Summer 2018: The CliffsNotes

Here I sit in September, finally exhaling after a whirlwind summer that blew us straight into a new school year before anyone had a chance to fasten their seat belts.  I’m scrolling through a zillion cell phone snapshots and feel the need to pay homage to all the Alaska adventures we had after returning from New York, DC, and Nebraska.  Here are those summer 2018 highlights and lowlights:  the CliffsNotes version.

Between the two kids, we found ourselves at the soccer fields five nights per week.  If that sounds like every day, trust us it felt like it.  We were like mailmen parents:  neither snow (okay, didn’t have any) nor rain (tons of that) nor heat (surprisingly, yes) kept us from the sidelines.  As for gloom of night… Maggie’s team only had seven on the roster, so if even one kid was absent they had to forfeit and scrimmage.  What a bummer.  Sam’s team had a tough start to the year, but grew a lot and ended up earning 2nd in a rainy championship game.  Nothing gloomy there.

This summer we discovered that Jewel Lake is indeed a real gem.  We’ve lived in Anchorage for over 20 years and didn’t realize this lake had a bonafide beach with a lifeguard!  It’s a dream spot for picnics, paddle boarding, and pups, and we enjoyed several lazy afternoons there.

I have self-diagnosed myself with a brown thumb, but we planted a garden and cleared room for a flower bed anyway.  Stay tuned.

My sister popped up for a fun week that included Flattop, Bird to Gird on bikes, ATV riding at Knik River, Sudoku, board games galore, and saving a family of geese.

Thanks to a travel snafu (remember my post about why you should never, ever fly United?) my sister was still here when Clark’s high school buddy and family arrived.  The more the merrier!  Halibut fishing was a highlight from their trip, despite some seriously sea sick kids.  And Jim had solitaire mojo – I’ve never seen someone win so many games in my life!

Between visitors we did some deep cleaning.  It’s not every weekend that we haul the vacuum up to the kids’ lofts or pull off the mattress pads, although next time we may quarantine the dog…

My parents were here for several fun events this summer, including Clark’s birthday.  The kids and I surprised him with a food dehydrator so he could try to make beef jerky that rivals his brother’s.  He was thrilled when he opened it, and even more thrilled when he opened my parents’ gift:  5 lbs. of London Broil.  He immediately got to marinading!

My parents planned their visit in late July, hoping they could see dipnetting in action.  I love it when a plan comes together!  The fish counts weren’t ideal, but the sun was shining and the salmon run was due any day.  We rolled the dice, loaded the truck, and scurried south for an overnight excursion.  Luck was on our side, and we came home with 20 fish!  Nancy and Lia joined us, and they netted an equal number.  Fishing regulations don’t allow non-residents to dipnet or help with the process in any way, but my parents were more than content to sit back and absorb the unique scene on Kenai Beach.

A game changer on this fishing trip was my Luggable Loo, which was discreetly contained in our own little porta potty pop up tent.  Clark still thinks it was a ridiculous purchase, but any woman who has endured the Kenai Beach toilets during dipnetting season has my back on this one.  #nobuyersremorse

My dad helped us tackle a few home improvement projects, and Mom and I experimented with some Instant Pot recipes, including a cheesecake!  That was all easy compared to taking Maggie back-to-school shopping.  She was eager for school supplies, but clothes shopping with that girl is downright exasperating.  Whoever says 7th grade girls are shopaholics has not met mine.  And Sam isn’t much better…

Their visit ended with Dad’s birthday.  He went to a driving range with Clark and Sam in the morning while Mom, Maggie, and I put the finishing touches on his homemade ice cream cake.  It combined his favorite Bunny Tracks ice cream with crumbled Snickers, but due to our dipnetting excursion we didn’t have time to freeze each layer overnight.  It looked gorgeous, but it collapsed like the turkey in Christmas Vacation when we sliced it!  Oh well… unlike that turkey, this cake still tasted delicious and no one fed a single bite to the dog.  Dad also loved his Yeti cup and surf & turf dinner.

When August rolled around it was time to put the library back together, so I spent several days at school.  The space looked amazing, but it was impossible to finish the job since half our bookshelves were still on a barge.  Students would arrive day one whether we were ready or not, so I unpacked as much as possible!

Before we knew it, the first day of school arrived.  The kids and I are on the same campus now, which certainly makes life easier.  It’s a year of big changes for all three of us:  middle school for Maggie, high school for Sam, and the new library for me.

Maggie was more than ready for middle school, and this summer she spent copious amounts of time organizing her binder.  I’m confident she could start her own consulting firm about middle school backpack organization.


Sam’s excitement had nothing to do with new backpacks, and everything to do with seeing his buddies again.   We’ve always taken photos of the kids on the first day of school, but I wasn’t about to mortify our 14-year-old freshman by asking him to pose near the school’s busy main entrance.  I tried to get a snapshot in an abandoned hallway instead, but apparently that was equally mortifying?  As a result, here is Sam’s “First Day of High School” photo:


Perhaps next year we’ll snap photos on our front porch instead?

The end of summer is always bittersweet, but getting back into a routine is never a bad thing.  So it’s time to clear the soccer gear out of the cars and say goodbye to our late nights and alarm-free mornings.  Many exciting changes are on the horizon, and we are ready!

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