Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Dad, can we keep him?

The other day  the kids and I spotted this cow and calf in the woods just off the edge of our back yard.

We spent a little while watching them, but they soon took off.

It wasn't until after they left that I noticed this little guy on the other side of the house.

He was all alone. I kept expecting to see another cow come out of hiding somewhere, but we never spotted her. I suppose he could have belonged with the other cow and calf, but he seemed to be by himself.

He came to the yard and then he saw us watching him from the window.

Then he was distracted by something shiny.

And then he turned his attention back to us.

And then he decided it was time to get the heck out of Dodge.

This summer I've been really surprised by how sleek these animals are. I guess I just got so used to seeing them in their shaggy winter coats that I forgot that they might actually shed those in the summer like most animals do. Their summer coat really reminds me of horses.

And just look at that face? I just want to hug him and stroke his soft little muzzle. I won't though. Calves are definitely more skittish than adults and he would run off. Also, he may be little but I bet he could still take me. I've spent enough time around horses to know that one swift kick hurts like a son of a gun. If I'm going to get close to large animals that can cause bodily injury, I prefer that they be domesticated first. I'll stick with horses.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Wolves and sheep and bears, oh my!

I'm finally putting up some pictures from our second trip to Denali. We went back for a second visit when my in-laws came to visit us this summer.  The first night we went to Savage River again and the kids threw rocks in the water.

I seriously have to wonder how there are any rocks left. If there are 40,000 visitors a year here, and at least some of them love to throw rocks as much as my kids do, you have to wonder how the river has not filled up with rocks. I suppose rocks are the one thing that Alaska will never run out of. And the way that rivers change course from year to year probably makes this a moot point. The river will run a slightly different course next year anyway, so throwing a bunch of rocks in it really isn't going to do anything.

The last time we were at the Savage River there were areas marked off because birds were nesting. This time when we came back we got to see the babies. They were still cute and grey and fluffy. When they grow up they look like seagulls, but they are not. They are something else all together.
On a completely different note, how the heck do you spell grey? Every time I write grey, my spell check tells me I'm wrong and tells me it should be gray. I thought gray was a surname. Gray, as in Mr. Gray, and that grey is the color. I did what I do every time I am faced with life's tough choices. I googled it, and I found this link. This person also had the same question. As it happens, both spellings are correct, it just depends on which part of the world you happen to live. I like it when I can be right in two different ways.

On this trip to Denali we decided to take the bus tour. It really is the best way to see the park. In fact, it is the only way to see a majority of the park. The farthest you can drive is thirteen miles in. After that you have to be on a bus. After our bus trip, I have to say, it really is the best way. I can't imagine what it would be like if everyone drove. Umm... can you say traffic jam! Plus some of parts of the road are slightly perilous, as in, the edge of the rode is a cliff. I prefer to leave that kind of driving up to the professionals, thank you very much. 
We were lucky on our bus tour because we saw the trifecta of park animals, except that there are five, so would that be the quintfecta? The squiggly red spell checker line is telling me no, it is not a word, but I like it. In fact, it is also telling me that trifecta is not a word either, but I know it is. Google told me so.  Anyhow, we saw the big five: moose, caribou, bear, wolf, and dall sheep.

 The first thing we saw on this trip was a moose. She was far away and had her back to us so not terribly impressive. But, I also live in moose central station, so seeing one a hundred yards away is not a big deal to me anymore. The out-of-staters were more impressed by the moose's appearance.

The next thing we saw was a caribou from a million miles away. There was one guy on the bus who had an eagle's vision, because he was spotting animals all over the place that were a million miles away. Finally our driver said were weren't going to stop anymore unless they were a little closer to the bus. 
This photo was taken with the zoom all the way out to 40x, and this is still how small it was. The only think you can see is his rear end and his antlers. We went to a reindeer farm last summer and we got to feed the reindeer out of our hands, so I didn't feel too bad about not seeing this caribou up close. (Reindeer are in the caribou family, for those that don't know. Reindeer are also very tiny. Also, both males and females have antlers, only the males shed theirs first, so all of the reindeer that you see at Christmas time with antlers are actually females. Crazy, huh? I think Santa may need to change the names in his fleet.)

This is a glacier. It is that white line in between the two peaks.There are more glaciers in Alaska than anywhere else in the world.

Um... this is a mountain range. I'm really not sure if there is something in particular I was shooting here.

Next we came around a switch back and saw some Dall sheep.

This was an excellent view of them. Zoom in a little with my camera and I could get some pretty close shots. Normally, the only sighting you see of Dall sheep are little white dots on the side of a peak, so this was pretty amazing.

We went a little further and Mr. Eagle Vision saw a brown blob move a hundred million miles away.
It was a grizzly bear. Supposedly there were two cubs with her as well, but I couldn't see them. I just saw a brown blob move. I have to say, I'm glad that I saw this bear even though I have a very huge bear phobia (I prefer to think of my phobia as a very strong survival instinct). However, I was in the safety of the bus and it was a million miles away. I think I would have been disappointed if we hadn't seen one. I think.

We also saw a wolf. He/she (?) was running around near one of the rest areas. 

He sort of got stuck between the rest area, a river, and a road with buses stopped to look at him. He didn't quite know where to go. Eventually he found a spot to cross the river and went on his way.

On our way back we saw the same group of Dall sheep again.

Remember how I said that we had a great view of them before and people normally don't get that close to them? Well, buckle your seat belt, because we got the closest I believe anyone in history ever has.

They had moved from their perch and found a new place to rest, ON THE SHOULDER OF THE ROAD! I could have stepped off the bus and pet one, but they discourage that sort of behavior.

This guy was just across the road from his buddies, happily munching away at the grass and posing for us.

It couldn't have been any more perfect.

Here are the rest of their friends, resting a little further down the hill.

Sonny Boy conked out soon after the up close and personal visit with the Dall sheep and slept the rest of the way back to the visitor center. It was well worth the money, plus the kids were free, so you can't beat that.

The visitor center is really cool. I should have taken more pictures of it, but this is all that I took. They have some artwork displayed and this quilt was one of the pieces. Isn't it amazing? I just don't know how people can make things like that out of fabric.

Our next stop was at the dog kennels. The park still uses dog sled teams in the park. They are used to patrol the park in winter, plus break new trails and bring out supplies. There was a time when the dogs were replaced with snow machines, but it was discovered that dogs were much more reliable when it is 40 below. Also, the dogs leave a much smaller carbon foot print than snow machines.

The park wants people to pet all the dogs so that they get used to people and learn good manners. The dogs love it. The only rule is don't cross the ropes. If the dog is near the rope fence, they want to be petted. If they aren't, then they need a break. Oh, and if they jump up on you you have to push them down and tell them no. 

This one was a bit of an attention hog. He loved all the lovin' he was getting from my kiddos.

After you get a chance to pet all of the dogs, the rangers do a short demonstration with the dogs hooked up to a sled. Then they tell you a bit about the dogs and their role in the park and then they have a question and answer session. I loved the kennels. If you ever visit Denali, put this on your list of things to see.

In fact, put 'visit Denali' on your bucket list if you have one. You won't be disappointed. Just don't expect to see Dall sheep laying next to the road, because it won't happen. Just prepare yourself for little white specks on the side of a mountain.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

First day: Round 2

Princess Blondie started kindergarten today.

So of course I made her pose for the first day of school pictures with her brother.

She was beyond excited for school to start. I was excited for her to start too. With Sonny Boy at school for a week already, she didn't quite know what to do with herself at home. They pretty much spend every minute together when they are home, so when he was gone she followed me around all day long. I enjoyed my last week with her all to myself. We certainly won't get that one on one time like we used to. 

She has been so excited to ride the bus. I really had to plead with her to get her to let me drive her to school on her first day. All the parents drive their kids to kindergarten on the first day. I told her that I needed pictures of her at school, but really I was just afraid that she might not find her classroom, or get scared at the last minute and I wouldn't be there. Plus, I didn't want people to think that I was a loser mom who made her kid ride the bus when all the other moms brought their kids on the first day because that is just the way people do it here. There were only 4 kids on the bus on Sonny Boy's first day. I had a 'feeling like a bad mom moment' when I saw that even though Sonny Boy hates it when I drive him to school. The 'pictures in the classroom' bit seemed to do the trick on Princess Blondie, but "This is the only time, Mom! I want to ride the bus!" I grudgingly obliged.

She didn't need my help. She did just fine. There was no tearful good bye from either party. I've never been very good at being able to muster up tears at the right time, not that I wasn't sad to leave her there (I am however really good at crying when I really don't want to, like when I'm really angry). She loved every minute of school. She loved recess. She got the teacher she was hoping for. She loves the school work.
  But of course, the bus ride home was her favorite part.

Monday, August 23, 2010

And so it begins

After 7 years of being a stay at home mom, I am now gainfully employed. I have a position as a teacher in a preschool program at a local church. Princess Blondie went to preschool there last year. At the graduation ceremony at the end of the year, I told her teacher that I would be looking for work in the fall, and to let me know if she would need any additional help. Well, she let me know. They have added another class this year. What can I say, it truly is all about networking and who you know. All I know is that I thank my lucky stars I don't have to go on a job hunt and that I already love the people that I will work with. 

I am also incredibly nervous. I go between bouts of  "I can do this. It's only preschool. I graduated at the top of my class for this very purpose. I know what I'm doing," to "Holy cow, I'm so nervous. What if a parent yells at me? What if a kid pukes all over my room, or worse yet, all over me? What if I forget everything I ever learned? What if the kids stage a coup and take over the room? Will I ever get a handle on that copy machine?"

 In addition to being somewhere on the nervous/confident spectrum, I am definitely excited. Finally, I can put my degree to good use. I am passionate about giving kids a quality preschool experience. Also, I will be able to make payments on my own student loans and DH won't have to. I can pay for karate lessons and gymnastics class (for the kiddos, most definitely not for me).

I only work part time so I can still babysit for my sister when she works. I can still volunteer in the kids school (that's how I keep tabs on what's really going on).  I can drive them around to karate and gymnastics and Scouts and be home to get them on and off the bus.

I'm beginning to feel exhausted just reading all of that. On top of it all, DH is leaving for tech school in two weeks. He will be gone for about 2 months. I'm not super excited about that, but it is what it is.

The preschool meet and greet is tonight. Wish me luck!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

First day, faux hawks, and popsicle purple

School started again today.

Sonny Boy is excited. Can you tell? It may not look like it but really he is. He has been waiting and waiting to go back to school. And so have I. It has been rainy most of the summer and the poor kid is bored. He wants to see his friends. He wants to go play on the playground outside. I think he forgot he has actual work to do in school. And homework. Yuck. I hate homework even more than he does, I think.

I made him pose for the usual first day of school pics. He just had to pose in front of the truck. I think he loves it almost as much as I do.
And, yes, my boy has a faux hawk. It's the latest trend among second graders. I wouldn't let him get a real mohawk. And since I'm the one who cuts his hair, I figure I get the last word. 
I have a weird phobia/thing about mohawks. I don't know why. I think it is because it can go wrong so quickly. Cute, short, spiky faux hawk? Good. Skunk stripe mohawk that goes all the way down the back of the head? Well... not so much. Especially if it is long and scraggly. That is just a hop, skip, and a jump away from the rat tail, and no one wants to return to the days of the rat tail. Or the mullet.

Then I made him move to the front porch for the more traditional first day of school pose. Yes, my door is purple. Purple like a grape Popsicle. I was going for eggplant, but this was our best result. DH kept putting more and more coats of paint on for me hoping that it would turn darker. It didn't. I think if we put more paint on the door wouldn't be able to close anymore. The purple is growing on me now. I've embraced the Popsicle purple. It's either that or go without a front door.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Rain, Rain, go away

It has rained for 31 days straight. Give me 9 more days like this and I will build me an ark and you can call me Noah. Needless to say, some records have been broken. The previous record was for 27 straight days of precipitation. I think that one is about to blown out of the water.
It does not rain all day every day, but some amount has fallen every. single. day. for a month. Yuck.
I was bragging this winter about how the darkness and weather weren't really getting to me. I can take that back now. We have had lots of comapny this summer and that has been wonderful. It has made me not really notice how gray and dreary it is here. But now all of our company is gone, and nothing distracts me from the gray skies anymore. My kids are sick of it too.
They go outside but the rain has put a damper on a lot of normal outdoor summer activities. That means they are stuck in the house a lot. With me. We are all ready for school to start. 

To pass the time my children have taken up bickering with each other. Even more than usual. They have also taken up fort building. I came downstairs to find this the other day.

This is a fort. It's a little hard to tell what it is at first. At first it just looks like they tore apart my living room.

Then I saw their heads poking out.

But that's not all. Look at what has happened in my garage.

This is also a fort. They built this one last week. The bikes are not much use to us in the rain, so they make the perfect support for a tarp fort. The entrance is under the bikes.

Who knew that a dirt bike, two mountain bikes, a pressure washer, a lawn mower, and a tarp could become a fort? Oh yeah, throw in some old towels and a few folding chairs.

Either school needs to start or it needs to stop raining. My husband wants his garage back. I don't blame him. It's a little hard to walk through there.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Hay flats...again

We made another trip back to the hay flats when my in-laws were here. Are you sick of the hay flats yet? I keep showing you pictures of it. Sorry, but I just love it there. When we were there once this summer I saw a photographer hauling an antique chair. They set it out in the grass, sat some children on it and started taking pictures. It was also one of the few sunny days that we have had this summer and it was absolutely gorgeous. I am now scouring craigslist and garage sales for a neat old chair. I'll borrow my sister's camera and take the kids out there once again and pray for a spot of sun to grace us with it's presence. That's my plan, but I think it is a long shot on the sun showing up.

This is Cottonwood Creek. We went there last week as well for my nephews baptism. I'll have to steal some of the pictures from my sister because it was awesome. He wore the hundred year old gown that originally belonged to my namesake.

This is the bridge over Cottonwood Creek. I love this rusty old bridge.

Boys will be boys no matter how old. DH had to go check out what was under the bridge.

Sonny Boy had to follow him.

We followed the trail for a ways.

The kids played in puddles.

There were lots of puddles.

And soon our trail turned into this.

'Twas deep. I suppose that's to be expected on the hay flats after it has rained all summer. Tis the nature of the beast. We decided to turn around.

And find a drier place to explore.

I took pictures of the kids. I really need to learn how to hold the camera straight. I LOVE this picture of Princess Blondie, but it is really, really, crooked.

I tried to straighten it while editing, but then in just cuts the top of her head off. Not really what I was going for.

I try to get some shots of Sonny Boy, but it is so much harder with him.

Boys just don't hold still for very long.

And he makes weird faces when he runs.

It could be because his daddy was chasing him. I think he gets the weird faces from DH.

This is when I had to duck for cover. Boys....

And then we went home. And I saw some moose prints and I took some pictures. There are always tons of prints out there, but I have yet to actually see a moose.

And so this will be my last post from they hay flats for a while. I'll try to mix it up a bit. But I'm not going to promise that I won't make it back out there sometime soon. Especially if it happens to be sunny.