Monday, March 31, 2008

Monday, March 24, 2008

And the stupidest thing YOU'VE ever done?

I grew up mostly in Alaska and Colorado. Winter sports capitals, right? Maybe when I was younger. My dad was a big outdoorsy type, lots of fishing, hunting, camping, ice skating, skiing, ice fishing, sledding, etc. My mom? Not so much. So when they divorced, when I was 6, my outdoors education came to an abrupt end. While I may have started out as a tomboy, I very quickly became as citified as I could get. John, however, grew up in rural Oklahoma. His mom's family surrounded him, and his dad's family was up the in the wilds of Minnesota, so he got a thorough education in all things outdoors. One of our goals when we moved here was to spend more outdoors time with our kids, and to get us some "toys" to help with that goal. And so, about 2 weeks ago, we bought snowmachines.

Now, some people may disagree with the way we went about this, but we thought it was best. We went out and bought the oldest, ugliest machines we could find that were still in running condition. We had many reasons for this, mostly centered around the fact that neither one of us was an experienced rider, and if we were going to break something, we much preferred it to be an old crappy machine we didn't really care about, as opposed to a nice new machine that cost more than my car. John had spent quite a bit of time on snowmachines when vacationing in Minnesota in his youth, but not much since then. The last time he rode was over 10 years ago. Me on the other hand, well, I've never even seen one up close. A word of advice to all of you: A few months shy of your thirtieth birthday is not really a good age to take up this particular hobby. Let me set the scene for you:

We had been trying, ever since we bought them, to find somewhere with enough snow left to take them out and test them. Yesterday, we discovered a nice spot about 2 hours away from the house. We saw the tracks running along the highway, and came upon a turnout with several empty trailers, so figured what the heck, looks good. We pull in, and a few other people come in behind us. Everyone is unloading these gorgeous, snazzy new machines - and looking at us like we are the worlds biggest idiots. (Turns out they were right, but we didn't know that at the time.) We finally heave our old dilapidated machines off the trailer, and commence the starting up process. They are a PAIN to start, like an old lawnmower that doesn't feel like working anymore. Anyway, finally got them started. Now, I wanted to go to the right, where I had been watching all the other people go, and where I had seen the trail from the highway. John, however, decided we needed to go to the left, where there was only one lonely track that had been snowed over a couple of times and could barely be seen. His logic? Less people and less chance of us hitting anyone. My thinking? Let's go where everyone else has been so we know there's no water underneath us. Needless to say, he won. So, over the embankment we went. At the bottom, we came to a rather sudden stop. It seems that all the warm weather we have been having has softened the snow crust, and therefore putting a heavy object on it makes you sink. So off we get to dig them out. Snow up to my waist, I'm tugging and pushing on this poor machine for all I'm worth. Turns out that the older machines do have one serious drawback - they have much shorter bodies, less height, and less lug depth. Which basically means, if you aren't on a well-packed trail, you aren't moving. A rather grueling hour later, we get them both unstuck, turned around, and back up the embankment. At this point, John says maybe I was right, and off we go on the path to the right.

I am actually beginning to enjoy myself at this point, all the way up until I hit my first big series of bumps. My right foot slides right off the running board, and gets stuck in the snow. As I can feel myself being pulled off the machine, I get a death grip on the handlebars to pull myself back up. Bad idea. See, when I grabbed the handlebars, my hand covered the throttle. So, not only was I still moving, I was moving FASTER. So here I am, holding on the to handlebars, sliding all over the seat on my belly, legs flying straight out behind me, can't see anything but the gas tank right in front of my face. I finally muscle myself back upright on the seat, whimper a little about my pulled groin muscle and twisted knee, and keep going. We get to the end of the trail and have to turn around. I go up the embankment and back down, and while the snowmachine makes it through the turn, I don't. Off the side I go, rolling about 10 feet before I finally come to a stop, face first in 4 feet of snow. After I dig myself back out, we resume the ride. Over all, we went through the trail several times, and those were my only major accidents, so I guess I did OK.

This morning, however, was a whole different story. I hurt, like I haven't hurt in years. I found muscles that haven't been used in decades. My right side is one giant owie. My arms are so sore I could barely get dressed this morning. My back is resolving into one big ache. Surprisingly, my legs are OK, my knee only hurting when I'm on the stairs, so I didn't do as much damage to it as I thought I had at the time.

So tell me, what idiotic stunts have you pulled, thinking you were still in the prime of youth?

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Science Fair

I have come to the conclusion that the school science fair project is a new torture device, intended to punish parents for sending their kids to school all year long to annoy the teachers.

When I was in school, the science fair was never mandatory. I participated one year, in middle school, for the extra credit points for my flagging science grade. It was a pathetic attempt, with virtually no display, and a poorly thought out project done in a rush the night before the fair. I had no help at all (my mother was not the help-with-homework type), and while it was obvious some kids did, it wasn't the norm. My project was on growing crystals. There were several projects on growing plants with different fertilizers/liquids/sounds/etc., projects on building bridges out of wood, projects on the amount of insulation required to drop an egg and not break it, projects on changing the colors of carnations with colored water, and other similar, simple experiments. Elementary school has changed a lot in 20 years.

First of all, for grades 3, 4, and 5, science fair participation is mandatory. It's encouraged for K-2. Second, and most alarmingly, the packet my daughter brought home explaining the rules and restrictions had the line "While genetic experiments are allowed, experimenting on live humans is against the rules." How many 4th graders do you know that are out splicing genes? I mentioned this to a co-worker, who informed me there were quite a few. The elementary school her children went to, an "ABC" school held to a much higher academic standard than your typical public school, had demonstrations at this level, starting in 2nd grade science class. WTF? I think we have officially reached the point where we are forcing entirely too much pressure on our kids. Maybe it's just me, but it scares the hell out of me knowing there are 7 year olds who know more about genetic engineering than most adults.

Anyway, her school wasn't quite so bad. Most of the experiments there were at the levels I remember from middle school. A lot of the projects were hand-written, which I thought was interesting. I honestly figured they would all be typed. Princess's project turned out really well, I think, but we shall see what the judges have to say Friday afternoon. (That would be my other big complaint - it takes 3 whole days to grade them? Is there just one person doing it, or are all the teachers participating? I'm not a teacher though, so I have no idea what all is involved in the grading, and I am probably the most impatient person I know, so teachers, please don't hate me for that comment!) I''ll update as soon as I have her grade. And, if I can ever figure out how to put in links and pictures, I'll show you what she did.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Ahhh, spring... Kinda.

A lot of people that happen to meet randomly on the internet, as well as in person when I been traveling all over the country, have told me "You're so lucky you live in Alaska." Most of the year, I whole-heartedly agree with this sentiment. Except in April. April is what we in Alaska refer to as "break-up season." That's when all the snow melts, and combines with all the gravel that was spread all winter long, to make giant slushy mud holes out of every intersection and turns every yard into a swamp as the ground unfreezes and tries to adsorb all the extra water. When the snow melts, it also reveals all the trash and animal feces that was covered up by all that gorgeous whiteness all winter long. It's an ugly, messy, disgusting month. And then, in May, summer begins in earnest. Volunteer clean-up crews scour the cities, picking up every spare scrap of litter. All the water eventually soaks in, along with the gravel, and the flowers start blooming like crazy. It's beautiful, but you have to make through April to get there.

So, I was fully prepared to enjoy the slightly warmer but sill snowy climate of March, when all that global-warming-crazy-weather-patterns bullshit struck. The last week of February and first week of March, we had temperatures in the mid-50's. That's virtually unheard of here until April. Several days in a row of gorgeous, sunshiney weather. The ice in my driveway melted enough I could attack it with a big stick, breaking out chucks of 6 inch thick accumulation. Half of my backyard snow melted, revealing last years accidentally uncut grass. Of course, the bad thing about the snow melting at the top of the hill in the back yard, is that it all ran down into a giant puddle at the bottom of the hill, trapped their by our fence. So my swingset was mostly underwater, but I bought a pump and a new garden hose and prepared to pump the water out into the front, where it could flow merrily on it's way down the city sewer system. Then, I woke up the next morning, and everything was frozen. It's back down into the teens, it's spitting snow, just enough to drive you crazy but not enough to play in. The lake in my backyard is now solid enough to ice skate on again, but after acclimatizing to the warmer temperatures, now no one wants to go outside and freeze again, so everyone is sitting in the house, moping. The streets are completely snow free, but the melt hasn't reached the sidewalks yet, so there's no where to ride bikes, and only dirty, icky snow left in the yard. In short, we all have a serious case of cabin fever.

In an attempt to relieve some of the cabin fever, we took everyone on a drive down to Kenai the other day. I found some cheap snowmachines on Craigslist, and thought what the hell? It will give us something to do next winter. So we all piled in the car and away we went. Keep in mind, this is a 4 hour trip, with 2 small boys, a grumpy husband, and a bitchy mother in law. Princess wisely chose to stay home and take advantage of the time alone to complete her science fair project without the assistance of her brothers. The trip down is relatively uneventful, although long and pretty boring. We found the place with no problems, picked up our new toys and headed home. Silly me, I had thought we could take the opportunity to do a little sight-seeing, maybe scope out some good fishing spots, and look for wildlife, since I had not been in that area since I was 10 at summer camp, and nether of the other adults had ever been there. But Mr. Grumpy, as the driver, chose to just turn around and go straight back home, no stops, no nothing. Now, I can't say that he was right or wrong, but I can say the return trip was hell. About an hour into the drive home, the blowing snow started. Darkness had fallen, and visibility was down to next to nothing. The best part? There's nowhere to stop on these roads. No gas stations, no hotels, very few houses, in most places no cell phone service, and just a two-lane, extremely bumpy road stretching out in front of you. The snow started to accumulate, making the roads, already a hazard due to frost heaves, even more treacherous. Twice, we slid all over the place, even in four wheel drive. The first time wasn't to bad, we were going up hill, with a pretty good sized ditch on either side, but nothing a tow truck couldn't cure if worse came to worse. The second time however, we were going around a curve, no guardrail, and only a big partially frozen marsh on either side. Some areas of that marsh are over 20 feet deep. We approached the curve, everything was fine, and then all of a sudden, we aren't turning, even thought the wheel is pointed in the right direction. Thank goodness for the extra weight of the trailer behind us, it really is the only thing that saved us from going over the side. A very tense three hours later, the snow suddenly stops, like it was never there. We have reached the south end of Anchorage, and the rest of the trip home was completely uneventful. So now, no matter crazy we are all going in the house together, I ain't leaving my house again until May.

Monday, March 17, 2008


Wasn't I just here a month ago, apologizing for my lack of blogginess? Ai yi yi, what a month it has been. Mostly, a lot of sick. I mean a LOT. As in, all my boys have pneumonia. Even my big boy, John. And it may be very stereotypical of me to say this, but my god, men are the biggest babies when they are sick. Other than a really annoying cough that wouldn't go away, I didn't even know the boys were sick at all, but John on the other hand, well... Between the whining and the PMS-like symptoms, it was pretty obvious something wasn't right. I think the thing that pissed me off the most, though, was the trip to the doctor.

John is currently laid off, meaning he is staying at home with the kids, while I work M-F, 8-5. I had been telling him for about 2 weeks that I thought the boys needed to been seen, the cough was really bad and getting worse. He argued that as long as they had no fever and were just as active as ever, they were fine. As he got whinier and whinier, and refused to do pretty much ANYTHING, because he didn't feel good, I finally just asked him why he wasn't going to the doctor too. His response, "I will, as soon as I find a babysitter for the kids." WTF? They are sick too, and their doctor and his are in the same building. He's sick with the exact same symptoms as them, and he'll take himself to the doctor, but not them? Needless to say, I was a little perturbed. After listening to my boss carry on for a week about the RSV epidemic that's hitting our area, especially those that use the Native Hospital (like us), I finally took a day off work and took them in. And what do I find out? No, not RSV - pneumonia. Two weeks, and two antibiotics later, Chunky is much better. Peanut, however, is about the same. I've taken him in twice, and they all say his lungs are clear, but every night he starts coughing again. He has huge circles under his eyes, and looks absolutely miserable. He's stopped eating for the most part, especially at night. So I'll be taking him in again later this week.

In other news, my mother in law, Dev, has moved back in with us. Last year, she came to visit in July, and stayed on as our nanny through October, when John got laid off. Now she's back, and will be staying until October again. God help us all. I love her, I really do. I even worked with her for 3 years at the same company, sometimes even as her boss. But living with her is a whole different animal. For starters, she smokes. I don't. My husband used to, but since we moved 2 years ago, he doesn't either (thank god). My son is allergic (we think, most of his breathing troubles/rashes cleared up almost instantly after John quit and we moved). She doesn't smoke in my house, but the smell clings to her all the time. And she smokes in my truck - she seems to think cracking the window a half inch is good enough. John thinks I'm crazy about this one, but it drives me insane - I fold up the kids clothes and put them away. I match up all the outfits that came together, shirt on top, pants on the bottom, on one half of the shelf. On the other side, I put all the pants in one pile and all the shirts in another that don't have "matches" but can be worn with anything. She picks out their clothes for the day by going in there and digging though all the piles until she finds something she thinks will work. Yesterday, my son wore the pants to his dinosaur outfit (complete with little dinosaurs embroidered down the sides) with his big red Elmo sweatshirt. GRRRRRRR. I know, in the grand scheme of things, it's a tiny thing. But it's not like she doesn't know that's how I put them away. I have even laid out their clothes myself, and she will completely ignore them. I don't get it. Part of the reason I do it that way is because it makes it easier. Just go pull the matching outfit off the top of the pile, and go. What is her freaking problem?

I have a feeling this blog is quickly going to descend into "my mother in law is crazy and let me tell you why" territory, so I will attempt to keep myself in check on this particular subject. But be forewarned, it may get worse before it gets better.