Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Clouds will continue... until Morale improves!

It's been a very cloudy, cool and rainy July.
Even the hardiest Alaskans are complaining -- the lack of sunshine is getting everybody down.

I'd have to check with the resident climatologist (he's asleep right now), but I doubt this summer has set any records for nastiness -- it's just a cooler summer than we'd like.
But just think of the advantages a summer like this offers:

1) No sunburn, no cancer

2) Less people on the trails

3) Best lighting for photographing flowers and landscapes

Time to stop complaining, and get outside!
The word "outside" has 2 meanings in these parts -- when written lower-case, we mean "outdoors", when written upper-case, it means "out of state", a.k.a. taking an airplane to the lower 48 (which is what we're just about to do!)

Like the saying goes: "The warmest winter I've known was a summer spent in Alaska!"

Monday, July 26, 2010

PCT update: Northern California

The PCT hikers are now in Chester, Northern California. The longest state is soon through-hiked (that's PCT-talk), and there's only 2 more to go: OR and WA... The goal is to get to Canada before snowfall (but then again, their team name is "Djibouti or Bust")...

I'm happy to report that my daughter's foot is all better. I've been receiving packages of stuff she no longer needs now that they're past the high Sierra, The other day I received an ice axe in the mail, just wrapped in newspaper and packaging tape -- truly the strangest item I ever received in the US mail!

Meanwhile, our family is packing for our own adventure: vacation in South Dakota, where hubby's family lives. No ice axes needed for the Black Hills, however!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Kitchen chores -- as done by house elves

In our household, kitchen chores get done by house elves, even though our last name is not Malfoy! For those few of you who may not know what house elves are: they're servants (more like slaves) in the wizarding world of Harry Potter. Dobby (pictured), is a house elf. Beloved by many a Harry Potter fan, with his big eyes, big ears, and heart of gold, he saves Harry Potter's life numerous times, ultimately dying for him in the last book (sob!)

But back to kitchen chores, like parents all over the world, we've struggled to find a good arrangement for our young brood to help with the daily kitchen chores. Somebody's got to do the dishes, and besides, it builds character! The obvious one was for the kids to take turns: today it's your turn, tomorrow your sister, etc... And they, in turn, started referring to their assigned day as "house elf" day, reflecting the fact that in their own minds, having been assigned to wash dishes was just shy of slavery!

But there was always squabbling, and they begged us to revise the system. For one thing, each child seemed to feel very "put out" when the other did not have to do any chores on that particular day (nothing is worse than having to do chores while your sibling is watching!). SO, they kept on wanting to change the system, and after a while we reluctantly agreed, ok, why don't you come up with your own system!

Here is what they came up with -- yes, it's complicated, but they seem satisfied, and it works!
1st day (Monday): The "Clean" house elf empties the dishwasher and sets the table -- in other words, takes care of the clean dishes and helps with dinner prep. The "Dirty" house elf clears the table, helps put food away, and loads the dishwasher (not their favorite job!!!).
Next day: reverse

Simple enough, but how about the trash? To a parent that sounds like a clear-cut job for the "dirty" house elf -- but even that got more finely sub-divided: there's the actual carrying of the trash to the garage ("dirty" job"), putting in the new liner, and doing the recycling ("clean").

I admit that we parents did some eye-rolling at all the negotiating that takes place, but I now realize a couple of important things:
#1 they're doing it, with less reluctance than when we assigned their tasks point-blank.
#2 they like each other's company -- and they're often found negotiating finer points among themselves, like "If you can put that pan away and refill the ice cube tray, then I'll scrub the pancake mess off the counter, and then we can make cookies together after dinner..."
#3 there's power in self-determination- even among mere house elves!

Friday, July 16, 2010

PCT update: Putting up feet in Tahoe

The gals are resting at Lake Tahoe, having hiked over 1000 miles -- mindboggling, isn't it? My daughter hurt her foot and is needing to let it rest and heal for a spell. She writes:
Crunched foot joint has taken me off the trail for a few miles and a few days. I want to be sad that I won't be "true to the through" but I'd rather sacrifice these 50 miles and my hike's purity than my chances of finishing the next 1600 miles of the hike. I simply redefine 'success' for this endeavor from "Hiking the PCT" to "Hiking a vast majority of the PCT without doing anything too stupid."
I'm glad that she chose rest -- and I wish I could be in Tahoe to spend some time with her! Instead, my good friend Patti gets to spoil her instead of me...

Thursday, July 15, 2010

No TV?!? Dude, you're weird!

We're having a great summer here. Cool, but not too rainy. Kids are keeping busy, outdoors and indoors, and they're getting along great (for the most part). And they're not watching any TV.

Just picked up Youngest from Music Camp yesterday.
She related this comment from a fellow camper, upon hearing there's no TV in her life:
"No TV, really? Do you have X-Box? Wii?"
"Dude, you're weird!"

Photo credit:

The Prof, a.k.a. husband, just got back from a conference, and he too had a conversation with a fellow "camper" about our TV-free household:
"I bet you don't have any kids."
"Actually, I do. Teens."
"What do they think of not having any TV!?!"
"They're jiggy with it."

And indeed, our kids are truly fine without a TV, never having had one around -- and they wouldn't want it any other way. They to get to watch movies on DVD (we even have BluRay, so we're not entirely last-century), but they don't feel like they're missing out on anything by not having cable or network TV.
HONEST. It is possible to raise kids without TV!

Friday, July 9, 2010

Sunshine at last... and feeling safe in bear country...

Today the weather has been GORGEOUS -- one of those days that makes up for about a month-worth of Alaskan winter snow/ice/rain. Only yesterday was I blogging on my food/gardening blog, Borealkitchen, about how it's hardly worth growing tomatoes here in Alaska -- but today the sun seems to be saying "Hey Alaska, I can shine!!!"

At the Nature Center I now get many groups of summer camp kids -- it's so much fun taking them on walks and teaching them about geology, plants, animals, etc. But mostly, just to watch them discover things along the hike: a butterfly or caterpillar, some red berries (are they safe to eat?), a hole in the ground (who lives there?)...
Some of these kids are rather urban, and are scared we might encounter a bear and moose. Today I had this one little 5-year old who held tight to my hand during the walk, and kept on asking me about bears. "If the bears here are wild, will they attack us?" -- No, they just want to be left alone, and we'll make lots of noise and they won't get near us. "So your bears here are nice?" -- Well, yes, I suppose! They seem to know to stay away from people...
After re-assuring her some more and confirming that I carry bear spray and a radio, she said "So your job is to protect us and keep us safe."

Never thought of it in those terms, but yes, my job is to take kids out into nature, give them a chance to explore, and also, to help them gain a sense of SAFETY about being in the outdoors.