Friday, August 31, 2007

Winning. And Losing.

A lot has been mentioned, especially by the people here in this town that are so proud of them, of the exemplary show of good sportsmanship put on by the Warner Robins Little League team after they won the World Series championship game. You can go here to see it, if you haven’t.

This team could have easily lined up and done the traditional hand-slap down the line, but instead chose to show their respect and compassion for their opponent in what appears to be a kind, sincere, good-hearted gesture.

On the other end of the spectrum is the display by a few of the boys on the Minnesota team, who lost to Arizona and then spit in their hands before walking through the line. Of course, if you’ve been reading this blog very long at all, you’ll know I’m not ABOUT to point any fingers at that one, although I would NEVER name any names (Kellen Escoe). The only difference is those Minnesota boys were caught on camera.

But I was so impressed with how the boys from Georgia handled themselves, and the empathy and maturity they displayed. Also, so sad for the boys on the Japan team. Every time I watch the video on YouTube (and yes, I keep watching it because I’m a glutton for punishment) I tear up when I see those Japanese boys cry at the end. They played just as hard, worked just as diligently, and wanted to win just as badly. By the end of the video, I don’t know if I’m crying due to the thrill of the home run, because I feel so bad for the other team, or out of pride for what our hometown boys did. Maybe I’m just a big fat loser who needs hormone therapy or something, whatever.

I get that not everyone can win. I get that *somebody* has to lose, so that somebody else can win. I just hate that it has to happen to children.

I certainly remember instances in my life when I didn’t win something --- who doesn’t? When I wasn’t elected cheerleader, or wasn’t invited to a birthday party, or didn’t get a part in a school play, or a particular job, or a particular BOY (ahem). Inevitably, bigger and better things happened instead, and it usually wound up being a good thing. But I still remember the sting of losing. It stinks, no matter your age.

This week are the Student Council elections at my children’s elementary school. Any interested 4th or 5th grader can run for class representative. Brayden and Kellen both brought home forms last week asking for permission to run, and I had to tell them both no. Although we are not exactly sure when we’re moving, we do know it will be sometime this school year. I explained to them that Student Council was a serious responsibility, and if they knew in advance they wouldn’t be able to follow through the entire year, then it wasn’t right to run. They were understanding about it, if a bit disappointed. Or, as Kellen put it, “Bummer! Because they get to have a pool party at the end of the year!” (Good to see his sense of civic duty is finely honed.)

Last week all the classes held an open election for any kid who was interested. The top three in each class have spent this week “campaigning”, which pretty much consists of putting up pictures and signs in the hallways. Big, colorful posters in the school with “Vote for Taylor/Kelly/Ashley!” in markers and glitter, and yearbook headshot photos atop Uncle Sam’s body, with an “I need YOU to vote for me!” type slogans. You can clearly see which kids had grown ups to help with the posters, and which kids did it themselves. All of them seen earnest, and sincere, and hopeful.

And that breaks my heart a little bit, because I know later today when they hold elections, some of these kids will lose. Elementary school seems so YOUNG for any kid to discover his classmates voted for someone else. It feels harsh. Just, just .... disappointing …. and harsh. What is wrong with me, that I can’t simply be happy for the winners, but instead feel so guilty and sad for the ones who won’t win? At least they’re TRYING -- they’ve got the courage to put themselves out there and they should be proud of that. But deep down, I cringe a little that they can’t all win.

Kellen told me this morning he didn’t know who to vote for in his class. All three kids running are his friends, and he wants them *all* to win. Guess the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree, does it?

And although I know losing is a part of life, and perhaps it toughens them up a bit, and that it’s going to happen eventually no matter how much I try and protect them, I must confess that I’m grateful for now my children have been spared. There will be plenty of time for trying, and sometimes failing, and sometimes succeeding, later.

I just hope when the time comes for my kids to try something and fail --- lose --- that their opponent is as classy as those little league boys were last weekend.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Proud



Why, yes, that *is* our hometown!

We don't know any of the boys on the team -- we don't even know anyone who knows any of the boys on the team. One of the boys went to the same elementary school as my kids several years ago, but he was older. I doubt we could manage six degrees of separation even if we tried, but that doesn't stop us from being obnoxiously, territorially PROUD of these kids.

Don't know what I'm talking about? Go to YouTube and do a search for 2007 Little League World Champions.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have a parade to go watch.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Pathetically Dull

Grandma Betty flew back home today. For the first time, in almost five years, she arrived and left in one piece, with no calamities or ER visits during her stay. She didn’t catch the flu, pull a muscle in her back and lay in bed for a week, slice off part of her thumb, pass any kidney stones, or have surgery. ALL of which have happened the last few times she has visited. We didn’t have to change her flight plans because she was vomiting, or laid up on muscle relaxants, or because I had an epidural headache, or because Blaine got a staph infection. Her dog didn’t die while she was here, my grandpa didn’t die while she was here, none of my kids went in the hospital while she was here. (Yes. All of those things have happened before, too.) She came, she stayed just as long as we planned, and she went home right on schedule.

I have a feeling this trip might go down in history as the most boring visit ever.

Monday, August 27, 2007

The end at last, the end at last. Thank God Almighty, the end at last!

Yes, I readily confess that the recapping of the vacation has taken four times as long as the vacation itself. I think subconsciously I didn’t want to reach the end, because then I would have to admit it was over, and give up on the fantasy I still have that someone will show up at my house, as if I were still on the cruise, and bring me food and put my napkin in my lap and make my bed and leave little chocolate mints on my pillow. Alas, it’s not to be. It appears that I don’t have Blaine trained well enough, and sadly, I can’t afford a valet of my own.

So, I concede defeat, and am sharing the pictures of our last day of vacation. Well, technically, not the last-last day, but I doubt you want to see pictures of us driving to Anchorage and stopping for pizza and sitting in the airport waiting for our flight, going to the airport gift shop when we remembered one person for whom we forgot to buy a souvenir. Or, pictures of the mess the stewardess made when she dropped the tray of ice cream toppings on the floor of our first class cabin and suddenly, our first class “ice cream sundaes” were downgraded to “a bowl of vanilla ice cream”. I mean seriously, when am I EVER going to fly first class again? And she DROPPED the chocolate sauce???? Geez. The injustice of it all.

Our last day in Seward, we took what was supposed to be a nine-hour boat tour of the Kenai Northwestern Fjords. This was the trip I affectionately refer to as PukeFest 2007, and because of the bad weather and rough waters, they had to re-route our tour and cut it short a bit. We weren’t complaining, however, because everything we saw was beautiful, AND they reimbursed enough of our money (totally unnecessary, in my opinion, but appreciated nonetheless) for Blaine, Keith, Renee and I to treat ourselves to a lovely dinner out that night.

We drove ourselves to the harbor and parked the car, then waited at the tour offices until time to board the boat. It was a pretty good sized boat and I’m sure could have held around 100 people (?) In the inside cabin, there were benches along both sides near the windows, and movie-theater like seats in the middle. Up front there were more seats, and I think on the top as well, although I never ventured up there. I’m all about the view, but I’m also all about staying warm and dry. Although once the people around us started in with the retching and gagging and heaving into little bags, my sympathetic-gag-reflex and I were out on the open back area of the boat, in the fresh air, for most of the remainder of the trip.

We did see some great scenery and wildlife, though:



Had the sun been shining I’m sure it would have been even more beautiful, but even overcast, the views were gorgeous.



Alice Glacier. I think …. Is that right? Alice?



Well, whatever it was called, it was pretty. No calving like we saw at Glacier Bay, though, so a bit of a disappointment. Funny how quickly you become immune to it all ….. like, “Oh, *only* a glacier? No active calving? Don’t waste my time…. Hey, are those complimentary cookies I smell baking?”


We saw lots of wildlife this day, as well:


A porpoise



Sea lions.



A mama otter with her baby on her back. I know the image is pretty crappy, but you’ll just have to believe me, it was neat to see.



Sea lions swimming.



Ooh, look! A whale flipper!



Ah, yes. Yet another of the 800 shots I took of whale humps.



This was my beautiful-moment-view. The moment on the back of the boat when the sun peeked out for just a brief minute, and the sky was blue and the white birds were all over this rock, and Trans-Siberian Orchestra was playing on my ipod, and all was right with the world.



Lastly, the money shot. The one I was hoping for the entire cruise, which I didn’t get until the very last day --- a whale breaching the water. I did crop and zoom a little for this picture, but I would estimate the whale was no more than 100 feet from our boat when he put on this show.

It was amazing. The entire trip was amazing. And now, with this entry, it's officially over. I guess I need to buck up and remind myself of one of my favorite phrases, which sums up this vacation that we saved and planned and waited so long for:

Don’t be sad that it’s over, be glad that it happened at all.

Or something like that. You know when I plagiarize people I never get it exactly right.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Odds and Ends

First of all, thanks to all of you for your kind thoughts and well wishes for Blaine (my gosh, I should macro that phrase, since I seem to need it every few weeks on this site and could save myself the trouble of typing it over and over.) We got home yesterday afternoon and for the most part, things went smoothly. It wouldn’t be “Blaine”, of course, without at least a little bit of excitement --- he already had the teeth yanked because they were rubbing on the skin graft and the surgeons don’t want anything touching the graft for four weeks, to allow it to heal properly. Anything. As in, at all. He is on a total liquid diet for four weeks; Boost and smoothies. The nutritionist did say anything I cook for dinner can be put in a blender, but gag. Can you imagine drinking chicken pot pie through a straw? Blaine said no, thanks, he’ll stick with the nutritional supplements and hope for the best. And in the meantime, we had a quick moment of thankfulness that he got the flu last summer and we didn’t have this surgery when the doctors wanted to, right before the cruise. Can you imagine going on a 7-day cruise and not being able to eat an entire thing???

He also blew out an IV and got a forearm full of Demerol --- imagine that, him with his butterfly fairy princess veins and all. It did provide a little levity to the moment when they decided to put the next IV in his foot and tape it to his leg. Blaine is not exactly a hairy, hairy man, but that tape hurts when they rip it off, so he asked for a minute to have time to shave away some of the leg hair first, before they attached the tape. He proceeded to shave several bald patches into various spots on his leg, and looked a bit like a dog with mange …. Hair here, hair not there. When I asked, “Why don’t you just shave the whole leg?” he replied, “Because it would look funny.”

Um, yeah. Because walking around with bald patches on one leg looks sooooo normal otherwise. Add to that the bright red, raw patch of flesh where they *took* the skin for the graft, and you’d think one leg had been caught in a house-fire.

He’s out of the Mick Jagger phase, and now looks like he lost a bar fight, or perhaps had a car accident and hit his mouth on the steering wheel. The doctor talked to us about the *next* surgery they can offer, a very high-tech event where they get 3-D images of his head, getting a sci-fi mold impression of the side of his face that is healthy. They would then build an internal mask, a mirror image of the side of his face that is normal, and then peel back his face and insert it under the skin, like an implant. The goal, of course, is to have the right side of his face look just like the left. Blaine admits he is self-conscious about the dent (for lack of a better word) where his cheekbone and gums used to be, and where all the radiation atrophied and contractured (is that even a word?) the muscles and tissues of his face. I told him he’s just as handsome to me now as he was when he first got cancer, and if people are so rude as to stare that’s *their* problem, not his, and geez, aren’t you ready to be DONE with all this stuff???? He agrees that yes, there reaches a point where you just have to say enough, and he thinks he is there. So I think we’ll take a wait and see approach to further reconstruction. Maybe in a few years, when he has recovered better physically and mentally, he’ll be up for another go at it.

In the meantime, I wanted to address a few things in the comments section:

Marie, you’re exactly right, I hadn’t even thought to include that four and half years of Blaine having cancer is long enough for his daughter to be diagnosed with leukemia, go through her treatment, and be off treatment for almost two years, kicking butt and taking names in the meantime. That is perhaps the best marker of all, that she is preparing to be a participant in the Survivor’s Clinic at Scottish Rite, something we can do when she hits the two-year mark. Go, Kendrie!

Rita, I’ve actually done three surrogacies, and the second one I carried twins. Hence the six kids. I’m probably going to share more about this soon, since several people have been kind enough to ask. I’m still mulling it over in my head, since I don’t want to do anything to violate anyone else’s privacy, and surrogacy stories are pretty intimate things.

I can’t remember who asked, but that butt-ugly orange fish in Alaska was called a Yellow-Eyed Rock Fish. Hideous, wasn’t it?

And last but not least, to Anonymous in the comment section --- Blow me. First of all, yes, this site is all about me. Guess what? It’s my blog, I can do that. It’s why I play the song “All About Me” so often; I don't care that you think music on a site is obnoxious. It’s why when I sign off here I think I’ll check to see if I can buy the domain all about me dot com, and why I erect billboards and shrines in my honor up and down the eastern seaboard. If you don’t like it, don’t read here.

Secondly, if you choose to not only read here but leave rude comments, for God’s sake, have the courage to sign your name. And for the love of pete, purchase a dictionary or thesaurus or perhaps even better, a Hooked on Phonics course you could complete. Because your mis-spelling and improper use of ALLCAPS and excessive application of exclamation points are annoying. So blow me.

Third, this is *my* personal site. I do not have advertising on this site because my intent was never to make money here, or try to lure readers in from anywhere. It is a personal forum which began with my daughter’s Caringbridge site, a wonderful service that allowed me to share and vent and purge during one of the most difficult times of my life. It then segued into this blog, just for fun. I write for my own personal enjoyment, and if a few people enjoy reading it, then all the better. But I do not put my personal life out there for your criticisms and critique. I didn’t ask you to come here and read, nor do I need to know that you think “IAM FUL OF MYSELFF!!!”

Lastly, I am tired of deleting you. So, here. I’ve mentioned you, and you’ve gotten the attention you so obviously want. But, in fact, you are quickly taking the fun out of this blog for me. So blow me. Buy yourself Hooked on Phonics. And then go away.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

More than a job ...

When Blaine and I first met, he was attending the University of Oklahoma and was a cadet in their ROTC program. My dad served four years in the service, but that was before I was born and he never really talked about it, so I was unfamiliar with the military or anything that went along with it. I asked Blaine what made him want to join the Air Force, and he said it's just what he'd always wanted to do. He was one of those obnoxious people who always knew what they wanted to be when they grew up and how to make it happen -- in his case, an Air Force officer. I asked, "If you weren't joining the Air Force, what would you do?" And he replied, "Join the Navy; they'd be my second choice." So I asked the obvious, "The Navy? What for? You hate to get water up your nose. Why not the Army? Or the Marines?"

To which Blaine gave the respectful and considerate reply: "Are you out of your fucking mind? Have you seen how much those guys have to work out, and what kind of physical shape they have to be in? No thanks!!"

Now, that's not to say the Air Force and Navy guys are slackers -- they're not. They have physical fitness requirements and timed runs and weight restrictions, just like all the branches of service. And prior to getting cancer, Blaine was in great shape, working out at least three or four times a week. It's just that, well, he's got a point. Those dudes in the Army and Marines? While I'm sure it's not 100 percent true (surely they have some members on the Fat Boy Plan, as well?) for the most part, those guys are in some serious shape. It's like Blaine explained to me, all military servicemen and women have important jobs, it's just that their jobs (meaning Army and Marines) are often more physically demanding in nature, and they HAVE to be in good shape.

Nowhere has it ever been more obvious to me that there is a difference in the way the Air Force and the Army approach their physical fitness regimes than the many times we have been here at Ft. Gordon. Normally we are entrenched in the Air Force lifestyle but here, we are in a hospital on an Army base, and I can drive nowhere on the base, at any time of the day or night, without witnessing group physical training and exercises of some kind, some place. First thing in the morning, squadrons of men and women are running in formation, shouting along in cadence. Entire platoons jogging around the base with heavy rucksacks on their backs. Today, the base emergency departments were out on a soccer field, doing calisthenics together, the fire trucks and police cars parked around the perimeter of the field. Everywhere I turn I see active duty Army people in work out uniforms .... black shorts and gray t-shirts with ARMY emblazoned across the chest. It's a young, healthy, virile community --- and they make me feel fat and old.

This morning, I had gone into the PX (Post Exchange, which sounds funny to me because we call it a BX for Base Exchange .... whatever) to pick up a few things before heading over to the hospital. I was standing in line, and these two girls walked past. Two young, pretty, active-duty Army girls. Both in their work out gear, with their fresh faces, hair in ponytails, All-American beauty just oozing out of their pores.

I watched them walk past, and felt discouraged. Look at them, with their great figures and youthful energy ... and then look at .... me. Ugh.

I looked at their flat stomachs and thought, "I can't compete with that. I've birthed six babies, for heaven's sake, six LITTLE PEOPLE have taken up temporary residence in my mid-section at one time or another. My stomach will never be that flat again, short of surgical intervention."

Then I looked at their perky breasts and thought, "I'll never have that again. I've nursed babies and had breasts pumps hooked up to me and in between the babies and machines, all the perkiness has been plum taken out of mine. I've got East-West Breasts now --- meaning when I lie on my back, they go east and west."

Then I looked at their legs, tanned and strong and muscular, extending down from their exercise shorts and thought, "My legs will never look like that again. Hell, they didn't look like that when I was young, let alone now, with this cellulite and saddlebags and varicose veins running all down the back."

And I stood there for a minute and thought, "Damn. Damn, getting old sucks. How can I compete against age and gravity and metabolism and pregnancy and childbirth? I have the body of a 40-yr old woman, and its depressing."

But the longer I stood there, the more I got to thinking --- "OK, yeah, so I have the body of a 40-yr old woman ... it's a body that has done some amazing things, like having babies and nurturing them, and I'm still getting around pretty darn good, if I just stop and think about it. I mean, it's not like I need a cane, or have to buy two airplane seats. You know, why am I giving myself grief? Those girls, with their narrow waists and tight butts and flat stomachs ... why should I feel bad that I'm not in as good a shape? I'm probably 20 years older than they are ---- I am NOT going to feel bad about the effects that Mother Nature has had on my body, especially when age and genetics catches up to everyone at some point -- it's totally not my fault!"

Then, had to be honest with myself, and acknowledge I was having this mental conversation while standing in line for Cinnabon. And that the last time I attended an aerobics class, Kendrie was still in diapers.

Hmmmm, maybe age and genetics aren't the only factor.

Wonder if it's too late to join the Army? I hear they've got a kick-ass physical fitness program.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Jumpin' Jack Flash

This will be short and sweet, considering we were up at 4am this morning to get to the hospital on time, and it's now after 10pm and I am still here, and for one thing, I'm too old for this crap and for another thing, what is it about sitting in a hospital waiting room that is so exhausting? Must have been all that strenous walking back and forth from the vending machines while Blaine was in surgery --- I'm a nervous eater, you know.

It went well, though ---- lasted about four hours and they were able to accomplish exactly what they hoped. The area on his leg where they took the skin graft is sore, and of course his face hurts. And let's be honest, looks funny because they had to hyper-stretch the repair area to account for potential tissue shrinkage (NOT the same kind of shrinkage they discussed on Seinfeld...)

He looks like Mick Jagger. Mick Jagger with four cans of Skoal tucked in his upper lip. Mick Jagger with four cans of Skoal tucked in his upper lip, which just received collagen injections. But hey! He's got teeth attached to this temporary prosthetic device, which is sort of cool. I totally wasn't expecting that, and would have been pleasantly surprise were I not so shocked by his Mick Jagger on steroids lips.

I'm going back to the hotel now to get some sleep. I'm a little scared to kiss him goodbye, though, for fear his face might explode.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Jinxes

Thanks to those of you who’ve inquired about Blaine and wished him luck during this week’s surgery. We’re leaving tomorrow to drive to Augusta, which is three hours away --- not far enough to really be considered “far”, but too far for me to drive back and forth every day, hence the reason Grandma Betty and her magical wad of bribing dollar bills were summoned.

Now, if you know me at all by now, and I think that you do, you know that I am the Queen of Jinxing Things, and through the years I’ve learned it’s just best, with regards to Blaine and the ongoing Saga That Is His Medical Fiasco, to keep my trap shut. Because if a situation can be jinxed, I am the one who will inadvertently jinx it with my big fat mouth. I’ve learned in the past that things rarely go as planned and it’s probably better if I don’t set goals or broadcast timelines, especially out loud, since Blaine has single-handedly redefined the concept of “one step forward, two steps back” through the years. Yes, that’s right. I said YEARS. Did you know it’s been FOUR AND A HALF YEARS since his original cancer diagnosis?

Let’s see …. What can happen in the span of four and a half years? Let’s think of a few, just for comparison’s sake, shall we? A person could purchase, and pay off, a car. Begin, and graduate from, college. Meet a guy, date, get engaged, get married, get divorced. Or, assuming you stay married, get pregnant, give birth, and celebrate both the first, second, and third birthdays. When Blaine was in the hospital, having the very first, very, very first-est ever surgery, to remove the original tumor ---- we were sitting in his hospital room watching television when they announced we had gone to war with Iraq. So as long as our country has been at war, Blaine has had cancer, or been struggling with the after-effects of the reconstruction complications caused by his cancer and radiation.

Wow. That pretty much sucks.

But! OK, here goes. {tossing salt over my shoulder, crossing my fingers, holding my four-leaf clover, rubbing my genie lamp and my rabbit’s foot, nailing a horseshoe over my door, stepping over the cracks on the sidewalk, finding a heads up penny, breaking the long half of the wishbone, seeing a shooting star, crossing my fingers, and last, but not least, knocking on this piece of shit computer desk …. }

This should be Blaine’s very last major surgery.

I know!

Who ever though we would see the day where that goal was reached???? Where we could say those words aloud??? Ok, yeah, I know, we’ve actually said it several times in the past already and there’s always a complication or two. He always winds up catching the flu or getting an infection or needing a trach or having a tissue failure or, oh, I don’t know, getting his freaking cancer back ---- but we really think this might be IT this time!

This surgery is to separate the part of his cheek that adhered too tightly to his gums after the last graft surgery. The graft surgery that happened unexpectedly when his second free flap surgery wasn’t completely successful. The second free-flap surgery that happened unexpectedly when his first free-flap surgery wasn’t completely successful ---- you see how this is going, right?

But assuming he doesn’t have any complications, assuming he doesn’t adversely react to the anesthesia, or get food poisoning from the hospital food, or pick up another staph infection, or slip in the hotel parking lot and fall and break his freaking ankle (!! Crap, I just jinxed it, now he’s going to break his ankle!!) then this should be the last surgery.

He’ll still have quite a bit of prosthodontic work to be done before he has teeth permanently attached to his posts/implants. But at long last, he’ll be able to begin resting and recuperating from the fifteen surgeries and five weeks of radiation he’s undergone since this thing started. It’s been six months since his last surgery (Remember, he had surgery scheduled for last April but it was postponed when he got the flu like a weenie) and I don’t think he has felt this good physically since the whole ordeal began. This break has been a good thing.

So, if you could wish us luck, and keep him in your prayers just one more time, it would mean a lot to us. I feel like maybe, hopefully, possibly, for the first time, we can see an inkly, twinkly, sparkly, smidgen of light at the end of his tunnel. It would be fabulous to think we are nearing the end.

Or, you know, the nurse taking care of him this week will walk down the hall towards his room to take his vitals, slip on a banana peel, fall to the ground, accidentally pushing an empty wheelchair as she goes down, which will roll into Blaine’s room, crashing into the wall holding the Sharps container, which will fall on Blaine’s head, causing all the used needles contaminated with infectious diseases to rain down upon him, and the one filled with flesh eating bacteria will accidentally puncture his skin, causing his outer layers of soft tissue to become infected and fall off, which will require an extensive stay in the hospital while he receives life-sustaining, supportive care for organ and respiratory failure.

And I will kill the nurse. And go to jail for the rest of my life. In which case all my future blogger updates will be written from solitary confinement at the state penitentiary.

Oh, crap. Did I just jinx myself???

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Two Things

Awhile back, someone asked me in the comment section if I would mind sharing some of my scrapbook work sometime. I am no where near the caliber of scrapbooker whose work you can find in books and magazines and all over the web, but it’s a hobby I enjoy and am always complaining that I can’t seem to make the time to do it often enough. Perhaps if I took the time I spend *complaining* and used it actually *scrapping* the problem would solve itself.

I finished this layout a few days ago and liked it, so I thought I would share it with you. It accomplishes two things:

1. Lets me give you yet another peek into our private lives (oh, joy for you, I know, try not to strain yourself with happiness) and,
2. Saves me from having to think of anything else to blog about

Two things from the comment section recently:

1. Yes, my computer is working fine now. It was just that one program that got messed up and after I marched my happy self back to the store, they fixed it for me. Fixed, in the sense that they agreed the program was fried and gave me a pirated bootlegged stolen gently borrowed copy of another one, and,
2. Ah, yes, the great High School Musical Sequel last night. Of COURSE we were all glued to the TV at “8/7 Central, Mom. We’ve got to record it!!!” It was hokey, and predictable, and despite the fact she’s the oh-so-cute-and-perky-heroine, that Gabriella is so sickeningly sweet I have the urge to give myself an insulin shot every time she’s on the screen. I have no doubt that thanks to the DVR, I’ll be treated to several encores this weekend. Yippy. Skippy.

And my mom is here now, which can only mean two things:

1. Surgery this week for Blaine, and
2. Egads, the return of the dreaded one dollar bills.

But for now, I include the following scrapbook layout for your viewing pleasure, because, yet another perk, it keeps me from having to type up the very last Alaska update. Hey, if I haven’t TYPED that it’s over, then it’s really not over, right???







Journaling as follows:

“Growing up, I was part of a stereo-typical nuclear family -- two parents, two kids, one dog, one house. Although I had obviously heard of divorce, I hadn’t experienced it up close and personal. Perhaps that’s why when I first met Blaine, I was a little confused (ie, stupid) about the inner-workings of a step-family. Blaine explained to me that his mom, Shirley, had divorced his biological father when he was very young. The man she married, Rodney, moved the family from Texas to Oklahoma, adopted Blaine, and raised him as his own. Blaine’s four older siblings all eventually migrated back to Texas to live with their father, but not Blaine. He never had a relationship with his father, who died before I met Blaine.

“When Blaine and I first started dating, anytime he said anything about his “dad”, I would interrupt him to ask, “Rodney? Or your real dad?” until finally one day Blaine said to me, “Look. Rodney IS my real dad. He raised me, he took care of me, he loves me. HE is my dad.” I didn’t realize how prophetic and wise those words would be until years later, when Blaine and I were in the process of adopting Brayden.

“My favorite story about the relationship between Blaine and Rodney took place when we were expecting Kellen. Knowing that the type of muscular dystrophy my father had was genetic, we were sent to visit a genetic counselor during the pregnancy. Worried, nervous, we sat across the desk from her, ready to answer her questions and listen to what she had to say to us. She started out by taking our initial information, and the conversation went a little something like this:

Counselor: “So, besides the myotonic muscular dystrophy, and his heart problems, does your father have any other major health concerns? No? OK, what about your mother?”

Kristie: “Oh, my mom’s in excellent health.”

Counselor: “OK, Blaine, what about *your* mom?”

And Blaine went on to tell the counselor about his mother’s brain aneurysm years before, and how she had been on kidney dialysis for years -- in essence, poor health like my dad.

Then the counselor asked, “What about your dad? How is his health?”

And Blaine replied, “Excellent, my dad’s very healthy and active.”

At which point I turned to him and said, “Uh, Yeah. --- Except he’s DEAD!

For just a second, Blaine had a very blank look on his face. Then he turned to the counselor and said, “Oh, that’s right. My dad is dead.”

And I burst out laughing.

I’m not sure if the counselor thought we were too ignorant to be parents (who forgets that their father has died???) or perhaps too cold-hearted, considering it *appeared* I was laughing at the fact Blaine’s dad was dead. But I was really laughing at the fact that after all these years, Blaine was still letting me know, even in his own way, that Rodney really WAS his dad, no matter what the birth certificate or blood line might say.”

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Clone. Because really, there should be two of me, so I'll have two mouths to stick my feet in.

As per Websters: Clone -- “a thing that duplicates another in purpose” meaning when I paid for the computer guy to clone my old hard drive to my new hard drive, I just assumed it would *be* the same, and work the same. How silly of me.

Somewhat embarrassing: Having to return to the computer store and ask for a replacement power cord since I left mine lying there on a table when I dropped the hard drive off. In an attempt to cover my moron-ness as they handed me a new cord, smiling cheerfully and saying, “The clone is working great! I mean, ummm, I’m sure it will once I can plug the thing in! Thanks!” and then slinking out the door because hmmm, should I have offered to pay for this cord?

Somewhat more embarrassing: Trying to use my disc-burning software for the first time today since getting the machine back and discovering it doesn’t work ---- and having to call the store and confess that I have no earthly idea why it’s not working and that I thought “cloning” meant exactly the same and if the software worked last week shouldn’t it work now? If it is, indeed, exactly the same? Still, smiling cheerfully over the phone.

Somewhat even more embarrassing: Having to call back -- again -- and tell the tech support guy that his first suggestion didn’t take care of the problem, can he recommend anything else? Anything at all? Because seriously, this cloned version does not appear to be the same. Maybe I do not understand the meaning of the word “clone”. Smiling weakly through the phone line, wonder if it’s not perhaps time for some kind of adult ed computer class.

More embarrassing, still: OK, you know what? This phone crap isn’t cutting it. So getting in your car to drive to the store to talk to these people in person, and explaining to them that YES, you downloaded the most recent update of the software, exactly like they suggested, but you still don’t understand why that matters because the old version worked last week, and this is supposed to be a clone, why do you people not understand that??? Clone means the same!! At which point the tech support guy asks you if you’re positive you actually installed the update after you downloaded it. Hmmmm. Is that step important? This time, as you walk out the store, there is no cheerful waving or smiling, although you are pretty sure you heard smirking behind your back, at your expense. Consider stealing another power cord just to get even.

Most embarrassing of all: Loading up the computer and dragging it back to the store, flouncing in a bit of a huff, because you have done everything, EVERYTHING, you can think of to do, and if those people are so damn smart they can just fix it themselves. Only to have the tech support lady hook up the hard drive and start messing around with the software herself, and discover that yes, it really is dinked up and doesn’t work for her, either, no matter what she does. Feel somewhat vindicated, then begin to worry and wonder what ELSE about this clone is not exactly clone-ish. I mean, you paid a lot of money for the cloning and it should be EXACTLY THE SAME and it obviously is not, so what else is wrong?

That’s about when you notice her scrolling through your C drive, and there are all kinds of folders you have never seen before on there ….. folders with the names of musical artists on them, some artists you know and some you don’t, and you are hit with the realization that somehow, someone, some way, loaded a bunch of stuff to your computer and obviously -- duh! -- that is why it is not working in a clone-like manner. So in an attempt to point out that NONE of this is your fault, you launch the following comment: “See? What’s all that there? All those folders on my hard drive? Those aren’t mine -- I don’t listen to that crap --- I don’t even LIKE 50 Cent! You sure as heck didn’t clone THAT off my hard drive! I mean, that is NOT mine and I’m not taking the blame for this!” At which point the tech turns to you and says out loud …. “That music is mine. I have my thumb drive hooked up to your computer and those are my files.”

Oh, yes. Well, of course it is.

Sooooo, extra power cord, anyone?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Back again, with nothing of interest to say

Thanks so much to all of you for your kind notes and stories of your own pets that you’ve been willing to share. I’ve read them all, and I’ve smiled, and I’ve even welled up a time or two, and since I rarely cry, I don’t know whether to say “Well done!” or “Shame on you!”

Blaine and I have been watching Lager the Wonder Mutt a lot more closely, and I do think the time is coming. He’s had an accident in the house every day since Friday, and he’s having a hard time getting up off the floor and maneuvering the step outside the back door. When an energetic puppy goes skidding around the corner on a hard wood floor and his back legs go out from underneath him, it’s cute and funny. When it happens to a 16-yr old dog, it’s a little bit heartbreaking.

But, he’s also still eating well and interacting with us, so, I’m just not sure. I don’t think it will be in the next week, and maybe not even in the next month, but I appreciate sincerely those of you telling me that when it’s time, I’ll know. The simple fact that I don’t *think* it’s time yet lets me know it’s not, and gives me a little more confidence in my own decision-making.

In the meantime, I’m responding to the requests for more pictures of him. You’d think it would be easy to get good shots of a dog that rarely gets up off the floor, but surprisingly, it’s not. Yes, he just lies there ….. but it’s not exactly gripping and compelling photography, either.


Kristie: “Kendrie, give him a kiss so I can take a picture of how much you love him.”
Kendrie: “OK {pause, gives kiss} WHEW! His breath stinks!!!”



Lager: “Get off my head. Please.”



Lager: “For Pete’s sake, woman, aren’t you don’t yet? No more --- NO MORE!”




And this sort of thing is what happens when my children find him sleeping in the living room when they return home from school (pretty much a daily occurrence.) So he won’t feel “lonely” when he wakes up, they put all their stuffed dogs in the living room to keep him company. I’m a little worried he’ll wake up in his confused state, look around, think he’s being attacked by a roving band of fluff and have a heart attack.

In other news, I took my computer in on Monday to have the bigger hard drive installed. The tech told me he thought it would be done by Tuesday, but if not, definitely by Wednesday. Instead, they called three hours later to tell me it was finished. Now that’s pretty good customer service! So I drove back to the store before they closed to pick it up, doing a happy dance inside because I wasn’t going to be without a computer even a single night …. Only to discover a few hours later, when I tried to hook it back up, that I had left the power cord at the store, which naturally, was now closed for the night.

Deep down, I suspect that I am too big a moron to own a computer.

And in case you need proof of my moron-ness, let me tell you what else happened. When I dropped off the computer and was discussing my space needs with the tech, he told me the original hard drive came with 20 gig. They sell hard drives from 80 to 250 gig and would clone the old drive to the new drive, which, I don't really have any clue how that works, but once I heard "you'll never notice anything different ... as far as you're concerned, it will be like the exact same computer only with more space, and only $50 labor fee" I was all, "Sign me up for that!" {{snapz!}} During the conversation, trying to predict how much space I might need in the next few years, until such time as the computer most likely dies anyway, he sort of, gently, indicated that 20 gig was, well, pathetic. Not in a mean way, he was very polite, but he wasn’t surprised that once I discovered the beauty that is iTunes, I had filled up my measly 20 gig.

Fast forward to that afternoon when I picked up the computer. I walked in the store, and both him and another tech looked up at me and smiled when I sidled up to the counter. “Lady!” the first tech said, “No wonder you kept getting those space warnings on your screen --- you were down to 12 mg on the entire hard drive!!!” and they both kind of laughed, like how on earth could I have come that close, without going over the edge.

I said, slightly confused, “Well, I don’t understand. If I started with 20, and still had 12 left, that’s over half. {Yes, my math skills are outstanding, aren’t they?} So if I had over half left, why the warnings?”

And he looked at me like truly, I might be the stupidest person he’s ever encountered, and proceeded to explain the difference between gigs and megs. Or gegs and migs. Or whatever they are, I wasn’t really listening. All I know is I now have room for over 12,000 music downloads, so I’m happy. I’ll be spending the kids’ college education money at iTunes, but by golly, I’ll never run out of room for soundtracks or Meatloaf again.

And pictures of Lager, too, of course.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

I'm Still Here. And a Wee Bit Cranky.

Well, I’m still here, with computer access. I unplugged the computer yesterday morning to take it to the store for the memory upgrade, and a few minutes later Kellen and Kendrie came running to me, panicking about the computer being “broken”, and the Disney channel online, OHMYGOSH how would they survive without the Disney channel online??? What’s funny is they rarely even play online, but when I told them we would be without a computer for the next three days, you would have thought I had suggested giving away all their toys and moving in with monks, or that I had just sucked all the oxygen out of the house, so great was their distress. So, fine. I said I would take it in Monday while they were at school, and they could play on it this weekend.

But that’s not why I’m cranky.

Last night, after the kids and I watched Ella Enchanted for the third time (Seriously, have you seen it? It was just on Disney the other night and it’s a really cute, sweet movie. Thanks to the power of the DVR, I have no doubt I’ll have every line memorized by Tuesday…. But that’s not why I’m cranky) I went in the bedroom and read another chapter of Ramona Quimby, age 8 with Kendrie. We finished up around 10pm, sort of late for us, and I said to her, “Mommy’s tired. Go tell Daddy I’m just going to go to bed now” and I rolled over and went to sleep, listening to Kellen protest that wasn’t fair, he still wanted to read a chapter of Harry Potter (Yes! I know! Finally, one of my kids has expressed interest in HP!) and how it wasn’t right I read with Kendrie but not him. Great, nothing like a little parental guilt to soothe you right off to sleep. But that’s not why I’m cranky.

For whatever reason, at 2:45 am I woke up, bright eyed and alert. I rarely, and I mean rarely, suffer from insomnia, so the few times it happens, I have very strict rules. I will attempt to go back to sleep for exactly thirty minutes and if I can’t, then I get up and do something. I am NOT wasting precious time lying in bed, staring at the clock, when there are e-mails to be answered and blogs to be read. So I got up at 3:15 and messed around online (What’s up with you Canada ebay people, anyway? Can you not get Nike tennis shoes up there? Is that why so many of you are wondering about shipping?) I give myself exactly one hour, then attempt to go back to sleep.

So at 4:15, back to bed I went, accidentally tripping over the dog on the way. I was very cautious and careful and quiet (well, except for when I tripped over the dog) as I got back in bed, because Blaine DOES have a severe problem with insomnia and I feel terrible if I do something drastic and noisy which wakes him up. Drastic and noisy like putting my head on the pillow, or BREATHING.

I tip-toed back into bed, covered myself up, reapplied lip balm because hello, who can sleep with dry, chapped lips?? I laid there for about four and a half seconds, before realizing Blaine was not in fact suffering from insomnia this evening, but was instead snoring so loud I’m surprised the neighbors twelve miles away hadn’t filed a noise complaint with the local police.

Normally, Blaine sleeps (when he DOES sleep, that is) the sleep of the perfectly still, perfectly silent. I will sometimes put my hand on his chest to make sure he’s still breathing. But occasionally, when he lies on his back, thanks to all the surgeries and reconstruction of his sinus cavity, he’ll get going with a cacophony of snores and grunts and wheezes and moans that make it literally impossible to sleep in the same bed. The same room. The same small country.

BC (before cancer) I would have just punched him in the shoulder and told him to roll over, but now, I’m loathe to wake him because once he’s up, no matter the time, he’s up. Sleeping is such a problem for him that I NEVER wake him if I can help it. So, I did what I’ve done more times than any human should in a happy marriage --- grabbed a pillow and a blanket and headed for the living room, resigned to sleeping the rest of the night on the sofa.

But that’s not why I’m cranky.

I walked into the living room …. And my senses were immediately assaulted -- WTF??? Is that SHIT I smell????

Yep, sure enough, Lager had pooped in the dining room. Good grief, this is NOT what I wanted to clean up at 4:18 in the morning, but I went into the kitchen to get paper towels and rags, and turned on the light ….

My senses were assaulted again, this time my vision. Remember I had gone to bed early and Blaine, the man who always cleans the kitchen at night, the man who would make a better housewife than me, had done NOTHING the night before. The roast was still in the crockpot on the counter. The cookies I had baked were still sitting on the cookie sheet on top of the stove, not covered. Unwashed dishes were on the counter, in the sink, book bags on the table, shoes and socks on the floor --- My god, Jerry Springer would have a field day with this sort of white trash living.
I admit, because he normally does such a fantastic job cleaning up after dinner, I am a spoiled princess who is accustomed to awaking to a clean kitchen. To have to consider cleaning the kitchen, AFTER cleaning the dog poop??? At 4:20 in the morning??? Uugh.

But that’s not why I’m cranky. Although down on your hands and knees, scrubbing dog poop off the hardwood floor in the middle of the night, doing everything you can to hold back your hair-trigger gag reflex, is certainly enough to make anyone cranky.

No, if I’m being honest, I’m cranky (and extremely sad) because I know its coming.

Blaine and I always said if we ever had a dog that went blind, or couldn’t control his bowels or bladder, we would put him down. Lager *does* have a big nasty tumor on one eye, but he’s not blind. Deaf, yes. And arthritic. But not blind.

And it’s not that he’s **lost control** of his bowels or bladder, as much as he’s either getting too old, or too confused, or too lazy to wake us. He never has accidents during the day when we’re home, but this was the second time this week he’s had problems while we’ve been sleeping. A few night’s ago, I woke to the sound of water running, only to realize he was urinating in the middle of my bathroom rug.

Bless his old heart, I can’t be mad at him. He’s sixteen and a half years old -- how can I be *mad* at him? But by the same token, I am really bothered by these accidents, which, let's be honest, have been happening more and more the past six months or so. Not a LOT .... but still. I mean, it’s gross, and nasty to clean, and stinks to high heaven, and not hygienic. The kicker is, he’s not in any pain, or suffering in any way. Sure, he’s old and tired and sleeps a lot and not as energetic as he used to be. But he still interacts with us every single day, and begs for table scraps, and wags his tail and bounces around the living room and bumps us with his nose to let us know he wants to be petted and loved on.

And loving him? Oh my gosh, I can’t even imagine the reaction of my children when something finally happens to the old boy. They will be crushed, devastated, decimated. And so will Blaine and I, even if we’re grown ups and don’t want to admit it.

So how can I even consider putting down a dog that is old, but otherwise healthy and happy, just because I don’t want to clean up after him? I mean, it sounds so selfish when I say it like that.

Which is worse? To consider putting him to sleep, just because I’m lazy, knowing the emotional trauma that will inflict upon the children who love him, or to hope that I come home one afternoon and find him dead in the living room, passed away peacefully? I don’t wish him dead, for pete’s sake, he’s been a part of our family since 1992!

I’ve always looked at people whose dogs were bumping into the walls because they couldn't see, or having to drag their back legs behind them in little carts, or taking thirty pills or insulin shots or whatever a day, and wondered why didn’t they just put those poor animals out of their misery? Now I get it. When an animal’s NOT miserable --- just old --- the miserable thing is even contemplating it. We don’t put any of our other family members to sleep, just because taking care of them gets to be a hassle, and I consider a pet we've had for fifteen years to be a family member.

Ewww, but poop? In the dining room?

This conundrum, people --- THIS is why I’m cranky.

It's now almost 6am. I've been up since 2:45. Maybe the answer will come to me in a dream, during the NAP I'm so desperately going to need later today.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Will It Never End?

No, this update will NEVER end, partly because it’s so stinking long and I keep having to stop and cater to the completely unreasonable demands of my family for food and clean laundry and what-not. Partly because as long as I’m typing about Alaska, I can re-live the magic in my mind -- the magic of beautiful scenery and cool temperatures and sweat pants and jackets, which considering the heat index here yesterday was 115, is a good memory to have. And partly because as long as I’m typing about our vacation, I don’t have to think of anything else to blog about, which considering how normal and boring my life is lately, is also a good thing. So let’s see how much longer I can drag this out.

Our final morning on the cruise ship, they wouldn’t serve us room service (meanies!) so we headed back down to the buffet one last time, dragging our carry-on luggage with us. The rest of the luggage had been taken away the night before, to be held in some nameless, faceless luggage-land, and we just had to hope we would be reunited with it once again at some point. The vast majority of the people leaving the ship were headed either to Anchorage to the airport, or for a land portion of their trip which would take them to Denali Park. As such, they had trains and buses to catch, and Princess had a very organized, structured system as to what time each person could get off the cruise ship, based on what time they had to catch their connection.

Since we were traveling independently after the cruise, we were allowed to pretty much do our own thing and leave the ship at our leisure, which was nice. We relaxed for our last meal, chatting with the two of our group who were leaving to fly back home, then about 8:30am, me, Blaine, Keith and Renee’ took off. There was no line waiting to get off, and our luggage was right where they said it would be. It was so painless that I felt silly for worrying about the process.

We had the guys wait with the luggage and Renee’ and I walked into the harbor area at Whittier, to the Avis rental location, to pick up our car. If you’re ever planning to travel independently through Alaska, and need to rent a car in Whittier, my only suggestion to you is make your reservation plenty far in advance. We had no trouble, but the couple in line behind us were turned away, despite having a reservation. She had made the reservation only the night before, through a 1-800 Avis number, and the guy working the counter pretty much laughed in her face, stating "every car he had, had been reserved months ago by exiting cruise ship passengers, and whatever Avis representative in Tulsa, OK, or wherever, gave her that reservation the night before obviously had no clue about the size and scope (very, very limited) of his rental fleet."

I felt bad for that couple (and wonder if they’re still wandering aimlessly around Whittier) until we were taken to our own rental, and realized I had inadvertently rented a mid-size SUV, and not a full-size. We had four adults and eleven suitcases, and I desperately wanted to ask if we could trade up for a bigger car, but with his speech to that other girl still ringing in my ears, assumed that would be fruitless. So, Renee’ and I did what any two normal, problem-solving, take charge females would do ….. drove the car straight to Blaine and Keith, and expected them to fit all those suitcases in it, which thankfully they did, even if they were piled up so high that Keith and Renee’ couldn’t even see each other the whole time we were driving thanks to the mountain of bags on the seat between them.

We took off out of Whittier, and although it was no great skill or planning on our part, happened to get in line for the one-way tunnel that runs in and out of town at just the right time. We only had to wait about ten minutes before it opened up in our direction, and off we went, Seward bound.

Although there are quite a few tiny towns around Whittier, with occasional RV parking and a few cabins and bed and breakfasts scattered around, we were headed for the great metropolis of Seward, located about an hour and half southwest. We had reservations at the Seward Military Resort, and two days of sightseeing and activities planned before heading back to Anchorage to fly home.

There are several hotels in Seward, but the military resort fit our needs perfectly. Neat, clean, reasonably priced … and with their own fish house which would come in handy the next day. Plus, silly as it might sound, there is simply a comraderie and comfort level for military people, being around other military people. Maybe not everyone feels that way, but I do.

Our first day, we headed straight for the local Safeway to stock up on life’s essentials that we’d been missing the past seven days, mainly Diet Dr. Pepper and Oreos. Ahhhh, cruise ship food is excellent, but sometimes you need to pass on the souffl√© and √©clairs and enjoy yourself some good ole’ packaged, processed dessert.

After stocking up, we made the ten minute scenic drive to Exit Glacier to take a hike and try to get some pictures. We parked in the lot and headed to the Visitors Center, purchased a few bottled waters (I know, I was so busy salivating over the DDP at Safeway I completely forgot bottled water) and while looking around, we noticed this:



Can you read that? It’s a listing of the recent bear sightings in the area, including one in a picnic area, and including one THAT VERY DAY ON THE TRAIL.

Suddenly, I had a lot more respect for Keith and his fear of bears. I mean, sure. I’d heard Exit Glacier was pretty and I’d like to see it, but I wasn't willing to risk being bear-food just for some pretty photos ….. only to have Keith decide today was the day for him to confront his inner bear-fearing self and decide he was willing to walk the trails with us. What!??! The days I thought he was being silly, he didn't go. The day we had proof, right in our faces, that bears were in the area, bears who would like nothing better than to RIP MY FACE OFF, he decides to join us. Despite the fact I would have gladly turned around and left without making the hike --- partly because of the bears and yeah, I admit, partly because I’m lazy -- if Keith was willing to go, I couldn’t very well back out now, could I? So off we went, and I’m glad we did because it was a nice walk, with great views, and I enjoyed it, even if it was a bit more uphill than I anticipated in spots and I had to keep stopping and pretending to enjoy the view when really I was catching my breath, and secretly looking out for bears:





In all honesty, it was great weather again that day, sunny and warm, and we got some nice views of the glacier and surrounding areas.








Including the view we had of the teenage boy who kept picking up rocks and throwing them at the glacier, trying to chip off a piece of ice. Here’s what I don’t understand … ice caps melting, and global warming, and blah blah. No matter your opinion of Al Gore, no one can deny that these glaciers are receding. All the way up the trailhead they had date markers, showing where the glacier had extended at certain years, and you could see for yourself that it had already shrunk miles and miles, and is continuing to do so. The entire week we heard comments from park rangers and naturalists about how much smaller the glaciers are, and how ultimately wildlife and the eco-system will suffer, and the polar ice caps are melting and all such natural calamities, and while I’m not a ecologist or biologist, or someone who has one second’s clue what we are supposed to be doing to rectify this phenomenon, I *am* pretty sure that throwing rocks and chipping away tiny pieces of a glacier IS NOT WHAT WE ARE SUPPOSED TO BE DOING. Where the heck were this kid’s parents, and why was he throwing rocks? I am so very non-confrontational that I didn’t say anything, but found myself getting very annoyed with him. Then I remembered those boys who MUST have been his cousins, the rock climbing boys on the Mendenhall Glacier … I guess ignorance runs in families, is all I can say. That, or it’s a lot of inbreeding.

After our hike we went back to the harbor area and ate dinner at a local restaurant, then back to the hotel to rest up for the evening.

The next day dawned overcast and cooler, but thankfully not raining. We had a fishing excursion planned through the military resort (another advantage to staying there) and were driven from the resort to the harbor, where we were paired up with another small group and led to our boat. A third group had not shown up, for which we were extremely grateful. As it was, the nine of us, plus the boat’s captain and two deck hands, filled the boat pretty full. I’m glad we didn’t have another four people on board with us, for sure.

As we were heading out to sea, the captain came down and asked everyone what they were hoping for that day. I guess based on people’s responses, he would have a better idea of what areas we should try and fish. Halibut, salmon, ling cod, people’s answers varied. Then he came to me … “pretty pictures” was my reply. And you know what? He totally did his very best to point out all the beautiful views, harbor, glaciers, wildlife, etc:











Oh, yeah, then we had some serious fishing to do:



These guys didn’t look too excited about their role in the days events, did they?

Now, Blaine fishes quite often, but its lake fishing. Keith was the only one of our group who had been deep-sea fishing, but we all got the hang of it.












Except for me, who was definitely the weakest link on our team, because I had no idea, but reeling in those big fish, especially after they’ve put huge weights on your line to make it sink, is hard work! Each person’s limit was two salmon ….. I got mine right in a row, and although I should probably be embarrassed to tell you this, when I was done reeling them both in, I was sweating and my forearms were shaking and I was breathing hard. And it’s not like I was reeling in hundred pound record breakers… no, just normal sized salmon (which, are now filling my deep freeze in little plastic bags and does anyone have ANY idea what I’m supposed to do with them? My family thinks fine seafood are the breaded popcorn shrimp you get from the Louis Kemp Co, and I have never cooked salmon in my life, so if anyone has any suggestions, I’m all ears like Mickey.)

Anyway, the day wore on and we caught more and more and more. At one point, with the ship stopped over what must have been a frenzy of black sea bass, I was catching them so fast that the deckhands (who were fabulous) couldn’t even be bothered to put more bait on my line. I was just tossing the hook over the side and reeling them up …. I caught four in a row! Quite a lot of fun for a suburbs-gal like myself.

At long last, the ship headed back to the harbor and we got everything unloaded to the fish house. Here we are with our total catch for the day, although obviously I handed my camera to someone else to take a picture of the four of us and he didn’t even get all our fish in the picture. We worked damn hard for those fish, and when you figure in the cost of the excursion, fishing licenses, tips for the workers, and the cost to ship the fish home, those fish in that picture right there cost approximately $84764397.28 a pound. He at *least* could have gotten them all in the picture (grumble, grumble.)



We weren’t done with the cleaning and filleting and vacuum-sealing (notice I say “we”, when all I did was fetch beer and offer moral support) until almost 8 o’clock that evening. We grabbed a quick bite at the resort grill, then went straight to bed, as we had one final excursion lined up the next day … an excursion which will be forever remembered in my mind as Puke Fest ’07.

{See? Egads, the update is still not over. I am the longest-winded person in the history of the universe, is all. Um, is that a BAD thing?}

Friday, August 10, 2007

Let's Knock This Bad Boy Out

OK, Alaska, final update. (I know! Like, a MONTH since I started because I'm a little ADD and easily sidetracked and seem to lose my pla ---- hey, is that chocolate you have???)

I got a little sidetracked there, but I’m going to resume the vacation journal and finish it now because … dum dum dummmmmm …. I will be computer-less starting tomorrow until however long it takes the nice smiling boy at my local computer store to put a new hard drive thing-y something about internal gigs or ram or something or another and then transfer all the stuff from the old memory thing-y to the newer, bigger, shinier memory thing-y I’m not exactly sure I just know I’m tired of getting the flashing warning on my screen every time I log in about how I'm running out of disk space on drive C and iTunes, you know I love you, but how could you suck up all my space like that?

No computer for three days. I feel a little shaky and nauseous just imagining it. What am I supposed to do in the meantime, interact with my family?????

So, now, back to Alaska.

The day after our dogsledding excursion was a sea day, with sightseeing in Glacier Bay scheduled. Blaine and I had made arrangements to have a special champagne breakfast delivered from room service, but at this point, I was so full from my non-stop eating I had spent the majority of the evening before with my pants unbuttoned. I started to think a big breakfast was a bad idea, until I realized that by ordering it from room service, that meant I could sit around in my sweat pants, eating, and that thought cheered me up again.

That morning, once again terrified I would miss something, I was up at 6am, rushing out to the balcony to see the view. Luckily, no glaciers in sight yet, although the balcony was wet and cold and I knew immediately we wouldn’t be eating our room service breakfast out there today.

That breakfast, I have to tell you, was one of the most impressive meals of the entire week, even if I did have to put my napkin in my lap myself. First of all, we had the crab quiche again, which was just as excellent as the first time. Probably better, since I didn’t have to share, and Blaine gave me some of his left-overs. Honestly. I have to imagine people have KILLED for that quiche. We also each had a plate of fresh fruit, beautifully arranged, and there were bagels with salmon and lox, and an entire plate of breads, cookies, and pastries. SEVEN plates of food for the two of us, not to mention the coffee service, and the half-carafe of champagne. It was almost embarrassing, how gluttonous it was, but then I was so busy shoving crab quiche in my face I couldn’t even feel guilty about the poor starving children in the world.

Later that morning, we rode into Johns Hopkins Inlet to view the glaciers. It was misting, cold, and I was extremely grateful for my winter coat. Blaine and I ran around the ship, trying to get the best views from various decks … and wouldn’t you know, the best view wound up being right from our very own balcony as we pulled away. Because it was overcast, these pictures probably aren’t as vivid as I remember this being in real life:



The really cool part was the calving. It was extremely difficult to get pictures of this ... at least for an amatuer like me. You could hear the popping noise which meant calving was about to occur, but sometimes it was so small you couldn’t see it. If it was big enough to be noticed, by the time I got my camera swung around focused, I had usually missed it. (story of my life, no?) These were the best shots I got, and I must say, it was really neat to watch.
















The one thing I wish I knew the answer to, was just exactly how much ice was that falling? We were quite a ways from the glacier ourselves, so it was very difficult to guesstimate how big that calving was. I overheard two couples at dinner talking, and one of them said they thought "the big one", which I have to assume was this one because this was the biggest one Blaine and I saw all afternoon, was as big as a small apartment, breaking off. I have no idea if they were correct, but I'd love to know.

After we left Glacier Bay, we went and had lunch in the Horizon Court Buffet. At this point, where we were putting the food is a digestive mystery to me, but it was there, it was plentiful, it was good, and by golly, we had paid for it so we were going to eat it, even if our small intestines exploded in the meantime.

Then, of course, exhausted from all that chewing and swallowing, we went back to our cabin for a nap.

And woke up just in time for dinner!

(No, I have no idea why I gained fourteen pounds on this vacation, do you?)

That night was our second formal night on the ship, and we enjoyed taking more photos with our friends, then having dinner and drinks afterwards. This was the one night of the cruise that we stayed up late drinking and dancing (some of us doing a little more drinking than dancing, not that I’m naming names ….. RENEE) and wound up in the Skywalkers Club until they kicked us out at 2am. I would have claimed it as beneficial exercise, considering how much I sweat dancing, but when you add in the calories from the booze, I’d be surprised if I so much as broke even. But I had a good time, and that’s all that matters.

The next day was another sea day, this time through the College Fjords. Since we weren’t scheduled to arrive at the glaciers until late afternoon, Blaine and I spent the morning just kind of bumming around the ship. We had room service breakfast again (I know, we were getting a little spoiled with having people show up to our room with food first thing in the morning ... shockingly, it hasn't happened again since we arrived home) and then walked around for awhile, looking at photos in the gallery from Formal Night, listening in on a Trivia Game in the bar, and just relaxing, enjoying the views. After lunch, acknowledging the sad realization that the next morning they were going to make us leave the ship (scoundrels!) whether we wanted to or not, we went back to our cabin to pack,and get ready for College Fjord.

As crappy as the weather had been the day before, it was *that* beautiful, and then some, for this, our final day at sea. The sun was shining, the temperature was mild (probably in the 60’s?) and people were running around in shorts and t-shirts. The views from both our balcony, and the back of the ship, were just unbelievable.

I had gone to the back (Aft? Stern? Port? Who knows?) to take pictures and met a gentleman who kindly gave me some photography pointers. Actually, what happened was he noticed me taking pictures, and I guess watched until he couldn’t stand it anymore, and walked over and said, “For God’s sake, woman, if you’re going to use that thing, use it properly!”

OK, that’s not exactly true. But it’s pretty close, and I assume is what he was really thinking. What he actually said was, “Excuse me, I can’t help but notice you’re not utilizing your UV lens properly and I wondered if I might show you how to use it” which I thought was very nice and helpful and not at all like a stalker who might push me over the side of the boat like I was worried about when he initially approached me.

I don’t know if his pointers helped any, but these are some the pictures I took. I must say, that this day, with its amazingly blue skies and puffy white clouds and glacier scenery, and the warmth of the sun on my face as I sat relaxing, will be one of my favorite memories of the trip.











And my pathetic attempt at a sunset shot, which I wasn’t ready for, because despite something like twenty hours of sunlight a day, let me just tell you that Damn! When that sun finally does go down, it happens fast!



OK, time to pick the kidlets up from school. I’ll finish the update tonight. Try not to be too excited.

Who are we talking about?

Kristie: So, kids, what did you learn in school today?

Kellen: Mom, did you know they used to call Elvis Presley the King?

Kristie: Yeah, I did know that. (pause) You learned that in school today?

Kellen: No, I just learned it.

Kristie, {thinking well, might as well try to squeeze in a little pop culture trivia as well}: That’s right, Elvis was called the King. But do you guys know who was called the King of Pop?

Brayden: Pop like soda?

Kristie: No, pop music.

Kendrie: What is pop music?

Kristie: You know, popular music … like, rock and roll …..

Kellen: Like pop rocks, the candy?

Kristie: No, like top 40 stuff …. Current music …. Just, you know …. pop {finishes weakly, realizing her kids listen to Radio Disney and Monsters of Rock, pretty much exclusively, and they have no idea what "pop" actually means} Anyway, it was Michael Jackson.

Brayden: Who?

Kristie: Michael Jackson

Kellen: I thought he was a basketball player.

Kristie: No, that’s Michael Jordan. I’m talking about Michael JACKSON.

Kendrie: I thought he was a president.

Kristie: No, you’re thinking of ANDREW Jackson. I’m talking about Michael Jackson. It was funny, really, because he was the King of Pop, and Elvis was the King, and Elvis had a daughter named Lisa-Marie and she MARRIED Michael Jackson ---- so the daughter of the King married the King of Pop, isn’t that weird? …. I wonder if they had stayed married, what their kids would have been called?

Moment of silence

Kellen: Who are we talking about?

Kristie: Never mind.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Back to School Blues

Who am I kidding? I’m not blue, and neither are my kids. They love school and were happy it was time to return. It actually felt late, since we normally start back the first Friday in August. And yes, we didn’t get out this year until June 1. Not quite as late as some of you, but later than a lot. So pretty much ten calendar months of school. My personal opinion is that they are slowly but surely migrating towards year-round school here. We seem to get more breaks than many of you during the school year --- an entire week in October, an entire week at Thanksgiving, two weeks at Christmas, an entire week in February and an entire week in April, not to mention the various holidays, long weekends, and teacher-inservice days.

Personally, I quite like it. After nine weeks of summer vacation, let’s be honest. My kids were done. They were sick of each other and sick of me. And occasionally the feeling was mutual, especially when they would start arguing and bickering, although I would never admit it out loud. I enjoy having the weeks off, scattered throughout the school year. It gives us a long-enough chance to actually go DO something and provides a nice break from the homework routine, but isn’t so long that we all get bored with one another. Although this summer, in between our Lighthouse Retreat, honors camp, soccer camp, and our three-week OK/AK vacation, there wasn’t a lot of down time, either. And of course the non-stop watching of Hannah Montana, Suite Life, Corey in the House, and my kids’ most recent discovery, Drake and Josh. Let’s not forget about THOSE fun-filled hours! ::she said sarcastically::

I thought I would share with you some of the more random, entertaining answers they gave during our annual first-day-of-school interview, and then I think I’ll log off for a while. The heat index today is supposed to be 114, and yesterday, unloading $406 worth of groceries from my car (the hell? How is it I can spend that much money and we’re not eating prime rib every night???) I felt my face melting off and my body pretty much spontaneously combusted, which makes it very difficult to type with tiny charred fingers.

Brayden:

What did you think of your teacher the first day? “She seemed nice to the people who treated her nice, but a little bit bossy to the other kids.”

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go? “Asia sounds cool.”

What is your most embarrassing moment? “I don’t have one for right now, but sometimes Kellen and Kendrie in public are embarrassing.”

Kellen:

What was the funniest thing that happened today? “When Xavier saw me and Gabriella, and he said, ‘Hey! It’s the two tallest people I know!’”

The biggest problem I have in school is: “This new girl named Angela who talks a lot. I don’t want to be her partner. I’m afraid she might get me in trouble.”

When I grow up I want to be: “CIA Ninja”

What do you think of your bedroom? “Well, we *have* been living here a long time and I’m kind of tired of looking at all the same things.”

Kendrie:

When I grow up I want to be: “I have no idea. I have a ton of things -- a vet, a doctor, a policeman, and a Mom.”

What do you think of your class this year? “It’s infected with meanie boys.”

Something you think is important about our world: “Don’t throw trash on the ground, and don’t smoke weed. I don’t know what that means, but I saw it on a commercial.”

Monday, August 06, 2007

Do You Know What Today Is?

That's right, time for the annual Back to School tradition of Hallelujah Chorus on this site.











It's all about the shoes. And the new clothes, and school supply lists, and backpacks. And the fact mom got to run errands today for the first time in nine endless weeks without her three little helpers, something worthy of the Hallelujah Chorus all by itself, is all I'm saying.