Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Iris' first day playing out and Esther's Snowperson

So even though we live in a land of snow 8 months of the year, very rarely is it snow fit for making things -- snowmen, snowwomen, snow castles, etc. -- because it's often very dry snow, and the wind whips up what is not hard-packed. However, we had a really warm wind storm this month that brought the temperatures up to near 32 degrees (and a little bit over, because we had some RAIN for a couple hours before it dipped below again), and a bunch of wonderful, wet, malleable snow fell. Esther has been dying to make snow creations, so I told her we were going to seize the moment to do so, and to take advantage of the warm temps to take Iris out to play in the snow for the first time!

Here is Esther pushing a big snowball up the hill:

Iris was NOT excited at first to sit down in the snow:But then soon realized it was cool and different:Especially when she got to hang out with big sister!

The finished snowperson (Esther said it was a girl AND a boy snowperson. Great!):For lack of fresh produce, we used candy to decorate, and the hard candies promptly sunk far back into the snow, producing gross brown stains for buttons. It's ok, Esther loved it anyway, as you can see in this picture of Esther loving up her snowgirlboy (as a thinly veiled strategem for munching on the licorice nose -- she insisted she was just "kissing" its nose...)Nice one, babe!

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Dog Fun

Fancy and Draco are now sled dogs! Ok, so it's not like we're going to start full-scale mushing anytime soon, but I do think we've accomplished enough with the sled to say that they're sled dogs -- even if we say it with a little smile on our faces... because they're never going to be SLED dogs.

And that's totally ok -- that's not what I'd want; I just want to have a new outside winter activity that we can all do together (eventually). I don't want them to go fast and run ahead of us like real dog teams do, I just want them to pull the sled at a walk, and walk alongside of me. BUT as you can see from these pictures, although we have had a great start, we have a long way to go before we get to that point! We took pictures on a sunny Sunday afternoon when the temps were a bit above zero, maybe around 10 degrees F. Jasmine and Esther were my test pilots on this particular day, and the dogs seemed to be able to pull their combined weight with no sweat... once we got going. Getting harnessed and hooked up is the most challenging part, because the dogs are excited and don't really sit still for me very well (we're working on it), so they are constantly getting all tangled up as they turn around and try to lick me, etc. Then when we take off, the dogs' attention is not always on me, and they have trouble understanding that they need to just stand next to each other, not at wierd angles to each other, and they also have trouble understanding that they need to walk TOGETHER, not zig zagging around each other and getting their lines tangled. Then once it's time to pull, they totally rebel at first, and Fancy takes it out on the leash (which I attach for steering, because they totally don't know where they're going yet, and it's not a perfect system because it's hard to steer from the side of them or behind them -- because a lot of the time they want to trot along, and then I trot along, then they run, and I have to run, faster and faster....).But then once we get going, and we're in a nice rhthym, it's smooth sailing, like a dream. Check out these cool as a cucumber pics:

We also have been having silly fun with the dogs -- they are the first puppies I've ever raised from birth forward, and since I knew exactly when their birthday was, because it happened in my house, Esther and I decided to have a birthday party for them. It was totally silly and totally great. Their birthday happened to fall on a Friday night(January 23) so we were able to get it together to make hats and cakes for them (cakes made of turkey broth, eggs, flour, molassses, and iced with salmon cream cheese -- mmmmmm....). Here are the pictures from the fiasco! Fancy snarls,"Just because you gulped yours down doesn't mean you can move in on mine!" And Draco is duly chastised.
And what would a birthday be without a walk down memory lane, to see how these beasts began their life in my porch? You can check out earlier puppy posts in 2008, but here are just a few quick pictures in this post:Draco, a few days old...Fancy, a few weeks old.The litter's first time outside, at about 4 weeks.The cutest picture of Fancy & Esther, at about 6 weeks old.Fancy & Draco in a box -- at about 2 1/2 months old. It is so fun to remember how cute they were then, but they were SUCH a handful! If you're wondering what some of the other pups in the litter turned out to look like (they all must have different dads, because they all look so different), here is a picture of Jego, who visits my house as often as he is at his own house: The other puppies got cool names from their adoptive owners: Taki, Scrap, Zeus, and Bandit. Abby is also doing great at her new home, playing with lots of kids, even getting to be a house dog sometimes.
Now they're hardcore village dogs (ha! They're still really spoiled by rural Alaska standards!) that they can weather storms outside and even choose not to be in their houses: It's like a hidden picture drawing: where are the dogs in this picture?Here they are!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

We didn't have to dream of it...

It was a seriously white Christmas, as in white out, super-duper blizzard, with wind gusts up to 50 mph for a span of days around and including Christmas. The only window of relative calm was Christmas Eve morning when, thankfully, my mom was able to fly in from Bethel -- where she had only be stuck 24 hours, sheesh. So, with my mom safely here, our holidays were fabulous, and I wanted to share pictures and stories....Esther wearing a beaver hat, a 'Palaggai."
Iris happy about going out visiting with daddy -- cute!

Christmas just gets more and more fun with Esther being so so into the mythology of Christmas and Christmas traditions, and we had Esther's cousins visit to make crafts and cookies and such. Here we are a couple days before Christmas rolling out sugar cookies:
Even though we don't have a tree -- obviously real ones are not possible, and I hate artificial ones -- I'd rather have no tree than a fake one -- we do it up nicely, anyhow, yes? I've made our decorations with at Star theme rather than a tree theme:
Iris was actually pretty into the present-opening process, and big sister was loving helping!
Fancy Nancy doll: Who knew? So perfect for my little fancy girl:
Looking tenderly at her first ballerina music box, which plays Swan Lake:
Esther's Hello Kitty Stereo from Santa:
Iris showing off her First Christmas duds, with Dad giving a kiss to the top of her head
The girls basking in the after-Christmas glow (as in, enjoying the lights right before I take them down:)--

The evenings after Christmas, the village had a great activity in the school commons: Christmas Games. I had never been to this event before, and did not know what to expect, kind of thinking it would be a basketball tournament. But it was just a bunch of games like relays and such, divided by age group. The winning teams would get small prizes, like little plastic toys, balloons, crayons, -- often, though, the game coordinator would say "All winners!" and all the kids would rush over to the area where there were just boxes & boxes of prizes.
Being my first time at the games, I thought that they would just be for the children. The game coordinator would call out for different age groups to come into the center of the commons to play a game, like Tug-of-War for kids Esther's age, below.
She was pretty confused as what to do -- she'd never played Tug of War before. Too bad, though, because being the tallest one in the group she could've kicked butt! :)
After watching a bunch of kids' games, then, I was pretty surprised when the game coordinator called out, "Men and Women!" and all kinds of adults rushed into the center of the game area. Of course I'm game for anything like that, so I joined in. We formed two lines, mixed gender, and were all given toothpicks to hold in our mouths, and the object of the game was to pass a fruitloop all the way down the line, toothpick to toothpick. The last person in the line had to run up to the front, holding the fruitloop on the toothpick, the toothpick in his or her mouth, and start the fruitloop down the line again, until everyone in the line was in the orginal order again. Funny!:It was totally hilarious, and although I couldn't keep from laughing and accidentally blowing the fruitloop off my toothpick the first time with my breath, some folks were ALL business(as you can see from these photos -- I got permission from everybody, by the way, to post these), and everyone was having a great time, participants and observers.It seemed to me like a game that was fun and funny because it was as close to kissing as you could get without really kissing! In fact, the next game, which I didn't get pictures of because it was too fast moving, was a relay in which you had to hold a playing card in between your nose and upper lip, flipping your upper lip totally up and inside out, passing the card to the next person in line who would hold it the same way. I couldn't figure out how to hold it at first, because I didn't realize how completely I had to flip my upper lip up, and some of my teammates teased me, looking at Tuluk (who wouldn't play, just wanted to hold Iris and watch) and saying, "Well, don't you know how to kiss?" in a teasing tone. I think the game itself was even called "Eskimo Kiss."

Here I am trying my best!The whole games experience was one of my favorite community activities because everyone was so involved, even the observers were active observers, and there was just such a great feeling about the whole thing. Hearing people talk about these mouth-to-mouth games, I realized they were old favorites -- people totally knew what they were in for when they lined up, and were into it! Everything I love about living in this community was embodied in these games, the joking, teasing fun is the best thing about Yup'ik culture. And when I closed my eyes to the artificial lights and the western architechture, I could imagine playing these games eons ago, in the dim light of sod house....
AND we were "All winners!" I loved the prizes, too, very utilitarian: Rit stain-whitener powder, bobby socks, dental floss, washcloths and plastic tupperware....:)

We packed up and traveled to Anchorage for New Year's, for a vacation and to take care of medical appointments (a reality of life here where there are few options for medical care, that we have to schedule our appointments for school breaks), and it was a good thing that we took the girls to a pediatrician, because they both developed croup over the vacation and soon after.:(
When I had bought the tickets, I had cringed at how expensive they were this time, thinking it was because of the holidays. Well, for some reason they were expensive because all that was left was first class tickets! So here is a picture of mom and Esther living it up in First Class on Alaska airlines -- our first time! Too bad it's only an hour flight from Bethel to Anchorage.
My mom and Esther posing by (and in!) the 5th avenue ice sculptures:

You know you're in Anchorage when:you see tacky things that are supposed to remind you that you're on the last, great frontier all over the place -- like this enormous bear in JCPENNY'S at the downtown mall.
We actually made it to Anchorage & back without travel woes! Amazing and wonderful.
Here are just some cute pictures of the girls:
Esther said she was missing camp, so she made a tent out of a big box...
She's stocked it with all kinds of provisions--including a place for her sparkly shoes!

Esther in her cute rabbit mask and Iris in her bumbo seat --
Iris wants the big bunny!
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