Saturday, November 15, 2014

Our Epic Family Adventure Part 1

Clear back in April, we decided to sign up for a chance to follow Fernando for a few months.  The logistics were a bit overwhelming.  We worked several different options including terminating out rental contract and putting our stuff in storage.  Fortuitously, some new neighbors moved in and we snagged a good deal of boxes to pack up our household goods.  In the end, the stress and timetable of the rental termination helped us decide to keep our contract and find friends willing to use the house while we were away. 

Though we tentatively decided to go through with the whole transient lifestyle, the deal was sealed when my Mom arranged for a few days of horseback riding at her cousin’s house in Wyoming.  The plan was now to visit Fernando’s family for a few weeks.  Fernando would head off to set things up for us (housing, car, etc) while we played in Utah with my family.  Then, when things were looking settled, we would make our way to Fernando.  All the while, we would do very basic homeschool to keep the kids’ brains active and functioning.    

During our final preparations, a few big problems decided to rear their ugly head.  All the flights seemed to disappear (common with Space-A) so we bought last minute plane tickets to California.  The weather started to get a little chilly (like pipes freezing/bursting cold) and we found out that our furnace was broken and the repair wouldn’t be completed until after we flew out.  On top of all that, Joaquin decided to play super hero off our wooden chest and damaged his foot.  The radiologist didn’t give us any hope for a positive outcome. 

Luckily, Joaquin’s foot seemed to heal (not 100% sure as the doctor seems to be, but that is what the xrays show).  Because the tickets were only one-way, it was relatively inexpensive.  Amazing friends went out of their way to be at our home to turn on water and space heaters, and open cabinets.  One dear friend noted that is was warmer in our garage than the house.  They took turns opening the house for the repairman who wouldn’t show up.  The furnace finally was fixed much to everyone’s delight.  We were on our way.  

Friday, September 27 at 10:30pm we arrived at the Anchorage International Airport.  Our dear neighbors dropped us off and helped us carry all 13 bags into the terminal.  We were flying JetBlue that only had the extra roomy seats available and should have charged us $40 a seat, but kindly let us upgrade for free. The flight took off at midnight, dropped us into Seattle 3 hours later.  Lay over was 1 hour (long enough for kiddos to really wake up and buy some overpriced breakfast) and then we had a 1 hour flight to Long Beach, CA.  It really put things into perspective how far Alaska is from the continental US.    

Funny side note, while watching the other passengers board the plane for Seattle, I couldn't help but notice the very similar attire and appearance.  Almost everyone who walked down the aisle had gauges in the ears, rings in strange places, dreaded hair, au natural hygiene and a mellow attitude.  The same could be said for boarding to LA except those items were replaced with perfectly coifed hair, immaculate makeup, lightly bronzed skin, and coordinated apparel, bags, jewelry, and shoes.  

Long Beach Airport was quaint.  We walked off the airplane onto the tarmac and enjoyed the palm trees in the open atrium between the terminal and the outdoor luggage claim.  To save time, I sent Fernando with Tiago and Talia to pick up the rental car and took Mia and Joaquin to snag the luggage.  Needless to say, it was quite a show.  I think most people expect a certain amount of luggage per person.  People stared incredulously after the 5th bag I pulled off the serpentine luggage claim.  I almost caused a crisis when the locked gun case loomed across the black belt.  The women in front of me, recoiled at the site.  One whispered loudly pulling as far as she could away from the tainted box "Is that a gun? That's totally a gun."  As if on cue, I hoisted it from the conveyor and set it next to Joaquin.  Even if I wanted to go on a shooting spree, the unloaded gun had two huge locks.  They could have easily escaped in the time I tried to open it.  Too bad, I don't even touch the gun Fernando purchased for me years ago.  The only guns I endorse for my use have lasers or paintballs.

With 12 bags (4 of which were significantly oversized and heavy), 1 carseat, plus about 4 carry ons, those little pay for luggage carts weren't going to cut it.  Luckily a kind skycap employee came to our rescue.  He even wandered around with us to find where Fernando went with the car.  We used some mad Tetris skills to fit everything.  Even still, bags were everywhere.  We stopped by Panera for some deliciousness, and Redondo Beach while we waited for Fernando's brother to land in LAX.

 The beach was beautiful.  I was honestly shocked.  Another funny side note, when we first planned to use a military hop to get to California, we thought we could take a detour through Hawaii.  It worked so well last year when Fernando was deployed.  Flights just kept disappearing or lacked enough seats.  After the third or fourth missed attempt, the kids postulated "The reason we can't get on a flight is because mom hasn't followed through with her promise to the missionaries to give a Book of Mormon to her friend."  It's true that I did promise the missionaries, but to be fair, I intentionally made it an open ended promise.  I love the Book of Mormon.  It has been a guide and strength to me and my family.  I think anyone who reads it seeking for meaning will gain from its inspired words.  I know that my friend, who already has years of exposure to the LDS faith, would accept it kindly.  It just felt unnatural and forced.  With my girls by my side, I conquered my fear.  To avoid awkward conversation that always flows from me while talking about the church, I decided to write my thoughts in the front pages and gave her scripture references to the pictures inside.  I gave it to her and even told her that we had missed going to Hawaii because I was supposed to give it to her.  She laughed.  When I made it to the beach, I forwarded her the picture and thanked her for accepting the book so we could visit the beach.

After we picked up Fernando's brother, we stopped by the LA Temple to pick up some items.  Tiago found this crazy husk and was being hilarious with it.
 The two hour drive to the Tovar's home proved a bit too long.  California post up next.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Catch up list vs Conference list

While there is a lot that has happened in the past year
*military hops to Hawaii with beaches and burns and sleeping on a terminal floor and a flight to California with crazy connections to get to family
*Utah fun and then a day trip back to California to hop on a military flight back to Alaska
*family visits
*Kindergarten with a first day fiasco
*beautiful long Alaskan fall
*Complete house rearrangement including moving sofas up and downstairs solo
*return from Deployment
*holidays and birthdays
*Hosted my 2nd Turkey Trot
*dog sledding
*Callings and Releases
*Ice Fishing
*Ice Festival

I think today I will start with gratitude for General Conference.  I really resonated with almost every talk which hardly happens for me.  I felt strengthened and chastised in the most loving way.  I nearly fell out of my chair laughing when Elder Bednar shared a story of a man trying to convince his wife of the necessity of a 4WD truck for emergent milk runs in snow storms.  I don't want a truck, but have told Fernando that if our Alaskan stay is more permanent than the one year we are set to have--I NEED a 4WD vehicle to help prevent all of the times our minivan has become stuck in snow even with snow tires.

The kids were great.  I can't begin to tell you have lucky I feel to have found that blog post (pre-pinterest days) to have gifts per Apostle who would speak.  Even though I have been doing it for years, I still wait until the very last minute possible to decide what to do.  Thank heavens for Talia's birthday party coming up.  Many of the activities were for the sole purpose of assembling the parts of the goodie bags the kids would receive.  (I have serious issues with just putting in candy that I don't even let my kids eat.)  So the night before conference, I headed to Walmart to wander the aisles in search of possible activities.  My list this year:
1-3 Puzzles (I meant to have this just be for one talk, but I ran out of ideas)
4-painting bird houses
5-Yarn balls (for a snowman corn hole-like party game) which turned into Pikachu balls
6- Elsa ribbon dolls and "Olaf" snowman ribbon dolls for pen toppers
7-Sven and Elsa foam head dress 
9-3D Snowflakes (which was an epic failure. . .every time I cut it wrong)
10-Easter egg (didn't attempt.  The yarn balls were a bit too exciting and I was glad not to start this mess)
11- Easter Egg II  (also was grateful not to have to attempt this feat.  What was I thinking?)
12-Melting Beads which turned into Joaquin scooping and dumping all over the place
13-Picture of the Salt Lake City Temple with legos to make a small scale version
14-Ballon Animal Maker (again, what was I thinking?  Thankfully, the Elder Oaks spoke at the Priesthood Session  because that would have been a noisy, frustrating experience)

We also had note pages that the kids were supposed to use to write down their thoughts and impressions they had during each Apostle or Prophet's talk.  Bingo cards and a word search were waiting for them as well.  Over all it was very successful and now I have Talia's party pretty much ready for next weekend.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Talia Bought Her First Set of Wheels

Talia has been constantly asking for a new bike.  We sold her bikes when we moved from San Antonio because she just grew too fast.  After watching Mia and Tiago pick up the ability to bike ride so fast and on their own because of their scooters, I was really hoping we could have the same success with Talia.  Mia and Tiago literally walked up to some kid's bike and hopped on and took off.  No assisting the kid while they wiggle on their training wheel-less bike and build the kid's confidence and then letting go as you cheer.  Just watching as they speed by on a bike you don't really know who it belongs to.

Fast forward to the other day when I saw a bike for sale from some local person for $10.  Talia used her birthday money and purchased the pink wonder.  I told her she could get training wheels, but suggested that if she really wanted to learn to ride, training wheels would just set her back.  I hate that the training wheels are always making kids lean to the side!  She agree reluctantly.  When we first tried, she was terrified, which made me regret the pep talk about the ability to learn without the training wheels.  But she persisted mainly because I told her that she could either try to learn or forget about it and on ride her scooter.  A few minutes later we had this:

She rode around for hours.  Everyday she can't wait to get out to ride.  Another funny aside which made me feel kind of good was that her friends came to ask me to teach them how to ride their bikes.  To be fair, the whole learning to ride the bike is totally up to the kid.  I think the parent is just there to pick up the kid and encourage them to figure it out.  I found out that Talia had been watching the friend's mom try to teach her when Talia interrupted with "you really should have my mom teach you.  She is the best teacher."  So even though I didn't get to teach my two oldest, at least I had the chance to do the whole stereotypical bike learning moment with a neighbor's kid.  I even ran down the block with her yelling "your doing it!  That's all you!"  Good work out.  Great feeling.  

Monday, April 22, 2013

Cancelled From Your Calling

Fernando was out of town in Ft. Lauderdale for his Oral Boards last week and happened to miss the announcement that he was released from his calling as the Ward Executive Secretary.  Not to worry, Tiago made sure to fill him in on how it all went down.  Tiago said matter-of-factly, "They cancelled you from your calling, daddy."  Good to know that callings and cable subscriptions can be handled so effectively.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Have you done something with your hair?

On a related note, I am grateful that Mustache March is coming quickly to a close.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Spring Break

After Hawaii in February, I really didn't expect much for our mid-April spring break.  In fact, the kiddos had all of 4 school days between their Hawaiian paradise and Spring break.

We started out hitting the Anchorage Museum of Art which has a hands on kid section.  We went with some good friends which was nice, but we weren't the only families who thought of such a great idea.  It was too crowded for my taste so after about two hours, I called it quits.
Tiago with friend's making a huge bubble around their bodies

Then we attempted going to the Air Force Base to enjoy the indoor play ground and bounce houses.  It was nice to allow them a couple hours to jump around and waste some energy.  Joaquin had no clue what jumping was all about.  He loves climbing, but the idea of getting both feet off the ground at the same time was a bit undesirable for his taste.  That meant I spent most of the time helping him climb in and out of slippery bounce house entrances.  It was fun!

The best moments came at the very end of the week.  A friend and fellow Anesthesiologist, invited us to their winter wonderland called their house.  The kids got to zipline, sled, get pulled by a snow mobile on tubes, and enjoy lunch cooked via bon fire.

The next day, we headed with those same friends and a few more families, back to the base which is quite a natural wonder.  We headed to one of the many lakes for a little ice fishing.  Someone brought a drill that they rented, that promptly broke.  Luckily, Alaskans are super friendly, and a neighboring group of ice fishers loaned us their drill.  15 holes later, we set up for some fun.  I love the idea of fishing, I just don't like feeling the fish tug on the line.  All I can think about is that hook ripping through the poor fish's mouth.  SO, I just stayed on the supportive side.  It was just for the kiddos anyway.  Our hole wasn't very active and after awhile, we bailed for the holes those kind neighbors abandoned when they finished.  Every 10 seconds, a fish would bite.  I thought it was kind of a funny contrast.  And although it isn't very accurate for standard fishing, it does seem to fit the Alaskan way to fish.  We enjoyed hot dogs, and s'mores there, but the kiddos cleaned and cooked their fish for dinner that night.  Alaska Spring Break saved by the cold weather activities.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Kamikaze Skiing (From Presidents Day Weekend)

Kamikaze translates frequently into Divine Wind.  I personally think it an apropos description of how my children fly down the mountain on their skis.  Thank heavens the kids have only skied on the "Hill"berg slopes which fit their name to a T.  It was also helpful that we went on days that were pretty devoid of people.

Friday was a no school day and Fernando was on leave so we got baby sitter for Joaquin, and lessons for the three oldest and headed to the slopes.  It was far more relaxing and much more successful than our Christmas Eve run.  I was surprised that Mia, who was the most hesitant about going and the most frustrated with the first attempt at skiing, was quite masterful in her class.  The classes were a steal of a deal.  They all had private lessons for 90 minutes, with rentals, and lift tickets all for a small total of $125.  Thank heavens for the free rental because the board I had bought the day before was in need of some serious edging.  I ended up using their free rentals for a rental board there.

President's day was an equally beautiful day for skiing/boarding.  We decided to bring Joaquin this time and take turns on the slope.  Fernando took the first shift watching Joaquin.  I had the privilege of riding up and down with Talia.  Her first run was a struggle.  She would slip in an out of confidence--more terrified then thrilled.  I suggested that we take our time and try another time when she felt less scared of the mountain.

Meanwhile, Tiago and Mia had zipped up and down the slopes more times than I could count by this point.  Talia insisted on trying again.  After another painstaking run, I was about ready to throw in the towel.  Then two puffs of pink appeared into view.  Our neighbors showed up to ski and Talia was rearing to go.  The neighbor kids have been in ski school for the season and go every Saturday.  It would be quite the understatement to say their skills far surpassed our kiddos.  But kids will be kids and peer pressure is a real thing whether the kids intended to press or not.  It was quite the metamorphosis.  Talia would barely wait for me to strap in.  Once I gave the "ok, let's take this easy", she was off.  I had to literally board straight down the mountain to keep up.  Hair raising to say the least.

After several intense runs, I agreed to their constant pestering to allow them to ride up the lift together.  My gracious it was more nerve racking to watch them get on the lift and pray they would not fall off while traveling up the mountain.  Every time the lift stopped, I thought it must be the kids, but it never was.  Including the time Tiago really did face plant off the lift right before the point of no return.  It wasn't until I pushed past the orange safety netting into the untouched powder that the lift operator had any clue that their was someone in the danger zone.