Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Sunny Summer Sitka Day

Sometimes we have a hard time explaining why we love Alaska so much.  Maybe this synopsis of our day will help.

The kids went to their first day of morning summer camp through Sitka Community Schools.  Emerson went to Engineering is Elementary, where he spent the morning building bridges with straws and marshmallows.  Ava worked on cartwheels and handstands in Gymnastics.  Both came home with flushed faces, excitedly telling us how much fun they had.

Meanwhile, Mike had the day off (aside from the usual work phone calls), so we took the opportunity to finally explore the Sitka Cross Trail while the kids were at camp.  We discovered the other day that we can access it right from our neighborhood, via the Indian River Trail. We took Charlie the Running Dog with us, and old Midas stayed home to nap.  It was SO much fun.  I have been avoiding most trails through the woods on my own because of the brown bears.  Between Charlie, his bear bell, and our conversation, we were pretty sure we would scare any that happened to be nearby.  The section of trail we ran was the last bit of unimproved terrain, and it was fun to leap over the log steps and tree roots, and sink in the mud.  It was also narrow and a bit creepy at times when it went through the thick salmonberry bushes in the forest.  Portions in the muskeg were breathtaking, with views of the surrounding mountains.  We took the Gavan Hill Trail down towards town and looped back toward home.  Muddy Charlie had his first foot rinsing of the day when we got back.

After lunch, we took advantage of the sunny afternoon since we know a storm is rolling in tomorrow. We haven't explored any of the fabulous hiking trails, so we thought we'd start small with Thimbleberry Lake.  The total round-trip distance was about a half mile, and we figured the kids would be too tired after camp to go further anyway.  What a happy surprise the trail turned out to be!  Not only was it very well-maintained, but the lake is just breathtaking.  As soon as we got to the water's edge, dog leashes came off, and shoes and socks went flying.  The kids and dogs spent a good thirty minutes splashing around and soaking up the mud.  

After we got home, the dogs had a much-needed bath in the front yard.  Then we built a campfire(which we still aren't great at) and made some s'mores, since we had been promising the kids we would do so for some time now.

This awesome day followed three consecutive days of fishing on the boat.  The first two days, we just went out in the sound close to town and caught some rockfish (which are really delicious, but take more than a couple to make a meal).  Yesterday, we got up early and had some guys from the ship come with us to show us how to use our trolling gear.  The ocean swells were too big for comfort, so we ended up wandering around for 8 hours, trying our luck at different spots.  We learned how to use the downrigger, but did not get any salmon.  We then tried for halibut, and got more rockfish.  Ten rockfish, to be exact!  Good thing they are tasty!

As the kids showered off their day this evening, Mike and I sat on the back deck.  Through the open bathroom window, we heard Emerson dancing around and singing, "Everything is Awesome," which is the theme song from The Lego Movie.  I think he's right.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

A return to "normal"

What a whirlwind year we've had.  One year ago today, the kids and I were moved out of our Homer house and living in temporary quarters while waiting for the HICKORY to return home from an extended trip to the Bering Sea.  Less than two weeks later, we drove out of town on our way to California.  Today we are waiting on a ship to return again, this time from a dry dock period that has had it away from homeport for over three months.  And somewhere in the middle, we lived in California for 7 months, and moved back to Alaska.  We still can't quite wrap our minds around how this all came about.  Our time in California seems sort of like a dream at this point--did we really live there, or was it just a vacation?

My unpacking "help"
 We've had people question our choice to pull the kids out of school mid-year, especially since we knew ahead of time that the ship would be going to dry dock pretty much right after we arrived, leaving us essentially as a single-parent household while trying to settle into a new town.  It seemed even crazier to some since we first were told that the dry dock would be occurring in Alameda, the very same town we were moving away from.  But we would do it all again, in exactly the same way.    Yes, Mike left after we were only in Sitka for two weeks, before we even had our furniture in our house.  The poor guy hasn't slept in his own bed on a regular basis since January.  But since it hadn't been that long since we lived the ship life, we were able to slide right back into routine.  It helped immensely that we had school and other activities to keep us busy and help us meet people.  We all made more friends here in two months than we made in seven months in CA.  We even have a nice older neighbor across the street who brings us cookies and dog treats.  The kids excelled in school, thanks to their new teachers jumping right in to assess their abilities and taking the time to challenge them.

A fish out of water
Mike was able to come back to visit for two separate weeks over the 3-month period, but his time here was anything but normal.  The first week was consumed by probably the first ever honey-do list I've given him, full of moving-in chores that I ran out of steam to complete on my own.  The second week was all about our boat.  Yes, our boat. We're doing Alaska the right way this time, which to us means having the ability to fully take advantage of the amazing natural resources around us.  So the time in Seattle afforded Mike the opportunity to find us just the right boat for fishing, camping, and exploring.  We had to put the boat on a barge to get it here, and it conveniently came during a time that Mike was here to help get it fully outfitted and in the water.

Our new money pit

Somehow, we managed to be together for Mothers Day

In the past four months, Emerson turned 6 and Midas turned 11.  Charlie grew into a full-sized dog.  Ava had a fabulous ballet recital, Emerson played on his first t-ball team, and both kids have been participating in regular swim lessons.  Mike and I celebrated 11 crazy years of marriage, with many crazier years to come.  It snowed and melted, spring sprung, and our garden grew.  Summer has come, and I now have a first grader and a third grader.  How is that possible??

Only in Alaska do you spend the last day of kindergarten digging pits for crabs with your classmates at the beach.

Ava loved her teacher so much that she wanted her again for third grade.

Rough life these guys have.
When we are all finally reunited and the ship is back where it belongs, we will get back to "normal."  We are all looking forward to our first regular weekend of regular things, like coffee and pancakes, and a morning trip together to the beach.  Just to have a week with work during the day and coming home in the evening will be fabulous.  Even some normal time with the ship deployed, doing real work, will be a welcome routine for its new captain.  We have quite a bit of fun planned for what I see as our "bonus year" of Alaskan summertime, and I can't wait to get started!