Thursday, September 24, 2009

The Last Frontier--one last time.

Now we go back to June. Shortly after my parents arrived back in Alaska after being Super Grandparents and babysitting for us for 6 days while Jared and I were in San Diego, they put their house up for sale. Although I was not giving my "yea" vote on the matter, I told them they needed to do what was best for them. My parents got a cash offer the second day on the market. They had to be out in less than 30 days by July 13th. Holy cow, that was fast! My mind was whirling with all the things they had to do to prepare and the actual move. It's a logistical nightmare moving to or from Alaska, even worse for a couple anticipating leaving the country shortly after selling their house and not sure if they will be able to find another one in another state to buy before leaving, and thinking about storage in the lower 48 in the interim and needing storage in AK until they leave for the summer, etc., etc.

Later that night or the next day, I started wishing I could go up to Alaska to help my parents out. Don't get me wrong. My parents are the most efficient movers you will ever find! They've packed us up, loaded our trucks and helped us move more than their fair share. Which is why I wanted to help. I wanted to give back to them just a tiny portion of what they've done for us. So I started looking at the calendar. And then I started devising a plan. Jared worked the night of the 4th of July at the Urgent Care. However, if I took a flight out that night, I could stay Sunday, Monday (Jared didn't have to work that day!), and then he would only have to take Tues. and Wed. off. I would fly home Thursday morning because Jared doesn't work til noon on Thursdays. That would get me a 4 day trip with the least amount of vacation days used. I proposed my plan to Jared. He was all for it.

I asked my parents what they thought. First of all, Dad wasn't even going to be in town during those days. He was going to be hanging out/fishing off Kodiak Island. So Mom was going to be alone. GREAT! Even more reason to go. An extra adult can't hurt. Their first reaction...they didn't want me spending all that money on a ticket. I was still just outside the 2 weeks advance ticket purchase. But the more Mom thought about it the more she got excited. So I bought the ticket. And under $550. I was happy with that. Especially since I was flying out of Portland.

A week later, the contract on the sale fell through. We suspect the buyers got spooked by the renters next door. Oh well. I told my mom the ticket was non-refundable, non-transferable. I was coming whether she needed me or not.

The 4th of July was a HOT day. I got everything cleaned, organized, labeled, sorted, and outlined for Jared. Menus were planned, groceries were bought, bills were paid, laundry was done, fireworks were purchased, the house was spotless. All Jared had to do was make sure the kids didn't kill each other or burn the house down.

My friend Celina took me to the airport while her mom (my friend Cheryl) watched the kids for the 45 minutes when I was gone before Jared got home. What lifesavers they were!

I was stunned when the plane backed away from the gate. It was half empty! I have NEVER been on a flight to or from Anchorage where even 1/4 of the seats were available. They cram you in like sardines on those limited flights. I had a whole row to myself.

It was fun to see the fireworks dot the sky below us as we left the city. Once we reached cruising altitude I settled in and stared reading a book I had with me. You know you're going to Alaska in the summer when you leave one place in the dark and it gets lighter the later it gets. I soon became obsessed with the what was outside the plane and started taking pictures. Because the flight was so empty, I moved from one side to another and from one row to another getting as many different shots as I could. It was incredible.

I had the moon behind me.

The midnight sun in front of me.

Mountains, snow, glaciers and rivers below me.

Goodnight Moon!

Hello Anchorage! This is the Sleeping Lady or Mount Susitna (located about 30 miles northwest of Anchorage across the Knik Arm of the Cook Inlet).

It was an awesome flight! I feel so blessed for once-in-a-lifetime views. I arrived around 12:30am which is when the above picture was taken prior to landing.

It was about 2:30am before Mom and I turned in for the night. We couldn't stop talking. She had another offer on the house already and ironically enough the renters that scared the first sale away, packed up and moved the week after! Oh well. Their loss. My parents would sell their house. It wasn't if, but when. Mom had countered on the second offer (because Dad left her in charge while he went gallivanting around Kodiak Island with his brother and friend). She was waiting to hear back from them, but was still showing the house.

The next day was Sunday. We walked to church and entered a very WARM chapel. Apparently the air conditioning was out (yes, some buildings have A/C) and the Bishop welcomed everyone to the "Honolulu North" ward for the day. Anchorage was experiencing some unusually high temperatures while I was there.

Because the house was still being shown, we couldn't do a garage sale or pack or paint as I had anticipated doing, so we played instead! Darn.

When Mom asked me what I wanted to do Sunday night, the first thing out of my mouth was "climb Flattop." I think she thought I was kidding. I assured her I wasn't. She double checked. I continued to assure her. I wanted to climb it last year when we were up there with the kids, but we just didn't have time. Seeing as how this was my last hoo-rah, I wanted to do it one more time. Mom had NO desire to climb the Glen Alps, but because she loves me, we did it.

Our goal :)

Downtown Anchorage on a hazy afternoon due to a couple of forest fires.

Going up...

The parking lot is the light thin strip beyond that second hill on the right. (Mom, you're the best! What a trooper!)

At the top...

The views...

See? It really is flat!

Going down...MUCH harder than going up! Woo--we were tired at the end, but what an accomplishment.

After cleaning up we got dinner at a Mexican restaurant and rented Mamma Mia!

Tuesday we went shopping in Wasilla for the "Original Poop Moose." I own one. But Mom wanted to get one and in looking for one for the Hickens last year, we discovered the guy that makes them sells them in one store only in the valley. There were only 2 or 3 large ones and a couple of small ones. And they were on sale. Sweeet!Mom got hers and I bought a baby one for my "other mother" Vickie. She holds Calvin (often a very squirmy Calvin) all through Relief Society for me (and has for the past 9 months since I was called to the Relief Society Presidency). She very much deserved a collector's item that you can only find at one store and only in Alaska!

On our way back into town we stopped at a theater and watched the new Ice Age movie and then we had one of my favorites for dinner: spaghetti.

Wednesday morning we went to the temple. Such a special place.

I packed up (boy those 4 days went by fast--not sure Jared could say the same, however) and then we headed to the Sourdough Mining Company for dinner and the Alaska Wildberry Company for souvenirs for the fam. And then it was time to go.

Goodbye house.

Goodbye Silver Spruce Drive.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Run, run as fast as you can!

Today marked our FOURTH annual 5K run in Forest Grove. The Lion's Club and the optometry program put on the "Run for Sight" each year and we've been doing it as a family or couple since 2006. This year, because Jared was preparing for his 175 mile coastal bike ride with the young men in July, he had to forgo running the race but Jake wanted to give it a try. Jake ran a couple of 1 mile sessions on the treadmill and he and I ran around the neighborhood 3 times and only once did we do 3.2 miles. He ran it in 35 minutes and left me in his dust. I had this silly idea that he might not be able to keep up with me. After that I realized he didn't really need me to run it with him.

Here are the kiddos minus Calvin before the race. Karcyn is sporting my shirt.

Jake, Stephanie and I headed to the starting line around 8:50am while Jared took the other kids to 22nd Avenue to wait for us to pass.

I had to ask Jared about this picture. I guess Calvin got mad when Jared put him down and decided to lay down on the path. That doesn't even look comfortable.

When the alarm sounded for us to start, I told Jake "go, Jake! Run!" We were near the front and I didn't want him getting trampled. Gosh, we hadn't made it halfway down that street when I lost sight of him. He just took off! He was so quick, Jared wasn't expecting him and got a blurry shot. At least he's smiling. Jared and Jacob (Steph's hubby) were afraid Jake came out waaaay too fast and that he'd tank shortly after.

Stephanie passed me before we left that street too. That's also when the token jogging stroller passed me as well. Yup, everyone and everything passes Jenn.

And this is Jake coming back down 22nd Avenue, still running strong.

And he's still smiling. How come he doesn't look tired? Or sweaty?

And there's Steph. I heard she and Jake had a fight for the finish. And Jake beat her :)

And here comes Jenn, the running caboose. Very tired and very sweaty!

And wondering why the heck I put myself through this year after year?!

Here we are after catching our breath, those of us who needed to, waiting for the awards. It also started to rain, but that felt good.

Yay for Jake! He took first place for his age group (0-13 years)! Time: 29:49? (He thought it was 30:03 but Steph later found out she came in at 29:50 and he barely beat her)--Very impressive. I'm glad he doesn't get his running from me. I couldn't run a mile in college.

Yay for Steph! She took 2nd place for our age group!! (This is her second, 2nd place ribbon 2 years in a row!) Time: 29:50

Go ME!! I got third place in our age group (30-34). My first ribbon for anything physical! (And yeeehss, there were ONLY 3 of us in that group running this year. But so what?) Time: 32:50. I just looked back and saw my time last year was 32:48. You can't get much more consistent than that.

It's going to be hard to beat this year's run with ribbons!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Laura Ingalls strikes again!

I was at the temple Thursday morning and as I was getting ready to leave, a sister who was in the session with me, stopped me and said, "You look JUST like that actress who played Laura Ingalls on "The Little House on the Prairie." I smiled and nodded. She asked, "Do you get that a lot?" Yup. Since I was 12. Not so much from people who've known me for a while. It's mostly from strangers or people I'm just starting to get to know. And's clearly the hair that's the commonality. Otherwise, I just don't see it.


I sure hope it's THIS version of the actress Melissa Gilbert that I remind them of

and not THIS one!!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Before & AFTERs

Piano bench BEFORE...

Piano bench AFTER!

When I was getting my piano keys recovered back in 2007, I found a guy who handcrafts piano benches. He did a great job on ours. He would have finished it for me too, for another $200. Yikes. I hadn't budgeted that, so I opted to leave it natural with the idea I would stain and finish it myself. I've never done anything remotely like that before and thought it might be a good first project. Two years, 4 months and one child later, complete with step-by-step directions from my sister-in-law Chris, and a tip from my friend Rachael in proper rag disposal, I finally stained the bench. I am soooo pleased with how it turned out. I have more craft-type failures than successes so this was good for my crafting confidence. And more importantly, the wood is now protected from wandering pens and markers clenched in toddler hands.

Family room window before...

Family room window...AFTER! in point about my crafting failures. I KNEW...deep down, no matter how hard I tried, I would not get the lengths of these curtains the same. Again, I've had this fabric since BEFORE Calvin was born 16 months ago. It frays and stretches so I was doomed from the beginning. It was July 3rd and it was going to be hot that weekend. I figured it was now or never. I did the left panel first. It took me 4 HOURS to get the first panel done. Why? Because I don't use my sewing machine but every couple of years, so we had to spend the first TWO hours getting reacquainted. Fortunately the second panel only took a fraction of the time. Now I remember why I don't sew. It is STILL painful for me to look at these curtains side by side. But, in my lack-of-crafting-defense, they weren't sewn for looks, they were sewn for relief from the blaring afternoon sun. And they are a HUGE help so that softens the blow a little.

Side yard before...

and before...

Still before...

and...Side yard AFTER!

I went to Alaska unexpectedly the night of July 4th for a few days (more details on that later). While I was gone, Jared used his "time off" to make some needed changes and wanted to surprise me with this new transformation. He employed about 7 teachers and priests from church and over 2 1/2 days they created this lovely new walkway on the north side of our house. It looks SO MUCH BETTER. And the pea gravel is beautiful when it's wet...which is good in our climate. Jared's a little bummed, however. The gravel hasn't settled like he thought it would so it's soft, making it hard to get the heavy trash cans and lawn mower out front. He'll probably replace the gravel with pavers later. But for now, this is more than adequate. I've hated the that side of the house since we bought it. It's been a work in progress, but I love it! Thanks for the gift, Babe!

Jenn's hair before...

Jenn's hair AFTER!

My dear friend and other mother Vickie called me a couple weeks ago and asked if I was thinking about getting my hair cut. Indeed I had been considering it. It was way too long. So long that it was at the annoying stage...even pulled back in a pony tail or a clip, it was still falling in my face when I leaned over. Vickie said that her hairdresser was in need of a hair model as his studio was bringing in an educator from the Paul Mitchell school for continuing education and asked me if I was interested. I said I was. I was told the model would need to be willing to have her hair cut between the shoulders and chin. I've never gone above my shoulders so I was a little worried, but I trusted the educator. As you can see, my hair is still pretty long. She was so moved with my hair color, as were the other stylists, (and apparently I have great texture too--they ooooed and ahhhed over that as well--) that she couldn't bear to cut off more than she did. The way I figured it, it's just hair and it'll grow back. But before we began, I told her I trusted her. And hey, the haircut was free and Vickie offered to watch my kids as well. You can't get a deal better than that! The rep from Paul Mitchell gave me a "Liza" haircut, obviously with layers. She also used a flat iron on it to show the stylists her layers in more detail. Whoa, that was an eye-opener! I didn't think my hair could look flatter than it already did. That was cool to see the difference. The stylists said it made my hair look "smoother." I liked the look, but because I don't own a flat iron (am I calling that by the correct name?) I won't be able to reproduce that style ever again. But my hair definitely has more lift and flow to it. As I was preparing to leave, these 8 stylists were all pawing my hair and running their fingers and combs through it. It was also interesting to hear the different terms and techniques they were throwing around as they watched the demonstration. As I sat there obediently quiet, I was amazed at the specific knowledge and art that is required in this field and consequently, I have an even deeper admiration and respect for hairstylists. I would definitely be a hair model for them again. Thanks Stage 4 Hair Design and thank you, most of all, VICKIE!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

'Tis the Season to be Jolly....

Have you seen the STAPLES commercial from a few years back where the song, "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" is playing over the intercom, a father is skating joyfully down an aisle on a shopping cart dancing to the music overhead while his kids are unwillingly trudging behind him with scowls on their faces? The commercial is ushering in, not the Christmas holidays, but Back-to-School days. I think it's hysterical.

Yesterday Jake told our friends from Forest Grove and his social studies teacher that we happened to ran into at Winco that he cannot WAIT for homework because his summer has been soooo boring. He later amended his statement to me by saying that some weeks were lots of fun. (Wise choice, Young One.)

Today in one of his usual meltdowns, Cooper stomped to his room and slammed his door while yelling "I can't WAIT to go back to school!!" I rolled my eyes at the dramatics, smiled slyly from the other room and murmured under my breath, "That makes two of us."

I guess that wasn't really fair of me to include Cooper's outcry. He's had a rough summer altogether due to his own actions and choices. But I thought it was fitting since I have never heard him so eager to get to school. And I'm sure he meant it. He's been pretty miserable, making his mother miserable by association many times, with his inappropriate knee-jerk, 2 year-old reactions to EH-VER-REE-THING. At this time, one would think I'd actually be requesting the windows of heaven to bless his teacher this year. Though I do pray for my children's teachers, Cooper has proven to me over and over again this summer, that he's a gem for everyone BUT me.

So, all in all, summer was just boring enough (whether through my doing or through self-imposed misery) that the kids are chomping at the bit to get back to school. Mission accomplished.