Sunday, December 27, 2009

Merry Christmas!

We've had a week of mild temperatures and sunny weather this past week. It has been a welcome break from the snow! Everyone comments on how much snow there is for this time of year. We had a quiet, but pleasant Christmas, spending the day just hanging out watching videos and eating yummy food.

We have a HUGE praise for the camp as a whole - the camp's phone system is old, complicated and constantly breaking down. Jim Raymond was the only one who had a clue how it worked, but he left this past fall. Every time they dig lately they seem to break through a phone line. There is a huge need to redo the whole system AND have some of our guys learn how to do some basic phone work so they can keep up the system themselves. Having the phone company out to fix things gets VERY expensive VERY quickly! We did end up having them out recently and after about 3 hrs of work they could still not get the line working correctly. The guy who came out was willing to come to camp on a volunteer basis on his own time, but needed approval from his employers to do that. They agreed AND he was able to recruit a bunch of other people to come out as well! They will be coming out to rework our whole system! This will save the camp MANY thousands of dollars of work and will be such a HUGE help to make our system more reliable and easier to maintain. Yeeehaw!!! Merry Christmas, Victory!

I don't have a lot more news so I'll just post piles of pictures which everyone prefers anyway :) First are Christmas pictures of each of the kids - Andrei still in pjs getting $ for clothes (boring, but no way parents can pick out that stuff, and that's all he wanted).

Oksana with a new MP3 player - this is her third. She CONSTANTLY has the music going, so she burns through them pretty quickly. The new chairs were given to us recently. They need work, including new covers, but at least we can all actually sit on chairs until we find something we really like. Then they'll make good chairs for the shack in the back!

Sergei got tools to help him fix all the things he breaks. Well, hopefully to fix them and not make things worse.

Ellie's Christmas, but don't let it fool you. She actually spent most of the day outside RUNNING and having a BLAST! She just came inside to warm up in between runs. It's a rough life. What I don't get is how she doesn't fit in that bed, but Eider, who is twice her size, can curl right up in there. And someone forgot to tell Ellie that Bassets are supposed to be fat and lazy. That dog LOVES to run! She went with the boys up to the spring the other day (WAY up the hill through snow deeper than she is tall) and she STILL wanted to run and run and run after she came back!

Ummm, someone needs a hair cut! I lined them all up last night and got the clippers out after seeing this bad hair!

The shack in the back on Dec 20. The sun doesn't hit our house right now, but it isn't far from us! Our bedroom will get sun again before the downstairs will.

This picture shows our house fairly close to mid-day. You can see that the sun reaches just above the house. So solar panels just might work! The LED kitchen and dining room fixtures are on their way so we should be in even better shape with our electric usage soon! We may not even need solar panels if we can get our usage to drop enough!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

MORE pictures!

I discovered today that I'd never posted the sledding pictures! They are now in the photo album on the link to the right. I'd also put together one showing where our house sits from way back. You don't see many views in this direction. What you're seeing in front is the peninsula, then behind that the cove where our house sits.

Here is the house from the front after this week's big storm.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Just pictures!

Figured I'd post a few pics from the storm the last few days. First is my favorite chick-a-dee tree - I LOVE how this came out looking like a postcard!

Next are the trees frosted with tons of snow-icing.

The quilt curtain I'm working on now - still needs to be quilted but it was cold enough last night that I wanted it up to keep things warm.

Rodney built bunk beds for Oksana's and Andrei's rooms. He is planning to build a desk/bunk for Sergei's room and still needs a few parts so he hasn't gotten to that one yet. Didn't catch the best facial expression on Rodney here but I didn't get another "finished" pic, so he's stuck with this one!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Big storm and more intros and pictures

It's snowing. A lot. We've got about a foot already in the last 3 days. Maybe you all expect that in Alaska but it's very unusual for camp to get this much snow at once. Rodney and Nate were in PalmerWasilla (I might as well type it as one word, everyone here says it as one word) yesterday leaving Rod alone to plow. He just had the pickup truck and plow so he was having a tough time keeping up. He did our place twice yesterday and I still slid down the driveway hill and got stuck this morning. It was windy and cold so I was trying to take the kids to the bus stop but they ended up pushing me out. Ah well, we got there in time and the truck was warmed up by then so they did have a mostly warm ride. A tractor trailer jack-knifed between Sutton and Palmer blocking the road to Palmer so there's no mail today either. Basically, it is quite the storm! UPS got through, but they come out of Glennallen to the northeast.

Rodney and Nate were able to pick up the remaining things they needed to finish our utility room and Rodney was able to get the door on that today which should make a huge difference in keeping the house warm. All the old doors need adjusting, sealing or replacing because they leak so much air. That takes care of one of the three. I got another window quilt mostly done yesterday too so we're more prepared now for the really cold weather than we were last time. It has been down around 0 degrees most of the week, but for some odd reason it doesn't feel that cold. Well, today in the wind it does, but when it is still out, you don't notice the cold. Nate has been out most of the day with the HUGE plow digging out the entire camp. What a job but boy is it nice to be able to get around!

I confess that I DO notice the lack of light! We're almost to the shortest day of the year and it is getting light at about 10 am, dark again at around 4 pm. This week though with the storm it has been barely light all day. It might be letting up a bit though because I can see a few mountain peaks again this afternoon. I finally realized this week that it might be a good idea for me to use the light therapy light that my sister sent up with us. I realized that my brain wasn't really waking up until about noon and then I was having trouble getting to sleep. I NEVER have trouble sleeping! Anyway, after just one day of light therapy (15 min) and taking melatonin one night, I woke up feeling much more awake the next morning. This morning was the second morning, and I even woke up before the alarm. Success! It's a pretty easy fix and I have a lot more energy again. Funny what a little light can do!

A lot of people have left for Christmas at this point. It is pretty much just the maintenance guys, the director, the horse director, the cooks and I think that is about all that is left. Which reminds me again that I still have not introduced the rest of the people here at camp! Do you guys mind another long one? I have lots of pics to make up for it! I'm working the desk answering phones all day today so I've had plenty of time to work on this!

First, a map of camp showing where our house sits in relation to everything else. It also gives you an outline of the camp itself (and can be found without the arrow on the camp website). The Glen Highway runs pretty much east/west from Anchorage through Palmer, Sutton, Chickaloon, past camp and then on up to Glennallen. The heavy straight line on the right is the airstrip.

Next is a picture of my Christmas cactus which is blooming like crazy. I can grow things that don't need much water. ;) The reds started first, now the orange (left) are in full bloom and the pink/purple (right) are coming on. The whites (back on the right) are a bit further behind. It yields a long, drawn out display.

The obligatory scenic pics - two sunrises, the first pic by Nina up at camp, second is from our house. The oval on the lake is the kid's skating rink.

Now some pictures of the kids at the band concert

In front is Carol Cornfield, wife of Rick, the director here at Victory. She's another phenomenal cook and another amazingly sweet lady who is quickly becoming a great friend.

When I decided to do introductions of the camp staff, I really wanted to fill in a lot of details about each family. I never get around to getting those details down on paper and making sure they were correct so I'll just do quick intros and hopefully sometime get back with more details later.

Jacob & Heather Klapak - Jacob is the camp cook (ANOTHER great cook) and Heather is a BUSY mom who is also trying to help fill in as the camp accountant until the camp can find one who can be here more regularly. Their boys Luke and Cody are delightful busy beavers! Jake and Rodney enjoy discussing all things hunting and fishing while Heather and I enjoy discussing kids and all sorts of stuff. Heather is very sweet and I enjoy spending time with her and the kids.

Aaron & Chelsea Meeuwsen - Aaron is part time at camp (summer), part time youth pastor at the church (winter). Chelsea works with the youth and at camp as well (waterfront director) in addition to working at the local school in whatever capacity she can. The kids really love Chelsea and that they can talk to her at school any time.

Andy & Christie Dougherty - Andy is the program director at camp and his wife Christie is VERY busy with their three adorable boys, Elijah, Titus and Jude.

Sandy Anderson is the main office person at camp. Sandy knows everything. Any questions, ask Sandy. She runs the store as well. And she's nice too! ;)

Doug & Crystal Thiessen and their boys Carlen, Jared, Austin and Randall. Doug is the Ranch (horse) camp director. Crystal is another phenomenal cook and their kids are just awesome kids that hang out with ours quite a bit.

So that's most of the folks who are here year around. I still need to catch a couple more, but some of them are hard to catch, like Rick and Carol Cornfield TOGETHER! Easy to catch them apart, but too often they are putting out fires in different directions ;) I need to catch Nicole and Brian and their interns (like Nina of the picture above) too. I may need to "borrow" a picture to get them all in one spot. Anyway, hope you're still with me after that long one!

Monday, December 14, 2009

School band concert videos

Let me preface this by stating that I do NOT expect everyone to watch the videos. These are primarily posted for grandparents. We all know that grandparents will need to watch ALL the videos and will think their grandchildren were absolutely amazing! That's what grandparents are for! For the rest of you souls brave enough to give the videos a try, we'll blame the camera for poor sound quality and the camera woman for the jumping around (sorry, it was just a pocket camera with no way to stabilize it and my arms got REALLY tired). Seriously, it did seem to sound better in person, but then again, that may be parental bias speaking ;) It was WAY COOL to see almost the entire community turn out to watch! If you want to watch just one or two, I'd suggest #s 40 (band - Sergei behind the drummer on percussion, Andrei on piano, Oksana on violin) and 38 (singing group - Sergei far left). I think the camera battery died at the end of 39 and fortunately for ya'll, #41 is lost in cyber space ;)








Friday, December 11, 2009

We have POWER!! And a Sergei story

The time just flies! Here it is more than another week again. I think it has something to do with this time of ther year. There is so much to do that the time just disappears before your eyes.

We were able to get into Anchorage to talk to the off-grid people. They were very helpful and quickly identified what was likely causing our problems. Our system was using a car battery charger to recharge the batteries but that kind of charger really wasn't designed for our system. We were able to purchase a charger relatively inexpensively (compared to the inverter) and set that up on our system. Yesterday Rodney was working out at the house so the generator ran all day. The batteries got a GOOOOOOD charge and last night the system was much more stable, much happier. :) So are we! This morning the fridge and many of the lights were on in the house and the system was handling all of it with no problems. We got the thermostat for the "freezer as fridge" today and that seems to be operating well too. It doesn't run very often and seems to hold the temp fairly steady. The only problems are that now we've lost our built in kitchen bulletin board and there are no ice cubes inside. ;)

The kids had their school band concert this week. It went very well but I have not yet uploaded the videos or pictures. I'll try to work on that this weekend! There is a 24 hr bug going around that causes either the runs or throwing up. Some lucky people get both. At about 2 pm that day the school called me to pick up Andrei because he was throwing up. He threw up a couple of times at school, then a few more times at home. About an hour before we had to leave for the concert, he said he was feeling a little bit better. I had him continue to lie down until we left and then lie down at the school until it was time for him to play but he was able to play! He was the only piano on one song and he'd felt terrible that he might not be there so he was glad to be able to fill that spot. Poor Mr Owen (the conductor) had kids dropping out left and right to that bug but they managed to pull it off and it actually sounded pretty good! There were a lot of people from the community in the band which really helped out a lot. The school is small enough that even with most kids in the band, it is still small.

I suppose I'll have to tell this next story at some point. It might as well be now. Let's just say that it starts with Sergei. That ought to give fair warning that it is a doozy. If you remember last time Rodney had just gotten a new plow and had put it on his ATV. He'd spent an entire day working on his ATV tracking down an electrical problem and putting on the plow. He'd only had the plow on there a few days when our story takes place. Sergei. Sigh. Sergei has been home more than normal lately in order to focus more on his academics. He was getting bored with being home so much. He decided he wanted to take the kid ATV out and haul some logs to the house for fire wood. The problem was that the kid ATV was in the back of the ATV shed behind Rodney's with the brand new plow.

Rodney was in Anchorage with Nate and would not be home until late. Sergei wanted to move Rodney's ATV but I didn't think it was a good idea. He kept pestering and pleading, it was such a simple thing to do to move the ATV, he'd driven it many times, all he was going to do was move it out of the way and get his out, I never considered the plow when visualizing Sergei moving it. A couple of hours later Sergei came back in and told me that the kid's ATV had a flat tire, that it was soft, the less I said the more he talked. Rodney can tell you that a great way to get criminals to talk is to be silent. They feel they need to fill the silence. They were brand new tires. There was no reason one should be flat. The ATV had supposedly slid a little bit coming to rest right up against a nail in a board. Supposedly. With Sergei you're never really sure of what REALLY happened. Sergei had placed those boards in the pile and was supposed to have burned them, but he never got around to it. Then he drove over the boards. Again, the story isn't really clear. Maybe we'll find out what really happened in a year or so when he tells someone else the story (that's how we normally hear the real story).

We do know that he drove Rodney's ATV more than just to move it. There was fresh plowing done down on the ice. The problem is that the plow has bumpers on the bottom that prevent the plow from hitting too low so you don't scrape it on things. Those bumpers were covered in ice so Rodney had them in the house to thaw. Not a problem if you're not plowing but without those bumpers the blade gets scraped up pretty badly. Imagine how we figured that out. Additionally, the winch controls the plow which is a bit tricky to use if you don't know how to operate it. Sergei did not know how to operate it. He broke one of the control arms on the brand new plow and snapped some of the strands of the winch cable. Somehow. Then there's quite a ding on the plow itself, quite likely from running into a rather large boulder that Nate placed as sort of a foundation at the corner of the generator shed. And a bunch of tears in the brand new ATV shed door. All in a couple of hours while not even trying to be destructive. It's a gift the boy has. He never told me about all the other things he'd done. He figured no one would notice I guess. Rodney noticed. Later the next evening a little early for bed time Rodney came home and I told Sergei he might want to make himself scarce and he asked me why. I told him that he'd just done about $1,000 worth of damage and it might be smart to lay low for a while. He still didn't get it. His self preservation instincts seem to be lacking a bit.

We were able to get in to Palmer for Oksana's violin lesson this week. With people traveling and what not we were able to get a double lesson slot and she and Mrs Harding played for at least an hour. It was very intense but a great lesson! Oksana has really gotten into a groove again with her playing and with Mrs Harding and they're making great progress! She's even beginning to actually realize that her violin COULD become a future occupation. That would be really awesome!

I was soooooo annoyed with myself though! I forgot my camera! What a lousy day to do it! The scenery was absolutely stunning! Snow was heavy in the trees like an extra heavy layer of frosting covering each branch. The snow really closed in on the car, muffling sound and pulling you into the peaceful cocoon. The mountains were aglow with pink and gold bright sunshine over the snowy peaks. It was just one of those days that felt like there couldn't be another day more beautiful! That evening as we finished our shopping and errands we came out of Lowes to witness the most amazing sunset I have ever seen. It had somehow created a rainbow of brilliant sunset colors across the horizon. Picture the darkest, most vivid sunset colors you have ever seen. Along the horizon was a strip of sunset red. Above that was a strip of sunset orange blending to yellowish (not so vivid) which then went into a strip of green, then dark blue and finally faded into the dark purple sky. I wish I'd had my camera to try to capture it but I was kicking myself again for missing that! I tried to search online for a picture of something similar but I couldn't find anything quite like what we saw. This one comes close, but doesn't quite capture the depth of colors, nor quite the strips of color we saw (not to mention it didn't have the ray thingy):
Truly amazing! Once again we were caught with our mouths gaping open just in awe of the beauty of the scenery. And all of that right outside of Lowes of all places! It's just not right!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Welcome to December!

Greetings from snowy Alaska! Ya'll will LOVE to hear this! We're getting DUMPED on with wet, sticky snow! This rarely happens here according to all reports. They hardly ever close school unless it is too cold and today was no exception. Some kids did not get to school because the road is closed just up the highway from the school with 3' of snow. It is hard to say how much we did get because it is packing down, but I'll guess it was only around 4 inches. It is supposed to snow most of the week though so we'll see how it ends up. We haven't had enough snow for sledding or snow mobiling though so this is really welcome, along with moderated temperatures all this week and last. It even made it up above freezing today. The only problem with moderate temperatures is keeping the house cool enough. If I'm not careful to just barely keep the wood stove going, it will quickly hit 80 degrees in the house.

Rodney got the plow on his ATV yesterday along with tracking down the electrical problems. He still needs to change the oil in it, but it is a lot happier with these temperatures at any rate. He was able to use the plow today to clear a lot of snow in camp and to plow the trail across the lake that the kids take to school. I called down to Oksana's violin teacher in Palmer and she said it is raining there which means everything will turn into a sheet of ice soon. Our ice road is a MESS! It used to be pretty and slick. Now it is slushy and choppy. We won't be going to Oksana's violin lesson today just in case you were wondering. ;)

We DID go into Palmer and towards Wasilla on Saturday which had its ups and downs. We got to go to a great sale that had a TON of artists and artisans from all over Alaska. Dianne VanDaam had told me that if she doesn't shop anywhere else, she tries to make it to that sale every year. It was fun. Overwhelming, but fun. Oksana, Andrei and I lasted for about an hour and called it a day. It is one of those places where you buy an item or so at a time to build a collection or where you buy Christmas presents for people who have everything. Beautiful stuff! We also got a great deal on a TV at Sears which has made certain children VERY happy.

The down side of that trip was that it was snowing like mad in Palmer. The roads were fine up here at camp but they were terrible around Palmer and towards Wasilla. I don't think they had plowed at all so everthing turned into a sheet of ice. We were waiting behind a truck at a stop light and it took him 1/4 mile before he stopped spinning his tires. Not much of a driver for sure, but the roads really were terrible. At any rate, I wasn't inclined to try that trip again any time soon in the snow.

Camp is currently without power again so that means more running around checking heaters, generators and what not. The generator at Miracle Lodge (the main camp lodge) is down so there's no power there either. They sent a part out with Matt early this morning to be fixed so hopefully Matt can get back to camp with it today. If the roads aren't closed. There is currently a travel advisory from Chickaloon (half way from here to Palmer) on out to Sheep Mountain (just the other side of the school, where I got the pictures of sheep this fall). Beyond Sheep Mountain the road is closed. The food in the camp cooler and freezer will have to be moved into the cooler truck if they can't get that part today.

We are actually having power trouble ourselves, but that's not related to this storm (or the new TV). We've been having power problems for a few days now. Rodney hasn't really had enough time to figure out which part it is (probably the inverter, but possibly the alternator) but we DID find an outstanding website and business that deals with exactly the type of situation we are in. It has tons of ideas for how we might improve our system including a diagram of how they build their pelton wheel system: We're having a blast contemplating the possibilities.

We were already looking at replacing the kitchen and dining room light fixtures with LEDs. They are the large fluorescent fixtures which would seem energy efficient, but when multiplied by 4 huge bulbs in each fixture, they become energy suckers on our system. The fridge of course is also a big power sucker. Again, we have ideas, we just need to decide what will best balance cost, energy use and convenience. We're also considering turning a chest freezer into a fridge or doing something like this:

So basically, there's a lot going on right now! Additionally, Rod has turned in his resignation from camp, effective in May. While that didn't really come as a surprise, it still hit hard. Rod and Dianne haven't decided if they will stay here or move back to Oregon, but if they do move, it will be a huge loss for us as well as for many others here at camp, not just in the maintenance department. They do have a lot of family in Oregon though and the needs of all the kids to consider. While it would be hard to see them go, we do want the best for them and their family.

Oh yeah, I forgot to mention that the boys had a huge volleyball game last week. There was no boy's volleyball league this year through the school but there was a girl's team. The boys felt like they were hot stuff and challenged the girls to play. Nate (an excellent volleyball player) was asked to be their coach and the date was set. They practiced almost every day but it wasn't enough to catch the weeks (and even years) of practice that the girls had already had. The girls beat the tar out of them in the first game. The second game was closer, but Robert VanDaam and Chris (you haven't met him yet) crashed heads, taking Robert out of the game. The boys lost momentum after that. It was unfortunate, because they weren't far behind the girls and the girls were getting pretty tired at that point. If they'd have caught them, they might have stood a chance of winning. They never did catch their stride again though and got creamed in the last game too, ending their dreams of routing the girls. To be honest, the girls played exceptionally well that day. They were determined to kick some male rear-end and they succeeded. Let's hope they can continue to play that well the rest of the season. ;) I had not charged my camera battery before the game so I didn't get many good shots, but here are a few that came out ok:

In order to keep the water in some of the unused cabins from freezing, they run water continuously. That creates ice. Lots of ice. Here is one of Rodney's favorite sculpture creations:And the room on the back of the house - it now actually has a roof, but will probably get an Alaskan special (a tarp) until spring because it is just too icy to finish right now. Jake and Andy are here right now helping Rodney do something under the house (maybe more insulating???) which reminds me that I need to introduce them to you next time. ;)
Required weekly scenic picture:Until next time, Happy December!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Give Thanks

Many people like to take time in November to think of all the things they are thankful for. I was challenged to write down something I was thankful for every day this month. I don't have a problem with being thankful, but I do have a problem coming up with just one thing a day. I tend to think in clusters. So I decided to work up my short list of things I am thankful for. :)

I am thankful for:

God, who is all. A child can grasp "Jesus Loves Me" yet the scholar can spend a lifetime probing the heights of God and still not fathom all that He is.
God, who has a strange sense of humor! How else could He take a child from RUSSIA, half way around the world from NY, and put her in our home and have her be JUST like me???
God, who comforts us when we mourn, smiles in satisfaction when we are happy, delights to bless us
Jehovah Jirah, the God who provides, often "exceedingly abundantly above all we ask or imagine" (paraphrase of Eph 3:20)
El Roi, the God who sees our needs and is working to meet those needs often even before we recognize them
Elohim, the God who creates amazing, beautiful, original artwork all around us every day
Jehovah Shalom, the God of peace, who brings us peace even in the midst of chaos
Jehovah Roi, the shepherd God who leads us, guides us, tends to us
Jehovah Mekeddeshem, the God who draws us on to higher living, brings us to where we can learn more of Himself
Jehovah Rapha, the healer God who has brought me to a place where I can be healthy

Rodney, who knows how to dream
- who remains faithful in a world where faithfulness is the exception, not the rule
- who desires to honor God with his life
- who still makes me laugh
Our kids - it is such a priviledge to grow with them and learn from them
Andrei, who is so tender hearted, thoughtful and caring
Oksana, who overflows with joy and exhuberance for life
Sergei, powerful in body, he is gentle and caring with the weak and unable

My mom and dad, who lovingly realeased us to move to Alaska, even when it really hurt them to do so
Awesome relatives, brothers and sisters, inlaws and outlaws, nieces, nephews, cousins and all - we're sooooo blessed to have so many GREAT ones! They say you can't choose your relatives, but if I could, I'd choose the ones I have.
GREAT friends - we have been blessed "exceedingly abundantly above all we ask or imagine" with a multitude of AMAZING friends

Pastors - Uttley, so honest and gentle in his faith, he instilled in us the passion for missions
McNabb, FRIEND, neighbor, herdsman, shepherd, he showed us that the mission field was right outside our door
Beachy, a servant who truly carries the burdens of his flock

The priviledge of having loved and lost. For Milt and Eric, knowing that they are with their Lord and Savior who loves them even more than we ever could.

Alaska, the beautiful, wild, open, peaceful, AWESOME
Victory, where the community lives, grows and learns together
This house, peaceful, beautiful, warm

Email, Snail mail, Skype, Facebook, Blogs, Phones, Cell phones, they all keep me in touch with those I love

Cars, trucks, atv's, snowplows, airplanes, they bring the miles closer

Our ice road! It is beautiful (bubbles, cracks, color), great to drive right to the house, skate on. It is cool (literally and figuratively)!!!

Electricity & not having it - it makes me mindful of how much we depend on it and helps me discover that being without it frees me to enjoy simple things like:
Cheerful chick-a-dee-dee-dee's at my feeder and washing dishes by hand - there's something so peaceful about washing dishes by hand, hanging up laundry too

Carharts! Wool socks! Fleece lined jeans! FIREWOOD!

Sunshine! Beautiful, bright, cheerful SUNSHINE!

That the house in NY sold so quickly in a poor economy, for more than we asked! No more property taxes!!! No more money pit and endless projects!

Freshly ground peanut butter! Chocolate! Reeses! Sweet juicy peaches and tart juicy apples right off your own trees.

Moonlight. Mountains. Sunsets. COLOR!!!

A HEAT wave!!!! Indoor plumbing. TP

So there's the short list. I'm sure I could come up with a ton more, but I'm sure you get the picture by now! ;) Happy THANKSgiving!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Twinkle, twinkle little star

Sorry it has taken me so long to make another post! I had no idea it had been so long but people were calling wondering if we were still alive, so I figure I'd better let you all know that we're doing fine! We're just busy catching up after having the flu. I've been making quilts for the windows to help keep out some of the cold (literally and figuratively). I got one of the pieced ones done for the kitchen:

I couldn't find the backing for the second one so I had to wait until I got more. The day after I got more material, I found the other piece! Isn't that how it always goes? Anyway, I took a break from the pieced ones (I will NOT make it as a quilter!!!) to make some for the living room. I made two of them, but only took a picture of one:

Right now they are just sort of hanging there. I still need to make a way to roll them up and attach them to the window. They can come down though and just be used as quilts. The Sherrer kids used them that way when they were over the other day watching a video. They're nice to snuggle up under when you're just hanging out.

It has been good to have the window coverings. It has been coooooooold! We're making up for all that mild weather we had all fall! It is so pretty out though! Here's a picture from last week:

We had below zero temperatures for more than a week. Fortunately it has really warmed up and is a lot easier to manage. Rodney was really busy with freezing water lines in that below zero stuff. He hasn't had time to work on the water room/basement on the back of the house. They finally did get a day to work on that and made a lot of progress. Now that the temperatures have moderated, hopefully he'll be able to get it all done this coming week.

That leads me to the topic of this post. I've been waiting for the lake to freeze up so I could go out there and lay on the ice and look at the stars. I wanted to go out last week to see the meteor showers but it was too cold and with having had pneumonia I figured that probably wasn't too smart. Last night everything was finally right. I felt pretty good, it was a lot warmer out and it was nice and clear out. I got to lay out there for about 45 minutes watching the stars. They are AMAZING up here! They are so clear and bright and twinkly! It was a delightful time! I even got to see a number of shooting stars anyway! :) Oksana and I saw an AWESOME bright and long one on Friday on the way back from her violin lesson but it was still nice to lay out and just admire the stars!

Psalm 19:1-4 says: "The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world." Wow! What poetry! Those stars were sure pouring forth speech last night!

I thought of all of you while I was out there. A friend of ours, Mr. Weaver, wrote to us, "We look up and say we see the same moon, sun and stars as you do only thousands of miles apart." I thought of each of you out there under the same stars as I was admiring. I figured ya'll were asleep though!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Time to meet the camp staff!

I promised I'd start to introduce you to the camp staff a while back and haven't gotten there yet. Time to get started! We'll start with the Regier (first e is short, second is long and gets the emphasis) family, Nate, Maggie and Katie.
I hope I don't mess up all these details! I may need to save these posts and have Rodney fill in what I've messed up! Nate and Maggie came out of the same church in Kansas as the Theissens (we'll get to them later). They came up in the summer of 2004 to build the horse arena and then came back in 2005 to live. If it has a motor, Nate can fix it and/or operate it. If it can be cooked, Maggie can make it taste great! If it has 4 legs, Katie can speak it's language. That doesn't begin to describe them, but it does showcase their talents! Katie and Maggie also enjoy quilting and they've introduced me to some of the better second hand stores around. :) Nate is one of the hardest working individuals you'll ever have the pleasure to meet. They've all become very dear friends very quickly. Nate's primary responsibility at camp is the auto shop but he's equally handy at heating, plumbing and a lot of other things. Maggie runs the espresso machine in the gift shop when groups are in, bringing joy to many people on early mornings after late nights. ;) She and Katie do a lot of the cleaning of buildings between groups, a never ending job! Katie also does dishes with our kids for many of the weekend groups so the kids spend a lot of time with her. Her real calling though is working with the horses. She's a real natural.

The VanDaams are another family you'll hear a lot about. Below are Rod and Dianne with a bunch of their kids who currently live at home though even this is out-dated because Andrew has now moved out on his own:In front is Haley, middle row from left to right are Sam, Tasha, Dianne and Eli. In the back are Rod, Andrew and Robert. Tasha is a senior in high school and Robert a freshman, so our kids see them every day at school. The boys hang out with Robert quite a bit in addition to doing a lot of dishes together. Eli works at camp cleaning the main lodge. It's hard to characterize the entire family quickly. Rod is a riot! He's got such a sense of humor and can deliver the lines with such a straight face! He is the director of maintenance but has just recently decided to cut back to 4 days a week. He went through a number of health problems this past year and seems to have discovered that it wasn't so bad having a bit of time to himself. He, like Rodney and Earl, 'retired' to Victory after a career elsewhere first. Dianne feels like someone I've known my entire life. She's lived through a lot of the same things with her kids that we have with ours. She anticipates what the kids or I might need before we realize we'll need it. She's helped me settle into life here in more ways that I can enumerate.

Next are Earl and Elaine Anders. Earl is the camp electrician and boiler man who "retired" to camp after 30 years as a Mennonite pastor. He is a WEALTH of patience, wisdom and insight! Elaine is the receptionist and all around office person. Between Elaine and Sandy (we'll get to her later), there's not much that happens here in the camp offices that they don't do. Elaine has a tremendous amount of experience in EVERYTHING, having raised a family and been a pastor's wife for all those years. She's a delight to work with and get to know! They have a lot of family back in PA so they are leaving this weekend for a few months to visit family back there. They will definitely be missed! I was so glad I was able to stop over today for a minute and say goodbye to them before they leave for the winter.
The Sherrers required two pictures to get them all ;) Not really, but they weren't there the night I was taking pictures this fall so I grabbed some pictures of them that I took this summer when we visited. From left to right are Aluara (Oksana's friend), Molly, Carole, Clint, Tessa, Karina and Drew. Matt is talking to Rod in the second picture. Matt does grounds and propane at camp and also does the weekly camp run to town (which takes an entire day). He is currently working half time at camp while he trains to be a level 3? EMT. I think he'll become the camp nurse at that time. Carole home schools the kids. She's helped me with many things parent in settling in ;) She told me about the violin teacher and has helped connect me to the local natural food co-op in addition to helping us identify local flower and fauna and is just a joy to talk to. If you're looking for prayer items, Drew could really use prayer. He's got some health problems that have the doctors stumped at the moment. He's had problems in the past with his skull not growing fast enough for his brain (can't remember the name of it) but that was surgically repaired and they don't think it is the same problem this time, but a lot of the symptoms are the same. Anyway, he's been a rather sick kid lately and there don't seem to be any answers.

So there's the short list of just the families in maintenance! It's hard to characterize everyone quickly, but at least now you have a place to come when I talk about people to put faces with names (like when I was talking to my brother the other day and Clint, Karina and Alaura were playing in the background). I'm sure some of the stories will help flesh out these little blurbs! I hope ya'll can grow to love them as we have through the stories we share together.

It is WINTER!!!

So maybe ya'll would think it was already winter here, but without snow, it just didn't feel like it. NOW we have winter! :) Ain't it purty??? :) This is the first really good, big snow for the year. The valley (Palmer/Wasilla) was supposed to have gotten as much as 20" but I haven't heard if they really did or not. We sure didn't. We got just enough to make the ground white.
They plowed our lake yesterday so now we can drive across the lake to get to and from the house. This is the only time of year we can actually drive right to the house! First they went through with the chainsaw testing the ice periodically to make sure there was at least 9" of ice all the way. It just doesn't seem possible to me that there could already be 9" of ice! It has not felt like winter yet! But there must have been enough ice, because here's the proof:
While I was taking pictures, I figured I'd take a few of my little chickadees too :) They are so cute! There are at least 3 in this picture. I've drawn some crude arrows to help you find them. If you double click on the pictures, it will take you to a larger version.
I'm still working on getting over the flu. I got a bit of pneumonia to draw it out even more. Thankfully we were prepared for such an event though this means that I REALLY need to get the insurance figured out now. I think we have the makings of a plan. Now to check the details. We'll probably go with that NY plan which WILL cover hospitalization here, Andrei's psychiatric visits and all medications. Any annual visits we'll do when we are at home for a visit. That just leaves urgent care stuff which we'll just have to cover out of pocket and then submit to the insurance company and hope to get at least some of it back. Anyway, I suppose I ought to get to work a bit and try to catch up from being sick for more than a week! Rodney did bring the truck over for me this morning since I'm still not feeling well enough to take the ATV. It will be good to get out for a bit today!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

And a third short one!

I just got an email that as of 3:58 EST today, our NY home is sold, papers recorded and $ in the bank!!! I can't begin to explain what a relief that is! Ahhhhhhhhhhh!

One little unrelated problem. Health insurance. Even if we switch to the cruddy plan we used to have, there are STILL no "participating providers" within 100 miles of us in Alaska. Well, there are for physical therapy and mental health services, but that's it. No GPs or family docs or any other specialists for that matter. Guess I'll be off to do some creative brainstorming...

Saturday, November 7, 2009

And another quick one!

Mark this on your calendars! Two quick blog posts in a row!!! You KNOW that something must be wrong with me to have two short ones. Well, remember that "cold" a few posts back? It wasn't just a cold. It was probably the swine flu. I rarely get a fever. 99 is fever for me. Yesterday BEFORE things got really ugly it was 101. I've sweated more in the past few days than I did all summer. I'm hungry, but all I can stomach is dry toast, crackers, etc. What fun. I seem to be about a day behind Rodney. He was really bad the day before and he's up and around a lot better today. Oksana has had it all week too, but we just thought it was a cold so she went to school all week. I hate to think how many people we've passed it on to! Well, three down, two to go!

Rodney went out to get mail today for the first time in 3 days and we had a BOATLOAD of mail! Wait, make that an ATV load, we've put the boat up for the winter! There was a HUGE box from all of our friends in Middlesex FULL of all sorts of goodies, and better yet, NOTES from all sorts of people!!!! What a blessing that box was on a day when we were feeling as cruddy as all get out!!! Even Oksana commented that though the goodies were wonderful, even more wonderful were all the notes inside! She's certainly growing up! I couldn't agree more! Ethan even wrote a "Little Willie" poem! I'll have to initiate ya'll on "Little Willie" another day though because there's another migraine coming on. Not over this flu yet! I am feeling a ton better today than I did yesterday though, so I'm sure I'm on the mend! So a HUGE THANK YOU to all involved with putting together the box of goodies and all the notes inside! Oh yeah, and FIVE tubs of delicious, fresh ground peanut butter!!!!!! :) Oh, and with all the coughing we've been doing, those throat lozenges will come in VERY handy right now! As will the toasty socks, the cheery waxed fall leaves...

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Really quick one! Honest!

Those of you who REALLY know Sergei will appreciate this! He has changed so much it is truly amazing! Sunday afternoon Rodney gave the boys three jobs he wanted done by the end of the week. MONDAY right after school Sergei roused Andrei out there to get to work. They finished the insulation, then Sergei pushed to do the second job (moving plywood inside the "shack" so it would stay dry) and then when Andrei was ready to come in the house, Sergei said he was going to split the wood too! Andrei decided he might as well stack as Sergei was splitting so they got all three jobs done on Monday, mostly because Sergei kept pushing to get it done.

Nate had been promising Sergei that he'd get him the pellet gun that camp keeps around to shoot squirrels that get into the buildings, making quite a mess. He finally found it and got it to Sergei this week so Sergei (after a few lectures on what he could or could not shoot) went out to do some hunting! Sergei trusted with a GUN???? Even if it is a pellet gun, it is still a gun! Well yes, you did read that here! It is true!

Last night Sergei wanted to go play basketball at the gym at camp, a good 15 min jog. Sergei had already been skating for about 2 hours with a friend so it wasn't like he NEEDED more exercise. Rodney let him take the four wheeler all by himself! Really! It happened! And he didn't even crash it!

Last, but certainly not least, Rodney bought Sergei his own chain saw! Honest! No joke! An honest to goodness, cutting chainsaw! It is lighter weight than Rodney's so it will be easier to handle and he'll have to wear the cutting chaps, helmet and goggles, but he's all set to cut! Yeah, SERGEI! Who'd have EVER thought it was possible that he'd turn into a responsible kid?

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Bits and pieces

Sorry I've taken so long to come up with another post! I sort of had writer's block! There's nothing BIG to post, so I just didn't quite know where to start. I finally started a list yesterday of things I wanted to post. I took it with me to town and filled in a few missing pieces so now I think I'm ready to type! I'll apologize right now for the scattered nature of it though. Since there's no big items, it is just a compiled list of bits and pieces of stuff. I know what I want to start doing once this is done, but also knew I needed another "update" first.

I guess we'll start with yesterday's town trip now that I've mentioned it. I found another violin teacher for Oksana! She used to play with an orchestra (well, she still does, just a small one now - she used to play with a big one) and teaches a lot of kids how to play. She and Oksana both have an up-side-down/backwards way of thinking so they PERFECTLY understand each other! Oksana is so happy to have someone challenge her and really help her to perfect her playing. That is a real answer to prayer! She so enjoyed playing with Mr. Rossi that I knew it would be hard to find a new teacher that she would like that would also really help her along in her playing.

As far as progress on the house, it is currently stalled a little bit while we wait for the parts to finish the water system (Matsu water ran out of tanks for the first time ever) and while Rodney learns from Earl the details of daily checks of buildings plus how to run and fix toyo stoves. Earl and Elaine leave in two weeks to spend a few months back in PA where they originally came from. Nate did get the holes backfilled and the lawn cleaned up as much as possible until everything froze. Now any yard work is on hold until spring. The boys just finished most of the insulating up in the crawl space. Just in time!

Again, since I've mentioned it, it has been COLD! It was 0 degrees farenheit yesterday! Ick! We've had a good week or more of temps below 20 at night so the lake is freezing up quickly! Rodney, Sergei and Katie went skating Sunday afternoon. We ought to be able to drive over it pretty soon at this rate! We are SOOOOOOOOOO thankful that the cold held out until we got all the cement work done!!! Praise God! Even I have to admit though that the ice is BEAUTIFUL! It is so pretty with the swirls in the ice out on the lake and the mountains are even more beautiful with snow on them! Silly me forgot the camera on the way to town yesterday!

We don't have much snow yet though. I'm sure it will come eventually! Actually, that isn't such a bad thing either. Rodney's ATV is a woos in the snow. We just got chains for it yesterday so that should help but it was quite a job to get out of here a few times! That hill behind the house is STEEP! Which also explains why most people up here drive trucks or Suburbans. FOUR WHEEL DRIVE! It is practically required up here unless you live in the city, and maybe even then! We may not have snow yet, but we DO have ICE! Lots of it!

Rodney did pick up two more ATVs Monday so we're a little more mobile than before. All of them need some minor tinkering to be ready to run as we need. Rodney's needed chains and some sort of different oil ? because it doesn't want to go into gear when it is cold. You need to warm that one up for at least 20 min before it will go. Mine needs a new clutch lever thingy? or something like that. Rodney says it works, but it is temperamental because it doesn't fit quite right. The third one needs brakes, but it is geared so low that you can still ride it without. I'm afraid I can't help much on man details right now! Rodney isn't here at the moment and neither is that third ATV. He took that one this morning because his takes so long to warm up. I DO know that mine is a Honda that came with enough spare parts (including a frame) to practically build another machine. I don't know about the third. I haven't even seen that one in daylight. Some friends are giving Sergei a snow machine (snow mobile in the rest of the world) but it too needs a little work. He's supposed to go help them put it back together at some point when they get back from "outside" (meaning the lower 48). Here's Rodney's Grizzly:
And my Honda. You can also see some of the yard cleanup in those pics. The platform in the Honda pic is the beginnings of the floor over the "basement/water plant" we just put in: Yes, winter is officially upon us! Rodney has been working hard at breaking a bone or two. Or three. We went to dinner at the Thiessens the other night and they had also invited the Gerwigs (who are giving Sergei the snow machine). Chuck Gerwig had quite the broken ankle story, starting with how he got it (a moose) to how it ended (8 mo pregnant wife, needing to get fire wood and finish building a house, since he had a "walking cast" he figured that meant he could walk on it). So Rodney has been trying to keep up with Chuch Gerwig. He took THREE bad falls on Sunday (ice skating and walking home from church) and Monday (stepped wrong off the ATV trailer). You'd think he'd be old enough to recognize the pointlessness of keeping up with the Joneses (or Gerwigs) by now!

I'm discovering why women quilt. I'm making "quilted" curtains for many of the windows to both keep heat in and to cheer up the windows. I foolishly decided to piece the kitchen ones like a quilt in order to utilize material that I had and really liked, but didn't have enough of. Sunday night I decided I HATED quilting. Monday morning when it was 0 degrees outside I decided that quilting was DEFINITELY more fun than being outside! Here you can see stage 1 of my "quilt". Now I'll cut this in vertical strips and offset them to make a patchwork quilt. I'd say this is the last time I do this, but the winter is long... It probably doesn't help that I have ANOTHER cold! Grrrrr!! It's like I've got to go check out all the new viruses in this new town. Sigh. Ah well! I feel better today than I did yesterday.

The wildlife is changing, but still entertaining. We haven't seen any moose in a while now, when we were seeing them almost every day. We are REALLY seeing the snowshoe hares now since they are white and there's hardly any snow on the ground! Silly hares! They really stood out when there was no snow, but I'm sure they'll be much happier when they fully blend into the background! I'm getting tons of chickadees to the bird feeder now. There's even one that flies across the lake to come to the feeder! I'm also starting to get a few different birds too, but I don't know what they all are yet. I got a bunch of different food yesterday so we hope to attract even more birds. I already had birds at the suet this morning within a half hour of putting it up! I can see most of my feeders from the kitchen sink so there's plenty of entertainment while doing the dishes!

The kids are doing well. Sergei and Oksana both had birthdays since my last post, so they are now 15 and 16 respectively. We've been using Skype to talk to my parents, sister, brother, etc and then Skype offered unlimited calling for $3 a month so the kids (especially Oksana) have made great use of that. They've really enjoyed talking to so many people. Oksana can't figure out what to say on the phone, but sit her down at the computer and she'll talk for hours! Just like her normal self!

The dogs are doing well too. Ellie hasn't disappeared in a while. Eider kept tricking her to get her bed (he'd bark to try to get her to jump up and see what was going on) but I just got the last parts to finish another one so now EVERYONE is happy! Ellie was on the new bed in this picture, but that was the last time. Just as when we had two different size beds in NY, Eider prefers the small one and Ellie prefers the big one. Silly dogs! Oh yeah, and Eider has the perverse distinction of being the first dog we've ever had to discover the freshest source of water in the house now that the lake is frozen. Ick! He used to go outside JUST to get a drink of water! Can't do that any more so he had to find another source! WHAT is wrong with a DISH???
On a slightly more somber note, camp said goodbye to Jim Raymond who up to that point had been with camp longer than anyone else on staff. He started coming to camp in the late 70s as a young teen with his family. He later worked at Li-Wa, Victory's sister camp in Fairbanks, and then came to Victory where he has been ever since. He has gone back to Portland, Oregon to help his aging parents and the church that has sponsored him all these years. Additionally, the pastor of Glacierview Bible, who has been there since its start 23 yrs ago, has felt the Lord leading him on to a new work. He will remain here until the summer, but will be moving on at that point. He too will be difficult to replace! It just reminds me again what an AMAZING community of people this is! We're so blessed to have been made so welcome so quickly! We're having a lot of fun getting to know everyone. Which leads me to the NEXT series of posts! I plan to introduce you all to all the names I keep mentioning! I figure it will help put faces with names and stories ;)

On a final note, we're looking forward to the house in NY closing, probably Monday of next week. While I'd LOVE to drag all our loved ones up here, I have no qualms about saying goodbye to that house. The new kitchen was beautiful but we were both just sooooooooo tired of all the work and $$$ that house sucked up! I confess though, I can't wait to see pictures of how it looks when they side it! It sounds like that is the first job on the new owner's adgenda. We always wanted to do that but did NOT want to see what our taxes would be like when that happened! Now we'll get to see it done but not have to pay for it!! Yeah!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Final pour, ATV trail and the freeze

Yesterday we did the final major pouring of concrete. They did a smaller pour this morning but only about 8 bags, pouring the pads for propane tanks. About mid-way through yesterday's pour, the cement mixer died leaving the rest to be mixed by hand. Boy were we glad for all the teens here that day to help out! They had off school for parent-teacher conferences so they were volunteered to help. They certainly did a man's day of work yesterday! Below are Carlen with the hose, Robert and Sergei mixing, with Nate cutting and dumping bags, though if I'd have taken the picture at another time it might have been set up differently. Everyone took turns doing different jobs.

They extended the chute to go the extra length from this distance and dumped the cement from the Bobcat bucket down to the catchers at the bottom who then carried the buckets to where ever they needed to fill. They had built a platform inside the room so that you could work easily up at a level close to the top.

I think my old Olympus is dying. It isn't handling low light conditions well any more. Too bad. This picture of Andrei is priceless! His hair was grey from the concrete dust and so was his face! The other boys had the sense to wear hats in the cool weather. The hats certainly served and alternate purpose for this job!

I took quite a few pictures of the ATV trail, but, well, it's a trail. Sometimes you can see far down the trail like this shot, but most of the time you can't. It winds and turns and goes up and down. Most of the pictures look alike, but they don't really reflect what's there. It is truly a beautiful thing. The part coming down the hill to the house is pretty steep but I haven't been able to capture that yet with the camera. I'll try to get a picture of someone going up or down to see if that will show the incline. We will need to go back through and clean up here and there, but it certainly works well right now! It works so well we have a constant stream of visitors! Ok, maybe not constant, but we do get a lot! A lot of people are curious about what is going on so they walk out to check it out. THEN they come on the ATVs! I ran into someone twice again today!

This shows the corduroy road that Rodney built. Lots of small trees gave their lives for this section ;)

This is the best view on the trail. I HAVE to stop every time I reach this spot just to admire the view. I hope I never lose that sense of awe.

This shows how close we are to freeze up! It is coming closer every day! We've had beautiful blue skies during the day and no wind so the cold nights are working their magic! In some ways I hope this trend continues so we get clear, smooth ice. On the other hand the snow would insulate the earth so the ground doesn't freeze down so far. My heart wants the clear ice so we can skate and see down into the lake once it freezes. My head knows we need the snow to keep things from freezing too much.

Morning commute

Morning commute