Monday, August 15, 2011

AZ Johnsons Take AK

I'm so behind... but here I am, nonetheless. So we had 2 big visits from siblings and their fams this summer... the post above chronicles my brother's visit. Our second sibling visit was from Clayton's brother and family. I'd like to start this blog post by thanking God for the lovely weather he sent to Alaska for the AZ Johnson's visit. Last summer, we had rain pretty much every day. THIS summer, we had sun pretty much the ENTIRE time except for one day in Homer and one day in Anchorage. 14 days of sun out of 16. You CANNOT beat that in July, folks. (in all, this has been a GREAT summer weather-wise, for sure)

Editor's Note: I ought to be ashamed about the lack of good pictures from all our summer visitors this year.. I'm telling myself that since this was the AZ Johnson's second visit, I was less diligent with the camera... Don't spoil that for me, it's working. I seemed to get good pics of the kids but there is a severe lack of group shots this time around. Will work on that next summer for ALL of our visitors.

So how did we spend our second annual AZ Johnson visit? First answer: OUTSIDE, baby, outside! The weather was so much more cooperative this time around so we did, we went outdoors (and sometimes in shorts and sometimes without rain jackets!). One of the days that Clayton worked, we took the kids to a campsite at Eagle River Campground.. that is about 5 minutes from home but it feels like several hours removed. We built a fire (eventually) and the kids rode their bikes, hiked and ate their way through the afternoon. It was a really fun day. Some of the highlights were the kids finding a moose across the river (no pictures, take it on faith)... grilling the perfect hot dog and the boys putting out the fire in a way that only little boys can (I do have pictures but you'll have to message me for them, I'm not that stupid to post them on this blog!). Suffice it to say, nothing in the world smells quite like a campfire put out by urine. NOTHING. Super disgusting!!

Playing with or in the fire.. it never gets old for boys, does it??
The ONE thing we didn't bring enough of on this day trip was water... and all the water faucet things in the campground were out of order. I can't remember how exactly we solved the problem (without driving home or to the store).. I sort of think I found some water bottles in the car leftover from a previous hiking trip.. all's well that ends well as none of the kids ended up with diarrhea :)
This is Evie wearing the shark bike helmet, always a hit with kids.. this is also one of the last days that Evie got to be called by her Christian name. Our neighbor Ryan thought everyone was calling Evie "Debbie".. it stuck. Evie's Alaska name is heretofore Debbie or Deb. However you are moved. And the sad thing is, she answers to it!! Hilarity at the expense of an innocent child. It was also around this time that Troy was rechristened as Roy. Same circumstances. Too funny!! What goes around comes around, however.. Loges decided to rename Ryan's mom Christy "Crispy".
Our biggest adventure on this trip was a 3 dayer down to Homer. We rented a fabulous house overlooking the bay. It had plenty of actual beds, an enormous yard and an awesomely stocked kitchen. The boys (adult ones) went on an overnight halibut charter with the benefit being 4 halibut coming home versus 2. This is a pic of the kids on the beach at Homer.
On the docks, sending the men off on their fishing adventure.. You want to make a bunch of adults sweat?? Let 6+ kids run wild on a dock.. Seriously. I kept saying "They'll roll to a float if they go in. I promise!!" It helped not at all. And for the record, no one fell in. But if they had, they'd have been a-ok.
All the guys boarding the boat. A few coasties, a few reserve pilots and some granddads.
The white boat is the dads' fishing boat heading out to open waters (I guess).. it was cool for the kids to see them head out.
So what does one do with a huge rental house in Homer?? You invite all your friends over for a fish fry! We made the most tasty fish tacos ever. I suppose it doesn't hurt to fry halibut that had been swimming peacefully in the ocean with its friends 12 hours earlier.. I think we had 25+ people in the house for dinner that night. It was so much fun!! This picture was probably taken about 10:00 pm, don't be deceived by the sunlight.. summer in AK and all! We managed to convince the Feuchts to stay and play Nerts. Too much fun.
So how do you top an awesome trip to Homer?? Besides stopping at the DQ in Soldotna for the world's best blizzards?? (side note, the DQ burned to the ground that night.. how horrible for EVERYONE!!!! Hope they rebuild and carry on with their awesome blizzard making) You top off an awesome trip by totaling the Alitma. For reals. The thing is, there is so much more to this story (including, but not limited to the fact that they boys and TJ stopped to fish for salmon unbeknownst to Melissa and I.. which made for a 4-5 hour lag in hearing from them once the moms arrived home in Eagle River.. and no cell service.. suffice it to say, the imaginations tend to get a little wild!). Fortunately, it wasn't Clayton's fault. Some TOURIST in a rented truck/camper BACKED UP on the Seward highway, right into the Altima. The only mammal harmed was the Altima which was promptly totaled out by USAA. As you can tell from the picture (taken at nearly midnight), the hood flew up whilst driving home. MacGuyver and brother did what they could with fishing line to tie it down. Looked a lot like Tommy Boy minus the deer in the backseat. UGH!!! Oh, and if you're wondering, no salmon were harmed on this outing..
A mega hike up the North Face at Alyeska... my absolute #1 choice of hikes in our area by a long shot. This is BEFORE :)
Almost to the top... all the kids. It was an incredibly beautiful day!
The one and only picture of Melissa and I. We were WORKING HARD!!
The kids and I at the top of the tram.. you hike up and ride the tram down (for free). This is what our ski runs look like in the summer. So strange!
The brothers.. the ONLY picture on my camera of them together..
So that's it for pictures.. but not the memories!! Some things you don't see on film... Melissa and I conquering Super Mario Brothers (well, it was all her.. I was in a friggin' bubble); ten people buckling into a 9-buckle Tahoe; empty bottles of champagne; countless candy/cookie/brownie treats consumed; hysterical laughing at 1:00 in the morning; an impromptu 4th of July celebration at our house; wild cheering Kara on to her first goal in soccer.. then Melissa and Clayton getting trash-talked by the other team's coach for being too close to the goalie (Kara) during game-play; thousands (literally) of legos spread over the top floor of our house and the hours of entertainment they provided... It was another great trip. Again, we thank Roy and Melissa for dragging their family up here. We love you!!

To Eli, I say this: Thank you for sleeping in Kara's room. I LOVE the sweet relationship you guys have. I hope it stays like that for a long time. I love listening to you school the younger boys on life and legos. Thanks, too, for endlessly entertaining me on our hike as we came up with synonyms galore. I will never forget that :)
TJ: Your quiet sweetness with Clay warms my heart.. You guys look alike to me with your big brown eyes. I also love watching you and Kara forge a new relationship the last few visits as well. Hug Jojo for me!!! The real Jojo would like to come live at your house.. can we work on that??
Oh Logey.. you make me laugh (you and Grayson together ruin my bladder control all together). I love your smelly shee blankets! Thanks for going shopping with me even though it didn't work out quite as well for you as you'd hoped :) I'm sorry in advance for never letting go of Bushee stories.. not even when you're married.
To my only niece Debbie.. As for your name change, well, blame Ryan.. it's just so FUNNY! I love how girlie you are.. but at the same time, you will be able to take any of these boys in another 6 months to a year (if not sooner). I'm sorry you spent so much of your time in Alaska in our guest closet but you really did look tired!!!!! Maybe next year you will be able to hike on your own two feet? Then again, maybe not...

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Summer FUN! Fillemans Vist!

Well, we're winding down our summer... it's going WAY TOO FAST! We've had visitors and then, between visits, the kids and I have stayed very busy going and doing. It's been (thus far) a great summer. I'm not ready for the kids to head back to school in less than a month.

Our first visitors this summer, all the way back at the end of May were the Fillemans of Chandler, Arizona. My brother and his family made their maiden voyage to visit us in what was a fairly sunny, warmish Alaska! They were here for about 10 days so you KNOW we packed in the fun stuff. We celebrated my brother's birthday, Kara's start of soccer, Clay's birthday, went to Seward, biked like mad and the kids/dad camped a night in the wilderness. I felt like I did a good job photographing while they were here, but as it turns out, I did a horrible job.

And yet another thing I'm doing a horrible job at: BLOG POSTING! So, in an effort to get this post online, I'm going to just post pictures in no particular order...

I think one thing people expect when they come to AK is animal viewing. Normally, we see animals all the time unless you are visiting us. I don't know why that is!! But sometimes we get lucky. As in our drive home from Seward (or maybe it was to Seward). Anyhow, we were cruising down the highway and there was this little guy. I pulled a uey in the middle of the road and we went back around. Moose are everywhere!!!
We also got to see a bunch of salmon in one of their sanctuary areas... no salmon were killed or injured on this trip (sadly). Although Michelle did get to enjoy fresh Copper River kings on several restaurant outings and she's a convert to AK salmon. I'm sorry kids, but even if the menu says it's fresh, wild caught Alaska salmon, assume they're lying (unless you've confirmed an overnight flight in of fish, and it's in the SUMMER). I hated salmon until we moved here and I'm officially a convert. Reds are my favorite. I digress...
Believe it or not, there were TONS of salmon jumping into this waterfall.
My weird kids waiting in the lobby for their cousins in Seward.
The 4 of us in Seward. My first trip down there. It was a cute little town. I wanted to see some Orcas in the bay but all I saw were some harbor seals and sea otters (not complaining).
Kara and Parker. This girl LOVES herself some Parker Boyd. She treats him like her little assistant and I am glad he was tolerant, he will probably not enjoy her "attentions" for too much longer :) This was before they headed out on their back country back packing trip.
Ice cream in Seward (see how you're getting your own "Around Alaska in 40 seconds or Less" for free!?). GB is really a hoot. I think when he got here, he wasn't feeling me at all.. However, given enough QT on car rides, in grocery carts, in bike trailers, he came around. In fact, at one point, he opted to stay home with me while Michelle went to Walmart. A true milestone! He's pretty funny.. while we were driving to Seward, when he was supposed to be "resting", he announced in a very loud voice "I DON'T LIKE SOUP". That one stuck. I'll keep it alive until he's married :)
The big kids in Seward. I don't remember what Kara's problem was.. not very much actually grosses her out...
Fishing at the Sea Life Center...
The touch tank at the Sea Life Center. The kids LOVED touching sea cucumbers, star fish and the like. This place is cool.
My brother. His second trip to AK in less than one calendar year! WOOT! I don't know if he was really feeling my taking his picture. If you know Mark, you know that he LOVES himself a camera. Almost all of his adult pictures exude a true joie de vivre! Like he is having the MOST FUN EVER and how much he LOVES having his image captured (I'm practically a professional photographer)!! Actually, I think he loathes having his picture taken. We celebrated his birthday in true AK style: sent him off into the wilderness with some freeze dried food, a whole gaggle of kids and 10 miles of hiking. Happy Birthday, come back next year when we'll do a 3 night at Eklutna!!
Speaking of birthdays... the night before, we celebrated with the traditional banana spice cake a la my Gram Boyd. I love the cake, not so much the icing.. Michelle really goes out of her way to make foods that Mark likes. I could take a lesson on that... Just ask Clayton!
Oh GB. I was a hard-sell for you, I know.. but we will be forever bonded over our Eklutna trail ride. I will forever remind you that you don't like soup and I will also take full credit for anytime you tell someone "I. Will. Cut. You". You're crazy!!!!
To sweet Parker I say that I am sorry for letting Kara treat you like her assistant. She does it out of love. You are so funny and I loved how excited you got about visiting the exiled cats in the basement. If I could buy you a hairless cat as a pet, I would.
Davis is the most hilarious kid ever. He has a very refined dry sense of humor. He really says the funniest things (things that I should have written down because I don't remember them like I wish I did). He was at Kara's first soccer game where he offered to go on the field and school the girls how to play soccer "for real" (for the record, they only lost like 2 games!!).
We had so much fun with the Fillemans. I can't tell you, dear readers, how much it means to us when our families visit up here. We go to AZ but our visits are lightning fast and we have a lot of ground to cover so it makes for inconsistent times with everyone. When you come to Alaska, we have (for better or worse) concentrated time to hang out and develop our relationships in really cool ways. I got to spend a ton of time with Michelle just hanging out, riding bikes (in the sun, cold and rain) and that NEVER happens in AZ!! My kids LOVE having their cousins at their house.. getting to sleep in (or not), play the Wii (or just argue), watch shows, ride bikes, hike, camp and fish with them in their normal environment. Many thanks to Mark and Michelle for coming up. I know it was a thrash and that it is expensive. We have lifetime memories from your trip. I loved having Michelle meet my friends and see how I while away my time up here. Clayton LOVED camping with Mark (and I KNOW Mark would do it again... in another life). THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU for coming up. You're welcome back anytime. xoxooxox

Monday, June 20, 2011

Happy Birthday, Clay-Clay!

Clay is 6. He was 3 when we moved to Alaska.. that means the boy has lived half of his life up here. That blows my mind. This year for Clay's birthday, his Filleman cousins were in town. He was very wishy-washy about what he wanted to do to party so, at the last minute, we decided to do a movie theatre party. We saw Kung Fu Panda 2 and partied at the theatre. It was a brilliant move on my part as there was no mess, no cleaning for me! I highly recommend movie theatre parties in case you're wondering...
The whole crew.. (where's Grayson?!)
Clay's birthday cake as specifically requested from Miss Kamdon... she's the best. The cake was AWESOME!!! And tasty.
Opening his present from his aunts and uncles... they obviously didn't ask Clayton for his permission.
On Clay's actual birthday, we celebrated with a costco apple pie that I pretty much ruined by attempting a crumble topping. It was a quiet night at home to celebrate our quirky, extremely bright, adventurous, momma-loving son. We love you, Udes.. how is it that you're 6? We are so proud of you.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

8 is Great!!

This year's cake creation courtesy of Kamdon.. Kara wasn't as specific on the "theme" this year.. she wanted something beachy or Hawaiian. It was a tremendous hit, as usual :)

So Miss Kara turned 8 about a month ago... blogging slacker, I already know that about myself. She had a birthday of surprises this year.. Her first surprise was a redo on her bedroom. Not that there was anything wrong with Kara's bedroom, but she was asking for more "green" in her bedroom. I convinced my trusty friend Kamdon to "help me out" (come up with a design) and we pulled a "Trading Spaces" on Kara while she was at school the last day. She loves it!! (for the record, I did my fair share of the sewing on this one.. LOOK! This mommy can sew!!!!)

Her second surprise was a visit from her Miss Karen. Kara was really missing Karen and Karen graciously scheduled a visit up here... Kara slept over with Ainsley the night before her bday and Karen surprised her at Jitter's the next morning. TOO FUN!

Kara's last surprise was our Alaska cousin Ashley's surprise visit to her birthday party. I think Kara felt honored that day (despite a mini-drama at the party related to VERY loud singing by a couple of guests whilst Kara was playing Liv dolls with the other 2 guests... small drama, worked out.. Kara cried.. shocker). We did nails at home and then we hit up Simon & Seafort's for an early dinner.. between spa snacks at the house and fancy food at Simon's, the girls forwent the cake!!!! WHAT?! Too funny, 8-9 year old girls. I loved Kara's party this year for sure...
Miss Karen was our most in-demand manicurist for sure :)
I, myself, sported bright blue toes on one foot, orange on the other for 2 weeks!

Kara's friend Olivia.. Olivia moved away about a week ago. SAD DAYS! You will be missed at the counter after school, Olivia.
After Simon's, it was so sunny and warm! The girls BEGGED to go play on the playground by the inlet. This was about 7:30-8:00 in the evening. Got to love AK summer sunshine!!
And so we wished Kara a very happy 8th year. She is so creative, fun-loving, sweet hearted, kind spirited (where does she get all those traits!?). We love you, Lukey!!!!!!! May the next year be even better than the last.