Saturday, July 30, 2011

A Day in the Life of Mama

Sometime before 6:00 am in the morning I hear, "Mama?  Maaaaamaa?  I walk over creaky wooden floorboards that have never been washed since we moved in.  I swept them once, I think, in the last year.  This is confession time.  You're getting the raw and ugly version now because if I wait a day, my rose colored lenses will have slipped into place and I'll forget how this day went.  I walk through the loft and into the kids room.  I scoop up my precious baby and squeeze him tight.  Then another curly headed angel sits up sleepily in her bed and quietly slips out to follow me down the stairs.  Across the living room carpet (which is a whole other story for another day), down a step in a half, I tread across some old linoleum lining the hallway and finally to my beloved kitchen!  Somewhere, somehow my brain always remembers where the coffee beans are...

I plop my baby in his highchair for a homemade blueberry muffin and a sippy cup of milk.  An evening before, Daddy and the older three children drove a whole minute down the road to pick blueberries from the bog.  It was supposed to be a whole family trip but my three-year old had a stubborn sliver in her big toe from those wooden stairs we climb quite frequently.  Perhaps it wasn't the sliver that was so stubborn but the curly headed angel.

The bacon is frying, the coffee is dripping, the laundry is still drying from the day before in my living room but life is good.  We have a full day of work ahead:  cutting down a few trees in town at the C.E.F. office followed by some pizza and an appointment with a person interested in learning more about the work C.E.F. does.  Followed by a trip to the fair office to get some of the kids' entries in.  I had planned to get a fridge casserole done and another load of laundry in before I left an hour or so after the rest of the family.  Funny how nothing ever goes as planned...
How I dry my laundry on a rainy day

By 8:00 I had homemade blueberry oatmeal waffles cooking, a pile of bacon, and fried eggs waiting for my family.  We had a great breakfast together.  Off to wood cutting the older children went with Daddy.

I stayed behind to clean up the dishes from breakfast and from fixing the supper casserole with a three year old, take down old laundry, put up the new, restock the diaper bag, feed the guinea pig food because someone forgot and I heard the poor things just squeakin' for all they're worth, rescue the strangling dog from under the wooden outside porch, apply ice to a squalling babies forehead that had just met with the edge of a table....somewhere in all this I drank 2 cups of coffee and I'm pretty sure I had a waffle, maybe even a hot egg, I can't really remember .... that was so long ago, this morning maybe?

So, 10:00am rolls around and my husband calls and one of the first things out of his mouth was, "So did ya get a little rest?"  I just laughed and nicely explained, well, perhaps not so nicely that my morning was just as busy and full of work as was his.  I know he meant well, but it was all in the timing!

When 11:30 rolled around it was time to head to town and I had to take the dog because there was no place to chain him safely after the morning episode of near strangulation.  After loading, kids, food, diaper bag, etc into van I tried to load the dog three times to no avail!  Tried everything, even bribing.  At one point the dog was pulling so violently on his own collar that I had to unsnap it so he could get some air and then off he dashed back into the house which I'd left open.  Round and around the kitchen I went with the dog.  Throwing Kleenex boxes doesn't work as a good disciplinary tool, by the way.  Finally I decided there was no way I could leave because I couldn't take the dog and I couldn't leave the dog.  So I was very hot towards this animal!  I chained him back up, unpacked the kids and we played in the garden until it rained.  All this before noon!

I'm probably getting boring at this point or maybe well before this point, but this is real life.  It's not perfect.  I don't even have a chair to sit on at this point, my computer battery is almost gone and I hauled my folding chair upstairs earlier in the day to spend a whole ten minutes mending a precious little girls dress, another little girls nightgown and a pair of cotton tights.

I had planned on sitting down for long hours to sew.... ha ha ha ha  Upon arriving in my loft, bedroom, sewing room, office, library, blanket storage, you name it storage room, I realized that I couldn't even find my way through it all.  So I spent over an hour organizing, and got a lot done while visiting with my girls, helping with their various projects which included a pair of scissors in my three year old's hands which went great, I am happy to report. 

Where are the boys in all this?  Outside measuring and figuring how to put an underground wire fencing system in for the dog.  Hooray!  I asked earlier in the day to please bring one home.  We had each looked at them several times in the weeks previous and I decided we'd better get something up other than a chain and a whole lot of frustration with a dog running off all the time. 

Meal time conversation turns into more talk in the living room and all of us sitting around listening to me read from Uncle Arthur's Bedtime Stories and then we get side tracked by telling funny stories and things we remember and before we know it, it's 9:30pm, way past bedtime but still broad daylight out. 

I'm learning that life is not perfect.  I should stop trying to make it that way.  It would take so much less energy to just be, like, whatever, who cares, try again, maybe someday it will work, maybe it won't, no skin off my back, be what you'll be, I'll be what I can be and we'll make it through, one day at a time.

Some days are like this.  I used to tell people that we have good days and bad days when they ask how I do it with homeschooling and five kids, and these living conditions and I'm thinking I should say, some moments are good, some are bad, and that's life.  It will never change.  The only thing I can change is my attitude towards those moments.  I can remember with joy and laughter or I can remember in bitterness and remorse.  I choose the joy and laughter moments.  Life isn't long enough for bitterness and remorse.  So long, Goodnight, tomorrow is a new day, Praise God!  I'm too tired to proof read this post and I even got a nap this afternoon!  Failed to mention that didn't I?  Praise God for naps!  I shall never spurn another nap!

Friday, July 29, 2011

How to Cook with a Blow Dryer

Melting butter without a microwave...

It really works! It was his idea!

Twelve year old makes rhubarb pie!
 I found a recipe in an old book that called for mixing sugar, an egg, some flour and some butter into a paste and then spreading it over the top of cut rhubarb.  It was the richest, best tasting rhubarb pie we ever ate!
From stalk to table in 24 hours!
Yesterday my boy made his first pie, start to finish. The day before, he cut a bunch of stalks down from an abandoned couple of bushes in the back of the CEF office's yard.  He whipped out his handy dandy buck knife and made short work of the harvesting process. 

Notice the candle to the right of the pie?  He also made this a few years ago from our unity candle leftover from our wedding.  It had partially melted in the hot attic so he asked for it and melted it down, minus the decorations, of course.  He poured it into this old chicken tin with a piece of wick.  What a creative bunch of children we have.  They never cease to amaze me.  

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Pristine Streams and Inlet

The northern most part of Cook Inlet

Fish jumping at Montana Creek Campground

This bird never gave up diving for fish!

No bites!

Are there really any fish in here?

If ya hold it just right...

After removing all the dandelions from this grassy clump, she
makes a huge handful of torn dandelion fluff.

Mama never lets me get far enough....
Camping and fishing and exploring God's creation is one of our most favorite ways to enjoy each other as family and friends!  It's a way to connect away from the distractions of daily life.  Most of our best memories are those spent outside together.  It doesn't matter the age, there's always something for everyone to see and experience.  The Internet is similar but far more dangerous.  There is so much out there to become involved in, how does one make a choice when bombarded with so many?  Let the world spin away with new ideas, places to go, things to do, and new experiences to be had!  I'll take my precious family any day, over all the rest.  I've got eternity and the author of time is on my side or more correctly said, I'm on His.  Together we make a team and we play hard.  No one's life is easy or perfect and the sooner we understand this, the better we play.  Our entire strategy changes:  we don't just look for the fun, we embrace the struggle, knowing how awesome it is to grow closer to the one who made us and learn to really lean on Him for our strength.  I've been told that Christianity is a crutch for the weak minded but I believe it is the springboard of strength for all humanity.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Daddy's Hands

Two generations of Gerhardts and a baby fish...
In June of this year we took a road trip from Fairbanks down to Soldotna, on the Kenai Pennisula.  Somewhere along the way we found the tiniest of small streams and Daddy grabbed this little fish with his hands.  Baby was right there curious as ever and got to touch his first fish!

 I love this photo because it captures the gentle strength a Father's hands hold.  They have the power to direct a child's life for an eternity.  They have the ability to capture any of life's moments and place proper importance on the millions of things out there.  Fish are important!  So is being a fisher of men, like Jesus challenges us to be.  I am thankful for Daddy and his Daddy, and my Daddy for being fishers of men and passing that torch down to their children. 

I love this photo because you can see the work etched lines of a man and the softness of his son, yet to be a man.  What will he become?  Where will he go?  Will he stay true to serving His Saviour in love or will he wander?  Oh the strength of the Father's hand to lift us when we fall, to help us along life's way, to discipline in love, to pat us on the back with encouragement and praise, to be thrown in the air with frustration, only to fall back down again to receive, in never ending patience, a wayward child.  What a joy that we can never be snatched from our Heavenly Father's hand. 

What a powerful place, and a wonderful haven of protection in our Father's hands.  Are you there?  An entirely different future lies ahead within those Father's hands.  Step in today if you've never experienced a peace and a love and a joy that surpasses understanding.  You step in through the blood of Jesus Christ.  Sound barbaric?  You were born through blood and water.... it's quite natural.  You can be born twice.  The first time is through your earthly Father and Mother, the second is into the family of God, a child of the King!  It's yours for the taking.  It's free.  It's simple.  There's no strings attached.  Call upon the Lord Jesus Christ today.  You need him.  You know you can't make it to Heaven on your own.  You may have it made in this brief existence here on earth, called life, but what lays beyond that?  Trust your Creator, Lean on the Saviour, Hold the lives of your children close to His heart.

View of the Trans Alaska Pipeline

Reach for the stars!  OR the pipeline...
Don't drop him Dad!!! 
 The pipeline is not completely attached to its braces.  It is resting on them in order to move with the rise and fall of freezing temperatures.
Quick, catch the Baby!

No escape from Mama's arms
Looking inside a piece of old inner pipe with a "pig" inside.
Pig stands for pipeline inspection gauge.  Wikipedia has great
information on the history and workings of the pipeline.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Swimming in Olnes Pond

Who's who?

 The water at this pond was so clear.  When the rocks were disturbed at the edges, it looked as if someone had added glitter to the water.  It reminded us of snow globe!  This pond is about 20 minutes north of Fairbanks.
Enjoying the birthday raft

"Whatcha do-wing" in 3 year old lingo...

I love you Daddy!

I wonder if I'll ever get a chance to fish?
 Girls can swim and fish in skirts!  I never would've believed it till now.

On the far side of the pond, you can just make out some more places where people park for the day or camp for the night.  You can drive the entire perimeter and see some real Alaskan's;  possibly even living there...  there's no overnight fees, no concrete, no regulations.  You can drive where you want to and park where you want to and enjoy the serene beauty and quietness of the lake.  It was so relaxing!  We took the camper and ate a picnic lunch there and played with the kids, fished, swam, and took the raft to an island and hiked around it.

Speaking of real Alaskan's.....  our oldest boy recently described a new neighbor having moved in to do some summer maintenance on his cabin.  I asked my son what the neighbor was like and he said, "Striped shirt, long beard, older guy, ya know, typical Alaskan, real friendly."  That about sums it up!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Wandering Moose and other Cool Winter Pictures

Just passing through the front yard...

Checkin' out the facilities

Early January sunset in the early afternoon
 The following moose pictures were taken from my kitchen window!  They were so close and so magnificent and HUGE! 
I am NOT a giant horse...

I know I really look like one

I'm a mama and I have a baby so watch out!

A "dig out" taken to a whole new level... in 40 below.

The deepest snow picture we have... drifts up to our waists!

Wild Insects of Alaska

Holding on for dear life!

 The kids found this caterpillar at the start of the cocoon making stage....  it was still wriggling a bit and there were bits of its hair spun in with the silky strands of ..... thread?  What do they call it? 

Nice little green inch worm.

You are so beautiful!

In the midst of our morning chores, someone ran through the house at high speed hollering they'd found a cocoon!  It was all a blur but I remember dropping the dish towel and ran too... The excitement of children upon discovering a new creature, not made in the image of God, but made by him was contagious.  In the space of a few minutes, they spotted spiders, an inch worm and other such wild insects, including the famous Alaskan mosquito, of which aren't too bad this time of year. 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Weevils in the Noodles

Sorry, no picture because the worm either crawled back into my bowl of noodles or fell back in... 

We'd been up since 6:00am and had worked most of the morning and were good and hungry by 11:00.  I even fried up hamburger as a nice addition.  After finishing most of my bowl I noticed the weevil floating around in my broth!  Suddenly I no longer had an appetite.  What's worse is that my three-year old had already polished off her bowl and my 18 month old was done as well.  When the older kids came in from their bike ride I told them about the weevil I found.  Some chose to eat peanut butter and jam on tortillas and of course, my 12 year old boy decides to eat the weevil soup! 

However disgusting this story started, it does have a good ending: my appetite suddenly returned upon noticing the rest of my chocolate bar leftover from the evening before... it never looked so good!

Blankie Trauma

Give it to me now!  I don't WANT to wait for it to dry!

 This dragonfly landed on Daddy's back for a minute and we got two snapshots before it flew off!

Is he really hanging laundry or just posing here with a dragonfly on his back?  Real men hang laundry too, at least a couple baby blankets, once a summer, that is, ha ha! 

Long Stemmed Roses in Alaska?

 My husband brought these home for our 14th Wedding Anniversary!  I'm not sure what happened to all my flower vases... but I found this pickle jar and it was just as beautiful.
"Long stemmed" Fireweed in our side yard.  Who needs or wants to mow with these beauties growing?  We don't even have a mower.  We trim with a weed eater as needed.  Notice the old Bronco in the back right hand side of picture?  It came with the cabin along with an old ski-do, some garage doors, and various piles of junk laying around the property along with dumped household garbage piles here and there.  I'm told that these are just typical, "Lawn Ornaments" of normal Alaskan life.  Nothing to Worry About....minus the household garbage,  that is. 

Speaking of garbage, there is no garbage service.  They have what they call, "Transfer Stations," located strategically throughout the city of Fairbanks.  I'll post some pictures someday of the place.  People take their trash here and can put things under a canopy on tables if there's still some life left in the item and anyone can come and take it.  They also have, "dumpster diving," which is also legal and people are always digging around or just waiting for a new pickup load to come in and take a peek.  I even find myself craning my neck to see what the next person is bringing in!  It's sort of fun in a strange sort of way.  The locals call it the, "Mall." 

Taming the Shrews

Look at the pancake turner in baby's hand?  Meat is expensive up here!

Ten baby shrews in nest makes for a great meat substitute, NOT!

It's so cute!

It tickles!
Upon moving the lumber pile, yet again....  IP(family dog)  found a mama mouse or shrew and then the nest, quickly followed by a passel of children and their Daddy.  It's to cold up here for rodents to carry disease, or so we've heard.  We all scrubbed our hands well with soap and hot water just to be safe.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Water Man

Our water arrives in this truck once every two weeks.

The back of the truck opens up to reveal the pump and hoses.
 As far as cleanliness goes, the picture doesn't show it, but this area is always covered in dust.  Imagine my horror when I first noticed that my drinking water was just getting dusted off a bit by a cloth covered elbow before the hoses were clicked together. 
Howard, a.k.a "Waterman"

Filling the insulated 1000 gallon tank

Bird's eye view
 I asked the waterman one time if I should put bleach or anything in my tank to keep it clean...  "yeah, once every few months or so," was the friendly, nonchalant reply.  I handed my container of bleach to him  while he stood on the ladder.  He measured out a cap full and dumped it in.  That's it!  That's  my drinking water.  We never get sick so I'm figuring he must be right.  He also told me there's a Dr. in town who never adds bleach to his tank, saying the green algae does its work and that's good enough for him!  I think I'll stick to the bleach.
The water delivery day is always a looked forward to event!  Howard is full of local science and history lessons as well as some politics and religion.  I learned today that he doesn't have a computer because he's too busy working.  The kids and I learn more from Howard then we do the local TV Station!  We go through about 800 gallons every two weeks, give or take 50 gallons.  I always wonder towards the end of those two weeks if I'll have enough to do a load of laundry or take a bath.  We probably conserve more in the last few days before he arrives just because we don't want to run out!  During the spring thaw, these water trucks can only haul half their normal levels in order to make it down the roads without finding a soft spot to sink into.   Our driveway showed a soft spot forming so we ordered a load of gravel and the waterman kindly packed it down every time he came out.  (Except I did order the wrong type and it turned out to be a rather expensive, but beautiful pebbled driveway.)