Thursday, November 5, 2009

3.6 seconds of Fall

Fall is a blink-and-you-miss-it season up here, which is fine with me since I don't do well with transitions. September and October are all about "hurry up and do _____ before the weather gets bad, this might be our last weekend". And we crammed a lot in, as this post atests (in fact, I kept meaning to end this post, but kept finding other things to add to it, so it's a long one!) So here are some pictures of us hurrying up and doing _______ these past months (and having fun doing it), as well as some cute pictures of the girls accomplishing their most recent milestones.

 First up: Esther's First Day of KINDERGARTEN!  How did it happen?  Well, it is happening a year early, since we asked for early entry because the Headstart Preschool was too full.  But, still, how did she get big enough even for early entry?  It's amazing and wonderful and emotional.  By and large she is doing great, though she gets pretty tuckered-out.  I am really happy for her that her life is so full, though, with good, solid things.  Here is a picture of her walking toward her future, as her teacher calls her name and her classmates (and the principal) wait to line her up:

She is enrolled in the Yup'ik Language Immersion Kindergarten, so she gets lots of great language and culture all day long.  Every day she knows a new phrase or word, song or dance.  When I think about how I dreamed of her partaking in this program when she was a baby, and now it's come to fruition, I get all teary.  As a side note, I got voted to be on the Yup'ik Immersion School Parent Committee, which is exciting because it's all new -- every day of being a parent, being on the other side of education, is all novel and gives me thrills.

The other big milestone: Iris's First Birthday! She was feted and celebrated among her plethora of cousins, and seemed to enjoy it, even if she was a bit in awe of the festivities.

Directly after her party, it was first haircut time!  Daddy did it with an attachment on the shaver.  She was very unsure at first, and eventually started crying, but she lived through it. 

She looks nice, now, all evened out.

Another amazing fall accomplishment was the First-Ever Camping Trip with Students.  As a school, we have been wanting to take the students out on the tundra as part of our Place-Based Education initiative, but it has always fallen apart, as it is a huge undertaking to bring a large group of students anywhere.  However, it was a success!

Above, Jerry sings campfire songs with the girls -- they're totally enthusiastic and also totally out of tune.

Iris was kind of sick during the evening -- she kept kind of spitting up, and I couldn't tell exactly what was wrong with her, if she was really sick, because she had no fever and was playing fine, acting happy, or if something else was wrong.  I felt guilty keeping her out on the tundra, but she really was having a good time and got to get held by some of the older girls that she adores (and Esther was in seventh heaven with all the high school girl attention), so I just hard-core mommed it and stayed out.  She woke up crying in the night and I worried she was sicker, but she went back to sleep with some nursing and in the morning was totally fine, so I'm glad I stayed out.  But the following day I woke up with yucky digestive issues, so I bet it was a bug, and I made my poor child camp in a tent during that!  Well, at least she'll have lots of stuff to talk about during therapy when she's older.  But, seriously, look at how much fun she looks like she was having: 

Below, several boys caught birds and proceeded to pluck and roast them over the fire for the group to gnaw.  Gnarly! :) Below, the boys coming back with their catch:

Then, the plucking and roasting that even impressed Tuluk!

I took advantage of the time outside to show Esther some stars, because much of the time when we are outside when it is dark (because, remember, when we camp in the summer it is never dark enough for stars) it is too cold to stay out long.  Iris fell asleep inside my coat and so I got to snuggle my two girls on the tundra under the stars.

That night, it was what you might have expected from a group of high school students -- howling between tents, tent-swapping, tent-shaking, running around tents, everything I'm sure I put my chaperones through on camping trips when I was young -- till ridiculously late at night.  In the morning, when Tuluk woke up early, he went close to the student tents with his large shotgun, pointed away, and fired several shots for wake-up revelee, just for keeping him up so late!  Amazingly, even after only a couple hours of sleep, the students were happy to get up. 

In the morning, we had hot cocoa and a good-morning fly over by a local pilot(maybe he was coming to see if we had survived the night!)....

The students had gone to several learning stations the afternoon before, led by the other teachers on the trip, about tundra plants, microorganisms in water, and a reflective writing station, and so this day it was time for the students to host the same learning stations for other, younger students who were making the trip out to the campsite.  Here Chuck helps a student look at a caterpillar under a microscope: 
They did pretty well spreading their learning, and the experience, out to the other kids.  It was by and large a really great success, and a foundation to grow for next year's trip.  

We also had some pretty fab Beach Evenings before the cooler weather hit. Check out Iris figuring out starfish and Esther and the dogs enjoying the Bering:

The starfish are so cool.  I love fall time when they wash up on the beach in hordes.  They are so interesting, leaving trails and cleaving to anything in their path:

Another fabulous happening this month, which was a culmination of lots of work and arranging on everyone's part, was that Veterinarians came to Hooper Bay!  The group "Christian Veterinary Mission" travels to out-there places in the world to volunteer their services to the animals of the place.  As some of you know, there is a tremendous need for animal care in rural Alaskan villages, as vaccinations are hard to come by (every winter there are cases of rabies when foxes come into the village and tangle with the dogs) and the dogs breed willy-nilly, creating such unlikely mixes as this husky/corgi (or something -- yikes!):

See, it looks like it has a nice, Husky head, but then its body is all little teeny dog:

SO, anyway, we need help from vets.
However, it costs seat fare (as much as a person's seat) to fly a dog out of the village just to Bethel (where a vet comes once a month), and with tickets at over $200 one-way to Bethel these days, it's pretty near impossible to do it unless you win the lottery.  SO  we needed help, and, actually, the credit goes to my mom for starting it off, because she talked to her Equine Dentist about his involvement in a similar organization, and it just spiraled from that point.  And it was awesome!  Check out the vet team doing a neuter surgery in the school shop, as Esther watches (she has quite the stomach for medical procedures. She always has to watch everything when we go to the doctor, too):

They accomplished over 200 vaccinations and 60 spays & neuters!  It was such a success that the parent organization asked Liz, the lead vet, if she would lead another trip next year.  Awesome.

This fall's main subsistence goal: I was a woman on a mission to gather Cranberries:

I stole moments here and there to sneak out with just the dogs and pick them near the beach (our camp was covered with them), and then some nights after school we all went down to pick them:

 There's Esther filling her mouth, not the bucket, as usual.  Iris likes them too:

 Some people say they're not used to their tartness, but the girls like them fine, and they are far superior, if smaller, for Thanksgiving cranberry sauce.  So they're actually one of my favorite berries to pick. They're just like crimson treasure on the tundra.

We've had fun showing New Teachers to Alaska & Hooper Bay the exquisite flavors of our environs, and Katelynn, a 21-year old brand new teacher from Arkansas, has been the best sport about everything.   Here she is learning to pluck ducks:

 Tuluk was impressed with how she plucked it, saying "She almost did as good as me!"  Ha ha, sir.
She also really enjoyed her first taste of seal (mukluk, bearded seal), saying it tasted like "filet mignon"!

That can be the tagline when we advertise it: "Seal: The Next Filet Mignon" and we can use these pictures of Iris completely enjoying her seal rib to promote it:

Yep, that girl has a healthy appetite. :)

Katelynn and another new teacher, Lindsey, came down to check out a beluga whale catch, as well, and tried it out!  Good for them, getting out of the school "compound" and experiencing real life here. Here Tuluk is beginning to cut the flipper off the whale as Esther watches:

Esther gets a bite of "gum" the raw whale skin -- she liked it!

Katelynn watches Tuluk do the same -- just before she spits hers out -- she didn't like it! :) Well, Katelynn, you liked seal, so I guess you're still in the Hooper Bay "cool" club. (I joke).

Daddy and Iris -- her Yup'ik name means "creature from the ocean" -- with another creature from the ocean, or what is left of it at this point.

The first SNOWFALL was on the Autumn Solstice -- Sept 22, and then again on Oct 5. But it didn't really stick; it got colder and colder with no snow.  In fact, we had a week or more with frozen dust blowing around, which was not pleasant at all, but at least it will make it safer when we travel by snowmobile (that's right! We went in with a couple folks to buy a snowmobile!) after the snow covers it.  So when we finally we got to the days when the ICE stayed on the ponds, we went for a walk to check it out:

Here Fancy and Draco remember ice, and how to break it to get a drink. And Esther has fun cracking the brittle little pond surfaces:

So now this brings us to HALLOWEEN!  Yes, these are the pictures you've been waiting for, and though by Halloween, we were officially into winter, I'll still put it in this fall post because I've had so many requests to see these pictures, and I might as well do it now while I'm posting.  Esther decided to be a lion, and I toyed with the idea of Iris being a lamb and me being a Shepherdess, but all the Little Bo Peep costumes online were "sexy" Little Bo Peep (really, people?) costumes and that was too gross to contemplate.  AND the skunk costume was totally cute and I figured it might be the only year I could get away with it.  So (drumroll please)  here is the menagerie!

My little lion with glittery shoes -- and practicing to be fierce!

And my little stinker -- who loved getting her stuff on, even her face makeup (which was all natural by the way, from Luna Organics off of, not that I feel I need to advertise, but so many folks wanted to know where I found it.)

And me, I am the ringmaster of my own personal circus.  I live it everyday, but on Halloween I just dressed like it!

We won the costume contest!  


Finnskimo said...

AWESOME! Ugh...So, you wanna trade for some Beluga?! No one caught any up here, so we're belugaless. Let's see...I have no idea what we have, but I bet we could think of something! haha.

Congrats Esther!!! Kaisa's first day of first grade was this year and she's LOVING it.

ANd OOOOHHH the Cranberries. Yummy. I think I managed to pick like 17 gallons before my foot up and did me wrong. So, now luckily, there's nothing really to do until it freezes completely, so I'll just recover. :)

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