Thursday, July 21

Lessons From My Kids

Society has lots to say about "kids these days" and how we're not raising them right.  We are apparently a generation of helicopter parents, rushing in to save our kids from every potential bump and bruise.  We plug them in to screens and they have to be taught to imagine. Kids these days don't read books or entertain themselves.  They don't want to go outside or play with other kids.  And the list goes on.

Lots of it is true...some of the time.  Kids today are definitely growing up in a different world.  There are many ways that childhood is different in 2016 than it was in 1986 or 1956.  So very much of it is the same though!  Kids are kids and play is their language.  Play changes as they age, but if you take a kid outside they're gonna figure it out!  This weekend we visited our friends up in Amber Lake. Three girls entertained themselves for HOURS with a bucket of sand toys and three life jackets. They came up for snacks and to warm up when the water was cool in the morning, but they were quickly back outside.

We did some skiing as well.  Last time we were up at the cabin in June, the girls had time for one attempt at skiing together.  They fell and it was cold and they weren't up to trying again.  This weekend was very warm and they were up for multiple attempts.  They still got frustrated and wanted to stop. Scott encouraged/pushed them to try one more time and as often happens, they succeeded.  No big smiles though--they were still mad! ;-)

On Sunday they did it again and had a blast!  They were both on skis, they skiied around the whole lake.  They were having so much fun that they were playing, squatting down on the skis, splashing each other, skiing close to each other and then farther apart.  Just having fun!  Scott was so proud of them.  Skiing is something that holds so many happy memories for him and he loves that they love it too.  That's the great thing about kids--they don't know that something is supposed to be hard unless we tell them.  No one ever told my kids that water skiing is hard, so they've never thought of it that way.  What would you try if no one had told you it was hard?

As for me...I am still working on slalom skiing.  I can finally drop a ski and slalom that way!  Maybe next I can learn to start on one ski?

Tuesday, July 19

Dipnetting, 2016

Dipnetting!  We went opening weekend this year with a group of friends and did something new--we camped on the beach.  It was so much fun!

Crummy phone pano pic, but this was our camp the first night.  We were down to just the two tents on the left the second night.  That's us on the far left there!  Camping was great and convenient, a definite do-over!!!

We fished four tides--Sunday night, Monday morning and evening, and Tuesday morning.  We were with another family of 4 so our combined limit was 110.  That's so many fish!!  We came home with 69--plenty for us.

We tried this new way of cooking bacon--yum!!

Here are a few more moments from the trip...

It was such a fun time with great friends.  Monday was a bit cloudy, but Tuesday we saw this on the way home...

...82!!  We're already looking forward to next year!

Monday, July 18

I love this place!

I'll tell you the truth.  I didn't want to move here.  When Scott and I pulled into Whittier in July of 2009 I thought the same thing many people do.  This place is ugly.  So many old, broken down boats.  Old, chipped sidewalks.  Piles of stuff everywhere you look. The Buckner Building for goodness sake!  So much concrete in such a small space.  So much gray.  It was a cloudy day and I wanted out of here.  I sat in the living room visiting with a woman I would rarely see again.  That living room would later be my own...

Scott talked me into coming back the next day on our own.  We looked beyond the gray concrete and a saw a great school playground, a wonderful park in nearby Girdwood, a beautiful walking path to the head of the bay, and so much potential for our family.  We bought The Strangest Town in Alaska and being the history nut that I am, I devoured it.  We went home and packed boxes and dreamed of what this would mean for our two little girls.

Somewhere along the way, I got excited about this move.  I was still wary of this town and what our new life would look like, but I looked forward to it.  That first Christmas when Scott had suggestions about what we should get the girls for Christmas I knew we'd done the right thing.  Life had slowed down for us and he knew our girls, really knew them.

A few years ago I wrote this post aimed at expressing my heart for this place to visitors.  I am sure few of them read it.  This is not a travel blog and I don't have a huge following, but writing those words gave voice to so many things I felt (and still feel!) deeply.  It's still one of my favorite things I've written.

Today I want to attempt to do a similar thing--express my heart for this place, but this time to people who live here.  We celebrate our 7 year Whittier anniversary soon, and in that time we've seen lots of people come and go, and lots of people stay and fall in love with this place.  With that in mind, here are a few reasons why I love living in this town:

I have met so many people here who have challenged my thinking and taught me so much about humanity.  I never thought about myself as a stereotyper, but if I am honest with myself I was.  Probably still am, but I am more conscious of it now.  Before Whittier it was easy to surround myself with people who looked, lived, and acted just like me.  In a large community that's an easy thing to do.  In a smaller place it is harder and I am so glad I learned that lesson because guess what...mine is not the only nor the best way!  People I never would have come into contact with before have taught me that everyone has something to offer.  Those with the fewest material goods who are living a life that looks much different than mine are often the most generous.  They are the people who never walk by you without saying hello, who always talk to your kids, who volunteer to pick up trash, mow the city park, make a city-wide party happen, give fishing rods to kids, show up at every school event and donate their last $50 to buy every kid in school an ice cream cone.  There is nothing like riding in an elevator with small kids to help you find the good in everyone.  "Who's that, Mommy?"  Instead of repeating the crap that goes around town about people, you find another way to identify that person--s/he's not the xyz that people often say, now to your family s/he's "the person with a brown dog who brought hot cocoa to everyone at the skating party".  When we define people by their kind deeds, we change the way we think about them.  They become more human to us, harder to marginalize and a bigger part of our community.  The people are the thing I love most about this town--so many amazing people with stories that will surprise, shock, amaze, and break your heart over and over again.

This place does community like no other place I know of.  People show up for others when they are in need, hurting, or suffering, but also to celebrate together.  We celebrate our weather, our kids successes, good fishing, weddings, babies...all the things other people celebrate too.  What makes it unique here is the people.  See above.  They all come.  They bring what they have, fill plates for each other at potlucks, hula hoop with the kids, donate their time to set up and clean up and care.  That's what community is to me--one of Webster's definitions is "joint ownership or participation"--people here do that.  They take ownership of this place and they show up for it and its people.

We have amazing kids here!  I think I was a pretty decent teenager, but I wasn't volunteering to help other people carry their mail, groceries, and trash.  I did what I was told, but I didn't offer to stay after school to help set up for events and stay even later to clean up afterwards.  I didn't spend my free time practicing for church performances and I never made my own foods to take to potluck in addition to what my mom made.  The more I get to know Whittier kids, the more I have hope for the future of this world.  There are some amazing people growing up right now!!

People are always intrigued by the fact that we all live in two large condo buildings, with the vast majority living here in the BTI.  They imagine all sorts of things about life here.  Are there frustrating moments?  YES!  Am I ever irritated by my neighbors? YES!  But when I lived in a house I was often frustrated (frozen pipes, yard work, continuous home improvement) and irritated by neighbors (barking dogs, fireworks, shooting).  There are so many benefits to living here.  First of all it's a great equalizer.  Everybody's house is essentially the same.  But more importantly, it allows us to really know our neighbors and be there when they need help.  Likewise they are here to help us.  Big or small, it's easy to have people over for dinner and game night, to borrow a cup of sugar, lend an egg, help with childcare. Then there's location--I commute across the street and Scott goes two blocks.  That frees up at least an hour a day for each of us, probably more, based on our commutes 7 years ago.  That's an hour we get to spend as a family eating dinner, playing cards, being outside, or just watching TV together.  For us, the blessings outnumber the drawbacks.

I mean seriously.  It is hard to look around and not see what an amazing Creator we serve!  I live in one of the most beautiful places on earth and not a day goes by that I don't appreciate that.  Even on a rainy day the views will take your breath away.  Being outside in the middle of God's majesty is so nourishing to my soul.  Working up a sweat on a hike is such a gift--it makes me feel truly alive to have my heart pumping hard when I reach the top of a hill and am rewarded with a view like this...

Remember at the beginning of this post when I said I didn't want to move here?  I am so glad we did!  I am a better person for it.  I'm a better wife, mother, friend, and community member because of all I learned.  Could I have learned all of this someplace else?  Probably.  I am so glad though, that Scott encouraged me to look past the gray.  That's been a huge lesson for me, looking for beauty. It really is all around us.  It's in the natural beauty all around us, in answered prayers, in the success of our friends, the smiles of visitors.  It's all around us, wherever we are.  We just have to choose to see it.

Thursday, July 14

A Visit From the Korbe Cousin--Part Two

We left of the last post about halfway through Kirstyn's visit, so I'll pick up there.  It was Tuesday and we headed out in search of some drier weather.  It was nice at the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, so we spent some time there.

Then we headed over to Girdwood and visited Crow Creek Mine.  If I had known how much the kids would love this stop we could have spent all day here!  We went ahead and rented the gold pans and it was so much fun to watch the kids explore.

Crow Creek Mine is such a pretty place. Recently there have been a couple of articles about the history of the place in the newspaper. Here's part one and part two.  I take a million pictures every time we go!

All the stuff on display has been found around the place.  They are always finding more and adding to their exhibits.

Wednesday we hiked Horsetail Falls with the mission team who was here to do Vacation Bible School in our community.  They were from First Baptist Church Gulfport in Mississippi and such a fun group of people!  Our friend Jen is the KidsMin director at FBC Gulfport and has been coming to do VBS for us for several years.  First as a volunteer, then on her week of vacation, and now in her role as a kids ministry leader.  It was fun to show her team around Whittier a bit!  Jenn is the one who has nicknamed Kirstyn the "Korbe Cousin", hence the titling of these posts. ;-)

Thursday we headed into town to visit the Alaska Native Heritage Center.  The most fun parts here were the dancers performing and the life size native dwellings.  This is definitely a tourist attraction, so they play up the traditional living part a bit.  They would have you believe that most villagers still only hunt and fish for food.  The reality for residents of native villages in Alaska is often much different.  Regardless, the kids had fun and learned so we're calling it a success.

Friday was the first day of Forest Fair, so we headed over to Girdwood to check it out.  One of the Forest Fair traditions is to stop at the information booth and paint a "pin".  It's a little scrap of watercolor paper that you paint and wear around the fair.  Sounds silly, but it's fun anyway!

The other thing my kids like to do every year at Forest Fair is get their faces painted.  Here are this year's choices.

Sometimes there is a really expensive face painting booth that they want to visit.  This year we found the same booth we visited last year.  It's a group of high school students who paint faces and sell their art.  They had some really neat block prints I almost bought too.  Kirstyn opted out of face painting and chose to get herself a henna tattoo on her wrist too.  I didn't take a picture of it, but it turned out really neat!

I did a little Christmas shopping and got this fused glass sunshine for me.

Our last day together we visited the Anchorage Market and Festival.  It is always fun to walk around and see what's for sale there.  Much of it stays the same year to year, but there is some change as well.  Kirstyn and I bought some hats before we said goodbye...

It was a great week with Kirstyn!  We are so lucky that she likes to come spend time with us.  We'll be seeing her soon again in her state, too!

Wednesday, July 13

A Visit From the Korbe Cousin--Part One

Gosh!  It's been awhile since I have been over here!  This has been a summer full of fun and adventure, that's for sure!

My niece was here to visit at the very end of June.  I picked her up early one Saturday morning and then together we picked up the girls from camp.  We took her to see the sandy beach in Kenai where we dip net in July.

On our way back to Whittier we stopped at the K'Beq Heritage site and the Cooper Landing Museum.  If you only have time to make one of those stops, the Cooper Landing Museum is the one I'd be sure to hit.  They have moved their old school, old post office, and a settler's cabin to the site and use them as their museum.  It's full of fun stuff, at least it's fun stuff if you love museums the way I do!  It's also home to "Dead Bear Walking" which is a full brown bear skeleton that was cleaned, set, and on display thanks to a couple of teachers and a group of adventurous students.  I met the teacher who headed up the project a few years ago and her enthusiasm is contagious.  The bear had been hit by a truck and sitting in someone's freezer for years.  They offered it to the school for the project and Sheryl and her husband (they were they only teachers in Cooper Landing at the time) accepted.  She told us she didn't know anything about how to complete the process, so they relied on local help, the internet, and some kind volunteers from the university system.  A pretty cool story--she tells a bit about it here.

The next day was a wet one in Whittier, but we took it slow since Kirstyn had been up most of the night flying and the girls were exhausted from camp.

We went for a walk to Smitty's Cove...

Kirstyn found this really cool set of stairs up in the woods where we hadn't explored before.  There was clearly a trail there at one point.  I'd like to go back and see if it leads where I think it does or not.  Kirstyn and I followed it as far as we could easily that day.

The following day was Monday, another wet day in 99693.  Our big adventure was showing off our new trail through the woods and doing some berry picking.

This is getting to be a very long post, so I'll sign off here and finish telling you about our cousin adventures in another post!