31 August 2008

Isaiah and Melissa go Native (Alaskan)

I got the pictures off of our phones, from the barbecue (see the post under this one). First the guy on the right (with the blue shirt and drum) told us a really long story from his tribe/house while he prepared the salmon pit. He put coals in the bottom, then lined the pit with grasses, then ferns, and lastly with skunk cabbage. Then he told us he cheated and baked the salmon in the oven, because it took 8 hours to do it in the pit...but he put the cooked salmon on the leaves to heat it back up, and then covered it with more greenery. He is married to the lady in the gray sweatshirt in the middle of the first picture, and they have a drum group. (She is also the Native rescourse person at the college and did the stories for our orientation...see the post under this one also for that story.) They sang and drummed a welcome song for us around the fire and then they did another song...all in Tlingit. After that, they moved away from the fire to do a dance with the drums. He wanted us all to be involved, so after they did the dance, all the drummers gave their drums to someone in the audience and taught it to them. That happened once more, and Isaiah literally ran and took a drum...he wanted to do it so bad. One of my other classmates gave me a drum as well, and said "Here, you can go and do it with him." So, Isaiah and I learned a Tlingit drum dance. It was pretty fun, and Isaiah was so funny...wished we had brought a camcorder.

Welcome song around the salmon pit.

Drum Dance

Isaiah and I doing the drum dance.

A Whale of a Time

On Wednesday, I went to my second day of orientation. We started off with two classes. The first was called Whet your appetite. A native Alaskan woman came in and told us stories from her tribes/houses. She also introduced herself in the Tlingit language. I guess it was kind of like a cultural awareness class, since we are in their area. Kind of fun. The other class was called Mythbusters. They had a panel of "real UAS students"...so funny that they introduced them that way... and we were supposed to ask them questions about what college was really like. It took awhile for that one to get started. Both the classes were an hour long. After that, they let us have a sort of free time. They had four activities for us to choose from: kayaking, hiking, climbing, and a group that was for procrastinators so they could finish registering and buying books and such. I went climbing on the rock wall in the gym. I got to climb on the wall twice and I also got to belay once. My first time up the wall, I slipped and crashed into the wall. Luckily, I only ended up getting two big bruises on my hiney...I crashed backside first into a hand hold. The guy belaying me let me down and thought I was gonna be done, but I went right back up and made it to the top. The second time I went up, I didn't go all the way to the pulley, because my arms gave out on me. I took a rest part way up, but my arms aren't used to that much of a workout, and my hands were too sweaty to hold on anymore, but I made it within four feet from the top.

When our free time was over, they fed us lunch and then we got on a school bus and went to Auke Bay Harbor to get on the whale watching boat. There were over 100 students that went on the whale watch. It was such a beautiful day. The sun was out and we had blue skies. The whales were very active and came close to the boat. We also got to see a little island covered with stellar sea lions. They were loud.

We were out for about 3 hours, and after the whale watch, I went home and got Darwin and the kids, and we went to Auke Rec and had a bbq with my classmates. They had a native prepare a salmon pit...which is VERY similar to how the hawaiians roast a pig in a pit. He told us another story (he told one on the whale watch boat as well) and then his group did a drum/dance demonstration. He then had the group pass out their drums to the audience and the volunteers got to learn the drum/dance routine. Isaish really wanted to do it, so they let him, and then one of the students gave me his drum, so Isaiah and I got to learn a native Alaskan drum dance. He, of course, was the star of the show. Darwin took pictures of us with his phone, but I don't have them yet, so I will put them up later.

One of my favorite whale pictures. The sun was out and there was a rainbow over the whale when it spouted.

In this one, you can see the whales bumpy nose.

Humpback Whale

Whale tail waterfall.

Dive, Dive, Dive

These two swam together for awhile.

Momma and baby
Covered with Stellar Sea Lions.
King of the Hill

This group was swimming in a pack and swirling all over. One was definatly ADHD...lol...he was going crazy.

28 August 2008

another quick one

Well, my house is driving me nuts. There are boxes everywhere, and I am running out of places to put stuff. I made it through orientation on Tue. & Wed. and this is me on the whale watching boat for orientation. I got lots of cool pics, but don't have time to upload them yet. My first day of classes was today, and I got the times mixed up and had to come home and go back (I was an hour early). It was a little weird to be in a classroom and assigned homework, but it was easy (probably only for the first week or two). I had Elementary Algebra today. Brooklin babysat for me and Darwin went to work. I hope to have my house together by the end of the three day weekend. Wish me luck, then I'll have time to post my cool whale and stellar sea lion pictures

27 August 2008

Catch a fishy

This is a Silver Salmon that Darwin caught. He gets up at 5am and goes fishing in the morning before work. It's the first fish he's gotten to keep since moving back here.

26 August 2008

Very Short

I went to orientation all day. The movers were at the house all day. Darwin and the kids were at home directing the movers all day. Now we are unpacking a trillion boxes....and we are all pooped!

Darwin at work

These are some pictures of Darwin at work. I'm not sure of exactly what he is doing in these pictures, but his job is usually inspecting boats that carry six or more passengers, so that would be the tour boats up to the cruise ships.

25 August 2008

...and i was doing so good

Here are some more pictures of the inside of our house. I finished putting all the furniture together, and we should be getting all our stuff delivered sometime this week. I registered all the kids for school on Friday. Darwin made it back home on Sat. night. Sunday we didn't go on a walk, because it was raining too much. Right now it is raining pretty good and it is 49 degrees!

Tomorrow I start school! I don't have a class until Thursday, but since I am a newbie, I have orientation on Tue. and Wed. from 8:30 - 4pm. It sounds kind of fun, and if we (the freshmen) go for both days, we get to go on a whale watch! Our kids don't start school until next Tuesday, Sept. 2nd.

Living room/office.

The desk and filing cabinet.
Can you see what webpage I'm on? hehe =)

21 August 2008

Lots done, no Darwin

I mostly ran errands today.

After goofing off and sitting around all morning, I got out my sewing machine and worked on a blanket. After lunch we (the kids and I) went everywhere. First to my school. Tuition is due tomorrow, and I didn't find the elusive "money for military spouses to go to college" funds, so I went in to the financial aid office to claim my first student loan of $2000 for tuition and books, Uggg! I am taking two classes. Elementary Algebra and Communications. I have classes everyday. M, T, TH, & Fri. I have Math for an hour, and M, W, & Fri. I have Communications for an hour (right after math on Mon and Fri). The classes are in the morning, and I am done before lunch each day. After filling out the paperwork for the financial aid office, I got my picture taken for my student ID card. While I was filling out a form online for the student loan, Caleb casually says, "Mom, did you know that you have a huge hole in your pants?" !!!! I totally had a four or five inch rip in the back of my (favorite) jeans! I had been using a computer that you had to stand up to use, and it was right infront of a row of chairs. I had been leaning over to read what was on the screen, and there had been other people using the chairs before Caleb came over and sat behind me! I have no idea when the rip happened. I never heard it or anything! How embarassing! So instead of going to the bookstore to get my books, I had to drive all the way home and change.

After that, we did go to the bookstore to get my books. Three books (one used two new) $220. Uggh again. What was funny though, was the looks on my childrens' faces when the lady announced the total. It was pretty priceless. "But Mom! It was only three books!"

Next we drove to the DMV and I got my picture taken for the second time to update the address on my drivers licence. I never got a Hawaii drivers licence, so I just drove around with our old Juneau address on my licence for three years. I also ran upstairs to Darwin's office to get the iron and ironing board so I can finish the blanket I sewed today. We also went to the fabric store to get more vinyl for the chairs, and I got one extra cell phone for our family. I realized that with Darwin gone, if I needed to go anywhere, and needed Brooklin to babysit, we don't have a home phone (and aren't getting one) so there would be no way to get ahold of me if something went wrong. It is not her phone, but we did need one for that kind of stuff, and it was only $10 more a month for another phone, and the phone was free to boot.

Now we were off to get me some new jeans. I don't have that many pairs of pants. Only like three pairs now that the favorites are ripped. I bought two pairs of Levis at the "mall" and then we ate at the pizza place and went to the library to get our library cards. We checked out a few books, and then came home.

Now for the no Darwin part. Dar flew to Anchorage this afternoon for work. He is supposed to be back on Friday or Saturday. I wasn't ready for him to leave us this quickly. Oh well, I'll live...and probably get far less sleep than I need, but that's how it goes.

I guess that is all for now! Sorry this was boring (except for the ripped pants story...lol).

20 August 2008

Sunny Day!

Today it was sunny all day! At noon we met some friends at the new park that was built at twin lakes. It is kind of similar to a park we had in Maui at Giggle Hill and it was very cool. It got up to 75 degrees, and we stayed outside until 4pm. We only left, because we needed to go home and cook dinner and eat.

Isaiah on the climbing wall

London on the "fish ladder"

Brooklin up in one of the buildings.

Caleb stopped just long enough for me to get a quick shot of him and then he was off. Notice the totally cloudless, blue sky! It is so beautiful!

Our backyard

The backyard. There is a shed on the left, and a snowblower !!! under the deck. (I'm very excited about that one)

A fun little fact, our next door neighbors in the yellow house are also the Jensens!

The house came with a hot tub! Kind of exciting. We haven't tried it out yet, but once we get more things settled, we will fire it up.

This is just the stairs and the shed...

Our dining room

I have one clean-ish room! =) Last night Darwin put our new table together, and today I put together two of the six chairs. The only ones (that matched the table) that IKEA had in stock came with WHITE fabric cushions. Blech. I went to JoAnn Fabric and bought some thick clear vinyl and covered the cushins before putting the chairs together. Hopefully that will keep them nice for awhile. I also went to Fred Meyer today and bought bamboo placemats so that we can keep the table nice for awhile too. They were on sale for $2.99!

We're in!

We are IN our house! So exciting. It is a total mess, with boxes, packing paper, and half put together IKEA furniture, but we are here and got to sleep in OUR house last night! We got our IKEA furniture out of Wendy's garage and we also got our express shipment of the basics that we sent out in May, delivered to the house yesterday afternoon. Dar and I stayed up until 11pm putting together our table and the desk (which didn't get done because I couldn't keep my eyes open anymore.) Today I need to finish the desk and start on the dining chairs and the filing cabinent. At this point in time, "they" don't know where the rest of our household goods are, but we are praying that they find them soon. "They" didn't know where our express shipment was either, until a few days ago. It was in a container with someone elses information on it, and there was also a Harley in with our stuff! We didn't get to keep the Harley, I'm just glad they found this shipment.

I'll have to go and take a few pictures today when more of the stuff is put together, and try to post them tomorrow. I really don't want to share the giant mess on here, lol.

18 August 2008

I love this!

I got this from my mom, and it really made me think. God has been so patient with me, and I never give him enough credit for all that he has blessed our family with. So many things seem to be falling into place, and I have been so scared that they wouldn't. We signed on our house today, and our closing costs were almost $1000 less then we anticipated, our monthly payment is $300 less than I thought it would be, and the sellers accepted an offer that was $15,000 less than their asking price. Talk about throwing us some pennies! (You have to read this to get it.) I am grateful that God is watching out for me. I have so little faith, it is pathetic to me sometimes. He always comes through for us, not always in the way we anticipated, but he can't make it too easy or we would never be humbled...to thank him daily for the blessings he sends our way. This is the story I will remember whenever I see a penny on the ground, and will try to remember to trust in God everyday.

You always hear the usual stories of pennies on the sidewalk being good luck, gifts from angels, etc. This is the first time I've ever heard this twist on the story. Gives you something to think about.
Several years ago, a friend of mine and her husband were invited to spend the weekend at the husband's employer's home. My friend, Arlene, was nervous about the weekend. The boss was very wealthy, with a fine home on the waterway, and cars costing more than her house
The first day and evening went well, and Arlene was delighted to have this rare glimpse into how the very wealthy live. The husband's employer was quite generous as a host, and took them to the finest restaurants. Arlene knew she would never have the opportunity to indulge in this kind of extravagance again, so was enjoying herself immensely.

As the three of them were about to enter an exclusive restaurant that evening, the boss was walking slightly ahead of Arlene and her husband.
He stopped suddenly, looking down on the pavement for a long, silent moment.

Arlene wondered if she was supposed to pass him. There was nothing on the ground except a single darkened penny that someone had dropped, and a few cigarette butts Still silent, the man reached down and picked up the penny.

He held it up and smiled, then put it in his pocket as if he had found a great treasure. How absurd! What need did this man have for a single penny? Why would he even take the time to stop and pick it up?

Throughout dinner, the entire scene nagged at her. Finally, she could stand it no longer. She casually mentioned that her daughter once had a coin collection, and asked if the penny he had found had been of some value.

A smile crept across the man's face as he reached into his pocket for the penny and held it out for her to see. She had seen many pennies before! What was the point of this?

"Look at it." He said. "Read what it says." She read the words " United States of America "
"No, not that; read further."
"One cent?" "No, keep reading."
"In God we Trust?" "Yes!" "And?"
"And if I trust in God, the name of God is holy, even on a coin. Whenever I find a coin I see that inscription. It is written on every single United States coin, but we never seem to notice it! God drops a message right in front of me telling me to trust Him? Who am I to pass it by? When I see a coin, I pray, I stop to see if my trust IS in God at that moment. I pick the coin up as a response to God; that I do trust in Him. For a short time, at least, I cherish it as if it were gold. I think it is God's way of starting a conversation with me. Lucky for me, God is patient and pennies are plentiful!

When I was out shopping today, I found a penny on the sidewalk. I stopped and picked it up, and realized that I had been worrying and fretting in my mind about things I cannot change. I read the words, "In God We Trust," and had to laugh. Yes, God, I get the message.

It seems that I have been finding an inordinate number of pennies in the last few months, but then, pennies are plentiful! And, God is patient..

CA Adventures Pictures from 07/08/08

The kids got their pictures taken with their letter, except for Brooklin. She chose A because it was close, and because she is the first kid. And for Levi, they spelled out "CALI" for you!

17 August 2008

Thumbs up - house signing. Thumbs down - Frontier Inn & Suites

Tomorrow we are closing on our house!! We are so excited to not be in this hotel anymore. And just for the record, if you ever come to Juneau, and don't stay with us: First of all - Why would you do that! Shame on you! And second of all - DO NOT stay at the Frontier Suites. We have been here for exactly three weeks now, and our room has only been completely cleaned ONCE. We have had to take out our own trash EVERY DAY, we have run out of toilet paper twice, the sheets were only changed once - three days ago, (except for Isaiah's...he had a night accident, and I had to change the sheets myself.), and there isn't anywhere to hang the TWO towels they give us so they end up on the floor, and we have to ask for extra (make that any and all) towels EVERY DAY. We have even hijacked a vacuum cleaner from down the hall, and vacuumed the floor ourselves, because it was so gross. Just this morning, we had about 15 squares of toilet paper, and only hand towels left, so I went at 7am to the front desk and asked for towels and toilet paper. When we got home from church at 12:30pm, they still hadn't brought us any, and I had to go and track down a cleaning lady and ask her for some. This is the WORST service we have ever had at a hotel. The only time we've had a worse hotel experience, was in the roach motel next to the Laie Temple, but that was not because of the service...lol...and we ended up leaving there at 10pm to go to another hotel that had less critters roaming the room.

So anyway, we are grateful we had a place to stay, and especially that it had a full kitchen, so we didn't have to eat out everynight, and that the Coast Guard paid the bill, but we will never be staying here again.

This evening, we went on a short walk with the kids on a trail by the airport. We tried to find a geocache, but came up empty. =( There was a really creepy guy on the trail, so we didn't stay around and explore the area very much and luckily, no one won the dog poop award this week, yeah!

One thing about everyone.

Darwin: He seems to be at work longer and later here and has more phone calls about work. It could also be that we are all used to having him around all the time, and need to remember what it is like to have him working.

Melissa: I went into Joann Fabric on Friday, so Brooklin could get a little project to work on to keep her busy. I walked out of there with 60 yards of 20 different fabrics that only cost me $88!! They were having a really good sale, and I totally scored!

Brooklin: She went to girls camp here from the 4th to the 11th of Aug. and had an absolute ball. Her favorite things were kayaking and making new friends. She sang the songs she learned at camp so much, that I had to "hide" her camp songbook.

Caleb: We went walking out in the harbor in Douglas on Friday night, down all the docks, and found Caleb's best friend's family's boat. They have lived on it for the past four years, and we had heard that they were moored up in Douglas for the summer. They just happened to be home, and we got to catch up with them. His friend wasn't there, but his friend's brother and mom were home, and it was so fun to see them again.

London: She is being a good girl. We had to buy her some new pajamas this past week, because she is aparantly growing, and they were just way too small for her. She is almost as tall as Caleb!

Isaiah: We had to explain to him this week, that it wasn't ok to pat grown ups on the butt when greeting them. We would greet someone we hadn't seen in three years, and then while chatting with them, Isaiah would be walking around behind them and whacking them on the hiney! We kind of do that at home...kind of like love pats, and so I guess he thought that was how you said "Hey. How ya doin'. What's new?" He did this to a friend of ours in the store, and then he did it to our loan officer, who is a great big dude! It was getting really embarrassing.

Well, no pictures again, but this week we should have a few to put up. We get to sign papers on Monday; move in, go to a cub scout potluck, achievement days (London), and mutual (Brooklin) on Tuesday; and register the kids for school on Friday. We are leaving Wed and Thurs open to get a little settled. If I don't post for a week, you will know why!


14 August 2008

Adoption update

I haven't written anything about how our adoption journey is going recently. July 3rd, we got an email from a mom of a 4yr. old Africian American boy. I sent her an email, and she was having some medical issues, and was worried about being able to take care of him long term. July 9th, another email from parent profiles. A lady in AZ that had an adopted child and wanted to relinquish him/her. July 20th, email from parent profiles: a woman with an 8 yr old child who said it was really hard to raise her (she had her at 16 and I'm guessing she was single). And for the last of the emails from parent profiles: A woman wrote me a very long (and kind of confusing) email about a little boy who is eight that needed to be placed. I'm not sure how (or if) she was actuallly related to him, but it sounded like he had been through a lot.

On Aug. 1st, Sally (our adoption worker) called me and told me that she thought she had found our baby. I was at Wal-Mart, and was a little in shock. She was going over to meet with her as soon as she got off the phone with me. After the meeting, she called and gave me her name and number. I called and talked to her, and it sounded good. I tried to call her two days later, to see how she was doing, and she didn't answer. The next day, I tried again to call her, and she didn't answer again, but called back about 10 min. later. She saw she had missed a call and was waiting for a call back from a hair dresser, and thought my number was it. She didn't want to talk to me, and got off of the phone really fast. I called Sally, and she said to go ahead and send her a little care package, but that the woman (who is 37) had kind of changed her mind, because this may be the last chance she has to have a baby, and was thinking about keeping it instead.

On a much happier adoption note, my brother Joel and his wife Lila got a call on Monday, Aug. 4th from their adoption worker. A birthmother had chosen them and wanted to meet them the next day. She had already given birth (2 weeks previous) and if the meeting went well, they would be bringing home a son on Tue. the 5th. The meeting went very well, and they were able to bring Calvin home that afternoon. They had less than 24 hours notice! One day she was at work, and the next day she was a mom! They started their paperwork back in Feb (I think) and had just finished it up in June and only had to be in the waiting pool for 8 weeks! We are so excited for them. They have been married for 4 1/2 years, and have been struggling with infertility. We are so grateful to their birthmother, for helping them to become parents. It was just an amazing story. You can read their story by clicking here. The first picture (on their blog) is of their birthmom with her baby, and the other one is of them with their new son.

Here is a picture of their new son, Calvin Kirkham Strasser.

11 August 2008

My Vacation Craft

So, there is no way I could go for a whole month without creating something, so this is what I have been doing for the past 8 weeks. I have dearly missed my sewing machine, but this kept me plenty busy. It is a completely hand stitched (check out the bears' scarves!) and beaded Christmas stocking. My friend Ketra asked me to do one of these for her son for Christmas, this spring. I had never heard of these, and so I didn't know how intricate they were...so I told her "sure, no problem". At first, I was a little intimidated, but it turned out to be totally addictive and fun. I did about 70% of the one for my friend's son (which was a jolly snowman with a string of Christmas lights), and then she wanted to try to do some of it. I was so excited about doing another one, I went online that night and bought seven kits. The kits (by bucilla) are between $12 and $18 and come with pretty much everything. The best part is the finished ones sell for $100 online. I am not keeping this one, but am going to try and sell it here (or online). It can be personalized (the name goes across the top, and attaches to the smoke coming out of the chimney). I have already started another one called sugar plum fairy. Hopefully I can sell them, and have some extra money for Christmas this year!