...choose you this day whom ye will serve...but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.
Joshua 24:25

The whole fabric of society rests upon the home.
-Theodore Roosevelt

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Thursday 13: Thirteen things...to love about winter in Alaska

With cold weather and snow starting in mid-October, we get a lot of lower-48-ers expressing what almost sounds like pity at our weather conditions up here. Fear not my toasty friends and family, we love it, and here's a list of just some of the things that make Alaska winters, long though they may be, a wonderful thing:

1. The sunsets are fabulous...every night!

2. With all the wool socks, sweaters, mittens, and hats we wear, we have infinite excuses to use my wool-wash and test  new scent combinations!

3. Frequent fresh snow-fall is a lovely reminder of Psalm 57:1. Everything is so white and sparkly!

4. The sun is low in the sky, so it doesn't often matter that I've forgotten my sunglasses!

5. Unlike Texas, you can always put more clothing on.

6. Shoveling the driveway is great exercise.

7. Where else can you build an igloo in your backyard?

8. It may not be snowing on December 25th, but the stuff doesn't melt away till April, so we're almost guaranteed a white Christmas every year!

9. Snow, slush, ice, salt, dirt, and gravel obscure the lines on the street so all you have to do is follow the guy in front of you, and you don't have to worry about parking neatly either...you just find a spot where the truck will fit!

10. No mosquitos!

11. Every trip outside is a good reason to drink hot cocoa!

12.  The clear, cold, black, night skies are great for star-gazing and aurora hunting!

13. We can keep chocolate, crayons, and lip balm in the car and never worry about them melting!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Funny Friday: quotable quotes heard within the kingdom!

I love Alaska! I especially love how it has expanded our scientific horizons and our vocabulary.

The other day Kyra and I were shopping at Costco and a lady walked by with a very full cart.

Said Kyra: "Mama, wook! Dat wady buyed a caribou!"

... in her shopping cart?...a giant stuffed Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Wordless (almost) Wednesday: Look how our girls have grown... (the chickens, not our daughters!)

Here they are! 4 more months and we'll have fresh eggs!

Two days old: this is the day they arrived in the mail from the hatchery.

Four days old: you can already see their adult feathers growing in

3 weeks old: exploring a larger habitat and establishing their "pecking order"

6 weeks old: getting bigger and bolder everyday!

Friday, September 16, 2011

Goodbye Riley-boy

I had hoped our next post would be something a little more cheerful, and to be sure, there are so many things we'd like to share with you about our summer, but they'll just have to wait. You really don't have to read this...if you just want to scroll through and see the pictures and remember him, that's fine. It just helped me to write it all out, I guess.

This morning, we had our beloved dog Riley Samson Koziol put "to sleep". Last weekend, he suffered another "vestibular event" but this time, he didn't get back up.

Riley was born on February 1, 1998...probably the only reason I remember the date is because he shares his birthday with Grandpa! His mama was a gorgeous, sleek, 120 lb purebred black lab. His papa, well, no one really knows...he was conceived in Alaska, shortly before her family PCS'd to Virginia, where I met the owner at work. He was one of 13 pups, some white like him, others black, some brindle, some with shepard/rottie markings. With his thick "waterproof" fur, his curled tail, his amber ears, his purple spotted tongue, and his wavy undercoat, we figure he had quite a bit of husky and some chow in him.

Our engagement portrait, circa 1998

As a puppy, he was, well, a typical puppy. He chased the cat (and quickly learned not to). He chewed my shoes. He completely devoured the unity candle from our wedding.  Like any husky worth his salt, he hated water and refused to go in (even after a ball!), something the lab in him could never overcome. He loved to play ball and was fiercely possessive over his rawhides. He would howl mournfully every time a police car or fire truck drove by with its siren on. We learned very quickly that wearing anything black, navy, or dark colored and expecting it to stay fur-free was hopeless. We learned never to give him more bone than he could chew in one day, unless we enjoyed filling holes in the backyard.

As a big "brother", he was gentle as could be to our girls.

Emma, he regarded with caution and curiosity,

She was less than 3 weeks old here and he hadn't yet dared to come so close when she was out of our arms.

...Maya with interest and affection,

There was ALWAYS something tasty to lick off of her face!

...and Kyra, with bored tolerance.

He only looks miserable...
... I think he was just plotting his revenge!

He loved to lick the girls' faces after they had eaten, and always stood guard over them at bathtime...gingerly licking the bubbles off the edge of the tub and sneaking a lick from the bathwater as soon as I reached for a towel. He would have made a great sled dog; we used to tie his leash to Emma's stroller and he would pull her home from the park. He always did like to be in front, and though he could "sit", "lie down", "fetch", and "drop it"  like a champ, we never could train him to "heel"...something in him just had to lead the "pack".

He traveled well...always loved a ride in the car and he tolerated the long trip to Texas in 2000 exceptionally well. We soon learned how careful we had to be with him in the heat. No amount of shedding and brushing would keep him cool enough. How he loved it when we tiled the downstairs floor! He had funny little quirks--like fly-catching. He's sit and listen to one buzzing around the house, muscles tensed, ears perked, his head jerking around as he followed it's flight, and then when it flew too close to him, fast-as-lightning he'd snatch it out of the air and swallow it. Even funnier was how he'd dance and beg when we had swatted one ourselves! He had this thing for squeaky toys and even the toughest materials couldn't stop him from tearing them to shreds, just so he could put an end to that squeaker. He could hear Steven's car from around the corner, before it was even in sight, and would make a mad dash to the door, prancing and pawing at the door to greet him!

His years in Texas were largely uneventful. His semiannual molt gave us the only "snow" we ever saw for 10 years, and provided many a bird with fluff for its nest.

He loved to lick (Cooper's ears, Nonny's feet and Grandma's face were favorites) He loved anyone who would give him a scratch, a snuggle, a treat, or a few tosses of the ball. He "talked", as huskies are said to do, but only to Tran and Auntie Helen.

He camped with us...once.

Five minutes later he was trying to get into the sleeping bag!

And he kept out of trouble...mostly. He was a shameless thief, with an incredible ear for the sound of even the smallest morsel hitting the floor and an uncanny knowledge of when we had left things just a little too close to the edge of the counter or table.

You snooze, you lose! Thankfully everyone had already been served.

Ah...burnt toast...my favorite!

Can't quite reach...

Maybe from this side?

So close, yet so far...

One last try from the other side again...


Mighty pleased with himself isn't he?

He had a little altercation with a feral cat and had to have his muzzle stapled back together. He and Cooper escaped once and explored the neighborhood, making fast friends with some utility workers who fed them peanuts. He got skunked while we were in a rental house, right before we moved here to Alaska...and because he was not allowed in that house, he ran away during a thunderstorm and was lost...and found...just a few days before we were to begin our drive. I never could keep a rosemary plant alive...he loved to nap on them in my garden. We had six strawberry plants over the years, and never a single berry...he nibbled each one off as soon as they were ripened.

He photographed beautifully...here are some favorites:

A wee pup in Virginia
Enjoying the new sod on a hot Texas evening

A middle aged fellow, keeping cool on the tile floor
Looking exceptionally majestic!

An old guy protecting his favorite "spheres"...we had to use this word when speaking of them or he'd go nuts wanting us to toss them for him...even words that rhymed...mall, tall, small, wall...would get him excited for a game!

We are so thankful that he was such a healthy dog. He didn't have digestive issues (except for that candle-eating episode), or skin trouble, he only got fleas once, and he was usually cooperative when his nails needed clipping. He aged well too...the first sign was some bone spurs that caused his lower back and hips to ache during very cold, humid weather (not something that happens often in Texas!). An x-ray revealed the trouble and the vet pronounced him in good shape for a 4 year old and was astounded to learn that he was actually 8! The first real sign of trouble happened in the spring of 2008, and at the time we thought it was a stroke. We woke up one morning (the day of a Jed & Josie's wedding!) to find him dragging himself across the floor, the entire right half of his body lame, his face sagging, his head tilting to the side. A desperate call to the vet, (thank you, Guilbeau Station Animal Hospital!) who was so gracious to see him on a holiday weekend, some steroids, anti-inflammatories, and some blood thinners quickly put him to rights, and by the next day, he was wobbly but back on his feet, eating, drinking, and eager to play ball (though we wouldn't let him for several weeks!). The feeling and strength gradually returned on his right side, and the only residual effect of the attack was a curious need to lean on things (or people) and that he dragged his front and rear right toes, which meant he could no longer go for walks around the neighborhood...the tops of his feet would be rubbed raw...and he would sometimes trip or stumble while playing ball.

When we moved to Alaska, we left him behind with Cooper, knowing that the drive would be too hard on him; and the poor guy must have thought we had abandoned him for sure. Three months after our departure, Riley and Cooper were flown to Alaska and both seemed delighted with the fresh, cool air and their new surroundings (no fence!)

 We couldn't help but  notice that this last year had aged poor Riley considerably. Frequent accidents in the house, increased clumsiness, weight loss, and his general demeanor...like a stubborn old man who feels he has earned the right to be cantankerous and do whatever he wants just because he's old...indicated a slow but steady ride downhill. Like any dog owner, we've always hoped he'd just die quietly in his sleep so we didn't have to agonize over the "when" decision, so we didn't have to wonder if he was in pain or just plain miserable.

It's been a difficult week...we've been feeding him by hand, and his appetite and interest in food has declined steadily. He only laps a few times at his water before his trembling head goes back to the mat. I've spent hours on the phone, trying to find out if it is legal to bury him in the backyard (nope), trying to find a vet who will make a house-call (Steven is out of town and Riley is too big and too helpless for me to lift him) and a crematory that keeps the ashes of each animal separate. The girls are taking it hard, though thankfully in turns. When Maya was struggling with the pending loss, Emma was her comforter, and vice-versa. Kyra's innocence and joy have been such a blessing. She patted Riley and gave him treats, and wiped our tears many a time. Yesterday, we gave him a bath and though he was not pleased about getting cold and wet, it definitely confirmed  the mercy of our decision. Underneath all the magnificent fur, he was dreadfully thin. His right side was stiff and unresponsive, and his front paw was curled tightly at the "wrist". He had pressure sores on his right side (we tried each day to flip him over...but I think something instinctual made him resist having his "strong" side to the ground and his weak side exposed, so he'd struggle valiantly against us, and somehow manage to flip over on his own if we left him that way).

So I guess that's about it. Our beautiful, sweet dog is gone, and we'll miss him.

Thy righteousness is like the great mountains; thy judgments are a great deep: O LORD, thou preservest man and beast.Psalm 36:6

Friday, June 3, 2011

Shoulda, Coulda, Woulda...

We SHOULD have written in February, when we got our little bunnies, spent a day sledding with friends, and nearly froze our butts off at a downtown festival, but we didn't.

We COULD have written in March, when we went to the official start of the Iditarod, enjoyed another visit from our friend the moose,  and celebrated Maya's 8th birthday; but we didn't.

We WOULD have written in April, when we took a behind the scenes tour at the Anchorage Zoo, spent a weekend in Seward and celebrated the arrival of spring when our tulip bulbs burst through the soil, or in May, after the girls' ballet recital or when we went to Homer; but we had to get caught up on laundry first!

So here it is, 4 months of photos and adventures crammed into one blog post! Hopefully we'll get better at this blogging thing and post again before the month is up!

We adopted 3 adorable female mini rex bunnies from a young lady out in Wasilla. They share the same birthday as Kyra, January 11, and they were just the cutest, sweetest, tiniest little things when we got them! Now they've doubled in size and eat through piles of fruit scraps and veggie peels every day. They WERE named Velvet, Silk, and Satin, but since then, I've heard Ellie, Katie, and Rachel (their middle names) being used more often!
Maya and Silkie

Emma and Velvet

Kyra and Satin

No longer impressed with the little hills in our yard, we took the girls to a local park with bunch of friends from church/homeschooling, and spent the morning trying to break speed records and bones.

She came up laughing!

The best part was watching her drag her own sled all the way up the hill again!

Emma on the fast and dizzy disc.


You can't see everyone, but I think there were 12 children riding!

Time for pizza!

The end of the month was the annual Fur Rendevous celebration, commonly referred to as "Rondy". 18 degree temps and 25 mph winds made it a bitterly cold day but we got to see an outhouse race, amazing ice sculptures, and the girls got to go on a sled ride pulled by huskies!

Outhouse race!

These dogs were SO excited to run!




...and happy!

Movie characters were a common theme.

Ice age, clever!

The beginnings of a wooly mammoth.

How do they do the wings without them collapsing?

Not particularly detailed, nor is it particularly likely, considering our location, but funny, nonetheless!

A gorgeous March day found us WAY overdressed  but loving the sun and fun out on the frozen Willow Lake for the official start of the 2011 Iditarod. The dogs were beautiful and I tried my hand at some action shots. Mounds of snow and ice in the parking lots provided hours of entertainment for the girls, as we waited for the lines of cars to clear.



...did I mention we were overdressed?

Check out those mittens!

Nice shirt!

Amazing that so many people and so much equipment can sit safely on the frozen surface of a lake!

A sign I never dreamed I'd see!

Looks like Riley back there doesn't it?

Notice the unzipped jackets!

Sled dogs are much smaller and more slender nowadays than in days past. Look at the muscles on the one in front!

Sweet cheeks! That hat won't fit next winter...I should start working on a new one!

She didn't stay down long...the shady side of the snow hill was really cold as the sun set.

Our intrepid explorer!

Not the least afraid of heights!

Emma found a big stick and hacked a seat for herself out of the icy snow.

A new moose dropped by for a visit. He spent a few minutes playing with the windchimes and then wandered around, looking for things to nibble in the neighbors' yards.

He probably would have stayed and played a bit longer, but Riley and Cooper caught sight of him and the barking seemd to make our "friend" a little nervous!

You can see that it's a "he" a little more clearly here, his antlers were shed so we're guessing he's fairly old.

After helping himself to various bits of shrubbery, the moose wandered through our backyard and up the hill into the woods. Steven caught sight of him later that evening when he went out to the workshop but we forgot about him until we went snowshoeing the next day...A warm sunny afternoon and the threat of melting snow inspired us to put them on and explore the woods behind the homes on our street. Full of chatter and laughter, we stomped up the hill, found ourselves in snowdrifts up to our hips, and inspected several different paths through the woods. Maya, in the lead, looked frighteningly small as a mountain of brown rose up about 10 feet in front of her. The moose had fallen asleep on the other side of the hill she was cresting and thankfully, he was too groggy to do much about our invasion of his space, and we backed up (not an easy task while wearing snowshoes!) and found another way down the hill!

Miss Maya celebrated her 8th birthday with a homemade cake and plenty of dimples!

Eight years old!


At the Anchorage Zoo, on another cold, blustery day, we got up close and personal with many of the animals, enjoying a tour of the veterinary clinic as well as a class, craft, snack (always important!) and a walk through the zoo on the gated trails only accessible by zoo keepers.

A HUGE siberian tiger within feet of us!

This little guy was quite a flirt and put on quite a show while we snapped photos.

What a beautiful animal! Look at those paws!

We spent a weekend in Seward, enjoying local wildlife, a beautiful drive, and lots of fresh mountain air! A whale-watching cruise in Resurrection Bay was an unfortunate and desperate experience with sea-sickness for three of us. Happily, Kyra spent most of the time asleep in Steven's arms! While the waters were still calm, we saw sea otters,  cormorants,  young and mature bald eagles, stellar sea lions, and even enjoyed a speed race with a sea gull! After that, we don't remember much and we weren't in any condition to take pictures. I hear there were dall's porpoises but no whales!


...and taking off.

The white face indicates an aging sea otter.

I love how the color of the water makes it so easy to see his dark fur!

This seagull flew alongside our boat for several minutes before pulling ahead and leaving us in the proverbial dust!

A bald eagle in it's nest at the top of a very tall tree...

...and the mate, flying in!

What a noise these stellar sea lions made! It was so fun to watch them jump into the water, but even more amazing was watching them propel themselves out and back onto the rocks!

A beautiful close-up of a gull in the sea life center.

1700 lbs of sea lion!

I'll never get tired of seeing these beautiful birds!

Exit Glacier...the road was closed so we couldn't hike up to or onto it, but we'll visit again later in the season next year.

Anticipating our summer adventures, we bought a camper! It's just the right size for us: a 26 footer with triple bunks for the girls.

Check out the first little tulip shoot:

and here it is in bloom, about a month and a half later:

Most of the month was spent trying to wrap up our school year (the first time in many years we have planned a summer off!), preparing for dance recitals (Maya's and Emma's are on separate days), and stocking our camper for our trial camp (one night spent just a few miles from home), and our first big trip to Homer (4 nights away and a 5 hour drive!).

SO excited about the smoke coming out of the grill...hotdogs, coming up!

The official camping hairstyle!

Look, Mama! It's eleven o-clock and I'm still ridiculously perky!

A lovely sunset.

Skipping rocks on the banks of the river the next morning.

We spent the pre-memorial day weekend with two other families at the Homer Spit Campground at the end of the Homer Spit. Jutting about 5 miles out into Kachemak Bay, the spit is along narrow stretch of land with rocky beaches and spectacular 360 degree views. We went fishing, explored the beach at low tide, collected rocks, shells, and shrimp, strolled around "town", and of course roasted LOTS of marshmallows! The greatest blessing, of course, was spending that time with friends. A year ago, we never would have imagined finding friends who would want to spend time with us after 3 days of not showering!

Beautiful views and an exposed sand bar at low tide.

Sword fight!

Wishful thinking...no one caught anything!

Getting pointers from a pro!

MY fish!

Not sure why this eagle, nearly twice the size of the dog, was flying away, unless he though the pup would steal his meal!

Crossing a homemade rock bridge as the tide rolls in!

Our little naturalist, collecting treasures!

Another lovely view.

The dirtiest, happiest child on the beach!

It's always a "cats" game between these two.
Happy campers!

I think they were after the shrimp this time.

Whatever this game was, it was hysterical, at least to them...

...they'd jump up, and when they landed they'd roar and burst into laughter!

The Time Bandit pulling into port for a holiday weekend.

The perfect marshmallow!

Anyone up for a round of "chubby bunnies"?

Some of our treasures...if you look closely you'll see rocks that are speckled in varying shades of white, grey, black, and even rose and peach colors. There were scarlet red pebbles, and several shades and textures of green too! We even found a large piece of lava that floated when we threw it into the water!

An eagle in it's roadside nest at mile 164 on the Sterling Highway.

Next stop: salmon fishing!