...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

Friday, November 19, 2010

Alaska Sights and Sounds

I know I promised you wouldn't have to wait long for this next one, but we've been so pleasantly involved in our daily routines that I forgot!
We hope you enjoy these photos and videos.

Anchorage is home to the supposedly "World's Largest Rollerskate". (We hear there's one in Virginia with the same claim to fame, but no one has bothered to measure yet!)  

It doesn't look like much until you see it with a person in the picture! That's Maya standing below it.

Speaking of Maya, here she is, quite pleased with the pigtail braids Emma did for her one morning.

Sitting pretty in her costume after trick-or-treating in 28 degree temps!

Speaking of halloween...here is the pumpkin Steven carved for us.  Surgery training is very useful!

Speaking of pumpkins, we caught the moose nosing around in our neighbor's front yard. We thought he was pawing and nibbling at a bush buried in the snow, but a few minutes later, a snow-covered pumpkin rolled out!
He used his front hooves to turn it over and to knock the snow off the surface of the pumpkin.
The pumpkin was frozen, so it was not easy eating for the little fella. I guess he got tired after a while and decided it would be easier if he got a little closer!

This was one of the first moose-sightings this fall...our neighbor snapped this photo from her window. Was he hoping the girls would come out to play? This young moose is about a year old. He was orphaned last year along with his twin, after their mother was mauled by a bear. 

A few days later, a young bull wandered through. but he's older, faster, and more wary than the orphan who doesn't seem to mind being photographed or watched. We watched from the front porch as he nibbled on some shrubs... and from the windows as he inspected the snowmen a few days later!

Speaking of snow, we had our first snowfall on the last Sunday of September, and even though it was too warm and too brief for anything to stick, it was a thrill to see the white stuff for the first time in 10 years!

Above, you see the mountains covered in "termination dust". The first snows collect only at higher elevations and it looks like God took a powdered sugar shaker and gave the peaks a little shake. Termination dust signals the end of an Alaskan summer, hence the name.
It wasn't long wait before we had enough snow to play in...this stuff began falling while we were in town for ballet, so we drove home,  ate a quick dinner, and suited the girls up for a quick romp before bed. Kyra loved it!

I think the girls need to work on their aim a bit...

Snow angel or grass angel?

The days are rapidly getting shorter here. The sun isn't up till after 9, and it only just clears the peak of the mountain as it sails across the sky, warming our home through the windows of our south-facing living room.  Here are Maya and Kyra enjoying a tender moment in the sun, dancing together to "Carolina Moon".

The late sunrise, and early sunsets are beautiful! In a few more weeks, and we'll only catch a glimpse of it in the morning, and again in the afternoon, but I think that means we'll be able to enjoy the northern lights without staying up too late!

9 a.m.

4:30 p.m.

O LORD, our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!
Who hast set thy glory above the heavens. Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger. When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put all things under his feet: All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field; The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.
O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!

Psalm 8 KJV 

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Work and Play: the Koziol way!

The last few weeks have found us settled into a pleasant routine of work, schooling, and blessed free time around the house. We have even managed to do a little bit of exploring! Out in Palmer there is a pick'n pay farm that hosted a harvest festival. Kyra was thrilled to visit and pet the animals, Maya loved the free games and played every single one, and Emma enjoyed digging for carrots. Kyra went on her first hay ride, and the big girls jumped off a towering haystack!

Our yard started to take shape because we enjoyed an unusually warm and sunny September...we hung the hammock, pruned shrubs, planted bulbs (I'm so excited to see them popping through the melting snow in spring!), and put together the swingset (Steven dragged it 100 feet uphill to its final, and I mean FINAL, resting place!) There was a huge rock in the back, and conveniently, a rather large hole that needed to be filled. I picked a cozy seat and watched the action...the only picture is on my phone and I don't know how to get it on the computer yet so you'll just have to imagine the scene! Steven made a great show of "helping" them, but the girls really put their muscles into it!

Even a child is known by his doings, whether his work be pure, and whether it be right. 
Proverbs 20:11

After all the hard work, they decided a little foot-pampering was in order:

Our front yard has a little slope down the front and Kyra quickly discovered how much fun it is to roll downhill. We're hoping it will also be a good site for pint-sized sledding in the winter.

 This video is my favorite...she can hardly hold her head up she's so dizzy!

Our biggest news is a milestone that we didn't anticipate for at least another year, but Emma was thrilled to be fitted for her first pair of pointe shoes at her new ballet studio. She practices in them twice a week, mostly doing foot-strengthening exercises, barre-work, and occasionally practicing familiar combinations  en centre with the eagerly anticipated bonus of having the instructor's permission to go onto her toes. Here is part of a dance she did during her summer intensive program...after the girls walk out and find their spots, you'll see Emma in the front left, and you can follow her easily from there. Sorry it's not a full video, my battery was dying!

With all this activity, you can bet that the girls sleep well, and it is such a treat to hug and hold their warm snuggly bodies in the morning. Here they are, fresh from sweet dreams:

But it isn't long before the wiggling, giggling, and tickling begins:

We'll leave you with a final photo of Kyra, wearing her favorite skirt, her favorite shoes, and her absolute favorite sweater, knitted by my dear friend Karren. Can you believe the head of hair on this child?! She's still as fat and happy as you remember her, but now she can talk. She surprises us everyday with new words and funny new games. Kyra loves to do things "a butt ruff"...though this week, the pronunciation has changed to: "aw by fewlf". (all by myself)
 Coming soon: Alaska sights and sounds!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Home, Sweet Workshop!

Now that we've moved into our home, I suppose you'd like to hear a little bit about the house hunt, and the weeks before we moved in.

Our first night in Alaska was spent driving around, hunting for some of the houses on our "list". We hoped to eliminate a few and get a sneak peek at the neighborhoods. We ended up adding to our list by finding other houses for sale that we had not discovered in our online search.

The next day, we met with our realtor Lynda, and attacked an ambitious list of 10 houses. Walking up the street between two next-door houses that were both on the market, I noticed a wooden moose planter on the front lawn. By this time in the day, Kyra was hungry and tired, and needed amusement, so I cried cheerfully: "Kyra, look! A moose!" (she learned to say "moosh" on the ferry, which had a life-sized painting near the dining hall, and we visited "him" every day) Little did I realize the effect this exclamation would have on our realtor...an Alaskan for over 28 years. She knew that seeing a moose while walking up the street is NOT a something to be happy about. Moose are shy, stupid, and vicious when startled or confronted.  She immediately froze, spread her arms protectively in front of the children and whispered fiercely: "STOP! Where is he?!" I couldn't help but laugh and point to the little lawn ornament, but I don't think Lynda was amused. Consider us  (now) fully educated on moose-sighting etiquette.

Our stroll continued up towards the front door, with Maya and the realtor in the lead, Emma and I, the unfortunate followers. A nest of yellow jackets under the deck was disturbed by their footprints and our admiration of the beautiful wood exterior of the home was quickly replaced with Emma's shrieks and my own cry of pain as she was bitten repeatedly on the ankle and I was stung on my calf. Thankfully the owner was home and made some baking soda paste to soothe our wounds. This particular home was henceforth referred to as "The Bee-sting House" and, because of it's sizeable basement and workshop in back, became the measure by which we compared all other houses we visited. It goes without saying that Emma did not like it at all and had to be convinced, after two more days, (and 20 more houses), that this was the one we should buy.

Miles of paperwork later, we had keys and garage clickers, and a few days after that, our stuff, and then our dogs!

During the weeks between, we kept busy. Fishing, schooling, running, testing, dancing, you get the idea. We met new friends, found a church, and watched our children grow out of practically everything we had packed for them. We were so thankful for our temporary housing. It was small, but it provided a comfortable home base and a kitchen! The space seemed to get smaller each week, but mostly because we raided the thrift stores for snow pants, boots, parkas and other winter gear, which isn't exactly compact stuff! Chores and cleanup were easy and simple, especially because there was no dog fur to clean up! We missed our pups, but our friend Pam in San Antonio comforted us with news of their good health.

Moving day was uneventful, but exhausting. Steven was in charge of the inventory list, and I just went from room to room, opening boxes with my fingernails and trying to unpack and put away as much as possible. Next time we move I'll be sure to keep a box cutter and some tools in the car. You'd think the movers would have a screwdriver handy to put the beds together! Ours were packed, and even when the tool box was finally unloaded, we remembered with dismay that the key was in another box with the office stuff!
The whole day was like Christmas for the girls, as box after box revealed their artwork, dolls, books, and favorite Sunday dresses. Within one week every box was empty, our kitchen was organized, and the workshop was ready for soap making!

We are thankful to have friendly neighbors and a great neighborhood with lots of children and dogs to keep things interesting. Without our Texas friends to visit and play with, our daughters have been a constant source of comfort and companionship for us and for each other, and we are so grateful for the blessings of unity and peace in our family. 
Here are some photos for you to enjoy:
front view...check out the basketball hoop!

our workshop. it's heated, too!
view from the girls' rooms, and the living room. The sunrise behind the mountain is so pretty, and the evening glow of the sunset turns it beautiful shade of gold! we can't wait to see it covered with snow!
Kyra's room...nothing exciting yet. She's not interested in the little bed yet either!
Emma and Maya's room...well, their beds at least!

my favorite room! there are eight windows in all, giving us a wonderful backyard/forest view! we've ordered a new table and chairs, so in a few months this one will once again be the school table.
the other living area...notice the keyboard: Maya is taking piano lessons now.
the view up the hill from the front yard. I took this picture three days ago, and already the hill is more orange and yellow than green. Three weeks ago, the entire view was all emerald forest green. Autumn seems to come (and go!) quickly here. 
the living room. our old couches were moved downstairs...one to the other living area, one to the school room. "what's that" ...you say... "a school room?!" Yes! we have a wonderful basement school room with shelves and lots of light, and soon, when our new table and chairs arrive, our big kitchen table. The Kitchen Table Academy is thriving in Alaska!

Coming soon (sooner than this one did, I promise!): "Work and Play, the Koziol Way...get the pointe?"

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Bagpipes and dancers and bears, oh my!

We interrupt this chronologically presented blog to share some video highlights of our weekend:

The 10th Annual Galway Days Irish Music Festival was celebrated in downtown Anchorage.
We enjoyed wonderful music, great weather, and traditional dance!

Here are the bagpipes playing "Amazing Grace":
(yes, we know bagpipes are Scottish...wasn't it nice of the Irish folks to let them come and play?!)

These young ladies were fabulous! (yes, we're already on the hunt for a school of Irish Dance so our own little lassies can learn to do this!)

While the bluegrass band was playing, some of the children in the audience put on an impromptu performance. Here is Kyra's contribution:

She stood like that for the whole song...until another toddler came up and gave her a big hug which knocked her flat on the ground! Only her pride was hurt but Maya ran in, scooped her up, and comforted her. Steven and I would have done it, but it's hard to be sympathetic when you can't stop laughing.

The next day we drove around base to look for the different fishing spots and found these wonderful creatures snacking on the side of the road! What a treat to watch them nibbling so contentedly on berries and clover. We are hoping to see a moose soon!

O LORD, how manifold are thy works! in wisdom hast thou made them all: the earth is full of thy riches.
Psalm 104-24

Friday, August 6, 2010

I can go for miles, and miles, and miles!

Greetings dear family and friends!

It is time to regale you with stories and pictures from our drive from Texas to Alaska! Please enjoy!
(posts won't always be this long...just till we get caught up!)

Day 1: San Antonio, TX to Albuquerque, NM
The first and longest drive of our journey began early in the morning. Thinking we'd get a few hours under our belts before the children woke up, we left at about 5 am and soon learned that we were wrong. Kyra held out the longest...alert and awake till 10 am. She slept for half an hour. Our first stop was in El Paso at around lunchtime, but food was not the first thing on our minds. Good self-respecting Texans that we are (were?), we headed straight for the Luchesse boot store and we each found a new pair of cowboy boots (mine are cherry red!) Bellies full, and car more stuffed than before, we drove on to ABQ where my sister lives with her husband and son. Cousin Joshua greeted us with his customary hugs and giggles. What a blessing to have such a delightful little boy in our family. His boundless energy and cheerful chatter kept us entertained for two days and nights. Running, biking, walking, climbing, jumping fun!  He is brave and friendly and wonderful and we can't wait to take him skiing!
may God shower blessings upon the inventor of silly string!
higher, Auntie Meghan!


Day 3: Albuquerque, NM to Salt Lake City, UT
Save a little traffic just outside out destination  city, and the disappointment of learning that 4 Corners was closed, this was a beautiful day of driving. The sky was clear and bright, the desert barren and beautiful, the trees full and green. In Moab, we stopped for lunch and ate on the outdoor patio of the Moab Brewery, our food lightly sprinkled with "snow" from the cottonwood trees. After checking into our hotel in SLC, we had enough time to walk into town and listen to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir rehearse. What a "joyful noise" it was! The sight of Kyra strapped in her carrier caused some uproarious laughter amongst some young folk on the sidewalk, which of course, gave us all cause to smile, though I didn't know a baby in a backpack was really all that funny! Salt Lake City is beautiful. The streets are wide, the sidewalks clean, and even the office buildings are surrounded with flowers and landscaped land.
the view from our room

(just a wee bit of the song...the lyrics were touching, we being homeless and all!)

Day 5: Salt Lake City, UT to Boise, ID
Again, we were blessed with beautiful weather, and clear roads for this little jaunt. We stayed only one night, hungrily enjoying fish 'n chips at an Irish Pub, and a walk into town where a wedding party had stopped for photographs in front of a fountain. Having just celebrated our 12th anniversary, it was a sweet, poignant vision of the newness and excitement of love. The girls were dreamily admiring the bride's dress, and planning their own weddings, while both Steven and I felt the temptation to walk over with our three daughters and show them where they might find themselves in the not-too-distant future! How quickly time passes, and what wonderful surprises God brings into our lives.

Day 6: Boise, ID to Everett, WA
This leg of the trip was eagerly anticipated by all. It meant our last day on the road (for a little while, at least) and we were so excited to meet Steven's cousin Tommy and his wife and children. Having both homeschooling and cloth diapering in common, Michelle and I had struck up a friendship through e-mail and our girls couldn't wait to meet Samuel, Andrew, Aliyah, Maxwell, and Quincy and climb around in the fire-truck in the back yard. Steven and Tommy hadn't seen one another since they were children, but they got on like old friends. Steven enjoyed a ride-along in Tommy's police cruiser and they even caught a "bad-guy"! We enjoyed a day at the Seattle Flight Museum (see below for a picture with a lot of Koziols in it!),  and another day of strawberry picking, and comfortable fellowship and play at their home. Though I hesitate to share the story, my pride in my little cousin leaves me no choice but to humble myself and tell you about it. In order to prepare a homemade pizza dinner, we needed some pepperoni and cheese. I offered to go to the store and as it was only about a mile away, and because Kyra needed a nap, popping her in the backpack  for a walk seemed like a good way to help get her off to sleep. Then Michelle had the brilliant idea of having me ride her bicycle (with attached toddler seat) and 7 year old Sam could escort me.  All well and good, except for the fact that I hadn't ridden a bike in YEARS and I have never, EVER parked myself on the razor thin tires of a road bike. This girl likes mountain tires...the fatter and nubbier the better! But I didn't want to miss a moment of chat-time with Michelle, so ride I did. Suffice it to say, Sam probably could have ridden there and back in the time it took me to ride the brakes and wobble my way down to the store, but he stopped at every corner until I caught up, or at least until he knew I could see which direction he was turning! (each time he would say encouraging things like:  "don't fall" and "Are you okay?" and "Whoa,  be careful!")  When I pulled up to the store, I asked the little man if he had been waiting long, and he said with a laugh, "Yeah, you're pretty slow!" I promised I'd do better on the return trip because I had strong legs and I'd keep my balance better if I was pedaling. On the way back I soon forgot about the extra 30 pounds I was toting along and I dropped the bike while waiting to cross the street. Kyra was a bit perturbed to find herself  awake and hanging sideways, her face inches from the sidewalk. Thanks to the outdoor market and busy street, there was not shortage of laughter at my clumsiness! The return trip was otherwise uneventful,  and though I tried desperately and unsuccessfully to match the little guy's pace, I did well...only three houses away when he turned into the driveway. "Muscles"  promptly ran to the back yard and started digging holes...I plopped onto the couch, pleased that the sleeping baby in my arms gave me an excuse to rest (and maybe even disguised how hard I was breathing!)
what do you mean my car seat won't fit in here?!
look out Amelia Earhart!
sweet sisters
a LOT of Koziols!
Day 10: Bellingham, WA to Haines, AK
Throughout the preceding days, we delighted in the slow and steady drop in temperatures. 90's in TX and NM, 80's in SLC, 70's in WA, 60's on the ferry. In a matter of days, our outfits changed from t-shirts and  summer skirts to jeans and fleece jackets! I started to get excited about all the things I could knit, and the fact that we'd be able to wear them more than once or twice a year! 
On the ferry, we had a lovely little cabin with 4 bunks and a sitting room for Kyra's portable crib. As the ride progressed, we gave thanks, and thanks again for this unexpected blessing. When we bought our tickets, the cabins were full and we were put on a wait-list. Families that do not get a cabin may sleep in the lounge (which is used for showing movies all day till 9 pm) or on deck chairs in the solarium. Other families bring tents and use duct tape to fasten them to the deck. Appealing  and adventurous as that may have been, it's certainly not the safest option for an 18 month old who thinks the ocean is a big bathtub. (The backpack saw quite a bit of use during our three day sail!) Twice we saw a pod of whales swimming and spouting beside the boat and only twice did Emma and I suffer a twinge of sea-sickness. We were thrilled to finally set foot on Alaska soil on the morning of Emma's 11th birthday and we enjoyed a comfortable stay at a lovely B&B. 

Maya's bed
Humpty Dumpty anyone?
Emma's bunk

cozy window seat!
at least they don't have to listen to the neighbor's dog barking...

a hazy but beautiful view
Day 14: Haines, AK to Tok, AK
This drive was a dizzying array of mountains, hills, lakes, and valleys. Kyra learned a new word: "bump" and was pleased to have so many opportunities to use it correctly. The Al-Can highway leaves a lot to be desired in some places, but at least there was no chance of taking a wrong turn. We stayed in the sod-roofed Bear Cabins where we petted husky puppies and marveled at the sun, still high in the sky at 10 pm. It was here we discovered some bluebonnets at the playground. We thought they only grew in Texas!

Day 15: Tok, AK to Anchorage, AK
Hurrah! The final stretch! What a blessed relief it was to arrive "home". The late sunset afforded us the opportunity to drive around after dinner to scope out some of the homes on our list. We settled into TLF and rested up for our next adventure to begin the next morning: house hunting!

um, excuse me...
...since when does our baby run...
...and swing?!