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.