12 September 2011

Fall is here...

Fall is a four-letter word. In our house, it means there's a whole lot of work to be done before our schedules sort themselves out and we can settle into our respective roles at home and in the community. From here I'll just go down the list, one by one, so you can get an idea of what we're up to this time of year and how we get ourselves prepared for the next 9 months.

I've quit my summer job at Mountain Miss/Work & Rugged Gear and I'm settling into a new job, serving and training to tend bar at Bayview Restaurant & Pub. It's true that working at the clothing stores was just a summer job, but the main reason I left was because they weren't able to work around my schedule, since having Stephen back at work means that I am only available nights and weekends. Truth be told, it's not necessary for me to work, however much our bank accounts are helped by me doing so. I just like having a reason to get out of the house and interacting with different people.

Speaking of getting out of the house, I'm also enrolled full time at University of Alaska Southeast, studying to complete my Associate's degree in Health Education. I'm taking 15 credits this semester, including Introduction to Psychology (on-site), American Sign Language I (on-site),  Weight Training for Women (on-site), Intermediate Algebra (distance), and Music Appreciation (distance). It's notable that this is the first time I've taken any live, on-site college courses, so I am experiencing a little bit of a learning curve in getting everything going, but I've started all but one of my courses (my first ASL class meets today) and I'm really enjoying everything so far.

Between work and school, I'm kept pretty busy running around, but they just fill the time when I'm not at home with Porter during the day and taking care of our household.

Stephen is back to work after a long and somewhat relaxing summer. He is working on exciting things for the MEHS music program this year. Besides his regular music, rock band, and choir classes, he is also gearing up for Southeast Music Festival, hosted in Sitka this year, and working on a radio club that will take students to our local Public Radio station and teach them to run soundboards and dj, create radio programs, conduct interviews and share stories, and collaborate with their community for content. This, of course, is in addition to the fortnightly College Radio show he co-hosts with our good friend, Cassidy Patnoe.

If that wasn't enough, Stephen has also involved himself pretty heavily in a community playground project that will hopefully erect a family-friendly, ADA-compliant, and endowment-maintained community-built playground in 2013.

Seren might be the busiest of us all this school year. She has started full-day Kindergarten at the SEER School, a private elementary school near our house. The theme for learning this year is World History, so she will learn about different cultures and adventurers, get plenty of physical activity while discovering the cultural and natural aspects of our own community, and learn some Spanish from guest instructor, Maite Lorente, who is also the children's librarian at Kettleson Memorial Library.

Additionally, I am going to be working closely with her participation in a brand new 4H program that has been started in Sitka and she is slated to start Pee Wee Wrestling in January, which is coached by MEHS's own Japanese teacher and Wrestling coach, Mike Kimber.

Somehow, even with all the craziness that the rest of us have going on, Porter only spends ~8 hours per week at daycare. The rest of the time, he and I pal around the house while Seren and Stephen are at school. Porter is still too young to have too much going on outside the home, but he is still in speech therapy and doing well. So well, in fact, that he has been reduced from visiting his speech therapist down from once a week to once every other week. If his ability keeps improving in the way it has been for the last few moths, his visits will drop down to once a month. He now has a vocabulary of around 60 words and uses 2- and 3-word phrases occasionally. Now that he has a vocabulary strong enough to make requests and identify his surroundings, we are working on verbs, spacial awareness, and abstract concepts like feelings and memories.

He is also very close to being completely potty-trained, which means more freedom for him to do the things he likes to do and less hassle for his parents (us), which is always a high priority. Along with the transition from diapers to jockeys, we have replaced his toddler bed (actually his sister's toddler bed, which is now a frame for her full-size mattress) with a real "big-boy" twin-size bed. He loves his new bed and all the extra room it gives him. He also likes that we can sit in bed with him to cuddle, read, or whatever.

...And that's about it. *Whew!* If all that isn't enough to keep us out of trouble, I'm certain nothing will.

We hope all of you are settling into your own cool-weather schedules with ease. As always, we appreciate all the questions and comments everyone leaves on our blog. We enjoy hearing from you and it gives us a reason to write updates more frequently.

02 August 2011

Porter's Traveling Harmonica Show

I was about to upload this video to Facebook, but then I decided it was worthy of its own blog post. It's less than a minute long, but here are some things to watch for:

  • Continued blowing minus the harmonica
  • A brief, yet incomprehensible mid-song introduction by the artist
  • An up-turned chair
  • Exit over the back of the couch

In other news, we went to a going away party for the niece of Sitka's favorite watercolor artist, Keith Greba, on Saturday. Ashleigh is going to college in Georgia and spent this summer in Sitka, working at Sea Life Discovery Tours, learning to paint under Keith's instruction, helping Keith stage his house for sale (which sold in under an hour of listing!), and occasionally coming upstairs to visit with me at work.

While we were at Keith's place, though, Porter was sitting in a folding camp chair on the deck out back and one of the legs of the chair fell off of the 12" deck, landing Porter on a pile of rocks with the chair on top of him. At first glance, he was fine, if not a little shocked by the fall, with only a bitten tongue. After a few moments, another person pointed out that there was blood on Porter's forehead. Sure enough, there was a 1/4" long puncture wound in his head, presumably from the chair falling on top of him. Stephen took him inside and cleaned him up and we put some ice on his head for swelling. There wasn't much blood and I wasn't all that worried, but we decided to leave the party early and take him to the doc for a once-over, bracing ourselves for this trip to include a couple of stitches.

If I haven't said it enough already, I absolutely love the doctors out here. I called ahead to the emergency room and they ordered Porter's chart while I was on the phone. Then, I went directly into the emergency room and announced my presence. The records clerk dropped off Porter's chart right after me and I was asked if I checked in up front. No, I didn't, but the nurse called up front and checked us in so we wouldn't have to backtrack. Within about 2 minutes, we were sitting on a bed and a nurse was fetching some baby shampoo and wet gauze to clean the wound. The longest part of our visit was waiting for the doctor to arrive, as he was on-call from another department (presumably Maternity, since all of our OBs are family practice doctors). He asked me what happened, checked Porter over in a thorough-yet-casual manner, and commented on how charming he is. The doc then told me that the cut was not in a place that warranted concern about scarring, that head-wounds rarely see infection, but to keep it clean and dry and go on as normal. The only reversal he had on this opinion was that I was to call him if Porter started vomiting. That was it--a quick swab with Bacitracin and a shiny new bottle of ibuprofen, and we were on our way home.

Keith and his wife, Martha, were both very concerned for Porter and have kept up with his healing progress over the last few days. Porter, on the other hand, has not shown the slightest bit of concern for his head since about 15 minutes after the accident took place and he and his sister are back to rough-housing as normal.

18 July 2011

Sitka Farmer's Market July 16, 2011

Watch for a picture of our Seren & Porter eating pickled asparagus and then keep watching to see all the fresh produce and cool stuff grown and made in our own community!

Special thanks to Emily Bender and Raven Radio KCAW - Sitka for taking these awesome pictures and releasing this great slideshow!

17 July 2011

Whale Park Adventures!

It was a beautiful day on Friday, so the four of us took Nika out to the Whale Park to picnic, take in the scenery, and do some creature-watching.

The gazebo where we ate is one of four at the park. The concrete whales are popular for climbing children.

A small squirrel came to watch us eat from a safe distance.

After lunch, it was down the steps to the shore.

There are a lot of steps to get down there.

Climbing on the rocks.

A tide pool with starfish of every color, lots of pretty green anemones, and seaweed. All the black in the foreground is a bed of mussels.

Starfish pile!

Seren touching a starfish.

The view across the bay.

Anemone and seaweed in a mussel bed.

We discovered that Nika's not a half-bad climber, but she was sure tired when we went home.

Soon it was time to climb back up the steps and head back to the car.

Porter wanted to ride the whale one last time before getting strapped into the car.

10 July 2011

trip to Michigan/Ohio part 2

In this post: visiting with college friends, some of whom I haven't seen in six years, rehearsal dinner for Kubby and Rachael's wedding, and the wedding, reception, and bridal party.

I flew into Detroit Thursday morning. I was scheduled to land at 6am, but we got in twenty minutes ahead of schedule. Kyle was nice enough to pick me up and let me stay at his place even though he had a full-day interview. I also got to meet his girlfriend, Amy! Having met every other girl he's seriously dated in the past decade, I've got to say that I'm really happy with the way they treat each other. A bunch of other great people showed up for drinks at Ashley's in Ann Arbor, where I got to try an Oberon (not the best one I've ever had) and a Midas Touch from Dogfish Head (holy hell, that's a good one!). Around the table: me, Andy Dill (Sinfonian), Charlie Dwyer (Sinfonian), Jeff Jia (Albionite), Master John Voorheis (economist), RoB Murdock (Albionite), RoB's girlfriend (!!!) Laura, Amy's friend Dana, Amy Latham (Kyle's girlfriend), Kyle Koehs, Beau Truex. Beau is a friend of Kyle's going way back, and we've had some good times hanging out in the past. All in all, a great night.

Friday night was the rehearsal. This is the first picture that was taken of Kubby and his groomsmen: Russell Van Vlack, Kub, Kurt Koubal, Kyle, and me. Over the next 30ish hours, Kyle, Russell, and I would get to know Kurt very well and raise some serious hell.

Kubby's uncle managed to embarrass the couple a great deal at the rehearsal dinner. It was awesome.

Getting dressed on Saturday and trying out the heavy equipment.

It didn't work anyway, but Russell was set to get a face full of bubbles.

After the wedding, Mr. and Mrs. Kubby and the other eight of us set out in a party bus to take pictures all over southeast Michigan. I'm not saying it got ridiculous, but it WAS hot and there WAS a cooler full of beer.

Slim Pickens ain't got nothin' on Kub.

Remember what I said about the party bus?

Inside the rehearsal hall, the view from the head table over the dance floor. It was a really nice place.

Way off in the back corner, there was a pair of tables full of Sinfonians. Somebody planned that well! I was really happy to see so many brothers I haven't seen in a while, especially those who are now in good relationships. Bean and Victoria look happy, Dave and Abby are great together, Russell and Laura seem to be a perfect match, Divo and Lauren, Kyle and Amy, Dave Friday and his libertine... I'm a bit sorry I didn't get pictures of all of these people, but it was really satisfying to see so many of my brothers doing so well and pleased with their lots in life. I got to have good talks with most of these guys and with Kris Arseneault as well (he came solo), and then we serenaded Rachael together and I got a pretty good Sinfonian fix!

Once the dancing started, the lights went down and I couldn't get good pictures. When the wedding photos are posted, I'll try to share some of those here. It was a great wedding for a great couple, and they looked happy, exhausted, and giddy at the end of the night. I hope they get a lot of space to recover and I know they're on a great start to the rest of their lives.

07 July 2011

trip to Michigan/Ohio part 1

To be fair, this post isn't really about any Alaskan adventure. It does involve Alaska Airline (still my favorite company with which to fly) and my first trip out of Alaska in a year and two days, so it'll have to be close enough.

I'm not going to go into any of the hairy details, but suffice to say that I've been to four airports and sat on five airplanes in the space of 12 hours and I'm not ready to think about flying for a little bit.

I saw some very photogenic stuff on the way in to Seattle, but the camera wasn't handy in time. The leg from Seattle to Portland, though, I was prepared! Here are some pictures taken at 15,000ft of Mt. Rainier and Mt. St. Helens (if you can't tell which is which, I don't know where you've been since 1980). The final picture was taken on the approach to Portland, with St. Helens and Rainier on the left side of the image, St. Helens in front.

05 July 2011

Independence Day weekend in Sitka - pictures ahoy!

If there's one thing Sitka knows how to do well, it's to throw a big celebration and party. This time around, we got to enjoy our first July 4 parade in Sitka as well as Seren's first time ever marching in a parade! There are plenty of pictures here, so I'll just do the rest of my writing as captions. Be sure to make it all the way to the end, even if you don't study every picture or read every caption.

We attended the July 4th booths at Baranof Elementary School on two different days (they were open from Friday through Monday). In addition to fry bread, hot dogs, Filipino food (mmmm), and other "carnival" food, there were booths raising money for a few local organisations through games. We worked the booth for the preschool/child care center we've used this year and the kids got to play on the playground a bit.

Saturday night, fireworks started at 11:30. The neat thing about Sitka's geography is that we have two islands separated by an ocean channel and almost all of the population lives on Baranof Island. This means that the fireworks can be shot off of Japonski Island and people can congregate almost anywhere they want on Baranof (or the bridge) for great views and awesome echos. We chose a spot at Totem Square downtown and were treated to some spectacular reflections as well as a bar fight!

Sunday morning, our friend Cassidy invited us over for brunch on his liveaboard boat (we suspect he's lonely with Stefanie away at school stuff). Kids don't float.

...but Porter does look cute lounging on the back deck!

Seren got chilly, so she borrowed one of Cassidy's sweaters. She looked like she belonged in a Dana Carvey/Kevin Nealon sketch.

The kid has freckles!

Due to me deleting the picture of Seren in the parade, this is the best it gets, so you get two pictures of her and her bike all decked out. She had a great time participating in her first parade ever.

Jo made the wig two Halloweens ago and it got TONS of comments along the parade route. The outfit made sense for the group we were with.

All Sitka parades run down the main street, Lincoln Street. This particular parade started at the Sheldon Jackson campus, meaning that it was probably about a half mile parade.

You know it's a big parade in Sitka if the Coast Guard does a flyover in formation. For my money, the MH-60s are the coolest thing flying in the military right now, and this is consistently the most exciting flyover I've ever seen.

In keeping with Sitka being selected as a Coast Guard City, the honor guard and Air Station crew started off the parade. I'll narrate the rest of the pics as appropriate.

Yes, Captain America apparently works on the USCGC Maple.

Sitka Mountain Rescue, our local search and rescue service, shows off all of their gear. That's a physics teacher up front.

Alaska Day re-enactors, much like re-enactors anywhere else.

Civil Air Patrol. In a state where aviation is a way of life, this is a great way for teenagers to get in the air, possibly leading to a professional career.


Fortress of the Bear brought their pony. I guess their more famous residents weren't parade safe.

This is the group we were with. The gold-fendered wheel is on the bike formerly owned by Alice Machesney, a local eccentric and minor celebrity. Alice died just before we got to town last year, but her memory very much lives on. She was known for rowing to town and riding her bike year-round as well as having a massive grin and a love for polka music. There's a triathlon in her honor (row, bike, play accordion) and the bike shelter at the Raven Radio Cablehouse is dedicated to her. This group is raffling off her bike in order to raise funds for a sculpture at the bike shelter. Early in the parade, I heard someone on the side of the road mention that seeing Alice's bike was the best part of the whole parade. Their invitation to marchers asked for kids, wheels, and wigs!

Allen Marine - our local boat builder, tour operator, and small-vessel cruise company. I probably forgot something they do, but they're everywhere in town.

This may have been the float that got the best reactions from most of the audience. 21 babies born since September with their 21 moms (and a mom-to-be, from what I heard).

It may not have been Follow The Fold, but they were definitely working their tambourines!

Yeah....I don't know either.

Smokey kept getting hugged. It was pretty funny.

The National Guard has a very small presence in town.

It's not a parade if you don't end with the fire trucks. In this case, every vehicle in the fire department!

This last one's out of order, but it's so fun I think it makes the scrolling worthwhile. At the halfway point in the two-week senior high camp, Sitka Fine Arts Camp put on a show that makes it clear that these kids really understand what it is to be Sitkans, even on a temporary basis. Work hard, play hard, and really don't worry about letting your hair down because everyone else is just as weird as you are.