I Heart Chugach: Rabbit Lakes

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Last week was all about hiking, and the grand finale was an 8.8 round trip hike to Rabbit Lakes.  The more I explore new trails in the Chugach National Forest, the more I understand why so many people slap “I Heart Chugach” bumper stickers on their Subarus.

Summers like this make me wonder why the entire planet isn’t migrating to Alaska. There is an infinite amount of daylight to hike an infinite number of trails, and this year we are blessed with the time to get out and do it.

Here are some snapshots from the Rabbit Lake excursion with three tired dogs, three energetic kids, and two proud adults:

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No Fireworks Necessary

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We avoided the crowds and spent the 4th of July with friends at their family cabin on a lake.  Sunscreen was mandatory on this incredibly warm weekend, with temperatures pushing 80 degrees.  Usually I take our children back to Nebraska in the summer so they can enjoy outdoor swimming, but on days like this it’s actually possible right here in Alaska!

The kids bounced between swimming, paddle boating, badminton, kickball, fishing, shooting BB guns, riding four wheelers, hiking, and playing fetch with the dogs.  No mind numbing electronic devices allowed, or even requested.  That alone made the weekend a success for me!

Not one of the kids even asked about fireworks.  It’s just as well, because even the best pyrotechnic display couldn’t have competed with the booming laughter of our children or the explosive beauty of the scenery that surrounded us.

Happy Birthday USA!  Alaska may have been late coming to the party, but we’re so happy to be part of the club.

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I try to refrain from writing about the weather.  Honestly, what is the point?  It is what it is and we live where we live… so whatchagonnado?

I was tempted to post a rant when a blizzard blew through in mid-May, littering our yard with half a foot of fresh snow that put Anchorage’s snow season at a record-breaking 232-day stretch.

Are you kidding me?  Is this really my life?

All my beloved friends were scheming relocations to Seattle or Portland, and I feared my little family would be stuck here, alone in the vast wilderness.

On the same day Anchorage broke the snow record, everyone back in Nebraska was lamenting their new heat record:  it was over 100 degrees.  I had no pity.

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Big Wild Week

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Week 1 of summer is down, so it’s time to check in on some of those lofty goals I set.  Let’s recap:

Goal #1.  Relish my children, and dedicate special time to them every day.
Success!  I took the kids bowling, biking, hiking, and swimming.  One day Sam was off playing with an old preschool pal, so I surprised Maggie with a visit to that ripoff ceramic painting place she has been begging to visit.  We played with legos, built circuits, and colored whacky pictures.  We let Maggie’s butterflies free.  On Wednesday they had two friends spend the night, and we all stayed up until nearly midnight watching Nanny McPhee.  On Thursday they had one friend stay over, and on a rainy Friday morning we all watched Cheaper by the Dozen.  (For the record:  both are complete tearjerkers!)  The rest of the nights it was just us, so the kids and I closed in on the end of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.  Only 40 pages to go!

I’m not proud to admit it, but we also spent an afternoon at Chuck E. Cheese.  The kids loved every minute, but that place feels like a children’s casino of sin.  When we left I felt an overwhelming urge to cleanse them of the experience, so we stopped by the library and signed up for the summer reading program.  I’m hoping the damage was minimal.

A few random snapshots from our week:

Picnic on the deck

The boy loves to bowl










Goal #2:  Exercise every day
Success!  (Actually, I missed Thursday but did two things today so it’s a wash, right?)  Must admit, this one nearly killed me.  On our first walk Maggie and I ran into this cute little guy:

Snowshoe hare... turning brown!

Now that kind of wildlife I can handle.  But on Wednesday, while the kids were safely at piano lessons, I walked along our mountain road solo.  It was an invigorating and uneventful few miles, but less than an hour later I drove down the hill and encountered this guy:

See him?!?

Okay, an admittedly anti-climactic photo.  But if you look carefully you will see a black bear that had just strolled in front of my car and hopped over the guard rail… at nearly the very spot I had been walking less than an hour before!  (You can just see his back behind the rail and above my mirror.)  That was the last of my outdoor walks for this week.  I profusely apologized for nicknaming our treadmill “The Dreadmill” and hopped back on that beast instead.  And liked it!

Ironically, the day before I had taken the kids to Sportsman’s Warehouse to buy bear bells for their bikes.  Sam lost a tooth while we were there!

Tooth fairy time!

Continuing with the exercise and wildlife theme, today we took a little family bike ride and encountered a bull moose on the trail.  As all good mothers would, I pulled my phone out of my pocket and tried to snap a photo.  I missed the moose, but you can mentally Photoshop him behind Maggie here:

Maggie! Quit looking at the moose or you will ride into the creek!

Goal #3.  Clean something every day.
I have determined that this goal is in direct conflict with Goal #1, but I did my best.

Goal #4.  Prepare healthy meals for my family.
Let’s just say the lettuce isn’t rotting around here lately (thumbs up!) and I tried a new crock pot recipe (thumbs down!).  Its leftovers are still in the fridge, where they will probably remain until trash day on Tuesday.

I must also admit that one night we didn’t call the kids in for dinner until 10 PM.  You have to realize that the long daylight hours mess with us this time of year, and it’s no secret we can all use a little extra Vitamin D.  But the real reason is the amazing neighborhood kids.  They are all running and romping in a pack these days, and it is an absolute joy to watch.  The freedom to run off to someone else’s house is new for our children, and they relish it.  They are too busy riding bikes, kicking balls, swinging, wrestling, and learning new games to bother with food.  The neighbors have taught them all about “cops and robbers” and “toilet tag” (apparently when you are tagged you have to squat with your hand out, until another player comes along and flushes you free).  When we called them in at 10 it was still light out, and their complaints had nothing to do with hunger.  But they did happily gobble down their reheated meals once they were inside…

Two houses down, but we can still spy on them!

Goal #5.  Drink more water and less beer..
Water intake, along with decaf iced tea, definitely increased.  I take the fifth on all other points.

All in all, not bad for Week # 1!  For next week, I’m adding a new goal.  Write more.  From here on out, I vow to quit waiting for something profound to happen.  And I vow to quit spending too much time trying to write profoundly.  Live it, blog it, got it.  Ordinary is okay.  Brevity is good.  It’s time to hit my stride.

Hail Summer!

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I still vividly remember sitting in a classroom at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln back in 1992ish.  It was a small course at the Teacher’s College, and the professor asked the 30 or so of us why we wanted to become educators.  One curmudgeonly old dude (he was probably 30) raised his hand and said, “Three reasons:  June, July, and August.”  Half the class laughed, but I was disgusted by his response.  I shook my idealistic head, knowing I would be different.  I aspired to be one of those teachers who could make a real difference.

Fast forward through 18 years in education, and now I welcome – with open arms – the blessing that is June, July, and August.  It’s not to say that I’ve dropped my ideals, and it definitely calls for disciplined budgeting.  But the truth is that summer is priceless.  I get my kids back.  The rat race slows to a tortoise crawl, and we have control of the rules.  I have time for my house, my health, my hobbies.

This summer I have simple goals:

1.  Relish my children, and dedicate special time to them… every day.
2.  Exercise… every day.  Maybe I can learn to enjoy it?
3.  Clean something… anything…. every day.  Wash sheets, organize a pantry, vacuum a floor… just do something!
4.  Prepare healthy meals for my family… most days.  How nice it will be for Clark to come home without the daily “what’s for dinner” dilemma?
5.  Drink more water and less beer… week days.  A girl has to be realistic, after all.

So far we are off to a great start.  We’ve had play dates, painting sessions, Harry Potter read alouds, Little House snuggle fests, hikes, picnic lunches, salads galore, clean sheets, and even went bowling.  (I bowled a 177 today… and not on the Wii!!)

Oh summer… bring it on!