Sunday, March 29, 2015

Science Olympiad

Having a son excell in Science has been quite an eye opener for our family.  I enjoy science, did well in biology. Love all things medical.  David is a respiratory therapist, so I guess he comes by his analytical  mind naturally.  But he far surpasses his parents in his capabilities and understanding of things.

At his middle school, Zach was put into a class called Science Olympiad.  Sounded cool... But it turns out that it's a national organization that has compititions all over the country.  Kids can win scholarships at Nationals to universities.  We encouraged him to join the club that would meet after school in addition to his class. He was a little reluctant at first.

The State Competion was this last weekend at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Schools from around the state competed (it was mostly teams from Anchorage and Wasilla.  But there was a team from Barrow (about as far north as you can get in Alaska, and one from Homer, which is further south than us.  Teams from Wasilla tended to dominate.  Their schools sent multiple teams.  Zach's schools sent one fairly small team.  

Zach participated in 2 events.  One that was called RoboCross where he had to build a Lego robot to use in an obstacle course, and the other was BioLab, where he and a partner had to solve lab 50 questions having 3 minutes for each question.  He was only told about the biology event a few days before.  He did not place in that one, we are still waiting for results to be updated online.  But the Lego Robot one he came 2 points shy of 3rd place.  They were at a slight disadvantage because they were the only team to have their controllers tethered to the machine.  So wires could have gotten in the way.  (Luckily they didn't).  

The points for each event are then counted to see how the school team faired.  Zach's school, Hanshew came in 3rd place!! Very exciting! He does not get to go off to Nationals in Nebraska however. (I didn't even realize it was an option until the awards ceremony!) 

What we realized when we were there is that for the amount of schools in Anchorage, we really only had a handful of schools represented... And NO high Schools... Including South Anchorage HS where Zach will be attending next year.  Zach wants to partipcate again ... So David and I will be talking with the school to see how to set up a team at his school! 


I'm severely behind in adding things to this! Practically a month! Oops! 

We had a blast going to the Ceremonial start of the Iditarod.  We parked downtown and began walking to the event.  Very quickly, the streets were lined with trucks, dogs, sleds, dog handlers, lots of spectators and racers getting things ready to go.  There were over 70 racers this year... With more than 12 dogs each... That makes for crowded loud streets. It was all very exciting! 

Due to a rather warm winter, the race officially started 2 days later in Fairbanks.  We were about 200 ft down from the starting line, right by a camera boom.  They had to ship in snow to line the streets for the sleds. I had thought that all the racers would start all at the same time... But they have them draw their starting positions the night before at a dinner.  They go one at a time, with 2 minutes in between each one.  It makes for a slow start. 

Most of the racers all have an "Iditerider" in the sled instead of their gear. Usually a major sponsor, political leader or head of the Iditerod Planning Committee.  The minute those dogs are connected to their harnesses they are ready to run, and so happy to be doing it.  The handlers have to help hold them back before they are allowed to go.  They all ran with their tails wagging and their tongues dangling out of their snout.  I'd swear they were smiling! 

One of Elliot's friends' uncle is John Baker, one of the racers.  He won in 2011. We were able to meet him before the race, but we didn't see him start (he was #78 or something like that) because David got called out for work.  But I think seeing the first 20 or so gave us a good idea of what it was like.

The race is 1049 miles long. They have checkpoints along the way.  They are mandated to take one 8 hour break, and one 24 hour break during the entire race.  Vets are stationed at each checkpoint to look over the dogs, help keep them healthy.  Other than that, they keep racing.  It's not uncommon for the racer to fall asleep standing on the sled.  

During the race, due to a major solar flare, the Northern Lights were very intense.  I can't imagine how spectacular the views were! 

The race ended in just over 8 days.  John Baker did not win. (I think he was in 22nd)... And at the moment I can't remember which of the Seavey's won (there were 2, father and son. They came in 1st and 2nd).  Christian Turner, from Australia came in 15th.  Quite impressive! I know full well, I wouldn't handle that long of a race. Frostbite and I are not good friends.  But I would love to ride on a sled for a short sprint.  I think it would be amazing!! 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Potters Marsh

Just south of town is a wildlife area called Potter's Marsh.  They have built a boardwalk around the area so you can actually walk around and see what a marsh really is without disrupting the wildlife ... and getting soggy and cold along the way.  I can't say I'd ever been to a marsh before.  But it was very interesting, and as spring comes, I anticipate a lot more interest  in what happens there.

My Dad visited Alaska last summer and I remember him showing us pictures of Potters Marsh in August... with lots of dead salmon.  I remember thinking it must have been smelly.  The day I was there, was a crisp, breezy day, but not overly cold.  I had a sweater on and along as I didn't sit too long in one spot, I was ok.

On west side of the highway, you have the marsh, other the other side, you have The Turnagain Arm section of  Cook Inlet... so Ocean. And through out the marsh there are all types of nests, and lots of soggy shrubs, and streams.  This is a major spawning site for the Salmon in just a few months, so I'm guessing there will be lots of different types of wildlife here very soon. Which is why my dad came across lots of dead fishies. I figure we will see lots of bears here getting their fill of salmon. It is quite the little ecosystem there.  I have not brought my kids there, yet, but I imagine my budding scientists and animal lovers will really enjoy seeing life happen before their eyes.
I found this birdhouse really cute on its leaning post.

Storm over the Chugach Mountains, and Kenai Peninsula.  Potters March and Boardwalk in the foreground.

Babbling brook in Potters Marsh.  The Ice is beginning to melt. 

Fur Rondy

According to Wikipedia  "The Fur Rendezvous Festival (usually called Fur RendezvousFur Rondy, or simply Rondy) is an annual winter festival held in Anchorage, Alaska in late February. The self-styled "largest winter festival in North America", Fur Rendezvous is highly anticipated by many Anchorage-area residents as marking the beginning of the end of a long winter and the approach of spring. In 2012, Fur Rendezvous was selected as the number one winter carnival in the world by the National Geographic Traveler"

Until I moved to Vermont in 1990, I had NO IDEA what a winter carnival was.  My high school always had one.  Each class built snow sculptures according to our theme that year. Winter Sports were played, skits were made up, a dance was held and each class (by year) competed to see who had the most spirt. 

So not having anything else to compare it to, that is what I think of with Fur Rondy.  They have all sorts of events... only Alaskan style, complete with dog sled races (usually) gearing up for the Iditarod that starts this coming weekend (March 7 10:00 am AKST).

We went to check out a few things last weekend.  They have a carnival where you can ride rides (We didn't... yet... but riding carnival rides when its cold outside is kinda a weird thought. I associate such activities with warmer weather.

We walked around where 20 groups were building their snow sculptures. For the most part, they were big 8x8 blocks of snow.  They were starting to take shape.  Some of which we knew what they'd be (The Stay-puffed Marshmallow Man, for example).  I didn't take any pictures yet.  I will when we go back. Because of the lack of snow, they actually had to haul in the snow for some of the events.  Come on Mother Nature... this is ALASKA!!  

You can, for a fee ride, on a sled dog sled. We are pretty much just hitting up the free stuff this year (getting settled is expensive!) But we did get to see them run, and cuddle an Alaskan Husky Puppy, who was just so snuggly, and warm and sleepy that she just just cuddled up in Cannon's arms and fell asleep.  We all sort of melted, she was so adorable.  The adult dogs, were SO excited to be hooked up to the sled and running in a circle.  They really love the activity, exercise, cold and fun of it all.  

This next weekend there are more events... the most exciting for us is the ceremonial Start of the Iditarod.  Because we have had such a warm winter, Alaska simply doesn't have enough snow on the ground. So to coincide with tradition, they will start the race this Saturday morning, but then actually pack up, head to Fairbanks and restart there.  Then they will be on their way to Nome, AK.  We will be at the ceremonial start this Saturday.  I'm SO excited.  We even have a guy that we are cheering for... so you can cheer for him too... His name is John Baker.  David has spoken with him and he is a cool guy!!  So he is our pick this year!! 

Modern Sled

Cannon and the cutest puppy

Elliot on a "broken" traditional sled

Musher David


February has been pretty crazy--- crazy enough that I forgot about my little blog! Oopsie! I need to go out and take pictures of things here. Add that to my TODO list, please!

Really, we are just working on getting settled. Life is pretty much the same on a day to day basis if you don't stop and appreciate what's going on around you. We've kinda gotten caught up in the routine. 

I've been asked by several people about the daylight situation. The sun is up by about 8 am and down by 6pm or so. I haven't needed my happy light for weeks. 

Our landlords really seem to be pretty great. They've gone through our move in check list and addressed everything on it-- even down to figuring out a funky smell coming from our drain. It's so nice to not have that smell anymore. It was pretty rank! We also got a new dishwasher after the one here started leaking.  They are very quick to respond to questions. 

The boys are doing well in school. Zach was recently given an award for Academic Excellence. All of his teachers want him to take Honors classes next year in High School (EEEK!) He is making some good friends!  Cannon and Elliot are doing really well in their classes as well. Cannon's teacher is excellent--- (Her name is Ms Cannon!!) He really needed someone who would appreciate his sweetness and gentleness. He is one of the top kids, is always the positive kid cheering everyone up! I love that he is happy there. It is still a struggling to get him reading-- thanks to Parent Teacher Conferences, I found out he has had a weekly reading report to turn in-- that he hasn't been doing! Can't say I'm too surprised that that was "forgotten". Elliot is doing well in school too. He is on grade level with everything. He has a friend that lives on our street. 

We finally got a home phone set up so the boys can contact us if we are out. But the boys have mainly used it to contact old friends. They've had a blast reconnecting with buddies. They've had giant grins on their faces because of it! We still have a couple whose numbers have changed. Luckily Facebook helps keep lines open as well. 

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Widdymac Enterprises

A few weeks after we got here, my mother -in- law asked me if I would want to be her assistant.  She's a realtor and has many tasks on several committees and programs in the state to help with real estate law and regulations. She also teaches real estate continuing education classes. When she's not showing houses, she is always quite busy with some meeting, and is very knowledgable and has a TON going on.  To keep things easier, she asked that I get a business license (and pay my own taxes). She drew up a contract and she started throwing things at me to help her with. 

So that's how Widdymac Enterprises was born and I have a license to do business in the state of Alaska.  Mainly I handle many office tasks that she just doesn't have time to do.  I help her stay organized with filing, databases,  assist in classes, help publish her quarterly newsletter, mailings, etc I'm also working on her social media presence and will be working on her websites as well. Its not a ton of hours, but I'm picking things up, LEARNING a bunch about Real Estate (something I knew nothing about).  But its pretty perfect because I can set my own hours, work when I want (with some deadlines).  She has appreciated that I've come up with ideas and been trying to think of new things she can do get the marketing side of her business going a bit stronger.  Some ideas have not worked, but she sees that I'm investing my own time trying to solve problems she is facing.  Somethings work, some don't and its ok.  

I can pick up more business from others if wanted and I could decide later that I want to get a Real Estate Licence - whether to sell or just to help in other tasks that I can't do without being licensed.  

I may stick with it forever, or I may not.  Its all still new and exciting and possibilities seem pretty endless right now.  

Moving On

At this point in my life, I'm kinda tired of packing... and moving.  But it happened again this last weekend.  We started looking for our own place to live a couple weeks ago.  Its an exciting but stressful process.  Our application was accepted and we got the keys last Friday night.  We had some things ready to go, but because of plans for the rest of the weekend we weren't able to spend our first night here until Sunday.  

Remember we got rid of pretty much everything - and what we didn't get rid of (mostly sentimental stuff) is still in storage in Utah.  Grandma and Grandpa bought the kids beds before we got here, and David and I are sleeping on a spare queen mattress until we have money to buy one we want. It is ULTRA firm - which is not our style of comfort.  Its slightly better than sleeping on a rock, though, so we are grateful.  We bought a dining table and chairs (that need some love), an older TV, armoire and king sized bed frame from David's boss.  We got some hand-me-down dishes and kitchen things from Grandma and Grandpa too.  Now the fun begins of getting things organized and things unpacked.

Its pretty expensive to rebuild the household supplies.  But its kinda been fun to think about my style for this place and such.  No fun purchases yet really.  For some weird reason I really look forward to having a gorgeous bathroom.  (maybe its because I love to take a long hot bath) But right now, i can't fathom spending $25 x 2 bathrooms for cool curtains and more for fun soap dispensers and pretty, fluffy towels.  So, I have boring white curtains.... for now.

We are waiting for one more W2 so we can file taxes and then hopefully, we will get a couch to sit on with our refund!!  (and a comfy soft, fluffy, sinkable bed).

There are a billion reasons why as adults, you don't want to live with parents again, and a billion more why parents don't want their adult kids to live with them again.  Don't get me wrong... our relationship is still really good, and we all still love each other... but space is good!! Even if its only a 1.5 miles. We are so grateful for all the help we've received from all of our family in this transition. And it is SO nice to have our own house, with our own rules and way of doing things.  

I realized the other day, that I am truly happy.  I'm really happy to be in Alaska... of all places. I never thought that would happen, let alone that I would want it!  I'm happy with my kids, their schools, they choices they make and who they are.  Im happy with me and my little job (I'll update that in a min). and feeling productive that I'm making a difference and using my brain for more than dinner plans. I'm happy with my relationship with my husband.  There have been plenty of hard times when i didn't think he and I would make it... but here we are still happy, still like each other a bit!  I haven't felt happy with everything like this in a long time.  Its like we have been going through the motions of life, getting through one day to the next, trying not to drown.  David and I both feel very free and at peace here, and like our lives have possibilities here.  Its exciting! 

Monday, January 19, 2015

Cross your fingers

We put in an application for a townhouse about a mile from where we are staying today.  Trying to find affordable housing has been really difficult.  Many of you have wondered what prices are like here, so I'm here to share...

In Chandler, AZ, we had a 1300 sq ft townhouse, 3 bdrm, 2 1/2 bathroom, 2 car garage place that we paid $1000 for rent.  Now that was a few years ago now, so with inflation maybe they are charging $1200.  When we moved to West Jordan, we had a 900+ sq ft apartment, 3 bdrm, 2 bath. We paid $960 per month.

Finding anything closer to those prices here in Anchorage, puts us in some pretty dodgy neighborhoods.... Once place was down right scary!! After seeing that one we decided to pay a couple hundred extra for safety!! We found an adorable, but tiny apartment a block away (keeping kids in same schools) for $1500 and that INCLUDED utilities.  We jumped at it, but the owner, a cute older lady who lives there too, needed to back out before anything was signed because of a family emergency.  Hrumph!

So the application we put in for today is for townhouse with 1400 sq ft, 2 car garage, 3 bedroom 2 bathroom place. Its about a mile or so away from where we are right now. Its $1595 per month NOT including utilities!  YIKES!!! The master bedroom/bathroom is down stairs by the garage, and the rest of the house was upstairs.  I'm kinda liking the idea of a nice separation from our bedroom and the kids's rooms... or even the living room.  Maybe I can really  make our bedroom a sanctuary from the craziness that comes with 3 boys.  1400 sq ft is massive for us.  And with growing boys that sounds awesome!  I imagine it being a place where we can stay for a couple years until we are finally in the position to buy a house.

I'm not positive if the kids (at least the younger 2) will be in the same school.  I'm not stressing about it at this point.  I figure I can cross that bridge once we know if we got it or not, and possibly get an exception at least for the rest of the school year.  We should know in a couple days... and we could move in this weekend!! YAY!!

Now, before we moved, we pretty much got rid of EVERYTHING.  And we have not brought what we kept up from storage, yet (SOON!!)  We have no furniture, no kitchen things (except my Bosch Mixer).  We are starting from scratch!  Its kinda exciting, until I think about the cost involved.  Grandpa and Grandma bought the boys beds before we arrived, so they have that.  David and I have been using a queen bed that we can bring with us too (but will be replaced soon because its not super comfy to us)  Grandma is purging her kitchen and giving us duplicates that she may have to help us get started.  David's boss is selling a bedroom set for David and I and dining set, and TV for cheap, so we will probably snag those too.  We bought some pots and pans, a toaster and iron and ironing board today because they were on sale.

Are They Crazy??

One thing we've noticed around here, is that Alaskans are either really brave, tough, rugged people... or they are plain crazy!!

Take, for example, Fat Tire Bicycles.  I had never heard of them before and when I googled them, my results came up with tons of images for them on the beach.  The wider tire is great for riding your bike through the sandy beaches.  That makes PERFECT sense to me.

But Alaskans use it for major transportation around town.  Its not just kids trying to get outside to play. Plenty adults are very serious about it and don't own a car, just their bike to get them where they need to go. You will often see someone riding their fat tire bike, with groceries dangling off the handle bars. The wider tire gives better traction in the snow and ice. You can even buy studded bike tires.  That just cracks me up for some reason.

More power to them, really.  But I really like my heater in my car (even though it really hasn't gotten THAT cold, yet). And I really don't like FRIGID air in my face.  Then, add my klutziness as a factor and I really don't think this would be a safe choice for me.  

I think they are crazy!!

This is something we think is pretty cool.  Maybe its because I know so many "skaters" in Arizona that I appreciate this.  Or maybe its because of my life in Vermont and Utah with all all my skiing and snow boarding friends... but this makes a lot more sense to me.  Its a skate board - minus the wheels, with a ski added to the bottom... a "SnowSkate".  We've seen a few of Zach's friends ride them several weeks ago (when we had fresh snow and no ice).  Who ever came up with this is genius if you ask me!  

Friday, January 9, 2015


Seward is a small fishing town about 3 hours south of Anchorage. It is home to the SeaLife Center and offers many tours that are very busy in the summer.  In the winter, its a sleepy little town. It is on the Kenai Peninsuala, and nestled in Resurrection Bay.

We went down to the SeaLife Research center and really had a great time.  Its not a typical Aquarium, although we kept referring to it as one. They are a field office for marine biology research here.  In the summer they offer a lot more exhibits and interactions. We enjoyed looking at the fish, octopus, starfish, seals and puffins.

A Puffin. Elliot was quite disappointed that there are no penguins here, But  really liked this guy.  Once he got back in the water, he started splashing around and getting us cold and wet. They boys named him Bomber.
This is a cute Momma Giant Octopus. See all that white stuff she is cradling?  That is her eggs. Once she lays eggs, she stops eating in order to protect them. She will soon die once the eggs mature. 
We later enjoyed a nice lunch at a local restaurant called "Chinooks" (which is named after the native word for King Salmon) The meals were large and David and I shared a Country Fried Steak that was THE BEST.  They used tenderized sirloin instead of tenderized round steak so it was very flavorful and tender.

SEA OTTERS! They were enjoying their lunch while we were having ours!

This is a local celebrity... the Giant Chalktopus. He can be found inside Chinooks Restaurant.  

I LOVE the mountains here.  There is something quite majestic and magnificant about them.  I can't figure out what it is.  The mountains in Utah were much higher, and I loved them. But Alaska mountains are just different.  My Dad loaned me his "old" digital camera, one much more advanced than my current abilities.  I've enjoyed toying around with it to take some great pics of the area.

Mt. Alice on the the other side of Resurrection Bay

It was 17 degrees in Seward, with the sun shining.  I loved being able to see the snow whip around in the wind. I was grateful I wasn't up there! 

This is the Sun rising as we arrived in Seward.

This was the sunset about 20 miles south of Anchorage.  Because of the position of the sun, really low on the horizon all day long, the sunsets seem to last forever.  Sorry if its grainy.  I took this one with my phone while in the car.

Thursday, January 8, 2015


Christmas in Alaska is pretty magical. This is the 2nd Christmas Zach, David and I have spent here. (we came in 2003) But this was different since we are no longer visitors. We had a gorgeous real tree this year (usually have fake ones because we are cheap... I mean broke). The smell of the pine really does add to the festive atmosphere. We had fun decorating the tree with Grandpa David and GramAnita. And I think it looked amazing!

Christmas Eve, my kids get to open one present- which is always pajamas. I found some great Star Wars shirts and matched them with sweat pants for Cannon and Elliot, but I had found some great fleese Star Wars pants for Zach. They were a hit, and everything fit well. The kids did really good actually staying in bed that night too!  (Amazing!!) 

Christmas Morning, we brought the kids downstairs together to see the stockings. I love the boys faces, with the excitement, sense of wonder and Christmas tree lights glimmering in their eyes. The big hit was the Lego table/wall Grandpa David made. It was installed, wrapped and waiting to be opened last. 

It's got 9 gray 15x15" Lego base plates to create a wall and 8 green 10x10 base plates for the floor/table area. There's space to hold 3 storage bins to sort all their Legos so there is no reason to have any pieces left out for stepping on! It's pretty awesome! It's actually screwed into the wall for stability and safety. Wrapping it was much harder than anticipated.  GramAnita and I were trying (failing) to make it pretty. Grandpa David ended up just covering it in brown paper and painters tape. 

There isn't a Lego store in Alaska, and building this was an idea that came after we visited the museum, so we were waiting on UPS to get the orders on time. Our last ones came December 23!! (Expected delete very date was December 16!). Just in the knick of time!! We were pretty nervous! I'm so glad it did!! it's been so fun to see what the boys come up with!! I guess I'll save that for a future post!!

David got some Ice Cleats for Christmas... Maybe Santa needs to get me some too!!

The Unwrapping of the new Lego Table/wall


Papa (Sarah's Dad) always wraps presents kinda crazy.  We call it "Papa Wrapping" and my kids look forward to it! 

He sent cash, rolled up, and was dispensed in a can, decorated by his girlfriend, Ruby. 

Slippy strikes again

Several years ago, my darling brother Jeff and his "funny" friends gave me the nickname "Slippy" after I slipped on some ice in Vermont. My falling and hurting myself is a pretty constant thing. I can't begin to count the umber of times I've stubbed/broken toes, stained my ankles, bonked my head. I have bruises that I can't account for because I'm a klutz!!

Christmas afternoon I actually forgot to bring in the sleds we bought for the boys from out in the shed. So after the craze of building, creating, engineering on the Lego table died down, we went out to get the sleds. We'd gotten about 2 inches of fresh snow that morning, which Zach had just shoveled off the back deck. I took one step off the first step and both of my feet came out from under me. My backside slammed down on one step, and my left hand went out behind me to brace my fall. My thumb slammed against the corner of the step. My kids and hubby rushed to my side and asked repeatedly if I was ok. (They're so sweet). Now-- when I get hurt really badly-- I get quiet. It's about the only time I get quiet too. I was SILENT.  I wanted to cry, and swear, but didn't do either (so proud!!) we got the sleds out, and I went inside to get some ice. 

About an hour later, David and I decided I should get my hand checked out. It was sorta swollen. It was starting to bruise in weird ways. If I took ice off of it- it hurt like crazy!! So we went to Providence Medical Center and had X-rays done. Turns out I broke my thumb  (technically the head of the first metacarpal bone). It's a crack- so nothing had to be reset (thank goodness). And I have a splint on my thumb until January 5 when I get to see a specialist. I'm hoping no surgery!! 

With all the back problems I've had in my life- my back is doing really well. My backside has a horrible bruise on it. Don't worry I'm not posting any pictures... And non have been taken! Here is the only "visual" you need--- the bruise takes up about 1/4 of one butt cheek, and is the color of eggplant.  Its an uglier bruise than my thumb. 

Never had a cast before. I was always curious what it was like. After a few days of a splint, I can't say I'm eager for the next few weeks. Showering is a pain not only because I can't get it wet, but having 2 opposable thumbs is something I have taken for granted. I miss my thumb!! Doing my hair is becoming a joke. How do you hold a hair dryer with 4 fingers one the one hand and try to style with your other hand? The doctor gave me a prescription pain medicine--- but I can't get the darn lid off... And never mind the dumb blister packets the medicine is in (inside that "childproof" bottle).  I'm so glad my kids are bigger and can do most things independently. This one handed mom is struggling! 

But my favorite "frustration" is when my kids are getting all bundled up to go sledding and the struggle getting their coats zipped with their gloved hands and want ME to help? Arg!! 

Darn sleds! 

*** Update.  I got an email from the hospital about logging on to see my records. I did and the radiologist said it was NOT broken.  The first thing I did was cut the cast/splint off and then realized how much my thumb kinda liked it.  OUCH!  But the freedom was nice, and showering without plastic bags on my arm was delightful.  I bought a removable thumb brace. It is so nice to be able to wash my hands and take it off at night and sleep much more comfortably. 

When we went to the specialist, he agreed that it was not broken, but understood why the ER doc thought it was broken. He said it was sprained badly and that the brace I bought was perfect and I should wear it for 2-4 weeks.  It is definitely feeling better. It gets sore if I try to use it too much, and my grip is pretty weak, but that will heal in time!  
The cast/split

After I cut the cast off.  The bruising isn't as ugly as it was.

The boys made sure we felt "WELCOM" when we got home. They ran out of room for the E.