Monday, July 20, 2009

Sarah's back! (And so is the rain!)

I jinxed myself by posting that blog about the warm weather. It's been raining for 3 days. Tonight there's a heavy fog all around us. I blame myself. I was planning to take the kids camping this week. Sarah says it's her fault because she is home for 3 weeks. Of course, we all know it's probably Matt's fault. He's taking a few days off this week to go fishing.

Never the less, we will try to enjoy our time with Sarah and adjust our activities accordingly. Last week, Chris and Riley went fishing with Matt. They caught a 2 pound trout called a Dolly Varden and a 30 pound halibut. When Matt cut open the halibut's stomach,he found 19 crabs and one candle fish! He's hoping to catch a king salmon this week.

The kids are enjoying soccer. We have a fantastic soccer coach. He carries the little ones around for a while if he sees them clinging to their mother. Then he puts them so they can kick the ball. By the end of the hour, every 3 year old has a foot on a ball. He has them divided into four different groups led by 4 different youths. They rotate through each station so they don't have time to get bored. One of the stations is playing with a giant soccer ball!

Friday night I drove to Anchorage to pick Sarah up. The boys didn't want to go so it was just Maya and me. She was a great traveler. We went to Costco on Saturday morning to load up on supplies. She saw a Disney Princess song book with a pretend Ipod. I put it in the cart dreading the four hour ride home. Once it fell on the floor she forgot about it for a while, thereby sparing my sanity. She enjoyed watching her Tinkerbell movie and Curious George DVD based on the PBS television show, things she doesn't get to watch when the boys are in the car.

Our social worker's daughter, Mara, who is adopted from China, is raising money to go to NY for a Montessori Model United Nations conference. We sent a donation and she sent us a Flat Stanley. Flat Stanley is featured in some of the photos below.

Chris' 2 pound Dolly Varden

Riley's holding a 30 p0und halibut

Maya' new Disney Princess song book with toy Ipod.

Curious kitty looks for Maya behind the book.

Pretend Ipod also doubles as a cell phone!

Driving home with Sarah.

Sarah sweeps the floor upon arrival.

Hulk Smash Hands say: "Don't make me angry! You won't like me when I'm angry!"

Princess Maya

Sarah meets Flat Stanley.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Global Warming Finally Reaches Alaska?

Well it seems as if global warming has finally hit Alaska. We've had more nice days in July than we had all last summer. I am knocking on wood as I type this, knowing it could all come to an end very soon. The year I moved here, 1999, it rained every day in August. I never got out of my wool sweaters and cordoroy pants that summer.

I was hoping to do nothing but yard work in July. Alana is amazed that I can be happy pulling dandelions for hours. She chalked it up to "a Zen thing". But the boys have decided to play soccer. This is the first time in about 5 years Riley has shown an interest in soccer. I owe it all to Bradley. Chris has decided to play soccer, too. Which means I'll be at the middle school from 1 to 5pm on Tuesdays and Thursdays. My mom thought Maya should play soccer, too. She offered to take Maya so I wouldn't have to start my soccer days at 11am. Of course, I'll have to take her today so I can get her registered. This is going to seriously cut into my gardening and yard work time (which is actually a front for sitting around in the sun not doing very much). I don't know if I can remain sane if I'm totally lackin' in the slackin'.

Here are some pictures from the past week of gloriously unstructured time when we crashed one swimming party after another. First, Alana invited me to Conrad and Gabi's to swim in their pond. They are from Switzerland. Conrad built that house with all natural materials. The rain gutters are hollowed out logs, held up with forked branches. There is not a single weed in Gabi's garden. This is a huge accomplishment when you live in the Banana Belt of Alaska. Then our friend Valda who lives nearby joined us for refreshments by the pond. Valda is from Latvia. So here we are, a Latvian, a Vietnamese and a Midwesterner are having snacks beside the pond of the Swiss. Who says Alaska is not a melting pot?

Long live the bees!
The air is fragrance with fields of clover.

Having breakfast with Iris at Two Sisters

Briar joins Maya for a snack.

Alana maximizes the sun and her awesome deck railing which doubles as a clothes line.

Swimming with Marina in a pond at Conrad and Gabi's

Kayaking with Marina.

Cruising with Alana.

Conrad and Gabi's beautiful hand built house made of all natural materials.

Riding the lawm mower with big brother Riley.

Maya's favorite mascot, Scoop, gets into the sandbox with her during the last Oiler's game we attended.

Tricycle races on the deck.

Joe's pool party. Check out the white Alaskan boys with their farmer tans.

Then we went to Zach and Weston's house so Maya could slip and slide with boys her own age.

Maya had lots of fun after I pushed her down the slip and slide the first few times.

Weston watches while Maya and Zach slip and slide.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy Independence Day!

Happy 4th of July! I took over 100 pictures today. It wasn't easy to narrow it down to these 15 for the blog. We had an incredible day. For starters, it was sunny. In fact, it got up to 75 degrees this afternoon. That's like 95 in America. Then, our dog treed a black bear in our yard. The kids came in to tell me. I grabbed my camara, locked my dog in the car, then I made the kids stay on the deck while I took pictures. See awesome video below.

This 4th of July was extra special because it's Alaska's 50th anniversary joining the Union. That explains the 50's theme throughout the parade route. Celebrating the 4th in a small town can be a lot of fun. Everywhere you go, you run into friends. Kids can run around because everybody is looking out for them (my mom would correct me and say, No, SHE was looking out for them while I socialized). And you don't have to fight the crowds and traffic.

I've always loved the 4th of July. For me, it's a lot more fun and less stressful than the other holidays. You don't have to slave over a turkey and 6 side dishes all day long. You don't have to worry about giving or receiving gifts. I love everything about the fourth of July: barbecues, parades, watermelon and apple pie. The only thing I miss about the 4th of July in Alaska is fireworks. It doesn't get dark here until about midnight. So we have to save our fireworks for New Year's Eve.

In the car on our way to the carnival.

Tiger Wise loves the golfing game.

Riley and Bradley, a Bromance.

Chris dunked two big kids in the dunking booth. Then he decided to try getting in.

Unfortunately, Landon was next in line. He was on Riley's baseball team.

Chris has no idea how cold the water is!

Now he does!

Here's my favorite part: looking for coins in the sawdust pile!

Lining up for the parade: Lucille Ball.

Lots of cute doggies in the parade.

Bradley, Riley and Brenden rode in the pack of a truck in the parade with 8th graders raising money for their trip to Washington D.C.
Mary, Alana and I march in support of PFLAG.

A whole gang of Rosie the Riveters

Maya rides in a boat with friends of PFLAG waving at all her fans.

Here's the little black bear in our yard:

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Various and Sundry

I know it sounds like I'm avoiding responsibility, but I haven't done a "daily life" blog for a while. Sometimes it's fun to capture the little moments, not just the main events. I could call it an update on Maya.

So what's new with Maya? We've been potty training, slacker mom style. That means she mostly runs around naked all day. It's much easier to potty train when you don't have to take off so much clothing. All winter I fought with her to keep her socks on, keep her shoes on, keep her clothes on. We've been having such nice weather lately that I threw my hands up and said, "what the heck?" If you can't run around naked all day when you're three and it's a nice day, when will you ever be able to be this free again? I resisted potty training her before because she had a bladder the size of a pea. I would put her on the potty and she would pee again in 15 minutes. My mom will vouch for me. So I decided to wait until summer when I could leave a diaper off her. Well, it seems that in the meantime she has developed more bladder capacity and can actually go 1-2 hours now without wetting herself. So the potty training is coming along marvellously with very little effort.

Maya is also talking very well. She uses whole sentences on a regular basis. Occasionally I have trouble understanding what she is asking me so I turn to Chris and say: "translation?". It's hard to believe that a year ago she barely babbled and we didn't understand a word she said. But somehow she was always able to communicate with us. The facial expressions convey a thousand words. There's the pouty lip, the evil eye, the sly smile and of course, the outbursts of joy. Now she has words to express her feelings as well. She frequently tells us: "I happy now!" Her repertoire includes: I mad, I sad, I hungy, I tide.

I've been going through stuff to give away to the hockey garage sale coming up. I told myself I wouldn't give away any stuffed animals that had names. All of a sudden, Maya starts naming her stuffed animals. She has a dog that came in a carrier with a leash, a comb, the whole pampered pooch package. Maya named her Brigit. There is a fox that came with a baby fox. I sent Maya the baby fox when she was still in the orphanage with the intention of bringing the adult fox with us when we picked her up. Of course, there was no evidence of anything that we sent at the orphanage, not even our photos. So I had no attachment to this fox. If anything, it represented for me the unfairness of the orphanage system. But Maya pulled him out of the box and said, "his name Papa".

Sunday I went to our local drug and hardware store to get a watch battery for Matt. While we were looking for a match for the battery, Maya found a cute little box for storing CDs. It is green with cute little bugs all over it. She brought it to me and said "Happy Birthday to my Mommy!". I told her we had to put it back but she insisted on carrying it around the store whining plaintively "it Happy Birthday to my Mommy!" Of course I bought the box knowing it was not really a birthday present for me. I filled it with little books and tiny toys we had around the house for her to "treasure". Everybody needs a treasure box, right?

Her latest thing is carrying the kitty around. She holds her in the classic young child manner, around the middle with the rest of the cat pouring down over her arms. Lilly goes limp and just lets Maya carry her around like that. She is normally a very feisty cat and will bite and scratch adults when they play with her. But she never bares a tooth or claw when Maya picks her up and carries her around.

Our dog is very patient as well. Trevor is half Golden Retriever, half Malamute. So picture an extra large, very blond Golden Retriever with twice as much fur. Especially around the rear end. His rear end gets matted and picks up all kinds of twigs and branches (we affectionately refer to this condition as stick butt). So Tuesday he spent the day at the doggie beauty parlor getting a bath and a haircut. I did not shave him but had his fur trimmed way back and thinned out for the summer. He looks fabulous! So what does this have anything to do with Maya? Nothing. But Maya is fond of walking around with a leash hooked to the back of her shirt, hoping someone will take her for a walk.

Finally, the boys. The boys are doing an amazing job of getting through the summer without a TV. It's not that brutal. They still get to watch a movie on the computer almost every night. More importantly, they haven't had Wii or very much in the way of video games. They spend part of their time playing hockey downstairs, using goalie pads they made themselves out of cardboard. The rest of the time they are outside playing baseball, football or soccer. They have a favorite spot in the woods where they hang out doing who knows what. They call it "town". They also make characters out of tinker toys and give them funny names. We have a lot of playdates. The other day our neighbor let them ride the horses bareback. That was the highlight of their day.

Our last but not least favorite thing to do around here is watching for wild life. A couple of days ago, Alana spotted a black bear while they were driving to our house. We don't see black bears very often because she have a fence around our yard, so I think the bear goes around our property. But everyone around us sees bears. The downfall of the fence is that sometimes mama moose and baby moose end up on opposite sides of the fence, putting everyone into a panic. A couple of years ago, my father was visiting us when this happened. He is a farmer at heart and insisted that we call Fish and Game after they had been separated for a whole day. "That baby has not nursed for 12 hours!" my father pleaded. Someone from fish and game showed up but it was not easy to remedy the situation. The mother became agitated if we came too close to the baby, and she would not get far enough from the baby for us to "herd" them towards the gate. Finally Matt had to break down and cut a hole in the chain link fence.

This week, a mother pheasant and her chicks came into our yard. They walked the entire perimeter of our fence and at one point the chicks ended up on the outside while the mother remained inside. Fortunately, the pheasants were reunited more quickly and easily than the moose.

Update on baby robins. We started with 4 eggs. One egg disappeared. 3 chicks hatched. The next day all three chicks were gone and the nest was abandoned. I am afraid the chicks were victims of nature's ruthless food chain. Unless robins are known for relocating with newly hatched baby chicks? The mother frequently left the nest, I assumed in search of food. My sister in law, Kathleen, asked where the male was, why was the mother always leaving the nest unattended? I never saw a male hanging out with her. I am afraid she was a single parent which left the family vulnerable. Many species of animals raise their young as single parents, the father disappearing soon after the mating ritual. As a nurse, I did just fine as a single parent before I married Matt. But nature is more harsh, I guess. Still, you can see the literary symbolism in that story.

There are a lot of words I could use to describe Maya: feisty, energetic, stubborn. Those are all good traits that helped her survive being a 2 pound premie and rule the orphanage. But the quality for which I am most grateful is that she is extremely forgiving. While the first set of qualities make her tough, the last quality keeps her tender. She bounces back quickly after scoldings from impatient brothers, tired grouchy parents and exasperated grandmas. For me, she embodies the spirit of the Vietnamese people. Resourceful, resilient, and very, very forgiving. They do not seem to harbor resentment towards any one, not even the superpowers that oppressed them for thousands of years, not the Chinese, not the French, not the Americans.

"Mom! Take picture of Maya!"

Singing. Note the elbow pads, knee pads and ballet dress.

Making characters out of tinker toys.

Pheasant with chicks (she had six total).

Patient kitty.

Chris in cardboard goalie gear.

Trevor looking gorgeous after his day at the beauty parlor (Lilly says: you smell funny!)

Maya has a fetish for sticker tattoos and bandaids.

The treasure box.