Friday, July 10, 2015

Painting Southeast Alaskan Style

You might live in Southeast Alaska if you paint your house from a boat.

Only here would a crazy Assistant Fire Chief float on the freezing ocean 
while trying to paint those hard-to-reach spots.  

(He was going to swim...I suggested the float...yes, I am a genius)

It was about here that he accidentally pushed too hard 
and ended in a flat spin...sadly I couldn't get the video going in time to catch it. 


Thankfully, while the grown ups were painting, 
the kids were cranking out some homemade ice cream.

We sure know how to party.

Friday, July 3, 2015

My happy corner

In a space as small as ours, you need every little thing to matter.  We don't keep stuff that doesn't have heart & soul.  This little corner is especially soul-satisfying for me.  Some art from Katie Daisy (always inspiring), the guitar carving I bought Jon when we got engaged, the metal halibut that I painted and gave to Jon for our 10th anniversary (did you know it's the fish anniversary? jk) and my grandmother's copper cake's a whole lot of love in one little corner.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Hardcore Budget Gal

I've already talked about how changing to the cash system (and actually following it) has freed me.  It has.  It really has.  But for the first time since we started, I hit a bump in the road.

Basically we had a little too much fun the first week, and forgot that the money could actually run out. Whoops!

I was basically out of money, and I still had 5 days left until the next budget cycle .  Ok...not a big deal...I always have food that I can stretch out (beans, potatoes and rice alone will last five days) But then I was my snack week at the Montessori school!  Every 8 weeks I am responsible for providing a healthy/organic snack for 8.  WHY DID IT HAVE TO BE THIS WEEK!?!

Normally I would pick up some brown rice cakes and a bag of organic oranges, or something similar...but here in Alaska that's $10...and I need 3 days worth of snacks!!  AND I HAVE $4!!

This is a very new thing for me.  If you don't have the cash, just put it on the credit card...right?

(You can see why we had to switch to a cash system)

Not this time.
I don't do that anymore.

So I took a hard look around me...I had bananas going bad, and plenty of whole wheat, white and quinoa flours.  In the end, with a little creativity, I made 3 days of snacks for 8 kids with NO extra cost to me.

Day 1: Banana Bread with walnuts and sliced strawberries.  (fruit goes a lot further when sliced!)
Day 2: Chocolate Quinioa Banana Bread with carob chips and sliced apples (again, 4 apples for 8 kids when sliced!)
Day 3: Loaf of whole wheat bread, sliced pepperjack cheese and sliced apples (only 3 apples left this time, oh well, they'll live)

BAM!  I'm still sitting on that $4.  Thankfully we replenished the budget money on the 3rd snack day, so now we're good again.  And from this I learned two important lessons...

1) I STILL spend more than I need to.  This was a great lesson/reminder that I still need to slow down and look around before I head to the store to buy something I don't need.

2) So many people in this world don't have enough money to buy food.  I have NO right to complain.  (To be fair, I wasn't complaining) But still, I have plenty of food.  So for me, it was a reminder to be thankful for what I have, and to think about all of those people who really don't have the money to buy what they need.

If there were karate-like belts for staying on budget, I think this week would have been like chopping through all the boards.  I have definitely earned my next belt...I pick teal.  Yes...I am a hardcore budget gal...and I have a teal belt to show for it.  (Not really, that would cost money!)

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Being the change I want to see in my kids

Imagine who you want your kids to become...and be that.

All my life (at least as far back as I can remember), I've been a little too serious. When other kids were partying in high school, I was working.  In college, while others were; finding themselves, traveling, partying and generally just being free spirited...I was working more.  When I graduated and got a job, I worked, and then went home.

That pretty much sums up my early life.

Now, truth be told, I am a massive introvert.  Therefore I don't enjoy bars, clubs, crowds, loud people, or idiots.  So...that pretty much limited my free time. I do have the odd story, here and there; of going to a concert in a dingy bar and moshing (sp?) til my neck hurt, or the time I drank beer for my rugby initiation from a strangers shoe, or the time I skipped school to see They Might Be Giants play on the National Mall (only to find the Marine Corps band). But for the most part I simply don't let myself be free to just have least in public.

This is something I am trying to change, for myself, and for my daughter, who is trying to set the world record for how little she can show in a crowd.  This concert was a good example because as my son was out in front Irish-jigging his brains out, my daughter was quietly, passively, sitting and enjoying the concert.  I hurt for her a little, because I knew part of her wanted to just get up and have a ball without caring what others thought.  

Eventually she did get up, and she tried to get me up...and I did what I always do...I resisted.  I stayed.  I sat.  I declined. But then I saw myself from the outside...and I saw the example I was setting...and I got my ass up.  I spent the rest of the night jigging, clapping, stomping and jumping (yes...jumping) to every single song.

As we left the Lumberjack arena with both of my flushed-face smiling children, I told Laurel "this is what it feels like to live a little".

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Tourist for a Day 2015 Ketchikan, Alaska

We just can't help ourselves when it comes to Tourist-for-a-Day.  Do all tourist towns do this, or is it just Ketchikan?  I don't know...but we love it.  It gives us an opportunity to do all the amazing things that the tourist do, but for much much less.  (Thank do the tourists afford it?)

Every year we try something new, but only if all of us can do it.  (Some have height and weight minimums)  This year Luke was big enough for the Adventure Karts...yay!  We weren't sure about this one...would it be fun?  Would it be scary?

Fun...check.  Scary...not really.  You could drive fast or slow, you could snake around the road or just drive normal.  It was VERY dusty, and very bright.  (Two things that don't happen too often in Southeast we were elated to have both!)

To be honest, we've enjoyed every tour and adventure in this either everything is awesome, or we're just WAY to easy to please.  Look at the view from the top of the course!  AMAZING!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Prince of Wales

Our recent mini-vacation to the remote Alaskan wilderness on Prince of Wales Island taught us a few things.

 12 Mile Cabin, Prince of Wales

1) We are ready to travel full time.

     We've been planning/talking/dreaming about travel for SOOOOOO long now, that it sometimes seems like it will never happen.  This was our first taste that it really is going to happen...and we liked the first bite.  And we learned this amazingly dumb piece of will never be ready...therefore you are totally ready.  Right?  You can't plan for everything, so you just become adept at adapting.

This trip was nothing if not an exercise in learning to adapt.  When we pulled up to the parking area for the Sweetwater Creek cabin, and then walked down the dark path to the row boat and the arrow pointing across the lake to no where...well, we knew it was time to adapt.  And we did, we were able to crash at a friends cabin for the night where we woke up to thousands (literally) of sand dollars on the beach. Generally we found the fun was in the surprises...not in the plans that went exactly according to the schedule.  (plus it makes for better stories!)

2) We love simple things so much!!

    While we were on vacation we had no power, so the only things we packed were things that don't require power.  We brought the bow and arrows (which rarely get use) and a BB gun (which was brand new to us), card games, books...and that's about it.  In the end the favorite activities of all were; archery, target practice, wood cutting, beach combing and reading.

Since we arrived back home we've been trying to keep with the simple things; we've read through two more family novels since we returned (The Lost Children and Spirit's Key...we love a good spooky adventure) and with spring in full swing here (finally) and summer around the corner, we have walked (instead of driven) or hiked, or beach-combed nearly every day since we returned.

3) We like each other.

     Granted, we already live in rather cramped quarters.  250 square ft for 4 people and a large dog...most modern Americans cringe at the thought.  (I have actually had people cringe when I tell them) Then they say something, I would hate to be so close to my kids...I could never do it.

Well, that's not the case with us, I LOVE being with my family. I loved being on the ferry, I loved being stuck in the car, I loved the cramped chilly cabins (at least until the woodstove got crankin')...I love being stuck with kids stinky feet and sweet morning breath. I loved roasting marshmallows crammed around the woodstove because it was raining outside. Stinky feet and's what good family memories are made of.  (Plus 700 pound bears running away from your very remote Alaskan cabin...Polk Inlet...beautiful but very remote.)

Prince of Wales island is a beautiful place to learn some of these life altering (though pretty obvious lessons).  Sometimes it takes a really dramatic change of scenery to teach us some of the most basic things.

Thanks goodness we're open to learning them!

The view looking out at Clarence Strait

Friday, April 10, 2015

Learning to unschool...and mostly failing, but with hope

Technically speaking, it's not possible to fail at unschooling.  And maybe as a student, that's true.  But as a can totally fail!  Fail to inspire, fail to fail fail.

As a homeschooling mom, I can tell you that homeschooling parents fail ALL THE TIME.  You know how I know?  Because I am one, and I talk to many others. and we are VERY honest about the progress of our homeschooling.  There are good days, and bad days, incredible days and horrible days...but for me, the unschooling days were just kind of aimless.

This is not a judgement on unschooling, because the idea that kids should learn because they want to, and not because you made them makes  a lot of sense to me.  And more so, thinking about my K-12 public school upbringing, followed by college...I can honestly say that nearly the only things I retained were things that interested me.  That in itself is sort of the point of the whole thing, if you are passionate about it, you will learn it because you want to...and you will love what you learned for a lifetime.

But I have struggled with how to inspire, without overwhelming.  Encourage without forcing.  Basically, how do you make them do something, without being so obvious?  (To be fair, you aren't supposed to HAVE to get your kids to do stuff...they're supposed to do it on their own...but that didn't seem to be happening)

Just when I thought it was useless,  something happened...two things actually...

1) I brought home a bunch of poetry books, thinking I'd have a poetry night.  I'd somehow get everyone captivated...and it would be wonderful.  (Man when I read it like that, I can see that it's naive and slightly annoying.)  But here's the shocker...after a very long week we decided to stay home and so nothing on Friday.  Laurel was crocheting, Luke was knitting and I had just finished reading a book....I decided to pull out the poetry books and start reading out loud while they were working on their projects.  First I read the illustrated Cremation of Sam McGee, which as far as kids go, is a great way to start off with poetry.  This one sparked a lot of conversation.  We then moved onto a book about Emily Dickinson; first I read the biographical part, then went on to read about a dozen of her poems. Then we moved onto Robert Frost and read about 6 of his.  Then I moved to some more modern poetry with My Dog is a Carrot, by John Hegley.  This was a great ending to our poetry introduction because it got us in a silly then I started our own little poetry slam.  Basically we went in a round and each came up with an impromptu poem.  Some were legit (and hilarious)...some were basically the rhyming of poo and doo with a a few more nonsense words (courtesy of my 7 year old son).  But for the most part, it was exactly what it should have introduction to poetry, fun, interactive and educational.  I couldn't believe it worked!  I actively inspired some unschooling fun.

2) I started taking guitar lessons about 6 weeks ago, and the more I practice, the more the kids have gotten into it.  They are curious about the tuning of the guitar, they love to listen to me practice and they often sing along.  It's already inspired Luke (the rhymer of poo & doo) to pull out his old guitar and start strumming.  He's even asked to start taking lessons too.  Plus, I was having trouble with a song, so we looked it up on YouTube and watched it together, memorized (by singing) the song together, then while I played it...we all sang it.

This unschooling thing might yet have it's virtues....

Chili Cook off Winner 2015 for her Morrocan Pumpkin Chili

 Luke and Laurel building the loft bed

Luke's posterboard knight armor

Target practice at Polk Inlet Cabin

 Paper mache ducks for the art contest at the Discovery Center

 Survival skills practice (starting a fire with a flint)

Laurel and Luke's Chicken (before and after)

Collected sand dollars on Prince of Wales

Laurel's recycled bike project

Luke's homemade Apollo Rocket

Laurel and Luke's zombie meatloaf

Laurel's paper flowers

Laurel's felted bunny
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