-9 hours per night (Most adults sleep 5-6)
5. Stress is bad for you. It causes depression and other health problems.
6. Meditation lowers your risk of heart disease by 30%, cancer by 49%, and risk of overall death by 23%. Plus it builds NEURONS!
7. Pets decrease stress. Pets are good for you (unless you have allergies to animal dander!)
8. And as discussed above, we need more vitamin D. Half the people living above or below the 35 degree latitude have vitamin D deficiency. Dark skinned people are at higher risk! Vitamin D deficiency increases your risk for all kinds of autoimmune diseases, mental illness and cancer.
9. And last but not least, laughter is still the best medicine. Barb made me laugh so hard, I bought her book called Live a Little, Laugh a Lot. While flipping through it, I found my favorite quote for today:

"I'm allergic to drugs and alcohol. They make me break out in handcuffs." Rober Downey, Jr.

Here's the famous geese who hang out all over Anchorage on their way south each fall.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Regular Tuesdays with Alana

Riley called in sick Monday and Tuesday. Here he is cuddling with his kitty cat.

If you ever go to the Greear Family blog, you will notice that Alana blogs about me almost every Tuesday. You might have wondered why I never blog about our coffee sessions. For one thing, I don't blog everyday like she does, so I tend to just hit the highlights of the week.

But yesterday I felt a special appreciation for Alana, and as soon as she left, I began composing the list of why I love Alana. First, let me explain a few things about her. While it seems like most of what she does is go from house to house having coffee with people ( I was her THIRD coffee date yesterday), she is actually functioning more in the role of a social worker. She even has a degree in social work, although I am not sure she has ever actually been employed as a social worker. She filled in for the family outreach coordinator at Head Start a couple of years ago, and that is as close as I have known her to being employed. Before I met Alana, she worked in various jobs including driving a Fedex delivery truck, driving a school bus, being a mall cop in Saipan, and teaching kindergarten in Saipan.

We have a lot in common. We are both from the San Francisco Bay Area. We probably would not have been friends in high school even though she is only a few years younger than me. She was actually a prom queen and I was a nerd. The only thing that saved me from total geekdom was soccer. But when we met, we both had 1 1/2 year old sons. She had just moved back from Saipan where she adopted her son Falcom. And my dad is from Saipan. Three years later we both had another child. Her husband is a pharmacist and mine is a family physician. Her husband is the nicest guy you'll ever meet. So when our families get together, everyone has a friend to play with. That is very hard to come by.

Matt thinks Alana I and I compete to see whose life can be more complicated. We both had high maintenance 3 year olds, then I had Chris and she had Marina. Then I started the process of adopting Maya and she brought two foster sons over from Saipan. She works really hard to help them navigate the educational system so they can succeed in life and have a viable future.

We share similar beliefs about politics, religion and the world at large. She keeps me updated on the latest technology and fads. Without her I would slip into information oblivion. She is a good listener and is always willing to help me out. She has saved me thousands of dollars in psychotherapy and hundreds of dollars in babysitting. And all she needs from me (right now) is a strong cup of coffee and a salami sandwhich!

But that's not the only reason why I love Alana. She is smart, funny, and compassionate. She has a soft spot for children, especially disadvantaged children. She does not shy away from life's hardships. She can sit with pain and respond with love. That's the most important thing about her. So if you do not have an Alana in your life, you should get one of your own. You can't have my Alana because she is already overextended. What she does for me, she does for lots of other people as well. If God were the glue that holds the universe together, Alana would be the glue that holds the community together.

I'm not just saying this because she saved my bacon again today. I had to drive to Anchorage for a nurse practioner conference starting tomorrow morning. Matt was going out to one of the Russian Villages to certify wrestlers. It's one of his ways of giving back to the community. Alana took all three of my kids so I could get on the road before dark.

It was a beautiful drive. The autumn colors were spectacular, even though it was raining. Some of the mountains already have a fine layer of the season's first snowfall, which is called "termination dust". I don't know why it's called that. I guess it's because it's the first dusting of snow which signifies the termination of summer. Along the way, I saw this family of swans feeding on a lake. If you look closely, you can see the little grey cignets swimming around the two white swans.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Russian Old Believers

While the rest of America may be enjoying Indian Summer, we Alaskans are well into Fall and hunkering down for the winter. Yesterday I drained my hot tub and used the warm water to rinse off hanging baskets and other things around the yard before putting them away for the winter. Don't worry, we refilled the hot tub with fresh water today. The hot tub is the only way to gaze at stars and look for Northern lights during the winter in Alaska!

Maya bows her head while we say grace before dinner.

Last week my friend Alana blogged about going on a field trip with her son's class and two of the girls in her group were Russian Old Believers. They are the Alaskan-Russian equivalent of the Amish. 10 years ago they didn't really mingle with outsiders. Now their children play on the same hockey teams with our kids.

This is an email I sent out to my friends last winter before I had a blog:

I love being a hockey mom.

Okay, so I’m at the game banging on the plexiglass and yelling like all the other hockey moms. One of the Russian girls’ dress starts coming untucked from her hockey shorts. She freaks out and starts trying to tuck the skirt back up into her shorts. Her mom is screaming at her to leave the dress alone and get her head back into the game.

You have know the history of the Russian “Old Believers” to appreciate the hilarity of this scene. Russian Old Believers are a religious group that did not like the way Constantine was trying to modernize the Russian Orthodox Church back in 1600 or whenever (you history buffs can look it up). So they broke off and formed their own sect. They live in isolated communities like the Amish. In Homer there are 4 different villages within 20 miles of town. They have their own schools which are funded by the state. Many of the children do not learn English until they start school. Some villages are more liberal than others. Obviously, the hockey playing Russians are more liberal. They make their own clothes mostly. The boys and men wear these shirts with flowers embroidered around the collar. They wear a string around their waist that protects them from evil. They do not shave their beards. The women wear flowing dresses made of a rayon polyester, tied at the waist. The pattern of the shirts and dresses are identical but they come in different colors and prints. After they get married they women wear scarves on their heads, usually matching their dresses.

Eyna’s (pronounced EE-NA) dress was red with white polkadots. So when it started to come untucked from her hockey shorts, it looked like the classic red boxers with white polka dots they always show in cartoons when the dog bites the cartoon character’s butt or pulls the man’s pants down.

When Matt was growing up here, the Russians mainly kept to themselves. So it is a really neat thing to see the Russians mixing with the other Alaskans. At Christmas time when the hockey rink has parties, they bring their traditional foods to share. We only got an indoor rink two years ago. That was another joint venture. The parents raised money for years but just couldn’t save enough money to buy property and build a rink. The Seldovia Village Tribe (Alaskan Natives) built us a state of the art indoor hockey rink on some prime property and we lease it from them. So there you have it, three different factions of the Alaskan community uniting for a common cause. And you thought we were nothing but a bunch of Red Necks!

One more fun fact about the Russian Old Believers: they have settlements all over the world. One is in Bolivia and another is in Oregon!

Here's a link to a piece on Russian Old Believers that appeared on TV recently:

Maya and Chris swimming at the Bay Club

Friday, September 19, 2008

Cheer Up Dong Nai Families!

This is an emergency post, to cheer up the families with children in Dong Nai Province still waiting for travel authorization. We received a request for cute and funny pictures of the kids.
I am so sorry that you are all still waiting. I hope you all get to go to Vietnam soon!

Maya loves sit inside boxes. She can fit her little bottom into a lunch box!

Here she is sitting in a box looking at books. Her brothers had to get in the photo.

Trying on her Halloween costume. What do you think of this dalmation?

Same box without the brothers.
Funny stories:
1. When Maya wanted another Flintstones or Gummy Bear vitamin, she stood next to the cupboard and whined. When I told her she could only have ONE per day, she looked at me with that determined little face and said "TWO!".
2. She has learned that "poopoo" is a very powerful word. She frequently uses it at bedtime or nap time to get out of bed. Last night when Matt came in to take over the nightly routine, he said "Where are your pajamas, Maya? I thought you were all ready for bed!" I said to Matt: "can you say stalling tactic?" And Maya answered "dalling dacdic".
The wait is long and hard. It doesn't make any sense. I wish I could do something to make it better. Take heart in knowing that your children are cared for. Autumn, Maya and Kiet are all sweet, wonderful, loving children who are thriving. They may have some delays but it's obvious that they were cared for. They are full of spunk and joy. Maya challenges me at times with her stubborn streak but it's that willfullness that kept her alive.
One family wrote in to the Holt magazine that we get in the mail about their tiny little girl adopted from Thailand. I don't remember the exact words, but they said in Thailand, a petite little girl who is very feisty is call something like "lek prikki nu" which means little red hot chili pepper. I just loved that vignette.
Here's the latest video clip I took tonight just for you:

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Dear Dax

Dear Dax,
I loved your comment. I will strongly consider what you suggested. Thanks to you, I feel groovier already. If we were on Facebook, I'd add you to my list of friends. But Alana wants you to know we're a package deal.
My husband likes you, too.
P.P.S. Stacey, you're already my friend. You are always so positive and sweet.
Love to all,
Here's what I did today.
After Matt took the boys to school, Maya and I did some water therapy (I washed dishes on one side of the sink, Maya splashed on the other side.) Look at the cat! They look like partners in crime.

Then she tried out Riley's new hockey stick while I got our things together to go to town.

We went to the toy store to get a birthday present for my niece Lexi in California. We found this cute little doll that looked just like Maya before she got a tan.

Here's Maya in front of the post office where the flowers are still in full bloom.
She "mailed" her baby but luckily one of the postal workers fished it out of the bin for her.
Then we went to our favorite bakery to meet Alana for lunch. When I pulled into the parking lot, this is what I saw in the car next to mine. I feel so bad for this poor person.
This was a very, very, bad dog! The saddest part is, this person is using a folded empty bag of dog food to sit on!
Here's Maya showing Alana her new baby doll.
After lunch I passed Maya off to Matt for her nap and went to church to brainstorm ideas for the upcoming year with the other Sunday school teachers.

Then Trevor and I went for a long walk on the Homestead Trail. He was so happy!
Do you think dogs can read?
I always feel better on long walks in the woods. We had such a cold and wet summer that I didn't get outside nearly as much as I would have liked.

Doesn't this photo look digitally enhanced? The colors just look unreal. I love watching the seasons change.

This is the view from my car as I headed back into town. This is where I live, Kachemak Bay. Incredible, isn't it? These mountains just go on and on. To the left are glaciers. To the right it opens up into Cook Inlet, dotted with active volcanoes. It was on an overlook like this that Matt proposed to me. Of course, I had already rented the Brazil Building in Berkeley 6 months prior.
On our first vacation together, we were driving from the South Rim of the Grand Canyon to the North Rim. As we drove through an aspen forest, I said to Matt, "Can you imagine if this were your commute to work everyday?" He said, "Yes, this is what my commute used to look like." I had grown up in the suburbs of Oakland, California. He grew up first in Homer, then Fairbanks, Alaska. He was living in San Francisco when we met. Although he fell in love with ethnic food and me in California, this is where he left his heart.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A Crabby Kind of Day

No, I'm not talking about myself again. Our day revolved around crabs.
First, Chris took his hermit crab, Scaredy Cat, to school for Show and Tell.
Here's Chris with his crab in it's travel carrier and his friend Maxwell.

Then, Maya and I drove Riley and 4 of his classmates on a field trip to Mud Bay. Riley's teacher is Mrs. Demers. Her passion is science. Her husband is retired from the Fish and Game Dept. He set some crab traps yesterday and the class went to check the traps today. They are part of a surveillance team monitoring the bay for green crabs. Green crabs are an aggressive alien species of crabs from the Baltic Sea who are making their way up the coast. They have been spotted along the coast of Vancouver Island, Canada. They have already destroyed the crab fishery along the East Coast. They are very destructive to the local indiginous population of crabs and other marine life.

Fortunately, we did not see any green crabs today. This helmet crab was in our crab trap.

Mrs. Demers watches on while Wyatt, Ravi and Riley measure the crab with calipers.

Malina records the data.

Our team: Wyatt, Malina, Lauren, Riley and Ravi.

Maya was a trooper as usual.

Lauren and Malina dote on Maya in the back seat.

Then Maya went to see Dr. Sitenga for her eye exam. Our pediatrician in Seattle wanted her to get a good ophthalmology exam to rule out eye problems that premature babies are prone to. When she first got into the exam rooms she cried and cried because she thought she was going to get shots again. After he put drops in her eyes to dilate her pupils, we went back to the waiting room for 15 minutes. She walked around telling everyone about it. She pointed to her eye and said "Eye".
When we ran out of things to do and people to talk to in the waiting room, we went out to the entry way and played with my camera. Maya loves books. She brings us books all day long. She climbs into a chair, slaps the space beside her and tells us "down" and "book".
Dr. Sitenga said she has a mild astigmatism but nothing to worry about. He was able to see 80% of her retinae and did not see any problems. He wants to recheck her in a year. That completes our fourth referral. She had a hearing screen two weeks ago and our audiologist said she seems to be hearing just fine.
Overall, I think she is doing very well. She is not terrified of animals anymore. She is napping more consistently. She takes a long time to fall asleep but sleeps all night. She seems to be less scattered during the day time and will actually attend to a task for more than 3 seconds. Her favorite activities are playdough, taking things apart and anything to do with water. She loves to feed the dog, the cat and the fish.
She is not eating much better but I've learned to be more relaxed about it. I still feed her pureed rice porridge with meat and vegetables 2-3 times per day. She seems to be ready to give up the bottles of toddler formula but doesn't take enough milk or any other fluids from a cup to make me want to stop the bottles. She doesn't seem to care for cow or soy milk. She likes juice boxes but squeezes half the juice out. She likes yogurt drinks and ice water. She hates sippy cups. We give her high calorie snacks like whole milk yogurt, ice cream, chips and cheese. When we sit down to family dinner she tries everything, chews it up and spits most of it out, except for spaghetti. She still loves spaghetti. I give her peanut butter on a spoon whenever I think of it. She likes to lick ranch dressing off her vegetables.
We meet with our occupational therapist, Susan, once a week. We meet with our speech therapist, Martha, every other week. Susan and I are starting the process of transitioning Maya to the special needs preschool at our local public school in January, when Maya turns 3.
She weighs anywhere between 19 and 20 pounds depending on the time of day and how much clothes she has on. She's finally outgrown the 6-12 months clothes and is now wearing 12-18 months clothes. Her speech is improving nicely. She says many words now and some 2-3 word phrases like "where'd it go?", "there it is" and "watch this!". Last Sunday when we walked into church she shouted "Hi Gamma!" loud enough for the whole congregation to hear. When Nanna goes up to sing with the choir she shouts "Hi Nanna!". She won't stay in the pew or in the nursery but nobody seems to mind her wandering around too much. I'm thinking about getting her into a toddler dance/movement class since she loves music and has trouble sitting still.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Getting Your Groove Back

This bird on a post has nothing to do with anything. It just looked cool. It looked cooler when I thought it was a raven. But then I pulled up closer and found out it was a crow. What's the difference? Well, they're both in the Corvid family. But ravens are bigger, and cooler. They are like the daikon of radishes, the Wasabe of horseradishes. I tried to read Ravens in Winter this summer. I only got half way through. I have a hard time finishing nonfiction books. I give myselft credit for at least trying. I'm one step closer to committing to a book club. Alana and her book club friends have been trying to get me to join their book club for years. I have resisted for several reasons. The main reason is that I am a really slow reader and I'm afraid to show up and have everyone find out I didn't read the book. But then I realized that her book club is actually an excuse to get together, eat a lot of delicious food and gab with each other. When I was in grad school I couldn't keep up with all the readings, so I'd read one article out of 10 and think of something really intelligent to say in class so the teacher would think I'd done the reading. Maybe that strategy will work for book club as well!

Kathy's son Mike came down last weekend. Beside eating a lot, we played Mouse.
It's a great homemade game for the whole family.

All you need is two dice, some fabric or felt with string wrapped around them, a lid from a big pot, and some beans.

You start by putting "the mice" in the center. Everyone gets 8-12 beans to start. Everyone holds onto their mouse's tail. The person with the pot lid is "the cat". The cat rolls the dice. If the cat rolls a 7, 11, or doubles, everyone tries to pull their mouse out of the center before the cat slams the lid down on the mice. The cat gives each person whose mouse is caught a bean from his or her bean pile. If you pull your mouse when the cat did not roll a 7, 11 or doubles, you get a bean from the cat. If the cat slams down the lid at the wrong time, everyone gives the cat a bean. Everyone takes a turn being the cat. The cat can also "bluff" by pretending to slam the lid down (like if he rolls something other than 7, 11 or doubles). The player who gets rid of all their beans first wins.

I was going to blog about my latest existential crisis, how I've been in a major funk and I'm trying to figure out how to get my groove back. But I figured nobody wants to read a depressing blog, even though I am the funniest depressed person I know. Maybe I should have a contest. I want my Blogger friends to write and tell me what you did to get your groove back. The most creative response wins. I'm not sure what the prize is yet. But Alana outed me (again) by telling all her Blogger friends that I have a closet full of things I keep for regifting. I have been known to regift, but I don't have, like, a closet full of stuff or anything!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Remember Who You Wanted to Be

Remember who you wanted to be.

I saw that on a bumper sticker the other day. I've been wanting to work my blog around it ever since. So much happens in a week, it's hard to decide what to blog about. There's the usual what we did today, this week, or last weekend blog. There's the what's on my mind or what I really need to get off my chest blog. I decided that bumper sticker summed it all up for me.

When I was younger, I was very idealistic. I was going to grow up and save the world. The line up of who I admired most went something like this: Jesus, Buddha, Mother Teresa, Albert Schweitzer, Martin Luther King, etc. People always said things like, just wait 'til you get older, then you'll be jaded like me. Or, you'll get more conservative once you own property or have kids. I have noticed some subtle changes over time. But I still consider myself fairly idealistic.

During election time, we are reminded of who we wanted to be. Some politicians try to win our vote by promising to represent our interests once they are elected to office. Others try to appeal to our values or belief system, vowing to protect and uphold our way of living. We all know that most campaign promises will be broken or defeated. In the end, we vote for not a person, but an image of who we think we want to lead us. We vote for the person or party that reminds us of who we wanted to be.

I overheard a mom at school the other day talking about how many phone calls from "the lower 48" she's had to field about our governor turned VP candidate. I thought it was interesting that I had not received a single phone call. I decided it must be because most of my friends are liberals so they couldn't care less who the Republican Party chose to be their VP candidate. Finally, my soccer coach/spiritual guru from high school, Keith Burnett, emailed me with the longed for question: What do you think of your governor?

I was so grateful for the opportunity to spout off my opinion. I think she is probably a fairly intelligent and politically savvy person. Would I vote for her? No way. I like to think that I am a bleeding heart liberal, environmentalist wannabe. Sarah Palin is very conservative, and she does not think global warming is related to human activity. A federal study placed polar bears on the endangered species list and she appealed for further studies. Do I think it would be good for Alaskans to have her in the White House? I don't know. I am more interested in a candidate that would be good for Americans to have in the White House.

Finally, the what we did last weekend photos:

Maya picking raspberries.

The boys in the raspberry patch at our friends Bill and Ly's house.

Riley (#19) tries out his new-to-him skates at the free clinic run by a local semipro team.
Thank you Brown Bears for the clinic! Thank you Fuson family for the ice skates!

I had a wonderful time going out to dinner with my friends Alana and Mindy Saturday night.
Thank you Nanna and Kathy for babysitting! (Matt was the ER doctor last weekend).

Maya grinding nuts for banana bread on Sunday.

Maya and Kathy at Nanna's house for family dinner. Thank you Kathy and Nanna for making dinner on Sunday!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Labor Day Weekend at Johnson Lake

Saturday morning we asked the boys what they wanted to do for Labor Day Weekend. We got a resounding "Camping at Johnson Lake!" Last year we went for the first time. They had such a good time they were determined to make it a family tradition. I tried to make it happen before school started but the weather did not cooperate. This time it only rained a little bit one night and the wind blew pretty hard the second night. But the days were still warm and dry enough to enjoy fishing and paddling around on the lake.

Maya was a happy camper. She is always up for any of our adventures. She loves to be outside and doesn't seem to mind cold weather. Like most toddlers, she doesn't like to wear a jacket very much. On the second day I just threw her overalls on over her fleece pajamas and off she went. When the wind blew she would say "cold!" and run and get her jacket. Every time the boys went out on the water she cried to go along. She even waded into the very cold water in her swimsuit. I think her favorite part of camping was the bottomless bag of marshmallows.

My favorite part was picking berries. There were so many different berries around the lake. I don't even know the names of all of them. I picked some low bush cranberries and a few high bush cranberries. I only found one blueberry the entire weekend! There were just a few raspberries. Those were Maya's favorite. Today I made cranberry chocolate chip muffins. I know it sounds weird, but they are actually quite delicious. I have a special fondness for them because they are one of the first things Matt ever cooked for me when we were dating.

The other thing I love about Johnson Lake is the abundance of quaking aspens. The first time I ever saw the leaves shaking in the breeze I was captivated. Last fall Matt and I dug up 6 little aspen trees from Johnson Lake and brough home. We weren't sure where to plant them so we stuck them in the vegetable garden for the winter. When we got back from Vietnam at the end of May we transplanted them around the yard and I am pleased to report that they all made it!

I love to sit by the fire. Matt gets up early and gets the fire going so I can sit by the fire first thing in the morning, sipping coffee. I find that we do not sit by the fire late into the night here because there's no stars to look at in the summer time. By fall it's starting to get dark at night but it was too cloudy to see many stars.

I also love to sit and watch the fish jumping on the lake. Sometimes there's a mist on the lake early in the morning. I've always loved swimming in lakes the most. The ocean can be terrifying, even if there is no surf. Oceans are salty and their vastness sends me into a panic attack. Lakes are calm and finite (No, I've never been to the Great Lakes of Michigan). You can usually see the other side. The water is cool and fresh, not salty. I contemplated swimming across the lake for two days. I really wanted to do it but it was so cold. I finally worked up the courage on the last day, as Matt was packing up the last few things. I decided I had to swim across the lake before we left. I had to prove to myself I could still do it. I think I love the way it makes your whole body feel alive.

Tips for swimming in a very cold lake: 1. Don't think, just do it. 2. Don't tiptoe in, just run and take the plunge. 3. It only hurts for a little while. Once you get about half way across the lake, your whole body is so numb it doesn't hurt anymore. There's only one caviat: I do not recommend swimming in lakes when it is less than 40 degrees. If you do, don't stay in very long. I once skinny-dipped in Crater Lake. I think the temperature of Crater Lake in Oregon is around 40 degrees. But it was a hot day so I warmed up quickly. 4. The last rule: it's lots more fun if you're skinny dipping.

Dewberries on the left, low bush cranberries on the right. Aren't they beautiful?

Mom's annual swim across the lake.

Maya checking out the kayak on dry land.

Wise guys fishing.

Maya makes a good poster girl for the Kids Don't Float Program.

Maya likes the camping chair with the cup holder.

Chris hitching a ride on Riley's inflatable kayak. These things are untippable!

Maya loved being in the kayak. She actally took a nap while I paddled around.

Chris loves to climb trees. He was about 10 feet up this tree.

Going home, tired, dirty and happy. They were all happy, Chris is the only one that smiled for the camera, if you can call that a smile.

Maya laughs and smiles all the time, she just doesn't do it for the camera. Here's a rare shot of her smiling.