Saturday, May 30, 2009

Baseball and Clamming

It's spring in Alaska. Not only did our neighbor's horse have a baby, but moose are starting to appear with their babies. I have not seen any yet but Alana and I saw the tiniest moose tracks on her road last week. The boys found a robin's nest under our deck. Riley came in the house holding 4 bright blue eggs in his hands. I freaked out and yelled at him to put them back. He did and the mother is still sitting on them, so I'm hoping they will still hatch. Riley can see the nest from his bed. We have banned skateboards and scooters from the deck for the time being.

We moved Chris up to coach pitch. On the first day he got hit in the head with a baseball during warm ups, thrown by another kid. He cried hard and wanted to go home. I thought, what have I done? I held him for a while then forced him to sit on the bleachers until he decided to play. He got a couple of hits at bat and even got two outs while playing first base. He's having fun now so I'm glad he got back in the dugout.

On Memorial Day we went across the bay to dig for steamer clams with our friends Randy and Marilyn. We weren't finding many steamers so we switched to harvesting mussels. The boys enjoyed exploring the beach at low tide the most. Maya enjoyed the boat ride the most.

I decided to take the boys to Ninilchik to dig for razor clams. Razor clams can get up to 6-8 inches long. They are harder to dig for because they tunnel away from you. The hardest part is not breaking their shells when you dig. I was going to do a whole blog on Razor Clams, 101.

Wednesday morning we woke up to 45 degrees and blowing. It was so cold when we got to the beach, we didn't even want to get out of the car. I put rain gear on the kids in the back of the truck and duct taped the bottom of their rain pants to their rubber boots. I sent Riley and Chris down to start digging while I got Maya geared up. By the time I got down to the beach with Maya, Chris was cold and wanting to leave. I drove 45 miles to dig for razor clams and wasn't going to give up that easily. I was determined to spend at least as much time digging as I had spent gearing up.

So I sent Chris and Maya back to the truck to get warm while Riley and I kept digging. The only reason Riley was still digging was because he was expecting his best friend Bradley to show up with his family. We never did see Bradley. Ninilchik is a huge beach and they were at the other end. After an hour Chris came down to the beach yelling at me to leave. We took our meager bucket of 12-18 clams and headed back to the truck.

On the way off the beach I was driving on soft gravel and got stuck. A kindly older gentleman came up and told me I needed to stop spinning my wheels and ask someone with 4 wheel drive and a tow rope to pull me out. It was early and most people were still digging for clams. So I headed for the only house on the beach. I asked a young woman in the yard if she had a tow rope and a 4 wheel drive. She asked me where I was stuck and said she would start looking for a tow rope. When she and her friends arrived she said her dad told her she couldn't bring his truck down to the gravel. I was obviously stuck in a bad place. She offered to help push me out. I was studying Matt's truck manual trying to figure out how to get it into 4 wheel drive. I finally heard the mechanism engage and was able to drive out without much pushing. The girl told me the key to getting off the beach was to stay in someone else's tracks.

After recovering from the sting and humiliation of a "failed" clamming trip I realized that I had learned a lot that morning. First, I learned that clamming is not much fun for kids unless it is done with a fun group of people, including someone to entertain the little ones. Second, it's not much fun clamming in bad weather. Third, I learned that it's okay to make mistakes.

At the time I was beating myself up. What made me think I could take the kids clamming by myself? I had done it once before and it was no fun. I thought it would be different this time because I was expecting to meet up with this other family. Next time I will arrange to follow them instead of meeting them there.

I was beating myself up for thinking I was a hardy Alaskan. Living in Alaska for 10 years does not make you "bush" worthy. Sitting in the truck with the manual open made me realize that I am still a Yuppie Liberal from Northern California. I thought about the beautiful young woman that helped me out. She looked like she was born and bred in Alaska, directly descended from the Vikings, comfortable around water and boats, salt water in her veins. I thought about people who grow up in certain environments. They have learned the ins and outs of living in their unique environment, from watching their family and friends, and doing it over and over.

I wondered what I was good at. I did not grow up around the water or in the woods. I couldn't survive in the wild for more than 3 days. As soon as I lost my contact lenses I'd be a goner. What did growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area uniquely qualify me to be good at besides parallel parking and eating Ethnic foods?

It wasn't until the end of the day that I was able to gain some perspective. I now know that I can read a manual if I am forced. I learned how to put a Toyota Tundra into 4 wheel low. I learned not to drive on soft gravel. I learned it's better to drive on sand in someone else's tracks. I also know how to ask for help.

I am grateful that I live in a place where people are always willing to help a stranger. Even if you don't have the right tools, a kind word and the willingness to help is balm for the bruised ego. I guess the willingness to try a new adventure is not a bad thing either, if you don't get into too much trouble. A wise person said: Wisdom comes from experience. Experience comes from making mistakes. Sometimes failure is a better teacher than success.

Chris' Hot Wheels birthday cake (from Safeway).

Chris' favorite snack is salt and vinegar potato chips. I bought three different brands and had them do a taste test. Kettle was voted #1, Boulder (health food store) was #2, Tim's was #3.

Slacker mom takes low maintenance birthday party to new low with this big cardboard box.

Maya helps hold the bag open while Marilyn digs for steamer clams. The blue buoys in the water are an oyster farm.

Giant sun stars on the beach at low tide.

Randy let Maya drive the boat.

I love the faces barnacles make on rocks and shells. Spaghetti with mussels in red sauce.

Slugger Chris at bat.

This is the robin in it's nest under our deck.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Back to Alaska

We made it home uneventfully. The kids finished school on Wednesday. Baseball season just started. Riley had his first game last night. He pitched a few innings, then played short stop.
The baseball park is the second coldest place in Homer, after the spit. Parents watch the games in down jackets and sometimes wrapped in down sleeping bags. Chris started out on a Tball team because he wants to be the best player on the team. We could understand this since he is always trying to keep up with his big brother. But he admitted to feeling somewhat bored and after Matt helped out at one of the practices, we've decided it's a safety issue at this point. He can hit the ball so hard and most kids in Tball are still picking dandelions in the field rather than keeping their eyes on the ball. We are having him moved up to coach pitch.

This picture of Maya in front of a gardenia bush was taken on our second to last day in Arizona.

We discovered this complimentary chocolate fountain with make your fruit kabobs at a Mexican restaurant in Phoenix called Aunt Chilada.

On the drive home from Anchorage to Homer we decided to stop at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. Most of the animals here were injured or orphaned in the wild. It was way better than any zoo we've ever seen. All the animals come right up to the fence. We could have reached out and petted some of them. It was way cool. There were lots of new baby buffalo, elk and musk ox running around.

Many of the animals were shedding their winter coat, like this musk ox.

Even the Grizzly bears come right up to the fence.

This caribou still has velvet on his antlers. So do the moose and elk.

This black bear wants more baby carrots.
Chris turned 7 yesterday. We are having a birtday party on Saturday. Last night we had the family dinner party last night between baseball games. He wanted a cake in the shape of a "stick". I didn't know how to make that work so I line these cupcakes up and told him it was a "snake" cake.

Our neighbor's horse delivered her foal this morning. Here she is only 2 hours old!

Friday, May 15, 2009

Family and Friend Reunion

Yesterday, we drove from Flagstaff back to Phoenix. Sarah came by the hotel to say goodbye on her way to Las Vegas. She is meeting about 5 or 6 of her friends from high school there, for a second graduation party.

We went back to my uncle's house for a mini-family reunion. My aunt Beverly came out from Massachusettes. My cousin Gary came over after work for a barbecue. It was fun to catch up with everyone.

Then we checked into our hotel at the Hilton Squaw Peak Resort. I booked us here for two nights as a treat because they have 3 swimming pools, a lazy river, waterfall and miniature golf.
Eric Novack, Matt's friend and roommate from medical school came over. He is an orthopedic surgeon here in Phoenix. After meeting the family, Eric and Matt went out for a beer to catch up.
I had to get a picture of the kids in front of a saguaro cactus. I love saguaros. They can get really tall with lots of appendages. This one has buds on top but the flowers haven't bloomed yet. The holes are made by woodpeckers. Cactus wren make nests in them. It's fun to watch the birds flying in and out. I never get tired of looking at saguaros because no two are alike.

Family photo, including Colleen, the Golden Retriever.

Uncle Richard, Aunt Bev, Auntie Marie, my Mom. Doesn't Aunti Marie look like Queen Elizabeth? She says she shrunk so now she's only 4'9". Her feet are smaller than Riley's.

Dr. Eric Novack is a kid magnet.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Grand Canyon

Today we visited the Grand Canyon. The kids and Matt took the train from Williams to the Grand Canyon and back. Sarah and I drove and met them there. We hiked a short way down about a mile and back. Maya fell asleep in the baby carrier. She wanted to be well rested for the train ride home apparently.

Before they boarded the train in Williams, there was a staged hold up. Maya didn't seem to mind that too much. But on the way back when the bad guys boarded the train, she was not happy at all. And the arrival of the sheriff did not make her feel any better. She covered her ears and told him to go away. It was interesting that when she got scared, she clung to Chris for protection.

We all met back in Flagstaff for Sushi at Karma. It was delicious. The boys each had their own sushi platter. Maya had yakisoba noodles with shrimp. The adults shared several different sushi rolls. For dessert I ordered bananas fried in tempura batter with vanilla ice cream, and coconut sorbet. Chris took home the coconut half shell that the sorbet was served in. He thought it would come in handy for catching bugs and things.

The train depot in Williams. Maya called the horses moose.

Wise kids at The Grand Canyon

Sarah, Chris and Riley

Maya is squinting in every picture.

Maya fell asleep on the hike.

Boarding the train at the Grand Canyon to return to Williams.

Noodles and sushi at Karma

The boys preparing to eat octopus.

Look at these gorgeous desserts! Maya is making funny faces for the camera.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Pho in Flagstaff!

Not much to report today. We spent most of the day playing basketball and swimming in the hotel pool. There is a park like area at the Residence Inn by Marriott here that has a hillside where groundhogs burrow. Maya loves watching the groundhogs. She calls them "dwoing-dwoings". (Make the sound of a spring, substitute a d for the b). Riley caught a garter snake today. We don't have snakes in Alaska so that was a treat for the boys.

It's been really fun having my mom on this trip. She keeps the kids entertained so Matt and I can actually enjoy ourselves from time to time. I'm learning a lot about my mom that I never knew before. For example, she is a very competitive basketball player. She even stole the ball from Chris, her own team mate, when Riley and I were catching up, even though they were 6 points ahead of us! Now I know why her favorite "cuss" word is "shoot!".

We found the only Vietnamese restaurant in Flagstaff! Get your pho on Route 66!

Maya pouts because she doesn't have her own "ice skates".

Grandma takes Maya for a spin in Chris' in line skates.

Our favorite duck at the duck pond across from the public golf course. Riley calls him "Anaheim"

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Mother's Day at Sedona

We had a wonderful day. Maya came back from breakfast with a yellow rose for me. I could hear her practicing all the way up the stairs "Happy Mudder's Day!"

Then we drove down the Oak Creek Canyon road to Sedona. It was a beautiful drive. We stopped at a nice little deli for sandwiches, chips and drinks.

Then we hiked down to the river.

There were several swimming holes. The day was hot and the water was cold.
The boys spent most of the day trying to catch fish and frogs.

The boys weren't too sure about the cold water at first but they worked up the nerve to take the plunge.

I made Riley scoot down and jump from the lowest ledge at the front of this rock.

We stopped at Cold Mountain on the way home for some ice cream.

Then we had another fabulous dinner at the restaurant where Sarah works, called Mountain Oasis. This time she got to sit and enjoy dinner with us! What a perfect day.

Sarah's Graduation Party

The accuweather gadget I put on the blog is rather misleading. While you all think we are suffering from heat stroke, we are actually not in Phoenix. The weather here in Flagstaff is much more pleasant. It's been in the 75-82 degree range with a warm breeze. Instead of cactuses (cacti?) everywhere, it's pine forests, aspen, birch and oak trees around us. The ground is quite dry and the mountains around us are reddish brown.

Friday night we went to Sarah's house for a dinner. She made us a fabulous lasagne with plenty of meat, cheese and vegetables, salad with mixed greens, strawberries and candied walnuts, garlic bread and red wine.

Saturday we had a big barbecue with Sarah's friends and their families. Her boyfriend Ryan's parents and sister came up from Scottsdale. Ryan's brother and his girlfriend and her family came over. Sarah's landlord and his wife came over. Ryan was the grill master and cooked steaks and chicken for us all afternoon.

Then we went to the park where the boys broke in their new in line skates. There was a big basketball game and Ryan and his brother Andy showed our boys how to slam dunk and hang from the hoop. Of course, it helps to be over 6 feet tall.

Next post: Mother's day in Sedona!

Sarah's and her best friend E.J.

Maya took a shine to Ryan.

Sarah and Andy's girlfriend, Katie

The boys had a great time climbing on the rocks behind Sarah's house.

So did Grandma, Maya and I.

Riley tries out his new in line skates

Chris loving the miles and miles of paved sidewalks that we do not have in Homer.

Maya walks a dog her own size: a long haired dachshund named Schnaps McLovin' Wiener

Maya plays at the park.

The big basketball game.